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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Prospero Año Nuevo…

If you’re making salsa, shouldn’t Happy New Year’s be in Spanish, too? So there you go.

I always make this Good Luck Salsa for New Year’s neighbor gifts. Sometimes it makes it to my neighbors. Sometimes we devour it first. We’ll see what happens this time. I’ve seen similar recipes called Dixie Caviar or Texas Caviar, but I prefer to mention the luck the black-eyed peas will bring for 2012.

Salsa Good Luck Salsa

2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 can yellow hominy, rinsed and drained

1 can petite diced tomatoes, fire-roasted or garlic and onion

1 green pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

1 can green chilis (or a small jalapeno, minced)

1 cup fat-free Italian salad dressing

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

In a large bowl, stir everything together. Chill and let the flavors meld for a day or two. This keeps in the frig for up to a week.

To gift it, put in jars and embellish as desired. I put the ingredients on the back of the tag, along with instructions to keep it refrigerated. I downloaded the tag for free from Custom Printables, here. They design some really fun and cool things there…check it out!

This is a fun and savory way to get your black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, if you’re not a fan of Hoppin’ John or other standard ways to prep them. Of course, you’ll still need your collard greens for wealth, but at least you’ll be lucky, so there’s that.

Wishing you all a fun and happy 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You a Very Merry, Joyful Christmas!


As I’m finishing up the last of my Christmas baking, wrapping, and crafting, just wanted to take a moment and say thanks for all your support and patience as I’ve gotten my blog up and running. It’s been a great experience, and a much needed creative outlet! This truly has been our motto throughout this year of changes and adventures…and adapting to being country mice, not city mice after many years. It makes a great mantra, if you’re looking for a calming message to repeat to yourself…over and over and over….in my case!

I hope you and yours have a fabulous Christmas, filled with blessings and fun!

(By the way, to give credit where it’s due…the supplies for this digi-scrap page all came from, if you were wondering. Which I’m sure you were, having nothing else to think about 2 days before Christmas.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seriously, more cookies?

Yes, more cookies. This week I made fun cookies for class parties and gifts, and now I have to brag about it a little, they turned out so well.


First I made amaretti for my sweetie. He loves anything with almond, and with both almond paste and amaretto, these are one of his favorites. You can find the recipe at here, at Cooking Light.

DSC_0014 kisses

He also loves meringue cookies, so I always make these for Christmas. They’re super simple and impressive. I even made them on a rainy day and they still turned out crunchy and pepperminty!

Here’s how:

Peppermint Meringues

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 to 4 drops peppermint oil, or 1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Red gel food coloring

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then add the sugar, a little at a time. Then beat this mixture until stiff peaks form.

meringue-bag Now for the trick: Take a gallon size ziploc, put it inside a large tumbler or glass, and fold the top over the outside, like a collar. Using a paintbrush, paint three narrow but heavy stripes of red food coloring from the tip to the top of the bag. Fill it with meringue, and snip off the corner to make a hole about half an inch in diameter. Then just pipe whatever shape you would like onto parchment lined cookie sheets. You’ll fill up 2 large sheets. I make sticks about 2 1/2” long, and when I get bored with that, simple kisses.

Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour. They can come out of the oven then, or, if you have time, just leave them in the oven until they’re cool. I think they’re crisper if you leave them in to cool.

Keep them in an airtight container, or they’ll get gooey. And that’s not what you want!

gingerbreadsThundercloud and I made these for her preschool class using the ABC Cookie Cutters from and the gingerbread recipe from King Arthur Flour. They totally rocked. The class was a little freaked out about eating cookies that were bitten, the teacher said. But she thought they were funny!

finished-melting Last but certainly not least, we made these for the second grader’s class party. I know, the kids just threw them in their mouths, but apparently the teacher had shown them around the school first. So I got a little love that way! We used the same gingerbread cookie recipe and I saw the cookies on The Decorated Cookie. Actually, I saw them on Pinterest when I was wasting WAY too much time.

heads And here’s a funny photo I just have to share. I took it while constructing these cookies, which, make no mistake, were pretty labor intensive. It took about 4 hours, start to finish, even with my minions help, to make 40 of them. But the satisfaction was worth it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And now school is out for Christmas break, so wish me luck as I become cruise director for the hooligans at home for 10 days. I better make a trip to the liquor store first.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I’m Melting, I’m Melting

***UPDATE*** Before continuing with this post,  I wanted to tell you that I have a new blog home.  I'd love for you to visit (all my old posts are there, along with brand new ones), and subscribe over there, since I can't transfer my subscribers over for some reason.  If you decide to follow, leave me a comment so I can thank you...and follow back if you have a blog!  Also, I'm trying to convince the hubs that this IS a real job, so I need all the followers I can get! Thanks so much... 

