Top Ten Posts of 2011

Here we are at the end of December already.  The holidays seemed to fly by so fast!  Why is it that each year seems to pass faster and faster as we get older?

I've decided to countdown my most popular posts of 2011... and being that I actually started my blog less than four months ago, this is my blog in review so far.

The blog post with the most hits by far, coming in at #1 is -  Easy DIY Holiday Treats (4457 views).  Obviously baking sweets and treats around the holidays is very popular.  Either we all like to bake, we all like to eat, or in my case I love both :)

Coming in strong at #2 is - Christmas Chandelier DIY Craft (3958 views)

The above two posts were by far my most popular both having approximately 4000 views... Being a new blogger, I felt pretty good about that.  The rest of my top ten didn't have near the views of the first two, but still did pretty well... Coming in 3rd through 10th, the rest of my top ten are listed below.

#3Creative Holiday Chandelier Ideas (991 views)

#4 - Mason Jar Love (887 views)

#5 - Christmas Dining Table Decor Ideas (827 views)

#6 - DIY Holiday Craft - Mason Jar Snowglobes (798 views)

#7 - Thanksgiving Table Decorating Ideas (792 views)

#8 - The Christmas Porch (556 views)

#9 - Beautifully Decorated Christmas Trees (458 views)

#10 - Christmas Baking Inspirations (405 views)

Thank you so much for your support on my blog venture.  I am so looking forward to seeing what 2012 will bring.  I am currently working on a new design and layout for the blog.  I admit I have changed my mind a few times, but I have finally created a design and color palette that I love.  I am fine tuning the details and plan to unveil it sometime the first week of 2012.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed New Years!  Have fun, be safe... and most importantly don't drink and drive!!!  There are plenty of free taxi and car services on New Years Eve (all night long)... even AAA towing is offering free rides and tows if needed.  Blessings to all...  See you in 2012!

After Christmas Sales - Are they worth it?

I normally am not big on the after Christmas sales..  Don't get me wrong, I always love a good sale!  But I'm just not big on dealing with the huge crowds and all the traffic!  However, this year I did venture out to to two different shopping malls this week to see what after Christmas deals I could find.  The traffic and crowds at the mall on December 26th were crazy.  My 22 year old daughter, who is pretty much a professional shopper, and I did manage to get some good deals on clothing and accessories!  I was in need of a new winter wardrobe, well a Southern California winter wardrobe anyways... which pretty much means I needed a few sweaters and long sleeve shirts. With my daughters help, I did get a good start on that new wardrobe!

While we were out  and about, the stores were bustling with busy shoppers... and employees too who were mostly ignoring us.  They were busy taking down the Christmas and holiday decorations... Cardboard boxes lined the aisles while decor was packed away until next year.  I was surprised to see them packing stuff up in the middle of a busy shopping day.  I figured they would do that sort of thing at night after the crowds went home.

We found that the best deals to be found were the leftover Christmas items that were on clearance.  You could find holiday decor anywhere from 50% to 75% off of retail.  The day after Christmas is definitely the best day to score great deals on Christmas ornaments and decorations!  I know that some of the large craft stores will go as high as 90% of these items in another week or two, but by that time all of the good stuff is pretty much gone.

Today I went shopping to a different mall with my mother.  We found several more deals (half price or better) on clothing and more accessories.  Today, December 29th, there were no crowds at all and parking was a breeze!  The Christmas decorations were nowhere to be seen and some of the stores actually have Valentines items displayed in their windows already.  You'd think they would at least wait until after New Years to start with the Valentines decor...

Check out this picture of people waiting to get into an after Christmas sale the day after Christmas... It kinda makes you wonder if it's worth it :)

All in all, we had fun on both shopping days and we did have shopping success.. We pretty much shopped till we dropped both days... The feet are very tired, but it's nothing a great soak in a hot tub full of bubbles won't fix!  I'm off to soak...

Tomorrow I think I'm going to start a new decorating project...  Now I just have to figure out which one.

Until next time...
Happy decorating!

Getting Organized... as Christmas Comes Down

It's time to start taking down all of my Christmas decorations... and I've decided it's time to get organized!  I found these great ornament storage boxes that separate each ornament to prevent breakage. That means I finally get to throw away all of the cardboard boxes that all of my glass ball ornaments came in. Yeah!!!  I love the flexibility of these storage containers because they can be stored under a bed, on a closet shelf or in the garage... There are other less expensive options available but this version is rated high and seems to be a bit more durable.  The same company that makes these also has a storage containers for wreaths trees and a wrapping paper storage organizer that I think I will get next (shown below).  For pricing info and to check these organizers out view Holiday Storage Boxes.
Until next time...

