‘Tis the Season(s)

I often wander into Whole Foods and peruse the aisles of down-to-earth, good-for-you products with their wholesome ingredients. The expansive variety of ready-to-eat items on the hot bar. The mingling of the kindred tree huggers…those of us who love to put good into our bodies and do good by Mother Earth.

I always get pizza and 2 cookies. It’s kind of like when I have Mexican. Three crunchy tacos; there’s really no point in looking at the menu. But, I digress…

But did you know that there was magic happening over in the seasoning section?

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I used to have this thing with always wanting one of those gourmet seasoning sets, but I didn’t particularly care for the one-flavor-fits-all packaging. There were always one or two seasonings that I really wanted to try, but didn’t want to waste money on the ones I didn’t think I’d want. Randomly, I found out that you can totally make your own seasoning set at Whole Foods!

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I know right!

So basically, it works like this:

1. Find a super cute container to put your seasoning into. This step is especially important if you’re giving this as a house warming gift… *hint, hint, wink, wink* And bring a mini funnel, if you have one. In retrospect, that would have been helpful…

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2. Take the containers to the counter to have them weighed. When you go to pay for the seasonings, they have to weigh the containers individually and this will ensure you don’t pay double for the container that you brought into the store. Think back to the science experiments in undergrad where you had to weigh each chemical so you didn’t mess up the whole assignment…

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3. Select your seasonings and fill your containers. The best part of being able to make your own seasoning gift set is that it can be super personalized for the lucky recipient!

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4. Checkout! The best part of this whole deal is that you get to sample some spices without breaking your budget. I think I love that part the most 🙂

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I decided to go with Orange Chipotle, Rosemary, Aegean and Yakima Applewood, Smoked Sea Salts. ‘Tis the seasons indeed!

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Does it sound good to you? Let me know in the comments for a chance to use these delicious seasonings in your next dish!

Make It Awesome!

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Christmas is just a few weeks away! Even though I’m really looking forward to eating myself senseless for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t wait to share this cute and SUPER easy idea with you!

I wandered into Dollar Tree (which is usually trouble in and of itself) and came across some really cute and shiny window clings. My next thought was literally “these would be so cute on a wine glass!”

And if you knew how insanely hectic the last few months have been, you wouldn’t question why every thought currently defaults to wine…

Snowflake Wine Glasses

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Supplies:

  • wine glasses
  • snowflake window clings
  • hot glue gun, E6000 or other adhesive
  • scissors

Instructions:

  1. Wash and dry the glasses. You want to make sure that you start with a clean work surface. The clings come in varying sizes, so it’s easy to match them up to the size of your glass.
  2. Remove the window cling from its backing and adhere to the wine glass. It has a sticky backing and that’s great for helping to position it.
  3. Use the hot glue gun (or other adhesive) to attach the main branches to the glass. This step is important because the clings are made to adhere to a flat surface and the glass is round. Unless you’ve found some weirdly amazing square glasses that have been hidden from me…

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4.  For the points that are still sticking out from the glass, use your scissors to trim a sliver out so that              the branch of the snowflake will lay flat against the glass. Glue into place.

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It’s seriously that simple! Just a few steps and you have beautiful holiday glassware to use at all of your parties!

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Just add a bottle of your favorite wine and some great company and you’re all set! Remember that when cleaning, make sure to hand wash them so that all of your (not too) hard work doesn’t disentigrate in the dishwasher.

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 Make It Awesome!

Making Dipped Christmas Cookies

Christmas is approaching swiftly!

We had a holiday party at the taekwondo school last weekend and I was supposed to make cupcakes. I was so physically exhausted that I could not stay up long enough to make them 😦 What I did do, was opt for a quicker, and easier, sweet option…

Dipped cookies!

While this seemed to be an easy task to me, some of my friends had either never heard of the techinique or thought it to be really complicated. I promise, it’s super easy! So if you have a holiday party coming up or need a last minute idea for dessert to take to a family dinner, check this out:

1. I went to the store and bought 2 bags of Chips Ahoy cookies. You can pretty much use any cookie you like, these were just ones I picked up because they were on sale 🙂

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2. Melt your chocolate or candy melts. I use a double broiler for the chocolate. If you’re using the candy melts, you can use a double broiler, but you can also use a bowl or other microwave safe container to melt them; follow packaging instuctions.

3. Dip your cookie in the chocolate (or candy melts.) There’s no real rhyme or reason to this step, just dip them in as much or as little chocolate as you like 🙂

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4. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. The wax paper will make it easier to remove the cookies when they’re ready to come out of the freezer. Decorate with sprinkles, jimmies, nuts, whatever. Do it at this stage so that they will be set in the chocolate. I mixed my red and green sprinkles in a bowl together so I wouldn’t have to do double duty trying to sprinkle them on individually.

