Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Apparently, spring brings out the baker in me. I’m not sure what’s happening, but during the past couple of weeks I’ve been baking up a storm. Other than resisting the urge to eat everything I bake, It’s been absolutely fun and completely cathartic.

A few years ago I tried my hand at a naked cake (that is, a cake without frosting on the sides), and since then, I’ve been wanting to make another. So that’s what I did! Voila, my Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with naked cakes. While I like the idea of a no-fuss, rustic, homey-looking cake, there’s also the perfectionist part of me that struggles with “messiness.” (It’s been known to make my eye twitch.)

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

However, the freedom-loving side of me won out this time around, and I’m so pleased with this pretty but “messy” deliciousness.

As you might expect with a Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake, there’s a lot bright, fresh flavor packed into the layers of this beauty.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

For the cake, I went homemade. This allowed me to include pureed strawberries, lime zest, and lime juice. Cake flour and a bit of buttermilk keep the cake light and airy.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

Once the cake came out of the oven, I wanted to lock in the moisture and add even more flavor, so I drizzled all three layers with homemade lime simple syrup.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

To bring the whole cake together, there’s a strawberry cream cheese frosting made with more of that strawberry puree, lime zest, and lime juice. If you’re looking for a cake with flavor, this is it! My favorite part is that if you look closely enough. you can see the specks of lime and strawberry in both the cake and the icing. I just love that.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Now, if you’re not into the look of a naked cake, I understand. There should be plenty of frosting in the recipe below for you to just go ahead and frost the whole thing. Have it your way, my friends.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

To complete the cake, top it off with whole strawberries and slices of lime. In my opinion, that is one beautiful cake. Whether spring or summer, I think you’re going to love baking, sharing, and eating this cake as much as I did.

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake - spring and summer dessert cake recipe with strawberries and lime. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake

Serves 12 - 15

Here's what you will need:
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lime zest
Whole strawberries and sliced limes to garnish

Lime Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons strawberry puree
1/4 cup strawberries, diced

Begin by preheating your over to 350 degrees F. Then, grease three 8-inch cake pans with baking spray. Line with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Add the chopped strawberries to a blender or food processor and puree for 10-15 seconds. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the strawberry puree with the buttermilk. (Keep the remaining puree for the frosting.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. Then, add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lime zest.

Reduce speed to low and beat in the flour mixture and strawberry/buttermilk mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Do this until the flour is just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes for 20 to 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

While the cakes bake, prepare your lime simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Stir constantly for 5-7 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in lime zest and lime juice. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

After you remove the cakes from the oven, let them cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then evenly top each cake with 4 tablespoons of lime simple syrup. Let the cakes cool completely.

As your cakes cool, prepare the strawberry cream cheese frosting. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and butter 3 to 5 minutes until fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until smooth. Then beat in the lime zest, lime juice, strawberry puree, and diced strawberries until combined. Put the frosting in a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.

Once the cakes have cooled, place a layer on a cake plate and evenly top with frosting. Then, add another layer and top with frosting. Add the final layer of cake to the top. Using an offset spatula, work around the cake to create an even layer of frosting and cake. Allow some of the cake to show through the frosting to achieve the naked cake look. Add more frosting and repeat as necessary.

Top the cake with six large dollops of frosting. Chill for 3-4 hours until the frosting is set. Before serving, garnish with whole strawberries and sliced limes.

Print

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

Ta da! Beautiful, right?

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake for spring and summer entertaining. Delicious homemade strawberry cake. | Inspired by Charm

Now, I know this seems like a lot of steps, but I promise they are easy, and the whole thing comes together pretty quickly. I hope you give this recipe a try.

What are your thoughts on naked cakes? Love them or hate them?

Apparently, spring brings out the baker in me. I’m not sure what’s happening, but during the past couple of weeks I’ve been baking up a storm. Other than resisting the urge to eat everything I bake, It’s been absolutely fun and completely cathartic. A few years ago I tried my hand at a naked cake […]




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Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Earlier this week, I shared a post filled with Easter entertaining ideas, including sweet treats, Easter baskets, and a themed tablescape. Since there were so many things happening in that post, I wanted to circle back and talk a bit more about the table.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

About a month ago I took a trip to HomeGoods and Target. (As you know by now, these stores are about 1.5 hours from me, so it was indeed a trip.) I was on the hunt for all things spring and Easter. Even though I was a bit early, I lucked out. In fact, I was so excited by my finds that I shared them on Instagram Stories. (By the way, a lot of you seemed to enjoy that, so I’ll try to do it more often.)

As you may have noticed, my tablescapes always have an eclectic flair. I think this happens for a couple reasons. First, my personal style encompasses all sorts of things. Secondly, when it comes to setting tables, I’m all about using whatever is available. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to work with HomeGoods, which makes looking for new and unique things almost a requirement. However, I totally get that not everyone can do that, so shopping my home is fun, too. Eclectic is good!

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Okay, back to the Easter table. The color story for this was inspired by these polka dot eggs cups and these gold and pink floral plates. They were the first thing I found (at HomeGoods) so I ran with them.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Shortly after I got them, I learned I was also going to have a large supply of chocolate to work with, How perfect for sprinkling around an Easter table. Thankfully, the colors worked, too.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

With all that in mind, I started gathering things that fit the pastels scheme, and I decided the pale pink would play the main role. I think this creamer and sugar bowl set was one of my next finds along with the cake stands. The blue allowed me to bring in a few other blue elements which really popped. Given all the pink, I think the blue also helped to keep things looking like spring rather than Valentine’s Day.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

I almost jumped for joy when I came across these “Happy Easter” dishtowels. As I mentioned in my previous post, I like using dishtowels for napkins. (It’s something I learned from Ina Garten.) I just seem to find better patterns, styles, and colors. The towels also wash up great and often don’t require ironing.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Another thing I found at HomeGoods was the runner. I love its texture. Plus, it’s a neutral so it can work with anything. The polka dot oversized egg, pink cake plate, and mini copper-topped canister were from HomeGoods as well.

And for those wondering, I got my black wishbone dining chairs here.

 

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

You’ve seen my metallic bunnies – most recently in my Cottontail Martini post. I cannot get enough of them. They make me happy. A few of them tucked here and there added to the Easter theme.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

I also grabbed a few goodies at Target. The white pitcher, striped plates, and chick salt and pepper shakers are from their new collection of dishes and serving pieces that I adore.

http://inspiredbycharm.com/2017/03/cottontail-martini.html

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

The gold and white bunny straws also came from Target (I found them in the Dollar Spot at the front of the store.) I briefly thought about DIYing some, but for only $3, into my cart these ready-made ones went. It was probably cheaper that way, and I’m sure it saved an hour or more of my time. Win!

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

The tray is something I put on the table after Christmas. However, it ended up working great. Not only did it tie in the wood of the table, but it made the center area of the table more functional. (I believe I picked that up at Target too.)

At mealtime, the tray can be lifted off to make room for food. At the end of lunch or dinner, it can be returned loaded with desserts. It’s little touches like this that make entertaining feel special.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

You’ll also notice that I often use these little faceted vases. I got them from DwellStudio a few years ago and absolutely love them. Because they are small, they don’t require a lot of flowers. Even better, when you fill them, the small opening almost arranges the flowers for you. You really can’t go wrong. I use them in other areas of my home for the same reason.

The flatware, glasses, and dinner plates were things I already had. I typically use a white dinner plate and don’t fuss too much with glassware. Something clear and classic will always work.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

To finish things off, I added a bunch of flowers that I picked up at the grocery store and arranged myself. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

I think that’s about it. I’m not sure how much all of this helps, but hopefully, you’re feeling inspired to style you own table for spring or Easter.

Easter and spring decorating ideas - An Eclectic and Colorful Easter Table | Inspired by Charm

And just a reminder: If you’re ever struggling with knowing where to begin, deciding on your color scheme is likely to help. Also picking a fun theme (bunnies, for example) can make things seem a bit easier and less intimidating.

Whatever you do, have fun with it. Happy entertaining, my friends!

Earlier this week, I shared a post filled with Easter entertaining ideas, including sweet treats, Easter baskets, and a themed tablescape. Since there were so many things happening in that post, I wanted to circle back and talk a bit more about the table. About a month ago I took a trip to HomeGoods and […]




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Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm
This post is sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line.

Back in January, I set sail again with Carnival Cruise Line. My mom and I boarded Carnival’s new ship, Carnival Vista, for an eight-day vacation through the Southern Caribbean. As you might guess, we made lots of fabulous memories – just what we needed to help us trudge through these last few weeks of winter.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

While there are many reasons to love cruising, one of mine is the chance to visit the different ports of call. Typically, a multi-day cruise is made up of days at sea (The ship is just sailing over the vast ocean.) and port days (The ship stops for an extended time at a beautiful, tropical location.) With stops lasting anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, people have the opportunity to get off the boat and spend time relaxing on the beach, hitting up the local shops, or jetting off an adventurous excursion. It’s the passenger’s choice.

I’ve been on quite a few cruises at this point, so today I thought I’d share a few tips for getting the most out of your port of call experience. Whether you’re planning to book a cruise or already have one scheduled, I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Tips for Cruising and getting the most out of the Ports of Call

1. Plan Ahead
The internet offers a wealth of information on every port of call. Do some research to figure out what the options are when you dock. Is there a beautiful beach nearby? A cool excursion you want to take? A must-see attraction? Planning ahead is the best way to get the most out of your visit.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 Eagle Beach, Aruba

On my most recent cruise, I knew I wanted to go to Eagle Beach in Aruba. I had heard and read marvelous things about it, so it was a must for me. Before sailing I research its location, figuring out how to get there (cab, public transportation, bicycle) and noting a few things nearby. Be sure to find out how much time you have at the port and plan accordingly. It’s very important to know your ship’s timetable to ensure you’re back on board before the ship leaves the dock.

2. Book an Excursion
If you’re not thrilled about planning your port of call experience yourself or are just not sure what to do at each destination, then you’re in luck. For every destination, Carnival has a selection of the best excursions so you can relax and focus on having fun.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 La Romana, Dominican Republic

There are excursions for everyone. You can swim with the dolphins, explore ancient ruins, hop on a catamaran to go snorkeling, tour the local city, or just relax at a beach.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

Once you book your cruise, check out the excursions available for each of your destinations to see what strikes your fancy. On our recent cruise, Mom and I felt adventurous and decided to zip line in La Romana in the Dominican Republic. I was so proud of my mom who managed 12 different zip lines through the jungle that varied in length and speed. I think she’s now a zip lining pro!

3. Try Something New
What I love about the hundreds of excursions that Carnival offers is that there is bound to be a lot of things I’ve never done before. For my Mom and me, zip lining was a new experience. Yours could be deep sea fishing, driving an ATV through the jungle, or even learning how to make salsa while salsa dancing. (Yes, that is an actual excursion, and it’s one that I greatly enjoyed.)

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 Grank Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

If it’s within your physical abilities, try something new and different. You never know what might become your next favorite thing. You’re on vacation after all, so why not!?