Happy Decorating... or in this case, Happy Organizing :)

New Years Eve - Decorating Ideas

Now that Christmas is over, it's time to start thinking about what is next.  We, like most, enjoy celebrating New Years.  If your having a party this New Years Eve, it's time to start planning the decorations.  It's okay to leave the Christmas decorations up through New Years Day, but it's nice to incorporated some additional New Years glitz and glamour to them.

A theme I like at New Years is decorating with clocks... Black and white with metallics make a great color pallet for the holiday.

The decorations in this next two pictures can all be found at Party City. They are all plastic or paper and are disposable when the party is over which makes for a very easy clean up.

 For a more elegant party, these next decorations make for a beautiful sit down dinner party.  I love the clock plates with gold chargers!

For a beautiful decorative touch to the drinks, colored sugar crystals can be added to the rim of the champagne glasses.

These next three pictures are from Martha Stewart.  I love the idea of numbers on the glasses, that way everyone knows which glass is theirs throughout the evening.  Notice how simple metallic curling ribbon is added to the serving platter.  It's a simple yet festive decorative touch!

The variety of old clocks on the mantle is very charming. You may already have a collection of clocks you can gather from around your house.  If not, you can often find old clocks at flea markets and thrift stores.  However, if you need to find some in a rush, many retail stores including Target and Walmart have a few inexpensive reproductions in their home decor sections.

Whatever you do this New Years... Whether you are having a party or going to one, be safe and have fun!

Until next time,

Merry Christmas... Happy Birthday Jesus

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ...

Luke 2:10-14

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Happy Birthday Jesus!


Custom Gift Wrapping with Vintage Hat Pins

I recently went to an antique and collectible mall to find vintage hat pins to use as decorations on my Christmas presents this year.  I found a total of 13 vintage hat pins and broaches.  They ranged in price from $1.00 to $5.00 each.  I love the way they add a custom touch of glamour and sparkle to the presents.

I have a Cricut Electric Craft Cutter which I used to cut out different shaped gift tags and letters, both from glitter paper.  The tags add a nice personal touch to each gift.

I love the emerald green sparkling broach pin shown below.  I wrapped my husbands present with it, so I could be sure to keep it :)

This is just a sampling of the many presents I am wrapping.. I have several more to wrap.  I think I will be wrapping likely until Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas to all...

Remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!

DIY Christmas Craft - JOY

This is an easy to do DIY Christmas holiday craft project... and it was very inexpensive.  I had three mirrors that I found on clearance last year that I had yet to use in my home. I went to my local craft store and purchased letters cut from plywood that spelled out JOY... I used a sponge brush and painted them with silver metallic and glitter paints to give them a bright sparkling look. I then used Command strips for picture hanging on the back of the letters and on the center of the mirrors to mount the letters onto the mirrors. The command strips will easily remove when the holidays are over so I can still use these mirrors year round.  See below for pictures of the progress and products used.

I like to use a paper plate to put my paints on as it makes for a super easy clean up! Also I use a sponge brush since they are only 39 cents... and paper towels to protect my surface.  I love that I can just throw them all in the trash when I'm done :) I love to keep it simple!

My craft paints were water based acrylics so although I did get some on my fingers while holding and turning the the letters while I was painting them, it did wash right off!

The command strips were perfect for mounting the letters to the mirrors! I love these things... I find myself using them more and more around the house...

This is my new entryway table that my hubby got me as an early Christmas present.... (love him!!!). Rather than hanging the JOY mirrors in the entry I decide to just lean them and put a little pop of color and some ornaments in front of them. It is a cute touch to the entry hall.

Until next time...
Happy decorating!

Christmas at Home

I can't believe Christmas is almost here!  I thought I would share a little of what the Christmas season looks like around our house.

I like to use a lot of natural elements, like greenery and pine cones... Then I add in pops of color with ornaments, pointsettias and berries... last I always add some sparkle, with mercury glass, crystal prisms and anything with a bit of bling.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours...

Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

One of the most fun things to do around the holidays is wrap all of the gifts.  I know this is a dreaded task by some, but I find it another way to have fun with crafting and decorating.  There are many options when it comes to gift wrapping from simple and traditional to fancy and extravagant. I like to come up with a color scheme and then adapt it to all of my packages. Below are some great examples with a variety of gift wrapping styles and DIY craft ideas.

