A New Chapter: Baby Shower Fun

How better to start this time of your life than with a nod to all the books you're going to have to read 1000 times each?

How better to start this time of your life than with a nod to all the books you’re going to have to read 1000 times each?

Last year, I had the chance to take the Wilton cake decorating classes, and I fell in love. Now, when someone offers me the chance to bake for them, I jump at it. This baby shower was no different. I mean, a chance to flex my creative muscles and try a new technique? Absolutely I’ll take it!

The big things to keep in mind for baby showers are these: What does the mom-to-be love to eat, and how can you make those things finger-friendly?

In this situation, the mom-to-be was a woman after my own heart. The only thing to work around was her allergy to apples. Considering some of the allergies other friends have, apples are a walk in the park!

Eat all the finger foods!!!

Eat all the finger foods!!!So, the menu was easy to pull together: Mac n cheese cups, chicken salad tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and chocolate-covered pretzels. All of them are easy to display, easy to grab, and easy to eat while chatting with your friends and family. Bonus: They’re all delicious! Although I did have to find a new deviled egg recipe – my mom’s recipe uses apple cider vinegar, which I realized about a day before I got ready to prepare them, thankfully. 

The mom-to-be also requested a red velvet cake with whipped cream frosting instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting. Red velvet cake is easy, but the whipped cream frosting worried me – it’s testy at the best of times, and it can be fragile.

Fortunately, the internet is an awesome place, and any problem I have, some other home cook has had before. In this case, the very first result for whipped cream frosting was for a stabilized version! It’s still not shelf-stable, but it won’t collapse on you.

Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting (from http://www.food-pusher.com/2011/06/stabilized-whipped-cream-frosting.html?m=1)


2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp unflavored gelatin

4 Tbsp cold water

4 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar


Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water.

Scale 4 Tbsp of the cream, then pour over the water/gelatin. Mix until gelatin dissolves. Then refrigerate 10-15 minutes.

While that is cooling, start whipping the rest of the heavy cream and the sugar. You want it to get to where it forms soft peaks.

That’s when it’s time for the gelatin. Whisk your cream/gelatin mixture until it’s smooth, and add it to the whipped cream. Beat until stiff peaks form.

The hand-lettered "book" spine.

The hand-lettered “book” spine.

I also got to try a new decorating technique. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, but I can trace like a crazy fool. So I did what any self-respecting crazy fool would do: I made royal icing, printed out some pictures, broke out the parchment paper, and got to tracing. About three hours later, because royal icing is finicky and I only have one tiny piping tip, so I had to change it out every time I was ready for a new color.

I also traced the lettering. Then I sat back and let it all dry while I made my whipped cream frosting, frosted the cake, and covered it with fondant. I used the Wilton decorator preferred this time because I got it severely on sale recently. I would love to try my hand at making my own, but I just haven’t had time yet. The Wilton doesn’t taste awful, but it’s still not all that great. I used a lot of frosting underneath so ten guests could peel off the fondant and enjoy the cake and frosting.

Transferring the traced drawings onto the fondant was surprisingly simple, just a matter of shifting the parchment paper and using more royal icing to glue it on, but the letters were simply too delicate for my fumbly fingers. As a result, I had to go back and do all the lettering by hand once the other decorations were finished.

It was something of a tedious process, but the results were really quite impressive. I know not everyone likes royal icing, but it never ceases to amaze me what I can do with it and how simple it is to make. So I’m definitely a royal icing fan.

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Eating My Fill in The Big Easy

I have a confession to make: Half of the reason I’m excited about our short vacation in New Orleans next year is because of all the possibilities of good food.  And beignets.  I’ve been dying to try one since my parents came back from a trip talking about how good they are, and that was easily ten years ago.  I might even drink coffee while eating one, just to get the full experience.  (And I say that as someone who hates coffee.)

