Thursday, February 20, 2014

Subtle Pattern Mixing at 23 Weeks

Dr. S and I had a casual date night out in Santa Monica at Mercado about a month ago (yes, I'm super behind with blogging!).  Seeing the hectic schedule of my friends with kids, I knew that these spontaneous date nights were going to be pretty few and far between once baby bear made her appearance.  I wore this same outfit to work earlier in the day, and just swapped out my flats for some heels.  And luckily my feet haven't swollen too much and I could still fit into them!

With regards to maternity wear, I tried to extend some of my old clothing as much as possible.  Most of my looser tops fit me well into my second trimester.  As for pants, I pretty much gave into purchasing maternity pants around the 20 week mark.  I would still be able to wear my regular pants unzipped with a Bellaband around half the time.  For those pregnant women who are just starting to show, I would highly recommend a Bellaband!  I just got one in black, which I thought was the most versatile color.  In general, I felt bad spending a ton of money on maternity clothing I would only wear for a few months.  These pants were a great deal at Old Navy as they were on sale for under $20! 


Striped shirt: Madewell (from their Fall collection, but similar here).  Maternity pants: Old Navy 'The Pixie' in Black Dots (another pattern here).  Purple suede heels: Christian Louboutin (last seen here).  Handbag: Longchamp 'Le Pliage Cuir' in Medium.  Necklace: Forever21.  Ring: Madewell 'Stencil' ring.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Berry Filled Celebration Cupcakes

Carolyn and I made these a while back when she was visiting us in LA.  Even though we made these for my friend Becky's birthday, we thought these would be perfect for a Valentine's Day post!  The surprise mixed berry center provides a slightly tart counterpoint to the sweeter buttercream frosting. We topped them off with coconut flakes as they nicely cover any imperfections in the frosting, leaving a perfect looking cupcake.

While out shopping for ingredients for these cupcakes, we found out that silver dragees (i.e. those pretty shiny little silver balls that are used to decorate cakes/cookies) were made illegal in California a few years ago.  We found a great silver crisped rice substitute at a cake supply shop (for those in LA, we went to Gloria's in Culver City). 

While most of our recipes are super straightforward, we first attempted to make these cupcakes with an Italian meringue buttercream frosting (similar to what we used for our Ombre Almond Cupcakes).  We don't know if it was our eggs or the temperature in the kitchen or our thermometer, but our baking luck was certainly lacking that day.  Instead of a light, fluffy buttercream, we were left with a soupy, curdled, lumpy mess on not only one but on TWO attempts.   We then scrapped that recipe, and went with an old tried and true favorite, a classic buttercream, and ended up with a deliciously moist cupcake!  


Vanilla Cupcakes with Mixed Berry Filling and Coconut Flakes
Adapted from here

Vanilla Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mixed Berry Filling
2 cups frozen mixed berries 
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Basic Vanilla Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 
6 cups confectioners' sugar 
1/2 cup milk 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2-3 cups coconut flakes
Sprinkles or dragees

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour. 

In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. 

Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. 

For the berry filling, combine the frozen berries, sugar, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a small saucepan.  Place over medium heat until boiling, stirring occasionally.  Add additional cornstarch if necessary for thicker filling.   Set aside to cool.

For the vanilla buttercream, place the butter, confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix until light and fluffy.
  Once cupcakes and berry filling have cooled, use a small knife to cut a hole in each cupcake in the shape of an upside down cone.  Set aside the cupcake piece that was cut out.  Place a dollop of berry filling in the hole.  Cut the tip off the cupcake piece, and place back on the cupcake to cover the filling.   Use an offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Cover with coconut flakes.  Decorate with sprinkles or dragees if desired. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Life by Appointment Turns 1!

Here's the story about Sarah and me…

We met nearly 14 years ago in college.  Being in the same sorority didn't necessarily mean you were friends, especially when there were over a hundred girls.   Sarah and I were drawn together by our similarities - we were organized and a bit obsessive over details, and enjoyed crafts and baking.  Some of my favorite college memories are from our monthly baking sessions in our ill-equipped dormitory kitchen.  After college, I would hear updates about Sarah from our mutual friends but sadly, we lost touch.  Then three years ago, at another sorority sister's wedding in Thailand, we were reconnected and realized that we were both heading to LA to further our medical training.  Sarah found her and Dr. S's apartment first.  Knowing that she had done extensive research (due to her aforementioned organization), I signed the lease for my apartment in the same building when I went out a few weeks later.  

For two years, while Mr. J and I were doing long-distance, Sarah and Dr. S were my family.  I don't think I could have survived the separation (and my fellowship) without them.  Our friendship, that stemmed in college from common interests, grew into a closeness shared by sisters.  Mr. J and Dr. S also became fast friends.  They enjoyed each others company so much that when Mr. J would come to visit, we would often spend the weekend together as a foursome.  It was a unique situation and through this, Life By Appointment was born!

I am so thankful to have started this blog with one of my best friends.  It reminds me to enjoy life, even when the stresses of work seem all-consuming.  To commemorate our first year, Sarah and I have scoured our posts and picked some of our favorites.  This virtual walk down memory lane left my heart full of happy memories.

Best of Sarah

Picking my 3 favorite looks of Sarah was tough!  When it comes to personal style, I am the first to admit that Sarah has me beat.  She epitomizes Cali chic - feminine and stylish with a touch of boho.  She also has the most amazing ability to find incredible deals on designer pieces, which she pairs seamlessly with affordable fast fashion.  So without further ado… the best of Sarah from Life By Appointment's first year!

Blush from Head to Toe

This year has really flown by, and having Life by Appointment has been an amazing blessing.  People frequently ask how I could possibly have time to maintain a blog while in the midst of residency (a not-so-easy one at that!).  This blog serves as a reminder to take some time for ourselves, doing the things we love, like baking, cooking, crafting.  Lucky for me, it gave me an excuse to spend even more time with one of my best friends, and I couldn't be more thankful!

Best of Carolyn

I had so much fun going through all of Carolyn's outfits over the past year!  As Carolyn mentioned, picking out just three favorite outfits was a difficult task.  I even cheated a little bit since that last post is really three outfits in a single post!  Carolyn has possibly THE BEST DRESS COLLECTION of anyone I know.  She's one savvy shopper, as she splurges on classic items she knows she'll be wearing for years to come (i.e. her Christian Louboutin nude pumps, her Burberry trench), and jazzes them up with fun, trendier pieces from more affordable stores like Zara and Asos.  Here are my favorite three outfit posts from Carolyn this past year!

Thank you to all of our loyal readers for a fantastic first year!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Week in Paradise

Aloha!  Mr. J and I just returned from a week of rest and relaxation in Maui.  This was my first trip to Hawaii and I am hooked.  From California, it is such an easily accessible paradise and I am already planning a return trip.  I had booked this trip many months ago on an impulse and then felt guilty about it.  But with Mr. J and I both reaching our breaking points at work, this vacation was a much needed escape and it could not have come at a better time.

Normally with trips, I'm still "on the go" - always wanting to make sure I'm seeing and experiencing as much as I can.  As a perpetual planner, I usually research as much as I can about each destination and map out an itinerary to maximize my time.  This was probably my least researched vacation ever.  Other than the essentials (transportation and shelter), I had planned absolutely nothing.  Mr. J and I packed last minute, made a pact to disconnect from work, and hopped a plane.  For the first time in a long time, I simply enjoyed being in the present and it was glorious.

 White dress: Zara. Gold heeled sandals: Zara. Gold bangles: Stella and Dot.

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