Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On The Menu: Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Image Via Martha Stewart
Yeah, I know what you're all thinking, "No more food!"  I realize we're all in a food induced stupor still from Thanksgiving, but I had to share what I made for Thanksgiving dessert.  I made THIS triple chocolate cheesecake from Martha Stewart.

It was my first cheesecake and experience with a springform pan.  The process was a little more involved than I'm used to, but I got rave reviews.  And if I do say so myself, it turned out pretty darn good.  Be sure to eat SMALL slices, because this is one rich dessert.  Here's mine (as always, not as pretty as Martha's):

I didn't take pictures of the process because I was so busy trying to get everything right, I didn't want to take any focus away and ruin dessert.  I added the strawberries to cut through the richness of all that chocolate.  Next time, raspberries!  I didn't find any chocolate wafer cookies, so I substituted chocolate graham crackers for the crust.  It turned out fine.  I also made the filling with a hand mixer instead of a food processor.

I enjoy the two dogs waiting patiently for me to drop them a little morsel.  It was actually the strawberries they wanted most.  You can see the yummy crust in this picture.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Men's Gift Guide

Here is Part One of my FIRST ANNUAL GIFT GUIDE!  Are the men in your life hard to shop for?  They are in mine!  They never tell me what they want.  I think part of it is because the things they want are usually expensive (think TVs, Video Game Consoles, iPhones, etc.).  Well, I decided to pull all of my gift ideas for the gift guide from Etsy this year.  We should support homemade and small businesses. Plus, all of these gifts aren't usually things you can get at WalMart at 4am.  So, without further ado, some manly gifts...

Price Range: Up to $20

1. Balsam & Cedar Wood Scent Natural Soybean Candle - No frilly vanilla for these manly men!  Plus, these are vegan and eco-friendly.  Every dude needs a nice candle that doesn't inlcude the word "freesia" anywhere.  Plus, at only $5.50, this is a steal.  Offered by Pure Palette.

2. Dark Brown Retro Leather Cuff - It's hard to find "jewelry" that many men would wear. You can't really go wrong with a simple leather cuff.  Only $6!  Offered by GoodLife00.

3. Deer Design Felted Men's Soap - The wool around this soap acts as an exfoliator, which guys need but don't realize it.  Most of them don't want to buy the pink soap "poufs" with girly smelling bath gel.  Problem solved for $16.  Plus, these last much longer than a regular bar of soap.  Offered by Sofino.

4. 6 oz. Bicycle Design Flask - for the lush in your life.  Or those, like my hubby, who prefer their fine gins.  This particular flask will run you only $18.  Offered by WhimsyandInk.

5. Recycled Record Drink Coasters - These modern square coasters are made from old records.  Great for the man cave - don't let the beer cans ruin your nice wood bar!  Or your wife's coffee table.  These coasters will run you $20 for a set of four.  Offered by Retired Records.

Price Range: $25 - $50

1. Funny Mustache Wallet - Because it makes me laugh for only $25! Offered by MartyMay.

2. Darth Vader Wood Burned Art - Definitely more interesting than a movie poster, this is an affordable and unique piece of original art.  There are lots more movie related pieces in this shop from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter.  If your guy likes Star Wars (and really, who doesn't?), this should be perfect for only $35!  Offered by BaconFactory.

Price Range: $75 and Up

1. Hemp Laptop Sleeve - A stylish way to protect your laptop.  This one will run you $75 and is offered by PackandSmooch.  All-natural!

2. Taupe Infinity Scarf - Yes, you'll always see those guys wearing shorts during the winter, but I bet they're dying inside.  Guys need to be cozy and warm, too!  This hand knitted infinity scarf is $75 and is offered by SmittenKittenOrig.

3. Tweed Messenger Bag - for the Dapper Gentleman :).  This bag runs around $113.  Just don't let him wear it with a tweed jacket - that would be tweed overkill.  This bag is made from recycled suits. Offered by SewMuchStyle.

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 - Stay tuned for the Ladies' gift guide later this week!

Cyber Monday!

