RSS Feed



I made mini-cakes! They are adorable and mini.

Here’s what I did – it was pretty easy and a fun way to make personalized desserts.

I made one recipe of my fave carrot cake (, and baked it in a 9×13 pan. Once baked and cooled, I wrapped the cake tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour or so.


Then I used a biscuit cutter to make little cake rounds. I cut all the cake rounds into two pieces. Each cake was then made with 3 layers – 1.5 times the thickness of the cake as baked originally. It is easier to cut each round in half individually than to try and cut the whole cake in half (into two layers) at once. Trust me.

I frosted these with lots of cream cheese frosting, chilling as I went so that the outer layer would harden. I added some marmalade to the middle for yummy filling.


I also rolled some in party sprinkles.

These were so yummy and pretty. Very easy, and very fun. I served them in cupcake wrappers, for ease of eating and mobility.

One note: While cream cheese frosting is clearly the most delicious frosting ever, it does not harden like a true buttercream, which can pose decorating challenges. For example, it is difficult to pipe designs with cream cheese frosting because the shapes begin to melt, while piped buttercream designs tend to hard and hold better. You may consider just using cream cheese frosting for the middle filling, and using buttercream for your decorations.


Another note: You may be wondering why I made mini-cakes instead of making cupcakes. You may think cupcakes and mini-cakes are the same. You would be wrong. The frosting-to-cake ratio in a cupcake is way off, in a way that really bothers me. Also, cupcakes tend to be drier, in my experience, since they are basically all corners. By making mini-cakes, you reduce the amount of heat exposed edges, which makes for more delicious moister cakes. Finally, I think fully frosted mini-cakes are more adorable than cupcakes, plain and simple.


Now go make some delicious and adorable mini-cakes.





Latest Ikea Winners

Latest Ikea Winners

Wowza! Those designers at Ikea are knocking it out of the park lately. Maybe it’s because I haven’t poked around Ikea in a while, but some of their newer stuff (and some of their older things) are just so spot on – both in terms of design and price.

Here are a few things that recently jumped out at me on the Ikea website, and I just wanted to share:

RANARP Wall Lamp: The white, the gold, the flexibility! I just love it. A pair of these bad boys flanking my bed just has to happen. It HAS to.  In the words of Tracy Jordan, I love it so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. And then it would give birth to more baby white and gold lamps = AMAZING.

Ikea ranarp-clamp-spotlight__0210363_PE363794_S4

RANARP Floor Lamp: Just like its smaller, wall-hanging brother, this lamp has stolen my heart, without stealing my money. I cannot wait till we get to Seattle and I can snatch this (and possibly a pair of its brothers) right up!

ikea ranarp-floor-reading-lamp__0210371_PE363792_S4

BAROMETER Floor Lamp: Another great floor lamp, slightly more traditional than the RANARP. The nickel-plated finish looks expensive and the counterweight arm is very elegant. I can just imagine myself adjusting that light next to a cozy arm chair, a cup of tea nearby, Dickens in hand. (BTW, All Dickens books can be found for free on Kindle, so I’ve read many of them. If you are looking for a good book, David Copperfield is one of my faves.)

ikea barometer-floor-reading-lamp__0085577_PE213354_S4

GUNNERN Pedestal Table: I’m a sucker for anything robin’s egg blue, and this diminutive table, with its lovely legs and round shape just hits all the right buttons.  Would be great in an empty corner with a picture frame and a pretty vase, or next to some occasional seating as a place to put some nibbles.  The website says its not designed for outdoor use, but I suspect a covered porch or patio would also make a nice home for this sweet table.

ikea gunnern-pedestal-table__0242394_PE381796_S4

PS 2014 Green House: Charming and useful, with this adorable windowsill greenhouse, maybe I could make my black thumb a little greener.  (Editor’s note: I have kept alive both a mint and a basil plant for over two months now, so that’s something!)


PS 2014 Plant Stand:  This minimalist little plant stand could hold so many plants right near a good light source, also reducing the chance that I will kill them.  Maybe I should invest in some fake plants? (Ooh, I also just remembered that my spider plant is thriving, and even has a baby offshoot going. So plant stand full of spider plants and bamboo it is.)


SOLRUN Fabric: The water-colored effect in those vibrant colors make this an incredible floral. How great would this fabric be as cushion covers for a built-in dinette, in an otherwise mostly white kitchen?

ikea solrun-fabric__0123562_PE279752_S4

Now to get all the details of our big move to Seattle finalized, so I can hit up the Ikea!



