Swap this Cookie for that Cookie

I absolutely love the holiday season and everything that comes with the holidays, the music, the lights, and of course the FOOD!

Over the years the holiday traditions have changed/ evolved and with that the holiday traditions you grew up with are either no longer or have expanded along with family members. I know for me on Christmas Eve it was hosted at my grandparents home, than over the years my parents would host, and then most recently about 3 years ago, I started hosting at my house with my fiance and his family members too.

Over the years family dynamic has changed and the different traditions have emerged. I recently have decided since the holiday season is a challenging one to try to get everyone together that I would start a new tradition, a Cookie Swap or Cookie Exchange.

I started doing some “pintrest homework” how to host the perfect Cookie Exchange.

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Here are some of my tip’s on hosting.

  • Make a digital invite, almost everyone has Facebook now adays or an email. Save money and send the invites out digitally!
  • Request your guests to make ingredients/ directions cards so if there is an allergy a guest will know
  • Don’t know how many cookies to have your guest bring, basically that is up to you but what I did was ask my guests to bring 6 dozen cookies, I had 6 women come so each of them brought a dozen of each cookie home

All of your guests want some kind of guidance!  Some are pros and some are baking for the first time.  Usually, you get someone that breaks the rules, but it’s okay.  As long as you let all of your guests know what you expect, it will all go smooth.

  • Decorate your home, at this time I am sure your home is decorated for the holidays so you may not have to do too much
  • When guests arrive with the cookies have them set up all the cookies in a designed area on the table, I had chalkboard labels to display each cookie name. This makes it easier for guests to know which cookie is which and make it easier for grabbing and voting!
  • Provide a festive drink, you can do hot cocoa, but I just stuck with wine.
  • Provide food/appetizers, while they are eye balling all of those cookies before the trade!  You may choose whether you want your guests to taste the cookies or not at all. Depending upon your budget, you may serve some light appetizers, other sweets, or even a meal. I choose an array of pickings.
  • If you are having a contest, give your guests voting ballets for the categories to vote
    • provide prizes or winner ribbons.

Some Prize Categories can be,

  • Most Amazing Display
  • Prettiest Cookie
  • Most Unique Cookie
  • Most Outrageous Holiday Outfit
  • Door Prize (Ask each guest to bring ONE cookie cutter.  Collect all of the cookie cutters and give them away as a prize!)

Some Idea Prizes can be,

  • Cookie Cookbook
  • Cookie jar
  • Cookie baking sheet
  • Cookie cooling racks
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon and/or spatula
  • Measuring cups and/or spoons
  • Cookie cutter(s)
  • Cookie sprinkles
  • Pretty apron
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven mitts

Now the time has come to exchange/ swap the cookies!

  • Take a moment to ask each of guests to share a story of the cookie recipe they brought, or their adventures of baking them.  Also, your guests may love to share some of their family holiday traditions.  This gives the others new ideas for their families!
  • Time to trade and exchange the cookies!  I hand each of my guests an aluminum disposable to go container with lid– found at any kind of dollar store.  I line each of them with holiday decorated tissue paper and now my guests are able to go around and fill up their containers!

I hope you all find this information helpful on planning a holiday cookie exchange party! If you are thinking of hosting one, take some bits and pieces from my experience of hosting and make them your own. Enjoy your time with you family and friends, this gathering should be a fun time to kick back and show your baking skills!

. . . .

The cookies I had made were Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, below is my recipe

Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 (11 oz.) bag caramel bites
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream/milk
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate baking bars
  • sea salt, for sprinkling on top
Instructions:
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and vanilla extract until combined.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each egg.
  4. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!
  5. Using a spatula, stir in chocolate chips until combined.
  6. Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls about 1 Tablespoons each and place onto prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  8. Immediately after taking cookies out of the oven, using handle of a wooden spoon, make indentation into center of each cookie. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet.
  9. In a medium-sized bowl, combine caramel bits and heavy whipping cream. Microwave for 1 minute, stirring until caramel is completely melted. Spoon 1 teaspoon of caramel into each indentation.
  10. In a medium-sized bowl, microwave chocolate baking bars for 30 seconds, stirring after each 30-second intervals until chocolate is completed melted. Drizzle chocolate over cookies and sprinkle with sea salt.

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Mirror Mirror…

One of my favorite DIY is turning a typical ordinary mirror into a work of art!

I love the idea of a mirror as an accent above my dry bar so I added some chalk paint “Cheers” and made it look not so odd to have a mirror so high up.

