Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Happy 4 month birthday Cayden! You're getting so big! Your mama loves you!






















Photobucket

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No yeast cinnamon rolls [RECIPE].

One of my favorite things about the weekend is waking up and making a delicious breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and I love to go all out. This weekend I woke up craving cinnamon rolls and knew I had to make them. I quickly did a search for a recipe that doesn't use yeast because I didn't have any on hand and I stumbled upon this one. I decided to give it a try so I tied my apron on and got to work!

(Original recipe below with my notes in bold. Pictures taken by me)

Cinnamon Rolls

INGREDIENTS

1 cup warm milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose flour which works fine although bread flour does taste better)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp water (eliminate if you’re opening a new package of brown sugar)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used half this amount)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix the first six ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, mixing thoroughly until the dough forms a large ball.












Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, water and cinnamon.












Divide the dough into ten pieces, and roll each one into a 2″ by 10″ rectangle. Spread the dough with the cinnamon mixture.











Roll each strip into a tightly formed roll. Place rolls in a 9×13 inch baking pan, allowing some room for the rolls to expand.












Bake the rolls until just starting to turn golden, about 15 minutes.











While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, and confectioners sugar. Spread frosting on the rolls before serving.






















Makes 10 cinnamon rolls.

Thoughts: These rolls were yummy! The only complaint was that the icing had TOO much cream cheese (and I halfed the recipe) but if you love cream cheese icing then it's probably perfect for you. I'm not a huge fan of it so next time I'll probably use plain ol' icing! I also loved how fast they were to make... with a teething 4 month old I need quick and easy recipes and these definitely fit the bill.

If you decide to make these let me know how they turn out! Did you love the cream cheese frosting or will you use regular icing like me? I'd love to know!


Photobucket

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My first blog award (and 7 things you didn’t know about me).

Guess what friends? My blog has been chosen for a Lovely award by Kerry over at Momster! I am positively delighted! Be sure to check our Kerry’s blog for fun crafts and mommy tips! She’s a doll!

Rules to accepting this reward:
-Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award
-Share 7 fun facts about yourself
-Award 15 of your favorite bloggers
-Let them know!



Here we go!

Seven unknown tidbits about yours truly.

  • When I was a little girl my sister and I were in the newspaper for winning a painting contest!

(that's me in the minnie mouse shirt.)











  • My favorite thing to bake is cherry pie. (My homemade pie crust is to die for if I do say so myself.)





  • When I was 18 I wore hoop earrings every single day and all my friends called me ‘Hoops’.












  • I don’t drink soda. Ever.














  • My 2 sisters and I all have French middle names (Renee, Nicole, and Michelle) but our family isn’t French.












  • Nail polish always chips on my nails within an hour of putting it on, even if I get it done professionally. This saddens me greatly because I despise chipped nails.










  • Mando and I chose Cayden’s name by a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.














I hereby nominate the following bloggers for this award:

Crunchy VT Mommy – hilarious mama of 2 who always keeps it real!

Brown Paper Packages – my favorite inspiration blog. Her handmade creations are fantastic!

Mommy Wants Vodka – the funniest person on the Internet and a HUGE heart on top of that.

The Journey of the Unfinished Woman – a down to earth mama with all kinds of cooking, thrifting, and crafting tips!

Baby Rabies – a DIY mama to a little boy (and a baby girl on the way) with a great sense of humor!

Blogging Dangerously – anonymous blogger telling hilarious tales of her great sex life with her husband

A Beautiful Mess – lovely entrepreneur blogging about her new vintage shop, upcoming wedding, and DIY creations!

Party Like a Kid – great blog dedicated to showing off the cutest kids parties of every theme imaginable!

Enjoying the Small Things – wonderful photographer and mother of 2, this blog is full of inspiration from all aspects of life.

Spearmint Baby – a blog of all things baby related including tons of pictures of amazing nurseries! (Also check out her Spearmint Wedding, D├ęcor, and Kitchen sites!)

Lovin’ from the Oven – makes the most amazing baked goodies and she ALWAYS shares the recipes!

