Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homemade - Thoughtful, Pretty, Quick & Easy!

Celebrating the holidays is wonderful and exhausting all at the same time. If you are like me, you want to be able to relish in each moment without getting lost in the shuffle of it. I am always amazed by friends who spend days, even weeks, before the holidays baking delicious and beautiful treats to give to their friends and family. I always think I will do that. . . . .one day.

I recently found a pin on Pinterest for Pumpkin muffins with ~ get this ~ two ingredients! Really?? Two ingredients? And they actually taste good?? I was skeptical, but since it seemed so easy, I decided it would be worth a try. Here is the original recipe from "Sweet Verbena's" blog and here are the two ingredients. One cake mix, I chose butter yellow and one can of pumpkin. No liquids, no eggs. Easy, peasy!

Pinterest Pin from "Sweet-Verbena's" Blog!

A few pinners who had tried this recipe said that the pumpkin flavor was very subtle. Since I like pumpkin a lot, AND I can't do any thing as directed, I added three of my own ingredients. . . . . Just to make sure it really tasted like pumpkin bread!

Three extra ingredients!

1/2 cup Chopped Pecans (or other nuts you may enjoy); 1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice; 1/2 tsp. Saigon Cinnamon. I just love the flavor and aroma of Saigon Cinnamon. It is heavenly. If you don't have Saigon Cinnamon, plain 'ole cinnamon is just fine!

Mix the spices and the nuts in the cake mix before you add the canned pumpkin. Mix the ingredients well. The recipe says use a mixer, but my wooden spoon and a little elbow grease worked just fine. The batter will be thick. You will need to spoon it into your paper muffin cups. Instead of muffin cups, I used silicone baking molds. I love my Wilton baking molds! They are a great way to make an individual portion size without conforming to the usual cupcake. Here is the silicone mold I used.

Step 2 - Wilton Christmas themed silicone mold

Spray the mold with cooking spray before spooning in the batter. Only fill the cups about half full. Bake them at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let the treats cool for about 20 minutes before popping them out of the molds. Cool them completely on a wire rack. Once cool, they are ready to wrap up!

Step One: Grab your supplies - the cooled treats, Plain paper muffin cups and Treat Bags. I found nice holiday treat bags at Hobby Lobby on clearance last year.

Step 3

Step Two: Flatten out the muffin cup and put your treat on it. Then wrap it up in the treat bag and cut off any excess bag at the top.

Step 4

Your finished treats will look like this. Aren't they lovely?

Step 5

Once all your treats are wrapped, find something you love to put them in. I am partial to traditional Christmas red, green and gold. I had this pretty Christmas tin with handles. I used a damask fabric napkin to line the tin. You could also use any fabric or a tea towel that would coordinate with your container. Put your own creative twist on it!

Step 6

Fill the container with your treats. Since my husband was taking this for a get-together, I also added some festive paper napkins. I fanned them along the back of the tin before I added the treats. It was functional but it also added an extra pretty flair! Here is how it looked when I was finished. Ta Da! A beautiful, homemade gift to give a neighbor, your child's teacher, a co-worker, or friend!

Wa La! Easy to make treats and lovely paper napkins

Fill with easy to make treats!

If you like making things but don't think you have time, try this! This recipe is super simple and best of all the results are delicious! The texture of the treats is more "cake" like than "bread" like. I made the treats in the evening and let them cool overnight. I wrapped them up and put them in the tin the morning my husband needed them. The whole process took about an hour, not counting the baking and cooling time. Most of my shopping trips take at least three hours!

Just a few ingredients from your pantry and some supplies from your craft stash will produce an awesome homemade gift! This is also a perfect project to do with your kids and it is a great way to begin teaching them the art of thoughtful, homemade gift giving.

Two ingredients. Simple.

I am all about handmade gifts. I love them because they say "I care enough to take my time to make something special just for you". The fact that it was quick and easy can be your little secret! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Are you ready for Christmas? I'm not! Well, let me rephrase that. My heart is there, but my mind and body just can't keep up. I have lists of things I need to do, need to finish. Gift making, decorating, baking, cleaning, wrapping, and the lists go on.

We got a lot of snow earlier this week and it has been really cold. This usually puts me right in the Christmas spirit. My boys had two snow days and my plan was to get our tree up and decorated, hang the garlands and finish the gifts I am making. It's now Wednesday and I have had Christmas music playing, but just can't get motivated to "Deck the Halls". Would all this snow inspire you to decorate your home? After shoveling, I was kind of pooped. 14 inches is a lot of snow! I felt more like sitting by the fire with my cup of Hot Cocoa and Bailey's.

