Buttercream…Takes the Cake

The cupcake craze in the past few years has exploded, and in my family we have a bit of OCD (Obsessive Cupcake Disorder). It doesn’t help that almost everywhere you look, there’s a new cupcake shop opening up.  Here in Miami, we have quite a few, but to me there is nothing as delicious as the cupcakes found at Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee. I’ve mentioned them before in some of my other blog posts, but today I am dedicating an entire post just to them. The tiny shop, owned by wife and husband team Kristine Graulich and Jose Cuellar, situated on the residential side of Sunset Drive, is small but cozy. There’s a little table inside if you’d like to escape the heat and humidity, and also a few tables set up outside.  We love the aroma of warm cupcakes, the moment you open the front door.  And then it hits you…which one should I choose?

So hard to choose...

Such a variety to choose from…

Be warned, you will not find any crazy, exotic flavors or fillings in these cupcakes.  If that’s what you’re looking for, then this is not the place for you.  Here the cake is basically always chocolate or vanilla, topped with various flavors of buttercream frosting, such as guava, pistachio (hubby’s favorite), vanilla (my original favorite), strawberry (my current favorite), red velvet or chocolate.  The Oreo, featuring giant chunks of Oreo cookies in the frosting, is by far my daughter’s favorite.  But these cupcakes don’t need any frills, they are perfect the way they are. Buttercream cupcakes are store-baked each day using the finest dairy, flour and sugar ingredients which is why they are so moist. They also offer additional flavors on a rotating schedule, such as orange and lime, to keep things interesting. Here are all of our favorite flavors:

My favorite flavors!

Favorite flavors!

But if you can’t decide, they offer a sampler box of mini cupcakes comprised of their most popular flavors.

Mini cupcakes...Photo courtesy of Buttercream Cupackes

Mini cupcakes…Photo courtesy of Buttercream Cupcakes

They also make cakes for special occasions, which are just as delicious as their cupcakes.  Take a look at the beautiful cake they made for my friend’s baby shower:

Beautiful baby shower cake...

Beautiful baby shower cake…

So the next time you find yourself in Coral Gables, make sure you stop in and try one of these heavenly cupcakes, you won’t regret it!

 Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee
1411 Sunset Drive
Coral Gables
(305) 669-8181

http://www.buttercreamcupcakes.com

Have you tried Buttercream cupcakes?  If you have, I’d love to hear which one is your favorite?

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My Creative Space

I often wonder where people get inspired and get their blog writing done? Sure, I see these gorgeous home office spaces all over design websites, but I can’t imagine everyone’s space looks this magnificent? Take a look at this beautiful desk area, I’m sure this would make us all very creative…

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of simplyjessicamarie.com

Recently I came across a company called WeWork, a coworking company that offers members access to offices all over the world; and some of these offices are amazingly creative and beautiful. So I thought I would share my creative space with my readers and give you some insight as to how I get inspired.

I’ve always had somewhat of a “work” space, even before I started this blog, because I am a crafter, always have been.  I have been making very elaborate scrapbooks for many years, it started with my trips to Europe, and after our daughter was born, I started making them for her too (she’s now 14).  As my husband likes to say, our daughter has the most detailed documented life, through her scrapbooks. And in addition to my scrapbooks and blogging, I also still work on photo albums (yes, I’m old school and still print photos) and also dabble a bit in party planning making invitations and favors for my family’s events.  So…I definitely need a large workspace, as I sometimes have tons of items spread out.

That’s why I love my Pottery Barn desk.  It’s been almost 9 years that I’ve had it and while it’s definitely showing wear and tear, I still love it.  It gives me a ton of space to spread out my projects and store all of my craft and office supplies. I don’t really have a need for wall shelves as this room has a good-sized walk in closet in which I had an Elfa system installed, providing ample storage space with plenty of shelving and drawers. (Those Elfa systems are amazing!) I’ve been meaning to give my space a small makeover, but for now, here’s what I have to work with:

My home office...

