A BAKING ODYSSEY PART 1: MANGO JAM

IMG_3663-2Two weeks ago I started on a baking voyage that capitalized on any spare time I had.  I literally crawled under a cooking rock. I have my theories as to why I surrendered my life to the kitchen lately but I think the most viable one is my current need to be appreciated.  I know it sounds a bit needy but lets face it, there are times when you feel your job is thankless and you need to regain some sense of self worth. Cooking for friends and family makes people happy and in turn make me feel needed and loved. Also, it is a hell of a lot better than having a pity party of one. The baking binge was set in motion when I committed to making a birthday cake for a coworker who is always so kind to me.  I began to concoct the cake to end all cakes in my head and everything else followed. I pondered a filling for my cake… enter mango jam.  I had purchased a box of mangos recently and was looking for yet another use for them.  Lesson, no matter how much you may love a particular fruit, an entire box of it is quite a lot maybe even too much, but I digress. It was decided, the remaining mangos would become jam.  The whole process was a much easier than I anticipated and the end product was delicious.  I used the jam on toast for breakfast, as the filling for the cake, and whipped it with butter and honey to serve with some jalapeno cornbread muffins I made over the weekend. I told you I got stuck in the kitchen… Here is how I made my jam:

4 ripe mangos pealed and cubed, 1/2 cup honey powder (found this at the Asian market), 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 orange peal, 1/4 cup chopped basil(optional) and 1/4 cupwater.  I put all the ingredients in a pot on medium to low heat and let time do the rest giving the mixture a good stir from time to time. After the mango starts to cook down to a soft, spreadable consistency  the jam is done (about 40-50 min). I enjoyed my jam on toast the following morning, made mango honey butter from it, and of course used it as the filling for my cake.  I am excited to try peaches next!

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WEEKEND ERRANDS

IMG_3826There are few things better than a sunny Saturday bike ride. Lucky for me downtown has become fairly bike friendly over the past few years and cycling around town is really efficient when it comes to errands.  When running errands ease and comfort is key, but I don’t like to sacrifice style. Some light weight PJ Salvage pineapple shorts and jersey soft bra go perfectly under a long, sheer, neon tank. A waistpack and Roshes coordinate well and are perfect for the ride.IMG_3836IMG_3829IMG_3831IMG_3825

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MUFFIN MONDAY!!!

IMG_3621I love baking.  Now that my schedule is somewhat back to normal I have a few spare moments to squeeze in baking again in the evenings.  Many people are afraid of baking and I am not quite sure why.  My guess is one bad experience.  Most people say that baking requires a precision that they don’t like.  While it’s true that certain ratios need to be followed and  there are some rules for getting things to turn out a certain way, I find baking to be a lot more flexible than most think.  I substitute almond, lactose free, or coconut milk  for regular milk constantly. Vegetable oil can be replaced by coconut oil, or shortening, or butter in their liquid states and Fruits can be swapped out at will depending on their density ( berries and stone fruits are fairly interchangeable). Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg can be added to taste pretty much on a whim without the risk of technical failure. When it comes to mixing wet and dry ingredients separately I don’t always and things usually turn out just fine. These Raspberry Banana Oat muffins were sort of a hybrid of a few recipes and a product of what I had in the house combined with the need to use two very ripe bananas.  I like to eat my bananas when they are on the green side so the best option after they begin to speckle is to bake.  They make great breads and pancakes but muffins are great on-the-go treats, or breakfasts if you make them like me in jumbo size.  Here is the recipe below for these sweet and tangy treats.
IMG_3620Preheat oven to 400F.  In a mixing bowl mash two ripe bananas until they begin to get a bit liquid like. Beat in the egg with a whisk and once combined mix in the oil, milk, and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, and baking powder and mix in until well combined.  With a silicone spatula fold in oats and then raspberries. Spray jumbo muffin pan with cooking spray ( I love the coconut oil spray from Trader Joe’s).  Fill cups 2/3- 3/4 full and bake for about 20 min or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean (sometimes I don’t even set a timer, I just wait until they start to smell good and I check them… they are usually done by the time the smell has filled the house).  I bake them in the evening so I let them cool overnight and enjoy them with coffee in the morning. For a heartier muffin add slivered almonds and/or coconut shavings folded into the batter and sprinkled on top of the muffins before baking.

