HomemadeBanana | Making things beautiful.
Clothing, Style

Red + Pink for Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-1valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-3valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-5valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-4valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-2valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-6valentines-day-red-and-pink-outfit-7Shirt: Gap // Pants: J.Crew (old, similar here and here) // Bag: Target // Shoes: Target // Earrings: Kendra Scott // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO // Watch: Michael Kors // Ring: BaubleBar, Rachel Zoe (sold out, similar here and here), Stella & Dot

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, which means that in addition to having dinner with your sweetheart, you can spend the morning brunching with your best girlfriends. In my opinion, a bottomless-mimosa lovefest like this deserves nothing less that full red-and-pink finery (and a purse full of conversation hearts).

A comfy striped tee in the perfect shade of flamingo and crepe joggers in neon watermelon not only provide a jolt of festive color to start the day off right, they offer ease and comfort, which is quite necessary when one is staring down a plate of smoked salmon eggs Benedict. Or a chorizo scramble served with freshly made tortillas. Or a lightly griddled English muffin with a side of house-cured bacon. I’m starting to think that brunch is one of my love languages.

DIY, Food

DIY Chinese Paper Lantern Cupcake Toppers + Orange Cream Cupcakes

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-4chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-7Gong Hey Fat Choy! Today is Chinese New Year, which officially marks the start of the Year of the Monkey. And while I, myself, am a rabbit, I’m still going to heartily celebrate and hopefully usher in some good fortune for the upcoming lunar year. With that in mind, I baked up some super-simple, semi-homemade orange cream cupcakes, since eating oranges at the beginning of the year is said to bring wealth and luck. According to Chowhound via the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the tradition of eating oranges and tangerines for the new year, “stems from the way the Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, while the word for tangerine echoes luck.” That’s good enough reason for me. And lest these cupcakes not look festive enough, I topped them off with mini Chinese lanterns crafted from bright red and pink paper and finished with sparkling gold designs and playful tassels.

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-5For the paper lantern cupcake toppers, you’ll need the following:
• varying shades of red and pink cardstock
• gold wire
• gold beads
• metallic gold gel pen
• gold embroidery thread
• gold eye pins
• gold jump rings
• glue

1. Print out this template, making sure it stays to scale to make a 3/4″ cube. Trace the template on cardstock and cut out.

2. Using a gold gel pen, draw geometric designs on the outside of the paper.

3. Score along each corner, then add a small amount of glue to the three tabs and fold up the cube, holding each tab closed for about 30 seconds to ensure a good hold.

4. Once the glue dries, poke holes through the top and bottom with a needle, then thread an eye pin through the cube. Add a gold bead on top and close the pin with a loop.

5. Make a small tassel from gold embroidery thread using this method, then attach the tassel to the bottom of the eye pin using a jump ring.

6. Finally, cut a length of gold wire and bend it in the shape of a candy cane, looping the end so you can rest the little paper lantern on it. Stick it in an orange cream cupcake to celebrate the lunar new year in style!

chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-1chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-6 chinese-new-year-paper-lantern-cupcake-topper-12Orange Cream Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:
• Betty Crocker SuperMoist Yellow Cake Mix
• 3 eggs
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 1 cup orange juice (instead of water)
• 2 tsp orange zest

Frosting Ingredients:
• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 2 cups powdered sugar
• 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 to 3 tsp of milk
• orange zest for garnish

Directions:
1. Follow the directions on the cake box, substituting orange juice for water and adding 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the batter. Bake cupcakes and let cool.

2. To make the frosting, cream the butter in a medium bowl then beat in the sugar and vanilla extract. Add milk bit by bit until you’ve achieved the right consistency.

3. Frost cupcakes and top with orange zest and a Chinese lantern topper!

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DIY, Style

DIY Pompom Sweatshirt for the Super Bowl

diy-pom-pom-sweatshirt-4I love watching sports, but I’m not a big fan of team-branded t-shirts (exception: Spurs merch). This presents a problem when I wish to dress up for special sporting occasions like the Super Bowl. But recently I was struck by an idea while perusing an Etsy shop chock-full of colorful pompoms: why not festoon a basic gray sweatshirt with cheerleader-inspired trim in the team colors of my choosing?! I can rep the Panthers on game day with this sweatshirt and some leather-trimmed leggings and come spring I can finally embrace the athleisure trend and style this top with a flared black skirt and some slip-on sneakers. The fact that this project took less than an hour to make is just the extra point to my DIY touchdown. diy-pom-pom-sweatshirt-2diy-pom-pom-sweatshirt-1For this project, you’ll need the following:
• a short-sleeve sweatshirt (I got mine on sale from J.Crew and it’s now sold out, but this and this are other good options)
• one yard each of large black pompom trim, large white pompom trim and small blue pompom trim (or colors of your choice)
• need and thread
• pins

1. Start by pinning your first round of pompom trim into place. I began with the bottom black trim and lined it up with the cuff seams so I could easily stick to a straight line. With a needle and thread, tack the trim to the sleeve, then knot and trim the ends when done.

