Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Favorite Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

If there's one thing I love to bake around Christmas time, it's gingerbread. For the past few years now I've been making this recipe from and it has become an absolute favorite. If you like traditional, classic gingerbread cookies then this is the recipe for you. This year, I made cookies and a gingerbread house and they were both incredibly delicious. This isn't my recipe, but I wanted to share it with you guys so you can use it, too!

You will need:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbl ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 6 tbl unsalted butter at room temp
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. In a separate large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar, and egg until well blended. Add molasses and vanilla and continue to mix until blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until blended and smooth. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375°. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place half of the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick. Use more flour to avoid sticking if needed. Cut out cookies with whatever cookie cutter you prefer. Bake for about 7-8 minutes and then allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Once completely cool, it's time to decorate! I just used store bought vanilla frosting but homemade buttercream or royal icing would be great too!

I hope you all give this recipe a try this year! They would make great cookies to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve night. Just sayin!

Quick note: As you can tell, my blog posts have been fewer lately. I'm not posting as much due to the holidays and spending time with family, but I will be back to my regular posting schedule after the New Year. I have a ton of fun giveaways planned for you in January so stay tuned! XOXO

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas cards!

Last Thursday we took our annual Christmas pictures and as usual, I've waited until the last minute possible to order our Christmas cards! This year I'm ordering from Tiny Prints and I'm kind of obsessed with their selection. I looked through all six (yes, SIX) pages of their holiday cards and chose a few favorites ones!

Cute, right?! I love the variety, too. They have everything... elegant black and white cards, Hello Kitty Christmas cards, pet friendly cards, and colorful, modern cards. In the end we decided to go with this one which was the very first one I saw and I love it! It had a spot for all 3 of our photos and I love the colors. They'll go perfect with our peppermint hot cocoa handmade Christmas gifts!

If you haven't ordered your holiday cards yet, make sure to check out their selection of cards here. Right now they have free expedited delivery to arrive by 12/23 or you can pay a little extra to have them rushed to you even faster! Happy holidays everyone! XOXO

Friday, December 16, 2011

Handmade gift idea: Peppermint hot cocoa

I love handmade gifts, both making and receiving them. For as far back as I can remember I've been making my own Christmas gifts, whether they be silly crafts for my mom when I was a little girl or more sophisticated gifts as I grew older. I think there's something really special about a gift that someone took the time to make versus just buying at a store. It can also be a great way to save money if you're on a tight budget! Now with my family, Mando's family, and our friends we have a lot of people to shop for so for the past 3 years I've been doing mostly handemade gift for our loved ones. This year I decided to do something that I knew everyone would love... peppermint hot cocoa! It's super simple to put together and who doesn't love to cozy up on a cold day with some hot cocoa? Here's what you'll need to put this gift together yourself!

  • 12 pint sized mason jars
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows
  • 2-3 lbs hot cocoa (this will vary depending on the type of hot cocoa used)
  • approximately 40 candy canes, crushed
  • ribbon and gift tags to decorate (optional)
First, wash and dry your mason jars. Then, fill the first layer with your desired amount of hot cocoa. We used Starbucks hot cocoa found at Costco and I wanted 4 servings per jar so I did 8 tablespoons (2 tbl per serving). Next, fill the second layer with mini marshmallows. Lastly, fill the last layer with crushed candy canes. You can use a food processor or just put them in a ziplock and crush with a rolling pin. When your jars are filled, seal them and then put some ribbon and a gift tag for the perfect finishing touch!

I hope you've all been inspired to have a handmade holiday this year! Even if you lack the time/skills to make something yourself, try buying at least one handmade gift from a site like Etsy and support the handmade business! I don't know about you, but I'd rather give my money to a local business owner or work at home mom over a big corporation anyday! Happy Holidays everyone! XOXO

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wedding Planning Wednesday - Vintage Love

If there's one re-occuring theme in our wedding, it's the use of vintage. I've always been interested in the items of previous decades and the idea that every antique has a story. I've been vintage shopping for years and I knew when I started planning the wedding that I wanted to incorporate some vintage pieces throughout the day. In the past few weeks I've really started my search and I want to share some of my recent finds with you all!

My amazing wedding coordinator Emily told me about a vintage sale hosted by a local blogger. I was lucky enough to score this adorable vintage wire basket for dirt cheap! I'm thinking of filling it with some pretty flowers and displaying it on the guest book table. Thoughts?