My home office…

I love to have a lot of light, and this room definitely offers that.  As you can see, I have travel prints hanging on the walls of some of my favorite places, as I LOVE to travel.  The large frame is a Thomas McKnight print of Mykonos, and the smaller prints in the yellow frames are hand painted views of Amalfi, which I purchased on one of my visits to Positano. Also inspiring me are a small plaque that my daughter recently bought for me on a class trip…Home Is Where Your Mom Is…a phrase she knows I’ve always loved and a really cute trinket dish with an inspirational quote on it…Make Today Beautiful.  Last but not least, a small photo plaque which I customized on Shutterfly, reminding me every day how much I love my little family.

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Do you have a designated home office or creative space where you work from home?  I’d love to see your photos.My Signature

Lilly Pulitzer for Target…

How can my shopping experience at Target get any better (is that even possible?) This is how…only 2 more days until the launch of Lilly Pulitzer at Target! I’m so excited, I’ve been a Lilly fan for many years, and I think it’s an amazing collaboration for those that enjoy the preppy look but find the Lilly collection a bit out of their price range. That’s the best part of the deal…Target will sell Lilly items at Target prices, but only for a limited time!  Doesn’t get much better than that. You can browse the entire look book online, which includes over 250 products for women, children, beauty, and home ranging in price from $2 (for a nail file) to $150 (for a hammock), but nearly 200 of the items come in with a price below $30. While the collection will be available in stores, some items will be sold exclusively at Target.com. And make sure to watch the campaign video, featuring actors Chris Noth (Mr. Big from Sex and The City) and Bella Thorne in the midst of a ’60s Palm Beach soiree. Take at look at some of the items Target will be carrying: 

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Photos courtesy of Target.

Will you be shopping at Target this coming Sunday?  I know I will…

Mythical Mykonos

Mykonos…I discovered this beautiful island many years ago on my honeymoon to the Greek Islands and instantly fell in love with it (here’s my blog post on Santorini). While one of the most visited and popular of the Greek islands, it is sometimes viewed by many as a cosmopolitan, pleasure-seeking playground similar to Ibiza or St. Tropez, well-known for beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts and wild nightlife. But to me, Mykonos is much more than that…

The beautiful Mykonos harbor and the town in the background

The beautiful Mykonos harbor and the town in the background

At first glance the island is simply a beautiful series of whitewashed houses with the iconic blue window shutters that give it such a charm that is completely all its own. It is the most expensive island in the Cyclades, but not one to be missed with its winding little streets that one can get lost in, overlooking its beautiful harbor.

I’ve been back to Mykonos a few more times since our honeymoon, and I can tell you it has definitely changed through the years. Long gone are many of the mom and pop, charming souvenir stores, where you would find handmade items created by the store owners.  Most have been replaced with posh, expensive designer boutiques and the likes of Louis Vuitton. Also, many of the restaurants that we remembered from prior trips have been closed and reopened under new management.  And while I miss the old Mykonos, the island still has a unique charm of its own, and remains a destination that will keep luring you back for years to come (as it has with me).

hHe narrow streets of Mykonos Town

The narrow streets of Mykonos Town

On this last trip, our daughter came along, her first time visiting Greece, so we had to change things up a bit.  We usually stay in hotels that are in town so that we’re close to everything and to also avoid the hassle of having to take taxis or buses into town at night, which can be quite difficult, especially during the crowds of July and August. However, many town hotels are not very family oriented and lack amenities such as pools and larger family style rooms.  While the beach towns have gorgeous large resorts, they are also prohibitively expensive (>500 euros a night).  This was also the first time we visited Mykonos during August, and that makes a big difference. The island was extremely overcrowded and finding a taxi was near to impossible. The buses at night were running late (we waited over 40 minutes standing in the heat for a bus one night) and also very crowded. In the past we’ve stayed at Hotel Kouros, Hotel Rohari and Hotel Belvedere, all excellent choices right near town.  This time we decided on the Yiannaki Hotel in Ornos Beach, also a fine choice.  I recommend this property if you don’t want to blow your budget and you’re looking for a family hotel. It has a great pool, comfortable rooms and a pretty decent poolside restaurant, serving buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. But, this hotel is not near Mykonos town. Thankfully, the staff was very accommodating and friendly and was able to reserve a taxi in advance to go into town in the evenings.  Be warned, this is a very pricey solution, but in my opinion, well worth it.

