Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trey's Christmas Outfits

Ok, all these Christmas jammies and outfits are just too cute not to share!  It was so fun rotating all these throughout December.  I am a bit sad to pack them away.

The "My First Christmas" Onesie

His "Bah Humbug" Oscar the Grouch shirt

It says "One Tough Cookie" heehee!
All of us in our Grinch jammies for our annual Christmas party! 
Trey and Oliver's matching elf jammies.  Trey was more interested in Oliver than us. Do you blame him?
Checking on what presents have been put under the tree so far in his Santa butt jammies
Christmas Eve outfit, I can't get over how cute he is with the little vest and Christmas Tree tie :)

Putting out cookies for Santa in his reindeer jammies

Santa was good to Trey this year!

Playing with his toys Christmas night

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Decorations

Just thought I would share a few of our decorations this year!  I really like how the Santas turned out with the Be Jolly sign!
Had to put Trey's adorable Christmas picture on display!

Our tree!

My slowly growing Santa collection

I have a collection of several snow globes.  This is my favorite!

Our table.  I like how the vase of ornaments turned out!
I love getting holiday cards!  Thanks to all the friends and family who sent them!  I got a cool iron Christmas tree that hangs on the wall to put them all in.  You of course can't see it anymore!  But it displayed them nicely.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Cake

For the annual Christmas ornament exchange with our close group of friends I decided to make a dark chocolate peppermint cake.  It turned out quite yummy!  But before the recipe, a picture of the gang at the exchange!

And the babies in their matching elf outfits!  It is quite hilarious to watch the craziness that goes on while trying to get them all to sit up right, pay attention, smile, etc., etc.

Ok, onto the recipe:

Chocolate Cake Layers
From Chocolate & Carrots
  • 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips such as Ghirardelli
  • 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups well-shaken low fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Grease and lightly flour 3 9″ cake pans.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, pour the hot coffee over the chocolate chips. Let it stand for a couple of minutes, and stir until chocolate is melted.
  4. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  5. In the bowl of your electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
  6. Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans
  9. Bake on the middle racks of the oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about an 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  10. Cool layers completely in pans on racks.
  11. Once completely cooled, invert the cake layers onto individual long sheets of plastic wrap. Be sure to wrap each layer tightly.
  12. Freeze the layers for about 3-4 hours (up to 24 hours).

Peppermint Frosting

  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 6-8 tsp milk
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer
  2. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time
  3. Incorporate milk as needed until you reach the desired consistency
  4. Add peppermint candy
  5. Frost cake and place in fridge to set

Chocolate Trees

  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chips
  1. Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
  2. Remove from the double boiler and let the chocolate get lukewarm (it should be soft enough to drip/lightly squeeze out of a piping bag but not so hard that you have to use a lot of pressure to get it out of the bag)
  3. Lay out a couple layers of foil on a flat surface (or even better, on flat cookie sheets).
  4. Draw out your trees with the melted chocolate.
  5. Put the chocolate trees in the fridge until they are hard.
  6. Using gloves (so you don’t melt the trees with your hands or get finger prints on them), squirt some chocolate on the backs of your trees and place them on the cake.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Ornament Exchange

Every year we do a Christmas ornament exchange with some of our close friends.  I look forward to it every year!  We draw names several weeks in advance so we have time to pick out that perfect ornament.  I love trying to figure out just the right gift.  I also love seeing what ornament I get!  This year in our group of friends 4 of us all had our first kid so it has been the year of babies.  We went from a group of friends with no kids to a group of friends with 3 newborns!  It is going to be so much fun in the years to come as they grow up together.  Roy got Joey who is one of the few in the group that did not have a kid these year but he sure does love all of them!  He has quickly become known as Uncle Joey.  So when Roy pulled his name I knew exactly what I was going to make him.  Something with all the babies AND inspired by Pinterest of course!  I love how it turned out!  I am going to be making some more of these for sure!  I will probably only use 2 or 3 blocks on future ornaments.  But I needed 4 for each baby on this one.

Wood blocks (mine are 2x2)
Black paint (or whatever color you want)
Photos or words printed on photo paper (I found the photo paper to work better than normal paper)
Matte Mod Podge

1.  Paint the blocks
2.  Drill a hole through the middle of each block
3.  Print pictures out (or words) in a 1.5x1.5 square
4.  Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the block
5.  Put picture on top of the wet Mod Podge and paint another layer on top of the picture
6.  Let the first layer dry and do one more layer, be careful not to paint it too thick
7.  Once the blocks are dry string your ribbon through the holes tying a knot in-between each block
8.  Add as much ribbon as you want to the top and bottoms of the blocks

A couple of different views of the ornament....