So Princess Thundercloud is getting the butterfly mobile for Christmas, but the boys are a little more difficult when it comes to an idea for handmade. Mostly because they’re so destructive inquisitive, they tend to break anything I make for them. Thus, I look for inexpensive, instant gratification crafts to make them.
I’ve seen loads of these crayon paintings on Pinterest, with all sorts of techniques. I extrapolated what seemed like it would work best for me (meaning, I had the supplies on hand for the most part) and here’s what I ended up making.
crayonSome of the ones I saw had a silhouette of something (like a girl under an umbrella or a couple kissing under an umbrella) but I just wrote the hooligans’ names at the bottom and called it good. Plus, I’m reinforcing that the only uppercase in their name is at the front. I’m so helpful with their education.
To make this, I used 2 11x14 canvases ($8 minus 40% at Michaels= about $5 with tax) and a box of 120 crayons ($7 at Walmart). Take out all the neutrals, then arrange the crayons however you want. There are a lot of wacky color names in a box of 120. I had no idea.
I used E6000, my favorite heavy-duty epoxy, to glue them across the top. You could use hot glue, too, but it gets hard a lot faster than E6000, so I was able to smear on all the glue, then have time to place the crayons. I say I did it…my husband actually helped out with this, mostly because it was Sunday night and he wanted to watch football rather than work on his Army stuff he brought home. But I digress. He does deserve some credit.
After the glue dries (I left it about 30 minutes, while I wrote Christmas cards), you just need…are you ready for it?….your blowdryer! Yes, that’s enough heat. We have a hot air gun for stripping paint and such, and my husband was itching to use it, but I think that owuld have been way too hot.
Hold your canvas at a slight tilt, about 30-40 degrees from vertical, for you geometry geeks, seemed to work best. Turn the dryer on “High” and hover over one set of crayons. It takes very little time, once they get hot. The paper starts to shine a little, then the wax begins to drip out the tip. It’s quite amazing. Use the air flow to control where the wax goes…as you can see, I learned this on the left side of the crayons, where the big white gap is. It’s really fun to play around with controlling the path.
I did this over newspaper, and we had a few drips, so I was glad for the paper. The wax hardens almost immediately. When we were finished (it was helpful to have my husband holding the canvas while I was melting), we just put them flat on the kitchen table for a little while to cool completely.
My rainbow-lovin’ boys will dig these, especially with their names on them. And we have the satisfaction of giving them something we made for them!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He’s Got Me Leg!

The hooligans love looking at “their” ornaments each year as we decorate the tree. I remember my brother and I were the same way when we were small. Heck, I’m that way now!

I was struggling a little with this year’s ornament for the kids, but yesterday creativity struck and here they are.

ornamentsThe kids think these cookie cutters are hysterical. I bought them a few years ago from You can, too…they still have them. They’re called ABC Cookies (Already Been Chewed…aaah, the humor of elementary school never fails).

If you don’t want to buy them, you could use a regular cookie cutter, then use a scalloped biscuit cutter or plain ol’ knife to cut off appendages.

I used Sculpey Oven Bake Clay in Brown, White, Red, and Blue. Just roll out the borwn as you would cookie dough. They’re between 1/8” and 1/4” thick, and 1 package made 3 ornaments with a but left over. Cut them out like cookies and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Decorate with the other colors (and get out that need to play with clay). Bake at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. They’ll still be a little flexible when done, which is fine. Overbaked means they’ll shatter easily. Don’t ask how I know.

After they cooled, I wrote the names and year on the back using a white gel pen and made a hanging loop from red and white baker’s twine. And you thought I wasn’t going to sneak in any Stampin’ Up! products today! The pen and twine both are.

Now I have to go make 24 of these, out of actual gingerbread dough, for Princess Thundercloud’s preschool party on Thursday. When I picked her up last week, she was crying inconsolably and the teacher could not figure out what was wrong. Nor would she tell me. She did let us know she wasn’t hurt or sick, but that was it. On the way home, she finally deigned to tell me. They made a gingerbread boy at school, and when the teacher went to get him from the kitchen, he jumped up and ran away. AND THE FOX WOULD CATCH HIM AND EAT HIM!!!

