|Posted on February 5, 2013 at 6:15 AM||comments (0)|
Why “Whoopsy” cookies? Well, these delicious morsels were born of a fortunate mistake. A couple weeks ago, the little man and I were making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I helped him carefully measure out ingredients, test-tasting the sugars and chocolate chips as we went. Into the oven went our delectable creations and a minute later, I looked through the oven window to see the little mounds melting into thin, runny puddles. I’d forgotten the flour. (Is it just me, or does the pregnant brain seem to work at half capacity sometimes?)
“Whoops!” I exclaimed as I quickly scooped the cookie dough back into my mixing bowl. At that point though, the chocolate chips were completely melted. After adding the missing flour I tossed in some peanut butter too and the results were delectable. Put a few of these in your lunch box or bring them to a staff meeting. It’ll be the best mistake you ever made!
¾ cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Beat butter and peanut butter together on medium speed until combined.
2. Add granulated and brown sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Beat until combined.
3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Stir often, you want it just melted and not too hot! Add melted chocolate and beat again until combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined.
5. Beat in the flour. Stir in the rolled oats, or use the “stir” setting on your mixer to incorporate them.
6. Drop by large spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes.
|Posted on February 1, 2013 at 6:15 AM||comments (0)|
So I have to confess... the three of us have been a bit behind on our blog posts because life has become crazy (again!). Over the past few months we've given birth to babies, books and a blog (not necessarily in that order), so here's a run-down of the latest and greatest.
Ellie has designed an inspiring new place for all of her awesome creative expressions called Silver Spoons and Linings. She is a queen at crafting outfits and recipes and now she is making more of both for her newborn baby girl. Ellie is also a superstar at DIY, so I highly recommend checking out her latest goodies over there. She has so much creativity to share that one blog can't hold her back - she's gonna be dominating the interwebs soon!
Amie is a busy momma to her new baby boy while also keeping up with a highly active three-year-old. So she may pop in here every now and then to say hello and write-up a new post. In the meantime, we have some of her previous posts to share with you which we've deemed as "Classic Posts" (you can say 'classic' after a year. After five years, you can call it "vintage.")
And as for me, I have a new book out that I am excited to share with you! The Thought That Changed My Life Forever is an inspirational compilation of thoughts from experts in all fields and all backgrounds. We're sharing 52 uplifting thoughts with you (the idea is to read one a week for a year) with the intention of inspiring and empowering you to move through any areas of life you feel stuck, need fresh insights, want closure or forgiveness, need a new perspective - all kinds of good stuff. You may expect me to say that since I'm a contributor (Chapter 3!), but this is the first time I've read the whole collection of chapters and I'm just...like... I mean... WOW. It's GOOD. And it's always easier to share something when you know it's truly a quality item. If you're curious, check it out here or get the Kindle version.
That's the latest! More posts coming soon, friends. And don't forget about our freebies here (a thank you for stopping by to encourage you to come back).
|Posted on January 31, 2013 at 6:05 AM||comments (0)|
This kid's craft is such a time-tested tradition, you may have done it when YOU were in grade school! Crayon flakes are melted between pieces of waxed paper to created a "Stained Glass" effect. Slide it behind the heart-shaped peek-a-boo window in my free printable coloring card and you'd got a Valentine anyone will be charmed to receive. Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
My FREE printable coloring cards (Find them right here!)
Print the cards onto cardstock, cut them out, and cut the hearts out of the cover. Save one of the hearts you cut out to use as a template for later!
Cut the wax paper into about 4 x 6 inch pieces. You'll need two pieces for each stained glass window.
Using the cardstock heart you saved from the printed cards, make a heart-shaped template that is a little larger than this. Trace this slightly larger heart onto half of the pieces of wax paper. This will give your child a guide for where to put the crayon flakes.
Chop up your crayons into very teeny pieces. I just used a sharp knife and a cutting board. (I tried to use a cheese grater, but that was clearly going to take hours.)
Have your child sprinkle the crayon flakes into the heart. It takes about a teaspoon of crayon flakes to make nice stained glass.
Set the other piece of waxed paper on top. Set this wax paper-crayon sandwich between two pieces of paper towel. Iron on a low setting until the crayons have melted and flattened out. (I prefer them to still have a speckled appearance instead of being completely melted.)
When the "stained glass" has cooled, cut the hearts out.
Have your child color each card with crayons, markers, paints, glitter, etc.
Glue the hearts to the inside of the front cover, so the stained glass shows through the window. Have your child write a message to the recipient inside and you're done!