First snow of the season

Since I seem to be looking for ways to put off digging out all of the decorations, I thought I would take a minute to tell you about a great give-away over at Plumrose Lane. If you have never visited Sharon's awesome blog, you need to Stop. Don't read any further. Go there now! Sharon has the most awesome free vintage inspired backgrounds and blog elements. I just love Sharon's art and am grateful she shares her talent! Her designs work wonderfully with Blogger and if you are new to blogging like I am, she has many tutorials to help you navigate. If you are looking for a blog "make-over" and love the look and feel of all things whimsical and vintage, visit Plumrose Lane right away. You won't be disappointed!

While you are there, enter to win one of five awesome prizes in this great give-away! There are many ways to enter. When you place your entry, please make sure you tell Sharon I sent you! Include my name in your comment and she will give me an extra entry! See? We both have a chance to win! :) The last day to enter is Sunday, December 11th.

PrL Holiday Giveaway

Okay, I am off to dig the boxes out of the garage. As long as another "snowset" doesn't distract me. What's a "snowset" you ask?

A perfect "snowset"!

THIS is a "snowset"! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even if it's only outside! :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

"New Year's Resolutions"

Happy New Year!
{Insert party poppers and blow thing noises here}

I know what you are thinking. . . . ."Is this girl crazy?? She is either 8 months late, or 4 months early!". Nope, I am right on time. Since my boys went back to school, I decided I would make some New Year's resolutions, of sorts.

The spring was crazy helping my boys finish school projects, wrapping up some of my volunteer commitments, spending hours in our yard planting and getting ready for what was sure to be a lazy, relaxing summer.

Summer. Ahhhh! I do love summer. I enjoy being outside. I love cooking out on our grill, sipping cold beverages. And I love watching my boys happily play together (most of the time).

Before I knew it our lazy, relaxing summer had turned into a full scale chinese fire drill! 4-H meetings, sleepovers, LEGO Robotics Club get-to-gethers, entertaining our out-of-town family visitors, an annual trip to Georgia to visit family, County 4-H Fair & Rodeo, birthday parties, a trip to the zoo and so much more! Whew!

Then it happened. I looked at the calendar and realized that the first day of school was upon us. How did THAT happen? Didn't they just get out of school? So much for my lazy summer relaxing in the hammock.

I always get a little melancholy on the first day of school. It means summer is over, my boys are getting bigger, and soon the calendar will start filling up with activities, projects and other commitments.

This year to ease myself back into the routine, I decided to try something new instead of feeling sorry for myself. So, I made some New Year's Resolutions! Hey- It IS a new year of sorts, right?

Since my last (and first) blog post, I have been getting back into my creative groove. This includes getting organized, my first New Year's resolution. I want to actually FIND all those cool art & craft supplies I know I have somewhere. I have made some progress, too. I found these cool metal rolling carts at JoAnn's. I put a box lid on top to make the most of the wire shelf for extra storage.

I also love the wire mesh basket drawers. They are perfect for storing small items and "working projects". See how nice my glitter glues look?

My Distress and Alcohol Inks look just as nice! I love that I can have different projects on hand: jewelry making, paper crafting, sewing, etc., and I can roll these carts into my family room or dining room to spend time with my family while I am creating. Then I can easily put them away to keep the clutter at bay!

Another organization project to tackle was the endless pile of paper that continually gathers on my kitchen island. I am left with only half a workspace, sigh. Homework papers, notes from school, along with other paperwork from clubs and after-school activities gather and form into one big mountain that will always turn into a paper avalanche when I am in the middle of making a meal. {Please don't tell me that you have no idea what I am talking about!}

When I was working full time I had these cool wall files in my office. They were screwed into the walls in various places to keep frequently used paper work handy. I always thought they were very helpful, but I didn't want to damage my walls mounting them with screws. I also didn't want to look at them. I ordered two sets of three so I could have four pockets. I am thinking about using the two extra pockets somewhere in my craft space. They would be pretty handy for keeping idea journals.

My solution was to use Command Hooks to hang them on the inside of my pantry door instead. Handy, but hidden!

I {heart} Command Hooks. They are right up there with Post-it Notes and my Zyron machine on my list of "I can't live without these adhesive inventions".

