Friday, February 17, 2012

Spring 2012 Color Trends

It is time to start planning for your spring wardrobe! Don't freak out if you are not willing to don a demi-bra, flutter-skirt dress just focus on the above colors for now. In the next few weeks we will look into garment style trends, but let's begin with color. 

In the past few years we have seen much more demure and traditional color palettes, probably inspired by the mood felt across the country, but the color palettes (hopefully, as for the country) are seeing a swing back to a vibrant lively state. 

Fashion people know the first stop to color forecasting is Pantone. And now you do too. Check out the link below for the 2012 Spring Fashion Color Report.

The best part for all you frugal fashionistas is the fall 2012 palette is a slight variation from spring 2012. This is something to keep in mind on those shopping trips when you feel torn about a purchase. If you find a great piece that may be a bit more than you planned to spend consider whether it is something you can carry through fall, like those of us in warmer climates typically can or possibly by layering it in with warmer garments.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Easy Valentine’s Bon-Bons

Baked goodies in pretty paper and cute little boxes are ultimate gifts of love. Baked goodies that taste bad in pretty paper and cute little boxes are Rude! These bon-bons are a pretty fail-proof way to surprise those you love with a DIY gift that could pass as straight from the bakery. 

For the easiest way: Go to your local grocery store and buy a brownie mix with raspberry filling or raspberry swirls. 

You will need:
  • Pillsbury Brownie Minis mix with filling
  • White chocolate melting chips
  • Microwave safe bowl or double boiler
  • Valentine's Day edible confetti sprinkles
  • Mini muffin cups
Bake according to package directions. In this case you are to cover the bottom of each muffin dish with the brownie mix, squeeze some raspberry filling over the center, and dollop the remainder of the brownie mix over the top of each. I did not bake the full time as directed by the box. I am not insinuating giving your loved-ones salmonella, just do not make them crispy. 

Let them cool for a few minutes. During this time you will want to prepare for your next step. You will want to line a cookie sheet or baking dish of some sort, that will fit in your freezer, with wax paper. And set aside. In the case of the mini cupcakes I used, divide each in half. After allowing the brownies cool for a bit, using clean hands, roll each half into a ball about the size of a large marble. 

Place each of the marble-size balls on to the wax paper covered cookie sheet. I covered them with plastic wrap to keep any freezer smells out. Let them chill in the freezer and go to the gym! You’ll need it because you will not give every last one away without tasting it. And unless you have absolute self control, you’ll taste it again. I have that kind of self control, really I do, and I ate three. So, by the time you have gone to the gym and had a real workout…not stood next to the treadmill talking to your friend that is on the treadmill slinging sweat all over you...your little naked bon-bons should be nice and firm. 

Have your melting chocolate ready before removing the bon-bons from the freezer. It’s very rare that I use a microwave for anything other than canned soup, but if you are a microwave nut in this case melting chocolate in the microwave can be permissible. On the other hand, I used white chocolate chips in a double boiler with a touch of oil. Slowly increase the heat on your range. Truthfully, I am not a good chocolate melter. I have botched this process may times. Keep from scalding the chocolate and you won’t have any problems. The Wilton candy dipping tools are worth the purchase. They are inexpensive, as in under $5.00. Print a coupon from your local craft store and they will totally be worth the price. Use the dipping tools...or a fork/spoon if you decide to refuse my submerge the brownie balls one at a time into the white chocolate. When the ball is fully coated, lift it out with the dipping tool and place back onto the wax paper. I did not like the shape of some of the balls following the coating process. Before they were completely cooled I rolled them in my clean hands to reestablish that perfectly round shape. While the white chocolate is still sticky sprinkle edible Valentines themed confetti over the top of each bon-bon. After the chocolate is no longer malleable place the bon-bons in mini cup cake foils. I kept them in the refrigerator until giving them away. 

