Friday, December 21, 2012

Home Made Peanut Butter Cups
{Super Easy Neighbor Gift Idea!}

As most people do this time of year, we like to make treats to take to our friends and neighbors.  For many years we made White Chocolate Candy Cane Popcorn, which is super easy and delightful.  This year I decided to try something new -- Home Made Peanut Butter Cups.  I remember my mom making these for us when I was a whole lot younger. I also remember them being super delicious so I wanted to make them again.
 
Here's the really easy recipe:
1/2 C. Butter {melted}
1-3/4 C. Powdered Sugar
1 C. Creamy Peanut Butter
3/4 C. Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/2 bag chocolate chips

  1. Mix melted butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter, and graham cracker crumbs together.  {I used my KitchenAid Mixer because the "dough" is pretty thick.  Also, I remember my mom using wheat germ instead of graham cracker crumbs.  Either way, it gives it that Reese's texture.}
  2. Spread the dough in the bottom of an 8x8 inch cake pan.  {I doubled the recipe and spread it into a large Pampered Chef bar pan.}
  3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the peanut butter mixture.  Place in a 350* oven for a few minutes until chocolate melts.  Watch it closely -- you don't want to bake the peanut butter cups. Spread out the melted chocolate evenly.
  4. Let sit to cool and allow the chocolate to set up again.  This may take several hours.  You can place it in the refrigerator to speed up the process.  {They'll taste good before then, but they're messier to eat.}
  5. Cut into small squares and enjoy! 
 I had to share one more photo.  I invested a little bit in a new camera and I am AMAZED at how much better the photos came out.  I'm pretty excited about that.

I also told you I'd show you how my gift tags turned out after I had them printed.  Here are a few shots {since I was having fun with my new camera!}:



 The white gel ink pen worked perfectly to write the names and messages on the tags.  I'm a little kooky, I know, but I love how the gifts coordinate with the tree this year.  I don't always do that, but I may have to start . . .

I hope you're all as excited about Christmas as we are around here!  I have one more easy {kind-of}gift idea to share with you before the big day comes.  It's what I made for all the ladies I serve with at church.  Check back tomorrow to see it!


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Holiday Gifting Traditions
{Free Holiday Gift Tag Printables}

I thought I was so on top of things this Christmas.  I had my tree up earlier than ever before and got a jump start on my shopping.  So, how is it now LESS THAN A WEEK before Christmas and I am just starting to wrap our gifts?!  Gah!  I wrapped into the wee hours of the morning last night -- with the cutest wrapping paper ever, bt-dubs -- and then I realized I didn't have gift tags.

Now, for most people this wouldn't really be an issue.  For my husband it wouldn't even be a consideration.  Give him pile of old Target bags and a Sharpie and he'd be good to go.  But wrapping presents is somewhat of an obsession of mine.  I look forward to this all year.  I plan months in advance.  I have a Packaging Perfection board on Pinterest.  I had scoured the internet to find awesome wrapping paper {white with black polka dots} and affordable red satin ribbon {50 yards for $10!} since I like to use "real" ribbon.  How had I forgotten the tags?!

I really wanted to keep the chalkboard theme I had started with our newest ornaments and Christmas card so I sat down and drew up some designs.  I followed the same process I talked about with our Christmas card design, scanning the drawings into the computer and turning them into "chalk art".  Before I show you the finished product, I have to explain our gift-giving tradition.   

Every year we give our kids four gifts -- something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.  We set a total dollar amount based on our situation at the time and divide that total between the four gifts for each child.  That way everything is completely fair {a big deal in our house} and the dad and I don't over-buy.  We also try to get creative within each category.  For instance, something to read isn't always a book.  Sometimes it's a game or an educational toy that requires a fair amount of reading to play.  And something to wear could be cologne/perfume or jewelry instead of the obvious clothing.  It's been super fun to try and trick our kids and they love trying to guess what each one is.  I love it!!

