Articles by " julie"
4 Dec
2012
Posted in: Life
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Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

This past weekend I tried a bit to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas can be a hard holiday for me. I feel like if I don’t get something done then I’ve let people down and if I do get it done it’s often to the sacrifice of my own happiness. Awesome, right? I’m sure I’m not alone but it’s a constant struggle for me to find some balance.

shopping on cherokee street

This weekend was spent trying to find that sweet spot. I went with my mom down to Cherokee Street in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, it’s a walkable street with brick historic homes and storefronts. Many shops are filled with antiques or crafts. If you visit, you’ll notice the amazing food in this area too. It’s sort of the Mexican food capital of St. Louis. Today was also what is known as the Cookie Spree where every shop on the street that is participating has a cookie tray inside. Can you say way too stuffed?

shopping on Cherokee Street

I ate lunch at a place called Neveria La Vallesana. Very good burritos there. I also did a ton of window shopping. If you want some fun places to shop, The Purple Cow, Retro 101/Cherry Bomb Vintage, and St. Louis Curio Shoppe are your stops. If you want something practical, check out China Finders, Lady Jane’s, Haffner’s Antiques, or Hammond’s Books.

tea cart

My two favorite shops of the day both heavily featured antiques. Elder’s Ltd had 3 stories of some of the most beautiful antique/mid-century furniture at reasonable prices. It’s a shame I wasn’t looking for that this time but I’ll definitely be back. My other favorite was the place I got my big purchase of the day, Bella. I’m not sure my dog is impressed but I’ve got high hopes for turning this tea cart from Bella’s into a bar cart. There was a 20% off sale going on today and they gave me a great deal and I can’t wait to get to work on this beautiful piece.

Oh and notice my blue dining room rug in the background? It got moved to the living room this week. I don’t know why, I just decided to mix it up. I might end up with a new rug in the dining room and it’ll work with this new bar cart look. I’m just trying to decide if I want to stick with blue as my accent in the dining room of if I’d rather go with a bolder color. Stay tuned for updates one day on that front.

Christmas

The dining room did get a bit of a new look minus the rug being taken away. We put up our Christmas tree! It may not look like much, being a $16.99 purchase from back in 2005 but it means something. The year my husband bought it was his first in a new apartment back when he was still just my boyfriend. I was really sick that winter and had just gotten some bad news that I’d need more treatment so I am pretty sure he bought that cheap little tree to cheer me up at a time where money was tight.

I think that’s the important way for me to find some balance this season. Just stop and take a step back and remember all the little reasons to try hard this season. I don’t have to do everything right or everything perfect but I should try to do it with love and care and let the pieces fall where they may.

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2 Dec
2012
Posted in: Household
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December Task List

We’re down to the last Get Organized Now calendar of the year. Next year I’ll have new way to tackle household projects. For now, here’s the last few tasks to try to get in before the year’s end.

Source: Hello, Cuteness

November was a busy month for me. I’ve successfully transitioned into my new job, I ran a 5K, I started on my fireplace and I managed to survive Thanksgiving. In December I’ve got one last 5K, some shopping to do (don’t we all!?), and I want to make a bigger dent in that fireplace. Plus I’ve got these items I want to get in too:

  • December 9: Shop local. Window shopping is okay, just make sure to do it with those you care about.
  • December 11: Start planning your Christmas menu and turn it into a Christmas grocery list.
  • December 18: Clean out the fridge. Eat all those leftovers and wipe down those shelves. Make sure you have plenty of space for all that food.
  • December 19: Write down what tasks need to be done before Christmas (like charging batteries or cleaning) and assign each task a day. Remember to embrace the fine art of delegation and don’t do it all yourself.
  • December 25: Enjoy your Christmas celebrations!
  • December 28: Find a place for all your new items. This is a great time to decide if you need to keep an older item you upgraded. Start prepping for your 2013 donations by rounding up all the excess.
  • December 31: Imagine what you want out of the next year. Don’t just make resolutions, make a plan that you can stick to.
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29 Nov
2012
Posted in: DIY Projects
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Christmas Tree Ornaments

Last year a lot of people made homemade snowglobes with mason jars and little Christmas decorations. I was inspired by the idea but wanted to go even smaller. I again took some Michael’s clear ornaments and used them for this project. My other key supplies were fake snow (leftover from my snowman ornament), hot glue, a funnel, tweezers, and mini Christmas trees a little less than an inch tall.

Start by taking the top off your ornament and sliding the tree in with your tweezers just to check for fit and placement. When you find a look that works for you, pull the tree back out, plop a little hot glue on the bottom of the tree, and then quickly slide it back into your ornament, pressing firmly but not forcefully into the bottom of your ornament and hold in place just until the glue is set.

christmas tree ornament

Your next step is to take that fake snow and sprinkle some into your ornament. I found it easiest to push it in with a funnel but your mileage may vary. Just add a little at a time till you like your level.

You can mix this ornament up in a few ways. I added two trees in one of mine like the one at the top of the post. I also think adding in a mini house with some snow could be adorable too. The idea is just to make an Christmas ornament with a beautiful winter scene inside.

What does your favorite winter scene include?

Like this post? Check out all my Christmas ornament creations

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28 Nov
2012
Posted in: Food
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The Chewy

I’ve noticed people seem to have a lot of peculiarities about their chocolate chip cookies. Some people like thick chewy ones, others want a crunchier bite. Some people add in ingredients like peanut butter or pumpkin to the batch and some like it straight off the bag.

This recipe appeals to the first crowd. The Chewy is a chocolate chip recipe with a fluffy dough that rises thanks to some instant vanilla pudding in the batter. It’s a very cake-like cookie which should come as no surprise since so many cakes have pudding in them as well. The mix of white and brown sugar also leads to a very soft cookie.

This cookie is all about the texture. It’s also great for freezing. I made this at the same time I made my M&M cookies and I froze 4 dozen of these cookies and 3 dozen of those cookies. I may have sampled some in the meantime and I promise you I gobbled them up all too willingly.

Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 dozen

Serving Size: 1 cookie

Ingredients

  • 2 cups butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 (3.4 ounce) packs instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 20 ounces milk chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Cream together the butter, sugars, and pudding mix. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  2. Combine the flour and baking soda. While stirring, add the dry ingredients gradually to the wet ingredients.
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
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26 Nov
2012
Posted in: Food, Home Renovation, Life
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4-Day Weekend

Who doesn’t love a 4-day weekend? This one was much needed. I started my new job the day after waking up at 3:30 AM and getting to bed at 12 AM and I was still behind on sleep 2 weeks later. I know, some people say sleep debts aren’t real but tell that to my lazy butt.

turkey trot

I say that but in reality I had a very busy weekend. I woke up early Thursday morning and drove 30 minutes to head to a Turkey Trot. My husband and I ran our first 5K run together! I had trained but switching jobs to something with a longer commute + the end of daylight savings time really cut into the hours I could run in a day. The race was hard, lots of hills in a mall parking area but in the end I finished and ran the whole way. My husband stayed by my side (even though he’s a much faster runner) and I shaved over 4 minutes off my previous best.

5k route

After the run I cleaned up a bit and then headed to Thanksgiving lunch with my in-laws. She had turkey, dinner rolls, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. My sisters-in-law each made desserts and I brought a very empty stomach. I definitely didn’t leave with an empty one though. I didn’t take pictures because I was devouring but I did want to share my mother-in-law’s pretty centerpiece.

fall centerpiece

After a filling lunch, Dan and I then headed over to my parents’ house. Luckily our house is about 10 minutes away from each of their houses and they live about 10 minutes away from each other. Unluckily that did not allow a lot of time to digest. We had a deep-fried turkey that my dad fried, my mom tried out my sweet potato recipe, there were at least 2 casseroles, a jello salad (a true must), and a Thanksgiving miracle occurred when my baby brother tried and liked my cornbread dressing. We ate on my great great grandma’s china that my mom was just given.

thanksgiving day

That was all in one day!

The rest of my weekend was spent on a project I highly regret starting. Remember: when your husband says “Do you want to start on the fireplace or just put up the Christmas tree?” choose wisely. I was desperate to start on a makeover of the ugliest fireplace ever. I did not realize I would be dealing with moving furniture, flying debris, dust, 3 extra loads of laundry, eating on my bed, buying new tools, and realizing public enemy #1 is my former homeowner.

fireplace horrors

Has your past homeowner ever done anything to deserve a public shaming? Uncle Albert sure does. Letting someone set tile in concrete and using concrete as a grout is the.worst.idea.ever. There are not enough evers in a Taylor Swift song to cover the amount of worst idea evers in this situation.

I know this sounds like a busy weekend but I promise you I slept in till 10 AM, ate chili dogs, and watched The Walking Dead. I also caught up on giving my puppy some extra loving and I did not do a bit of shopping all weekend. It was bliss! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with your families, friends, or just yourselves. I’d love to hear about how you do Thanksgiving your style.

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20 Nov
2012
Posted in: DIY Projects
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Marbleized Christmas Ornaments

marbleized ornaments

I’m sure all you Pinterest junkies have seen this tutorial on how to make marbleized nail polish designs.

When I was making my Christmas ornaments, I wondered if this would be possible to adapt onto the ornaments using paint. Sadly my acrylic paint was a major fail so I decided to go a little crazy and just try out some nail polish to see what would happen. My first experiment came out a little blah but it definitely showed promise. I rewatched the Youtube video and remembered to help spread my first drop of polish out a few inches and then gave it another shot.

marble water

You’ll want to start with a plastic container filled halfway up with water and at least 2 shades of nail polish. The key here is to drop 2-3 drops in the center of your last circle. I alternated a drugstore red shade and gold shade, dropping each in the center of the last drops. The next step is to dip your ornament into the center of your marble pattern. I dipped the ornament’s bottom in not realizing it wouldn’t be very visible that way. Try instead to dip the side of your ornament in.

dipping marble ornament

The polish will “catch” on your ornament and will stick to the curve of the design.

dipping marble ornament

Depending on how you pattern your water design (this one had 3 separate circles inside of one big circle) you will end up with ornaments that can look similar or completely different.

marbleized ornaments

I love how these came out. If you screw up, the effect is abstract so you can just pretend it was part of the look you were going for. These were the most complicated ornaments I made and also one of the most forgiving. I’d love to see these in different colors and designs and I’m already thinking I might have to go pick up some turquoise nail polish for my peacock-themed tree I do each year.

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18 Nov
2012
Posted in: DIY Projects
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Snowman Ornament

This year I wanted to challenge myself to create 5 different types of ornaments from those clear glass ornaments you can find at craft stores. I spent this past weekend trying to be creative and think of some new ideas. I wouldn’t normally share Christmas projects before Thanksgiving but I know Black Friday will have some deals at Michaels and other craft stores so I wanted to share some ideas with you before you hit the sales.

snowman ornament

Today’s idea is one perfect for having your grade school aged kids help you put together. Just fill a clear glass ornament with some fake snow. You might want to use a funnel to help pack it in. Set up some black and orange craft paint and let the kids go wild painting on a carrot nose and some eyes and a mouth made out of “coal”. Your end result will look something like this.

snowman ornament

It’s an easy way to dress up some ornaments. I’ll be sharing some more ideas for jazzing up clear ornaments over the next week or so. They’ll vary in difficulty so you can find a style at every skill level.

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9 Nov
2012
Posted in: Food
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Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes. The biggest issue I have on Thanksgiving Day is which way to serve them. Since the menu already called for mashed potatoes, I knew I wanted to go a different route for the sweet potatoes. When I saw a recipe for Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes from Lauren’s Latest, I knew this was the dish for me.

twice baked sweet potatoes

This recipe is really good, with a buttery cinnamon filling not to mention a brown sugar and walnut streusel on top. Just one half is a perfect sweet dish for your plate. Head over to Lauren’s post to learn all her little tips on how to make these sweet potatoes out of this world.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 5 halves

Serving Size: 1 half

Ingredients

    For the Sweet Potatoes:
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • For the Streusel:
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Instructions

    For the Sweet Potatoes:
  1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork or knife and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft. You can also microwave the sweet potatoes on high for 13-15 minutes as well.
  2. Once sweet potatoes are cooked, slice in half and scoop out the centers into a bowl leaving a 1/4 inch border of sweet potato with the skin. Mix in brown sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon until smooth. Using a large tipped pastry bag, pipe filling back into sweet potato shells. {Or spoon it back in.}
  3. For the Struesel:
  4. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for streusel and mix together until butter starts to warm and ingredients start sticking together. Top the filled sweet potatoes with the streusel and bake 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.
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8 Nov
2012
Posted in: Food
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Cornbread Dressing

I’m not really a dressing or stuffing person, much to my mom’s disappointment. I just was never much a fan of the taste or texture. This dressing is different. It starts with cornbread and buttermilk biscuits (Jiffy and from a can are just fine or you can use your favorite recipe) to add a more solid texture. (If you want a really firm dressing, try making croutons out of the crumbs instead of just letting the breads go stale.) I also cut back on the amount of broth compared to most stuffing recipes so it is just moistened. The eggs in it work to bind the whole thing together too.

cornbread dressing

For a look at how this can be prepped in advance, check out my Thanksgiving Day timeline. Since there are only 2 people in my household, I split this dish in half and only cooked the first half for my meal. The other half was packed away in a foil tin uncooked. When I’m ready to eat that part, I’ll thaw it completely and bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes.

The best part of this recipe isn’t the wonderful texture or even how easy it is to freeze. I really just love the taste. Using a sweet cornbread allows for a mix of sweet and savory. It’s the perfect match for the crockpot turkey.

Cornbread Dressing

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cornbread crumbs (about 8 muffins)--try this recipe
  • 3 cups buttermilk biscuit crumbs (about 4 biscuits)
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup turkey drippings
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Prepare the cornbread and biscuits a few days in advance. Let them sit in the open so they go stale. On Thanksgiving Day, crumble the biscuits and cornbread in a large bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add in the onion and celery. Cook until tender.
  3. Add the vegetables into the crumbs and stir till combines. Stir in the broth and drippings, then add the seasonings and beaten eggs.
  4. Bake in a casserole dish for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
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7 Nov
2012
Posted in: Food
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Buttermilk Pumpkin Cake

buttermilk pumpkin bundt cake

Most people seem to think pie is the perfect Thanksgiving dessert but when it comes to pumpkin, I tend to think the flavor is best featured in a cake. Yes, that may be blasphemy to you but if you’re ever going to give it a shot, this is the cake to do it with.

pumpkin bundt cake

This cake starts in a bundt cake pan (mine is cathedral shaped because why not?) and there’s no need for a heavy frosting, just a glaze. The original Gourmet recipe called for solely a buttermilk glaze but I got a little crazy and added in some maple flavor.

buttermilk pumpkin cake

Since this is a bundt cake, it’s easy to see where to cut the cake and it’s a gorgeous piece to serve. I topped my cake with some crushed pecans and my slice got a sprinkle of coconut too. You can easily make this cake up to 3 days before your big Thanksgiving meal so it works great with my Thanksgiving cooking timeline.

Buttermilk Pumpkin Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 16 slices

Serving Size: 1 slice

I found this recipe via Gourmet Magazine's 2005 Thanksgiving edition. I've made a few changes (specifically doubling spices and adding a maple glaze) but the cake itself is a warm spicy flavor perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (less than a 15-ounce can; not pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • For the Glaze:
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon maple extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Grease a bundt cake pan generously and set aside.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and salt in a bowl. Stir together pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in a mixer on medium until pale and fluffy. Add in eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.
  4. Spoon batter into pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.
  5. For the glaze:
  6. While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk, maple extract and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle icing over warm cake, then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.
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