Foodie Friday | Lemon and Blueberry Cake

Zesty, fruity, fresh, and fun – this sweet lemon cake full of fresh blueberries will remind you of summer lemonade and blueberry pie. Using fresh produce is essential for the perfect bite of tart and sweet. Bright fragrant lemons and deep, rich blueberries are so visually stimulating that they will have your mouth watering before you begin your prep for this cake! I was even lucky enough to use some of my mother’s fresh blueberry jam to make this juicy cake – so, if you can get your hands on some homemade jam, preserves, or compote, I highly recommend using it in this recipe. If this isn’t the perfect springtime dessert to have at your next brunch, lunch, or evening affair al fresco, then I don’t know what is.

This recipe was adapted from the queen herself, Martha Stewart. She has had her ups and downs, but no one can deny her personal branding success, as well as the plethora of amazing ideas, recipes, and crafts her team has come up with over the years.

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Lemon and Blueberry Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
1 cup fresh blueberries
blueberry jam or preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Add blueberries, leaving a few aside for the topping.

  3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.

  4. While cakes are baking, bring remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate. Stir remaining 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.

  5. Using a toothpick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely. Prepare frosting (recipe below). Between the two cake layers, apply the blueberry jam or preserves, about 1/2″ in thickness. Frost cooled cakes and top with blueberries.

Whipped Frosting

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and water. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved (or mixture registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer), 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

  2. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high until glossy, stiff peaks form (do not overbeat), about 3 minutes; reduce speed to low, add vanilla extract, and beat just until combined. Use immediately.

DIY | Travel Itinerary & FREE Printable

If there’s one thing I love getting excited about, it’s travel! In case you couldn’t tell by my Fashion Itinerary printable, I get really organized when it comes to preparing for vacation. It may seem excessive to some, but I enjoy it immensely. Not only do I get to explore the area before we even get there, I have specifics to look forward to – with no stress! Pre-planning (for me) is definitely the way to go. That way, I don’t wake up on our first day of the trip and say, “What do we do?”. Everything is done and all we need to do is follow our schedule and enjoy.

However, I am also a big fan of spontaneity, which is why most of the things I like to schedule can be cancelled free of charge. And don’t forget to build in some free time to relax, too!

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This is how my process goes: once we pick our destination, duration of the trip, flight, and hotel, I do a bit of research and make a list of great things to do, see, and eat in the area. Most places have a great tourism website to help out visitors, or you can also try several different travel sites to help you plan the best trip ever! Once we have our list of things to must do/see/eat, I start filling in the calendar.

For us, food is such an important part of our travelling experience. Whether it’s trying a friend’s recommendation or the top-rated eatery in the city, we definitely make it a big “to-do”. If one or two restaurants are on our must list, I sometimes plan the rest of the meal calendar around it (i.e. the best establishment in town may not have reservations on a Saturday, but they may have availability on a Tuesday, so we don’t discriminate). After filling in the important dining choices, I will begin to fill in the rest once our activities are determined for each day. This allows us to research dining options that are close to our location, and we can choose an appropriate time. I am a big fan of making reservations through Open Table. It is free, and you can cancel them at any time. I think my ultimate worst nightmare would be finding myself in an unfamiliar place either, a) hungry and not knowing where to eat, b) hungry and having to wait a very long time for a table, c) hungry and not liking anything on the menu, and d) hungry and feeling cranky on my AMAZING vacation. For these reasons/fears, and so that we can experience our trip to the fullest (pun intended), we peruse the menus in advance to help select where we will be eating each meal.

Once we have narrowed down our selection, I create a binder with all of our trip details: itinerary, confirmations, receipts, menus, and guides. Yes, I know this may sound crazy, but guess what? It works! We even still have our binder from our honeymoon (which was SO helpful) as a memento, and to help us in the future when we want to visit again, make a recommendation, or just remember the great time we had. To me, the preparation and planning make the trip really worthwhile, and it allows you to truly relax once your trip begins.

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I have created this easy chart for you to keep your trip schedule organized. You can print out the pdf and hand-write your items in with pencil or pen, or you can download the Word document to type it up and print. Here is an example of how I fill mine out!

Tip: I include the time, name, address, confirmation number, and sometimes telephone number of each item directly onto the itinerary. This way you don’t need to rifle through your papers/email to find what you are looking for. Once the itinerary is filled out, save it on your phone (as a document or snapshot) so you can access it easily and effortlessly! It’s all in one place.

