Saturday, December 27, 2008


Just a quick note coming at you from Washington DC! I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukah... whatever you may celebrate this time of year. Enjoy the special times with friends, family, and loved ones! I know we are. :0) I'm busy visiting the in-laws and enjoying the sites and sounds of DC for the first time. So, I'll be taking a short break until after we get home Jan 2nd. By then, I'll be back with plenty of exciting things to share! ;0) And, I hope to have a chance to get back to my regularly scheduled blog visits. Until then, best wishes for a happy New Year, and an exciting New Year's Eve!


Friday, December 19, 2008

The marshmallow incident

So, I had this brilliant little idea to make homemade treats for all of the neighbors and Hazel's cheerleading coaches. The theme? Peppermint. Chocolate peppermint cookies, chocolate peppermint truffles, peppermint marshmallows, and peppermint taffy (the only thing that was store-bought). I even bought the pretty little red and white bakery boxes from Martha Stewart. Red, white, pepperminty... a perfect set of Christmas treats!

The cookies went off without a hitch. I had some trouble even finding the taffy at stores this year. The truffles? A lot messier than I thought, but delicious. The marshmallows? Ah, the marshmallows. Now, those are a different story entirely. I had a recipe from last year's Martha Stewart Christmas magazine. It sounded easy enough. Ha ha ha. Not so easy after all. Well, to be fair, it wasn't that they were all that difficult to make... it was just that the recipe left out a couple of really HELPFUL hints. So, how about an edited version so you don't have the same issues that I did... sloppy candy goo overflowing all over you flat-top cooking range. You don't even want to know how long that took to clean up! And, let's not forget that the Martha recipe left out the fact that to achieve a look of anything other than a slick, shiny, jiggly mass after the marshmallows have set... you need to lightly dust them with powdered sugar. Fortunately, they still turned out and were DELICIOUS! And, after a dusting of powdered sugar, they looked pretty too!

*** Okay, all my mixed-feelings about this recipe aside, Martha rocks because, as I was typing this, I just received her daily Christmas Workshop newsletter in my inbox. And, guess what? She featured my little house ornaments that I made for the LT swap in today's newsletter! Squee!!!!! Yup. Martha rocks!*** Here's what the e-mail looks like:

So anyway... back to the marshmallows. What you'll need (in addition to an 8" square pan, candy thermometer, parchment paper, and a couple other common kitchen tools):

* Vegetable-oil cooking spray
* 2 C sugar
* 1 Tbs light corn syrup
* 4 pkgs. (1/4 oz. each) unflavored gelatin
* 1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
* 2 lg. eggs
* Red food coloring
*Powdered sugar for dusting

Coat an 8" square baking w/ cooking spray. Line bottom of pan w/ parchment paper, then also coat parchment paper w/ cooking spray; set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 C water into a med. saucepan. Cook over med. heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. (Don't get discouraged, it DOES take a while). Continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. (Again, this takes quite a while longer than I thought, so don't give up.) Raise heat to med-high; cook until mixture comes to a boil. Raise heat to med-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Another step that was quite the wait).

Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 C water in a heat-proof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set over a pan of simmering water; whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat & stir in peppermint extract; set aside.

Put egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted w/ the whisk attachment; beat on high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. I think this took about 5 or so minutes.

***Here's the part where it all went wrong*** DO NOT (I don't care what the recipe says) mix the gelatin into the sugar mixture while still on the stove. It will IMMEDIATELY boil completely over the pot. Trust me, you don't want to clean up that gooey, cooked-on mess. INSTEAD, add the gelatin directly to the electric mixer, followed by the sugar mixture. Beat on high speed until very thick. This took about 12-15 minutes.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Working quickly (and I ain't lying when I say QUICKLY), drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallows (I used 9 drops). Use a toothpick to quickly swirl food coloring into marshmallows to create a marbleized effect. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature at least 3 hours or overnight (I let it sit overnight).

Once you're ready to cut it up, dust the top of marshmallows lightly with powdered sugar. Turn pan out onto waxed paper; dust opposite side with powdered sugar. Cut into 2" squares. Place a small amount of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl, and dip all 4 edges of marshmallow in the sugar. Voila! Yummy, yummy peppermint marshmallows (without the totally disasterous mess I encountered... hopefully.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hello. Hello.

