Monthly Archives: July 2011

Fashionably Late Friday: Yellow And Navy Heaven.

Blousson Noir Waistcoat With Leather Straps, Southwards Chevron Tank, Miss Me Paisley Skinny Stretch Jean, MICHAEL Michael Kors Semi Rimless Aviator Sunglasses, Puma Originals Mono Grip Bag, Shiekh Yellow Platform Pumps, John Lewis Tipped Edge Bow Trilby Hat, Owl Ring, Yellow Peacock Feather Bracelet, Stephan & Co. Double Feather Earrings, Essie Midnight Cami Nail Polish.

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission.

Yes, you’re in the right place. This is still Hot Polka Dot. I’m just shaking things up a little bit.

This is completely new territory for me. I’ve never talked to you about my love for skinny jeans, motorcycle vests, aviators, or fedoras. Starting now we’re going to be trying something new every week called Fashionably Late Friday where I express my love for things like oversized bangles, printed scarves, cameo brooches and demi dresses.

Don’t be scared. I’m still going to bake you up some sweetness every week too. Duh! Don’t you eat your cupcakes in stiletto heels too? There’s more to me than sugar and spice so now I’m going to start showing you the everything nice part.

This little number is something I like to call Yellow and Navy Heaven. It’s a really trendy combo right now and I would wear this to the movies, out shopping or heck I’d wear it to bed because I’d never want to take it off!

How To Tuesday: Photography Composition Part I.

I had a tasty idea for you today. It had something to do with raspberries, lemons, sugar and lots of it. But as you can see, no raspberries, no lemons and certainly no sugar.

Instead this tuesday I decided to bring you something a little different. Over the past few months I’m not afraid to admit that my photography skills have improved threefold since my humble beginnings with my little point and shoot. It surprises even me sometimes when I compare the vast differences between my old photos and my new ones. Many of you have made such sweet comments about my photos and have expressed an interest in my techniques.

So I thought I would share what I’ve learned about photography and reveal the tips and tricks behind taking a successful photo. Over the next few weeks I’ll turn How To Tuesdays into basic photography tutorials so you too can benefit from my experience. Today let’s start simply with composition, more specifically, the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds is a simple concept to help you achieve an aesthetically pleasing photo composition. Basically you divide the photo into thirds horizontally and vertically so you have 9 equal rectangles. Wherever those lines lay or intersect you should place an area of focus or visual interest.

You can do this one of three ways. You can rely on your eyes and visually divide the shot into thirds. Don’t sell your eyes short! You’d be surprised how accurate that method is. Many digital SLR cameras have the option to view the lines for the rule of thirds on the viewfinder. This is really handy and allows you to compose your image live as well as decreasing your need for cropping. Most photo editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom allow you to see the rule of thirds grid while you’re cropping your photos. I use a combination of my eyes and cropping depending on the photo and composition.

My photo of the bumblebee is a great example of the rule of thirds. You can see how I started out by cropped the photo in Photoshop. You didn’t know how much more there was to that photo did you?

The bottom right lines go right through the bee’s closest wing as it stretches out toward you. Very rarely do we get to see the quick little critters of nature so I was so happy to bring you a macro shot of a bumblebee wing so you can see just how the light reflects off the thin ethereal texture. You see just enough of the flowers to know that they are indeed flowers but it’s clear the focus is on the bee.

In my opinion the rule of thirds becomes more important the more simplistic the composition is and the icicle is a perfect example of this theory. The icicle is the one and only subject and the drip is the only point of interest so it makes sense to make the best of those little lines. I placed the drip on one of the intersecting points which emphasizes the action and movement of the shot.

Fresh fruit is probably one of my favourite subjects to photograph so I just had to include this shot of cherries. I tightened the image up with a little cropping and placed an intersection point on the knot in the stem. I centred the glistening water droplets to convey a feeling of freshness and make you want to pluck that cherry right out of the frame like it had your name on it.

The rule of thirds makes composing and viewing a photo easy. Those little lines divide the image into shapes and focal points that are naturally visually appealing. It not only makes your photo easy on the eyes, but can also create tension, balance shapes and make an ordinary image dynamic.

