Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Day

Yep. I'm just now getting around to posting our Christmas pictures. Better late than never, right? :)

Santa came by and brought a few presents. The unwrapped ones are from him. Jer wanted the Toy Story scooter so much he asked for it in a letter and in person.

We kept telling him that if he was bad he would only get coal for Christmas. When he went to bed he told us to wake him up if we saw that Santa had brought presents. Then he added, "let me know too if you wake up and all the presents are gone." Apparently he thought that if he had been bad, not only would Santa bring him coal but he would take away all of the presents from Mommy and Daddy too!

When Jeremy saw that he stocking was the only one with presents in it he told Shelby and I that we must be on the naughty list!

While Santa was here he munched on the sugar cookies Jeremy left out for him. The reindeers enjoyed the reindeer treat we made for them (oatmeal and colored sugar). Santa liked it so much that he left a note!

When I told Jeremy that we were going to make reindeer food his response was, "but reindeer eat hay!" So I told him this wasn't their regular food, it was more of a special reindeer treat kind of like the dog treats we give Rogue. He seemed satisfied with that.

He really enjoyed listening as Shelby read the letter from Santa. That face just kills me! :)

This was when he discovered that Santa also brought the Hot Wheels that he asked for. When he didn't see them under the tree, he was sure that Santa had forgotten.

Then it was time to open the presents from Mommy and Daddy.

There were a couple in back that required some digging. I love his tighty whities poking out.

We received Nightmare Before Christmas Uno from Aunt Misty. He was so excited when he saw Jack The Pumpkin King.

For our advent calendar this year, I put a slip of paper in each pocket with a special Christmas activity written on each one. When he pulled out the one that said, "Watch a Christmas movie", his movie of choice was Nightmare Before Christmas. Crazy kid!

He also received the phone from Toy Story 3 from his Great-Grandma. He played with it all day! He would listen for his "mission" then run off to complete the task.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

This bread doesn't require any yeast (my favorite kind) and has a biscuit-like quality.

Irish Soda Bread
a modified version of this Taste of Home recipe

4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Shortening
1-1/4 cups Buttermilk
1 Egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in shortening, one small piece at a time, until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and egg; add to the crumb mixture. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 5-6 times.

Divide dough in half and shape into two balls. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Form each ball into a 6-inch round loaf. Using a sharp knife, cut a 4-inch cross about 1/4-inch deep on top of each loaf. Brush with butter. Bake at 375F for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 2 Loaves.

Delicious served with Beef and Ale Stew.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beef and Ale Stew

My husband actually made this one and it was amazing! Absolutely the best stew I've ever had. And it wasn't just because I didn't have to cook it. :)

Beef and Ale Stew
adapted from the amazing Jamie Oliver

2 Celery Stalks
2 Medium Onions
2 Carrots
3 Dried Bay Leaves
Olive Oil
1 pound Diced Stew Beef
1 heaped Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Guiness Draught
1 (14oz) can of Diced Tomatoes
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel the carrots, slice lengthways, and roughly chop. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Put all the vegetables and bay leaves into the pan with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes.

Add your beef and flour. Pour in the beer and tomatoes. Stir well, then season with a teaspoon of sea salt (less if using table salt) and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and simmer slowly for 2-1/2 hours. Remove the lid and cook for 30 minutes longer. Add water if it looks a bit dry.

Remove the bay leaves before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6

Served with Irish Soda Bread.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Decoupaged Helmet

This was a project that I did over two months ago and I am just now getting around to posting it because...well...I have no good excuse. Other than I'm a flakey loser. :p

It was a great project too! Because it involved an adorable baby boy...

This is my friend, Rachel's, baby boy, Ari. He has Plagiocephaly (aka Flat Head Syndrome) and has been wearing a cranio cap to treat it. You can read all about their experiences over here at Rachel's blog On Becoming Wise.

The plain white helmet wasn't doin it for the boy. On Rachel's blog she asked for suggestions on how to decorate it. Of course I suggested old school flash tattoos. She took all of the suggestions and put up a poll to help decide which one to use.

My husband and I may or may not have tampered with the results by convincing friends who have never even met Ari, to go and vote for the tattoos. I can't say for sure though. Bahaha!

Anywho...the tattoos won and since it was my suggestion Rachel asked if I could help out with it. Here is what we came up with:

He looks so badass! badass as an adorable little boy with chubby cheeks can possibly look. ;)

I didn't take any pictures during the process but it was just a basic decoupage. Drew and Rachel found some Sailor Jerry tattoo flash that they liked and I did a little photoshop editing to make the background white. Then I sized them, printed them out, and cut closely around the pictures.

