Chocolate Chip Cookies with Gray Sea Salt (Low Altitude)

When our family moved to Seattle three and a half years ago, I attempted my usual chocolate cookie standby only to find that it turned out completely different in my new location.  Unrecognizable even. The cookie's identify crisis was likely due to the change in elevation and air moisture--which made sense--but was nonetheless disappointing.  To where would I turn on a bad day without a go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe on hand?  As a remedy to this unfortunate predicament, I then spent the new few years trying to revamp the recipe to my liking (this part my family and friends enjoyed a lot). I am not exaggerating when I say I've modified this recipe probably 20 times (and may continue to do so...who knows?!), as I tried to create what I felt was the perfect cookie.

I am aware of the strong opinions out there regarding chocolate chip cookies.  Some people like them soft, others crispy.  Some like them puffy, and others like them more flat.  Some like them with milk chocolate, and others enjoy them with dark chocolate. And last, some like them only dipped in milk and others prefer the cookie dough in it's glorious, raw state.  It's all a matter of personal preference, of course, which keeps us all on constant lookout for the perfect cookie.

My version uses a good, semisweet chocolate; Guittard and Ghirardelli create fantastic chips and usually one of these brands is available at every standard grocery store. This recipe calls for eleven ounces of chips, which leaves a few left in the bag to munch on or to pawn off on your toddler (an ideal scenario if your child is like mine and begs for chocolate chips constantly).  The easiest way to measure eleven ounces is to use a digital kitchen scale.  They are an incredibly useful addition to every kitchen and cost around ten dollars.  Last, these cookies are not overly sweet and have a kick of French gray sea salt there at the end.  Good stuff, my friends.  I hope you love them like we do!

{recipe below}

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How to Make the Most Beautiful Paper Flowers

Now that we are all spotting pops of color here and there and sunshine is showing its face more often, it's time to relish in this beautiful season.  To celebrate, I wanted to share with you this online flower making course by Brittany Jepsen of the beautiful and highly creative blog, The House that Lars Built. Formerly an ex-pat living in Denmark, she now resides in the US and presents the most inspiring blend of creative projects both on her blog and at workshops.

You also must know that her paper flower creations are the prettiest I've ever seen. And, if you want in on that, you can sign up for her online flower making course; one that you can take at your own pace (love this part!).  She's also kindly offered my readers a 15% discount with the code "MODO". Wahoo!

p.s. if you live in Seattle, hit up Packaging Specialties for supplies.  They have the prettiest hues of crepe paper.

images via The House that Lars Built

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Spiced Buttermilk Banana Bread with Hazelnuts

This recipe is one of the most beloved in our home--we pretty much all go crazy for it!  The combination of bananas, vanilla, buttermilk, good sea salt, hazelnuts and aromatic cardamom make it my go-to recipe when the bananas are past their prime.  In fact, I buy a lot of bananas, just so I have an excuse to make this recipe.  I can easily down one of these perfectly moist, mini loaves in one sitting; so be warned that it's dangerously delicious!

If you want to save yourself some time (and I highly recommend you do so), buy pre-chopped hazelnuts.  You can find them in the baking aisle at your local Super Target, QFC and sometimes at Fred Meyer and Harmons.  Be sure to use good vanilla too--I like the Nielsen Massey (also at Target, Williams Sonoma, etc.) or the pure bourbon vanilla extract at Trader Joes.

One last note on my Spiced Buttermilk Banana Bread with Hazelnuts recipe...when I decide to make banana bread, I don't want to just make one loaf.  If I am going to the effort to make something from scratch, I want to make a lot!  More to consume and more to share.  This recipe will make either 3 large loaves (in standard loaf pans), 8 mini loaves or a combination of the two--4 mini loaves and 2 large loaves.  It's really up to you!

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Top Wardrobe Essentials for Spring 2014

Now that it's actually starting to feel like Spring in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. you can actually walk out of the house without your wool socks and a jacket some days), I asked one of my favorite friends, stylist Beverly Jacobs, to share her top wardrobe essentials for Spring, 2014.  I hope you enjoy this edited collection!  Beverly really does have an eye for style--always has, always will--but, it's her energy and zest for life that I truly adore. If you live in the LA area, look her up!  