If you have a great brownie recipe and feel like taking hours to strain the seeds from raspberries to make raspberry sauce you are free to do that too. I’m sure it would be phenomenal! You can also find tubes of fruit fillings at your local baker’s supply store.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thin Mint Cheesecake

It's that time again for Girl Scout Cookies! I wanted to repost this Thin Mint cheesecake recipe from last year as a little reminder to support your neighborhood Girl Scouts and give you a decadent dessert recipe to share those little cookies for a special Valentine's Day.

What you will need:

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1/8 c. finely ground almonds
  • 1 box coarsely ground Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies 
    • remove ½ cup and finely grind, reserve for later
  • 18 mini Oreo's or 2 servings
  • ½ Tbs. melted butter
Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 (8oz.) bricks Philadelphia fat free cream cheese
  • 1 (8oz.) bricks Philadelphia low fat cream cheese
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. finely ground thin mint
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. Peppermint Schnapps
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ c. fat free sour cream
  • Andes mints (chopped)
  • ¼ c. Hershey’s or Braum’s hot fudge
  • Andes mints
  • ¼ c. hot fudge
  • 1 tsp. Peppermint Schnapps
Place a sheet cake pan on middle rack of oven and preheat oven 475 F.

Wrap exterior of spring form pan with foil. Combine finely ground almonds, coarsely ground Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies (minus ½ c.), and mini Oreo's. Work melted butter into dry mixture. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of 10” round spring form pan.

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, reserved (1/2 c.) finely ground thin mints, Schnapps and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time while stirring slowly. Reserve 1 cup of batter, and pour the rest of the batter into the prepared crust.

Return the cup of batter to the mixing bowl and add chopped Andes mints and hot fudge. Mix until well blended. Pour layer over batter in spring form pan.

Add water to sheet cake pan.

Place spring form pan in water bath. Bake 12 minutes at 475 F, then turn down to 350 F and cook for about 50 minutes. Time will vary depending on oven. Remove. Cool. Chill in refrigerator over night.

Melt Andes mints. Stir into hot fudge and Schnapps. Drizzle over individual slices to garnish.

Serves: 12
About 315 calories per serving plain
About 440 calories per serving with topping

Monday, February 6, 2012

Belts - An Often Under or Incorrectly Used Accessory

What could be more fun than a belt? I don’t know about you, but it was the staple in my dress-up drawer as a child and the accessory that began this adventure to fashion design. Belts were the initial building block then...(and an endless yardage of scarves). After a few years and a very unwavering, former home-economic teaching Aunt, I learned that sometimes stitches were the more proper mode of securing a garment into one piece. So, maybe belts did not impact your career in the same way they have mine, but hopefully I will persuade you to allow them to positively impact your wardrobe. 

First of all let’s talk about acquiring belts. Though I have found some of my favorite belts new in stores, I would say the majority of my real finds come from estate sales or relative’s closets. Belts are so much like necklaces regarding trends, timelessness, and statements. Often people are more able to identify with a piece of jewelry, like a necklace rather than a belt, but let’s merge than thought process for just a bit. Think back to the eighties. Against all of our better judgements the eighties are rising again! Thankfully, though, just in elemental stages. Think about that gaudy, awful jewelry of the eighties, but then remember even in the eighties did have some crowning jewels too. 

I believe “most” people can tell the    difference between the timeless piece and the piece that has seen better times. That is why estate sales, antique stores, thrift shops, etc. produce such great belts! Belts can also be good investments as long as they are not overtly trendy and YOU do not change size. Hang on to belts with interesting   colors and styles, but that are not excessively tied to a past decade. (...And hang-on to, might include not wearing them now, as in, five years after the trend has  expired, but waiting until the right timing to reemerge them back into your wardrobe.) 

Speaking of timing, one might suggest reviewing some trends would be important. So here we are crawling out from beneath a giant boulder called the recession and attempting to put behind us a scarring war. I am may be too optimistic, but I see this a joyful time for fashion as Christian Dior did when he created Dior’s new look. Which, if I may remind you included a cinched and often belted waist... 