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Really all I did was grab a chalk marker that I found at my local craft store for $5.00 and practiced how I wanted the word “Cheers” to look and then took a leap of faith and wrote it on the mirror.

DON’T worry if you mess up, just take a little Windex and water and the chalk will come off as easy as 1 2 3. Let dry, and try again!

I am such a fan of dolling up mirrors and even old windows with chalk paint, I even created one for my sister’s waxing business so she can add her services on it! It’s really the perfect and easiest DIY.

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To do a window or glass it’s probably the easiest DIY to do because you can type of whatever you want to write on the mirror/glass tape it on the back and take your chalk pen/marker and just trace the letters from the printed page taped on the back and than Voila! You are now ready to hang a unique piece of art that you created yourself!

December, seriously?

Hey guys,

I know its been a little while since I have written, I apologize for that, its crazy to me that its already December 2nd! How did this happen? I’m not ready for the holidays!

With that being said, I recently have decided to start thinking about DIY Christmas presents because truthfully, with all these wedding expenses, there isn’t enough money coming in as fast as its going out. I am sure all the married readers would understand this.

2 years back, I made an adorable painted mug and put coffee and hot chocolate ingredients in a plastic baggie to accompany the mugs, they were so cute and such a big hit.

With the painted mugs, I made a few different kinds, some had cute little sayings, and some had peoples initials and depending on the recipient I gave either coffee grounds or hot coco ingredients.

The supplies for the painted mugs:

  • Sharpie Pens – thick, thin, all different colors. I chose Green, Red, and Gold Metalic
  • White Mug – white works best, or even a solid color. – I got mine at the dollar store! 
  • Oven 
  • Stickers – for designs

1. To do a monogram design you will need a scrapbook stickers. Pick the monogram/design you want and stick it on your mug. You will want to make sure it’s in the right place/angle etc.

2. Next you will want to make dots ALL around the scrapbook sticker. Do some practice dots on some cardboard before hand. Once ready, start filling in the area around the sticker with dots. Really fill in the area. Add a second color if you like. If you mess up, wipe away with some rubbing alcohol on a q-tip.

3. Once you have the design you want and it’s dry – carefully peel off the scrapbook sticker to reveal your design. Do touchups if you need to.

4. Making sure your area is well ventilated – turn on your oven to 350, set your mugs inside and let them bake for 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes is up, turn off the oven and let the mugs cool down inside. I left it in the oven for a few hours.

5. Then of course, fill and enjoy with your favorite beverage.

 

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Once I have decided on what DIY Christmas present I am going to do this year, I will be sure to post it and with pictures so you can all enjoy.

Pickle This

Now that the gardening season is no longer in the full swing of things, I had a lot of vegetables that are still somewhat growing or have just about stopped producing.

One of my vegetables that just stopped producing was my peppers. I literally had about 6 pepper plants and they all sort of stopped growing at the same time, and I figured since the holidays are coming and I come from a big Italian family that has antipasto with every holiday meal and one of the favorites among it is the pickled vegetables I figured why not try my hand at pickling my peppers for the first time. I did eggplant last year and it came out AmAzInGg! So, why not try my hand at the peppers!

To begin, I sang a sweet song to the peppers, haha Just Kidding! I washed these bad boys and let them drain, while I waited for them to completely drain, I began to cut up and mince two (2) cloves of garlic, you know us Italians, we LOVE our garlic!

I then packed the peppers in ever so tightly in a hot sterilized jar I had, leaving about 1/2″ headspace. If you would like now is the time to put in at least 4 heads of fresh dill, or if you don’t have fresh dill you can use 2 tablespoons of dill seeds.

In a saucepan, combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of white vinegar. Mix in 2 tablespoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, bring these bad boys to a boil.

Once the mixture has come to a boil, you will than pour the hot pickling liquid over the peppers, again leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Adjust the lid and put the closed jar in a boiling water bath for 10 minuets. Once its been 10 minuets, take the jar out of the bath and cool it down before putting the jar in the pantry. Wait about 2 months and then you can enjoy your delicious pickled veggies!

Luckily, in two months my pickled peppers will be ready to eat on December 23, perfect timing for Christmas Eve Dinner!

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Ingredients you will need:

  • 1lb red peppers or 1 lb green or 1 lb yellow hot pepper (8 cups)
  • 4heads fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3cups water
  • 1cup  white vinegar
  • 2tablespoons salt
  • 2cloves garlic, minced
  • 14teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

 

 

 

 

Melt, Pour, and Wait

 

The three main steps to candle making.

