Sweet Honeycomb Design and Shopping From Home

Oh Honey, I’ve got sweet design inspiration for you today. I’m glad you’re here.  honeycomb raw jar{source}

In my last post, I shared a recipe for some sweet comfort food.  Well I’m stepping out of the kitchen.

I’ve given you next to nothing in the realm of home decor & design up to this point.  Hmpf..what’s up with that?  If you know me, you know I’m all over that and I’ve got plenty to talk about.

The most intense design project I ever took on, one that nearly took me down, was a complete – and I mean complete - budget wrecking, insomnia-producing, monstrous renovation of our own home.  From top to bottom we knocked down walls, moved & added staircases, completely re-wired, re-plumbed, added up & out and way more.  I was our designer, “architect” and general contractor. It took about a year.  It took me several years to recover & be able to watch HGTV without gagging a little.

In the 1800′s this place was a barn.  There was hay between the floorboards in the attic when we arrived.  It had been converted into three 3-room apartments.  It wasn’t pretty.  Not even a smidge.  People thought we were crazy.  I’d love to share more of that saga with you in the future.

  Back then, internet design sources and shopping were in their infancy.  At least for me.   In 2000, I distinctly remember discovering I could put the words “Vintage Swedish” into a search box and the giddiness I felt when my world opened up.

Books, magazines and catalogues were my primary source of inspiration.  I’d sit with stacks of them and dog-ear pages, tear out pictures and file them in manilla folders with little sticky notes all over them.  I lugged arm loads of books out of the library every week during the renovation.  Oh, the Olden Days.

Stack of Design Books 040514

These days we’re all Pinning and adding things to virtual Wish Lists.

Back in the reno days I worked part-time and had more hours to meander (or race) around, hunt for ideas & price shop.  Not anymore.  Now there’s no need to traipse all over kingdom-come, touching every kitchen faucet within a day’s drive – five times over.  I don’t need to be on a first name basis with everyone at Home Depot.  The miles of aisles I walked in those days were mind-numbing.  Now I hit five stores in one night, sitting by the fire in my favorite chair.  I compare prices, read reviews & with a few key-strokes have a package on my doorstep in a couple of days.  From Pinterest to Houzz.com, blogs, on-line stores & magazines - unlimited ideas and sources are at our fingertips & even on our cellphones.

Don’t get me wrong – Lord knows I love a leisurely stroll up & down every single solitary aisle at Homegoods. It’s one of life’s little pleasures and something different all together.  Hey – Did you know that Homegoods has an awesome design blog too?  Check it out {HERE}.

So Honey, today I’ve scouted out inspiration for you & included links to their sources.  With all the geometric patterns everywhere, one that hasn’t been over-used at the moment is Honeycomb.  It’s a trend I’m sweet on.

Let’s start with the bold punch of color & design in this bright yellow pillow.  It just makes this corner.

honeycomb pillow etsy{Etsy.com}

And these honeycomb textured vases fit right in to my world.

HONEYCOMB VASES WEST ELM

{west elm}

I’m lovin’ this sweet lamp and it’s a super reasonable $55.

honeycomb lamp pier 1{Pier 1}

The textured metal base and that teal shade make it a stand-out. It’s like a piece of jewelry to perk up a room.

Here’s a bold practical piece I spotted at Target.  It could be tucked in to all kinds of spots.

honeycomb table target - bath {Target}

Doesn’t this look cheerful?

honeycomb rug yellow{shadesoflight.com}

 These drapery panels are part of a line that includes crib bedding for a nursery too.

HONEYCOMB DRAPE

{homedecorators.com}

Here’s an interesting concept ~ Peel and Stick stainless steel back-splash tile, made from 60% recycled product.  stainless honeycomb backsplash{source}

How about a unique towel ring from Urban Outfitters for only $14.?

honeycomb towel ring

{urbanoutfitters.com}

I saw these {IKEA} mirrors on Pinterest.  You can group together as many as you’d like.

honeycomb ikea mirrorsOr this big mirror honeycomb mirror grandinroadfrom {Grandinroad.com}.

Now this is buzz-worthy~

honeycomb-shaker-069366522{zgallerie.com}

I recently spotted a glass terrarium similar to this one from {Etsy}.  It’s what got me thinking about the whole honeycomb trend.

honeycomb terrariums etsy

I love Love LOVE shopping at Etsy.com.  How about you?  It’s a wealth of inspiration and it makes me happy to support the little guy.  I feel like a kid in a candy store shopping for pillows there, with thousands to choose from.  Here are a few more:

honeycomb pillow chartreuse {Etsy.com}

Metallic anyone?honeycomb pillow gold{Etsy.com}

There are even stylish options for your pup.

honeycomb dog bed{Etsy.com}

They have a huge selection of unique wall stencils.

honeycomb stencil

{Etsy.com}

This big bold honeycomb wallpaper is a Beeauty. It’s a great choice for renters or someone not ready to commit – it’s peel & stick and re-positionable.

honeycomb-deep-blue wallpaper{homedecorators.com}

Or maybe you’re on a super tight budget like Moi.  For a mere eight bucks you can download this print & frame it yourself.Honeycomb print download Etsy{Etsy.com}

Don’t worry, Bee Happy.  There’s a little something for everyone.

