Thursday, March 31, 2011

Best & Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

If you are on the hunt for the perfect chocolate cake, look no further. This is it. Promise! It is over the top chocolate-y and moist. And it is probably the easiest cake in the world to pull off. I'd love to be a fancy cook, but I'm just not. Cook smart, not hard!


You'll need:
  • 1 (18.25 oz) package devil's food cake mix
  • 1 (5.9 oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream (why did I purchase light sour cream for this recipe?)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Josh has an obsession with these Ghiradelli chips right now)
Add the following ingredients to a bowl like so...devil's food cake mix, chocolate pudding mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, water.


Stir them all together...


Add in chocolate chips and stir again.


Pour into a greased bundt pan. Bake for about an hour in a 350-degree oven. 


The recipe says to bake for 50-55 minutes but mine was much closer to an hour. Start the ol' toothpick trick at 50 minutes. I got this cake tester from Crate&Barrel from our wedding registry...good thing to have around. Cute, right?


And here is the finished product, with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top. (It was traveling so I didn't put it on a cute platter, excuse please.) It will not disappoint, trust me!


Also really good served with strawberries or raspberries!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Non-Floral Floral Centerpieces

Lately, we have been getting a lot of requests for non-floral, floral centerpieces at Presenting. The colors typically match a meeting or company logo. I am kind of liking the look! It seems much more corporate to me, less frilly. Here are a few examples.

The first two pictures are from the same event - the compositions offered two different looks for the tables.

Succulents are a nice "green" addition here. They can also be used multiple times since they won't wilt like cut flowers.

These silver vessels add a little glam to an otherwise rustic look.


I love these ferns - so cute!



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Watchdog

Josh and I slaved in our yard all weekend long. We made lots of progress, but still have a ways to go! We didn't do any of the fun stuff, like planting, but more of the necessary, grunt work. Like weeding, raking out beds and laying new pinestraw.

When I needed a break from the physical work, I decided to tackle one of those spring projects and pulled out the Scottie dog form. There were several ways to do this...I think I ultimately chose the easiest to do and maintain.

After getting some advice from a nice lady at Pike's, I decided to layer the inside of the form with preserved moss (damp) and potting soil, leaving several holes to fill in with a trailing plant like creeping fig or creeping wire vine. I would then pin back the plant as it grew, training it to cover the form. Well, when I really thought about it, that seemed like way too much work. I also worried that, with the Atlanta heat, I wouldn't be able to keep it moist enough to survive.

So...I took the easy way out and used only one element - moss. Here is the form before...


I used preserved moss that came in sheets. It was great because it was easy to tear the sheets into smaller pieces for his paws, legs, ears and tail. The package says this stuff is supposed to stay green for a long time, so we'll see.


I started from the bottom and worked my way up the form...

 

It went really fast. Because I had pinestraw on my mind from the day's work, I threw in some pinestraw to fill his body. It is light and allowed me to line the top of his back with the moss. I had to do a little tucking and readjusting as I went, but it was very painless and took probably 15 minutes tops!


Isn't he cute? He is definitely not perfect, but I like his character. We'll see how long he stays green and intact!

 

Here he is at his post on our front porch...our new watchdog! Don't you think he needs a bow?


Friday, March 18, 2011

I am amazed.

Yesterday morning on my way to work, I called my 91, almost 92 year old grandmother, Maughi. My sister came up with the name when she was learning to say "Grandma", turned it around backwards and "Maugha" turned to "Maughi" and it stuck! Anyway, Maughi has a very good friend that is very, very ill and I had been thinking about her even more than usual. All of Maughi's friends are much younger than her...she has outlived just about all of them, including her husband (whom she has been without for 25 years). Her secret? She says, a scotch and water (just a splash!) each night. I think Rachel discovered just how little water was in that scotch when she took a chug as a child, mistaking the cocktail for her Sprite!
Maughi is always amazing us. She has stayed active in the Brevard community, is more social than I am and drives herself to the grocery store everyday. She is the epitome of a strong, independent woman. She has done so many things in her lifetime. She has a vivid memory, is very well-spoken and has a reputation about town.

This picture perfectly describes Maughi. I don't think I need to say anything else!

Back to the phone call...I got quite the giggle. Maughi answered her cell phone (yes, she has a cell phone, she emails, etc. See, she is AMAZING) with an eager, "Hello!" We chatted about her friend for a while, and then I asked...well, other than this going on, is everything else OK with you? She said, oh yes - I am actually on my way to the beauty shop right now. I said, Maughi - you are driving AND talking on your cell phone?! She said, well, I sure am - I guess I should put the phone down, shouldn't I? We quickly said goodbye and promised we'd talk again very soon. The wild (or scary!) thing is that she didn't seem the least bit distracted while we were on the phone. I would have never guessed that she was navigating a mountain road with a cell phone in one hand. Hopefully she won't make this a habit, but it was just so Maughi to me. She is sharp as a tack!