Last weekend we went to the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena. I've been to a few local flea markets, but nothing like this one.. it's huge! If you're in the area and love antiques you have to check it out. I scored this amazing vintage tin for $8 and I'm kind of obsessed with it. I did some googling and I believe it was a box used for dressings (aka bandages) during WWII. I think I'm going to leave this one open and stuff it with flowers as well. You can never have too many flowers!

I've been on the hunt for a vintage suitcase for AGES. I saw this idea on Pinterest and I really want to replicate it. This suitcase actually wasn't for sale (it was being used as a display piece), but it was the size and color I was looking for so I asked the vendor and she sold it to me for $15! The inside needs some love and work, but I'm still pretty stoked about it. Can't wait to dress it up!

Another way we're going to incorporate vintage into the wedding is renting some pieces from Found Rentals in Fullerton. This company is like the hidden gem for wedding planning. I heard about them on a wedding blog and then Emily arranged a meeting for us. I got to check out their warehouse and browse through her AMAZING collection of vintage furniture and other accessories and let me tell you, it was heaven! They have so many great pieces and I can't wait to display a few of these beauties on our big day!

I still have a lot of shopping to do and I have a list of local shops and markets I want to hit up in the next few months. I can't believe there are only 5 months left until the big day! It's starting to feel so close! Happy Wednesday everyone! XOXO

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Calendar Days 5-11

I'm back for days 5-11 of our advent calendar! We had a loy of fun getting the house ready for Christmas this week. I swear, every December I have a perma-smile on my face until the New Year. I just love this time of the year... everything is so magical! Doing these activities as a family has really gotten us all in the holiday spirit and we couldn't be more excited for Christmas! I definitely think the advent calendar is a new tradition that we will be continuing year after year!

Day five: We did a few small things around the house to get ready for Christmas! We hung our snowman sign on the front door, put our poinsettia on the porch, and finished our Christmas mantle!

Day six: We baked chocolate peppermint cookies together! Man, these cookies were absolutely delicious. Dark chocolate, espresso powder, and crushed candy canes. We all gobbled them up! Cayden had so much fun helping daddy stir the batter!

Day seven: Can you tell this is when I got my new iPhone? YAY! No more scratched camera! That day Mando and I made our handmade Christmas gifts. We make something handmade every year for our families and this year we made peppermint hot chocolate in a mason jar. This Starbucks hot chocolate is amazing by the way. I've had about 5 cups since then!

Day eight: This was one of my favorite days just because it was so cozy. We are lucky enough to have a fireplace in our room and I love taking advantage of it! We played a few games of Uno by the fire and listened to Christmas music. By the way, I got my ass kicked at all 5 of those Uno games! Who knew I was so bad? Haha!

Day nine: Finally! We got our tree! I was so excited to bring that fat little tree home and I spent the rest of the night huffing our Douglas Fir. There is NOTHING better than the smell of a fresh Christmas tree!

Day ten: The next day we decorated our tree. Every year we pick out a new Christmas ornament and this year I got the little matryoshka, the big C is for Corona (Mando's last name), and Cayden got an ice skating cow because he is OBSESSED with cows right now! I still need to get a tree topper... can't find ours from last year!

Day eleven: My mom's neighborhood always has fun holiday events, and we never miss the Christmas festival. Santa comes to take pictures with the kids, there's hot cocoa and cider, a horse drawn carriage, a band, and they even bring in a ton of real snow for the kids to play with! Last year Cayden was only a few months old, but this year he was all over the place dancing and playing. He had a blast! I'm so proud of him for not freaking out when he saw Santa. He was actually really excited!

That's all for now! We have lots of more fun activities planned for this week and I can't wait to share them with you all next Monday! What are you all doing to get into the holiday spirit? Hopefully this Christmas season is as magical for you as it has been for us! XOXO

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar Days 1-4

I've been meaning to do an advent calendar for years now. I have this cheesy store-bought Christmas tree made out of felt that I use as a countdown and I can't stand it, but I can never find the time to make one myself. This year I thought would for sure be the year... I even found the perfect one on Pinterest that I wanted to replicate! Then I got caught up in handmade markets, wedding planning, and you know, raising a toddler, and once again I just didn't get around to it. I wasn't going to bother doing the advent calendar at all since I didn't have an amazing handmade one, but at the last minute (literally on December 1st) I decided what the heck, I'll use the cheesy felt Christmas tree and do it anyway.

