Monday, January 26, 2015

Coffee and Coloring

In my last post I shared about our eventful January. During this busy January I have had to find some fun and easy activities to recharge with in between my fun but busy days. My daughter inspired me to try out my latest activity. A few months back my daughter found some really cute coloring books and set them next to her computer to work on during study breaks. She would set her college books aside, and turn on a fun video and color. It struck me as a fun and great way to chill out. So a couple of weeks back I ordered some color books that looked like a lot of fun.

I chose Hipster and Dapper Animals coloring books. Both of these coloring books are really nice, the paper is high quality and are working well with my gel pens and crayons. The Hipster Coloring Book is full of retro funky pictures, and the Dapper Animals are fun, smartly dressed animals to color. Both color books come with pages of design and art instruction as well as really interesting quotes to ponder while you are coloring. I have kept them out on my table with pens and crayons so I can color when the mood strikes, or when I need a little time to chill out. Definitely a new favorite activity, Amazon has a wonderful selection of really interesting coloring books, check out the link in my side bar.

Since I knew these coloring books would have some smaller designs to color in, I decided to buy some gel pens. It is crazy that I had never really tried out gel pens besides a few random ones here and there over the years. I bought a set of 48 Fiskars gel pens after reading the reviews on Amazon, and I am so happy with these pens, they work a lot better than I thought. I plan on buying a bigger set down the road, very fun to write and color with, and I am sure I will be using these for other crafts as well. I also picked up some Neon Crayolas and have my favorite twistables crayons to use as well.

While I was ordering my gel pens I decided to buy a pack of my most favorite felt tip pens as well. I was given a set of Pentel felt tip pens when I was in high school and really into art. I loved these markers and they lasted for years. I saw the same set I had, although it looked like a different package in the picture, mine was a solid mustard yellow case, and from the picture online I assumed it was all clear, but I was hoping they would still be my same favorite pens. When they arrived and I took them out of their cardboard sleeve and I was so happy to see my good old favorite mustard yellow case, as well as all the colors I remember so fondly. The markers are wonderful, the colors are great, and I am so happy to have these back in my craft supplies. They are spendy compared to run of the mill felt tip pens, but they are so worth the money, they far outlast regular felt tip pens and the color selection is great. Definitely worth investing in a set. :)

In addition to my new fun activity, I have found a new favorite beverage - Starbucks new Flat White.

I had a morning show on about a week or so ago and the hosts were trying a new coffee drink called a flat white, I was intrigued, but I haven't been into coffee much lately. I have a cup in the morning and that's usually it, aside from the occasional cappuccino. Gary, my hubby, is definitely into his coffee, and when he was picking up his drink at Starbucks last week he saw the sign for the new Flat White and decided to get one for us to try. I was really impressed with the flavor. Since then I have had a few more, and I am really enjoying this new drink. A Flat White is specially steamed milk with what are called ristretto shots of espresso, the drink has really nice micro-foam and is topped with a signature Starbucks white dot. I felt that this drink was less bitter than other coffee drinks, very smooth and flavorful. Definitely a new favorite, and one I would recommend for fellow coffee lovers to try, especially if you're a fan of the cappuccino. :)

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January News

We have been busy this January and the month has flown by. We have had an exciting start to the new year with a darling new addition to our family. Last week my sister had her precious little baby, we have all been eager and excited to meet her. I was one happy aunt when I finally got to hold her, my new little niece is a tiny little girl weighing in at only 5 lbs. 9 oz., her name is Fiona, and she is as precious as precious can be. It has been quite some time since I have held such a brand new baby and it was a treat. I am looking forward to seeing her again soon. :)

While we were waiting in the hospital for little Fiona to be born, I enjoyed hanging out with my niece and nephew, who were eager to welcome their new little sister. We had quite a bit of time to wait and I knew that it would be a good idea to pack some activities. I had fun the week before hunting through Target and finding some fun activities to pack for them. In Target's fun dollar section I found some really cute little tote bags which were about half the size of normal store tote type bags and were the perfect size. I found some simple activity kits that use the magic mess free markers, and other kits with mini coloring and sticker activities, as well as a magnetic doodle board, a couple of hot wheels, fruit snacks and a cute pack of tissues which came in handy. The kids enjoyed their bags and it definitely helped pass the time. :)

Last week we also enjoyed attending my son's girlfriend's cheer competition. The competition was an all day event and was really enjoyable. This was the first time I had ever been to watch a cheer competition, and it was fun watching all of the groups preform. The groups were all different ages, including some very young little groups, which were so cute and did really well. Our school competed near the end of the day, and did really well, their routine was great and they all did wonderfully. The whole event was exciting to watch and all of the teams were so supportive of one another it was really nice to see.

This last Sunday we went into town to visit my husband's great aunt who is very sick in the hospital. She is very dear to us and has been such a positive influence in my husband's life. We all love our Aunt Deloris and we were so happy to get to see her and pray for her.

After our visit, since we found ourselves in Portland, we decided to drive around and look at all the houses we grew up in. Of course the city has changed a great deal in the fifteen years since we moved, and it was interesting to see what had changed and what hadn't. I grew up right next door to a little convenience store, and I was surprised when I drove past and saw it still had it's original sign up. So we decided to pull in and walk through the store. Although the layout of the store has changed, and it is definitely showing its age, it was neat to see some of the original store shelves and cases from when I was a child. It was definitely a trip down memory lane. I have extremely fond memories of saving my allowance for different candy treats and snacks, as well as quarters to play the two arcade games that the store used to have back in the 80's. I had quite a fun time at this store all throughout my younger childhood. The kids thought I should for sure get a picture, so my son took a picture of me next to the candy rack, which looked just like it did when I was a kid. :)

So that's what I've been up to, definitely a full January for sure!

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Brown Sugar Bacon Caramel Sundaes

I always enjoy the start of a new year, and this first part of January has been no exception. I really enjoy getting things cleaned up post holiday and getting back into our regular schedule with a refreshed spirit. This week I have been hard at work tackling some of the organizational projects around the house and the kids and hubby have gotten back to a normal school and work schedule. Before we began our week back to the daily grind, I felt we needed one last fun little celebration to wrap up our holiday break. My son had been eager to invite all of his friends over for a day of gaming, both tabletop and video, so last Sunday we had the whole gang over. For dinner I made a fix your own taco bar, which is a family favorite. For dessert I wanted something special but different from the heavier baked treats we enjoyed at Christmas, so I made a delicious Brown Sugar Bacon Caramel Sunday that has been on my mind to make for some time now. I think it may be my new favorite treat!

To start you need to make the bacon. I always bake my bacon in the oven, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and a oven proof rack on top of the foil (I use a metal cooling rack). Lay the bacon out in a single layer on the rack in the foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400 F. until the bacon is almost fully cooked. You may want to check the bacon as it cooks and separate the pieces further apart as they shrink so they all get crispy. When the bacon is almost done, but not quite to the crispy state yet, take them out of the oven and sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar over each slice of bacon, make sure each piece has plenty of brown sugar. Then return to the oven for about five more minutes until the bacon is crispy, fully cooked and the sugar has caramelized. Really watch them at this stage they can go from perfectly done to over cooked in seconds because sugar burns fast. When they are done set them out to completely cool.

To serve scoop some vanilla ice cream into a dish, add a little dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup, break a slice of brown sugar bacon in half and put the two halves in the back of the Sunday so they can be crumbled up over the ice cream.

The bacon is best when crumbled up and sprinkled over the ice cream, you can obviously skip right to this step if you aren't worried about presentation. :) Count on one slice of bacon for each smaller Sundae and two slices if you are indulging in a larger bowl of ice cream, which you may want to do after you try this! :)

The sweet and salty bacon is so delicious alongside the vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Everyone gobbled these down, and I will definitely be making this special dessert for family nights again!

 Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

I always enjoy New Year's Eve. I am excited to enjoy an evening counting down to the new year and enjoying appetizers. I have spent the last couple of days carefully packing away my Christmas decorations and today we spent time putting out a few sparkly decorations for New Years Eve.

When I was Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago I picked up some cute gold, silver and black party hats and blowers and shiny beads. I brought out the glittered clocks that I made last year.

I found really cute mustache paper straws, and decided to keep out the glittered animals I made for Christmas, they look good with all the sparkly New Years decorations.

The kids are having friends over to play games and hang out. I am looking forward to watching The Hundred-Foot Journey, I saw this movie in theaters for Gary and my anniversary this year, it is a wonderful movie. I have been looking forward to it coming out on DVD and thought New Year's Eve would be a fun night to watch this movie again. This movie is really inspiring and is just a treat, beautiful scenery, beautiful food, interesting and rich cultures, I would highly recommend it!

For appetizers and goodies I am making a batch of Super Easy Puff Pastry Cinnamon Palmiers  which is a favorite family treat.

I also make crescent dough wrapped brie and bacon wrapped dates, which I serve with baguette and crackers, and grapes, this is a treat I look forward to every New Year's Eve. 

I am really looking forward to 2015, I love the start to a new year! I have a lot of fun plans for this upcoming year, as well as resolutions. :) I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year's Eve, and Happy New Year!!

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

My oh my has this Christmas season been a whirlwind! Between school activities, family activities, and all of the tasks that go along with holiday preparations, we have been a very busy family. I haven't been able to sit down and blog for that last two weeks, so I thought I would take a moment this Christmas eve to stop in and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and share a little bit about what we've been up to.

We had a wonderful time at the high school choirs Singing Christmas Tree, this year was a Christmas in Neverland theme. My husband spent a great deal of time at the high school helping to build the set which was pretty elaborate with a pirate ship and lost boys tree. The team who worked on the set did an amazing job! This is my son's senior year, so it was his last year performing in the Singing Christmas Tree as a student. He had an acting part as Wendy's brother John, as well as performing in the Concert choir and Socialaires which is like a jazz choir. A lot of work, but well worth the effort. The show was wonderful!

Joe also had the opportunity to sing with his choir at the hospital and on the radio, so that was also exciting. Last week we invited my littlest niece and nephew over for a Christmassy sleep over. We had fun watching Christmas special, playing, enjoying hot cocoa, and we did a fun glittery craft. I picked up some inexpensive plastic animals, and I gave everyone a brush and a paper muffin cup with a bit of mod podge, we coated the animals in mod podge and then covered them with glitter. They turned out really cute.

The glittered animals look great among all of my glittery floral picks in some of my Christmas displays, we even glittered some dinosaurs which are very fun and whimsical among the Christmas decor. I hope to make a whole glittery menagerie next year, it was a very fun craft! :)

I haven't had as much time as I usually do to bake cookies, I did spend the last couple days baking a pretty good selection though. One of my go to cookies this season was very quick cookies made from Cake mixes. Some I made with Andes thin mints as frosting, others are made by adding Cool Whip to the Cake mix along with an egg or two, but the easiest one are these Crinkle cookies. I made one with Devil's Food Cake Mix, and another with Red Velvet Cake Mix. You just add two eggs and 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil to a box of cake mix, blend it well, then drop a rounded spoonful of dough into a bowl of powdered sugar and really roll the dough around in the powdered sugar to get it very thoroughly coated, then bake on a parchment lined pan at 350 F. for around 8 minutes. Super easy recipe! I got these cute new Santa plates for serving cookies and appetizers throughout the season, and we'll be setting Santa out a plate tonight!

With all of the business this holiday season there have been moments where I was a bit Scroogy, which is really not normal for me, I love Christmas time, but I was definitely a bit overbooked! I have really had to purposefully refocus on the true meaning of this season and remember to keep that joy. I have spent the last few weeks with my Sunday school class walking through the advent stories and lessons. My favorite lesson and simple craft was one that reminded us about Jesus being a light of the world. The craft was a simple candle with a glittered candle light. I cut a red sheet of paper into four quarters, put glue along one edge then rolled up the candle. I made a simple candle light template and cut out that shape, which we stuck down in the candle tube and glued with a bit of glue stick. Then added glue and glitter to the candle light.

I really liked this lesson and the reminder of Jesus being our light in this world. Tonight we attended our church's candlelight service, it was so beautiful, when we pulled into our church parking lot, which is normally quite dark in the evening because we go to a little country church, the parking lot was lined with beautifully lit up luminaries, it was so pretty. We sang some carols, and heard the Christmas story, then lit our candles in our darkened sanctuary. All of the little candles looked so beautiful lit up, and lit up the whole room, a reminder of our savior, who is our light in this world. Tonight when we came home we took time to light our little battery operated light to put in our window as a reminder of that welcoming light.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Home Tour 2014

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas around our house! I spent last week putting the final touches on my decor and getting ready to host a Christmas party for our church youth group. The Christmas party was a lot of fun and a great way to kick off the festivities. Here is a tour of this year's Christmas decor, glitter is definitely the prevailing theme, I am just drawn to everything glittery right now! :) 

On the dining room table I have set a glittery vintage Christmas scene, I love all of my fox ornaments as well as all of the retro trucks with Christmas trees on top.

I love these little pine cone elves, and if you look in the back of the picture you can see the little retro style camper with a Christmas tree on top, I love retro campers and I was excited find this little ornament. 

For our Christmas party I wanted to do a dessert table with a milk and cookie theme, these little milk glasses were perfect with chevron printed Christmas straws, sadly the kids all opted for soda, but that's okay, I will put the glasses to use at our next party. :)

I made a tray of mini red velvet cupcakes, I always make a few batches of these every Christmas for various events.

I made four different cookies to kick off baking season, you can read the bulk of my cookie recipes in my cookie posts here, and here, or in my baking index on the side bar. I made green colored crispy rice treats, oatmeal scotchies, Andes mint cookies, and molasses cookies.

I set out hot cocoa packets with a jar of peppermint marshmallows, we love hot cocoa this time of year!

I was at target last week to work on my Christmas shopping and found these reindeer and Santa on sale, I just love the way they look and it was nice to update my living room decor a bit, I hadn't changed it much in a few years. This year my living room is a sort of modern vintage glittery theme.

It all started with this little red glitter deer ornament.

This little red glittery deer is perfect for my tiny hall table.

I just fell in love with these vintage deer and the domed Christmas scene, this little display makes me happy every time I see it!

Last year the fireplace mantel was old fashioned Christmas Santas. This year I brought out the flocked metal cone shaped trees that I hadn't used for a few years, I thought they would be perfect with the reindeer.

I love the turquoise with the red and green. The little pine cones in the front are tea light holders from Yankee, this year instead of a Playmobil or Lego advent calendar, since the kids are now young adults, I decided that I would get the Yankee candle advent calendar, each day you open a window and get a new Christmas scented tea light to burn, we have all been enjoying it!

I love the way the Christmas lights reflect off glitter, it really sparkles at night.

The foyer I kept pretty much the same as last year, with only the addition of a couple more floral picks and two faux gold mercury glass candle holders which I found earlier this year. I love this glittery cardboard village.

Back in the dining room I have set out the candles on my craft cupboard flanked by a couple of my favorite nutcrackers, this will have to move to the back bedroom soon to make room for the tree this weekend.

The old world Santas are usually in the living room, this year they find themselves on a book case. I think they look nice next to all the colorful books.

More glittery deer! When I was at Target I wasn't sure about these black reindeer, but I didn't want to leave them and regret it later, which I often do, which necessitates a drive back into town often to find that what I passed on is now sold out, so since they were on sale, I decided it wouldn't hurt. Well it turns out they look pretty cool flanking our TV on the entertainment stand. :)

I also found this cute chalkboard style sign in a dollar bin and it matches the black and red reindeer and our entertainment stand.

I love this cute retro Christmas village that is printed onto wooden boards, I found it on clearance at CB2 this past spring, and I love it, the colors match with everything else in my living room. I decorated around it with glitter star-bursts, and glitter Christmas balls. I also put two glittered red trees behind the village, they reminded me of the tinsel trees that shopping centers would put up in the parking lots when I was a child back in the seventies and early eighties.

Here is the coffee shop up close, with a figure from my very first village, I put out this fellow enjoying his coffee every year. :)

I love the Thrift shop as well, this little village reminds me of shopping in Portland! The set also came with a bar, but we are teetotalers here, so no bars in the Christmas decor, lol! Fortunately three buildings were a better fit for this cabinet anyway.

Well that's the end of my Christmas Home Tour, I look forward to sharing our tree decorations next week. 
I hope everyone is having a nice start tot he holiday season! 

I am also hosting a Christmas Homemaking Hop this December, please stop by and link up your holiday posts. 

April's Homemaking

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