Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When there isn't a whole lot of time. . . {Vanilla bean fruit dip}

Sometimes I feel like there just are not enough hours in a day.  We just finished up a 3 day weekend full of both times of rest and times of fun.  It was a full weekend of birthday parties for some super special people.  We celebrated a sweet 2 year old, Jon's grandpa turned 91 and Weston's buddy turned 6.  So, when I remembered that my table had snacks on Tuesday, I as kid of wondering how I was going to fit in baking something.  Sometimes, it just can't happen.  So, I remembered we had apples and oranges that needed to be used up along with some marshmallow cream I had bought when it was 99 cents before Christmas.  Note to self: always keeps a marshmallow cream in the fridge for times like this. 
This recipe worked perfect because I happened to have all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge. . . and there are only 3 ingredients, which makes things even simpler. Anytime I don't have to go to the store, it makes my husband very happy!  Also, there was no time for a quick trip target or a grocery store.  If you have cream cheese and marshmallow cream, you can make this.  I always try to have some on hand for quick, last minute recipes.   It is so delicious!  I even used my lactose free (doesn't give me a stomach ache) cream cheese and it turned out lovely.  It tastes like a soft cream cheese frosting that is to die for! 

Creamy Vanilla Bean Fruit Dip

Ingredients:
marshmallow cream
1 block cream cheese
vanilla bean paste

*If you don't have the paste, you can substitute vanilla extract and get the same flavor minus the speckles.

Directions:
In a medium sized bowl (big enough for your hand mixer to mix), mix up cream cheese and marshmallow cream until nice and smooth.  Add a tsp of vanilla bean paste and mix some more.  Pour into your serving container and serve with freshly cut fruit. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Goodbye vacation and hello Coconut Macaroons

My kids had three weeks off for Christmas.  I love our three weeks off.  We slept in, baked a lot, threw a party, went to the movies, played with legos, watched lots of Christmas movies, and went to Target way too many times!  But, Monday came and I got out of bed (before 8:00) and we very slowly made it out the door.  We were welcomed back to school with a downpour.  No joke!  As soon as we got to school the rain started and so we enjoyed our rainy walk to the kids lines. Thankfully we keep an umbrella in the trunk for such occasions (note: it's kind of a miracle that it was there since it hardly rains anymore. . . until lately!).  I managed to make it back to my car without getting completely soaked and headed to the nearest Starbucks to start my celebration.  Not only did the day scream hot caffeinated beverage but so did the weather.  I celebrated by running all those errands that are harder to do with two boys in my tow (Ulta, DSW, etc.).  I even headed to Panera for lunch and a good book!

Now, we are nearing the end of the week and I am ready for the weekend!  Everyone is exhausted around here and sleeping in sounds so delightful!  You know what else is delightful?  These cookies. 
This year, I was on the hunt for an amazing coconut macaroon recipe.  I found one just before Christmas by Ina Garten and I couldn't resist adding them to my Christmas baking plans.  I have a thing for coconut and chocolate combinations.  Almond Joy Bars and Theo's coconut bar are some of my favorite candies.  And really, it was by Ina Garten. . . she's like a goddess in the kitchen, so what could go wrong?

My first batch was great, but it wasn't perfect.  I used my cookies scoop and they came out HUGE and took longer to bake.  They may not have looks as pretty as my second batch, but they received rave reviews and didn't take long to be eaten by everybody.  So when I was thinking of what treats I was going to make for our annual post Christmas party for Jon's work peeps, I knew that a second go at these would be perfect!  I made a few adjustments from what I did to the first batch and they came out perfect.  A friend of mine, willingly became my taste tester for these since my sweet husband doesn't like coconut, and sent me a text telling me they were "to die for."  Completely made my day!

On your next trip to Target, pick up some coconut and sweetened condensed milk and you can easily make these in just a few minutes (plus baking time).  You won't regret it. . . unless you don't like coconut, but for now, we will just pretend everyone likes those white flakey shreds!