4. Experience the Beach
Thanks to cruising I’ve seen some incredibly beautiful beaches. In fact, when we stopped in Aruba and Grand Turk on this most recent cruise, I saw the bluest and clearest waters I’ve ever seen.

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 Eagle Beach, Aruba

If your perfect vacation is simply lounging on the beach, then that’s what you should do at each destination. Again, do your research and find the best and closest beach or book a beach excursion with Carnival. Be sure to note things such as public restrooms and places to grab a snack or rent beach chairs. Knowing this in advance will give you more time to enjoy those crystal clear blue waters.

5. Shop
As you might imagine, when a cruise ship with a couple thousand guests pulls into a port almost daily, there’s going to be some shopping. I don’t spend too much time shopping, but I do like to bring back a few souvenirs. (You can check out my post for decorating with travel souvenirs here.)

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 Wilemstad, Curaçao

When possible, I like to find local shops that sell items that are handmade or indigenous to the area. Naturally, there are many tourist shops, and while those have their appeal, I prefer unique items.

Also, if shopping is high on your list, you should know that Carnival will have sessions to guide you through recommended shops prior to each port of call. Plus, they offer shopping guides, tips for finding the best deals, and even a few coupons. You can shop until you drop!

Tips for Cruising and visiting the Ports of Call | Inspired by Charm

 Miami, Florida

Bonus Tip: With all of this being said, it’s YOUR vacation, so do what works best for you. I will admit that there were days when I decided to stay on board and skip a port of call. (Usually, it was because I had already been there.) If your vacation goal is to relax, don’t feel guilty about parking yourself on a lounge chair with a cocktail and your favorite book. The choice is yours, and you have oodles of options for making the cruise the vacation you want and need. That’s one of the many things I love about cruising.

I hope you found these tips useful if you’re planning to set sail anytime soon. As always, safe travels and happy cruising!

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

This post is sponsored by Carnival Cruise Line. Back in January, I set sail again with Carnival Cruise Line. My mom and I boarded Carnival’s new ship, Carnival Vista, for an eight-day vacation through the Southern Caribbean. As you might guess, we made lots of fabulous memories – just what we needed to help us […]




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Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Yesterday I was so excited to share my Easter tablescape with you. That post also included a few entertaining ideas and sweet treats. As promised, today I’m back with all the details, plus the recipe, for making those fun, colorful, and surprising cupcakes.

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

When I first saw the Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms, I immediately began to brainstorm how I might use them on my table or in a recipe. As I got to thinking, Amanda of I am Baker came to mind. Not only is she the “Queen of Cake”, but she is also the “President of Surprise-Inside Cakes.” She even wrote the book on it. (It’s called Surprise-Inside Cakes!)

So that’s when my plan came together. I’d bake classic yellow cupcakes, hollow out the centers, fill them with the M&Ms, and top things off with sprinkles. Done!

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

If you want to join in the fun, first you’ll need to bake cupcakes. I’m sharing a recipe below, but feel free to use a box mix or your favorite recipe.

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Once your cupcakes are cooled, use a knife to cut a circle in the top of each cupcake. Carefully, pop that piece out and set it safely aside because you’ll need it later. To create a little space inside each cupcake, use a spoon to remove some of the cake. (It’s OK to sample what you remove. You deserve it.)

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Now tuck in 5 or 6 M&Ms in each cupcake and replace the reserved piece of cake in the top.

Finally, pipe on the frosting (I used a classic buttercream that was tinted light pink) and decorate it with sprinkles. The surprise is now set!

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Sidenote: Mixing a variety of sprinkles to create one mega sprinkle is now a trend. I gave it a try and must say I’m kind of digging it!

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

In my opinion, cupcakes are an excellent dessert for almost any occasion. People seem to like them, and they are easy to whip up, especially if you use a box mix. (Please don’t use a store-bought frosting, however. Homemade is a trillion times better.)

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Filling cupcakes with M&Ms just makes the whole experience that much better. What do you think?

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Surprise-Inside Spring Cupcakes

Makes about 24 cupcakes

Here's what you will need:
3 3/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 bag Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms

Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons milk
Pink food coloring
Sprinkles for decoration

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans (24 cupcakes total) with paper liners and set them set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy (5-6 minutes).

Add the eggs to your sugar mixture, one at a time, and blend well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the eggs incorporated, add the dry ingredients. Alternate with your milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Divide the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, filling each cupcake liner about three-quarters full.

Bake for 16-20 minutes or until the cupcake springs back when pressed in the center. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

While your cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it becomes pale and fluffy.

Adjust the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until it is incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla extract, salt, 2 tablespoons of milk, and food coloring. Add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to achieve the desired constancy.

Add the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large open-star tip.

To add the M&Ms to the cupcakes: Use a small paring knife to cut a circle in the top of each cupcake. Gently remove the section of cut cupcake and reserve.

Using a teaspoon, create a small cavity in the cupcake. Fill with 5 or 6 M&Ms. Then replace the reserved cake circle to seal in the M&Ms. Pipe each cupcake with buttercream frosting and top with sprinkles.

Print

So fun, right?

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

As fabulous as cupcakes are on their own, these few extra steps will allow you to create something special and unique for your guests to enjoy.

Surprise-Inspired Spring Cupcakes - cupcake dessert recipe for Spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

(Just in case you’re looking for the recipe for the Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring, you can find it here.)

Happy Easter and Happy Baking!

Yesterday I was so excited to share my Easter tablescape with you. That post also included a few entertaining ideas and sweet treats. As promised, today I’m back with all the details, plus the recipe, for making those fun, colorful, and surprising cupcakes. When I first saw the Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms, I immediately began to […]




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Join the conversation.






Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips
This post is sponsored by M&Ms and Dove. As always all opinions are my own.

With Spring on its way, Easter is also quickly approaching. I don’t know about you, but holidays always tend to sneak up on me. That’s why I’m getting a head start this year, and I’m sharing it with you. This past weekend I styled a colorful Easter tablescape and whipped up “bunny baskets” in the spirit of the season. Let me show you what I created!

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

To help me on this decorating adventure, I’ve team up with Mars Chocolate. They’re the people who make M&Ms, Dove Chocolate, and many of your favorite treats, such as Twix, Snickers, and Milky Way. This year Mars has created two candies available only at Target. I’ll tell you more about them shortly.

Let’s start with the table!

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

As with any table setting, I like to start with a color story. For Easter, I opted for pastels with a stronger focus on pinks and metallics. (Me? Metallics? Shocking, I know.) Not having much in the way of Easter decor, I also picked up lots of bunnies and other accessories that fit my theme.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

I knew that I wanted to use chocolate as part of my display. This large Dove Chocolate bunny was just begging to be the focal point of each of my place settings. And with my bunnies theme running throughout the table, they were the perfect addition.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

 

I paired each of them with an adorable egg cup filled with some chocolate. (There is no such thing as too much chocolate.)

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Speaking of place settings, among the things I picked up, were these white and metallic tea towels that functioned as napkins. If you’re ever struggling to find the perfect napkin, check out the tea towels. I prefer the larger size of the tea towels, and they always seem to be available in fun patterns and textures.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

To add more color to the table, I filled these adorable copper-topped jars with Dove Milk Chocolate Eggs. They are great for a delicious silky smooth pre-meal treat or fun favors for guests to take home.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

I brought the entire table together with a few vases of flowers. I found all of these blooms at a grocery store and assembled the arrangements myself. The two low-profile arrangements are designed to remain on the table during the meal. The larger arrangement will be removed right before dinner is served.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

In the center of the table, I used a tray to add texture and corral decorative items. What I love about a tray is that when it’s time to eat, it (and everything that’s on it) can be quickly and easily removed, making room for food and encouraging conversation.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Once dinner is finished, you can return the tray to the table, but this time have it filled with desserts. It’s magic!

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Of course, you knew a tablescape wouldn’t be complete without food (dessert, to be specific), right? A few weeks ago I showed you how to make these Soft Peanut Butter Cookies. (You can get the recipe here.) To dress them up for spring, I mixed pastel M&Ms into the batter. I also added a few more M&Ms on the top of the cookies after they came out of the oven so that the colors could really shine.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

The combination of peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorites, especially this time of year, so these cookies are a winner.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

I was also inspired to create another dessert thanks to these Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms. (These are one of the new Mars candies for sale only at Target.) While they are delicious on their own, I thought it would be fun to incorporate them into actual cupcakes, so that’s what I did.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

I’m calling these Surprise-Inside Spring Cupcakes! You can get the recipe here.

Once they were baked (and cooled), I created a hole in the center of each and filled it with Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms. Topped with a mound of frosting and sprinkles, your guests will not know what’s inside until they go in for a bite.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Vanilla Cupcake M&Ms come spilling out for a delicious and unique Easter surprise! You can read more about them and get the recipe here.

I’ve made plenty of cupcakes and cookies so that each guest could have one if they’d like, and take a few home to share with family and friends.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Now, as if all that goodness wasn’t enough, I had some more chocolate that wanted to join the party, so I put together these quick Easter baskets.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Here are my tips for creating a beautiful Easter basket:

1. Select a Unique Basket – Start with a special basket or container. Think of the basket as something that the recipient can reuse and not just throw into a closet. The cuter the basket, the more likely it is to be used. I chose these baskets because of their modern touches, including a thread wrapped handle and pom poms. (Who needs a bow on a basket that is this cute?) I also went for a non-traditional option and used a decorative box as a basket. Remember, any container that you can pack with chocolate and treats will work for an Easter basket.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

2. Fill in the Bottom – To create a basket that looks full, use tissue paper or packing material to first fill up the bottom of the basket. Then top the fill with grass and add goodies. Having all of your treats resting high up in the basket creates the illusion of a bountiful basket. Plus, it just looks prettier. Once your treats are tucked in place, add a bit more grass here and there to complete the look.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

3. Decide on a Color Scheme – If you’re looking to create something a bit more chic, have a color scheme in mind. I created two baskets, one with a cool theme of blues and greens and one with warmer colors – pinks and oranges. Having a color scheme will leave your basket looking beautiful and intentional. My colors schemes were inspired by the fun colors of the M&Ms containers.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

4. Remember the Recipient – When giving any gift, you want to keep the recipient in mind. My intent with these two baskets was to create something for grown-ups. (Adults like receiving baskets full of chocolate, too.) That’s why I tucked in things such as a dishtowel and appetizer plates. While everyone loves chocolates for Easter, it’s nice to have a functional and lasting gift as well.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

4. Load it with Chocolate – Because it’s Easter, you’ll want to have lots of chocolate spilling out of your baskets. When shopping for treats, get a variety of shapes and sizes. This will make your basket more visually interesting. I also like to get smaller items to fill in the gaps. These Dove Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs worked perfectly for this. (This is the other new Mars product that’s available only at Target for a limited time, and boy is it delicious!)