And here’s one last idea because after all…

honeycomb you are loved print{Etsy.com}

For more design inspiration, I’ve pinned hundreds of other ideas on Pinterest.  If you haven’t done so yet, you can follow me {here} and see what else I’m looking at these days.

So sweet of you to stop by.

love~donna

Easy Sweet Comfort Food & How I Started a Blog

I have easy sweet comfort food for you today.

I love fruit crisps & crumbles.  Tart strawberry-rhubarb crisp is my favorite.  And I love a good apple crisp too, but peeling & slicing apples takes a little more time.  With this recipe, yours can be hitting the oven in five minutes – ten tops.  Breathe in.  Hot cinnamony blueberries can be wafting in your kitchen this weekend.  It’s so easy.

Berry Crisp with Coconut Ice Cream 022314

Before I found this recipe, I would’ve gushed over my love for the usual buttery-brown-sugary-crumb topping.  Lord knows I love my butter.  But this one’s going to surprise you. In all the right ways.

Blueberry Raspberry Crisp 022314

When I tell you it’s gluten-free and dairy-free (like now), don’t go clicking away on me.   It’s well worth making for everybody.  And super healthy.  Rather than lots of butter, there’s a quarter cup of olive oil.  Rather than brown sugar, there’s a meer quarter cup of maple syrup.

Maple Syrup to sweeten fruit crisp 022314 There’s one item you have to plan ahead for and that’s almond flour.  A.K.A. almond meal.  Don’t you worry.  These days it can be found in the health food or baking area of most bigger grocery stores (usually in a clear cellophane bag).

Almond Meal Bag

Bob’s Red Mill brand is the one I use.

You can even make your own by grinding blanched almonds in a blender or food processor.  Careful though – don’t blend too long & turn it into almond butter.

 I can’t claim the recipe as my own.

I found it last summer in the story of how I started writing a blog.

This recipe for Blueberry Crisp was in the newly released book “Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table” by author blogger Shauna Niequist. I bought it for my summer reading pleasure. Obviously this book would call my name.   I mean – take a look at it.

breadandwineshaunaniequist Interestingly, a couple of weeks later I received an email that the book was being featured in an on-line book club.  The author would join others in discussion on a series of videos.  A unique concept and perfect timing.  I decided to sign up & join in.

  Before it began, I read they were looking for guest posts (on the topic of food and community) to include in the study & Facebook page.  Hmm.  Why not?  I had nothing better to do a few weeks before my daughter’s wedding.

This business of food and community is My Love.

Well jeez – wasn’t I surprised and honored when they chose to include my essay?  They asked for my Twitter handle and the URL for my main blog page.  Well, at the time I had no Twitter and no Blog.  I’d been stewing about starting a blog for a few years.

I decided the time was right.  Join a book club, write an essay, learn how to set up a blog, take photos, join Twitter, and crank out some posts.  Again, I had nothing better to do a few weeks before my daughter’s wedding.  I write this just to encourage you to start something you’ve been dreaming about and stop waiting for the perfect time.  There won’t be one.

I wrote my first little blog post back in July.  Looking back I realize the slowwww but (mostly kinda sorta) enjoyable learning process it’s been.  I’ve stumbled, bumbled and fumbled my way into the blogosphere the last nine months.  I’m barely starting to feel the teensiest bit more comfortable.  There’s so much to learn.

 My essay “A Wide Open Door and Why I Am The Way I Am” was featured on the (in)courage Facebook page during the book club.  You can read it in the link {here} if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s the story of how my parents’ gift of over-the-top hospitality profoundly influenced me to be the person I am today.

The Ultimate Examples of True Hospitality

The Ultimate Examples of True Hospitality

 I was able to link it up to my brandy new blog.  Since their Facebook page has over 57,000 Likes – this was a big deal to me. Heck, I’d have been excited if it had a hundred.

Okay Okay….I’ll get on with the recipe for goodness sake. 

Blueberry Crisp

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

4 c. Blueberries (or other combination of fruit)

Crispy Crumbly Topping:

1 cup old fashioned (not quick) oats

1/2 cup pecans, rough chopped

1/2 cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (no fakes allowed whatsoever)

1/4 cup olive oil (I’ve used canola too)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (my addition), optional

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (my addition), optional

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place 4 cups of fruit into a greased oven-proof baking dish.

Blueberries and Raspberries Raw in Dish 022314 Combine and stir the remaining ingredients together in a bowl.  This is the part that comes together so quickly compared to a traditional topping.  Fruit Crisp Topping Ingredients in Bowl 022314

Spread it evenly over the fruit.

