Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Last Half - Advent Calendar

Well I certainly got off track with my posting when I left town for Thanksgiving. I thought I would have all the time in the world to post while I was on vacation, but of course spending time with family always soaks up every minute and ounce of energy I have. So I will post the rest of the advent squares all together.

I have to admit that my advent calendar is still not finished. Yes I know that it is the 8th of December, but in my defense I have had many other things to take care of that are higher on my priority list than crafting - such as being a wife, mother, and homemaker. Normal everyday responsibilities sometimes add up for me, probably because I am not always good at using my time efficiently.

For a while I felt pretty bad about my failure to produce this beautiful advent calendar on December 1st, especially since everywhere you look on the internet people are accomplishing their crafting goals. In an effort to make this blog realistic I would like to say I am not always one of those people. I love to craft and most of the time I get things done by my "deadline," but sometimes it is okay to be a bit behind. After all this is definitely not life or death. And you know what, my son isn't even old enough to understand Christmas, let alone presents and advent calendars. Next year will really be the year that counts. So if I'm a bit behind schedule this year then I say it's okay!

Enough with the confessions. Here are the last 13 squares. I love how they all turned out.

All 25 pockets are now sewn to my tree backing. I just have to finish stitching the numbers - which is very fast to do so far - and then sew the layers together. I hope to have it all complete and hanging on the wall this weekend. I am pretty confident it will happen too, because I'm finally sick of seeing it sitting on my craft table.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Group #3 - Advent Calendar

Four more pockets stitched! These four sure turned out fun. My favorite of the bunch is definitely the Christmas lights. They are so cute!

Can you tell that the last one is a wise man? I think he needs a beard? Or something...he just feels like he is missing something. I can't really figure it out though so it may just stay the way it is. If you have any ideas on how to make him appear more "wise" then please let me know!

Now I have 12 down and 13 more to go! Almost halfway!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Group #2 - Advent Calendar

Here's the second batch of advent calendar pockets...

I have to admit that the milk and cookies is so far my least favorite one. The idea is so fun, but I think I just didn't quite execute it correctly. I think it would have turned out better if I had made the window cover the entire top portion of the square (maybe with 2 windows & 1 set of curtains?). I don't know. It might bug me enough to add some "wall paper" to the background. We'll see.

All of the other ones turned out great! I think the reindeer is adorable and I love the bell with music notes and the presents.

So far I am still going strong. I have been working constantly on this project, but I think that it will be slowing down soon for the Holiday travels. Hopefully I can still get it all done before December 1st!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Mustard Chicken

A few weeks ago I was watching my friend's kids and saw this recipe open on her computer. I thought it sounded delicious so I decided to give it a go. I love honey mustard sauce, so I figured I would really like this recipe.

I did however substitute honey mustard for Dijon mustard because the Dijon mustard at the store I was at had white wine in it. I LOVED it with the honey mustard so I may actually just keep using that instead of the Dijon. Next time I have Dijon mustard that is free from white wine I will test it out to see if it is better.

I served our chicken with yummy mashed potatoes (which I made all by myself for the first time ever - and they were the best mashed potatoes I have ever had, go me!!!) and steamed green beans. The sweet mustard sauce was so tasty paired with the mashed potatoes and green beans. I think it would be even better with asparagus - well, everything would be better with asparagus.

So, next time you are in the mood for a little chicken, check out this saucy recipe. It will hit the spot!

Sweet Mustard Chicken Bake

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup Dijon mustard (or honey mustard)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a shallow baking dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the honey, Dijon mustard, melted butter and pepper. Place chicken in the greased baking dish, and pour the honey mustard sauce over it.

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, basting frequently with the sauce, until chicken is firm and juices run clear.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Group #1 - Advent Calendar

My first 4 squares are ALL done! I am so, so, so excited about how they turned out. And seeing them done is getting me more and more excited to continue stitching my heart out.

I absolutely LOVE my little snowman! And the gingerbread house turned out so cute as well. The stocking is fun too! And you just can't go wrong with a beautiful snowflake right? It is so nice to begin seeing a finished product!

I have more pockets in the works and will be sharing more batches over the next week and a half or so. I must admit that each pocket takes a good 2-3 hours. Except for ones like the snowflake. That one only took about 45 minutes at most. The gingerbread house definitely took a good 3 hours. All of the little french knots just take time because you have to cut and re-knot and cut and re-knot quite a few times. It was all worth the time though.