So, obviously, either early one morning or very late one night, I’ll be making a stop at Cafe du Monde to get my beignet on.  Okay, “early” one morning is a relative term in New Orleans.  As is “morning,” I suspect.  But at some point, Cafe du Monde for beignets.  That much is certain!

Now I just have to figure out where else to eat while we’re there.  I figure we’ll have one really nice night out and stick with lower-end fare the rest of the trip since we’ll be there with friends.  Dive bars, holes in the wall, as long as the food is good, I’m there.

Any suggestions?

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My Newest Venture: SouthBySouthGems

I’ve taken a break from blogging lately, less because I stopped doing recipes or crafts and more because it became more difficult to find time to take pictures and document my new recipes and crafts while running around after the Munchkin.  Usually by the time I get dinner on the table, I’ve forgotten to take a photo or I’ve lost the light.


However, I had to share my newest venture, because it’s brought me back to the joy of creating.


Earlier in the year, I was introduced in a Facebook group to the concept of nail polish jewelry.  I loved the look, and I have more nail polish than I could use in the next five years, so I gave it a shot.  I fell in love from the first piece.  One piece led to another, and pretty soon, I was in danger of qualifying for an episode of “Hoarders.”  And what’s a girl to do when she has more jewelry that she’s made than she can ever use?


She opens an Etsy shop to fund her addiction to crafting, of course!


So, behold: SouthBySouthGems.

IMAG1185Please feel free to stop by, whether you’re looking for inspiration for your own crafts or thinking about skipping a couple of steps and buying something that tickles your fancy.  I have a fantastic time just playing around with my polishes and trying new techniques.


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Trying to pump up the health

Since I got pregnant, I’ve really slacked off on eating healthy all the time.  Or even most of the time.  Combine that with a serious lack of exercise lately, and I’ve gotten sadly out of shape.  I haven’t really put on a lot of weight, but I’m not happy with how I look.

That means it’s time to start upping the ante.  I’m working in more fruits and vegetables into the diet.  I’ve cut down on the snacking.  I’ve been getting up to go walking/running almost every day for just over a week (I took a day off at the end of the week last week and again this morning).  I started a beginner 5k training program yesterday that I’m alternating with ab workouts, so I did the ab workout tonight.

As a result, I’m on the lookout for healthy recipes.  I should really hit up Pinterest for some variety since that’s where I seem to find all my recipes these days.

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Tasty Lunch Reviews

I’ve been gone for work a few days this week, and I have to say that I have had some seriously fantastic lunches while on the road.  Like, possibly the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in my entire life good.

Where did I eat, you ask?  Two tiny sandwich shops near the office I was working in: Alley Cat Cafe and Nonnie’s Kitchen.

At Alley Cat Cafe, I tried their special of the day, a turkey sandwich with apple, brie, chutney, and spinach, toasted on a panini press.  Pair that with a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, and there was one very happy Southern Sugar at the lunch table that day.  As a bonus, the ladies who run the cafe are absolutely lovely.

The day before, at Nonnie’s Kitchen, it was turkey, Gruyere, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and this incredible cranberry mustard.  I would love to know how they made that, because it was an excellent, slightly sweet complement to the bite of the cheese and the saltiness of the bacon.  Oh, and did I mention the fried biscuit with apple butter and the potato salad?  Oh my gosh, it was amazing!

I wish I had pictures of the restaurants and the food.  Especially the food.  Because I honestly haven’t had anything that delicious and charming in entirely too long.

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Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Spread

The holidays are a never-ending source of culinary exasperation and inspiration.  Exasperation as you try vainly to make forty bajillion recipes for holiday parties and holiday dinners.  Inspiration from the recipes everyone else is pinning and new delights at old favorites.

Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese

In this case, the inspiration came from a visit to one of my favorite breakfast spots: Panera.  I’m a total sucker for a whole grain bagel, sliced, toasted, and served with a fruity cream cheese.  So when I went in one workday morning just before Christmas and discovered that they had a new orange cranberry cream cheese, I had to try it.