Well there are more steps than just those three, but it is pretty simple to create or recreate candles to your liking. As most of you know I am an upcycler, a DIY enthusiast and I will try and do anything at least once. My most recent obsession is candle making, I love the aroma’s, colors, and look.

Last Christmas my fiance gifted me a candle making set and while I tried it once or twice when I first received the present, I didn’t fully commit to this hobby until very recently. On a rainy day when I was cleaning up my hobby room and found the open box of candle making supplies, I figured hey why not make another candle, I had enough supplies to make at least two so I can toss the box and not clutter the 2 inches of space it took up and at least I will have two new candles in my home.

During my process, I really got into it, I thoroughly enjoyed using my essential oils and creating new fragrances and finally getting the perfect shade of blue and burgundy to match my living and dining room, I am never able to find the perfect colors to match my decor accents. After I had finished up and was waiting for the two candles to cool down and conform to my candle mold I got to thinking, I have dozens of “old” candles that were on their last wick (get it, last wick, haha I crack myself up sometimes) anyways, I figured instead of tossing them I would burn them down and make my own candles with new fragrances and maybe a new color.

The following process is a simply one but you need to be careful, spilled wax isn’t a fun clean up! Gather the following supplies,

  • Wax Chunks, Shavings, Old Candles, or even a block of wax at your local craft stores
  • Boil Bags or heat resistant container
  • Essential Oils
  • Food coloring
  • Wicks
  • Candle Mold
  • Scissors
  • Lighter – to light that baby up at the end

Place the Wax Chunks, Shavings, old candles, or block of wax into the Boil Bags or Heat Resistant Container in a larger pot. Reminder: you cannot put candle wax directly on hear or it will catch fire or evaporate. Turn the hear up high and watch that water boil, the boiling water will slowly start to melt your wax. Please keep in mind that the wax can be difficult to clean up so maybe investing in a cheap, heat safe, pot designated specifically for making your candles would be your best option.

I usually wait until the wax is completely melted before taking it out and pouring into the candle molds but the following temperatures are ideal for different types of waxes,

  • Paraffin wax should be melted until it reaches between 122 and 140°F (50 and 60°C).
  • Soy wax should be melted until it reaches between 170 and 180 degrees (76.6 and 82.2°C).
  • Beeswax should be melted until it reaches roughly 145 degrees (62.7°C). You can go a little bit higher but try not to exceed 175 degrees (79.4°C).
  • Old candles should be melted at around 185 degrees (85°C). Remove the old wicks with tongs.

After the wax is completely melted, its time to add scents to it, the fragrance you choose it entirely up to you! Scents such as essential oils can also be found at your local craft store. Be aware that some scents are stronger than others so slowly put a couple of drops in and add more if you don’t feel the scent is strong enough, stir the scents in well.

Now to add the coloring, you can keep your candle white if you would like, or you can purchase oil-based dyes because normal food coloring is water based and will not work well with the wax.You can generally find specific candle dyes. Read the bottle for the proper amount of dye to put in to achieve a certain color. Add drops of coloring until you have reached your desired color. Stir well.

Now before you pour the melted wax in your candle mold, you need to place a wick in the center of the candle mold. You can use tins, mason jars (my favorite) old teacups, really any thing that will withstand the heat. The metal containers are the safest to go but honestly anything that can withstand the heat of the melted wax will do. I typically put down old newspapers or bills (just kidding about the bills part) under the candle mold so if wax does spill as I am pouring my work space/tabletop is protected. The wick should be in the center of the candle mold with about two inches sticking out of the candle. Loop the end that will be out of the wax around the center of a pen or pencil or really anything that will keep the wick in place ( I sometimes use the wooden shish kebab sticks. Rest the pen or stick across the top of the mold you will be pouring your wax into and make sure the wick hangs down straight into the center of the mold.

Pour the melted wax into the mold. Pour slowly so that it does not spill over. Make sure not to knock the wick out of the mold accidentally. You are the judge of how full you want your molds to be. Beeswax will shrink a little once it has cooled so keep that in mind when pouring it into your molds.

Once the wax is poured into the candle mold, it needs to be cooled, and typically it takes about 24 hours for it to be completely cooled down. The longer you let it cool, the better the candle will look. Once its completely cooled down and the candle looks completely set its time to remove the wax from the mold and trim the wick to a quarter inch of the top of the candle. Keep in mind the longer a wick the taller the flame will be, be cautious and keep the wick smaller so its not so out of control when burning.

