Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas...

On the eleventh day of Christmas...make Rudolph cupcakes! I'm a sucker for anything cute and baked goods are no exception. When I saw these in a magazine, I just had to make them!

Rudolph Cupcakes

Rudolph Cupcakes
Use any cupcake recipe, I just used a Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
Use any chocolate icing, I used a Betty Crocker can of chocolate icing
Tootsie roll midges
Red and white m&ms (I used a bag of Christmas mint m&ms that came in red, white and green, the regular Christmas m&ms just come in red and white. You could also buy individual color bags at a craft store but that would have been more expensive)
Mini vanilla wafers
Black gel icing
Icing for adhesive purposes

1. First of all bake the cupcakes, following instructions on the box or your own favorite recipe
2. Allow the cupcakes to cool and then ice them with the chocolate frosting
3. Break pretzels in half and stick them into the cupcakes for the antlers
4. Use 1/3 of a tootsie roll midge to mold each ear
5. Stick on a mini vanilla wafer for the snout
6. Use some icing to stick a red m&m on the wafer for the nose
7. Stick two white m&ms above the wafer for the eyes
8. Dab a dot of black gel icing on each eye for the pupils

*A few notes: These were fun to make but a few things to keep in mind. I bought the cheapest bag of pretzels I could find and making the antlers was a little difficult. Not all pretzels are created equally so I would make sure you're getting a brand that looks most antler like when broken in half. I worked with what I had but it was difficult. Also, molding the ears was a little bit of a task but I definitely think the cupcakes look better with the ears than without. All together it cost about $20 to get all of the supplies to make these but I of course have tons of leftovers of basically everything except the cake mix. I even have half a jar of icing leftover. These were a lot of fun to make and would be a great thing to make with your kids. They also make a cute addition to a Christmas party or on the dessert table at your family dinner.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...

On the tenth day of Christmas...bake for your dog! Homemade dog treats make a great gift for your friends and family who have pets. There are tons of recipe books out there for homemade dog biscuits and you can even make a do it yourself kit and include some bone shaped cookie cutters. I personally purchased a "Baking for Your Dog" book as a gift and decided to make one of the recipes to go with the book as a gift. The recipe I chose was "Toby's Tuna Triangles" and it was actually more challenging than it looked.

 Toby's Tuna Triangles
1 can of tuna fish in natural juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
9 oz cornflour
5 oz rolled oats
2 oz flour

*My first challenge was actually finding cornflour. After searching two stores, it felt like a lost cause. I went for cornmeal as a substitute and later looked up the difference online. According to a site, the two can be the same depending on where you live.

Drain the tuna in a sieve, then puree it with the oil and the egg in a blender.

*My next challenge was after puree-ing, the mixture was all over the sides of the blender and stuck under the blades. It was hard to salvage much of the puree since there wasn't that much to begin with.

Mix the puree with the other ingredients to make a dough.

*If you notice in the ingredients above, the cornflour, rolled oats, and flour are in oz instead of cups or teaspoons or tablespoons. According to a magnet I have, there are 8 oz in a cup so did one cup of the cornmeal and just guessed on that extra oz. I guessed on the other two and either I over guessed by a lot or wasn't able to salvage enough of the puree to make anything close to a dough. I added an extra egg, some extra olive oil and some water to finally get a dough-like quality.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking sheet with baking parchment.

*Not sure if tin foil is a baking parchment but that's what I used.

Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick and cut it into triangles. Place the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Store in a cookie tin. The triangles will keep for about 2 weeks.

*I don't really have the supplies to roll out dough such as a rolling pin or mat. I opted for an easier "ball" format. I just rolled the dough into balls and lined them on the tin foil lined cookie sheet. I baked them for about 25 minutes and they actually turned out great. I'm not sure about the taste considering they are dog treats but I will give Chloe one as soon as they cool and see how she likes it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...

On the ninth day of Christmas...enjoy hot beverages with a twist on a cold night. We all know the classic hot beverages, coffee, hot chocolate and hot apple cider, but here are some recipes to give these classic drinks a fun new twist!

