C-O-O-K-I-E-S

I love sugar cookies.  And I love making sugar cookies.  And I love giving sugar cookies. 

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And I think people like them too because I am always being asked for the recipe.  So last year my sugar cookie recipe was part of the cookie week at Kim’s.  (click here for the recipe).

This year I was going to make something different than sugar cookies.  I scoured magazines looking for that perfect recipe.  But either because of my nut allergy eliminating tons of them or my affinity for the dough, I was led right back to the old standby.

This time with a twist.  That actually makes them quicker and easier.  And while not better than the original…different and amazing in their own way.

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Peppermint Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • chocolate chips
  • candy canes
Directions
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla and sour cream until well blended. Stir in the sifted ingredients. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters or random round object (I used a glass). Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler (or a makeshift one using a Pyrex bowl and a saucepan…hey it worked). 
  5. Put candy canes in plastic bag and crunch them.  Multiple techniques for this include the rubber mallet, stomping on them etc.
  6. Dip cooled cookies into the melted chocolate halfway and then set on wax or parchment paper. 
  7. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the peppermint chunks on top.

Yummy!  Make sure you head over to Kim’s to sample all the yumminess over there!

It is Beginning to Look A Lot Like…..

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.  Luckily/unluckily I am just starting to feel better while Derek is now best buds  with the Nyquil.  I am on his favorite person list right now obviously….

The whole sick thing caused some blog silence last week since going to bed at 7 was not good for my productivity and I even missed the first week of Kim’s Dare to DIY party.  Sad.

But no worries, I am back (for the most part…excuse my box of Kleenex).

Last year, I decorated our dining room table for Christmas a week early and while I loved it, I swore to myself that this year I would not forget about Thanksgiving and set the table with gourds and the and other fall-y things.

That is until it occurred to me that we were hosting Christmas and not Thanksgiving, so why waste good ideas on a tablescape that no one would use? Right?

So I present you with an early Christmas table for the second year in a row…..

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Red does happen to be my favorite color.  Good thing it corresponds with Christmas.

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I really wanted a beautiful red tablecloth to cover the entire table.  But a round tablecloth in a size to cover a 75 inch round table is impossible to find in stores.  Trust me on that.  I did find some huge ones online that I may order for future occasions, but that would not have fit the blog party timeline. 

Table runners also are too short for the massive table so I had to improvise.  I bought an oblong tablecloth and kept it folded so it just looked like an extra wide but long enough table runner.

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Of course I will have to re-buy the red roses closer to Christmas.  But I will take any excuse to buy myself roses.

And in honor of my new light fixture, i wanted to bring some bling to the table.  I found these mini mirrors at Michael’s for 1.99 for 25.  They made the perfect mirror confetti.

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And of course blingy napkin rings….

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Head over to the Newly Woodwards and see what everyone else put together!

At Last

The laundry room is done.
 
Finally.
 
This might just have been the 2nd longest timeline for a room reno (the kitchen still puts it to shame), but I am so happy it it finally done.  I won’t bore you with the process (in case you missed it click here) and get straight to the before and afters.
 
Ready?
 
Ahhhh honey oak, how I love that you are in every room.
 
 
And the afters (which I might add are very difficult to take in a small room)
 
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What did we do?  Well first we got new machines by default of the old ones breaking.   This allowed us to rework the entire space and add a counter and other shelving.  And hanging space.
 
After much discussion and my bright pink getting the husband veto, the walls went from 20 year old dingy stained cream to Foggy Day by Sherwin Williams.
 
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On the other side of the room we also added another cabinet and a pegboard.  And hanging space for brooms and such.
 
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And a random shelf for random crap that belongs in a laundry room.
 
laundry room after
 
Some people might think that it strange to have a picture gallery in a laundry room.  Originally we were going to tile the backsplash with left over tile that we bought for the kitchen, never used and forgot to return.  But since we did not want the counter to be permanent fixture in the laundry room in case our washer and dryer bite the dust and we have to buy different size machines.  That would suck, but it would suck even more if we had to rip out tile and drywall as well.  And let’s face it…laundry is not one of my favorite activities.  Looking at fun personal pictures makes it just a little more bearable.
 
And then there were also the water valves I wanted to hide.
 
laundry room afterlaundry room after
 
Much better.
 
The counter followed a similar theme….cheap, cute and non permanent.  The counter also had the extra special issue of having to be higher than the actual washer and dryer because of outlets, making anchoring something heavy like granite more problematic.  Not to mention expensive. So we went with MDF.  For the whole how-to, click here.  Let’s just say that pattern involved some beer drinking.
 
laundry room

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My new drying rack inspired by Centsational Girl and with materials left over from the bed.  I love it for how it functions in the space but becomes invisible when it is folded up.  For the complete how-to click here.

