19 December 2011

It Could Be Worse

Ever feel like you're living under a little black rain cloud? Well, my entire week last week was a bit like that. On top of the regular holiday rush, the last week of school including holiday parties requiring creative cupcakes and last minute gifts for teachers and friends at school:

First thing Monday, we discovered that our bank account had been cleaned out by someone who was shoe shopping in New York. Oh, how I wish it had been me...
It could have been worse - we could have had a lot more money in the bank.

Wednesday, our computer got really weird. It turns out it had more than 12 viruses. It's at the computer hospital. It could have been worse. My Etsy shop is closed for the holidays and I even had posts scheduled through Thursday.

All I'm saying is, it could have been worse, but it was bad enough. I am taking this as a sign that I need to take some time with my family and let a few things go (maybe not the bank account).

I'll be back after Christmas with my shiny clean computer - hopefully I will still have some of my files - and when I get back, I will be super excited to show you our Christmas celebrations and hear about yours.
Have a wonderful week with your families. See you soon!

16 December 2011

A Week of Holiday Baking: Homemade Caramels

This is a re-post from last year, but definitely worth repeating. Enjoy!

An old holiday tradition, passed down from my Mother's mother, is the making of Christmas candy. Today, I am making caramels - YUM!

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white Karo
1/2 lb. butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Nuts (optional)

Butter a jelly roll pan. Combine all ingredients except nuts in a large heavy pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil about 30 minutes or until 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Note: I am going to show you photos using the cold water candy test because my candy thermometer broke, but I really recommend a candy thermometer. If you don't have the candy thermometer, use the cold water candy test. It is fine to cook your caramels to the firm ball stage as well, if you like them a bit more firm.

If you are using nuts, chop them and spread them over the buttered jelly roll pan. Pour caramel onto the jelly roll pan and make sure it is distributed evenly. Let cool. Cut into bite sized pieces and wrap in waxed paper. Share!

15 December 2011

A Week of Holiday Baking: Chocolate Covered What?

Melt the chocolate of your choice, dip the cinnamon bears in the chocolate, let the chocolate set. 

What are you waiting for? Try them!

14 December 2011

A Week of Holiday Baking: Chocolate Peppermint Surprises

Is there anything more fun than making cookies with your kids?

How about a chocolate shortbread cookie wrapped around a Hershey's Candy Cane Kiss? If you don't love the candy cane flavor, feel free to wrap this cookie around your favorite tiny chocolate. We have used all kinds of kisses, peanut butter cups and miniature Snickers. They are all delicious.

Chocolate Peppermint Surprises

1 cup butter, softened

cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup Hershey’s Cocoa

About 48 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses

Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy. Stir together flour and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended.

Mold a Tbsp. of dough around each Kiss, covering completely. Shape into a ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until set.

Cool about 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Roll in powdered sugar.

13 December 2011

A Week of Holiday Baking: Gingerbread Men and Women

Oh how I wish I could post a scratch and sniff for you. I've been making cookies.Today I made Gingerbread Men and Chocolate Peppermint Surprises. My house smells soooo good right now.  Imagine the smell of gingerbread, with a hint of chocolate and peppermint. It's just tantalizing.

I am making my usual gingerbread recipe, but with just a teensy tweak, and it has made a big difference. In my opinion, anyway. My tweak was substituting ground roasted ginger for the ground ginger. I think the cookies have a richer, nuttier flavor and just a little less bite. Want to try it out?

Classic Gingerbread Cookies 
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine (2007)

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp roasted ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg

Stir together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Beat butter in a large bowl for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and molasses. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg.
Beat in flour mixture on low speed until just combined. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough for about 3 hours or until it is easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper (reality check: I don't grease or line and it works out just fine). 
Roll each portion of dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a well floured surface. Cut out shapes with a lightly floured cookie cutter.. Place cutouts 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Bake 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Decorate with royal icing or other methods if desired. Enjoy!

Great Holiday Barn Hop

09 December 2011

Ornament Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who visited and entered Melissa's giveaway. 
The winner of this lovely ornament is...

I have been a fan of her Facebook page for a long time. She is a talented artist! 
I have quite a bit of her jewlery and ornaments and will add more, I'm sure! -Jill

Congratulations Jill!

01 December 2011

Featuring Melissa of Creative Art by ME

I met Melissa through the Etsymom Team. You know how I love to knit; you won't be surprised that I was immediately intrigued by her technique of knitting with wire. Take a minute and enjoy getting to know her a little bit, and enter to win one of her unique knitted wire ornaments.

Have you always been crafty?

