Jan 072015
 

sweet new years treats

I made homemade caramels and marshmallows for holiday gifts and they turned out so delicious that I really needed to come up with some pretty packaging to compliment them. I started out with some cardboard boxes that are usually used as disposable baking pans. Next I added some decorative cupcake liners and nestled the caramels and marshmallows into them.

super sweet new years treats

I happened to have some pre-cut parchment paper (which is the best thing ever by the way) which I folded down so that it fit the size of the box and had a decorative band in the middle, and I trimmed the edges with pinking shears for a cute little touch.

super sweet new years treats

Next I used a long strand of bakers twine to wrap around the package and tie off to secure it. Finally the boxes needed a something else – a label! I made up a label using PicMonkey, printed out a bunch on cardstock, cut them out and slipped them under the baker’s twine.

super sweet new years treats

 

Galletas de Navidad or Tita’s Christmas Cookies

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Dec 152014
 

galletas de navidad christmas cookies

Do you have a special cookie recipe that you just absolutely must make each Christmas? One that actually defines the holidays for you? Maybe your family is like ours and each parent brings their own must-have cookie to the mix. For us the special Christmas cookies are the Chocolate Drops that my grandma and now my stepmom makes each December, and Tita’s Galletas de Navidad (Abuelita’s Christmas Cookies). Because Tita lives so far away from us it’s up to me to make the Galletas de Navidad and bring the taste of Christmas into our home.

We’re not sure where the recipe for Galletas de Navidad came from – Tita grew up eating them but we don’t know how the recipe came into her family. They’re vaguely german – somewhere between pfeffernusse cookies, lebkuchen and springerle. We roll the cookies out and cut them into shapes, then glaze them with a lemon sugar icing. The warm Christmas spices of cinnamon, anise and nutmeg give a great traditional flavor and the cookies keep well too.

Galletas de Navidad / Tita’s Christmas Cookies
makes approx. 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 2 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1 TBS ground cloves
  • 1 tsp anise seeds steeped in 1 TBS hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 5 cups flour

Directions

1. Cream together the butter and sugar.

2. Mix in the honey, egg, cinnamon, cocoa powder, cloves, salt and anise seed (with the water it was steeped in).

3. Mix in 3 cups of the flour and the baking soda with its water.

4. Mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour one at a time.

5. Chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness, cut out shapes with cookie cutters and put them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

8. Bake cookies for 8 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then cool completely on racks.

9. Ice with your favorite sugar cookie icing or (our favorite) a simple confectioner’s sugar and lemon glaze.

galletas de navidad christmas cookies

Homemade Lego Candle Holders for a Birthday Cake

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Sep 302014
 

homemade lego candle holder cake

My son is absolutely obsessed with Legos, so for his fifth birthday I wanted to add a little lego touch to his cake. His favorite cake – the one he always asks for – is my Raspberry Lime pound cake, which has just a simple sugar glaze. This cake doesn’t lend itself to fluffy frosting decorations, so I knew I’d have to do something with the candles instead. We’ve used lego brick-shaped candles before, but I was hoping to come up with something different. Then, playing with legos one day about a week ago I had an epiphany – I could use minifigures to make homemade lego candle holders for his cake.

Off to the giant lego bin I went, to play around with different pieces and see what I could come up with. I wanted to have four different figures, and I mixed and matched several to make them a bit more unusual and fancy. Next I added a stick to each one’s hand, and a square at the end of the stick (I used the small squares with just one stud in the middle). Finally I melted the bottom of regular birthday cake candles and stuck them onto the squares.

In order to hold the lego candle holders onto the cake, I cut bamboo skewers into about 3 inch lengths, stuck them into the cake and then pushed each minifigure onto a skewer through the hole in the bottom of its leg. I think that they would stand up just fine in a denser frosting. These minifigures were a hit – my son loved them, the other kids loved them, and they even kept the melted wax off the cake, which was a nice bonus.

homemade lego candle holder Collage

Gearing Up For Christmas

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Dec 032013
 

Wow, the Christmas season is upon us again – I can’t believe another year is almost over!

