Friday, February 29, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I love cupcakes and I finally found time to try these this weekend. I’ve had this recipe since before the holidays and can not remember where I found it. I don’t usually make cupcakes from scratch, but these were so incredibly easy. I threw the batter together on Saturday morning and then had to leave for a friend’s birthday brunch with only half of it baked off. I stuck the remaining batter in the fridge (which I never do with a cake mix). The second batch I baked, after brunch, turned out just as good as the first. Last night I made another full batch (makes about 20) because I signed up to bring in cupcakes to my work lunch today. I was in such a rush this morning I left them on the kitchen table and didn’t realize it until I was walking in the door of my office. I chuckled to myself because it reminded me of this Hallmark e-card that Evan’s Mom sent. Fortunately, there were plenty of other sweets and I didn’t have to feel bad for forgetting. I’m sure they will still be good on Monday and we can have them for breakfast.

1 pkg (8 oz) softened cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp salt
1 package (12 oz) milk chocolate chips (about 2 cups)

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees
2. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt. Mix well and fold in chocolate chips and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
4. Fill paper lined muffin cups half full with batter. Top each with about 2 tbs of cream cheese mixture.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birthday Surprises

My girlfriend, Nicole, gave me this birthday card. It perfectly combines my love of baking, cocktails and Project Runway. Who would believe she bought it at Wal-Mart?

I don’t usually get too excited about my birthday, but this birthday has been wonderful thanks to my magnificent boyfriend, Evan. I woke up this morning to the house decorated with a Birthday Banner and balloons. There were three gifts set up for me on the coffee table wrapped in silver shiny paper. I absolutely love my presents, a sewing machine, some sewing accessories and some easy grips so that I can open the bottle of vanilla that always sticks shut. I will be having tons of fun this weekend, figuring out how to thread my new machine and hopefully making some to die for pillows.

If that weren’t enough, last night, Evan had planned a surprise birthday party for me that was totally unexpected. He lured me to Chuck E. Cheese’s (of all places) where I thought we were going on a date. When we pulled in the parking lot, I wasn’t even sure they would let us in. Evan assured me we would be fine, because he had reservations. “Reservations?” I shrieked. Sure enough there was a table full of my friends with a big sign that said “Shannon – 26”. There were two other birthday tables, Ethan – 7 and Josh – 1. You can say I was the most experienced of the group. A bunch of people came from my work, including my boss who you would never expect to see in a place like that. It was nice to have pizza and play some skee ball, but the group didn’t stay long. It was a bit awkward to have 10 adults with no children at Chuck E. Cheese on a Wednesday night. I had a great time, but we had to get home to watch the new Project Runway Episode. (Did you see my picture?)

We don’t have big plans for tonight because I volunteered to make cupcakes for a birthday lunch we are having at my office for all the February birthdays and Evan has done more than enough to make my day. Thank you Evan and thanks to everyone for all the birthday wishes!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

YouTube Make-Up Tutorials

I am just now realizing how much I don’t know about YouTube. I watch the funny videos that are forwarded to me and sometimes search for memorable TV performances that I have missed (like the Britney Spears MTV Awards). There is so much more!! I never would have found this out if not for a fan of my brother who contacted me via Myspace. AlexReedThompson has a YouTube “channel” where he posts some really witty stuff. Alex is a very talented make-up artist who posts about make-up, his love of the Dresden Dolls and other miscellaneous topics. I am totally enamored with this guy. My favorite video so far is his slide show tutorial for sunset eyes. It has a great song in the background by Despina Vandi, an artist I’d never heard of who is fabulous. Alex has 1,683 Subscribers and 47,446 Channel Views (not sure exactly what that means). This is big time! How do I not know anything about this? While viewing his make-up how-to’s, I came across some other great videos by make-up artists. I love the videos by Leesha a.k.a Xsparkage, especially this one for simple brown eyes that is anything but ordinary. Another gem I discovered was Sara a.k.a. jjacks48. She is really fun to watch because she reminds me of a friend of mine. Although I’ve only had the opportunity to watch a few of her takes, I have her on my “must watch when I have more time” list. jjacks48 seems to be the most experienced in the world of YouTube tutorials with 124 videos posted. I’m sure that there are tons more great videos for learning fabulous skills and one day I will have time to search through them all. I am running out to buy new make-up for myself this weekend with a little Birthday money courtesy of my Grandparents. (My birthday is Thursday!) Thanks to Alex for introducing me to this great new world of videos on YouTube. How will I ever leave my computer again?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chicks Rock!

