Chalkboard Banner Card

I’m so excited…I’m actually having a Stampin’ Up! workshop on Friday.  It’s the first Stampin’ Up! event I’ve held since we moved here…18 months ago!  My friends who will be there are novice stampers, so I’m trying to come up with projects that are easy, yet have great results.  Fortunately that’s not too difficult with Stampin’ Up!, since they’re so darned accommodating, providing coordinated stamp sets, papers, and inks, not to mention accessories. Can you tell I’m practicing for Friday?  Wish you could all be here, too!

The idea for this card popped into my head in the shower as I was mulling over the new stamp sets I got last week.  It took all of ten minutes to make the first one, so I think it’s a great choice for the workshop, since everything will be precut and supplies right there.  I had to waste precious time figuring out dimensions, cutting, and finding which papers and inks I wanted to use.

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Supplies:  Feel Goods Stamp set; White Craft Ink; International Bazaar DSP; Soft Suede and Basic Black cardstock; Island Indigo Bakers’ Twine; 1” circle and Itty Bitty Shapes punches; Clear Embossing powder; Large Rhinestones; White Gel Pen; White Chalk

I wanted it to look like a chalkboard with a banner across it…my first grader said it did, so I’ll just go with that.  I stamped the sentiment with White Craft Ink, then embossed it with Clear Embossing Powder.  I didn’t want to use white powder and have it really stand out from the black, since it’s supposed to be chalked on there. I just rubbed some of the kids’ white chalk on the black to make it look chalkboard-ish.

I drew a few little curliques and leaves around the punched flowers, and it’s hard to see, but the center is one of the new large rhinestones…it’s very sparkly in person.

If you’re interested in some new stamps and supplies, don’t forget that it’s Sale-a-Bration time at Stampin’ Up!  That means for every $50 you spend on stamps and such, you get FREE stamps or accessories…and, boy oh boy, are there some cute ones this year! You can see all the fabulous choices on my website.  I’ll be showing some nifty cards and projects using them in the next couple of weeks.

And now I’m off to spend a little time designing a couple more fun projects for my workshop…wish me luck!

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Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers

Doesn’t “palmier” just sound as though you’re eating something elegant?  These little pastries pair perfectly with an afternoon coffee, or with milk when the hooligans want an afterschool snack.  And you can feel all fancy making and serving them, even though they’re super simple, using store-bought puff pastry dough.

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I shaped these into hearts (they usually don’t have that little point at the bottom, but look heartlike anyway) and thought the fry boxes I recently snagged from PickYourPlum.com made a perfect container, with a couple of paper doilies as liners.

Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers

1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar

1. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.  On a sheet of parchment or wax paper, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the cinnamon sugar and lay a sheet of pastry on it.  Roll just slightly, maybe stretching it by 1/2” per side. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough.Palmiers-Sheet

2. Roll from either side to center and transfer to a small baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat with other sheet of dough, then place both rolls in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Don’t clean up the rolling surface..you’ll need that leftover cinnamon sugar.Palmiers-Rolled

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove rolls from freezer and slice in a little less than 1/2” slices. Dip each side of each slice in the leftover cinnamon sugar (see, I told you you’d need it!) and place on an ungreased baking sheet, 2” apart. When all the slices are on the baking sheet, pinch the tip to make a heart shape.  Palmiers-Pinched

4. Bake for 8 minutes, then use a thin metal spatula to flip them over and bake another 6 minutes, until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Simple, right?  And who doesn’t love flaky, buttery, cinnamon-sugary deliciousness, especially when they’re just a tiny bit warm from the oven?  So make a batch and spread the love, people!

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Overnight Oatmeal in a Jar

It’s almost February, and you know what that means…Heart Health Awareness Month!  Many of the women in my family have had problems with heart health (although it was when they were in their 80’s, so there’s that), but I definitely try to be aware of my choices and make them heart healthy as a habit.  And if you’re thinking, “What about all those sweets and treats she makes?” I send those into work with my favorite GI Joe, of course!

Most of the things I make are really not unhealthy, though.  I try to use “real food” ingredients and rarely even buy processed foods.  But I’m not here to preach today.  I’m trying to lead by example!