Fruit Crisp Before Baking

Bake for 35-40 minutes until bubbly, crispy and golden.

That’s it.

If frozen fruit is used, bake it a few minutes longer.

 My variation this time around included some raspberries & cinnamon. And I forgot it this time, but every one of the other 8 or 9 times I’ve made it I’ve included ground cardamom.  I’m a Swede after all – Yah Sure.

I made this recently for a friend with severe allergies to both gluten and dairy.

Berry Crisp with Coconut Ice Cream 022314

I served it along with this ~

coconut milk frozen ice cream 022314

It’s a frozen dessert made from coconut milk.  But of course it’s great with ice cream, whipped cream or no extra topping whatsoever. It makes a delicious and healthy breakfast too.

Blueberry Raspberry Crisp 022314

So my suggestions for you this almost-springy weekend are:

A. bake up an easy comforting fruit crisp

B. pick up a copy of “Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table”  devour it.  love it.

C. think about starting a blog {have you ever?} or jump into that thing you’ve been holding out on for the right time.

love ~donna

 

Little Things are Big Things in Vegas with The Cupcake Girls

The final days of my trip to Vegas were spent in a Celebrity Suite at the HardRock Hotel in the midst of the biggest Adult Entertainment Expo in the world.

ccg avn-adult-expo-2014_0

I was visiting my daughter, who’s a volunteer with The Cupcake Girls.  For anyone here for the first time, you can catch up on background in links HERE and HERE.  My earlier posts will give you a proper introduction.  It’s a non-profit group that exists to bring non-judgmental support, consistent caring, community resources and peace, love & cupcakes to women working in the adult entertainment industry.

ccg montage 1 The bar next to the entrance in the main room (flanked by security in the outer corridor) became the check-in point for arriving porn stars.

An invitation was needed in order to get in.

ccg invitation

 ccg britt and blonde

That’s my daughter at the check-in on the left.  She serves as Chief of Communications and spent a goodly amount of time tweeting & fielding appointments at the bar.  Here she is with more of the leadership team.

ccg serious girls at desk

They look uncharacteristically serious there.  This is more typical of what I saw throughout the week~

ccg orange lashes laughing girls

ccg two girls new

These girls were a blast.

 The color scheme throughout the luxurious suite included deep pink, black & gold.

 I saw the faces of industry ladies as they arrived, seeing the detail, beauty and class that made the suite top-notch and luxurious, just for them.  They noticed, appreciated and “oohed & ahhhed”.

There were stunning fresh flowers throughout.

ccg flowers

ccg chairs and flowers

A pool table in the suite was the perfect spot to hold Swag Bags full of gifts to take on the way out.

ccg swag bags on pool table

The bags also held information about The Cupcake Girls. Women choose to reach out for a variety of reasons following these events.

CCG cards and info

ccg bag with tag close up

Each person was given a choice of two free spa services, including hair styling, make-up, massages, facials & manicures.  Appointment cards were handed out.  They could sit down, take their heels off, relax in the main room and enjoy free food & drinks.

Paraffin wax treatments for hands were an option during the wait too.

ccg appt cards updated

Refreshments were prepared & artfully displayed by this hardworking group:

ccg food ladies

ccg puffs on food table

ccg veggie tower

And of course there were pink CUPCAKES.

cropped-ccg-pink-cupcakes4.jpg

ccg chocolate cupcakes

One little way I could help was by lettering signs for food tables:

ccg food labels

Volunteers shared such a broad variety of gifts.  Some were organizational.  Others were “transformational” & I was impressed with those I saw at the hands of talented stylists.  Some of the greatest gifts were undoubtedly relational.

Small talk started with things like “Are you going to the awards show?” and if so, “Are you up for an award?”.

Women were excited to learn they could attend all four days if they wanted.  Appointments were made for the days ahead.  Saturday was the busiest day, with beautification going on for the The Red Carpet and AVN Awards Show (“The Oscars” for porn movies). I was gone by then & missed seeing some of them come back to the suite to show off their finery.  Darn.

ccg lots of make up

ccc lashes

There was an air-brush foundation station & I got to try that out for the first time too.

ccg-airbrush cropped I gave hand & foot massages at a table in one of the large bedrooms.   I looked around the room at one point & counted 12 women being treated to spa services by 12 volunteers - including myself.  This was just one of the rooms in the suite.

It was a very cool thing to be a part of, to hear friendly banter and listen to The Cupcake Girls interact with the girls & vice versa.  Throughout the week, the air inside the suite changed back and forth from peaceful, quiet and spa-like to that of a Big Rousing Girl Party.