Welcome back!  I hope everyone had a lovely and relaxing Thanksgiving break.  I know I did, but of course it never feels long enough.  Was anyone crazy enough to get up at 3 am for any of the Black Friday deals?  Not me.  I'm a dedicated online shopper!  So, in honor of Cyber Monday, I've added a few more watercolors to the Etsy shop.  Get them while they're hot!  Original art makes a wonderful holiday gift and is so much more unique than an iPod :).  And AFFORDABLE original art is even harder to come by, so check out the new pieces.  You can click the Etsy button on my sidebar or CLICK HERE to view all my paintings for sale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

Just wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with lots of comfort food.  Hopefully you stay away from any crazy shopping madness and there are no trampeling deaths this year.

Here's a quick list of things I'm thankful for.  But mostly, I'm thankful that in this economy with so many people struggling, that my husband and I have a warm home that's not in foreclosure and steady jobs.  I know all that could change in a heartbeat, but I'm hopeful things will continue to get better for this country and the people who are truly suffering.  We're good here in America at pulling ourselves out of whatever mess we've landed in, and we can do it again!

And The Winner Is...

Janice is our lucky winner of the handmade yarn and felt wreath!  Congratulations!  Check back for more giveaways in the future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On The Menu: Ginger Snap Cookies, Minus the Snap

First of all, just a quick reminder that the yarn and felt wreath giveaway closes tonight at midnight, so get your entries in if you want to win.  I will be announcing the winner tomorrow!

Now, this ginger cookie recipe is one my grandmother has been making for years. If you don't like these cookies, and you're in our family, we'll just break you down until you do.  For example, my little sister only liked chocolate chip until we brainwashed her into liking these as well.  When my husband joined the family, he had to convert to loving these cookies, or be shunned.  These are not the traditional ginger snaps, in that they are not a crispy cookie (the "snap").  We like them soft and chewy!

1 C. Sugar + a small bowl of white sugar for rolling dough
3/4 C Shortening
1 Egg
1/4 C Molasses

2 C Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Ground Cloves
3/4 tsp Ground Ginger

Just a quick tip.  When baking, measure ingredients exactly.  Also, do not, I repeat, DO NOT substitute margarine for the shortening.  "But why?  Google says I can!" you may be tempted to say, but Google is wrong.  Shortening has no water content like margarine does.  I made the mistake of using margarine instead of shortening for this batch because our shortening in the cupboard expired three years ago. *hangs head in shame*  The water content in the margarine will make your dough too wet, which will be a sticky mess when you try and roll it onto balls and will make your cookies so flat, there might be holes in them.  Science is fun!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream together sugar and shortening with an electric mixer. Add egg and mix well.  Add molasses and mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together all the remaining dry ingredients.  Add to the wet mixture a little at a time until all the dough is incorporated.
4. Make cookie dough balls the size of small walnuts and roll them in the white sugar.  Be sure not to work the dough too much or they may not flatten out.  You don't want hard lumps of cookie when you're done.
5. Place about 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes.
6. Remove from oven. Let cookies sit on pan for a minute or two, then carefully remove to cooling racks.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Shutterfly Holiday Cards

So, you might have missed my earlier holiday card promotion.  Sadly, it is now over and I'm not taking any orders at this point, but NOT TO FEAR, because Shutterfly has some AMAZING holiday cards to choose from.  Over 800 designs to be exact (kind of puts my little 4 options to shame :)).  They're also running some great deals right now, so head on over to get your holiday cards before they expire!

Do you remember that Friends episode where Ross's girlfriend wants to do holiday cards and they've been dating for like, 2 weeks?  Well, we're the opposite.  Scott and I have been married for 4 years this December and together for 10 years.  We have NEVER mailed holiday cards.  I know, I'm hanging my head in shame.  So we decided this was the year to grow up and mail some holiday cheer!  Now my problem is I can't decide which ones to get.  You can vote if you want to help me pick.  Here are the ones from Shutterfly I'm considering:

Peppermint Pink

Retro Plaid

Swirling Ornaments

Chartreuse Christmas
 What do you think?  Also, just to let you know, if you're a blogger, you can get 50 FREE holiday cards from Shutterfly, so head on over and find out how you can get some great ones too!  If you're not a blogger, but still want some cards check all of theirs out today!  Here are some links for you:

• Holiday Cards
• Christmas Photo Cards
• Birthday Invites
• Calendars
• Personalized Mugs
• New Years Cards

A Christmas Tradition

I have been really loving all the sweet family traditions posted in the giveaway below.  They make me so excited for Christmas and to spend time with my family!  I thought I'd share one of ours with you all (If I can get the dang video thingy to work).  Every year with my paternal grandparents, we sing Christmas Carols and I always beg the men to sing the Lettermen's "I Believe."  They sang it at my wedding and it was beautiful, but unfortunately we didn't tape it.  This video I took at last year's Christmas gathering.  It cuts off before the end of the song, but you can get the idea.  Enjoy!

Watercolors Available in Etsy Shop

I have finally listed a couple of watercolors for sale in my Etsy Shop!  I put them below so you could see the two that are in there now, but there will be many more to come so keep your eyes open!  Both of these are 8" x 10" and sell for $35.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Happy Friday, everyone!  It's giveaway day!  I've been so excited to do this.  In the spirit of the holidays, I will be giving away ONE 10" Handmade yarn and felt wreath (pictured below).  Remember my DIY from a few days ago?  Well I got a little carried away and made more than one wreath...

So what do you need to do to enter to win this lovely prize?  It's easy! You can one of these things or all of these.  Each step = 1 entry!

1. Mandatory Entry - Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite Christmastime family tradition.
2. For an extra entry, "Follow" this blog and leave a comment telling me you did so.
3. For another extra enty, visit my etsy shop and "heart" my store and leave a comment letting me know you did so.
4. Blog or tweet about this giveaway for an extra entry and come back and leave a link in the comments.

So you can enter the giveaway up to four times to increase you chance of winning!  The contest begins now and will run through Tuesday, November 23, 2010.  I will announce the winner on Wednesday, November 24th.  The winner will be chosen using random.org. Good luck!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giveaway through Daffodil Mama

No, this isn't the giveaway I'm hosting tomorrow, but I DID want to let you know about a great opportunity to win a super cute headband through Daffodil Mama's Blog. Because, really, who doesn't like winning free stuff?  Click on the above link to enter the giveaway today!  Also you can visit The Pink Elephant Shop on Etsy to see all of their cute products.  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My First Giveaway!

Just a little FYI - I will be hosting my first giveaway this Friday, November 19th.  Be sure to check back to this blog to see what it is and to enter!  I'm SOOOO Excited!

DIY CRAFT: Yarn and Felt Christmas Wreath

This tutorial has been making the blog rounds lately, but as far as I can tell, the source of the original tutorial is over on Meg's Blog.  I've been looking for lots of easy crafts for the holidays, and this one fit the bill.  I remember reading about Camille's version over at High Heeled Foot in the Door and not believing her when she said it would take two hours to wrap the yarn around the wreath.  I was wrong.  In fact, it might have taken me even longer.  Anyways, you can read the full tutorials at either of those sites and see their versions of the wreath below:

It will hang on our front door, which is red, but I wanted to see the flowers a little better so I hung it on a white door as well for the photo. All you need is a straw wreath form, felt, yarn, scissors and glue (I used hot glue)
All I know is, it looks pretty cute on our dog, Indy.
This was such a cheap craft to make.  The felt sheets were 4 for $1, the straw wreath was $2, and the yarn was $5.  So, this craft cost a whopping total of $8.  Of course I managed to get out of Hobby Lobby for quite a bit more than that because I have an addiction.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's Right...


Sorry for the all caps, but I needed to brag for just a moment. Now I'm so excited to decorate the house and show you all!  I've got a couple of cute DIY Christmas Crafts coming up as well.

My office started doing their holiday decorations today, so I don't feel too early.  Now I finally have an excuse to bust out the Christmas albums (which I'm sure I'll be sick of by the time Christmas actually rolls around).  My favorite albums are Josh Groban's Noel, Michael Buble's Let it Snow, Straight No Chaser's Holiday Spirits, anything by the King's Singers, and my absolute number one is Judy Garland's Original "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."  What are some of your favorite Holiday songs?

