It’s Been Quite a Ride

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

I am ready to close the proverbial door on 2012.  Anyone with me?  It has been a year of great highs and lows both personally and globally, but glass half-full kind of girl that I am, I prefer to reflect on the moments worth celebrating.

One of the highlights of my year was launching this tiny little blog in January.  Talk about a learning curve!  Starting with the retelling of a crazy adventure that was too good to keep to myself, I dove head first into the blogosphere intending to share my, well, my love of life I suppose.  I leave the year much more tech savvy than I entered it and with a clearer sense of where I want the blog to go.  The new format (which I hope you have noticed today!) is part of that focus, and I look forward to bringing you more original images and content that take advantage of this clean, wide, streamlined layout.

my dressing room

February brought what continues to be my most widely read post.  From India to Indiana, it seems women everywhere are still searching for the perfect nude pump.

sleeping sails

Beautiful and unexpected weather visited Chicago in March, bringing runners and revelers to Lake Michigan months early.

 upside down chick

A visit to The Museum of Science and Industry on the last Saturday in April taught our family  a lesson about Perseverance.

mom

In May I counted celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom as one of my greatest blessings.

mini carrot cakes

I also leaked her closely guarded carrot cake recipe.

sharpie triathlon tattoo hugs

Ah, June.  My first triathlon was a great high and horrible low all at once, and because of that I walked away with tremendous gratitude.  And exhaustion.  Thank goodness my little sister sharpied our  favorite expression on my arm before the race because I almost sank  and think it may have saved me!

alligator

sea turtle

A trip to Kiawah Island in July brought us close to creatures big and small.  Witnessing the journey from shell to sea for a group of loggerhead turtles is something I will never forget.

Lucy Vincent Beach

fishing

fishing nets

the bare essentials

Martha’s Vineyard in August was the best part of summer.  Exploring Lucy Vincent Beach, fishing with Captain Tom Langman, and wandering Menemsha were highlights of the vacation.

acorns

September brought autumn’s arrival.

apple picking

And October, a trip to the apple orchard in Wisconsin.

birthday

And my 40th.  Yes I’m fussing with my candles.

The Sartorialist

Fashion blogger and photographer Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist came to Chicago for a book signing in November.

peppermint bark

ginger cookies

Cookies and chocolate were all over December – just ask my poor neglected bathroom scale. Which brings us to the New Year.  Resolutions or no resolutions?  I’m already working on my list….

All images via the aesthete and the dilettante

What to Bring: Mini Carrot Cakes

Memorial Day is almost here, so I’ve been working on what I will bake and take to a barbecue this weekend.  My mother makes the best carrot cake on the planet.  A cake so mouthwateringly perfect that you cannot resist cutting a thin slice and popping it into your mouth sans plate each time you pass through her kitchen because, frankly, grabbing a plate and fork means it will take that much longer for it to reach your mouth.  The crumbs fall, the frosting oozes down your fingers, but you don’t care because you are blissed out on cake.

But back to my point.  What was my point?  Oh yes, this weekend’s barbecue.  The spice of the cinnamon and the divine creaminess of the frosting seem to be the perfect accompaniment to the bold flavors of barbecue fare, so I experimented this week and adjusted the recipe for miniature sized cakes.

What makes this carrot cake so fabulous is threefold:

1) The secret ingredient of baby carrots.  Not the kind you snack on out of the bag, but baby food carrots.  That’s right.  It makes the cake incredibly moist and allows you to skip the step of cooking and food processing fresh carrots.

2) The cream cheese frosting.  Most cream cheese frostings include butter, but this one sings with just powdered sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla.

3) There are no bells and whistles.  No coconut, pineapple, ginger, or other fanciness – it is the simplest of comfort foods.

Mom’s Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 14 oz baby food carrots
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a tube pan or mini cake pans (this recipe makes enough batter for 12 mini cakes) by lightly oiling and dusting with flour or using baking spray with flour incorporated.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat sugar and oil together in a large bowl.
  5. Add eggs one at a time to oil/sugar mixture, then add your dry ingredients, nuts, and carrots. Mix until combined completely.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes to one hour if in tube pan, OR for 25 minutes if using mini cake pans.  My mini cake pans hold approximately 2/3 cup of batter (see below).  Check the size of your mini pans ahead of time with water to see how much liquid they hold and adjust your time accordingly.
  7. Let cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove cake from pan by placing wire rack on top and flipping over.  Let cool entirely before frosting (frosting recipe below).

Simple Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces ROOM TEMPERATURE cream cheese
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 t vanilla extract

Beat together until incorporated.  Frost cake/s with an offset spatula or pastry bag.  If you want to pipe and don’t have a bag, fill a ziploc bag with frosting, snip a small piece of the corner off, and there you have it.

From the photo below you can clearly see I am not a piping expert, but please note that I am using two hands.  You must grip the top of the bag and hold it closed with one hand while guiding the tip with the other hand, or frosting will ooze out of the top, making a huge mess.  Trust me.  I am speaking from experience.

This is the first time my mother’s recipe has left the confines of our family kitchens so I hope you enjoy!

*One note – I replaced the all purpose flour with a gluten-free all purpose flour for the first time this week and it turned out beautifully.

All photos via the aesthete and the dilettante