Need help packing? Use my Fashion Itinerary to plan your outfits of the trip!

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Teavel Itinerary Example

download the PDF file

download the Microsoft Word file

 

Fashion | Casual & Cool

Sometimes, you just have to keep it easy. With the year round heat in Miami, you better believe it gets even worse in the summer. Not only does it mess with you sweat glands and hair, it messes with your brain! You just feel yucky and cranky and you can’t think at all because of the suffocating humidity. Sometimes I can’t imagine wearing anything else but a comfortable pair of jeans and a crisp, breezy white shirt. Luckily, my closet is full of those! Most people would probably discover that they own a lot of black clothing items due to the simple fact that black is versatile, pairs well with almost anything, and can be slimming. Well, not me. Black also soaks up the sun and gets way too hot, way too fast (never get in a car with black leather in Miami while wearing shorts, friends) so most of my closet items are whites and creams, made from lightweight fabric. So for anyone coming to Miami Swim Week in a couple of weeks, here’s a tip: the sun doesn’t set until around 8, so pack for all-day sun!

 

 

Foodie Friday | Sliders Three Ways

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, I wanted to post a recipe that would be a great option for entertaining a few friends and family. What could be a better crowd-pleaser than sliders? And three different ways? Well, that will cover almost everyone’s tastes. This recipe makes it all easy by using the same, flavorful patty recipe for all three sliders, each with different toppings and sauces. Perfect! Even better? They cook quickly, and you can make as many or as few as you need.

 

Patty Recipe (makes 12-15 patties)

3 pounds Ground Beef
2 teaspoons Seasoned Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Lemon Pepper Or Other Seasoning
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
12-15 whole Dinner Rolls (or Slider Rolls)

1. Combine meat with all seasoning ingredients. Knead with hands to combine.

2. Form into small-to-medium sized balls.

3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

4. Before the patties are done cooking, wrap the buns/rolls in foil. Place on the grill for a few minutes to warm, or in the oven at 250 degrees.

 

Smoky Mesquite BBQ Slider (4-5)

sliced sharp cheddar, cut into 2″ squares

1 whole Large Onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup Whiskey

1 cup Barbecue Sauce

1. Heat a skillet on the stove at medium-high heat. Throw the onions in the skillet and stir to cook, about 3 minutes.

2. Pour in whiskey (be careful if you’re cooking over an open flame; turn it off momentarily to be extra careful) and stir. Allow the whiskey to reduce by half, about 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the barbecue sauce. Set aside when done.

3. Preheat grill for medium heat. Grill patties 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through (160°F).

4. Meanwhile, remove attached rolls from package; do NOT separate. Cut in half horizontally. Spray cut sides with grilling spray; toast on grill.

5. Separate toasted rolls and assemble sliders; Spread BBQ onion mixture on rolls, then patties on bottom halves of rolls; top with cheese. Close with tops of rolls.

 

Aloha Swiss Slider (4-5)

sliced swiss cheese, cut into 2″ squares
1 can (8 oz each) pineapple slices, drained
romaine lettuce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon chipotle seasoning

1. Preheat grill for medium heat.

2. Grill pineapple slices on both sides so they get a nice char, about 1-2 minutes each side. Set aside.

3. Grill patties 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through (160°F).

4. Meanwhile, remove attached rolls from package; do NOT separate. Cut in half horizontally. Spray cut sides with grilling spray; toast on grill.

5. Separate toasted rolls and assemble sliders; Spread chipotle sauce mixture on rolls, place a small piece of lettuce then patties on bottom halves of rolls; top with cheese and pineapple. Close with tops of rolls.

 

BLT Cheddar Slider (4-5)

8 strips of Bacon
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
romaine lettuce
mayonnaise

1. Cut slices of bacon in half lengthwise. Wrap one half around ball of hamburger, pulling slightly to keep taut. Smooth to secure seam.

2. Repeat with other half of bacon, ending seam in the same place.

3. Bake the remaining bacon in the oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until crispy.

4. Place patties, bacon seam side down, on a baking pan with a drip tray sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Press gently on each patty to flatten as much as you can without squeezing meat out of the edges. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to firm.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, or grill to medium/high. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (grill 5-6 minutes for medium rare), or until bacon is cooked to your specifications.