It became my favorite thing, just in time for them to take it off the menu in favor of wild blueberry cream cheese post the holidays.  Which left me scrambling wildly to find a substitute I could make myself.

The texture of this is just a little bit off — it’s more liquidy than the Panera version — but the taste is so good that I have a hard time caring.  You can pop it on a bagel or serve it as a dip with graham cracker sticks or nilla wafers.  I even bet it would make a killer breakfast grilled cheese sandwich, although I haven’t tried that yet.  And it’s not difficult or expensive to make.

Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese (modified from Mississippi Kitchen‘s Cranberry-Orange Butter recipe)


8 oz cream cheese
1/3 c whole berry cranberry sauce
2 Tbsp orange marmalade

Bring your cream cheese to room temperature.  Mix it on medium-high for five minutes in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until it gets a nice, whipped texture.  Then add in the cranberry sauce and marmalade and beat to combine.

Bam!  You’re ready to rock and roll with a bagel or whatever floats your boat.

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Giving Nail Polish Jewelry a Shot

Nail Polish Jewelry First (1)

I kept seeing these pins on Pinterest proclaiming the easy awesomeness of nail polish jewelry, but I didn’t need any pretty, shiny things, so I passed them on by.  Then I realized that, okay, I don’t need pretty, shiny things, but dangit did I want some!

Nina Ultra Pro holographic gold topcoat backed by Butter London Queen Vic

Nina Ultra Pro holographic gold topcoat backed by Butter London Queen Vic

Sally Girl white glitter backed by China Glaze For Audrey

Sally Girl white glitter backed by China Glaze For Audrey

So last week I got online and checked out what Sun and Moon had to offer, ordered myself up some glass domes and settings, and sat back to wait.  This morning, what was waiting for me in my mailbox?  Why, a lovely priority mail package with all my settings and domes, of course!




When I got home from taking the Munchkin to spend the night with my mom (we have to make a seriously lengthy road trip for a friend’s baby shower tomorrow), I set to work.  This is really an incredibly easy process, once you get past deciding what polishes you want to use with what settings.  That part took me a while, especially since I had to round up all my errant nail polishes hanging out around the house.

China Glaze Riveting backed by Ulta Red Carpet Red

China Glaze Riveting backed by Ulta Red Carpet Red

China Glaze Water You Waiting For backed by China Glaze Hanging in the Balance

China Glaze Water You Waiting For backed by China Glaze Hanging in the Balance

Anyway, here’s how you do it:

Turn your glass pieces over so that they’re facing backside (the side you would fasten into the setting) up.

Apply one to two coats of glitter polish to get a good covering.  I needed two coats with all of them to keep them from being terribly spotty.  Let these dry completely.  Well, let me rephrase this a bit.  You don’t need a glitter polish; I just chose them to give my pieces a little bit more depth and interest.  You could just as easily use a single polish that has the amount of dimension you like, in which case you could skip the next step.

Now apply a coat of whatever solid color polish you’ve chosen to use with your glitter.  This is really just to give a solid background to your pieces or add a little color contrast or depth.  Let this dry completely.

Use resin or glue (I used superglue because we have 475,631 tubes of it between here and the shop) to fasten your domes into the settings.  Let dry completely.

Now use jewelry pliers to attach any jump rings you need to your pendants and earrings, and you have a mass of new pretties!

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Dragon Noodles

Mondays aren’t exactly my favorite day of the week.  They’re the first day of the work week, after all, taking me back to the office grind.  And on a week like this, Monday is freezing cold with accompanying sleet and drivers who freak out at the slightest hint of something slippery on the roads.  So I needed a little something to warm me up by the time I got home and got the Munchkin to bed.


Enter these delicious dragon noodles from Budget Bytes.  Inexpensive, quick, and very easy, they most definitely brought the heat and brightened my day.