Finally you are able to light the wick, burn your candle, and enjoy the perfect homemade candle!

 

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All from an Idea…

Have you ever gotten an idea and thought to yourself, I can totally do this and actually went through with it!.. Well that’s exactly what happened to me!

One day, I was downstairs in my basement and I was thinking to myself, what can I do with all these old vintage windows?! We made a greenhouse out of some and also made an awesome window wall decor out of another but truthfully how many windows am I going to display in my house? So this idea came out of nowhere and I thought, Shadow Box! I loved the idea of having a shadow box coffee table, one because its a unique idea and two because I babysit my two year old niece occasionally and she LOVES when there is anything on my coffee table so she can play with it. As much as I am the “cool” aunt and let her get away with murder, I don’t necessarily want anything to get broken. So I thought to myself, if I can display everything that I normally would ON the coffee table why don’t I do it IN the coffee table so the knick knacks and pictures don’t somehow end up broken and truthfully it adds a little something something to it if you ask me.

I started this project like I do with a lot of them, ran the idea over with my fiance, not because he rules what I do, but because, I have some wacky ideas and sometimes I need someone to pull the reigns on me. Well after I explained and drew up my idea, he thought it was an amazing idea, Whew! Luckily for me, his uncle owns a carpentry shop and that left over wood needs to go somewhere! I told my fiance the dimensions of the wood I needed and he picked up some amazing mahogany wood pieces cut to the size I needed (they had to be custom since the windows are vintage and the dimensions aren’t necessarily common)

I began this project by putting together the frame of the table itself with the mahogany wood, I went to my local Home Depot and picked up “L” brackets to secure it all together. Once the frame was created, I than began to screw wood to the bottom of the table onto the frame itself.

As you can imagine this is now sorta looking like a wooden stage (when flipped around). I bought these awesome wooden legs from Home Depot that gave the coffee table the perfect height, drilled the hole and screwed them onto the wooden bottom. Now that the wood frame and leg part is completed its time for the staining!

While the staining was drying, I started my work on the window. The window was so weathered and the existing paint that was previously on it was all chipped, I started to sand it down by hand (I didn’t want to use a sander for the fear that it would be too much power on a window) Once it was all sanded I wiped it down and began to paint it antique white, I added some gold embellishments on the window frame for a vintage feel and added a turquoise distressed handle to complete the overall look I was going for.

I secured the vintage window on top of the wooden freshly stained framed, added finishing gloss all over and then buffed it complete.

Now this gorgeous, one of a kind Shadow Box Coffee Table has be completed, its ready for its new home, because as I mentioned earlier, how many windows am I going to display in my house?

If you are interested in this piece or any other piece you can purchase them directly on the website!

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Upcycling is the same as new, right?

I have been interested in all things design since I was a youngster. I think when you are able to create something with just an idea and use your imagination and others fall captivate within it that’s true success. So many times I would create or redesign something and not think much of it and then I would get a complement and then I would think to myself why don’t I show off more things. I had the passion to design tee shirts back in 2009 and almost 9 years later I found the same sort of passion within upcycling furniture. I love taking things that people don’t have a need for and toss it out like last nights meatloaf. So many times I have been approached with, “I’m getting rid of this dresser, would you want it” Heck Yes! free furniture, why not!
My first piece I upcycled was my mothers hutch, this hutch was in my family home for about 20 something years, my mother painted it every color under the sun. My mother would always make things “work with what she had” and I believe that’s where I get my eye for redesign, yes its red today but tomorrow I can make it blue and then next Thursday I can change it back to red, oh the possibilities are endless when you just use a little imagination.
I decided to paint this hutch an off white to fit perfectly in my dining room. I have different colors in my living room so I knew I wanted to have a balance with some pieces I put in there. I love golds, reds, and greens but I did not want to make this hutch or my living room for that matter a scene from Mr and Mrs Clauses North pole home.
Because I am 29 years old and I don’t have the use of a hutch as most do, I decided to convert my hutch into a dry bar, perfect space for my glasses and the storage underneath is perfect to house the bottles.
I have to admit, even though I have had this hutch in my family since I was a tyke, every now and again I will get visitors asking me “where did you get this hutch?!” and I simply have to say, I upcycled it and made it brand new again!

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