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

5. Skip the Cellophane – If possible, don’t wrap your basket in cellophane. While I’ve used it in the past, I find it to be a bit excessive, wasteful, and distracting from all of the beauty that’s inside. If you will be transporting the baskets and are afraid the contents will move around or fall out, then cellophane is a smart solution. Otherwise, save yourself a few bucks and leave it at the store.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

And that’s it, my friends. The table is set, the flowers are arranged, the dessert is served, and the baskets are ready. I think we’re prepared for Easter! I hope you enjoyed my Easter celebration and are feeling a bit more inspired to host your own.

Easter Entertaining Ideas | Spring Tablescape and Easter Basket Tips

Remember to stock up on delicious Mars Chocolates by visiting Target. Use the Cartwheel app to save  on select Mars chocolate purchases. (That way you can buy more! It will be our little secret.)

http://inspiredbycharm.com/2017/02/soft-peanut-butter-cookies-for-spring.html

Happy Easter!

This post is sponsored by M&Ms and Dove. As always all opinions are my own. With Spring on its way, Easter is also quickly approaching. I don’t know about you, but holidays always tend to sneak up on me. That’s why I’m getting a head start this year, and I’m sharing it with you. This past […]




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Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Okay, full disclosure. For the past couple weeks, I have been oddly obsessed with Easter. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so looking forward to spring or that I recently purchased some really cute bunny home accessories. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Who knows.

Whatever the reason, I have put this latest obsession to good use and whipped up a variety of beautiful spring ideas to share with you. Today, let’s continue the fun with this Cottontail Martini.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

If you haven’t already guessed, this martini was inspired by Peter Cottontail, the rabbit that went hoppin’ down the bunny trail. (The word “cocktail” made me think of the song.) This cocktail has a delightful coconut flavor and an adorable marshmallow tail.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

I opted to use coconut in this martini because of its white color and the fact that it reminds me of springtime.

The cocktail base is two liquors: whipped vodka and coconut rum. Yes, whipped vodka is a flavored vodka, and it’s actually pretty tasty. (I use the Pinnacle brand.) Along with the liquors, you’ll need half and half, cream of coconut. (I recommend this brand.), and pineapple juice. I know you might be tempted to skip the pineapple juice, but don’t. The tropical fruitiness that it brings to this martini is a must.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

For garnish, start by rimming the glass with coconut. To help the coconut stick, give it a quick chop before using it. I also prefer to use honey as the “glue.” That seems to work best.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

For the pièce de résistance, cut a small slit in a marshmallow and hang it on the edge of the glass.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Voila! Adorable and delicious.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Coconut is one of my favorite Easter flavors, so this Cottontail Martini is a clear winner in my book. That, plus the marshmallow “tail,” will make this the perfect martini for all of your spring celebrations.

Let’s shake one up.

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Cottontail Martini

Makes 1 martini

Here's what you will need:
1.5 ounces whipped vodka (or vanilla vodka)
1.5 ounces coconut rum
2 ounces half and half
1/2 ounce cream of coconut
Splash of pineapple juice
Honey, chopped sweetened coconut, and marshmallow to garnish

Begin with two shallow dishes. To one, add a teaspoon of honey. To the other, add the sweetened coconut. (I recommend giving the coconut a rough chop before using.) Rim the edge of the martini glass first in the honey and then in the coconut. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the whipped vodka, coconut rum, half and half, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice. Shake vigorously; then strain into your prepared martini glass.

Using a knife, make a small slit in a marshmallow. Slip the marshmallow on the side of the martini glass.

Sip and enjoy!

Print

I certainly hope you find this martini to be delicious, fun, and festive.


Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Bottoms up!

Cottontail Martini - a coconut martini cocktail recipe for spring and Easter.

Okay, full disclosure. For the past couple weeks, I have been oddly obsessed with Easter. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m so looking forward to spring or that I recently purchased some really cute bunny home accessories. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Who knows. Whatever the reason, I have put this latest […]




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Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

I have loved sweetened coconut for as long as I can remember. When I was a boy, if I had a craving for something sweet, I would sometimes go into my Mom’s baking cabinet and sneak a pinch of coconut from the bag. Into my mouth, that coconut would go.  (This might be one of the reasons I was a chubby little kid. Ha! Oh well.)

To this day, I cannot pass on a coconut dessert. (Coconut cupcakes and coconut cream pie are two of my faves.) I also love me some toasted coconut macaroons. They are quite easy to bake, which makes them even more appealing. That’s why today I thought we’d whip up some Coconut Macaroon Nests. With thoughts of spring and Easter in the air, it only seems fitting.

Looking for more Easter and spring dessert ideas? Check out my recipes for Easter Dessert Kabobs, Carrot Cake Truffles, Strawberry Limeade Naked Cake, Peanut Butter Sheet Cake, and The Ultimate Coconut Cupcakes!

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

I realize that these aren’t anything out of the ordinary, but sometimes basic is best. These little coconut nests have become a classic spring dessert for obvious reasons. They are a cinch to make, they taste delicious, and they look adorable.

To make them, coconut is mixed with egg whites and a touch of extra sweetness. Tucked and pressed into mini muffin pans to resemble mini nests, they are quickly baked until perfectly browned.

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Once they’ve cooled, you add a touch of melted white chocolate to each nest as “glue” and then tuck in a few candy eggs for color and crunch.

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

You can use any type of candy egg you prefer: candy coated chocolate eggs, jelly beans, Jordan almonds, or malted-milk eggs, to name a few options. I filled some of my nests with jelly beans and some with malted-milk eggs. After all, variety is the spice of life!

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

And that’s it, my friends. I told you this dessert is simple. These nests are a classic, tasty, and fun treat for spring that your guests are sure to love.

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Coconut Macaroon Nests

Makes about 30

Here's what you will need:
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (14 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
70-90 mini candy eggs

Begin by preheating your oven to 300 degrees F. Coat the cups in a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set the pan aside.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs whites, salt, and sugar to combine. Then, with a fork, mix in the coconut.

Drop 2 tablespoons of the coconut mixture into each prepared mini muffin cup.

Lightly press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of each cup. (Use your thumb or a wine cork.) Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden on top. (Loosely place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pan if the coconut starts to brown too quickly.)

Let the nests cool in the tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then run a spatula around the edges of the muffin cups to loosen the nests. Carefully lift out the nests and allow them to cool completely.

With the melted chocolate in a piping bag (or plastic baggie with a corner cut off), pipe a small amount of chocolate into each nest. Add 2 or 3 candy eggs and press them gently to secure.

Pack and store in an air-tight container.

Print

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

Coconut Macaroon Nests a classic dessert recipe for celebrating spring and Easter | Inspired by Charm

If you’ve never tried making Coconut Macaroon Nests for spring or Easter, I definitely recommend giving them a try. They’ll make a beautiful and tasty addition to your seasonal entertaining.

Enjoy!

If you like these Coconut Macaron Nests, then I think you’ll love my Easter Dessert Kabobs. Aren’t they adorable?

Easter Dessert Kabobs - Spring / Easter rainbow dessert recipe ideas | Inspired by Charm

These creative and colorful kabobs are a fun way to serve dessert for spring or Easter. You can learn how I made them by clicking HERE.

I have loved sweetened coconut for as long as I can remember. When I was a boy, if I had a craving for something sweet, I would sometimes go into my Mom’s baking cabinet and sneak a pinch of coconut from the bag. Into my mouth, that coconut would go.  (This might be one of […]




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The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear
This post contains affiliate links.

Every once in a while, a fellow blogger or an IBC reader will ask me what type of camera I use. Although I’m not a professional photographer or an expert on photography, I thought I’d use today’s post to answer that question and share some of the other photography gear that is essential to my work. Welcome to A Blogger’s Guide to Camera Gear.

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

Now, before we get into the actual gear, I have a few notes and disclaimers.

First, I’ve been taking photos for IBC for nine years. When I started, I was just using a point-and-shoot camera. Since then I have upgraded my equipment at least four times. I’m not going to talk about every camera I’ve owned, but I will let you know about my two most recent ones.

Secondly, even if you go out and purchase all of the products listed below, it’s unlikely that your photos will look like mine. That doesn’t mean that your photos will be bad (or that mine are great). It’s just that photography is a creative endeavor. Yes, good gear and technology help, but the true art of photography lies within each individual. If you are new to photography or new to blogging, invest in the lower-end gear at first and work your way up to better gear over time. Depending on where you live (There might be online sources, too.), I recommend renting camera equipment to test things out before you buy.

Also, after shooting in my house these many years, I’ve discovered which locations, times of day, angles, etc. work best for me. I’ve taken thousands of pictures that have never been published on IBC. They are long gone in a digital trash can far far away. As with most things on the web, you only see what I think is the best, or in some cases, good enough.

Finally, as I said above, I am not an expert. This guide is intended simply as way to share information with those who’ve asked. Even though I have years of experience under my belt, I’m sure that a professional would cringe at some of my practices. For example, I take a ton of pictures. To put together a post with 15 images, I shoot 150-200 photos. If it’s a house tour with 50 images, the number of photos can be around 600. My guess is that most photographers take far fewer. Even though this process can sometimes be tedious, it seems to work for me, so I don’t mind. Either way, do your research before making an major purchases. This is just the gear I use and love.

Okay. Now we’re ready to talk camera gear!

 

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

I’m currently using the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. I purchased this camera this past November. Despite its cost, it was an impulse buy. I was getting ready to work on a big collaboration and “needed” a new camera. But things turned out well, and I couldn’t be happier about this purchase. This camera is kind of “top-dog” for bloggers who use Canon.

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

It’s reliable, strong, and sturdy. It also has a touchscreen and Wi-Fi capabilities. The reason that this camera is an upgrade (and priced higher than most) is because it’s full frame. That means you’re able to capture a wider area in your image. This enables you to get better image quality, especially in low-light situations.

Prior to this purchase, I used the Canon EOS 70D*. I loved this camera and still do. To me, its best feature is a touchscreen that can be flipped around and viewed when you’re facing the camera. If you are looking to create video or you do self-photography, you’ll want this feature. My current camera doesn’t have it, and I miss it.

*Canon just released the Canon EOS 77D. It’s an upgrade on the Canon EOS 70D. This latest model has some great technology features that make me totally jealous.

 

Lenses: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, Canon EF 100mm f/1:2.8 Macro, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4

For the past year, I’ve been sticking to the following three lenses 98% of the time. Please note: when you’re looking to purchase a camera lens, do your homework and ensure that it fits your particular camera. When I upgrade to my full frame camera, I do have a few lenses that I can no longer use.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L – This lens is my most recent purchase. I use it for full-room shots at home, and I take it with me when I travel. It’s versatility and flexibility makes it great for traveling. It is a bit large, which is a bummer, but I don’t mind. I find the quality of the images, whether close up or at a distance, to be excellent.

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

Canon EF 100mm f/1:2.8 Macro – You’ll notice that I like to do a lot of close-ups and detail shots. I’m not sure why, but these are my favorite photos to take, and this is my favorite lens to use when taking them. Because of that, this is probably my most cherished lens. This lens is also the one that I’ve had the longest so I’m super comfortable in using it and knowing how it works.

*If you have a full frame camera and are looking to purchase this macro lens, I recommend this one HERE. I purchased my lens before I had my full frame, so I chose the one that fit my camera. 

