Pumpkin Carving Party

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October is my favorite month of the year. The crisp, cool air…the colorful leaves on the trees…oh wait, that doesn’t happen in Florida! Every year, I make a desperate attempt to celebrate autumn despite the 80° temperatures. I invited a few friends over to carve pumpkins but ending up spending most of our time hovered over the food table. I mean who wouldn’t be impressed with a Jack-O-Lantern shaped veggie platter and bloody knife cupcakes? The rest of our night included sipping on cider, enjoying the beautiful weather and everyone cramming onto the couch to watch Halloweentown.

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Mini Donut Pumpkins

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I love donuts…that’s no secret. I’m guilty of stopping at Dunkin’ a bit too often. The ceramic donut bank on my desk doesn’t help my constant cravings. So painting mini pumpkins like my favorite sugary breakfast item seemed only natural. I stopped by a local pumpkin patch (or two or three…I love pumpkins, okay?) and picked up a whole bunch of mini pumpkins for an afternoon of Halloween DIY fun!

Step 1: Pop off the stem of the mini pumpkin or cut it short so it doesn’t get in the way of the donut hole.

Step 2: Use a matte spray paint (in a light tan color, mine came out a bit too dark) to coat the pumpkin and let it completely dry overnight. Using a coat or two of spray paint helps get rid of the pumpkin’s waxy texture so the frosting layer of paint goes on a little smoother.

Step 3: Pick out your frosting colors. I went for the classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Use a tiny brush to draw the frosting outline and a little circle on top for the donut hole then fill in the rest with a larger paintbrush. You might need 2-3 coats depending on the thickness of the paint.

Step 4: Once the frosting paint layer is completely dry, it’s time to add the sprinkles! I opted for puffy paint. It was extremely easy to add the sprinkles this way plus the three-dimensional texture made them looked even more realistic.

Step 5: I dare you not to take a bite out of your new little treats. They look almost good enough to eat!

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New York Girl

I’m not really sure how Christmas has already come and gone…the holidays always seem to disappear in the blink of an eye. Back in November I made a weekend trip up to my old stomping grounds to visit friends, eat at some of New York’s finest establishments, and of course…take in the autumn leaves! It’s nice to look back at the golden colors since the leaves are now long gone and snow is the only thing New Yorkers will be staring at for the next few months.

^^Pink gem-faced mannequins inside Topshop.

^^NYC always looks better in lights.

^^Having a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” moment on the stoop from the 1961 movie.

^^The best tacos in the city at Tacombi in Nolita. Carne Asada tacos, fresh watermelon juice, and grilled corn in a cup.

^^Central Park was covered in golden LEAVES!

^^So many popsicles to choose from at Popbar.

^^The colors inside the park were just breathtaking.

^^Massive fortune cookie dessert at TAO.

^^Lady Gaga’s bone dress at her ARTPOP pop-up installation in the Meatpacking District.

^^DVF has always been one of my favorite buildings, just love those hot pink lips!

^^The famous Jeff Koons ‘Balloon Dog‘ worth $58.4 million! Should have stuck it in my purse…hah!

Chai Latte

I first tried chai tea in a little cafe in Mexico. Maybe that wasn’t the best place for my first taste because I was not overly thrilled with the flavor. While living in NYC, I had a friend reintroduce me to the drink, guaranteeing I would like it. Although I was sure I would hate it once again, I ended up loving it. It even become a weekly ritual to stop by my local coffee shop for a chai latte.

Since the end of the year is right around the corner and the “cooler” weather has joined, I want to spend most of my time with a warm drink, bundled up in flannels watching movie marathons all afternoon. But considering it’s still 80° and I’m currently in shorts, I figured I could at least pretend it’s chilly out if only for a bit. This Chai Latte has a bit of a kick to it. The creaminess of the condensed milk combined with the cinnamon makes it the perfect morning treat.

A Day in the Life {Halloween Edition}

1. All of my favorite things about autumn- scarves, lattes, sweaters, and shopping (which I love doing in any season). // 2. The cutest jack-o-lantern cookies. // 3. Homemade Chai Lattes on Halloween morning. The recipe will be posted soon! // 4. I’m a sucker for candy corn but only the mix with the little pumpkins in it. // 5. Autumn-inspired flowers and plaid table runners at my brother’s wedding rehearsal dinner. // 6. My favorite part about Halloween…pumpkins! // 7. I can never visit enough pumpkin patches during the month of October. // 8. There’s something so magical about twinkling lights on a cool night. // 9. The spookiest desserts on set at HSN.

Halloween Compost Cookies

Since I consider Halloween to be the season of sugar, I felt it only necessary to do a little baking. I first found this recipe for Halloween Compost Cookies on Glitter Guide last October and it has quickly become a yearly tradition to whip up these salty + sweet cookies inspired by Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC. Who knew potato chips, M&M’s, and caramel rice cakes could make for the most amazing cookies?