Irish Hot Chocolate
-Add a shot of Irish Cream to your favorite hot cocoa recipe.
-Top with whipped cream or marshmellows for an extra special twist

Irish Coffee
-Add a shot of Irish Cream to your coffee

Soco Cider
-Add a shot of Soco to hot apple cider

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
-Add a shot of peppermint schnapps to hot cocoa
-Stir with a peppermint stick and leave in for added minty goodness

-Top with whipped cream and crumbled candy cane bits

Pumpkin Coffee
-Add a shot of pumpkin liquor to pumpkin spice coffee

Monday, December 20, 2010

On the Eighth Day of Christmas...

On the eighth day of Christmas...make a mixed holiday cd! So I had a revelation today...the majority of holiday cds have a lot of songs worth skipping. Let's face it, Christmas albums can't all be as great as N'Sync's! Ok so we also know that more often than not, when we buy a holiday cd, it's going to have 95% remakes of classic Christmas songs and maybe 5% original songs. And that's ok because who doesn't love classic Christmas songs? The only thing is, we are also going to have a favorite version of everyone of those songs and most likely one artist isn't going to be our number 1 pick for every song. I think aside from the rare beauty of N'Sync's Christmas album, our best shot at listening to a whole album all the way through without skipping a bunch of songs is if we get a compilation cd that is a mix of various artists. But even if we find a good one of those, odds are, it still isn't going to be your perfect mix of your favorite versions of those classics along with your favorite originals. That's where the magic of mp3's and cd burners come into play. You can make your very own special Christmas mix complete with original artwork to all your friends as an awesome gift. Or, to make it even better, you could find out their favorites and make them an even more special present. Since this is a new idea, I need some time to do some research and will include my perfect mix at the end of this blog so stay tuned for an update and rock on!

My Perfect Christmas Mix:
1. All I Want for Christmas- Mariah Carey (no question this is my all time favorite original Christmas song!)
2. Winter Wonderland
3. Let it Snow
4. We Need a Little Christmas
5. Deck the Halls
6. Merry Christmas - N Sync
7. Baby It's Cold Outside
8. Holly Jolly Christmas
9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
10. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
11. The Christmas Song - Alvin and the Chipmonks
12. It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...

On the Seventh Day of Christmas...make pink champagne cupcakes! My friends and I had so much fun making these. The recipe only calls for a small amount of champagne (or sparkling wine) so you get to drink the rest while making them! We made them over the summer so it wasn't exactly holiday related but I think these make a great festive treat. People enjoy sweets and bubbly during the holidays so why not put your hands together and have the best of both worlds?! It's a super easy Betty Crocker recipe and the results are delicious!

Champagne Cupcakes
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix
1 1/4 cups champagne
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 egg whites
4 to 5 drops red food coloring
Champagne Frosting
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup champagne
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 5 drops red food coloring

Pink decorator sugar crystals

Edible pink pearls

Print these coupons...

About Concordance™

  1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
  2. In large bowl, combine dry cake mix and champagne. Add oil, eggs and food color. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
  3. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  4. In medium bowl, beat frosting ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle with pink sugar and pearls.
Now when we made these it was a late night decision so we were limited on our garnishes. The 24 hour grocery store didn't have pink sugar crystals or edible pink pearls so ours were not as glamorous as the above picture from We used some tubes of colorful icing that I had in my kitchen and made ours a little more fun. We were just making them for fun so it worked. I'd probably aim for the fancier look above if I was making them for an event. Either way they were delicious and a lot of fun to make. Cheers!

On the Sixth Day of Christmas...

On the sixth day of Christmas, make your own personalized Christmas cards. I know there are a lot of websites that you can make your own cards at, I've personally used and it was very affordable. They have a lot of choices with designs and you can personalize it with photos and text. I even was able to design mine and pick it up at the store using 1 hour photo!

Just visit and see all the great choices they have. Pick your favorite design, personalize it and you've got your Christmas card all set!