We really enjoy oatmeal at our house, especially on Saturday mornings and with a toppings bar, and we only like steel-cut oats.  The others are just too mushy for us. The steel-cut oats do take about half an hour to cook, so I often cook them overnight in the crockpot, instead.  Then I can just cut up some fresh fruit and enjoy my coffee in the morning.

The recipe, when layered into a jar, makes a lovely and heartfelt gift for Valentine’s Day or anytime during Heart Health month! It’s also really yummy to make for your family some Saturday morning…just throw everything in the crockpot with 8 cups of water before you go to bed. Oh, and turn the crockpot on low.

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To make a jar for someone you love, layer the following in a quart jar, packing each layer down firmly before adding the next:

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats (I split them between the top and bottom layer, to make it prettier)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 1/2 cup snipped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

To prepare the oatmeal, simply put all the ingredients into a 4-quart crockpot along with 8 cups of water.  Cook on low for 8 hours or overnight.

I wanted the labels to be printed on kraft paper and a bit rustic looking, but kraft cardstock was much too thick. So, I cut a piece of brown paper bag to 8-1/2” x 11” and ran it through the printer, then cut the labels and rounded the corners.  I stuck it to the jar with double-stick tape and wrapped a bit of bakers’ twine around it.  And you can even click here to print your own labels! They’ll print four to a page, by the way.

Hope you’ll warm someone’s heart with this thoughtful gift, or treat yourself to a yummy bowlful!

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January Books of the Month

It’s already that time again…I get to share some of my favorite reads from the month!  I was thinking that I read a lot more in winter, cozied up with a cup of tea and a blanket in front of the fireplace, but then I realized I spend a lot of time in the summer sitting on the deck with iced tea, reading, as well. And then in the fall…and in the spring. I should just admit I’m addicted to reading and accept it!  There are worse habits, right?  And my family generally gets fed, clothed, and a reasonably clean house, so no harm done.

Anyway, on with my picks this month, in no particular order.

1. World Without End by Ken Follett

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This is billed as a sequel to Pillars of the Earth, but it’s only tenuously so, set several hundred years later and the only connections being ancestors of the characters.

I tried to read World Without End when it was released a couple of years ago, and I honestly couldn’t get through it. This time, I had a much easier time sticking with it, all 1032 pages of it. With the bustle of the holiday over, I wanted something to immerse myself in, and this was a good fit.

I’ve long remembered Pillars of the Earth as an amazing book, but, then again, I was in college when I first read it. Perhaps my literary tastes have changed, perhaps this semi-sequel is just not as riveting. Whichever the case, this seemed more a soap opera than Pillars, and I was reminded of reading the “Clan of the Cave Bear” series…so many instances of the heroine being an inventor of modern society, I fully expected the microwave to be developed by the end of the book.

Verdict: Worth reading, especially since my kids were completely in awe that I could read that ginormous book so quickly.

2. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

The Paris WifeThis book is a novel based on the first marriage of Ernest Hemingway. I’m no huge fan of Hemingway’s style, and the biographical info I’ve read about him has never endeared him to me. But I was intrigued by the premise and the opportunity to him in a different light (a fictionalized one, of course).

I found the story to be fast-paced and fairly engrossing.  As I read, I so wanted to warn the wife, knowing how her relationship with Hemingway would end, and found her perspective on his character an interesting twist.  I also appreciated the mini history lesson of that era in the Arts, as well as the effects of world events.  And I did come away with a better understanding of the events that shaped Hemingway’s character and personality.

Verdict:  Definitely worthwhile and entertaining

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl  My book club is reading this for February, so I don’t want to give anything away.  I advocated for its selection, and, while not regretting it, I was a bit disappointed in the ending of this book.

A short premise: On their fifth wedding anniversary, wife Amy disappears and husband Nick doesn’t act as society would expect. It’s a look at a marriage imploding (or not?).

I had looked forward to reading it for months (but was too cheap to buy it and had to wait for it at the library), and the first two-thirds of the book (maybe even three-fourths) lived up to my expectations.  I could not put this book down.  I’ll just say this: it’s suspenseful, twisted, and clever.

Verdict: A must read. Really.

So, spill it…what have you been reading this month?  I can’t wait to hear!