So Fawned – wonderful mama and photographer who enjoys the simple things in life and everything handmade!

I Am Baker – makes the cutest cookies (and other baked things) I’ve ever seen and is expecting a new baby!

Yellow Songbird – sweet blog showing love to everything handmade (and always has a fun little giveaway going on!)

Le Wedding Party – a new blog full of wedding inspiration and gorgeous photos!


Make sure to pay these lovely ladies a visit and thanks again Kerry for the nomination!


Photobucket

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winner winner chicken dinner!

First, thanks to everyone for your suggestions on my DIY Christmas! The winner has been chosen! (drumroll please)















"I think the album and blocks are way cute.. How fun =)"


Congratulations Francine! Leave your email in the comments and I'll email you with a few choices of handmade prizes! :)

I followed Francine's suggestions and decided to make the albums and blocks. The albums will only be going to 2 special people though; the blocks will go to everyone. I've also decided to do the baked goods idea!

I actually ended up getting lucky on the price of materials for the photo blocks. I was searching around online for a place to buy 20 plain wooden cubes (2 for each of the 10 people) and I didn't see anything under $50. Since I didn't have that kind of budget I decided to try Home Depot and see what I could come up with myself. Well, I was in luck! I ended up getting an 8x8 piece of wood for $7 and a member of their friendly staff cut it down into 30 cubes for me (for free)! I also bought some wood stain and sandpaper to smooth out the sides and make it the perfect shade. I think I ended up spending $18 total. Score! Now all I need are pictures printed out, some scrapbook paper for the sides, and vinyl lettering or a stamp for the message. I'm still trying to decide between 'Joy', 'Peace', or just '2010'.

As for the chipboard album, I went to the scrapbook store Tall Mouse and got large pieces of chipboard for $.49 each. 1 piece of chipboard will make 2 pages so I only needed to get 6. It ended up costing less than $4! I need scrapbook paper for this too, so I'm going to get one of the bulk packs of paper in a Christmas theme. Hopefully I'll find some on sale on Black Friday!

I want to get baskets to put everything in also on Black Friday (you'd be suprised how much 10 baskets can cost) and find a cute container for the baked goods. Suggestions welcome!


And lucky for you I'm going to document my progress on these crafts so you all can watch! Here's to hoping I don't cut a finger off or anything...

First step is sanding 30 wooden cubes! To be continued...


Photobucket

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

This last weekend the family and I took Cayden to get his Christmas pictures taken. What do you guys think? I am so in love. My boy was rockin' the argyle sweater vest! Next step: Christmas cards!



















Are you dying of cuteness yet? I thought so.

























I love how this family picture turned out... except the part where I have a double chin.

Photobucket

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giving Thanks.

As you know I made the exciting announcement that I will be hosting my first ever Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment! I’m beyond excited even if it will just be 4 of us (+ 2 babies). I’ve grown up watching and then helping my mom make Thanksgiving dinner year after year and now I get the chance to show off everything I’ve learned!

I’m going to be keeping my menu very traditional. My style of cooking is simple comfort home cooking anyway… I don’t usually cook things with a lot of ingredients (unless it’s a lot of garlic because, obviously) and I don’t cook things I can’t pronounce so the fancy schmancy gourmet dishes will not be present on my table. However, I do have a nice classic meal planned out that I wanted to share it with you all. Most of these are family recipes, but a few of them I will be making for the first time... most importantly the turkey! If you have a favorite recipe be sure to send it my way!


























I’ve also been browsing the internet for some table setting inspiration. I think I have a general idea of what I want it to look like but it doesn’t hurt to get some fresh ideas!


I found this sweet little centerpiece and instantly fell in love. It is so simple but still manages to ooze Fall flavor! I plan to make one for my table as long as my pumpkin lasts another week!




















I adore this table setting. The colors and the leaves make it come together beautifully and I love how the candles spell out 'Giving Thanks'; what a fun and simple DIY project that is sure to add spice to any table!


















My mouth literally dropped when I spied this table setting. I ADORE the silver detailing! So elegant! It makes me want to run to the nearest antique shop to pick up some candlesticks. And who doesn't love a vast array of pumpkins and gourds?




