Sorry this was short but it's a great idea :-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas, another fun way to do a themed gift is to make your own gift basket. My idea on the fourth day of Christmas was taking a "boring" gift and making it fun and themed. That example is when the main gift is the dvd or gift card and you're just adding a few bells and whistles to it. A gift basket is a collection of gifts where they all add up into one gift. There are so many gift basket options out there that you can buy pre-made but they're always so expensive. Plus sometimes it's just more fun to make your own. You can honestly make a gift basket out of any theme. That's the beauty of it. Since I used my Secret Santa example from last year, I'll use mine from this year as well. I heard mine really liked garlic so I decided to put together a garlic themed gift basket. I used fresh garlic cloves and a mini chopper to chop them up, garlic sea salt, garlic parmesan dressing, a bar that gets the scent of garlic off your hands and a book all about garlic that included a lot of recipes. Depending on your price range, you can do a big gift basket or a smaller one. If you have a budget, just make sure you're being resourceful in the items you get as the price can add up quickly. You also have to factor in the price of the basket. You can find affordable baskets, but you have to look for them. If you just go to a craft store and pick up the first basket you see, you'll probably spend too much!

Idea: Themed Gift Basket

Choosing the basket: Make sure you have a plan for what you're going to put in the basket before buying the basket. You don't want to get too big of a basket and then it will look empty if you don't have enough items to fill it. On the same note, you don't want a basket that is too small if some of the items you are buying are bigger. I would recommend buying the items first if you can, then searching for the right size basket to put them in. Also, that way you will know how much you have to spend on the basket after you've purchased the actual gifts. You also don't necessarily need to buy a "basket" if you can think of a more creative container that goes along with your theme. For example, if it's a drink theme, you could use an ice tub or cooler or if it's fishing themed, use a tackle box.

Filling the basket: As stated above, make sure that the items you buy fill the basket properly so it looks good. Presentation is half the fun of a gift basket. Make sure all the items are themed, don't just throw random things in unless random is your theme. Also, don't add something that doesn't go with the theme just because you have it and need a little more space to fill. You can use tissue paper or shredded colored paper as fillers for any empty space. You could also find a gift that goes with the theme that helps fill empty space. If you are making a baby themed basket, add a baby blanket to fill that space. Also make sure if you have any breakable items, that they are securely in the basket.

Putting the final touches on the basket: Cellophane, netting (similar to a veil) or shrink wrap are the best ways to "seal" up a basket. If you don't have the proper equipment for shrink wrap, just take cellophane or netting and wrap it around the basket and tie with a ribbon. If you are doing this last minute and don't have either of these choices, you can also tuck tissue paper around the items in your basket or just tie a ribbon or bow on top of the basket.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

Sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday. On the fourth day of Christmas I'd like to share a tip on taking a "boring" gift and making it fun and themed. I personally like to give unique gifts with meaning. Whether that means it is a personalized gift or just something I know the person will really like. Well what happens when someone just wants a gift card or a cd or dvd? I mean I can't blame them, I have a huge amazon wishlist of dvds, but I just hate giving a dvd as a gift. It feels so impersonal to me. In order to make it your own, you have to give it a little flare. A perfect example I have for this is my Secret Santa from work last year. We used this program called Elfster that automatically picks everyone's Secret Santa and emails you the name. You can also create wishlists so that your Secret Santa can view it and get you something you want. Well my person had very unrealistic items on their wishlist such as season tickets to the Yankees, a new car, a house, etc. I thought about doing fun gag gifts to represent all the unrealistic wishes but then he also had The Hangover dvd on there. I figured he might really want that since it was the only realistic item on the list. I had to find a way to make it uniquely from me. I hadn't actually seen The Hangover at this point, it had literally just come out on dvd, but I knew it took place in Vegas so I decided to make the gift "Vegas Themed." First I started with the wrapping. I wraped the dvd in plain "grassy green" wrapping paper so it was similar to the color of a table in vegas. Then I printed out pictures of colored poker chips and cut them out and taped them all over the package. Then I bought a pack of cards and an airplane bottle of vodka. I also printed a mini poster of Holly Madison on a craps table. I taped the pack of cards to the package and rolled up the poster and put the mini bottle of vodka inside the poster and taped that on top of the cards. Alcohol, cards, a picture of a hot girl and a funny dvd, what more could a guy want?

Idea: Making a gift themed

Presentation - Find a way to wrap or package the gift so that it goes along with whatever theme you are going for. You can use printed pictures like I did, stickers, clippings from magazines, etc. One time I made a friend a scrapbook for a birthday present and I wrapped in completely in magazine covers of our favorite celebrities.