We worked hard this weekend to get the Christmas decorations up and we’re almost done; of course NONE of the outdoor light strings worked out of the box this year so I still have to get those up but otherwise we’re set.

We started our advent calendar on Sunday – we made one a few years ago using assorted tea and candy tins and it attaches to our fridge with magnets.

advent magnet cans

I fill it with a mix of candy, little gifts and notes about any fun Christmas experiences we have planned for that day. I also include a few larger gifts in the advent (holiday pajamas, a holiday movie, a new book) which they find via scavenger hunt clues.  The kids absolutely love the clues, but by the end of the month it does get hard to think of good hiding spots – plus I didn’t do myself any favors by starting with rhyming clues, so it’s expected now.

advent calendar magnets

I’m not sure what homemade gifts I’ll do this year but I usually like to do at least something little for people so I’ve got to get on it. Are you making any gifts this year?

Oct 222013
 

For years my Halloween decorations consisted of a few carved pumpkins and the fall leaves I hadn’t managed to rake out of the yard yet, but as the kids have gotten older they’ve goaded me into more and more decorations. Thus the pumpkins were joined by a skeleton, and a ghost, and a few ceramic pumpkins. This year we took our display up a notch, moving it from the front porch out into the yard with our giant spider web. This web is so easy to make – as long as you’ve got a tree or large bushes to use as an anchor it goes up quickly (and cheaply)!

Start by stringing the support/scaffolding lines of the web. I used regular old jute garden twine (I have a spool that I bought like 10 years ago and it’s seriously never ending – I don’t know what I have to do to use this stuff up). String up 5 support lines – 4 diagonal crossing lines and one vertical line that all meet in the middle. I secured the lines to branches of our big oak tree across the top, and to metal stakes (just big nails, really) stuck into the lawn on the bottom. If you don’t have branches in quite the right spot you could string a line across the top to start with. Start with your outer diagonals, then the two inner diagonals, then use the vertical line to join them all together in the middle by wrapping it once or twice around the other lines where they meet.

Next, start your spiral. I started on the outside and worked my way in, but you could go the other way as well. Try not to make it so evenly spaced, that will make it look more natural. I pulled off a large piece of twine and started wrapping it through the support lines, giving it a turn or two at each line to hold it in place. Tie it off at the end and start another line (it was too unwieldy to pass the whole spool through the web, but if I’d had a smaller spool that would have been the easiest thing to do).

Finally, add a spider or two for that final creepy spooky touch (these were from our local pharmacy – nothing fancy but they look great on the web). Our house is ready for Halloween! Of course we only get about 5 trick-or-treaters a year, but we’re ready for them all the same. Do you decorate for Halloween? What’s your favorite decoration? And, full size or fun size?

Happy Independence Day!

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Jul 042013
 

Ah, the Fourth of July – time to go to a parade, grill a hotdog and watch some fireworks (or light some off, depending). It’s a fun day; it’s summer’s big holiday, after all. I love this holiday with all of it’s red white and blue and down home Americana and patriotism.

But if you have time, take a few minutes today to think about what the day is really about – here’s the first part of the Declaration of Independence (see the document and read the full transcript here):

“. . .We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. . . . “

Powerful words that should hold meaning for us even today, 237 years after they were written.

Feb 242013
 

Easter’s coming up and I’m starting to think about how I’ll decorate this year. Its still a bit early to hang up our Easter eggs in the trees outside, but I came up with a cute little scene in a flower pot to put on our bookcase that’s whimsical and fun. Here’s a tutorial for an Easter Bunny planter with little signs pointing out the way for cute bunnies.

Here’s what you’ll need: A flower pot, moss (real or artificial), something to fill the pot with (dirt or styrofoam/filler), a branch or dowel, craft sticks, acrylic craft paint, a craft knife or small saw, a paintbrush or two, a hot-glue gun and some little bunny or Easter egg figures.

