Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Finally Friday

Phew! This week has be craaaazy! Long hours, too much caffeine, and not enough "me" time. But don't worry, I didn't forget about you. Just got to get through a few more hectic days before a slight lull. And then things will start to pick up again. So hopefully I can schedule a few quality posts.

On a lighter note, this week I had a fortune cookie tell me something along the lines of, "You'll take a trip to a faraway land soon." How did my fortune know I wanted to get away for a bit? Perhaps the Florida Keys?

personal photos

Frankly, I wouldn't mind if my fortune said, "You'll enjoy a few extra hours of sleep."

How did your week go? Anything fun planned for the weekend? We're having Stephanie and her husband over for dinner on Saturday.
Pin It

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

7 random facts

A couple weeks ago, Stephanie sent me a blog award. (Thanks!) Since work is a little crazy, I thought today would be a good opportunity to cash in the post and share 7 random facts about myself. Hope you find these entertaining on a Tuesday :)

 1. Even though I'm a foodie, I'm weird about tomatoes. I don't like them raw or on salads. I'll order them on sandwiches, but pull them out about half way through. Yet I like salsa, bruschetta, tomato sauce, and ketchup.

Here's a picture of my Dad and me at an open water swim meet
2. I've broken 3 bones. My right collar bone when I was 4. My left wrist when I was 6. And my right thumb when I was 15. While swimming.

3. I have a mild obsession with pink shoes. Current count: 4 pairs. Peep toes from our wedding, sneakers from London, flats for work, and sandals for warm weather.

4. I have a maybe-not-so-secret desire to own a bakery. And I love wedding cakes. A few years ago I saw a collection of Wendy Kromer wedding cakes and just about died. Wendy is an editor of "Martha Stewart Weddings" and is the co-author of "Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes." Yes, I'm a proud owner of the book.

5. I was a cheerleader in 6th grade. Enough said. And no pictures.

Devil dog from the family I stayed with in Madrid

6. I'm kind of afraid of dogs, especially small yippy ones. I had a traumatizing experience with an evil toy poodle as a kid.

7. My first car was a green 2000 VW Passat named Jalepeno. That picture is a newer version of my car.

I'd like to pass the love onto:

Pin It

Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Designer Jules!

Today I'd like to introduce you to a friend from St. Louis. Julia, also known as Designer Jules! Everybody, this is Julia. Julia, this is everybody :) Julia and I met through a Catholic young adult group. We also volunteered together with a program for high school girls called Pure Fashion. It's a character formation program that culminates in a fashion show. Not only does Pure Fashion enhance a young woman's external appearance, but more importantly, her interior beauty and balanced self confidence.

Julia's also had a pretty busy 2011. She just gave birth to her adorable son. And she recently opened an Etsy shop! Designer Jules: You'll Love it Too. As Julia says on her blog, "I am a designer and lover of all things crafting. If there is anything that I think I can make, I give it a try. I have recently been making items that I can give as gifts at baby showers, wedding showers, and as Christmas gifts. I would love to make something for you!" 

Julia's Etsy shop currently has custom onesies with matching leggings and burp cloths. She also has some ruffled scarves for sale. Her blog showcases other products such as breastfeeding covers, boppy covers, and slings. I recently interviewed Julia to learn about some of the magic behind Designer Jules.

How did you get inspired to start Designer Jules: You’ll Love it Too?
I have always liked doing crafts and making special items for friends. When a good friend of mine was pregnant with her first child she bought a breastfeeding cover. I looked at it and realized that I could make one for her and make it so much cuter. This was about the time that a lot of other friends were having babies. So I started making covers and other baby items for them. After having friends pass my name along I decided maybe this was a fun hobby that I could do to make a little money.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sometimes friends tell me about cool things they have seen that they think I should make, or make for them. I also find inspiration and new ideas in books, websites, and magazines. I have seen items in a store that I think I can make and I give it a try. Other times, I need something for my house and I find a way to make it myself by looking on blogs and websites for ideas.

What are your favorite items to make?
That is a tough question. I really like to make custom items for clients and see the joy when they receive them. I guess my favorite items are the breastfeeding covers because I have been making them the longest and because you can use some really fun fabrics and they are very functional.

Are you able to do custom pieces for customers?
Yes, I love to work on custom pieces for clients! Some of the items that I have made have been at the request of a client. Afer I made the item for them, I have gone on to make more for myself or for others. The baby onesies are the custom pieces that I make most often. Each one is a bit different and there are so many things I can do to them.

