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Teenage Birthday Grab Box

6. Moustache Clips

We have a birthday in the house next week.  Since I can't show what she's actually getting yet, I thought I'd put together an inexpensive grab bag of fun little things for a teenage girl.  The index card labels add a hint of cuteness to flash cards perfect for studying.  Spanish or French class might be a little less painful with these as a study buddy.  My teenager is really into spikey accessories right now, so I know she'd love this two-finger ring.  The Tokyomilk lip balms come in flavors like salted caramel, and the bad girl flavors clove cigarette, absinthe, and cherry bourbon.  I'd much rather have her using this instead of the real thing.  Every girl should keep some makeup remover towelettes by her bed for those nights she's just too tired to wash her face to make sure she doesn't go to bed with her makeup on.  We are about to give our girl her first house key.  The owl Quirkeys will hopefully help her keep track of it.  We've found mustaches on band-aids, straws, and cups, but now they are on paperclips that can be used as bookmarks.  They might just show up propped under our noses, too.  

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To Oyster or Not to Oyster That is the Question

A sampler from McCormick & Schmick's 

Do you eat oysters in months with no R?  Or is it don't eat them in months with an R?  I think I was taught not to eat them during warm summer months, but that seems like the best time to sit down with a chilled platter and a cold glass of white wine.  I know some people don't like wine with oysters, but I love the combination of the salty oyster spiced up with horseradish followed by the cool, sweet wine.  Great...maybe it's not too late to change our dinner reservation.

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What Are We Planting Today?

As much as I would love to add gardening to my list of accomplishments, I'm pretty horrible at it.  I start with the best intentions, and then it just falls apart.  I forget to water, weeks go by, and I end up killing everything I've planted.  The one thing I've done really well though is taking care of rose bushes.  We only have a few at this house, but for some reason, I'm really dedicated to cutting them back.  

Despite my flaws, I continue to attempt to try new things.  This week I planted some gladiola bulbs in pots for the greenhouse window in my kitchen.  Also, one little puny jasmine plant for beneath our bedroom window.  


Seamus just wanted to look for sticks in the potting soil.  He is obsessed with chewing on the little twigs that fall out of the trees in the backyard.


Joey has his own personal obsession with the hose, so when it came time to water the pots, he becomes like a madman until he is squirted off.


Now I just have to remember to water them.  Wish me luck.

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Cupcake Love or Hate?

Homemade (It started as a clock for New Year's Eve)

It seems like there are two definite camps when it comes to cupcakes: you either love them, or you hate them.  I am not ashamed to admit that I am a cupcake lover.  Cake, in general, is my favorite dessert mostly because I love frosting.  I was that kid at the birthday party who wanted the corner piece with all the icing flowers.  I still remember the day with horror that I discovered a cake with whipped cream frosting.  Why would you do that to me?

A hidden gem.  Almond joy bite baked into a vanilla cupcake with chocolate ganache but dry cake ruins everything.

Cupcakes have the potential to have the perfect cake to frosting ratio.  When they don't, it's devastating.  But far worse is dry cake.  My second job ever (if you don't count working for my parents) was in a bakery where I learned all kinds of horrifying secrets for cutting corners vs. good quality.  Most bakeries freeze their cakes before icing them.  If you start with an already dry cake, freeze it, ice it, and let it defrost before selling it, you have a nice block of sawdust.

A dozen from my old favorite.  Wish I had more pictures of what they looked like before.  These are actually pretty sorry looking to me.

I found the best little independent cupcake shop in Old Town a few years ago.  I loved the place so much, I had them make my wedding cake (not a cupcake cake by the way).  Shortly after, the owner sold to another couple who had done a good job keeping the quality the same.  A few weeks ago, A and I stopped in to buy a few and were devastated to find that the quality had really changed.  Hoping it was just an off day, we went back and bought two more, but no, the cake tasted like it was from a mix, and it was very dry.