I plan to bring these into the rotation at least once a month, but I think that next time I’ll add in a few veggies, likely broccoli and bell peppers, to round it out nicely.

Dragon noodles, from Budget Bytes


4 oz lo mein noodles (I used chow mein because the local stores suck and didn’t have any lo mein)
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large egg, whisked
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sriracha
1 green onion, sliced

Cook your noodles according to the package directions.  Lo mein noodles take 5-7 minutes, while chow mein noodles take only 3 minutes.

While the noodles are cooking, make your sauce by combining the brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha.  Next, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat; as the butter melts, add the red pepper flakes.  Add the egg to the pan and stir to scramble.

Once the egg has cooked, turn off the heat.  Drain your noodles and add them to the pan with the eggs and any leftover butter.  Pour in the sauce, and stir to coat the noodles and egg.  If there is extra liquid in the pan, turn the heat on low to thicken.

Dish up your noodles and top with cilantro and green onion.  Then enjoy!

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Twice-a-Month Cooking

This is my latest play on once-a-month cooking.  Call it twice-a-month cooking, if you will.  I realized that trying to do everything at once, all in one day so my mom can babysit the Munchkin, is too much for me.  Plus I had way more leftovers than I had planned last time, so this time around I can take that into account when I plan my next two weeks.

The prep

I went with a couple of old favorites, two or three “cheat nights” where I use leftovers or breakfast, and a smattering of fun new recipes.  One of which I went ahead and test-drove tonight for dinner since I was running around like crazy.  I think those roasted vegetable and black bean tacos or burritos will be making a consistent appearance in the menu rotation after this.

I also included a couple of meals with alternative proteins, primarily black beans and eggs.  Meats of pretty much all varieties have gone up quite a bit in price, so I’m trying to find ways to bring our costs down without defaulting to peanut butter and jelly every night.  Particularly since the cost of that has gone up, too.

Add into that working around Southern Honey’s … simpler tastes so I’m not making two or three separate meals in a night (I do leave some leeway for toddler pickiness on the Munchkin’s part), and I’m just glad to have everything taken care of.

So, my menu for the next two weeks:

Sunday – Italian sausages with warm potato salad
Monday – Dragon noodles
Tuesday – Creamy taco mac
Wednesday – Honey spiced glazed chicken
Thursday – Pork chops in Italian dressing
Friday – Roasted veggie and sweet potato burritos
Saturday – Leftovers

Sunday – Out of town
Monday – Island chicken
Tuesday – Black beans with cumin and garlic; cilantro lime rice
Wednesday – Barbacoa
Thursday – Meatloaf
Friday – Breakfast burritos
Saturday – Leftovers

I should definitely have barbacoa left over for a meal in the next two weeks.  With everything else, we’ll see.

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Christmas Craft Ideas

We’re looking to dial back a little bit this year for Christmas, especially since we have two friends having babies who need baby shower presents, but I still want to be able to give some great gifts.  As a result, it’s time for me to turn into Crafty McCrafterson.

One thing I’m thinking of is a bread and cheese basket: olive oil and rosemary bread, cinnamon quick bread, and both a savory and a sweet compound butter, all made at home.  I’m kicking myself a little for not managing to keep all my herbs alive for that compound butter, although I’m hoping to raid my mom’s huge basil plants to help out.

I’m also thinking a cookies and sweets basket: snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies, homemade caramels, and cherries soaked in Amaretto and dipped in white chocolate.

My third idea is a movie night basket: homemade hot chocolate mixes with tiny bottles of Bailey’s, popcorn, and gift certificates for a local movie store or a favorite movie.

For the coffee lover: A couple of small bags of flavored coffees, a tall mug with a homemade mug sleeve, and homemade tile coasters.

That’s all I’ve come up with so far, but I also have to throw together a couple of baby shower gifts, as well, so I’ve got to get cracking on all of them in short order.

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