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 – This is the lens I find myself using the most. It’s great for anything from photos of my home to food photography. What I especially like about this lens is that the focal length (f-stop) can be adjusted so that it’s very low. This puts what you’re taking a picture of in focus and blurs out everything in the background. I used this lens to get this shot of my coffee cup. My only complaint about this lens is that you can only get so close to an object before the lens will no longer focus on it, thus not allowing you to take a picture. (That’s when I grab my macro lens.)

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

 

Tripod: Manfrotto MT055 XPro3 Tripod + Manfrotto Light Grip Joystick Head

In my opinion, a quality tripod is essential for crisp and beautiful photos. For the past several years, I’ve been using the Manfrotto MT055 XPro3 Tripod with the Manfrotto Light Grip Joystick Head. (Yes, you need both pieces.)

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear
When I first started using a tripod, I found it to be frustrating and time consuming. Now, it’s rare for me not to use one. The only time I don’t use one is when I’m traveling.

 

Editing: Photoshop Lightroom

The only edits I make to my photos are to adjust lighting, shadows, and clarity. To be honest, I have no idea how to use Photoshop, which is both a blessing and a curse. Photoshop Lightroom, on the other hand, is a fabulous tool that allows you to adjust your photos to make them pop. I find it helpful for brightening images, adding or removing warmth from photos, and, in general, making things look crisper.

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

I rely solely on natural light for my photography. (Meaning, I use no photography lights, just the sunlight.) Therefore, when conditions aren’t ideal or I’m trying to snap a shot as the sun is going down, Lightroom is essential for helping me fix darkness or shadows in those images. Lightroom is also what I use to add the Inspired by Charm watermark to my photos.

 

Text Overlay: iStudio
Finally, you’ll notice that some of my images have a text overlay. To do this, I use iStudio. (I believe this is only available to Mac users.)

The Best Camera and accessories for Blogging - A Blogger's Guide to Camera Gear

A lot of people use Photoshop for this, but I don’t have that knowledge (yet), so I stick to what I know. While it’s not ideal (It has its quirks.), iStudio works for me. I’ve been using it for over six years now, so I’m comfortable with it and aware of its limitations.

And that’s it. I think that covers everything. As you can imagine, there are a variety of settings and modes to play with on the camera to achieve “the perfect picture.” I’m not going to get into all of those settings here or when and why I use them. If you’re new to photography, you can find some videos on YouTube and tutorials across the internet that will teach you how to use your new camera, lens, or editing software. I’ve spent many a night watching videos and reading tutorials to increase my skills.

I hope you found this “behind-the-scenes” post helpful and interesting. If you’d like more posts like this, let me know in the comments. I’m not exactly sure what those posts would entail, so leave some suggestions as well. Thanks!

This post contains affiliate links. Every once in a while, a fellow blogger or an IBC reader will ask me what type of camera I use. Although I’m not a professional photographer or an expert on photography, I thought I’d use today’s post to answer that question and share some of the other photography gear […]




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A playlist of songs to inspire your morning! Tuesday Tunes 22 - Good Morning | Inspired by Charm

Yesterday I talked a little about changing my morning routine to be a bit more joyful and useful. (And shared a delish recipe for Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake.) Part of that new routine involves turning on music that is mellow, uplifting, and inspiring. Naturally, this made me want to create a new Tuesday Tunes playlist to share with all of you.

In the morning, I tend to like something that’s slow and soft, but not boring. I need a little rhythm to get me going but not so much that I feel rushed or panicked. Since I work from home, I have the luxury of taking time with my morning routine, so I figured I might as well relish in it. Even if you don’t have that luxury, I hope you have a moment of calm each day (or at least on the weekend) when you might enjoy this playlist as well.

A playlist of songs to inspire your morning! Tuesday Tunes 22 - Good Morning | Inspired by Charm

(Cat mug can be found here.)

As you may have predicted, there are lots of folk-inspired tunes and colorful acoustic covers. All of my favorites to start the day or take a break from it. So, why not grab a cup of coffee and join me.

 

 

You can use the playlist above or listen directly on Spotify by clicking here.

A playlist of songs to inspire your morning! Tuesday Tunes 22 - Good Morning | Inspired by Charm

Be sure to subscribe to my profile for access to all of my favorite tunes along with sneak listens of upcoming playlists. Have a song I should hear? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, I wanted to mention that I created a mix of tunes called IBC’s Current Playlist. This collection of songs is what I’m currently listening to and loving. It’s my go-to. It is (and probably always will be) an eclectic mix that evolves over time. If you’re so inclined, you can follow along or listen to that playlist here.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

 

TUESDAY TUNES LIBRARY

Yesterday I talked a little about changing my morning routine to be a bit more joyful and useful. (And shared a delish recipe for Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake.) Part of that new routine involves turning on music that is mellow, uplifting, and inspiring. Naturally, this made me want to create a new Tuesday Tunes playlist […]




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Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying to switch up my routine. Normally, I crawl out of bed, brew a pot of coffee, and log on the computer to sort through email and check social media. I’m finding that going online within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed is probably not the best way to start the day.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Last week I decided to instead flip through my favorite magazines as I enjoy my first cup of the day. Magazines are one of the places I find inspiration, so I thought this might be a more productive and less stressful use of time.

I’m delighted to report that this change has greatly improved my mornings. Not only that, but it has inspired dozens of ideas and put a little pep back in my step.

This past Saturday I was so inspired that I decided to have a baking day. It was cold and rainy so staying indoors with my tunes playing and the oven warming my kitchen was fine with me. I actually managed to whip up three recipes and a cocktail. (What I’m going to do with all this food is another matter.) To kick off my baking, I decided to tackle something for St. Patrick’s Day. This Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake was the result.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

With a touch of green, the pistachios give a nod to the holiday. Plus, I can’t get enough lemon in the springtime. The combination is perfection.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

I made this cake with the help of my latest kitchen toy. Have you seen the new KitchenAid Black Tie Limited Edition Mixer? I was thrilled to get my hands on one. With all black finishes and premium materials, it’s one sexy machine.

KitchenAid Black Tie Limited Edition Artisan Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Black Tie Limited Edition Artisan Stand Mixer

I started by creaming the sugar and butter. To give the cake lots of pistachio flavor, I finely ground two cups of pistachios in my food processor and then added them to the batter. (I reserved a few tablespoons of whole pistachios to use as garnish.)

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

After the ground pistachios were incorporated, the eggs, lemon zest, and flour went in. I also added a splash of rum for depth of flavor. After pouring the batter into the prepared pan, I baked the cake for an hour. My house was filled with the sweet smell of success! (You can find the bundt pan that I used HERE.)

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Once the cake had cooled slightly, I added a lemon glaze to the entire cake to lock in the moisture. To garnish, I drizzled the cake with lemon icing and sprinkled it with the greenest pistachios I could find.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Even though it’s not covered in rainbows or filled with Lucky Charms, I think this Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake is a grand way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day. (And don’t worry, if you’re reading this after March 17, you really don’t need a holiday to whip up this sweet treat.)

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake

Here's what you will need:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shelled, roasted pistachios
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/4 cup light rum
3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped, for garnish

Lemon Glaze:
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Lemon Icing:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the shelled pistachios until finely ground. (They should stick together when pinched.)

Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the ground pistachios, lemon zest, and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture and rum alternately, ending with the flour until just incorporated. Add the batter to the prepared pan, leveling out the top with the spatula.

Bake for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes; then invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare your lemon glaze. In a small saucepan simmer sugar, lemon juice, and salt over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then brush the glaze evenly on the cake.

Finally, prepare the lemon icing by whisking together confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Add more lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach desired consistency. Drizzle over this icing over the Bundt cake and sprinkle it with chopped pistachios.

Print

Recipe adapted from Country Living Magazine.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

With that, your pistachio-filled and lemony-drizzled bundt cake is complete!

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Lemon Pistachio Bundt Cake dessert recipe for St. Patrick's Day, Spring, or Easter.

Doesn’t it look incredibly delicious? Trust me, it is. It’s dense, but still light thanks to all of that lemon zest and lemon juice. This is one cake I’d be proud to serve at any bunch, be it on St. Patty’s Day or another special occasion.

If my newfound morning routine continues, I’ll have lots more creative ideas and recipes to share. Stay tuned!

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying to switch up my routine. Normally, I crawl out of bed, brew a pot of coffee, and log on the computer to sort through email and check social media. I’m finding that going online within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed is probably not the best […]




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Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

I just realized that we never actually talked about the new rug I got for my living room a few months ago.

Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

You might remember seeing the rug in my Holiday Home Tour. That was a stealth move on my part given the fact that so many of you here (and on social media) LOVED my rug with the graphic triangle pattern. I’m sure it came as a surprise that I had a different rug.

Please don’t get me wrong. I also loved that rug. However, I was growing a bit tired of it. More importantly, though, it limited my color options in decorating my living room. As you may have noticed, I went with a more traditional red and green look for the holidays and that would have been rather challenging with the previous rug.

Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

When choosing a new rug, I wanted something neutral with a subtle pattern and texture. I ended up selecting this Windom Handmade Diamond Trellis Rug from RugsUSA. I love the funky texture (It feels fabulous underfoot.) and the pattern repeated the diamond shapes in the windows next to my fireplace. My favorite thing about the new rug, however, is that it’s neutral, and it opens the floodgates to my color creativity.

Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

With it, I was able to achieve a more homey and traditional look for the holidays (which made me jolly), and now I’m having fun with it for spring.

Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

For some time, I stuck with teals and blues for this space. And while I like that look, I was ready for something different.

Tips for updating your living room for Spring! - Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

A couple weeks ago I took a trip to HomeGoods and Target. (New items sourced below. Check SHOP IBC for link to larger pieces and furniture.) I had so much fun selecting new hues for this space.

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Surprisingly (as you can see), I ended up with pinks, corals, and blues. While this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, I think it’s perfect for spring. Plus, it was a pleasure to try something new.

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

It also gave me an excuse to bring in new plants and pick up some flowers. This little guy is called a Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides.) It’s my understanding that this is somewhat hard to find. (I paid way too much for it on some random website.) But this guy has grown so much since I bought him, and apparently, he’s hard to kill. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

My initial plan for spring was to get greens and black into this room, but I had a hard time finding what I wanted. So maybe that’s something I can try this summer. We shall see!

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Thanks for reading this living room rug update. Even if you still love the other rug, my hope is that you can appreciate and understand why I made the change.

Sebastian doesn’t seem to mind.

