Thursday, January 29, 2015

hive ...

So, if you've been on social media you may have seen a little  buzz about HIVE.  HIVE is a new company that specializes in Smart Homes.  Home automation, security, entertainment and audio!
It connects your entire home through a sleek little fella here that they call the HIVE, and through it you can control your entire home- temperature, lights, security, locks on your doors, music to name a few!
I'm super interested in the HIVE SOUND.  This beautifully designed speaker is controlled through the hive through bluetooth, and is simply just plugged into your wall outlet!  We just built a new home, and built-in speakers in the room just weren't in the budget, so this product is something I'm really interested in!
I've been able to attend a few of HIVE'S events, and have enjoyed learning a little more and more about the company.  They were one of the sponsors at a favorite blogging conference of mine, Alt this year, and threw an amazing TOKYO DREAMS party that was hosted by a few of my good friends!  It's been exciting to see the buzz spread, and excitement spread for the Hive with this fun community!

I'm excited to learn more about the products, and get one in my hands for my own home. (just dying to try it!)  I can really see they are going somewhere!  I mean the design alone is enough for me to want one!
Look how beautiful it looks in my friend Jane's home?  It fits right in and isn't an eyesore which is really important to me, because as you know I love to look at beautiful things.
I think it's so important in the home to have beautiful things, whether it's a garbage can, or a large piece of furniture.  Good design goes a long way.

If this all sounds like something you'd be interested, you can be a part of the buzz too!!

Hive has an amazing rewards program if you get involved and help spread the word!  You have opportunities to make money, and earn amazing products!

You can also get involved by donating their Kickstarter campaign that just launched!

Click HERE to join the community and learn more.  Click join and type 'armelle' for your access code!

And, click HERE to help back their Kickstarter campaign!

{Thank you HIVE for sponsoring this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own}

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 recap, and what's to come on armelle blog ...

Wow! I can't believe it's 2015!

What a year 2014 was for me.  I means many amazing things and so many changes happened in my life!  But, boy was it also one of the hardest years of my life!  I think any of you who have moved or built a home can relate!

We found ourselves for the first 8 months of 2014 crammed into a little 2 bedroom apartment while we built our new home.  It was hard to blog very much during that time. All my stuff was in storage, and I had no office space!  So, this little blog took a bit of a break during all the craziness!  I missed my creative outlets terribly, my office, my stuff!  Living out of bins and no furniture for 8 months can make you go batty!  But, it only confirmed that I do enjoy to surround myself with pretty things, and a well designed space can really take you a long way.

I always love to post a little re-cap of the year on my blog.  It's always nice to look back at the things I have accomplished, and hope to do better in the future!

This year like I said was the year of the house!  On my mind 24-7 was this future home.  Full of ups and downs in the process, it was definitely… traumatic!  Ha! The only word I can use to describe it.  I felt that everything that could go wrong did, and we are still trying to work out some of the kinks!  It's hard to invest all that time, energy and money into something like a new home, and for it not to turn out as you planned… but, that's a whole other post. Maybe one day I'll post tips on building a new home… (DON'T DO IT.)  Ha! Just kidding…. sort of. (This is where I wish blogging had emoticons… I clearly spend too much time on Instagram)…. anyhow…
I am hoping to share a lot more on our house projects with you coming up here on the blog!  I'm excited for that, and to partner with some amazing companies! I am also hoping to do a re-design of my website, and finally move over to wordpress.  If you know of anyone that you think is amazing at logos, and rebranding and moving to wordpress, send them over my way!

But, first.  Let's re-cap 2014 a little bit in true Armelle Blog form.  Things I love to share on this blog, and what this blog is all about!

FOOD!
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I am passionate about good food!  I teach cooking classes locally at Orson Gygi, and I blog for my favorite local grocery store Harmons Grocery.  I am passionate about eating well, with good whole quality ingredients, and I love to share my favorite recipes here on my blog.

Here's a little sample of what I posted in 2014!  

DIY& TUTORIALS!
I love putting together Do It Yourselve's (DIY's) & Tutorials.  A few I worked on in 2014 were:

FASHION & HEALTH TIPS!
I love personal style, and I'm excited to share a little more fashion on the blog in the coming year!  I've been loving working with some fun brands and stores on outfits recently, so plan on seeing more of that  coming up!  (Email me, I would love to collaborate with you!)