That being said, the rule of thirds isn’t set in stone. There’s room to play and it shouldn’t be treated like an exact science. You don’t have to put every focal point right on those intersecting lines. What is considered good or bad composition is somewhat relative so don’t feel constricted by this so-called rule. Instead have fun experimenting with composition because, as cliche as it is, rules are meant to be broken.

How To Tuesday: Eggcellent.

   I know what you’re thinking. I know how to boil an egg! Sure, everyone does. It’s not really that hard. I’m sure you’ve boiled more than your fair share of eggs and they’ve all turned out fine. But then I’m sure you’ve also had a few batches of eggs that were less than fine.

Maybe the shell stubbornly and inexplicably stuck to the egg so the only way you could peel it off was to brutally mutilate the poor defenseless egg until all that was left was a pile of broken bits of white and yellow.

Or the shells cracked and unsightly half cooked egg goo oozed out into the boiling water to create this amoebas alien egg.

Or you’re happy with the shape of the eggs but while preparing deviled eggs for a special occasion you slice into the yolk only to discover it’s tinted a rather unappetizing shade of green.

Well I’m here today to make sure that never happens again. I’ll help you understand the science behind boiling an egg and I’ll reveal to you the little tips and tricks behind the perfect hard boiled egg.

Choose a pot that is just big enough to fit the amount of eggs you wish to boil. Gently place the eggs in the pot and cover them with cold water up to an inch above the eggs. This will ensure the eggs will have enough water while cooking and it will not boil off.

Add about a 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the water and stir it until it dissolves. Eggs that are at least 5 days old are easier to peel because their higher pH strengthens the membrane. Eggs that are fresher should be boiled with a 1/2 tsp of baking soda to make the cooking water more alkaline.

Fit the lid on the pot and heat it over medium heat until the water begins to boil. Of course you could always set the stove to high heat and boil them faster but the eggs should be boiled slowly so as not to shock the cold shell and cause cracking. Once you start to see consistent boiling turn the stove off and let it sit for 2 – 5 minutes for soft boiled eggs and 10 – 15 minutes for hard boiled eggs. I usually stop at 13 minutes but it might vary depending on your tastes, stove and pot.

With a slotted spoon lift the eggs out of the pot one at a time and place them in a bowl of ice water. This step has a three-fold purpose. It makes the eggs cool enough to handle, blanching the shells to make them easier to peel.

After a few minutes in the ice bath remove the eggs one at a time to peel the shells. Gently but firmly tap or roll each egg on a solid surface to crack the shell. Starting from the thicker base of the egg begin peeling the shell. It’s easier to start at the base because usually that’s where the air pocket is located which gives you room to start peeling without worrying about marking the delicate egg.

With wet hands and without using your fingernails slide your finger between the egg and the shell and carefully peel away the membrane and shell. Sometimes you get lucky and the shells comes off all in one piece without a fuss. Pay no attention to my freaky bendy thumb, by the way.

Rinse the bits of shell off the egg with cold water. Turn them into egg salad, deviled eggs or simply serve them with salt. Enjoy!

Bumblebees and Blueberries.

The last few days have been wet and dreary. It feels like the rain and chill are interminable and we’ll never see the sun come out from behind the dark clouds.

The air is thick with the fresh earthy scent of fresh rain. If you venture outside even for a moment you return with frizzy rain hair, water droplets decorating it like a halo of mini lights.

The normally cheerful pansies drop their tiny faces to the ground under the weight of a few raindrops. But nothing seems to dampen the spirits of this determined little bumblebee. He buzzes from flower to fragrant flower and seems to inject new life and colour into the otherwise grey world.

I decided I’d pick up where the sweet bumblebee left off and bake up some happiness of my own. There’s nothing like fresh from the oven Blueberry Vanilla Bean Muffins to brighten your morning. The sweet scent of vanilla paired with the bursting flavour of blueberry.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Muffins

Makes about 18 muffins.

Source: My imagination.

