Sunday, April 3, 2011

For My Love: Moist Yellow Caramel Cake and Chocolate Baileys Cupcakes with Liqueur Shots

Birthday Dessert Table
It's sometimes funny to me how my views/interests have changed over time. Of course this applies across my life to things both serious and silly, but I bet you can guess which type is on my mind now ;p. For example, if you'd told me just a few years ago that I'd have a blog full of cupcakes (I used to hate this "silly overpriced fad") I'd have been horrified. Perhaps it was going to a "preppy" college, but I really disliked pastel colors, anything "cutesy," and had little interest in things like pretty weddings or party decorations.

Just by looking at this site, you can tell I've changed a bit, no? What started as a subtle shift became a landslide, though, when I discovered some amazing party/style blogs, especially My Sweet & Saucy and Kara's Party Ideas. They're so inspiring I started planning how I'd break the news of my career change to "party planning/catering" to my dad before I knew it. That was just a daydream but with my boyfriend's birthday coming up I had the perfect opportunity to translate all that inspiration into a real party for the love of my life and our friends =).

Pompoms!
From the food to the decorations, my plan for P's birthday party was all about DIY (do-it-yourself). Since P is a pretty down-to-earth guy, I kept things simple using a natural color scheme with accents in green (his favorite color) and yellow. The ribbon cake bunting banner and tissue paper pom-poms (both pictured above) were easy to make using these tutorials: cake bunting and pom-poms. The biggest surprise (and my favorite part of the preparation) was convincing P to help make the pom-poms and discovering that he was a natural at it! On the other hand, mine looked like a dog had chewed on it...=p

We offered our guests a lot to fill their bellies at the party. After munchin' on some store-bought chips and dips, they got to sample P's favorite spiked pasta and customized homemade pizzas at the toppings "bar." There was also plenty to satisfy their sweet tooths. The Boy's favorite cake in the world is his aunt's yellow cake with an amazing caramel frosting. Having tried to recreate it for his last 3 birthdays, I'm happy that's it's finally good enough to be shared! If you've ever had caramel or penuche frosting, you're probably used to it being hard. The beauty of this version is that it stays soft and buttery, a perfect compliment to the oh-so-moist yellow cake.

Patrick's 26th Birthday Party/Cake
Photos from my friend Mimi =D
In honor of P's half-Irish ancestry, I also created some fun chocolate Irish cream cupcakes. To make them as "Irish" as possible, I used my homemade Irish cream 3 ways: in place of milk in the cake batter, to flavor the frosting, and to fill the homemade chocolate cup toppers. The chocolate liqueur "shots" were especially fun -- to make and consume! In case you're wondering about the proper way to eat these, here's how we did it:
  1. Hold the cupcake around its wrapper between your thumb and index finger, then bring it up and toward you so you can drink the Irish cream shot out of the chocolate cup.
  2. Now pick up the empty chocolate cup and gobble it up like a proper chocoholic!
  3. Now eat the remaining cupcake any ole way you want.
I'm happy to report the party was a success! Everyone, including the birthday boy, seemed to have fun and enjoy the food. Like the above-mentioned style blogs inspired me, I hope some of you might be inspired to make your own crafts and treats for your next special gathering!

Moist (Really!) Yellow Layer Cake with Soft Caramel Frosting [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from ChefTalk and from My Yellow Bluff
Makes a 2-layer 9-inch cake (about 10 to 12 servings)

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I think part of the compromise of such a moist, tender cake is that it's quite delicate to handle. I definitely recommend chilling the cakes at least an hour before frosting to firm it up so crumbs won't come off easily. Especially since this frosting is really good at pulling cake bits off hehe. You can't tell in my photo (or at least I hope not!) but a small section of the edge of the cake actually got pulled off by the frosting entirely. So, again, handle with care! Or, if not, it'll be delicious just the same =D.

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature

Soft Caramel Frosting (Recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round pans. Grease the pans lightly with oil or cooking spray, then place the paper in the pans and grease the paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, vinegar, oil, butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with on medium to medium-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs and yolks and continue beating an additional 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake for 22 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a cake comes out clean, or until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely. Frost as desired.

