Homemade Kahlua and Irish Cream

Yep, I’m cheap. I mean, thrifty.  Whatever…I hate spending tons of money on big bottles of liqueurs when I can make them at home. Not to mention that they make great gifts…a little handmade gift to spice up your coffee…what’s better than that?

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This is really easy, y’all…here are the recipes for both.  The Kahlua does need to sit for 2 to 3 weeks, but you have plenty of time before Christmas.

Homemade Kahlua

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp espresso powder (or 3 Tbsp instant coffee)
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups good-quality vodka

1. Combine the sugars and water in a small saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Stir in espresso powder. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Pour into a quart size jar. Add the vodka, vanilla, and vanilla bean.

3. Refrigerate for two to three weeks, until flavor develops.

Homemade Irish Cream

  • 1 can (12 oz) sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons dark cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 cup heavy cream

1. Combine all in a quart jar and shake until well mixed.

2. Store in refrigerator and shake well before serving.

Click here for the printable recipe.

Give a little bottle of each, along with a bag of coffee, for a perfect neighbor or hostess gift!  I did write directions to refrigerate on the backs of the tags, just to be safe. I think these are a perfect thing to keep on hand for the holidays, in case friends drop by…a fresh pot of coffee and the addition of one of these, and you’re the hostess with the mostest!

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My Favorite Cranberry Recipes

Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving?  One of my favorite memories from childhood is reading “Cranberry Thanksgiving” by Wendy Devlin with my mom, then seeing the cartoon version on TV, and finally getting to make the Cranberry Bread that’s the star of the book.  We used an actual grinder to grind the cranberries, since this was way before food processors came along. It took what seemed hours to my little brother and me, but the bread was the best ever.  Now my kids and I make it, in muffin form, for teachers on the day before Thanksgiving…and it’s much easier with a Cuisinart!

But I digress down Memory Lane…cranberries taste like fall to me, even more than pumpkin or apples, so today I’m recapping some of my favorite recipes using fresh, tart cranberries.

First, the most amazing one…Sugared Cranberries.  It’s essentially no-cook and super easy.  It does take about 24 hours for them to be ready, though, so plan accordingly!  These are a great addition as an appetizer, a snack-y dessert, or even as a hostess gift.  Give them a try! Everyone I’ve ever served them to (from preschoolers to grandparents) has loved them.


We also love Cranberry Marmalade, like canned cranberry sauce except infinitely better! Better yet, it only takes a few minutes to cook and can be made days ahead of the meal.Marm-Sauce

For something a little different, but just as delicious, try this Cranberry Salsa…it’s full of bright, fresh flavors with a bit of kick.

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And, of course, my favorites include a couple of out-of-this-world desserts!  I took these Pecan, White Chocolate, and Cranberry Pie Bars to bunko last month, and my family was quite upset that I came home with an empty pan!  They’re so much better than pecan pie because the crust stays crisp while the filling is nice and gooey with the tartness of the cranberries to offset the sweetness. Really.

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And, last but certainly not least, these Orange Cranberry Cheesecake Bars make frequent appearances at our house! They don’t crumble easily, so they’re perfect to take to holiday gatherings.  

There now…don’t you just want to rush to Costco and buy a giant bag of cranberries? Don’t tell anyone, but I bought my fourth big bag there today, I’ve made so many cranberry recipes already…and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!  And I still have to make Cranberry Muffins for teachers next week!  I better go get another one tomorrow, don’t ya think?

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Easy Crocheted Beaded Wire Bracelet

I know, like I need another needlecraftiness hobby, right?  I taught myself to knit a couple of years ago, but had never worked on crocheting. All my female relatives have were always working on afghans when I was small (and my dad would, too, losing the patience to watch my mom, he would take over her projects. I think that might have been her plan all along.). I think I learned how, years ago, but had forgotten.