I am happy to report I haven't had a paper avalanche since I hung the wall pockets. Now if I can just figure out what to do with the rest of the island mess! {Resolution number 48}

I hope you and your loved ones are getting back into the swing of things. Make this time of year a time for renewal. Get out those goals and resolutions from January and dust them off. Have fun and change them up, or just make some new ones! While the fun and relaxation of summer is over, you don't have to be sad about it, you, too, can have a. . . . . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

“Finding Mojo”

I lost my creative “mojo”. I don’t know when I lost it, or where it went, but somehow between working a more than full time job, having a second child, and moving several times, it disappeared. It makes me sad, too, because I have always loved being creative. There are so many things about the creative process I love, but the long, dry creative spell, well, I haven’t enjoyed that. And somewhere, hiding along with my “mojo”, is my fearless, “go for it” attitude. It’s really so un-like me.

As a little girl, I enjoyed making things. I loved to draw and color, sew clothes for my dolls and do embroidery work. I made scrapbooks long before we knew magnetic albums were bad. Before “memorabilia”, “archival safe” and “embellishments” were common crafting terms. And long before there were aisles and aisles of endless themed scrapbook supplies at craft stores.

I made my scrapbooks in magnetic albums with construction paper so I could save the pictures and special things I kept from my activities and trips. I made my own page embellishments from post cards, brochures, buttons, stickers, and countless other things I felt compelled to save. I wrote about my memories on colorful shapes of construction paper using Crayola colored pencils and markers. If I wanted decorative edges, I would use my mom’s pinking shears. (Sorry, Mom!)

I learned to sew in 4-H and I made many of my own clothes in highschool and college. I decorated my college dorm room by sewing curtains and covering up the ugly vinyl day bed bolsters with pretty floral sheets.

Dorm Room 

The sewing machine my grandma left for me when she passed away, my glue gun, and my fabric scrap box were my favorite crafting tools. My favorite specialty craft store was Ben Franklin’s. Okay, I am dating myself here…..but I do have a point. We didn’t have all the wonderful tools and supplies when I was not-so-much younger, and I could still make all kinds of neat things! So….what happened? Why have I had this “creative block” for so long? Where is my “mojo”?

I don’t think it is a lack of artistic influence. Growing up, I was surrounded by creative people. My Grandpa was a rock hound and he would cut and polish the stones he found and made clocks and jewelry pieces out of them. My Grandma was a wonderful seamstress. She taught me how to do simple embroidery hand work when I was about six. She passed away when I was only eight but the memories of her teaching me those simple stitches are very vivid more than 30 years later. My mother’s best friend was a talented quilter and I loved to watch her create beautiful “paintings” with fabric.

My parents were creative too. My Dad built the house I grew up in. He didn’t oversee the construction, he actually did the construction. He handmade all the cabinetry, he carved the window moldings with a router, and he made a beautiful rock fireplace with the moss covered rocks that came from the hill behind our house.

My Mom can do anything when she sets her mind to it. She always claims she made things out of necessity because we couldn’t afford to buy them otherwise. There lies her creative genius. My mom literally made the home she and my dad built beautiful. She sewed, she made beautiful floral arrangements, and when she wanted a stained glass window for our house, she took a class, read a few books and became a professional stained glass artist. Someday I will show you the beautiful pieces she made. My mom is, by far, my biggest artistic influence.

It’s fun to sew, scrapbook, stamp, and make beautiful, sparkly jeweled things. It’s a blast to transform something old and yucky into something new and wonderful….to see something unique and wonder, “what can I do with that?”. I enjoy making something personal and special for a friend and seeing their reaction when they say, “You made that??” I have been blessed with wonderful creative influences in my personal life, many creative successes, so why am I so afraid to just jump in and go for it?

When I married my husband, I inherited a dear, sweet friend. Heidi is one of my most favorite, like-minded girlfriends. I am inspired by her and she encourages me, just like my family did when I was growing up. Heidi suggested I start a blog. She told me her own creativity is sparked when she shares her creative process through her blog, Sugah Beez. She loves reading the blogs of other artisans as well. It’s kind of a creative circle. Will blogging help cure my “creativity block”? I don’t know.

This much I do know. I am on a quest. I am going to find my “mojo” and my fearless attitude. Like Marlin and Dory who set out on an epic journey in hopes of “Finding Nemo”, I am setting out on my own journey in hopes of finding mojo. I’m not going to be afraid of making messes and worrying if what I make will be “worthy”. I’m hopeful that just “going for it” and sharing my experience here will help me blossom into the artistic person I used to be. No… even better than I used to be! I’m jumping in with both feet and I am going to be creative again! Will you join me on my journey?