So, with that tradition in mind, here are the tags I designed:

There are some blank labels, too, for the other gifts that we give to other family members and friends.  I made the image files into pdf's so I could have them color printed at Staples on cardstock for less than a dollar a sheet. {Download the pdf's here.}That way I won't use up $15 worth of printer ink printing them at home and they'll be better quality. You could probably have them printed in black and white, but I knew for sure that color would give me great image quality and it wasn't super expensive so I went with that. Then I'll just use a white gel ink pen to add the To and From in the blank section of each tag. 

Not bad for a last minute, super speedy project, huh?  They should be ready to pick up this afternoon.  I'll show some pictures of this year's gift wrap once I have them all finished.  I've also got those yummy Christmas treats in the works still.  Tomorrow.  Maybe.  Have a great day!!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lane Bryant Winners!!


Thanks to everyone who entered the Lane Bryant giveaway this past week.  The winners {chosen by Random.org} are:
Comment #5:  Tammy
&
Comment #1: Jenn

I have sent you both emails.  Congrats and happy shopping!!

Want more tips on how to feel and look sassy, stylish, and maybe even a little flirty through the winter! {And a few more chances to win Lane Bryant goodies?!}  Join the @LaneBryant “Holiday Fashion Fun” Twitter Party this Monday, 12/17 at noon PT/3pm ET! Win awesome prizes and get some great fashion tips!  What could be more fun?! RSVP to win prizes, including $30 Lane Bryant gift cards! RSVP: http://clvr.li/128tjBx

The Details:
What: Lane Bryant “Holiday Fashion Fun” Twitter Party
When: Mon 12/17 noon PT/3pm ET
Where: On Twitter! CleverTweets: http://clvr.li/SYaCNf
Follow: Hashtag #LBHoliday @CleverGirlsColl @LaneBryant
Prizes: 18 $30 Lane Bryant gift cards

And don’t forget! Lane Bryant’s “12 Days of the Most Wonderful Surprises” is still going on now until December 16! You can unlock a new surprise offer every day on the Lane Bryant Facebook page. It’s the perfect way to get your favorite must-have fashion items for the holiday season, at great prices.

Thanks, friends.  Come back tomorrow for a yummy Christmas treat idea!


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to 
entry #16:
 Liz Taylor
 who won the 
$50 Williams Sonoma gift card.
I sent you an email, Liz!


There is still time to enter to win one of 
TWO $30 Lane Bryant gift cards!

Have a great day, friends!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Flannel Pillow Covers for Christmas

One of my most favorite Christmas traditions is getting new pajamas on Christmas Eve.  As a kid we were so excited to get to open one present a little early after waiting for weeks to rip into the packages.  It didn't even matter that we already knew what it was going to be.  I loved having a brand new pair of pajamas to snuggle up in while we watched Christmas specials on TV and drank egg nog.  My kids have loved this tradition over the years, too.


In my mind flannel pajamas are always associated with Christmas, so when I was looking for fabric to make new Christmas-y pillow covers for my living room, flannel was a no-brainer.  We have always had red couches in our living room, which is especially cool during the holidays.  This year I made gray slipcovers for my couches and I have been missing all the red.  Red and black buffalo check flannel was a perfect fit.

 The fabric itself is pretty masculine so I wanted to add a girly touch with a ruffle right down the front. I followed the same basic process that I used for this ruffled pillow cover in Sis's room.  The only difference is that I used black and white buffalo check ribbon for the small ruffle and pleated, rather than gathered, the strips.


 I finished one end with a zipper so it is easily removed at the end of the season.


The white pillow covers were made from some vintage pillow cases I got from my Aunt Fayrine at Thanksgiving.  That pretty lace on the edge was crocheted by my great grandmother. 


I just cut the back end of the pillow case off to make it short enough to fit my big throw pillows and stitched some ribbon ties under the lace on the open end to keep it closed.  It adds another little feminine touch and the lace reminds me of the snowflakes on our tree.  {I get all happy inside when things tie together like that!}

Notice the dog hairs in that close up picture of the lace?  This is why:

Cassie has adopted this spot on the couch {and that plaid pillow} as her own.  Yes, she thinks she's a person and sleeps with her head on a pillow.  Lest you fear for those vintage lace pillow cases, she is probably cleaner and way more gentle with my things in the living room than my children are.  {But I usually move those special ones out of the way when she's laying down, just in case.}

I'm super proud of those slipcovers on the couches, if I can just pat myself on the back for a minute.  Can you believe they were made from dyed painter's drop cloths?  For a fraction of the price of even the cheapest fabric I found?  I'll tell you all about those later.