Coconut Macaroons
adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:
14 oz. shredded sweetened coconut
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra large egg whites (I used 2 egg whites plus about 1/2 of another egg's whites)
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Set it aside.  On high speed, whip the egg whites and salt with whisk attachment*.  Whisk for several minutes until medium firm peaks (beautiful white peaks will be foamy and stand up when you lift the whisk).  Once, you have reached medium-firm peaks, fold gently into coconut mixture.

Using a spoon, carefully drop spoonfuls of mixture onto baking sheet.  Bake for 24 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool and serve or dip bottoms into melted chocolate**.

* If you are unsure about what medium-firm peaks look like, Ina even has a video that shows what her peaks looked like.

** Melt chocolate bark or 1 cup of dark chocolate chips + 1 tsp coconut oil.  Dip bottoms carefully into melted chocolate and set on wax paper or parchment paper until cool.  Drizzle tops with chocolate. 





Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016: A year of delicous recipes, adventure, and randomness!

I feel like the past year just flew by and now we are nearing the 8th anniversary of this little blog.  It has become my happy place where I can share recipes or crafts that I have tried, but it has also (slowly) become a place where I can share my heart.  As I was glancing through the past 12 months, I got really excited about the direction in which this blog is going. So, I thought I would share some of last year's highlights. Apparently a lot happened!  Here's a quick flashback of the past year:

January:

I started the year, by sharing my heart about the time I started saying no and then started sharing some of my favorite recipes that my family found on Pinterest and really enjoyed.

February:
In February, we changed up our family room a bit with a new couch and rug and discovered quite the mess underneath.  We got real honest about that mess!  We also celebrated Weston's fifth birthday with an airplane party that was so much fun! I also started the month off by talking about why we are called to create.  It was such a fun and busy month!

March:
I'm not sure what happened in March, but I wrote a bit and I even got up the nerve to try a batch of macarons.  They didn't come out right (no feet), but they were delicious. I think that the business of January and February slowed down a bit and so did I.   I did find time to make a special pie in honor of pi day!  It was delicious!

April:
As Spring came around, baseball began and so did after school practices.  We adjusted ourselves to the new schedule and loved it!  I shared our living room makeover and gave some history behind the house!

May:
The school year business started to die down and it became clear that popsicles were our favorite treat to enjoy outside.  I shared a couple of recipes and I realize that as I type this, I really can't wait to start making more!

We also took some time to for an adventure to Yosemite before it got too busy and we wanted to see the Falls at their fullest.  It was beautiful and the perfect day trip!

June:
June was a crazy full, with school ending and our summer adventure starting, but I was able to fit is some fun ideas and strategies to make flying/traveling with kids a success.  I also shared some delicious Dairy free and lactose free alternatives when dealing with dairy and soy allergies.  Oh, and there was cake involved, too.  Can't leave that out.  It's chocolate, which sounds amazing as I type this!

July:
July settled in with swim lessons and family gatherings.  I also started sharing about our grand adventure through Wyoming and South Dakota (with a few other states thrown in there).  Once we got home, I started baking and cooking.  I fell in love with the new Bake from Scratch magazine and this sugared jam cake!

August:
Things changed a bit once school started and I experienced a whole knew phase of life with both kiddos in school.  Other than that, not too much happened as I adjusted to the quiet of the house and managing my time without Weston at home during the day.

September:
 I found a delicious recipe for cinnamon chocolate chip pancakes and shared how I make pancakes easy on busy mornings with my favorite pan!  This pan has been a lifesaver for me since Ethan started school, and even more so with both boys in school.  I'm kind of sad that Crate and Barrel doesn't sell them, but I've heard you can still find them on amazon or wilton's website.

October:
Technically Ethan turned 8 in September, but it didn't make it to the blog until October.  We celebrated him with a fun soccer party and my husband got super into it by turning the backyard into a soccer field.  It was a fun evening of delicious food, family, and friends, and lots of soccer!

