Wine & Cake Decorating

The new house is basically all I think about nowadays, but I interrupt my regularly scheduled wall painting and box packing program to bring you a fun snippet of an event some girlfriends and I participated in last Thursday. We ventured over to one of the local wineries in Southwest Michigan (the Winery, actually) and practiced our skills at cake decorating under the instruction of a professional pastry chef.

Mandy from Love and Macarons studied L’Art de la Patisserie at the French Pastry School in Chicago, and upon graduation worked under Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts winner Chris Hanmer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mandy is a native of Southwest Michigan, though, and her heart tore her back home. I had the pleasure of partnering with Mandy while she worked at a local restaurant along with her executive chef for one of my Wine Club dinners in the Fall of 2017, and I was so excited to see she was pairing with the Winery again. This time under her own (and new!) business. Love and Macarons was developed from Mandy’s deep love of macarons. She also designs custom cakes, cupcakes, breakfast pastries, and other candies for the residents of our little corner of the Mitten State. Her products are everywhere locally! I love seeing her custom pop-tarts at my local farmer’s market, and her macaron towers at various events around town. Her Instagram is also full of desserts that leave my mouth watering. Partnering with Dablon Vineyards, Mandy was advertising a cake decorating class hosted at Dablon’s Annex. Knowing so many ladies who not only love to be creative but also drink wine, I shared the event on Facebook and a week later we met up to take the class. Dablon Vineyards is dear to my heart for many reasons — not only because I once called it my place of employment. Dablon is a beautiful winery set on an even more awe-inspiring vineyard. And the wines are unmatched in Michigan. The grapes are hand-picked and the winemaker combines Old World methods with New World technology to make the superior wines. Their goal is to “marry European varietals with the unique terroir in Southwest Michigan to make extraordinary wine.” They are excelling. With 36 acres of estate-grown grapes planted on Dablon’s 75-acre vineyard, Dablon’s wines are made in-house and on-site, and contrary to popular belief, sweet fruit wines are not the only product coming out of Michigan. Dablon’s wines are modeled after Burgundy and Bordeaux with unique varietals such as Malbec, Carmenere, and Petit Verdot available. But don’t just take me at my word — even Wine Enthusiast rated Dablon’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 90 points, a great feat for some little Michigan winery. With a tasting room featuring two tasting bars and a lounge area in front of a stone fireplace, Dablon welcomes guests to not only sample their award-winning wines but also escape from every-day life in rustic comfort. So I’ll say it again: Dablon is my favorite Michigan winery for many reasons. Given the opportunity to drink wine while being creative was like having my cake and eating it too. (See what I did there?) I arrived to the event early enough to have a glass of my favorite Dablon wine before starting the class. No matter the vintage, the Dablon Pinot Noir Rosé is my go-to. The current 2017 vintage is darker in color with hints of raspberries and nice acidity. Depending on what I’ve eaten throughout the day, sometimes there is even tart cranberry. I’ve enjoyed a few glasses of the Rosé over the summer. The class began with Mandy giving an overview of her pastry experience and background. Then we jumped straight into decorating. We began with a 4″ layered baby cake, a turntable, a tub of purple buttercream frosting, three smaller containers of varying pink frosting hues, a paint scraper, and an angled spatula. Mandy demonstrated how to apply the first layer of the purple frosting to cover the entire cake. Basically, you scoop a large amount to the top and distribute it to the sides. Easy, right? Not quite. Once all the frosting has been distributed, you then want to smooth the cake’s sides using the paint scraper. This will remove a majority of the frosting. You then repeat the first step (dolloping more frosting and distributing) followed by scraping off. The goal is to have the cake appear smooth on the sides and flat on top. It took me four turns of distributing, scraping, and repeating to have my cake appear relatively smooth. Then came texturizing. Using your angled spatula, Mandy instructed the class to choose one of the pink shades and begin dotting them onto the cake. She looked like a painter, dotting the reddish hue this way and that until she felt it was time to move to the brighter pink. Then she repeated her moves, and again with the white until her cake looked like Picasso had taken his brush to it. I’m no Picasso, friends. Instead, I chose to (what I kindly call) glop my colors on my cake. Strong, repetitive, upward strokes of thick frosting began to take shape. I had no rhyme or reason for my placement other than to make the cake look “like feathers.” I wanted texture. I wanted height. And above-all-else, I wanted a lot of frosting. I’m proud to say I succeeded in all those categories. I felt this stage in the decorating was the most fun. I could mix colors, hide mistakes, and make the cake take on the form I envisioned. Plus, I was able to enjoy my second glass of Dablon wine, this time choosing the newly released 2017 Dablon Pinot Grigio. A deliciously dry white, this Pinot Grigio offers mild acidity with light starfruit. It is one of G’s favorite options from the winery, and I’ve become accustomed to its lightness in the hot months, so it fit for the muggy Michigan September evening. The final step was what I would call accessorizing the cake. Mandy provided an array of options: vanilla and chocolate macarons, fresh flowers, sprinkles, edible glitter, and meringue. If you’ve never had meringue, you are truly missing out. It is pretty much a dehydrated marshmallow made of egg whites, salt, and sugar, and feels like you’re eating a sweet cloud. I used both varieties of macarons (because they are seriously the best!), a medium-sized meringue, and a handful of flower stems. I tried different layering techniques, and after the twentieth variation finally liked my design enough to call it good. Then I added some crushed meringue and gold sprinkles at the base of my cake, and sprinkled some gold glitter to really make the cake sparkle. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with my final product: I don’t foresee me quitting my day job to become a cake decorator, but this event was a lot of fun. I’ve done plenty of Wine and Canvas classes in the past. This cake decorating takes the cake. (Ha, I have so many more, guys!) With Wine and Canvas, you’re shown how to paint one image which you’ll never need to paint again. With the cake decorating class, I learned techniques to decorate cakes for my friends and family in the future which I’ll actually retain. I’ve never been a baker, but now I feel comfortable enough to at least frost a cake should the need arise. In addition to expanding my creative abilities, I was given the opportunity to get out of the house — literally — and express myself in a fun manner. And on top of all that, I took a tasty treat home for G and I to split! The cake was a chocolate velvet cake made with Cabernet Sauvignon. It had some spice to it, and the buttercream filling was delicious. It definitely made the hubby happy having dessert in the apartment for a few nights. I call that a win-win for everyone involved! There really was no better way to spend a Thursday evening than with a full glass of wine, lots of laughs, and inspiration to work with in the kitchen. I love living in a community that provides little classes like this one, and I love living in an area that makes such amazing wine. I’m looking forward to more cake decorating classes in the future, either at Dablon again or exploring a new location. Can I also add how cute it is that my girls and I dressed to match our cakes? I love fun coincidences like this! Now back to moving into the new house… Until next time, friends,