3 cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup blueberries
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Printer-Friendly Version

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt then set it aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter, and sugar until it’s light a fluffy. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds and incorporate them into the batter. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until each is just blended. Alternate the addition of milk and the dry ingredients in thirds, making sure not to over mix each addition. Finally add the blueberries and mix it lightly.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and fill each nearly to the brim of the liner and then sprinkle each liberally with turbinado sugar. Bake them for 15 – 20 minutes until the tops are a nice golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

How To Tuesday: Bouquet of Tulips.

When I made my Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Muffins I got a lot of questions about how to make your own tulip baking cups. I described it briefly in the recipe but I thought it would be better if I just showed you.

You can buy tulip baking cups but why bother spending money on something that you can make for next to free? You know I’m all about saving money. Plus sometimes we’re human and run out of important stuff like baking cups. It’s nice to know we forgetful folk have options. It’s just a clever trick to dress up even the plainest muffins.

Cut parchment paper into squares 2 – 3 inches wide. One at a time press the squares into the cups in the muffin tin. Smooth your fingers into the corners and whatever paper puckers up crease it flat against the side of the cup using your fingernail. Make sure not to force the parchment paper too far because it tears pretty easily especially with sharp fingernails.

Continue until you’ve filled the muffin tin with the sweet tulip baking cups. They may have a tendency to spring up out of the pan but that just means you need to make a few more creases in the parchment paper to make it fit snugly.

Make sure to drop in tomorrow to see just how to properly use these adorable liners.

I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with shmuffins.

Sunsets and Suntans.

It’s officially Summertime. There’s always time when we’re on Summertime. It’s like a magical time zone where days are long and nights are cool. Where sunsets are made of cotton candy clouds and violet watercolour skies. Where the grass is green and the flowers greet you with a smile. Where the popsicles are always cold and the the sun is always hot.

The sun wakes up at 5am and doesn’t go to sleep until 11pm. You can stay in bed til noon and still have enough time in the day to get everything done. People mow their lawns at 11pm and go grocery shopping at 7:30am.

Nap in the comfort of the warm sun. Let your ice cream melt. Roll down the windows and let the warm breeze get tangled in your hair. Get a sunglasses tan. Have dinner at 9pm. Track sand into the car. Get dirt under your nails. Who cares? We’re on Summertime!

In the spirit of lazy Summer days I’ve made Cherry Almond White Chocolate Ice Cream. Pink and sweet just like a sunset.

Cherry Almond White Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes about 15 servings.

Source: Adapted from Kitchen Aid’s French Vanilla Ice Cream.

2 cup half and half cream
7 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup bing cherries, pitted and chopped
1 cup cherry puree
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks
1/4 cup almonds, sliced and toasted

Printer-Friendly Version

In a medium sauce pan heat the half and half cream and whole vanilla bean on medium heat until it’s very hot but not boiling. Take it off the heat and set aside the vanilla bean.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg yolks and sugar on low speed until they’re blended and slightly thick, about 30 seconds. Pour the hot cream gradually into the egg yolk mixture while it’s mixing on low.

Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds with the edge of your knife. Stir in the vanilla seeds, whipping cream and salt then refrigerate it for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Once it’s sufficiently chilled mix it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last few minutes of mixing add the cherries, puree, chocolate and almonds.

Serve it however tickles your fancy. Enjoy!

I’m With Cupcake.

I have a special announcement to make! Tomorrow is the grand opening of I’m With Cupcake, the brainchild of my good friend, Jordan from Kitchen Karate. It’s a super cool online boutique with a broad selection of all things “cute as a cupcake”. Anything from kitschy office supplies and adorable matryoshka measuring cups to sweet ladybug ear buds and pretty in pink dish towels.

In celebration of this exciting day, Jordan was kind enough to offer you all a 10% off promo code when you spend $30 or more before taxes and shipping. Just for being my lovely readers!

To use the promo code just enter hotpolkadot when you checkout. It can only be used once per purchase and cannot be combined with another discount. It’s just for this weekend so make sure to head on over to I’m With Cupcake to ooh and aww at all the cuteness.