Thursday, December 24, 2015

festive snowmen cookies: circa 1986

I still remember the magazine article my mom has folded a hundred times in her brown, over stuffed, cracked recipe book. She found the recipe the year after I was born {1986} and it has frosting stuck to it. These cookie snowmen are my favorite cookies to make for Christmas and all winter long. Although, this crazy warm weather doesn't make it feel like either. 

As Finn slept off his cold, Kensi and I were able to spend one on one time together making these fun and sweet treats. To make a snowman we rolled a 1 inch ball for the bottom, 3/4 inch for the middle and 1/2 inch ball for the top. Place them very close together so they touch and press down on them gently. Kensi loves to the add the two mini chocolate chips for the eyes and two to three cinnamon red hots for the buttons. Sometimes she insists on leaving the cinnamon red hots off hers. "Too spicy for me mama, you eat them." Gladly, my sweet girl. 
Pop the semi-decorated snowmen into the oven at 325 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Let them cool completely. 

Once cooled, make a simple frosting {we used Royal Icing for a firm setup} and use a piping bag and your favorite tip. We like to use a star tip. Pipe a scarf between the head and torso. Then use the piping as glue to stick the halved peanut butter cup to the top of the head and add a little more frosting to cover the seam. Finish by dusting with powdered sugar. 

Mini Peanut Butter Cups OR Hershey Kisses, halved {hat}
Mini Chocolate Chips {eyes}
Cinnamon Red Hots {buttons}
Icing {scarf}
Powdered Sugar {snow}

This is the same article where we scored one of my favorite sugar cookie doughs. I love the flavor because it calls for almond and coconut extract. You can find the recipe HERE, this dough does need to chill before being used. Decorating is the best part. With a hat, little scarf and dusting of snow, these little men {and women} are ready to go!

Our church held a cookie competition for the kids which we all know the cookies are made by the parents with help from the kids. We made our little snowman because it's a simple cookie Kensi can help create. We packed all our snow people up, took them to church, and registered under Kensi and Finn. Mr. and Mrs. Claus came as a surprise visit and tried every cookie. At the end of the night our pastor gathered all the kids who baked cookies in front of the stage and announced the winners for third and second place. The kids were all so excited! They did a drumroll for the first place winner and it was....'The Snowman' by Kensi and Finn! Kensi was shocked she won and then immediately became scared to death and clung to Mike. She feared going up to the stage to claim her prize and was nearly in tears. Once she was able to calm down and realized her and Finn actually won they gave each other high fives and kisses. The cutest thing I may have ever seen! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

the jolliest bunch of a**holes this side of the nuthouse

We're certainly jolly and we're certainly nutty over here. Last night our life group opted for a movie night. There's no greater movie than the notoriously obnoxious Christmas Vacation. I grew up watching this movie every Christmas with my older brothers. They would laugh hysterically and I would join along having no freakin idea why a line was so funny. I love this movie so much and it's so nostalgic for me. Mike and I enjoy watching Christmas Vacation several times during the Christmas season and again when we celebrate Christmas in July. It never gets old.

In honor of celebrating Christmas Griswold style, Mike and I made a nutty snack to tap into our nuthouse Giswold side. We made three different types of nuts: sweet & spicy, chocolate covered and candied. It's a perfect snack to put out for a crowd because there really is something that sparks joy for everyone.

Sweet & Spicy Cashews
Originally from our friend Sarah who made these for our super bowl party earlier this year. I couldn't keep my hands out of this bowl! It is the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy. 

16 oz Dry Roasted Cashews, unsalted
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 5 minutes. While the nuts are baking, in a bowl mix together brown sugar, Rosemary, salt, cayenne and melted butter. When nuts are done, remove them from oven and add them into the butter mixture. Stir until the bits are evenly coated. Then, place the nut mixture back onto the lined baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Chocolate Covered Peanuts
These sweet nuggets are so easy. All that's needed is salted peanuts and chocolate chips. Mike loves these and looks forward to them every year. 
Confession: I'm really sorry, but have zero measurements for this recipe. I simple throw a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips into a microwave safe glass bowl and heat in in 30 second intervals until it's smooth and melted. Then I toss in salted peanuts, mix it up and using two spoons I glob little nuggets on to my parchment paper. Pop them in the fridge for a couple hours for them to set up and serve! If you like more chocolate, then add less peanuts or vice versa.

