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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

vday4

vday2

vday3

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!

Happy Arbor Day! {A Few of My Favorite Tree Crafts}

27 Apr

Anyone who knows me, also knows that I absolutely love trees and using them in my crafts and home decor. There is just something about the quiet majesty of trees that inspires a sense of calm and wonder in me. So on this Arbor Day, I will salute one of my favorite things in nature by sharing a few of my favorite projects past involving trees.

Adam and I were married in a beautiful grove, which is situated on the grounds of an old estate in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Woodend Sanctuary is now owned by the Audubon Naturalist Society, and if you have a wedding there, it is pretty difficult to NOT feature trees prominently.

Rebekah Girvan Photography

So with that venue, of course, just about everything associated with our wedding also had trees {or birds} somewhere on it! From the save the dates …

… to the invitations …

… to the programs …

Rebekah Girvan Photography

… to the favors {more birds, but they are on a branch!} …

Rebekah Girvan Photography

… and, oh yes, the escort cards not only featured a tiny branch, they were also displayed on a TREE …

Rebekah Girvan Photography

Our wedding wasn’t the only time I’ve gotten a little wrapped up in the whole tree motif. You may remember the invitations from our recent Storybook Baby Shower

Trees were also incorporated into our holiday decor, not only with a Christmas tree, but  also with these pine cones as a little winter woodland scene {and a tree made out of a magazine behind it}…

So hopefully on this Arbor Day, we can all take a minute to think about all the ways nature inspires us and is reflected in our everyday lives … and maybe even plant a tree or support one of so many organizations doing great work to protect and enrich the beauty and biodiversity of our natural world {shameless plug}.

Wednesday Wish List {Season’s Greetings}

21 Dec

As we enter the holiday season, with Hanukkah beginning last night and Christmas just days away, I wanted to resurrect the Wednesday Wish List feature to share my wish for you and yours this holiday season.

May your home be filled with warmth and peace.

May you always find time to indulge in life’s simple pleasures.

{tangled Christmas lights cupcakes}

May you take encouragement from the words of loved ones.

 

May you find contentment by giving to others.


May your cherished traditions always keep your loved ones near.

{I have received a snow globe from my dad every Christmas for as long as I can remember!}

Most of all, I hope you are surrounded by the love of friends and family – whether you are lucky enough to be with them, or you find yourself miles away from the ones you love.

Happy holidays!

~Kelli & Adam

More Holiday Baking! {Chai Spice Cookies}

19 Dec

At this point in the year, I think everyone is already a little overloaded on sugar. There are tasty treats everywhere you turn, and it’s really hard not to indulge and just give the “oh well, it’s the holidays” excuse! That being said, I decided to contribute to the sugar rush by baking chai spice cookies for a co-worker’s birthday.

The recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens, and while I found these cookies a little on the annoying side to make, the payoff in the end was certainly worth it. One of my co-workers described them as being like that last bite of pumpkin pie where you get crust with some of the filling still on it – crisp and buttery with all of those warm spice flavors.  I think that sums it up pretty well, so if that description has your mouth watering; these cookies are for you!

Perfect afternoon snack - chai tea with chai spice cookie {how very meta}

I guess I’ve grown pretty accustomed to making cookies that you can simply roll into balls by hand, so the concept of constantly flouring every surface and rolling out extremely sticky dough seemed a bit much {or maybe I just need some practice!}. Once I was over this initial frustration, I was able to appreciate how adorable little chai spice boys and girls can be!

Here’s the recipe as it reads on BHG with my only change being to roll the dough out a little thinner {yielding close to twice as many cookies as the recipe indicates with a little crispier consistency}. I also opted not to decorate mine with powdered sugar icing.

{Chai Spice Cookies}

  • 2 spiced chai-flavored tea bags
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons molasses

Remove tea bag contents (3 teaspoons); discard bags. In medium bowl combine tea, flour, and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.

In large mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and molasses. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can; stir in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and refrigerate about 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4-inch thickness {mine was more like 1/8-inch thickness}. Cut dough with 4-inch gingerbread girl cutters {or whatever shapes you want!}.

Bake 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely. Makes 18 to 20 cookies {I’d say I had closer to 40 cookies when it was all said and done}.

Enjoy!


Feeling festive {Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies}

13 Dec

This past Friday, we kicked off the holiday party season with our neighbors.  It was a low-key potluck in the nearby community center; but the great turnout, delicious food, and good company made for a very festive occasion.  I was surprised {overjoyed} to see that most people opted to bring savory dishes in the potluck sign-up, so I seized the opportunity to bake lots and lots of cookies and cupcakes!

