Weekly Snippets 49

Weekly Snippets 49

Hi all. We’re back in holiday season, so there are approximately a million things that are happening during the week over here. Somehow we’re still finding time to watch Avatar: The Last Air Bender, which I think means we’ve kind of got our priorities right? Unclear.

We’re on weekly snippets 49. Which kind of confused me because I feel like we’re so close to the end of the year, but 50 will be on the 16th, 51 will be on the 23rd, and 52 will be on my birthday – December 30th. So it looks like it will work out just fine.

I also have to start thinking about whether or not I want to continue with this Friday post or come up with a new prompt in 2017. (For example, I used to do one up, one down.) Any and all suggestions are welcome. Until then, here are 10 things that happened in the past week:

  1. I went to my friend Marie’s swing dancing 30th birthday party, which was a lot of fun. I learned a little bit about how to lead. Maybe if I can figure out to lead I’ll get better at following? It’s amazing how crappy you can be at following. (Mostly because I like to be in control too much I think…)
  2. Saturday I went to a conference in Philadelphia called The Positivity Charge. It started with a short yoga class, had some key note speakers, an activity, and then unfortunately I needed to head out to go to a Christmas party (rough life). I was able to meet some new folks during that time though and have a brunch scheduled to get to know them better next weekend. So that will be cool.
  3. Saturday afternoon I went to a Christmas party with Ben’s friends. This is my second year of going to a Christmas party of theirs and I’ve got to tell you, I’m always incredibly impressed by the array of food. They both really like to cook and they go all out for company. I can definitely learn something from them.
  4. Sunday I did a photo shoot for my friend Chad and his business partner Briana (which is where the above photo came from – it was a test shot). It was fun to be able to get to use my camera in that way again, I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve taken formal photos of anyone. I should probably kick that up again in 2017.
  5. Sunday evening I went to dinner at Bud & Marilyn’s with some co-workers and past co-workers. It was really good to see how everybody was doing and share some laughs around the table.
  6. Monday I spent the day in New York and got to have dinner with my friend Bill. Then I crashed my friend Janna’s hotel room for the evening. Yay for catching up with friends.
  7. Tuesday I did a site visit for work where I go out to a construction site and check to see how progress is going. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I was pretty nervous about it, but it ended up going pretty well, so that was cool.
  8. Wednesday evening I went to a women’s mentor dinner at Villanova University. I’m apparently old enough to be a mentor. It sounded like fun. I’ll keep you posted if I happen to come up with any pearls of wisdom to share with the world.
  9. Thursday I was really proud that I was able to run so many errands during lunch. I made it to the bank, Trader Joe’s, the sushi place, Anthropologie, and two hotels in about an hour and twenty minutes. Always on the run, man.
  10. Thursday evening I went to the Barnes Museum with the Women’s Initiative at work. It was great to get a tour of the place. I’ve been a handful of times, but have never gotten a guided tour of the building before. Highly recommend.

That’s it. 10 things. How was your week? Are you already in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season? Does anybody else feel like they’re doing a race against the clock to get holiday cards out on time? Crazy.

A Greeting Card Story: Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats

Today I’m sharing the story of three more greeting cards with you. I’ve really been enjoying capturing these, so I’m hoping that you’ve been enjoying reading them. I think that watching three greeting cards get made at once is much more exciting than just one (or at least I hope it is). Today I’m sharing the story of a thank you card, a birthday card, and a congratulations card!

So clearly the answer was: wine for a birthday, a squishy airline for someone who let us stay with them while we were vacationing, and a mini bottle of champagne for the congratulations. My friend Courtney made that little bottle of champagne out of construction paper and a piece of ribbon. She made two and only needed one so I kept it for the perfect occasion. I decided this was it.

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

After I found the featured item I paired them with background papers. I’ve really been feeling the neutrals lately. (I probably should have bought more kraft paper at Michaels on black Friday this year because I’ve pretty much run out. Oops.)

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

Then I cut down the paper and folded everything to approximately the correct size.