Cinnamon Candied Almonds
You know the smell of those cinnamon almonds served up in paper cones at the malls? That's exactly what these are. I can never leave the mall without buying one and munching on them while shopping. It's an addiction and I'm so glad I can make them at home and save the extra cash. Plus the smell ignites Christmas spirit in your house. 

1 Egg White
1 Tablespoon Water
3 cups Raw Almonds
1/2 cup White Sugar
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix sugars and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Whisk water and egg white until frothy. Fold almonds with fluffy egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Mix until well coated. Spread almonds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and bake for 25-30 minutes

All three of these recipes are not only delicious, but incredibly easy! I hope you get a chance to make them for a snack this Christmas and New Years! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

cinnamon roll delivery

I'm covered in flour, smell like cinnamon and I'm sure I taste like sugar. I've been rolling dough and making cinnamon rolls the last couple days. At our house we believe the best way to someone's heart is through food. There's something so special and comforting when someone spends the time to bake up something delish. You know they really care when they take the time to do so because food is love. It's simple and incredibly heartwarming. I love thinking about what may have happened in the kitchen when we receive food gifts.
Each year Mike and I gift sweet treats for Christmas. We started this our second year in Maryland when I exchanged gifts with my administrative staff at school. Something I didn't expect to do. I was caught off guard and felt a little panicked since we didn't have much money and I needed to give gifts to five co-coworkers whom I worked closely with, but my mom always told me everyone loves food and I come from a long line of home taught bakers and makers. That year I baked so many different sweets and it was a hit! So we keep it going each year with Christmas and sometimes even Valentine's Day. We also try and send a care package back to Maryland full of goodies just for those special co-workers.
We don't go crazy making dozens of different sweets anymore {other than for ourselves}, we stick to what has become the most requested treat. Cinnamon rolls.  I swear the number grows year after year, I don't know if it’s the butter, the cinnamon {I highly recommend Penzey’s Vietnamese is hands down the BEST cinnamon} or the delicious coffee-maple frosting. They simply melt in your mouth. I love making them and I love how excited our friends and family get when they see the wrapped pan of cinnamon rolls. This year we made 28 pans of cinnamon rolls. I'm a little exhausted, but it's one of my favorite sweets to make this time of year.
We've been making these cinnamon rolls the last few years and this year I think I figured out the packaging. I used a white cloth napkin {I found mine at Hobby Lobby in the crafting section with t-shirts, bags, hats, etc.} and lots of fun ribbon and yarn. Kensi and I spent one night on the couch making pom poms and they are the perfect pop of festive colored fun for each package. I love the mix up of bright colors and traditional red and green. It makes the packaging young and fun, especially with purple glittered ribbon, courtesy of Kensi.

Once everything was wrapped up, Kensi loaded up our wagon and pushed it up and down the street, eager to ring each doorbell while trying not to knock over Christmas decorations. We may or may not have knocked over two or three mini Christmas trees. Shhhh! We had so much fun delivering our sweet treats and wish our neighbors a Merry Christmas and we hope everyone enjoys them again this year!

Friday, December 18, 2015

baby doll high chair

This year Mike and I are making two of the kids' Christmas gifts: a doll high chair and a teepee {stay tuned for our teepee}. Kensi discovered the American Girl Doll magazine and has circled literally everything in it. She loves her baby doll Finn gave her at the hospital a year ago and baby comes with us everywhere. Kensi has made it very clear baby doll needs her own bed, stocking on the fireplace and a high chair. She even spent some of her own piggy bank money to buy a Christmas pillow for baby doll from the dollar bin at Target. Baby doll is our third child, hence the need to celebrate her birthday Thanksgiving morning with a candle in our cheesecake and then again on Finn's birthday. She's such a mommy girl.
We found plans from our go to gal, Ana White, for a simple and cute baby doll high chair. {She has tons of baby doll furniture, go check it out!} It really didn't take much lumber or time for that matter. Mike and I were able to complete the whole project in a day and it cost less than $15 to make with the help of already having paint and stain in the garage leftover from previous projects.