I absolutely adore flowers. I used to work in a flower shop and to this day it's my favorite place I've ever been employed. There's nothing that makes me happier than a sweet smelling and beautifully done flower arrangement. This screams Fall with the orange, yellow, and brown color pallette and I love the creative idea to plop the flowers in a hollowed out pumpkin versus a vase.


























Do you have your Thanksgiving menu planned yet? What table settings are you drooling over? Do share my friends!


Photobucket

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DIY Christmas and a giveaway

I’ve always hated the fact that everybody seems to skip the Thanksgiving holiday altogether and dive straight into Christmas after Halloween. It’s a little ridiculous to hear Christmas carols in November don’t you think? However, I realized that I am guilty of this too because it never fails… as soon as November 1st hits I start to panic! Christmas is less than 2 months away! That’s only 2 non-rent checks we have to buy presents for everyone! I can’t help but freak out! This year is especially tight on money so I’m doing everything I can to figure out what I want to get everyone as early as possible.

Between Mando and me we have a lot of people to buy for. You ready? There is: my mom, sister, and nephew, my other sister, brother in law, and their new baby on the way. Then we have: 2 aunts, a cousin, and her son. On Mando’s side of the family we have: his mom, dad, 2 brothers, their wives, a niece and nephew, and a family friend and her 2 girls. Lastly there’s my best friend, her husband, and their baby. Whew! Just typing it out makes me break out in a sweat. In order to save money and give everyone something meaningful I decided this year I’m going to take the handmade pledge and make everyone’s gifts! The only store bought items will be for the babies because I have a few fun toys in mind.

Last year I made everyone Christmas gift baskets. I filled them with a glittery snowflake ornament for the tree, handmade gingerbread soap, a recipe in a jar (chocolate chip cookies) as well as a cookie cutter, a red coffee mug filled with candy and hot cocoa, and butter toffee popcorn.
















I really liked how they turned out and I was thinking of doing something similar this year. I have a few ideas floating around, but I can’t decide what I want to do for sure! This is where you guys come in. Help me pick 2 ideas to make and give to everyone! I have 5 ideas and inspiration pictures are below….

Idea #1

Photo blocks. I started seeing these when I started scrapbooking every week at my local scrapbook shop and I fell in love! They are simple, sentimental, and beautiful! I also love how there are many options of how to decorate… You can make each one a little bit different and customize for any holiday! We are getting family Christmas pictures taken this weekend so I was thinking of making a 3.25” wooden block with our Christmas picture one side and fun Christmas patterned scrapbook paper on the others then stacking a smaller block on top with a cute saying like ‘JOY’ or even just ‘2010’. Then just tie them together with a ribbon and tie it in a bow!

Pro: I think the end result would be beautiful if I can pull it off right
Con: Materials could be a little pricey





Source


Idea #2

Hand-painted Christmas mugs. Last year I purchased red mugs but I think it would be fun this year to paint them myself! I can browse my local antique shops to find several different shaped mugs paint them with glass paint. Using painters tape I could make them look like sweet little candy canes with red and white stripes! Then I can find a good recipe for homemade cocoa and put some with some candy canes!

Pro: Simple and affordable
Con: Similar to what I did last year



Source

Idea #3

Chipboard albums. I am obsessed with them. Long ago when I first discovered the world of Etsy I found the most amazing shop called Paper Silly. I adore her creative and unique style of chipboard albums and I’ve wanted to make one ever since. My best friend recently made one for her new baby girl and it turned out STUNNING. For this idea I would make a mini chipboard Christmas album filled with pictures of family and Cayden. I have a picture of every family member holding Cayden so I could personalize each one.

Pro: Sentimental gift that everyone will love
Con: Making 10 chipboard albums would take A LOT of time



Source

Idea #4

Picture frames. I was recently browsing the stands at my local swap meet when I saw sweet little picture frames being sold. It was a very simple frame made out of what looked like cream cardstock with baby footprints inked on the sides and a sentimental quote. I was thinking of taking our family Christmas picture and finding a similar frame to put it in and then putting Cayden’s footprints on the side and a quote about family on the top or bottom. Or I could personalize each frame for the recipient and put a picture of them holding Cayden inside. I still haven’t decided which.