That's right, puppies, Christmas is just around the corner!  Lots of car rides for you!

On The Menu: Italian Meatloaf

I've been waiting to blog this recipe for Italian Meatloaf forever.  It's something I make once at least every other week.  It's one of my husband's favorite meals, and it's easy and filling.  This recipe is something I've been eating since as far back as I can remember.  My parents made it and my grandparents made it, and I'm sure OUR future kids will eat it.  So here it goes!

Italian Meatloaf Ingredients for Two:

1 lb ground hamburger
1/2 C Italian breadcrumbs
1 egg
1-2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 small Can Tomato Sauce
day old bread
About 1 C Mozarella cheese

Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees F
Line a baking dish with old bread. This way, you won't have to pour out the grease during the middle of cooking.  The bread will soak it up and you can just toss the bread when done.
Mix together ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, seasoning, and Two TABLESPOONS of the tomato sauce.  Work with your hands to get all ingredients evenly distributed and form into a ball.
Flatten the ball into an oval shape onto a piece of aluminum foil.  Trust me, you don't want to pry meatloaf off your countertops.  Sprinkle the cheese in the middle like above.  You want just enough cheese so that you can form a loaf without having it come out everywhere.
Roll into a loaf and place seam-side down on top of the bread in the pan.  Make sure there are no holes for the cheese to escape.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, remove loaf and pour over tomato sauce.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Total cook time should be 1 HOUR.
After one hour cook time with tomato sauce the last 15 minutes.  You can see the bread is basically really dark toast.  You can remove the bread at this point.
Melty cheese - the middle piece is the best!
I don't get any points for plating, but this goes well with garlic bread or some mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Review of Pashmina Shawl, Ivory

Originally submitted at Cost Plus World Market

Our ultra soft Pashmina Shawls in an assortment of stylish hues, are perfect accents for day or evening and are generously sized to do double duty as a scarf or shawl. Subtle twill weave offers a gentle touch of texture and showcases the timeless, high-quality craftsmanship. Available in multiple c...

So I just bought this scarf at WOLRD MARKET over the weekend when I was home in Wichtia.  I could have spent all day there, but I would probably get in trouble. I love the extra long length of this scarf. I hate when you loop a scarf and it's too short, and this one is perfect. I wear a scarf every day during the fall and winter because it dresses up any outfit. I also love how soft this one is. I'm getting one in every color!

On The Menu *Thanksgiving Edition* : Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Image Via Martha Stewart
So, mine didn't turn out as pretty as the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies featured on Martha Stewart's Website.  You can find the link to the recipe (and watch the video!) HERE.  I wanted to do a dessert for our early Thanksgiving meal that wasn't traditional, but was still very much in the theme of Thanksgiving desserts.  Enter the whoopie pie.  I'm not sure why, but my cream cheese filling never really firmed up until after it sat in the fridge for about 4 hours.  Even then, when we went to eat them, the filling was really runny and got all over the place.  It was definitely an "eat with a fork" kind of dessert.  The taste, I will say, was really good and rich.  I also couldn't get my pies to be perfectly round like above.  My brother said mine looked like "crazy hamburgers" but at least they tasted good.  And that's what's important, right?!

Crazy Hamburgers.  We had a lot of extra filling, so I just piped it over the top.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Etsy Shop Now Open

I just wanted to let you all know, my Etsy Shop, Homemade Heartland, is now up and running. It will be a place you can buy some of my original oil painting, watercolors, and other random art pieces.  Be awesome and buy your loved ones original oil paintings for the holidays!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Morning Car Rides

First of all: HAPPY VETERAN'S DAY to all of our active and former military members (and my brother of course!).  We're so proud of you all and so thankful you do what you do to protect your home as well as others. 

Second of all: I am not a morning person.  I generally don't like to be talked to until around 9 am.  When I get up in the mornings I blindly stumble into door jambs, trip over dog toys, etc.  Plus, I'm not a huge coffee drinker (green tea for me!), so it takes me a while to get going.  The drive to work can be a great time to really wake up to some great tunes.  Plus, it would be helpful to be awake on the road for other reasons as well... So, with that in mind, here are some great fast-paced songs for your morning commute.  It will make the drive go by fast, I promise!