Mike cut all the pieces, I stained them and then he put it all together for me. We found our 2 inch screws to be too long and ended up recutting a few pieces. We ended up just using screws to assemble the chair without pocket holes. We gave the high chair one coat of dark stain and gave the legs a dipped look with white paint, along with painting the middle back board. It's timeless, modern and the perfect addition to our playroom, dining room, family know, wherever it will get dragged.
It turned out super cute and Kensi was so excited to get it early. It's light weight and it's already getting toted around the house. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

baby on the hip doesn’t stop the dip

Every Monday is our life group night. It's a small group from our church we joined almost two years ago come spring. A few weeks ago our pastor gave each family an envelope of $50 and challenged us to bless someone however we saw fit. Some choose to give it away as a tip, others help specific needs get met like helping pay someone's bills. Our small group decided to bank all our money and match it to spread as much love as we could. After throwing several ideas around we all chose to fulfill angel tree wishes for foster children in our county and make necessity bags for the homeless.
By pooling all our money we were able to bless several people from the Angel tree and purchase quite a few items for our bags. We filled each bag with underwear, socks, gloves, a hat, Chapstick, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, a toiletry kit, granola bars and gift cards. Last night was our night to assemble all our goodies and since it was a night of giving I made a little goodie snack for all of us. 
I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity to try a pretzel recipe I found on Pinterest months ago, but I was a little intimidated because it was a pretzel. I can’t pin point what seems so intimidating other than a really good pretzel seems to have a lot to live up to and I didn’t want to disappoint. On top of trying a new recipe and picking up the house for our group to meet, Finn was a cling on mess. He just needed extra love more than usual and felt the need to be held all. day. long. This made cooking and in particular making pretzels a bit challenging. So with a baby on my hip as I made the dough, kneaded it, somehow flipped it into a bowl, let it rise, rolled the dough into balls and got them in the oven...this recipe turned out good great! My only mishap was with the cheese sauce, instead of adding jalapeño, I added a pinch of cayenne pepper and then I added too much cheese too fast and it became gritty, but come on now....the flavor was there and I was holding Finn the entire time! 
Everyone was surprised by the fun snack and it was loved by all. Yes, I can say loved because all of our friends pinned it later that night. 
I’d call that a success and a good end to a Monday.

Click HERE for the recipe.

a beachy december afternoon

This morning Mike and I woke up and cozied up on the couch with coffee while Kens and Finn chomped on toast and happily played with Legos on the floor. It was such a lazy morning, but we all throroughly enjoyed it. It warmed up quickly so we decided to make a trip to the beach. It still weirds me out that we live in a beach town, but that's just the Midwest girl inside of me.

When we arrived to Wrightsville the temp began to drop and storm clouds began to move in, but it was none the less beautiful. We planned just to walk, but Kens and Finn were so excited to run around and collect seashells. We had a few instances where Mike and I kinda flipped out because Finn had a fistful of sand heading towards his mouth. He is such a crazy little man and always keeps us on our toes.

Speaking of toes, we dipped our feet in the Atlantic chilly water. Although cold, it was still refreshing and crazy because after all it's freaking December!

