Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best of 2010

I did this same post last year and it was fun to look back on everything, so I thought I'd do it again this year.

Project: What did you start this year that you're proud of?

We've fixed up 4 rooms in a little over a year! It's been a huge struggle to get through all the dust, mess ups, and drama that goes on when you DIY, but it's totally worth it! My favorite project we did this year was our bathroom makeover.

From this...

To this!

Recipes: The yummiest cooking from the past year

There's so many! I got into a bit of a cooking obsession for awhile when I needed things to keep my mind off the stress going on. These are a few of my faves (and your faves):

Best Craft: What got your creative juices flowing?

Again, so many to pick from! Here's some of the ones I liked the most:

From Curtain to Scarf

Burlap Pumpkins

Night Out: Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

It wasn't a night, but does day count? We spent a day at the zoo in July when I needed some cheering up. It was just what I needed and I had such a fun time! We went super early and got to take advantage of the petting zoo being completely empty. You really don't want to be with me in a petting zoo because I'll spend hours petting all the cute animals and "awww"-ing at every little thing they do!

Moment of Peace: An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind?

A moment of peace and me don't go together. Even the thought of peace makes me laugh! I'm usually a ball of stress and anxiety! No matter what I do, my mind is always racing with thoughts and I can't relax. My best teacher for peace is Kitty. Just watching him snuggle up in a ball makes me smile and I love watching him sleep.

Challenge: Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the biggest challenge of the year for you?

Unfortunately, this question is easy to answer. In July, I spilled my guts here and confessed that I've been undergoing fertility treatments since January of 2009. It's been a very overwhelming, stressful, and emotional thing to go through. I was excited to find out I was pregnant in June and my life was great! 8 weeks later, the heart beat was gone and I had to terminate the pregnancy. It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever had to endure. The pain, anger, and questions still stick with me months later. As I continue on this fertility journey, it's quite a challenge as you can probably guess. I'm just hoping for a good outcome in 2011.

The Best Place:
The bed. Obviously. I spend a LOT of time in here! I eat, blog, sew, cry, laugh, snuggle, sleep, and would pretty much live my life from here if I could. New Food:
It's not completely new, but peanut butter is back in my life! I've always disliked peanut butter unless mixed with chocolate because I was scarred for life from a bad experience with PB&J when I was younger. (The thought makes me want to vomit.) Anyway, when I was cooking those fabulous peanut butter pretzel truffles above, I took a lick of the spoon and realized what I've been missing out on! Now I spread it on anything I can for a quick & easy snack. Love ya, peanut butter!

Best Accomplishment:
During the spring and summer, I posted a lot about how I got into running all of a sudden. I've never been able to run more than about a minute without stopping, but something changed in February and I could do it! It was such an accomplishment for me that I kept pushing myself to beat my best times. Throughout the summer, I broke record after record for my personal best and it was an amazing feeling. My final goal was to run an official 5k and I finally did it here!

New person/people:
All of you! My blog went from pretty much non-existent to now having a lot of "friends" that I chat with regularly! It's been so great to meet all of you living all over the country and seeing the creative talent you have to offer.

Web Tool: It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

Flickr! In July, I posted that my photos weren't looking very nice when I uploaded them with Blogger. I didn't have a lot of other options because my Mac laptop at home is so old. But a few of you suggested Flickr and it made a huge difference! I used up all my free uploads and now I'm going to have to give in and pay for it. Worth it?

My goals for 2011:

• Finish remodeling the man cave

• Finish remodeling the craft room

• Finally get to be a mom

• Try to remember why I started this blog: to remind myself of the things that make me happy

Happy New Year!

Linking up to:
Southern Hospitality's Top Projects of 2010

Savvy Southern Style's Best of 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feta Garlic Cheese Ball

Need an easy & really yummy appetizer for a party? This cheese ball was perfect and a hit at our holiday party!

Adapted from here
• 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
• 3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2.5 green onions, finely chopped
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons dill weed
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, feta, olive oil, green onions and garlic.

Add in dill, oregano, and pepper and mix well.

With your hands, form a ball.

Cover ball and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

When you're about ready to serve it, roll the ball in chopped walnut. Serve with crackers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Share & chat with me!

Most of you are off for the holidays or on some fabulous vacation in warm weather, but I'm stuck at work all this week and next week. So to help me pass the time and keep me entertained, I'm asking for YOU to chat with me!

Leave me a link, comment, story, or photo of your favorite recipe, project, happiest moment, night out, etc. from 2010. I'd love to see all your awesome ideas and memories and it will keep me busy this week! Next week I'll post my faves for you to check out.

Hope you all have a lovely holiday and new year with your family and friends and I look forward to reading what you have to say!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Almonds

Ever seen those cinnamon sugar almond carts in the mall and they smell SO good? I always want to buy some when I walk by and smell that cinnamon scent. But why deal with the mall crowds when you can make them yourself?

I served these at 2 parties and everyone thought I bought them! They were THAT good! They also make the house smell amazing : )

Adapted from here

• ⅓ cups & 2 tablespoons water
• 1-⅓ cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 2 cups almonds (Cashews also work. I made a batch of those as well.)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, add the water, 1 cup of sugar and the cinnamon and stir. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Be sure to keep mixing so it doesn't burn or stick to the bottom.

Add the almonds, raise the temperature to high and keep stirring constantly until the water is boiled away.

Turn the heat back to medium-low to keep the sugar from browning too fast. Keep mixing until the almonds start to have an even shiny coat.