I also am passionate about health and try to do my best to stay healthy with either healthy eating or exercise.  I shared a little bit on my tips to staying fit and active on my blog in 2014 as well!

HOME DECOR!
I LOVE beautiful spaces!  And, with a new home in 2014, home decor and projects have been on my mind constantly.  I had to say goodbye to my old studio space, and I'm excited to show you the progress and work on my new office in 2015!  My new home has many more rooms and areas that I didn't have before, so I have my work cut out for me!  (If your a brand, I'd love to work with you, email me!)

In 2014 I shared:

Can't wait to share what I have in store for you in 2015 when it comes to my home!  I feel like every weekend all the time we have a new project we are tackling.  It's like a blank slate, which is terrifying, expensive, and fun all at the same time!  I feel like I keep holding out on posting some pictures of my home here on the blog because I want it to be done and just perfect, but I realized that it probably never will be. Ha!  So, I'll show you the journey.  Hopefully there will be some good before and after's…. and, I win the lottery to fund all of this! wink.  But, until then, I do share some good peeks into my home over on my instagram account!

PARTIES / ENTERTAINING!
If you have read my blog for a while, then you know that I LOVE a good party, and entertaining!
I have had fun throwing and working on some fun parties over the years here on the blog!  My favorite are probably my little family celebrations like our Back to School feast, or our Halloween feast!


SOCIAL MEDIA EVENTS/ CONFERENCES!
As a blogger, you get invited to a lot of events!  Either local businesses or some plan events in your city, it always looks like a big party (love my job!), but it's been amazing to form relationships with different companies and brands, and to network and meet new people to work with in relation to my blog!

Blogging conferences are also an amazing way to network and meet some amazing companies to work with!  I love to attend Alt Summit.  In 2014, I attended Alt Summit Summer conference and it was a great way to get out and network to help build my brand and blog!

TRAVEL!
I am super passionate about traveling!!  I think it's in my blood with my mom being from Vietnam, and my father from France.  I was lucky enough to travel at a fairly young age regularly to France, and Europe and study in France during college.  I have serious wanderlust, which has been hard while having babies and living life (i.e: money, time, kids).  But, now that my kids are all out of the diaper phase, and the bring everything but the kitchen sink to travel with, I am determined to get out there with them and show them the world!  There isn't a better time to make memories than on vacations with your family.  That is what everyone always remembers most (think to your childhood, I'm right, huh!)

I'm excited to share with you my recent trip to Vietnam, where we toured the entire country, and revisited my mother's roots, and brought her back to her country for the first time after 47 years.

In 2014, I also shared with you on my blog about one of the best days I have ever had!  We are lucky to live in Utah, and have so many beautiful places in our own backyard!  We spend an afternoon on the Pink Coral Sand dunes, and I couldn't tell if it was heaven or earth.  It was a special day enjoying my family and the great outdoors!

I'm excited to plan some big things this year with my family and travel!  We LOVE a good adventure, and nothing is better than adventuring with my people, so of course, I'd love to share it with you!

I am so excited about what 2015 has in store for me, my little family, and this blog!  It's going to be an adventure!  When people ask what kind of blog I have.  I usually answer.. "well, it's a little bit of everything, I can't narrow down my interests because there are so many." So, I suppose it would fall into the lifestyle category.  I am thrilled to share more of what I am up to in my real life!  Back when I first started blogging it was a creative outlet, when I came up with a good idea, I would want to share it and blog about it!  But, things got a little tricky when blogging became a business, it became less of, "I have an idea I want to share on my blog!' to "I need an idea because I have to blog."  See the difference? I'm committed to share with you things that are a natural fit to my blog and lifestyle.  Things that I would be working on anyway if this little blog didn't even exist.  Things that I'm doing in my life anyway to make it more rich, beautiful, better, and that's exactly what I am hoping to share with you, my dear readers.