Soft Caramel Frosting
Makes enough to frost a 2-layer cake

XIAOLU'S NOTES: Steph of Cupcake Project also posted an adaptation of this frosting. Though our measurements are different, the technique remains the same. Check out her post for some useful photos of the caramelization process. This frosting doesn’t crust up like many other caramel frostings and retains wonderfully creamy, buttery, and soft. However, it does still become harder to spread as it cools, so you’ll want to have the cake(s) baked, cooled, and ready to frost before making the frosting.

3 cups sugar, divided [save 1/2 cup to brown]
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) canned evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of baking soda

Mix 2 1/2 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, salt, and evaporated milk in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan (at least 3-qt. capacity). Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically until all of the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low.

Melt the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a small iron skillet, stirring constantly until it turns an even light to medium amber brown color.

Add this caramelized sugar and the remaining stick of butter into the mixture in the pot. Quickly stir everything together thoroughly and continue to cook until “soft ball” stage is reached (about 235 degrees F or when a bit of caramel dropped into cold water forms a soft, malleable ball) – this may take up to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool and thicken slightly. Add vanilla and baking soda. Use immediately, as the frosting will continue to thicken as it cools.

Chocolate Baileys Cupcakes with Irish Cream Liqueur Shots [Printable Recipe]
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup MINUS 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
3/4 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water (or 1/2 cup espresso)
1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur (homemade or storebought, like Baileys)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Baileys Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Recipe below)
Irish Cream-Filled Chocolate Shots (Recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, Irish cream, coffee (or reconstituted coffee mixture), oil, and vanilla extract. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined (no more than 1 minute).

Pour the batter, which will be thin, to fill the paper liners about 2/3 full. Tap the pan firmly against the counter one time to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely there.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, pipe or spread buttercream onto cupcakes and top with Irish cream-filled chocolate shots (be careful to position them securely so they don’t spill). Enjoy!

Irish Cream Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp sugar
15 Tbsp unsalted butter, cool room temperature and cut into 10 pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 to 2/3 cup Irish cream (homemade or storebought, like Baileys)

Combine the sugar and egg whites in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer. Bring a large pan of water to a simmer, making sure that the water isn’t high enough that it will not touch the bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the top becomes foamy. Be careful not to curdle the egg whites. Remove bowl from heat.

Transfer bowl to your mixer and beat on high speed for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-like peaks and the bowl is completely cool (very important -- the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise). If using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment, and add butter to the meringue a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (at least 5 seconds in between). With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and Irish cream, and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the additions and reduce air bubbles.

Irish Cream-Filled Chocolate Shots

XIAOLU'S NOTES: If you have extra chocolate leftover, you can simply spread it in a layer (about 1/4-inch thick) over some parchment paper or other non-stick flat surface and let it cool completely. Once hard, chop it up to use for chocolate chunks in chocolate chip cookie or other recipes calling for chocolate chips/chunks!

5 to 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped or chipped
1/3 cup Irish cream (homemade or storebought, like Baileys)

I used a mini-sized silicone mold, but mini foil cupcake liners inside of a mini pan should work as well. If using foil liners, be sure to spray the insides with oil first. Bring a small pan of water to a simmer, and set a small heatproof bowl filled with the chopped chocolate on top of the pan. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Turn off heat but keep bowl on top of the warm pan. Another option is to microwave the bowl of chocolate at 30 second intervals, stirring in between each, until fully melted and shiny.

Using a small pastry brush, brush the inside of the molds or liners with an even layer of chocolate. Freeze mold or pan for 5 minutes, then brush another layer of chocolate over the first layer. Repeat the previous step one more time (for a total of 3 chocolate layers). Freeze for 20 minutes, then unmold the cups by peeling of one side of the silicone (or foil liner) carefully. Keep cool until ready to use. Fill with 1 teaspoon of Irish cream to serve.