Original idea from Craft Goodies

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Macarons are the new cupcake!

Well not really, but they sure are becoming a craze.  Macaron shops are starting to pop up like cupcake shops did several years ago.  I thought I would give them a try for the Christmas party this year.  I don't think I will be making a ton of these.  They are just ok in my opinion.  Definitely a different taste to them.  They are also very time consuming and tedious to make which in my opinion means they need to have an amazing result to justify doing.  I kept mine simple this time and just did vanilla macaron shell and vanilla butter cream frosting.  Maybe different flavors would taste better?
But needless to say, everyone can give these puppies a try tonight and decide for themselves if they like them!
Recipe and step by step directions are available at Kevin and Amanda.  She does a great job of walking you through the process!

Chocolate Pretzels

This recipe was super easy to do and much quicker than dipping individual pretzels.  And I think they still look very festive.  I will be doing this one again for sure!  I might use all hugs next time because I think I like the way they look the best.

1 bag Hershey Kisses
1 bag Hershey Hugs
1 bag plain M&M's
1 bag Pretzel Snaps
Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 170.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Lay the pretzel snaps out on the cookie sheets and place the hugs and kisses on top of them.  Put the pans in the oven for 5-10 minutes depending on how hot your oven cooks.  The hugs will cook quicker than the kisses so do them on their own pan.  When the kisses and hugs still have their shape but are easy to push down pull the pan out of the oven and quickly place an M&M on top of each.  Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to let them set.

Original recipe came from Disney Family Fun.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Making of a Christmas Card

I've been saving this post until I got my cards mailed out and knew most people had received them.  Didn't want to ruin the surprise of course!  I am so excited about my cards this year.  Probably because I have a sweet little guy to star in them :)  Awhile back I saw a photo on Pinterest that I just KNEW I had to recreate.  So, I called up the BEST photographer around and put her to work.  Side note for some advertisement.... Alica Jerome at Northwest Photoworks is amazing for any of you living in Arkansas.  Here she is hard at work.

Ok, back to the cards.  She delivered as always!  And I know these photos are going to be treasured for years to come!

I also knew we needed a full family picture with the dogs and all.  They have been somewhat neglected lately and have really been good sports about it all.  But, I wouldn't dare leave them off the Christmas card.  Good thing we have a close friend who also takes photos in his free time.  I was luckily able to convince Anthony to come over and take a few quick pictures for our card.  I love fall and all the colors that come with it in Arkansas.  So I made sure to get this one done in October when the leaves were at their best.  We headed a little down the road from our house.  Thanks Anthony!  I am thinking about making this one a canvas for our living room.

The best part about this photo shoot though was seeing the action shot pictures when a car would drive by.  Roy and I are focused on the task at hand, smiling for the camera!  Trey and the dogs are clearly distracted! 

I used Vistaprint for my cards.  I have used them for the last several things I've needed and their quality is really good and they have pretty cheap prices!  You can upload your own designs and not have to stick to set patterns if you don't want to.  The peeking out the window pic was just too cute not to include so I put it on the back of the card!  And here is the final product!

I hope everyone enjoys their Holiday season!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cake Balls

I make these every year and they are always a hit!  So, again this year I made sure to have cake balls for our annual Christmas party.  I also needed some for the baked goods gift a few of my co-workers and I are giving to the rest of our team.  They really are simple to make and very hard to mess up.  They give a festive look to anything and are a perfect two bite dessert treat.  I made two batches worth since I needed 50 for work.  I did half of them chocolate cake and half white cake.

1 Box cake mix and whatever it calls for
1 can of frosting
1 package of almond bark or 2 packages of the candy melt aways sold at craft stores
Sprinkles for decoration
Parchment paper
Mini cupcake liners

*Note:  Have fun varying the types of cake and frosting you use as well as the color of melted candy you dip it in.

