Saturday, December 20, 2014

easy Christmas gift wrap ideas

Five days 'til Christmas! Let the frenzied wrapping beginning! Last year I shared an idea to let your inner child shine with sponge painted gift wrap. This year I'm taking the minimalist route - basic kraft paper, some pretty Christmas tissue wrapped around the present, perhaps a few gold or silver accents, fancy ribbon (or not-so-fancy twine or yarn), and a cute tag. Ok, maybe not minimalist, but simple! I've rounded up a collection of some of my favorite gift wrap ideas that will be sitting under our tree this Christmas. Enjoy!
First up, I found these silver bags for 2 for a $1 at the dollar store. I painted some mini polka dots with a gold paint pen. Then decorate a square tag from some leftover cardstock. Added a little sparkly twine to the tag and it's done. These are perfect for filling with homemade goodies from the kitchen. 
While browsing in Michaels a few weeks ago, I found a box of cute wood snowflakes for a little over a dollar. A little metallic paint helps them shine when attached to gifts with twine or ribbon. 
Or use that gold paint pen to embellish kraft paper with some festive gold lines.
Got a little girl on your list who's drawn to all things glittery and bright? Dress up plain kraft paper with a sparkly snowflake ornament and a silver tag. 
Remember those neon pot holder weaving kits from the 90s? The ones with the stretchy fabric loops? Here's a classier version of the woven look. Weave a Christmas ribbon around the package and tape it to the back of the package. Add a simple white tag and stick it under the tree.
Gifting goodies from your kitchen? I found these jars in the Target dollar spot. Two for $3! I painted polka dots with my trusty paint pen and added leftover labels from this bridal shower gift. Be sure to include a note to the recipient that the jars are hand wash only. I have plans to go buy myself some for our pantry. If there's any left by the time I get there that is...
Happy wrapping, my friends! Wishing you and yours a merry and joyous Christmas!  


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas baking 101

Confession: I've become slightly obsessed with the sun recently. The moment it chooses to show its face. I literally stop everything I'm doing and bask in the vitamin D glow. This is clearly the most logical thing to do when it only surfaces every five days. Welcome to the dreary Northeast winter days. Thank goodness for Christmas joy, twinkle lights, and holiday baking!

This year instead of leaving all my baking for this last week before Christmas. I've been slowly and steadily planning my attack and filling our freezer to the brim. I've now completely run out of containers and our freezer is maxed out. I am by no means an expert, but thought I'd share a few tips and tricks I've learned when it comes to enjoying your time in the kitchen this Christmas...

1. Whisk and stir to the tunes of your favorite Christmas music. 
I promise it will help you tackle that mound of dishes you just created. (Says the baker without a dishwasher.)

2. Embrace the power of your freezer.  
It's no secret that I love my freezer, but this time of year it really earns its energy saver stars. Freezing is the best way to preserve the freshly baked taste while saving me from having to spend long hours in the kitchen the morning of that holiday shindig. It's also a lovely place to store cookie dough until your ready for your cookie decorating party.
3. Bake only what you personally want to eat.
Do not make your Great Aunt Stella a fruitcake that you yourself wouldn't want a crumb of. Odds are there might be leftovers. Bake and make only what you and your family will be happy to polish off.

4. Giving gifts from your kitchen this year? Assess your gifting supply.
Do you have enough boxes, tins, bags, ribbons, tags, etc? If not, hit the dollar store for the basics and the craft store for snazzier gifting options. And for the love, please don't forget that craft store coupon!

5. Stock up now for future baking adventures.
Technically this applies to year round baking, but I'd be forsaking my frugal self if I didn't tell you to stock your pantry now. Butter, chocolate, nuts, and flour are all on sale for about as cheap as they get. Stock up for the coming months. Don't succumb to paying a third more for a product in a month. P.S. Butter, flour, and nuts freeze well.
6. When in doubt, pull that cookie sheet out! 
Do NOT be that person that serves rock hard cookies. Just don't. Even biscotti, in my humble opinion, should have a slight chew in the middle.

So there's my two cents. Any tips you'd like to add?

If you still haven't decided what goodies your gifting this Christmas, don't fret! Here's a few suggestions from my baking list to get you started:

Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Thumbprints from How Sweet It is. Slightly warmed up with that ganache in the middle...oh so so good! I might have made mine about twice the size. I am my mom's daughter and that's just how we roll.

Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies from Food 52. I've nicknamed these espresso crinkles and increased their size... ;) The hubster is absolutely in love with these.

Coffee Toffee from Smitten Kitchen for my coffee loving family. (She also posted a gingerbread biscotti recipe that's calling my name...maybe next year...)

Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix also from Smitten Kitchen.
We like ours with a 3/4 c. of 2% milk and 1/4 c. half and half and a few squares of homemade marshmallows on top. Rich and dreamy hot chocolate.