2. Repeat with the blue and white pompom trim, making sure to measure and pin carefully to maintain a straight line around the sleeve. All done!

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DIY

DIY Airmail Envelope Keepsake Box

thank-a-mailman-day-diy-project-9thank-a-mailman-day-diy-project-8Since I live in Iowa, the shopping options are pretty limited. If I want a new scarf from Zara, I order it online. If I want a veritable rainbow of pompom bag charms, I order them online. If I want pretty much any sort of specialty product, I order it online. And that means I get a lot of packages delivered to my front porch. I’ve always loved getting things in the mail (who doesn’t?), but I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the work of the letter carrier until I read this essay about the trials and tribulations of being a mailwoman. The last paragraph really struck me. In it, the author suggests offering various little treats (Gatorade and cookies) and behavioral changes (check your mail every day) that can really help out your local letter carrier.

And so, in the spirit of offering much-deserved thanks to some of the hardest working civil servants out there, let’s all take a moment to celebrate Thank a Mailman Day tomorrow, February 4th. In my case, I’ll be thanking a woman named Mary. She trudges through snow and across icy sidewalks to get my mail to to me almost every day, and I’m so thankful for her. Since we gave her a $20 Starbucks card for Christmas (Postal Service employees aren’t allowed to accept cash or gifts valued above $20), I wanted to do something a bit more creative for this little-known day of appreciation. So, I whipped out my paints to add some vintage airmail charm to a small wooden box and stuffed a few sets of hand warmers inside. Hopefully they’ll keep Mary’s hands nice and cozy on her route for the rest of the week.

Even if you don’t have the time or resources to make a little gift for your letter carrier, I highly recommend writing him or her a quick note of thanks and dropping it into your mailbox on your way to work tomorrow.

thank-a-mailman-day-diy-project-4 thank-a-mailman-day-diy-project-6For this project, you’ll need the following:
• an unfinished wooden box
• white, red and blue acrylic paint
• clear varnish
• black pen
• hand warmers or treat of your choice

1. Start by painting your box white. You’ll probably need a few coats to get a nice opaque finish.

2. Using a ruler, mark where you want your stripes to be. Paint alternating red and blue stripes and let dry completely.

3. With a fine-tip marker or gel pen, write “Thank You” in the center of your box. Let ink dry.

4. Cover the whole box with two coats of varnish, skipping over the letters if you think the black ink might bleed (try testing this on a separate surface before swiping over the letter with the varnish).

5. Stuff some treats of your choice inside and wrap up with a bow!

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Clothing, Style

Moody Floral Maxi Dress

faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-3faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-4faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-5faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-8faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-9faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-1faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-6faux-fur-vest-floral-maxi-dress-otk-boots-2
Dress: Glamorous (sold out, simiar here) // Vest: Topshop // Boots: Chinese Laundry // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO // Necklace: Julie Vos // Bag: Forever 21 // Lipstick: Revlon Cherries in the Snow

I’ve long harbored an obsession with the Dutch Masters. The mysterious shadows in shades of somber black, the ultra-saturated blooms that seem to glow from within impeccable still-life arrangements and the fanciful appearances of the occasional dead peacock and plump, just-picked fruits. Perhaps most of all, I love the interplay of light and dark, which is probably what initially drew me to this moody floral print maxi dress.

The vibrant pops of rich teal and berry red lend depth to the floaty style, while matching thigh-high slits on either side part at the slightest hint of a breeze, revealing my favorite suede over-the-knee boots underneath. Since it’s still quite cold here in Iowa, a layer of cozy faux fur is a must, and this Topshop vest is an especially stellar specimen of the imitation stuff.

Food

Super Bowl Beer Cocktail

superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-1superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-5superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-2I love beer and I love cocktails. And ever since I had an A+ beer cocktail at The Alembic in San Francisco, I’ve been searching for a way to make this boozy combination my own. I figured that the looming Big Game this Sunday was the perfect excuse to try out a few new recipes. I knew I wanted to combine tequila and some Anchor Steam—to honor the home of Superbowl 50—and I decided to add a bit of fruitiness in the form of blood orange juice, because they’re beautifully in season right now and they add gorgeous color to any drink. A few dashes of celery bitters at the end adds a really nice herby note to the drink, ensuring it’s not too sweet despite the necessary addition of a little simple syrup.

