Valentine Sparkling Wine Cake

valentine sparkling wine cakevalentine sparkling wine cakevalentine sparkling wine cake

For the cake

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1 cup sparkling wine

  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 1/4 cup canola oil

  • 5 cold eggs

  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract (or vanilla bean; 1 bean = 2 tsp. extract)

Preheat oven to 350°. Oil and flour a bundt pan and set aside. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together sparkling wine and sour cream. Finally, in a third, large bowl, beat sugar, melted butter, and oil with a mixer until well blended. Beat in each egg one at a time and add the vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Slowly add the flour and wine mixture to the sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Bake 50 to 55 minutes.

For the sparkling wine glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 tbsp. sparkling wine (or until the icing is a “drizzling” consistency)

Add a small amount of sparkling wine to the powdered sugar until it reaches a “drizzling” consistency and pour over the top of the completely cooled cake. You’re done!

This cake is so delicious, the sparkling wine makes it taste wonderfully fruity but gives it a flavor you can’t quite put your finger on why you love it so much–isn’t that perfection for Valentines? I try and make it every year for February 14th and I somehow found time to squeeze it in this week so I hope you enjoy!

**if you’re looking for some cute, last minute ideas for V-day, check out this DIY valentines paper topiary, these placecards, and these felt roses done three ways. Last year they were all a huge hit!!**

original recipe via BH&G Feb. 2010

– <3 A.

Bouquet Upcycling

upcycled bouquet

Give your beautiful, Valentines bouquet about a week and even the best roses are looking rather pathetic even if they were given with love. This year though, don’t throw it out, upcycle it! At least your vase and stem holders, the roses still have to go…sorry.

 I’m always looking for ways to organize my vanity table. Even after a “ok, I’m keeping this clean and organized” resolution, give me a few days and all my tubes, brushes, powders, and pencils are a heaping mess yet again. These stem holders are perfect though for keeping all my brushes (they even fit the fat, blush brushes) in line and keeping them up off my vanity surface. Plus, every time you get ready for the day you’ll remember your valentine and whatever flora he brought you back on the 14th. youwillneedhow tosteps


  1. Wrap the wire around each stem holder until you have four little circles in a square-like layout.
  2. Wrap the wire around the center of the four circles for stability and then bring the long end down in a little curl. This is going to be what sticks into your vase.
  3. Insert the stem holders through the wire circles.
  4. Insert the wire with the stem holders into the empty vase and you’re done!

diy makeup brush organizer

vanity organization

I think it’s pretty nifty and I’m almost certain this is going to cure my vanity-table mess…almost.

– <3 A.

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Blackberry-vanilla icebox cake

blackberry vanilla icebox cakeThe whimsical and brilliant blog A Beautiful Mess did this recipe last summer. Since post-Valentines Day has brought some unseasonably warm weather, and my Valentines Day brought me this beautiful new, glass cake stand, I thought it would be a perfect time to try out Elsie and Emma’s icebox cake recipe with my own little twist. They used ladyfingers for their cookie crust but I took their suggestion and tried out Vanilla Wafers instead. For their layers, they used frozen blueberries and blueberry juice instead of the canned fruit in light syrup that I chose. My version saves you from buying an extra ingredient and I think the canned fruit keeps its flavor a bit better than frozen. I also exchanged their marshmallow-whip layer with cool whip…a bit healthier, a lighter taste, and MUCH easier to work with. Ok, so here you are:

If you’re not a blackberry fan, use any sort of fruit you like. I think peaches, raspberries, strawberries or even something exotic like kiwis would be delicious!


This cake is absurdly simple and I love the spin on a usual ice cream pie. The icebox cake is loaded with flavor but doesn’t leave you feeling heavy and sickly sweet like lots of cakes. You have to work a bit quickly otherwise the ingredients begin to melt as you work. I mixed the ice cream and berries, and cool whip and juice, and then placed those bowls back into the freezer until I was ready to add those layers. Wait until the cake is completely frozen before you do the cool whip piping top also, otherwise it will just sink in and be an ooey-gooey mess.

This might even be my favorite new treat…I should probably tell you that after I finished my slice, I unashamedly dropped my face to the plate and gave it a good lick…no need to be wasteful, right? Even though I’m still perfectly happy in my winter scarves, it’s been nice to feel the recent sunshine and this blackberry-vanilla icebox cake is the perfect homage to Spring, just peaking on the horizon. Enjoy!

blackberry vanilla icebox cake recipe

icebox cake recipe with handmade cards

blackberry cake recipe

easy dessert icebox cake recipe

– <3 A. 

