Home Improvements

 

Check it out, dear readers: we got a (little) tractor!  The closer we’ve been getting to gardening (and grass growing) season, the more we’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go about our new yard obligations.  Our home is on 3 acres that is mostly yard, minus the quarter-acre garden plot that brings it’s own challenge…I don’t know about you but I’m not keen on trying to hoe a quarter-acre garden by hand.  We started looking at zero turn lawn mowers, and tillers, then pull-behind tillers for a riding mower, and then we thought we might need something we could pull a broadcaster behind for seeding the lawn, and a sprayer for weed control…and you see where this is going right?   We ended up looking at  a compact tractor that was small enough to not tear up our lawn while we were mowing it, but strong enough to handle some future landscaping projects and our heavier garden chores.  We found this one at our local SunSouth dealer, in Carrollton, and it was such a great deal that we snapped it right up and hauled it home.  After much shopping around we realized that what was going to cost us the most was the implements we wanted: a tiller, mowing deck, and loader to start.   The tractors themselves were very reasonably priced, but adding implements quickly got expensive.  We chose this one because it was so lightly used that it was basically new, and came as a package deal with the three implements we needed the most.   We’ve already put it to good use removing an unwanted pine tree, cutting the grass, and some light landscaping. 

That’s our 80’s model John Deere riding mower – it was given to us by my Daddy.  It wasn’t running so he gave it to Jacob to repair…it’s not very quick or agile, and the mowing deck needs to be replaced so we use it for hauling mostly.   It’s been very useful when we’ve needed to haul dirt, or rock, or mulch, but sometimes we have less practical uses for it, such as when we need to haul the Bassett Hound across the yard, or something 🙂

Despite our murky, windy, rainy weather we were able to get quite a few things done this weekend.  The previous tenants were very enthusiastic gardeners, but it doesn’t seem like they were overly concerned with aesthetics.  You can see my little greenhouse above, and Jacob has a shop building off to the left of that photo with the aspalt pad in between.  They seemed to be concerned with functionality more than looks, because the buildings were just placed there on the edge of the yard with no landscaping or anything to make them attractive.  I appreciate the functionality, but I really want it to all look pretty as well…I’m thinking a low wall made of paving stones from the shop to the greenhouse (in front of that sweet gum tree) with a little flower bed in it, and then another paving stone “planter” built along the length of the greenhouse to hide the legs of that cabinet and make it look a little neater. 

We’ve already done a lot to clean it up just by clearing away a lot of brush and junk from around the shop area, and I know the rest will come together in time.  Hopefully spring will be upon us full force in another couple of weeks and we can get down to business in the garden. 

Did I mention how much fun the tractor is?  It’s pretty cool actually.  I might actually volunteer to help with the lawn mowing…

I hope you all are having very happy and productive springtimes, wherever you are, and that all of your projects are going just the way you want them to. Happy Spring!

 

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Fabric Shopping and Local Flavor

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I know I told you all weeks and weeks ago about my new sewing machine and how I had visions of textiles dancing in my head, and you’ll just have to take my work for it that I actually did make something wonderful (two somethings! Eeeek!) a full two weeks ago.  I made an Envelope Cushion Cover that I found here, and another project that I will refrain from mentioning until the intended recipients receive their surprises in the mail.  It was so much fun!  It was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever had to hold my finished projects and know that not an hour previously they were just piles of fabric (much like when I did this and got so excited).  It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some more complicated projects.  I’m really keen to try out a dress, like this, or a quilt, like this.  I’m going to keep practicing with cushions and, ahem, other things, until I feel really comfortable with my machine, but after that, it’s anything goes!

I actually made my first fabric purchase from Joann’s, because I have one only about 10 minutes down the road, and it was very convenient.  But I actually had another place in mind that I wanted to check out for textiles called The Fabric Peddler.  I spent several of my college years in Carrollton, Ga, and it’s a pretty cool little town – a typical old southern town in that it’s got a great town square surrounded by all these cool old homes and buildings.  The one I had in mind is a former railroad depot that has been turned into a combination antique and fabric store.  The Fabric Peddler has been there for years, but I think the Feathers & Twigs is a fairly new addition, and I really had fun looking around. The fabric selection is pretty good, and I found two things on the “$3/yd” table that I’m looking forward to using.  I’ll tell you more about those another time, because, honestly, I had the most fun browsing the antiques.