Then I took some Mod Podge and watered it down just a bit so it would soak through the paper. Rachel decided which images she wanted to use and where she wanted them placed. I brushed a little of the Mod Podge mixture onto the back of the pictures and stuck them in place. A little more brushed on top of the pictures sealed them and gave them a slightly glossy finish. I let it dry and then applied another coat just to make sure it was sealed tight.

If your little one has a helmet in need of some decorating, decoupage is a great way to go since you can use any image that you want!

Almost done with the pictures. Sorry I just can't help it! I love pictures of babies with their mamas. :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Iced Dip Bowl

I'm always paranoid about keeping food the right temperature at parties. Not just because the food tastes better but because I would feel awful if anyone got food poisoning. I have a warming tray and mini crock pots for the hot foods but cold food is always a challenge.

For our Christmas party I made this ice bowl for the veggie dip. I thought some of you might be able to use it for a New Year's Eve party or other future event.

First, I found two bowls that were slightly different sizes. I filled the bottom one with about half an inch of water and froze it. Once solid, I set the smaller bowl on top of it and carefully poured water in between the two until it just about reach the rim. Then I placed them in the freezer. When it was time for the party I pulled them out and filled the smaller one with veggie dip. The ice kept the dip cold throughout the entire party!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Covered Pretzels

A Christmas classic! Covered pretzels are my favorite traditional Christmas treat. This is a little last minute but I'm sure most of you already know how to make these anyway. :)

Covered Pretzels

Twist Pretzels
Vanilla Flavored Almond Bark (in the baking aisle)

1. Break the almond bark along the lines and place in a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler you can use the trick that I did. Fill a Dutch oven or other large pot with water and bring to a boil. Place the bark in a two handled pot that is slightly smaller but large enough that the handles rest upon the rim of the larger pot and remains above the water line. Do this only if the handles of your pot are heat-proof. Otherwise the rim of the large pot could melt the handles of the smaller one.

If you don't have pans that would work for this, you can also melt it in the microwave. Just heat at low power and stir every 30 seconds to make sure it doesn't burn. If melted improperly, it will become dry and chunky.

Aaaaaanyway, using whichever method you choose, stir frequently and continue until it is completely melted.

2. Remove bark from heat. Toss a few pretzels in and coat.

3. Use tongs to remove each pretzel and shake off excess bark. You can also use a fork to remove the pretzel but you won't be able to shake off as much of the bark.

4. Place covered pretzels on sheets of waxed paper and leave until dry. If desired, you can decorate with sprinkles while the bark is still wet. You can also color some of the bark and drizzle over the top of the white bark.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Party Features

As you can tell by my posting this only two days before Christmas, I am still ridiculously behind on everything having to do with the blog. Hopefully some of you last-minute crafters can find some inspiration in these projects. Or you can file them away for next year like I am!

There are so many amazing projects linked up at the Christmas Party. Thank you all for linking up! Sorry I haven't been able to make the rounds and comment on all of them. I've been struggling to keep up with the blog while at the same time not letting it take over what should be quality family time during the holidays. You know how it goes.

Alright enough rambling. Here are a few more link party projects that I love!

This Sugar Cube Cottage from Humble Bee is a fun twist on the traditional gingerbread house.

This Placemat Casserole Dish Cover from Ceo A's Draiocht would be perfect for transporting food to holiday get togethers.

This Christmas Card Holder from Mom Endeavors is a great way to display and organize incoming cards and photos.

This Wine Cork Reindeer from Wood and Wine Club is adorable!

These Paper Ornaments from Smile Monsters are simply beautiful and vintage looking.

Thanks again for all of the inspiration! This Christmas I have been more into baking than crafting but with all of these awesome projects to inspire me maybe I will get more into the crafting next Christmas.

If your project was featured, feel free to grab a button over here.

P.S. I want to give a big thanks to Revamped French Maison for highlighting my Peppermint Wreath!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Party!

We had our Christmas party on Saturday and I've had requests to post pictures of the party and the food so here you go! :)

I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of our Christmas decor at night so here are a couple of shots of the living room.

And the food...

On the menu:
Broccoli Cheese Dip with Wheat Thins
Cheese and Cracker Platter
Veggies with Dip
Chocolate Lush

Pretzels covered in Almond Bark
Rice Crispy Treats
Cookies and Cream Bark

Cranberry Lime Punch - Equal parts Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash and Minute Maid Limeade.

