If You Have Some Extra Time…

Weekend Links - House Staging | PepperDesignBlog.com

This past weekend I asked Katie Beverley to come over and help me shoot photos of the house from head to toe. It was a good lesson in goal-setting and ‘making things happen’, we accomplished a ton. I staged (aka cleaned) while she found pretty details in the ordinary. I can’t wait to see the photos. Above image from when I came back from the flower shop. Wish my home could always be covered in branches and blooms!

If you have some extra time…

I tried this double knot (found over at Cup of Jo initially) and it is so easy and pretty. Sporting it on our next date night.

Inspiration for the most colorful and sweet outdoor space (ps mine is almost done – but I’ve got more of the blue/lime thing going on).

A House Doctor moment – I’d like to find a way to make this striped bench for the living room (a close up). Have also been searching for a ladder just like this one for in there.

Really, really digging this rug.

Sleep in an IKEA for the night (this is for real).

Kid’s need more sleep and a little emphasis on self-discipline: How to Make Your Kid’s Smarter according to Time.

It’s blazing hot here in San Diego right now, but I’m so ready for fall maternity. Speaking of maternity, just scooped up this pretty dress for a November wedding (love that price).

“In pregnancy, there are two bodies, one inside the other. Two people live under one skin … When so much of life is dedicated to maintaining our integrity as distinct beings, this bodily tandem is an uncanny fact.” An article/guide to taking care of your emotional well-being during pregnancy. (Another one I loved: “As much as childbirth is a major event for the body, it’s also a transformative event for the soul. Just as significant as your own birth and your own death.” You are witnessing – nay, conducting and orchestrating – their most significant life event.)

A casual summer-to-fall dress. And the necklace I’d wear with it (recently met the designer and enjoyed her aesthetic).

I love me a good sale. J Crew – you tease too much.

I’m really admiring Glenn Dean’s art right now (especially his gallery of landscapes and of California).

The Theory of Everything documents the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking – a must-see movie that’s on my list.

What are you up to this weekend?

A New Editorial Calendar System

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

I’ve really struggled with organizing my posting thoughts for this site. For a long time I had no editorial schedule (except for the ideas that lived in my head and the occasional goal of publishing a certain topic on a certain day). I’ve tried penciling notes in a giant notebook, funky wordpress widgets (that caused drafts to publish in the middle of the night) and virtual organizers/calendars. I like to be organized, I like to have a system for my ideas and this was frustrating.

A while back, I read Elise’s idea for a giant cork board with removable post-its and was like – yes! That is what I need. I don’t have the space for a giant cork board but I did adapt the system seamlessly to an old fashioned paper planner.

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

So I’ve tried it for a few months just to test the theory out.

What is amazing about this solution is how easy it is to rearrange and re-sort your entire week or month. There’s no crossing out and penciling in and arrows moving all about as it would look in a paper planner without sticky notes. Likewise, there’s plenty of room to jot handwritten notes and scroll down ideas, a factor I found limiting with digital planners. The post-its make creating a calendar easy.

If you were to compare any of the above ‘June’ posts with what actually went live on that day, I guarantee everything was reordered again at some point after taking these photos. Sometimes that’s because an idea needs more time to simmer, photos aren’t finished, or a fun event plops itself into the middle of a busy week and I push everything else out. The blog is just a little piece of my world and it’s nice to have one central location to stash all of my ideas, and then to be able to close up the planner and put it back in my file drawer.

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

Sticky notes! Genius.

Quick note: there are certain sized mini post-it options that work best in your average paper planners, the ones that I found at my local drugstore were too big (even as minis) so I turned to Amazon and now have ten billion. Here’s a link to the above paper planner again, too.

If I have ideas that I’m not ready to dedicate to a certain calendar date, I sort of throw them in the ‘other’ column there on the far right side. When they’ve marinated and feel right to include, the post-it moves over to an actual day in the planner. Sometimes I make notes on the actual sticky note that dictate to-dos, something like ‘make sure to shoot these photos on Sunday’ or ‘waiting on xyz’. Little reminders and such.

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

Ignore the chicken scratch :).

I bought mini colorful post-its with a future goal of sorting categories by colors. Also, yellow doesn’t seem to be so popular anymore. Where have all of the yellow post-its gone?

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

But right now my monochromatic system is working out really well.

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

My actual editorial calendar? My goal is to post four times each week: Monday and Tuesday morning, Wednesday afternoon, and then a closing post on Friday. Sometimes Monday morning is pushed to Monday afternoon, or Wednesday is pushed into Thursday. Life is crazy :). I have a long term dream of having a post go live every morning of every week day at some point in the future.

I aim for a mix of smaller, quicker posts (like an update or a list of favorite links) with larger, more complex posts (like tutorials, resource guides or home projects) for a balanced feel. I’ve learned over the past five years that blogging has a lot to do with consistency (for readers and for personal organization) and that content, as always, is king. I’ll make a post-it note to put together tips for planning, shooting and writing posts in a more organized way.