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5. Freeze the cookies for 5 min. This will allow the chocolate to set. Remove from the sheets.

6. Package and deliver! If you’re going to store them in the refrigerator, make sure that you use cellophane or plastic packaging. If you don’t, the chocolate will sweat and then everything will be sticky and gross. Chocolate and water don’t like each other so much :/

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These are quick, fun, and easy for a holiday party…or any other event! You can make them in any color to fit any theme 🙂

I hope that you have a happy a safe holiday season!

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A Pretty Wicked Halloween

I just wanted to share with you a quick dessert table that I put together for Halloween! It can seem like a daunting task to come up with some ideas to make a dessert table, but it’s not so bad. You don’t have to have matching sets of anything and can feel free to use scraps and tidbits that you have around the house to pull of something pretty wicked!

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The heroes in this story are Dollar Tree and Target…seriously, most of the stuff on this table cost $1 or less.

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The menu consisted of:

  • Poisoned Apples (apples)
  • Corrupted Cake Pops (cake balls in chocolate)
  • Skulls and Cobweb Cupcakes (wedding cake flavored cupcakes with vanilla icing)
  • Vampire’s Elixir and a Sweet Stake Through the Heart (red drink of choice and chocolate hearts on candy a candy apple stick)

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Dollar Tree goblet colored with a silver Sharpie!

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The decor came from the $ section at Target and Dollar tree. I got the spider web from Zulily a while back. The banner was made by making a pennant in Publisher and then cutting that out and putting purple chevron paper behind it for a little color. It was connected and strung with simple purple ribbon. The snakes were purchased at Dollar Tree and spray painted silver. The sparkly spiders came from the holiday section at Kroger and came out to be about 33 cents each. It drives my husband nuts, but I look for deals everywhere we go! He doesn’t even try to keep up with me anymore. If I ever wander off, he knows where to find me… The skull was at the Dollar Tree…I just spray painted it, added some jewels I had laying around and voila! Blinged out bones!

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For the other elements, florals etc., it was stuff I had laying around the house; the big dahlia was from our wedding stash from 2 years ago; I originally purchased it from Afloral and they have some beautiful selections for every occasion.

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

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The Wedding Series…The Invitation Part 2

The last post talked about deciding on who to invite and began to discuss how we stuck everything into one invite. Continuing on from Part 1, we’re discussing 2 major elements, usually designed and bought/mailed separately, that we added to the main invitation.

2. The Save the Date card:

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My biggest concern, with having a truncated planning period, was the save-the-date. I mean, how else would people remember how important it was for them to be there?!?

There is a huge trend to send out these reminders to people. Calendars, separate invitations/notices, the prequel to it all…it can get expensive! We decided that we would include this in the main invitation, since we’re already on a roll with this booklet thing…

When adding this element, we had to make it practical for our guests. We told our printer what we wanted and had this page in the passport perforated so that it could be torn out! We also added magnets to the back of it so that once it was torn out, all the guest had to do was use it to hold up something on their fridge!

Voila! Save-the-date card is a success!

3. The RSVP Card:

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There are so many things to worry about with this part…will they lose it? Will they remember to send it back? Will they actually fill it out?? As simple as we made this, some people still forgot to actually fill it out. I didn’t learn about this trick (see #4) until months later *shrugs*

What we did followed the same mindset of making things practical. The cards were pre-addressed and pre-stamped, so people LITERALLY just needed to drop it into a mailbox. Adding the stamps was a little bit of an extra expense, but so worth not having the hassle of trying to track down responses and hearing the excuse “I didn’t have a stamp…”

On the RSVP card, we also let the guests know how many seats would be held for them. We still followed the rules of etiquette and allowed for spouses/significant others. We took additional steps to make sure that we kept it for the adults only; that will be discussed in another post.

The cost of this? Patience and approximately $350 to print about 100 invitations…we were able to send everything they needed for our big day and it mailed at the regular postage price…no extra shipping fees 🙂

That breaks down to about $3.50 per invitation, but it’s personalized, really showed OUR personality, set the tone for our big day, and let our guests in on the fun from the beginning.

You don’t necessarily have to put everything in a booklet form, but be sure to communicate with your printer and local post office to remain mindful of guidelines…find out exactly how much you can cram into an envelope and still ship it out with an infinity stamp…

Next on the series: No kids allowed?

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The Wedding Series…The Invitation Part 1

Ahh, the invitation…

This piece of paper (or booklet, in our case) sets the tone for your entire event. Elegant, laid back, themed? The invitation lets your guests know what to expect when they come to celebrate your union.