And I must confess that I have been listening to Christmas music while working on this advent calendar. I am ashamed to admit it, but how can you work on something so festive and not enjoy some good tunes? Hopefully next year I will come to my senses and enjoy Thanksgiving fully before moving on to Christmas.

PS: If I find the time then I might come up with some Thanksgiving decorations for our home. However, I am guessing that next year will be the year for Thanksgiving decorations since we are headed out of town this weekend and won't really be able to enjoy any decorations that I make. We will see though. Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Christmas Advent Calendar {My Life During November}

In honor of this fun date - 11/11/11 - I thought I would share my November project. It has pretty much taken over my entire life this month. I have been working on it every spare moment I can find. The initial idea for this project came from A Feathered Nest. She created a Christmas advent calendar two years ago that I LOVED. I didn't find it until last year at the end of November so I did not have the time to create my own version for Christmas. This year will be our first Christmas not visiting family so I thought it would be the perfect year to start a tradition of an advent calendar.

If you can believe it, I started this project way back in March. I gathered supplies and began cutting out the felt squares for the pockets (just the bases). Then a few months went by and I didn't do any work on it. In August I started cutting out some of the shapes for the images on each pocket. When I planned out my pockets I wanted to have a Christmas themed image on each one. Abby's version HERE had quite a few pockets that were darling, but they were just simple patterns/designs and I just didn't want to go that route. I wanted each square to be unique and I also wanted to bring in the religious aspect of Christmas more - since Christ is was Christmas is all about. I have been working just a little here and there ever since August on the cutting phase.

At the end of October I decided that I really wanted to finish it in time for Christmas this year. So I set out a schedule to finish it in one month. So far I am still on schedule to finish by November 30th. I hope I can make it!

Here are my squares at the first stage - just cut outs! This project will be entirely hand sewn. That is why it will be my life this month. I have been stitching, stiching, and stiching everyday for the past week and a half. I am so excited to see the finished project at the end of the month.

All 25 advent pockets. Remember, these are just the cutouts so they really don't look that great yet. The stitching is where the magic happens. Which is funny because I have NO experience with embroidery or hand stitching. Hopefully it all turns out good!

Snowman, Gingerbread House (I added this one), Bell (to symbolize music), Presents!

Stocking, Snowflake (my addition), Christmas Lights (inspired by the pictures of Abby's friend), and Mittens.

Milk and Cookies, Rudolph, Holly Leaves & Berries, Wiseman (all of these are Meagan originals except for the Holly Leaves).

Santa's Sleigh, Mary, and Christmas Tree (the sleigh and Mary are my additions).

Sheep, Gingerbread Man, and Angel.

Ornament, Birthday Cake (to celebrate Jesus' birth - I think this will help my son get more excited about celebrating Jesus' birthday), and Candy Canes.

Wreath, Cup of Hot Cocoa (another addition of mine), and Santa Clause.

And last, but not least, Baby Jesus in a Manger.

I am so excited to see these done with the stiching. Some of them are close so I will start sharing them next week. There's still time for you to make your own as well. So go gather your supplies and start sewing with me!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Corn & Cheese Chowder

This soup is YUMMY! It is a genius creation from The Pioneer Woman. Honestly, when I got the ingredients to make it I thought it would be good, but when we actually sat down to eat it I was amazed at how delicious it was. My husband kept going on and on about how much he loved it. Ree's pictures are a lot prettier than mine, and she served the soup in bread bowls (which I think I will do next time). Check out her photos HERE.

So next time you have corn you MUST make this soup! Especially now that it is chilly enough out to actually make soup without feeling guilty. (Although, I have never minded making soup in the Summer - soup is just good no matter when you have it!)

Corn & Cheese Chowder

4 Tablespoons 1/2 Stick Butter

1 whole Onion, Chopped

3 slices Bacon, Cut Into Pieces

3 whole Bell Peppers, Finely Diced (red, Yellow, Orange)

5 ears Corn, Kernels Sliced Off

¼ cups All-purpose Flour

3 cups Chicken Stock Or Broth

2 cups Half-and-half

1 cup (heaping) Grated Monterey Jack

1 cup (heaping) Pepper Jack

⅓ cups Sliced Green Onions

Bread Bowls

Preparation Instructions

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook onions for a couple of minutes. Add bacon and cook for another minute or so, then add diced bell peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add corn and cook for a minute.