Accessories - Every girl knows how important it is to accessorize. Find small, inexpensive gifts that go along with the theme that you can decorate the package with or include in the bag, box or basket. If you are giving a dvd like I did, find some items that go along with a theme from the movie or items that are in a certain part of the movie. If I was giving PS I Love You, I might include some stationary or if I was giving ET, include some Reeses Pieces. If you're giving a gift card, maybe add a few small items that the store also sells. Usually most stores have small, inexpensive items by the register. For example if you were giving a Victoria's Secret gift card, throw in a pair of panties or some travel size fragrances or lip glosses.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the Third Day of Christmas...

Along with collecting wine corks with crafts, I also started collecting bottle caps. I thought there would be a lot of fun crafts I could make with them as well but after doing some research, bottle caps were a little more difficult to find ideas for. I did find one idea that I loved. Stemming from the picture frame idea yesterday, on the third day of Christmas, you can make a bottle cap picture frame. I personally love the way these look! They are very creative and you have so many options to make them look different and unique for each person on your list. Below is the picture of the first one I made. My boyfriends mom wanted a picture of me and him so I made her one but liked it so much I had to keep it for myself and make her a different one!

Bottle cap picture frame

Project: Bottle Cap Picture Frame

Supplies Needed:
Bottle Caps (amount needed will vary depending on what words you want to spell out)
Letter stickers or thin markers to write out letters
Colored paper (construction paper or card stock)
Decorative scrapbooking mats or paper
Clear plastic picture frame (usually $1 or $2 at Walmart)

Tools needed:
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Double stick tape (optional)

Step 1: Decide what you're going to spell out on the frame so you know how many bottle caps you need. You can use names or places like "Disney World" or words like "Friends", "Family", etc. The options are limitless!
Step 2: Count out the number of bottle caps you will need to spell out what you want to say and decide what color paper you want to use inside the bottle caps. You can do all one color or every other color or multiple colors.
Step 3: Trace the "top" of a bottle cap onto the colored paper to make the correct number of circles. Use a pencil instead of a pen so it's not permanent.
Step 4: Cut out the circles and glue them on the inside of the bottle caps. (Put them pencil side down in case there are any tracing lines showing)
Step 5: Use letter stickers or write the letters on the inside of the bottle cap. One letter per bottle cap looks best.
Step 6: Glue the bottle caps "top" side down so that the inside with the letters is showing. You can spell out your word horizontal, up and down, etc. I like to make the caps up and down, every other one, to make more room and to make it look more artsy.
Step 7: Use a scrapbooking decorative photo mat in the frame to use as a border. Pick a pattern that has colors that match the colors you used inside the bottle caps. I like to pick a frame that's bigger than the picture I want to put in so that the decorative border shows. If you use a picture that is the exact size of the frame you can skip this step.
Step 8: Insert the photo you want to use inside the frame. If you do use a bigger frame and the matt, I'd recommend using some double stick tape to center the picture on the matt so it doesn't slide. I've also taken multiple smaller printed pictures and made a collage on the matt.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the Second Day of Christmas...

To keep with the wine cork theme, on the second day of Christmas, I'm going to share a super easy, fun craft that also makes a great, personable gift.

Wine Cork Picture Frame

Craft: Wine Cork Picture Frame

Supplies Needed:
12 Wine corks (amount needed may vary)
Cheap plastic picture frame ($1 or $2 at Walmart)
A print of a favorite photo to go in the frame

Tools Needed:
Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Step 1: Glue wine corks around frame
Step 2: Insert picture in frame

It is literally that easy. I like to use wine corks from the same winery and then put a picture from that winery in the frame. For example, in the picture above, I asked for spare corks at Keswick Vineyards and then the picture in the frame is of me and my boyfriend at the winery. I also gave my brother and his wife a picture of them together at a winery in Seattle with corks that I got from the winery on the frame. You could also mix it up with corks from wines you've tried together or different corks from a wine tour. Another variation of this would be to paint the corks to make the frame colorful. There are so many options!

Monday, December 13, 2010

On the First Day of Christmas...

As promised I am going to do a "12 Days of Christmas" affordable gift ideas blog of things that you can make, bake or put together yourself. I have a whole list of ideas but I haven't tried all of them. I only want to write about ones that I've personally made myself so I'm not just copying and pasting someone else's idea.