Well, thanks for sticking through my re-cap of 2014, and my exciting adventures to come on this little old blog of mine.  Thanks for letting me share my creative outlet, my life, and adventures with you! I can't even believe my 8th anniversary of blogging is coming up in February?!  Can you believe I've had this blog for 8 years?!  I'd love for you to leave a comment and tell me how long you have read this blog, and why you like to read it?! And, for those of you who have stuck with me this long, Thank you!  And, to new followers, welcome!  

It's gonna be a good year!

xoxo

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

holiday peppermint bark ...

 If you are still scrambling for some last minute neighbor gifts, or co-worker treats, I have a great recipe for you!

It is a simple, quick and easy chocolate peppermint bark.
I love to make it and package it up nice and festive in some clear containers.
Peppermint Bark
  • 2 2/3 cups milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate
  • 3 to 5 drops peppermint oil
  • 2 cups good quality white melting chocolate, chopped into coarse pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped candy canes or finely chopped hard peppermint candies

Directions
1) Gently melt the dark chocolate, heating it on very low heat or over hot water until it barely melts.  I use a double boil method with a medium saucepan with simmering water then place a large glass bowl on top with the chocolate inside to melt it.
2) Stir in 2 drops of the the peppermint oil, then spread a thin layer into an 8" x 12" oval on parchment paper or foil.
3) Allow the chocolate to set, in the fridge or freezer for about 15-30 minutes. 
4) Melt the white chocolate the same way, and mix it with 2 drops of peppermint oil.
5) Spread the white chocolate over the hardened dark chocolate. (make sure chocolate is well hardened or it will melt with the white chocolate.
6) Sprinkle the rest of the peppermint crunch on top, pressing it in gently.
7) Allow the candy to cool until hardened, then break or cut it into chunks.
8) Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.
Yield: about 2 dozen pieces.

Enjoy!

{photos by me}

Thursday, December 18, 2014

black rhino toys ...

My cute little seven year old Ezra is obsessed with these Japanese wooden toys called, Kendamas.
He plays them non-stop with his friends at school, even at recess, they have moves, and it is great hand eye coordination.

He has been so into Kendamas, that he wanted to start selling them. I for one fully support them because they are fun, simple wooden toys that promote skills, and it isn't an electronic.  I was sold too.
So, Black Rhino Toys was born.

My little entrepreneur is so excited to be up and running selling his favorite toy.  He really is in heaven, it's the cutest thing.  He helps package up the orders, and he even had a little open house Kendama stand with his friends. 
He sells a great variety of Kendama styles, even the hard to find Kendama Pills in many colors.
He is saving all his pennies in his savings account to go towards college, and serving a LDS mission.  The other day he asked me, "Mom, how much is college?"  Ha! I said, a whole lot!
I'm obsessed with the itty bitty 2 inch novelty kendama keychains or ornaments.  Just the right size for elf on the shelf or Barbie.
He also sells Kendama Holders, because he brings his around everywhere, it's nice to have a place to hang it on his backpack.
The mini kendamas are cute!  About 5 inches!

If you still don't know what a kendama is, be sure the @blackrhinotoys instagram account.  There are a lot of fun videos to show you how to play Kendamas!

Be sure to check it out if your little ones like wooden toys that teach some hand eye coordination and some skills!

It's been a fun learning process for Ezra, teaching him how to run a business, about when you start making a profit, how to package up orders, mail them off, and he's already learned how to get his mom to be his first employee for free.  ;)

Follow Black Rhino Kendama here:

{all photos by me}

abc4 good morning utah segment ...

Bright and early this morning I had a chance to go on ABC4 Good Morning Utah.   I partnered with Harmons Grocery to share four quick and easy delicious holiday gifts for your neighbors or co-workers. 
Here is the segment for the Sticky Coconut Corn Pop recipe, and Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Sea Salt and Dried Cranberries.
I realized in my nervousness of being on live TV, I added a much too generous amount of sea salt to the dark chocolate bark.  Good thing I brought that batch home.  I tasted it, and boy was it salty, ha! ;)


And, here is the segment for the Sweet and Spicy Nut mix, and the Rosemary Sea Salt Almonds
I'll be sharing the full recipes soon with pictures.  But until then, I'll post them all here until I can get them posted individually with pictures, in case you are in need of some neighbor or co-worker gift ideas right away. All ingredients can be found at Harmons Grocery!
Nola's Treat-  Sticky Coconut Corn Pops with Nuts

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons coconut extract
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
pinch sea salt
7 ounces slivered almonds
4 to 8 ounces chopped pecans

In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt and heat over medium high heat to a soft ball stage. (Softball stage: 230 degrees on a candy thermometer)  

Remove from heat, and add coconut extract, vanilla, almonds, and pecans.