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I think the chandelier gets the most comments.  As in “You put a chandelier in your laundry room!?”  Well yes I did.  And I like it.laundry room after

And we can’t forget the laundry basket storage/sorting area (which also conveniently serves as a dog storm shelter when it is thundering…who would have thought?)laundry room after

And here it is in use…because you know that I can only wash white clothes in this room now since it matches the color scheme-laundry room after

And now for the nitty gritty-

Wall Paint Color-$40-Foggy Day-Sherwin Williams

Counter Color-Free (used leftover from master bedroom)-Dovetail-Sherwin Williams

Wall Cabinet and Floor Cabinet- $175- Lowe’s

Wood Supplies for Shelving and Counter- $100

Picture Frames- $25- Wal-Mart (and some I had laying around)

Phone Enlargements-$50

Chandelier-$50- Lowe’s

Pegboard-$5-Lowe’s

Grand Total- $445

Maybe laundry might even be fun now?  No I didn’t think so.  Oh Well.

Cheap, Quick and Easy DIY Christmas (My Favorite)

It's that time again....time for the weekly blog party at the Newly Woodwards. I have gotten so many awesome ideas from the previous weeks of the party and I know this week will top that even more.

This week was Dare To...Deck the Halls and the challenge was to DIY a holiday decoration. Throughout the Dare To.... party one of my themes has been cheap. I am trying to not blow the bank on Christmas decorations which is very easy to do (at least it is for me because I have a slight addiction).

My other theme for this week is "quick." Like I mentioned last week, I am slightly behind in the handmade gifts department so all of my DIY time has been devoted to that endeavor without much time to spare. I had a grand idea for an Christmas card holder but I knew it was going to take me over an hour to construct and that is valuable quilting time. I will keep that one filed away for next year.

OK the first project. "Handpainted" and Unique glass ornaments. Doesn't sound quick huh? Well I am happy to report that they were so quick that when I hung them on the tree today Derek did not even realize I had snuck away to do them. They are also so easy that kids could do it and it would be a great family project.

So how do you do it? Start with clear glass ornaments (I got these 60% off at Jo-Ann)
Pop off the top and squirt in a couple of colors of acrylic paint. I used a variety of red, silver and ivory. I alternated squirts to layer the colors and get a cooler effect in my opinion.
Place a piece of cardboard or cardstock over the top....and shake shake shake.

Let dry overnight-
And then pop the top back on and enjoy.

Couldn't be easier right?

Of course I did a couple of variations. If you want your colors to be more flowey and less defined, add no more than four drops of water to the ornament before you squirt in the paint.


Your colors will look more like this with the water-
Without the water you get this-

Also you do not have to cover all the glass in the ornament when you shake since the inside looks cool too-

There you have it-10 completed ornaments in 15 minutes all ready to hang on the tree.

I also did a little side project that won't win me any DIY awards but I wanted to share it anyway.

I always struggle with decorating the entry way because it is not a lot of space with a lot of doorways. We have two matching artificial trees that were given to us by the in-laws when they no longer used them. Since we have gotten a live tree the past couple of years they have been gathering dust in the basement. So this year I flanked the door with them.


I went with an all red theme with red lights and red beads. But I wanted to keep it simple so the main tree was still the focal point. We also were missing tree skirts. Again, since I am trying to be cheap this year I did not want to just go out and buy two. I was also concerned that a full size skirt would be too large in order for the door to clear.

So I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a yard and a half of red satin for $3.

I squared it off and cut it in half.
Then I seamed all four sides.....
and wrapped the rectangles around the base.
The finished product-



So much cheaper and easier than cutting and sewing a circle.

Head on over to Kim's the check out all the other great ideas!

I am also linking to:

The DIY Show Off

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Handmade Holidays

When I first joined up with The NewlyWoods Blog Party I thought that this week of Dare To....Give Homemade Gifts would be motivation to finish all the handmade gifts I was planning for the holidays.
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You know a little motivation not to procrastinate. My goal this year was to give almost everyone something handmade even if it was small. However, even though I have been spending huge amounts of time in the craft room there are still some works in progress.

I could not pick a favorite one to post ....so stay tuned for a picture heavy post.

I am so also hoping that by posting lots of the things that family and friends that read the blog will not put together what they could be possibly getting. I am not aware of the recipients of any of the following gifts are readers. But just in case.....if you normally receive a gift from us-stop reading now.

Let's start with things that are completed.....the scarf parade. (Do you know how difficult it is to get a decent picture of a scarf.....especially since every picture with me in it made me cringe)

These are the two I "knitted"-


The pink one used furry thread that I picked up this summer on clearance at Hobby Lobby. Since I was not successful with teaching myself to knit using needles like a normal person, I use a loom like this-
It is so easy and there are so many variations that I want to try now that I have the basics mastered. You can pick up the loom at any craft store.

