A Corky Souvenir – Wine Cork Picture Frame

A Corky Souvenir – Wine Cork Picture Frame

How do you properly thank someone for coordinating a trip of a lifetime?  How do you memorialize a unique getaway or vacation without buying an overpriced mass produced generic souvenir in gift shop or airport terminal?  We recently asked ourselves these questions while wine tasting in the gorgeous cities of Napa and Sonoma, CA with a group of friends.  One very generous and extraordinary host was responsible for our incredible experience and we wanted to find a unique way to thank him.

It didn’t take long for creative juices to start flowing (we were drinking wine after all!) and we decided a picture frame adorned wine corks and other mementos from the places we visited would do the trick.  We weren’t quite sure exactly how we were going to use the corks, but that didn’t matter, we knew inspiration would come.  Besides, collecting corks was fun!  It was like an adult version of a scavenger hunt to see who got the first cork or who could seize the most.





Our trip was kicked off with an amazing dining experience at The French Laundry where every detail, no matter how minute, was executed to perfection.  Enough cannot be said about this restaurant; in fact we are still raving about it!  We were not only able to collect the wine corks from the international wines we enjoyed at dinner, but also a couple of The French Laundry signature clothes pins as well.  Shh, we’re not sure this was legal, but at the cost per person, what’s a clothes pin or two?

Our first official wine tasting day began at an unexpected, but warm and welcoming,  Tulocay Wines, where you literally wine taste in the owner, Bill’s, front yard.  He is hilarious by the way!  He was gracious enough to let us snag a number of corks from him to add to our now growing collection.

Our long weekend took us to a wide variety of wineries, including the small boutique winery Pallidian, as well as the larger more well known wineries like Michael Mondavi, and everything in between.  Every winery we stopped at generously gave us a cork or two or ten (thanks Merryvale!) and by the end of the trip our purses were overflowing with stinky, inky corks – it was not the best smell after 3 days of wine tasting, but that is neither here nor there.  Several days after our return, Christine had found herself giving those corks the evil eye!   If you’ve spent days touring the wine country, you’d understand why!!!

Once home, we jumped on the Internet in search of ideas for the wine cork picture frame. We were inspired by a beautiful chevron patterned frame and we knew with a few twists it would be the perfect way to say thank you and create a unique souvenir!  We hope our gracious host loves it as much we do!

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Calling all Pumpkin Lovers – Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons!  To name a few, I love the feel of the crisp cool air, I adore the colors and the turning of the leaves (and yes, even in Southern California we do see the leaves turn), and last, but not least, PUMPKIN!!!  Everywhere you go your bound to find something pumpkin – lattes,  desserts, candles, etc…

As sad as I was to see the departure of Summer, even though it was a blistering 90 degrees here in San Diego, on Saturday, September 22nd, my heart fell right back into Fall.  To celebrate this time of year,  I had to make these amazingly simple and delicious pumpkin cupcakes.  When it comes to desserts, I love the moistness of cake and the smoothness of frosting!  My waistline can certainly do without both, but my heart cannot!

I can’t take the credit for the recipe, because it came through a friend of mine – Jen.  And I’m not sure how she acquired it to begin with, but it’s so simple and quite possibly one of the most scrumptious pumpkin recipes I have ever encountered, that I had to shout it from the rooftops.  Thank you, Jen!

I will never forget when I had one of these for the first time.   Jen told me a cute story that while making these for an event, her 2-year old twins had almost devoured the whole batch and she had to make more!  Two more pumpkin lovers in the world!  You gotta love ’em!

Recipe for 12-14 cupcakes:

1 box Spiced Cake Mix (if you have a gluten intolerance – you can purchase a spiced or pumpkin cake mix and use that)

1 16oz. can of Pumpkin Puree (not pie filling)

Cupcake wrappers

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 packages softened 1/3 fat Philadelphia Cream Cheese blocks (You can use regular, but remember, I’m watching my waistline)

16 oz. powdered sugar (add more if needed, but again, waistline, people!)

1 stick of softened butter

1 tsp vanilla extract


Directions for cupcakes:

It’s too easy.  Are you ready?  Open box, pour cake mix in a bowl.  Open can of puree and pour in the bowl with the cake mix. 

Mix by hand first.  Then take a mixer to it until lumps are gone. 

Remember the days when you were little and your mom made a cake?  You’d lick the spoons!  And you’d lick every last bit of the mix in the bowl too!   Because this recipe doesn’t contain raw egg – your kids can partake in one of your favorite past times too!   

Fill cupcake tin.  I use a good ice cream scooper to do this.  You should fill the cupcake wrapper.  These won’t rise much because they don’t have eggs which will help make them dense and devine!  Pop them in the oven and cook at the temperature as directed on the cake box and for the same amount of time. 


Directions for frosting:

The cream cheese recipe is just as easy.  Some mix the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl and then slowly add the powdered sugar.  But honestly, how can you mess up mixing these delicious ingredients?  To ice, I put a ziplock bag with the corner in first, inside of a glass.  Then I fill the bag with icing and then pull out, twist the bag at the top and then cut the corner.  The size of the cut depends on how large you would like your icing swirl to be. 


Frost and decorate those little suckers!


The worst thing about this recipe is that when they’re all gone, they’re all gone and you either have to make them again very soon, or hope that one of your friends reads this and is making them for the event that you’re going to!   I don’t know about you, but I like to be in control of my own destiny!!!

Have any delicious pumpkin recipes you’d like to share?  If so, please let us in your favorites in the comments section!





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