Sprinkle flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in broth and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in half-and-half, then cover and allow to simmer/thicken for 15 minutes or so.

Stir in cheeses and green onions. When cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle into hollowed out boules and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yogurt & Granola Parfait

This certainly is not a new/unique breakfast dish, but it is a simple, healthy, and yummy breakfast that I enjoy so I wanted to share it with you!

I've mentioned before that I am always looking for quick, healthy breakfast ideas so I thought I would post this one to remember.

Yogurt & Granola Parfait

Vanilla Yogurt
Granola (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Fill a glass with the following layers: yogurt, granola, fresh fruit. Then repeat the layers once more and drizzle the top with a little extra yogurt! So fast, so easy, and so delicious! I love this best with berries, but it would be yummy with mandarin oranges, kiwi, plums, grapes, canteloupe, or pretty much any fruit that you can think of. I was thinking this would even be good with an added layer of applesauce (or maybe replacing the yogurt with applesauce - now there's an idea to try).

So go grab your granola and throw this beauty together for your breakfast/brunch, or even for a mid-day snack!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lemon Fusili with Arugula

Are you beginning to notice how much pasta we eat around here? I keep feeling like we eat too much. It is usually pasta or Mexican for dinner around these parts. I think this is because we don't eat very much meat. I can't seem to come up with anything meatless that is not pasta or Mexican. Occasionally we branch out and enjoy breakfast foods too. Does anyone have any good meatless recipes? Because I need help in the creativity department with my meals!

Anyway, this pasta is to die for. I was literally in LOVE with it and wanted to keep eating it all night. Now that I am posting it I am really craving it again. I l.o.v.e. the lemon cream sauce - it is yummy! Do yourself a favor and make this for dinner ASAP. Once you try it you will want to make it again and again.

Lemon Fusili with Arugula
Barefoot Contessa via Food Network

1 tablespoon good
olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 cups heavy cream
3 lemons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound baby arugula (or 2 bunches of common arugula, leaves cut in thirds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Edible Finger Paints

My little guy is starting to get to the point where he can enjoy finger paints. However, since he still puts everything and anything in his mouth we will be sticking to edible paints for quite a while.

We first tried pudding as our base! I whipped up some banana flavored pudding and then separated it into 3 bowls to add color. He mostly ate the pudding - it was snack time - but he did try a little bit of painting on the paper.

I've also seen people use vanilla yogurt as their base. I think we will give that a try next time we have a go, although I am guessing he will enjoy the pudding a little bit more since we don't give him sweets very often.

Does anyone else know of any edible finger paint recipes? If so please share!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna

Wow! All I really have to say about this lasagna is WOW! It is extremely flavorful and has lots of yummy vegetables inside. This picture really does not do it justice, but the colors in this lasagna are beautiful.

This is really a delicious and healthy lasagna. You don't even need to add any side dishes because it is so full of nutrients all on its own. Although I love to add bread and fruit just to add variety to our meal! This is a great meal to make in advance (the night before, or the morning of) and stick in the fridge to pull out for dinner. I am guessing it would freeze great as well. I will have to try that out next time. Give this a try - you will not be disappointed and you may even find your children enjoying this sweet lasagna (it does taste very sweet)!

Vegetable Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 zucchini, diced
3 yellow squash, diced
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

30 ounces ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. shredded Mozzarella cheese
extra Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and lay flat to dry on paper towels or clean kitchen towel. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add diced red peppers and saute for another minute or so. Add squash and zucchini and cook for a few minutes. Pour in white wine vinegar, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir. Pour in tomatoes. Stir to combine and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Stir in chopped parsley.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

To assemble, spread a little of the vegetable/tomato sauce in a lasagna pan. Layer four cooked noodles in the pan, slightly overlapping them if necessary. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on the noodles. Top the ricotta mixture with mozzarella. Spoon a little less than 1/3 of the veggie sauce mixture over the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering two more times, ending with a large helping of vegetable sauce and sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees, covered in foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Serve with your favorite bread!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hot Air Balloon Costume

Here are the promised instructions on how to make your own hot air balloons for next years Halloween costumes.