Then, over the summer, I had a wild idea to make some crocheted wire bracelets.  I had to figure out to crochet first, though, which really wasn’t hard. This bracelet uses just chain stich and single crochet…how easy is that?  And it comes together in less than an hour, which makes it a perfect last-minute craft project for Christmas gifts.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 28 gauge wire (in the jewelry or crafting section)
  • about 35 medium-sized beads (like pearl-sized)
  • F crochet hook
  • Word bead or charm
  • Toggle clasp

1. Thread the beads onto the wire in the order you like, adding in the charms or word beads.

2. Make a slipknot with the wire, and begin making a chain. Work one or two beads into every other chain stitch, whatever looks good. Make about 30 fairly loose chain stiches (your bracelet should be about 7-1/2” long).  Make two extra chain stitches to turn the row, then crochet a row of single crochet stitches, working one or two beads into each one.

3. When you get back to the beginning, cut the wire, leaving a tail about 2” long. Thread it through one part of the toggle, then wrap it around itself to make a tidy end.

4. Cut another piece of wire about 2” long, and thread it through the other part of the toggle. Wire it to the other end of the bracelet, again wrapping the wire around itself neatly.

This is a very forgiving craft…by its very design, it’s rather abstract and free-form. You can use colored wire, identical beads, or a mix of seed beads, silver ones, and pearl-sized ones, as I did. It’s entirely up to you and your aesthetic sensibilities!

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These are really fun to make, and there’s really no way to make an ugly one!  I hope you’ll give them a try…and if you don’t know how to crochet, there are tons of simple to follow videos online that will get you on your way in no time at all. Seriously, I watched one ten-minute long video and I was comfortable making this.

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Arm-Knit (in 30 Minutes) Scarf

I’m sure you’ve seen these Arm-Knit Scarf photos floating around Pinterest or any craft website…I saw whole endcaps of “arm-knitting” yarn at Joann’s and Michaels this weekend.  I made this one last December, when we were in the middle of a cold snap. Well, cold for the Pacific Northwest, anyway. These are fun to make and cozy to wear…I hope you’ll give them a try!

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As you might guess, you use your arms as if they were knitting needles to knit this. There’s a great tutorial at flax & twine,  and if you’re a knitter already it takes no time at all to catch on. I think if you didn’t have some idea how to knit, it might take a couple of tries to get it, but it should still be an easy learning curve.

All you need to make a scarf is 2 skeins of ultra bulky yarn (now conveniently labeled in stores as arm-knitting yarn, apparently!).  Then pull up a good show on your DVR and start knitting!

I made these as Christmas gifts last year, so, unfortunately, I probably can’t do that again this year. I may have to go make some new friends between now and December so I’ll have an excuse to make some more!

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A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s that time of year again…the time when I am ready to get in my craft room and make tons of fun Christmas gifts!  I’ve been finishing up Calc 2 this week, so my school term is done and I have no academic responsibilities until 2015…YAY!  So today I’m sharing a little recap of some wonderful gifts I’ve made (and given away, even!) in the past…enjoy!

These Washer Necklaces are inexpensive and quick to make in any color you’d like.

Handmade Coffee Syrups are, hands down, my most popular post…and you won’t believe how easy they are!

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The granddads (and dad, too) in our lives loved these Shadow Words I Love You Photos.

Just wanting a cute giftcard holder?  This Purse Giftcard Holder is adorable and quick to make!

What neighbor or friend wouldn’t love a personalized, Etched Glass Baking Pan, complete with your favorite breakfast casserole inside? And you get to play with etching cream and stencils!

And don’t forget about making ornaments!  These Simple Nativity Ornaments are perfect gifts for religious ed teachers, or to tie onto any package!

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These “Cozy Toes” Cupcakes, which actually hold a pair of warm and fuzzy socks, make a great little gift for teachers.

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People will be your friend forever if you give them a jar of delicious Jezebel Sauce.  It takes seconds to whip up, and is perfect for friends or as a hostess gift.

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We also like to give a Soup and Bread Gift, with homemade lentil soup mix and beer bread mix tucked into a fun bread pan.