Too little icing on the top cupcake, and the cookies and cream was just not moist.  Notice there is no glossiness to the cake.  The smores cupcake had too much going on: toasted coconut and a chocolate drizzle on top, an actual graham cracker sticking out from under the frosting, no noticeable marshmallow flavor, and the cake was dry.  Combined with the graham cracker, it was sawdust.

This really upset me.  When I get attached to things, I really have problems letting go (as my sister and mother can attest).  I remembered reading about a cupcake shop called Polkatots and went the very next day to pick some up.

So pretty!

Delicious cake, just the right amount of frosting, a really nice staff, and great cupcakes.  This is our new cupcake place for sure.

We tried to get similar flavors to do a true comparison.  No smores, so we chose the coconut, which had a subtle hint throughout the icing and the cake.  I love that the coconut on top is so fine and only lightly toasted, so the texture doesn't take away from the cake.  Moist and delicious.  The cookies and cream is frosted with cookie butter buttercream!  The cake is so moist it stuck to my fingers.

Pistachio.  Perfect frosting to cake ratio, notice how glossy the cake is showing the moistness, and the salty pistachios are the perfect contrast to the sweet icing.  Delicious.

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Kitchen Tools



I had to laugh at myself when I brought these Core spatulas into the kitchen the other day.  When they arrived in one of the PopSugar boxes, I wasn't in love with the colors.  As everyone knows, I'm not a bright person.  So why did I laugh?  I set them down on the counter where I keep the rest of the spatulas and realized that every spatula I own is either green, orange, or yellow.  How did that happen?



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MintStyle June Catalog


My husband got me hooked on Game of Thrones, but he's more emotionally attached to it than I am.  He walked around in a daze for a few days after last Sunday's episode saying, "What just happened?  Wait, what?  Now what?"  In one of those coincidences, I received the MintStyle catalog for June a few days later and saw pieces that seem to make a nod to the show.





The Draco necklace on the cover is inspired by dragons, and the Rebel Love ring (below) reminds me of something that a warrior's lady would wear.

You can use this link to become a member of JewelMint and receive personalized recommendations every month.  If you like an item in the catalog but don't want to become a member, you can email me directly at bespokegina@gmail.com to place an order.  

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Empowering Women Through Transition Workshop



I'm privileged to be part of an amazing workshop happening later this month in Pasadena.  I'd be thrilled to meet some of you if you are in the area.

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Pizza Please

Do you ever just have those days?  No matter how hard you are trying to make good choices with your eating decisions, you have to live, right?  Sometimes in the morning when I'm trying to figure out what to feed the family that night, something jumps out at me, and I come up with an idea that is pretty indulgent.


Hmmm, frozen pizza dough and Italian sausage, goat cheese, Alfredo sauce.  There you have it: white pizza with sausage.  Happy Thursday.

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Summer Reading

I never seem to be reading the book of the moment in the moment.  If there is something popular right now, I'll get to it in the next year or two.  Somehow this works for me and allows me to avoid disappoint if something is overly hyped and doesn't live up to the expectation.  Remember the hubbub about The DaVinci Code?  Completely avoided it, and, ironically, I had an advance readers copy of that book.


I feel the same way about the book I'm currently in the middle of, Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden which was published back in 2008.  I had no preconceived notions when I picked it up, so I've been able to just enjoy the story.

On the night of her 21st birthday in 1930, Nell's father heartbreakingly tells her that she is not his biological child.  While working in an Australian port, he found her abandoned when she was 4-years old.  With his wife, he takes her in, and they raise her as their own beloved daughter along with their biological children.  When Nell learns of this secret, it changes her life making her distrust and question all she knows and what she thinks about herself.  The narrative jumps between Nell's story, her granddaughter, Cassandra's, unraveling of the tale, and the story of Nell's family and how she was transported from an estate in England to Australia.

The construction of the story and unraveling of the mystery reminds me of A.S. Byatt's Possession, a book that I absolutely loved when I read it the first time while I was in graduate school.  Morton's book has pieces also reminiscent of Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, and Wuthering Heights.  For me, this is the best kind of summer reading: a big, thick, chunky book full of big English houses and secrets.


                                                                 

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