Yes, I have always been crafty. I loved to draw from a young age and found that I love all sorts of media. I actually went to college for an Art Education degree and have a fine arts degree on top of that. I worked at a ceramic studio for 8 years too. I can sew, cross stitch, paint, draw, ceramics, photo, silk painting, printmaking, metal smith and now knit wire.  I learned a way in college to make sculptures and have applied it to jewelry making and now ornaments. I find this medium one of the cleanest to work with with two little ones, but now I also find myself painting some and looking back to doing a little more metal smith. 

How do you balance your time between Mothering and Working?

Balancing my time is still a new thing to me. I find time where I can. Whether it be after the little ones go off to bed or during there school time I try to squeeze in what work I can.

What else do you do for fun?

Other things that I enjoy is gardening.  I love getting my hands dirty and seeing the flowers that I picked out and planted bloom . I also love to travel and enjoy the outdoors.  The thing I enjoy the most is spending time with my family.

What are some of your favorite shops on Etsy (and elsewhere)?

Some of my favorite shops for supplies on Etsy are: He Sells Sea Glass, Flame Touched Glass, Oakhill silversupply, SoKava Designs

What is the first thing you ever made?

I couldn't tell you the first craft thing I made, because there were so many things I did as a child that were crafty. I should have known that using sand from my neighbor's sand box at age 7 to make a sand painting was going to lead somewhere! I know I have a cup I made when I was little, lots of drawings, I still have my first water color (of a tree) from 1st grade. So many things in so many mediums, crafty seems to have just followed me wherever I go...

Where else can we find you?


Melissa has kindly offered to giveaway this beautiful beaded snowflake ornament. There are three ways to enter - leave one comment for each thing you do - don't forget to leave an e-mail address so I can contact you. Good luck!

1. Like Melissa on Facebook
2. Visit her Etsy shop and come back and leave a comment here telling us which of her items you like best - and if you have an Etsy account, "heart" something in her shop while you're there.
3. Become a follower of this blog. :)

This giveaway will close at midnight on December 7.

29 November 2011

So Excited!

Take a minute and visit Party Like Paula! Her post features a Moodylicious Children's Spa party, and a couple of the girls are wearing my nightgowns! So much fun.

If you LOVE this fun idea and want to have a spa party for your little girl, here's your chance. Head over to The Party Wagon. They are giving away one of these lovely spa party packages for 4! It's worth $250, and includes everything you need to throw a spa party.

A Little Vacation

My sister came to town last month, and we had a mini vacation together. We've been talking about doing this for a while and it was so much fun I think it will be a yearly event.

In preparation, I collected Groupon deals for my favorite restaurants, I found tickets to the ballet, and for the first time EVER, took the risk and went for a priceline.com deal on hotel. It was kind of scary - you know - having to pay before you know what you're getting. We took the plunge, and we ended up with Grand Hyatt Denver. It was fabulous. Grand Hyatt is walking distance to the 16th Street Mall. Once there, it's an easy walk to shopping and great restaurants, or you can hop on the free mall ride and take it to where you want to go.

For your enjoyment, or future trip planning convenience, here are some of the highlights:

My favorite view - the County Courthouse, west of the Capitol building

The Molly Brown House Museum - well worth the visit. 
Our tour guide had been giving the tour for 41 years and it was fabulous.



Here's an excerpt from the pancake menu. Who could ask for anything more? I had the Pancake Flight because I couldn't choose. The sweet potato were my favorite, but the cranberry almond were amazing too.

Pancake Bliss
Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes Buttermilk pancakes with caramelized pineapple chunks, housemade vanilla crème anglaise and cinnamon butter
Sweet Potato Pancakes Our signature sweet potato buttermilk pancakes topped with homemade caramel, pecans and ginger butter. 
Red-Eye Velvet Pancakes Red velvet buttermilk batter topped with espresso infused maple syrup, a touch of cream cheese frosting and chopped pecans.  Wake up and feast!
Ichabod Crane’s Pancakes Our buttermilk pancakes sprinkled with streusel and topped with pumpkin cream, candied pumpkin seeds, and a chili-spiced Vermont maple syrup. Don’t lose your head!
Pancake of the Day Ask thy server for today’s flavor 
Plain ol’ Buttermilk, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, or Chocolate/Peanut Butter     7.5   We can do Gluten-Free!
Pancake Flight choose three pancake flavors from above and get the best of all worlds

Don't leave without trying the Burrata, the house made ricotta wrapped in mozerella. 
Really, you don't need anything else.

We had the French Toast Pain Perdu. Delicious! Apparently the house specialty is a
foie gras crème brûlée.
I didn't have the nerve to try it this time...

And so there you have it - a mini tour of some of my favorite places in downtown Denver. If you're ever in the area, I hope you'll try one - and let me know your favorite too.