Homemade(ish) Birthday Cake

I made my first attempt at decorating a birthday cake this weekend.  If you've never done it before, trust me when I say those little squigglies and dots can be so hard!!  A basic, two-layer cake took me two hours to put together, not including baking time.  I cheated a little bit and used boxed cake mix, but the icing and strawberry filling were homemade.  If you're curious, I used Smitten Kitchen's Swiss buttercream recipe for the frosting, with a small portion set aside for the blue dye.  For the strawberry filling, I combined 2 and 1/2 cups chopped strawberries, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 water, and 2 and 1/2 tbsp. corn starch in a medium saucepan and brought all ingredients to a boil.  Once the mixture was bubbling up with yumminess, I turned off the heat, transferred the filling to a bowl, and chilled it in the fridge while I made the icing.  That's it!  The decorating part is a whole other story.  The writing ended up being a little crooked but by the time I got to the dots, I felt like a pro.  (I didn't, actually, but I'm hoping that if I keep telling myself that then the next cake will be much easier!  A girl can dream...)

Bottom layer getting filled

Final product, complete with candles and super messy squiggles

We polished off that bad boy in the blink of an eye!



52 Weeks: Week 29

I missed a couple weeks in my 52 Weeks Project but that's okay.  I'm catching up!  This photo was shot about an hour or so before sunset while the fog was rolling over the Bay to settle in for the evening.

Week 29: Here Comes the Fog



Fab Friday's Fancies | Wedding Wear

Happy Friday Lovelies!!!  Oh man, I'm so TGIF right now it's not even funny!  This week wasn't too bad but I'm just super excited for our weekend plans.  The Boyfriend's dad is turning 60 on Monday so we're having a BBQ/celebration for him on Sunday.  I've got grand plans of baking a birthday cake and a birthday pie - I actually spent most of yesterday thinking about how I want to decorate the cake, what I want to use to make it, etc.  I'll be sure to take a few photos for you and maybe post a recipe or two next week!

This week's Friday's Fancies theme is wedding wear, i.e. what you would wear as a guest to a wedding.  A good friend of mine is getting married October 1 so I put together a fall wedding guest look.  I'm photographing the wedding so my actual attire will probably be more along the lines of "easy to move in" than "wedding guest chic" but if I were just a guest, I'd look for an affordable version of something like this little number.

1. Leopard print trench - I loved this trench so much, I just had to use it again.  It's so versatile!!
2. Givenchy tan clutch - neutral, lovely, crazy expense.
3. Carven blush silk dress - perfect for dancing!
4. Endless necklace - simple, and with such a fitting name.
5. Jimmy Choo pumps - sparkly, glittery, perfection.  (Seriously.  Click on the link and zoom in to see the pretty sparkles and subtle gold glitter threading.)

Between the leopard trench and the sparkly shoes, I thought a neutral color palette was the best way to go.  What do you think?

Happy Weekend!!!



Banana Love

Even though I've been a professional gal for almost a year now, I feel like I still look like an intern.  To remedy this sitch, I browsed them Interwebs looking for some additions to my work wardrobe.  And that's when I discovered Banana Republic's newest arrivals.  I think I'm in love.  *sigh*

1. Ruffled dot blouse
2. Animal print cardigan
3. Leopard print trench
4. Cabled dolman cardigan
5. Lily print ruffle blouse

Conspire to Change Lives

Hello lovelies!  I typically don't use this as a forum for solicitation but I wanted to tell you about an awesome project my dear friend Lindsey is involved with.  Lindsey and I went to college together in Chicago and shortly after I left for California, she and her then-boyfriend/now-husband moved to Austin.  Lindsey is a total rock star in the non-profit world when it comes to fundraising and her latest project is with Conspire Theatre.  Conspire Theatre works with incarcerated and marginalized women in Travis County (Austin, TX area) to provide healing and empowerment through theatre and writing.  The company's next big project is to offer classes to women in the maximum security unit at Travis County Correctional Complex.  How awesome is that!?