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

And added the embellishments. The three pens below are my go-to pens when it comes to card making.

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

Then I glued everything together. I don’t know if I’ve told you all this before, but I’ve been loving the large Scotch tape roller that I bought last Black Friday. It makes making multiple cards so much easier.

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

And then I put on the final touches.

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

I was pretty happy about how these turned out. And how the background of the champagne bottle looks like bubbles!

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

A Greeting Card Story - Thank You, Birthday, and Congrats via Chrystina Noel

I hope you enjoyed the adventures of these three cards. No big mistakes this time, which was super exciting. Looking forward to share even more card designs with you in the future!

Cake Decorating Class with Creativiu

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

This post is sponsored by Creativiu. That said, all thoughts and opinions are my own. So enjoy 🙂

I recently had the chance to try out Creativiu’s online cake decorating class. Creativiu has online classes on-demand for creatives who want to enhance their baking skills. They offer classes on decorating your first master cake (the one I took), how to sculpt and airbrush cakes, how to creative impressive textures for cakes, and how to make a teddy bear cake.

Decorating your first master cake is taught by Beth Townsend; she recently won The Food Network’s cake Wars . The class is comprised of 7 lessons, each one of which has a video explaining exactly how to do one of the steps: (1) how to get the cake ready for decorating, (2) making the ganache, (3) making the decorative items, (4) working with fondant, (5) using buttercream and stacking the tiers, (6) adding your decorative items, and (7) airbrushing, glitter, and ribbons. My favorite part about these videos is that you can go back and watch them in real time to get all the information right when you need it.

Guys. I really enjoyed this class. Beth explains things really simply. She doesn’t make you feel like an idiot if you don’t know how to do something, for example, she explains how her first days of cake baking went. She also provides some really great tips. Things about what to do if you screw up, the best way to prepare the cake for decorating, and how to store all of your ingredients. I watched all of the videos ahead of time (kind of like my own personal Food Network show) just to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into and felt much better prepared for the outcome.

This class provides you all of the building blocks to make a fantastic cake. I would recommend this course to somebody who has already baked a few cakes, has tried their hand at buttercream frosting once or twice, and is ready to take their skills to the next level. After taking this class I feel prepared to cover a cake in buttercream roses, a decently solid fondant, or even to make gum paste flowers as decorations. That said, I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking this course in order to make somebody bridal shower for the first time. Try it out first, see how it all feels, and then take your skills to the streets.

I went to Michaels on Black Friday to buy all of my cake decorating supplies for my cake decorating class. The video tells you about a lot of different options. My suggestion would be to plan what you want your cake to look like ahead of time so you get exactly what you need and no extra. For example, I decided right up front that I wasn’t going to use the gold leaf powder on this cake, but I could definitely see how it would be something fun to use for the next time.

Also. One of the first things I learned was that you should bake your cakes a few days ahead of time and put them in the freezer so that they’re easier to work with. So many good tips in this course, y’all.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

I prepared my work station and got started on making all of the buttercream frosting. Toni, from Make Bake Celebrate, has an incredible post on buttercream 101. If you’ve ever had a doubt about buttercream frosting, you must read it. And as expected, her buttercream was delicious.

Lucky for me I already had some buttercream made from a few days prior so I only needed to make one extra batch.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Once it was finished I put it all together in the same bowl and set it aside.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Then it came time to make the ganache. Beth is a huge fan of ganache. And I’ve got to tell you. After using it once, I am now too. It adds a little something.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

I made 2 funfetti cakes, one 8″ and one 9″ – and 2 chocolate peppermint cakes, one 8″ and one 9″. That way each layer had half chocolate peppermint and have funfetti in the same slice. I don’t think this is traditional, but it was definitely delicious. I prepared the cakes and buttercreamed the layers together. Then I ganached them. I’m pretty sure ganached isn’t a word.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Once the ganache dried, we added the buttercream. Just having the chance to watch Beth’s spatula techniques in the video definitely made this process feel easier. That said, Beth definitely has a spinning cake turntable in the video, which makes it extra easy to coat these cakes evenly. I decided for my first cake it wasn’t worth buying the turntable, but if this is something I decide to pick up as a serious hobby in the future that’s going to be one of my first purchases.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Then it came time to start with the fondant. Guys. This was my first time doing fondant. Beth had so many good tips about handling it for the first time, how to adhere it, and how to color it.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