Changing Jobs: Insurance Coverage, Cobra and the Affordable Care Act

Legal Disclaimer: I’m not a health care expert, but I am changing jobs and did a fair bit of research to figure out how switching jobs will impact my insurance and liability under the Affordable Care Act.  I thought I would share, since finding this information was not as straightforward as I had hoped. Keep in mind that this is NOT legal advice! Even though I am lawyer, I am not your lawyer, and everyone’s insurance can be a little different. So make sure to talk to your HR person to ensure that you have all the right information for your specific situation.

At my current job, my insurance runs for the whole month, so if I work just one day in that month, I am covered until the end of the same month.

At my new job, insurance coverage begins on the first of the month after the day you start. So, for example, if I started work on September 2, 2014, I would not be covered by their insurance until October 1, 2014.

This could result in about a month-long insurance gap for me.  There are two considerations with this:

  1. Could I be subject to a penalty under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?
  2. What happens if I get hit by a bus during that period?


(1) Fortunately, if you only have a small gap in coverage (less than 90 days), there is no penalty under Obamacare. Score!

(2) But what about that bus? (Knock wood!)  Well, it turns out that most businesses offer Cobra. (Businesses with more than 20 employees are usually required to offer this by law; ask your HR person.)   Cobra is essentially an option to pay your own insurance premium to maintain the insurance that your current employer offers, even after you have a “qualifying event.”  In other words, Cobra is a legal requirement that your boss allows you to maintain the company’s insurance even after stop working there.  Usually you will be responsible for paying the premium; your employer will not pay it, but you can stay on the same plan.  It’s not exactly cheap to buy this type of insurance, but it may be a good option for some.

But, Rachel, what is a “qualifying event?” In my case, the “qualifying event” is leaving my current job. It is usually anything that causes you to lose coverage. More info is here.

When you have a qualifying event (leave your job), you are given a form by your HR person that gives you 60 days* to decide whether you want to enroll in Cobra.  When you do sign up, the coverage applies retroactively back to the date of the qualifying event.  So if between the time that I leave my job and before the 60 days are up, if I get hit by a bus, I can then sign up for Cobra after the bus accident and those medical expenses would be covered as if I never had any gap in coverage. Great, right?

The other good part is that if at the end of 60 days, I have not encountered any buses or other tragic mishaps (god willing), then I do can choose not to sign up for Cobra, pay no additional money and not be subject to the Affordable Care Act penalty.  Keep in mind that this only works were your final day of insurance at your current job is less than 60 days before the date on which your new insurance would kick in – otherwise, you don’t get the luxury of waiting to see if something happens to you during that gap, you may have to pay the premium for Cobra before your new insurance starts.

Here is some [marginally] useful information about who is exempt from Obamacare penalties, about how Cobra works, and what to do if your employer does not offer Cobra.

I hope you found this somewhat helpful, even though it doesn’t involve cookies or painting or power tools.

And, remember to look both ways before crossing the street!

With love,



* The 60 days begins from the latest of either: the date of the qualifying event, the date that coverage actually ends due to the qualifying event, or the date on which you learn that you are required to inform your HR person and health plan about a qualifying event.  In my case, the 60 days will start on the day my insurance ends – the last day of the month in which I stop working.

An Engagement!

An Engagement!

Warning: this post is an annoyingly happy love story.

As some of you may already know, I recently got engaged!

Celebrating our engagement!

Celebrating our engagement!


It was just like a fairy tale, in an unsuspecting moment the love of my life pulled out my dream engagement ring and asked me to marry him, while we sat in the car at a gas station in Maryland.  True story.  At a gas station. And it was amazing, spontaneous and very romantic. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I am so happy and feel so lucky that I get to spend the rest of my life with this incredible man, who is so supportive of everything I do.  And I mean everything, from uprooting our lives (again) to move 3000 miles away so I can take my dream job, (Yep, I got engaged and got an incredible job offer on the same day. #winning!) to letting me paint (almost) everything in the apartment (almost) any color I want. I am a very lucky lady.

Oh yeah, and we are moving to Seattle in the near future so I can take aforementioned awesome job that involves nuclear weapons.  So, new job, new city, new fiance, best birthday ever, possibility of affordable real estate, returning the West Coast finally. Oh yeah. I am one happy girl.

So I’m just going to embrace this fact that this is a very self-congratulatory post and congratulate myself and my fiance again. Congrats, you two! I wish you many happy years in Seattle!


Rachel (and Victor)

PS.  Gas station proposals are the most romantic as evidenced by Jim & Pam from The Office. And ours was even better than that. :)


Pigeon Painting

Pigeon Painting

Inspired by some other pigeon art, I set out to paint my own.