Or eat and drink for free. Whatever. You know your friends better than I do…

But the invitation is the first thing people will see when they are introduced to your big day! You don’t necessarily have to have a theme, but use your invitation to let people know what colors your wedding will be, the things you enjoy as a couple, how you like to celebrate, etc, etc.

We had a travel themed wedding. It’s a theme that a lot of people do, but we actually love to travel! I picked the theme and my hubby picked the colors; it was a fall event, so the chocolate and burnt orange worked out perfectly! Since this was the theme for the wedding, we researched passport invitations…it allowed us to put in all of the information that needed to be disseminated and it was lots of fun for our guests…fun like us!

The other issue…the guests themselves. We made the decision to have an adult-only wedding and reception…and to make sure guests didn’t just bring everybody and their cousins…

Before you can send them out, you have to decide who gets the “golden ticket.” Unless you’re loaded, your guest list will affect your budget…

One of the many arguments I had with mom involved inviting people that I didn’t know to witness such an intimate event. I took serious issue with being encouraged to invite someone who used to babysit me when I was 3 years old instead of one of our friends who supported our relationship from the puppy love phase. Harsh? Maybe…but some people would agree with my stance on that one…

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a quick and concise guide

There are certain things that you should and should not do when sending out your invitations. One of my favorite wedding websites, theknot.com, has a wonderful list of invitation etiquette rules to follow.

To save money, we figured out how to skirt those rules just a bit… Planning a wedding in four months doesn’t typically leave room for a lot of spending (or spreading funds out over time.) Depending on the location of the wedding, you will need to give anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months notice for your guests to get themselves to the event.

1. The passport (booklet):

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Our invitation was one-stop shopping for our guests. We were able to include the actual invitation, with the essential details, add the hotel and reservation information for our out-of-town guests (the wedding was held at this hotel,) and include the information for our wedding website, which included our GIFT REGISTRY! Etiquette rules say that you shouldn’t include your gift registry in your invitation, but letting people know where you website is located is totally PC!

The next post will continue detailing how we designed and executed our invitation/design…

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The Wedding Series…Seriously, You Can D(o) I(t) Y(ourself)

Hey there!

I figured that since this was a DIY business, I should probably start sharing how to DIY some things? It could help, I suppose…

I don’t do a lot of weddings, but they happen sometimes. This whole business got started in the aftermath of planning my own nuptials in November 2011…that process was 4 months from engagement to ceremony…

Yes, it can be done.

The big, busy wedding season is winding down, but people are still getting married during the non-peak months and are even planning for next year. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the tips that we used to pull off our affair, as well as some tricks that I’ve learned since that fabulous day! And the great thing? These tips aren’t reserved for weddings only, but can be used, edited and updated for almost any event!

First up in the series, the all-inclusive invitation! We’ll talk about customization, etiquette, and how to skirt some of those rules to save you money…woot!

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Chocolate Wasted: The S’mores Chronicles

So summer is officially in full swing and that means it’s s’mores time!

To be honest, I’ve never liked s’mores because I’ve never really been a fan of marshmallows. I tried when I was younger in Girl Scouts and it was a no-go. I used to roast my friends’ marshmallows for them, mostly because I like to set things on fire and burn my food to a crisp. Drove my mom nuts, but that’s a different story…

So anyway, I told my hubby that I didn’t like s’mores, to which he replies, “You should make one with Snickers!” Yeah…pretty much when he says “You should…” it’s the equivalent of a triple dog dare. Consider it done!

I finally went to the store and got all of my supplies.

home alone...chocolate wasted in 5, 4, 3, 2...

home alone…chocolate wasted in 5, 4, 3, 2…

I ended up picking up the jumbo marshmallows because they were on sale, but for someone who doesn’t like marshmallows, I probably should have thought that through a little more *shrugs* but I suppose I can learn how to make marshmallow fondant 🙂 But because they were so large, I had to cut them in half.

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I made four separate s’mores and commenced the taste testing. So much marshmallow to burn. I think that torching marshmallows may be against the rules of conduct, but I really do like the taste of burnt food. I know I have a problem.

burn, baby burn...don't judge me...

burn, baby burn…don’t judge me…

This is just ridiculous. There is warm, chocolate dripping everywhere. It. Is. The. Best.

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The verdict? I think I’d have to say the Mr. Goodbar was my favorite, followed very closely by the Simply Caramel Milky Way. Whatever you decide, one can never go wrong with chocolate!

I hope you enjoy my little twist on the classic s’more 🙂 Try one (or all) of them, and let me know which is your fave!

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Independence Day Decor

July 4th is like…tomorrow!

Did you wait until the last minute to figure out decorations (like I usually do?) If so, I’ve got a quick and easy centerpiece for you to make. And the cost?

$5.

Yep…$5. Less if you already have some of the items laying around the house!