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And, just to make it an even ten ideas, these Personalized Coffee Cup Notecards were easy to make, and impress anyone you give them to! Coffee-Notecards

Now, go get crafting!

Veterans Day 2014

Today, I’m not sharing a craft or a recipe…I’m simply expressing my gratitude to all of our country’s veterans. I made this shadowbox display after my favorite GI Joe’s second deployment. I think it spells out why he, and millions of other military members, as well as their families, do what they do…being separated from loved ones for months at a time, working twelve hour days when they aren’t deployed, and, for far too many, selflessly sacrificing their own lives.

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Since retiring a month ago, my husband has embarked on a new career, working with transitioning veterans in Washington state. I’m thankful he’s found a job that allows him to continue to serve others.  Although I’m not sure he realizes it, that’s where his heart lies…in making a difference every day, no matter how small.

Our country is blessed beyond measure by our military members. I hope we never forget to show them our appreciation, and always give them our unwavering support.

Thank you to all who serve.

Thanksgiving Platters

Today I’m sharing a couple of Thankgiving serving pieces that I can’t wait to use!  The first, a Grateful Hearts Painted Wood Plate, has been around our house for about twenty years.  I remember painting it when I was living in Denver while my GI Joe spent a year stationed in Korea. I did a lot of crafting that year, to make the time pass a little faster!

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All you’ll need is a wood plate, a white fine-tip paint pen, and a few bottles of craft paint (the 69 cent kind). Even though this project is 20 years old, I just saw wood plates at the craft store this morning.

I painted the whole plate a midnight blue, front and back, and let it dry, then traced cookie cutter shapes in the center for the leaves.  The tiny leaves are itty bitty stamps I used to have. After the leaves dried, I added the lettering and let it dry.  Next, I used a sponge to lightly add some rust-colored daubs all over it. Finally, I coated the whole thing in a clear polyurethane.

Obviously, this isn’t dishwasher safe, and I just use it for dry foods, like cheese and crackers.  This year, it’s on our coffee table for the fall, with a big jar candle on it.  I still love it, and the sentiment on it, after all these years!

The other platter I just made this year.  It’s a copy of one I saw somewhere…Macy’s, I think. platter-ChaosServedDaily

For this one, you’ll need a white platter and a metallic gold DecoArt glass paint marker. I just wiped the edge of the platter with alcohol, to make sure it was clean, then wrote my phrase around the edge.  I thought the little tic marks made it look prettier. If you make a mistake, you can wipe it off with alcohol.

Following the directions on the marker, let it dry and cure for 8 hours, then bake it at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  You put it in an unheated oven, let it come to temperature, then start your 40 minutes.  The package says it will then be dishwasher safe, but I washed mine by hand, just in case.

My favorite thing about these pieces is that they have my handwriting on them.  Not that my writing is all that and a bag of chips, but I like the thought that my kids see it and will recognize it in years to come.  I still recognize my mom’s (and my grandmother’s, when I come across a recipe or note from her) writing when a letter or package arrives, and I want my kids to have that same little jolt of recognition some day.  In this world of emails and texts, we actually write far too little. Although I do have a callus on my hand from all the writing I’ve done since going back to school last January!

Anyway, I’m off my soapbox about handwriting…I just wanted to share why I think it’s important to incorporate your own penmanship into everyday life!

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TBT: Kid-Crafted Thanksgiving Leaf Napkin Rings

We made these a couple of years ago, and, much to the kids’ dismay, they’ve held up, so there’s no need to make new ones.  I did decide, however, that they could make a bunch of clay leaves and we could create some kind of centerpiece/candle ring/ garland for our table this year.  We haven’t completed it yet, so I’ll let you know how that turns out!

In the meantime, if your little ones are stuck inside by November rains, these Napkin Rings are a fun way to pass an afternoon!  And if you’re going to grandma’s for Thanksgiving, I’m sure she’d be thrilled to get these as a hostess gift! And here’s what I wrote about the project the first time around:

My hooligans love making crafts. I know, I’ve mentioned that before…but they constantly want to be crafting, and it’s challenging to come up with things that might actually turn out to be useful and pretty enough to keep!