The cookie decorating table. Last year I made gingerbread houses but they were too soft and kept collapsing. This year I decided to go the easy route and made cookies in the shape of houses instead. It worked great.

The only problem was my tried-and-true gingerbread recipe that somehow tasted more like a molasses cookie. There's always something that goes wrong. :)

Even though they didn't taste as good as usual, everyone still had fun decorating them.

We also had a gift exchange. People who wanted to participate brought something valued under $5 and we drew numbers to see who got to pick first. In previous years we would open the gifts as we went and the person who had the next number could either pick a gift from the pile or steal one that had already been opened.

This year we decided to switch things up a bit. You could still steal gifts but this time they stayed wrapped so you had to choose based on how pretty the wrapping was or shaking and feeling it to try to guess what it was.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cappuccino Truffles

Any coffee lovers out there? This recipe is for you!

Cappuccino Truffles
adapted from Taste of Home

1 Tablespoon Boiling Water
2 teaspoons Instant Coffee Granules
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/3 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
6oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons Butter, softened
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the water, coffee and 1 tsp Cinnamon; set aside. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Remove from heat; whisk in chocolate and butter until smooth. Stir in coffee mixture. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1-1/2 tsp Cinnamon. Shape chocolate into 1-inch balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until firm.

Makes 18 Truffles.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peppermint Wreath

I made one of these last year inspired by Martha Stewart's Halloween wreath. She didn't have a very detailed tutorial though so this year I made another one and took pictures of each step.

8" Metal Hoop $1.29 (JoAnn Fabric)
2 lbs of Starlight Mints $2 (Dollar Tree)
Embroidery Thread $.25 (JoAnn Fabric)*

1. Cut about a four foot piece of embroidery thread. Tie the middle of the thread to the metal hoop so that you have two equal lengths of thread.

*You may notice that some of the pictures show regular sewing thread instead of embroidery thread. I started out trying it with regular thread but it breaks easily and the candies kept slipping out of the knots. Embroidery thread works much better.

2. Make a knot but don't tighten all the way.

3. Place the end wrapper of three candies in the loop you made in the last step and tighten the knot. Tie a second knot to secure. Then, tie another knot around the hoop.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have used all of the candy and your wreath is full. If you run out of thread, just add a new piece the same way you did in step 1.

5. To hang, I tied on a piece of thick ribbon from the wedding section at Dollar Tree.

Hopefully that makes sense. :) Let me know if there are any steps that could use clarification.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies

My husband loves my sugar cookie recipe but rolled cookies are so time consuming that I don't make them very often. I'm not a big fan of store bought slice and bake cookies though so I came up with a way to use this same method but with my own recipe!

After making the dough, instead of putting it in the refrigerator to firm, I separate it into two halves and place each on a sheet of waxed paper. Form each one into a log shape and roll the waxed paper around it. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Open up the waxed paper and cut 1/4-inch slices.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake as usual! Another bonus of doing it this way is that I can bake one half of the dough and save the other half for another time.

Sugar Cookies

1-1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Shortening (no substitutes)
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Pancake Syrup
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Place sugar and shortening in large bowl. Beat a medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, syrup, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until well blended and fluffy.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add gradually to shortening mixture, beating at low speed until well blended.

FOR SLICE AND BAKE COOKIES: Divide dough into two halves and place each half on a sheet of waxed paper or freezer paper. Form each into a log shape approximately 2-inches wide and 12-inches long. Wrap remaining paper around each and freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. Cut into 1/4-inch slices.

FOR ROLLED COOKIES: Divide dough into four equal pieces; shape each piece into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or until firm and easy to work with. On floured surface, roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut to desired shape. Do not roll scraps more than twice.

Bake one cookie sheet at a time at 375F for 5-7 minutes or until just the edges of cookies are lightly browned. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Remove cookies to foil to cool completely.

Makes 4 Dozen.

Additional Tips:
FREEZE dough for up to 1 month. If frozen dough is too hard, thaw in the refrigerator until each to work with.
STORE baked cookies in an airtight container or ziploc bag. To keep cookies soft, place a piece of bread in the container. Do not let the bread touch any of the cookies or they will become too soft and soggy.


Powdered Sugar
Almond Extract

Put 1 cup or so of powdered sugar in a small bowl. Gradually add milk until icing reaches your desired consistency. Add a tiny splash of almond extract to give it a little flavor. If the icing is too runny (like mine was in the picture above) place it in the refrigerator until firm.

Then frost your cooled cookies and decorate all nice and pretty...or let a four-year-old do the work for you like I did. ;-)