Conspire Theatre is helping change lives through creative mediums but they need your help to keep it going.  If you're interested in donating a few items (pencils, notebooks, ink cartridges, etc.), click here to see what Conspire currently needs.  And if you'd like to be a "co-conspirator" and make a donation to help get the classes started, click here to learn more about the program and how you can help.  They're about thisclose to the goal of $3,000 by September 1.  Plus, if you do decide to make a donation, it's tax deductible!


An Afternoon with Molly

Molly loves the weekends almost as much as we do because it means she gets to run around the apartment as much as she wants.  I tried snapping a few shots of her last Sunday but she's such a little rascal - I swear she can't sit still for more than a minute!

"Oh, hi!  I'm ready for my close-up."

Check out the chub rolls on her little legs!

Nap time.



Happy Birthday Sam!!

Today is my BFFL's ("best friend for life") birthday!  Sam and I have been friends for about 15 years now.  We haven't lived in the same city since we were 18 but the distance has never come between us.  No matter how far apart we are, Sam will always have my heart.  I think of her more as a sister and I love her like family.  She's living in South Korea now so I'm not able to celebrate with her.  So instead, I'm dedicating this post to the first day of the last year of her 20s.

Sam, I hope this year is the happiest, most magical, dream-filled year of your life.  Love you!!



Weekend Snippets {vol. 10}

This weekend was so relaxing I didn't want it to end.  But of course, Monday must come.  Oh well.  At least we're one day closer to the next weekend, right?

I had a girls' night with my friend Ali this past Friday (you might remember Ali from here).  In true Ali style, she had a lovely spread of olives, figs, a delicious soft cheese, crackers, and Caprese salad when I came knocking on her door.  We had grand plans of making gnocchi with summer squash, too, but after watching a few episodes of Sex and the City followed by Twilight: Eclipse (so bad) and snacking on chocolate-covered, peanut-butter-filled pretzels, we kinda forgot about those grand plans! :)

Saturday and Sunday were filled with errands, laundry, and hanging out with The Boyfriend.  We've been watching Dexter but just couldn't wait for Netflix discs to arrive so we made a Blockbuster run.  Did you know their rentals are only 99 cents??  We found a little Big Mario in Blockbuster.  Of course, we had to take pictures with him.

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty nice weekend.  I'm sad it's over but, on the bright side, we're only 12 days away from vacation in Mexico now!  What about you?  Did you have a good weekend, too?


Fab Friday's Fancies | Back to School

I feel like I say this every Friday but this has been the longest week ev-ah.  Maybe each week they just keep getting longer and longer?  God I hope not.

I've been giving a lot of thought to Fall lately and I think part of why I love it so much is because I have serious nostalgia over going back to school.  I was one of those nerds (and proud of it!) who loved loved loved school.  The first day of school was almost as exciting as Christmas Eve.  Will I like my teachers?  Will my teachers like me?  What kind of books will we have?  What art projects will we do?  I can't wait to see my friends!  These are just a few of the thoughts running through Little Stephanie's head on the eve of the first day of school.  In honor of those lucky enough to be going back to school this Fall, I'm linking up with {av} again for Friday's Fancies where "Back to School" is the theme of the week.  If I were headed back to school this Fall, this outfit is what Grown Up Stephanie would wear for the first day.  What about you?  What would you wear if you went back to school?

(Actually, this isn't too far off from what Grown Up Stephanie wears anyway - I just rock a much cheaper version!)  

1. Houndstooth blazer - preppy but relaxed, perfect for setting the right tone.
2. Pilcro Stet slim jeans - I needed skinnies for the outfit, Anthro has a new line of jeans, it was meant to be.
3. Sundrop necklace - this would be pretty lovely with a sundress, too, if it's not quite "sweater weather" yet.
4. Linen t-shirt - how comfy does this tee from Zara look?
5. Lex flats - finally some Jessica Simpson shoes that don't make my feet hurt just lookin' at 'em!!

Happy Weekend!!!