Spring Living Room Refresh | Inspired by Charm

Sources:
HomeGoods: marble bunny / mantel vases / pillows / coasters
Target: colored vases / mantel artwork / wood birds
Land of Nod: “hello” pillow – no longer available

I just realized that we never actually talked about the new rug I got for my living room a few months ago. You might remember seeing the rug in my Holiday Home Tour. That was a stealth move on my part given the fact that so many of you here (and on social media) LOVED […]




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Developing a Mantra | Inspired by Charm

Before I get into today’s post, I want to extend a huge thank you to all of you. Last week I got more personal than usual here on IBC with my Sun-Dried Tomatoes post. The number of comments, messages, and emails I received in response to that post was beyond anything I ever expected. Before hitting “publish,” I had every intention of responding to all of the messages I received, but I was totally overwhelmed as they poured in. So while it’s impossible for me to reply to each of you (I hope you understand.), I do want you to know how much I appreciated your ideas, insights, and words of wisdom. Even if you offered no advice, just knowing that you cared enough to read my thoughts meant so much to me. My deepest thanks to all of you!

For those who may be wondering, I think I might have a plan (thanks in large part to all of your input)! What I’m thinking of doing seems like the perfect solution to all of my issues. It will give me the larger city life I crave, while still allowing me to keep my home in St. Marys. Plus, the ability to purchase my grandparents’ home will still be an option and things should work with my kitties, too. And, as a added bonus, it will open up new ideas to share here on IBC.

I’m still mulling things over and trying to figure out some of the logistics, but I will certainly pop back in and share more when the time is right.

Again, thank you all so much. Having a place like this to share is awesome in itself, but having a community that responds with so much love and support is beyond incredible.

Developing a Mantra | Inspired by Charm

As I mentioned in that post, I’ve consulted a professional in an attempt to get my head where it needs to be. While I’ve talked to my doctor in the past and have used medication to help, I never felt “good” about that. To me, it always felt like a temporary fix rather than a real solution.

So, I did a little research and found a therapist nearby who teaches Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Based on what I’ve read about it, this approach seemed like something that might work for me. I’ve only had a couple of appointments, so if you want more information on this type of therapy, feel free to do an online search. Also, I don’t pretend to be an expert on this (clearly I’m not); I’m just sharing my journey. Everyone has his/her own path to happiness, so there is no judgment if yours is different from mine.

Anyway, on my last appointment, I was given the homework of reciting a “thought to practice,” also known as a mantra. (For those who might not know, a mantra is a thought that one repeats silently during meditation.)

There is a deeper explanation, but in essence, the brain starts to believe what it is told over and over again. My issue is that for years, I’ve basically been telling my brain that I’m not good enough. (The “not good enough” encompasses a bunch of things.) And because of my job and social media, this message has gotten more intense in recent years.

After a deeper discussion, I was given the following thought to repeat to myself: “I am a fallible human being, and I make mistakes just like everyone else. Therefore, I’m worthy of love and respect just like everyone else.”

This thought is to be repeated 30 times a day for 30 days. The idea is that the more you say and think it, the more your brain starts to believe it.

This mantra can be repeated at any point throughout the day, but it has more of an impact when you incorporate as many senses as possible. For example, you could repeat it while on a walk, say it to yourself every time you look in a mirror, or opt to say it instead of snacking on that donut that only momentarily makes you feel better.

I’m sure this sounds like a bunch of bunk to some folks. However, it makes sense to me, and it’s totally worth a shot. At this point, I’ve got nothing to lose. Unlike in the past, I’m giving this all my effort in hopes of improving myself and adding a bit more happiness to my life.

The interesting thing about all of this is that it’s really not a new concept. Being a self-help book junkie, I’ve read about the benefits of this practice time and time again. In fact, Alison of The Alison Show, sort of touched on it in her recent podcast (Episode 8.) She has been using a similar concept (while also including gratitude) in her exercise and weight-loss journey. It’s totally working for her. (I haven’t listened to all of her episodes, but I do recommend that one if you have time for a quick listen.)

After using my assigned mantra for a few days, I decided to tweak it a bit. What I was given didn’t really roll off the tongue for me. So, I’ve changed it to: “I am a fallible human being worthy of love and respect. And I love myself.” It’s a bit shorter and easier for me to say while still communicating the same message to my brain. Because of this, I now find myself saying this mantra even more.

Not everyone struggles with the feeling of not being enough, so each person’s mantra will be different. If you want to give this a go, take some time to reflect on what’s a struggle for you and then create a mantra to suit. Googling “motivation mantras” might provide a jumping-off point.

Whether this will work for me is still to be determined, but I intend to give it a try. I’ll pop back in around 30 days and let you know what shakes out and maybe offer some more insight. Here’s hoping!

Do you use a mantra in your daily life? Or have you done so in the past? What effects have you seen?

 

*I’ll probably be sharing more personal posts here on IBC on Saturday and Sunday. (Yes, Behind the Charm is going away. It didn’t really “work,” so nothing’s lost.) If you’re just here for yummy recipes, creative DIYs, interior inspiration, and tips for entertaining, then just join me Monday through Friday. However, if you’d like a more personal look at my life, then join me on the weekend as well. Thanks!

Before I get into today’s post, I want to extend a huge thank you to all of you. Last week I got more personal than usual here on IBC with my Sun-Dried Tomatoes post. The number of comments, messages, and emails I received in response to that post was beyond anything I ever expected. Before […]




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Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring | Inspired by Charm
This post is sponsored by Glad Products Company. As always all opinions are my own.

I realize that mid-February is a bit early to be talking about Spring, but right now I’m thinking “The sooner it comes, the better!” This weekend I plan to start working on a few projects to help you decorate for and celebrate Easter and springtime. Naturally, there will be food (specifically, dessert) involved, so I’m kicking things off today with these Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring.

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

As you know from past recipes, the pairing of peanut butter and chocolate is a favorite of mine. The flavor combination instantly reminds me of Easter. (I think it’s those ubiquitous chocolate peanut butter eggs.) Today, I’m putting the two together in a classic peanut butter cookie recipe which features candy coated chocolate and is sure to please. (The resulting cookies also look adorable for dressing up any spring celebration.)

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

I decided to get these cookies baked before assembling the rest of my spring celebration since I tend to be a messy baker. While my photos might make everything look “perfect,” after an hour in the kitchen, I have a bit of a mess all over the place. I’m always looking for ways to limit the mess, so I find that discarding trash and cleaning-as-I-go help a lot. Thankfully, the smart folks at Glad developed their new Glad ForceFlex Kitchen Pro trash bags with OdorShield™ and LeakGuard™ technology. They are their biggest and strongest kitchen bag yet, featuring double bag protection. Plus, the bags are made with Febreze freshness so they help to control odor, too. A win, win, win for those of us who love to bake and cook!

Glad Kitchen Pro Trash Bags | Inspired by Charm

Glad Kitchen Pro Trash Bags | Inspired by Charm

While a messy kitchen doesn’t bother me too much when I’m in the midst of things (It’s all part of the process.), I do get kind of anxious when dealing with things that can create germs or odor, such as raw meats or eggs. The worst part is when your bag gets a hole in it or rips when you lift it out of the trash can and everything comes spilling out. Not fun. So, when it comes to trash bags, I don’t mess around. Seriously. If it has stretchable strength, leak protection, and odor control. Count me in. That’s why I’m a fan of these Glad Kitchen Pro trash bags. This new bag is 53% more bag, for 53% more fun! Using them is a small step that makes such a huge difference. Bring on the party!

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Okay, with waste disposal taken care of, let’s bake!

Begin by creaming together your butter and sugars. Then, add the peanut butter and eggs, one at a time. You can bring out your stand mixer for this, but I find that a hand mixer works nicely.

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Now mix in your dry ingredients. I do this with a spatula so that I don’t overmix the dough. Just before the dough is mixed, toss in the candy coated chocolates. I think the pastel colors of the candy are so lovely with the creamy dough color.

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

You’ll want to save about 1/2 cup of your candy. I like to add a few pieces to the top of each of the cookies right after they come out of the oven. This is a great little cheat / tip to ensure that your cookies look picture-perfect when it’s time to celebrate!

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

And that’s it! Your cookies are ready, and that peanut butter chocolatey goodness has a one-way ticket to your tummy. Yum!

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Here's what you will need:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) bag candy coated chocolate candies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter. Once well combined, add one egg at a time, mixing well. Then, mix in the vanilla.

Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture with a spatula. When almost combined, mix in the candy coated chocolates, reserving 1/2 cup to garnish.

Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Place each ball on an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten the balls with your fingers. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies just start to brown. (The longer you bake them, the less soft they will be.)

Remove from the oven and top each cookie with a few pieces of the extra chocolate candy. Then transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Once cool, pack and store them in an airtight container.

Print

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and are looking forward to Spring as much as I am.

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

Also, if like me, you make a bit of a mess in the kitchen, you can find more information about the new Glad ForceFlex Kitchen Pro trash bags by visiting Glad.com. To purchase, visit Target.com here (They are currently on sale!)

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies for Spring and Easter - peanut butter and chocolate cookie dessert recipe

More springtime treats are on the horizon here on IBC. Stay tuned!

This post is sponsored by Glad Products Company. As always all opinions are my own. I realize that mid-February is a bit early to be talking about Spring, but right now I’m thinking “The sooner it comes, the better!” This weekend I plan to start working on a few projects to help you decorate for and […]




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DIY Custom Shoe Storage | Inspired by Charm
This post is sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Today I’m sharing my new DIY Custom Shoe Storage. However, before we get to that, a little background information is required.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

I love my house. However, given that it’s 100 years old and was once a Bed and Breakfast, it comes with “unique” features. One of those is a super awkward space between my bedroom and my closet.

When this house was built, these rooms were not connected. This space used to be a closet that could be accessed only from what is now my bedroom. When the house was converted to a B&B, the closet space for these rooms was turned into a bathroom and this space was opened up to create a “suite” of sorts to allow for families or multiple individuals to stay in one room. Hope that makes sense.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

Now that my house is back to being a single-family home, that place is a super awkward space with too many doors, weird carpet (because there is no hardwood floor underneath it), and unfinished molding.

What makes this space even stranger is that behind this wall are pipes and electrical wires that my dad and I ran up from the basement to supply the attic with additional electricity and water. (If you’re an original IBC reader, you might remember that project from years ago.) Consequently, this wall isn’t sealed in because I always wanted to have access to the wiring and pipes should I ever decide to continue remodeling the attic. Because of this, this area has just been a mess, eyesore, and completely wasted space.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

As I’ve mentioned a few times (most recently here), I don’t intend to make this my forever home. With that in mind, I came to a few realizations. First, redoing the attic probably won’t happen, so it’s time to seal up that wall. If the next owner wants to reopen it, it won’t be a problem. Secondly, I always thought about removing the doors and molding and just opening up this space into a mini-hallway of sorts. However, that’s a big project and not really something I want to invest time or money in. Given all of that, I decided to make this space work as is while also tackling another problem: shoe storage.

It’s not that I have lots of shoes lying around, but I find that when things have a place, organizing my home is much easier. Having a dedicated space to store my shoes would make putting them away a simple task.

To tackle this project, I teamed up with my friends at Lowe’s Home Improvement. I knew they would have a system to help. After taking some measurements, I ventured to my local Lowe’s.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

When I saw the Rubbermaid FastTrack system in store, I knew it was the perfect solution. (I should also mention I originally thought about doing a DIY built-in shelving system, but with the existing moldings, some weird angles, and not wanting to make accessing that wall a complete nightmare, a built-in didn’t make sense.) Also, if you’ll recall, I used a similar system in my clothes closet, so I thought this would tie in nicely.

