Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is enjoying the last day of 2009. I looked out the window this morning and IT'S SNOWING!! Not sure where this white stuff came from b/c it certainly wasn't a very big possibility in the weather forecast. So I'm not quite sure what our New Year's plans will entail now that our condo parking lot is covered in snow and probably won't get plowed until tomorrow.

Anywho, if you want a chance to win a scrapbook prize, head over to Red Oak Lines and leave a comment on what you plan to do tonight! Deadline is 11:59 TONIGHT! So get on it!

Alright, back to scrapbooking...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Time Off = Scrapbooking!

Ah, Christmas. A time of giving and sharing and... time off from work! I have to go back to work tomorrow, but I've had a very nice holiday weekend. Opening presents. Eating candy. Blowing out birthday candles (with my brother in law, whose birthday is on Christmas).

I've also had time to do a lot of scrapbooking. Thank goodness because I am completely behind. I'm not even close to being done with my wedding scrapbook or my honeymoon scrapbook. Not to mention all the more recent pictures that need to be done, along with my friend Danae's pictures to scrap. Phew!

Today I received some inspiration from Ideas for Scrapbookers - to use shaped photo templates. I had a lot of fun experimenting with these and I must say, they've added quite a new look to my scrapbook pages. Check out what I did below using the Circles and Curves template.

The template was so easy to use! Try it out while you've (hopefully) got time off from work for the holidays. I plan on getting even more scrapbooking done over New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Stay crafty!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Comfort Food

Okay, I admit it doesn't look like much from that picture (I'm working on my food photography skills) but American Shepherd's Pie is AMAZING. I had never made it before, but many years ago I found the recipe for it on I loved shepherd's pie as a kid (why I didn't just get the recipe from my mom, I don't know) and had been wanting to make it ever since. Well, this month, I finally did!

I'm not sure what makes it "American" because it turns out very similar to the shepherd's pie I once had at an Irish pub. Cheesy mashed potatoes on top and a soupy vegetable and beef filling underneath. I would say that my mom's recipe could qualify as "American" because hers isn't soupy. I'll have to get the recipe from her and make it some time. Until then...

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 10.5-ounce can condensed vegetable soup (I actually bought a chunky veggie soup and just added some water to it b/c all the condensed veggie soup contained pasta noodles or barley...)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups mashed cooked potatoes
1 cup shredded Colby longhorn cheese (but I assume you could use cheddar if you wanted)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, stir and cook ground beef, onion (optional), and celery until juices run clear. Drain. Pour mixture into baking dish with vegetable soup and thyme. Stir well. Spread mashed potatoes on top.

3. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese has melted.

Now doesn't that look like the face of someone happy to eat this meal? Okay, so it's my face and a bit bias, but I was happy about this and it tasted so good! It's a very easy and very filling meal to make.

Tonight, however, it's all about the german meatballs and rice. I'm making it in honor of my birthday (which is in three days) and I can't wait! What are you making tonight? For the holidays? Whatever it is, enjoy it and stay crafty!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three Days!

According to my Advent calendar, it's time to open up door 22. That means there are three days until Christmas!! And four days until my birthday!!

Happy holidays and stay crafty!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Get Your Biscotti On

My husband's grandma (my grandma-in-law?) is kind of hard to shop for. It seems that she already has everything she could possibly want! So last year, my contribution to her Christmas present was a gift of food. I made raspberry pinwheels and packaged them in a festive glass jar. (Real Simple and The Container Store have the recipe here.)

This year I wanted to make something different and when I saw this recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti in the December Real Simple, I knew it was the perfect thing to make. My grandma-in-law is OBSESSED with biscotti right now thanks to Trader Joe's almond biscotti (which is pretty good).

Before I go any further, I didn't use pistachios when making my biscotti. So technically, my biscotti should be called Cranberry Almond Biscotti because of the almond extract. I just figured, my grandma-in-law likes an almond biscotti that has no nuts so let's try sticking to something similar to what she likes. If you use pistachios in yours, let me know how it turns out!

