Love is in the mail {DIY Valentines}

7 Feb

With Valentine’s Day a week away, there’s still time to get those handmade valentines in the mail to your special someones! I recently jumped on the seemingly endless mason jar craze after making a post-work Paper Source run for some new stamps. Here are some of my favorites after playing around a bit with my new stamps and other supplies I already had on-hand. I really wish I could bottle up my love and send it across the miles this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

vday5

vday

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vday2

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New Year’s Resolutions {More brunches, please!}

23 Jan

Happy New Year! It’s been awhile! One of my new year’s resolutions is to get back to the things I love doing. Back to the little things that put a smile on my face. That’s not to say I haven’t been smiling enough lately … just more of an acknowledgment that far too often I have let excuses like being tired or burnt out suck me onto the sofa for things like the “What would B.D. do? Marathon” of Law & Order: SVU. Yeah, that’s right … as in B.D. Wong, who played the psychiatrist … seriously, USA will make a marathon out of anything!

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I digress. I had this “epiphany” while dancing on a chair on New Year’s Eve. There was a complete stranger next to me who seemed a little too pensive for someone dancing on a chair, so I asked her what was wrong. As it turned out, she was feeling a little overwhelmed by the thought of a new year and all of the lofty resolutions that come with it. And who wouldn’t be? I mean it’s great to take some time to reflect on the things we could be doing a little better and use the opportunity of changing the calendar to make some changes; but it’s like we expect we’ll be a whole new person on January 1 {or January 2 for those you who might have done a little more than dance on a chair to ring in the new year}.

So long story slightly shorter, I turned to this girl and said “2013: The year of just doing what you do.” Whatever that means … haha. Luckily, we’d both had a little champagne and that made perfect sense to her … she even high-fived me! So while you may or may not want to take advice from me at a bar, these words began to resonate with me over the first weeks of January. And I decided that I need to just do what I do. And a few of those things that I do are baking, crafting, hosting brunches, and writing about these things here!

So this past weekend, Adam and I hosted several friends for Sunday brunch. It had been far too long and it felt wonderful! Here are some of my favorites from the day. I hope 2013 is a year full of just doing what you do! Enjoy!

I tried one new recipe, and was happy with the way it turned out. I pretty much followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake as it was written and only found that it took closer to 55-60 minutes to cook through in my pan/oven.

photo 1 (8)I also decided to have yogurt parfait bar, which is a a fancy way of saying I put granola, fruit, and yogurt out on the counter for people to serve themselves! It seemed to be pretty well-received and was a fresh, super easy way to supplement the spread without tying up the oven.

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I was also more than a little excited about the decorations that actually made it to the table rather than just being imagined and put off until it was too late to do anything about! I just got some simple, inexpensive flowers at the grocery store and put them together  with things I already had around the house. The centerpiece was a cast iron skillet with candles and flowers on a stack of books. I overestimated the amount of baby’s breath I needed, so I ended up using some bud vases to complete the table-scape. For some reason the white, delicate flowers contrasted with the heavy, black skillet  just seemed to say winter brunch perfectly to me!

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And Zorro pretty much sums up how I felt once the kitchen was clean!

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Healing Pie {Caramel Apple Cherry Pie}

11 Nov

Sometimes you just need to bake a pie – even if you don’t really know how to make one. So was the case with me a couple of weeks ago. After suffering one of the biggest disappointments of my life to date {which probably speaks more to the charmed nature of my life, rather than to the gravity of the situation}, I had been spending more than my fair share of time on the couch. And even though I knew I needed that time to rest {or at least my mom said I did}, I was getting a little antsy by the end of a couple of days!

Thank goodness my new Better Homes and Gardens came somewhere in that time period and I got inspired to make the delicious-looking Caramel Apple Cherry Pie featured on the cover. The act of baking this pie would become symbolic of so many things in my life right now, not the least of which is the promise of the beautiful baby that Adam and I will someday hold in our arms even though this time around ended in miscarriage.

Please note, I did NOT make this beautiful creation :)

So mere hours after having received the magazine in the mail, my sweet husband was picking up the ingredients to make a caramel apple cherry pie. The act of pulling out all of my beloved baking ingredients and dishes felt like therapy.  It reminded me of all the things I love about baking that I had been missing lately, as work and life got in the way. Turning up my favorite music in the kitchen {it was most likely The Weepies on this and most days}. Enjoying time to just be alone with my thoughts while still feeling productive. The anticipation that comes with trying something new. Filling the house with sweet smells and anxiously awaiting the return of my favorite taste-tester.