Pour over a 15 ounces bag of Corn Pops (In a red bag, brand is called Barrel O' Fun)

Mix until all is covered and well coated.  I like to mix it in a brown paper grocery sack.

Lay out on parchment paper and cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Cranberries, and Sea Salt

8 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao)
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel sea salt

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Break the dark chocolate into pieces.  Place in a medium glass bowl over a medium saucepan with simmering water.  Melt the chocolate.

When the chocolate is melted, spread onto parchment paper, and sprinkle with pistachios, crasins, and sea salt.

Chill in the fridge until it is completely set up, about 30 minutes.  Break into pieces and serve.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts
makes 4 cups

3 cups (12 oz) Raw unsalted Pecans
1 cup raw unsalted cashews

Place the nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Toss and mix around, and bake another 5 minutes.

Let them cool as you mix together the following in a medium bowl:

2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you don't like spicy)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Toss the warm nuts into the mixture until evenly coated.  Then, roast on a parchment lined baking sheet for 12-18 minutes to get them perfectly toasted.  
Be sure to stir the nuts every 4 minutes to prevent burning and clumping together.

Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Mix around the nuts as they cool to avoid any clumping.

Rosemary Fleur de Sel Almonds
makes 3 cups

3 cups whole raw unsalted almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Toss almonds in olive oil in a medium bowl.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Fleur de sel sea salt to taste

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spread the almonds on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes mixing every 5 minutes.  In the last few minutes add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, and sprinkle fleur de sel sea salt to taste.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Once cool, store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 12, 2014

holiday cookies ...

Christmas cookies
Can you believe it's already time to think about Holiday cookies?  I'm excited to partner with Harmons Grocery and the Harmons bloggers to bring you a fun post full of holiday cookie ideas and recipes!
Christmas cookies macarons
I was able to get together with the Harmons Blogger team to come up with some fun cookies for the Holiday season!  I think cookie exchanges are so much fun!  It would be a lot of fun to get together with friends this Holiday season to have a night to mingle and enjoy homemade cookies!  Here are a few cookies that we love, and wanted to share with you!
My friend Becky of Vintage mixer shared a festive frosted honey Christmas cookie.
Christmas cookies macarons
My friend Si of A Bountiful Kitchen made some yummy chewy chocolate ginger cookies.  They were so good, and she was nice enough to send me home with a bunch of them, I may have eaten almost all of them.
I decided to come up with a new recipe for French Macarons.  I decided to make pumpkin flavored French macarons.  
It was fun to try out a new flavor, and I think pumpkin is a flavor that can go through all the holidays!
They have the perfect blend of holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the pumpkin spice that translate well into Christmas baking.  And, boy your home sure smells like Christmas when you are baking them!

Harmons grocery has an amazing baking isle, they even sell the hard to find whole nutmeg, and they are the only grocery store in my area that I have been able to find egg white powder to help give my macarons a little extra volume!  I call it my "insurance policy" when making macarons!  
Pumpkin French Macarons with Pumpkin Buttercream

Adapted from Les Petits Macarons book by Kathryn Gordon
*Recipe adjusted for higher altitudes.

Yield: Makes 30 sandwiched 1 ½ inch macarons (60 halves)

Ingredients
82 grams almond meal/flour (Bob's Red Mill is a good brand)
82 grams homemade pecan meal/flour* Directions below
Pinch of fine sea salt
¾ packed cup (165 grams) confectioner’s/powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (5 grams) powdered egg whites (*adjustment for high altitudes)
1 tablespoon (5 grams) pumpkin pie spice
½ cup (115 grams) aged* egg whites (about 4 eggs): divided into two equal parts *aged at least 2-5 days
1/4 cup (38 grams) water
5/8 cup (125 grams) granulated sugar
4 drops gel food coloring (optional)

Homemade Pecan Meal/Flour
* Place 1 cup pecans in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse for 1-2 seconds at a time so they don’t get too warm and turn into a paste.  Pulse about 30 times.  Be very careful not to pulse more that about 1-2 seconds at a time, so the nuts do not heat up and turn into a paste. Measure 82 grams of the pecan flour, and add it to the dry ingredients along with the almond flour.

