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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New Design Debut!

Our new design is up and we are so thrilled! How do you like it? Leave us a comment! -Alison & Laurie

Special Announcement

Hello, beautiful Fanciful Ink readers!

Our much anticipated blog revamp is underway right now. We love our new design and cannot wait for you to see it! We will have a clean, classy look that is beautiful and displays our new Paper Pearl logo, our new colors, links to our separate sites (Fanciful Ink is a bit under construction, sorry!),and new social media sites!! We will have links to our NEW Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest, Instagram and Bloglovin'!

Please understand that Alison and I still have our separate businesses and collaborate here. For a while now, I have used as Paper Pearl as well, though they are not one in the same. You can read more about our separate businesses/products in the "Us" tab in the Navigation bar. Paper Pearl will soon be its own entity, and the web address will be changing to allow to be my business site featuring my latest designs as well as past designs. The change will not happen overnight and you will certainly be informed of it well before hand.

For now, please enjoy our new design when it comes, show us your love on the new social media sites we have created (once it is up, please excuse our bare bones, we are working to make it really pretty for you!) and continue to enjoy the blog.

I just wanted to give you a heads up on what is to come! We are both very excited for the future and are extremely grateful for your readership!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Revamp that chocolate cake!

For any of you who have fallen short of removing a moist cake from the oven...I am here to help! There was this one time when I made one of the best chocolate cakes ever (Hershey's Perfect Chocolate cake - back of the Hershey's cocoa container) and did not adjust my baking time to account for increasing the number of layers baked. What happened? You guessed it. Dry chocolate cake. This cake was for the party of a lifetime! Laurie's bachelorette party!! What was I to do?! Think quick and improvise! I had a trip to make and a bride to shower with luv.

musical interlude (please tell me you watched The Nanny):
what was she to do?
where was she to go?
she was out on her fanny!

I had to come up with something that would add moisture and not take away from the flavor of the cake. I always have nutella on hand (what person in their right mind doesn't?!) and I knew raspberries always go well with chocolate without being soupy like strawberries can get. Problem solved! Grab a fork, mash my raspberries (leaving a few whole for garnish) and mix in some nutella! So, instead of using the wonderful home-made frosting for the center layers I used the nutella/raspberry mixture and all was not lost! How much should you use of each? Should there be a limit? Use your best judgement. Do not expect a remarkable transformation...the critic will still notice the cake is a bit dry but you will still have enough confidence to serve it in a crunch and know that no one will know the wiser. Be sure to refrigerate once you have added this filling.

Say you have a white or yellow cake...try some lemon curd maybe; if you like that or stick with the raspberry and nutella idea. Jam or preserves might do the trick if it the cake isn't super sweet. You could also whip up a vanilla pudding to add to the middle. Yum! (Make sure to refrigerate that for sure.) As I always say, get creative people! The sky is the limit!

May your cakes always be moist and yummy...but when they are not, think nutella. :-)


Friday, July 26, 2013

Closet Reno Revamp

A few weeks ago before our vacation, we woke up to a loud thud around 1am. That sort if sound is not something you really want to hear out of a deep sleep. I have really bad eyesight, so with no contacts to help me see into the hallway I had no clue what was going on. David sprang out of bed with a gun and the light of his phone shining. He was thinking "intruder" and I was thinking "what just crashed down?" I realized the cat was sleeping soundly through all of this so if it were an intruder we would have been alerted by her. My concerns subsided and I let David valiantly hunt down the burglar Belle and I knew didn't exist. My next concern was to find the problem. With a crash that loud, it was a problem. I eventually opened my closet door to find everything but one rack covering my floor. Disaster. 
After much discussion about how we despise all of the cheap horrible no good very bad wire shelving all throughout our house, we decided to let California Closets take over the project. 
We ended up redoing my closet, David's closet and our laundry closet. Now I feel like those three closets are secure and fancy. Which I like a lot. David's closet and the laundry closet were done in white, mine in a dark gray. -Laurie

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fall Garden Goodness

Thanks to our NYC adventures we did not have the pleasure of working in our garden this summer but you better believe we are all over getting the fall garden started. Allowing our kale and collard plants to go to seed this summer has brought us lovely little sprouts we are currently thinning and loving. It is time, my people, to begin your Fall garden journey should you so choose to take one...and you should.

When thinking about your garden of course you just want to think about what you want to plant. You also need to be thinking about the timing of planting. You need to find out the estimated day of your area's first frost and based on the timeline of maturation for your chosen plants count backward to the frost date (and add two weeks for some buffer growth time) to decide about when you should start your planting. This is of course based on the idea of starting from seed. If you want to start with small plants check with your local home and garden retailer. The timing of planting is the only different or complicated item when it comes to fall gardening. Here is a helpful first frost chart from Better Homes and Gardens.