Awkward and Awesome

--I got a new computer last weekend!  Why is this awkward, you ask?  Well, because I'm still trying to get everything set up!  I used Migration Assistant (it's a Mac) but instead of making it all nice and in one place, it created a new user account.  So I have two Stephanies on my new Mac - "Stephanie" and "Stephanie Old."  Is that a metaphor for something?  I don't know.  But I do know I probably have to make a trip to the Apple store.  I just want all my music and photos in one place - is that too much to ask??
--I broke my sideview mirror on the passenger side of my car.  I swear I'm not a bad driver, or a bad parker.  My apartment building has 8 parking spots - 6 normal-sized and 2 super-narrow sized.  I came home late one night and all the normal-sized spots were taken.  I was stuck with the super-narrow spot.  I got in just fine so logic and basic physics means I should have been able to get out just fine, too, right?  Wrong.  So wrong.  Does this mean 7 years of bad luck?

--The checkout lady was so friendly last night!  We chatted about extreme couponers and she told me how people come in trying to be like "those crazy ladies on the show" but just can't do it right.  She made me laugh while bagging my groceries.  It's the little things.
--I got a new computer last weekend!  Despite the awkward and drawn out process of setting it up, this is still pretty awesome.  Her name is Mela.  It means "apple" in Italian.
--I picked up these little lovelies at the store.  They make me smile.  Maybe they'll make you smile, too.  :)



Weekend Snippets {vol. 9}

This weekend, I broke in my new leopard-print flats by walking around the Mission District with The Boyfriend and our friend Jenny.  If you're ever in SF, be sure to grab some yummy tacos and head over to Dolores Park to soak up some sun (it can be rare treat in foggy San Francisco).  I promise you'll have a lovely afternoon!

New shoes (from Target - only $20!!)

Great views

The Boyfriend and Jenny had cheek tacos (cachete) but I played it safe with barbacoa.  I can't speak for the cheek but the barbacoa was delicious!

Did you all have a nice weekend?


Guest Postin' in {virtual} Maui

Happy Monday!!  What are you up to today?  I'm chillin' in Hawaii ... virtually.  I'm guest posting about girl power over at Living Aloha so stop by and check it out!  And if you haven't already met Angie, stay a while, get to know her lovely corner of the blogiverse, and soak up the island sun!!

Angie is also a pretty awesome artist, too.  You can check out her Etsy shop here.  I'm basically in love with quite a few of her paintings:

Don't you wish you were doing this right now?  I do!!



Awkward and Awesome Thursday

--There was a HUGE fire a few blocks from my office yesterday afternoon!  I could see the flames from my office window and once the fire trucks arrived I could see the ladders shooting water towards them.  To make matters worse, I found out it was a recycling center that caught fire and a Hazmat unit was called in because of all the plastic that was burning!
--Molly has become territorial over my bedroom.  She loves playing under my bed.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it's her fave spot in the apartment.  Up until a week or so ago this was all fine and dandy, but then she started doing this thing guinea pigs do called "rumble strutting."  (What an awesome name, right?)  Anywho, rumble strutting is a very dominant move.  Male guineas do it to other males right before they fight (interestingly, male guineas do it to female guineas when they want to *ahem* woo them...).  But female guineas do it to other females in order to let them know when they're intruding on the other guinea's territory.  Apparently Molly thinks the whole area under my bed is her territory!  For the last week, any time I approach the bed she starts to rumble strut her way on over.  Who does she think she is???  That's MY bedroom for Pete's sake!!!

--I'm visiting with my lovely friend Jenny this weekend!  Jenny and I became friends just a few months before I left Chicago.  Even though we've been in a "long distance relationship" for most of our friendship, it's so easy to pick up right where we left off.  I haven't seen her in person since her wedding last year so I'm super stoked!  She and the hubs just moved to the Bay Area and this will be my first time seeing her since she became a California resident.  So excited!!
--Farmer's Market today!!!  That's all.  It's the little things.

The roof.  The roof.  The roof is on fire...


Wanderlust: Portugal

We're going on vacation to Mexico in about three and a half weeks but I honestly don't know if I can wait that long.  I'm having some serious wanderlust.  These days, I'm dreaming about Portugal.  I've never been so it really is just a daydream, but it goes a little something like this...