1.  Make the cake according to the directions on the back of the box.
2.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes after it is done baking.
3.  In a large bowl empty the can of icing.
4. Take the cake out of the pan and crumble into the large bowl with the icing.  You want to do this while the cake is still warm.
5.  With a spatula stir up the frosting and the cake.  Your cake should be completely crumbled up and the warmth will melt the icing around the crumbs.
6.  Place the bowl in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool down a bit.
7.  Take a handful of cake/frosting mixture and roll into balls in the palm of your hands and place onto a cookie sheet.
8.  Put the cookie sheet with all your cake balls in the freezer for 15 minutes.  While you are waiting lay parchment paper out on the counter and get your sprinkles out and ready to use.
9. After the 15 minutes is up, melt the candy coating according to the package directions.
10. Pull the cake balls out of the freezer and dip into the melted candy coating one at a time.
11.  Place the dipped ball onto the parchment paper and immediately put sprinkles on top.  The candy coating will dry fairly quickly because the balls are cold.
12. Continue this process until you are done with all of the balls.
13.  Let them sit for about an hour to completely dry.
14.  You can put them in mini cupcake liners or leave them as is.  Store in an airtight container.

Yields approximately 30 cake balls.  These will stay fresh tasting for quite awhile so you can make them up to a week in advance.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Grapevine Poly Mesh Wreath - How To Make It!

I decided I loved the poly mesh wreaths I made several weeks ago (this post) so much that I was going to do a couple as gifts for some friends.  But this time I decided to use a grapevine wreath and change a few things up a bit.  Also added some personalization with the letter of their last name.  I absolutely LOVE how these came out!  And of course I am going to give the tutorial on how to make them because as mentioned in my previous "how to" post, I cannot get over how much people are getting away with charging for these!  So simple to make, I promise!

21" wide roll of deco mesh
Floral wire
Ribbon in a coordinating color (any size will work just depends on the effect you want)
24" wreath (or any other size you want - I just think this is a good standard size)
Wooden letter
Paints for your letter
Hot glue gun
Any decorations you want to add

Note: All supplies can be found at Hobby Lobby or whatever your local craft store is.  I do like the deco mesh options found at Mardi Gras Outlet.  They have a lot of different stuff to choose from. 

1.  Start by painting your letter in any design or color theme you wish.  Let it dry while you work on the rest of the wreath.  Tip: Using the eraser of a pencil works quite well to make good dots.

2.  Hot glue the end of your ribbon to the grapevine wreath.

3.  Wrap the ribbon around the wreath.  You can make it closer together if you don't want to see the wreath form you are using.  I really liked the grapevine so I wrapped mine pretty wide.  Once you reach the starting point of your ribbon cut it off from the roll and glue the end in the same spot you glued the first piece.

4.  Wrap the floral wire around the wreath and twist a couple times to secure.  It is hard to see but it is in the middle of the picture.  It's green.  Place them sporadically around the wreath to create the spots where you will "gather" your poly mesh.

5.  Take your poly mesh and make bunches around the wreath where you placed the floral wire.  You can follow the steps in my previous how to (here) to find out how exactly to work with the poly mesh.

6.  Arrange your decorations around the wreath where you want them.  A lot of these I was able to stick the picks on the end of the decorations into the grapevine to secure and did not need the hot glue gun.  You will need to hot glue the letter onto the wreath.  To attach the ornaments I just used the floral wire that was left over from securing the poly mesh.  You can make your wreath as simple or as full of stuff as you like!  I think mine falls in between those two.

All Done!  See how simple that was?

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Week of Visitors!

Well it has been quite the crazy week at our house!  It all started last Thursday (Thanksgiving) when my sister and her boyfriend flew in from D.C. to spend the holiday with us.  They were here until this past Wednesday.  It was the first time we got to meet Katie's boyfriend, Elmar.  Let's hope he doesn't break up with her after meeting her crazy mother!  Haha!  Kidding Mom!  Kind of.....  Anyway, while they were here we headed to Fayeteville to admire the lights they put up around their square.  Here are a few photos.

Trey all bundled up!  He was sweating when we took his coat off. Haha!
Katie, Elmar, and Trey
The whole group

Wednesday afternoon Katie and Elmar headed back to D.C.  THEN my Dad and other sister, Bailey showed up late Wednesday night.  They were on their way from Florida to Arizona and I convinced them to come our way since it only added 3 more hours to their trip.  We had not seen them since August.  So they came for a day!  I left work at lunchtime on Thursday to hang out with them.  We went to dinner that night and then they were back on the road again early Friday morning.  It was a quick but good visit!
Auntie Bailey, Koda, and Trey
Grandpa reading Trey a book

Had to take a group photo before heading to dinner