Friday, December 11, 2015

i will not go into debt

to amp up my Instagram. It's easy for me to get caught up in all the pretty pictures of people's homes. Especially when I'm sitting here looking at my less than perfect, generic house and decor. Mike and I have chosen to take a road far less traveled, a road where we will soon be debt free. We are making our house a home slowly. We have a strict budget that allows us a couple house projects for the entire year and a few small decor updates each month, most that require DIY. If you were to come into our house there are only nooks and corners completed. Everything else is in progress, it seems we have clutter, we just have poor storage. Another job on our to do list. We have barely any art on the walls, no hardware on our cabinets and a stamp for a tv. We will get there, slowly. We take it one little project at a time and sometimes I have to remind myself that it is in fact okay; because it's not worth going into debt to make my Instagrsm photos look pretty. They will get there, soon. Very soon. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

a gingerbread house that was hit by a candy snowstorm

I have never made a gingerbread house in my life. This weekend my mom, Kensi and I attempted to make a gingerbread house....from scratch. If you have been reading my blog for some time now, then you know I like to make a lot of things from scratch. It's a sense of accomplishment I love when something actually turns out well. 
We used the queen of all bakers, Martha Stewart, for a fool proof, to die for, Gingerbread. It's so delicious, we couldn't keep the fridge closed long enough for it to firm up because we kept sneaking bites; we think it’s the black pepper in it that gives it the perfect spice and keeps us coming back for more.
So after letting it sit overnight in the fridge, we cut all the pieces using her template and then some fun extras like mini gingerbread men, trees, stars and reindeer. If you do choose to cut and bake little mini pieces, only bake them for about 9-10 minutes because they brown up fast being so small. 

Martha's royal icing recipe calls for meringue powder. Honestly, I had never heard of it or knew such a thing existed, but you can find it online or at a Michael's or Hobby Lobby store. More than likely if your craft store carries Wilton, they will have it. This made the frosting shiny, firm and so pretty. 

I really wanted my house to turn out well. I’m a perfectionist and I can totally spaz out if I’m overwhelmed when I’m trying to concentrate and I have to admit, I totally did. I spased out on Mike, poor guy; but it was only because my whole house collapsed when I was trying to do too many things at once. However, once I got it back up and standing {btw, Martha’s tip of using water bottles to help hold the pieces up works like a charm} I was good! I got the hang of piping, which turned out to be pretty easy when you’re suing the right tip. My mom and I recommend a #1 tip and a #4 star tip along with some disposable pastry bags for ease of clean up.

We used a lot of different candies for decorating such as coconut, sprinkles, gumdrops, mini m&m's, snow-caps and itty bitty marshmallows {again, Hobby Lobby in the baking aisle}. We had so much fun decorating although I know I’m going to be finding sprinkles all over my floor for next several weeks MONTHS!
Like I said, I have never made a gingerbread house before and it has been many, many years since my mom has made one. We took different approaches to each of our houses. I assembled my whole house first and then added the frosting to the roof and other decorations, whereas my mom frosted her entire roof and then assembled it. Not good. The roof was far too heavy and kept sliding down, making all the walls collapse inward. It was a mess and just ended up like this....
Epic fail. This is the house that literally looks like it was hit by a tornado. But, it still tastes delicious, no doubt about that! Since my mom and Kensi's house was a fail, they made two little ones out of graham crackers. Evidently, Kensi really enjoys landscaping. She has the idea that more is more. The more the merrier! This the season to be merry, so why not?  
We really had a lot of fun creating these sweet houses, even the ones that were hit by the tornado and candy snowstorm! I can see this becoming a tradition and a recipe we'll use again and again. 
Sugar high anyone?!?! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

merry & bright

It's definitely feeling like Christmas at our house and we made sure to kick off the season right away. My mom is visiting all week and we have filled each day with lots of Christmas festivness! 
We spent Saturday evening strolling through the beautiful Airlie Gardens. The air was crisp and cool, the kids were snuggled in the stroller with cozies and the entire garden was speckled with thousands of Christmas lights, it was truly beautiful. 

Each section of the garden was uniquely decorated. Kens and Finn loved walking through a tunnel of trees that danced and shimmered in reds and greens. While my mom was taken aback by gardens filled with individual lit hyacinth flowers.