Onto to the parade of ruffle scarves. I love ruffles and I am seeing them everywhere in stores right now so of course I began to scour the internet for how to make them.

Currently there are three scarves completed with slight variations and in the coming days I have ideas for more variations. One thing they all have in common- they are all knit fabric (because you can cut the fabric and not worry about it fraying). They also are were super-cheap to make.

Ruffle Scarf #1-
This was by far the most time efficient and easiest (20 minutes from start to finish) of the bunch. I ruffled this one using elastic thread like detailed at Hope Studios.

Mine is not ruffled as much as theirs because of the type of bobbin my machine has self-corrects the tension. I messed with tension controls for a long time before figuring out that this was the best I was going to get.
Check out the tutorial over there because the ruffles are as easy as sewing a straight line.

Here is what the back side looks like with the elastic thread (I wanted to have all black obviously but I ran out since I used most of the spool experimenting....the future ones will have all black thread.)

Here is a blurry pic of me modeling the look (I swear it's difficult to hold a camera with one hand)
Ruffled Scarf #2-
This one took a little longer than the first but I love the more dramatic ruffles.....stay tuned for a tutorial because it was easy (and no I do not have ruffler foot for my sewing machine...I wish)

Ruffle Scarf #3-
While it looks similar to #2, it is very different. It is actually two ruffles sewn together which makes it very full, but it is not cut as wide. I made this one based on a pattern on Burda Style here.

Switching gears from scarves to a baby item- burp clothes-
Basically they are a cloth diaper edged with a piece of pretty fabric. They are simple to make but I love how they turned out. The only tricky part is making sure your seams are straight on the front and the back side.

OK let's take a break from sewing to move onto food gifts. This summer we had tons of jalapenos from our garden that no amount of Mexican nights was going to use. So I made Jalapeno Jelly (like described here). Since they are such a Christmasey color and we have tons of it we thought they would make an awesome gift.


I am not a huge paper crafter but I downloaded these tags from Martha (here). They are supposed to be for candles but they do dual duty. Then I used my lone circle punch and some red cardstock for the second circle. A little ribbon, hot glue and a gift card and these boys are ready to be enjoyed.


Okay now for the works in progress- the quilts.

I am not a quilter and have never 100% completed one. But I love reading blogs about modern quilting for inspiration and think I can do some simple ones.....eventually that it is. The first thing I learned about quilting is that it takes a very long time. I also learned that your cutting and sewing have to be exact otherwise you will have wonky lines. Let's just say the seam ripper and I have become fast friends as I am trying this for the first time.

So here is the first work in progress....a baby quilt that the colors were inspired by a fabric remnant for a couple of bucks and the design was inspired by subway tile. The quilt does not scream "baby" but this style totally fits with mom's and I hope they love it.
This quilt is basted and is just waiting for me to finish quilting it and then bind it.

The front-
The back-
Now for Christmas quilt #1-
Yeah the top is complete and that is about it. But I love how it turned out and I love all the fabric in it-


What about Christmas quilt #2? Well I would show you pics but right now it is just cut fabric (same as Christmas quilt #1) not sewn together.

I told you I have a lot of work to do. Maybe I need to stop blogging and start sewing.

I am also linking up with-

The DIY Show Off


DIY Day @ ASPTL


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Holiday Yum

Call me boring and unoriginal, but my all-time favorite Christmas cookie is the sugar cookie. I loved decorating them every year when I was growing up and would eat them before any one else had a chance. Also since I have a nut allergy which eliminates 70% of holiday cookies, this variety is an easy favorite. When I began to make my own sugar cookies as an adult, I started the hunt for the perfect recipe. There are so many recipes out there that it was difficult to narrow it down to the good ones. I like my sugar cookies thick and soft so that was the main criteria.
After a lot of trial and error recipes from Allrecipes were the definite winner. I have not made a batch of them this year yet (because frankly the entire batch would disappear within a couple of days because I have no self control with these babies) so my pictures from last year were more for documentation and not very blog worthy or pretty. I will take better pictures this year....promise.

Sugar Cookie

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla and sour cream until well blended. Stir in the sifted ingredients. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk
  • 4 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • assorted food coloring

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
  2. Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.


I roll the dough out pretty thick in order to get a really soft cookie. They only rise slightly when you bake them, so use that is a guide for how thick you decide to roll them out. For Christmas, I just use a top of a drinking glass to make the circle shape. Then I use the paste food coloring (the liquid kind does not give me bright enough colors in my opinion) to make red and green. I put a dallop of red and a dallop of green on each cookie and swirl it with a kabob skewer (a fork would work as well). The icing is a little drippy so have something under the cooling racks to catch it. It hardens to a shiny marble finish which I think looks great and is super easy. And everyone will be impressed that you took so much time on them (or at least that is what my friends and coworkers say....they could be lying)

I also give tons away as gifts to coworkers which has resulted with many requests for the recipe. It is a super easy to just slip them in a bag and add a cute tag.