Add the rest of the sugar and the vanilla and keep stirring. There may be some popping when you add them, but that's perfectly fine!

Keep stirring until the almonds are shiny, but still a bit lumpy with clumps of sugar. When this starts to happen, take them off the heat and pour them on sheets of parchment paper. Let them cool completely before serving or storing.

Pig out!

Perfect for a holiday party, little gifts, or just for yourself to snack on!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mini Pocket Tissue Holder Tutorial

Seems like everyone has a cold these days! Being sick is not fun, but you can at least look cute, right? I made these mini tissue holders for holiday gifts last year and this year my sister asked me to make a bunch more for all her friends!

All her BFFs from college had to get Iowa Hawkeyes with the little girly bow I added.

I also make a few different patterns and colors for some of her other friends and coworkers.

For the tutorial, see last year's post with instructions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cupcake Ornament Tutorial

Our tree was looking a little naked since I threw out all our old hand-me-down ornaments after Christmas last year. I was thinking about things that I liked that could maybe be an ornament for the tree. I have an Eeyore, sock monkey, Victoria's Secret Pink dog, photo of Kitty, etc. but nothing to remind me of all the yummy holiday foods I look forward to. So the cupcake ornament was born!

I took a bunch of different ideas I found online and combined them to make this one. To start out, I took a cupcake cup and placed it face down on some white fabric. I drew a circle that was about 1.5" bigger than the cup.
Then I cut out the circle and loosely sewed around the edge. The stitches are about .5" from the edge.
I didn't knot the end of the thread so I could pull both ends to create a little pouch.
I used some stuffing to fill the pouch until I liked the size and it fit well in the cup. Then I tied a knot with the thread to hold the stuffing in.
I found these berries at a craft store for 50 cents to use as cherries on the cupcakes.

I cut off a berry with a little wire left on the end. Using some metallic string, I tied a knot tightly around the berry and hot glued it to hold. Then I tied the ends at the top to use as the ornament hanger.
I placed the stuffed pouch in the cupcake cup and hot glued them together around the top edge of the cup.
Once the glue was dry, I added the cherry in the middle and got to work on the sprinkles. There's 2 ways to do the sprinkles depending on what will work better in your house. If you have young children or pets, skip down to the second method.

For this option, I took some silver stick pins and used them to attached sequins to the cupcake.
And the second method that's a little safer is to use the hot glue gun to glue sequins to the cupcake.
Here's my yummy cupcake hanging on the tree.
Hungry, anyone? :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Festive Stuffed Christmas Trees: Part 2

You may have seen my first post about the popular stuffed trees. Go here for the tutorial and to see some of the holiday fabrics.

I wanted to show you some of the other fun fabrics I enjoyed using to make trees.
The muslin tree came out so cute and it's perfect for a shabby-chic look.These Bears trees were a huge hit at work and with my friends. I bet I've made at least 12 of them for friends and coworkers.
I live in Bears country, but there are a few Colts fans who asked for their favorite team.
If you'd like to see the tutorial for the trees, stop by here.

Linking up here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

I was looking for a unique dessert idea for our holiday party and this recipe caught me eye. I've never made an upside-down cake before so I was a little nervous, but it turned out amazing! I'm pigging out on the leftovers and I'll be sad when it's gone!

Adapted from Cooking Light, November 2009

• Non-stick cooking spray
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 8 oz. fresh or frozen, thawed, cranberries (I used fresh)

• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 2 egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

For topping, lightly spray a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Heat brown sugar and 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat. Cook 2 minutes or until butter melts and sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into cake pan, tilting pan to coat bottom evenly. Arrange cranberries evenly over sugar mixture to cover entire bottom of the pan.

For the cake, mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Pour sugar and 1/2 cup butter in another bowl and mix until well blended and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. (Be sure to save the egg whites for later.) Add in vanilla. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with milk.

Mix egg whites with a whisk. Add egg whites into the batter. Pour the batter over the cranberries, spreading evenly.

Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan. When cake has cooled, use a thin spatula to loosen cake from the pan and then invert the cake into a large plate.

Linking up to all these fun parties

Friday, December 10, 2010

Festive Stuffed Christmas Trees

I came up with this pattern a couple years ago for a craft fair and it turned out to be really popular. By using all kinds of different fabrics and colors, the trees appeal to everyone! Maybe I should be keeping my tree design a secret since it's so well-loved, but I've been asked to share it with you.

Start out with this tree pattern. Re-size as desired and print out a copy. The size I usually use is about 11 inches tall. Smaller trees can be hard to stuff.
Trace the pattern on fabric and cut out the pieces. You'll need 4 pieces for each tree.
Pin right sides together and you'll have 2 sets of trees.
Sew along the edges, but not the bottom using a .25 inch seam allowance.

Turn the trees right-side out and press all the seams flat. This will make the next step much easier. (Yes, I have a leopard print ironing board cover. My purchase was not appreciated by Hubby!)Place the two trees on top of each other and line up all the corners. Measure down the middle and mark with pins.

Sew along the middle of the trees and you'll end up with 4 sections as shown in the picture.
Stuff each of the 4 sections.
Pin each section closed.
Hand sew the bottom.
Add any embellishments such as ribbons, bells, etc.
This is my favorite: Ho Ho Ho!
Also super cute in fleece for kids!
And more of a winter theme...

Stay tuned for part 2 of this tutorial with more fun fabrics!
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