November:
My birthday month brought me one year closer to 40 and some delicious recipes.  My favorite one was these Banana Chocolate Espresso Muffins!  These were delicious and they gave me the perfect excuse to buy some espresso powder I had been eyeing for months!  I celebrated my birthday by getting pampered and hanging out the my family.   I also wrote 37 things about myself because it sounded like fun! I got to share about my love of street tacos and my problem with finishing projects.

December:
And finally, the last month of the year!  We survived the busy and the quiet of the Christmas season.  I even found time to throw a cookie exchange with some fellow moms from school and our neighborhood.  That was only the start of the insane amount of Christmas baking that happened in my kitchen.

And with that, the year was over!  It was a great year with challenges and adventure.  It wasn't perfect, things didn't always work out the way I thought they should, but it was a good year.  I grew as a baker (I made a lot of bread and had an almost successful batch of macarons!).  I stepped out of my comfort zone and grew in my relationship with God.  I am excited for 2017. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Easy, Stress free Cookie Exchange {free printable}

November marked 7 years of home ownership for us and next week marks the anniversary of the day we moved in to our house.  So much has changed as we have slowly made it our own.  But, one thing has remained the same: We want to use our house as a means of hospitality and a place for people to gather.  We also love the school our kids go to and want to invest in the lives of that community.  And, honestly, I have met some amazing moms just by hanging out at drop off and pick up.  This year has been weird, because I am not at the main pick up most of the week since a friend and I carpool so we don't have to make 2 trips 45 minutes apart between kinder pick up and regular day pick up.  Also, conversing with moms after school is hard because there is a sort of chaos that comes with your kids not seeing you all day and needing your attention, littles tugging on you, or the crazy of boys running around knocking each other down.  Sometimes moms just need a chance to get some time to relax, talk, eat yumminess, and not have to be interrupted by kids.  So, I planned a cookie exchange and sent the boys to the mini golf course.  The boys got a date with their dad and this mom got some girl time. 

It wasn't hard to convince my hubby to go away because he's a fan of cookies and cookie exchanges mean cookies, so he was in.  I invited as many as I could (just in case a miracle happened and they all showed up. . . it didn't happen. . . it's Christmas and people are crazy busy!).  But several friends showed up and we exchanged cookies, ate food, and just talked.  Everyone went away meeting someone new and taking some seriously delicious treats with them!  And by delicious, I am not joking. . . my friends are really good bakers!







Here are some helpful tips for making a stress free cookie exchange:

1.  Invite friends.  I designed a quick invitation and saved it as a jpg, and then created a Facebook event.  If you have friends that don't do Facebook, then just send it as an email.  You could do snail mail. . . but that isn't quick and easy. 

2.  Don't be afraid to ask your guest to potluck it.  Whenever, I host things with my school mom friends, we potluck.  It's a great way to share recipes, and start conversations . . . especially when sometimes moms don't always know each other.  

3.  I found some cute cookie cutter and threw on a tag for some quick party favors.  This was a super easy way to just love on my friends.  

4.  Don't overwhelm yourself or your friends by making them bake 10 dozen cookies.  Just a batch will do and everyone can take at least 2.  I mean, let's be real here, when you come home with 100 cookies from a cookie exchange, most of the time it gets shipped off to your work or in my case, my husband's work because NOBODY can eat that many before they get stale.  So, really, why bother making large amounts and overwhelm everybody.  The whole point is to gather and share. 

5.  Provide boxes for your friends to put their cookie collection in.  I found lingerie boxes at Hobby Lobby for half off and bought enough for my friends and even added some fun tissue paper, so they could package their cookies for the ride home.  Fun, festive, and inexpensive.  

6.  Use printable to decorate.  I really liked the sign from here but the colors didn't got with my plates (some of the cute Cheeky plates and napkins from Target in Red, magenta, green, and gold triangles).  I also didn't want to buy the kit (that didn't match) and only use the sign.  So, I borrowed the words and came up with my own design.  And then I made tags to match for the cookie cutters.  I had them both printed at Office Depot for super cheap and they turned out great!

