Changing Leaves...

I have always been that girl with lofty dreams, head up in the clouds...always asking the "what if's", imagining what life could be; what could have been. What if I really lived this God-given life and not see any of those dreams through? 

One dream that has tugged at my heart for much of my adult life is to live in Taiwan. I could probably write a lengthy memoir of all the reasons why, but today there's just one simple reason. I have always wondered what life would have been like if my family didn't emigrate to the States when I was a wee five-year old. Sure, I've gone back to visit in the past but our time was always filled with visiting family and being shuttled from one place to another. Spending a few weeks once every 4-5 years in Taiwan simply does not satisfy all the curiosities I had/have about my native country. 

All that is about to change. It's time to stop wishing and hoping and dreaming. It's time to start doing all (or at least some) of those things I've always wanted to do. I am going to live in Taiwan. There, I said it. It's finally out here on the interweb so that means it's really happening. It's not just an idea, it's a we're-selling-our-furniture-packing-up-our-lives-we-have-jobs-lined-up-there kind of deal. It has not been an easy road to get here and heck, it's not over yet but it sure is exciting/nerve-wracking. 

Thankfully, living overseas has been one of my husband's dreams - I'm beyond blessed to have him on board with all of this. So, before the last leaves fall from the autumn trees, we will be on the other side of the globe!

So, what does this mean for this dear ol' blog? Just as I'm moving on from this New York life, I'm also moving on from this sweets turned who-knows-what blog life. As cliche as it sounds, it's time to close the book on this chapter that is Sweets by Sillianah. This does not mean I'm giving up blogging completely but if I do decide to share my adventures in Taiwan, it will be in a new space. I hope to bake while over there but may be very limited since most Taiwanese homes are sans oven.

Thank you to the few of you left out there who have stuck it out with me while I've tried to take this blog in different directions. This food blogging life was not what I had set out to pursue and I've finally come to acknowledge it's time to stop working at something that does not work for me. This blog has brought me many friendships and opportunities that I truly am grateful for so, I leave with no regrets.

If you'd like to keep in touch or keep up with my travels, feel free to connect with me on Instagram or Twitter.

Til' we meet again -- 再見!

Recipe: Homemade Matcha (Chocolate) Chips

I used to spend a stupid amount of time on Pinterest pinning things I was never going to make. Pretty pink-frosted sprinkled donuts? Sure. Slow-cooker bread? Why not? One of these years I'll eventually get to them. Well, finally...all that time spent on Pinterest has amounted to something. Matcha (chocolate) chips. So genius. Why hadn't I thought of it before (is the question you ask pin after pin)?

As a lover of all things green tea/matcha - this matcha chocolate is a game changer for me. Can you say matcha chocolate covered everything? I even melted extra matcha chips back down after I had the brilliant idea of dipping pretzel sticks in it to make some faux green tea Pocky sticks!

Ok, back to the chips. I decided to take the lazy route and cut them into chunks - ain't nobody got time for piping into tiny cute chips! I can still call them chips though, right? Chips or chunks, be sure to save some for your cookie dough because if you're like me, you'll find yourself nibbling away at these by the handful!

Homemade Matcha (Chocolate) Chips
To make Matcha Chip Cookiesstir 1 cup matcha chips into your favorite chocolate chip/sugar cookie dough. I used mine to bake these sweet & salty brown butter cookies from Bake or Break

Yield: about 2 cups

10 oz. white chocolate chips (I used one Trader Joe's bag)
2 teaspoons matcha powder

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat white chocolate chips over double boiler until melted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add 2 teaspoons matcha powder. Stir until matcha is fully incorporated and mixture is smooth.

Pour matcha chocolate into prepared sheet, and spread into even layer - about 1/4-inch thick. Rap the baking sheet against counter to smooth out chocolate. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then use a knife (or pastry wheel/cutter, as I did) to score chocolate into chips. Return to refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Once chilled, break into chips to use in your favorite cookie recipe.

Cookbook Review & Giveaway: The Hello Kitty® Baking Book

In honor of Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary, blogger, Michele Chen Chock partnered with Quirk Books to release the first-ever licensed Sanrio cookbook! See how you can win a copy of this adorable-y sweet book at the bottom of this post. 

The Hello Kitty Baking Book: Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes, Pies and More is the perfect book for the Hello Kitty and Sanrio-obsessed. I may have been one of those obsessed collectors of all things Sanrio as a tween. Everything from Keroppi notepads to Pochacco tote bags and Pekkle pencil cases. Those three were my favorite Sanrio characters. For some reason, I wanted to be different and ignored Hello Kitty even though she's the most iconic character, recognized all around the world and loved by children and adults alike. 

The cookbook obviously focuses on Hello Kitty sweets but a few other Sanrio characters also join the fun as templates are included at the back of the book. Templates, that would have been quite helpful to me four years ago when I embarked on a crazy baking project for a friend's daughter's 4th birthday. Yep, it was a Hello Kitty themed birthday and I thought, hey, it shouldn't be that hard to make 24 Hello Kitty-topped cupcakes, 24 HK-shaped cake pops, AND a large HK-shaped sheet cake. Riiiight.  