I listen to all genres of music, but have a special place in my heart for female musicians. The Cranberries got me through my adolescence. Bands like Garbage and Veruca Salt inspired me to be tough in my teenage years. Fiona Apple got me through break-ups in college and I don’t know how I would have survived driving on I-95 without Heart’s Greatest Hits. I like all genres of “chick” music from country to pop to rock, but my special love is for “girl with piano” style music. I am forever a fan of artists like Tori Amos, Vanessa Carlton, Fiona Apple, Charlotte Martin and Regina Spektor. I have a new one to add to my list, Sara Bareilles. I heard her name mentioned on many a conference call at work and was surprised that I had no idea who she was. I got the album almost two weeks ago and it hasn’t left my player. I really like the story-like quality to the lyrics of all of her songs. Sara’s website is really cute, so I had fun reading more about her. Her single, “Love Song” is featured on a Rhapsody commercial, so you may have seen it. That’s not really my favorite track. It’s clearly the single. My favorites are “Vegas”, “Bottle it Up” and “Fairytale”. Here’s how she describes her music:

I write mostly on piano and I'm a girl, so lots of people say it's Norah Jones, or Fiona Apple. That's fine. I love Norah's subtlety and Fiona's fierce lyrical prowess. But I also have an affinity for the playful and intelligent-pop of people like Elton John and Ben Folds. And although I don't necessarily write like them, Radiohead, the Police and Bjork changed my musical consciousness. Ben Gibbard writes better lyrics than I can even imagine up. Etta James and Sam Cooke make me wish I lived 50 years ago. Counting Crows recorded an album that I consider to be perfect, and Bob Marley created music that makes me want to be a better human being.

I am also very excited to report that Dolly Parton’s new CD releases next week. She did an exclusive distribution deal with my company, so I got to sample it today. She did a cover of the 80’s song, Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals. You know the song. It’s not a bad song in a Dolly Parton cheesy kind of way. I’ve only had a quick listen, but I really enjoyed the title track, Backwoods Barbie. She sort of has a laugh at herself by saying she wears too much make-up and has big hair. I love it and she looks amazing as always.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

About Me

It’s so nice to be chosen by Kanani, of Get Lost with Easy-Writer, to tell you all a little more about me. I have been exchanging notes with Kanani for the past few weeks and really enjoy her blog. I think that I am supposed to choose people to continue this momentum, but can’t decide who my picks would be.

Where to begin? I guess you could say I am still searching for my place in the world. I have lived in 6 very different cities in the past 4 years.

Philadelphia, PA
Annapolis, MD
Royal Oak, MI (near Detroit)
Columbia, MD (near D.C.)
Richmond, VA
Fayetteville, AR

I consider myself an east coaster, but am glad to have had the opportunity to experience other areas so early in life that I can make an educated decision of where I might want to settle. I have traveled to the Western US and made two trips to Italy, but know I have much more exploring to do. I used to be a ballerina, so I have a special love for the art of dance. As most everyone knows, my brother is a designer, so that makes me pretty excited about fashion. I have two adorable kittens and the best boyfriend in the world. He makes a mean pumpkin roll. I am learning to enjoy cooking more and more every day and I love cookies. I don’t like to define myself by what I do for a living, but I’m good at my job. I desire to be the BIG BOSS, so that motivates and sometimes frustrates me.

I love reading about fellow bloggers and have made great pen pals in the past few months. Thanks to all for your messages and support for me and my family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hot Hot Hot

A few weeks ago Evan and I watched a show that explained the science behind a new self-heating coffee cup. I believe ti was on TLC, but can't quite remember. What I do remember is being totally intrigued by the explanation of the development of the packaging and how it would be marketed for cosumer use. It all seemed so futuristic. Low and behold at the store this weekend, we walked by a whole endcap of this new Self Heating Coffee Cup. Here's how it works:

You flip the cup upside-down and peel off a seal that allows you to push in the bottom of the container. Green fluid, calcium oxide (quicklime) and water, mixes and runs through the core of the container. This chemical mixture heats the coffee to 145 degrees in six minutes and a circle on the back of the container turns from red to white to let you know that it’s hot.

For a reasonable price of $2, we each got one to try. I love coffee, but don’t usually drink it during the week because too much caffeine in the morning makes me sick. I made an exception this morning and was surprised by the heat. I actually burnt my tongue. I’m probably more sensitive than most, because I don’t drink coffee every day and I was so excited to try it that I didn’t give enough time to cool off. The taste was pretty good as far as instant coffee goes. I had the French Vanilla Late. It tasted like the French Vanilla Coffee you would get from a machine at a gas station. The best part was the whole experience of removing the seal and starting the chemical process of heating. I had a group of coworkers around my desk who were all intrigued to see how it worked. I don’t think I even finished half of the drink before I started to feel the jitters and poured out the rest.