I finally convinced her he was fine and hiding in the playhouse in the playground, and her teachers confirmed it at the next class. So all was well, but we have to make more gingerbread men that are unable to run away, she says!

I hope your day is not fraught with drama and foxes. It’s much too close to Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I’m prepared to be thankful…

I try to write thank you notes in a timely manner. I really do. Otherwise I forget. (By the way, Kimberly, I really did appreciate the Halloween gifts!) Here’s the problem, however. I want to send handmade thank you notes, of course. I never seem to have exactly the right one on hand, so I have to wait until I have time to design the perfect one for the occasion. And sometimes that falls through the cracks. My life is very cracked, you know.

But I’m on the ball for Christmas…already designed my thank you cards. Still have to make a bunch more, but they are designed!


All Stampin’ Up! supplies: Thank You Kindly stamp set
Baja Breeze, Not Quite Navy, Silver Glimmer, Black, Pumpkin Pie,
and Whisper White cardstock; 1 3/4” Circle, Small Heart, and Snowflake punches;
Cherry Cobbler Polka Dot ribbon; Not Quite Navy, Black, and Pumpkin Pie markers
Dazzling Details Glitter Glue

I think it’s all self-explanatory. The hat is just a square piece and a rectangle piece. The eyes look a little odd in the photo, but I covered them with the Dazzling Details and they look cool in actuality.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to give me a gift, just to get such a cute thank you note?

Hope your last week before Christmas is smooth sailing and filled with joy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rainbows for Our Sunshine

You cannot imagine how happy I became today when a plan finally came together, after the week I’ve had. My first kid is eight today. I know, where has the time gone? I can’t believe he’s that old, yada, yada, yada. I’m a mom, I have those thoughts. However, any sadness is quickly replaced by, “Wahoo…what kind of cake can I make?!!!”

1-jar The boy loves rainbows. Always has. So when I saw these jar cakes online, I knew I had to try it. The Family Kitchen blog has great instructions, but you basically make a white cake mix, divide into 5 parts, tint with Neon Food Color, and layer. Put them in about 1/2” water in a baking pan. Bake for about 35-40 min at 350. Voila. Super easy, took an hour from start to finish to mix and bake. Another ten minutes this afternoon to frost. And a trip to town to buy ice cream because of course we were out of vanilla.

The ones I saw filled the entire jar, but I’m planning to serve a scoop of ice cream on top of mine. We’re having a Pizza and Polar Express movie night for his birthday, so I thought it possibly would be neater if they ate directly from the jars. Plus, I think kids will think they’re cool. I do. And, as I’ve established before on this blog, that’s what it’s all about. Me and my opinions.

all-jars One cake mix made 8 pint, wide mouth jars. As you can see, they’re about half full.After they cooled, I put frosting in a ziploc, cut the corner off, and piped it in neatly. Or semi-neatly. Then I used the back of a spoon to smooth it out.

I’m pretty sure the birthday boy will dig them.

Enjoy the weekend, if you wanna.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In Need of a Little Comfort

So here are some things that have happened in the last three days:

1. Two days before we left Washington, our then-four-year-old was riding his bike and holding a stick and scratched a neighbors car. Through the paint, from front to back. Accident? You be the judge. Anyway, they just got the estimate to fix it. Ranges from $900 to $1400. Merry Christmas, you little hooligan.

2. I forgot my Costco card and didn’t realize it until I got there. The nice folks there finally found our member info and gave me a temporary pass. I used it to buy orange juice, among other things. When I was carrying the box with 4 half-gallon cartons into the house, one valve started leaking and dripped OJ through the garage, across the kitchen, down my pants leg, and onto my new pale tan suede Dansko clogs. Thank goodness for baby wipes.

3. I had two hours alone to go to the Scholastic Warehouse sale today. Finally. I got there, shopped for 10 minutes, and the fire alarm went off so we had to evacuate the building. No fire, but the firetrucks had to come verify, so we were out in our cars for about 30 minutes. Did some speed shopping afterward and got amazing deals, but still.

4. Dropped my favorite coffee mug and broke it on the way in from the car. The one that is ginormous and says “Keep Calm and Carry On.” There’s some irony for you.

Bear in mind this is but a small sample of my week. Thus, I need comfort food. My mom’s beef stew and pub bread, to be exact.


First, the stew. This is an approximation, as my mom made it a little differently each time and so do I.

Beef Stew

2 lbs round steak, cut in 1” cubes
4 Tbsp flour, sprinkled on meat
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Throw it all in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you like your stew soupier, add another can of beef broth. Or anything else you's adaptable!