6. Serve on a warm roll with extra bacon, romaine, tomato, and mayonnaise.

 

Fashion | Hot Hot Pink & White

It’s Summer here in Miami and it’s hot, hot, hot! So I thought I would share a HOT HOT pink look that is perfectly casual and fun. There’s something about a hot pink top paired with all whites and neutrals that I just love. And even though I’m wearing a sweater, the open knit allows for lots of air to cool me down, and these white eyelet shorts are just as bright! Aren’t they cute? I like the longer length so you don’t have to constantly adjust them as you walk or sit, and the high waist is perfect for tucking in or out.

Scroll to the bottom for my favorite hot pink tops and sweaters for Summer and pre Fall!

So, NEON is in, and I’m embracing it this Summer. This shade of pink reminds me of my father’s Ducati. Yes, you heard me right, his racing Ducati. When I was little, every other weekend we would travel around the state to different race tracks for my dad’s motorcycle races. In the 80’s and 90’s, most of the bikes were the same three colors: yellow, black, or red. My mother would always be so nervous whenever there was a crash, because she couldn’t tell who was who or see if it was my dad that was hurt. So, my dad asked me to pick a color for him to paint his bike so he could stand out from the crowd.

That day, I happened to have a new set of NEON Crayola markers that I was coloring with. The first color I picked up was hot pink, and I handed the marker to my dad. My mother and he looked at each other with questioning glances, unsure of whether to ask me to pick another color, or what to do. But my dad was a trooper, and simply said “Ok”. For the last 20 years, he has been famous for his hot pink bike, and no one else dares to copy his style (although there are several NEON Orange and green bikes). I’m proud that he is a well known champion and veteran in the racing world, and even has his name mounted in Italy’s Ducati Hall of Fame. Thank’s for being the inspiration today!

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Sweater: Forever 21 (similar) | Shorts: Michael Kors | Shoes: Tory Burch (similar) | Tote: Versace (similar) | Sunglasses: Valentino | Necklace: Baublebar | Earrings: Old Navy (similar) | Belt: similar

Home | Office Redesign Challenge

Now that I am working from home for Style Collective, redesigning my home office has become an immediate goal of mine. Having a creative space that allows me to be inspired and pushes my productivity is so important when imagining my ideal work environment, and I need YOUR help to do it!

Below, I have 3 office designs created by Modsy that you can VOTE on! Comment here on the blog, on Facebook, or on Instagram to cast your vote, and I will announce the winner Wednesday, July 5th here on the blog.

Modsy created an exact replica of my office as a blank space. Then, once I took a style quiz and created a mood board, they delivered three amazing options just a few days later. I can always edit the items in the space, swap pieces, and request a redesign. I am so in love with this service that I am considering doing it for every room in my house! They offer complete redesign, or just help with putting the finishing touches on a space.

Design 1

Featuring an open shelving concept and gallery wall, this design feels luxurious and professional while maintaining a simple femininity.

 

Design 2

This design brings the drama with charcoal walls, unexpected textures, and pops of color. It features elements of light and dark, which brings the eye to key pieces.

 

Design 3

This final design includes a major statement with a wallpapered accent wall. With clean lines, unique items, and stark contrasts of key colors, this room exudes confidence and style.

 

Now, it’s time for you to VOTE! They are all so outstanding in their own ways, and I was so impressed with the results from Modsy that I can’t choose. Help a girl out and post your favorite on my Instagram, Facebook page, or here on the blog.

Fashion | Lacey Baby Blue

Whenever the sun is out around here, the wind is crazy! See my hair? Impossible. Or, it’s been raining all the time. So, I’m happy to be heading to Orlando for the BlogHer Conference! Follow me on Instagram Stories for all the fun! I’m heading to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando with my mother and little Rose – I couldn’t be without her while she is so young! The great thing is that my mom gets a little vacation while she hangs out with Rose all day, and I get to “work” without being too far. I’m sure I will slip away for some relaxing moments with my little one to explore the property (it looks beautiful) and enjoy my trip.

Love this look for traveling and roadtripping, by the way. It is lightweight, cool, and comfortable. And look at those pretty details! Scroll down to shop.