 First measure your branch against the size of your pot and trim it so that its not too tall – it should be about double the size of the pot. Next, trim your craft sticks so that they’ve got a pointed end and a flat end – they don’t have to be perfect, it will look better if its rustic.

I trimmed my craft sticks using a craft knife and I had to score the wood and then break it off – the knife wasn’t quite strong enough to cut cleanly through.

Next paint the sticks in whichever colors you’d like – paint both sides of the sticks and the edges too.

Once you’ve painted the sticks you’ll need to paint the destinations on them – I used rabbit literary references for ours. I painted the words on both sides of the sticks so I could decide afterwards which side looked better and still be able to alternate the arrows.

The Briar Patch = Br’er Rabbit, Mr. McGregor’s Garden = Peter Rabbit, Toon Town = Roger Rabbit, Bunny Hill = where the Easter Bunny skis.

Next, you’ll need to use a hot-glue gun to glue the signs to the branch or dowel. Once the glue’s dried you can put the branch in the pot and then fill it with your fill material. I used real moss from my garden so I filled my pot with soil, but if you’re using artificial moss you could fill the pot with anything under the moss. You will want a bit of weight though to balance out the weight of the branch and keep the pot and branch upright.

Finally you can add whatever little figure you’d like to the pot – I used these sisal bunnies but tiny easter eggs would be cute too, or little birds, tulips or daffodils, or . . ? The possibilities are endless.

This post was linked up to these great link parties – check ’em out! Flamingo Toes, Nifty Thrifty Things, LambAround, Twigg Studios, Sunny Simple LifeCuddlebug CutiesI Heart NaptimeLife on Lakeshore Drive, Craft-O-ManiacSumo’s Sweet StuffHomemaker on a Dime, Keeping It Simple, C.R.A.F.T., Lil’ LunaSew Much Ado, Creations by KaraGingersnap Crafts, Lady Behind the Curtain, My Girlish Whims, Not Just a Housewife, Osie Moats, Clean & Scentsible, My World Made By HandSomeday Crafts, The Busy Bees, The Crafty Blog Stalker, Chocolate Chocolate and More, House of Hepworths, 733 Blog, Momnivore’s Dilemma, Katie’s Nesting Spot, One Creative Procrastinating Gal, Seven Alive, Madcap Frenzy, Beyond the Picket FenceCreate Craft Love, The Shabby Nest, Romantic Home, Finding Fabuous, Simply Sweet Home, Ladybird Ln, Diana Rambles, A Vision To Remember, Funky Junk Interiors, Six Sisters’ Stuff, Angels Homestead, Serenity Now, Today’s Creative Blog., Bear Rabbit Bear, Artsy-Fartsy Mama, Fireflies and Jellybeans, 504 Main,                                                                                 

Feb 102013
 

I made these easy (really super easy) felt Valentine’s drink coasters the other day, as part of my “spruce up the house for holidays other than Christmas” plan for this year. I was browsing blogs last week and came across some cute felt coasters that were sewn and embroidered. They were super cute, but I wanted something even easier and that could be done by my five-year-old as well. I happen to have a bit of a felt stockpile right now, so I came up with these!

Follow along with these 5 simple steps:

1. Cut two (or more) colors of felt into equal squares – you’ll want three squares for each coaster (I made four coasters so I cut out 12 squares). I used three layers so they would protect the furniture better from hot and cold liquids, so if the coasters are solely for decoration you could use two layers.

2. Stack the felt into piles, alternating colors of the top two layers for a better effect.

3. Cut heart shapes or other designs into the top layer of felt (I used pinking shears and regular scissors) and save the cut-out pieces to use as well.

4. Use regular old white glue to glue the layers and cutouts together.

5. Trim the edges of each coaster – I used pinking shears for this for a scalloped edge, but regular scissors would work as well.

My daughter really enjoyed this craft as well; she needed a bit of help cutting out some of the shapes but designed and glued her own coasters.

I’ve linked up to these great link parties – check ’em out! Your Thriving Family, I Heart Naptime, Homemaker On A Dime, Tumbleweed Contessa, Sew Much Ado,