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook. Cookies for breakfast?! Don't let the whole grains deceive you, these are truly incredible moist, spiced cookies. The hubster's most requested recipe of the year. You can adapt the nuts and dried fruits in this recipe to your taste. Bonus: these are the perfect filling, yet nutritious treat for new mamas.

Want more? Check out my Christmas Goodies, Cookie! Yum Yum Yum!, and Baking Queen Pinterest boards for more inspiration!

I'll be back soon for some easy peasy last minute gift wrap ideas. 'Til then happy baking!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

all is well, friends

The need to blog hasn't been high on my list lately. Perhaps it's because my thoughts haven't been forming coherent sentences lately. Or maybe it's because I don't want to add one more thing to your list of Christmas to dos. But mostly it's because my heart desired some quiet this season.

Every year I seem to desire an stiller, simpler Christmas. Time to sit and rest in the Truth of Christmas. This year I've had this song on repeat. All is well, friends. Both infant and infinite. Born is our Lord and Savior. My prayer is that we each set aside all the stuff that comes with this season and make room for the King in our hearts.

And that, my friends, is all I have to write today. Wishing you a truly joyous Christmas!

Friday, November 21, 2014

a heart of thanksgiving & a painted pallet sign

Were you expecting a post sprinkled with cranberries, flavored with squash, or buried in butter? Sorry to disappoint you, my friend. But there's just no need for me to reinvent the Thanksgiving wheel. My ma is truly the queen of Thanksgiving. I do my part setting the table, taste testing, washing dishes, singing "let's have a parade!", making deviled eggs, eating everything...but mostly my job is helping the Thanksgiving queen simultaneously make 20+ beautiful, flavorful dishes ready to serve in one single moment. It's a completely homemade and completely perfect Thanksgiving. There's absolutely nothing that needs to be added. Nothing. Well, except a precious Montana family sitting around the table with us...soon enough!

Instead of thanksgiving food, let's talk about a heart of thanksgiving. I'm taking a step back and working on truly be filled with thankfulness in every season. Thankfulness that I was blessed to be born into such a family. Blessed to never know hunger. Blessed to be taught kindness, truth, and love. Blessed to know Jesus. Blessed to be married to a man that desires my good and loves always. Some days thanksgiving is hard. Life trips us up. The world is broken. The hurt is real. The waves are big.

Because I'm a visual, verbal person (does that even make sense?) I decided to make a sign to remind us each day to be thankful. Remember wayyy back in the beginning of summer when I shared a collection of projects in various stages of "doneness"? Well, I'm finally making progress! That lonely rugged, slightly warped, nail-filled plank I found in my parent's garage has been given a new life. It now reminds us every morning to choose joy. Even when stormy seas surround us, our Anchor holds. Just a simple line from Hebrews that speaks to my heart. My soul is firm and secure in the Lord. I know the One that can calm the storm. And that in itself should be cause for thanksgiving in my heart and overflow into my life.

Looking to beautify your own plank of wood? It takes just a few simple steps:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

these are a few of my favorite things (lately)

...what is man that You are mindful of him?
Mat's new single, Heartbeat! It's impossible not to at least bob your head to this song.  Literally on repeat (free on Spotify) as I write. Young Love was pure music perfection and the choice tunes of our honeymoon and pretty much every other road trip we take. Can't wait for his new album!!

Did you know that you can boil apple cider down to a sort of apple cider syrup? Maybe this is old news? But I did it and am now drizzling into anything and everything. Like this cinnamon applesauce recipe from King Arthur Flour's blog, Flourish. P.S. Add this blog to your feed if you don't follow already.

If you're looking for some Thanksgiving books to read with your little ones this year, here's some suggestions from The Children's Book Review. I haven't read all of these nor have I loved all of them, but there's some good options in here.

I'm working on a project to share. Actually, I'm working on about ten projects to share, but this is the one you get a sneak peek of :) It involves paint and an old ladder.

The Book with No Pictures. Because words are powerful and funny. For the little kid in all of us.

An easy peasy marbled ring dish. Easy, cute, and homemade. I'm in.

Frugal cooking tip: buy tortillas in bulk. Freeze half wrapped in foil. Cut up the other half into triangles. Bake for about 4 minutes on each side in a 350 degree oven with a sprinkling of salt. The amount of time will vary based upon what type of tortilla and what kind of baking sheet you use. Watch carefully - they can turn dark quick! Oh so simple, but so deliciously satisfying. Warning: they are mildly addicting.

This book is on my list of things to read. Anybody read it?

I'm definitely decoupaging letters for the office gallery wall. Because let's be real - a beautifully written and illustrated children's book is art.

And in Etsy shop news: my shop has a name! It's a secret though. You'll just have to wait with baited breath on the edge of your seat. Just be sure to eat, sleep, and do the other necessities of life while you wait. My only hint is there's a nod to my family and one of our beloved traditions in the name. Now onto all the business license yada yada stuff. Ick. Brings me back to my grant writing days...

Hope you've found a new favorite thing of your own on this list <3