What has been the most interesting or rewarding customer interaction you’ve had?
So far the most rewarding or exciting interaction was when I made an onesie and burp cloth for a friend to give as a baby gift. A few months later, I received an email from the woman who received the gift requesting an onesie and burp cloth for another one of her friends who’s baby was born premature. Premature babies are so precious and my heart went out to this little baby. Then, a few months after that I got word from the mom of the preemie that he was doing well and that she wanted to order something for a friend of hers. It was so exciting to hear from this mom that her baby was okay and it was so neat to finally have clients that were not friends!

Where do you see your business in the next couple of years?
I have no idea. It is so hard right now to think of that with a newborn and with no idea what the next day is going to hold. I would love to continue to make items and sell them when I have time and to make my clients happy. If I can do those two things, I will be happy. Oh yeah, and to one day break even with my finances. I love to buy fabrics and other notions and have yet to make enough money to cover all of my fun. [Side note: Julia features a new fabric or new find each Friday.]

What has been the most important thing you’ve done for the business’ success thus far?
I would say making my blog public and doing a lot of business marketing and branding. Before I went public with my blog and business, I made sure that I had business cards and labels for my products that matched my business identity. I give those out each time I make an item. I also had a few showcases at a local business to celebrate the opening of my business. The showcases were successful and a great goal to get my business items prepared for.

What’s one piece of advice for new business owners or someone looking to start a business?
Go for it. If you love doing something and you think you want to try making it into a business I say give it a try. Start small with family and friends and over time your base will grow.

(not Julia, this is our friend Leah)

I know you just started your Etsy shop (yay!). Are you working on other products that haven’t been posted online yet?
Yes. In the next few weeks I hope to finally start making pillow covers from designer fabrics. I am so excited about them! Also, I hope to offer more personalization via embroidery and with fabric. Personally, I want to start making quilts out of scrap fabric. Those might end up on the blog for sale one day, but I haven't decided yet.

Favorite quote
Do to others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)

Anything else you want to add?
Thank you so much for featuring me and I can't wait to see where your blog goes.

Thank you, Julia! I can't wait to see what the future holds for you as well.

If you're looking for a cute baby shower present or other custom items, go check out Designer Jules: You'll Love it Too. Happy Friday!
Pin It

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pitcher perfect

Hi, friends! Hope you're all doing well! Did you have a nice Valentine's Day? Work is pretty hectic for me, so we went out to dinner on Saturday night instead. And when I got home on Monday, I had two surprises waiting for me. Flowers from John (among other things) and a package from One Sydney Road. I had been eyeing this vintage pitcher for a while and I finally decided to make him mine. I think the flowers look quite pretty :) And Piper, I don't think you'll be getting it back any time soon.
Pin It

Friday, February 11, 2011


This week has been interesting. A combination of highs, lows, and every gray area in between. Thank goodness John is so loving and patient.

And for some reason I've been on a Jamie Cullum kick. He's a British pop and jazz singer-songwriter. He plays original songs as well as covers. The covers are darn good. Check out his version of Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music" and Radiohead's "High and Dry." I first heard him in 2006 on a PBS special. And I've been listening to a CD of his this whole week. On repeat. The song that really stuck with me this time around is "Twentysomething."

In this song he describes all the different options he has as a twentysomething trying to figure out his purpose in life. I'm totally there. Is it because I'm a perfectionist? Or because I'm a Millennial? I don't know. These are just thoughts circling around my head. My overly analytical mind is processing and reprocessing faster than I can type.

Another interesting discussion around the blogosphere was started by Crystal at Plush Palate. She asks how one defines success and failure. Jess chimed in and I'd like to share my response.

"Like Jess, I don’t think money is an indication of success. I have a job that pays pretty well, but it doesn’t fulfill my purpose (personally and professionally). Raising a family and having a purpose-filled job would be pretty darn successful to me. Being paid well to do what I love would be a nice bonus."

So here I am. I feel like I'm on the cusp of greatness, but there are a few things that are holding me back. Some are in my control, while others are a bit out of my hands.

Until I figure those things out, I think I'll take Jamie's advice:

I'll enjoy the roller coaster of life and I'll continue to be the best version of Cathy that I can be.
Pin It

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Banana Split Decision Cupcakes

See also: cupcake compromise

Some of you might be disappointed, but I didn't make the cheddar bacon cupcakes for the Super Bowl. John was really pulling for the banana foster cupcakes. And I still wanted to do something different that related to one of the Super Bowl teams. Unfortunately bacon was a little too different this time around for me. After a little research, a few sources told me that the banana split was invented around Pittsburgh. And I still had some raspberry frosting floating around. So I made banana foster and banana split cupcakes!