1. "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by The Darkness. Super cheesy, Freddy Mercury knock-off, but I love it.
2. "I Want to Love you Madly" by Cake.  Just a fun sing a long.
3. "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi.  Somehow seems perfect for traffic.  Plus you can't go wrong with Bon Jovi.
4. "Somebody to Love" & "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen.  Queen is the best.
5. "Anything, Anything" by The Lucky Boys Confusion.

I hope you enjoy these tracks to get you going in the mornings!  What do you like to listen to in the car?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kryie Foundation Silent Art Auction


I just wanted to take this moment to let you know about an event going on this Friday in the Kansas City Crossroads Art District.  It's the Metamorphosis 2010 Art&Gift Benefit for the Kyrie Foundation - which raises money for pediatric brain cancer.  The event is a silent auction with lots of art donated by wonderful local artists (myself included).  The ticket includes admission to the silent auction, a live performance by Lilith Fair star Sara Swenson, a chance to win tickets to the GRAMMYS, and lots of yummy food from Whole Foods, 3 Women and an Oven (their cakes are amazing), Panera, Cabot Creamery, and Much More!

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.  That may seem a little steep especially around the holidays, but it's for a good cause.  Instead of spending the money eating out this Friday, help out the Kyrie Foundation and have a great time doing it!  For more information about the event and to buy tickets, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DIY CRAFT: Children's Memory Game

So in my quest to make as many Christmas gifts by hand this year as possible, I decided to try to do something cute for my niece and nephew (ages 2 and almost 5).  They don't read this blog, so I'm not worried about spoiling the surprise :).  I decided to make a cute little memory game for each of theme.  The theme for the 2 year old is family faces and will have 8 pairs (16 cards), and the theme for the 5 year old is cowboy/Kansas and will have 16 pairs (32 cards).  You will need:

Scrapbook Paper or Wrapping Paper
Photos or Computer Images printed and cropped to size
Ruler and exacto knife
Rubber Cement

Scrapbook paper comes in 12" square sheets.  I wanted the first game to be fairly easy with only 8 pairs.  I divided the 12" square sheet into 16 individual 4" squares.  Math is fun.  Before I did any cutting, I covered the entire back side of the scrapbook paper with rubber cement and set aside.  I then covered a large portion of black foamcore with rubber cement.  When the pieces were dry, I mounted them together and THEN made all my squares. A corked back ruler and exacto knife makes the cuts clean.  Then I mounted all my images on the opposite sides of the squares using the same dry-mount rubber cement technique.  Overall a pretty simple game.  My husband and I tested it out.  I won...

Now I just need to think of a cute way to package these!

Monday, November 8, 2010

DIY CRAFT: Christmas Packaging

I was inspired for this project by Autumn over at Design Dump.  She's a super talented interior designer and her house always looks amazing for every holiday (check out her Halloween decor this year).  She puts me to shame.  But I'm trying to be better this year by doing my own packaging for Christmas Gifts.  All you need are the plain cardboard boxes from Hobby Lobby, paint, glue, scrapbook paper or wrapping paper, ribbon and any other decorative things you might want on your boxes.  I bought a bunch of Christmas picks at the HL which subsequently kept stabbing me through the bag as I was bringing them home.  But I digress...

My Hobby Lobby stash.  I managed to get out for under $100, but not by much.

One of the boxes after I painted it a light sage green.  I love that craft paint dries so fast!

I covered the top of the box with scrapbook paper.  I prefer to use rubber cement.  The trick to using rubber cement is to apply it to both surfaces separately and LET IT DRY before putting the two pieces together.  I just coated the entire piece of scrapbook paper with rubber cement and the entire top of the box and when the two pieces were dry, I pressed them together and trimmed the excess with an exacto knife.

Add a fun Christmas pick or other decoration such as ribbon with hot glue.  The good thing about these boxes is that you can reuse them year after year - no wrapping required!  Here's all six that I've done so far but I'd like to do more!

Closeup of some of the pretties.

This box was my favorite.  It's painted copper.