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Our 2012 Photobook

 

Here it is…our Family Adventure Book for 2012!  I’d been procrastinating on putting this together, but decided one Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago that TODAY WAS THE DAY.  I already had all my photos edited, organized, and in files for the year, so it was a simple process of picking out about ten favorites from each month for the book.

I spent an afternoon uploading (which is a chore from our horrible, horrible internet access here…it took almost two hours to upload about 200 Mb), then creating the book through Shutterfly.  I used their chalkboard template, but chose my own layouts, then added embellishments and journaling.  I could have let them autofill the book, but I wanted to keep the months together. And maybe I have a bit of a control issue. Whatever.

In any event, I’m thrilled to have it complete, and the book arrived yesterday.  The hooligans poured over it all evening, reading and rereading and reliving moments through the year. I usually give a copy to each of the grandparents for Christmas, but this year it’ll be Valentine’s Day instead!  (Sorry for ruining the surprise, Grands)

I also order a copy for each hooligan every year, so when they leave home I can send their memories with them. I bet their kids will appreciate it!

Click here to view this photo book larger

As an aside, I’ve been battling a cold all week, so the blog hasn’t been exactly what I had planned this week!  I generally have about one cold a year, and they’re never more than a day or two of misery, so this has been a new experience for me…I literally couldn’t stay awake for more than about thirty minutes (and that’s without taking Nyquil!).  I’m not really sure what I’ve fed the kids this week…I vaguely remember making meals…I think soup appeared a lot.  But today…today I woke up feeling like myself again, and am so very happy to have some energy back.  I hope you enjoy your weekend…I plan to get back on track with crafting and blogging!

Two Lovely Bookmarks

My friend Stephanie sent me the cutest bookmark for Christmas…tiny beaded knit mittens connected by a cord that runs through the middle of your book.  I wanted to make something similar, but with a heart theme for Valentine’s Day. I was pleased as punch with the finished bookmark!

bookmark

Let me say, right up front, that I had not crocheted anything in years, and so I basically had to start from scratch.  It took the better part of a morning, but really was quite simple, and once I learned the basics of chain, double, and triple stitches, along with the “Magic Circle” technique, I can make a double-ended bookmark in less than 15 minutes.

And…get this…I used BAKERS’ TWINE!  I know…isn’t that brilliant?  Yet more justification for my stash of twine in every color! I used an “F” crochet hook (3.75 mm), if you’re interested.

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1. Make a Magic Circle, leaving a tail about 10” long, and chain 3.

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2. Into the circle, crochet

5 double crochet stitches

1 triple crochet stitch

5 double crochet

3 chain

A slipstitch to anchor the chain stitches back to the circle

bookmark-pulled

3.  Pull the end of the loop (not the working yarn) to tighten into a heart. Ta-da!  Then I tied a knot to make sure it stays in the heart shape.

4. To make the other end, simply repeat, leaving about 10” of yarn between hearts.  When you’re done with both hearts, tie a knot at each heart, fastening the strings between to serve as the bookmark.

If you’re like I was, and need more guidance on the crochet lingo and technique, The Party Artisan blog is where I learned to make the hearts, and here’s the Magic Circle info.

Then again, if you can’t be bothered with crochet, or you aren’t in need of a reason to own every color bakers’ twine, then you can make this version, which Princess Thundercloud enjoyed crafting.

paper-bookmark

We simply punched out some hearts from scrapbooking paper, and glued a ribbon between them to make a bookmark. Too bad she doesn’t really need a bookmark for her Fancy Nancy books quite yet, but someday she will!  Thundercloud thought these were awfully clever bookmarks, and wanted to make them for all of her little friends…I think they’ll be a perfect class Valentine!

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Storytime Love Card

I love using stamp sets and accessories in a new way, such as this card which very well might be the Valentine my sweetie receives! The Storytime Designer Series Paper is just so fun, I couldn’t resist using it for more than school- and kid-related projects.

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Supplies:  Seasonal Sayings stamp set; Storytime Designer Series Paper; Crumb Cake and Pool Party cardstock; White Staz-On Ink and White Embossing Powder; Pearls; Labels Collection Framelits; Big Shot; Scallop Border Punch

It’s pretty self explanatory; the sentiment was stamped with white ink, then embossed with white powder.  I do think the pearls as bubbles make the card pretty darn cute, though. So be sure you notice that!