Fashion | Blue Lagoon

The sun was finally out here in Miami for some time this weekend – and then it went away again! Back to rainy days for a while. I was able to wear something light and breezy that featured my all-time favorite: palm print! It is a bit different than the traditional prints I have been seeing since it features blues and soft greens, which makes it even more interesting. An of course, my all-time fave white denim jacket is baaaaaack! LOL. I think that a denim jacket is a staple piece in anyone’s closet, so I have added a few of my favorites to the bottom of this post in several different price points.

I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day weekend! I woke up with NO voice today – but not from yelling. Max had a chest cold last week and I thought I had avoided it, but I guess not. I have a tiny sore throat and I sound like a whisper, but if this is the worst of it, I’m OK with that. As long as Rose doesn’t get sick, I’ll be happy!

all in the cards | Father’s Day

Father’s day is upon us, and I will tell you right now that the main men in my life deserve a heck of a day! Since Rose has arrived, it hasn’t just been the women in the family stepping up (thank you to my mom and mother in-law for being amazing grandmothers). The men have definitely been doing their part to help us adjust to life as parents – not to mention, Max is an amazing father. So, with some help from all in the cards, I put together some small tokens of my appreciation for all the fathers!

In our family, it definitely is about the thought put into a gift, not how big or expensive it is. We are all adults and can run out the the store an buy whatever we want, so the point is really to get something that they wouldn’t normally get for themselves, something they need but don’t realize, or something that just shows you have been paying attention to their hard work. For me, days like Father’s Day are all about the details, and the beautiful coordinated cards and gift packaging from all in the cards definitely show the love and care that went into picking little tokens of love for my husband, father, and father in-law. How awesome do these matching cards and gift wrapping look? And the matching printed tissue paper? Talk about attention to detail!

My poor, dear husband – he’s been there with me for the late nights, the diapers and bottles at all hours, and everything else in between. He has stepped up in so many ways and is an amazing father to Rose. He builds my confidence, keeps me in check, and shares all the special moments with me. Rose recently started to crawl, and because of his support in my new career, I’ll be able to see her reach all of her milestones. He may not be my father, but as the father of my child and partner in life, he definitely deserves a little treat for his first Father’s Day. For him, this over-sized mug will do the trick! It’s perfect for early morning coffee (with a little Jack Daniels for the rougher mornings he might have).

For both my father and father in-law, I figured they could use some pampering with custom cologne picks! For my father, Acqua Di Gio (c/o Influenster) and for my father in-law, Bleu de Chanel (scroll to the bottom for links). My father helps me out several times a week by taking our dog, Lady, out for afternoon jogs, plus any handyman work I need done around the house. It’s wonderful having a talented father who can help me with anything I need. And my father in-law – well, he has been amazingly patient! When I went back to work, my mother in-law helped me out by watching Rose twice a week during the day so I didn’t have to put her in daycare, and he has been right there with her. They both deserve so much more than I can give them, but I know that a big hug from me and a smile from Rose is a pretty good start.

I owe a lot to the great men in my life, and I hope you all show your dads some appreciation this weekend for Father’s Day!

If you are looking for some great all in the cards products, they can be found at these retailers.

This post was sponsored by all in the cards. Products featured have been provided to The Miami Rose, but all opinions are my own.

Opening Up | A New Chapter

I am so pleased to share with you all today that I will be making a huge change in my life – for the better! I have the amazing opportunity to take on a new role at Style Collective, heading up Membership & Education.

I have been a teacher for ten years and earned my master’s in education, and now it seems that I am leaving the profession…or am I?

Well, teaching is actually in my blood – my great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and aunts were/are all teaching professionals. So if I ever had a destiny, it was to teach! Over the past 10 years I have been lucky to have lots of different classroom experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If one thing is for certain, it’s that I love helping others, and that has been a major part of why I enjoy teaching.

When I was faced with going back to work after Rose was born I was very torn. I wanted to be there with my daughter, but I also wanted to remain in the workforce and not lose my identity as an educated and accomplished professional. I reluctantly went back to work once my maternity leave was up, but I knew I wasn’t truly happy. I was definitely caught between two worlds, and something was missing. I needed to find a way to have it all, because who doesn’t deserve to have their own form of happiness?