Well, I didn't mean to be away that long. I've actually had quite a bit to share over the last few days. But, as you know... the holidays seem to keep us all quite busy. Computer work has been on the bottom of the to-do list for quite a while. To be honest... so has creating. But, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. All of the family presents have been wrapped, and are in the mail (as of this afternoon). The shopping is done. The doll house is well on its way to completion (thank heavens). So, why do I still feel so overwhelmed? Probably because I had planned on being done with all of my deadlines and obligations by yesterday so that I could officially enjoy the last week and a half before Christmas. As it is, I'll be lucky if I can get everything done by Saturday and enjoy the last 4 days before Santa arrives.

There are still Label Tulip projects to be made... thanks to the sucky USPS for losing my first package from LT. I still have projects to make with my goodies from Sketchbook Designs. There is baking to be done, presents to be wrapped, packing to be done (we're going to DC after Christmas). Whew! I'm exhausted just thinking about it, and I'm sure there are still some things I left off of that list.

On a happier note, I got a huge shipment of goodies from Chatterbox! Seriously. Huge. The box stood about half-way up my thigh and weighed over 50 lbs! I've never worked for such a generous company. Here are a few peeks at the contents. Although, it is impossible to grasp how much product there really was... at least 3 of everything they made! These pictures certainly don't do the stash justice!

Now, what to do with all of that delicious product? To spite how busy everything has been, I had to take some time out this weekend to play! So, how about a quick little project idea? Marie from Sketchbook Designs included this cute little 6x6 white acrylic mini-book in my box of stuff to play with. And, I had some 6x6 pockets lying around from sarabinders. These are the particular pockets I used for this project. And, ya' know what those pockets are perfect for? Holding CD's. So, I made a little storage album to put all of my CD's full of family pictures after I download them to my computer and burn them off.

And I swear, the new "Together" line from Chatterbox was made just perfectly for a project like this! The line includes cardstock labels, stickers, numbers and date embellishments... among lots of other stuff. It coordinates with all of the Willow, Peacock Ruby and Chocolate embellishments and alphas from the artsy.liscious line. Love those colors! Here's what the inside pockets look like:

Well, that's all I have for today. Now, if you'll excuse me... I have some cookies to bake, and a pile of Label Tulip stuff to start on. I'll be back later with some peeks. By the way, the LT gallery will be posted later this month on Dec 20th at 6pm PST. I'm not the only one of the girls that had issues with their package arriving. So, stay tuned for a couple of peeks this week and the full reveal on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

For the birds...

Here's a fun little activity to keep the kids busy during Christmas break. And, something to keep them from asking "How much longer until Santa comes?" for at least an hour. Handmade treats for your feathered friends outdoors...

You'll need:

* Several slices of bread
* Holiday cookie cutters (we used snowflakes)
* A plastic straw
* Baker's twine
* Peanut butter
* Mixed bird seed

Step 1:

Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from your bread slices:

Step 2:

Use the straw to poke a hole at the top of the shaped bread. This will be where you tie the twine through for hanging.

**After Step 2, you must allow the bread to sit out for several hours until it hardens (I left it out overnight and started Step 3 the next morning).

Step 3:

Tie the twine through the hole, and coat each shape with peanut butter.

Step 4:

Once all the "ornaments" are coated in peanut butter, dip them in the birdseed. I feed birds regularly throughout the year, and always keep a supply of seed in a large plastic tub. I just dipped the ornaments directly into the tub. You could also pour some seed onto a plate, and work from there. Gently press the ornament into the seed until it is completed covered.

Step 5:

Hang from tree for the birds to enjoy!

Voila! A fun activity that will keep your kids busy for a little while during those long days of Christmas break!

Monday, December 8, 2008

My fingers hate me!

All because of this little project that I just HAD to do...

I took an antique soda crate (Coca Cola, of course), and used it to showcase my collection of vintage Shiny Brite ornaments. You have no idea how difficult it was to get those eye hooks screwed into each one of those little compartments. I thought I would be able to pull out the divider slats, and work on them outside of the crate. Or not. I had to cram my fingers in there, and work inside those itty bitty spaces. My poor fingertips are bruised and sore from pushing and screwing those darn eye hooks into that wood. But, about 2 hours later, I ended up with that nifty little display! I have big plans for this little holiday vignette area in the years to come. This year, however, I'm just a little too much "bah-humbug" to put a lot of effort into it. Plus, I am in dire need of some major flea marketing to complete my projects. On the list: vintage candlesticks (to mount my collection of vintage tree toppers on... a couple are on top of the crate here), ornate frames for a wall-hanging involving some gorgeous vintage light reflectors I just snagged, 3-D papier mache letters for the same wall hanging, and some vintage alphabet building blocks to adorn the top of the crate and spell out something Christmasy. Well, at least I know I have some projects to keep me busy while Bryan is deployed next year.