It was approximately then that Ben came downstairs and said to me (something along the lines of), “I thought the frosting on those cakes was supposed to be flat so that when the fondant went on it you couldn’t see any of the waves in the frosting.” Well, yes, that’s true. But my patience level isn’t super high. So Ben then took out his unnecessarily long knife from Japan to flatten the icing on these cakes.

Admittedly, they were much flatter when he was done.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

This next photo looks kind of like a cake CSI scene, but I felt like I should include it. Here you go:

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

I definitely ended up adding about 5x that amount of dye to the fondant. Next time I’m going to do blue instead. Then I rolled it out. It’s times like this I wish my cake didn’t have a huge crack down the center (for a leaf). It didn’t mess it up too much though.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Since Ben was downstairs he was able to capture some of the photos of me working with the fondant to cover the cake for the first time. Yes, I did this whole thing while wearing pajamas. Don’t judge.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

It turned out pretty well!

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

I covered both tiers and set them aside while I cleaned up the kitchen. (Beth was right, there’s seriously so much cleaning in cake decorating.)

(Do you like how I’m talking about me and my new friend Beth? Roll with me here.)

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Then. Guys. You’re going to love this. CAKE DECORATING meets BUBBLE TEA meets ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING. If that combination of things doesn’t scream Chrystina, I don’t know what does. Apparently they sell these fancy cake dowel things that are nearly impossible to cut that you’re supposed to stick in a cake to support the bottom layers, but Beth uses bubble tea straws. So yes, a few days before I went to my favorite bubble tea shop and took a handful of straws with me. Mostly because I’m sure I’ve given them enough business in the past few years to be able to take some extra straws.

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

Then I stacked the cakes and used some of Beth’s tricks to make some decorative fondant elements.

(If you’re curious about the water drips down the sides of the cake you actually use water to get fondant to adhere to fondant. I think that because I used so much powdered sugar while rolling out the fondant that it actually caused the fondant to change color when it was hit with water. Before I served the cake I went over the whole outside of the cake with a brush and water. It seemed to help.)

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

I topped off the cake with some buttercream frosting. It was approximately at this point that I realized I should have made a blue cake to begin with because it would have looked better on the tray. Think about what tray you’re going to be serving these cakes on before you decide how you’re decorating it. That’s something else that I would add to the to-do-beforehand list. (That said, Beth used a cake stand. I used a tray because I forgot to buy a wooden cake stand plate thing. But it worked fine – at least for two tiers. Y’all wouldn’t believe how heavy this cake was, man.)

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

The next day I took my cake to the office. (Because that’s where people take extra cake, right?)

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

It turned out well! I was pretty impressed. And one person even asked me if I can make a bridal shower cake. To which I said, “we’ll see.” But. It’s cool to think I might have another side hustle. (Because we all know you can never have too many of those, right?)

Cake Decorating with Creativiu via Chrystina Noel

TA-DA! My first multi-layer, multi-tier, fondant-covered cake. If you’re interested in taking your cake skills to the next level, the cake decorating class at Creativiu is currently on sale for $19.95. Beth has a lot of great instruction and tips that I was able to use throughout the cake decorating process. You can gift it to someone for the holidays (especially if you want them to bake you cake) or you can work on your holiday baking skills. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll answer.

Have you ever made a cake like this? What was your experience? Did your fondant have as many pleats as mine did? I tried to cover them with a “ribbon.” It almost worked I’m sure. Until I told you. And now you’re all going to scroll back up and look at it. Can’t be perfect, right?