A Day in the Life

1. Pumpkin spice coffee and a raspberry cronut from Piquant on a stormy morning. // 2. My first professional photography project for Luxxe Bands live on Fab.com. // 3. Mimosas at one of my favorite brunch spots in town. // 4. Chocolate cannoli from Lucky Dill Deli. Almost as good as the ones at Ferrara in NYC. // 5. Beautiful chandeliers inside the newly renovated Ritz Ybor. Fun night with Icona Pop! // 6. My first attempt at royal icing. Engagement ring cookies in honor of my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. // 7. The most amazing dry ice martini at Ocean Prime. // 8. Spent two days with Giuliana Rancic on set at HSN for her fall launch of G by Giuliana Rancic. // 9. Strawberry donut and my new photo book by Elsie + Emma of A Beautiful Mess.

Feelin’ Blue

Each spring, I anticipate the arrival of fresh berries. I needed to make a dessert for a family get-together and didn’t have time to be too creative so I thought a Blueberry Cheesecake would please everyone. I usually consider cheesecake to be one of those super indulgent desserts, only saved for special occasions but when combined with fresh berries and jam, it’s the perfect spring treat.

I went apple and pumpkin picking while living up in New York and it was one of my favorite autumn memories. When I heard there was 25 acres of blueberry bushes at Keel & Curley Winery, I took advantage of an afternoon of berry picking. Although picking blueberries is a bit more tedious than picking apples, I came home with a bucket full of berries and a great reason to start baking.

I’m So Glad I Live in a World Where There are Octobers

The autumn festivities are officially in full swing. November greeted us with surprisingly cold weather. I could actually see my breath outside last night! It’s been a nice change from the usual 80 degree afternoons.

I spent the entire month of October participating in Halloween-related activities. Between farmer’s markets, pumpkin patch excursions, costume making, autumn baking, and pumpkin decorating, I would say I have completed my fall checklist.

Halloween week was full of parties. Mariah turned 21 so she hosted a birthday + Halloween celebration. On the evening of Halloween, I co-hosted a “A Nightmare on Azeele Street” with my friend Alissa in South Tampa. What a spook-tacular night it was!

I debuted my Kate Middleton costume and was thrilled when everyone loved it. I was quite shocked at how many people didn’t actually know who Kate Middleton was. Most of the guys thought I was the Queen of England. Someone needs to brush them up on their pop culture!

Mariah celebrated her 21st birthday right before Halloween so another party was completely necessary! We spent a lovely evening with her family and friends while my brother whipped up some amazing food and I made my first “real” birthday cake for her. I’m really considering opening a bakery in my future after all the time I’ve spent baking this past month!

My proudest accomplishment of the month was winning 2nd place at the Idlewild annual pumpkin carving contest! I carved a Mockingjay from The Hunger Games and it was a huge hit. There were so many other amazing designs and I would have awarded first place to the Gangham Style pumpkin. So creative!

Life Starts All Over Again When it Gets Crisp in the Fall

Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year. The crisp temperatures, the vivid oranges and reds of the leaves, and pumpkins lining every street. I flew up to Ohio a few weeks ago for a quick two day trip. Although it was short, we squeezed in as much family time as possible. Our first stop was my mom’s favorite childhood spot, Taggarts. There’s nothing like their homemade peanut butter fudge ice cream.

We were lucky that it warmed up a bit during the day so we stopped by Gervasi Vineyard in Canton for a glass of wine and a relaxing afternoon by the lake. The leaves were just beginning to change colors, families were gathered around a fire, and kids were playing corn hole beside the lake. It was the picture of perfection.

I’ve really enjoyed getting involved at my brother’s church in Tampa recently. About 40 of us got together and went over to the dessert room at Bern’s Steak House. I ordered a trio of mini chocolate cakes filled with dulce de leche and topped with a salted caramel gelato. I can safely say the cafe con leche was the most incredible thing I’ve ever had to drink. Every dessert was extremely indulgent and the presentation was impeccable.

After our sugar feast, we took a tour of the kitchen and the wine cellar. Bern’s has over 500,000 bottles of wine- some dating back to 1810. They hold the largest wine collection in the country!

Weekend adventures have to be one of my favorite things. Just getting in the car and driving, soaking up the sunshine, and spending time with friends is the absolute best. My friend Anna and I went to Datz in Tampa for a delicious Sunday brunch. Afterwards, we felt compelled to pop into the bakery next door. We were delighted to find ghost and candy corn shaped cookies. We ended our day at Cigar City Brewing for a tour and tasting. What a cool local spot and great local craft beers!

I found out that Giuliana and Bill Rancic would be speaking at the University of South Florida and was thrilled at the chance to see them in person. Kate and I drove over to Tampa and waited in line for an hour with the hundreds of eager fans.

It was such an inspiration to hear Giuliana speak about her career at E! News, her road to recovery from breast cancer, and what it was like having her first child via surrogate. Her husband, Bill Rancic, was the winner of the first season of The Apprentice and is a very successful Chicago businessman. The relationship between them is something I strive to have in the future- what a beautiful friendship and marriage they have!

I currently have the windows open and am enjoying the break from 90 degree weather. I miss NYC in the autumn but I’m thankful to live in a place where freak blizzards on Halloween are not likely. Stay warm my northern friends, I’ll be enjoying the sunshine for you.