Happy 4th of JulyTo all our American readers out there—Happy 4th of July! Hope you are celebrating this great nation of ours with loved ones and lots of yummy food. :)

We're off celebrating today, but to everyone still checking in, we thought we'd share our top five favorite 4th of July related posts. :) First up is how to make your own (non-toxic) colored powder. This is a super fun prop to have on hand for photos—we love it!

Bomb pop shotLove the festive colors of these Bomb Pop Shots (plus we show you how to create tiered colors). 

How to spell things with sparklersIf you plan to play with sparklers this year, might we suggest you check out our tutorial for how to easily adjust your shutter speed to create a light painting effect. 

Backyard partyLooking for some unique hot dog toppings or easy ways to dress up your s'mores plate? Check here.

Snowcone cupcakesAnd last, we love these colorful cupcakes masquerading as snow cones—too fun! 

Be safe and have fun this weekend! xo. The ABM Team

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Chocolate Orange Madeleine Cookies (via abeautifulmess.com)I feel sort of bad because I don't have anything red, white and blue to share with you before our Fourth of July weekend begins. Total fail on that. I'm pretty sure you can click around and find plenty, but still.

No, instead I decided to fill your mind with thoughts of chocolaty goodness—total weekend food no matter what you're celebrating this weekend. 

Chocolate Madeleine Cookies (via abeautifulmess.com)Before we jump into how to make these deceptively easy cookies, I just need to point out a possible serving option. I HIGHLY recommend you slice these in half and fill with Nutella and fresh strawberries (or raspberries). It's the tops! You go from just a good cookie to A TOTALLY AMAZING WHOOPIE PIE.

Just saying.

Chocolate madeleine recipe Chocolate & Orange Madeleines, makes one dozen standard size madeleines.

4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup melted, cooled butter
zest from one orange

In a bowl beat together the eggs, sugar and salt until well combined and the batter begins to slightly change in color. Stir in the vanilla.

Chocolate madeleine recipeStir in the flour and cocoa. Then stir in the melted and slightly cooled butter. Stir until just combined and nearly no lumps remain in your batter (you do not need to over mix here).

Naked orange!Excuse me, but your rind is showing. 

(Lame naked fruit joke.)

Now add in the orange zest. Then spoon the batter into your buttered madeleine pan. Bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Allow to cool for just a few minutes before removing from the pan to a cooling rack.

Chocolate Orange Madeleine Cookies (via abeautifulmess.com) If you've never had madeleines before, they are dense and cake-y. Great for making little whoopie pies (as already explained) or you can serve one or two along side a scoop of ice cream. You can also just eat them warm out of the oven by yourself while still wearing your dusty apron. Maybe you can guess which one I did. :) Enjoy and happy 4th of July weekend! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)We moved into our little corner of Brooklyn a little over three years ago. And silly enough, it has taken me all three years to truly appreciate our back porch. Our porch was sort of the saving grace for this move initially. We didn't have the big open kitchen, nor did we have tons of closets, but we had a porch—a shared backyard too. But there was just something about the exclusivity of our porch that really got me. 

I had initially planned to have it all ready many summers ago, but life got in the way. This spring, instead of setting an actual date, I worked on it gradually, giving myself space to design and think. And you know what? It was much more enjoyable than I could have imagined! Every free moment I had I put into our porch. I purchased plants and rugs gradually, and it wasn't as much of a "project," as it was simply a hobby of mine for some time. Last week, I finally completed the porch! It's kid-friendly, comfortable, and it's ours to enjoy—that feels so incredibly good to say.
 
Here are iPhone images of it before.
 
Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)
 See, not terrible, but not amazing. Right?
 
Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)  Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)  Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)
Of course, I decided to add lots of plants and flowers. We even have a strawberry plant and some basil growing about. The kids get to help pick things for dinner and snacks. I've noticed that the hardness of a space tends to disappear when you add colorful flowers and an array of easy plants. That was my goal, and I think I accomplished it. It also helped bring in the space, to make it a little more cozy. 
 
Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)      Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)      Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)      Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)
The other end of the porch I saved for more adult watching and relaxing. I found a comfortable school chair on the street that is great for withstanding inclement weather. And then to help lift up the patterns in the rugs and flowers, I received this vintage Eames chair from Patina NYC, which is extremely comfortable. 
 