66 comments:

  1. You put together an amazing dessert display. I love it- gorgeous!

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  2. what a lucky guy!!!

    your spread is adorable - i've been wanting to try to make those flag-cake-decorations for a while now - you've done a gorgeous job :)

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  3. oooh the display's so lovely - I like the round piece of wood and the wooden forks! absolutely adorable and looks like you've a future in party planning ;p I also recently got hooked on party and styling blogs and my rss feed is now inundated with tons of them! I only wish I was able to organize birthday parties for a loved one every other week :)

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  4. He's a lucky man!! Tell him that:), and Happy birthday too!

    I like the cupcakes and those chocolate shots. I still have to try my vegan baileys at home. Off to check the pompoms!

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  5. Looks gorgeous! Happy Birthday to him. And well done on deciding about your career change. I think you'd be fantastic at throwing parties or events.

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  6. Oooh, This is CUTE-CUTE-CUTE! What a Lucky GUY,ah!
    Those cupcakes looks Heavenly... I want to eat them all right now :) :)Beautiful job, Xiaolu.

    Cheers,

    Aldy.

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  7. Thanks you guys! <3

    Harini - I told him ;p

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  8. Happy Birthday to the lucky boy!
    You did a fantastic job in creating such a beautiful birthday cake! And those cupcakes are just too good to miss in life!

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  9. Cute cupcakes and a wonderful cake! Happy Birthday to P. Lucky boy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  10. Ooo definitely a very lucky man indeed! The cake looks so moist and inviting! Love a slice right now ;) And with the liquerish undertone, oh just perfect!

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  11. I love making those pom poms-hey're so easy to make and you can match them to everything! What a lucky boy he is too :)

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  12. Sounds delicious. So few candles on the cake - he is very young:)

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  13. Sips and SpoonfulsApril 4, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    This party looks worthy of a submission to Amy Atlas's site. Beautil and thoughful! Happy Birthday to P. I hope he realises he has a very rare gem in you!

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  14. This cake looks beyond tasty. Lovely recipe. I'm so excited to try!!

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  15. this is so cute!! Happy b'day to P! He's soo lucky! ;)

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  16. Oh wow!! Looks very celebratory and pretty!

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  17. Beautiful and the shots on the top are brilliant!

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  18. I think you have done a real good job with the food display...! Bravo :D)!

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  19. wonderfull party! i love your presentation

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  20. everything looks fantastic, totally not surprised the party was a huge success! :D

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  21. It seems to me that you are a party planning master! Everything looks so well thought out...and delicious! Congrats girl!

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  22. I have changed for worse. I used to be good at crafts - we siblings used to spend atleast one day in the week making things from scratch. Was so much fun :-( Your man is damn lucky I say. This is such a thoughtful and well planned party my friend.Awesome!

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  23. I love love the little shots on top of the cupcakes. Tasty looking cake as well, love the little flags :)

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  24. Thanks, my dears!

    Kulsum - aw that is so sweet. Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your siblings!

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  25. The minute I saw the words 'moist caramel cake', I was drawn in like a mouse to cheese. Caramel anything is a major weakness, and your cake looks outstanding, as do the cupcakes. Your BF is a lucky guy!

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  26. P is so lucky to have you, Xiaolu! Such wonderful food and decorations. I wish I were more crafty these days. I remember back when I was younger and my best friend was my glue gun. I don't even know if I have Elmer's glue at this point. Things have certainly changed!

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  27. Wow those cupcakes look totally awesome! The shot on top of them is such a quirky idea! Perfect for parties, love it x

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  28. I do enjoy your cupcakes - I think some of the best on the web, they always seem cute AND the flavors are always so innovative. These chocolate bailey ones are no exception. And the yellow caramel cake - delicious.
    As for your changed tastes, I guess that happens to dessert bloggers. I used to wear a lot of black and charcoal gray, angular minimalist things, and now I am finding myself draw to pale colors and decor...maybe even a little (gasp) pink.

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  29. Incredible! Very special birthday cake

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  30. He has to be one lucky guy! What ever u did and that too DIY, looks simple but fantastic!! liqueur shots? Bring it on gal! every thing looks picture perfect :-)

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  31. This is an absolutely beautiful party gng on at ur space. I enjoyed my bit by virtually taking bites from the lovely caramel cake and cupcakes. Hope u guys had a great time on the birthday...cheers !