And I'm soooo glad I made the banana foster ones. Because I finally mastered buttercream! How? Just use the whisk attachment instead of the paddle attachment on my stand mixer. Why didn't I do that earlier??? Previous recipes either didn't specify or said to use the paddle. I always wondered why, but didn't really second guess.

I used the vanilla buttercream recipe from Eat Live Run (minus the vanilla bean). The recipe was similar to other ones I've used, but Jenna had a picture of the fluffiest frosting on a whisk attachment. I took that as my green light to use the whisk.! Glorious, heavenly, fluffy frosting! I'm tempted to put it on everything. But I won't because I'm in a Biggest Loser competition at work.

So how did I execute banana foster and banana split? I baked banana cupcakes (with lemon zest for an extra zip) and frosted the banana foster ones with vanilla and sprinkled the top with cinnamon and nutmeg. The banana split was frosted with raspberry frosting and sprinkled with cocoa powder. Both were topped with sweetened banana chips since they look like little footballs.

How did you spend your Super Bowl? Eat any good snacks or desserts?

Banana cupcakes
From The Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get ingredients to room temperature.

In a food processor, mix together:

2 large ripe bananas
2 Tbsp sour cream

Add and mix well:

2 eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat on low speed for 30 seconds:

2 c cake flour (OR 2 c - 4 Tbsp regular flour or cornstarch)
3/4 c + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Add 1/2 the banana mixture along with:

10 Tbsp butter, softened

Beat on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Then gradually add rest of banana mixture. Pour batter into greased or lines cupcake tins (about 2/3 full). Bake until toothpick in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 12 minutes for mini cupcakes.

Makes 4 dozen mini cupcakes. One batch of the vanilla buttercream should be able to frost 4 dozen minis. If you don't snack too much :)

Vanilla buttercream
From Eat Live Run

1 stick butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter and vanilla bean seeds on high until soft. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat well. I added the sugar one half cup at a time, tasting each time. That way you can make the frosting as sweet as you want and probably won't use as much sugar. Add milk and vanilla extract and beat on high for about six minutes, until very light and fluffy. (Be sure to use the whisk attachment!) Pipe or spread buttercream on cupcakes.

Sparkle berry buttercream
From Berry Good Cupcakes (makes twice as much as the vanilla buttercream recipe above)

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons IZZE sparkling juice, at room temperature
A few tablespoons of raspberry preserves (with or without seeds, I love Smucker's)

With an electric mixer on low, beat the butter until it starts to get fluffier. Then start adding the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Taste it every time. That way you can make it as sweet as you want and probably won't use as much sugar. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes. Add vanilla and IZZE, beating on medium for another minute. Add a couple of spoonfuls (to taste) of raspberry preserves.

The additional raspberry preserves may make the frosting a little thinner, so add a little more powdered sugar to thicken things up. If this frosting is too thick, add a little more IZZE.
Pin It

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Making a Run for It

Note: As I'm writing this post, I'm drinking our most recent batch of homebrew. A spiced winter ale :)

As I hinted a few posts back, I've started training for my fifth half marathon. (My fourth St. Louis half marathon!) While I enjoy running, part of me registers for races as an extra boost to get my butt off the couch. Winter is pretty ugly in Chicago and it's easy to be lazy and sit inside. Plus, this is the busiest time of year for me at work. I tend to forget about taking care of myself (exercise, eating, sleeping, etc) if I don't have something to work towards. Since I know some of my coworkers and friends have the same tendencies, I thought I would share a few tips on running and staying fit during the winter months.

Set a goal to stay motivated
You don't have to do something beyond your capabilities like running a half marathon or marathon. Maybe a 5K (3.1 miles) is more within your means. To stay extra motivated, find an accountability buddy to train and run the race together. Nobody willing to train with you? Join a running group in your city. Tell your friends and family about the race and invite them to cheer for you on race day.

Find your perfect training plan
There are several excellent websites with free training plans. If you've never run a 5K, I recommend the Couch to 5K plan. You'll start off by walking with a little jogging and build up to running 3 miles. Hal Higdon also has a wide variety of training plans. From the 5K all the way up to an ultramarathon (50+ miles). Jeff Galloway, the brains behind the run-walking, low mileage training program also has several options.

Keep track of your progress

Part of my RW training log

No need to get a fancy GPS-enabled watch to track your mileage. All you need is a basic sport watch that can track your time. And then use a website such as to map your run (duh). Once you have your mileage and time, write it down somewhere. A notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, or something like Runner's World's online training log (what I use). It's very encouraging to see how far you've run. And I love analyzing my stats. 728.4 miles for all of 2010! And I just learned that I can export my stats to Excel for further analysis. I'm in love!