The whole night became even better when we stumbled upon the snack tent which served local wine, hot cocoa and popcorn to snack on as you floated through the lit gardens. To top it off, Santa was waiting for us at the end! Kensi was so eager and kept practicing what she was going to ask the big man in red: a purple stroller and a high chair. Not to forget Finn would also like a choo choo train. She did so well and spoke so clear, proud mama moment right there. However, Finn had a different experience. So cute. I was dying.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

happy birthday eve finnley michael

Our sweet, handsome, little boy is turning one tomorrow. We can hardly believe how quickly this came and what an incredible little guy he is becoming. 
Finnbar, you are the biggest flirt. Our hearts nearly burst every time you smile because it is so contagious. You never cease to amaze us with your ambition to get into and destroy everything you can get your little hands on. You are our wild child. You love to be silly, scream with excitement and laugh hysterically at your big sis. You love wrestling with daddy and snuggling with mama. You never pass up a chance for snuggles. You love giving high fives and sloppy wet kisses when we least expect it. You love anything with wheels and constantly yell 'vroom vroom' or 'bub' when we sing Slippery Fish. 
We are so in love with you and the person you're becoming. We are so honored and truly blessed that we get to be to be your parents. Our family had no idea what we were missing until we met you. Happy Birthday Eve Love, our sweet little nugget. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

love your melon

Everyone is talking about how they're giving back, whether it's on Tuesdays or everyday leading up to Christmas. There are some really fun ways to give back, but the one I'm sharing today is a campaign. My awesome niece is a nursing student and filled me in on this awesome campaign called Love Your Melon.
It was founded by two college sophomores from St. Thomas University in 2012 whose goal was to raise awareness for childhood cancer and give every child in America who is battling cancer a hat. Since launching, Love Your Melon has given 45,000 hats to children in the United States from their original buy one, give one. In celebration of their accomplishment, Love Your Melon is now partnering with the Pinky Swear Foundation, who directly help and support families and children battling cancer, and the CureSearch to help fund research to end childhood cancer.
This is my beautiful niece sporting her Love Your Melon beanie, isn’t she just adorable? There are so many colors to choose from as well; my favorite is the Aztec Pink and Speckled Salmon for a little bit of girly pop! The hats are so warm, cozy and stylish, perfect for a bundled up day of playing in the snow or just to grab a coffee with your love.
 This is such an awesome mission and I love how it has grown, as over 200 colleges and universities nationwide are involved to promote this campaign in their own cities. When you make your purchase you can choose a campus crew from a participating school to support the cause. If you need a little help I know the students at The University of Nebraska Medical Center would be delighted to have your support.
So this winter when you’re looking to buy yourself a soft, comfy hat to keep your head warm, consider Love Your Melon.  All the products are made here in the U.S. and they’re specifically made to be very soft for the comfort of the cancer patients. Love Your Melon make great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers, plus you’re giving in two ways and not just one! Let’s spread the love world wide.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

create: tree collar

Over the weekend our Facebook and Instagram feeds blew up with everyone sharing their trimmed Christmas trees. This year we found our tree from a local who has a tree farm just north of us. Our tree is fat and full this year, once it was up I trimmed enough branches to fill a large trash bag, but will use some of it as garland for our mantle and above the kitchen cabinets. 

This year Kensi was able to actually hang ornaments and understand the concept of decorating. I love our tree so much for the mere fact that Kensi decorated one branch with about four ornaments and continuted her strategy throughout the night. There are clusters everywhere and it makes my heart just overflow with joy because she was so proud of her beautiful work. One thing our tree has been lacking since we said 'I do' over six years ago is a tree skirt. We've often just thrown a blanket underneath to cover up the tree stand, but this year was going to be the first year it would be done properly and Mike needed a project! I asked him to copy cat this galvanized tree collar from Crate&Barrel. I adore this tree collar for its modern farmhouse feel and since we've never had a tree skirt we thought it would be a fun, inexpensive and easy DIY. 
To make our tree collar we bought a 15 gallon galvanized bucket to fit over our tree stand from the hardware store. Using our Dremmel, Mike cut the steel bottom out and then used a grinding attachment tool to smooth out the rough edge and it was done! This whole project took less than twenty minutes!
Very easy and inexpensive especially for those on a strict budget, but still seeking some style, even at the base of a Christmas tree! 

Sprinkles On Top © . Design by FCD.