Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap

I am learning to love the new blogger interface- I dreaded making the change for so long! But, it is more user friendly, more customization, and it gave me an opportunity to look back at some blog stats. I thought it would be fun to do a 2011 recap- my most read blog posts may surprise you- it did for me!

The post popular post of 2011 is.... drumroll please.... my favorite beauty products! I find this funny! My blog is really about crafts, cooking and party planning more than beauty. My guess is that lots of people are googling Shellac which I covered in the post. 

The next most popular post in 2011- my daughter's 2nd birthday party themed with cookies and milk. I love party planning and kids parties are the most fun! I'm glad I could share this labor of love with lots of readers. Her 3rd birthday was 2 days ago and her party is next weekend. Get ready for "Dolls and Doughnuts"!

Along those lines, my most popular post ever is her first birthday, Abby Cadabby party. Abby Cadabby is so popular that I can imagine lots of people theme a party around her.

I had lots of fun doing the 12 days of handmade Christmas this year! So many of the ideas came from Pinterest- I am still not sure if Pinterest saves me money or costs me! The most popular 12 days item was the photo coasters. Along with it getting blog hits and repins on Pinterest, many of my friends made these as gifts for parents and grandparents. 

Pinterest has been my 2011 addiction for sure! I could spend hours on the site making myself fun to do lists. I have made numerous crafts and recipes from the site! Of all the things I have pinned, these potatoes have the most repins. How funny is that! I love these potatoes, but I had no idea they were so loved!

Happy New Year's Eve- I hope 2011 has been a fantastic year for you. I have loved blogging about my life and love looking back and then looking forward. I hope 2012 is our best year yet! Cheers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More Sugar Scrubs

I am addicted to making sugar scrubs now! After making the Peppermint Sugar Scrub and loving it, I went onto Pinterest in search of more options.
 I ended up purchasing 24 different sugar scrub recipes from here and have made two new yummy options- Pumpkin Pie (above) and Milk and Honey (below). She has 2 scrub options per month that match the season or holiday that month. I can't wait to make more!

Happy Scrubbing!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Eat Drink and Be Merry!

 My refrigerator is overflowing with so many yummy leftovers I may not have to cook for a week!

When you host family for any extended period of time, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. You make a long grocery list after detailed meal planning of your very favorite recipes and then you over prepare, make lots of food, eat too much, and start the next meal as soon as the dishes are down. Don't get me wrong, I show love through food, so I am happy to cook and bake all through the holidays.

Here is a glimpse of our holiday weekend....

For Christmas Eve lunch, my Dad and step-Mom brought pizza! It was unexpected and perfectly simple for our casual lunch and gift exchange. I made a big salad and Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings.

For dinner on Christmas eve, we needed something simple since we were attending church services just before dinner. I made my favorite roast in the crockpot, green beans with brown sugar, and a pasta made from spinach and garlic. We were eating within 30 minutes of arriving home!

For breakfast on Christmas morning, we had monkey bread and migas. I don't know if migas are a regional food, but they are yummy! Eggs mixed with onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, corn tortilla strips, and cheese! 

I forgot to snap my plate at lunch on Saturday (bad blogger!), but we made Bunco Buns, veggies with Ranch dip, chips and guacamole and ate lots of leftover desserts!

For dinner, we had the easiest and best pulled pork with homemade potato salad. The BBQ sauce we used this time for the pork was a sweet sauce and I think I like it even better!

For dessert, in celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, we made Pioneer Woman's Tres Leches cake. It is a wonderful moist cake with whipped cream on top. We covered it in sugar sprinkles and used the baby Jesus from my daughter's Little People nativity. She LOVED singing to her little baby Jesus!

 We have had a wonderful holiday with lots of time at home playing and watching TV in our jammies! We are celebrating with more friends and family 3 nights this week, so our Christmas is still in full swing!

Any favorite foods from the holidays in your kitchen? I'd love to try something new!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Survey

I love these fun Q&A's, like this one I found on my friend Erica's blog. In case you are blog surfing on Christmas Eve, here is my Christmas survey!

Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper- I use less than 5 bags per year for those odd shaped gifts. I love the presentation of a box with a bow.

Real tree or artificial?

Artificial- I can't imagine spending money to buy a tree every year. I also really like my tree pre-lit and Mother Nature doesn't do that!

When do you put up the decoration and tree?
It is normally done Thanksgiving weekend and I take it down before New Year's Eve. After Christmas, I just want my house back in order. This year we are doing our second family Christmas on 12/29, so I'll likely take it down the next day.

Do you have a nativity scene?

We have an inexpensive wooden one and the Little People one for Abby.

Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? 
Hot Chocolate, salted caramel made with whole milk if I have my choice.

Colored lights on tree or white?
All white.

What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? 
We have had crabbies the past few years and I love them!

What is your favorite Holiday Dessert or snack?
Monkey bread, Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes and Peppermint Snowballs

Favorite Holiday memory (or gift) as a child?
Having to come down the stairs and act surprised by our gifts after my Mom/Dad forgot to get the camera out the first time!

When and how did you learn the truth about Santa
I don't know?

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes, we open gifts from each other on Christmas Eve including new Christmas jammies. I read elsewhere about someone opening Christmas jammies on Thanksgiving night and I really like that idea better. We save Santa and stockings for Christmas morning.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? 
With lots of soft wool and warm decor- mittens, sweaters, etc. See here for more details.

What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Making sure my family and most importantly my daughter knows it is about so much more than the presents. 

What is your favorite tradition?
My Christmas charm bracelet filled with one charm each year from my husband.

Which do you prefer, Giving or Receiving? 

I love finding the perfect gift for someone, but I also love receiving!

What is your favorite Christmas Song?
Baby It's Cold Outside

Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?

I like them, especially spearmint ones!

Hardest person to buy for?
My Dad and my Mother-in-Law

Easiest person to buy for?
Marcus and Abby Lu

Mail or email Christmas cards?

Mail photo cards

Favorite Christmas Movie/Show?

I don't watch any holiday shows?

When do you start shopping for Christmas?

I shop year round, but really focus on it in late October

Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I have shared something with someone who would love it/use it more :)

Travel at Christmas or stay home?
We are normally home, or don't travel far or overnight.

Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Only if I sing the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

Angel on the tree top or a star?
I have a big Santa on top of my tree.

Most annoying thing about this time of year?
All of the people, the traffic and the lines! Where are they the other 11 months?

Does Santa leave the gifts wrapped or unwrapped?

Do you leave goodies for Santa on Christmas Eve?
Yes, cookies and milk of course.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nacho Cheese Soup

I was emptying the dishwasher recently and it only had bowls and spoons. No plates. No forks. We eat a lot of soup this time of year! I love the ease of crock pot cooking and with soup, we freeze half for another night. Soup freezes well and I like that!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY- Large Framed Chalkboard

I saw pictures online and on Pinterest of oversized chalkboards and knew I had the perfect space for a really big one! We have had 2 black barstools in this space since we moved in; however, nobody ever sits on them- they just hold stuff and they made our walkway into the kitchen narrower than I would like. Plus, we spend a lot of time in the living room and kitchen and this gave our 3 year old a place to be active in the space. I wanted my board 5 feet x 3 feet so I knew to be economical, I needed to do it myself!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Totally Turquoise

I have successfully convinced my husband to let me paint a room in our house one of these colors. It isn't a room he visits very often. It is small, but has a window to help lighten this dark color. And, the other components in the room are white.
Any guesses? Before and after photos coming in the next few weeks!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Last Minute Cookies and a Story About Butter

I had the brilliant idea to make some cookies last minute. And while they tasted wonderful, I learned a valuable lesson about softened butter versus melted butter. Follow along with me...
Here are the simple ingredients- sugar cookie mix, crushed peppermint (now sold in some grocery stores), and dipping chocolate.
The sugar cookie mix called for a stick of softened butter and 1 egg. I had forgotten to lay out butter, so I just microwaved it about 20 seconds. It was softened in places and liquid in others. No big deal. I made my dough balls and rolled them in peppermints.
I knew there was a problem about 5 minutes into baking them. They were flat and the outer edges were liquid and cooking very quickly. I immediately tweeted Paula Deen and posted my picture on Facebook asking what went wrong? Butter seemed to be the answer that made the most sense, according to my Facebook friends. I am still awaiting an answer from Paula!
We melted the chocolate and dipped half the cookie in it. Cooled them on wax paper and have munched on them every night.
These cookies were super easy and if you follow the directions and only soften your butter, they'll look great and much more sophisticated than a simple mix!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Boxes of Goodies with Recipes

This Christmas season my husband wanted to take goodies to his clients that he doesn't get to see every often. Since I love to bake and am home now, we decided it would be fun for me to make them baskets of yummy treats! I think people love getting homemade goodies these days when everything else is quicker and easier.
I made 6 of my favorite holiday treats. You can click on the links below for the recipes for each. All of them are simple- they are low ingredients, mix and bake types of recipes. They are all tested year after year by our family and we love each of them.

We placed the goodies in boxes from Garnish and wrapped them up with twine. I love Garnish! If you think the package and presentation is just as important as the gift, check them out!

