Monday, February 28, 2011

Ella's Third Birthday {a lesson in listening} and the Best Cake Recipe Ever

One thing I've learned about myself is that I have a tendency to go a wee bit overboard when it comes to events.  I have shifted my perspective from "I think Ella will like this" to "Ella, what would you like to do" and it has made all the difference in simplifying our events and day-to-day activities.

I had all these grand plans for how we could spend her third birthday (her first in NYC), but when I asked, she requested to spend her birthday doing the following things:
  • dancing
  • singing
  • reading books
  • eating pizza
  • daddy-daughter date to get chocolate ice cream
  • eating "a Teepeebell pwincess wainbow birt-day cake" (I absolutely adore her little voice right now)
We checked everything off her little list. And we stayed in our pjs until after lunch, which was awesome.

Kyle and the kids joined me in the kitchen the night before to make the cake. Ella loved mixing the food coloring into the white cake batter with Daddy, and snitching cake batter and frosting. After Ella went to bed, I went to work layering and decorating, and in the morning I added the topper set it out with all of her presents on the kitchen table. Just like my mom used to do.  

For the topper, I used a 3-D sticker I found in the scrapbook section of Roberts and attached the tiny Tinkerbell to the top of the castle with a tiny wire.  She loved it. And I loved how easy it was. It took some time, but it was easy.

Stay tuned for pics from her birthday party...

Old Town Imports 8" Cake Stand found HERE


White Almond Sour Cream Cake

This is the perfect recipe for birthday cakes, because the flavor is amazing and the cake is light and airy, yet dense enough to create beautiful layer cakes, even if you are a beginner like me.  The full recipe makes enough batter for five dozen cupcakes, or a three-tier 6" round layer cake and 6-12 cupcakes, or two 8-9" layers and about 6 cupcakes. Perfect for a birthday party!

Recipe from HERE


2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (Betty Crocker or Pillsbury)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

  • Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  • Pour into greased and floured cake pans, filling each pan a little over half full.
  • Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.
  • Bake in preheated 325° F oven until cake tests done.
  • Baking time varies according to the size and depth of pans being used (around 20 minutes is typical for cupcakes and 6" rounds, in my experience.)


I use Ina Garten's Cream Cheese Frosting recipe, but I use about twice as much powdered sugar so that it has more of a traditional butter cream consistency, which is easier to frost with.  The flavor is wonderful with the cream cheese, and vanilla and almond extracts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stacey M Photography {Southern Oregon Portrait Photographer}

My sister Erin and I put together a portfolio site for my sister Stacey because we knew she'd never do it herself :)  Erin designed the logo and header, and if you know Stacey well, you know that Erin captured her darling personality perfectly!

Stacey's work was featured on the fabulous Bloom blog last week for her maternity portraits of one of the blog authors.

Check out Stacey's blog, she's pretty amazing.

ps. all you photogs out there, her work is all straight-out-of-camera. This is not a joke. Impressive indeed, right? See more HERE


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Audrey {Portrait of a Two Month-Old}




I loved this mini session (so much that it nearly turned into a full session. Whoops!) To see how much this tiny New Yorker has grown in two short months, click HERE.

And I'll leave you with this image.  I love the baby bubbles. It doesn't get much sweeter than this:

Valentine's Day Eve {Make Do}

I have been thinking about my mom a lot lately. I always think of her when any holiday rolls around, but I've been thinking of her most especially because she and my dad were masters at making every day special... even if it was a day when my Dad was traveling (he traveled a lot, but I honestly don't remember that), or a busy day when we only had fifteen minutes together as a family of seven before we darted off to our various activities.

It would have been really easy for my mom to forgo little holiday traditions because we were too busy or my dad was not home because of work commitments. I'm grateful she made do and carried on, because the traditions we kept throughout the year (like all things pink for breakfast on V-day, as well as green milk and green clover pancakes on St. Patty's Day, eating out of a pumpkin on Halloween, etc.), the amazing birthday cakes she made herself, as well as the day-to-day details like the notes she and my dad would put in our lunches, the after-school treats, and making breakfast for us every morning are some of my fondest memories. Our home was a happy place, always filled with good food and festive decor.  It was the little things that made every single day special.

For those of you in situations similar to my own (especially if your hubby works crazy hours), I know that it's really easy to justify by saying: I'm going to wait until I have a bigger house, more money, wait until my kids are older so that they'll really appreciate my efforts, or until I've had more time to plan an event and "do it right." Make do.

We have a 24" wide table in our tiny galley kitchen. Our space is not ideal for entertaining, not even ideal for serving meals with just the four of us. But we do it anyway.  We had our Valentine's date two days early, and had our family Valentine's dinner the night before because we knew Kyle would be home (It was a good thing, too, because he was at work until 4am on Valentine's Day.  Nice.).  Because of the craziness of the day we only had two small windows to celebrate as a family: 30 minutes to decorate sugar cookies (I froze some from our Valentine's Day play date), and 30 minutes for our Valentine's Day dinner.  It wasn't what I had planned, but I'm glad we made the effort.