Yiannaki Hotel in Ornos Bay

Yiannaki Hotel in Ornos Beach

Mykonos is a small island with many things to keep tourists busy. There are some small museums, plenty of beaches, tons of shops and cafes, and boat trips to other nearby islands. But truth be told, living in Miami, my husband and I rarely spend our days at the beach when we visit.  We like to explore.  We typically rent a jeep and drive around the island, making various stops.  The remainder of our time is spent walking through the main town and soaking in the island lifestyle.  There are many restaurants to choose from, but we always make a stop at Nikos Taverna (Ag. Ioanninou, Agias Monis Square).  It’s well-known and loved by both locals and tourists alike. Popular and very busy, Nikos is a landmark.  You can sit indoors, although I suggest you sit in the outdoor patio were you can feel the lively authentic ambiance of this island, especially in the evenings.

Nikos Taverna in the evening.  Photo Courtesy of Gary Black Photography

Nikos Taverna in the evening. Photo Courtesy of Gary Black Photography

If you would like to splurge a bit, try La Maison de Katrin (Gerasimou & Nikou Streets) offering the best of both Greek and French cuisine.  Worth the search through the Dilou quarter of Mykonos, with its outdoor tables on a narrow street, (as is most of Mykonos),  while the lovely interior features Cycladic arches and whitewash.

Chez Katrin

Chez Katrin

And of course, if you’re traveling with an Italian food fanatic, like my daughter, you can also find numerous Italian places, like Pasta Fresca Barkia (15 Kouzi Georgouli), where they make homemade fresh pasta while you watch.  Walking down the narrow street and seeing all the pasta outside of the restaurant, there was no way we were going to escape eating here one night.  The food was OK, but it’s probably a place your kids will love.

Pasta Fesca Barkia

Pasta Fresca Barkia

Climb the hill to visit Mykonos’ windmills, the icons of the island. They sadly don’t actually function anymore, but they’re still very pretty and the views out over the town from here are scenic. They also happen to be the most popular place to catch the sunset. Prepare for crowds if you plan to go, head over there early to get a good spot.

The famous windmills

The famous windmills

Little Venice is another popular spot in Mykonos. With the houses on the water, it’s a nice place to spend some time eating a meal or having a drink. During the late afternoon, lots of people file in, and you can also catch a great view of the windmills.  In the evenings, the bars are really crowded, as well as the nearby clubs, such as Scandinavian Bar & Disco.

LIttle Venice

Little Venice

The church of Panagia Paraportiani, near the Kastro area, is a Byzantine church, which dates back to 1425. There are over 400 churches to see across the island, but this is considered the highlight of them all. It is composed of 5 chapels, only one of which is open to visitors. Definitely something you don’t want to miss.

Church of Panagia Pariportiani

Church of Panagia Paraportiani

And last but not least, make sure you meet Petros the Pelican, the island’s beloved mascot, a gorgeous, light pink, real life Pelican. The original pelican died in the late 80s, however a few years back there were three living on the island, and now there’s just one again (the others have sadly died).  Everyone loves to find Petros and snap photos with him. And although he’s usually not hard to find, we did have a difficult time spotting him on this last trip, only seeing him turn the corner while sitting at Nikos, having a late meal. Of course, our daughter was so disappointed in not being able to see him up close and personal, after so many stories she’d heard from us, that we decided to actually ask some locals, where was the best place to find him.  They told us he was probably a bit “stressed” with the heat and the crowds, and was purposely staying away.  I never knew pelicans could get stressed, but who knows?

Hubby hanging out with Petros

Hubby hanging out with Petros

Have you been to Mykonos?  If you have, what have you enjoyed most about it?  Here are a few more photos from our various trips to Mykonos.  Enjoy!

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Beautiful Mykonos

Beautiful Mykonos

Petros...photo source unknown, found on Pinterest...

Petros…photo source unknown, found on Pinterest…

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Narrow street leading from Nikos Taverna to the harbor

Petting my favorite mascot…

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Hubby and I by the windmills with Little Venice in the background

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Small blue church at the port

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Typical Greek scenery

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Loved this saying, just had to photograph it!