These were so easy to make and relatively inexpensive for a Halloween costume. Total cost for 3 hot air balloons was $45! It also could have been a lot cheaper if I had purchased the balloon online ahead of time, but I just bought them at my local party store.

I first came across this idea on Pinterest. Here is the original image that I went off of.

There are also instructions here if you want to check them out as well. The original hot air balloon had ribbon on the balloon to make it look a little more like a hot air balloon - but I ended up just liking the plain colors the best for mine. If I had bought white balloons I think I would have been more likely to add ribbon.

To make your very own hot air balloons you will need:

36" Balloon (buy them online, they will be cheaper)
Basket (I found mine at Saver's and other second hand stores)
White/Off-White Rope (or thick yarn) - My rope was 50' and it was the perfect amount for 3
4 Brown Paper Lunch Sacks
4 Plastic Grocery Sacks
Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

1. Fill balloons with helium. You can do this at your local party store (it cost $5 just for the helium at my local store) or you can buy a helium tank at Target for $20 and fill them yourself).
2. Cut out the bottom of your basket so that you can step inside and pull it up around your hips/waist.
3. Measure a section of rope from you belly button up and over your shoulder to the middle of your back. Then cut a second section identical to it. Now you will have 2 lengths of rope that match (these will be your straps so that you can "wear" your basket).
4. Try on your basket and see where you would like your straps to attach and then mark it with a marker. Take a glue gun and attach both ends of your two ropes to the inside of the basket. I just eyeballed this part.
5. Grab your filled balloon and measure out a length of rope from the basket up to the balloon. Wear the basket while doing this to make sure that the balloon does not come too low and hit your head. You want the balloon to be floating above you. Once you have your length of rope then cut 2 more of the same so that you have a total of 3.
6. Glue one end of each of the 3 ropes to the inside of your basket. 1 in the very middle of the back of the basket, then the other two in between the front and the side. Together all 3 of them would form a triangular shape.
7. Tie the other ends of the 3 ropes to the base of your balloon. Make sure to pull them tight.
8. Cut the ribbon off of the balloon if there is one and wrap it around the rope to conceal it and make it look a little nicer.
9. Stuff 4 brown paper lunch bags with 4 plastic grocery sacks. Grab your rope/yarn (I used yarn on this part) and tie the lunch bags closed. Then tie the other end of your rope/yarn to the outside of the basket. (I just found holes where I could sneak yarn through and tied them onto the basket). You can cut the yarn at varying lengths to make the sacks hang a little bit more randomly. These end up looking like sandbags!
10. Take a picture of your totally awesome Halloween costume!

I hope someone seriously uses this costume in the future. It was a HUGE hit. Everyone we saw loved it! Thank you Pinterest for bringing this fantastic idea my way!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

We had a fun weekend leading up to Halloween, and a fun Halloween today! We did the traditional carving of pumpkins over the weekend...

Then this morning I thought it would be fun to make a nice breakfast and try my hand at pumpkin and ghost pancakes! I think the pumpkins turned out better than the ghosts. I just free handed these. They of course would be a lot better if I had had a pancake mold. Maybe I'll get one for next year.

I also made bacon this morning (which I absolutely hate doing). I have a hard time with cooking bacon because the grease is always spitting at me and I can never get it just right. Today I decided to try a new method - in the oven. Let me just tell you that I will never cook bacon another way. Now I won't skip over recipes with bacon in them just because I'm scared to cook it.

So here's how you cook bacon in the oven. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place bacon on the tin foil in a single layer. Place in the oven (without the oven on) and turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Cook for 17-20 minutes or until brown and crisp. Remove from oven and transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool and eat! So simple and I promise this works great.

Anyway, moving on. I then spent the rest of my Halloween day making our costumes for our parties... I decided to wait until today to make them because of the balloons. I wanted the helium to be fresh and to last so I picked them up this morning and put everything together while my son took a nap. I finished 3 hot air balloons in 2 hours. They are that simple. And I LOVED how them turned out.