Based on the measurements I’d taken, I gathered all of the pieces I’d need. The Rubbermaid FastTrack system offers a variety of shelves, brackets, drawers, and accessories to make the system work for whatever space you’re organizing – even an awkward closet like mine. The shelves come in 8-feet sections. Since I knew I needed 2-feet sections, I asked an associate for help. He kindly cut the sections to the length I needed.

While at Lowe’s, I also picked up a couple pieces of molding and painting supplies.

Once I got home, I tackled a bit of prep work before installing the closet system.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

The first thing I did was to add crown molding. I had some pieces left from my bedroom/closet makeover that worked perfectly. (The crown molding also happens to be from Lowe’s. You can find that here.) The molding gave the space a finished look by covering up spots where the access wall didn’t line up well. I also added two pieces of cove molding to seal the sides of the wall. Again, while I have no need to access the pipes and wires behind it, this method will make it easier for someone who does.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

Once the molding was in place, everything got a quick coat of paint. I used the same colors I used in my bedroom. (Also, I should mention that heart hanging down on a cord is for a pull-chain light. It’s just an exposed lightbulb. That’s getting replaced later this week.)

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

When the paint was dry, I was ready to install the system. This took only 15 minutes. The system is held in place with this rail across the top. I attached that to the wall with anchor screws. With that up, two parallel bars are added for attaching the shelves.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

With the bars in place, I added brackets. While I used the same shelves, I used two different sets of brackets. One set was designed to create a flat shelf, the other set created an angled shelf for shoes.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

With the brackets spaced out accordingly, I added in the shelves and my DIY Custom Shoe Storage system was complete and ready for my shoes.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

I picked up two large baskets from Lowe’s as well to store things like flip flops and out-of-season shoes. The baskets fit perfectly at the top and bottom of the system.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

Then, I just filled the shelves with my shoes and a few other accessories, and my project was complete.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

Wasted, ugly, awkward space no more! It’s now functional, pretty, and organized. Finally!

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

I think I’m going to add one more angled shelf, but I didn’t purchase enough brackets. I have a few more shoes I need to squeeze in, so this will give me enough storage with room to grow.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

However, in the meantime, I’m totally loving this little area with room for my cologne and decorative touches. This goes to show that organization and storage can be pretty, too.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

And that’s what I love about a system like this. It’s versatile, and it grows with you as your needs change (or your shoe collection expands.)

DIY Custom Shoe Storage - how to organize your shoes in an unused space.

DIY Custom Shoe Storage | Inspired by Charm

This weird space has stared at me for years. so I’m thrilled to cross it off my list. I had always assumed this would be a nightmare project, but it was much easier than I anticipated. Who knew organizing could be so easy and rewarding!?

What do you think of my weird space turned DIY Custom Shoe Storage?

 

This post is sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. As always all opinions are my own.

This post is sponsored by Lowe’s Home Improvement. Today I’m sharing my new DIY Custom Shoe Storage. However, before we get to that, a little background information is required. I love my house. However, given that it’s 100 years old and was once a Bed and Breakfast, it comes with “unique” features. One of those […]




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Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

Apparently, I like to bake things for Valentine’s Day, as evidenced by my recent post with 10 sweet recipes to celebrate Valentine’s Day and my No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes. As I’ve mentioned, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday (Being single for 9 years will do that to you.), however, I’m always excited for an excuse to bake something with butter, sugar, and flour. Throw in a classic combo of peanut butter and chocolate, and I become Cupid’s little helper.

Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

For my latest HomeGoods Design Happy Blog post, I created these Mini Skillet Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting. I love shopping the kitchen and food section at HomeGoods, so when I found these adorable mini skillets, I knew I could find plenty of ways to use them. (Remember the Blueberry Grunt I made? I served them up in the same pans!)

Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

What I love most about this recipe is that there’s truly nothing fancy about it. It’s just brownies, but by amping up the presentation and topping them with creamy peanut butter frosting and colorful sprinkles, you get a unique and festive dessert. As you know, one of my specialties is giving classic recipes an update for new life, added flavor, and a little pizzazz.

Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!
Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

While I made these brownies from scratch (You can get the recipe here.), if you’re pressed for time or just prefer to do so, you could certainly use your favorite box mix. When it comes to frosting, however, I always recommend homemade. Frosting is super simple to make, and it blows any store-bought variety out of the water. Trust me on this.

Homemade Skillet Brownies - dessert recipe for Valentine's Day!

You can find the recipe for these Mini Skillet Brownies with Peanut Butter frosting here.

No matter how you celebrate (even if you don’t celebrate), I hope you have a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

Apparently, I like to bake things for Valentine’s Day, as evidenced by my recent post with 10 sweet recipes to celebrate Valentine’s Day and my No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes. As I’ve mentioned, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday (Being single for 9 years will do that to you.), however, I’m always excited for an excuse […]




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Sun-dried Tomatoes | Inspired by Charm

Yesterday I noticed that my local Walmart no longer carries sun-dried tomatoes. Instead they now have a 5 x 5′ section dedicated to one brand of boxed macaroni and cheese. I tell you this for two reasons. First, I love sun-dried tomatoes, especially the ones packed in oil. (Extra healthful, right?) Secondly, the absence of sun-dried tomatoes at my local Walmart* seems to be a sign from the Universe. Let me explain.

*For anyone who doesn’t know, Walmart is my only option for food shopping unless I want to drive 45 minutes to the closest stand-alone grocery store.

Last week, I started writing this same post. At the time, I titled it “The Secret.” Not that I was revealing a secret, but in reference to the book The Secret, as in if you put it something out there, it comes (back) to you.

If you’ve followed IBC for some time (I’ve been doing this for 8 years now!), you know that every year around this time I write a post about bettering my life. Yet, year after year, I find myself in the same predicament. Over the past year, I’ve decided not to get super personal here on IBC because I felt no one needed to hear all that “stuff,” and besides, it wasn’t professional. (I even created Behind the Charm to share more personal things, but that hasn’t worked.)

I don’t want this post to be sad, so I’m going to keep the explanation to a few short sentences. In a nutshell, 2016 was an awful year for me personally. Through the IBC/work lens it was a wonderfully successful year with lots of amazing opportunities, trips, magazine features, etc. However “behind the charm,” I’ve been pretty miserable. In short, I’m lonely, often unmotivated, and carrying a couple extra pounds. I’ve also somehow managed to lose most of my friends. I could go on, but you get it.

I do love my job and am so grateful for the success I’ve had while getting to create day in and day out. I often find it hard to complain when, if you look at my life on the outside, it seems to be magical.

So, you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with sun-dried tomatoes and why I’m writing about it here. I need your help and opinions. My question is this: With “nothing” left for me here in St. Mary’s, is it time for me to move?

Sun-dried Tomatoes | Inspired by Charm

Before you can answer, a few things to consider.

First, I love my home, but I’m not attached to it. It’s not in an ideal location, plus I’d like a bigger yard, etc.

Secondly, as I’ve mentioned before, my plan has been to buy my grandparents’ house when the time comes. My grandfather passed about two years ago and my grandma still lives there. Naturally, I want her to live forever, but as a result, that puts me in limbo.

Also, Is buying a house in an area that seemingly has little to offer me (e.g., no relationships, no friends, no sun-dried tomatoes) the best decision?

Another plan I’ve had is to purchase my grandparents’ home when the time comes, but also rent or buy a little condo near the beach so I can have the best of both worlds.

And if I do decide to leave St. Marys, how do I even begin to choose where to live? Given my job, the world is my oyster. However, what if I move, and I’m more lost and lonely than I am now?

As you can see, I’m confused. I also need to consider my two cats. I can’t just abandon them for half of the year if having two residences would be the best option. I also have no intention of getting rid of them. They are part of my life until they pass to Kitty Heaven.

Also, St. Marys is home. Being close to my family is a gift that I treasure. However, lately I feel like I have just a supporting role in their lives rather than a life of my own.

And speaking of a life of my own, I haven’t dated in years. It doesn’t help that I’m a bit of an introvert, but a guy trying to meet a guy in small town America is kind of tricky. Many young people want out of this place the day after they graduate. This has been a big issue for me because year after year, I want nothing more than to spend my life with someone.

So, in a nutshell, that’s my situation. (Also, I should mention I am chatting with someone about all of this “stuff” in trying to work things out. I’m not making any major life decisions tomorrow, I’m just getting the ball rolling.)

I decided to write this post in an attempt to open the doors. Maybe you have some thoughts or helpful suggestions? Maybe you’ve been through a similar situation? Maybe you know the “perfect” place where I should put down roots? Maybe you have an adorable condo for sale on the beach? Maybe you have a pool house I can rent for part of the year? Maybe you have a cute cousin I should meet? Or maybe you just have a can of sun-dried tomatoes I can buy?

I realize I have a lot of work to do on my own. Ultimately this is my life, and I’m the one driving the bus. I get it. However, in this particular instance, I wouldn’t mind a few backseat drivers.

As always, thank you very much in advance. Even if you have no advice to offer, I appreciate your kind thoughts and continued support of IBC.

Yesterday I noticed that my local Walmart no longer carries sun-dried tomatoes. Instead they now have a 5 x 5′ section dedicated to one brand of boxed macaroni and cheese. I tell you this for two reasons. First, I love sun-dried tomatoes, especially the ones packed in oil. (Extra healthful, right?) Secondly, the absence of […]




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Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, it is with great excitement that I’m heading back to the Caribbean this year on Carnival Cruise Lines. Over the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to sail the seas a half dozen times, and I enjoy the experience more each time.

Inspired by my upcoming fun adventure on the sea, I thought I’d share another cocktail recipe from one of my favorite places on the ship, the Alchemy Bar.

Alchemy Bar Carnival Cruise Fun Ship 2.0

In case you’re not aware, the Alchemy Bar is a unique place on the Carnival 2.0 cruise ships. The bar is a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” with elixirs to “cure what ails you.” The menu (with alcoholic and nonalcoholic options) is extra special in that it only includes handcrafted cocktails (no beer or soda), using fresh fruit and herbs. The Alchemy Bar serves my favorite martini, the Spicy Chipotle Pineapple Martini, which I showed you how to make a couple years ago.

Inspired by the Alchemy Bar, (and Valentine’s Day which is just around the corner), I thought I’d try a new-to-me cocktail from their menu, the Curative Peach Cosmopolitan.

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Since the day I turned 21, I’ve been a fan of a classic comso, and I often order it as a pre-dinner cocktail. Not only do I like the flavor, but there’s something about sipping a pink martini that makes a guy or gal feel important. Last year, I shared the Carnival Cosmo (Carnival’s unique twist on a classic cosmopolitan recipe), so I thought this time we’d try the peach variety.

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Now, I’ve never had this drink on the ship, so I created my own recipe based on a few of their ingredients. It might not be an exact duplicate, but I’ll be sure to sample one on my cruise and report back to you.