I made simple labels for the boxes and included a list of all foods on a matching label inside the lid. What fun it was to bake all day and support my lovely husband in the process!

UPDATE: My Cheese Crisp dough was really crumbly this time around. Add a little milk to the mix until you have a dough and they'll taste great!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Merry Merry- My Merry Trees

I love having my Christmas tree up- doesn't it just make your living room feel special? I want to spend time playing with Abby and watching TV with Marcus by tree light. Plus, we've been having cooler weather than normal this month and anything below 60 warrants a fireplace in my opinion!
We moved a chair and ottoman out of the living room to be able to place the tree next to the fireplace this year. It was a wise move :) Our tree is 9 feet tall and is a "skinny" tree. Based upon our space, it is the right fit for us. We had an 8 foot "fat" tree in our old house. It is artificial, from Hobby Lobby ( my favorite!) and is pre-lit. Thank goodness. Although, that just means my least favorite job is fluffing it. Does anything else HATE that job? It takes forever and I get all scratchy!
Here are some of my favorite ornaments.... I guess my theme is flannel? or winter clothes? cozy? Any idea what my theme is? I like soft ornaments, big fuzzy Santas, vintage looking toys, and have plaid scraps of fabric tied into rings of garland.
I have two handmade tree skirts I use- this one was handmade by my husband's Aunt and has lots of red and green with a little gold. It is beautiful and I love having something made in the family. My other skirt was made by my Mom and is a variety of plaids.

I didn't take any good pictures of our other tree, but you can see it here. My daughter Abby Lu is three and she has a tree in her room. It is white and covered in sweets- gingerbread men, candy canes, peppermint swirls, etc. She also has garland running around the tree- I made it from green, white, red, and pink pom poms.

Thanks for visiting my tree!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Halls Are Decked!

Oh how I love my home at Christmas time! I love the excitement of Santa, wrapped presents under the tree, peppermint candles and cookies, and the evenings with a fireplace and lit tree. It all makes me happy! So welcome, look around, and leave me a comment with a link to your home. I love getting ideas and peeking in other's homes!

Our home has a really wide, like 6' wide, entryway. In the floorplan, they called it a gallery. We aren't gallery type people, but we do like the open space it gives us. The large wall that leads into the living room is covered in a collage of art, clocks, shelves, and more. I added in a few Christmas trees on the shelves, and put out a bucket of old Christmas cards on the red and white runner on the vintage dresser. Having warm blankets in the basket makes me happy. I think of cozy nights watching football on the couch with my husband.
When you first open the door, I have the red table with holiday pictures, garland, and my favorite shutter pained green a few years ago for holding Christmas cards. My frames above the table are from the awesome Delta Girl on etsy.

We use our dining room more in December than any other time, so I like to keep it simple saving room for our family and friends! The "house" on the tables says, "Love Came Down at Christmastime". I love that little reminder. I also have my nativity and a few nativity snow globes on the buffet. I own 20 or so snow globes and decided this year to only put a couple of them out. Since my daughter is three, it'll help me stress less!
We recently cleared out some furniture (thank you Craigslist!) and made room for our tree to be in the living room. We have a skinny tree that is 9' tall. Our ceilings are 10' so with Santa on top, it is the perfect height! My tree and decor style at Christmas is lots of plaid, flannel, mittens, and soft sweaters. I'll share more pictures of my tree later this week!
The kitchen doesn't have a ton of decor because I spend so much time in there over the holidays! I love to bake and share love through calories. It is just the way I am :) The Delta Girl frames bulletin board is my new addition this year and I love it. It is right by our dining room table and Abby Lu is so proud to tell me about her artwork while we eat dinner.
I have my staging area all set up (bottom left in collage above!). This week I am making 10 gift baskets of baked goods for some of my husband's clients. I have cookbooks pulled, boxes and tags ready, and am excited to bake all week. I promise to share recipes soon!

Our bedroom is just off the living room and is normally khaki, black and red. I added in a celery green this fall and love seeing the green with red for the holidays. My new addition is the sweater pillow- it was made from an old sweater and just $15 at a local craft fair. I was so excited when she told me the price. I would have totally paid more!
The headboard is decorated with my Christmas ragamuffin garland made last year. It is always fun to pull out handmade items each year. I treasure them!

Thanks for visiting my home this holiday season! Don't forget to leave a comment with a link to your Christmas decor!

If you'd like to see home photos without the Christmas decor, click here or to see my home decorated in past year, click here.