If you have children, get them involved too... (as long as it isn't their gifts your wrapping).  Kids have so much fun crafting with their moms!
For gift wrapping that is simple and fast, gift bags are a great option. Just add some tissue paper and a name tag and you are ready to go.
I find that my kids prefer to have paper to actually rip open, so to I try to use a more traditional wrapping style for them.  I love this next example!  It's so cute and it's a very inexpensive option. Good ol news print with a red and white bow, then added is a DIY glitter gift tag.  For these gift tags use the first initial of the person on the front of the tag.  I have a Cricut Personal Cutting Machine that does both tags and letters so it makes crafts like this is an easy task!  

Here is a crafty example of adding a little glitz, glamour and bling to your packages.  Notice the glitter letter and the beautiful broach pin that has been added to these packages. You can often find broach pins at Thrift Stores and flea markets for only a couple of dollars.  I like to pick up these items over the year whenever I find they are reasonably priced. I am blessed to have a craft room to store all of my finds until I am ready to use them!

Adding ornaments to your presents is a nice way to add sparkle and fun! The pink and green is non traditional but it is super cute.  When adding ball ornaments, I recommend avoiding glass and getting the non breakable plastic kind which can be found at any craft store. 
 Greenery and pine cones add a natural and festive holiday touch.  If using real greenery, be sure it is fresh and won't dry out.  You can wrap your presents in advance but wait to attach the greenery until a day or two before your event.

You can customize your wrapping style to whatever inspires you.  Add elements from nature, from your home, of that you hand make. Whatever you decide, be creative and have fun with it.

 (Photos in this blog via Pinterest & Tumblr. I do not know the original sources.)

Until next time...
Happy Decorating,

Christmas Baking DIY Gift Idea

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

My youngest daughter Britney, a college student, came over yesterday, Sunday so we could have a mother daughter baking day.  She decided to bake gifts for everyone at her work and a few of her school friends. Her little apartment kitchen would never accommodate this task, so she came home to cook in my kitchen, which has double ovens... (smart girl!!!).  I admit it was a total blessing...  I love when she visits!  We made a total of eight batches of Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread... (Soooo Yummy!).  
A friend of hers had posted this recipe to her Facebook page. It is a fairly easy recipe, but it does involve a bit of time because you have to knead the dough and then allow the dough to rise in between steps.  Making one or two batches would have be a breeze... But we made 8 batches... and from start to finish, including allowing to completely cool and wrap as gifts, it took us a total of about 7 hours.  The kitchen pretty much looked like a war zone when we were finished because we used so many bowls and utensils, but we had a complete blast! (Now if we only had a maid to clean it all up... hehe)
Recipe -
Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread 
Makes: approximately one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf
(Note: we deviated by using  4 x 8 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans - so we made 10 loafs from 8 batches)
Dough Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Filling Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned
In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside.
Whisk together eggs and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be sticky.  That’s just right.
Place the dough is a large,  greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Then continue to next step... (Optional: the dough can be risen until doubled in size, then refrigerated overnight for use in the morning.  If you’re using this method, just let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes in the morning before following the roll-out directions below).
While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan, then set aside. (Note: if you are using foil disposable pans, you do not need to grease them).  
Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long.  If you can’t get the dough to 20-inches long… that’s okay.  Just roll it as large as the dough will go.  Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  It might seem like a lot of sugar.  Seriously?  Just go for it.
Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. (We used a pizza cutter to slice the dough... Our strips were not the same size as recommended, we modified them, basically guessed, what would work for our foil loaf pans).  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again (or however many slices you can fit across).  You end up with stacks of squares (or rectangles depending on your pan).  Layer the dough in the loaf pan like a flip-book (up on end). Keep in mind they will rise quite a bit while baking so when you cut them they should be a little shorter than the pan height (we figured this out after baking a few).  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown (recommend placing your loaf pans on a cookie sheet as the butter may bubble over the edges, 31 minutes was the right timing in our oven).  If the top is light brown, the center may still be raw.  You want a nice, dark, golden brown top to ensure that the center is cooked.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. We skipped this next step, removing the bread from the pan, as we gift wrapped our completed bread loafs in their tins. However, if you are serving the bread, remove the bread from pan, run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea (in my hubby's case, milk).  
This bread is amazing served the day it’s made, but it can be wrapped and kept at room temperature for a couple of days. 
End recipe

Here are some pictures from our day...  I found that browning the butter was a new challenge for me. On the first batch I just browned it slowly and watched it constantly... and surprisingly I never burnt it.  Each batch I just watched and when it finally turned a little brown I would take it off the stove and it turned out perfectly. My daughter did all of the kneading, rolling and cutting.. I did the butter browning and dough rise timing and operated the oven (in, out, in, out)...  :)  It was a team effort, but she definitely did most of the dirty work. 

My daughter left us a loaf and this morning I had some for breakfast... It pulls apart easily and it tastes amazing!!!
This recipe took a little work, but it was totally worth it..