Pub Bread

This is great if you’re feeling the need to work out some aggression. Or knead, I should say. Start this about 3 hours before you want to serve it. It makes two loaves and freezes well, so it's a great rainy or snowy day project. It's really only about 20-25 minutes hands-on time, but the rising requires some patience!

1 bottle dark beer
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter (unsalted and softened)
1 package dry yeast ( 2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 cup very warm water
5-6 cups flour

In small saucepan, heat beer to boiling. In large bowl, combine oatmeal, salt, butter, molasses and hot beer. Let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in water and add to oatmeal mixture. Stir to blend, then stir in flour, 2 cups at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Turn dough onto well-floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about an hour, until doubled. I preheat my oven to 175, then turn it off before starting the dough. Then I set my bowl in there to rise.

Punch dough down, shape into loaves, and place in 2 ungreased loaf pans. Cover and again let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 (remove the loaves if they’re rising in there!). Bake 30-45 minutes, until loaves sound hollow when tapped on top and the sides start to pull away from the pan. Remove from oven and cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Smother it with butter while a little warm and enjoy!

I’ve also shaped this into rolls and baked them to cut down on cooking time. They were yummy.

I hope you’re not in need of comfort, but if you are, this is a great meal!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wrap It Up

So you’ve been a busy little elf, making all sorts of treats and crafts for Christmas. Now how to wrap them? You don’t want to just throw them in any old container. Really, you don’t! You want your friends and family to say, “I hate to open such a lovely package…but I know what’s inside will be even better than the wrapping!”

Here are a couple of quick ideas for fancying up whatever you’re giving. I owe credit for both of them to my friend Kendra who showed me how to make these about 5 years ago…but they’ve stood the test of time in my wrapping arsenal!

wine-tagGussy up your hostess gift with a quick snowglobe shaker tag. This snowglobe stamp from Stampin’ Up! is sold individually and so versatile. The “globe” is also from SU! and is called a round treat cup. It perfectly fits the 1 3/4” punch. I colored the stamp with inks and stamped it, then stamped the base in Always Artichoke on white cardstock. I cut it out and popped it up on Dimensionals. For the collar around the bottle, I punched a 1 3/4” circle from Cherry Cobbler paper, then used the 2 3/8” Scallop Circle to punch out the collar. I dotted it with glitter glue.


This is a simple little gift bag you can customize for any occasion. I think it has a name, but I can’t remember it. The front and bag are just an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of cardstock, cut in half (8 1/2” x 5 1/2”), then embellished however you please.

side-bagThe bag portion is just a paper lunch bag. How clever is that? Just cut off the top to leave a bag 6” tall. Glue the front and bag on, then use an XL Oval punch to make the handle.

We’re using these for our granola teacher gifts, I think. How many ways can you think of to use this idea? Thanks, Kendra!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet Dream Butterflies

I wanted to make something crafty for each of the kids this Christmas. Here’s Princess Thundercloud’s gift:


I saw something similar at Pottery Barn Kids quite awhile ago, but didn’t wanted to pay their price for it. This cost about $5 to make, and it took about 2 hours total work time, over a day or so. She only naps an hour a day, so I had to do it in shifts!


I first cut out a ton of butterflies using both my Stampin’ Up! Big Shot and the Beautiful Butterflies die and their Butterfly punch/ Actually, my husband and boys used the punch, so they could claim credit for making her a gift.


I used Stampin’ Up!’s Kaleidoscope DSP, which is retired. I wanted double-sided so I didn’t have to glue the butterflies back-to-back.


Then I laid them “randomly” in about 2 1/2’ long columns. Okay, you know me, it wasn’t really random at all. I made a pattern, staggering it in each column. Then I put a dot of Crystal Effects (also Stampin’ Up!) in the center of each. I cut monofilament cord (the kind I use for jewelry making, but fishing string would work, too) about 3 feet long and taped each end. Then I nudged the butterflies over so the glue was embedded in the string. It really was easy. The glue sets after a few minutes, so the string stuck readily.


I made 11 strings to go around a 14 inch embroidery hoop.

tapedWhen the butterflies were dry, I wrapped each string around the inner hoop a couple of times and taped them. Then I put a bead of glue around the inside of the outer hoop and tightened it onto the inner hoop. My husband had to help with that, since it was a little hard to balance. I didn’t want to lay the strings down, as they tangle easily.

I let that dry overnight, hanging in the basement. Then I tied ribbon on to hang it and glued butterflies all around the outside of the hoop. And ta-da! It’s done. I put it back on a hook in the basement until Christmas, again because the strings tangle and I didn’t want to spend Christmas Day freeing butterflies.