I used 12x12 paper for place mats, made place cards from matching paper, used our china and our pewter goblets, scattered candy across the table (one of my favorite traditions growing up) and made some age-appropriate place settings for Ella and Jones.  It was easy and only took a few minutes of my time, but it made me happy.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why I do what I do {how Kensington Blue came to be}

My reasoning for starting Kensington Blue was to have a public space to share the things I love in a creative space separate from our family blog. Seemed logical. No, I have not defined the scope of my blog well, but that's me. If you like me, you will like this blog. And if you like this blog, chances are, if we meet outside the blogosphere, we'll be pals. This blog is as scatterbrained as I am.

Why the name Kensington Blue? Glad you asked. A while back while I was daydreaming about designing a children's clothing line (we're talking like 2006 before I had any children), I decided that I would call my line Kensington Blue. So when I decided to start this blog, I already had something to call it. The words "Kensington" and "blue" help to shape the style of my creative endeavors in general, and specifically my photography- classic, modern, fresh, timeless. Yes, opposites, but opposites attract, right? I am still working towards it, but I want my photography to have a classic feel that will still be relevant and look good on a wall in 30 years. It was kind of my default that I used KB for my photography site, at some point I may just switch to my name. Who knows!

On a sentimental note, I met my husband in a part of London called Kensington, and my daughters eyes are the most beautiful blue. In short, Kensington Blue sums up the places and people that drive my creative side.

Being a mom is hard. Simple as that. Of course, it's so incredibly rewarding, and I feel so blessed to be able to stay home with my kids, but it's still hard. In order to maintain my sanity, I have developed a few self-serving hobbies that also benefit the little people in my life. And Kyle too. Phptpgraphy, sewing, cooking, baking, and party planning all fall into this category.

Blogging, however, is an entirely selfish venture. I would blog if even if I had no readers. Why, you ask? Because I do it for me. There's nothing better than the satisfaction that comes from being able to relive the little things through photography and blogging. When I see each shiny new post I get to say to myself "I did something today. See?" It's tangible evidence that I took time to do something creative, and that's a good feeling. It is self-propelling, because in order to put things on my blog, I have to do things that are blog-worthy. Get it?

I feel like there are a lot of blog authors out there whose sole purpose for posting is to be impressive... or is it just my perception and insecurity that leads me to believe that? Know one really knows. My life is far from perfect, but I hope a few of you out there enjoy the pictures or the craft ideas from time-to-time. I hope you'll come back soon.

And why did I start a photography website? You have to take yourself seriously in order for everyone else to take you seriously. Photography is my hobby, yes, but it takes me away from my family and it's work. So it spares me the awkward end of conversations that start "I was wondering if you could take a few pictures..." I just say "you can check out my website if you're interested in hiring me." Works like a charm.

Oh, and all the money I earn from photography, I get to put back into new lenses, camera upgrades (hopefully coming soon!), you get the picture. My ultimate goal is to capture portraits of life as we know it at home, but I love that I have a hobby that funds itself and I rarely have to beg my husband for upgrades. Ok, that's a lie, but it softens the blow.

Now I'm curious. Why do you keep reading Kensington Blue? And why do you blog?

(check out all my logo drafts below from May 2009...)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day Cookies + Play Date {for mommies too!}

I guess my penchant for party planning has finally rubbed off on my 3 year old. For the second time, she requested to invite a few friends over to make cookies (I never blogged about Ella's Cookie and Cocoa Social in December- I guess you'll have to wait until next year to see it!).  So we invited a few friends from our new dance class to join us for lunch and cookie decorating immediately after ballet. 

Here's the thing- I committed to do the party at 5pm the night before and sent out text message invites (yea, real classy). Thankfully, we have friends here who are always up for an adventure and put up with me and all the craziness involved my scatterbrained-ness and propensity to go overboard for even the smallest event.It was a little disorganized, but the kids had fun and so did we. So nothing else matters, right?

I had the lunch trays for the kids ready to go so that when they walked through the door from dance we could eat. I had the mommies bring all the snacks, so I just provided heart-shaped sandwiches, juice boxes for the kids, Caesar salad wraps for the moms, and since it was a pot-luck, the other mommies took care of the rest.  While the kids got cheese, crackers, carrots, and apples we got pasta salad, homemade banana bread, strawberries and chocolate-covered almonds to nibble on. Now we're talking!

After we ate, we took turns decorating cookies with our kiddos.  Oh to have a kitchen table. We have a breakfast bar and there's only room for three kids and a high chair. We had six little girls at our play date, so we did two shifts of three and it worked out perfectly. I kept it simple with 3 different sizes of cookies, white frosting only, and a whole bunch of sprinkles and candy hearts.

I think I'll try a variation on this theme throughout the year- a lunch potluck and then decorating cookies or some sort of craft.  It was easy to put together, and really fun to have it low-key enough to have time for the little details I enjoy putting together.





Ella made all of these bite-sized cookies:

These are Ella's creations from the day. I let her go to town with the frosting and sprinkles and she was so proud of herself for making them all by herself.

There's still plenty of time to host a cookie decorating party. I say, go for it!