Wouldn't Grandma and Grandpa love to get a card like this from your little sweetheart?
|Posted on January 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
Here is my second NON-candy Valentine freebie, just for you. (Did you miss last week's Crayon Valentines? Check them out here.) Your kids will love helping you make these heart-shaped ladybug pencil toppers, which say, "I'm buggy for you! Happy Valentine's Day!" They’ll love passing them out to their classmates even more. Here’s how to put this simple project together:
Ladybug shapes printed out on card stock (Find this printable on our Freebies page.)
Black pipe cleaners (one per Valentine)
Googly eyes (I prefer the self-adhesive type)
Valentine themed pencils (I found them in packs of six fo r$1 in Target’s dollar bins.)
Cut out the Ladybug shapes. The spotted side is the front, the plain side is the back.
Apply glue to one of the non-printed sides of the heart shape and put the other piece on top. You want to leave enough glue-free space at the top and bottom for the pencil to slide through.
Once the glue is dry, slide the pencil through.
Wind the black pipe cleaner around the top of the pencil, over the pointy end of the heart. You should have about 3-4 inches of pipe cleaner free on each end.
Spiral the left over ends of the pipe cleaner to look like curly insect antennae. You could get pretty creative here. Make them look kinky or even shape them into the recipient’s intitials.
Stick two googly eyes onto the pipe cleaner.
Repeat over and over until all your Valentine’s are done!
|Posted on December 14, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
I am a huge fan of HGTV (Home & Garden Television channel). I enjoy many of their programs. I especially love their DIY home decorating ideas. They make it look so quick and easy. This holiday, I decided I would give a couple of their ideas a try.
Here is how I made these two holiday tree decorations:
The cones, beads and poinsettia bushes cost me a total of $27 dollars (I already had glue gun and both kinds of glue). Each tree took me about 45 minutes to make.
Green Tree - Use hot glue gun and put glue on flat bottom side of rock. Start at the bottom of the tree and work your way to the top. Press rock to tree. The glue will set very quickly. Continue gluing rocks side by side in horizontal circular motion until you get to the top of the tree.
TIP –There will be certain circular rings that will have a gap between the first rock and the last rock (because the gap will be to small to fit a rock into). Try to start each horizontal circle in the same spot on the tree as the other rings. This will keep the gaps all on one side of the tree and can be faced towards the back when displaying.
Red tree - Cut poinsettia flowers from leaves and stems. Leave just enough stem on the flower to be able to poke the stem into the cone. Dip flower stem into craft glue and poke stem into bottom of cone. Continue gluing stems side by side in horizontal circular motion until you get to the top of the tree.
TIPS - Use larger flowers to build tree and fill in holes with smaller flowers. I placed each flower ring about 1 inch apart. I tried to point the stems down so the flower covered a larger area of the cone.
My craft skills are limited and I found creating each tree was wonderfully simple and frustration free! This is my kind of DIY project!!! Thanks HGTV!
|Posted on December 11, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (1)|
When the Sports Fan and I were married five-and-half years ago, we began our "Tree Slice Tradiiton." In this yearly ritual, my husband saws off a piece from the bottom of our Christmas tree, sands it smooth, and then gives it to me to decorate with our family's accomplishments and events for the year. Just yesterday I decorated our sixth tree slice and I'm happy to share this tradiiton with you.
Wood Burning Tool (Incredibly easy to operate, inexpensive, and available at any craft or hobby store. If you prefer, you could use a fine tip permenant pen.)
Medium grit sandpaper (an electric sander speeds this along)
Electric drill and about 1/8 to 1/4 inch drill bit
6-8 inches of ribbon for hanging
1. Sand the surface of your tree slice until it's relatively smooth.
2. Drill a hole through the top.
3. Rinse the wood dust off and let the tree slice dry overnight.
4. Use a pencil to sketch in the year and the events and accomplishments you'd like to catalog. I usually write the year large and in the center, then use writing and drawings to record everything else. This year, my slice focuses mostly on our travels, but in the past I've included weddings, births, promotions, and special birthdays.
5. Start burning! Carefully follow the instructions on your own wood burning tool for this part. Remember to give it enough time to warm up before using it, and to let it cool completely before putting it away or changing tips. You might want to practice on some scrap lumber or firewood. (No need to worry about any of this if you plan to use permanant pen.)
Did you make a mistake? No worries. Just bring out your sander again and "erase" your boo-boos.
6. Thread your ribbon through the hole and hang! Your first tree slice might look nice hanging in the center of a wreath. Several tree slices look lovely hanging from a banister or mantle draped with garland. Can't wait until I have enough to go the entire length of our stairs!