We enjoyed a nice trunk-or-treat at our church and then joined some friends for a party afterwards. Our hot air balloons were a big hit and everyone thought they were very fun. All of the little kids loved them too, and they kept wanting to play with the balloons. I'll post instructions another day so stay tuned.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spider Webs

Today we had a Halloween party for our playgroup at church. One of my friends and I were in charge of planning the party for the kids and their moms. One of my assignments was to bring cookies. I have been wanting to try these sugar cookies ever since I saw them on Pinterest. Mine definitely DID NOT turn out as good as the ones over at Pacific Thyme, but in order to be fair to myself this was my 2nd time ever decorating sugar cookies with royal icing.

I did however love the recipe. Almost as much as my favorite sugar cookie recipe. However, I used a different royal icing recipe because I did not want to use egg whites and I didn't have meringue powder.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 ½ cups flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool. Yields ~24 cookies.

Royal Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp Karo syrup
Milk (enough to make a thin glaze)

Mix thoroughly, color if desired and use to frost sugar cookies!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monster Bag

I saw these darling felt Trick-or-Treat bags over at homemade by jill. I had some felt squares on hand and thought it would be fun to whip one up for my little guy. My version is quite a bit smaller than Jill's but my little one is only 17 months old so it will hold more than enough candy for him to enjoy.

I didn't have ric rac on hand so I just cut a strip of felt with pinking shears. I made it a bit too long so Frankenstein's eyebrow is huge, but it's Frankenstein right?

This project was super fast. It took me a total of 1 1/2 hours from start to finish (and I am a really slow cutter, sewer, crafter so it can totally be done in a 1/2 hour if you are awesome)!

I am so excited for my son to use it next Monday for the trunk-or-treat at our church.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fruit Smoothie Oatmeal

I am always curious what other people feed their kids for breakfast. Most of the time when you read blogs they have these amazing recipes that seem like they would take too long to make in the morning when you have a hungry monster in your kitchen begging to be fed. Or maybe I'm the only one with a hungry monster?

Well, my hungry monster usually wants breakfast right away so I have come up with some fast, simple, and healthy breakfasts to feed him in a hurry. This concoction is what I like to call fruit smoothie oatmeal.

I promise it actually tastes a lot better than it looks!

This is such a simple thing to do for breakfast. We like to make smoothies for dinner sometimes at our house and usually I make way too much for our small family of 3. I then freeze the leftover smoothie in ice cube trays to use for our breakfasts.

On a morning that we feel like making oatmeal I will whip up a batch of plain oatmeal (aka microwave rolled oats with water until cooked through) and add melted smoothie. Just heat up the left over smoothie ice cubes and add to the oatmeal as your liquid instead of milk. This also does not need any sweeteners because the fruit from your smoothies will be plenty sweet enough. If, however, you like your oatmeal extra sweet then simply add some honey.

Next time you have leftover smoothie then try using it in your oatmeal. You will be amazed how delicious it is - and healthy. This could be a great way to get your kids to eat more fruits and even more vegetables depending on what you make your smoothies with.

Friday, October 21, 2011


After hanging my trick-or-treat banner I wanted to get more decorations up for Halloween. I just got so excited about decorating. I saw these bats over at MADE a while back and I thought they would be kind of fun and simple. I think that Dana's look a lot more realistic and exciting, but it has been fun to have these bat friends hanging out in our home.

The more decorations I get up the more I want to do. It is really exciting to see something different going on in our little eat-in kitchen (or dining room as we call it). I have a few more ideas rolling in my head, but I am not sure if I will use them this year or wait until next year to do them. It is after all only 11 days until Halloween.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I have been trying to find new and exciting ways to decorate my apartment for the Holidays. I have neglected decorating for most of the Holidays because we simply have no room to store any decorations from year to year. However, I am officially sick of the same old apartment so I have decided to come up with inexpensive, easy crafts that I can either fold up flat and store easily in a small space or possibly even throw out and re-do the next year.

My first project along these lines was this Trick-or-Treat paper banner...

I absolutely LOVE how it turned out! It is the only Halloween decoration that we have in our house, but it at least makes me feel a little bit better as a homemaker/house decorator. Plus it is making me really excited for Halloween! I am hoping that I can make some other little decorations over the next week so that I can add a bit more. Then hopefully next year I can add even more. I only have a couple of ideas right now of more things to do, so if you know of any easy, inexpensive decorations that I can add to my home then please let me know!