You can also see my tree in more detail here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Beaded Serving Spoons

I love making beaded baby spoons for baby showers and decided to take that same "pattern" and try to make fancy serving utensils. These turned out beautifully and I may just have to keep them for myself!
The process is so simple that I didn't get many pictures, but I think you can do it without a photo tutorial! If you are a jewelry maker like I am, you'll have the main supplies you need on hand. You will want jewelry wire- this should be thick enough to be sturdy, but small enough to string through your beads. You also need wire cutters (the other tools pictures below were not used). The fun part is picking out your beads. You'll want some larger impact beads and smaller fillers. Think about the recipient- entertain during Christmas, go with a favorite football team for tailgating, you get the idea!
Cut a long piece of wire, maybe 1.5 yards. Begin by wrapping the wire at the non-serving end of your fork. Wrap it around 5 or 6 times making sure to cover up the end piece of wire. Then, string a couple of beads and wrap around 2 times, repeat over and over. If you find your beads are not staying close to each other and sliding down the spoon, I would wrap the wire between beads to give a little reinforcement. When you get to the end, wrap your wire 5 or 6 times and trim. The exposed end should be on the back side and if you can, tuck it into the wrapped wire.
Ta Da! A pretty fork and spoon set that works great as a hostess gift! I had to buy a fork and spoon and the large statement beads. My grand total- $11!

Thanks for joining me for the 12 Days of Handmade Christmas. I hope you have found something new to make, love, and share! Come back soon for more crafts, recipes, and party planning tips. If you are new to the blog, leave me a comment. I'd love to get to know you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Mousepad

I never craft for boys- they are just harder and especially not for my husband who is the most difficult! But, this little handmade item is great for boys or men in your life. It works just fine for the girls, too!

You can buy 5 12x12 cork tiles at Hobby Lobby for under $10. I used my handy 40% off coupon and got them for under $5. I then trimmed the cork using regular scissors to the size of a mousepad.
Next, you mod podge onto the cork pad a printed paper or fabric. I used Superman wrapping paper I had on hand. Wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, fabric scraps, pictures printed on cardstock, be creative! Trim the paper/fabric to the size of your cork.
I then mod podged onto the wrapping paper a pictures of my husband and daughter dressed in their superhero t-shirts. If you are using wrapping paper, you are know all done! Because that paper is so thin, I would not recommend another wet layer of mod podge on top. However, a thicker paper or fabric, would need another layer on top. It will seal everything and create the slick glossy effect.
Thanks for joining in- one more day in the handmade Christmas series.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Handmade Christmas:We Whisk You A Merry Christmas

Abby and I made these kisses filled whisks for our neighbors. They are super simple and inexpensive, not to mention fun for the kids to stuff!
Simple supplies- whisk was 97 cents at grocery store along with a bag of candies that could easily make 5 whisks and the labels are completely optional.
I printed out cute little Christmas images with my digital scrapbooking kit and made them 3/4 inch circles so that I could punch them out and attach them to the bottom. The hardest part of this craft was getting the sticky back off the kisses! If you'd like to use my images- here they are with a dark skinned Santa and a light one.
Finally, you stuff the kisses into the whisk! Easy!
I then put ours into the small cellophane bags they sell in the baking aisle and added a tag and a bow. A perfect little love gift for under $3!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Gift Card Snow Globe

I hate to give gift cards. It is silly really because I never mind receiving them, but they just feel so impersonal when I gift them. When I saw this idea online, I knew it would help me get over my gift card concerns. Isn't this a cute idea!?!
You need a few basic supplies- mason jars, glitter, gift cards, and a few items to place inside your jar. I bought gold angels and balls at Hobby Lobby. They are with the mini tree ornaments. Snowflakes would be beautiful, too!
Hot glue the gift card onto the lid. I did a long fat strip and then pressed the card into it. I then added a little hot glue on the front and back to support the card. Hot glue pops off plastic easy enough that they can use the gift card and still have a globe afterward!
Next you want to glue on your goodies. When purchasing, make sure you buy items small enough, without too much detail and with a base that can be glued down securely.
Now, fill your jar with a few floating goodies and glitter. I added three more balls and both silver and white iridescent glitter. Fill the jar with water- I used filtered refrigerator water. Nothing fancy.
Turn your lid upside down and screw on tightly. No need to glue it shut - the recipient will have to open it to get the gift card! I used a very subdued gift card from Starbucks, but you could get a bright colored one and use those colors in your globe decor.
The balls float to the top and glitter settles on the bottom until you shake it all up!
I added a small gift tag and matching ribbon to my jars. A tip, write the gift message on both sides when hanging a tag. That will make sure when it is tied up all tight that it isn't blank :)
These globes are for Abby's two Mother's Day Out teachers. Not counting the gift cards, they cost my about $4 each. I had the mason jars and only purchased the ribbon, tags, and the floaties and glitter. I also have lots of ribbon, tags, and glitter left over for future projects!