Be prepared to experience a little frost before you want to. You may also have crops like our favorite, kale, that will last well into the winter if you protect it in the evening. One thing we have done is find sturdy branches or left over building materials to stand at the four corners and one in the center of our beds in preparation for covering them when frost does come. You can you recycle old holey sheets like we do or if your neighbor hosts a slip-n-slide in your back yard and leaves a large sum of plastic sheeting that is useful as well. :-) You can also get real fancy and create PVC Pipe archways over your beds to create more of a greenhouse look with the same slip-n-slide plastic. When covering your garden make sure you don't forget to uncover it before the warm afternoon sun or you may come home to some wilted, dead little veggies.

this is the fancy I am talking about...thanks google images for the example.

Preparing your soil and planting the seeds would mimic the same tips I shared in our last gardening post. I would also suggest mixing in your own compost (composting is always a good way to reduce waste and pump up your garden read this to learn more) or natural fertilizers to revive the soil a bit after your spring/summer gardens.

Remember to water often as your start your seeds in the late summer heat. Enjoy getting your hands dirty and reducing your grocery store trips this fall!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Iowa fields

A sweet cousin of mine found a new love in his life he couldn't let go of resulting in a visit to Des Moines and Ames, Iowa for a wedding! I don't know about you all but visiting the great state of Iowa was never on my list of things to do. However, I am quite glad I did.

If you look hard enough there is something appealing about most anywhere you visit. The hubs and I try to do just that when we find a new adventure. Our trip was planned in between a number a festivals in the Des Moines area that sound fantastic. You might check for some other great ideas and festival information. There is an outdoor skating rink that sounds quite lovely during the cooler months of the year. We walked past it right next to the river fun! We didn't make it to their botanical garden but that also sounded lovely. Their gardens are mostly indoor to help the plants live through the frigid winters so its pretty cool in the sense that you could go any time of the year. Speaking of frigid winters...I think it would be so fun to experience a time or two.

I will warn you that most of downtown Des Moines shuts down on Sundays. Unfortunately this was our Des Moines touring day but we still found a couple of cute shops. In the Historic East Villiage there are a number of fun little spots. We found a gardening store called Seed that I really wanted to take home with me. Just around the corner from Seed (turn right when you exit) is an antique shop with some really great finds...also wanted to take this store home with me. The shops are a short walk to the capital building (seen below, big gold dome) and to the river. I would like to take this time to give kudos to the city's landscape architect or beautification committee. The landscaping downtown is so lovely. To top it off the city is very clean!  We tried Zombie Burger, as it came highly was a fun experience and they have some crazy-fun french fry toppers and milkshake combos but I am sorry to say their Mushroom Apocalypse burger is not worth a recommendation.

Just north of Des Moines is Ames, Iowa, the home of Iowa State University. This quaint little town is home to some lovely little shops and restaurants. Downtown every Saturday morning between May and September from 8am-noon Ames hosts a local farmers market. We enjoyed our pre-wedding outing to the market. We found some fantastic egg sandwiches from a local farmer and a yummy pastry that is "an Iowa thing." I'm all over it if I hear it is local to the area. This is how you get to know the people and places you as they do, eat as they eat.

Top right: Ames All others: Des Moines

Let me know if you ever find yourself in Iowa and if you found any other fun stops! Go forth and explore!


Monday, July 22, 2013

A Summer Kitchen DIY

One of my dearest friends Holly Cochrane and her husband Jamie recently bought an awesome house. She has spent her hard-earned summer off renovating her kitchen. I have anxiously awaited updates throughout her process, in awe of her ability to do this single-handedly, and was so excited to see her finished result! Read below for her beautiful airy transformation. I can't wait to visit! -Laurie

I awoke one February morning with an idea in my head. “This summer, I am going to update the kitchen”, I declared to my husband. He said okay, knowing full well that we were going to have a mess on our hands until the beloved day my new idea came into fruition.

We love our home. If you know me at all, you know that for various reasons the concept of home is crucially important to who I am. With that being said, we purchased our home knowing that I did not care deeply for the kitchen or bathrooms. Before you get too excited, the bathrooms still look as they did the day we signed our life away. I don’t do plumbing.

I enjoy working with my hands, though. I have this DIY nature that screams, “I’m not paying someone to do that!” The truth is, I didn’t do it all myself. I picked out a shiny counter and had it professionally installed. WE LOVE IT! You see, on one counter we had an icky old laminate. On the other, grimy mosaic tiles in an icky shade of green, much the same as the shutters and front door. Hunter green is an atrocity in my book and will not be tolerated.