Blogging Editorial Calendar | PepperDesignBlog.com

If you are a blogger, I hope that this helps! Have any great tips to share with me about your editorial calendar? I am always looking for faster, smarter ways to get anything done.

PS this doesn’t really fit into the usual ‘Tech Tips’ category, but here are a few more blogging-related posts to share. Happy mid-week!

7 Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

Can I share with you a mission that I’ve been on for a better chunk of my life? It may seem minor, but it is truly a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie that I love.

I’ve tried all sorts of tips and tricks to achieve just the right gooey-ness, crispiness, thickness, cakey-ness, ratio of chocolate-to-batter-ness….

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie | PepperDesignBlog.com

I’m not often able to repeat the same formula twice, but each time I do bake up a batch, I try something just a little different (amount of flour, white and brown sugar combinations, temperature of butter)… all in the name of one day nailing down that perfect golden cookie. It’s a trait that I thank my Grandma for (who, by the way, insisted I have the basic chocolate chip Tollhouse cookie dough recipe memorized by age 10 or so).

I’ve come up with a list of tips that have served me well, and I thought I’d take a moment to capture a recent baking session and share those today. If you have a few tricks up your own sleeve – do share in the comments section!

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

7 Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie


1. I cream everything by hand:
I started doing this out of laziness (cleaning the mixer seemed like so much work to make a mere batch) but actually found that this results in delicious cookies. Many will swear by ‘whipping’ the butter and sugar together, but I mix (thoroughly) almost everything by hand with a pastry blender and because of it bake much more often that I probably would.

I also love to use butter and eggs that are at room temp (so baking cookies takes a little foresight, maybe 30 minutes or so). Patience is not my forte so I don’t love this part and am always proud of myself when I think to take these out of the fridge before Liv and I want to start baking.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

2. Chocolate chip variety: milk, dark, white chocolate… all of the above. I am partial to Ghirardelli chips for milk chocolate but haven’t found a semi-sweet, dark or white that is a must for me. Here’s a really great tip to help with chocolate variety, too!

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

3. Work only with the best: this is an obvious one. Musts include: cuteness, adorable cookie comments and sneaking dough from the bowl. Oh, and the three-year-old? She’s helpful, too.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

4. Freeze cookie dough: for at least ten minutes, and preferably overnight. I LOVE to make a batch in advance and pull out dough balls as needed (5 tonight after dinner, 1 raw to snack on… you know). Freshly baked is just the best. Freezing overnight means that the ingredients (mainly the butter) will take longer to bake in the oven and leaves me with a non-spreading or runny cookie.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

The above is a tiny baking sheet from our toaster oven in our freezer for freezer purposes only. I’ll reposition the cookies onto an actual baking sheet lined with parchment paper before baking.

Once frozen, cookie dough can easily be stored for later baking (or snacking).

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

5. Use parchment paper: there’s nothing easier and cleaner than working with a sheet of parchment paper, but I also love how the bottom of the cookie bakes and how all of the moisture is sort of trapped inside of the finished, not-cakey, not-too-crispy cookie.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

6. Bake for 2/3 of the suggested time: most cookie recipes call for 10-12 minutes in the oven at 350. I’ve tried out lower and higher temps but have found the most success in just pulling cookies out earlier than called for. I don’t move them from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack (which stops the baking process – but makes more of a mess to clean up) so by pulling them out at, say, 8 minutes, I’m able to leave them to continue their heating process outside of the oven until cool. And that is perfection. Plus, I like them slightly browned but mostly a little doughier/softer on the inside, taste-wise.

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

7. Add chocolate chips as soon they come out of the oven: I used to add chocolate chips to the tops of each cookie dough ball before baking, but now that I use my freezer technique I find myself popping extra chips into place while they’re still warm (the chocolate melts into amazingness, too), fresh from the oven. This helps to deflate the cookie a bit and makes them yummier looking (and tasting).

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie | PepperDesignBlog.com

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

Now on to the recipe…

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup (8 oz) butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tb pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 to 3 cups flour (I adjust this as I’m working with the dough)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
LOTS of chocolate chips and candy bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend room temperature butter with pastry blender until soft and slightly whipped, add white and brown sugar half cup at a time and continue to hand mix. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix, mix, mix. Add vanilla and mix, mix, mix.

In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed wet mixture by the half cup while also blending with pastry blender. Using the pastry blender helps ‘cut’ the ingredients together and is my favorite, but if you wanted to use an electric mixer you could. Mix in chocolate chips by the plenty with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a cookie scoop (planning on freeze-ability here), drop balls of dough onto a small cookie sheet or baking pan lined with parchment paper (double check beforehand that this container/sheet will fit in your freezer). Freeze for 10 minutes. Store dough balls in the freezer in a freezer-safe tupperware container for future use or bake for 8 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Enjoy!

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

Tips for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie  | PepperDesignBlog.com

PS more good eats here, including: a recipe for knock-out macaroons, (vegetable) cupcakes kids will love, and apple pie on a stick. Enjoy :).

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