Reblog: Millennial & Married: What I’ve Learned Six Months In

My church began a new Bible study today and it is called Married People Connect. As I’m sure you can guess, this study is for married couples and involves small table groups of varying aged couples to offer insight, advice, and encouragement for strong and happy marriages. G and I were both excited for this new step in our marriage and look forward to growing together with fellow members of our congregation.

This new study also brings e-Zines to our emails full of inspirational blog posts, vlogs, and date-night ideas. The most recent e-Zine included the following article written by Forrest Fyre, and I thought it was not only well-written but also on-point for my own marriage. As a millennial, marriage has a different look than it has for any other generation, but it also brings the same difficulties that all marriages face. I loved the honesty this author portrays over his young marriage, and couldn’t have said the words better myself. Enjoy!

In the summer of 2017, I made one of my boldest decisions yet. I committed myself in holy matrimony to the most beautiful woman I have ever known.

My heart was happier than ever before. I couldn’t have been more sure. And yet, the Millennial inside of me was wondering what on earth I was doing.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned six months into marriage as a Millennial. I think they’ll be helpful for others going into marriage as well.

1. I am a 24 year-old guy.

This is just a fact. Marriage hasn’t teleported me to a distant world where I am a wise old sage. And thank God it hasn’t! It’s been only a year since I graduated college. I have no business acting like I know everything now just because I’m married.

But I have learned so much already. I do feel myself maturing. Remembering my age has served both as a way to show myself grace and a reminder of my need to keep learning.

2. Getting married early is not normal for Millennials

It’s been fascinating to look at what other people my age are doing and feel how “against-the-grain” being married has been as a millennial. However, I’d say that I fit the Millennial stereotype pretty closely.