I made mistakes along the way, had to do and re-do, and spent most of my hard-earned summer on our dear old kitchen. We kept the same appliances, because well, this is NOT HGTV (but everything else has been changed). Here is a before and after of my little slice of Heaven:

In Between:


So quickly, I am going to tell you what I did and what I used.

We kept our old cabinets and added lattice molding to the fronts. We also replaced the doorknobs and pulls. I always use Valspar from Lowes, which is nice because they have a great kitchen and bath line. The upper cabinets were painted Valspar’s “Woodlawn Bedroom White”. The lower cabinets were painted Valspar’s “Woodlawn Colonial Gray”, and the walls were painted Valspar’s “Aspen Gray”.

Trim and Molding:
I had to add quarter-round to the baseboards in the kitchen because they were missing. (Seriously? Come on, previous owners!) I also had to paint all trim and baseboards (including two sets of French doors) because unlike the rest of the house, which is white, they painted the kitchen trim cream (ick). I was also going to add crown molding to the tops of the cabinets, but ultimately gave that dream up. The corners and I cite creative differences for the cause of this minor failure. I painted all of it with a high gloss bright white.Backsplash:
Remember what the backsplash looked like mid-removal in the “In Between” photos? What a nightmare!

The good news is that it no longer looks like that! Whew. It was a doozy, but I used Fasade’s paintable “tin-like” paneling. Loved the stuff. It was easy to cut and I think it looks great. I painted it with Valspar’s  “Statuesque”.


Most of the small pieces of the puzzle are a mixture of ideas from Pinterest. I’ll just give you the pictorial representation.

I can’t believe it is finished. Honestly, I am not even certain what to do with myself! While finishing this project is entirely satisfying, I do have some people to thank: Jamie, my Mom and Jamie’s Mom. This would not have been a possibility without these three. This minor highlight of this roller coaster skips most of the downs and almost all of the creative problem solving. My kitchen no longer embarrasses me and we are pleased with its look. It makes the work completely worth it. What a journey.
 -Holly Cochrane
* Before photos are from

Friday, July 19, 2013

Key West Escape

Our family vacation this year was to Key West. We had been there several years ago and loved it. Key West has a small town vibe with an island feel which is incredibly laid back. There are a lot of culinary stops packed into that tiny island and we had great meals the entire time. Though it rained every day, we still got some beach time in at the Casa Marina where we stayed. It was so nice to wake up to waves every morning and know that all I had to do that day was relax. 
The photo above is of Henry Flagler's Seven Mile Bridge that is slowly deteriorating along the highway. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and drove leisurely through the Keys, making little stops along the way for ice cream, to see interesting points of interest and spent our first evening in Marathon Key. 
Let me take you through the highlights of our journey, just in case you ever want to take this little trip yourself:

Bahia Honda Key has a beautiful state park, Bahia Honda State Park, where we stretched our legs. It is a great site for camping if you are into that. We walked through a butterfly garden, then up to a little outdoor chapel where tons of white butterflies were flitting around. It was so beautiful. 

The view from our room

Key West has so many great places to eat. We of course had to stop at Blue Heaven, Kermit's, and Jimmy Buffett's (for my dad and a fabulous burger). However, my favorites were (from top, left, right): Thai Life floating restaurant, supposedly the only authentic Thai floating restaurant in the US; Camille's, where I had Godiva white chocolate French toast that was to die for; our favorite meal was The Stoned Crab, followed by dessert at Better than Sex. This dessert only restaurant is sexy with incredibly low lighting, dim chandeliers, glamorous walls, and a really awesome menu that lit up when you opened it. I had the peanut butter desert and it was incredible. 

One of our favorite things to do was the Ghosts & Gravestones tour. We rode in an old, haunted looking trolley (top right) and got to see many of the haunts in Key West. Literal haunts, not just the bars. Key West is apparently the most haunted city in America next to New Orleans. The house on the left was just creepy enough to include, though the story escapes me right now. However, Robert the Doll is a story you don't forget once you hear it. This guy is seriously creepy. The split photo in the bottom right corner is two separate times I passed him and took his photo. The clear image is when I asked permission to take his picture...the blurry image is when I didn't. This happens a lot with Robert. Read about him here.

The Fourth of July Festivities for the island was at our hotel. We mingled with tourists and locals during a buffet dinner and settled into our beach chairs by the ocean to watch the fireworks from the pier. This was actually our first Independence Day in the United States in a while. We have normally been on cruises and haven't gotten to see fireworks, so it was nice to hear some patriotic songs and be proud to be an American. 

Our last stop in the trip was Mel Fisher's Shipwreck Museum, where we saw a lot of really cool stuff that was salvaged from The Atocha wreck. 78 carat emerald, anyone? Hello!