So on the First Day of Christmas, I'm going to share my favorite craft idea. A while ago, my boyfriend and I started becoming interested in wine. As we started to try different bottles, I decided to start collecting the corks. I thought it would be fun to figure out some wine cork crafts to do. What really jump started my cork collection was him bringing home a bag of corks from his work where they do wine tasting. That way I actually had enough to make a bunch of things since you have to drink a lot of wine to get your collection started.

So once I had corks, I needed ideas. Visiting a winery a couple years ago, we purchased the cutest reindeer ornament  I believe I paid $6 for it but decided it was a good investment so that I would have a tangible example if I wanted to try and make them myself.

Wine Cork Reindeer Ornament

Craft: Reindeer Ornament
Supplies Needed:
-5 wine corks (you can use cork or rubber corks but need at least one regular cork for the neck)
-Small red pom poms for nose
- Medium pom poms for tail, preferably in Christmas colors (red, green, white)
-Tiny black pom poms for eyes
-Brown pipe cleaners for antlers
-Brown felt for ears
-Thick decorative ribbon for saddle and thin ribbon to hang ornament
Tools Needed:
-Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Step 1: Glue 4 wine corks together to make body and neck (see above picture).
Step 2: Before adding the head, shave the top of the neck using a knife so that the top is slanted.
Step 3: Glue the head on the slanted part so that it is at an angle (see above picture).
Step 4: Cut and shape pipe cleaners to make antlers and glue on head.
Step 5: Cut out 2 ears from felt and glue on back of head.
Step 6: Glue on 2 tiny black pom poms for eyes
Step 7: Glue on small red pom pom for nose
Step 8: Glue on medium pom pom for tail
Step 9: Cut a small piece of decorative ribbon and glue on for saddle
Step 10: Cut a thin piece of ribbon long enough to make a loop, tie it around neck leaving a loop to hang as an ornament.

This is one of those projects that's pretty self explanatory as long as you have an example to look at. You just need to get the basic body and then you can improvise with the add ons for the face, tail, ears, etc. I'm sure there are tons of variations. The first year I discovered these, I gave them as Christmas presents to everyone! They're super cute and fairly easy to make once you have all the supplies!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Countdown to Christmas the Crafty Way

I love countdown's to Christmas. Everything from ABC Family's "25 Days of Christmas" to advent calendars to those green and red chains paper chains we used to make in elementary school. I love that as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are packed in the fridge, the whole world turns into a magical snow globe filled with holiday music, movies, shopping, decorating, crafts, baking and gift giving. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot resist a theme and the holidays give me a whole month of themed bliss. I really wanted to do a blog a day in December to countdown to Christmas but unfortunately I missed the train considering today is December 2. Aside from that, I will also be in Florida for a week starting on Saturday at the Baseball Winter Meetings where I don't count on having much time to blog. So instead, I will offer the more classic "12 Days of Christmas" version which will run from December 13-24. I will feature fun holiday craft and baked good ideas as well as Do It Yourself gifts. To hold you over until then, I offer you the classic countdown to Christmas paper chain project!

Craft: Basic "Countdown to Christmas" Paper Chain
Needed: Colorful paper, scissors, stapler and staples or glue or tape: For the paper you can use any colors: red and green or red, green and white would be the most classic for Christmas. You could also do blue and white for winter. Construction paper works best.
Additional supplies: If you want to spice yours up, use glitter, holiday stickers, photos, markers, crayons, etc to decorate the chain.

Step 1: Cut out 25 strips of paper: 1 for every day from December 1 until December 25 (Christmas).
Step 2 (optional): If you'd like to decorate the individual strips, you can add glitter, stickers, quotes, wishes, etc. before linking them to make a chain.
Step 3: Take the first strip and make it into a circle; staple, tape or glue the ends together.
Step 4: Take the second strip and loop in through the first strip and staple, tape or glue. If you're using multiple colors, make sure to go every other one. (see photo above)
Step 5: Repeat Step 4 until finished.

You can use your chain as a decoration by wrapping it around your tree or railing on your staircase or just hanging it on the wall by your bed, calendar or in a doorway. The goal is to remove a link each day until Christmas as a fun countdown.

Stay tuned for my "12 Days of Christmas" blog and Happy Holidays!