*For homemade nut flours, the batter tends to get thin and runny quickly, be extra careful when you fold, and when whipping your egg whites for form a meringue, whip until stiff, this will help the batter to not be too thin.

Directions: (Be sure to follow directions precisely)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Pulse the almond flour, pecan flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a food processor 4 times for 4 seconds each time.  Sift the mixture with the powdered egg whites.  Stir in ¼ cup (57 grams) of the aged egg whites to form a thick paste, mix with a wooden spoon.

Put the remaining ¼ cup (57 grams) of egg whites in a electric stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment.  Whisk the egg whites on medium speed until FOAMY/SOFT PEAKS form.  Meanwhile, heat the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook without stirring until the sugar syrup reaches the beginning of the soft ball stage (test this by removing a drop of the mixture on a heat proof spatula.  Drop a drop of the mixture and if it forms a half circle and the bottom edges are still domed, then it is ready to go.  If the mixture is still runny, and doesn’t stay in a soft form, it needs a little longer.)  Once it hits the soft ball stage IMMEDIATELY remove it from the heat, and slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the soft peaked egg whites as it mixes on a medium speed.  Continue to whisking the mixture until the meringue forms a medium to stiff peak so it is marshmallow-like. About 3-5 minutes. Do NOT over whip or it will cause the cookie to crack when cooked!

Fold the meringue mixture one-third at a time into the dry ingredient paste (BE DELICATE!).  It will gradually lighten it and make a smooth batter.   Don’t mix too much or the macarons will crack.  To make sure that you have reached the right point, once the ingredients appear combined, lift some of the mixture about 1 inch above the bowl with the spatula.  If it retains a three-dimensional shape, fold it again.  When folded just enough, the mixture should fall right back into the bowl, with no stiffness, in a continuous drip. (It should be like lava, if it is too stiff it won’t get a nice three-dimensional look)

Pipe the macarons into 1 1/2 inch circles and 1 ½ inches apart on a silicon baking sheet lined (or parchment paper lined) pan. Pipe 1 ½ inch circles with a ½ inch round piping tip.  Use the hand you write with to squeeze the top of the bag, and the other hand to guide you to the next circle. Twist with your wrist, and move out without moving up. After piping all the circles, be sure to remove the excess air bubbles by slamming the pan onto the counter (holding it 6” above the table then slamming it down 6 times)  Let the macarons air dry at room temperature for ½ hour (*can take longer if raining) until a skin/crust forms.  Bake 1 sheet pan at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 13-14 minutes (less for convection) (for 1 ½ inch size) until the macarons just come off the baking sheet when you lift them by grasping their sides (the centers will have risen, and will not have any dark indentations).  If the macarons darken too quickly, put a wooden spoon in the door of the oven to prop it slightly open.  Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.


Pumpkin Butter Cream Filling

Pair with pumpkin macarons
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1lb 9 oz confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1) Cream the butter, salt, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice for about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar ½ a cup at a time with a paddle attachment on the stand mixer on medium speed.  Mix until light and fluffy and combined, about 5 minutes, add vanilla bean paste.

Pipe into completely cooled macaron shells with a 1/2 inch round pastry tip, then sandwich the cookies.
I think it would be fun to package them up into little to-go boxes for a cookie exchange, or a little tasty holiday gift for your neighbors or friends. These are my favorite kraft take out boxes from Paper Mart. Tie it up with a little bakers twine, and you have the perfect holiday treat packaged up to share with friends and family.

Here's the run-down on some amazing holiday cookies from the Harmons Bloggers:
Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies by A Bountiful Kitchen
Pumpkin French Macarons by Armelle Blog
Frosted Honey Christmas Cookies by Vintage Mixer
Peppermint Ganache Cookies by Harmon's Grocery Bakers
Melted Snowman Cookies by One Sweet Appetite

{all photos by me, unless otherwise noted}