Some other fun things in Key West: (top left) Mallory Square's sunset celebration every day is so fun. Street performers, vendors and gorgeous sunsets. Banyan trees (top right) are everywhere and are the coolest, creepiest trees. We rented Mopeds for a while one day and explored the island like a local (bottom left). I met an new friend, Peaches, who was pretty awesome. I wish I could have brought her home with me! (bottom right)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Late Summer Must Stays

As my husband has either worked in or been a student in a university setting since we have been married, I continue to see a year in semesters. The summer semester is about to wrap up and all I can think of is how fun it would be to take one last long weekend excursion. So, as I dream I thought I would share some sites we have used recently and a place or two we have stayed.

We were able to find a fantastic place to stay in NYC thanks to I had never heard of this site before until searching for short-term housing. Roomorama has listings for most all major global cities. I would absolutely use it again. The apartment was just as we saw it online and everything was so easy. Here is a link to the apartment we stayed in. It was tiny but had everything you need! If you are every staying in NYC for a bit check this little space out for sure.

In a previous post, break from reality, I mentioned using for finding a new and fun destination. With this site we were able to do broad searches and landed on a city we would not have otherwise chosen to stay in and we are so so glad we did! I am keeping my fingers crossed in hopes of returning this next winter/spring. I swooned a little looking back at my old post.... Those little cabins are so fantastic. Maybe next time we can take friends and rent all three!

Last but most definitely not least...Our last night in NYC was a hug splurge for us. We stayed one more day in the city than our Greenwich studio allowed due to flight arrangements and thought we would cross the river and enjoy a hotel for one night. And boy did we ever!! I discovered a new hotel chain in some pretty fantastic locations: New York, Brooklyn, Miami and Montauk. Um, ok! I am so sad that we did not make it to Montauk, and any other location further up the island, but the hubs has promised to take me there one day. Maybe we will stay at...dun dun dunnnn!!...the King and Grove hotel when we go! Yes, King and Grove! The staff was lovely, the hotel was quite and beautiful and who gets a pool in NYC?! And it was so cool!! I did not want to leave that is for sure. We stayed at the Williamsburg location. This neighborhood has everything you can imagine. The hotel also has complimentary bikes (and cute vintage ones at that) making for an afternoon drive along the river or a site-seeing tour of Williamsburg shops. Oh dear...I need to go back. Like now. This really was the perfect hotel for our relaxing last night in the city.

So my iPhone does this view no justice at all...rooftop bar with a perfect view of Manhattan people!

Get out there and find a new getaway and let us know where you go! We are always on the lookout for an economical adventure!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our Fourth Fun

We hope you all found the firework photography tips helpful earlier this month! We have finally slowed down long enough to get our Fourth photos together for you all to critique. :-) Laurie and I both put our tips to the test.

Our last minute sprint to the bridge for a pretty good view of the NYC show. Our original rooftop plans fell through when we found out that the spectacular show could not bee seen. So glad we made it to the bridge in time! I shot these with my Canon 30D and a 50mm 1.2 lens (bought this lens at B&H Photo during our trip and I am so glad I did!). -Alison

Freedom Tower in its colors

I want to be so much better at photography than I am...I have already forgotten aperture, f-stops, all that jazz. However, I took my Nikon D3100 on our Key West trip and was excited to try Ali's tips. Our July 4th was spent right at our hotel (more on that to come!) since it was where the festivities of Key West was happening. We could see it all from our balcony and it had a really fun small-town vibe to it event though there was a mix of tourists and locals. We had already staked out our beach chairs early that morning and so we got to watch the fireworks right by ocean. -Laurie

Share your photos with us!
Did you use our photography tips?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tasty Tuesday-The Best Key Lime Pie

It is true. This is the best recipe and juice for a key lime pie. Really. We tested several while we were in Key West, so trust me on this one. I have to say that I can take zero credit for this. Our first trip to Key West inspired my mom to buy Kermit's Key West Key Lime Juice and make a pie since we thought Kermit's had the best and sold the goods to make it. I have only made about three pies so far with the juice, taking after my I have to give her credit for a)finding the juice and b)becoming famous amongst friends and family for it. She is the key lime pie queen. 
Since I will soon be sharing my Key adventures, I thought it was only appropriate to share with you something you can really take away. You can buy the juice here. You're welcome. The recipe is on the back label, but it goes something like this:

1/2 cup of Kermit's juice
6 egg yolks
2 cans Eagle brand milk
1 graham pie crust
Mix together well. Pour into crust. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes. Pop into refrigerator to chill. Eat. Die happy. 
Do not try to make this with lime juice. Make it with the good stuff. Don't be foolish.

Sorry, Mom, for outing the secret ingredient. I feel like that dog on the Bush's Baked Bean commercial. 


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