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Plain Jane austen sketchPlain Jane: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

-Jane Austen in Emma

Happy Valentines Day to my VMMV readers! I’m so thankful for each and everyone of my faithful, new, and occasional readers. Your readership, comments, and encouragement keeps me writing, brainstorming, and motivated to keep writing. In honor of all of you, and in honor of Jane, I’m going to copy her today and say, “if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more” but since I don’t, and I can’t, then I will leave it right there.

A Valentine Breakfast

valentine breakfast

Breakfast in bed has never really had a huge appeal for me…something about balancing food in your sheets, keeping the juice from dousing your pillow, and being greeted with food at the moment you emerge from sweet slumber never quite sounds like something I want. But, a valentine breakfast doesn’t have to be served up in bed to be special. When Valentines day falls during the week, sometimes a dinner out doesn’t quite have the romantic, oh-this-is-divine feel. More like, oh my, its 9:00 P.M., we haven’t been seated, the whole world of happy couples are also waiting for a table and I have to go to work tomorrow with this late night Italian food in my tummy…yes, I love you, ok, good, goodnight. Are you beginning to see where I’m going here? Yes, WAIT UNTIL SATURDAY, have a lovely quiche heart for breakfast, and ring in another year of love the simple way. The original recipe came from good old Martha Stewart, but, I changed so many things about it in order to get the filling into my heart shapes, I’m posting my version as well:

ingredientsvalentines breakfast The original recipe called for handmade dough (no thanks, I don’t have time) but I used my trusty Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. Roll it out super thin with a rolling pin once you pull it from the frig though, otherwise you’ll get too much crust with your quiche and you won’t taste the yummy filling. I got my heart-shaped pie-maker at Target. It’s pretty nifty, the back of it doubles as a cutter, and then you just plop in the dough pieces, fill it with whatever you want, crimp it closed, and bake:

valentine breakfast quiche Don’t overfill the hearts or else you’ll rip the crust. It didn’t seem like I was putting much filling in, but once I ate one, it was plenty of food for a filling breakfast.

filling:2 ingredients

Cook the bacon first until it’s nice and crisp. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and one egg, adding the rest of the eggs. In another bowl whisk sour cream (or you could use creme fraiche like the original recipe) and milk. I used nonfat milk to make it a bit healthier but the original recipe called for whole milk. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme to the cream and milk and then whisk them into the egg/flour. Put the zucchini ribbons in a pan, saute them for a few minutes in the leftover bacon fat, pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and scramble for 20 minutes on medium heat. Mix in the bacon bits at the end and then spoon in a little of the filling into the pie crust and sprinkle with gouda cheese. Crimp the pie crusts closed, place on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 375° until golden brown.

The original recipe told me to just pour the filling into the crust without first cooking it, but I wanted to use my heart-crimper and if I had poured runny eggs into the center of those I would have had a huge mess. Plus, this way ensures your filling gets cooked. Before removing the filling from the stove to fill the hearts, taste a bit to see if its close to being cooked through.

valentine recipe

valentine breakfast hearts

Valentines is usually a day for sweets, chocolate and things, but, a girls gotta eat, right? I’m in love with these quiche hearts, there’s so much potential with them: you could change out the veggies, leave out the bacon for a completely vegetarian option, or play around with the herbs (use basil perhaps instead of thyme) to get a pretty special change from the usual, sweet valentine treat. If you’re too exhaustified on Valentines night, have a go at these breakfast beauties come the weekend, it will definitely be worth the wait.