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I’m usaully skeptical when I see an “Antique” store, because most of the ones I wander into end up being just yard sale junk.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good yard sale, but I don’t think your IKEA coffee table that has seen better days qualifies as an “antique”.  This place was a typical consignment style antique format (one big space seperated into small areas for each seller’s items) but there was some great stuff here.  Things that were clearly aged, but of good quality, and lots of solid wood furnishings.  There was a good range of newer “lightly used” items likes those rolling pins, and some actual antiques, like the colander.  Everything was arranged beautifully, and there was plenty of room to move around.  All in all, a great little shop that I’ll be visiting again.  Hopefully soon since I found a chifferobe that I absolutely love, and if I can convince Jacob, I’ll be moving it into my bedroom next weekend…

After my browse through the store, I was heading out of town and so enjoying the beautiful weather (74° out on Saturday!  Lovely!) that I just had to stop and walk around the old part of town for a minute.  I took a few photos that I had to share some with you.  It’s hard to explain what is about places like this that I love so much, but they’re just so full of character and charm…and some other quality that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Whatever it is, I love old neighborhoods like this, and I could happily wander around for hours enjoying the view.

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I hope all of you had equally lovely weekends, and a great St. Paddy’s day!

Book Themed Baby Shower: Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs, Favors, and Games

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I know you all could probably figure out how to do the Very Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs from the description (easiest recipe ever, right?), but I wanted to do a post explaining some of the other parts of the shower, and these were just too cute not to mention.  And let’s be honest, just a few years ago I wasn’t the most crafty of girls, you know, and I would have wanted a step- by-step post telling me exactly what to do to make my shower food/favors/games/etc turn out exactly like the picture or article I was using for inspiration.

Hungry Caterpillar Kebabs: I wasn’t lying, dear readers, there really is no recipe.  It’s just fruit on a stick.  The only thing we did to make it special was to choose fruit that would make up the traditional ROYGBIV rainbow and arrange it accordingly.  I used plain wooded skewers and I used the folowing fruit for my rainbow: watermelon, canteloupe, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and red seedless grapes.  I used precut melons from Publix, since I didn’t need much, and canned pineapple slices that I cut into chunks (have you seen the fresh – I use the term loosely – pineapple that we get here in Georgia? More like fresh-but-picked-so-far-before-ripening-you-may-as-well-call-them-seeds).  For the rest I just cut up some kiwis (I needed 2 kiwis for 12 kebabs), and the fresh blueberries and grapes from the produce section.   I wish I could take credit for the rainbow idea, but one of my creative co-hosts came up with it, and I just executed it 🙂

Favors: I didn’t mention our favors before, but they were amazing, and very creative.  We used jam, in the small 4 oz Ball jars – they were meant to be a play on baby food, and I think it really turned out well.  At our last shower we also used jam for favors, because I had an abundance of it sitting around and we thought it would be cute.  Turns out, it was one of our best ideas, because everyone loved it there, and when we reprised it for this shower we had the same reaction.  I think because so few people can these days, and especially young people – until recently I only had 1 friend under the age of 50 who had canned anything – people are really impressed by it.  This time one of my co-hosts made the favors: we had Apple-Pear Butter and Blueberry Plum Jam to go with this children’s book.  I think people don’t realize how easy (and super fun!) it is to can, and so when you offer them a jar of preserves they imagine that you’ve been sweating over a pot of boiling fruit for days on end to produce it and they’re just in awe.   But really, small jars of jam or preserves, or even pickles, are great for shower favors both because they are one-of-a-kind, and because they are homemade .  I love giving homemade gifts for favors (or any “thank you” gift – hostess gifts, etc) because I feel like it’s such a genuine way to show someone that you appreciate their gift/time/hospitality.  Or just for a random Tuesday.  I’d love to receive another jar of Blueberry Plum Jam for no reason except that Kelly wanted to send me one.  I’m just saying.