CCG bedroom busy with stations

 This group, surrounding Joy Hoover (a.k.a. the Head Cupcake) is part of the Portland chapter.  They came all the way from Oregon to assist with the event~

ccg portland girls with joy

I was struck by how volunteers went out of their way to make every single person feel special.  This was genuine caring & personal interest ~ not superficial. I was surprised by how quickly conversations would open up.

ccg hair two

CCG make-up application

blue hair pink nails

ccg hair one

I want to talk about something many of you may be wondering.  You might have misconceptions. I’ve been faced with a few.

Many mistakenly assume this is a “Christian” organization, some sort of “Come to Jay-sus” for strippers, prostitutes and porn stars.  Are you surprised to know that it’s NOT a religious group?  While many of the women who volunteer with the group indeed consider themselves Christians, the group is composed of women from other faiths & atheists too.

Huh.  A novel idea.

Some people automatically assume there must be a hidden agenda & some kind of motive behind all this.  The Cupcake Girls say they have one agenda.  To Love.

Does that not seem real?

What do YOU think?

From MY perspective? ~ The experience was likely one of the most humbling things I’ve ever seen. For me personally, as someone who considers herself a Christ-follower, it glowed as a premium example of the type of people we’re called to be.

To come along side and acknowledge worth and provide HOPE.  To offer a hand to those who stumble or are hurting.  To love those on the fringes.   To truly love and give grace unmerited – no strings attached.

I heard a few girls say “But Nobody cares about us.”   “Everybody considers them to be one of the lowest groups in the food chain.  I pondered living a life outside the margins like that.

I overheard an extremely interesting long conversation at the station next to me involving a plus-size porn star.  She gushed over how much she loves the adult entertainment industry.  Why?  Because she said one can always fit in and find your place within it. She said you can be loved and accepted no matter what you look like, what your size, big boobs, small boobs, the list went on.

Can we say twisted?  And I don’t mean her.

I’m a hugger.  I love a good solid one – not those back-patting pseudo hugs.  It did my heart good that some of the women reached out to hug me when I was done with their massage. I wanted to hold on a little tighter, a little longer.

One young woman was sweet & so precious and looked like she could be one of my own girls.  She teared up as we spoke during her hand massage.  She was touched by it all & said “I don’t understand why you’re doing this for me. I’m such an asshole.”  Now what would your response be in that moment?  In that split second my mouth says “I’m a real asshole too.” And I meant it.

With eyes brimming with tears, she said she wished she could stay in the suite all day and not have to go back to the convention.

  I left with a richer understanding of why and how The Cupcake Girls have been able to get into (and be welcomed back with open arms) to strip-clubs, porn shows and brothels in the Las Vegas & Portland areas.  There’s much to soak in from this.

What A Vacation.

So how do I wrap this up?  It seems a little weird to me that my next post may be about a favorite cocktail or a new way to cook quinoa or some other fool thing.

If there’s one thing I want to take away from this, one thing I want to remember more often is,

 Little things can be the big things. ccg logoYes.  Those Cupcake Girls say ~

“Sometimes, it’s the smallest acts of kindness that can lead to the greatest change.”

Las_Vegas_89

 Like giving out cupcakes.

In Las Vegas.

CCG Volunteers - big group with Joy in front

Once again ~

peacelovecupcakes

And a {good hug} from me to you ~donna

p.s.  If you’re still trying to understand WHY they do this, watch the short video in the link {HERE}.  You’ll hear individual stories of women reaching back to them. And just maybe, a call came after a relaxing spa treatment at a porn convention.

A Chocolate Recipe with a Little Flair for Valentine’s Day

I interrupt all this talk about Cupcakes and Las Vegas, although I NEED to go there one more time!

Valentine’s Day is Friday!  

birdsvalentine002

Treat your sweetheart or other special ones to some chocolate decadence.

I’ll be sharing some “flair” to use with all sorts of Valentine treats too.

I made this decadent flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake over the weekend to share with my daughter and chocoholic son-in-law.

021014 single dessert on plate

Here are the Love Birds…

lovebirds red vintage

These newlyweds just took their honeymoon last month.

Sharon Gary sitting at sweetheart table

 It seemed only fitting that I make it for them, especially since Mr. Hungry could care less if I made it for Valentine’s Day or any day.  In fact, his favorite dessert would likely be no dessert at all {boo/hiss}, but he’s particularly not enamored with chocolate.  So sad but true.

I copied this recipe from a friend years ago and it’s been made many times over the years:

Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte

Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake

It’s been sitting inside the back of a cookbook for ages.  Don’t worry – I’ll clean it up a bit for you.

My recipes are not in a state of respectable organization.  I was never able to corral them into a neat little metal file box.  I’ve spent years ripping them out of magazines and stuffing them into grocery bags & boxes that have been hanging around wayyy too long.  I’m ready to ditch every one if it’s not an Old Faithful.

One thing I will say, one tip, one thing I’ve always done, is to write notes all over my recipes like this one.  I do this in all my cookbooks too.  Many a time I’ve been quite thankful for them.

