Friday, June 28, 2013

German's Chocolate Cake

Kevin and his birthday cake
When my husband and I were first married, my mother-in-law gave us a photo album filled with his childhood pictures.  Many of the pictures had him sitting behind a large German's chocolate cake with a huge smile on his face.  He said it was his favorite and his mother always made them for his birthday.

When I told MY mom I was going to make one for Kevin's birthday, she said that she had a good recipe.  It turned out to be an older version of the recipe on the German's chocolate box.

At the time, I was a pretty inexperienced cook and baker, and it took me 3-4 hours to make his cake.  But Kevin loved it, so it was worth the time and effort.  I've made him one every birthday since (though I have cut the time down to about 1-1/2 hours).

The funny part of this story is when I mentioned to my mother-in-law how long it took to make Kevin's birthday cake, she replied, "Oh, I just used the box mix."


Finely chop the chocolate
Cream the butter and sugar

Fold in the beaten egg white

Alternately add the flour and

Right out of the oven

Evenly divide the batter into
3 pans and smooth tops

Cook the frosting until thick   
Add the butter, sugar, egg yolks
and milk to a saucepan

Add the nuts, coconut and vanilla

Frost the tops of the cake

A bit crumbly, but still delicious

For the cake recipe, click here

German's Chocolate Cake Recipe

Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 C. evaporated milk (the low fat version works)
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
1/2 C. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/3 C. coconut
1 C. pecans, chopped and toasted (click here to for information on toasting nuts)

Combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks and butter in a saucepan.  Cook and stir over medium heat, until thickened, about 12 minutes.  Add vanilla, coconut and pecans.  Cool until thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally.

adapted from Baker's Coconut Pecan Frosting Recipe

Note: The Coconut Pecan Frosting on the German Chocolate Cake Recipe link makes a larger quantity of frosting than the recipe I included here.  I'll probably try it next year since Kevin likes lots of frosting.

See my post on Monday, July 1 2013 to see the dinner I made to go with Kevin's birthday cake

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June Sales

A few of my friends have commented that some of my clothing and accessories are pricey.  My secret is that I rarely pay full price.  Even designer clothing and accessories can be purchased on clearance, usually in June and December.  You may not find classics (like a Chanel flap bag), but spring and fall collection pieces often sell at reduced prices.   Here are a few examples:

These Prada pumps were discounted by 48% at Bloomingdale's

This Ruche Pochette clutch was purchased for 35% off at Reed Krakoff

Kevin found these Tod's Gommini moccasins at Barneys New York for 66% off regular price.
Click here for a similar pair (not discounted)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Movie Reviews: Man of Steel, Now You See Me and World War Z

Here's an extra movie review post.  Out of these three movies, World War Z was my favorite.

Man of Steel
Rated PG-13

Though some people think Man of Steel is just okay, I liked it and thought it was entertaining.  Henry Cavill (from The Tudors) does a great job portraying Clark Kent as a conflicted hero who feels he must hide his strength from a world that isn't ready to accept him.  Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe play his noble fathers, Jonathan Kent and Jor-El, with grace and dignity.  Though the last battle scene is a bit drawn out, this movie is worth seeing.

Now You See Me
Rated PG-13

A group of magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco) match wits with the FBI and Interpol by stealing from corrupt businessmen and distributing the money to the audience.

Now You See Me is a fun, exciting movie to watch, especially if you're into magic.  You may even figure out a few of the tricks.

World War Z
Rated PG-13

After a world-wide outbreak of a rabies-like disease that turns humans into the feral "undead", Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former United Nations investigator, tries to find the cause and a cure.  

Though zombie stories are in vogue right now, this movie is by far the best of this genre.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!  Action-filled, but also touching World War Z is a must see!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

  And the Mountains Echoed

  Khaled Hosseini

Like Khaled Hosseini's previous books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed is both brutal and beautiful.  The book opens in a small Afghani village in 1952 with a man telling his son and young daughter a story that foretells their situation.  The story takes place over almost sixty years, with settings in Afghanistan, France, the United States, and Greece.

The characters are very human, in other words, they're complex and flawed.  And the Mountains Echoed is thought provoking.  After reading this book, I asked myself questions like "If someone is motivated by love, does it make their horrible deed less horrible?" and "Which person is worst, the one who has good intentions, but ends up hurting others through inaction or the one is up front about his flaws but pulls through in the end?"

And the Mountains Echoed is a must-read!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Navy and White Stripes

Even though stripes have been pretty popular for the past few seasons, I didn’t own a striped dress.  Generally, I’m not a huge fan of horizontal stripes because they add width.  What attracted me about this dress, though, is the offset front panel-I thought it was a unique touch that broke up the horizontal line.  Since buying this dress, I’ve seen a few others that are similar

Another great thing about this dress is its versatility.  It can be worn to work with a blazer and pumps, to a party or nice dinner with heels and a clutch and as a daytime dress with sandals and a cardigan.

Theory dress, Chanel sunglasses (similar), J. Crew bracelet, Lauren Merkin clutch, Cole Haan shoes (similar)

photographed by Carole Quirk at the home of Phil and Carole Quirk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Return of Emmett

Before                                             After
Around this time of year as the weather warms up, Emmie becomes sluggish on her daily walks.  She's her usual excited self at the beginning, but as the walk wears on I have to coax her along.  Every year I think she's getting older and slowing down.  After her yearly haircut, though, she's back to prancing with puppy-like enthusiasm.  The downside to her resurrection is that without her long fur, she looks like a boy.  So instead of calling her Emmie, she becomes Emmett.