Our family and guests love looking at our tree slices and we love reminiscing over our years together. I hope this is a tradition you add to your home!
|Posted on December 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (2)|
Why slave over a hot oven, making umpteen varieties of homemade, hand-decorated holiday cookies to share with your family members, friends, and coworkers when you don't have to? Host a cookie exchange instead! The idea behind a cookie exchange is that you make a few batches of one type of cookie (less labor and time), invite friends over who have made a few batches of other cookie types, and trade so that everyone leaves with an assortment of holiday goodies.
This year, I'm attending my friend Erin's fourth annual cookie exchange. She kindly agreed to let me document her event and share with you her tips for a fabulous cookie exchange.
Before the exchange:
Decide what date and time to host your event. Consider a Sunday or Monday. This gives people the previous day to make their cookies.
Send out invites at least three weeks in advance. Between holiday gatherings, shopping, and other preparations, December fills up quickly! On the invitations, indicate how many dozens or batches of cookies each person should bring. Four to six dozen is usually sufficient for most exchanges. Also, remind your attendees to bring extra containers to take their new cookies home.
Plan on offering some nibbles and beverages at your exchange. Yes, you're trading cookies, but it's a social event too! If you plan to host around a mealtime, offer something a bit more substantial to eat. This year, Erin made a Mexican chicken stew and after a long day at work, it really hit the spot.
Decide how you will arrange the cookies and how your guests will get their cookies. With a small group you can set the cookies on a large table and have everyone walk around the table taking one or two at a time until they all disappear. If you are having a large group, you may need to set up a longer cookie collection line. Will you need to move furniture; do you have the table space? These are things to consider before guests arrive.
On the day of the exchange:
Let your guests know where to put their cookies when they arrive. Consider offering them a way to label their cookies so other guests know what kind of cookie it is. (It isn't always obvious!)
Begin with introductions, beverages, and snacks. You may know all your guests, but they may not know each other. This gives time for everyone to ooh and ahh over each other's cookies too.
Then, begin your exchange. Have your guests arm themselves with their containers and explain to them how to make their way to all the cookies.
Of course, plan to have a little time at the end for everyone to sample these newly collected cookies. You might consider offering some coffee to go with all those delicious confections.
And what did I offer at this year's cookie exchange? I whipped up three batches of Nigella Lawson's Christmas Rocky Road. It requires no baking, and creates delicious crunchy squares of chocolatey goodness chock full of crushed amaretti cookies, nuts, cherries, and marshmallows. You really have to try this unique recipe!
A big thanks to Erin for sharing her cookie exchange tips for success. And thanks to all her guests for being good sports while I took pictures and for all the loot I brought home! Hope you all find a way to make the holidays sweet and simple!
|Posted on November 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
My husband makes a great green salsa. He has tested and tweaked numerous recipes to come up with just the right taste and consistency.
- Prep vegetables for blending:
- Zest lime and juice ½ of lime
- Combine all ingredients above, cumin, salt and apple cider vinegar in blender
- Blend until thoroughly mixed
- Chill in fridge for 1 hour before serving
Option: Add avocado if you prefer a creamier salsa
This salsa can be consumed in many different ways; served with chips, tacos, enchiladas, tortillas or whatever food you enjoy with salsa.
Add red chips to serve as a holiday appetizer!
|Posted on November 27, 2012 at 2:05 PM||comments (0)|
We put together a handy-dandy one-click location to find some awesome holiday inspirations!
Tons o' recipes, crafts, decor ideas, and various ways to manage the madness.
|Posted on November 21, 2012 at 6:45 AM||comments (4)|
Image from Kim Vallee
It’s that time of the year when we run to the mailbox - and not the inbox - to send season’s greetings with holiday cards.
Some years when I’ve been cramped for time, I bought cards off the shelf. One year when we were snowbound, I made my own with vintage images, glitter (never again) and special paper I miraculously had on hand. Now I enjoy combining the ease of ready-made products with the personalization factor of creating holiday cards online that incorporate my favorite pictures. And somehow I managed to be ahead this year and get them done in the middle of November (yeah, I’m shocked by my efficiency, too).
If you are considering how – and if – to send holiday cards this year, here are a few tips to make a rockin’ (around the Christmas tree) greeting:
1. Know your audience. Really.
You may be connected to hundreds of people on Facebook, but how many of them really know you and your life? Or care? A holiday card is perfect for people who know the names of your pets, how you really spend your weekends, and who would be happy (not mystified) to receive an envelope in the mail from you. Choose your audience carefully without feeling obligated to send a card to everyone you know. One way to discern your mailing list recipients is if you already have their address. If you don’t have an address and don’t associate in-person regularly, it’s okay to save some postage.