Once the blood orange juice, tequila and softly bitter beer mingle, you’re left with a drink that’s boozier than a beer, more sessionable than a cocktail and tastes like a lightweight, fizzy approximation of the negroni. Basically, it’s a great choice if you want to celebrate a big first down or mourn an interception without reaching for the boring beer that’s become de rigueur at viewing parties the country over. And lest you forget you’re watching a very important sports game, these DIY football drink stirrers are there to keep things festive. I whipped them up in under an hour from some Sculpey clay and thin copper bars I found at the art supply store. Cheers!

superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-7Tequila, Blood Orange & Beer Cocktail

Ingredients:
• 1 1/2 oz. tequila
• 1 oz. blood orange juice, strained
• 1/2 oz. super simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
• Anchor Steam beer
• celery bitters
• celery leaves, for garnish

Directions:
1. Combine tequila, blood orange juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake.

2. Pour over ice in a Super Bowl party-friendly glass of your choice. Top with an ounce or two of Anchor Steam to taste.

3. Finish with a few dashes of celery bitters and garnish with a sprig of celery leaves and some charming football drink stirrers.

superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-8superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-6superbowl-beer-tequila-cocktail-recipe-3

Lifestyle

Trendspotting: Tiny Spoons

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Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed a new trend in cutlery popping up on latte saucers across my favorite cafes: the tiny spoon. With a dainty bowl just big enough for a modest helping of sweetener and a slender handle perfect for swirling the cream through your coffee, this diminutive utensil is equal parts miniature form and function. After stirring my morning cup with more than a few tiny spoons, I decided I needed to add a few to my silverware drawer, pronto.

The problem was, I couldn’t find a tiny spoon on the world wide web to save my life. I searched and searched every combination of the words “tiny” “spoon” and “coffee” to no avail. And then, an online curtain parted and I finally found one single, solitary spoon with my desired tiny dimensions. It was called a demitasse spoon and I soon learned that my self-titled Tiny Spoons also masquerade under the names “spice spoon” and “condiment spoon.” Once I finally cracked the SEO code, I was able to round up a baker’s dozen of my very favorite tiny spoons to share with you all. Crisis averted.
tiny-spoons1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12 // 13 // 14

Food

Coconut-Taro Cream Pie

coconut-taro-cream-pie-recipe-8coconut-taro-cream-pie-recipe-21 coconut-taro-cream-pie-recipe-1Today is National Pie Day, if you believe in those sorts of holidays. And I do, if only for the sake of my stomach. While I was laying in bed dreaming up different pies I could make to celebrate this most-made-up and most-delicious of holidays, my mind kept wandering to another sweet treat: the ice cream cone. More specifically, a particular ice cream from Mitchell’s, the best little ice cream shop in San Francisco. On hot fall nights, I used to leash Clarabelle up and walk the ten minutes from my house to Mitchell’s to wait in line for what I consider to be the best combo there: one scoop of taro ice cream topped with a scoop of young coconut all stacked on a freshly-made sugar cone. It’s the perfect mix of light, tropical flavors and I love the playful purple color of taro.

Since I couldn’t stop thinking about my favorite Mitchell’s cone, I decided to turn it into a timely pie. Behold: the coconut-taro cream pie with a sugar cone crust and a cherry on top. Taro powder, which can be bought online and at your local Asian market, added to a classic coconut custard lends a signature purple color and incomparable sweet and starchy flavor to the pie. A crushed-up sugar cone base is not only the easiest crust you’ll ever make, it adds the perfect amount of crunch to the otherwise light and creamy fare. All-in-all, I’m pretty darn pleased with this creation.

coconut-taro-cream-pie-recipe-13Coconut-Taro Cream Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (one 13.75 oz can)
• 1 1/4 cups whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
• 1/4 cup taro instant tea powder
• purple food coloring (optional)

For Topping:
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
• maraschino cherries

For Crust:
• 8 Tbsp melted butter
• 12 sugar cones

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To make the crust, crunch or blend sugar cones until they resemble a coarse sand. I also left a few bigger-size chunks for added texture. Add the melted butter to the crunched-up cones and mix until combined.

3. Press the mixture evenly into a standard pie pant and bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly browned. Let cool completely.

4. To make the filling, Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk in coconut milk and whole milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes.

5. Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add milk mixture to yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return tosaucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Pour the custard into a bowl and stir in vanilla, taro powder and shredded coconut. Add food coloring for a more impactful purple, if desired. Pour into pie crust, and smooth top. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until filling is completely set, at least 4 hours (N.B. I didn’t have time to let my custard set completely, so mine oozed a bit when I sliced into the pie. I recommend chilling the pie for as long as a day or two to ensure everything sets properly).