Pro: Simple and affordable
Con: Lacks the ‘wow factor’



Idea #5

A tin or a basket filled with baked goods. Last year my sister made the most amazing cake balls for Mother’s Day and I’ve honestly been thinking about them ever since. I know she’s planning on making them again this year for Christmas and I had the idea to do something similar. I have a ton of holiday recipes saved and I could make 4 or 5 different things and fill either a basket or a round tin with an assortment of yummy baked goods!

Pro: Easy enough to do and pretty inexpensive
Con: Not everyone likes sweets



See why I need your help? So many options I’ll never be able to pick on my own! Tell me, which ones are YOUR favorites? I will be forever grateful for your feedback!


Each person who leaves a comment telling me their favorite idea is entered to win a sweet handmade Christmas goodie made by yours truly! I won’t reveal the prize just yet, but I promise it will be worth the wait!

Monday, November 8, 2010

(I'm finally a) Budget Friendly Mama

"There is no dignity quite so impressive and no independence so important as living within your means." -Calvin Coolidge

Ever since this post on being a budget friendly mama I’ve become obsessed with finding ways to save. Money is tight right now while we’re still adjusting to the extra cost of childcare so I’m doing whatever I can to make ends meet. I know a lot of my mama friends are in the same boat so I thought I’d share my own tips and tricks on saving money and hopefully help somebody stretch their dollars a little bit further. So here you go, faithful readers. A few of the ways that I've been saving money:

  • Sign up to receive deals and promotions. This can really help those of you who do a lot of online shopping at your favorite stores. I know I used to un-check that box (you know which one I’m talking about) whenever I created a customer account online to avoid getting spam mail, but I discovered that it’s really worth it to sign up (and you’ll probably get the spam mail anyway). You will get emails letting you know when a sale is coming up, free shipping codes, and discount promotions. I created a folder in my inbox specifically for deals and offers so whenever I get one I think I could use I move it there (this keeps my inbox manageable) and delete the ones I know I won’t use. Some of my favorite websites that send out the best coupons via email are Old Navy, Babies R Us, Carters, Shutterfly, Amazon, Michael's, and TGI Fridays. I rarely check out without using a 20% promo code or free shipping!
  • Buy from Craigslist, Ebay, or consignment shops. Don’t get me wrong there’s some things I would never buy used (car seats for one), but for some baby gear or household items I always check these places first. Cayden is growing so fast that I started buying his clothes at our local Children’s Orchard (consignment shop). We got him a little pair of jeans, a winter coat, a sweater, sweat pants, and a plaid button up for less than $20! Baby clothes are always in great shape because they are worn for so little time and I can always find the most adorable outfits! I also advise looking for a baby gear on Ebay or Craigslist first because you can usually find brand new or very gently used items for extremely low prices. And I love going to thrift and vintage shops to find cute and quirky items for my house. I try to make a fun day out of it and go with my mom or a friend and browse through all the thrift shops!
  • Check daily deal websites. Groupon and Living Social are my favorites because they offer deals for local activities such as spa treatments and restaurant deals. I even got one today for a helicopter ride! I like sites like this because it gives you an opportunity to save on special things for a date night or mama’s day out. For kids, there’s Kids Woot, Baby Half off, and Baby Steals… these are all 1-day only deals for baby/kid stuff!
  • Buy things on sale. Okay, this sounds obvious but if you’re anything like I was BEFORE children you never glanced at the sale rack. I’m here to tell you DO IT. I always find cute things at Target or Old Navy on clearance. Sure it can be hit or miss but it’s ALWAYS worth a shot. Especially baby clothes! Also, check your mailbox for sale ads and coupons! I always look through ads before shopping (especially Target) to find out what's on sale that week.
  • Product reviews and giveaways. Now I know it can get annoying to see review after review on your favorite blog and they start to look like a commercial so I try to keep a good balance between personal updates, reviews, giveaways, crafts, and recipes. With that being said, doing product reviews IS a good way to get new stuff and save money on things I would buy anyway like kitchen items or toys for Cayden. I only ever review products that I personally need and/or want and would never promote something I don't like. A lot of bloggers can be greedy and try to hide their PR contacts and companies but I’m not that way… I’m here to help! CSN stores is almost always willing to let you review an item of your choice and if you find an Etsy seller you like it doesn’t hurt to ask for an item in exchange for some promotion! And there’s deals like the Shutterfly one I just participated in that ANY blogger regardless of stats can do. And I got 50 free holiday cards! That? Awesome. And I always encourage people to enter giveaways. I used to get discouraged when I didn't win, but if you keep at it you won't be disappointed. I've won 2 or 3 giveaways in the past few months and I barely try!
  • Make things yourself instead of buying them. Yes, being crafty can actually save you money (who would have thought?). Now whenever I'm browsing the aisles in stores I always think to myself 'I can make that!' and walk away without buying. I like to find used items and jazz them up with a fresh coat of paint for the house like picture frames or vases. You can also take pictures, print them in large sizes and frame them, or print them on canvases for wall art. My next project is a DIY daily planner using a recycled notebook and free printables online. I also started doing handmade gifts instead of store bought ones. Handmade does not mean cheesy either. You can make gift baskets filled with yummy baked goods (presentation is everything!) for the men in your life and handmade picture frames and photo blocks for the sentimental type. And don't even get me started on all the DIY projects for parties. That's a whole other blog post!
  • Sell your unwanted things at garage sales. My mom's neighborhood has a garage sale every 3 months. The home-owners association pays for advertising and there's ALWAYS a great turn-out. Most neighborhoods do this and it's a great way to make money off your un-wanted or un-used items. Mando and I usually make about $200 per sale and that's on stuff we would have thrown away in the trash! Things that typically sell well at garage sales are adult and baby clothes (not shoes), baby gear and toys, dishes/cookware/bakeware, tools, electronics such as old game consoles, TV's, or speakers, and furniture. Sell things cheap (we always do $1 for clothes) and make sure prices are in plain sight. And don't be afraid to make deals with people... remember, if it doesn't sell it will most likely be thrown away!
  • Meal plan and make a list before buying groceries. I used to go to the store with a vague idea of what I wanted to make and no list. What ended up happening was me wandering every isle and throwing anything that looked good in the cart. Now? I'm an obsessive list maker. I have a whole system before going to the store. First, I get my grocery store ad, my recipe books, and a notebook and spread out across the table. Then I pick figure out 10 meals I want to make over the next 2 weeks (I allow 4 days off for leftovers, dinners out, or nights at our parent's house for dinner). I choose meals that have similar ingredients in them to avoid buying a million different things. Then I look through the ad and find the items that we need that are on sale and write them down. I buy a lot of store brand items which saves a lot of money. I make most things from scratch because it's usually cheaper than pre-made things. Also, we will usually buy canned vegetables if they're cheaper than fresh. Below is a quick example of what my meal plans look like. I won't list the recipes but if anyone wants them just leave a comment with your email address and I'll be happy to provide it!

1 3lb roll of ground beef makes: tacos, spaghetti, hamburgers
1 package of (6) boneless, skinless chicken breasts makes: chicken casserole and baked chicken
1 3-4 lb roll of pork tenderloin makes: Ritz cracker fried pork and a roast
1 bag of potatoes makes: mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and rosemary potatoes
Canned corn, canned green beans, canned peas. Fresh asparagus, broccoli, oranges, bananas.
Essentials such as milk, eggs, cheese, butter, bread, flour, and sugar.
Bacon or sausage for breakfast and lunch meat for sandwiches
Something frozen like pizza for a quick and easy dinner

That's pretty much it! The meals vary week to week and there's a few other sides in there, but those are the basics. I make desserts from scratch so I always have those ingredients on hand and we don't eat junk food like chips or soda. We try to buy bulk items like drinks, toilet paper and paper towels at Costco.


So there you have it! I hope you can take a few of these tips with you on your path to frugality! If you have any more tips and tricks to saving dollars please leave a comment and let me know! I'm sure everyone would be pleased to see them!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Crafty Mommies (part 2)

Some of you may remember my post a few months ago wanting to start a monthly crafting club with some other moms. I thought it would be fun to share ideas and inspiration and see what others come up with because I know a lot of my readers are amazingly creative and crafty. Well, I got a great response and Crafty Mommies was born! Every month we submit ideas and vote on what craft we’d like to do and work on it over the next couple of weeks. Once we’re done we share pictures of the completed project on the Facebook page I created. We also do a monthly card trading club where we pick a card theme for that month (Christmas, birthday, thank you, etc.) and we each create 1 identical card for each participating member and mail them to each other. At the end of the month we all end up with unique handmade cards to either use or collect – one from each member! I love doing this because 1) it’s fun seeing the different things that everyone comes up with, and 2) I always have a card if I forgot to buy one for a last minute occasion! We currently have 8 members and are growing!

October was our first month and we decided to do paper mache pumpkins (you can see how mine turned out here) and a birthday card. I did a sweet and simple cupcake card using a die-cut machine, some tulle, and a pack of rhinestones. I love how it turned out!




































I got so many cute and unique cards from the other members (below) and I can’t wait to see what they come up with this month!

















If anyone else is interested in joining it’s not too late to sign up! We are always accepting new members and we don’t care if you’re a beginner or a pro… everyone is welcome! This month we are making a Thanksgiving table centerpiece of your choice and the card theme is Thank You. If you’d be interested in signing up you can comment here or email me (found in the contact page here). We’d love to have you!


My fellow Crafty Mommies also have some great blogs. Make sure to pay them a visit!


Heather
Amy
Katy
Jessica
Jen
Kerry



Happy crafting!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I hear those sleigh bells ringing...

Now that it's November I have Christmas on my mind. I can't believe I have a little over a month left to do everything! One of the things I need to do is get Cayden's Christmas pictures taken, put them on some cards, and actually SEND THEM OUT. I spent money we didn't really have getting his birth announcements/thank you cards from Shutterfly.com after he was born and I never mailed them (they are currently collecting dust under my coffee table). I was really angry at myself and now it seems a little ridiculous to do it when he's 3 and a half months old. HOWEVER, baby's first Christmas is a big deal and I want to get something that we can hold onto forever. I found a good deal at a local photography studio and I'm going to get pictures taken and put them on holiday cards. And I'm mailing them out people!

I love Shutterfly because I think they have the cutest designs, the best prices, and the pictures don't come out blurry (like Snapfish ALWAYS does). I got the opportunity to do a review in exchange for 50 free holiday cards. Bloggers, this is a great opportunity! Anyone can do it regardless of stats and the number of followers you have. If you're interested in doing it click here.

My style for Christmas cards is festive, but simple. I want you to know you're getting a Christmas card without getting assaulted by reindeers and snowmen. When browsing Shutterfly's Christmas card page I picked out a few of my absolute favorites!

















Isn't this adorable? I love the contrast of the Christmas colors with a black and white photo. It looks fun and classic.

















I also love this one. Of course the polka dots are my favorite part, and I also love the red and brown combination.

I just found out that Shutterfly also does invitations perfect for your holiday parties. How easy is that?


















This one is my favorite! My mom always does a Christmas cookie swap during the holidays and it's something I look forward to every year

And did you know you can get gift tags as well? It's a one-stop-shop!





















I found this one which matches one of my favorite cards!

So make sure you check out Shutterfly for your Christmas needs this year! If you sign up for a new account you get 50 free 4X6 prints! And if you don't want to pay shipping you can pick your prints up at Target, CVS, or Walgreens in an hour! Convenient for all you busy mamas!

Happy Holidays lovelies!

Wordless Wednesday - Halloween Edition.

Okay, I know it's November 2nd and you guys are so over Halloween posts, but I wanted to share a few pictures of Cayden's first Halloween! We actually celebrated twice... Once on Halloween and once the weekend before. My mom's neighborhood always has a 'fall festival' for the neighborhood kids. Good thing Cayden had 2 costumes!






































































































































































































Photobucket