My sister, who DID find the time to make an amazing handmade countdown (see hers here) was kind enough to send over her list, and with that, some of my own ideas, and the help of Pinterest I came up with 24 advent activities. I really wanted activities that we could do as a family to get us excited for Christmas although some are more for Cayden and some for Mando. I'm going to share our activities here once a week through my Instagram pictures but  just to warn you, the camera on my iPhone is scratched (I have to wait until Dec. 7th to upgrade to the 4s, boo!) so you'll have to forgive the quality of my pictures until I get a new one!

Day one: Shop for Christmas decorations. We didn't need all that much this year, but we hit up Target anyway to see what we could find! We each picked out a new Christmas ornament, some stocking hangers, a candle, a poinsettia, and a new snowman sign for the front door! You can also see my cheesy Christmas tree countdown in this picture!

Day two: Date night. I wanted to reserve one night for Mando and I to do something alone so date night was born! We were supposed to go Friday, but my mom (who was going to watch Cayden) didn't get home until 11pm so we re-scheduled for Saturday. We went back and forth on what to do and in the end we decided to go to the movies. We are probably the most boring couple on the planet... we even saw a kids movie, haha! But it was nice to get out and spend some time together, and definitely needed!

Day three: Make a Christmas craft. Since day two was all about Mando, day three was all about Cayden! We busted out the fingerpaints to make a Christmas tree craft. I gotta be honest, Cayden was interested for about 30 seconds before running off, but he still gets excited whenever he sees the finished project hanging on our fridge! Hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

Day four: Have a special Christmas breakfast. Sunday morning I made some red and green pancakes for breakfast and cut them into Santa and Christmas tree shapes. It wasn't anything fancy, just a fun silly way to get into the holiday spirit! I love me some pancakes, yummy!

Anyone else doing an advent calendar this year? They are so fun! I'll be back next Monday to share days 5-11! XOXO

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Favorites: Peppermint Treats!

Happy December everyone! Holiday season is upon us, and just like apples are for September and pumpkins are for October/November, December is all about peppermint! I'm normally not a mint lover, but I won't say no to the magical combination of spicy peppermint and sweet chocolate! This time of the year is when I bake the most, so I've been hoarding some of my favorite chocolate/peppermint treats on my Pinterest board to share with you! And don't forget, some of these would make lovely last minute Christmas/hostess gifts!

If the peppermint mocha from Starbucks is your go-to holiday drink, you might want to whip up a batch of these peppermint mocha cupcakes from Bakers Royale immediately. Peppermint extract and Starbucks via instant coffee are the delicious base for this cupcake and it's all topped off with some peppermint infused buttercream. YUM!

If coffee isn't your thing, how about trying these delicious chocolate cupcakes with a sweet peppermint cream cheese icing from Glorious Treats?  She'll also tell you how to do that candy cane stripe effect for the frosting! Fun!

Here's something to make with all of your leftover candy canes... Chocolate peppermint cookies from My Baking Addiction! There are crushed candy canes inside the cookies and then they are dipped in melted chocolate and embellished with even more crushed candy canes for double the peppermint goodness! It's almost like peppermint bark in cookie form!

If you're a chocolate lover like me, you may appreciate these double chocolate peppermint crunch cookies from Sweet Pea's Kitchen. With dark chocolate, espresso powder, and peppermint extract, these cookies are sure to satisfy any Christmas craving!

Christmas isn't Christmas without a hot drink to cozy up with! Martha Stewart doesn't disappoint with her recipe for peppermint hot chocolate. Throw some in a thermos and go look at Christmas lights for a festive night with the family!

For once Miss Paula Deen isn't talking about butter, ya'll! Instead she's bringing us a delicious recipe for peppermint chocolate coffee. I don't know about you, but this is something I would definitely get out of bed for! She mixes a pot of freshly brewed coffee with chocolate and peppermint syrup and tops it off with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Can you say YUMMY!

I hope you all enjoy at least one of these fabulous concoctions this Christmas! We are busy over here with our 24 days of advent calendar activities (more about that later) and have a weekend packed full of winter fun! Have a great weekend everyone! XOXO