The base of the cocktail is typical of a classic cosmopolitan, but with a few key substitutions.

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Instead of traditional vodka, I used peach vodka. I also substituted peach schnapps for the orange liqueur.

Typically, a cosmopolitan would be finished off with a lime. However, for this recipe, I opted for a blood orange. Not only does the color of the juice match the cocktail perfectly, but I felt the blood orange lent itself to the pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar.

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Add all of those ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Then shake it up vigorously and pour out a delicious and fruity libation.

Cheers!

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Peach Cosmopolitan

makes one martini

Here's what you will need:
3 ounces of peach vodka
1 ounce peach schnapps
1 ounce cranberry juice
Wedge of blood orange, juiced
Slice of peach and slice of blood orange to garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the peach vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and juice from a blood orange wedge. Shake vigorously.

Then strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of peach and blood orange.

Print

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

This martini tastes as good as it looks. I love peaches, so the extra sweet fruitiness in this cocktail is perfect.

And while subtle, I also think the addition of blood orange in here is sublime. It makes this martini taste as special as it looks.

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

Peach Cosmopolitan martini cocktail recipe

So whether you’re celebrating a vacation, Valentine’s Day, or another day of life, this Peach Cosmopolitan is a winner! Cheers!

 

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind. Head on over.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, it is with great excitement that I’m heading back to the Caribbean this year on Carnival Cruise Lines. Over the past four years, I’ve had the opportunity to sail the seas a half dozen times, and I enjoy the experience more each time. Inspired by my upcoming fun […]




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Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

One of the biggest sporting events of the year is coming up this Sunday, and I’m here to help you celebrate with a roundup of recipes for appetizers worthy of a touchdown. As you probably know, appetizers are among my favorite things to make and to eat, so creating this list for you was lots of fun.

All of the recipes below are ones I’ve made many times and have shared here on IBC. If you’re hosting or attending a party for the big game and need a recipe or two that’s guaranteed to be a success, IBC is the place to find it. Let’s take a look at these Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes.

Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Parmesan Garlic Roasted Shrimp
I made this Parmesan Garlic Roasted Shrimp for my mom’s 60th birthday party a couple years ago, and everyone went crazy over it. I’ve also made it for other gatherings since then, and it’s always a hit.

Out-of-this-World Corn Dip - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Out-of-this-World Corn Dip
Of all the recipes on IBC, this Out-of-this-World Corn Dip is one I make multiple times a year. It makes a generous portion and is a total crowd pleaser. I’m confident you’ll love it, too.

Cranberry Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Cranberry Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
I make this recipe every year for our family’s Christmas Eve celebration at my mom’s house, but these Cranberry Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts are great any time of the year. In case you don’t like cranberries, don’t worry. You can leave them out.

Skillet Rueben Dip - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Skillet Reuben Dip
A good dip is a must for watching the Super Bowl. And since Reuben sandwiches are a favorite of mine, it’s not surprising that I love and highly recommend this Skillet Reuben Dip. It tastes so much like the actual sandwich!

Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Pizza Bread
I think many families have a pizza bread recipe they love. This is mine. With tiny bits of toppings in every bite, you can change the ingredients to suit your personal preference. Top it off with your favorite pizza sauce for dipping, and you’ve got a winner.

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Jalapeños - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Jalapeños
This recipe for Bacon Wrapped Jalapeños only requires four ingredients and is another crowd favorite.- If you’re like me, it’s hard to resist anything wrapped in bacon.

Pulled Pork Sliders - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Pulled Pork Sliders
Who doesn’t like miniature-sized food? That’s why these pulled pork sliders are the bomb. I especially like the homemade red cabbage coleslaw as a topping. It’s the perfect complement to the pork.

Buffalo and Blue Cheese Lit'l Smokies - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Buffalo and Blue Cheese Li’l Smokies
What’s a Super Bowl party without Li’l Smokies? I gave these crescent roll wrapped Li’l Smokies a flavor upgrade with a blue cheese stuffing and buffalo-style dripping sauce.

DIY Football Party Ideas - Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

Bonus Ideas:
Now that you have some delicious appetizers to consider, you might be thinking about your party decor. Check out these four DIY football-themed entertaining ideas: graphic napkins, helmet drink stirrers, painted servers, and a FREE printable football garland. Any one of these will add a personal touch to your Super Bowl celebration.

Eight Game-Winning Appetizer Recipes  | Inspired by Charm

I hope you find this appetizer roundup helpful, whether you’re celebrating the big game or hosting another sort of celebration. These recipes work wonderfully all year round. Enjoy!

One of the biggest sporting events of the year is coming up this Sunday, and I’m here to help you celebrate with a roundup of recipes for appetizers worthy of a touchdown. As you probably know, appetizers are among my favorite things to make and to eat, so creating this list for you was lots […]




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Love Songs - Valentine's Day Music Playlist via Tuesday Tunes: Inspired by Charm

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought that a new Tuesday Tunes was in order. As a single person, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. However, I am a fan of music, and I do enjoy a good love song, so this latest playlist is full of Songs About Love.

Love Songs - Valentine's Day Music Playlist via Tuesday Tunes: Inspired by Charm

With thousands of love songs available, making this list wasn’t too difficult. Of course, I may have missed a song or two. Also, since love comes in many forms, this playlist covers everything from new love to lost love to wanting to be in love to everlasting love. And because my musical tastes are varied, this list includes favorites from multiple genres.

 


 

You can listen to this playlist using the player above or directly on Spotify by clicking here.

Be sure to follow my Spotify profile (here) for access to all of my playlists and for sneak listens to upcoming IBC Tuesday Tunes!

Oh, and if you need some deliciously sweet ideas to make and share with the ones you love, be sure to check out my list of 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine’s Day or my newest recipe for No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes.

No matter how you celebrate (or don’t), I wish each of you a love-filled Valentine’s Day.

 

TUESDAY TUNES LIBRARY

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought that a new Tuesday Tunes was in order. As a single person, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. However, I am a fan of music, and I do enjoy a good love song, so this latest playlist is full of Songs About Love. With thousands of love songs […]




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No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

Today I’m back in the IBC kitchen to show you how to make a beautiful and delicious dessert that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day or any occasion.

This recipe for individual No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes is inspired by one of my favorite baking bloggers and her new baking cookbook!

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

Late last year, Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog released her first cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book and was kind enough to send me a copy to enjoy. As you probably know, baking is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen, so I was super excited to get my hands on this book.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

A couple years ago I had the chance to meet Sarah (and her hubby) at a blogger event in Los Angeles. She is beyond sweet, and I greatly enjoyed our conversations. I wish we would have had the opportunity to chat more.

I guess my wish came true (in a way) because now I have a little piece of Sarah in my kitchen at all times thanks to her beautiful cookbook!

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

Although I was tempted to make so many things from her book, I kept my eyes open for something that I could give a twist to for Valentine’s Day. When I spotted her (Almost) No-Bake Cheesecake with Jam Swirl, I knew I had found a winner.

While Sarah created her no-bake cheesecake in a more traditional style, I decided to give mine a personal and chocolatey twist.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy Valentine's dessert recipe

Instead of making just one large cheesecake, I opted to make six single servings. I’ve had these double-walled bowls from Zwilling that I’ve been dying to use and thought they would make the perfect presentation. (Don’t worry if you don’t have bowls like this. Any bowl will do, or even a large mouth mason jar will work.)

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

I also opted to use chocolate graham crackers for my crust. Paired with raspberry jam, I thought this would be a dynamite flavor combination for Valentine’s Day. (And boy was I right.)

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

Since my cheesecakes were going to be a bit smaller, I adjusted Sarah’s recipe to accommodate the size change as well as my chocolate additions.

Also, Sarah baked her crust. (That’s why it’s called an “almost” no-bake cheesecake.) However, since I was using these glass bowls, mine truly needed to be no-bake. While the crust doesn’t completely hold together (which really doesn’t matter since these are served in a bowl) I did use a little more butter in my crust to make it a bit firmer.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes

In addition, because I tend to be a messy baker, I found it easiest to pipe the cheesecake mixture into the glass bowls. This helped me keep the sides of my bowls nice and clean.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes

You can use any jam as a garnish for this cheesecake, but I went with raspberry. I love the combination of raspberries and chocolate so it was an obvious choice for me.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy Valentine's dessert recipe

Garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, a fresh raspberry, and a chocolate heart, I think this might just be one of best Valentine’s Day desserts ever. Plus, we didn’t have to turn on the oven!

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy Valentine's dessert recipe

Let me tell you, these guys are crazy delicious and so simple to put together. Restraining myself from sitting down with a spoon and eating all six was the hardest part of this recipe. Seriously.

If you want to recreate these for your special someone this Valentine’s Day, here’s the recipe.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

 

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

makes 6 single serving cheesecakes

Here's what you will need:
Crust:
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/8 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake:
2 blocks (16 ounces total) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries, whipping cream, and heart chocolates to garnish

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs* with the sugar and melted butter until combined. Divide the mixture into six small dishes (about 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep). Press into an even layer with your fingers or a spatula. Place in the refrigerator while preparing the cheesecake.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on high until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat again until smooth and combined. Transfer the cream cheese mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (in a new or cleaned bowl) beat the heavy whipping cream on low for about 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating for another 45 seconds. Increase the speed to high and but until stiff peaks form.

With a spatula, stir about one-third of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and fold it in until completely combined. Add the remaining whipped cream and fold until fully combined.

Using a spatula or piping bag, divide the cream cheese mixture evenly over the six prepared crusts. Smooth the top with a spatula.

Finally, in a microwave safe bowl, add the jam and 1 tablespoon of water. Heat for about 30 seconds to make the jam liquid. (Heat for an additional 15 seconds, if needed). Stir to combine. Allow the jam to cool slightly, then drop small amounts of jam on top of each cheesecake. Use a skewer or toothpick to drag the jam through the top of the cheesecake to make swirls.

Refrigerate the cheesecake about 1 hour until firm or up to 1 day. (Cover with plastic wrap if refrigerating for longer than 1 hour.)

*Use a blender or food processor to crumble whole chocolate graham crackers to create fine crumbs for best results.

Print

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy Valentine's dessert recipe

I hope you enjoyed this tasty, fun, and elegant dessert. Give it a try this Valentine’s Day for a treat to share with the ones you love.

No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes - easy dessert recipe

For more irresistible everyday baking favorites and delicious, reinvented classic recipes be sure to pick up Sarah Keiffer’s The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. You may also want to visit her blog, The Vanilla Bean Blog, for more deliciousness.

A big shout out to Sarah for sharing her book with me!

Today I’m back in the IBC kitchen to show you how to make a beautiful and delicious dessert that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day or any occasion. This recipe for individual No-Bake Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes is inspired by one of my favorite baking bloggers and her new baking cookbook! Late last year, Sarah Kieffer of The […]




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Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm
This post is sponsored by Liquid-Plumr. As always all opinions are my own.

It’s January 26, and I just took down my last Christmas decoration yesterday. Boy does it feel good! With a busy January, a late holiday photoshoot, a trip to the Big Apple, and a cold/flu, Christmas stuck around for longer than I would have liked. Even though it took a while, I’m excited to finally be holiday-free.

