Love is Sweet!

There is something about french macarons that I love.  I don’t know if it is their yumminess, or the pretty pastel shades they come in, or that they make me think of Paris…but I know they make me happy.  While I am more of a cupcake girl when it comes to desserts, there is just something so simple and lovely about french macarons.  And they make beautiful pictures!

Left:  Via Martha Stewart Weddings  Right: Laduree’ Paris,
French Macarons would be a charming addition to any wedding dessert bar or would make great favors for guests.  Many bakeries specialize in making them for weddings, or it could be a great DIY project for a bride!  My favorite bakery, Vanilla Bake Shop, makes delicious macarons, among many other treats (including the cupcakes for my own wedding).  Last month, Style Me Pretty did a DIY holiday feature where Vanilla Bake Shop shared tips and a recipe for making your own macarons.  For the full feature on SMP, go here.

Tips and Recipe:
Color & Flavor Coordinate: Presentation is key! You eat with your eyes first. Take that into consideration when you are making your French Macarons. Choose three flavor and color combinations that compliment each other and taste delicious.
Personalize: Adding a personalized custom label to your favor is a sweet touch that is simple and inexpensive. A helpful online source is http://www.myownlabels.com/. Chose from a variety of label templates and colors. Cost: approximately .75 per label.

Packaging: Choosing recycled eco-friendly cardboard or clear favor box is a creative way to show off your colorful French macarons. A cost effective online packaging source is http://www.papermart.com/ Cost: approximately .50 per box

Ingredients:
3 ½ cups Powdered sugar
½ tsp. Vanilla extract
3 cupsAlmond meal
6 Egg whites
Pinch Salt
½ cupGranulated Sugar

Helpful tips before you get started:
*Oven temperatures vary. Test this recipe first, before you begin production to ensure the cookies bake perfectly. If the cookies crack on top, your oven might be too hot. Turn your oven down by 5-10 degree’s. The cookie should have a smooth shell top.

*Chose three different food colors for your cookies and decide what flavor will correspond with the color. Example: A pale green macaron filled with mint chocolate ganache.

*Gel based food-coloring works the best. Divide your batter mixture into three separate bowls, and add a different color per bowl. This will allow you to have three different colors and flavors.

*Use a toothpick when adding the food coloring. A little goes a long way.

Instructions:

Pre-heat Oven 240 degree’s
1. Whip egg whites in a mixer with whisk attachment until frothy. Rain in granulated sugar slowly. Whip until the egg white is a soft peak. Add salt, vanilla extract and food coloring.
2. Continue to whip until a medium peak forms. Do not over whip.
3. Sift powder sugar and almond meal together.
4. Fold powder sugar and almond meal into egg white mixture.
5. Fold together until mixture is the consistency of slow moving lava. (About 20-30 seconds of folding.) Be careful not to over mix.
6. Fill pastry bag fitted with #828 tip with macaron mixture.
7. Pipe into small silver dollar size rounds on parchment covered sheet pans.
8. Once all rounds have been piped, allow it to sit out for 30 minutes to dry and create a shell.
9. Bake at 240 degree’s for 9-11 minutes. Rotate halfway through baking process so cookies are evenly baked. Cookie tops will pop up creating a macaron “foot” below the shell top.
10. Allow to cool before piping filling.
11. Fill with your favorite butter cream, preserve, or chocolate ganache filling.  This recipe yields 40 French macaron sandwiches.

Try them at home, or if you are in the LA area head over to the Vanilla Bake Shop and buy some instead!
 

Saying YES to the Dress

A bride’s search for THE dress is a daunting but exciting time.  I had many mixed feelings about going wedding dress shopping:  fear of not finding the right one, dread of feeling too fat to look good in them, joy at thinking of yourself on your wedding day, and relief that you are finally getting to shop for a wedding dress for an actual wedding for yourself!  I had poured through bridal magazines tearing out pictures of gowns I loved for 5 months before I went gown shopping.  My mom flew out to LA and we went to a couple of bridal boutiques in an effort to track down the perfect dress.  It was such a memorable experience that we had together, and not just because of a Denzel Washington encounter that we had on our way home!  In the end I found my perfect gown, the one I had loved most from my magazine ripping phase, and the first one I tried on. 

For some brides, it is an easy thing to find a wedding gown.  Others search far and wide and can’t make a decision.  Luckily for the newly engaged, there are many gorgeous gowns from the Spring 2010 season to choose from.  Here is a wrap-up of the highlights, plus a few of my all-time favorite from past seasons:

Ballgown:
   Left:  Monique Lhuillier
Right:  Vera Wang
A touch of bling:
  Left:  Ramona Keveza
Right:  Jenny Packham
A-Line:
 Left:  Vera Wang
Right:  Anne Barge 2008
Simple & Elegant:
Left:  Lela Rose
Right:  J.Crew 
Ruffles:
    Left:  Vera Wang
Right:  Badgley Mischka
Floral touches:
    Left:  J.Crew
     Right:  Rivini
Crumb Catcher:
   Left:  Carolina Herrera (2009)
Right:  Amsale
Vintage Inspired Lace:
  Left:  Melissa Sweet (2008)
Right:  Rivini
One Shoulder:
   Left:  Ramona Keveza
Short:
   Both gowns by Amsale
Unique Details:
 Left:  Amsale
Right:  Carolina Herrera (2009)
I am LOVING Vera’s 2010 Spring Collection!  The Lela Rose gown would be so elegant worn in an urban wedding and the simple J.Crew gown has a beautiful back and would be great for a gallery venue.  The simple Vera gown is perfect for a summer garden wedding or a beach ceremony.  The Anne Barge gown is more beautiful in person and has amazing details (pockets and pleating on the bodice) that would make it perfect for a preppy, nautical themed wedding.  I love the neckline of the bottom Amsale gown and the polka dots in the bottom Carolina gown are adorable.  Both short dresses would be perfect for a simpler affair, a city hall wedding, or as a second dress for a bride who wants to change for the ‘party’ portion of her wedding.  Both gauzy ballgowns are perfect for a more formal affair…or for any bride with an inner Cinderella.  And my very favorite is the vintage inspired lace Melissa Sweet gown…because it was mine!
Photo by Jennifer Roper

{Inspiration Board} Navy & Lilac

I was just contacted by a friend whose brother is in the early stages of wedding planning.  They are having an outdoor wedding in early October in North Carolina, and my friend asked my opinion on color combos and wedding party attire.  The couple wants a dark or navy blue for the bridesmaids, and a more casual option for the groomsmen, but without looking too casual or country.  A lavendar accent color was suggested, a combination that I think is very fresh and chic.  I designed an inspiration board for them to see how they liked the colors together and to get an overall feel for the design of their wedding.  Here is what I came up with:

Top row from left:  photo by Molly Fitzsimmons, photo by Stacey Kane, photo by The Sartorialist, photo by Punam Bean, boutonniere via Martha Stewart Weddings, lavendar photo by Jose Villa
Row 2:  calligraphy by Betsy Dunlap, church photo by Laura Dombrowski, invitation photo by Holland Photo Arts, lemonade photo by Cooper Carras,  blue Converse photo by Worthington Photography
Row 3:  place setting via Martha Stewart Weddings, macarons from Paulette, photo by Punam Bean,  hydrangea photo by Meg Smith
I love the feel of the hydrangeas and lilacs, natural and effortless.  Picture them placed in mixed sizes of blue and clear mason jars…very outdoor southern wedding. Imagine the country charm of a green field and a big oak tree and guests mingling while drinking lemonade and sweet tea out of jelly glasses.  The groomsmen wearing khaki’s and blue converse or vans, and coordinating ties, and the bridesmaids in different dresses in the same family of navy and indigo.  The groom could wear a light grey suit and the bridesmaids matching grey pashminas when it gets chilly after dark…there are so many options my head is spinning!  I can’t wait to hear what the couple comes up with.

{DIY} S’mores Kits for Favors or Gifts

One of the most important things I think any bride can do in planning her wedding is to come up with at least one DIY (do-it-yourself) project.  Whether it is your menus, programs, favors, or a cute extra project (or all of the above!), DIY elements add a special touch to your wedding, show your guests you put time and thought into the elements of your wedding, add a little bit of ‘you”, and save you money!  I am going to try whenever possible to post DIY projects or ideas for weddings that I have come up with or found on the blog circuit. 

One of my favorite DIY ideas I have come across is actually quite simple – a s’mores kit.  It would be a perfect wedding favor idea for a fall or winter wedding or an element to use in out-of-town bags for guests, not to mention a great gift for everyday use (think holiday gift, thank you gift, hostess gift…)  How perfect would this project be as a favor idea for the winter inspired wedding previously featured!?

DIY and Pictures from Twig & Thistle

Materials needed:  marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, acetate boxes or clear plastic bags (depending on how big you want the kits and how you prefer to package them, but I prefer the acetate boxes, which can be found here), and baker’s twine or your choice of ribbon

Go to Twig & Thistle for full instructions here!

{Inspiration Board} Winter Inspiration

Since I am not suffering in snow like most of the country, I am still a little nostalgic for winter.  That, combined with wanting to help someone come up with ideas on how to design a winter/holiday wedding for next year without looking too Christmasy, led me to utilize the Style Circle Inspiration Board creator over at Style Me Pretty that I mentioned in a previous post.  It really is an amazing design tool!
To see what I came up with, follow this link:
http://circle.stylemepretty.com/chandra/blog/2010/01/07/january-7-2010-3/

This was the first picture I found and built the board around.

By Allison Events via Snippet & Ink

I Heart Etsy!

The best website out there in my opinion is Etsy!  It is basically a collection of stores that sell any handmade good you can think of.  They have a wedding section, which is amazing, but there are also sections for just about anything you are in the market for.  If you register for a free account you can save your favorite items and sellers for future reference.

Need a great gift for a friend who is from or lives in Chicago? 

Go here to Moxiedoll

How about a great gift idea for a wedding or anniversary? (they also have ones for baby births)

Go here to Paloma’s Nest (they also have ring bowls for weddings which I LOVE!)
What about a unique hair piece for your wedding?
Go here to ClarkandDiversey for amazing finds!
(the piece above was custom made for me to wear in my own wedding and turned out beautifully)
How about splurging on a gorgeous custom made dress?  This is definitely on my dream etsy purchase list!
Go here to sarahseven for this and other beautiful handmade pieces.

Run over to etsy and start picking your favorites, but be prepared to get swept away by all of the unique, fun, vintage, and lovely items for sale!  You’ve been warned…