7.  I also bought some tags (half off at Hobby Lobby) and put them with some sharpies for people to write the names of their treats so everyone would know what things were.  

And guess what!?  I am linking you to the sign and cookie cutter tags so you can throw a cookie exchange with no hassle!  Open your home and get connected with the people around you!  



You can print out them out for free! For personal use only

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DIY Christmas Tree Swag (a tutorial)

I love Christmas.  It's my favorite time of the year.  Foggy cold mornings, twinkling colored lights, delicious freshly baked sugary treats, and fun parties.  This year, I really wanted a wreath for our front door, but we have this horrible screen door that just needs to disappear.  Basically, if we hung a wreath, nobody would be able to see it, so not worth spending the money on.  I was kind of sad, but   then I had an idea!  I love it when good ideas come just when I need them, they are basically free, and they work out just how I plan!   Also, I remembered to take step by step pictures! 
First of all, you will need to gather your materials.  I used some leftover cuttings of fresh Christmas trees.  You can usually find these at your local Christmas Tree buying place (I got mine at Lowes).  They are free, and you can usually take whatever you need.  I put them in jars and use them in various ways around the house, so I had some branches left over.  You will also need some ribbon to make a bow or a store bought one, wire, wire cutters, and some decorative sprigs if you so desire (I got mine at Hobby Lobby and they were half off.  I used two of the red and gold berry twigs).  You will also need a glue gun.  Mine was plugged in a few yards away.

Find the branches you like and put them together facing downward.  Add your sprig to that bundle where you want it to go.  Wrap your wire around and twist the ends to get a secure hold.  Make sure you leave a long piece to make a loop, so you can hang it from your door hook or a nail. . . whatever your heart desires.
Once you have your wire secure and loop finished, turn over.  This will be your front.
Next, you will want to cut a piece of the ribbon you will use for a bow.  Wrap it around once and glue it with the clue gun.  I used burlap, because I had some left over and I wanted that rustic look. Make sure you glue the back part to the back part of your swag. 
Next you need to add your bow.  I followed this tutorial to make my burlap bow. It was super easy! Then, glue it where you want it on your swag.  Stand back and tell yourself "job well done!"  Then, hang it up on your front door.  Easy Peazy! 

And, there you have it.  Instant Christmas door decor for almost nothing.  I think I spent less than $3 by the time I was finished.  Now, you have a few extra dollars to go buy yourself a Gingerbread latte and sit back and look at how pretty your front door looks.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Christmas Shopping Time!

Tonight I sat down with some hot cocoa and watched a cheesy Christmas movie and just breathed.  It's one of my favorite things to do this time of year when things get a bit crazy, which happens a lot, because I have a really bad habit of trying to do just about everything.

Yesterday, I spent the day shopping, making party reservations for surfer boy's birthday in February, and drinking my favorite latte.  I love running errands, but sometimes finding the perfect gift for certain people on my gift list requires some searching the world wide web for something fun and out of the ordinary.  Thankfully, I have some amazingly creative friends who have some super fun businesses.  One of my favorite things is seeing my mom friends use their gifts to supplement their family's income.  It's like watching my friend's become Proverbs 31 women! So, I thought that since it's serious shopping time, I would share some of my friend's businesses with you!


Epiphanie Designs
A few years ago, my best friend started making scrabble family trees as gifts to her family members and people just started asking her to make them for everything.  I love how God has completely blessed her business and used her gifting to help supplement her family's income, especially at Christmas!  It is super fun watching friends get gifts that she has made and see their faces light up when the get a tree as a gift, which is one of her favorite things about gift giving and she wants that for everyone who buys her trees.  Every single one that she does is completely different and individual, so it's definitely a one of a kind gift!  I have one that sits on a shelf in my living room with coordinating colors!   All trees are digital images and look fantastic framed or on a canvas, which makes it great for whatever you want it for.  She's even put some on t-shirts and canvas bags. . . seriously amazing!  You can find her etsy store here.

