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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Custom Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are the greatest invention in the history of gift-giving.

You can create one for any occasion.  Seriously.  For ANY occasion!

I don’t create your typical gift basket…I pretty much hate anything in an oversized wicker basket wrapped in cellophane.

I have a weird thing about cellophane.  Just thinking about that crinkling is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

I have a tendency to get super carried away with gift-giving.  I find great joy in going to million and one stores to find six different items that perfectly match each other to create one unified basket of  happiness.

I can get pretty matchy matchy in ways that make my husband shake his head.

Anyways, I have come up with a few tips for creating some really unique and personalized gifts.

  1.  Come up with a theme.  It can be based on the occasion (baby shower, housewarming, etc.) or something the person enjoys (wine, books, movies, etc.).
  2. Think of one (or more) main items and go from there.  I usually give myself a price-point which I will either meet with one big item or a few smaller ones.  For example, to create a movie-themed basket I can spend $50 on a special-edition box set of a movie or I can split the $50 on movie tickets and a gift card to a restaurant.
  3. Add “fillers”.  These are meant to be small, inexpensive items that add to the theme of the basket.  For example, to add to my movie-themed basket I can get a package of microwave popcorn, a box of their favorite candy, and a bottle of soda-pop.
  4. When possible, buy items that fit into a color scheme.  I will add ribbon and tissue paper in colors inspired by one of the main items in the basket in order to make everything look unified.
  5. Be smart about the container!  Few people need giant wicker baskets (which are expensive anyways) cluttering up their house.  Find containers that fit the theme of the basket and that can be used by the recipient.  For example, I can put my movie-themed items inside a bowl or tub that can be used for popcorn.

Here are examples of some of my more recent baskets:

For the birthday of a close friend, I created a “Nook and Coffee” basket.  This included:

  • a Barnes & Noble gift card
  • a Starbucks gift card (cleverly placed inside of an empty Starbucks cup)
  • candied almonds and gummy candies (gotta have munchies while you read)

Wouldn’t you rather get this than a gift card shoved inside an envelope?

For my long-time mentor who moved to Kansas I created a “Roadtrip” basket.  She would be spending five days to drive across the country with her sister, so I filled her basket with

  • calming CD’s (I knew she would enjoy Celtic Thunder and a compilation of classics on the guitar)
  • hand sanitizer (because gas station bathrooms are gross)
  • Snacks (granola bars, small bags of cookies and crackers, and Ghirardelli chocolate squares)
  • Drinks (two bottle of her favorite soda and two bottles of water)

I placed everything inside of a mesh basket that could be used in her new home!

Nothings says roadtrip like junk food!

Finally, for a coworker who moved into her own apartment, I created a “New Home” basket.  I thought about things you might need to set up a home and ended up with:

  • a mini hand broom and dustpan
  • Kleenex
  • duct tape
  • extension cord
  • reminder post-its
  • removable wall-hanging hooks
  • a picture hanging kit

I put it all inside of a small plastic bucket that would be perfect for holding “under the sink” things like sponges.

Yellow and grey are my new favorite color combinations!

Insert Witty Vegas Wedding Title Here

I love weddings.

After studiously reading through wedding magazines, the knot, and Martha Stewart (not to mention time spent on Pinterest staying up to date with all the latest in wedding trends) I like to consider myself something of an expert on wedding planning.  Are you getting married?  If so, I could totally plan the shit out of your wedding.  And I can make your wedding cake (I’ve made one wedding cake before, so I’m kind of a pro –  it’s no big deal).

Despite having someone like me with such amazing skills and knowledge, my sister decided not to let me plan her wedding.  You would think she wanted it to be all about HER or something – sheesh!

Instead, my sister had a Las Vegas wedding!  She was married on July 4th in front of the fountains of the Bellagio.

The water show began right after the ceremony!

Despite having a small and intimate wedding (eight guests total), I took my role as Matron of Honor very seriously!  I know when I got married it was the littlest details that made the day extra special.

First on my list was wedding flowers.  My sister LOVES daisies!  She wanted gerbera daisies in bright pink and orange.  Real flowers would not be an option due to two problems: 1) excessive heat and 2) transportation.  Since temperatures in Las Vegas average about 105 degrees in July (and the wedding would be outdoors) it was likely the heat would wilt the flowers.  Flowers would also need to last quite a few days since everyone was driving to Las Vegas at least a few days before the wedding (and I do NOT have knack for keeping plants of any kind alive).

So, I purchased some brightly colored silk flowers and matching ribbon from Michael’s.  I made a small pink bouquet for the bride, wrapped in pink ribbon.  For myself and our younger sister, I used two orange blooms wrapped in orange ribbon.  For each I tied the stems together with some twine and wrapped the ribbon around to cover it, tying it off with a bow.  The stems were wired, so I was able to move them around afterwards to get the desired look.  I wanted to keep them small, but elegant.