To make the trick-or-treat banner I simply cut out triangles from THIS template for the words, as well as a few colorful ones to border the words. Then I used a scalloped circle punch to punch circles out of coordinating paper. Then I used a hole punch to punch 2 holes on the top of each circle/triangle and fed thin, white ribbon through. For the letters I created them in Word and printed them on white cardstock. Then I cut them out the old school way with scissors because I don't have a silhouette machine and my cricut blade is broken.

Want to make your own Trick-or-Treat banner? Save the images below to your computer and simply print on white cardstock. Then cut and glue (I simply used a glue stick) them onto the paper of your choice.

Happy banner making to you all!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amazing Alfredo Sauce

If you haven't figured it out by now this blog is not about originality, although some things are original. This blog is simply a place where I keep all of my ideas/recipes so that I can access them easily from anywhere. That way I can make one of my yummy recipes even when I am out of town and do not have my recipe book on hand. Or I can recreate a fantastic craft that I loved.

Anyway, I found this amazing recipe for Guiltless Alfredo Sauce over at Our Best Bites. It has been my go to sauce for pasta the past 4 months. I make it at least every other week. It is simple, fast, delicious, and a lot healthier than other Alfredo sauces. I love to pair it with roasted asparagus, but it is also great paired with roasted green beans, or roasted zucchini.

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

2 C low-fat milk
1/3 C (3 oz) low fat cream cheese
2 T flour
1 t salt
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves
1 C grated Parmesan cheese

Place milk, cream cheese, flour, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth. In a non-stick sauce pan, melt butter on med-high heat and add garlic. Let the garlic saute for about 30 seconds, you don’t want to burn it.

Then add milk mixture to the pan. Stir constantly for about 3 or 4 minutes or until it just comes to a simmer. Keep stirring and let it cook for a few minutes more. It should be much thicker now.

When it’s nice and thickened remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheese, stir it up and then cover immediately. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before using. It will continue to thicken upon standing. Also, if you have leftovers in the fridge, the sauce will thicken almost into a solid. Just re-heat and add a little milk and it will be back to normal again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp

Here's another great Fall recipe for you! A couple of weeks ago my son and I went apple picking with some friends. We picked up a bucket full of apples and are still working on using them up. I think we have maybe gone through half of them. In my efforts to use them up I made my first ever apple crisp. And boy was it a little slice of heaven.

I searched for a recipe and found one from a website that I love, Your Homebased Mom. Leigh Anne of course has prettier pictures of this beauty on her website so go check it out HERE. I have tried many of her recipes and have always been impressed with the yumminess that comes from her site.

And of course, DO NOT forget to pair this with a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream. Costco is my favorite brand that we can buy locally. It is super creamy and delicious. But I would recommend Blue Bell if you are able to buy it near you.

Note: I did change the title of this recipe for my own memory so that I will remember that this delicious recipe has graham cracker crumbs in the crisp. It is divine - I promise!

Graham Cracker Apple Crisp

4-6 large Granny Smith apples (I actually used Golden Delicious apples and it turned out great)

8 graham crackers

3/4 C brown sugar, packed

1/2 C rolled oats (I used quick oats)

1/2 C flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 C butter, melted

Peel, core, slice apples. Finely chop graham crackers (I use my food processor). Combine crumbs, sugar, oats, flour and spices. Add butter; mix well. Spoon mixture over apple slices.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chicken, Wild Rice & Potato Soup

This might very well be the very first recipe I have ever posted that is actually one that is technically mine. Of course it was adapted from an original recipe, but I was the one who adapted it! I first tried the original recipe when I was a new mom and my friend, Natalie, brought dinner to us. She made this soup but it originally has mushrooms instead of potatoes. We are not a mushroom loving family so we have altered it to suit our own tastes.

Doesn't that just look yummy? Well, it's not the best picture ever, but it really is yummy! Soup just screams Fall to me. I am so happy that it has finally cooled down a bit where we live and it even rained the day I whipped this up. I have made this soup many times over the past year and it never disappoints me. Pair it with freshly made wheat bread and you have an amazing dinner.