Let's get those ingredients together! You will need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shelled roasted pistachios (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, (and in a separate bowl) beat the butter and sugar until just smooth. One at a time beat in the eggs. Mix in the almond extract. Add the flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Mix in the cranberries (and pistachios, if using).

4. Divide the dough in half and shape into two 10-inch by 2-inch logs. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Because of bad weather, I was unable to get to the grocery store for parchment paper, so I went without. No problems.)

5. Bake until just golden around the edges and firm to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

6. Reduce oven to 300 degrees F. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until dry and crisp, 15 to 18 minutes per side.

7. Package in a super cute container, like this one that I picked up at The Container Store. (LOVE that place and the people I meet there - had a super funny conversation with other people in line and then the salesgirl ringing me up was so friendly and asking all sorts of questions about why I was using the container and what I was making.)

These taste divine and the kitchen smelled of cranberries and almonds for days afterward. Delicious! Enjoy your weekend (we got almost a foot of snow) and stay crafty!

Friday, December 18, 2009

RAK Giveaway!

This one is for all the scrapbookers out there! There is a giveaway happening over at Sarah de Guzman's blog! If you don't know her work, you need to get to know her work. She is one of my favorite scrapbookers over at Go to her blog to see her amazing work and get entered in this fun giveaway!

Stay crafty!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Carded

I've recently been trying my hand at cardmaking, aside from my Christmas cards. Most of my card inspiration comes from the owner of Classy Coordinates who came up with the bright idea (why didn't I think of this?) to use scrapbook scraps to make cards! I subscribe to the Classy Coordinates scrapbook club, which means that every month I get enough coordinating supplies to make six pages, and so I've started using my scraps from the Classy Coordinates packs to create cards. It's a good way to get the most out of your supplies AND grow a stash of cards that you have on hand whenever you need one!

Cardmaking for me has been a tough learning process, though, because I'm so used to creating a 12x12 scrapbook page using photos as the focal point. But thanks to card design inspiration from Classy Coordinates, I think I'm getting the hang of it. Of course, my Christmas cards always have a photo, so those are a little easier to do. But I still used scraps from last year to make this year's cards! Very economical!
And the "Make Your Spirits Bright. Wish" cardboard element? The coffee cup sleeves from Starbucks. I told you there was a good reason behind my hoarding!

I've already sent out my Christmas cards so hopefully everyone has received them! What are you doing for Christmas cards this year? December's Real Simple suggested post cards instead of actual cards - the postage is cheaper and so are the postcards! If I didn't enjoy making my Christmas cards so much, I'd consider doing post cards. Maybe next year? I also saw some really cute embroidered holiday cards. The technique would also be cute for use on some type of party favor or place settings. (Much thanks to Kara for sharing that on Google Reader!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Decorating

While I wait for some goodies to bake, I thought I would share with you some of my Christmas decorations. I love the Christmas season because I love decorating for it! From the lights to the cinnamon-scented candles (seriously, go get one at Bath & Body Works!), this time of the year is just so festive and pretty.

Last year I received inspiration for a mantelpiece display/Christmas card holder from Real Simple magazine. (One of these days I will break down and subscribe.) Because we don't have a fireplace or mantel, I used the top of our entertainment center. You can see above how it looks this year. This is a really easy way to decorate because you might already own some of the pieces! And if you don't, you can go out and buy them for cheap and possibly reuse them in other ways throughout the rest of the year.

The sparkly red berry stalks I found at Michael's (they have them not sparkly, too) and they were on sale last year. Good deal!

The vases I got at Target. Actually, they are not vases; they are candle holders. I couldn't find what I wanted in the vase aisle at any store so I happened to walk down the candle aisle at Target and I saw these. The candle holder part was removable, so it was super easy for me to turn these candle holders into vases. And they were cheaper than any of the real vases.

I also got the red jingle bells at Target.

My husband and I bought the fake snow at Michael's last year to use in someone's Christmas present but we had left overs. So I broke out the bag this year and used up what was left to make a snowscape. Also, because the entertainment center is kind of big, there was still a lot of empty, open space up there, so I added two mini Christmas trees that my husband had bought for a party two years ago.