If you like coffee and inventions, I would suggest that you pick one up. I probably won’t be a repeat consumer, but it was a fun way to start my Tuesday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rainy Weekend

It poured rain all weekend, flooding alot of the area. We did not get out much, but it was so nice to have some time at home. I caught up on my cleaning, attempted a new recipe and made Evan's favorite, macadamia nut white chocolate chip cookies. I really enjoy baking, but still haven't mastered the art. Cookies I can do, but I still have a lot to learn. The new recipe I tried was German Apple Pancake from one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks. It tasted good, but didn't look as pretty as I would like. I think I was using a baking dish that was too big for the recipe, so I'll just have to try it again next weekend.

Staying indoors was not enough to keep dry. We had to put towels down because the rain was coming down so hard it was leaking through the windows. We covered all the furniture that was in danger of getting wet, but my little Bubbles thought we were making her a special bed. I guess my cats don't mind getting a little wet.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hair Wars Magazine

Everyone who knows me knows I am very particular about my hair. Even though I keep moving further and further away from Maryland I will still try to go back to get my hair cut before any major event. Obviously, Fashion Week was a major event, so I made a special stop in Annapolis to go to my favorite salon, Bubbles. My stylist, Jamie, did a magnificent job as always and was nice enough to save me a copy of the magazine from the Bubbles Hair Wars Hair Show last fall. I was amazed to see that Jamie’s 1st place winning hair cut got me a whole page in the book! It is a bit surreal to see a picture of myself so big in a print publication. People who are waiting for their hair appointment look at this book to get inspired to choose a new hair-do and I’m on the first page. Crazy! Another stylist at the salon got some great pictures from the photographer at the show. This photo with my brother in the middle is perfection.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine’s Day is here! I just love this cheesy holiday. I made heart cookies last night during Project Runway so that Evan could take them to work today. I just used my regular sugar cookie recipe and canned frosting with a little food dye. We exchanged gifts this morning. Evan gave me a gift certificate to get a manicure. I gave him a gift card to get some new music. It was a perfect exchange. I put on my red dress that I haven’t worn since college and am ready for a great Valentine’s Day. We don’t have big plans for dinner. Thursday is our “No TV” night, so we will probably have dinner at home and relax. Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Owl Print

Yesterday I received the print that I ordered from the wonderful Ann of stilldottie. I ordered it from her etsy store. Ann is a good friend of Evan’s and her blog inspired me to start my own. I already had the frame and location picked out and was patiently awaiting its arrival. It looks absolutely perfect on our bookshelf in the living room. I was so excited to also receive one of her sewn cards as a little bonus. I will be using the card as a thank you for my neighbors who watched the kitties while we were gone. Thank you, Ann!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fashion Show in NYC

It is so difficult to go back to the day to day of life in Arkansas after such an amazing trip to NYC. I have tried to catch up on all of the Project Runway blogs to see everyone’s opinions on the collections shown last week in Bryant Park. I still can’t believe that I was sitting in the front row of a show at New York Fashion Week (while Meryl Streep sat in the 3rd). Since I’m not a fashion expert and everyone knows who my favorite is, I am just going to tell you about what this incredible experience was like for me…AMAZING!
My family was in rare form. We came in from California, Florida, Arkansas and Maryland to be there for my little brother’s BIG MOMENT! Outside before the show I got to meet the lovely ladies from BloggingProjectRunway. I got to catch up with VictorYa (Christian’s good friend) and her husband for a few seconds before the show started while all the previous contestants and press congregated on the runway in the middle of the tent. My mom had to get her picture with all of this year’s contestants, Elisa, Stephen, Carmen and so on. She had studied up on everyone, where they live, where they work and little facts about them that she read on She was definitely an expert compared to the rest of the family and had great conversations starters for everyone. My Dad sat next to Meryl Streep’s daughter and My stepfather, Michael, sat next to Sweet P’s sister-in-law. They held hands during Sweet P’s and Christian’s show. My mom and I got to sit right in front of the previous seasons’ winners. Jay told me not to read his blog, Chloe has huge boobs and Jeffrey shared a seat with his BFF Alison who is really really skinny. Daniel Vosovic sat behind my mom with Kara Janx. They were both so incredibly nice and seemed genuinely excited for us. Daniel poked me when Christian came out for his little speech and told us to go backstage after the show was over. Evan got his picture taken with Jack from PR and Dale from Top Chef. They are advertising themselves as an item, which made the photo of Evan sandwiched by these two a bit more comical. Other than seeing all of the previous and current Project Runway contestants, we saw Padma and Sam from Top Chef, Bianca, Danielle and Jaslene from America’s Next Top Model and the highlight of my life, POSH SPICE. I had a feeling that she would be the guest judge and we barely got a look at her as she was rushed in and out of the tent by big body guards. I’m sure she was mobbed by Paparazi after the show, but we didn’t see because my mom and I snuck backstage and got to meet Tim Gunn. He said really nice things about Christian to my Mom and I thought she was going to cry. It was all a whirlwind and amazing and wonderful. I barely remember the clothes. I had to look them up when I got home. All I can tell you is that my brother was totally FIERCE!