The makings of a pie crust.

Just by nature of the fact that I was up and in the kitchen, I could feel myself returning to normal. And the simple act of doing these familiar things continued me right along the path to healing.

So that all sounds great, right?  Well, here’s the thing – this pie is a lot of work! And it didn’t exactly turn out like the pictures. I had a lot of trouble with the crust, which kept wanting to sadly sink down into itself {metaphor for my life much?}.

The crust is still looking pretty promising at this point.

When Adam left for a movie, I was desperately trying to salvage the pie crust while stirring what felt like 17 pots and pans on the stove … there was the cranberry/cherry compote, the apple mixture … okay, I guess that’s only two, but with all of the prep bowls, pots, and pans; there was quite a bit of clean-up to be done.

Starting the cranberry/cherry compote.

Yummy pie filling!

When it was all said and done, I had a finished pie. It wasn’t pretty {even Instagram couldn’t hide its flaws!}, but it was tasty. I think I will have a better technique the next time I make a pie crust, which may or may not include buying a ready-made crust at the grocery store! I probably won’t make this particular pie again {yumminess to effort ratio was not quite high enough}, but at the end of the day, I was sharing the fruits of my afternoon with the one I love.

And all of this reminded me that, no matter how much you plan, or how hard you work; life doesn’t always turn out like the picture you have in your head. But you just have to keep going, love people well, and believe in the promise of what’s to come. And some days that promise is that of a much more successful day in the kitchen than this one; and others, it is the promise that one day Adam and I will have the beautiful baby we had already started to picture in our arms.

Yep – sad-looking pie!

Crafting through the Storm {Washi Tape & Hurricane Sandy}

29 Oct

Not much to say tonight. Adam and I drove back from a wonderful, action-packed trip to New York and New Jersey only to learn that my office would be closed for the next two days and that we would be nervously awaiting Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.

So far we still have power {thank goodness and knock on wood}, but it has definitely been flickering a bit over the last couple of hours. So as I sit here listening to the wind howling and the trees creaking, I’ll spare you all of the “blah blah blah” and just post a few pics of some of the cards I’ve been working on today and over the last couple of weeks. In case you can’t tell, I’m kind of obsessed with washi tape!

So enjoy and, for all of you on the East Coast, please stay safe!

Because I have such amazing family and friends, I’ve been in need of quite a few thank you cards these days:

And it’s always good to have a birthday card on hand …

… and you never know when you’ll just need a blank, everyday card.

Birthday Celebration {Navy & Lime Party Palette}

14 Aug

Time for yet another long overdue post! I recently had the absolute pleasure of planning a fun party with my two lovely sisters. And that party just happened to be a joint birthday celebration for our two lovely parents! Both parents turn 60 this year, and we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.  We settled on a wine and chocolate theme pretty quickly and then started planning!

We thought a navy and lime color palette would be perfect for summer and added in a little teal for some fun accents. Here are some of our favorite details from the party!

First things first, the invitations set the tone long before a single guest arrives! Stay tuned for more details on how these were made using one of my favorite rubber stamping techniques: heat embossing!

We were thrilled with how the finishing touches came together the day of the party even though much of our planning had been done across hundreds of miles!

The centerpieces were made at little cost with simple cylinder vases from Michaels, bulk corks from ebay, and fresh limes. We upcycled tin cans by wrapping them in navy paper and lime green baker’s twine. Green hydrangeas from my mother’s garden completed the look perfectly {thanks for providing the decor at your own party, Mom!}.

And what kind of a chocolate party would it be without a big, chocolate cake?!? This delicious cake was made by Debbie Seats over at Udderly Sweets in Mocksville, NC. We topped it off with a custom, DIY banner and couldn’t believe how perfectly our banner matched the decorative ribbon Debbie used!

At the end of a fabulous evening of catching up with SO many dear family friends, we sent the guests away with beautiful cake pops from Katie’s Cake Pops. Katie did such a wonderful job with them and, believe it or not, they were even tastier than they were adorable … YUM!

Of course, the party would not have been complete without the ever-youthful guests of honor and my precious sisters! It was our pleasure planning this celebration, and we hope it shows in some small part how grateful we are for all our parents have done for us over the years! Happy 60th!