Grandparents are wonderful. I am so lucky to have 3 grandparents still going strong - I do not call them enough. Life is so precious...we need that reminder every once in a while!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Banana Bread

This is hands-down the best banana bread you've ever tasted! It is super easy and you have got to make it. We pretty much always have some in our house because it's the perfect breakfast or a great snack if you are on the go which we pretty much all always are!


You'll need:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspon baking soda
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (I usually add more)


Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, flour & salt.


Mash up bananas with a fork and add soda so that they look like this...


(I like mine to be a little chunky.)

Combine bananas/soda with everything else.


Pour batter into 2 loaf pans, sprayed with Pam and lined with wax paper. I usually add pecans to one loaf...just sprinkle across the top.


Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees and this will await you!


Enjoy!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Favorite Things

The things in our homes say so much about our style, taste and most of all, our history...really, we all just collect items as we go. Things that have been passed down from another generation, left over from the stranger who lived at your house before you did, or given as a gift somewhere along the way. There are so many things in our home that are so meaningful to me. Not necessarily because of the way they look, but because of the story behind them. Thought I'd share!


This is my most favorite lamp EVER! It is made of tin and was given to my parents as a wedding gift. My mom has generously let me keep this in my house and it sits on our entry table, stacked on a couple of books.


These gold-gilt frames were my great grandmother's on my mom's side. I don't really know any history behind them...they were in a "junk" box when she passed away. I love them and have them hung on the wall in our hallway without pictures in them.


We have six of these chairs...2 with arms and 4 without. The 4 are around our dining room table and I have the 2 armchairs as extra seating in our living room. This was a fun project. My mom found these chairs and a dining room table for a crazy cheap price. The chairs were covered in a very outdated and stained ivory damask, so we ripped that fabric right off and recovered them. We added the fringe to make them sassy. Love the caning.


Obviously, I like things with an Oriental flair. This is half of an old scroll that my mom's best friend Jenny gave to her. We decided to split it and have each half framed. It has no matte and is framed in a black bamboo frame with plexiglass. It is huge! My grandmother had someone interpret the figures so it's neat to know what it means!


We have a few pieces (and more in storage) from Josh's paternal grandmother who passed away about a year and a half ago. The end tables in our living room are hers. We probably need to treat the leather inlays on the tops because they are drying out but these tables are gorgeous and so special to me!



My Woodland dog treat cannister! This was a wedding gift. Obsessed with this china. It is so "us." Love our dogs...even though Oliver the Maltese isn't nearly woodsy enough to be featured on this!
 

The man who married us (Ken Henry) gave this oil painting to Josh and me. It was waiting at our house when we got home from our honeymoon. Very special and thoughtful. It is in our kitchen.


Love my pretty cow! This is a cheap and I'm pretty sure fake painting that I picked up at an Atlanta gift shop. I just love her eyelashes. She is in our dining room and goes perfectly with the red on the walls.


Photographs of Buster and Oliver. Atlanta photographer Jessica Kamm took these. Yes, Oliver has a bow on! It is camouflage which mans it up, right?


My great grandmother's dessert plates. These are old, old, old Wedgewood. My mom thought they were ugly! They do look prettier with a piece of chocolate cake on them. I love them and think they are so unique.

That's it! What are your favorite things?




Monday, March 7, 2011

Saturday Morning Project - Finished!

The pictures for the wall project arrived today...it is finished!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring is in the Air

This is the best time of the year, minus all the pollen! I am so looking forward to getting in my yard this spring and tackling a few projects. This fall, my mom and sister helped us with some plantings in our back yard. We have irises popping up all over the place and I'm hoping they'll bloom this year! Just need to neaten up the bed by pulling some weeds and refreshing the pine straw.

Wouldn't it be amazing to have a front yard manicured like this?


Or cottage-y like this...



I'll keep dreaming! Someone in our neighborhood lined their shrubs with Loosestrife (below) last year and it looked beautiful and natural. I think I'll stick with white flowers and try these or something else simple. I'll show before and after pictures. Anything will be an improvement from what we have now!

So, project #1: plant annuals in the beds in the front yard.


Project #2: Replant the Scottie dog topiary form, which is currently on my front porch with Christmas lights wrapped around it. My mom had this little guy in the mountains several years ago and he didn't make it through the winter. I think he was planted with creeping fig.



Project #3: Revamp the potting table that is looking rough in our back yard. It is painted white at the moment but could use lots of scrubbing and a fresh coat or 2 of paint. The surface was once green and white tile. It is now missing several of the tiles...I'm not wild about the shade of green anyway so I'll figure out what to do there. Any ideas? I'm loving this one below from Pottery Barn.


Ideas welcome!!!!!!!!!