Thursday, April 18, 2013

Birthday Affair Part 2: A Trip to Victoria, British Columbia

A non-food related topic for today: for Alex's 23rd birthday we decided to fly the coop and take a trip to Victoria, British Columbia! It was only about a 4 to 5 hour drive to get to the ferry, and about another 45 minutes on the ferry. We left out car in the states, and found that getting around by transit in Victoria was very easy and actually really enjoyable, since we never had to find parking or navigate unknown streets. Oddly enough too, we had AMAZING sunny weather the entire time.

The place we stayed at was called The English Inn, which we discovered by purchasing their Groupon for a two night stay.  It was just about the cutest and nicest place I've ever seen; it is a Tudor style manor house that sits on 4.5 acres of beautiful gardens, and each room has it's own name and theme. I would highly recommend this place and if, or should I say, when I go back I'll definitely be staying there!

    View from our Balcony 

Exploring the grounds
      Beautiful outside gazebo

We explored lots of different places, including:

  • The Royal BC Museum: This place was amazing! The level of detail the museum puts into their exhibits was unparalleled from any other museum I've ever been too. If you go, I highly recommend a guided tour. Our tour guide was highly informative and witty, which made for a especially wonderful experience. 
Embarrassing my lovely boyfraaan, by making him take this silly picture
  • The BC Parliament Building: You can't find buildings like that in Portland! We didn't actually go inside, but exploring the outside was mesmerizing enough!
BC Parliament Building

They have emblems on their trash cans!

Queen Victoria 
  • The Empress Hotel: Again, we didn't go inside or stay there (waaay to expensive), but just exploring the outside and learning about the hotel's history at the museum was really great. 
 Photo shoot outside the Empress Hotel
  • Beacon Hill Park: When we visited this gigantic park it was just starting to have it's spring flowers bloom, which was particularly lovely to see. 
A Pond at Beacon Hill Park

Spring Flowers in the Park
  • Macaulay Point Park: This was literally three blocks from where we were staying, and it was breath taking! We visited on our last day, and by that time it was cloudy and a bit rainy, but I bet if we had gone on the sunny day before, we would have been able to see all the way across to the Olympic Mountains behind Port Angeles. I highly recommend visiting this park!
View from Macaulay Point Park
It truly was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to go back!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Birthday Affair Part 1: Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Espresso Buttercream

A few weeks ago my wonderful boyfriend, Alex, turned 23! My goodness... where has the time gone?! It seems like just yesterday we were sitting in the grass on a sunny day daydreaming about what it'd be like to be 18.

A special occasion like turning 23, is an occasion only fit for the most marvelous layered cake! Alex is actually one of those people that don't really care for sweets all that much (weird, I know, but they do exist), so picking the right recipe was a challenge. I ultimately decided that vanilla would probably suite his palate, and remembered that I had a recipe pinned for a vanilla bean latte cake.

Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Espresso Buttercream

Recipe adapted from: Sweetapolita and Martha Stewart

The cake recipe is from Sweetapolita (a cake goddess, if you ask me!), but the frosting I adapted a bit. Sweetapolita's buttercream called for using egg whites, and at the time I was already feeling quite ambitious by making my first layered cake. I decided to go with something a little more basic, so I chose a recipe from Martha Stewart. This recipe called for a half a cup of milk, so to add espresso to the frosting I mixed 1 to 2 tablespoons of instant espresso into the milk and then mixed it in to my buttercream base.

The biggest challenge for this one was just being patient. Not something I'm all that good at. You have to let the cake cool completely before you stack them and frost them. Buuut... I was just so excited to start decorating that I thought "Oh, if I take them out of the pan... they'll cool quicker!" Which is true, but it also meant that a bit of the side of the cake came a part and I had to get creative by sculpting it back together. It turned out good in the end, but still... I've got to remember to be more patient.


Crafty Lady: Anthropologie Inspired Trinket Dish

On another non-food related topic, because cooking isn't my only endeavor, I recently decided to get all crafty and make a trinket dish. I've actually been crafting a lot lately! This is mainly because I have an amazingly creative and crafty best friend, by the name of Katee (follow her on Pinterest here), and she is always inspiring me to try my hand at various crafts. It's a lot of fun and super rewarding!

If you're a Pinterest addict, like myself, then I'm sure you've seen the endless pins of "Anthropologie Inspired Ring Plates," but it's a super easy and inexpensive craft to make, so I decided to make a couple for myself and a few friends.

The supplies you'll need are:

  • Small paint brush
    • You'll want a small one for any of the little details on your animal or figurine (i.e. eyes, feet, etc).
  • Small Plastic Animal or Figurine
    • I bought mine at the craft store, and it helps to choose ones that have a level base or feet that lay flat.
  • Small plate
    • I found mine at Goodwill for like 99 cents each. They're the perfect color and I was super lucky to find them. You want to make sure the plate has a flat center and is about the size of an appetizer plate or tea cup plate. 
  • Craft Paint
  • Adhesive
    • I used E6000 Industrial Strength Adhesive. You can use hot glue, but I find that hot glue doesn't have enough of a rubbery, stretchy texture and often breaks, so I would advise it. 

And the steps to make them are:
  • Paint your figures in the color you've chosen. Mine needed about 2 to 3 coats of paint, so this process took me about an hour or less. I painted each coat after about 15 minutes of drying. After you've done your last coat you want to make sure to let it dry completely for a few hours. 
  • Thoroughly clean and dry your plates. 
  • Take your dry, painted animal or figurine and determine where you want it to stand on your plate. 
  • Use a small amount of your adhesive and apply to the base of your animals or figurine (in my case their little feet) and then place on your plate.
  • Let dry over night anVoilĂ !