Valentine Cupcakes, Cookies, and Cheesecake

Valentine cupcakes were a hit for Valentine’s Day this year. Kate and I baked up a gorgeous batch of chocolate frosted strawberry cupcakes with adorable Valentine sprinkles. We couldn’t seem to stop there because we followed that up with some of the cutest sugar cookies frosted with a lemon frosting and, again, more Valentine sprinkles.

Valentine cupcakes

Over the last year Kate and I have really gotten in to baking treats for holidays. We bake treats from scratch throughout the year everything from chocolate chip bar cookies to brownies, but we’ve never really focused on holiday treats aside from traditional Christmas things. It used to be that we would bake sugar cookies at Christmas and maybe an angel food cake at Easter. We changed it up this year by adding to our cookie cutter collection.

We bought a set of different sized heart shaped cookie cutters for Valentine’s Day. Then we ran across the cutest shamrock cookie cutters so now we have plans for St. Patrick’s Day cookies. And, we’ve already stocked up on Easter shaped cookie cutters as well.

But, back to Valentine’s Day! The Valentine cupcakes were inspired by Kate finding the most adorable red and white polka dot cupcake liners. The Valentine cupcakes became our spin on chocolate covered strawberries by using a strawberry flavored cake batter and homemade fudge frosting.

cherry cheesecake for Valentine's DayMy gift to Mike this year was a cherry cheesecake. Cheesecake is his absolute favorite dessert and I’ve finally gotten around to learning how to make cheesecake. Christmas marked my first New York style cheesecake and for Maggie’s 10th birthday I made a triple chocolate cheesecake.

So, for Valentine’s Day it seemed only right to make a decadent cheesecake with a homemade cherry topping. Although the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was a huge hit. I’ve actually found that making cheesecakes from scratch isn’t all that hard and it’s so worth the trouble!!!

5 Ideas for Renewing Your Wedding Vows

Vow renewals are a wonderful way to recommit to your marriage. There’s really no wrong way to do a renewal ceremony. Some couples that didn’t have a big wedding may choose to pull out all the stops and create the ceremony of their dreams. Others may prefer a low-key affair with just a few friends and family. Still others, like Michael J. Knapp and his wife, choose to have a destination ceremony so they can combine a family trip with the event.

Here are just a few ideas for planning the perfect vow renewal ceremony:

Pick a meaningful theme: Your marriage has no doubt been filled with meaningful moments. Any one of your important shared memories or interests can spark inspiration for your ceremony. Whether it’s a favorite vacation spot, a shared love of a culture or cuisine, or a favorite movie or novel, you can create a theme that reflects your unique marriage. Or, you can choose a broader theme that reflects your shared journey, looks back at your happy past, or looks forward to the next chapter in your lives.

Write your own vows: When you get married, you typically say traditional vows designed to join you as husband and wife. A renewal ceremony is your opportunity to create vows that are truly personal and reflective of you as a couple, based on how well you know each other now. Try incorporating shared memories, personal stories and reasons you would marry your spouse all over again. Many websites offer templates for vow renewals to use “as is” or as a springboard for your own ideas.

Consider a destination ceremony: Coordinating a large wedding that will take place far away can be challenging and expensive. However, because renewal ceremonies tend to be simpler and more intimate, they may be the perfect opportunity to travel somewhere fun or meaningful. Michael Knapp and his wife Amber, decided to head to Hawaii to renew their vows, and it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

Include your children: If you have children, consider making them part of the ceremony. They can be ring bearers or flower girls, they can walk you down the aisle or they can say a few words in your honor. They can also help with the decorations. For example, they can draw pictures of your family that you can use for the invitations or as table centerpieces.

Add personal touches: Incorporating special decorations or entertainment that reflect your life together, your heritage or your family traditions is a nice way to make your ceremony truly meaningful. Enlarge your favorite wedding photo and place it where everyone can see it. Or, place your wedding album and a family photo album on a table for guests to leaf through. You can also highlight a piece of heirloom jewelry or clothing in the ceremony or reception. Also consider honoring your roots by weaving in traditional wedding practices that reflect your heritage. Michael J. Knapp and Amber Knapp honored Amber’s Scottish heritage by incorporating the ancient tradition of handfasting into the ceremony.

Birthday, Birthday…

What do you get when you layer fabulous hometown beer, grilled steaks, and triple chocolate mousse cake? An amazing birthday. Yesterday was my birthday, I’m inching closer to the big 4-0 and I’m actually feeling pretty good about it. It helps to have a wonderful husband who is 12 years older and has very little sympathy for me where the aging process is concerned.

Mike is going to be 50 this year and he still gets up every morning and wages a life or death struggle with his ridiculous cat. That is a man who is not going quietly into senility by any stretch. I really have very little room to complain about 40 looming out there, just two years away.

I also have to appreciate a man who will stretch my birthday into an entire weekend of celebrating. Our family is notorious for stretching out birthdays and my birthday was certainly no exception. We celebrated all weekend long and it was wonderful!!

Saturday we spent a few hours at Lengthwise Pub. We indulged in the Zeus Imperial IPA (probably the only IPA I actually enjoy) and some fabulous food. I also had a Truffle, Lengthwise Kern County Crude Porter mixed with their Raspberry Wheat. It made for a delightful, chocolate-y, coffee, raspberry, dessert beer. I’m a dark beer girl at heart so this was the ideal way to end our trip to Lengthwise.

Sunday morning we rolled out of bed and headed to a local breakfast spot, J&M’s Bar & Grill. Mike had the homemade corned beef hash and eggs with a side of biscuits and gravy. I had the eggs benedict and the girls had pancakes and french toast. The eggs benedict was really fabulous. I’m picky about my hollandaise sauce and this one fit the bill nicely. It was the ideal way to start the day of my official birthday.

We spent the day visiting some nurseries in town. Our weather has been so spring-like lately that we almost forgot it was still January. It was a great day just hanging out with family and enjoying a little sunshine and mild weather.

One of the highlights of my birthday was logging into Facebook and seeing all the sweetest, birthday wishes from friends and family. I am really blessed to know some amazing people and have some of the sweetest friends on the planet.

Sunday morning I found myself tagged on instagram with the sweetest birthday collage ever:

Birthday collage

Katie is the most thoughtful daughter a mom could ever want. Each one of these pictures is a really great memory for me. There is Katie’s first birthday up in the top right corner and the bottom slide is from a baseball game last summer. Needless to say, this was a really special and very thoughtful treat.

We ended my birthday with a fabulous dinner. Mike grilled gorgeous steaks and we had a great dinner with all the trimmings. My birthday cake this year was an amazing triple chocolate mousse cake. There really aren’t enough words to describe the decadence of that cake, it was truly a cake fit to cap off an amazing birthday weekend.

Of course, after all that weekend indulgence the girls and I were out first thing this morning for a 2 mile run. ;)

Now to figure out how to fill the next 11 months until my next birthday! ;) We have lots of adventures planned this year so I bet it will fly by!