Many women today struggle with their roles, and I was definitely one of them. Do I go back to work and keep my career? Will that make me a “bad mom”? How much of my child’s life will I miss? Should I stay at home and put my career on hold, or leave it indefinitely? Will I lose respect from those I care about? How will this affect us financially? Will that make me a “bad woman” for giving up on myself? Am I weak that I can’t do both? I wanted to give it a try, and try I did. I went back to work and tried to find happiness and pride in what I was doing. But, I couldn’t. I thought that I would lose respect for myself if I quit my job and stayed at home, but I realized that I was disappointed in myself no matter what I decided. I was unhappy and unfulfilled, and it wasn’t because I had decided to work, or not to work. It was because I wasn’t allowing myself to be happy or being accepting of my own feelings. I was afraid to seem weak, but I should have worried more about how I would feel about my life looking back in 10, 20, or 30 years. Would I look back and say, “Yes, Jessie, you did the right thing”? No, I don’t think I would have. I needed to find what worked for me; my own perfect recipe for happiness and fulfillment.

One weekend a couple of months ago, I was dreading going back to work. I didn’t want my time with my daughter to end, and I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish that I couldn’t get to in time. My husband suggested that I just quit – “Just don’t go back,” he said. “You don’t owe them anything. It’s more important for you to be happy.” He was right, but I was still holding on to the idea that I had to prove myself. I knew I still wanted to work. “Maybe I’ll email Annie [Spano, Style Collective CEO]…see if she needs help.” That night I wrote what seemed like an essay rather than an email, and Max read it over for me a few times. I was so nervous to send it – out of fear of rejection, fear of change, fear of embarrassment – that I didn’t email it until the next morning. I remember feeling like the day dragged on forever before I heard from Annie, even thought it was a perfectly reasonable amount of time for her to reply. I never realized how hard it is to put yourself out there. I had always taken the safe route. But, in order to get what you want, sometimes you have to jump without knowing if the floor will be there when you land.

The subject line of this email indicates that it is a pitch, and that is exactly what it is: I am pitching myself to you, Annie. I would love nothing more than to assist you at Style Collective in any capacity.

 

I would be absolutely honored to have you part of the team and I am so incredibly happy that you wrote this email. Asking for something is the best thing you can do for yourself as a woman and a business woman.

The words she shared really spoke to me. She was right! The best thing I did for myself was to write that email and just. ask. Without asking, I never would have known.

So, instead of my heart breaking every day from missing my daughter, and giving up my identity as a working mom, I was lucky enough to find the perfect solution and come on board with Style Collective. I can work from home, make my own hours, travel, meet incredible people, focus on myself and – most importantly – my daughter and family. It allows me to help others who have passion for learning – which is quite different from what I have been doing these past 10 years. These women are people who do what they love and want to succeed, and that is inspiring and uplifting in itself. I am helping members in various ways, and a large part of my job is developing and writing the E-Courses and E-Books that SC members have access to. So, you can almost say that I haven’t quit my teaching career, it has just evolved into something new that fits me and my life.

The idea of the traditional career, at this point in history, is quickly evolving, and I am glad that my fears about changing my life are slowly fading.

I am so thrilled to be working for an empowering organization like Style Collective. Women helping other women is such a powerful act, and a beautiful message that needs to continue to grow! I know of so many members who depend on the support they get from their SC sisters, and have grown as professionals because of the resources and opportunities that Style Collective provides. The opportunities earned as a collective aren’t kept as a secret, they are lovingly shared with all the members. Not to mention, with the amount of resources available, there’s not enough time in the day to go through it all! The positives are endless, but my biggest thrill is the vision of where Style Collective is going, and I am so excited for what the future holds.

Thanks to the flexibility that this new position is offering me, I am able to focus more on my life and own personal goals. Instead of this being just a job change, it is a complete lifestyle change. A personal goal for me is to definitely find balance in my life – with new adventures and big changes in my future, I need to be sure to keep my priorities straight (and not neglect my husband too much!). Really, he is my rock and I love him dearly for supporting me in all of this, and for being my best friend.

This was a scary change for me. Taking the leap into a non-traditional career role wasn’t easy, but it definitely felt right once I had settled into the idea. Not taking a chance is a worse mistake than trying and failing. Every mistake is a point of growth that you can learn from, but you can’t learn from something you never try. I knew I needed to give this a shot, for myself, for Rose and my husband, and for my future. I feel as if this was meant to be, but I never knew it until it presented itself. The universe just knew!

You can’t rush the universe. Give everything you do 100%, not just in effort, but in research, planning, self education, and follow through. Things are bound to happen if you live your life with purpose.