{lovely holiday gift guide} brought to you by the TomKat Studio

{the TomKat Studio 2012 Holiday Gift Guide}

It’s that time of the year already, and if you haven’t started shopping for Christmas gifts yet, you are in luck!  Of the many gift guides that are published during the holiday season, I have to admit my favorite one is the one that the lovely Kim Stoegbauer of the TomKat Studio puts together.  The TomKat Studio 2012 Holiday Gift Guide is just full of beautiful [and practical] gifts for every one on your list!

I haven’t had time to fully go through the guide yet, but at first glance I am really loving the gift suggestions for little girls and tech lovers.  I have to admit, though, my favorite part of the guide is the many FREE printable gift tags featured in the guide.

I hope you enjoy this sweet guide as much as I do.

{Happy Shopping!}

xo

~the sweetest mami~

host your own {wine tasting party}

FREE PRINTABLE SET CUSTOM DESIGNED BY HOW SWEET LIFE IS!

Wine Party Printable Set

Every year, we host a wine tasting party in December to kick off the holiday season.  I usually try to create a few custom menus and rating cards to use, and this year I created a coordinating set that I wanted to share with others interested in hosting their own wine party.

I hope you enjoy my first free printable party set, and I look forward to sharing photos with all of you after the party is over.

Here are a few previews of the FREE printables, along with links to download each item separately for your personal use.

{Happy Wine Tasting}

xo

~the sweetest mami~

You can download the FREE printable items following the instructions at the bottom of this post.

Bottle Labels (File Includes Labels 1 – 10)

Wine Pairing Suggestions

Wine Tasting Card (File Includes Up to 8 Wines)

Download your FREE printable items separately here, by clicking on the link, and saving to your computer as a PDF file.

Printing Instructions:  Make sure you set up your printer preferences accordingly to match the file size.  I suggest you print the bottle labels on plain printer paper and the rating card and menu card on heavy card stock.

{the best chocolate cake ever}

{chocolate cake} by {how sweet life is}

Recipe courtesy of the lovely Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa

“This is the most fabulous chocolate cake that I’ve ever made,” says Ina Garten, host of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa. “It’s so easy and so moist and light. There’s buttermilk and a cup of coffee in the batter! The frosting is just buttercream and a little coffee.”

I made this cake for Victor’s birthday this year, and I don’t think he will ever let me make another cake again.  It was, by far, his favorite cake ever!  I plan to make this again for our Thanksgiving dinner, so I thought it would be nice to share the recipe again for those looking for non-traditional dessert ideas this year.

Double-Chocolate Layer Cake

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
For the Frosting:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
*If you do not have buttermilk, make your own:  Pour 1/2 tablespoon vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, and top off to the 1/2 cup line with whole milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes before using.  Voila!*
Make the Cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
Make the Frosting:
1.  In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
2.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute.
3.  In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
Assemble Your Cake:
1.  Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up.
2.  Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge.
3.  Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.

{cake assembly in progress} by {how sweet life is}

Make Ahead Tip:  The frosted cake can be refrigerated for 2 days.  Let stand for 1 hour before serving.
{Happy Baking!}
xo
~the sweetest mami~

{october fun} halloween update and more…

Photo: So thankful for my good friends at #starbucks today!!  It's going to be one long day... http://instagr.am/p/RfU4bRDfbD/

I haven’t been myself lately, and the photo above pretty much sums it all up.  The past two weeks have been filled with a whirlwind of activities and somewhere in between we all managed to get sick.  Eva and Zoe have gone through runny noses, coughs and sneezes, and even Lucas had a mild fever for two days.  Victor had a sore throat for one day, and as for me, well I got the worst of it.  My sore throat was actually a bad case of ‘strep throat’.  I didn’t get to a doctor until the end of the week, after I completely lost my voice and figured I had better try to get my hands on some real medicine before the weekend arrived.  I was put on a round of antibiotics, and three days later I’m still not at my best.  Thankfully, though, I think the worst is behind us.  I have so much to catch up on.  I hope you enjoy the summary in photos.

Sesame Street Live’s ‘Elmo Makes Music’ comes to town!

Before we all got sick, I managed to take Eva and Zoe to a fun production featuring their favorite furry monster and his best buddies.  Words can barely describe the joy and excitement they experienced as we arrived and they started to spot everything Elmo.  When the show started, I teared up because I was so overwhelmed with the happiness I saw in their sweet faces.  Here are a few shots of them before the show.  It was a really fun day, very ‘mommy and me’.

{eva and zoe posing with elmo}

After the show, I wanted to take them to eat lunch before returning home.  The plan was to go to the Cheesecake Factory at Las Olas, but when we arrived the wait was over 45 minutes because of a local art festival.  We ended up at the ‘Royal Pig Pub’ and they were very formal and well-behaved, placing their cloth napkins under their plates as they nibbled on non-kids’ meal french fries and chicken ‘fingers’.