The windmills

The windmills

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Cafe near Paraportiani Church

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The famous blue domes

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Clothing shop selling cute Greek sandals for little girls

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Another typical shopping street

Rohari

At Hotel Rohari

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One of the many beaches in Mykonos

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Beautiful Petros relaxing

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Super Paradise Beach

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Hubby petting Petros

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Hotel Belvedere

Typical cafe

Typical cafe

Keeper of the Light Trilogy

With some of us in the middle of spring break and summer just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time for some more book reviews. Here are some great reads from one of my favorite authors, Diane Chamberlain, a USA Today and London Times bestselling author of 23 novels (click here for the review of my favorite book of hers). I started reading Keeper of the Light, not realizing it was the first of The Keeper of the Light Trilogy, which also includes Kiss River and Her Mother’s Shadow. After I finished the first book, I could not wait to hear what happened to the O’Neill family and I had to read the other two books…I couldn’t put them down. Although they do not necessarily need to be read in order, I highly recommend you do, to better follow the story line.

Photos Courtesy of Diane Chamberlain

Photos Courtesy of Diane Chamberlain

Keeper of the Light (Synopsis)
Dr. Olivia Simon is on duty in the emergency room of North Carolina’s Outer Banks Hospital when a gunshot victim is brought in. Midway through the desperate effort to save the young woman’s life, Olivia realizes who she is-Annie O’Neill. The woman Olivia’s husband, Paul, is in love with. When Annie dies on the operating table, she leaves behind three other victims. Alec O’Neill, who thought he had the perfect marriage. Paul, whose fixation on Annie is unshakable. And Olivia, who is desperate to understand the woman who destroyed her marriage. Now they are left with unanswered questions about who Annie really was. And about the secrets she kept hidden so well.

Kiss River (Synopsis)
Set eleven years after the first book, the O’Neill family finds itself facing new challenges in the form of a stranger obsessed by the old Kiss River Lighthouse. Separated by a continent from her child, Gina Higgins comes to Kiss River with little more than a desperate plan. Now, saving her daughter depends on whether she can uncover a message buried deep below the ocean’s surface. Kiss River’s historic nineteenth-century lighthouse has all but fallen into the sea, taking with it the huge Fresnel lens that once served as its beacon. Gina is desperate to find a way to raise the lens; the glass holds the key to her future, her fortune and her only chance to save the one person who matters to her. Clay O’Neill lives in the old light keeper’s house, a home he shares with his sister, Lacey. When Lacey invites her to stay with them, Gina eagerly accepts. As Gina begins her quest to raise the lens, Clay finds himself drawn to her struggle, and to Gina herself. But the answers lie deep below the ocean. And the lighthouse holds secrets that neither Clay nor Gina can anticipate….

Her Mother’s Shadow (Synopsis)
Visiting the O’Neill family once again in the haunting setting of Kiss River, Her Mother’s Shadow tells the story of the adult Lacey O’Neill as she’s thrust into the role of mother before she’s had a chance to truly grow up herself. Annie…A loving mother and wife, Annie O’Neill was the heart of the small community of Kiss River. But her generous nature hid a darker side that remained secret for years after her tragic death. Lacey…When Lacey O’Neill finally learns the shattering truth about the mother she’s spent a decade emulating, the foundation of her life begins to crumble. Then her close childhood friend dies, leaving her teenage daughter, Mackenzie, in Lacey’s care, and Lacey unwillingly finds herself in the role of mother. Mackenzie…Uprooted by her mother’s death, Mackenzie resents her new home of Kiss River. She wants nothing to do with the father who never knew she existed—and especially not her mother’s oldest friend. But the person who could understand her best might be the one she resents most: Lacey.

So, I hope I have peaked your interest in these terrific mysteries.  Now just pick up a copy of these books, or download them to your e-reader, and enjoy a great read!

Have you ever read a novel by Diane Chamberlain?  If you have, I’d love to hear which was your favorite.

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My 1 Year Blogiversary!

Today marks the one year anniversary of my first blog post, or my blogiversary, as it’s referred to in the blogging world.  Wow, I can’t believe I have been blogging for one entire year.  I wasn’t sure I would last this long, and as it turns out, I still have a lot to say!  To celebrate this occasion, I decided to give my blog a makeover with the help of two wonderful and very patient ladies…Erin at twothirdshazel and Lisette at highnotedesigns, I highly recommend you stop by both their blogs and say hello.  Thanks to them, my blog now has a fresh, new look which I love.