If it feels like “one more thing to do”, but you would love to get some in the mail this year…
2. Break up the process.
If you’re cramped for time, break up the task into a few steps. Write all the personal notes in one sitting, then address them all the next day. Or if you are creating a card online, pick out your favorite pictures and upload them to your account as one step. Selecting pictures can take a while if you have to scroll through numerous events and folders. Come back later to choose a design, arrange photos and write a greeting. You can always save the project as you go. A lot of online design services even put your return address on the envelopes, score!
What do people want to see in a holiday card? It's simple:
3. Make your personality shine through.
The design we selected this year has room for six pictures on the front, three pictures inside, and one on the back. It sounds like a lot, but we wanted to share pictures from our different travels of the past year and incorporate four shots of our animals. The card is very “us”, including the picture of one cat sitting in the dryer (because she is really crazy and really cute). Our inside greeting says, “Here’s a card with lots of pictures of us. And oh yeah, have a great holiday!” We made sure our personality came through in the visual and typed message. No boring cliché greetings from this return address!
Which means it’s also a good idea to….
4. Create two versions of your holiday card.
What you would share with a sister is maybe not the same greeting you would share with a boss or distant friend. Make two cards (or more) for the different groups of people in your life: professional, personal, long-distance, church, etc. Simply change the typed message (if you are writing that) and maybe select a few different photos. Remember, knowing your audience is key and the message should be appropriately tailored to them. It’s a turn-off to get a card that doesn’t fit within the relationship.
And remember, the one “best practice” to always incorporate is….
5. Make the card personal.
I’ve received holiday cards that have no signature, much less a personalized note, and I have to be honest: these were a real turn-off. The joy of receiving and opening a card is to feel a connection with the sender. Including only a typed message is like sending a group email or posting an update on Facebook: it’s neither special nor personal.
This is (maybe) the one time of the year when we get out those things called “stamps,” so make the postage count with a true message and update inside. Every person should sign their own name (forgers can be spotted!) and try to write a little something personal to the recipient. Acknowledging every member of their family is a lovely gesture. Showing that you know what is going on in their life is even better.
Also, if it feels like “too much” to do before Christmas, another great alternative is sending a "Happy New Year" card. These are catching on as a practical way to finish up one year and send greetings for the next 12 months. Plus, it makes checking the mail a fun winter activity a few weeks longer.
|Posted on November 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
You'll often find a caramel apple pie at our holiday dinner table. However, as pecan and pumpkin pie are also seasonal favorites, I've decided on a twist this year...an Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting and Chopped Pecans. This delicious recipe comes from the bible of cooking with cast iron, aptly named The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook.
This beautiful book, written by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis-Hearne was given to me by my parents last year along with my first pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. The book includes numerous recipes for breakfasts, entrees, outdoor meals, and desserts. You must try the Dutch Babies and No-Fail Beef Stew, they are to die for! The mother-daughter duo maintains that, "The cast iron skillet is one of the most important pans in your kitchen. It is the key to good cooking." Try this recipe and I think you'll agree!
Makes 8 servings
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups peeled, grated apple (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans, for serving*
*The only alteration I made to the recipe is substituting toasted pistachios and almonds for the pecans. We're also serving a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and I didn't want pecan overload!
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.
To make the cake, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well.
Add the apples, shortening, and eggs to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. The batter will be stiff.
Spread the batter evenly in the skillet.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan.
To make the frosting, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the milk and bring to a boil.
Pour into a mixing bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat with a whisk until creamy. (The frosting will thicken as it cools.)
Spread evenly over the cooled apple cake. Sprinkle the chopped pecans (pistachios and almonds, in my case) over the top, and serve.
Voila! Your guests will be blown away with this spectacular, yet rustic desert. Many thanks to Sasquatch Books for permission to reproduce this recipe and to Kramis and Kramis-Hearne for their delectable recipes!
|Posted on November 4, 2012 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
Here’s a Thanksgiving side dish that’s sure to please even the pickiest eaters, tender carrots glazed with an orange honey sauce. No one will resist these mildly sweet and tangy carrots! It’s also a side dish that can be completed in less than 20 minutes. Really! With that much extra time, you might actually get to enjoy your company!
If your diners are a more adventurous bunch, try mixing carrots, parsnips, and turnips. The turnips will need to cook a couple minutes longer than carrots and parsnips. If you like more orange flavor, you can garnish with a little orange zest too.
4 large carrots
1 medium size orange
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter
1. Peel and slice the carrots cross-wise into ½ inch rounds.
2. Boil the carrots in a small amount of water until tender, about 8 minutes. (Careful not to overcook the carrots. They will break apart and become mushy!)