Games: We had a really fun little game of Children’s Book Trivia – created by another of my co-hosts.  My friend Julie usually takes the game portion of our hosting duties, mostly because she’s awesome at it.  I don’t know if she used a template for this, or if she made it up on her own, but it was just a list of 15-20 questions about children’s books…I don’t have kids and haven’t been in the children’s secton in 20 years, but I knew 75% of them, so it was on a level that most anyone attending a baby shower would be able to participate in and and enjoy.  For prizes for the winner (not me, alas) she had a little pail of goodies (including glitter silly-putty! Jealous!).   It was a good game that went along with our theme, and was suitable for a wide audience (ie, those of us without kiddies had a fighting chance) and would be really easy to replicate.  I’ll try to get a template up here for reference for those of you who might like something to print out.

The second game we played was really fun, though a little more challenging.  We were given small packages of  baby food (no lables!) and had to identify the contents by their  appearance.  It was a little harder, but still lots of fun.  I’ll admit that I guessed a lot, and didn’t come close to winning, but it was fun watching everyone try to puzzle through it.  Also, since they aren’t perishable, we were able to give them to our future Mom to get a head start stocking her pantry.

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Decor: I showed you this picture before and, honestly, this may have been my favorite part of the shower.  It was just too cute.  It was just purchased tissue paper balls hung up in a “Caterpillar” shape and with wee eyes and legs attached, but it was the first thing our geusts saw when they came in the hosue, and it was a really great memorable and inexpensive way to decorate.   You could hang it from the ceiling, over a buffet table maybe, or just set it out on a table behind food or gifts, or do as we did and hang it from a banister or railing.  The Mama-to-be loved it, and in fact told us that she was going to leave it up as long as possible because it was so cute – which is another plus.  You can give it to the guest of honor to use in the nursery or playroom and it’s another little gift.

All of the things we did here were pretty simple – and totally doable by almost anyone.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or need clarification on any of the ideas or products we used.

Next up:  Moonpie recipe.

Book Themed Baby Shower

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I’ve been dying to tell you all about this, because, quite frankly, it was awesome.  This is the third shower I’ve hosted with this group of ladies, and we are a great team.  We’ve sorted out our particular talents so that each of us is doing something we’re good at, and also that we enjoy…it really makes for one heck of a shower when you have such amazing co-hosts. The book theme was really fun and easy to work with, and we were able to coordinate all the food, games, and decor with no trouble at all.  My co-host with the Cricut (such an amazing device!  I want one!) made the banner above, as well as the tissue paper Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, and the clothesline for the  gifts was her idea as well.  Another friend (the adorable young man below belongs to her) came up with some children’s book trivia games for us (I didn’t win.  I was actually sad about that, but then, I don’t read a lot of children’s books these days…), and our fourth co-host made us some lovely invitations, of which I have no photo…but they were made to coordinate with our banner (above) and you can rest assured, they were adorable.  Your truly was responsible for the food, and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had with it.  Everything I made was meant to go with one of the books and here’s the list:

Green Eggs and Ham – Spinach and Pancetta Quiche

Goodnight Moon – Homemade Moonpies

Give a Mouse a Cookie – assorted cookies, including Homemade Oreos, Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbreads, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip (not made by me, but I will be telling you about them, because they have a secret ingredient that is Killer)

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Carrot Cupcakes

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Baked Chicken Meatballs

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – fruit Kebabs

We also had Lemon-Berry Punch, which was a Martha Stewart recipe and came out quite well.  I’ve already share the meatball recipe with you, and I will be sharing the rest of them over the next week.  The carrot cupcake recipe came from (where else?) SmittenKitchen, and I’ll just direct you over to her site for the recipe.  As usual with Deb’s recipes, they turned out wonderfully – moist, tender, and tasty.  I did pipe wee carrots on top of them, and I was quite proud of how they looked, since I usually have no great gift for decorating.  Please do email, or comment, if you have any questions about any of our decor or the theme, etc.  We had so much fun being creative with it, but it took a few skype brainstorming sessions and quite a bit of time on Pinterest for us to put all of our ideas to solid plans and then to reality.  For now, enjoy some photos of the happy Mama-to-be, and be sure to check back in a day or two for the recipes!