I work at a tech start-up in Boulder, CO. I love traveling, music, social media, and all that other “hipster” stuff. In fact, what I find to be different about being married is not what I’m into, but that I always have my wife to do it with.

Many millennials suffer from the pressure to portray the “best” of their lives on social media. And why? For others to see. I almost feel as if there is this awful mentality that “if you don’t show yourself looking good doing it, it didn’t happen.”

Not every Millennial fits this stereotype. But being married has freed me from this pressure. Everything I do is shared with my wife. There’s no need to prove anything to anyone. If I have the memories of living large with my wife, that’s good enough for me.

3. Marriage doesn’t solve all of your problems.

Don’t look at marriage as a solution to your problems, but as an opportunity to serve and love, despite your problems. I tried my best to refrain from thinking of marriage as a solution, but I still found myself thinking of it that way.

The truth is, I don’t have less problems since being married. I just have different problems. The reality is that I am responsible for the person I bring to my marriage. I cannot expect my wife to be responsible for fixing my flaws.

If you go into marriage thinking it will solve your mistakes, habits and addictions, you are setting your spouse up to be nothing more than a tool for your own, selfish ambitions. The first step for me was to realize what my problems were, and take ownership for them.

Marriage is not the solution to these problems. But it is helpful to have a companion to help reflect what’s hard for me to see in myself and support me in growing in those challenges. It was hard at first to get used to working out my problems in the presence of my wife. But I’ve realized that it helps to have honesty and trust with her in the process.

A helpful perspective we’ve had in our marriage is this—expect the other to bring their junk to the table. Desire always for them to grow from it and be willing to serve and love them despite all of it.

4. I’m selfish in ways I never recognized.

Selfishness is almost always at the root of an argument. The hardest, but most honest question I still trying to ask myself during fights is, “how am I being selfish in this?” Why can’t being humble be as easy as being stubborn?

It’s rare that I find myself not being selfish in some way. And if I’m not, the next question is, “how can I be more patient?” Or “how can I forgive and forget better?” I never knew I was so selfish about little things like home decor, food storage and grocery shopping. Thankfully, we are always learning how to argue more efficiently and with less unnecessary low-blows.

Fun fact I’ve learned: Being the one who gets out more words in an argument doesn’t make you more right.

5. I am 100% free to be myself.

Since getting married, I still go to the skatepark. I still dream big. I still rock climb after work. I still make it to social events and enjoy late-night live concerts. Marriage hasn’t put a pressure on me to change who I naturally am.

The best part is that I have a wife that loves doing most of these things with me. The key is we were honest to each other before we got married. We fell in love with our real selves because we chose to be our real selves.

Marriage has prompted me to constantly better myself—as a husband, listener, encourager, and a provider. That’s nothing different from what I’ve already felt through dating. Neither of us expect to be married and never see any change in the other.

6. Friends are important.

When we got married, we found it was tricky balancing married life with friend time. We try to be as intentional as possible about pursuing time with our mutual friends. It comes down to being OK with not having certain evenings together.

I’ve learned to prioritize my time with my wife first. Then intentionally establish time with my friends. It’s easier to become isolated from people, so having a conversation to set expectations and boundaries around time with friends was really helpful.

7. Work as a team with your finances.

As newlyweds, my wife brought good budgeting and saving skills to the table. I brought survival tactics, which were not very helpful. We came from two very different financial lifestyles. It was rough getting our strategy figured out at first.

Thankfully, we have figured out some ways to be a team. Talking with others we trust and those with experience about handling finances has been super helpful. I recommend starting a budget first and then creating a plan to pay off any debt you may have.

8. Plan your meals.

This one should have been more obvious to me. But after both being single for the last six years, we are both painfully disappointed with how quickly food disappears.

We are still learning our way around meal planning and grocery shopping. Nailing down a meal strategy will help us have more food, consistently and at less expense.

Cook together as much as possible! It’s healthier and good for building patience with each other. Also, the outcomes are usually delicious.

9. Comparison kills.

Comparison is a thief. It robs you of joy while you waste time wishing you had something else. Marriage is a dangerous area to allow comparison.

When it comes to comparison, we’ve had to draw a line in the sand. We are just as capable of comparing ourselves to others as we have ever been. And we are aware of the danger in that.

One night, we talked through some of the areas we felt like we were struggling with comparison. We made mutual decisions on where the two of us stood. We agreed to be content and confident in our personal decisions and have felt much better ever since.