Also, if you comment on this post my sweet friend will send you a coupon code to save you some money on your very own custom family tree!  If you are posting as anonymous, find me on Facebook and private message me, so we can get that to you!  It's super easy! 

Haitian Bead Project
My sweet friend Dorina has the sweetest heart for the people of Haiti.  She and her husband actually spent a year as missionaries and several summers in between serving our MOPS group with her creativity and hospitality.  Her heart for these ladies, who have become her friends, is so evident in the way that she leads her life, and even though she has passed this on to other people to run so she can focus on her family and her writing, the focus of this shop is still the same. Provide an income for Haitian women (and some men, I think).  These women make the necklaces and send them back to the states to be sold at various events and through their online store.  There are so many stories of these ladies being able to provide homes for their families through these necklaces.  This is definitely a purchase you can feel good about!  Plus, they are beautiful!  They don't just have necklaces, either!  You can find ornaments, bracelets, earrings, and so much more on their website.  You can find it here.


Brooklyn Owl
Another sweet friend of mine moved across the country after she got married and when their now 8 year old was born, she found a way to make some money by making felt headbands and unicorn horns.  Super cute!  This little business is amazing and she now sells them in stores across the country!  How cool is that!  Her daughter also helps out and can often be seen making things and selling them too. . . I absolutely love it!!!  You can find her etsy shop here.

I have a few other favorite spots, but of course my computer is about to die and I should probably go to bed anyways.  I hope you get to go visit these online shops. . . because they are amazing and honestly, shopping in your pajamas is the way to go!

But, don't forget to comment so I can send you a coupon code to save you some money on a family tree!  

Friday, December 02, 2016

on making lists & setting goals


Today. 

Today, was beautiful.  Kind of foggy and cold and perfect for blaring Christmas music as I drove around town.  I even picked up a Christmas in a cup (a.k.a gingerbread latte) from the Starbucks in Target! I can't believe how much I got done before picking up kids at school.

Right now I need to sit down and make a list.  I like lists.  I am one of those people that will make a list and add the things I've already done so I can mark them off.   I am also one of those people who has too tries to do too many things in one day and then feels guilty for not getting everything done.  I am sure that I can't be alone in this?  

Back in my college days, I read a book by Elizabeth George that talked about making daily, monthly, and yearly goals.  My daily goals tend to look a lot like a to-do list, but in reality, they really are my goals.  I'm really good at making daily goals, but not so great on the monthly, or even yearly goals.  This is something I plan on working on over the next few months.   So, I am going to start today and set goals for December.  Let's see how I do! 

December 2016 Goals:

:: Truth in the Tinsel - The kids insisted we do this again and I am perfectly okay with that because a few years ago I made it so organized that this year, I just had to print out the ornaments and everything was already together.  Easy Peasy.   We did day 1 last night!  I love our tradition and the kid's eagerness to focus on Christ and his birth.  We won't get them all done, but I am okay with that.

::  Finish Reading Simply Tuesday.  It's a great book, I just need to put forth the effort to finish it! 

:: Finish the kitchen cabinets.  I have 1 1/2 cabinets left and I just need to focus and do it.  

:: Be consistent in working out.  

:: Finish Weston's quilt top so it can be done before his 6th birthday. . . can you believe he's going to be 6?!?!

:: Try at least 2 new recipes.  

:: Get Christmas cards out by Christmas. 

 And that's that!  I'm keeping this month's goals small.  It's going to be a busy month with lots of fun activities, baking, sewing, and wrapping presents.  Today, I am staying home and finishing up decorating the house.  Christmas stuff is everywhere and I need to finish and clean.  Have a wonderful weekend!  Exciting things are coming next week! 

Do you make goals?  What are some of yours for December?  Feel free to share in the comments. 
 



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