This is the centerpiece that I made for my Operation Shower event last weekend:

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These are the supplies you need to make it happen:

  • mini red and blue metal buckets (from Target) – $1 each
  • small flags, set of 3 (from Target) – $1
  • red and white ribbon (from Michael’s) – about $1 with coupon
  • white roses (from Dollar Tree) – on hand from a prior project, otherwise $1
  • stones or clear marbles (from Dollar Tree) – on hand from a prior project, otherwise $1
  • hot glue gun and sticks
  • patience and caution…they mean it when they say “hot glue”

Directions:

  • use the glue gun and line the bottom of one of the buckets with glue
  • put the other bucket on, end to end, let cool/dry
  • measure and cut a piece of ribbon, to hide the seams where the buckets meet, and glue on. Be careful with your fingers!
  • put the stones in the top side. Since these are open buckets, they’re interchangeable in how you want the colors to flow. Some of mine were red/blue and others were blue/red, to coordinate with the place settings on the tables. Adding the stones will weigh the centerpiece down and anchor the flowers and flags in place
  • place the flowers and flags in the stones

There you have it! Very quick and easy…and best of all, inexpensive! If you still need additional ideas for desserts and decor to make, check out my Pinterest board 🙂

This centerpiece can be used with any color combination and by using hot glue, you can take them apart to reuse the containers for another project!

Enjoy and Happy 4th of July!

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How To Make Valiant Cookies

For Father’s Day this year, I decided to make my dad some cookies. I didn’t want to do the traditional necktie or mustache  cookie…even though they’re adorable, I thought I’d go for something different and unique. I didn’t have the proper cutters, and me being a repeat winner of the Procrastinator of the Year award, I’d waited too late to order them in time for Dad’s Day. I was forced to dig around in the cookie cutters I already own and get creative…

So as the basis for my design is described in the card/topper that I made for dad:

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To get thoughts from my head into the oven, this is what I had to work with:

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A tie and a tulip. Can’t really say there’s a real valiant vibe to that, but we’re going with it…

So the first thing, roll out your cookie dough, and place the cutters. Not really any magic to it, but make sure that you have enough space on the bottom part of the tie to make your handle for the sword.

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To make the shield, the next step is to de-stem it…ie. cut off the part you won’t need. Simply using a non-serrated knife should be fine.

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Making the handle of the sword is a little more involved, but still not very complicated at all. I free-handed the design, but if you’re not comfy with that, using a ruler or template is cool too 🙂 Make sure that you cut out the space to reinsert the handle and that it fits properly so that your cookie will bake together and close the gaps. If you reassemble the sword on your parchment paper before trying to move it, it will certainly save you some frustration…

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Bake your cookies according to the directions for the recipe you’re using and let them cool completely before decorating.

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Most decorators will tell you to wait a day so that the oils don’t leach into the icing, but I’m certain that they don’t have nearly as many Procrastinator of the Year awards as myself, so 30 min later…

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Depending upon the consistency of your icing, you can outline and flood at the same time, which is what I choose to do…you know, with it being the Saturday afternoon before Father’s Day and all… I did the same technique when making the shields. I got so giddy coloring in the shield/rushed for time that I forgot to take pictures of these steps, but here’s the outline that I started with:

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The one on the right reminded me of a police badge

Before the handle on the sword dried completely, I thought it would be fancy to add some pearl inlay:

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While that was drying, I decided that I wanted to make an ornate emblem to put on the shield. I’m not that good of an artist so I have to compensate and get creative in that area too. My dad’s zodiac sign is Leo, so I thought. “Man, I’m gonna make a lion to put on his shield!” I found an image online, re-sized it to an inch to fit the shield and used my tracing prowess, a #1 and #2 tip and went to town!

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Despite the perceived awesomeness of my idea, I have to be honest and say this next step was a pain in the butt! Transferring a 1″ piece of really delicate sugar is not the most fun process on the planet. I’m sure there are worse things, but after breaking this thing twice, it’s highly debatable. Carefully lift the image from the wax paper and place it gently on the shield. Try really hard not to swear if, and when, it comes apart. Use some wet icing to fix it to the shield and let it dry.

If you’re doing the tracing technique, make sure that you use plenty of shortening on your wax paper so that the design can be more easily peeled/slid off onto wherever it’s final destination happens to be. To get the shimmer, I just brushed them with luster dust.

So after all is said and done, I made my dad’s Father’s Day cookies and he loved them! It was amazing to see his reaction and then watch him devour them, just after stating that they were too pretty to eat. In all honesty, I might have been slightly offended if he didn’t eat them!

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In retrospect, I think this would be a really cool technique to make shield for other themed parties…Princess Merida from Brave was just crowned as the 11th Disney Princess, so it may come in handy one day!

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