“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair...”

Autumn Scenes

Monday, October 2, 2017














While most my friends in other parts of the country have been complaining of the warmth, here in Colorado it has been cold and rainy for weeks now. Yesterday was a bit warmer and the sun was out, so we decided to drive over to Golden Colorado, where it's generally much warmer and sunnier than other parts of the state. It was a gorgeous fall day and the hike was so lovely with fall colors starting to pop up everywhere. Here are a few scenes from the first day of October. I think I'm finally ready to embrace the fall weather. Bring out the sweaters and wool socks!

Strawberry Birthday Cake

Friday, June 16, 2017

I love baking cakes and especially decorating them! It's something I used to do when I was a little girl. I was obsessed with learning how to decorate a cake. I used to get the Wilton catalog and flip through all the pages, marking different piping tips and other cake tools I planned to save up for. I even bought a VHS course on decorating cakes. I prefer to decorate my cakes a little differently than I did when I was a little girl, but I am glad there was a time in my life where I learned how to use a piping bag and those little tips and tricks on how to frost a cake so it's smooth. I don't have any of my cake decorating tools anymore and I only have a select few piping tips in my cupboard. So I usually keep my cake decorating on the simple side these days. Believe it or not, I even frosted this cake with a regular old butter knife! It works, you just have to be patient.

This year I was gifted by a few of my David Austin rosebuds opening up the day before my birthday! I took it as a sign that I needed to decorate my cake with my freshly bloomed roses. Because this year I decided to make a strawberry cake, I thought it only proper to add strawberries to the decoration as well. It was hard to find a good recipe for strawberry cake, but I found one that looked pretty good and it turned out utterly delicious! I didn't even have any strawberry extract as the recipe recommends and it still tasted fabulous. I also did not add any food coloring. I wanted it to be a simple cake, nothing too fancy and if there was only a hint of strawberry taste, I was okay with that. It does call for strawberry gelatin, though, so that definitely added to the flavor. Sprouts (our grocery store) didn't have the Jello brand, so I used whatever they had (Bakol Jel Dessert) which worked out just fine. I don't know if the Jello brand has a better flavor, but this one worked out beautifully. By the way, since I halved the recipe, I used only half of the gelatin package. The addition of strawberry puree gave the cake a very slight tinge of pink color, but it was mostly a cream color. I love how natural it looks, though. To me, it was just right.

For the frosting, I decided to look around for something I've never made before. I found a recipe for flour buttercream frosting. I have never ever heard of this kind of buttercream frosting and I was intrigued! I think the American buttercream icing can sometimes be too sweet for me and a little too rich and I was interested in finding something not quite so sweet. So I tried out the flour buttercream and it worked out perfectly. Because I halved the frosting recipe, I decided I would risk adding some strawberry puree (left over from the cake) a tablespoon at a time and see how it would turn out. If it didn't turn out, I would just make another batch. It worked perfectly! I added about two tablespoons of the strawberry puree, 1 tablespoon at a time, and then added about half a cup of confectioners' sugar. 

Because I cobbled this cake recipe together, I thought I would share the links instead of writing it all down. I made half of the recipe and used 2, 6" cake pans, as I always do for birthday cake. Since this cake was to be eaten by only two people, there is no way I was going to make a whole birthday cake! We would be eating it all month long! In all honesty, though, it took us exactly one week to demolish my birthday cake! It was that good! I think it is now my husband's favorite cake that I've made so far (mine too, and I think our cat Ernest would agree)! 


The Cake Recipe

  • I used the strawberry cake recipe from Sweetapolita and made only 1/2 of the recipe and baked it in 2 - 6" cake pans. It worked out perfectly! 
  • I made Flour Buttercream frosting using the wonderfully detailed recipe from Serious Eats and only made half of the recipe. I then decided to add in 2 tablespoons strawberry puree (I had a lot left over after making the cake, but it's essentially strawberries and sugar which have been pureed in a blender, but I used an immersion blender and it worked great). Add in only 1 tablespoon at a time to see how it looks and tastes before continuing. I also added 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar after adding the strawberry puree. 

Tips on Assembling the Cake

  • I baked the cake two  days before my birthday and then wrapped the fully cooled cakes in plastic wrap and froze them. I find that frozen cake layers, especially light airy cakes, frost so much better when they are frozen. They usually thaw pretty fast as well when left out at room temperature or in the fridge for a day. I also like to frost the cake the day before and put it in the refrigerator over night. 
  • Because I didn't have any strawberry flavoring added to my cake or frosting, and wanted a bit more strawberry flavor coming through, I decided to heat up a few tablespoons of some nice strawberry jam I had in the refrigerator and while frosting the cake, I would first spread a layer of strawberry jam on the cake layer before adding the frosting. I do think it made a big difference to the overall taste and it also acts as a "crumb coating" to keep those little crumbs from mixing with the frosting. 
  • If you use flowers to decorate your cake, double check to make sure they aren't poisonous (of course this should be obviously, but just have to add that bit in)! 


Let me know if you have any other questions about cake decorating and I'll try to help if I can! Baking, and especially decorating a cake is something I look forward to every year. Maybe it's strange to make my own birthday cake, but I'm always excited to try something new or interesting! Who else out there makes their own birthday cake and loves doing it? 
 

P.S. Just in case you don't know, everything in my shop (including custom orders) is 33% off using the code "BIRTHDAY" and this will continue all throughout the month of June. Let me know if you don't see something in the shop. I'm always open to custom orders! 

Anna Allen Clothing: Spring Sale!