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Cherry Cordials

My grandpa loved chocolate covered cherries.  As a teenager, I would buy him a box every Christmas (yes, the extremely inexpensive ones), but when I learned to make them at home, that became my go-to gift for him.  It might sound daunting, figuring out how to get that liquid center.  Here’s the secret:  It doesn’t start out as liquid.  Mind-blowing, right? Want to make some for yourself (or a loved one)?

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Cherry Cordials

  • 1 jar maraschino cherries (without stems), about 36 cherries
  • 3 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp amaretto liqueur
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 oz semisweet or dark chocolate chips, whichever you prefer (I prefer dark)

1. Drain the cherries and place them on a dishtowel to dry.

Cherrie-Drying

2. Mix the remaining ingredients for the filling until smooth and pretty firm.  Pinch off about a teaspoonful and flatten lightly.  Place dry cherry in center, and press to completely enclose the cherry in the filling. Place on wax-paper-lined baking sheet. When all the cherries are coated, chill for at least an hour.

Cherries-Wrapped

3. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler (or a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water) and use a fork to dip cherries to cover.  Place back on wax paper.  When all my cherries were dipped, I used a fork to drizzle some remaining chocolate over the tops, to make them prettier.  Be certain no white filling if showing, since that will turn to liquid and ooze out if there’s a hole. Chill until firm.  Store in airtight container for at least 1 week, and preferably two weeks.  The white filling will liquefy, making the best cherry cordials ever.

I have to put these in the way back of the garage refrigerator, so that I forget them and no one else knows they’re there, so give them time to liquefy.

Now, if that still seems like way too much work, or perhaps someone (ahem) ate them all before Valentine’s Day, or something, here’s an almost-immediate gratification method my friend Kerri shared a few years ago.

Simply melt some chocolate and dip maraschino cherries with stems in it.  It will coat better if you drain the cherries and let them dry a bit, just like the ones above. Once they’re coated, let them chill until hardened, place a few in a champagne flute, and drizzle a few drops of amaretto over the top. Ooh-la-la, fanciness in minutes!

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The cherry cordials are wonderful packaged up prettily for a special gift, and the champagne flutes look beautiful on a dessert table. What I’m saying people, is that you really need to make both, since they serve different purposes. Really.

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The Happiest Place on Earth

I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear about our family vacation. I bet you wish it was 1960 and I could invite you over and force you to watch an hours-long slide show, don’t you?  Well, here’s the 21st Century answer to that…a blog post with photos and commentary!

And the link to this week’s theme of Feel Better?  Who can fail to smile when remembering a fabulous trip and seeing all those beaming hooligan faces?  Well, it works for us; you might need to substitute your own family memories, but it’s the idea I’m trying to get across here.

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1. Everyone standing in line to see Santa and Mrs. Claus at Epcot (including the cast members) were amazed that all three kids hopped up there, smiled perfectly, and I snapped two photos…badabing, badaboom, done.  I think it was a record.

2. What luck…the princesses were three that we hadn’t seen on the Disney Alaska cruise in 2011, so Princess Thundercloud got all the autographs and photos she wanted as soon as we walked into the Magic Kingdom, freeing up the rest of our day!

3. My kids are daredevils on the rollercoasters, unlike my GI Joe, who can leap out of planes but hates to even ride a Ferris wheel, much less a coaster. The rest of us went on Everest 5 times, the first three as fast as we could walk through the line and with only a 5 minute wait the other times. We finally stopped because we were dizzy and disoriented!

4. Mater and Lightning..the highlight of Hollywood Studios, even in the rain.

5. The hubs will ride Thunder Mountain…I think we counted up that we rode it 15 times in the two days we visited Magic Kingdom. A couple of times we didn’t even have to step off, because there was no line…just kept riding!

6. The kids played endless games of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” while waiting for parks to open. Of course, Thundercloud thinks it’s “shoes” not shoot at the end, so that her “shoes” beat everyone else.  Her first word was “shoe” so it’s not surprising, I guess.