I like it better than PB Kids’, because theirs was a solid color. Light pink or white, I think. This is much more fitting for my wild little three-year-old.

My husband was really impressed, too. In fact, his exact words were, “Wow…I’m surprised that turned out so great!” Really, after knowing me for over 25 years, he’s still surprised when an idea works out the way I thought it would?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Enjoying the Season


I admit it…I’m a person who loves all that is Christmas, even the hustle and bustle to get everything done. This weekend, after the cookie swap (which was extremely fun!) we went to Mass then to some drive-through lights in Pewaukee. They were lovely, of course, and at the end we went inside to see model trains (which the kids loved) and a life-size Nativity that’s a replica of that at the Vatican. What a fun evening! Even though the middle hooligan was crying by the time we got home because he said he was so tired. It was 8:00…not like we’re keeping him out clubbing all night!

Then on Sunday we had breakfast with Santa at the YMCA. What a wonderful Santa experience! Only 25 people at each seating, so there were only 4 or 5 families there for an entire hour. After eating, the kids to chat with Santa to their heart’s content. I have to say, I really don’t like people in costumes. My mom took me to see Santa once in Tulsa when I was 2 or 3, and, after standing in line forever, when our turn came, I refused to do anything other than scream. So it’s totally outside my comfort zone to be in the same room as Santa, even today. My hooligans should be grateful I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone. I did require a large amount of coffee to shore up my courage, though.

I’ve totally digressed from the purpose of my post today…some holiday appetizer recipes. Unfortunately, I have no photos, since I was too busy eating these snacks I served at my cookie swap. They’re simple, tasty, and I really need to make them all year ‘round!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

1 pkg whole dates, pitted
48 almonds (or so)
1 lb center cut bacon, cut into thirds

Ready? Stuff an almond into each date and place on a wire rack inside a jelly roll pan. I line mine with foil so I don’t have to wash it. Wrap a piece of bacon around each and secure with a toothpick. Place back on wire rack and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until bacon is done.

Jezebel Sauce

16 oz apple jelly
16 oz pineapple preserves (sometimes I can only find apricot-pineapple, which is fine)
4 oz horseradish
1 oz dry mustard
2 Tbsp black pepper

Stir together all ingredients and chill until serving. This keeps in the frig for a few weeks.

I serve it over cream cheese with crackers, or make little sandwiches with biscuits or rolls, ham, cream cheese, and Jezebel sauce.

When I was a caterer, soldiers always called this the Sauce That Rocks. Try it. It truly does rock.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Tub of Chive Cream Cheese
8 oz whole mushrooms

Take the stems out of the mushrooms to make a little well. Using a small spoon, fill them with a rounded amount of cream cheese. Place in baking dish and back at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until browned.

When I was in college in Colorado, our favorite pizza place up in the mountains served these as an appetizer…I’ve been addicted ever since!

Roasted Pecans

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke
1 lb pecan halves

Mix all except pecans, then toss with pecans to coat. Spread on jellyroll pan and bake at 300 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes, for 45 minutes or so.

These taste amazing, and they fill our house with amazing aroma, too. I’m pretty sure these are how my mom talked my dad into adding onto our house when I was little. He couldn’t resist roasted pecans. Of course, those pecans came from our own trees and we all helped harvest them. My dad would shell pound after pound every night while watching sports, and he extolled their virtues as The Perfect Food. Now as I pay almost $10 a pound for them, I wish I were a little closer to Oklahoma and the pecan bottom. (That’s what the grove is called, not what you end up with from eating The Perfect Food!)

Enjoy your season, if that’s what you choose to do! Princess Thundercloud and I are off to pick up our Christmas photos, and then maybe we’ll do a little snow dance to try to get a white Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cookies for Swappin’

I’m hosting a cookie exchange tomorrow, and of course I couldn’t decide on one kind of cookie to make. So I made two kinds. Thus far. I may make some meringues with chocolate chunks and cherries in them. You know that means it’ll be midnight and I’ll still be awake, baking. That’s just how I roll.cookie-helper She looks as though she thinks she actually helped in some way other than tasting, doesn’t she? The only other assistance she gave was to yell out the plot points from Sleeping Beauty, which she was watching in the living room while I baked. Well, she did hold the plate while I took the photos, too. She deserves a cookie or three. Which she had.