Monday, April 24, 2017


Today through April 30th, everything in the shop is 40% off! Use code SPRINGSALE at checkout or contact me if you are interested in a custom order. 

: : S H O P : :

Sewing Project: Summer Dress Vintage Vogue 9732

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


The other week I found this vintage Vogue Pattern Book and I decided to get it. I'm always so inspired by those old pattern books and this one looked like a fun one for the summertime! Funny, because when I looked up the pattern for the dress on the cover, I thought it looked familiar. I rummaged though my vintage patterns and found this exact design in my collection, plus it's in my size! Funny how I never thought about making it in a casual cotton. I think I like it best as a breezy summer dress. I haven't decided what fabric I'm going to use yet or even when I'll have time to work on it, but I hope I will have the time to make it soon. It's really starting to warm up around here and summer is just around the corner! It always goes by so fast!

I'm planning to trace the pattern out on tissue paper first, which is what I always do whether it's a vintage pattern or new. I know I'll have to make a few alterations since I want it to be more comfortable to wear and not quite as tight around the waist. That will be easy, because I noticed the front dart was rather large, so I'll probably end up letting out a little bit in that area. I don't think I'll make the petticoat with the ruffle either. It should be a quick sew with minor fitting issues, but I'll make a mock-up of the bodice before cutting into the fashion fabric just to be safe.

Does anyone else like sewing with vintage patterns? What era(s) are your favorites and what pattern companies do you like? My favorites hands down are McCall's and Vogue from the 1960's. I also like the late '50s, 1970's and even some of the early '80s patterns I think are fantastic. I find that these eras are pretty simple to incorporate into a modern wardrobe. I also have a fondness for even older patterns (1920s-'40s), but I'm mostly inspired by the 1960's-'70s fashions. Some of the artwork on those old patterns are really phenomenal as well!

Here's a vintage Vogue pattern I made up a few years ago. It's one of my favorite blouses. I've since made another in white dotted swiss cotton with 3/4 length sleeves and lace insertions (sorry that pic isn't a great view of the blouse!).

Hot Cross Buns

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


I've never made hot cross buns before and I don't remember the last time I had one. I think they are more of a British roll, as I haven't seen them in the shops around here. But I could be wrong. In any case, I thought I would try my hand at making a batch for Easter this year. I couldn't wait for them to cool before piping the icing cross, so I split one with Jed and it was mouthwatering good! Perfectly sweet without the added icing. I think these would be great rolls to make for other occasions as well. I believe the more traditional hot cross buns have a cross made out of a flour/water paste which is piped onto the unbaked buns before going into the oven. I decided to pipe mine with icing after they were baked, however. Maybe I will try making them the more traditional way next year.

I scoured the internet to find the perfect recipe for hot cross buns and after looking at several, I decided on the one over at Simply Recipes. I can pretty much always count on that website to find exactly what I'm looking for. And after trying this recipe for hot cross buns, I can definitely recommend it. They really aren't hard at all to make. Very similar to a cinnamon roll dough (video). I used a pumpkin spice mix from Trader Joe's in place of the recommended spices, since I like their spice mix (it includes my favorite spice, cardamom). I also made it slightly different than what the recipe instructed. I scalded the milk and added the cold butter, which melted in the hot milk and then mixed in the sugar. Doing this brought down the temperature of the milk so there was no risk of killing the yeast. I then added the yeast and eggs and mixed it around a bit before pouring the liquid into the dry ingredients and continuing with the recipe. I really think the orange zest adds so much flavor to these buns.

Let me know if you make these hot cross buns and what you think of them. I am looking forward to having one for breakfast. Bon appétit!

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Tuesday, April 4, 2017














Everyone has their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and this one is mine. I've been making it for years and while I've tried many other recipes, I just keep coming back to this one. It's an old Better Homes and Garden recipe from 1963. It's a very basic recipe that produces the perfect chewy cookie. Just the right amount of chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Of course you can omit the nuts if you don't like them, perhaps add more chocolate chips or just omit them altogether. I usually use walnuts because they are my favorite, but use whatever nuts you like or have on hand.

The original recipe says to use part butter and part shortening. Now, I've made these with all butter more than I have with part shortening. I personally have no issues using vegetable shortening in my baking, but I know some people think it's unhealthy. I don't really think it's a problem in moderation (as with practically anything). But I have to say, the shortening does make these cookies extra lovely and chewy. The all butter can make the cookies spread a bit more, which is okay but not really what I look for in my perfect chocolate chip cookie. Either way, whether you use all butter or part, I think it produces a lovely cookie. In this batch I added 1 stick butter with the remaining 3 1/3 tablespoons shortening. Even that little bit of shortening made them just the way I like them without sacrificing any flavor.

When I make a batch of these cookies, I keep a few in our cookie jar and the rest in the freezer. Mom used to freeze balls of cookie dough and then bake them directly from the freezer when needed. That works as well, but I have found they don't spread as nicely when you bake from frozen. So I just bake the entire batch and freeze any I don't think we'll eat in a day or two.

I hope I've inspired you to keep your cupboards stocked with all the ingredients to make these. Because you never know when you'll get a hankering for chocolate chip cookies!


CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup shortening (I used 1/2 cup butter and 3 1/3 tablespoons shortening for this batch)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)

Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Mix butter/shortening, sugars, egg, and vanilla thoroughly. Stir dry ingredients together and blend in the butter mixture until just incorporated (don't over mix). Mix in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop in teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until delicately browned. (Cookies should still be soft.) Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Makes over 2 dozen (I used a tablespoon cookie scoop).