Don't forget to enter the giveaways I have going on right now for a $50 Williams Sonoma Gift Card and TWO $30 Lane Bryant Gift Cards.  Entries are lower than on a lot of bigger blogs so you have a really good chance of winning!

I hope your Holiday Season is shaping up to be wonderful!


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Gettin' Around
{My Article at Home Made Simple}



Big, big news, friends!!  I have had my very first article published over at Home Made Simple!  It's pretty exciting {to me}.  Head on over to read about Decorating with Cranberries for the holidays.


Also don't forget to enter the TWO giveaways I have going on right now.  When it rains {in a good way} it pours around here.  Links are on my sidebar.  Have a great day!!

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

All I Want {To Wear} For Christmas
{Holiday Fashion from Lane Bryant}


Like many women {maybe even most women}, I have had a love-hate relationship with my body for as long as I can remember.  Especially the past several years since I have put on a few pounds.  The more curvy I got, the more I was determined to keep wearing clothes from my old favorite stores.  If I could still buy clothes there I wasn't really bigger, right?  What a dumb mistake!  It has taken me until just recently to embrace my shape, as-is, and figure out how to look my best now.  And I have discovered a new favorite store!!  Did you know Lane Bryant has really cute clothes?  Like, REALLY cute clothes.  And they're made for real women, not stick-straight mannequins, so they're actually super comfortable.  I was really excited when I was asked by Lane Bryant this week to put together a holiday outfit to share with you guys.  {Um, seriously . . . best job ever!}

I love to get dressed up!  My day-to-day life doesn't afford me much opportunity to break out the vintage party dresses and heels that I pin relentlessly on Pinterest, but I can usually count on the holiday season to provide a break from "the norm".  We usually have my husband's company party at a fancy hotel to dress up for, but this year I'm not invited.  Boo.  That didn't stop me from getting a fun, glitzy new outfit to wear.  I'll just have to create an opportunity for myself so I can wear it.

After browsing around on the Lane Bryant website to get some idea of what I wanted when I went to the store, I put together a couple of different looks to show you just how stylish their clothes are.  Since I don't have a formal party to go to this year, I decided to go with a dressy-casual holiday style.

Lane Bryant Casual Holiday



How cute is that gray jacket? I think a really good, flattering pair of jeans can be dressed up or down.  With a pop of color and some sparkly accessories you can look "done up" without being over-the-top.

This outfit is my favorite:

Lane Bryant Casual Holiday 2



I actually ended up buying that top and jeans.  When I went to the store and tried them on I fell in love.  It's been a long time since I went shopping for clothes and left the store feeling cute and excited instead of utterly discouraged.

{Wouldn't that pretty lace bra be a fun surprise for your significant other when you got home from your holiday get-together?  That might be all the Christmas shopping I would need to do for mine . . . Is that too much information? Sorry.}

The Lane Bryant “12 Days of the Most Wonderful Surprises” is the perfect way to get your favorite must-have fashion items for the holiday season at great prices.  Each day there is a new special offer in stores and on their website.  Today's offer is pretty great!


Yep, 40% off.  And an extra 20%.  I may have to go back for the lacy bra . . .

How would you like to get a new holiday look from Lane Bryant?  They have given me TWO $30 gift cards to give away to you ladies to help you look fabulous for the holidays, too!  

To enter:  Just pin your favorite Lane Bryant style to one of your Pinterest boards and put #LB12Days  in the comment.  {You can pin one of my looks or go to the website and pin your favorite thing there!} Come back here and leave me a comment on this post with a link to your pin {because I'm nosy and I wanna' see what your favorites are!}Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.  That's it! 

This giveaway will close on December 15th at midnight.  Winners will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize.  If I haven't heard from you within that time, a new winner will be chosen.