... I would start the day with a lovely walk down an old Portuguese street ...

... and maybe stop at a cafe for breakfast.  I'm sure there's one just around the corner.

After a little caffeine boost, The Boyfriend and I would pick a spot under one of these lovely umbrellas and read a book.  Or two.  Or three.  Whatever!  We're on vacation - we can spend the whole day reading on the beach if we want.

Then, on our way back into town, we'll get lost and wander down a forgotten part of the beach.

Once we finally figure out how to get back, we'll be way too tired to walk uphill.  We'll take a streetcar instead.

After a short afternoon nap, we'll check out the local architecture...

...and the lovely scenic vistas.

And, finally, we'll have a private little dinner outdoors and rest up for the next day's adventure!
 All images via Pinterest

Care to join us? :)



I am a firm believer in celebrating milestones.  I am also a firm believer in celebrating the pebbles others may not see as milestones.  Actually, come to think of it, I am pretty much a firm believer in just celebrating.  Period.  So now I want to celebrate you!  Big Mario Life hit 150 followers today and I think that's a perfectly lovely reason to celebrate.  When I started this little ol' blog, it was primarily as my own creative outlet.  I never dreamed anyone other than my friends and family would read it, but it makes me so happy to know that you find some joy in it, too!!  Thank you so much for taking the time to read, comment, and send lovely little notes.  I've loved getting to know you through your comments and your own blog posts.  If you were here right now, I'd bake you a cake!!  And I'd make it a pretty darn yummy one, too, just to say thanks. :)


52 Weeks: Week 27

I pretty much forgot to take my camera with me everywhere this weekend.  The Boyfriend and I both even forgot to take our phones with us when we went out to lunch yesterday!  So instead of a Weekend Snippets today, I'm sharing the Photo of the Week for last week.  This was shot on Friday (using the Little Photo app for Androids) on my way into the office.  Sometimes I have a pretty lovely walk to work.

Week 27: On the Way to Work



Fab Friday's Fancies | Maximized Summer

Happy Friday Lovelies!!!  It's about dang time Friday got here.  This has been one of the longest weeks ever.  I can't wait to sleep in tomorrow and play a little bocce ball in the afternoon - perfect way to spend the first weekend of August!

This week's Friday's Fancies theme is Maxi{mized} Summer.  Maxi dress, maxi skirt, whatever.  I was super excited when {av} emailed with the theme.  I heart maxi dresses.  I have quite a few of them.  So many, in fact, I had to put a buy ban in place and not allow myself to buy any more!!  But ... I don't have any maxi skirts.  (Hmmm... I think I found a way to get around the self-imposed buy ban... )

This one from Anthropologie would make a great addition to anyone's summer wardrobe.  Dress it up, dress it down - whatever you like!  It's versatile enough to go from a lazy summer afternoon to a hot date night with just a few accessories.

1. Tied & Tabbed Blouse - A crisp, breezy white shirt is perfect for showing off the striped maxi skirt.
2. Seamingly Maxi- Love at first sight.
3. Original Wayfarers - Need I say more?
4. Dimpled Metal Cuff - Gotta love Forever 21's cheap and easy accessories!
5. Micheal Kors Rings Sandal - Chic and casual.  Perfect.

Happy Weekend!!!
PS - If you like my Friday's Fancies, stop by {long distance loving} and give Big Mario Life a big thumbs up!!


Awkward and Awesome Thursday

--Sometimes when I smell something delicious cooking in the microwave at work, I'll poke around in the garbage can to find the container and identify the smell (don't worry, I won't do it if it's totally icky).  It's how I discovered Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala.
--I woke up yesterday morning feeling really sore and achey - kinda the way you feel when you have a fever.  I decided to take my time getting ready, fully intending to go in late.  Then I got an email that said I had to turn in some research "in 15 minutes."  Oops.
--Roughly once a month, I have to trim Molly's little nails.  She hates it.  I always come away with a scratch or bite.  Nothing serious, but enough to make it clear she is not a happy piggy.  She's the only girl I know who doesn't like a pet-icure.  Ha ha.  Ha.