I do not want to go into too much trend detail in this post, but merely say we are seeing a revival of color, bright vibrant colors, feminine dress - waist emphasis and hats, structure, but without so much militaristic influence, a variety of prints, warm tones - golds and deep, less-icy grey. 

I always want to leave you with some practical applications for your own closet (from my own closet). Nothing too trendy, just realistic... 

Here I have taken a couple light-weight jackets. For the first, I found a thread of nice bright yellow that I wanted to emphasis and did so with a bright yellow belt. 

For the second jacket I added two monochromatic, sable-toned skinny belts. For those with large busts and short waist - this double breasted “white” jacket with a large collar and a dark colored belt combo would create a disproportionate appearance for you. Try a darker jacket dark belt combo instead. 

Many of you have to wear business attire for your work. Those of you in banking, legal jobs, etc. there is a fine line we can tread on, but adding a belt may be your best bet to bringing current trends to an often stodgy set of options. 

Below I have topped a wide casual belt with a slim blue belt. The warm and cool tones balance each other while adding a focal point. 

This vintage suit dress is much, much prettier in real life. Unfortunately, I was loosing light too quickly for accurate pictures, but you can get the idea. 

I have previously discussed skins and blue/red combinations as trends lasting through this winter. 

Scale your belt to your size if you are unsure the width you should wear. 

We all love these floppy oversized, cape-like sweaters. They are comfortable, they are everywhere, now let’s make them look a bit more tidy. And yes, you do see a faint trace of dog-hair. What can I say, “Love me, love my dog”... 
Just in case you do not find this self-explanatory, drape one of the front pieces over the opposite shoulder. 

Secure that front panel at the small of your back with a belt. 

A belt does not always have to cinch the waist. Below you see a belt deemphasizing the waist. An angled belt can move the eye in a more flattering direction. Additionally, a belt can dress-up or dress-down a garment depending on your needs. 

What a classic Saturday or any day look. This can be worn running errands with jeans or with slacks to the office. Think Diane Keaton’s effortlessly polished look. 

Bat-wing and dolman style sweaters are cozy, but we often find ourselves lost somewhere beneath them. Adding a belt will not make them any less comfortable or stylish.

Friday, February 3, 2012

V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E Window Banner

I put an extreme amount of effort in Christmas decorating; therefore I am totally bummed when I have to take it all down. The house is bare and void. That is why I am always trying to find ways to segway into the next season. I had previously hung the red ribbons technically symmetrically in a haphazard fashion across my kitchen windows to display the extra ornaments that did not quite fit the theme of any of the trees. I really like the added bit of d├ęcor it gave the kitchen so I left the ribbons removed the ornaments, and replaced them with letters on repurposed card-stock. 

What you will need: 
  • Red or pink construction paper or card-stock
  • Nine used cards (with the same color blank inside)
  • Paper cutter or scissors
  • Red and black makers
  • Glitter and craft glue

First, you will cut the blank inside left from the remainder of the card. This is a great idea for recycling all those Christmas cards you received.

Cut each blank white card half (or whatever color your cards are) to the same rectangular size, say 4”x6”. Now, you will need to cut your colored construction paper into rectangles that measure about 4.5”x6.5”. Center the smaller rectangle on top of the larger rectangle then glue the front side of the card to the red paper. At this point it should look like a piece of blank paper in a red ¼” frame. Next find a font you like and either eyeball the letters by hand or print them from your computer and stencil them onto the white paper. Trace the letters you penciled onto the paper in a narrow black marker. Add a thicker red outline to match the construction paper. Wipe a thin layer of (clear-drying) craft glue around the edges of the white paper. Lightly sprinkle your glitter over the glue and rock paper back and forth to distribute the glitter evenly. Tap the excess glitter over a piece of paper so you can funnel it onto the next letter. Punch a hole in the top center, as shown, and suspend it from the existing ribbon. 

Lastly, check your letters to make sure they actually spell V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E and nothing like: ale n venti…just doesn’t have the same ring.