(Sorry for the unedited photos, this was before I started blogging seriously)

This book would have come in handy while I frantically tried making cake pops look like Hello Kitty, only to have them come out looking like little piggies - I can't bring myself to post the photos of those poor guys. Want to try your hand at Hello Kitty cake pops? Please use this book as your guide - it includes a 4-page spread with instructions and gorgeous photos on how to make a few of your favorite Sanrio friends, look super cute in the form of cake pops. 

Not only are there cake pop how-to's, this cookbook is broken into three categories of cuteness including cookies (Hello Kitty macarons!), cakes & cupcakes and a section on pies, party treats, and more! There are easy-to-make treats such as Hello Kitty brownies where you'll just simply need a template and powdered sugar to create a quick Hello Kitty image atop each slice of brownie. Impressive, yet painless.

Needless to say, this book will be a huge resource for moms (& friends) looking to DIY their sweet little girl's birthday party treats as well as for experienced bakers looking for new and unique ideas to celebrate all things Hello Kitty!

PS. In case you were wondering how I created the cupcake toppers - this was before I was brave enough to work with royal icing so I used what I was familiar with - melted chocolate/candy wafers. Poured into piping bags and traced a HK template (printed from a random image found online) placed under waxed paper (white chocolate for face, dark chocolate for whiskers).  I don't really recommend this method as it was such a hassle to keep warming up the chocolate (not to mention, messy), and the chocolate doesn't dry very smoothly. My original plan was to find a HK cookie cutter and cut out fondant shapes, but I was never able to find one. Of course, now, you can find them with one easy Google search.

Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary review book by Quirk Books but was not compensated or obligated to write this post. All opinions (and Hello Kitty cupcake/cake photos) are my own. 

Thanks to the generous folks at Quirk Books, one of you can win your very own Hello Kitty Baking Book! This book would make a wonderful gift for the Hello Kitty lover in your life, even if they're not a baker - it's a great collector's item to celebrate Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary! 

To enter, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below - be sure to complete the first mandatory entry [Leave a Blog Comment] by leaving a comment at the bottom of the post answering the question, "Who's your favorite Sanrio character?". The remaining steps are optional. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lil' Sweet (Instagram) Summer

Once again, it's time to bid farewell to summer. I'm always left wondering how the months zipped by when September comes along. The brisk, cool air is upon us and autumn seems to spark change - for me, at least. Maybe it's because September always marks a brand new school year (for students), filled with possibilities. Maybe it's the changing colors of the leaves - always so glorious and awe-inspiring. Maybe it's just the right season to slow down, sip those hot fall-inspired drinks...a time for us to take a breather before the craziness of the holidays.

There were many moments I wanted to share on this blog from my summer, but alas, Instagram takes over again. By now, if you're still a loyal reader, you know that anything goes here. I thought I'd share some highlights from this summer - scenes and eats from New York City, to a little weekend trip the hubs and I took to Rhode Island to celebrate my birthday. I've hashtagged it, #lilsweetsummer. Even if you don't have an account, you can still click on the photos to find out more details and see a larger version on Instagram.

I hope summer has treated you all well!

Product Review: 9th & Elm Hand-Stamped Initial Leaf Necklace + #Giveaway

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway for this lovely hand-stamped initial leaf necklace from 9th & Elm!

Happy August! It's hard to believe we're halfway into summer and in some parts of the country, it's almost back-to-school time. When I was younger, I used to get excited when August rolled around because it meant my birthday was coming up; but I also got a bit sad because it meant summer would soon be ending. But no need to be sad today, I've got a fun little giveaway for you in celebration of summer and my upcoming birthday!

It's no secret that I love all things handmade and am a big fan of independent designers. In fact, many of the products I've featured in the past through my Lil' Sweet Bites series are from handmade businesses. I'm always on the lookout for unique gifts for family and friends. So when 9th & Elm reached out and introduced themselves, I eagerly explored their site featuring fabulous gifts curated from handmade and independent designers. They have something for everyone - from jewelry, clothing, and accessories to personalized items perfect for wedding and bridal shower gifts!

9th & Elm provided me with a generous $70 credit to shop their site and after searching for a while, I decided on this whimsical hand-stamped initial leaf necklace by designer, Bella Joo. Hand-stamped jewelry seem to be quite trendy these days and I've been eyeing initial necklaces for a while. The pretty mint-colored drop also caught my eye along with the gold leaf - the three elements just complement each other so well. I love the delicately stamped "L" - it's subtle, just the way I like my jewelry. Simple, elegant, yet so gorgeous! I've been wearing it with a simple t-shirt and jeans, as well with a summer dress and cardigan.

I am no fashionista - not in the least, but 9th & Elm makes it easy by hand-picking the best of handmade fashion so you really can't go wrong! [Don't forget to check out the giveaway below]

I decided to share the wealth and gift this fabulous necklace ($34 value, details here) to one lucky reader - to enter, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below (US residents only, please): a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided with shop credit for this product review and I chose to use a portion of the credit to fund this giveaway. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy here.

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