And, while we all know that what you wear isn't the most important thing in life, it is nice to know where to allocate your budget or what gaps to fill.  I'm all about bang for buck, so a tidy list like this is quite helpful to a gal like me, who truly has no idea what's trending right now (my uniform tends to be skinny jeans, boots and a striped shirt. like every day. help!).  What I found helpful for me, was to move down through the list, link by link, to get an overview.  Then, I thought about what I already had and how I could wear it differently (or just actually wear it); and, hopefully pick up something fun along the way.

the oversized white button down   /   a boxy striped top   /   another boxy striped top   /   brogues

the perfect casual pant with the perfect amount of slouch   /  rounded sunglasses   

perfect little jacket   /   lizzie fortunato scale bracelet   /   high rise skinny jeans

floral top   /   tropical floral print bag one   /   tropical floral print bag two   /   slip on vans 

cable knit sweater one   /   cable knit sweater two   /   crew neck muscle tee

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Joyfolie Handcrafted Shoes + a Spring Sale Today Only

Have you ever spotted the beautiful, handcrafted shoes over at Joyfolie?  They are all so pretty and look so special to me.  If you've ever shopped for children's shoes, then you know how difficult it is to find mini versions of the stylish shoes in your own closet.

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Hello Kitty Birthday Party

Over a year has passed since I planned this little birthday party for my daughter, Sophie.  I hoped to share these images with you much sooner, but you know how life goes sometimes.  Things just manage to get in the way, now don't they?  I have to admit, I relish in that fact that at least one of my children still enjoys a homespun party (I'll be riding that train as long as possible!).  

Just before she turned six last year, we discussed the type of party she wanted.  She was emphatic about having a Hello Kitty Birthday Party, which initially I had no idea how to pull off without being tacky. Thankfully, she's the cutest licensed character of them all.  Also, thank goodness she is often accompanied by polka dots.   

While guests arrived, I led the girls to a little craft table in the family room, where they each made their own Hello Kitty mask.  This type of distraction gave the littles a chance to channel all their energy towards creating something of their own.  The craft wasn't fancy or complicated, just something short and sweet to amuse them for the first fifteen minutes.  The alternative is your home turning into a bounce house... :)  

I used some pretty spoons I already owned for mini serving ware.  Napkins were simple, white and from the local grocery store.  I simply stamped them and used a bit of baker's twine as an accent. Super easy! 

Since I try to keep all of my children's parties within a $100 budget, you'll notice I reuse many of the same things for each party.  I included online links below, but keep in mind these are things you might be able to find locally too (bottles-grocery store; dishes-Target; tablecloth-Craigslist).  

These basics create a clean, flexible base for each party.  Add in fun paper, ribbon, flowers, balloons, garlands, straws, etc. and you have a "new" party each time.  Another money saver is to make the cake or cupcakes from scratch, versus buying them elsewhere.  The star of the dessert table can be a real money suck and since cupcakes are so simple to make, go ahead and give 'em a shot.  If you can make easy muffins, you can make a basic cupcake recipe. Promise!  

I typically snag a cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart and then use the Sprinkles recipe for the frosting.  

In order to fill up the table with treats and make it feel special, I supplemented the homemade cupcakes with some store bought treats as well.  When you have a Trader Joe's nearby, it's pretty easy to stay on budget and fill up your cart :)  It's the best.  Anyway, I found some pretty vanilla meringues (the girls loved these!) and yogurt covered pretzels from TJ's, as well as a bunch of Pocky sticks from Daiso (where everything is $!). 

A few other notes...

For party favors, I slipped a Hello Kitty pen and a few matching erasers in a clear, cello bag. Also, per tradition, we sent each guest off with a balloon as well.    

Pin-the-blank-on-the-blank is the classic, go-to party game for every child 7 and under in our home.  I just can't stop myself.  It's so fun every time!  

Also, I typically double up on straws because inevitably one doesn't function properly (especially if the straws are paper) and because it's more fun to have more color!  

To peek at other parties, head here.  Enjoy!

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