I had a hankering for chocolate and peppermint, with some buttercream frosting thrown in for good measure. These are chewy cookies, so it’s an amazing texture difference in the components. I think they would be okay with actual candy canes crushed on top, but I don’t like really crunchy candy in my cookies. That’s too much texture! These cookies turned out exactly as I had imagined them, and on the first try. Wa-hoo! I think I’ll have a cookie to celebrate. Here’s the recipe, so you can have your own little celebration.

Chocolate Peppermint Frosted Cookies (there’s a name that rolls off your tongue, right?)

1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup flour

For the frosting:

1/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp peppermint extract (optional if you don’t want a really strong mint flavor)

Andes Peppermint baking chips

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg, cocoa, extract, and salt and combine well. Stir in flour until well blended. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. They’re pretty small, but the frosting and candy make them really rich, so small is fine. Plus, you can justify eating more small cookies. Dip the bottom of a juice glass in sugar and flatten them slightly. You don’t want your frosting to slide off, so you need a flat surface.

Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until set but not really firm. Cool on a wire rack, then frost and top with baking chips.

For frosting: Combine 1/4 cup butter, powdered sugar, extract, and milk to make spreading consistency. You’ll want it pretty thick. I put my baking chips on a saucer and gently dipped the frosted cookies into it instead of sprinkling the chips on.

Makes about 3 dozen.

The Viennese Almond Crescents are quite delicious, as well. They’re found in Cooking Light's 100 Best Cookies list. I’ve been testing them periodically all day, and they are remaining delectable. Hopefully I’ll have enough left for the swap tomorrow!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Of Mice and (Snow) Men

bokeh-snowman And the fun continues….today I went to the kindergarten class to help with centers and read a book for storytime. We read The Snowman Band of Snowboggle Bend. Then the Star Student passed out packets of Snowman Soup for his classmates to take home. I’m pretty sure they’ll all eat the Peep and the candy cane on the bus, then dump the hot chocolate powder in their mouths. Oh, well, I can say I tried, at least!

snowman-soupI used my Big Shot to cut out the toppers, but when we make these in a couple of weeks for the 2nd grade, I think a 4 1/4” x 5 1/2” piece of cardstock will be perfect. The clipart poem I found online at Designs with Heart. The small cellophane bags are Stampin’ Up! and I just stapled them shut. You could do more, if you wish.


We made these candy cane mice for a treat earlier in the week. Of course, these never made it home…they inhaled the candy canes as soon as they received them. Again, I tried.

I’ve been making these for years, ever since I saw them in Martha Stewart Living. I used to make hobby horses that slid onto a candy cane, but these are much faster…the whole family (except Princess Thundercloud) helped cut them out, so it took no time at all. You can find the instructions here..

So there ya go…nothing original today, but some super cute projects for kids’ classes. If you want original, you may have to wait until after the holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dolphins in the Snow

My boys’ school mascot is a dolphin. Of course it is. What else would it be here in the middle of rural Wisconsin? Anyhoo, I found a very cool dolphin stamp in a small local store this fall and grabbed it, knowing I could find something to do with it for teachers.

dolphin-ornamentI wanted an ornament to tie on the homemade granola we’re giving as teacher gifts this year, and wanted to use that stamp. I think they’re super cool, and my kids love them, of course. The drawback here is that plastic ornaments have WAY too much static cling for the glitter, so I had to use glass. Hopefully they’ll make it to school without breaking. Perhaps I better help deliver them. And, by the way, if a school can have a dolphin mascot and think it's appropriate 2000 miles from the ocean, then I can certainly use it in a Christmas decoration!

To make these, stamp your image using Stazon ink on transparency film. Cut out a circle the same diameter as your ornament, centering your stamped image. Roll the circle into a tight tube and slide it into the neck of the ornament. I used the flattened circle ornaments rather than just spheres. The transparency is a little more stable that way and doesn’t shift around as much. Can you tell I’ve tried way too many times to get these things to work? But it was fun experimenting. I rolled up a paper into a funnel with a very small opening and taped it, then used that to pour some glitter in front and behind the transparency. I used white and blue glitter, since the school colors are blue, gray, and white.

Then I just replaced the ornament cap and tied on a stamped tag, jingle bell, and ribbon using silver elastic cord. I also wrote “2011” using a silver Sharpie, but it’s hard to see in the photo.

The granola recipe we use I found in Rachel Ray’s magazine last Christmas. It received rave reviews from everyone we gifted it to last year, and the kids really liked helping make it.

