Monday, December 20, 2010

{Neighbor gifts}

As Christmas approaches, we tend to turn our thoughts to those that we care about and who share our lives.  One group in particular would be the neighbors.  For me this group in a fairly new concept...

When I lived in California, I lived next to the same people for 10 years and never even knew their names.  Not even their LAST names.  Couldn't pick 'em out in a line up.  Since you just DIDN'T allow your children to play out front - only in the backyard, we never even gave the cordial "wave" as they drove by.

Utah has been such a refreshing change!  The culture is completely different and it's amazingly wonderful to feel that sense of belonging and community.  The very day we moved in to our home, we had treats delivered by hand and offers to help in so many ways!  Crazy but awesome.  To share in the lives of others and know that someone is always watching and vice versa is very comforting.

To those nearby that we appreciate so much we wanted to make a little something to please the palette.  Enter the pretzel hugs!  These are totally easy but taste unbelievably good!

Take the pretzels and line a baking sheet with them.  Then stack a Hershey kiss or hug on top.  For the kisses I used the ones with caramel inside.

Put into the oven at 170 degrees for 5-8 minutes.  Remove and press an M&M into the softened hug or kiss.  I used M&Ms for the striped hugs (in green and red, of course) and for the ones with the caramel kisses I pressed a pecan half into the top - YUM!  Put them in the freezer for 8-10 minutes and package as desired.  These are really SO tasty and simple enough for the kiddos to help with!

What are YOUR neighbor gifts this year?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's a PARTY!

Nolan's 4th birthday and his first REAL birthday party.  It's a bummer to have your birthday two days after Christmas, so anticlimactic.  But it's also very tough to PLAN a birthday party 2 days after Christmas.  People are typically partied out by this time.  Not in the mood for more food, more presents, more traveling or more merriment!

His request is for a "cop party." Obviously my attempts to eek out better behavior have instilled a strong respect for police officers and the powerful position they hold.  The whole "good guy, bad guy" thing has taken hold and he LOVES cops.

So, in that vein, here's what I've some up with for invites:

Not great lighting, but you get the idea :)  I had metallic blue cardstock and a white printed invite on the top, but before attaching the invite I wrapped a wide piece of yellow ribbon around it, which allowed me to clip on the police badge.

We will be hand delivering these since the badges make the envelopes pretty bulky.

Oh, and yes.... totally caved to having the party at Chuck E. Cheese (blech).  We've never been there before but Nolan insists that his birthday party MUST happen there.  Easy clean up I guess, huh?

Friday, December 17, 2010

A visit with Santa

Today was the hubbs Christmas party for work. They had it catered and all the families were invited. One of the fellow employees even offered to dress up as Santa and give out gifts to all the kids.

Now, I was a bit worried, in that, the guy who was playing Santa is also a member at our church. Whenever Nolan sees him at church he will holler out a resounding (and completely NOT reverent) hello! But with the suit & all, hopefully he wouldn't see any resemblance.

So we arrive, eat and wait...getting the kids excited for Santa's arrival. Finally, after much anticipation Santa appears from the upstairs hall and starts making his way down the long staircase. So here's the part I where most children would run up to Santa and start rattling off their wish list right? Not mine. Nope. Nolan quickly blurts out "How come Santa's so SHORT?!?"
which, of course, prompts all those who still believe to look to their parents in bewilderment. Leave it to my child to instill doubt into the minds that surely never before questioned Santa's height.

All in all, it was still good to see everyone and get just a bit more excited about Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

C + PB = TLA

Every once in a while, I just get a craving for something sweet.  But not the usual Oreo or duplex type cookie. Something different.

So today when I went to my pantry (which is totally UNDERstocked these days!  Project for the New Year) and found that I really didn't have ANYTHING to pull together :(  No chocolate chips, no nuts, nothing to get creative with. All I had was less than half of a bag of peanut butter chips leftover from melting them & drizzling over rice krispie treats a while back.

And BONUS!  When I went to pull those out I found a box of Bakers chocolate...SCORE!  That instantly reminded me of a recipe I've had forever:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

8 (1 oz) squares semi-sweet chocolate
3 TBSP butter
1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 cups biscuit making mix
1 TSP vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter flavored chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate and butter with sweetened condensed milk; remove from heat.  Add biscuit mix and vanilla; beat at low speed until smooth and well blended.  Cool to room temperature.  Stir in chips.

Shape the dough into 1 1/4" balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until tops are slightly crusted.  DO NOT OVERBAKE

Now it's absolutely worth it to stick around and watch these.  Just when the outside of the cookie starts to  get a bit crackly and crusty, THAT'S when you want to pull them out.  Then they will be done on the outside but still gooey on the inside... and since there's no egg in this I completely advocate eating the dough :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Card 2010

Joy And Happiness Christmas 5x7 folded card
Turn your pictures into personalized Christmas cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Charlie Brown Christmas

This is, without a doubt one of my most favorite Christmas specials of all time. Don't get me wrong, I love watching how the grinch stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and all the claymation classics. But Charlie Brown Christmas, for me, truly captures the spirit of Christmas.