Gear up

My biggest tip is to buy real running shoes at a real running store. The employees know what they're talking about and can help you find the best shoe for your feet. They may even tape your gait and biomechanics while you're running on a treadmill. In Chicago, I shop at Fleet Feet (they have locations nationwide). In St. Louis, I shopped at The Running Center of St. Louis. In Cleveland, I went to Second Sole. There may be other local running stores near you. And please...don't pick your shoe based on color! A pink shoe for overpronators will only cause problems if you need a neutral shoe. A good running shoe will probably cost around $100. This is an investment in your health.

As for socks, it's a good idea to buy moisture wicking socks. Cotton is no good. It'll keep all the sweat in and lead to blisters. I also use Body Glide on my feet or any other places prone to blisters or chafing.

You don't need fancy clothes to run. I'm sure you already have shorts, a t-shirt or tank top, and a sports bra. Moisture wicking clothing helps, but it isn't necessary. Target and Old Navy have some pretty good options for less.

I'm not a medical professional or running coach. So you'll probably want to get a physical before starting running or training for a new distance. And be sure not to do too much mileage, too fast. A good rule of thumb is not to increase either your (1) weekly mileage and/or (2) long run mileage by more than 10 percent a week.

Other than that, just get out there and run!

Runners, it's your turn. Do you have any tips for a rookie runner?
New runners, what are your burning questions about training?
Pin It

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Super (Bowl) Desserts

How's everyone doing out there? Snow-pocalypse is pummelling Chicago. We even had thundersnow (thunder and lightning during the blizzard)! That's what it looks like outside, from the comfort of my living room. Maybe I'll venture out later to take a few more pictures.

For now, we're going to discuss more important things. Baking.

This weekend is the Super Bowl. I'm not much of a football person and this year will be especially tough. It's Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh. I'm from Cleveland and there's a big rivalry between the Browns and Steelers. John is a big Bears fan, so he's obviously upset that the Packers made it to the Super Bowl. So I guess I'll be cheering for the commercials. And bringing something tasty to the party.

I'm still deciding what to make, but until then I'll share a little recap of what I've made the last three out of four years. Either I can't find pictures of the fourth year or I didn't make anything good.


The Bears went to the Super Bowl! Obviously I needed to make something just for John. Rice Krispie treats in team colors. Just add food coloring when you're melting the marshmallows and butter. And the logo was made out of M&M's.


Nothing in team colors. Just a yummy chocolate layer cake with Bailey's buttercream. The chocolate cake recipe was from Smitten Kitchen and the buttercream recipe was also from Smitten Kitchen.


Hmmmm.....not sure about this year. Moving on.


In 2010, I really hit my stride with baking. Once again, I didn't care too much for the teams (New Orleans vs. Indianapolis). But I did make some awesome cupcakes based on each cities culinary specialties. Banana foster for New Orleans. And a Midwest favorite, chocolate peanut butter, for Indianapolis. I also made peanut butter banana and chocolate with vanilla buttercream. I was especially proud of the logos. Melted chocolate piped on waxed paper.

Thoughts on 2011? I don't think cheese curds go very well with cupcakes. John requested banana foster cupcakes again. If nothing else, we have our latest homebrew to bring. Spiced winter ale (also known as Christmas Ale, but we're a little late for that).

Pin It

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to Fiscally Chic!

Makeunder My Finances is currently being shared at Makeunder My Life......yay!!!!

Hi, Makeunder My Life readers! Welcome to Fiscally Chic! I blog about "saving money with style" two or three times a week. I also post recipes, talk about running, and share other things that inspire me. If this is your first time here, I encourage you to make yourself at home and take a look around. Here's a little more about me and about Fiscally Chic. If you're looking for the cupcakes, they hang out with the other recipes.

To give you a little history and my connection with MML, Jess is my first friend in Chicago. I began following her blog before moving to Chicago and met her in person at one of her Macy's trunk shows. At first we considered getting to know one another over coffee or wine, but I finally suggested going running. She's run a few marathons, I've run some halfs and a full, so I thought she would be game. Now we meet up for the occassional run (or brunch during the cold months) and dinners to discuss life and our dreams.

And if you're a regular at Fiscally Chic and haven't hopped over to Makeunder My Life, I would definitely recommend it! It just might change your life.

Jess, thanks again for sharing Makeunder My Finances!

PS - She also designs some super stylish jewelry. I recommend the Franklin "I LOVE YOU" necklace for Valentine's Day.

Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...