{lunch at the royal pig pub}

Halloween Update

We are members of a local meetup group that hosts lots of fun activities for families and young children.  They hosted a Halloween party in the park and the girls were super excited to get into character, chanting Yo-Ho-Ho every chance they had.  Eva and Zoe marched in a music parade and got so into it they stopped on a tree stump for a make-shift performance with their borrowed guitar and tambourine!

It’s a good thing we went to this event, too, because by the time Halloween rolled around the girls were too sick to go trick-or-treating.  The sign we put up on our door read:  “QUARANTINE//SICK BABIES//SORRY”.  Don’t be too sad for them, though.  Victor did bring them by my office and they were pro’s asking for candy (especially Eva!) even though it was their first time out and about in costume and trick-or-treating.  The worse part was finding out that Zoe may have an allergy, or aversion at best, to peanuts.  She ended up throwing up in the parking lot before Victor went back home, and all she had eaten was a bite of a Snickers bar.  My poor baby.

{eva and zoe = my fierce pirate girls}

{my little monster}

A Baking Fool…

I got a little caught up in the spirit of Halloween, and took on one baking project too many.  After finding out how hard it is to decorate cookies by hand, I may never work with piping again.  Oh well.  Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure:

{pumpkin spice halloween cookies}

{day of the dead sugar skull cookies}

Seven months old and growing too quickly…

In keeping with my monthly tradition of photographing Lucas in his crib, here is his seven month photo.  It is becoming increasingly harder to get a cute photo of him with the blocks in the background…

{lucas at seven months}

And this is the part where I get a little nostalgic all too soon, when I see my little boy growing up oh so fast.  Victor sent me this picture when I was at work yesterday.  My first reaction was to think that he was helped up for the photo, but I was wrong.  He got up all on his own, my little boy.  He has only been crawling for about two months now!  He’s just so anxious to play with Eva and Zoe already.  My little boy may be walking a lot sooner that we’re ready for.  {Note the terror in Eva’s eyes..lol}

{taken just five days later on november 5th}

Well, I do apologize for the long post, but even more so for the long time without posting.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my update and look forward to sharing more soon and more often.

May you have a Sweet November..

xo

ps.  Today is election day.  Did you go out and vote yet?

pps. Oh yeah, and did I mention — we got our floors redone; note the dark floor under Lucas’ bare feet! We left the living room for later — see ugly white tile beyond pretty new floors…

{peachy meets beachy} our family photo shoot

A sunset family photo session at the beach?  Why, yes please.  Now… what would we wear?  Well, it shouldn’t be so formal that we can’t run around in the sand and get a little dirty.  It should be fun and reflect our personality as individuals and as one sweet family.

After trying on several different looks, I was ultra pleased that one of my favorite bright dresses finally fit again!  Victor suggested wearing his seersucker pants since they are so beachy and comfortable.  Once we figured out our outfits, I was on the hunt for the kids’ outfits.

I carried the coral and turquoise theme through, and was so happy to find Lucas such a cute onesie that matched both Victor’s and my outfits!  The girls were very happy to add one more tutu to their collection, and I’m happy I found the perfect girly and sparkly tees to match.  I found everything I needed at Target!

I also made small organza flowers for sequined headbands I also made, to add the final touch to their look.  I used sequined elastic ribbon in silver and gold for the actual headbands, and wide organza ribbon in matching silver and gold to make small flowers, following this easy tutorial via ‘go make me’ — bejewelled flowered headband/diy project’ blog post.

Inspiration:

 

Sneak Peek:

We had a wonderful time at the beach, and are very happy with the Sneak Peek of our photo session.  Alison is such a talented photographer and so great with the girls and the baby.  She has so much patience and such an eye for beauty.  Please visit her blog for the full sneak peek, and if you’re in the South Florida area, I highly recommend her for your own family photo session or special event.  You can see visit her full professional website here.

{enjoy the sweetest moments}

xo

~the sweetest mami~

i’m dreaming of a {white kitchen}…

{via House of Turquoise}

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with white kitchens.  I love their clean lines, modern and classic look, and the open and airy feeling they evoke.  I’ve been looking through tons of photos of kitchens I love, and I see a common theme evolving.

Here is my wish list for our new kitchen, which we hope to have soon:

  1. White cabinets – up to the ceiling, for more storage
  2. Deep drawers for pots, pans and lids
  3. Pull-out function for corner cabinets
  4. Glass tiles in white or clear glass
  5. Glass cabinets and/or open shelves
  6. White counter tops with minimal shading
  7. Apron sink, with chrome faucet
  8. Clean hardware — stainless, chrome, or crystal
  9. Hidden storage for trash and recycling
  10. Dark wood floors, balanced with an area rug
  11. Baking station – all baking items and display of cupcake stands and dessert plates

Here are some more photos of white kitchens that are inspiring my design of our new kitchen…

{via House of Turquoise}

{via decorpad}

{via design indoor}

 

Visit my ‘Kitchen Remodel’ inspiration board on pinterest, for more kitchen ideas that I’m loving these days!

{happy decorating!}

xo

~the sweetest mami~