I also took some time to slowly collect old coffee cans to use as planters. A while ago, a friend of mine gave me one, and I've been hooked ever since. By simply drilling a hole in the bottom and two holes in the back, they become fantastic hanging planters. I really want to add more, but I know that will take time since I thrift them all locally. The plants are hanging on a little fence we purchased at Home Depot and an old window gate as well. The gate is heavy and weird and beautiful to me, so it worked well in the space. I also hung some lights around the fence and gate for nighttime use. 
 
Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)          Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)          Cute makeover for a small outdoor space! (click through for more)
I'm not going to go so far as to say the porch wasn't functional before, it definitely was. But it wasn't me, and it didn't inspire us to enjoy it. Now, our baby Oak climbs under the window and taps at the wall and points outside first thing in the morning. River keeps inviting all of her little friends to come play in her "garwen," and my husband and I are completely enjoying it for our simple date nights when the kids go down. I know our summer in New York City is fleeting, and I am excited to finally have this space completed to enjoy it even more. 
 
Thanks for letting me show you our space! - LaTonya 
 
Sources: Rugs/ Fab Habitat, Salmon Chair/ Patina NYC, Table/ Ikea, Fence/ Home Depot, Lights and Bolga Basket/ Amazon
 
Credits// Author: LaTonya Staubs. Photography: Peter and LaTonya Staubs. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions 

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)         Here in the USA, the 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. I'm a total summer girl at heart, so I always love a good outdoor hangout regardless, but my family used to live next to the main park of our township so we could actually see all the firework festivities from our front yard. I love seeing all the fun red, white and blue foods and treats that people come up with for their celebrations, but when I saw that you can make cupcakes look like snow cones, I knew I had found the winner for this year's celebration. It's not much more work than making regular cupcakes, so with just a few decorative tweaks, you can have the cutest treats on the block!

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Supplies:
-box cake mix
-colored and white sugar crystals
-white sugar

-white icing 
-food coloring
-paper cupcake liners
-small spoons or straws to decorate with

Mix your box cake with the ingredients listed on the package. Fill each paper liner with cupcake batter until it's a little over 1/2 full (make sure you buy paper liners that are for baking though, some are lined with a wax lining that can't go in the oven). Place the liners on a baking sheet and bake until a toothpick inserted in the cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

Also, if you can't get a hold of paper baking cups you like, you can also bake them in regular cupcake liners and then place them into short styrofoam cups to hide the liners.

Have to make these! Snow Cone Cupcakes (click for tutorial)Take your white icing and divide it into the number of icing colors you want. Use the food coloring to create your desired hues.

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       For the solid colored snow cones, ice the cupcakes until it just touches the paper rim of the cup.

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Mix together some plain white sugar, white crystals, and the colored crystals that match your icing color. Place your iced cupcake on a large plate and pour your crystal mix over the top and sides of the cupcake until it's covered. Use your fingers and palm to gently push the crystals into the icing so more of them will stick, and gently shake off any excess.

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       For a multi-colored snow cone, ice a mohawk of icing down the middle of your cupcake, shake that color of crystal on top, and press the crystals down gently.

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Ice the side of your cupcake the second color, and repeat the process. I found it easiest to hold the iced cupcake over the plate at an angle and then pour the second color of crystals onto the icing getting as close as I could to the cupcake so I could control where the crystals fell. Repeat again with the third color and you're done!

To make it a little easier if you aren't as confident in your icing skills, just frost the whole cupcake white and sprinkle on each sugar color with a small spoon to get the multi-color effect. I think it looks best with the colored icing underneath, but it would still be pretty darn cute either way...

Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Have to make these! Snow Cone cupcakes (click for tutorial)       Complete your look with tiny spoons or cut paper straws into shorter pieces and stick those in each one to add a bit of fun. Aren't they just the best?? I love novelty food ideas that only take a little bit more effort to make a much bigger impact than the regular version.

Of course, this can be done at any summer gathering if you tweak the color selection a bit, so don't feel like this is only a 4th of July treat. Hope these make an appearance at one of your summer parties! xo. Laura

Credits// Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

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