12 Gift Ideas for your Nerdy, Outdoorsy Friends

12 Gift Ideas for Your Nerdy, Outdoorsy Friends

I wrote a gift guide for entertainers last week; this time we decided to switch it up a little bit and use some of Ben’s input for a gift guide. If you’re in search of somebody who seems hard to buy for because they’re into gadgets, maybe you’ll find something on the list below! (Unfortunately for me, Ben already owns all of these things, so I’ll have to keep thinking…)

Hiking Pants

Ben recently came across these hiking pants from Prana and absolutely loves them, specifically the Zion style. In addition to the Zion pants there are also Bryon. They are tighter and have less pockets.

Garmin Watch

I’ve been told that if you train you already know what this is, and if you don’t train you don’t need it. (I guess that means I definitely don’t need it.) This watch can range in price from $200 to $500. It just depends how many fancy features you want. Here’s a link to the $250 model.

Cell Phone Car Holder

This is one of the most useful technology devices we use on a daily basis. It’s a portable car mount for your phone. The best parts about this are that it (1) clips onto the air vent, (2) doesn’t block the field of vision, and (3) you don’t need to permanently stick something to the inside of your car.

GorillaPod

The first time Ben took out the GorillaPod Tripod it scared the crap out of me. It’s a flexible tripod that you can tie around things. My first thought was definitely, “I’m sorry, you want to put my camera in a tree?” He swears by it though. (Please note: I admittedly still haven’t let him put my camera in a tree. Call me old-fashioned.) There are light-weight GorillaPods that work well for digital cameras or cam-corders. Then there are heavier ones that are built to hold a full DSLR. In addition, the thread at the top that fits to each individual camera is not made to fit in every camera so make sure you buy the one that fits yours.

Cell Phone Charger

We’ve recently found that having a crap ton of cell phone chargers around your house is a very useful thing. Maybe it’s just because we have 4 floors so having one on the first floor and one on the fourth is useful, but we’ve determined that having extra cell phone chargers can never be a bad thing. The one pictured above is a Samsung charger from Best Buy.

Wireless Headphones

(I’ve been told) Wireless headphones are great for working out at the gym. There are pros and cons to the Bose, Bragi Dash, and Beats by Dre. Ben currently has the Bragi Dash and has used the Bose. The Bragi Dash are waterproof and they will hold 4GB of songs by themselves. If you will be outside of bluetooth range you will need something that has internal memory storage. The photo below is of the Bragi Dash wireless earphones. Fun fact – you can buy only a right or left if you want.

Kindle

The Kindle Oasis is Ben’s newest toy. It has a page turner button on the side. I’ve been told there are two that have this: the Kindle Voyager and Kindle Oasis. The Kindle Oasis also has a much longer battery and it’s a bit smaller.

Good Socks

Ben recommended Smartwool socks as a really solid pair of socks to have in your life. I’ve been told they hold up really well and work great even when people sweat. The photo pictured below is a pair of mens’ striped hike light crew socks.

Bose Speakers

Ben has the SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speakers. This speaker sound great and provide ‘crazy-good room-filling sound’. It’s tiny and can be carried from room to room through your house. Also, if you travel a lot, it will fill the hotel room pretty spectacularly and it doesn’t take up much room in your suitcase.

Chromecast

If you’re somebody who likes to watch tv or just stream things from the web onto a bigger screen, Chromecast is for you. (I’ve been told) Google Chrome now has a built-in “Cast” feature directly from the web. It supports 4k resolution and lets you push any content to your television form your phone or computer.

Magic Cards

Grab any set of duel Magic: The Gathering decks and learn how to play. Dueling decks are two decks that work well against each other that comes with a basic rulebook. And (I’ve been informed) everybody should play magic at least once. Here is one example on Amazon, but there are many to choose from.

Camera Bag

One of my friends has a pretty excellent camera bag from Lowerpro. It’s a great carrying case for his camera, it’s compact, and the particular one he bought actually keeps the camera in the part of the backpack closer to his back so it’s safe and nothing can get stolen. You can check out the Photo Hatchback bag to learn more.

12 Gifts for Your Nerdy, Outdoorsy Friends