If you love the recitation Linus gives in this clip, you can visit Betty Crocker Wannabe for a beautiful {free} printable version of the scripture Luke 2: 13-14.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spread the Christmas Cheer....

via Shutterfly!  We all get so busy with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it often times becomes a chore challenge to get those Christmas cards out, not to mention print the updated family picture to insert into said cards!  For those of you who know me, you know that I spend day after day designing personal stationery and wedding invitations for others.  Not only do I not have the TIME to design my own Christmas cards, it's too difficult a task!  We are usually our own worst critic and I become so indecisive with the design options that I can hardly make a choice for myself.

So, THIS year I'm delegating.  YAY!  Leaving the work to someone else.  Seriously, I could deliberate and procrastinate 'till the week before Christmas - like last year OR I can cross yet another item off the ever-growing holiday to-do-list!  LOVE LOVE LOVE this one here!

This one would be perfect to insert pics of all 3 of the kids.  With mine it'd be near impossible to get one altogether....without someone crying anyway :)

Some of the other Christmas designs I'm considering are here and here.

The Shutterfly designs are simple, colorful and absolutely fun.  And from previous experience printing my photos with Shutterfly, they will be nothing short of perfect!  Their photo prints are great quality and ship super fast!

Still looking for gift ideas? Make a photo calendar here!  Need invitations for your cookie exchange?  Find the perfect one here.  Need a birthday card like NO other? Find it here!

Make it easy this year and don't let the details bog you down.  Enjoy every moment and check out the great options at Shutterfly!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fall Leaves

As Thanksgiving draws near, I'm so thankful to be able to be home this week with my kids! I genuinely tried to make the most of our time together baking and doing fun things.

Today Nolan and I made melted crayon leaves! When I saw the idea over at Running with Scissors, I knew this was a toddler friendly craft! What boy doesn't like to destroy things, i.e, shredding up crayons and smashing and melting them?!?
First we got old crayons together in the right colors and went to town grating and shredding. There really wasn't an easy way to accomplish this. We tried the cheese grater, scissors, vegetable peeler and a razor blade.

 Here's all you will need (iron not shown here).
 Take your cut up crayons in a variety of fall colors...
 make a sandwich with them between two sheets of wax paper...
 lay down a towel on your ironing board and a paper towel on top to save your iron and melt away.  The crayon shavings will liquefy so take care not to spread it outside of the wax paper sheets.  Once they are cooled cut into leaf shapes and display in any way you like.
 I chose to make a little slit and string them onto a ribbon. Nolan had tons of fun choosing the colors and sprinkling the shavings onto the wax paper.

While this was originally supposed to hang in my window (as seen here) for all to see as I host Thanksgiving at my house this year,  it will now be travelling with us, along with ALL of the other food, decor, etc. to my parents house.  My dad went 4 wheeling last Friday and ended up breaking his leg.  The festivities are coming to him now!  If you didn't want to drive all the way to my house, Dad, all you had to do was say so! ha ha

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Day

Another Silhouette give away at Infarrantly Creative!!!

Turkey finger puppets

Since I found this post for turkey finger puppets over at Skip to My Lou, I figured it'd be fun to join in the Made by You Mondays over there too!

It's SO wonderful to be home with my little guy this week!  Since I work full time he almost wasn't sure what I was doing NOT going to work today :)  But I've got some fun stuff planned for us, so hopefully I can make the most of our precious time together.  Starting with these:

So easy and he's having lots of fun flying them around everywhere.  We even made extras for the kids coming to Thanksgiving dinner :)  Just adds to the excitement of the season.  Thanks to Skip to My Lou for the inspiration!

Speaking of....

Jen at Tatertots & Jello is giving away a Silhouette cutting machine!!!!  {Swoon}  Check it out!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let it SNOW!

Today it finally snowed.  Well, in enough quantity to stick around for a while anyway :)  YAY!  So this morning, my pancakes....

look much like the yard!

Which also makes for some good indoor creativity.  Since I already had most everything to make this, I decided to copy Jen from Tatertots & Jello and make my version of a holiday burlap wreath.