Also with a quick color change you can use these cookies for many occassions like favors for a baby shower-

Or for secretaries day-

And while this has nothing to do with a recipe exchange, no post about the sugar cookies is complete without the story of the cookies of Christmas 2008.

The story stars Jack as the main culprit-
And Winter and his trusty sidekick-

Two weeks before Christmas, I had made four batches of cookies and had them all allocated for staff at my different schools as well as other gifts. I put the first batch in bags and took them to work with me and left the rest in sealed Pyrex at the back of the counter.

I came home to this-
No cookies to be found. Jack and Winter never jump on the counter and we do not even crate them during the day when we are at work because they usually stay out of trouble. Luckily they did not have any glass stuck in their paws and if they ingested any while extracting the cookies, it all worked out OK. At this point I had no time to make any more so one of my schools got jipped out of their cookies because of misbehaved puppies. So a word of warning: do not leave these cookies on your counter even in a sealed glass container as your pups will still somehow sniff them out and have a sugar feast while you are away.

This recipe is part of the DIY blog party at the NewlyWoodwards. This week the Dare To- Eat Cookies and I can't to try some concoctions of the talented bloggers out there!

Dare to DIY


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This Post Could Possibly Include Christmas Decorations (Yes Before Turkey Day)

I am back for week 2 of the blog party....this time it is Dare To-Entertain.
Dare to DIY

(good thing Emily having this party to make sure I post occasionally during this incredibly busy time at work....this week will be better I promise). Last week there were so many awesome thanksgiving ideas at the party and I met so many great bloggers.

Anyways for this week we were supposed to show off our table, whether it was set for everyday, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Since I like to use any excuse to get out the good china and I have so much more Christmas stuff and because it was a great excuse to start decorating for Christmas early.....I chose a Christmas setting.

The challenge I gave myself: not spending a single cent. I have a slight weakness when it comes to spending money on holiday decorating. But we are not hosting Christmas or Thanksgiving this year so spending money was a little silly.

So here is the Anything Pretty Dining Room (almost) all decked out for the holidays-
Align Center

The details-

These frames were left over favors from my bridal shower, now they are perfect place markers-


My knock-off Pottery Barn plates I found a couple of years ago at ABC Distributing for $10 (for 12). They are less formal than all the china, but I think they add a fun Christmas element to the table-

The bead garland around all the candles-
The table runner-

The napkin and napkin ring-

Of course there were things I would have liked to done (like maybe a glass personalized ornament hanging from a silver branch at each setting or red sparkly candles instead of white) but that would have cost some money so I am happy with what I was able to do with things sitting around the house. This week I am going to add some more decorative elements to the dining room as a whole but this party got the table kick started. Now I just need to pour the red wine!
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Thanksgiving DIY Wreath

When I read the first week's theme of the NewlyWoodwards blog party-Dare to: Be Thankful- I will admit that I was totally stumped. Sure, I had tons of great ideas for future weeks but for this one I had nothing.

Dare to DIY

I have fall decorations out but really none of them are DIY and nothing is really spectacular. But lucky for me Martha came to the rescue with this easy and pretty wreath. I am loving the finished product and it completes my dining room decor. Just in time for Thanksgiving....

Best of all it was super cheap-under $7. I would write out the how-to step by step but Martha does such a fine job that I will direct you to read it here.

Of course I did not follow her directions exactly. Instead of all craft and gold paper I used a couple of colors. Some were metallic cardstock and others were scrapbook paper. Here are my colors (in addition to the craft paper) cut into squares:
In addition to the partial roll of craft paper, I used about 8 pieces of colored paper.

Also Michaels does not carry the 2 wire wreath form, so I bought this and it worked great-

Finally, Martha tells you to attach the leaves with a stapler. I started this way and it could be because my wreath form had more wire in it, but I was struggling to get the staples to close. So I would have to staple a leaf on and then flip the wreath over to manually close the staple. This was not fun and I kept stabbing myself. So I switched over to hot glue (so then I could burn myself) and this method was a lot easier as well as allowing me a lot more flexibility in leaf placement.

After I started, I compared my partial wreath with Martha's and realized that my leaves were too far apart.
It was so easy with the hot glue to go back and fill it in.


I love the finished product and how it looks hanging on the simple orange ribbon in our dining room. I am also to happy to report that is very sturdy as it got dropped twice during the hanging process and still looks great. Thanks for the invitation to the party and come back for next week's theme-Dare To: Entertain. I can't wait to see everyone's projects!

Also linked to It's So Very Creative @ It's So Very Cheri
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