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Decor from the…yard?

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Can you believe I got those bud vases at Wal-Mart?  I’ve been wanting to use more greenery in my decorating, so when I saw these little vases, I thought it would be a great way for me to dip my toe in the water, so to speak.  I’ve mentioned this blog to you before, but Pure Style Home is a really great site that I find very inspirational, and Lauren has mentioned using greenery – even just the plain little things you have growing around your yard that wouldn’t necessarily work for an arrangement – in vases, glasses, bowls, or any other vessel you find attractive, as a cheap way to add color and that little something extra to a room.  You always see flowers and greenery in magazine showcase homes, and store windows, but it’s something anyone can do in their own home with very little effort, and for free.  I love having flowers around, and especially if you’re expecting guests, it can really dress your home up and give it a fresh, chic look – especially if, like me, you don’t have a lot of other decor yet.  Since we moved into a larger house I’ve found that the things I was using as decor in our previous home just aren’t enough to fill in our new space, so I’m always looking for ways to add to our sparsely decorated living area.

I had a small dinner party last Friday night – just some family over for a meal and a visit – and I really wanted to put my little vases into use, so off I went out into our (rainy) yard.  Thanks to the previous owners, who were very enthusiastic gardeners, we have lots of plants around our home, so  I walked out onto our front porch with no real plan in mind except to see what captured my fancy.   As I stood there looking around, I felt like I was seeing my yard for the very first time; since we’ve only been here for the winter season so far, I’ve only been seeing my plants for the potential they have to be pretty when they’re blooming.   It’s been pretty gloomy in our yard, actually, especially since we’ve had almost a week straight of gray, rainy days, so it was like a whole new world of pretty things opened up in front of me.  Most of my plants are actually fairly attractive, even without their blooms, and I’ve been overlooking them this whole time.  I saw that my azaleas had these really pretty glossy red leaves, and my little eucalyptus tree is perfect for adding a sculptural element; my rosemary is blooming with these tiny purple flowers (I used that in another vase in my kitchen), and I have lots of Leyland Cyprus trees just waiting to donate a snipped twig or two to my decorating efforts.  So if you’re feeling a little gloomy amid all the winter weather, or rainy days, I encourage you to step outside and take a fresh look at your yard.  You never know what will appeal to you, and you can bring a little of the outdoors in to give your home a little facelift.

I love to hear your thoughts!  What do you guys do to add that special touch to your home?

Optimistic Foliage

Well readers, I finally have my garden down on paper.  I’ve got a neat little diagram with all my notes about sowing dates, planting dates, last frosts, first frosts, proper spacing, light requirements, etc. scribbled in the margins.  Actually it’s not “neat” at all, it’s quite messy, but I feel OK about that seeing as how it’s a garden and they’re supposed to be inherently messy anyway, aren’t they?  My only problem now is that it’s still to early to do anything…too early to plant, and too early to channel my burst of enthusiasm into tangible results.  I took the dog out for his romp around the yard, and as my productivity-induced high disappated in the face of a winter brown landscape, I saw this:

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Lovely Eucalyptus

Lovely isn’t it?   From that view you’d never know it wasn’t spring or summer time.  Amazing how something so simple as brightly-hued foliage can lift my spirits.   Enjoy!

Link Love

Remember how I told you all about my gardening plans the other day?  And my new sewing machine a few days later?  Well, I’ve been kind of wrapped up in those things – I don’t have a huge amount of experience with either of them, so I’ve been surfing the web, reading books, trying to learn as much as I can so I can put all my big plans into action.  I thought I’d share some of the websites and blogs that I’ve found useful.  Enjoy!  And by all means, please share any helpful links you may have found as well.

Sewing in a Straight Line – This book looks amazing!  I must have it.  Also, her website is great too.