This was a pretty easy project and was super fun.  The worst part was burning my fingers with the hot glue gun!  I'm the biggest clutz and ALWAYS tend to not be very careful.  The burlap was very inexpensive ($2.99 /yd at JoAnn) and everything else was purely scraps!  I did get the music note ribbon half off at JoAnn also.  When I was trying to figure out what phrase I could use with my left over Scrabble tiles, it seemed as though I was missing ONE letter for all the good ideas...Be Merry - no "m'. Jingle Bells - no "j'!  Then it hit me.  Well, actually I had the Christmas music on (gotta love FM100!!) and the song Silent Night was on - DONE!  So when I saw the music notes, well, that tied it all together.

Thanks Jen for the super idea!  Had I got my rear in gear sooner I would've had a Thanksgiving version too.  But, looking at the bright side, now I've got a jump on my Christmas crafts!

Also linking up at:

Join  us Saturdays at for the weekend wrap up     party!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gettin' in the Spirit...

or not.  This has been a tough start to the holidays for me so far.  Not sure I can pinpoint one particular reason...things are just so busy and rushed and now that Halloween is over Thanksgiving is HERE!  It goes so fast anymore.

So, to attempt to get into the holiday swing, Nolan & I decided to try to make some turkey cookies.  The first sheetful were turkeys....the rest were plain ol' drop cookies.  I didn't say they were pretty...just great tasting.  Which is the important part anyway, right?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Fun

This is the first year that Nolan is really "into" Halloween. He put great thought into what he wanted to be (and it changed MANY times before we actually decided) which ended up to be either a werewolf (inspired by Jacob) or a pirate. Lucky for us, his auntie just happens to have 3 boys and one of the cutest pirate costumes around!  First stop - Salt Lake Police Department!
Got to sit in the fire engine...
sound the siren on the motorbike...
and shoot an airsoft gun (which he now insists Santa is bringing him for Christmas!).

Then once it was time for Trick or Treating we had to add the mustache - a la Captain Hook era.

The girls are "too old" for dressing up.  Or so they thought until they saw everyone else out & about.  Impromptu costumes came out and off they went to bring back some candy loot!  It was short lived, thanks to the rain, but we had so much fun eating treats and sitting by the fire.

This is truly a wonderful time of year.  Feeling the excitement of the season setting in!! :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Quilt

I didn't get as far as I was hoping on my Halloween quilt, but there was some progress.

All of the strips are sewn and cut into 4.5" squares, in preparation for THIS zig zag pattern. It will have to be modified just a bit to adjust for the use of a jelly roll, not yardage. The only difference is the finished size will be just a bit smaller. But for a seasonal quilt that will only be used for one month each year, that's perfectly fine.

Next in the line up is this:
Going to try it in some fleece just to make sure I can make it work. I've never sewn any clothing before but hopefully this will be pretty easy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Cupcakes!

So today was just an "orangey-fall, stay home and cook & be cozy" kinda day.

First off, I made MORE pumpkin spice cupcakes. I know, I just made these and completely overindulged. But, c' can I stop thinking about these delicious little beauties WITH cream cheese frosting!?! Plus they make your house smell like HEAVEN! However, I did "healthify" them just a bit, if that's even a word. Here's the new version via Wingledings:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs (room temp)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, soda and spices.
In a larger bowl beat together eggs and remaining ingredients.
Add flour mixture until combined.
Fill cupcake liners and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and frost with icing of choice. I used this cream cheese frosting again, cuz it's the best!

Then I made another batch of tomato sauce and put a whole chicken into the crockpot to roast for 8 hours. Who knew you could make a "rotisserie" style chicken in the crock pot!?! It's super easy and pretty much cooks itself. Throw it in, season it and walk away for 8 hours. It will literally fall apart when done!

And as if THAT wasn't enough, I decided to roast a butternut squash.
These are FOR SURE one of my favorite fall foods. Simple, tasty and good for you. Except for possibly the butter and brown sugar I slather on the last 10 minutes of baking!

Initially, I was really wanting to make a risotto with the roasted squash, but I didn't have any Arborio rice on hand. However, I DID have barley. There's no set recipe but here's how it went:
Half the squash, remove seeds and place cut side down on lines baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Cool and scoop out the flesh ( I used an ice cream scoop). Set aside.

Saute some onion & garlic in butter. Add some diced, cooked bacon (as desired)and 1 cup barley and stir until the barley is aromatic, smelling kinda nutty. Then add approximately 2 cups of homemade chicken stock and let it absorb most of the way (15-20 minutes). Then add 2 cups of water and season. Again, allow it to cook up & absorb MOST of the liquid (another 15-20 minutes). The last 10-15 minutes add in approximately 1 cup (or as desired) of the roasted squash. If you don't want it chunky, you can puree it with some chicken stock prior to adding it to your barley or risotto mixture. Wah-la!
Serve it up with some chicken, fresh baked rolls.... so hearty and stick-to-your-ribs good!
Now I'll just have to add an extra 45 minutes to my workout in the morning to recover from my day in the kitchen. Who am I kidding, huh? :)