The branch in the middle of the vases was actually free. Yep, if you go outside and see what the trees have dropped, you can find a lot of cheap and crafty supplies. (This tip came from the Real Simple article, but you could also buy something at Michael's or tie twine between the vases or whatever you can think of!)

To attach the cards to the branch, I bought clothespins (took me forever to find them, too) and then hot glued Christmas tags (that I bought last year at Walmart on sale after Christmas) to make them festive and not so plain.

I would love to see pictures or read about how you are decorating for the holidays!

I think I hear the timer going off! Stay crafty!

Friday, December 11, 2009

On a Cookie Kick

Maybe it was baking cookies over the weekend or the cover of Food Network magazine featuring 50 holiday cookie recipes. Whatever the reason, I'm on a cookie kick! Bad news for the waistline... or is it?

As we near the end of the year, many of you might be making New Year's Resolutions and some of those resolutions might involve diets. I'm not a good dieter by any means and I've been so bad about exercising this year. Like, REALLY bad. (And that was one of my resolutions for 2009! I guess I'll put it back on the list for 2010.) But just because you're going on a diet doesn't mean you can't enjoy dessert! Especially when you make the dessert in a healthy way.

Last year I found this recipe for healthy chocolate chip cookies in Fitness magazine. No, it doesn't involve mashing up carrots and watermelon and creating a dough. (Does anyone else find those juicer commercials really gross? Watermelon and cucumber and carrot and broccoli? Tasty!) By using canola oil in place of butter, you're saving yourself a lot of unnecessary fats and calories. Make these for a holiday party if you want to start your diet early or just wait until January 1 to make them. :)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another bowl, beat oil, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.

4. Beat in eggs.
5. Gradually add flour mixture. (Don't pour the whole bowl of flour mixture in there. Do it in three steps.)

6. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (which are optional).

7. Roll into small balls (I use a spoon to help me there) and flatten slightly (or not - I like big cookies) onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

8. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
9. Lick the batter. Yum!

And here they are! I like these cookies (and so does the husband) but if you are expecting super soft cookies, be warned: these cookies turn out more on the crunchy side. I guess it's because of the lack of butter, but hey. A cookie is a cookie is a cookie. Delicious!

These might be fun to bake this weekend, huh? I'll be doing some experimental baking myself. Check back soon to see how it went! Stay crafty!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cookies for Kyle

It snowed today! Our first snow of the winter season. Fun to look at, not so much to drive in. But I was driving in it because my friend Lauren invited people over to bake cookies for deployed military men and women. Lauren read about the organization, Baking GALS, through Taste of Home magazine and you can read the article here. GALS stands for Give a Little Support and the goal is to send a taste of home to soldiers who are far away from home. Each soldier is "hosted" by a blogger and potential bakers are "recruited" from the blogger's own site and from the Baking GALS website. Each host recruits up to 20 bakers, meaning Lauren and I were not the only bakers making tons of cookies for our military man, Kyle. Kyle is going to be bombarded with delicious cookies! Woo hoo!

As you can see, Lauren and I had a good time making chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip walnut cookies, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip/white chocolate chip/cranberry cookies. (And don't we look cute in our aprons? Mine is brand new - a Christmas present from Mom and Dad!)

If baking is your thing, check out the Baking GALS website! If you know someone in the military, you can even submit their name and have people send them cookies! If you don't like to bake, but you still want to do something nice for our troops, check out Operation Write Home (formerly Cards for Heroes). The aim of this organization is to provide deployed troops with homemade cards that the troops can use to write letters home. You can make birthday cards, thank you cards, holiday cards, general cards - whatever theme you want. (Your talent level doesn't have to be on par with Hallmark, fyi.) Check out the website for mailing locations, card deadline dates, and general guidelines (for example, don't use glitter on the cards - it can make the troops stand out at night). I've been meaning to host a card-making party but haven't gotten around to it! Lauren's baking party definitely got me thinking about making cards for the troops again, and I'm making it a priority in 2010!

Know of any other organizations that support the troops in crafty and delicious ways? Send me your cookie recipes so that I can pass them on to Lauren for her next baking party! I really want to try these vampire cookies - wonder how well they would ship.

Have a great (and possibly snowy) weekend and stay crafty!