Sweet and simple!

The groom had a single pink bloom while his best-man and our father had orange ones; I simply hot-glued the single blooms to a pin.

The grooms boutonniere and the rings

Using leftover flowers and ribbon (and a little puff paint, because doesn’t everyone have a huge stash of puff paint somewhere in their house?) I created some fun wine glasses for all the ladies to toast with while we got ready.

The Bride’s Chalice

A toast!

So after enjoying a glorious massage and facial at the hotel spa, my sister sipped champagne from her custom bride glass while I did her hair and makeup.

And finally, the cake!  And by cake, I of course mean cupcakes.

Brownie Batter Cupcakes

My sister’s only request was chocolate…so I kind of took that and ran with it!  One of my favorite food bloggers, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, had posted a recipe for Brownie Batter Cupcakes [add links] shortly before the wedding and I knew it would be perfect!  Mine were slightly different as I wanted them all chocolate (her recipe shows a vanilla cupcake) and I used a shortcut for the frosting.  I also had to make alterations to account for travel, which I describe below.

Decorations were made using store-bought fondant (I still haven’t managed to make my own yet) and melting chocolate.

Tim and Gail ❤

Love ❤

Brownie Batter Cupcakes

Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Ingredients
Cupcake batter (any flavor, I used a simple chocolate recipe)
Box of brownie mix (standard size – not family size)
Water (¾ amount needed for brownie mix)
Melted butter (equal to ¾ amount of oil needed for brownie mix)
Vanilla frosting (can use any recipe or store-bought)

  1. Reserve ¼ of the brownie mix.  Mix the remaining with the water and melted butter (batter should be thick).  Roll batter into 1 inch balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Freeze for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.  Line cupcake tin with liners.
  3. Fill liners less than halfway with cupcake batter.  Place a brownie ball in the center, then cover with a spoonful of cupcake batter.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched (note: a toothpick inserted in the center will not come out clean as with other cupcakes since the brownie batter will not be cooked through).  Place cupcakes on a rack to cool.
  4. Prepare frosting by mixing the reserved brownie mix with the vanilla frosting of your choice (if you use your own recipe, make sure it is not more than 2 cups or you won’t have a very strong chocolate taste).
  5. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost!

Notes for Travel:
Since I was preparing these for a small party of ten and would have to worry about them keeping for a couple days without access to a fridge, I had to do the following to ensure quality cupcakes:

  1. I halved my cupcake recipe to make only a dozen – I still made the brownie balls as the recipe calls for and just left the remaining balls in the freezer to use in the future.
  2. I stored my unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container.  I stored the frosting in a separate container, which I kept on ice in our hotel room.  The decorations were stored in a baggie, separated with mini cupcake liners.
  3. I brought along one disposable decorating bag.  To avoid having to clean out a decorating tip in a hotel room, I opted to not use one.  Instead, I used only the decorating bag and snipped the tip to an appropriate size and piped onto the cupcake.  The pre-made decorations were them placed on top!

Couldn’t resist sneaking in a photo of me and my hubby 🙂

Sneak Peek…

I’m a terrible and negligent blogger…but you already knew that about me didn’t you?

I like to think I’m so busy being an awesome wife that I just don’t have enough time to actually write about being an awesome wife.  And if my husband wishes to continue enjoying my awesome wifeliness, he will agree with me.

As children, we are conditioned to believe that summers are a relaxing time in the year when we have no responsibilities or worries.  If we wanted to sleep until noon, we did.  If we wanted to stay up until the wee hours of the night reading through a frivolous book or playing nonsense games, then we did.  And by golly if we wanted to eat otter pops until our tongues turned blue that is precisely what we did.

But then this whole growing up thing happened.  Now I have to work all summer and I have obligations!  No spending my days lounged by the pool sipping lemonade; instead, I have to go to work every weekday, pay bills, keep my house cleaned, and attend parties and gatherings ALL the time!

Ok, so the parties and gatherings are in the positive part of being an adult (just above being able to eat ice cream every day if I so choose).  But it does make me a very busy person!

I have a few things in the works that I hope to share soon!  I am branching away from just being a baker and exploring my deep seeded desire to be the next Martha Stewart (without the jail time).  So, in addition to a few baked treats, I will soon be sharing with you:

  • Custom gift baskets
  • A Las Vegas wedding
  • The perfect anniversary
  • Pallet patio furniture

Also, I have finally broken down and now have a Twitter account.  My handle is @SweetCuppicakes if wish to follow me!

So, that’s all for now.  I know…a VERY boring post but what can you do?