Berry Christmas Granola Recipe - Every Day with Rachael Ray

For now, it's back to the giftwrapping coal mine for me. There's an end in sight. I hope and pray.

A Not-Christmas Card

After spending the majority of my day yesterday wrapping Christmas and birthday gifts, I felt the need to make something non-Christmas related. I came up with this card, using a stamp set that has not seen anywhere near enough ink. I really need to use it more…when I was a coffee-guzzling Northwesterner, I HAD to have a coffee stamp set. Here in Wisconsin, I still drink coffee, but it’s from my Keurig, not one of a thousand coffee huts. Perhaps some of you are in the same boat. Here’s a card for you, if so!


All Stampin’ Up!: Morning Cup and Curly Cute stamp sets
Tempting Turquoise, Tangerine Tango, and Whisper White Cardstock
Tempting Turquoise, Tangerine Tango, and Basic Gray markers
Scallop Edge Border, Scallop Trim Border, XL Oval, and Designer Label Punches

Inside, I put a piece of turquoise cardstock, 3x3, adhered on 3 sides, then slipped a teabag into it. Not only am I thinking of you, I’m sending you the means to make a tasty hot beverage. That’s how thoughtful I am. You could also put some of those little Starbucks Via instant coffee packets in, if you’re so inclined. Oh, and I have no idea what DSP pack the gray striped paper came from…but I’m sure you’re creative enough to improvise!

By the way, several of you have asked for the Manners subway sign I made. I’d be happy to give it to you, but it’s 10 megapixels, so I can’t figure out how to post it. Any suggestions? The limiting factor is that my internet sucks. I only have a wireless hotspot, no actual cable into the house. So it’s intermittently connected, on a good day. Some days I can’t hold a connection at all. So I’d appreciate any help anyone can provide!

I’m adding this 12 hours later….

See what I mean…I was unable to connect all afternoon and evening last night, so this post which I wrote yesterday afternoon was not even posted. ARGH!!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Very Favorite Cranberry Recipe

My kindergartener is the “Star Student” this week, which means he gets to take a show and tell everyday, we filled out a little book all about him to share, and he can take special treats for the class each day. Needless to say, I’m happy that I finished almost all my holiday preparations last week. Anyway, we (and by that I mean “I” of course) needed to think of a clever treat for each day.

Today he took rainbow goldfish for his treat, because the box said it had “Finn Smiles” in it. His show and tell was the Matchbox HEMITT that St. Nicholas brought him last night. Tomorrow he wants to take his favorite fruit for a snack, and this is how you make it.


Sugared Cranberries

These are THE BEST little snack. They’re best when really cold, though, so you have this amazing little explosion of sweet, tart, a little crunchy, and juicy.

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
12 oz. fresh cranberries
3/4 cup superfine sugar

soaking Combine the water and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. If you accidentally bring it to a boil, let it cool a little before you put the berries in. When the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is hot, but not boiling, add the cranberries. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. I usually do this in the morning and let them soak all day.

tossed Drain the berries (save the syrup for making yummy cranberry mojitos!) and toss with superfine sugar to cover them.

drying Spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Dry at room temp or in the refrigerator for at least an hour. When they’re dry, you can keep them covered in the refrigerator for a week or so. Actually, I’m not sure about that, since ours disappear in a day or two. Or less.

I know they sound a little odd, but we love these at our house. Last year we took them to the preschool Christmas party and almost started a riot, all the kids loved them so much. They require very little hands-on work time, but you do need to make them at least 12 hours before you need them. And believe me, you NEED these!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Subways in Rural Wisconsin

I’m a little obsessed with subway signs. Not real ones, but the facsimiles that are popping up all over the place. You've probably seen these...I even saw one on "Psych" in the police station this week. Yes, I spend way too much time watching mindless TV. But the police may need my help solving a crime someday and I'll be prepared, thanks to all the police shows I watch!

Create Subway Art

This was a free download I found. Cool, but not exactly what I wanted. You can find several examples for family, holidays, etc. online if you’re interested. Just Google “subway art” and add any other words like “family,” “advice,” “Christmas.”


I saw a similar manners one in a store when we were on a weekend escape, up in Door County. I then recreated it in Photoshop Elements and framed it for our kitchen. Maybe someday my hooligans will actually read and follow it. Probably not, but a mom can hope.

Then I wanted one for a specific gift for Christmas, so I had to design it myself. I used some digital scrapbooking quotes from Katie Pertiet at and some other quotes I found at When you buy digi files, you’re allowed to use them for personal use only, not commercial purposes. So I’m breaking no laws here, people!

subway-tray I painted a plain wood tray from the craft store with chalkboard paint, because I wanted it to be flat black. Then I just printed our the subway sign and put it in the bottom. When my GI Joe gets home, he’s going to cut a piece of plexiglass to fit over it, to protect against spills.