My cookbook and recipe collecting has taken on a whole new life with {PINTEREST}

pinterest-logoHow about you? Ohh how I love the limitless supply of recipes at my fingertips…the search-ability…the organization.  It’s addictively fun and ever-so useful.  If you don’t have a Pinterest account, you might want to check out mine {here} and see what the hoopla is all about.  These days, if I’m not making an old favorite, Pinterest is the first place I go. And not just for recipes either.  It’s become “my Google” for decor, holidays, DIY and more.  If you had a Pinterest account you could Pin this post onto your Food board and it would forever link back here through a photo.  No need to waste paper or spend time copying.  It’s easy to get the hang of it.

Here’s a look at the finished product:

four desserts

The “flair” I speak of is something to elevate the ordinary.  Something that says “you’re special”, such as the hearts on these plates.  You could totally leave it out, but it’s pretty simple. And wouldn’t your honey be impressed?

I was feeling lazy about putting the sauce into a squeeze bottle, so I just painted it onto the plates with a silicone basting brush.

‘sgoodenough

Another option is to take a spoon and place drops of sauce around the edge of the plate…like this:

021014 dots of rasp on plate

 Then with a knife or a chopstick or whatever, drag through the dots.  Use it to fill them out a little to make them more heart-like…

021014 little hearts

 You know it’s cute.

You could put just about anything on that plate for Valentine’s Day…a scoop or slice of ice cream with a few berries, brownies – baked or bought (& even cut into heart shapes).  It could be the garnish on individual plates of salad served with raspberry vinaigrette or chicken with a raspberry glaze.

For more on a sweet garnish, I’ve found that the easier way to grate a bar of chocolate is to place it in the microwave for just a few seconds.  Like ten.  Then run the edge of the bar over your cheese grater, like this:

021014 grating chocolate

And no, this isn’t an ad for Hershey’s chocolate.  It’s what I happen to have and it works just fine.

To make this very simple raspberry sauce, I defrosted a 12 oz bag of frozen raspberries.  I put the whole thing in the blender & blended it till smooth.  Well, it wasn’t totally smooth because it was filled with raspberry seeds.  So I put the pureed raspberries into a mesh strainer over a bowl and used the back of a spoon to press the smooth sauce through.

021014 berries in blender torte in torte in background

021014 rasp into strainer

021014 rasp sauce and seeds

Add some sugar if it seems tart for you.  If you’re serving it along with something real sweet (like this), you may want to go very light.

You won’t need much sauce to garnish a few plates.  Save the rest to make a vinaigrette or throw into a Smoothie.

A couple of quick tips…you’ll need a Springform pan. I used one that was 9″.  It’s the kind that enables you to take the sides off the pan when done, with a clamp on it like this:

021014 springform pan buckle

 And take your eggs out of the refrigerator first thing so that they come to room temperature.

So here’s the recipe for you and there are only THREE ingredients in the chocolate layer.

Flourless Choclate Truffle Cake:

1 lb semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces

10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cubed

5 Eggs, separated

2 C. Whipping or Heavy Cream, Whipped (sweeten if desired)

Optional: Chocolate shavings, Raspberry Sauce and Fresh Raspberries for Garnish.

021014 choc & butter wrapped

Place chocolate pieces and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.

021014 choc and butter chunks

Microwaves will vary.  It only took two minutes (on high) to melt the two ingredients together.

After one minute it looked like this:

021014 choc and butter bef stir

 And so after the first stir it looked like this:

021014 stirred @ 1 min

 By the end of the second minute in the microwave it could be stirred easily until smooth and glossy:

021014 stirred @ 2 minutes

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use a microwave, you can melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler set over simmering water on top of the stove.

Allow this to cool for about 15 minutes.  Stir it ocassionally to hasten cooling.

Use this time to pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees, and prep your remaining ingredients or garnishes.

Separate your eggs carefully.  You don’t want to get any yolk in the whites or they won’t beat up fluffy and firm.  You might find it helpful to break & separate each egg into a cup before adding it to the bowl in case you don’t get one quite right.

021014 eggs separated

 Beat the yolks together till smooth.

Then, with super clean beaters, whip the egg whites till stiff.

021014 beating eggwhites

They start out looking very frothy.  You need to keep going until you can lift the beaters & see firm peaks that don’t lose their shape.

Once the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, add about a third of the beaten yolks and stir to combine.

021014 swirling in yolks Add the remaining yolks and again, stir to combine.

Now, take just a portion – about a half cup or so - of the stiffly beaten egg whites and FOLD it into the chocolate mixture.

021014 first blob of egg white in

The trick here is to add the whites gradually.  Gently fold and turn the mixture with a spatula to combine it.  If you added it all at once and stirred like a normal batter, you’d deflate all that air you just whipped into the whites.  This is what’s going to help it rise.

Once combined well, spoon it into the greased Springform pan (I sprayed it with cooking spray).