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LASH OUT

IMG_3587When it comes to make up, I like to wear it but I like to keep it simple.  I am more of the five minute face type than the five layers of conturing type.  But every once in a while, I like to go the extra steps to amp up my look for an evening out or a special event.  Luckily I have been blessed with genetics that grant me long lashes.  Just about any mascara makes my lashes look great for day to day and I don’t usually give them much thought. At times I have felt adventurous and used false lashes. They do add a lot but for me they are not practical for frequent use.  I am great at evenly applying liquid eyeliner with speed and ease but false lashes are a struggle for me. I feel like I cant get them straight, the glue goes everywhere, or something is uncomfortably pinching, and then comes the removal and trying not to rip lashes out. Ouchies! Needless to say, I usually avoid the drawn out falsies process.  When friend and long time supporter of my little blog Judy asked me to try Younique’s 3d fiber lashes I was a bit confused as to what it was exactly.  I wasn’t sure if they were false lashes, or mascara… turns out that it’s kind of a little of both and completely easy to use.  3d fiber lashes are used in conjunction with your current mascara so breath a sigh of relief (I hate breaking up with products I love).  After applying your normal mascara, one eye at a time apply the gel and fibers. The tiny fibers grab onto the gel acting like mini one-time-use extensions. After that a final coat of gel to seal them in, and bam! Lux lashes.  Drama added to your look and not your beautification process, just the way I like it.  The fiber lashes wash off easily with your normal soap and water and a bit of makeup remover. No pain.  It’s definitely a product worth adding to your beauty armory.

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1-for-3

143A couple posts ago I mentioned using key pieces to simplify creating different looks for different times of day, but there are other times when having go-to multi-occasion items is critical.  When packing for Thailand I was cautioned to take less than what I needed so that I didn’t end up having to carry too much around the country. I minded the advice, packed light, and did my best to take items that were suitable for a range of scenarios.  One thing I brought was this rib dress from Shopping Bare. The material is lightweight and comfortable, and air dries quickly (important when on a vacation).  The colour is neutral so it goes well with anything. The silhouette is form fitting but full coverage so it is neither frumpy or risque. Whether you are packing for a trip or looking for a key item to expand your everyday wardrobe, a dress like this is a must.  It is the perfect foundation to build just about any outfit around. Here are some ways I stretch the use of this piece.

Photos: Tschka Moran (facebook)

_MG_9231Saturday errands are easy as can be with a rayon voile scarf, waist pack, and Nike Roshes. The light weight scarf is great for a bit of sun protection or for some warmth when visiting indoor spaces where the air-conditioning is on full force. Everyone has an opinion about fanny packs and whether or not they are in vogue… The truth is, as long as you look put together there is nothing wrong with this hands free accessory.  I love using them when I am out and about or traveling because of how much it frees up my hands.  Fanny packs are also great to have when bike riding, if you have ever tried riding with a purse I am sure you understand.  Fresh new trainers worn with dresses are in style and are perfect for a day of sight seeing or just walking the dog. These Roshes took me all over Thailand. The are great because they are so classic and neutral in black and white, but white leopard print adds a bit of interest that ties back to the scarf.

_MG_9180 _MG_9038_MG_8985_MG_9029907A0294Instead of reaching for jeans on those days when I want to be comfortable in the office, I pair this cozy dress back to light weight blazer, silk scarf, and heels.  Adding a structured jacket to this dress hides the fact that the dress is so form fitting and adds a bit of professionalism. Using a silk scarf gives a touch of femininity and colour while drawing attention to the face.
907A0254907A0248907A0244907A0174When evening time comes, matching the dress back to  a lux silk robe and accessories with sheen makes for a sensual yet classy outfit great for a date or meeting up with friends. I love the way the seafoam green colour of this robe I bought in Chang Mai looks against the heather oatmeal dress.  I played up the green by adding a Navajo made necklace of California Jade, and a shell clutch I snagged in Krabi.  I love wearing pieces that are conversation starters in the evening.  My robe, clutch, and necklace all have a story.  Items like these work like ice breakers.  Perhaps someone complements my robe and I mention that I found it in Thailand, they happen to be planning a trip to Thailand… and away we go!!907A0153907A0185907A0101 907A0119

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LONG STORY SKORT….

day-to-nightLet’s face it, there are those times when looking effortless actually has to be effortless.  This last Saturday was just that for me.  I would’ve been happy posting up on the couch for the entire day but I forced myself to join society. When I was shopping in Bangkok I noticed a lot of the girls wearing skorts, or little short skirts that have shorts attached underneath.  I’ve loved skorts since my pre-teen years.  I love skirts, but I love them even more with the comfort of a short underneath to protect from any possible wardrobe malfunctions.  This cream polkadot skort was a perfect choice for my day-to-night/ low-effort needs on Saturday.  Paired with an adorable Townsend sweater, gold flats, and a bow belt I was sweet in my skort for lunch and errands on the go.  A quick switch of the top to a bright tropical blouse with a good strong shoulder, pink studded belt back to my trusty studded leopard heels, big earrings, and a black blazer for the chilly walk home and I had a sassy evening ensemble. Even luckier for me I scored a gem of a vintage Lanvin purse recently on Etsy that worked perfectly with both looks so that I didn’t have to do the old purse transfer. Next time you have a long day ahead of you or you are feeling a bit less than excited to pull yourself together, reach for items that can pull double duty to save a bit of energy but keep yourself looking fabulous throughout the day.
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