Pin away, my friends!!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mrs. Smith's New Deep Dish Pies

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mrs. Smith's for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I mentioned before that we spent Thanksgiving at my sister's house in Las Vegas.  It was super fun to see family and watch the cousins play, not to mention having four or five sets of hands in the kitchen preparing the big meal.  One of the things I missed when we got home Sunday night were the leftovers.  I especially missed the leftover pie.  In my family we always eat pie for breakfast for several days after Thanksgiving.  {Is that not part of everyone's Thanksgiving traditions?}  Nothing beats a good homemade pie.  Well . . . almost nothing. 

MrsSmith.jpg

This week we got to try the new line of Mrs. Smith's Signature Deep Dish pies, and they sure give homemade pies a run for their money.  In fact, if I didn't know, I would have thought they were homemade.  These pies are available in most Walmart and Walmart Super Center stores and they come in four flavors:

  • Signature Deep Dish Dutch Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce
  • Signature Deep Dish Cherry Pie with Butter Fudge Sauce
  • Signature Deep Dish Peach Pie with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Signature Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yep.  You read that right.  They all have a sauce to put on top of the pie.  Because pie alone is just not enough of a treat, Mrs. Smith had to go an make it even more delicious?  Not that I'm opposed.  I have spent several years trying out different recipes to find a caramel apple pie that I loved.  *Found it.*

Dutch Apple pie has always been a favorite of mine. {That crumb topping!}  Then smother it in caramel and you've got me -- hook, line and sinker. 

The Cherry pie with Butter Fudge Sauce was also a hit.  It was such a different take on cherry pie.  I would never have thought to put chocolate on it, but my son Riley couldn't get enough of it.

We also tried the pumpkin pie with cream cheese frosting, but the fam was in such a hurry to try it, I didn't get a picture.  Like the others, it was every bit as good as homemade.  Maybe better because it was so easy to make.  I hate making pie crust.

Have I convinced you that you need to try these heavenly treats yourself?  What if I gave you a coupon to get one free? 

Oh, and how about a $50 WILLIAMS SONOMA GIFTCARD to go with it?!  I know, right?  I'm super excited about giving this fun treat to one of you wonderful people.  Just leave a comment telling us which pie you're most excited to try and what you would buy with the gift card if you won --inquiring minds want to know!  You can also get additional entries by liking Mrs. Smith on  Facebook and follow them on Pinterest

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway will end one week from today at midnight. Winner will be emailed the following day and must claim their prize within 48 hours before a new winner is chosen.

For more information about Mrs. Smith you can find them on Facebook and  Pinterest.

Good luck, friends!

Visit Sponsor's Site


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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Christmas Card for 2012
{and a Free Template!}

I finally got OUR Christmas card done today after making a whole bunch for other fun people.  I kept with the chalk art theme this year {I know, I'm obsessed -- and so it half the world right now.  Whatever.}  I wanted a really hand-drawn effect, rather than the so-perfect-it's-obviously-from-a-computer look.  Before I tell you how I did it {and how anyone with a pencil, a scanner, and a little Photoshop know-how could do it, too}, let me show you what I came up with.

And here's our "newsletter" on the back.

I'm really pleased with how they turned out, even though our lack of news to report to long-distance friends and family is slightly embarrassing.  We're really just boring ol' homebodies at heart.

So, for a very brief how-to for creating your own chalkboard design, just drew out the design you want on a piece of paper with pencil. 


You may want to go over your final design with a black pen to make it easier to work with on the computer.  {I didn't do that, but I kinda' wish I had.} Then scan it, save it to your computer, and open it up in a photo editing program.  {I use Gimp, but Photoshop or other similar programs work, too.}

Once you have it in Photoshop, change the white background to transparency and then invert the colors so that all the lines you have drawn are white instead of dark. Adjust the brightness and contrast until it looks right to you.  Layer that on top of a chalkboard background image, like this one here, and you have a beautiful hand-drawn chalk design.  {I did say you would need a little Photoshop know-how, right?}

In case you are not inclined to make a design of your own, I have made a template that you can download {for personal use only, please}.  Click on the image to download the png file. 


{Just add your own photo in the blank space at the bottom.}  We finally got all our ornaments on the tree and things are starting to feel super Christmas-y around here. I love it!  Hope you're all having a great weekend, too.



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