Bake the torte for a mere 12 minutes!

021014 torte just out of oven

Allow it to cool completely on a rack. The cake will fall significantly as it cools.  This is normal.

Next, whip the 2 cups of cream.  It’s up to you whether you sweeten the cream with a little sugar.  I did not.

While still in the pan, spread all of the whipped cream onto the cooled base.

021014 whipped cream on top in pan

Place it into the refrigerator for at least a half hour before cutting, and up to several hours ahead.  Heck, it’s even fine the next day.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the sides of the pan by releasing the clamp.  Your plates should be garnished with the raspberry sauce first if you’re using it (totally optional).

021014 four hearts only on plates

Cut into wedges and lay them right on top of the sauce.

021014 dessert cut still in pan

021014 four desserts on platesSprinkle with a little grated chocolate if you want.  Fresh raspberries are a nice touch too.

So there you have it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your Valentines’ dessert to a new level – whatever it may be – with a little flair.

Wishing you Love. ~donna

My Cupcake Girls Trip to Vegas

I’ve been wrestling with what to write about My Las Vegas Adventure with The Cupcake Girls a couple of weeks ago. How to put it down in a few paragraphs.  It’s certainly the most unique vacation I’ve ever taken.  It’s not often one can say you gave hand & foot massages to strippers and porn stars.  It sounds sensationalized.  It’s simply true. I could leave that point out, but from my perspective, those were some of the high points of my visit.   Let me explain.

In case you’re here for the first time, I went to visit my daughter Britt.  She’s been a full-time volunteer for nearly two years for a non-profit group that acts as a non-judgmental support system for women in the Adult Entertainment Industry.  Here’s a link to an earlier Q&A interview Britt gave HERE (for the website WomenMoveTheSoul.com) that I have NOT posted before.

Here’s the photo associated with the interview…doesn’t she look like her Mama?

britt-olander1

 My first morning in Vegas started out atypically for a first time tourist.  We went to church.  You may be surprised to know (as I was) that many churches are thriving & growing in the area.  Her church - The Crossing – with four packed services every Sunday, will be moving to a brand new bigger building this month.  They’ll go from 450 parking spaces to 1200!  People…Twelve Hundred!! I call that pretty remarkable & worth noting. It’s not the type of thing you associate with “Sin City”.  Here’s a picture I snapped with my phone:

The Crossing Church Las Vegas

The Crossing Church ~ Las Vegas

 I want to give you a little more background on how I ended up giving massages to porn stars and how this whole thing has unfolded.

Nearly three years ago, Britt was working as the Marketing Manager for a Connecticut company & went to Vegas for a trade show.  She too went to church one Sunday morning.  It was there she heard the group’s founder – Joy Hoover – speak for the first time. She left unable to get it out of her head. She wrestled with thoughts for months (at least 8) before deciding to leave an excellent job, her family & friends in Connecticut and move to Vegas to volunteer full-time.  It’s been eye-opening.  The woman she heard speak – Joy- is not someone with a degree in Social Services or Business and she’s not a former sex worker or dancer.

She was simply a Hair Stylist on vacation in Vegas with her husband when she saw a need. This idea of hers has grown into an organization with over 100 volunteers in two states that have helped countless women in the industry & growing.

Joy Hoover - Founder of The Cupcake Girls

Joy Hoover – Founder of The Cupcake Girls

{Photo courtesy of The Justice Conference in Portland, Oregon.  HERE‘s a link with more info if you’re interested.}

  Back to my visit….sorry..I digressed…

On Monday, I spent time with about 15  volunteers at the CCG office.  Two Kitchenaid mixers cranked out batch upon batch of homemade Grapefruit Eucalyptus Sugar Scrub. 500 jars were bottled up and labeled!  These were put into Swag Bags to be given to women attending the events that week.  Others packed up stacks of boxes of hair products, make-up, eye lashes and all kinds of things to haul to the hotel.

On Tuesday, I attended a volunteer orientation.  Besides myself, there were legit Spa professionals who’d be volunteering to do hair & make-up also. 

The Cupcake Girls rented an elegant celebrity suite in one of the casino towers at The Hard Rock Hotel.

The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas

The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas

The first day was attended by local women.  These are girls they see in their regular visits to area Strip Clubs.  It was their annual “Tiffany Spa Day” event. The place was hoppin’.  Raffle prizes of all kinds were given out throughout the evening with the grand prize being 2 pieces of jewelry from Tiffany’s in one of those iconic Blue Boxes…Cool – right?

tiffany box med

 One local dancer I spoke to left a toddler at home with her boyfriend and took an hour long bus ride each way in order to attend the CCG event.  I gave her a hand massage. 