3. In the meanwhile, juice the orange with a citrus reamer to make 1/4 cups juice.
4. Combine the orange juice, honey, and butter in a small saucepan. Cook until bubbly and reduced to about 3 tablespoons worth of liquid.
5. Drain the carrots and return them to the pan. Pour the orange honey glaze over the carrots and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. If you have a little of the green tops left from your carrots, it’s nice to use them for garnish.
|Posted on October 29, 2012 at 5:15 AM||comments (0)|
1. A Halloween party with gourmet food, top-quality alcohol, fun music and all the lights on is a much better place to be than any haunted house filled with teenagers roaming around in the dark.
2. Putting any effort at all into a Halloween costume is impressive. Finding time to make a costume yourself? Simply incredible. Making a costume, wearing it and posting it on Facebook? Very, very impressive - and brave.
3. Halloween candy calories don't count because everything is "fun size" (what does that even mean?).
4. All the costumes posted on Facebook. (See #2.)
5. Being finished with trick or treating by 8pm and having enough roasted pumpkin seeds left over to nibble on.
6. Noticing all of the "adult costumes" are made with less fabric than the children's costumes. Therefore, it IS best to make your own. (See #2 again.)
7. Realizing the next morning that it's November already and Thanksgiving is less than a month away and the planning questions can't be ignored any longer: How many people are attending, which house is hosting this year, what do I have to cook? And how is it already November again, anyways?
8. But PHEW... you read this blog, and we will have a ton of easy, yummy recipes for your holiday feasts! Yay! Time to reach for a fun-size candy bar...
Have a spook-tacular Halloween, friends!
Are you dressing up this year? Rocket Man and I went to a party this past weekend as Fred and Wilma Flintstone, thanks to last-minute costumes I found on Friday. The kids at the party didn't know who we were: "Are you cave people?" The Flintstones haven't had a revival yet for their generation. But the young ones still voted for us in the costume contest and we won 2nd place. Yabba-dabba-do!
|Posted on October 26, 2012 at 6:00 AM||comments (0)|
The kids have been back in school for a couple weeks now and the excitement has worn off. The new classroom is just “the classroom.” The friends they haven’t seen all summer are now just “the friends I see all the time.” Your kids are pining for the summer vacations they left behind.
Here’s a fun after school project that combines a coloring activity with memories of their summer trips… turn your photos into coloring sheets! (And here's a bonus - you'll find some FREE, printable Halloween coloring sheets on our freebies page.)
I’ve found two methods for turning photos into printable coloring sheets:
Crayola’s Lights, Camera, Color – Easy to use, though the pictures can have a grainy quality. This site does allow you to easily add some fun graphics to your pictures like thought bubbles, silly hats, animals, and picture titles. Older kids can even manipulate the pictures themselves. To print your pictures you’ll need the special code that comes inside the lid of specially marked crayola boxes. Check those back to school supplies you bought for your kids and you may find you already have one. Click here for the link to Crayola’s coloring page maker.
Photoshop – Involves several more steps, but you have more control over the final look. You’ll have to look for your own clip art if you want to add graphics. No need for special codes to print here, but you will need to have Photoshop or some other highly capable photo editing software. Click here for an easy tutorial from Photoshop Support's Tutorials by Jennifer. Or here if you have Corel Paint Shop Pro.
Here you can see a side-by-side comparison in which I've used the same picture of my little man and me using Crayola and Photoshop.
Crayola Coloring Page Photoshop Coloring Page
They’ll be so excited to come home to a project like this!
|Posted on October 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM||comments (3)|
One of the best parts about Halloween are the pumpkins! Pumpkins are on almost every door step and my son and I enjoy pointing them out to each other as we drive down the road.
And of course…where there are pumpkins there are pumpkin seeds! In my younger days it was all about pumpkin carving and the seeds would quickly get tossed away but ever since The Philosopher showed me the finer points of pumpkin seed roasting I am hooked. Here is a simple but delicious recipe.
Carve your pumpkin and separate the seeds from the pumpkin pulp (and yes, I did have to use Google to learn the official name of that orange stringy stuff the seeds are stuck to).
Do not rinse pumpkin seeds. Keeping them gooey with pumpkin pulp helps maintain their flavor.
Stir in a small amount of Worchester Sauce into the pumpkin seeds. Approximately 1-2 tablespoons per 2 cups of seeds.
Spread pumpkin seeds evenly onto baking sheet.
Sprinkle salt onto seeds. Salt according to your preference, I used a ½ teaspoon.
Bake at 300 for 40-45 minutes (until golden brown) stirring once or twice during baking.
Enjoy and serve this yummy snack to the entire family!