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  32. This is just so awesome!! I love it all!! What a great party!!

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  33. Wow! Super lucky guy! So pretty and beautiful.

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  34. I'm going to make this for my bunny cakes... I can imagine it now... I can't wait to try your recipe for the topping.

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  35. Looks like a wonderful birthday celebration Xialou! Your boyfriend is so lucky to have you and for you to spoil him with your wonderful cooking.

    I love the shot on top of the cupcakes. So fun!

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  36. This looks fab, great work!

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  37. I'm seriously impressed that you made the decorations yourself too! I mean those tissue paper pom-poms are fantastic! I knew you could bake, now this. You are a woman of many talents. :-)

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  38. Your cake looks just wonderful. I've been looking for a good yellow cake recipe, and this looks like it! (And the soft caramel icing ... don't get me started!)

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  39. Many thx, all!

    Lisa - like a mouse to cheese...love it! you crack me up dear.

    Joyti - what an amazing compliment, especially from you. I really appreciate it <3

    Beth - please do give this a try as I've been looking for a good one for a long time as well and this is by far the best I've tried yet. The book Bakewise has a yellow cake recipe I've heard is fantastic, too. let me know how you like it if you try this one though, please :).

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  40. That cake looks so moist!!! :)

    Happy b-day to the love ;)))

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  41. Lucky boy! Everything looks amazing!

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  42. Oh my gosh, thanks so much for stopping by my blog XL! you are so sweet! enjoyed discussing DMBLGIT to woks to bake sales with you the other day too! Looking forward to your trip this side!

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  43. P is really really really lucky. Really. :)

    Happy Birthday to him. And may both of you share and enjoy all the happy moments together.

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  44. Oh my goodness!!! These are too precious and so so clever. I want.

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  45. What an elaborate presentation! I'm sure it was delicious too.
    And what a lucky guy!

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  46. What a neat spread! The cupcakes are soo fun and creative!

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  47. The cake sounds fabulous! My favorite detail is the cake bunting~adorable!

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  48. Glad you guys like the crafts as well as the food :). I had to stop telling P about the comments cause he got sick of the word "lucky" hahah.

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  49. Looks and sounds like a fantastic night - I love the low-key idea of a DIY party, a little less work for you but also means that everyone attending can customize their nibbling to suit their own tastes!

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  50. Such a cute cake! I love Bailey's too, and it's perfect in baking in my opinion. 'P' is a very lucky guy, I hope he liked it!

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  51. Umm....Yum! Can I come to a party at your place?

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  52. This looks so good! The frosting looks amazing! Great job! :D

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  53. I LOVE baking with Bailey's and your cupcakes with the shots look super yummy!!!

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  54. So creative the way you did the cupcakes with shots all in one. Perfect and totally memorable for a party. ;)

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  55. those cupcakes have 'potential for disaster' written all over them, yet you've executed things perfectly! well done. :)

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  56. Xiaolu, the caramel yellow cake sounds amazing! I couldn't wait to try the moist yellow cake!

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  57. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your comments. I really appreciate each and every one of them =D.

    LOL Grace. Thanks! I definitely did have a few chocolate cups with holes in them that I had to brush with chocolate one more time. Good thing I noticed before pouring the Baileys in!

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  58. Loves! So will you be throwing me a fabulous party for mah burthday?! Hehe. Great job sista!

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  59. I don't even think I could dream up a more decadent cupcake- Wow! Between the chocolate shot glasses and mounds of frosting, these look like the most delicious sugar coma waiting to happen (and I do mean that in a good way!)

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  60. Your beautiful post has been included in "My favourites of the week" If you want to see it... http://blocderecetas.blogspot.com/2011/04/mis-favoritas-semana-14-2011.html
    Thank you!

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  61. These cupcakes are soooo fun & thank you for all the recommendations on the pastry tips-they are exactly what I was looking for :) xxoo

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  62. Wow the cake looks amazing and so as the celebration.. :)

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  63. Oh wow!! I definitely need to try that cake with the caramel frosting. And how fun to have a shot of Bailey's on top of the cupcakes!! I would never have thought of something like that. Lucky P. :)

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I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu