It’s Christmas cookie season and I’ve been baking up a storm. I took my usual recipe and doubled it to make over 5 dozen cookies. Then I added some mini Reese’s pieces and chocolate chips for a cookie that really hits the spot. Whether you make these cookies for Santa, a friend, or yourself, these are sure to hit the spot.
Can you take a recipe claiming to be The Best Peanut Butter Cookies and make them even better? I've adapted one of my favorite recipes to have even more peanut butter goodness.
- 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup butter flavor shortening
- 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 2 large egg
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup mini Reese's pieces
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter, shortening and brown sugar. Add egg; mix well.
- Stir in milk and vanilla.
- Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture.
- Stir in the chips.
- Scoop by the tablespoon onto cookie sheets.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
I’m resisting the urge to make a dirty joke with the title today but today’s DIY item really is cheap and easy. You’ll need some 12×12 paper, some ribbon, mod podge, a brush, and possibly some Styrofoam cones. I ended up using them just to shape the cones so you can reuse them again for another project. I always have mod podge and brushes on hand so my true out of pocket expenses were $1.38 for the paper and $2.70 for the ribbon. That means each item came to $2.
You’ll first want to form your paper around the cones and trim off any excess paper. Mod podge your seam closed and hold in place for 30 seconds until secure. I made two differently sized cones for my project.
Let the cones dry for a bit. Then come back, measure your ribbon and wrap it around the cones using mod podge to secure it. Again, press and hold for maximum support here.
After wrapping them all the way and letting them dry they were ready to go on display. These are perfect for a pop of color in your room or to fill an empty spot just needing a little more kick at Christmas. I matched mine to my kitchen display and its blues and greens.
What projects have you been working on this holiday season?
Do you pin? If you’re not sure what that means, I’m talking about Pinterest, the website that is saving hard drives from the gigabites of inspiration photos people once saved. If you do know what Pinterest is or are hoping to find me on there, this is my Pinterest page. Either way, it’s amazing and has helped me be creative to the awesometh power so you should check it out.
While using pinterest I saw this pin and decided to take it and make it my own. First, my supplies:
I had 3 yards of 16 gauge wire, 48 clothespins, a pack of red beads, red ribbon, and emerald green Krylon spray paint. You’ll also need some wire cutters and scissors for this project.
Step 1: Spray paint all your clothespins. I did 2 coats while they were all pinned on an old Ikea box.
Step 2: Split your wire in half. Make each half into a circle. You’ll see I only did 1 here in the photo but in the end I had to use 2 since the clothespins really weighed it down. The original tutorial called for a wire hanger but I had followed Mommie Dearest’s advice of “no more wire hangers” so I had to make due with what was on the shelves of Hobby Lobby, hence the doubling up.
Step 3: String your clothespins and red beads onto the wire(s), alternating each time. You’ll want to put the clothespins on so the gripper ends are free to grab your Christmas cards, like so:
When you get to the end, tightly wrap them together. My double wire made for a really supportive closure.
Step 4: Attach a pretty bow over your bound ends. I also attached a ribbon to hang the display.
That’s it! Not including spray paint time and the hours I lost inside Hobby Lobby I spent maybe 23 minutes on this project or 1 Parks & Recreation episode. My husband has since dubbed this creation “A-Wreatha Franklin” because he’s weird or he has some weird love affair going on with its namesake. Either way, here’s my creation hanging on my chalkboard:
Not too shabby. Certainly it’s a lot easier than having all the cards sitting on a table and having them fly off every time the heat kicks on. Pinterest saves me once again!
I’ve started moving up from craft projects to DIY projects. My husband is a bit of a This Old House addict so we’re never short on tools in our house. I first started “borrowing” some of his tools but recently I’ve made some purchases of my own. Here are some of my top gift ideas for that home renovation junkie or HGTV fan.
DEWALT D26441K 1/4-Sheet Pad Sander
I used my last sander so much that it died in front of me. My new Dewalt sander hasn’t seen the same fate. I use it to sand out the uneven walls in my house, decorative projects, and even when I refinished a table. If you plan on refinishing furniture this is a must-have tool.
Martha Stewart Crafts Dual Temperature Glue Gun
How did people live before glue guns? I’m sure you can see the many fine points of a glue gun but I’ve used mine on fixing up furniture, household items, decorating for parties, or even on my wedding invitations. This one is dual-temp so you can use it on wood or metal or even something delicate like silk flowers.
Great Neck Saw 128 Pieces Tool Set
Know someone just starting out? This is the perfect kit for a new homeowner or someone who is looking to start their first home project. If you know someone looking to build up a tool supply, this kit is perfect. Among its many items are a glue gun, a staple gun, an adjustable wrench, 4 screwdrivers, clamps, and even picture hanging accessories.
9 Amp 7-1/4 in. Mitre Saw
Having a mitre saw has changed our house. If you plan on doing trim work or even designing your own frame then a mitre saw is incredibly useful. Prices have dropped in recent years and this one is on sale for the holidays so if you know someone looking to add finishing touches to their home this is a perfect gift idea.
Martha Stewart Living Tester Sampler Interior Latex Paint, 14 Pack
Know someone whose more of the painting type? I’m a recent convert to the Martha Stewart paint line at Home Depot. I’ve painted my kitchen with her cornbread shade and I’ve got 2 more of her colors selected for future projects. I think anyone looking to paint their walls or even their furniture will like these samples to give them a good starting color.
In 2006 my husband bought a house. It used to be his great-aunt’s house and she built it with her husband in the early 1940s. Her husband died in the late 1960s and she relied on family to help her keep up with the house but eventually her health failed and she needed to move into a nursing home.
That’s where my husband comes in. The family was looking to liquidate her estate quickly and my husband got the house for a low low price, knowing it needed tons of work. I joined in on some projects and in 2007 we got married and the house became our baby.Since then we’ve done some crazy renovations (brand new kitchen), some major maintenance (refinish floors, new roof, windows, doors), and some in between projects that basically made a room livable for the moment. One of those rooms is the living room.
Above are some shots of the living room on the day we were first given a chance to tour it, circa January 2006. It’s a bit trashed as the family was in the process of moving out all the valuables and they sort of decided leaving a trash-filled house was a great housewarming gift. I don’t even know. My husband was taking measurements of the wall in the first shot. In the second shot you can see into the dining room and also see some places where cracks had been repaired. I remember really liking this room for its fireplace and hardwood floors.
In these shots it’s Spring 2006 and my husband was now the home’s owner. We set to work painting the living room a green shade called Gold Infusion. You can see all the original trim and windows here and even the original door. The front door ended up having to be replaced due to a burglary and the fact that it had no insulation. Our new door works great though and will hopefully keep the burglars out as well as that old front door did (which it did, they had to try another door) so it wasn’t a total loss.
If this room looks like a work-in-progress, that’s because it is. We plan to do some major makeovers this winter before planting season (when we’ll switch to the outdoors) so I wanted to give you a rough and dirty look at our current living room. To give you an idea of what we’re planning, here’s my pinterest page for the room.
To Do List
- Finish baseboard trim in the entire room
- Trim out the windows
- Trim out the fireplace and build a new fireplace mantel
- Paint all the trim
- Repaint walls
- Repaint ceiling (the whole house needs it but we’re waiting till this room is done so it all flows nicely)
- Buy new bamboo shades and hang
- Install our new curtains from Ikea
- Rearrange furniture
- Rearrange wall art
- Put in some sort of shelving on arch wall
- Work on entry station
- Buy new lights
- Replace all wall switches and outlets with new color
- Redo vent covers in the room
- Get an end table (depends on room rearrangement)
- Buy accessories to complete room
- Create a dramatic mantel display
- Figure out what to do with random chair in room (relocate, reupholster?)
So if you’re up for a fun time, stick around and watch our room begin to transform itself. I’ll be posting some other rooms soon. You might notice in the current living room photos that we’re patching in the dining room and there’s a new interior door. The dining room makeover is already underway and the kitchen makeover is nearly done. I’ll be showing them off soon enough so stick around.
I’m a bit of a nerd. No apologies, it’s fun being a nerd. There’s a lot of people like me out there who love technology and gadgets and you may have no clue what to get them. I have some ideas for under $100 you can give to your favorite nerd.
Ceramic Pig Speaker
I can’t explain it but there’s something darling about this little pig. Instead of a corkscrew tail you plug in your mp3 player of choice and the pig broadcasts the sound throughout your home. For $7 more you can monogram it with your name or even a special pet name.
Nook Simple Touch
I love my own Nook. I didn’t want a tablet because the whole point of an ereader is to read on them and the e-ink makes reading very easy without straining your eyes. My battery lasts more than a month even with all the reading I do. I also love being able to just touch the screen to turn the page. If you know someone who already has an ereader, other great ideas are gift cards for books or a nice case for their device.
A Song of Ice & Fire Series
If you know a nerd who hasn’t read the Song of Ice & Fire series, it’s time to introduce them. This is the series of books the HBO show Game of Thrones was based on. You can buy a 4-ebook set plus the newest book for the nook for just $45 or buy the physical copies of the books for $41.
Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board
You have to know your audience with this one but I got the Wii Fit for my birthday and I love it. It wasn’t about losing weight but rather about being active. It’s actually a really fun way to work out and I’m surprised by how much energy I use playing with it. For a nerdy person me who already has a Wii it’s a great gift idea. The only game that gets as much play in my house is the next item on the list.
Mario Kart Wii with Wii Wheel
This is a game both my husband and I love. Having a Wii is totally worth it if you play Mario Kart. Kids love it almost as much as adults do. It’s a great destressor and a fun way to play against a friend if you have a second control. On Thanksgiving weekend there were aunts and uncles playing nieces and nephews, brothers playing brothers, and in-laws playing in-laws.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the baking. I like to choose a month and make sure I make a treat that involves an in-season fruit for that time. September is apples. October is pumpkin. November is cranberries. December is everything. This recipe for cranberry bread is good for both cranberry month and everything month. You can eat it for dessert or for breakfast. The recipe makes 2 loaves so I kept one and sent one to my grandparents in a care package. Can’t go wrong with that!
A healthier version of the recipe found here on Food.com. This tastes great when you add a powdered sugar glaze too.
- 4 eggs
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons grated lemons or grated orange rind
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 oz fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350º. Grease 2 loaf pans
- Cream together eggs and sugar. Mix in applesauce, oil, milk, lemon peel, and vanilla.
- Gradually add in the flour one cup at a time while stirring. Add in the baking powder and salt.
- Mix in your cranberries and nuts (if desired).
- Pour into pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Stuck on a Christmas gift idea? All this week I’ll be suggesting some of my top picks for those hard-to-shop-for people. All the choices are my own and no one is sponsoring them. Today’s target: the entertainer. If you’re looking for something for a mom or a friend who likes to entertain, prepare food or just serve it up for a crowd then here are some great ideas for you.
Oak Finished Bar Cart
This cart holds glasses and 9 wine bottles. It even has a drawer to hold all the wine accessories you (or your friend) have. (no longer available)
Capiz Eco Bird Plates, Set of 4
These would look beautiful on a table or just displayed in a china cabinet. The capiz shell plates are made from mollusk and lacquered for durability.
Orka Chocolate Fondue Set
What’s a better gift for an entertainer than a fondue set? This isn’t your classic 70s set; it has sleek modern designs and 4 forks to help friends dig in. It keeps itself warm via a supplied tealight candle.
Circular Cheese Board and Tool Set
On top you can slice your fancy cheeses and hidden inside a swivel bottom are all your fancy tools to do the cutting. Break this out whenever you break out one of the wines from your bar cart.
Assorted Gold & Silver Mosaic Barware
What a great gift that can be used over the Christmas holidays or even over New Year’s. You can choose either a bottle coaster, shaker, or champagne bucket in the brilliant design.
Last week I went to Atlanta for a 4-day trip. Why? Because I’m crazy. That’s really the best explanation. You’ll see why soon. You can read more about the trip over on my travel blog TravelHyper but today I’m going to fill you in on one of those crazy reasons.
You see, I live in a desert. Despite what you might have learned in science class, St. Louis is in fact located in a desert: a retail desert. Signs and symptoms include a lack of desirable mega stores like Ikea, West Elm, and Z-Gallerie (RIP Galleria location). Atlanta has all 3 stores. I decided I would go there, move in, and never leave. In return I promised my husband a day at the aquarium. All was going well until I realized if I wanted to see my purchases displayed in my home that I might have to leave the store after all. Here’s my guide to shopping at Ikea (and Atlantic Station) and how to plan for a trip.
One of the best ways to prepare for your Ikea trip is to read other people’s experiences so A+ for you. The other key piece of advice I have is to shop the website and the catalog. When you get in the stores it will be very overwhelming so plan ahead for big purchases. To help sort my decisions out, I made a pinterest board for everything I was eyeballing and even included photos of other people using the products. I’ve since updated it with some of my purchases.
If you’re coming from quite the distance like I was then make sure you pack accordingly. I borrowed a relative’s van in case I had a big haul. I brought comfy clothes and shoes for this day. I even did a kindhearted thing and offered my local friends the chance for me to play delivery man and bring some items back home for them. I also took measurements of key areas in my house so I wouldn’t be wondering frantically if something would fit.
When You Arrive
We started off our trip being lost. We didn’t even realize the sheer size of Ikea until we arrived and discovered there weren’t any parking spots. We had no knowledge of the parking garage around the back and even inside we had to follow sign after sign guiding us to the entrance. This is the part that separates the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls so step up.
We entered the store and saw a drop-off point for kids (Ikea offers babysitting for kids of a certain size) and a big escalator going up. Right at the top of the escalator were stands with paper measuring tapes, pencils, maps, and a place to write down a shopping list. Then the entire store was before us. The map showed this:
but it looked more like this to us:
Advice for First-Timers
If you’re new to the Ikea game, I highly suggest following the technique we did. We didn’t know what to expect so we walked through the showroom and wrote down anything that stood out to us. This was really fun. Ikea has full kitchens set up and even simulated apartments with some crazy tiny square footage. Spend plenty of time up here just trying out things and getting an idea of quality.
After finishing up in a Costco sized showroom, we stopped at the restaurant upstairs. You know Ikea doesn’t play when they have a full scale cafeteria inside. I took the daring route and had the Swedish meatballs (served with mashed potatoes, cream sauce and lingonberries) while my husband had chicken fingers. Separating the boys from the men yet again. During lunch we narrowed down our list from the insane to the “needs a second look” before we headed downstairs to the marketplace.
If the upstairs is a Costco sized showroom, the downstairs is a Costco sized Bed Bath & Beyond. All the loose cool gadgets are here. Suddenly our lists were full of new items. Uh oh.
Taking a Break
In an effort to evaluate our priorities, we knew we had to escape. We couldn’t let Ikea take our brains and our wallets. Okay, really we just decided to take a 10-minute walk up the road to a shopping complex called Atlantic Station. It’s a mixed-use development which means lots of housing, restaurants, and businesses all packed into one area. Even the Ikea is technically considered part of it. I’d love to live here but I’d hate to pay the rent because this area is nice. Even nicer were the shops they had.
Everything is wide open and on the streets rather than being stuck inside some giant mall. There’s clothing shops like Ann Taylor and H&M and restaurants like Which Wich or CPK. You can even find bigger stores like Dillard’s or Target. We were there for 2 stores especially, West Elm and Z-Gallerie. West Elm was a classy place that hipsters and yuppies alike seem to love while Z-Gallerie is all about the bling. I have a bit of a thing for peacock Christmas decor and it seems they did too.
We didn’t end up buying anything that day from either shop, it was mostly a scouting trip for me to match quality to the catalogs I had read since West Elm frequently has free shipping deals. Still, it was nice to take a break and compare furniture between these stores and Ikea and the prices too. We were finally ready to tackle Ikea once and for all.
We returned to Ikea with a plan. We had our items in mind and we were ready to buy. In the showroom items have tags on them indicating where you can pick up the item. Some are on the showroom floor in little areas, some are downstairs in the marketplace which the tag designates by department, some are downstairs in a huge warehouse with an aisle number given where you pick up the boxes and the other option is to find an associate and have them give you a paper so you can pick up your item from the oversized storage. Tons of crazy options, right? Naturally we had all 4 of them.
We tackled the showroom first, writing down the locations of all our new items and hand carrying the few things on that level. Then we found an associate and had them give us the order form for a cabinet we were buying. We took the escalator downstairs, got a cart and tackled the marketplace. We hit a small snag when an item from upstairs had clearly been mislabeled and all the associates disappeared so we never ended up locating it. After we cleared out of the marketplace we moved onto the self-serve area to pick up boxes for a chair. Then we hit the checkouts and piled everything on our poor cashier, including the order form from earlier.
After you clear that area you still aren’t clear. Oh no, there’s another food area where the items a friend had requested were stored. I grabbed those (and some awesome cinnamon rolls for me) and met back up with my husband. Then we left the store via a people mover (an escalator like thing that takes you and your cart back down to the parking lot vortex) and loaded up. Finally we pulled back up to the front of the store and went inside to get our oversized order. If that sounds complicated, well, it kind of was. But after 6 hours of shopping we were done and thankful to be alive. You can see how the rest of our day played out over on TravelHyper or even more photos at my flickr page. I’ll be posting over the next few weeks about how I’ve been using my new purchases and how awesome they are so stay tuned!