I painted this little guy on canvas board with acrylic paint. I found the frame for $1 at a yard sale. $1!!! Score!


Here it is in the corner, with my new hanging lamp (post about that forthcoming).


He makes me happy. I think he needs a name.  I may also paint him a friend yet… Obviously I need lots and lots of bird art. More bird art!

Also, I had an idea that may already exist. If it exists, someone please let me know. I would like to exchange some of my original art with someone else’s original art. I desperately want original art by some other artists, but I cannot afford to buy it, and I think there is too much of my own art in my apartment.  Does some sort of art swap exist? If anyone is interested in an art swap and in the DC area, please reach out!

For the love of pigeons and art and pigeon art,


Updating Thrift Store or Garage Sale Art

Updating Thrift Store or Garage Sale Art

Sometimes you find some cheap art at a thrift store or a garage sale. It’s alright, but it’s not awesome. Here is what a little bit of paint and a few glasses of wine can do. I got this weird old duck painting at a garage sale for $4. My boyfriend thought I overpaid. . .


You can take a cute, but ho-hum duck and make it into a bright statement piece.

I painted the frame black with some paint that I had on hand. And I went in with the bright blue and some other vibrant colors to liven it up.  I just used acrylic paints.


It’s not a masterpiece, but it does help fill in my gallery wall.  And I think the duck is cute. You likely remember that I have a seriously love of bird art. (Here and here.)


Also, I’ve decided to just accept the fact that my photography skills aren’t great and post the pictures of my projects, as is. If I keep waiting until I get good at photography or have the time to stage perfect photos, I will never post on the blog. (After sitting in front of a computer for 10 or 11 hours a day at work, I can hardly bring myself to open my laptop on the weekends, let alone during the week; so I find I do all these DIY projects but cannot bring myself to share them since it requires sitting at the computer.)

Anyway, I hope you still like my abbreviated posts and real life quick phone photography.

Go find some cheap art and make it awesome.



Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

It is FINALLY getting warmer. Snow is melting. I have left my puffy coat at home for a few days, and I actually thought about NOT wearing tights this morning (I thought about it, but I’m not crazy – I still wore tights).  But, it’s still chilly enough for some hearty warm winter time comfort foods. And yet, since spring is coming, it’s best if that comfort food is also super healthy and crazy delicious.  Enter, Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley risotto.

photo 2

By cutting the arborio rice and using pearl barley, you can make a hearty whole grain risotto that tastes amazing, even if it is slightly less creamy than a traditional risotto.  The best part is that it doesn’t taste healthy but that can be our secret.

Do yourself a favor and just try it.  This is one of my new faves.


photo 1

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Makes about 5 servings for me (but 3 or 4 servings if feeding my boyfriend too).  I used my 14″ cast iron – if it had been any smaller it might be necessary to combine all the ingredients at the end in a bigger bowl/pan once the barley was completely cooked through.


8 oz pearl barley (I bought a bag from Trader Joe’s)

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 butternut squash, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter (2 is more delicious, but 1 is a little healthier)
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup apple juice, or sweet white wine (but I used apple juice, if using wine, reduce to 1/2 C, use water for rest)
2/3 C grated Parmesan reggiano
Spread squash on baking pan and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Put in oven to roast at 400F for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle and brown, but is not cooked completely through.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet, or sauce pan with low sides – the sides should be low to allow the liquid to evaporate), saute onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Put mushrooms in pan with additional olive oil and sautee until golden. Remove from pan and set aside with onions.
Put uncooked barley into hot skillet and let brown for about a minute or two over medium heat. Add 1/2 C broth. Stir frequently until broth is absorbed, then add more broth in 1/2 cup increments and stir until absorbed. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you should have added 2 to 3 cups of the broth. Stir in one tablespoon cornstarch and about a teaspoon of dried parsley. At this point, add the butternut squash and continue stirring, adding more liquid (broth and juice/wine) until absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so of frequent stirring.  Occasionally taste the barley to see if it’s tender. If all the liquid has been added but the barley is not yet tender, add a little water.
When barley is tender, or just about, add the onions and mushrooms back in. Stir frequently until all liquid is absorbed and barley and squash are completely cooked. Before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and grated parmesan until thoroughly incorporated and melted.  At this point, season with salt and lots of pepper.  You do not want to add much salt before adding the cheese, because the cheese itself is very salty.  But lots of pepper is yummy.  Serve with additional grating of parmesan on top, if desired.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,131 other followers