While this past year has been a ton of fun, it has also been a ton of work (much more than I had anticipated to be honest), and a learning experience for sure.  First and foremost, when I signed up with WordPress, I had no idea how to use the program, and I had to set this blog up myself, with no help…YIKES! Thankfully, WordPress actually has some pretty good customer service and they got back to me pretty quickly whenever I had questions (which was quite often). Having said that, it seemed like it took forever to learn. But eventually I got comfortable enough with it and felt brave enough to publish my first post.

So here are the top 5 things I’ve learned in my one year of blogging:

  1. You can find a blog on any topic at all (really, any topic). Before starting on this journey, I had read a few blogs on fashion and travel, but for the most part, I thought blogging was generally about people sharing their quirky life experiences and opinions. I was seriously misinformed. I have come across bloggers that blog about anything under the sun. What I found most surprising is how often people blog (many 5-7 times a week!) and also the topics that are being discussed.  Oh and there are about a zillion bloggers out there in the blogging world.  If you have a subject that you are curious about or just looking for research on ANYTHING…Google it and you will see that many of the results are links to blog posts.
  1. Bloggers are monetizing their blogs. I didn’t realize just how many bloggers are making a part-time or possibly full time living off blogging (kudos to them for figuring that out).  But as much as I enjoy reading about the latest brownie recipe, or the hottest new hotel in Fiji, do I really want to read about the newest light bulbs GE is coming out with?  Not really. However, I’ve also come across many blogs that are amazing and full of great content, which I now follow on a regular basis.  And the bloggers I have met through this process are wonderful. They are supportive and have great ideas, as well as answers to many questions I have had.
  1. Social media is key in increasing your blog’s traffic. This is crucial.  Most of my readers are being referred to my blog from my blog’s Facebook page, as well as posts on Instagram and Pinterest.  I can’t stress this enough, you have to advertise your blog everywhere.  Encourage your friends and followers to share your posts with their friends and on their social media outlets.
  1. Blogging is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. I blog for fun (although I’m sure hubby would love for me to make some income on the side).  I truly enjoy sharing my thoughts on beautiful places I have traveled to, nice restaurants, good books, fun crafts, whatever tickles my fancy on a particular day. I don’t have or want a niche because I feel that would limit what I can write about.  Of course, I have read that it’s better to have a niche, such as, “beach” travel or “gluten free” recipes, etc.  But I prefer having flexibility, so I just call myself a lifestyle blogger, and it works…for now.  I usually blog only once a week, twice a week, on occasion, if I have a lot on my mind. But I couldn’t imagine blogging every day.  I like to take my time with my posts (I have a bit of OCD).  I wish I could blog more frequently, as I have seen many fellow bloggers do, but I just haven’t figured out how to accomplish that yet…life gets in the way.  And I guess for now, that’s OK.  Because you see, as a blogger, I realized that I am not just a writer, but also an editor, photographer, photo editor (oh boy, had to learn Photoshop too), marketer, planner (I’m good at that), publicist…the list goes on and on. It’s truly a lot of work and very time consuming.  I’ve always believed in quality over quantity.  I really enjoy blogging at my pace and I love that my readers are enjoying it as well.
  1. Blog about what’s important to YOU, not others. I come across so many bloggers that are obsessing over their Google Analytics, Klout scores, Alexa ranking, number of comments they’re getting, number of subscribers they have…etc. While all of these measurements may be significant, especially to those that make money from product reviews and endorsements, it’s not what’s most important. Remind yourself why you started blogging in the first place (I’m sure it wasn’t about the most efficient light bulbs on the market now). Most likely it’s because you love to write and share your thoughts and ideas with others.  Don’t lose sight of that.

So if you’re reading this…thank you, thank you, thank you! If you’ve left comments on my blog, shared my posts, or even just discussed them with others, I am sending you an e-hug. I’m really happy that you find my blog entertaining and I hope that you can relate to some of my ideas, as I have really enjoyed reading all of your comments this past year. I hope you have followed me on my adventure thus far and if you haven’t, please take a look around, and let me know your thoughts.  I’m just as excited to start my second year of blogging. Until next time…

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