Monday, June 17, 2013

T & E Dinner 1

Our friends T and E are HUGE hockey fans, so we invited them to watch the NHL playoffs and for dinner.  Since we ate on the sofa during the game, I made very casual food.  Here's what we had:

Appetizers were store bought chips, homemade salsa and homemade guacamole

Dinner was marinated chicken breast sandwiches, Hawaiian macaroni potato salad and crunchy peanut slaw

Dessert consisted of peach and strawberry crumble with vanilla ice cream

Click on the links to see the recipes

Salsa*-see below for recipe
Marinade-see below for recipe

*Helpful hint: Finely chop the chills in a food processor or use gloves so your fingers won't burn from the chili oil

4 large tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced (green part only)
3-4 serrano chilis, finely diced*
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin
2-3 tsp. garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients a few hours before serving to allow flavors to blend

1-1/2 C. salad oil
3/4 C. soy sauce
1/4 C. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C. red wine vinegar
1/3 C. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. dry mustard
2-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend for 30-40 seconds.  Keep for up to 1 week in refrigerator.  Marinate meat for overnight for best flavor.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hawaiian Style Macaroni Potato Salad

My version of Hawaiian macaroni potato salad
If you've ever been to Hawaii and had a plate lunch, then you've eaten like a local.  Plate lunches consist of some type of meat, 2 ice cream scoops of rice and a scoop of Hawaiian-style macaroni salad.  My husband is so fond of this salad that the last time we were in Hawaii, he ordered a quart and ate it all!  The great thing about this salad is that each cook personalizes it.  My mom's family adds potatoes.  In addition to potatoes, my mom adds cooked shrimp and peas.  Her sister adds cooked crab.  I've eaten it in Hawaii with grated carrot added.  Here is my version:

I use an egg slicer to finely dice the eggs

Cook, cool, peel and dice the potatoes

I grate the onion directly into the mixing bowl

See my blog on Monday, June 17, 2013 for the full meal that was served with the Hawaiian Macaroni Potato Salad

Hawaiian Style Macaroni Potato Salad

1-1/2 C. elbow macaroni
5 eggs
5 small red potatoes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/8 onion, grated
3/4 C. mayonnaise (See Note)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni 1 minute less than manufacturer recommends.  Drain and let come to room temperature.  Cook eggs until hard boiled (See this link for more information).  Cool, peel, then finely chop.  Add potatoes to cool water in a saucepan, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil.  Continue to cook until fork tender, about 35 minutes total.  Drain, cool, peel and dice into 1/2 inch cubes.

Combine macaroni, eggs, potatoes, celery, onion, salt (about 1 teaspoon or to taste) and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste).  Fold in mayonnaise.  Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with celery leaves.

Note:  Don’t use low fat mayonnaise.  You can add more or less mayonnaise depending on your personal preference.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Island Girl Cuticle Oil

As part of my nightly bedtime ritual, I apply cuticle oil to my fingers and toes.  I found this one by Island Girl at the ubiquitous ABC stores of Hawaii.  One of the reasons I like it is because it's applied with a brush, so I don't have to rub it on.  It looks pretty with the flowers in the bottle, and the flowers give it a nice scent.  And finally, I like supporting local Hawaiian businesses since some of my extended family live there.  It's definitely a four star find!

To find out more information about this product, click here

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movie Reviews: Before Midnight, The Great Gatsby (2013) & The Kings of Summer

Because there are so many new movies out right now, I thought I'd post an extra article this week.  I enjoyed all three of these movies, especially The Kings of Summer.

Before Midnight
Rated R

Jesse and Celine are back.  Now they’re middle aged and in a long-term relationship.  Their family has expanded to include Jesse’s son, Hank, and their twins, Ella and Nina.  Set in picturesque Greece, the film examines the effects of daily life and it’s stressors on love.  Will they reconnect before it’s too late?

If you liked the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, then you’ll probably enjoy
Before Midnight.  Written by Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater (who recently revealed the first movie was loosely based on a personal experience), this movie remains true to the original story and characters.

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Rated PG-13

Though Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic was pretty much panned by the critics, it is visually stunning and worth seeing.  Nick Carraway narrates this tale about love, dreams and upper class debauchery during the Roaring Twenties.

The Kings of Summer

After their first year of high school, Joe and Patrick build and live in a woodland cabin to escape their mildly dysfunctional families. Joined by oddball Biaggio, the boys attempt to live off the land.  Their newfound independence tests their friendship and produces adventures that are both funny and touching.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Patio Table

While the two previous decor posts involved buying new things, this post shows you can transform something you already own into something beautiful.  Our patio table was faded and dull from sitting in the sun day in and day out.  I simply sanded it with fine grit sandpaper, cleaned it with a mixture of dishwashing detergent and water, and applied 2 coats of polyurethane, allowing each coat to dry overnight.  What a change!

When sanding, be sure to wear a mask
I used a scrub brush to remove all dust
We moved the table to the garage before applying the polyurethane so it wouldn't pick up dust
Close up view