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Favorite Grammy Moments

I’m sure that everyone is excited to hear about the New York trip, but before it’s too late, I did want to post about the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Being in the music biz, we weren’t expecting much from this years show, but I was pleasantly surprised. I have to admit that I missed the beginning of the televised event because we were out and about in snowy NYC, but I’ve perused through the highlights and I have to say that I think we saw the best of it. One of my favorite moments of the show was Vince Gill sticking it to Kanye West’s ego. I can’t say that I’m a fan of Vince’s music, but when he said, “I just received an award from a Beatle, you can’t say that Kanye!” I found a new respect for Mr. Gill. Everyone loves Amy Winehouse (myself included) and for good reason she took home a bunch of awards including Best Pop Album. I have been a fan of Amy Winehouse since her album released in the states, but I’ve almost had too much of her tabloid crazy ways. The best Grammy performance for me was the underrated, no drama, Feist. Click here for Youtube video. I thought she sounded incredible and did a great live performance of her hit, “1, 2, 3, 4”, known from the iPhone commercial, that didn’t sound like a recording off the album, but had good heart. I am happy to report that off camera my favorite song off my favorite album of 2007, Gone Gone Gone, from Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant was awarded a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration. Now, everyone go and buy some CDs to keep my job secure for a few more months!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Christian's Runway Outfit

I spoke to Christian for a few seconds on Saturday and he told me that he had been photographed attending some fashion shows this weekend. I searched the web today to find the photos and I was so excited to see that he was wearing a jacket that I had bought him on my trip to Italy. Does this mean that I dressed a celebrity on the red carpet? Ok, so the carpet was white, it still counts!

We are leaving for our trip to the big city very very very early tomorrow morning. We fly into Maryland at noon for my hair appointment at Bubbles Salon in Annapolis. I wouldn’t dream of going to NYC without making a trip to see my favorite stylist, Jamie. Then, we are having all of my girlfriends over to watch the new PR episode and eat pizza. We leave on a train to NYC on Thursday at noon and will be staying in Christian’s apartment on Thursday night. It’s going to be a full house, but we have a hotel room for the weekend, and this savings is how I validate flying to Maryland for a hair cut. I will be gone for the rest of the week, but will have many things to blog about when I return from the trip!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Cupcakes

At the very last minute, we decided to have some friends over to watch the Super Bowl. We wanted to keep it really low key with frozen pizza and french-fries, but still didn’t have enough in the fridge to feed 8 people. We took the dreaded trip to Wal-Mart where (believe it or not) I got the idea for this cupcake arrangement. They had cupcakes arranged to look like flower pots and smiley faces for children’s birthday parties. They also had cupcakes set up as a goal post for the Super Bowl. I love an excuse to make cupcakes, so I attempted to make mine into a football. I used my Easy Decorator, my favorite purchase of 2007, and it really took no time at all. I put a dollop of white icing in a plastic Ziploc bag and cut the corner to make the strip down the middle. They were totally devoured and all of our guests were impressed. Congratulations Giants fans!

Valentine's Globes

I didn’t think I’d have time to do another Valentine’s Day craft project, but I found this adorable paper project on the Craft Magazine Blog that I just couldn’t resist. They have a template that you can dowload so that you have all the dimensions and instructions to create the globes. My paper globes were made with some Valentine’s Day stationary that I bought at our local craft store. I decided to use one design of paper for each globe, but Heather Bailey, the originator of the idea had a beautiful paper globe that was made with multiple prints. These would be excellent decorations for a bridal or baby shower. I had a lot of fun making these, so I’m sure I’ll find some other occasions for them.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Valentine's Card 2008 edition

I’ve been trying to brainstorm a project to do in honor of Valentine’s Day, but have been uninspired. All of the things that I think of seem like something that would be fun if I had some little kids to play with. I remember making Valentine’s cards full of glitter and construction paper heart cutouts. I know for a fact that my mother has a drawer full of these, but I can’t imagine her finding this as adorable coming from her 26 year old daughter. I thought about how to make a Valentine’s card without being so cheesy and this is what I came up with. I used left over scrap paper from my Christmas gift tags and a hole punch to create my little design. I cut out a heart shape and taped the cut-out on my coffe table so that I could glue tiny hole punched holes in the heart shape on the card. These were fun to make, but a bit tedious, so these are very limited edition. We still have a few weeks till Valentine’s but with our trip to NYC planned for next week, this may be my last red and pink project.