I recommend being intentional about voicing any comparisons you feel so you can battle it out and remove it together. Feeling confident about your decisions as a couple is the best. Be sure these conversations don’t get overlooked early on.

10. Save water, shower together.

Pretty simple. Shower together. It’s fun and saves water.

Written by Forrest Fyre on December 26, 2017. Find the original post here.

For all my married couples out there, what have you learned throughout your days/months/years of marriage? My readers and I would love to hear your advice as well.

With you and for you,

We’re Homeowners!

A quick aside to say WE ARE OFFICIALLY HOMEOWNERS! Over the past month G and I have [im]patiently been waiting to close on our first home. Today we signed the papers and were handed the keys.

We. Are. So. Excited.

There is a lot of work to be done — including but not limited to writing a few more House Hunting posts working up to falling in love with our new house — but we could not be more thrilled to take this new step in our lives. Now onto celebrating with tickets to a local comedy show tonight and starting work to make the house our home tomorrow.


Little Black Dress Meets The Bridal Party

A few weeks ago I was honored to stand beside one of my best friends when she married her soulmate. The wedding was one of the most beautiful celebrations I’ve ever been to, and I couldn’t get over her color choices. She has such an eye for elegance and the day radiated class and romance. Weddings with black dresses were not new to me, but it was new to see one done in the warm month of August. So today’s topic is all about a wedding color palette centered around this sophisticated color.

There is no doubt that the Little Black Dress is a fashion staple for a reason. True to its fashionista of a sister, black bridesmaid dresses can be amazing assets to any wedding also. It’s a classic, sleek look that almost every woman can pull off because it’s flattering for every body type. Plus your girls will actually be able to wear a LBD again! Not saying she won’t want to wear that lime green dress in the future but… you do you, friend.

My friend accented our black dresses with gold jewelry and red rose bouquets.

It seems to me that the LBD can be chic enough for any wedding, given care put into the rest of the ensemble. However, there are complaints all over the Internet that black does not belong at a wedding because it is a color of depression. Personally, I disagree completely. Weddings are, of course, supposed to be happy ordeals! That means the depressing attitude surrounding black-dressed parties needs to be made cheerful. An easy route to take is adding splashes of color along with your girls LBDs. Choose accent colors that really POP! to make the wedding party’s clothing an entertaining and exciting one. Maybe this can be accomplished through fun heels, statement jewelry, or bouquets. There is always a way to accent a color that fits true to your style.

Another option to make black work in any setting is fiddling with textures. Whether you choose lace sleeves, flamboyant ruffles, or loud flowers, texture can make a big difference in the attitude of your wedding. Without even focusing simply on black, any color can be increased with a new texture. Plus, is there anything better than mismatched bridesmaids dresses for a modern and trendy wedding? You know my answer to this question already.

The dressed differ in style and texture, and the flowers offer unique style in both size and color.

When it comes to seasons, black CAN be worn year-round: think reds and oranges for fall, blues for winter, pastels in spring, and bright, bold choices for summer options. My friend chose deep red and took most of our pictures outside. Against the rocky walls of the venue and the fresh greenery, the red definitely made a statement!

For a more comfy feel at outdoor summer weddings, stay away from floor-length dresses; tea or knee lengths are the most ideal. Fortunately if your wedding is indoors, long dresses work with any season though. This idea also falls in line with the main reason why LBDs are so great for weddings: they can be worn again! Try choosing dresses that are fit for your wedding but also classy without the “bridesmaid” air about them. Our dresses came from Azazie and had fun halter necklines which tied in the back. They also had a sexy slit which provided air movement while outside taking pictures.


Finally, my last piece of advice: be different! To reiterate: pick a bold flower bouquet, choose adorable and unique accent necklaces, don colorfully-loud heels, etc. There is nothing better than a bride who has fun with her girls during her wedding planning by helping express her relationships (those with her fiance and with her best girls) through special methods. The LBD might be a classic, but there are so many possibilities to put your own spin on the idea and make it yours.

Go bold with printed black and white dresses, a truly modern and chic look.

How would you wear black at a wedding? Brides, would you ever choose black for your bridesmaids? I would love to hear (and see) your ideas! Please DM me on Insta @uncorkingpeonies or comment below.

Happy planning,