--I'm planning a new business venture.  It's a little intimidating but oh so exciting!  I don't have too many details cemented so I won't say much for now.  But I will {hopefully} have some very good news soon. :)
--We're going to a bocce ball tournament in Sonoma this weekend.  And by 'tournament' I mean "playing with friends and family."  How much more California-summery can you get!!
--Figs.  I just can't get enough of those yummy things!  My fave breakfast at the moment is a toasted whole wheat English muffin with lowfat cream cheese and sliced figs.  Yum!!



To Dye For

While The Boyfriend was working over the weekend, I decided to update my wardrobe.  But I didn't go shopping.  Oh, no no no.  I did a little DIY instead.  It all started because I have this little white sweater that I haven't worn in about a year.  I may or may not have washed it with darks and it may or may not have had a slightly bluish gray tint to it as a result...

Anyway, I also have a favorite pair of skinny jeans that I wear all the time.  My love was starting to leave it's mark in the form of worn thighs and faded coloring.  I thought about tossing them and buying new skinnies but I just couldn't bear to part with them.  Then a light bulb went off.  These clothes deserve a second chance at life!!  I hurried my little tushie over to Safeway and picked up a few bottles of Rit dye.  Now I have a lovely salmon pink cardigan and new-ish dark blue skinnies!!

I used half a package of Scarlet mixed into a bucket of hot water.  The directions said to let it sit in the dye for 10-30 minutes but after about 5 it looked darker than what I wanted.  A little tip on dying clothes - let them stay in the dye until they're a shade or two darker than what you actually wanted.  By the time you rinse the item and then run it through the wash (on cold), it lightens up.

The jeans used to be a deep dark indigo.  After years of love, they were looking a little too light for my taste.  I mixed one package of Navy with half a package of Black and let the jeans marinade for 10 minutes.

The before/after difference isn't as obvious in photos as it is in real life but I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.  They ended up being the shade they were when I first bought them.  I think I'm in trouble now, though...  I keep searching my closet for more clothes to dye!!



Wise Words | Ridiculously Amazing

Even though my boss is on vacation, things at work are still crazy-busy!!  (I've been getting work/project-related emails from him since 6am!)  Oh well.  When it rains, it pours, right?  The DIY post is coming soon... so so soon.  In the mean time, a little motto I'm trying to keep in mind this lovely Tuesday.  I'm thinking about putting this up in my office as a reminder to tone down the stress and turn up the awesome in all that I do.

Via etsy


Weekend Snippets {vol. 8}

Friday was an incredibly stressful yet unproductive day at work.  I needed something to brighten up my day so I picked up two $2 bottles of nail polish at Target.  I love the recent trends of robin's egg blue and mint green nail polishes.  I found one called "Mint Sorbet" and brushed a little on my pinky nail to check out the color (you know you do it too!).  But the mint just wasn't enough.  Then I spotted a little bottle of gold glitter called "Set the Stage."  I brushed a little on top of the mint and fell in love.
We spent some time with family baking old recipes and just hanging out.  It was so fun and relaxing.  I also painted The Boyfriend's 9-yr. old cousin's nails with the gold glitter above.  Eating, laughing, chatting, and doing nails...  What more could a girl ask for on a Saturday afternoon?

We both had a little bit of work to do on Sunday so we kept it low key and did a few household chores.  We ventured out to Pizza Rock for lunch to enjoy some live music and award-winning pizza.  I also did a little DIY project that I'll show you tomorrow, once as soon as it's dry and ready to photograph.  For dinner, I made butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter and lemon sauce.  It was a little sweeter than I intended but overall pretty delish!
What's not pictured here?  A fab sushi dinner and actual photos of the award-winning pizza.  I have no problem at all taking photos of homemade food (or food in foreign countries, apparently).  And I think I'm actually pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.  But for some reason, I get a little self-conscious when it comes to taking photos in restaurants.  Do you feel the same way?  Or do you just whip out the camera and snap away?  (If so, I need to be more like you!!)

Happy Monday!!
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