As I massaged hands or tired sore feet I saw tensions begin to ease.  I enjoyed meeting women who knew Britt from club visits and hearing first hand ways they’d been personally assisted by The CCG.  Another woman was an absolute sweetheart that bubbled over with personality and smiles.  She called herself The Cupcake Girls Biggest Supporter. She said she’s taken advantage of so many of the services and assistance they have to offer & had just recently gotten herself out of the business.  She told me how she was fed up with the whole industry and her fresh struggle with the transition from making good money to applying for food stamps now in order to survive.  She radiated determination & a huge genuine drive to grow and become a new and improved person.  I wish I could hang out with her because this woman could teach Me a thing or two.

In the luxurious spa at the Celebrity Suite, women were invited to choose two free spa services each day.  These included hair styling, make-up, facials, manicures & massages. 

Now I’m no massage therapist, but I know how much I like a good hand or foot massage at the nail salon.  I figured I could handle doing that.  I literally watched several YouTube videos and practiced on Britt before it started. End of training.  I had my reservations.  It had little to do with the clientele, and more to do with wondering if I’d give a good massage, or if I’d get tired or sick of doing it (keepin’ it honest). That didn’t happen. I felt as though someone had picked me up and dropped me down in the midst of a movie scene.

I spent the next 2 full days in the suite, arriving around 10 in the morning and leaving after clean-up around 9 pm.  I wished I was able to stay through Saturday & Sunday too. 

Following the first day with local women, it was a bit of a contrast (speaking of eye-opener)… with the women coming in dressed and ready to work at the AEE – the Adult Entertainment Expo. Yowza.

I read an article in The Las Vegas Sun by Robin Leach about this year’s AEE & the AVN Awards (remember him from “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous?”).  He said, “AVN/AEE is the largest annual gathering of the industry’s leaders, hundreds of the world’s most accomplished sex stars and the fans who adore them.  It is the word’s most reported-on event in porn-industry history with 300 performers set to walk the red carpet and battle for 100 awards for achievements in ‘the business of pleasure’.” 

I also read that actress-comedienne Joan Rivers co-hosted the awards ceremony that was broadcast on the Showtime network.  It was the 31st annual awards & convention. And “Demand for access by global media outlets from more than 25 countries to the Oscars of the Adult Entertainment industry was so large that more than 500 applications for media coverage had to be turned down.”

(!!!)

This is no small time event.  I’m just trying to paint you a picture of what was going on around us.

But I’ve been rambling on too long for one post.  I need to collect my thoughts and share more with you in the days ahead.  I want to tell you some more things I learned from porn stars and things that have literally changed me in some ways – even if just a little. 

For those who didn’t see it on Facebook, I rocked these lashes the last day there ~

Eyelashes

I attempted a Selfie to share with you but thankfully they were all too blurry.  Needless to say – I was a tad less glamorous.

I want to tell you more about the amazing.. AH-MAZING group of ordinary women doing extraordinary things one cupcake at a time..one curl or lash at a time. 

I have a slew of pictures on my “new” camera that I’m having mega technical difficulties with {groan}.  I hope to figure it out & show you many more.

And don’t you want to know the point of all this?

I hope you meet me back here at MoreThanHungry.com so I can tell you the rest of the story.  You just might want to  sign on to receive email updates so you don’t miss a thing!

Until next time!

Love, ~donna

I’ve Never Been to Vegas and I’m Scared

I’m overwhelmed with the number of people who read my last blog post.  Really.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a non-profit in Las Vegas called The Cupcake Girls that cares for & supports women in the Adult Entertainment Industry. I’m heading there later this week.  Checking back in I was struck by the photograph in my blog header.  That happy little snow-covered sled sitting outside my door looked at odds with what was knocking around my head.

cropped-20131216_081621-11.jpg

I decided to look for something more fitting…hmm…

I stumbled on this photo and it gave me a pain in my chest.

Las_Vegas_89

wow

I’ve never been to Vegas and I’m Scared.

I wake up in the morning and look out the window at this…

ice snow sunrise on lake

Seriously, there are THREE stop lights in town.  There’s no police station, but rather a measly two resident state troopers – last I knew.  The closest place to buy milk is a farm stand selling bales of hay and bags of feed.

Granted, Las Vegas draws bajillions of people from all over the globe every day.  I’ve just never been one of them and I’m suddenly feeling small.  I try to picture myself in that photo of The Strip & it has me shaking my head (I actually just did) – as if trying to snap myself out of something.

I know, I know, I’ve seen the pictures before.  You’d think with a daughter there I’d be less taken a-back. Um.  Where have I been?  Have I been lulled into my own pseudo-reality of what she and the rest of The Cupcake Girls are really doing?

When Joy Hoover (the “Head Cupcake”) came to Connecticut to do hair and make-up for a family wedding in 2012, my daughter asked her to come to church the next day.  She wanted her to share what they were involved in.  You can bet the Hungry Guy & I were groaning at the thought of getting up early the morning after the (evening) wedding.  We’d been cooking. We’d been dancing.  We’d been partying.

Bed sounded much better. oh yah.