Tilly and the Buttons – some great info for beginners here.

Keeper of the Home – lots of great home-making ideas here, but I found the Gardening 101 articles to be particularly helpful.

Six Sisters Stuff – a great site for crafts and sewing.  I had this recommended to me by a friend, and I think it’ll be my first sewing project.

Threads Magazine – I just found this one and haven’t had much time to peruse it yet, but it looks like there are some good things here.

Walter Reeves – known as the Georgia Gardener, I have gotten both his flower and vegetable gardening books.  I know this won’t help much if you don’t live in Georgia, but if you do, his site is invaluable.

Pinterest – I can’t stay away from here.  But it is a huge source of inspiration…lots of cool ideas and sites I may not have found on my own.

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Hope you all have a great Monday (oxymoronic?), and maybe find some of your own inspiration here…and don’t forget to share!

 

 

A Homemade Life

Merriam-Webster defines homemade as being made in the home, on the premises, or by one’s own efforts.  And that’s the key isn’t it?  The effort part, I mean.  In our modern world of technology, convenience, and instant gratification, it’s a simple thing to purchase ready-made items – be they food, clothing, decor, gifts…you name it and you can find it packaged up and ready for immediate use.  And there’s certainly a place for that – I’ll be the first one to admit that I take full advantage of the wonders of modern civilization – but there’s a joy that I get from making something myself that no amount of convenience can replace.

Deep thoughts, right?  It’s not something I ever used to think about – 10 years ago I’d have laughed out loud had you suggested that I’d be in such a mood at any point in my life – but as I’m making my home, my new lovely dream home, and looking to the future (a few years yet, parents and in-laws!) when I might have some tiny people running around, I find myself wanting more and more to have the things around me be things that I particularly love.  And lately I’ve been finding that the things I love the most are the photographs that we’ve taken, the special meals we’ve made and shared, the handmade cards given on momentous occasions…the things that I’ve invested my time and effort in.

My birthday is approaching (next week!) and I’ve had several bewildered reactions to my statement that I am making my own cake, and gladly.   Friends will offer to purchase a cake for me so that I can “enjoy my day” and not have to make all that effort, but I want to.  You see, in my baking, I rarely make anything that I choose.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the fruits of my labors – far from it! – but I usually make things at the requests of others, or because I know that my husband or my guests or whoever will particularly enjoy it.*  So for my birthday, I would like to make something spectacular that I alone have chosen.  I’m not a bad baker so I’m sure my friends and family will enjoy it as well, but really it’s my birthday, and I’m making the exact cake that I want.  And I will enjoy it all the more because I’ve taken the time to create it myself.

Where’s all this coming from? Where’s all this going?  I guess that I’ve just been so inspired lately – so many wonderful projects that I have in mind for my home, my garden, my kitchen.  One of my favorites of the modern conveniences is our present access to almost unlimited inspiration via the internet.  It seems almost everyone is an artist these days – sewing, writing, building, cooking, designing, photographing, and on and on and on.  And all of these words and ideas and images make me so eager and excited to create my own things that will inspire my family and friends and guests in my home – to share some of the joy and satisfaction I get from the creation of something lovely.

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*Please don’t think I mind making things for you!  There’s no greater compliment for me than to have someone request that I make something for them.  I’m flattered that you think I can do justice to your favorite dessert/meal/jam/etc, and no time spent in my kitchen is wasted when I know someone’s going to enjoy and appreciate my efforts.  And let’s be honest, I love to cook, so really I’m doing it all for me anyway [insert evil laugh here].

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I know that’s not the best photo, but in the midst of moving that was the best my phone could do.  I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know I’m still around, just buried under a mountain of boxes.  It’s been a lovely fall here, and thankfully we had warm weather for moving and it wasn’t too bad.  Since I’ll be between internet connections for a while, I’m leaving you with some links to keep you busy – I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, and happy browsing!