I had hoped to show you around my upstairs during the holidays, but I ended up not decorating much up there, so it never happened. However, I finally “finished” my bathroom project from two years ago and hung some things on the walls in my bedroom. I also spruced up a few things here and there so, I thought I’d show you around up there.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

I should mention that, for some reason, all of my rooms upstairs have never felt complete. And while some of the changes that I’ve made have helped, I still don’t feel like things are “done.” Or at least done enough to make me not feel anxious every time I look at those spaces. So, one of my goals for this year is to finally finish the rooms so I feel good when I look at them. We can save that talk for another post; I just figured it was worth mentioning.

Anywho, over in my bathroom I finally hung the light and mirror, installed shelves, and added artwork. This bathroom is right off my bedroom, and it’s the one I use, so it’s nice to have it fully functional again.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

(For reference, the mirror is from West Elm [but no longer available], the shelves are from Target, the light is from Restoration Hardware, and the bunny print is from HomeGoods.)

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

If you’ll recall, back in 2015 I gave this bathroom a mini-makeover with paint, a new sink, and fixtures. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit embarrassed about the bathrooms in my house. Their style is either 90s or 50s. It’s not in the good vintage way, but rather the “we-really-need-to-be-gutted” way. (2017 might be the year of major bathroom makeovers!)

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

However, this little refresh goes to show what paint and a few new accessories can do. Although a major makeover wasn’t in the budget at the time, it still keeps my progress and design flowing.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Thinking about keeping things flowing, my friends over at Liquid-Plumr sent me some of their Full Clog Destroyer to help keep my pipes flowing freely.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

When refreshing a space such as a bathroom, it’s important to also take care of the stuff you cannot see that are essential for a smooth-running bathroom. With regular monthly use, Liquid-Plumr can get your drains moving faster. I know it’s not something you normally think of, but it’s great for fixing clogs and taking care of general maintenance. Prevent the problem, right?

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

While I still have a few tweaks to make in this space, it’s certainly looking a whole lot cuter. What do you think?

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Over in my guest bedroom, I tucked in a few more accessories and added this round mirror that’s been sitting in its box for a year. (See, you think I have everything together, but I really don’t.) I also hung this hand-crafted art piece I picked up a few years ago at an art festival. This space would still benefit from a few more pieces of art, a cozy chair, and some accessories to really finish it off, but it’s getting there.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

In my hallway, I moved around some pillows and added a travel souvenir from Hawaii to my DIY picture ledges. I really do love this space. For a brief moment every day I get to pretend I’m at the beach. It doesn’t get better than that.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Over in my closet, I finally hung the full-length mirror that has been resting on the floor for a good two years. And, as you know, I’ve also been busy attempting to clear out my closet of clothes and accessories. While I need to make another round, sending a few bags to Goodwill has made a huge difference.

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Over in my other guest room, not a whole lot has changed. This room has always perplexed me, so I may just need to start fresh this spring. While I do like the coral/pink, I never felt it was “me” so something has to change. Maybe it’s time for a full makeover! What do you think?

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

Upstairs. Refreshed. | Inspired by Charm

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my upstairs and are excited for more interior inspiration and home refreshes in 2017. There are lots more coming!

This post is sponsored by Liquid-Plumr. As always all opinions are my own. It’s January 26, and I just took down my last Christmas decoration yesterday. Boy does it feel good! With a busy January, a late holiday photoshoot, a trip to the Big Apple, and a cold/flu, Christmas stuck around for longer than I would […]




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10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Due to a busy January and early February, I’m not planning to go all out for Valentine’s Day this year. However, I do think it’s a wonderful holiday for creating unique and homemade treats to celebrate the ones you love.

In the past, I’ve shared several Valentine’s Day-inspired recipes here on IBC. Today, I thought it would be fun to bring all of those recipes together to give you a one-stop-spot for your Valentine’s Day planning.

So, whether you’re celebrating with that special someone, hanging out with friends, or watching your favorite romantic comedy at home on your couch (that’s what I’ll be doing), give one of these delicious ideas a try for a sweet handmade Valentine’s Day.

Sweater Cookies
If you’re looking to impress, get creative with frosting by whipping up some of these Valentine-themed Sweater Cookies.

Valentine's Day Sweater Cookies - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Red Velvet Waffle Cookies
Speaking of creative cookies, try “baking” cookies in your waffle iron with this recipe for Red Velvet Waffle Cookies.

Red Velvet Waffle Cookies - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats
If you’re tight on time, a few Valentine sprinkles go a long way in making these Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats a must-have for the holiday.

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispies Treats - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Chocolate Chips
If you’ve never had potato chips drizzled with chocolate, you’re missing out. These Chocolate Chips are so easy and crazy delicious.

Chocolate Drizzle Potato Chips - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Skillet Cookie Cake
In my Year of Skillet Series, I had fun creating this large cookie cake complete with Valentine M&Ms for a new spin on a classic treat.

Valentine Skillet Cookie Cake - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Red Velvet Popcorn
Make your own flavored popcorn to enjoy and share with this Red Velvet Popcorn recipe. It’s made with real red velvet cake crumbles!

Red Velvet Popcorn - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Heart Sugar Cookies wth Cotton Candy Frosting
These classic sugar cookies get a flavor upgrade thanks to a delicious cotton candy-flavored frosting. A heart cookie cutter and festive sprinkles complete the look.

Heart Sugar Cookies with Cotton Candy Frosting - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Spiked Chocolate Dipped Cherries
It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without something dipped in chocolate, right? I have to recommend these alcohol soaked cherries dipped AND drizzled with chocolate for the ultimate treat.

Spiked Chocolate Covered Cherries - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Raspberry Cheesecake Martini
Speaking of libations, how about a martini? This Raspberry Cheesecake Martini complete with a graham cracker rim is one of my favorites. (If you need a nonalcoholic treat, try this Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie!)

Raspberry Cheesecake Martini - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

Sweetie Martini
If you’re looking to go all out with your Valentine’s Day drink, then look no further than this Sweetie Martini. It’s an original recipe I created a few years ago that has become one of my most popular cocktails on Pinterest!

Sweetie Martini: Valentine's Day Cocktail - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

 

BONUS: Valentine’s Treat Bags
Once you have your treats all prepared, you’re probably going to want a beautiful way to present them. Try whipping up a few of these Valentine’s Treat Bags for that extra special touch.

DIY Valentine's Treat Bags - 10 Recipes to Celebrate Valentine's Day

I certainly hope you are feeling inspired to create something sweet and delicious for Valentine’s Day. No matter how you celebrate, I’m wishing you a happy, sweet, and love-filled day!

Due to a busy January and early February, I’m not planning to go all out for Valentine’s Day this year. However, I do think it’s a wonderful holiday for creating unique and homemade treats to celebrate the ones you love. In the past, I’ve shared several Valentine’s Day-inspired recipes here on IBC. Today, I thought […]




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DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

I guess this is the week of reimagining previous projects here on IBC. Earlier this week I tackled my brushstroke painted plates again, but with a new look. Today I’m back with an everyday-inspired update for my beaded garland.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

You may remember that this past Christmas I crafted an oversized wood bead garland using various wooden balls and blocks. Given that I chose a more traditional color scheme of red and green, I thought I’d rework the garland for winter.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

I also wanted to create another string of beads to match so I bought some additional wood beads. Since these were smaller in size, they came pre-drilled which made this project even easier. I purchased this set and this set from Amazon.

 

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

First I unstrung the beads from the garland I’d made previously. Next, I repainted the red and burgundy beads so they are now a light or dark turquoise color. Again, I used Fusion Mineral Paint. As you know, I’ve done a few projects with Fusion Mineral Paint. I love how easy it is to pair colors. They always create the most beautiful combinations.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

I was surprised to see how quickly the new paint covered the old. It only took about two coats. Once the beads were dry, I simply restrung them on the leather cording, and the project was complete.

For the smaller beaded garland, I created a more consistent pattern using three different sized beads with even color placement.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

Since the predrilled holes on these beads were a bit smaller, I strung them on twine I had on hand. It was truly that easy.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

As you can see, these garlands (a.k.a. wood styling beads) can be used in the traditional sense as a garland to adorn your mantle. I especially love the larger garland just spilling out of a bowl on a table or hung on a wall hook to create interesting and 3-D wall art.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

DIY Wood Styling Beads create colorful Scandinavian style with this colorful project.

Custom projects that work for multiple purposes are a winner in my home styling toolkit, so I definitely recommend giving this project a try. You can get the full tutorial for the larger garland here. Have fun creating your own unique look with different paints and bead shapes and sizes.

Happy Decorating!

I guess this is the week of reimagining previous projects here on IBC. Earlier this week I tackled my brushstroke painted plates again, but with a new look. Today I’m back with an everyday-inspired update for my beaded garland. You may remember that this past Christmas I crafted an oversized wood bead garland using various […]




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Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Last year I created a fun set of Brushstroke Painted Plates. (If you missed them, you can see them here.) They were, and still are, one of my favorite projects.

A few weeks ago I was working on a tablescape and thought brushstroke plates would make a unique addition to the table. However, the color scheme of the ones I had just didn’t work. So, I decided to create another set to match my design.

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Even though I’ve already shared this how-to with you, I thought you might enjoy seeing a variation of the project.

I followed the same basic technique as I did previously. If you need the full tutorial, click here for all the details. However, this time around, I changed the colors, plate design, and pattern.

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

I started with plates I found at HomeGoods. I wanted something a bit more traditional in style this time to contrast with the fun and colorful lines of the paint.

This go-round, I opted for four colors in shades of blue, green, and gray. One of the great things about this paint is that it’s non-toxic. Once applied to the plates and “baked” in the oven, the plates are food and dishwasher safe. (However, I should note, that just to be safe, I still wash mine by hand.)

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Rather than covering the plates with brushstrokes of paint, I decided to keep the design on only one part of the plate.

Again I worked with one color at a time, allowing each color to dry before adding the next. This keeps the paints from mixing together and looking muddy.

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

To finish each plate, I added a splatter of paint (one in each color) to create a casual and artistic touch.

Once baked in the oven, the plates were complete!

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

It truly is that simple. Plus, it’s a fun way to tap your artistic side as you create something beautiful and functional for your home and table.

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

As I said previously, the design and color scheme are up to you. Feel free to skip the splatter or use only one color. You could even go in a completely different direction and use painter’s tape to paint hard lines. Or stamp on a pattern. No matter how you do it, the end result will certainly be one-of-a-kind and a special addition to your table.

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 | Inspired by Charm

I hope you enjoyed Brushstroke Painted Plates: Part 2 and are even more tempted to give this project a try.

Again, for full directions on how to create these, visit this post here.

Last year I created a fun set of Brushstroke Painted Plates. (If you missed them, you can see them here.) They were, and still are, one of my favorite projects. A few weeks ago I was working on a tablescape and thought brushstroke plates would make a unique addition to the table. However, the color […]




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Join the conversation.






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