I admit we went begrudgingly.  The pastor invited her to speak before him.  People sat on the edge of their seats.  Tears streamed down faces.  The pastor decides to FORGET the sermon and let her keep speaking…

When I say compelling, I mean compelling.

If you weren’t able to take the time to watch the YouTube clip in my previous post, I’d highly recommend it.  She goes into stories of some of the women they’ve supported & cared for.  Turn off your HGTV and your Candy Crush Saga & spend a few minutes in reality.  And this is not just Vegas Baby.  Did you know there’s another branch in Portland, Oregon?  That my daughter’s considering a Cupcake Girls Connecticut?

I can’t tell you the number of times people have looked sideways at that thought with furrowed brow.

I mean …Connecticut?  Is that really necessary?

Many would be surprised to know that 17 miles from this idyllic view of mine…Snow covered view to the lake

sits the actual setting for this book:

A Story of Human Trafficking in America...I mean Connecticut

A True Story of Human Trafficking in America…I mean Connecticut…

 Many of us are lulled into our own pseudo-realities in our quaint New England, USA towns.  Not just Las Vegas, Nevada.  So if you have a few minutes, take a look…

I’ve been hearing the stories for the last couple years.  Some involve my own daughter. I like to think they’re out there doing their good deeds and lookin’ pretty cute at the same time.cupcake girls 3 with britt in middle

I mean – doesn’t that just look fun and sassy and hip?

Then you remember.  Life is so messy.  It’s full of brokenness, suffering, addictions, poor decisions (ETCETERA ~ ad infinitum).  Lord knows I have a laundry list of my own.

So – Yah — I’m scared.

But everyone (you, me and women in the Adult Entertainment Industry) deserves LOVE, support and the occasional cupcake.

~donna

Cupcakes and Las Vegas ~ Here I Come

I’m stepping outside my comfort zone…(big effin understatement). In the week ahead I’m heading to Las Vegas to visit my daughter Britt, who’s a full-time volunteer for an unusual non-profit called

The Cupcake Girls.

cupcake girls logo and tag line

The group acts as a care & support system for women in the

Adult Entertainment Industry.

My visit coincides with two of their biggest annual events.

The first is a Tiffany themed Spa Day where women in the industry are invited to this special event that includes free spa services, food and gifts.

The second event is a Relaxation Suite for industry women attending  The AVN Awards at the HardRock Hotel. This is the Adult Entertainment Industries’ biggest night and considered “The Oscars” for pornographic movies.  It’s watched by millions on cable television.  Coinciding with the awards is  The AVN Expo - the world’s biggest Adult Entertainment Convention Tradeshow attended by over 100,000 people.

So. I’ll step outside my Connecticut small town bubble.  I like to think I’m a loving and non-judgmental person.  This will be tested.  One thing Britt has said all along is, “They’re just like us Mom ~ They’re just like us.”

Before I go further, I’d like you to watch this video of a TedX Talk with Joy Hoover – the organization’s founder.  She explains the premise behind this unique organization.

Here’s an excerpt from their website:

“Why Cupcakes?

For women working in the adult entertainment industry, non-judgmental support, consistent caring, and community resources are seldom, if ever, provided. In 2009, after a trip to Las Vegas opened our eyes to the needs of these women, we started knocking on doors of strip clubs with little more to offer than love and a box of cupcakes. Much to our surprise and delight we were not only invited in, we were invited back, and today we offer our unique brand of caring and support to women working in strip clubs in Las Vegas and Portland, and brothels in Nevada.

In March of 2013 we opened up our Women’s Resource Center, (the first of it’s kind!), which helps provide our women with job placement and professional development; health and beauty services; mental health, drug and alcohol counseling; spiritual guidance, as well as housing, legal, and education and financial assistance, and so much more!

With each connection we make, we realize just how many women need someone to care for and believe in them. As their trust in us grows, monthly cupcakes turn into coffee dates, we end up hosting their birthday parties and baby showers, and we find ourselves invited into their lives where we assist them in whatever way we can.

Since we began our work, we’ve partnered with tutors, lawyers, doctors, dentists, financial advisors, and other skilled professionals who’ve shared their talents and expertise at no cost to our women. We’ve served as babysitters, chauffeurs, shoulders to cry on, hands to hold, cheerleaders, stylists, mentors, and—most importantly—friends. And we’ve helped women who doubt themselves and their worth become more empowered in their daily lives by gaining the strength and courage they need to grow.”

Cupcake Girls Montage

(My daughter Britt is in the top photo on the left.)

Here they are with their signature pink boxes of cupcakes ready for strip club visits.

cupcake girls with pink boxes

In my gut I don’t want to be a bundle of preconceived opinions, biases, misconceptions & sympathy. I simply want to look them in the eyes and in the truest sense share love.

I look forward to sharing more of the trip with you on my return.

So as they say ~

peacelovecupcakes

Love ~donna