We spent most of this weekend at Hazel's first cheerleading competition (that's her on the top)...

So precious! And, she had the best time! Her team was champions of the "Tiny" division (it helps when you're the only team competing in your age group...LOL!). But, look at that trophy... it's almost bigger than she is!

That pretty much took up the whole weekend. Well, that and some outdoor decorating and serious dollhouse building. What did your weekend hold in store? I'll be back later with some updates from my December Daily album. Amazingly, I'm keeping on top of it... sort of.

Friday, December 5, 2008

*stuff it*

So, I've finally got my Christmas cards done. Well, some of them anyway. I've got to tell you... I LOVE these snowflakes from Sketchbook Designs! Marie sent me so much awesome product to work with, but I just can't put these snowflakes away. There are so many possibilities... cover them in glass glitter (like on the "Noel" card), add little rhinestones, or just use them in all their beautiful simplicity! The fabulous mirrored letters on the 2nd "let It Snow" card are also from Sketchbook Designs... so pretty!

So, now that I have cards, I need some pictures to stuff them with. Hazel, by herself (even with the dog), takes a pretty cute pic...

But, add Luka AND the dog into the mix? Forget about it! Even Luka and Hazel by themselves ends in a lot of botched pictures. I got two that are pretty darn cute...

I'm having a hard time deciding which one to use in the Christmas cards. As cute as the kissing one is, I think my family would appreciate the one where they can see their faces and how they've grown. I just wish Luka would smile more in pictures, rather than that blank expression. So, which picture do you think I should use?

On to Friday Fill-Ins...

1. Snow. I miss it. It just doesn't feel like Christmas without it.

2. I'm looking forward to Hazel's cheerleading competition tomorrow.

3. Orville Redenbacher's Cracked Pepper Natural Popcorn is the best popcorn ever! I'm sooo... addicted!

4. One of my favorite old tv shows is Designing Women. I know. Embarrassing, right?

5. I'm done with quite a bit of my to-do list for this week. Finally!

6. The most enjoyable thing around the holidays is the food. Food, glorious food! I'll be starting my diet on Jan 1st.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a lot, tomorrow my plans include Hazel's cheerleading competition and building her dollhouse for Christmas and Sunday, I want to put up our outside Christmas lights!

That's it. Happy Friday peeps!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Dear December,

How did you manage to sneak up on me this year? I swear, last week June and I were kickin' it. But, now I'm trying to get acquainted with these frosty mornings where you can see your breath lingering in the air. How is it possible that the summer sun has already gone on vacay? Don't get me wrong, I love the chilly temperatures that you bring with you. I love the mornings filled with hot chocolate, knit slippers, and Christmas music floating happily about my living room. Hey, I know that you can't turn back the clock, but could you at least slow down a little bit? I am not in the holiday spirit. I need more time. I'm just not feeling ya' yet, December. So, don't you dare go thinking that you can fast forward to Christmas day in the blink of an eye. Don't you dare... or I might not be willing to kiss and make up when you decide you want to get back together next year.


P.S. I thought I would include some pictures of the ornaments I made for the swap I hosted over at Label Tulip. You know, in some attempt to prove that I haven't totally wasted the first two days you've managed to whiz right past me. Again, if you could just slow down a little bit, I could get more pretty little things like these made.

Don't you just love those pretty little snowflakes? A couple of weeks ago, Marie of Sketchbook Designs asked if I would be interested in working with some of her fabulous products, and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity! Be sure to check back over the next few days to see what else I have created with the goodies that she sent me... lots of fun Christmas projects and gift ideas! In the meantime, you might want to take a look around her Etsy store. She makes tons of cute wood, chipboard, mirrored and acrylic shapes, in addition to some wonderfully crafted acrylic albums... perfect to add to your list for Santa. ;0)

Oh, and one more thing... Label Tulip's stamp boutique is officially open for business again! In addition to the stamps, you won't want to miss out on the limited-time offer of some fabulous grab bags and 40% off all available previous kits (except from November). But, hurry up and stuff your stockings! Supplies are limited to stock on-hand, and won't be available after December 31st!