– <3 A. 

sources: original recipe inspired by Martha stewart | coffee cup image via

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DIY Valentines Paper Topiary

diy valentine centerpieceLast February, the House That Lars Built blog did a DIY about a paper topiary for a handmade wedding and I instantly fell in love with the idea. Inspiration I suppose gives foundation for inspiration, and when I saw the wedding topiary, I thought how cute it would be to exchange the topiary leaves for paper-hearts and make it into a Valentines centerpiece. The steps are the same, the only differences are my “leaves” are paper-hearts and I added a little message to the topiary centers. It’s actually so much simpler than the end product looks, the project is super cheap, (yay! VMMV loves cheap!) and yet it looks oh-so Valentine classy without getting lovey-dovey-cheap-and-yucky:


diy valentine

DSC_0557-002 copy

And you will also need a little duct tape! I left it out of the picture but you’ll see it in the steps. So, I said earlier this was cheap, but how cheap was it? I already had the pots, the moss, wire, and tape, but none of those items are over about $2.00. The paper was $0.29 a piece, the embroidery hoops were $0.99 for the small size and $1.49 for the large size and, you get two topiarys per one hoop because I used both the inner and outer hoops. Not too pricey, yes?
Untitled-21diy valentine

For the pots, make sure you get ones that have skinny tops. The hoop needs to hit both sides of the pot without sinking too far in or else the topiary will look funny.


diy valentine centerpiece

This portion sounds time consuming but it’s really not. Once you have a heart cut out for each size you want, just save one heart from each size as a template. Once you get going, the cut-outs really only take a few minutes, but, if you’re pressed for time, just make the hearts bigger, it would still look cute. Untitled-21

personalized valentine

This part is really optional. In the original DIY by the House That Lars Built, she had two options for the topiary centers: silhouettes of the marrying couple, or, their initials. You could still do either of those for the Valentines topiary, but I thought the words were pretty cute. You could probably just buy some punch-out words  that would make this step a lot quicker but I had a particular font in mind that I wanted so I elected to cut it out myself.

And that’s it! Like I said, it may appear complicated but I surprised myself by how quickly it went and it has quite the chic, overall effect for a holiday that can quite easily venture into the cheesy category.

diy valentines heart paper topiary diy valentines topiary diy valentines decorations diy valentines centerpieces– <3 A.

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A Browning Kind of Love

brownings love letters

You will only expect a few words–what will those be? When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fulness stays within…Words can never tell you, however,—form them, transform them anyway,—how perfectly dear you are to me—perfectly dear to my heart and soul. I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence—you have been entirely perfect to me—I would not change one word, one look. My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it—for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtlessly can preserve it. Enough now, my dearest, dearest own—You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another. I am all gratitude-and all pride (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you. God bless you prays your very own R.—I will write tomorrow of course. Take every care of my life which is in that dearest little hand; try and be composed, my beloved. -Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Love” sometimes is inspired by words. For Robert Browning, he fell in love with Elizabeth’s writing without ever seeing or knowing her. Through mutual respect and admiration for one another’s minds, Robert and Elizabeth Browning had a very successful marriage, within which spawned some of the most beautiful love language of all time. Modern love puts a lot of emphasis on physical attraction, sexual gratification, and personal reward. But the most beautiful portraits of love I think are the selfless ones where it is obvious that regardless of how lovely you are, your mate is filled with “all gratitude and all pride” that their “life has been so crowned,” simply, by knowing you. Happy Friday everyone, hope this week gave you a little Valentines inspiration. There’s more to come next week so stay tuned and get busy over the weekend!

– <3 A.

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DIY Valentines Hand-stitched Placecards

diy valentines handstitched place cards

February has given me a serious DIY obsession, I really truly can’t help it. Behind Christmas preparations, Valentines-Day-decking is my holiday fave. I love it because it’s sort of an under-dog holiday, we all trundle off to work and school just like any other day, but its the only day of the year that everyone pauses a moment to put a little more thought into an everyday “I love you.” Sometimes though, there’s too much pressure for a Valentines, so, if you have nothing planned, or don’t have time to do a special dinner, why not a tea for two? These hand-stitched place-cards are the perfect thing to say “I think you’re pretty special” to whoever you’re spending your valentines with without leaving you nursing your wallet-wounds after all the love is over:

DIY Place-cards

valentines diy

You Will Need: batting, fabric scraps, embroidery thread, ribbon, thick-coated wire, embroidery needles.


valentines diy

  • Cut two 4 inch by 4 inch hearts out of whatever fabric you like (small prints are best for the monogram initial to show well)
  • Put the two RIGHT sides together and sew along the edge
  • Leave a little hole on one side so you can turn the heart right-side out again as well as a hole at the bottom for the wire to fit into later
  • Flip inside out (“right-sides” out) and iron flat

valentines diy

  • Add initials: this is the trickiest part. Only stitch through the FIRST layer of the heart otherwise you won’t be able to fill it with batting. If it’s easier for you, stitch the initial on one piece of fabric before sewing them together. I was worried I wouldn’t get my letter centered if I embroidered first though so that’s why I did it this way.

valentines diy

  • Stuff a little batting through the hole of the heart until it’s stiff
  • Stitch the side hole closed

valentines diy

  • Cut about ten inches of thick coated wire, shape into a heart and bring the long side up straight
  • Fit the long side of the wire into the heart until it looks like it will stand on it’s own

valentines diy place cards 

  • Secure the heart to the wire by adding a little ribbon tied in a bow and you’re done!