 

http://purestylehome.blogspot.com/ – I’m addicted to this one!  Some really great ideas.

http://ana-white.com/ This woman is amazing!  I’m feeling very ambitious and have already decided to make like 10 things from this site.

http://www.runningwithtweezers.com/ This is one of my favorite new food blogs.  The writing is great, and more importantly, so are the recipes.

Also, if you just love to browse food-based site, check out Saveur.com.  Their “Blogs we love” section is awesome if you need some new reading material, but I also really love the Daily Fare. 

 

 

Blue Velvet Cupcakes for a Bridal Shower

Have you ever made red velvet cake?  I have, twice, and from two different recipes no less.  You always here that velvet cake can be a little tricky (or maybe that’s just me?), and indeed, my first attempt was mediocre.  It had a decent flavor, but the texture was all off, and it was quite dry.  So the second time I tried a different recipe and unfortunately fared little better.  You see, red velvet cake is kind of a thing in the south.  We’re known for our cakes down here, and you’d be hard put to find a cake that is more decadent and steeped in tradition than this one.  Everyone’s grandmother has her recipe, and each one is better than the last – and bless your heart if it’s dry or flavorless.  So when I was told that the favorite cupcake flavor of the guest of honor at the bridal shower I was co-hosting was red velvet, I was a little nervous.

The future bride sharing a secret with her maid of honor.

I have a confession to make here:  I love to host things.  I love to entertain, to have guests over, and to see people enjoying something I’ve baked or prepared just makes my day.  It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it, and I really want everything to be just perfect.  Because I had had two previous red velvet duds, I was worried that these might turn out the same.  And to make things a little more interesting, I had decided to make them “Blue Velvet Cupcakes” to go along with the bride’s colors, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get just the right color blue.  I ended up following a recipe from Sprinkle Bakes that had “Finding the perfect hue” in the title.  I’ve had good luck with Sprinkle’s recipes before, so I ran with it, and what do you know?  Perfect cupcake, perfect color. I will probably use this recipe for velvet cake in the future, and just change the color as I please (Orange velvet cake anyone??).

At least one of our guests could’ve cared less about my cupcakes. Those club crackers sure are a crowd pleaser!

Following Sprinkle’s instructions, I purchased Wilton gel food coloring and used a combination of blue and violet to get that deep navy blue.  I used just the tiniest bit of green in the frosting (another of the bride’s colors), and I was really happy with how they looked.  My crafty co-host made those cake stands you see above, as well as most of the other decor, and I think everything came together really well to make this a very special day for the future bride.

Isn’t that sign to die for? My friend Kelly made that with her Cricut, which I’ve heard is one of the coolest things ever.

Our third co-host (that’s her adorable son up there enjoying the crackers) provided the entertainment, and since she’s something of a game guru, that of course turned out perfectly.  She has this great game where she passes out paper bags with small kitchen items in them and you have to guess what the item is by feeling it through the bag – no peeking!  It sounds easy, but some things are really hard to tell without looking.

Bridal shower guest trying to guess what’s in the bag…It’s harder than it sounds!

To sum up:  cupcakes – decadently delicious, decor – visually stunning, games – wildly entertaining.  In short, we spent a lovely afternoon showering the bride-to-be with love and gifts, and everything turned out perfectly.

 

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

This is an adapted Paula Deen recipe. The food-coloring portion has been modified to create (what I consider) the perfect shade of blue for Blue Velvet Cupcakes. The frosting is also not original to the recipe.

12-14 servings

Cake:

2 cups sugar

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, at room temp

2 eggs

1tbsp cocoa powder (I used Dutch Cocoa)

1tbsp Wilton royal blue gel food coloring

1 small dab Wilton violet gel food coloring

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp vinegar

Frosting:

1 lb cream cheese, softened

1/2 lb butter (softened)

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake pan(s) with paper liners.

Cake:
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into cupcake papers. Batter will be thick! Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip. Embellish as desired.

 

A few notes:

I got 24 cupcakes out of this.  There’s no way I was only going to get 14.  I actually could have gotten 26, but I may have, um, sampled the batter.

This stuff is blue.  Really blue.  Don’t wear your favorite apron, and don’t use your cute decorative hand towels.