7. One of the smartest things I did for our trip…bought those obnoxiously bright high-tech shirts so the hooligans matched each day. Except when Thundercloud had to wear her princess dress at the Magic Kingdom, of course.  Those shirts were $6 each at Walmart, and made it so easy to keep tabs on our little charged particles, bouncing around. They were also great for the varying temps, since the sleeves could be pulled up to be short, or a little warmer and quick-drying when it rained or we went on a wet ride.

8. Nothing better than sharing a funnel cake or three in the Magic Kingdom…they’re the best anywhere! We took granola bars, waters, dried fruit, and bagels with peanut butter with us each day to snack on, then left the parks in the afternoon for a real meal and a nap.  It worked out well, since out condo was only 15 minutes away, and we could get away from the Disney bustle for awhile.

9. We bought the eldest a classic Mickey ears hat when we took him as a four-year-old, so the other two had to get theirs this time.

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1. The Osborne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios is more overwhelming every time we see it.  Mind-boggling might be the correct word.

2. Why was I even a tiny bit surprised that Princess Thundercloud rides every rollercoaster hands up, screaming the whole time?

3. While it’s not Mater, they still wanted a photo.

4. We took these cool glasses for light-viewing that we found at Cracker Barrel…they make each light look like a snowman, reindeer, Christmas tree, etc.

5. Our kids are obsessed with the monorails.  Did you know there are monorail trading cards?  They’re pretty hard to find, with only a few of the operators carrying them, and you have to be super nice to get them to give you one.  We have way more than our share now.

6. There they are, dizzy and having to support each other, after our last ride on Everest!

This vacation to Florida was completely amazing.  We’ve traveled a lot with our kids, between visiting family, vacations, and moving (our oldest is 9 and has moved cross-country 4 times), and I think we’ve come to expect the “getting there” piece to be pretty painful.  On this trip, however, our kids really seem to have passed the most painful stages.

Everyone carried their own backpacks on the plane and amused themselves.  We told them when the littlest was born that we would go to Disney when she was 4.  Her birthday was last April, so they all immediately began planning our trip.  We had explained that on a family vacation, everyone gets to do something they want to each day, but maybe not only what they want. They were amazingly cooperative with us and each other, and fell into bed exhausted and happy each night.

We stayed in a great condo just off Disney, with a VOLCANO in the pool and three bedrooms, so everyone had plenty of space.  Our elf on the shelf, Joe, even tagged along! With the condo, we could have breakfast there everyday, and we had dinner there a couple of nights, although most days we had a big meal middle of the afternoon and just snack-type stuff for dinner. Disney popcorn rocks, you know!

Anyway, that wraps up the Disney portion of our trip…maybe next week I’ll regale you with the rest of our adventures in the Sunshine State. And, of course the hooligans are already planning when we can go back!

A Warm and Wavy Scarf

I tell you, I get so overwhelmed with deciding what craft project I want to start next…especially knitting projects, because there are so many I want to make!  Last fall, I made this scarf for my mother-in-law’s birthday…and here’s a little secret…I so did not want to give it up, once it was finished, because it turned out to be so lovely and cozy.

Of course, I did what any good knitter would do…stopped at the yarn store on my way home from the post office and bought more yarn to make one for myself!

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I love that it seems very complicated, but wasn’t.  The waves were created by a simple to remember pattern of increasing and decreasing in differing spots on each row, so I only had to refer to the pattern chart occasionally.  I knit this while at gymnastics and Tae Kwan Do, waiting to pick up kids at school, and while watching my favorite DVR’ed shows.

I bought this book of patterns from my local yarn shop, but it can be found easily online.  The patterns are simple to follow, even for a novice like me, and they’re just a little bit different than the everyday, run-of-the-mill. And that’s why I’m overwhelmed at choosing a new project, but that’s my problem, not the book’s!

60 Quick Knits from Sixth and Spring Books

Oh, and just to justify including this post in my Feel Better week, I have to explain that when I’m getting a cold, the back of my neck is always chilled.  When I feel that first little tickle in my throat and a chilliness on the nape of my neck, I reach for a warm, cozy scarf to make me feel better immediately…and this one is perfect!

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