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Recently we made these napkin rings, and the kids could not be more impressed with themselves.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Oven-bake clay (like Fimo) in autumn colors
  • Leather cords
  • Leaf cookie cutters (ours were about 2” long)
  • Toothpick

First, roll out your clay.  We rolled snakes out of the different colors, twined two or three together, then sort of patted them together and rolled them out, to make a marbled effect. It’s really hard to make these ugly, with those pretty fall colors.

Use the cookie cutters to cut out different leaves, then, with the toothpick, make a few veins in each leaf.  Bake according to package directions.  We draped some of our leaves over pencils on the baking sheet, to make the finished leaves a bit wavy.

After they’ve baked and cooled, use hot glue to glue two leaves together.

Cut your leather cords into 6” lengths and glue the leaves to the center of each.  Then all you need to do is tie them around your napkins.

Thanksgiving…it’s a family time, so everyone in the family should feel like they’re contributing something. And do you really want those grubby little hands preparing food? Keep ‘em busy with crafts instead!

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Thanksgiving Treats Jar

I happened upon some fun, fun candies at Target last week…Sixlets in fabulous autumnal colors, such as pearly gold, rich russet, and glossy chocolate.  I couldn’t resist.  Of course, they came in a plain ol’ plastic bag, so I had to dress them up a little for giving.

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I used a recycled Frappucino bottle and embellished it with a tag using my current favorite stamp set, Mingle All the Way. I realize you can buy little milk bottles for crafting, but they don’t have lids and, more importantly, cost about the same as buying a bottle with sweet, milky caffeine in it!

To make the tag, I colored my stamp with markers, the lighter (Tangelo Twist) one first, followed by Early Espresso.  I did two colorings of each, then “huffed” to get the ink a little wetter again, then stamped. Then I just rounded the corners, cut a piece of designer paper a little larger and rounded those corners, and adhered the sentiment to the background. I used the flower punch from the Itty Bitty Accents set to mimic the bittersweet flowers on the stem, putting little pearls in the centers.

After wrapping bakers’ twine around the neck several times, I tied a twig of silk bittersweet on with the tag.

To cover the lid, I wrapped gold washi tape around the edge, then used my Scallop Punch to punch out a circle of the same designer paper.  I used glue dots to make sure that stays on well.

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If there’s anything you need, you can stop by my Stampin’ Up! website anytime! Here’s what I used for this:

Mingle All the Way Clear-Mount Stamp Set, Item 135773, $17.95

Mingle All the Way Wood-Mount Stamp Set, Item 135770, $24.95

1-3/4″ Circle Scallop Punch, Item 119854, $16.95

Itty Bitty Accents Punch Pack, Item 133787, $16.95

Tangelo Twist and Early Espresso Markers, Basic Pearls, Corner Rounder Punch

The bakers’ twine and bittersweet twig were just in my crafting stash.

This was a fun, five-minute project that I’m sure will bring a smile when I give it away. If I don’t have to return to Target to replenish the Sixlets within it, that is.  It’s a long time until Thanksgiving, you know.

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Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese Dip

As the fall rains have blown in here in the Pacific Northwest, I am reveling in all the possibilities for comfort foods. One day last week, the hubs was picking up the kids from school on a blustery, rainy day, and I decided to whip up some pretzel bites and Beer-Cheese Dip for their afterschool snack. And, of course, I made enough for the whole family, not just the kids!

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The pretzel bites are organic ones from Costco, and they are quite good by themselves (or naked, as we say in Casa de Chaos).  But combined with this quick and easy Beer Cheese Dip…they totally rock!

Beer Cheese Dip

  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1. Pour the beer into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir in the flour, boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the shredded cheese until it melts, then add the Worcestershire.

2. Serve with pretzels, carrots, or apple slices.

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