A First Communion and a First Commission {DIY First Communion Favors}

9 Aug

I am so excited to finally {and I mean FINALLY even more than when I did when I first started writing this post} share a project with you that has been a long time in the making! It all started a few months back when I made some favors for the baby shower I co-hosted for a friend. A neighbor happened by after the shower and my husband, ever the marketer, showed her one of the leftover storybook favors. She mentioned that she may have a need for something crafty for her son’s upcoming first communion and decided to stop by later to talk about some ideas with me.

She basically wanted a gift box to hold the rosary she planned to give each child in her son’s catechism class, and was hoping it could also be something they could keep to commemorate the day. I decided to use a simple DIY favor box as my base, and then began searching online for the perfect embellishment to finish it off. I saw this first communion invitation over on tiny prints and really liked the idea of having a cross with text behind it.

So anyway, here’s what I came up with. The box itself is 4″ x 4″ x 2″, and was made using cover weight paper from Paper Source in Paper Bag and Night.  I then cut cross images out of Paper Bag paper using my Silhouette digital cutting tool and used these to form a little pocket that could hold a keepsake card. The pocket is held together by one of my favorite crafting  accessories: washi tape from cutetape.com.

{Side note: My husband gave me the Silhouette as a wedding gift, and you can really do some amazing things with it! It connects to your computer using a USB and basically looks like a little printer … BUT instead of printing, it cuts out the images you buy or design yourself! Pretty cool, right? If you’re interested in seeing one in person, Paper Source often has one in the store that can be used for demonstrations.}

I decided to go with Luke 22:19-20 for the front of the keepsake card; and when I first slipped it inside the pocket, much to my excitement, the “do this in remembrance” line was perfectly in view!

I made a more personal version of the card for my neighbor so that it truly could be kept to commemorate her son’s first communion, but here is a look at the generic version.

I also made some standalone pockets/cards for members of the family so that they could have a keepsake even though they weren’t getting the favor boxes.

I am so happy with the way these came out and, more importantly, I think my neighbor loved them too!

Why I Love To Bake {Happy Father’s Day!}

15 Jun

We recently had some unexpected house guests, and I found myself in need of a quick and easy dessert recipe. Normally I would hit the baking blogs at this point, but this time I found myself reaching for an old, trusted friend instead – the chocolate chip cookie recipe from my KitchenAid mixer cookbook. There’s nothing too special about this recipe on the surface. It’s so simple that I should really know it by heart. The cookies are delicious {especially with a glass of milk}, but not that different from any other basic chocolate chip cookie.

What makes these cookies so dear to me are the memories I have of helping my mom bake them using her KitchenAid mixer more years ago than I care to count at the moment. I know what you’re thinking – “This sounds more like a Mother’s Day post – what gives??”  – but just give me a minute, I’ll get there!

Anyway, on this particular occasion a few weeks ago, as I mixed up the familiar ingredients, I had a bit of an epiphany. I had always traced my love of baking back to my days working at a lovely little B&B in Charleston, South Carolina, but I now know that experience only helped to strengthen what was already there. That’s right, the humble beginnings of my love for baking can be found in this very chocolate chip cookie recipe.

In the discovery that my linear, little mind thrived on the precision and following of instructions that baking demands. In the patience of my mother as she let me use more flour than should ever be used as I rolled out each cookie by hand {still my preference to this day, as I never seemed to have mastered the art of dropping rounded teaspoonfuls}. In the wisdom passed down from my grandmother that, even though the recipe calls for a greased baking sheet and I wanted to follow it to a T, “a good cookie greases itself!”  I know, I know. Still sounding very much like a Mother’s Day post, but I would be remiss to leave out my mother’s hand in this!

What made these cookies so very special to me is what happened after they filled the house with the heavenly aroma of freshly-baked cookies – my dad would pour himself a glass of cold milk and dig in … always insisting that they were the best he had ever had and that no one could make them the way I could. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that my mom could in fact follow this recipe with the same result, but my ten-year-old self believed that I really was creating some kind of culinary masterpiece each time I whipped up a batch.

All of that reminiscing got me thinking about how dads have a unique way of instilling this kind of belief in their little girls. And about how lucky I am to have a dad who has never stopped encouraging me in this way. Whether it be the latest cupcake recipe I’m trying out or a project I’m tackling at work, I know my dad will be one of my biggest cheerleaders and a great source of encouragement.

So thanks, Dad, for making this little girl believe that she can make the world a sweeter place  … one chocolate chip cookie at a time! Happy Father’s Day!

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