Chicken, Wild Rice & Potato Soup

3/4 cup wild rice
6 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup whipping cream (you can also use milk)
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (I bake mine at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Put salt and pepper on it and cover it with chicken stock/broth to make it extra moist.)

In a large pot combine rice, 5 cups stock/broth, carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, until rice is tender but still chewy. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and add flour, salt and pepper; let this boil for 30 seconds then slowly add in the remaining 1 1/2 cup stock/broth. Boil for 1-2 minutes. Add cream, or milk, and then add mixture to soup pot and stir in chopped chicken.

This soup makes 6-8 servings. It is also very flexible. You can add as much or as little of any of the vegetables listed (or add mushrooms, zucchini, squash, peas, or green beans). Sprinkle chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese on top to add more flavor and texture.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I guess this week is cupcake week. I am so excited to finally get this recipe up on my blog. These cupcakes were AMAZING. As I previously mentioned I am a lover of white cupcakes. I have never liked chocolate cupcakes (or chocolate cake really), but these cupcakes are to die for. It's really the mint that does it for me. So if you like mint and chocolate together then you will definitely want to make these the next time you are craving something sweet.

This is yet another of Mel's fabulous creations over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I told you I loved her recipes. If there is something I want to make and don't have a recipe for I typically start at her website to see if she has a recipe for it. Her pictures are of course much better than mine so check them out HERE.

NOTE: The frosting in this recipe makes a lot. I frosted 30 cupcakes and only used about half of the frosting. If you don't want leftover frosting then I would half the frosting portion of the recipe. Or if you want to do what I did you could make mint brownies with the extra frosting once the cupcakes are gone. Also, I made these cupcakes the night before Abby's baby shower and then put them in the fridge. I pulled them out about 10 minutes before the party and stuck an Andes Mint on the top of each one. It made preparations for the party super easy.

Over-the-Top Andes Mint Cupcakes


2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Chocolate Mint Filling:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Mint Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
32 ounces powdered sugar (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Green food coloring

30 Andes mints for garnish

For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups with paper baking cups. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; using a handheld electric mixer or an electric stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. The batter will be on the thinner side. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. This recipe makes about 30 cupcakes. So you may need to bake the cupcakes in installments if you only have 1 or 2 muffin tins. Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack, after removing them from the muffin tin.

For the mint filling, while the cupcakes are baking, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the process until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (but don’t let it get too stiff) and pour it into a squeeze bottle or a ziploc bag (it helps to place the ziploc bag, one point down, in a tall glass while filling).

When the cupcakes are cool, insert the tip of the squeeze bottle into the center of the cupcake and press gently to fill the middle of the cupcake with the mint ganache.

For the frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the heavy cream and peppermint and vanilla extracts. Beat until light and fluffy. Add green food coloring until the color you like is achieved.

Frost the cooled, filled cupcakes with frosting (using a large star tip) or simply spread the frosting in a large dollop with a butter knife or flat spatula. Garnish with an unwrapped Andes mint and a drizzle of leftover ganache (make sure the ganache is completely cool or it will melt the frosting when you drizzle it on top of the cupcake). Refrigerate until serving.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes {And Frosting}

Remember these yummy looking cupcakes that I made forever ago for my son's first birthday?

Well here is the spectacular recipe for them. I found both the cupcake and the frosting recipes at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. You already know how much I love her recipes. I have tried quite a few of them and have always loved everything I have made of hers. Click HERE for a direct link to the recipes on her website.

These cupcakes were absolutely perfect. I personally prefer white cupcakes and these were deliciously moist and sweet (but not too sweet). The frosting was also equally as good, if not better. I think this recipe will be my go to cupcake recipe for parties and birthdays. Give them a try - you will not be disappointed.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 for light, aluminum or silicone muffin pans or 325 for dark, nonstick muffin pans. Line about 16-24 muffin cups with liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in eggs and egg yolk one at a time and then mix in the vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine. Add 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix. Add the final 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix and then add the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined and the batter is smooth. Spoon out batter into lined cupcake pan, filling only halfway or just barely over halfway.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven based on the type of muffin pan you have), until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out with moist crumbs. Don’t overbake!

Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with vanilla buttercream frosting.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

½ cup (1 stick, 8 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
16 ounces powdered sugar (about 3 ½ cups)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until it is light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar gradually and mix in fully after each addition. Cream at low speed until well blended and creamy. Pour in the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

For this recipe I think the picture says it all!!!