7. When you’re ready to dig in or your patience wears thin, whichever comes first, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar together until soft peaks form. Spread atop the pie, building it up a bit in the middle, and plop bright red cherry right on top.

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Accessories, DIY

DIY Discount: Colorful Bag Charms

diy-bag-charms-2diy-bag-charms-6It’s no question that bag charms are the playful accessory du jour. Fendi’s furry monsters may have started it all, but the trend has spread to include everything from the now-ubiquitous and relatively plain furry pompom to the meta mini bag bag charm and the playful cocktail-themed bag charm from none other than kate spade.

As I’ve already amassed a significant stockpile of plain fur bag charms, I thought it was about time I started dipping into the kookier creations. So when I spotted these colorful dinosaur-tassel bag charms by Lenora Dame, I knew they was the perfect candidate for the DIY Discount. The original bag charms cost $5o each, but I was able to  make them for around $10 each—plus I got to customize them to my preferences (hello Iowa-inspired pig figure).lenora-dame-bag-charm

diy-bag-charms-10diy-bag-charms-1For this project, you’ll need the following:
• two gold key rings
• two big lobster claw clasps (I used these in gold)
• two gold eye pins
• faceted glass accent beads
• four jump rings
• a small drill like a Dremel or a pin vise
• two small plastic animals (I used a dinosaur and a pig, but you can use whatever strikes your fancy)
• two skeins of embroidery thread
• two teardrop crystals
• two strands of crystal cup chain
• neon spray paint or model paint
• super glue

diy-bag-charms-71. Start by drilling a small hole through the top of your animal with a very small drill bit. I used a manual pin vise, but a small rotary tool like a Dremel would make this task a breeze. Once the hole was drilled, I stuck a spare nail through the hole to keep if from closing up and to give myself something to hold while I was painting the animal.

2. Paint your animal figurine with one or two coats of neon paint. You can also leave your animal unpainted, if you prefer that look—totally up to you.

3. While your animal is drying, make a tassel using the method outlined here. You’ll want to use a whole skein of embroidery thread for the tassel, and be sure to comb through the ends once it’s assembled so looks nice and full. Attach a large jump ring to the top of the tassel.

4. Using a small jump ring, attach a teardrop crystal to the front of the tassel by theading it through the strands that are wrapped around the top of the tassel.

5. Once your animal is dry, it’s time to attach the crystal cup chain. Cut two lengths of cup chain that are long enough to span the back of your animal. If your little dude has spikes like my dinosaur, simply cut the chain into four pieces and attached two to each side rather than draping it across the back. Use super glue to secure the crystal chain.

6. Finally, we assemble the keychain. Attach the circular end of the eye pin to the jump ring you secured to the top of your tassel. Add one glass bead, the animal and another glass bead to the eye pin and close it with a loop. Attach the key ring to the eye pin and the lobster clasp to the key ring.

7. Use your playful new accessory to add color to you car keys or your handbag. Or do like I did and clip it onto your dog’s collar so she looks extra fancy. The possibilities really are endless.

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Style, Travel

A Gray Day in San Francisco

moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-8moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-2moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-10moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-3moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-6moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-11moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-7moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-4moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-1moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-5moto-vest-plaid-blanket-scarf-9Top: Necessary Clothing // Vest: Topshop // Pants: Express // Scarf: Zara // Bag: Kate Spade // Booties: Circus by Sam Edelman // Pompom: Amazon // Sunglasses: Karen Walker via DITTO // Bracelet: Julie Vos // Rings: BaubleBar

As I write this post, curled up on my couch in Iowa, my phone is telling me that it feels like -20 degrees outside. And so, when I look back at these pictures of what seemed like a chilly day in San Francisco, I laugh at my past self. The self that had been spoiled by a so-far extremely mild Midwestern winter. But I digress.

On this particular day during our recent trip to SF, Max and I stopped to admire the view of the bay from the top of Pac Heights. Although the day was mostly gray and rainy, we were treated to the appearance of a rainbow that arced softly down the hill and seemed to disappear into the water. Thanks to a cozy blanket scarf that I picked up at Zara on my trip, I stayed nice and bundled even atop the windy hill. My favorite moto vest—which I scored during the Nordstrom anniversary sale last summer—topped off the muted look.

After snapping a few photos, we hopped in the car to meet my lovely friend Kia at Craftsmen & Wolves in the Mission and warm up with a cup of sipping caramel. Come to this of it, that’s exactly what I need right now to keep my internal temperature above freezing. I wonder if Postmates delivers to Iowa City…