Happy Monday all! With July 4th just two days away, I wanted to post one of my favorite and festive desserts in honor of the holiday, as well as a couple of cute outfit ideas for watching the fireworks.
I can’t say enough fabulous things about this cake courtesy of chef and hostess extraordinaire, Ina Garten. The bejeweled berry design is such a show stopper and the combination of the airy cake, creamy icing and fresh berries is absolutely delicious. Ina has done it yet again! You could easily make and decorate this dessert the day before and serve it on the 4th, or make it for any summer party. I actually baked this cake a couple of weeks ago for some close friends, and both the kids and adults enjoyed every last bite. Yum!
As for Independence Day attire, because it’s always fun to dress in patriotic colors on this special day, I love this dress and these sandals for casual look, as well as these jeans and this top would be darling for evening. This bathing suit would be cute for the 4th too, especially paired with some fun sunglasses and denim shorts.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July!
For the Cake
9 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/2 Cups sugar
3 Eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup sour cream, room temperature
3/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a rectangular cake pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high-speed, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed to medium, and add the eggs, one at a time. Next, add then add the sour cream and vanilla. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter until smooth.
Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Turn the mixer to low-speed, and add the flour mixture to until just combined. Try not to over mix! Pour the batter into the buttered pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake to room temperature.
For the icing, mix until smooth the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries (to resemble a flag). Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe, and put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (or you can make your own pastry bag by using a large ziplock bag and cutting the tip) and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is finished.
Several weeks ago one of my best girlfriends invited me to a flower arranging class at Avant Garden. We both share a love of home and garden (and Ina Garten!), and so it was such a treat to have a girls night celebrating flowers. As we stepped through the golden doors and into Avant Garden’s beautiful shop, we were greeted by what they deem their Flower Bar – endless vases of fresh and fragrant blooms. Flanking the flower bar are floor to ceiling sapphire hued cabinets filled with books and luxury home decor, as well as incredible art – this store is a real treasure trove!
We made our way downstairs and after nibbling on macaroons, the class began. We learned about the importance of using clear tape to create a grid for the flowers, as well as techniques to trim stems and how keeping arrangements in the fridge at night will help them last longer. Much to everyone’s delight, we were given a “recipe” and told to choose our favorite flowers from the flower bar for our arrangements. I loved this part because at other flower arranging classes I’ve attended, we’ve had to recreate a sample arrangement, and so having the freedom to choose our own colors and flowers really let us all have fun and be creative. And everyone’s arrangements looked different – some were teeming with pinks and greens, others with yellows and oranges, and others with whites and blues. They were all absolutely stunning! I chose purple and white hydrangeas, bright pink peonies, pale pink roses, and delicate greenery to fill in – all of my favorite flowers and colors nestled into one special little pave style arrangement.
While we snipped stems and tucked flowers neatly in the vases, the class host’s played flower trivia and some of the attendees even won prizes. I had so much fun at Avant Garden’s flower arranging class, and look forward to attending another one again soon. Here are a few pictures and if you live in Dallas, try to pop into their store!
I love organizing, and often a trip to the Container Store for a single seagrass basket will turn into an hour long visit wandering the aisles. Everything is so much easier to find when its in the right place, and a clutter-free organized house brings a true sense of calmness and serenity. Color coding, woven bins, label makers – yes to all! We recently organized our pantry with clear containers and bins, and what a difference it made! I can now easily see how much almond flour we have, or if we need oatmeal or crackers, and walking into the pantry is so much more enjoyable. Now, I just need to do the rest of the house!
On my journey to learn about home organization this past year (our new house was the perfect motivator to organize), I discovered the most amazing company – The Neat Method. The Neat Method is a lifestyle service committed to providing a more luxurious and smartly appointed living space, and they are incredible at their craft. Founded by two truly talented and charming women (they are best friends too!), Molly Graves and Ashely Murphy, the Neat Method specializes in everything from organizing a cluttered closet or entire home, to coordinating relocation logistics.
The minute I learned about The Neat Method, I knew I had to interview Molly and Ashley, and learn more about their method to neatness! I know you will love them and Neat Method as much as I do, and so, here are all their tips on spring cleaning, and how to stay organized. Enjoy!
I love that you met serendipitously while shopping in SF! Tell us how you two bonded over your love for organization and created the idea for Neat Method.
Our meeting was definitely fate and the creation of NEAT Method was very much the same. We met for a cup of coffee to talk about living in our new city of San Francisco and compare notes on our favorite spots in our old city (chicago). During that time, I (Molly) told Ashley how I was formerly a kindergarten teacher and my certificate was not valid in the state of California. Then Ashley explained that as a personal trainer, she lost all of her clients when she moved across the country. When Ashley asked me what my new plan was going to be, slightly hesitant, I told her that I wanted to be a professional organizer and I had a secret love of color coding and organizing. This is one of those things that people hear and think that you are totally CRAZY, or they are the exact same way. In Ashley’s case, she was not only exactly the same, but she started an organizing business on the side of her training in Chicago. The entire sequence of events seems like the starts aligned for us, and we both really believe that they did!
Organizing an entire house can be overwhelming! Where do you start?
As organizers, we just jump right in! When it isn’t your stuff, the task seems a lot less daunting. BUT if you are trying to start organizing your own space and don’t know where to begin, we always recommed starting with items that can expire (think spices, foods and medicines). This will give you a baseline of when the last time was that you REALLY did a full clean out 😉
What are your must have/favorite organizing products? Be it clear bins, woven baskets, etc.
Are little extras like labels, color coding and drawer liners a must?
When we organize for people, ABSOLUTELY! People love a great reveal and the details are what makes the space really “shine”. We have never been a fan a drawer liners because they just create more work and make it much harder to actually clean out the inside of a drawer but drawer inserts are for sure at the top of our list! We are however, realists. We don’t expect you to keep your scarves color coded and folded in the basket in your closet – that is for a great reveal. We do believe that you should keep your scarves all in that basket moving forward so that you can always find what you are looking for. Labels keep an entire family in check. It’s a little hard to put things in the wrong place when the bin is clearly labeled :).
What tips do you give clients so they stay organized?
We recommend becoming more aware of how much you bring into your space. Start to notice every shopping bag, grocery bag, etc and you will see that you are constantly adding to your space. The best thing you can do is to always have a donate bag going so that you can easily add to it at all times in an effort to even the flow of items coming in and out.
Spring cleaning is top of mind for many right now. Any tips on how to de-clutter and organize?
We recommend starting on and easy space to transform so you become inspired to keep going! Do a makeup drawer or bedside table to get in the organizing mood!
What is the most common mistake people make when trying to organize their house?
Hands down the most common mistake is purchasing organizational solutions before you have really gotten your hands on the space. Take everything out, categorize it and then plan where everything will live. From there, it is time to buy new product. Always buy product LAST!
What’s the most popular space people ask you to organize? (Pantry, closet, etc)
Pantry and closet are really a really close tie for first. Depending on the season, it will change. During the spring, wardrobes are popluar and holidays pantries are big because people are cooking for family and guests :).
Do you have a favorite project to date?
Oh geez! Every project is special to us in it’s own way. Some of the spaces are pretty magical and some of the clients are what make the project so fun. It would be really hard to give one now that we are in cities across the US.
What are your top five tips to keep in mind when organizing?
1. Check expiration dates 2. Matching hangers makes everything look better. 3. When in doubt alphabetize and color code 4. Label label label 5. Don’t be afraid to eliminate!!