Doesn't that just look AMAZING. And it tastes amazing too. This is a definite must try in blueberry season. We still have blueberries everywhere here but the prices are definitely going up. My mom tried this recipe when we visited Utah last May. She made it knowing that she would score some major points with my husband! He loves everything and anything blueberry (I have probably said that before). So go find some blueberries (you can use frozen ones too I think) and whip this up for a nice leisurely Saturday, or Sunday, breakfast/brunch. You will not be disappointed.

Overnight Blueberry French Toast
8-10 slices french (or sourdough) bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 pkg cream cheese, softened and whipped with 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup blueberries
8 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
3/4 cup water
Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange half the bread cubes in the dish, and top with cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup blueberries over the cream cheese, and top with remaining bread cubes. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and syrup. Pour over the bread cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the bread cube mixture from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking 25-30 minutes, until center is firm and surface is lightly browned.
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook 3-4 minutes. Mix in the remaining 1 cup blueberries. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, until the blueberries burst. Pour over the baked french toast.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bunting Banner Template (Printable)

PS: HERE is a downloadable, printable template for making bunting banners. I used this template when I made this baby banner for my friend, Abby's, baby shower. You could use this template to make fabric or paper banners.

I look forward to making more bunting banners in the future with this easy template. It even has two different sizes of triangles in case you want to make different sized banners. I have a Halloween banner in the works that I am excited to show off soon! Happy crafting to you all!

Friday, September 30, 2011

90 Minute Shirt

Here's the birthday shirt I made for Bennett's first birthday. I wanted to test out the 90 Minute Shirt tutorial from MADE and I thought his birthday would be the perfect opportunity. I purchased a men's t-shirt from goodwill and went to work on it. I wanted his birthday to have a theme, but since he is only 1 year old and we didn't want to have a big party with friends I ended up deciding to go with a simple theme of balloons. That's why I made the balloon wreath and hung balloons from the ceiling. I also thought it would be fun to add 3 balloons (hand stitched) to the front of his birthday shirt.

I thought the balloons turned out cute, but I am really not skilled with hand stitching. I think this was actually my first attempt, unless you count sewing on ribbons and elastic to pointe shoes (which is definitely not the same thing). The fabric ended up gathering a little but once it was on him you couldn't really tell. I think you can probably tell that the perfectionist in me has died. At least when it comes to anything handmade by me. I think I am still a huge perfectionist when it comes to dance.

This is the best picture I captured of him with his birthday shirt. The other good ones I have you can't see the front of his shirt. I was very proud of myself for making a shirt for him. I like the idea of making them for him in the future, but I probably will only do it for birthdays. Then it can be a special birthday tradition. So there you have it. My first handmade clothes item for my son. Now I mark that off as completed on my goal check list for the year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Big 1

In May my cute son turned 1 year old. It was so much fun to plan a little birthday celebration for him. We didn't have a party but my brother flew into town to help us celebrate and my parents came the weekend after to celebrate at the local zoo with us. Even though we didn't have a big party with friends I did go all out and make it special.

I made a big birthday wreath for our door (which we can now use for every birthday in our family). I LOVE how it turned out, except I think I will add even more balloons so that you can't see the straw on the sides of the wreath. These birthday balloons are everywhere in blogland. But I think the initial idea came from How Does She?. The tutorial for the birthday wreath can be found HERE. I bought my balloons at Walmart and loved the colors.

We also hung balloons from the ceiling in our kitchen, which our little guy loved. I did not come up with that idea on my own, but rather it was Dana's idea over at MADE. I also made Bennett's shirt using a tutorial from Dana's website. I post all about his shirt soon.

We spent the day at a local amusement park for little kids and while Bennett was napping we whipped up cupcakes for dessert.

The cupcakes were amazing. I think they tasted better than any white cupcake I have ever had. And the frosting was yummy too. I'll share the recipe on another post as well.

He enjoyed his cupcake a little bit, but was pretty tired by the end of the day. We definitely wore him out celebrating. He mostly just smothered himself in blue frosting and ended up looking a bit like a blue smurf. See what I mean...

He went straight to the bath afterwards.