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

I tried one new cookie recipe that I found on two peas & their pod via i am baker’s Seven Seriously Sweet Cookies post. There were quite a few recipes I wanted to try {alright, alright. all seven}, but I decided the Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies would be the perfect addition to our holiday party!

I also discovered that if I say I’m going to bake cookies, I might as well go ahead and pick up the ingredients for Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies as well; because Adam will definitely be requesting them. And I quote, “I never thought I’d be the kind of guy to have a favorite cookie, but this is it.”  {cute}

You can get out some of your holiday stress crushing candy canes!

Now for my thoughts on the chocolate peppermint crunch cookies.  I was a little skeptical when I first took them out of the oven as they kind of had the consistency of underdone brownies {which is not always a bad thing}. But once they had plenty of time to cool I was much happier. They were kind of like thin brownies with a nice crispiness on the outside and a minty crunch on the inside.

I didn’t make any changes to the original recipe that follows, other than to use two more candy canes than it calls for.  Also, I usually ignore any instructions to grease or line a cookie sheet because for some reason I always hear my Grandma Petersen saying “a good cookie greases itself” in my head, but I did line my baking sheet this time, and I’m glad I did.  Not only did this sticky dough really need the time to chill in the fridge in order to handle it, it also seemed like it would have been hard to get out of the pan had I not used parchment paper.

{Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies}

makes 3-4 dozen cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 ounces 99% unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 {to 7} candy canes, crushed

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil, chocolate, and granulated sugar. Blend on medium speed. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. There may be some small clumps of sugar in the batter at this point. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Mix until just incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Gather the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Sticky cookie dough - ready for the fridge

Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Pour the crushed candy canes onto a plate or into a shallow bowl. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball into the candy cane pieces, so that all sides are covered. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes for soft, chewy cookies, or 12 minutes for crisp cookies, rotating the pans halfway through baking. The cookies do set up, so if you want them soft, take them out at 10 minutes. Let cool completely on cooling racks. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Enjoy!

Fun surprises and holiday spirit {Handmade Gift Exchange}

5 Dec

Last month, I was so excited to hear about the Handmade Gift Exchange organized by Linda over at Craftaholics Anonymous. {Side note: You should definitely check out her blog for fun and amazing craft ideas!} Anyway, the gift exchange worked like this: I signed up online, was assigned a lovely partner, we exchanged a couple of emails about the kinds of things we like, and then got to work on gifts for each other!  Fun idea, right?

Sneak peek {more details below}

First, I’ll tell you a little about the gift my partner made for me! In our initial email exchange, I sent her a link to my basement redo Pinterest board and she ran with it.  I was so excited to receive a beautiful pillow cover last week with the coral theme I am planning for that room!  I truly love it, and it really renewed my excitement about getting our basement together. I *think* I even found a rug this weekend that will serve as the anchor for the room.  More on that later.  Here’s a quick picture of my lovely new pillow and a link to my partner’s blog post about it!  {Thanks, Breanne!}

Can't wait to get this in our finished basement!

Now, a little about my gift for Breanne!  She mentioned that she likes classic Christmas decorations and Pottery Barn style, so I decided to make a decorative wreath.  After scanning the holiday section of the Pottery Barn website several times, it seemed that monochromatic, metallic was the way to go.  I started with a 12″ floral wreath form, gold ribbon, and some wooden letters – all from Micheals.

I then spray painted the letters gold and wrapped the wreath form with gold ribbon {which was a bargain at 70% off – I stocked up on lots of wired holiday ribbon!}.  When the whole surface of the wreath was covered, I just secured it in the back with a staple gun.

Gotta love spray paint!

Next up, I played around with a few ideas for center of the wreath.  I settled on backing the center with craft paper with a stamped leaf design.  I simply traced the inside of the wreath on craft paper and stamped around the circle using watermark ink.  Finally, a couple of leaf stamps in the center with gold embossing powder, and I was happy!

Next up I looped some more gold ribbon around the top of the wreath and tied a bow to hang it with.  I backed the craft paper with some thin cardboard using spray adhesive to make it a little sturdier and cut the backing down to size. This was also secured to the back using a staple gun.  Finally, it was time to attach the letters using a hot glue gun.

I was happy with the finished product and was hoping Breanne would be as well! Here’s a peek!

Finally, I wrapped it all up in some craft paper and festive twine and nervously put it in the mail {it’s amazing how much I cared what someone living halfway across the country who I will most likely never meet in person thought about my gift, but that’s probably why this gift exchange tends to work out}!

Hope she likes it!

The gift exchange was a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit and and to get a taste of the talent and generosity of a complete stranger!  Thanks so much to Linda for organizing and to Breanne for putting so much thought and effort into my beautiful gift! Click here if you’d like to see examples of other handmade gifts given through the exchange! Happy holidays!