I’m pretty proud of this project. When DIY’s go well I feel so creatively charged and powerful.  I think this must be how Martha Stewart feels everyday: just popping out beautiful things all over the place. Must be nice Martha Stewart, must be nice. If you don’t feel like feeling a bit like Martha though, you can buy these place-cards over at my Etsy shop. They turned out so well I thought I should probably share my success with the masses so they’re now up for sale! Enjoy!

valentines diy place cardsvalentines-diy-place-cardsvalentines-diy-place-cards

valentines-diy-place-cards– <3 A. 

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DIY Valentines Hanging Bead Hearts

DIY Valentines Hanging Bead Hearts

diy hanging valentines bead hearts

Untitled-14diy hanging valentines bead hearts

Untitled-14diy hanging valentines bead heartsSimple, yes? I love this DIY. It’s ridiculously easy but such a cute addition to a wall, a window, or a chandelier for a Valentine tablescape. Use any size, color, or type of bead in any sort of combination you can think of to get some variety in your hearts–you could even string these guys together and make a garland. This red heart was actually my biggest heart because I wanted it to show up well in pictures, but I actually prefer the smaller hearts and they hold their shape a bit better as well once they’re hanging. Just play around with the size and shape of your hearts. The wire makes it so easy to shape and re-shape until you get them to sit how you want. I added some crystals when I hung them in the window just in case I could catch the rare February sunlight when  it at last decides to shine.

diy hanging valentines bead hearts

diy hanging valentines bead heartsDIY hanging valentines bead hearts

Happy February! This is just the beginning of lots of Valentines-lovin’ I have planned so stay tuned! I’m chock-full of optimism for this month, I’m convinced that I’m a slow-starter and can’t really expect much of myself until at the very earliest the second month of the year. I think I’m coming out of my winter-motivation-hibernation. I think…maybe…well, maybe not…we’ll just wait and see.

– <3 A.

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Men of Austen Week

men of austen

While prepping for my upcoming Valentine’s DIY’s, recipes, and tips-for-all-things-girly, for a month dedicated to being over-the-top-sweet-and-cuddly, I started thinking, “what about the other half that makes a Valentine, a Valentine? What about the men!??”

Since Jane Austen is one of the biggest muses for this blog, and since she has a daily say in its workings, I decided there isn’t a better place to find some inspiration  for the men in your life besides the men of Austen. So, next week is a week dedicated to a few of them. One muse for each day of the week, I’m planning everything from a DIY tray made of cigar boxes, a recipe for a “manly” cocktail, gift ideas, and some man-do’s-and-don’ts inspired by the best, and one of the worst, of Austen’s masculine portraits.

Perhaps you’re thinking, use heroes of Jane Austen as a muse for the modern male? What did she know about men? It’s true, Jane’s only male interaction of the romantic kind (that we know of)  was with a suitor (Harris Big-Wither) she first agreed, and then denied, to be married to, and then a second young man, Tom Lefroy, who, by nature of his financial circumstances was never really a serious consideration for Jane despite how the 2007 film “Becoming Jane” portrays her relationship with him. Regardless of her limited interaction with men outside of her own family though, Jane managed to produce in her novels men with shockingly similar characteristics to gentlemen we see even in our modern world: Male portraits complete with a few gems,  a lot more flops, some intellectually prideful ones, the simple, kind ones, and everything in between. If you aren’t completely familiar with all the men of Austen, check out PBS Masterpiece Theater’s run down of Jane’s guys here:

men of austenOr, if you really want to get into the mood for my upcoming blog series, check out the “Bachelors of Highbury quiz” here just for fun:

bachelor quiz

I got quite the laugh with my “match,” and maybe you should see which man you should be paying particular attention to next week when I do my own run-down. Happy Friday everyone!

 – <3 A. 

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