I know, I could cut it myself…I’m the one who uses the glass and tile cutter in home renovations, after all. But I’m supposed to be decorating for Christmas today, so I’ll let him do it and feel like he’s made an actual gift.

Hope you have a fun and creative weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting a (Little) Fancy with Paper

You can only make so many Christmas cards before you burn out. Then I have to make something 3D and cute to reboot my card-making brain. Here are two quick ideas, if you need a little gift for someone…

votive Now that you can buy those LED tealights just about anywhere, I don’t worry about setting a paper votive holder aflame. I’m sure it can be done, especially in our house, but I don’t worry about it. To make these, just cut a square of cardstock 3x3, score each side 1/2” in, cut one short score on each corner, and fold up and adhere to make the base. The sides are a piece of DSP, 2-1/2”x 10”. Score it at 2-3/8”, 4-3/4”, 7-1/4”, and 9-5/8”.

Punch out a shape such as an ornament, star, or circle and adhere vellum behind the paper. Fold it along scores amd adhere the little flap you have leftover to make a bottomless box. I put a strip of Sticky Strip along the top and glittered mine before making it a box. Embellish as you like, and just set the box into the base. There ya go! Make a cute little row of them for a windowsill, matching whatever decor you have going. And I told you to buy a Simply Scored, didn’t I?


These little note card or photo holders look cool grouped together, or use them to hold a recipe while you’re making it. Use the biggest binder clips you can find, cut a small strip of DSP and adhere it. Embellish, and it’s done.

We’re supposed to get a dusting of snow tonight…finally! Unfortunately, the front that’s bringing it is wreaking havoc on my head today, so I think I’ll go have a little nap before the hooligans’ bus arrives. Enjoy the rest of your December 1!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sparkly, Shiny Gifts

How did Christmas get so close? Ack! These are some sparkly necklaces I saw on Martha Stewart’s show back in September, at the time thought they'd make great gifts. I even ordered the supplies I needed. Then I forgot to make them.

They’re made with this amazing stuff called Wirelace. It’s a tube of super fine woven wire. You can order it at (where else would you get it?) and they’re superfast with delivery; I think it was less than 3 days until I received it.

trioYou can find the directions on Martha’s website, or at The nice people at Wirelace also included a copy with my order, which was nifty.

supplies 6 mm beads, in 3 graduated colors or 3 strands of the same

monofilament to string them on

1 yard of Wirelace

Size 9 and Size ginormous (15 or 17) knitting needles

Jewelry findings: cones, jump rings, lobster claw clasps

closed-wire-lace Restring the beads on monofilament. If you’re doing the ombre look, like the neutral one above, refer to Martha’s instructions for stringing. It’s a little tedious, but since I have about a dozen sappy Hallmark Christmas movies on my DVR, I don’t mind.

OPENING-UPUse the ginormous knitting needle to gently open up the wirelace all along its length.

READY-TO-THREADUse some sort of tape to secure the end of the monofilament to the smaller knitting needle. Be sure you cover the ends, as the wirelace will snag easily.

pulled-thruThread the needle with the bead strands attached through the wirelace….gently and without snagging. Center the bead strands in the wirelace and remove from knitting needle.

DSC_0012 Tie a knot at each end, making sure you catch all the monofilaments.

wire-loop Measure how long you want your necklace to be, and fold the wirelace there. Use a small wire loop to pull the wirelace through a jewelry cone.

clasp Attach a jump ring through the wirelace so it can’t slide back through the cone. Then attach a lobster claw clasp and you’re done…almost!

E6000 Cut off the excess wirelace…it cuts really easily with any scissors. Fill up the cone with some E600 or other handy dandy adhesive. Let it dry, and package it up prettily. Or hang it with your jewelry and enjoy wearing your creation!

If you get one of these from me for Christmas, act surprised! I’m not at all experienced with jewelry-making, but I think these turned out really well. Give it a try…it’s kind of addicting and pretty much instant gratification. It took a little less than an hour for each necklace, if you’re making a schedule!

And now I’m taking down my fall decorations and cleaning house in preparation for Christmas decorating. If I’m not mistaken, our Elf on the Shelf will be returning to our home tonight…if he’s not lost somewhere in the basement since our move! Wish me, I mean him, luck!