Thursday, December 30, 2010

Deal Alert: 75% off Christmas at Target

I was at Target early this morning and they were marking down all their Christmas merchandise 75% off! They had TONS of stuff left and I certainly didn't leave empty handed. Happy shopping!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Table and Centerpiece

I know Christmas is over, but I thought I would share pictures of our Christmas table. I used a deep green tablecloth with silver chargers and my mom's red dinner plates to add some Christmas color (yes, we used plastic cups. Not my first choice but at least they were red :). I kept the centerpiece simple:

A white cake plate standing on a white platter. Add sprigs of fresh greens ($6 for a bundle at United), red berries pulled off some picks from Hobby Lobby, a box of silver ornaments from Dollar Tree, and...

Some glass votive holders with a white votive nestled in some fake snow. A simple and thrifty, yet beautiful centerpiece.

There's nothing like a beautifully simple table, amazingly good food, and being surrounded by family to make Christmas special. I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Reader's Recipe Request: Chocolate Eclair Cake

One of my blog followers requested this recipe - and I aim to please my readers! Her husband stopped by the other night as I was serving this for dessert at our family dinner. Naturally we served him up a plate to share with his wife. I guess it is safe to say that they liked it :) ?

I have seen variations of this recipe many times over the years but this was the first time I had actually made it. My friend, Mikasa, shared this recipe at a recipe exchange and I had printed off almost the exact same recipe from a few years ago. If you are looking for a dessert that is simple, yet a big crowd pleaser, look no further.

Chocolate Eclair Cake

2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 cups milk
1 (16 ounce) package graham crackers
1 (16 ounce) container prepared chocolate frosting (I didn't use this. I made my own frosting. I'm kind of a store bought frosting snob :). See the bottom of the recipe for the instructions to make your own.)

In a medium bowl, combine both pudding mixes and the milk with a whisk. Let stand for a minute to begin thickening. Fold in the container of whipped topping. Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. You may have to break some of the squares to cover the whole pan. Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of crackers.

Soften the chocolate frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it easier to spread. Spread the frosting over the whole cake up to the edges of the pan. Cover, and chill at least 4 hours before serving. Giving enough time to chill is very important! It gives the graham crackers time to soften and be more "cake like."

If you want to make your own chocolate frosting, beat together 3 tablespoons hot water, 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Adding Some Christmas Pizzaz to the Picture Wall

Do you remember the picture wall I put together for my in-laws? You can see more details HERE. I decided it needed a little touch of Christmas so here it is looking a little more Christmasy:

It was so easy - I just wrapped a few of the picture frames with Christmas wrapping paper (I'm a polka-dots kinda girl) and added a bow. It doesn't take much wrapping paper and if you are like me, you shop the after Christmas sales and get wrapping paper cheap! So easy, fast, and thrifty and it gives just a little touch of Christmas cheer to this wall. I also tied another glittery reindeer ornament, like the one I used HERE from the Dollar Tree, onto the big 'D' with a red ribbon.

Add a sparkly "Merry" ornament and your finished...

Just the right touch of cheer and whimsy for the holidays!

A New Christmas Tradition

I love that my son is old enough this year to be really enjoying Christmas! He keeps saying things like, "This is the BEST Christmas!", or "It's Christmas time, Mom!", with all the enthusiasm his 3 year old body can express. My son also really enjoys reading stories. Every night as part of his nightly routine we read 2 stories together.

So we decided to start a new tradition this year, and follow in the footsteps of my favorite blogger Melissa. You can see Melissa's idea HERE. I went through our book collection and picked out all the Christmas/Winter books we owned. Then I wrapped them all with Christmas paper (no bow or ribbon, not the greatest wrap job, but it works.) and put them in a Christmas basket next to my son's rocking chair. Spencer gets to open one every night through Christmas Eve and we started about 2 weeks ago. HE LOVES IT! He gets SO excited to open a book every night for story time. And the nice thing about it: you can wrap just as many books as you have, and start that many nights before Christmas - don't think you have to have a ton of Christmas books to do this. Here are some of the books we've been reading:

My favorite? I Believe in Santa Claus. It is our first Christmas reading it and I love the message it shares. I also love Snowmen at Night and The Tale of Three Trees. And of course we will be reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. It was a tradition in my family growing up...

Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite Christmas story is. I would love to have some ideas for future Christmas book purchases... Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Dollar Tree Hurricanes make their Christmas debut...

The Dollar Tree hurricanes are back and dressed for a Christmas party!
They served as the centerpiece for the party my parents hosted at their home this past Friday night. I continue to be amazed at how versatile they are... add a few Christmas fillers and they simply glow!

My favorite fillers were the 69 cent fat, candy cane sticks from Dollar Tree and the glittery reindeer ornament (also from Dollar Tree) and 99 cent green glitter tree from Walgreen's nestled in some fake snow.
I love them.
Festive and beautiful, yet simple and cheap.
Have you made your Dollar Tree hurricanes yet?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Cranberry Punch

I thought I would share an easy punch recipe that I like to serve around the holidays. So easy it only has 3 ingredients. I served it at our Thanksgiving dinner in my pretty, white, ruffle serving bowl. It was beautiful if I do say so myself!

Holiday Cranberry Punch

1 - 2 liter bottle Diet 7-Up or Diet Sprite
1 - 64 oz. bottle cranberry juice
fresh cranberries

Mix together the 7-up and cranberry juice in a punch bowl. Float fresh cranberries on top. Serve over ice.

How easy is that? Just the right amount of sweetness. And it adds a festive touch with the red cranberries...I love it! Try it for your next holiday get-together and see how it disappears!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nativity Exhibit

I have been a little MIA lately when it comes to blogging. Want to know where I've been?

I have been straddling a ladder to decorate a 9ft. Christmas tree, arranging nativities, arranging more Christmas trees, collecting money for poinsettias, caroling with youth outside our church, walking around with special friends to see nativites, listening to heavenly music, etc. All things for the Stake Nativity Exhibit at church this past weekend. Here's my Christmas tree all lit up...

It was beautiful. More than I could have imagined. A feast for the eyes. Visually stunning. A spiritual boost. A perfect beginning to the Christmas season. I had the privilege of working with some amazingly talented women and men. There were over 400 nativities displayed with 75 countries represented. Here are just a few pics from the event, but you really had to see it for yourself to get the full impact...

(My friend Ashlee's nativity from Uganda. She is not a member of my church but was kind enough to loan it for this event. I thought it was so unique and different!)

I hope we can all remember the reason for the season...Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pumpkin Meets Bacon

If you have read my blog for all of 2 seconds you know that I am madly in love with pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies...I love everything about pumpkin desserts. Seriously. (Carrie, if you are reading this, please avert your eyes. I know how you dislike pumpkin. :)

My fellow blogger and food lover, Kimberly, sent me a link for a pumpkin recipe about 2 months ago. She suggested that I try it... Pumpkin Caramel Bars - with Bacon. Yep. Bacon. I must say there was a slight "ick" factor at the thought of my beloved pumpkin mingling with bacon. And the picture that was posted of the bars was not that enticing either...but I kept thinking about the recipe...and wondering. Could it be good? I like pumpkin. And I like bacon. But could I like them together?

So after 2 months of contemplation, I made them. Kimberly, you will be pleased to know that I loved them. I was completely surprised. They were moist, not too dense (When I looked at the batter before baking them I thought they would be too dense), the frosting was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G, and the bacon didn't add a bacony flavor - just a subtle saltiness. I made the recipe true to the original with one exception: I used half and half in the frosting instead of heavy cream because that is what I had on hand. Oh, and I didn't refrigerate the bars before eating them. I don't think I would like them as much if I refrigerated them. This is one recipe you should definitely try for yourself. I would love to get your feedback.

You can find the recipe here:

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Peter Pan/Pirate Birthday Party

For my son's 3rd birthday he requested a Peter Pan party. Well if you have tried throwing a Peter Pan party lately you know it is nearly impossible to find Peter Pan party stuff anywhere! Tinker Bell, yes. Peter Pan, no. I guess Peter Pan is not the "in" thing right now. So we combined Peter Pan with a Pirate party in honor of Captain Hook and his gang of pirates. Here's a look at some of the party details:

Spencer requested strawberry cake for his birthday cake. Strawberry cake is pink and in an effort to make it more boyish/pirateish I tinted it with red food coloring, baked it in pirate cupcake papers and garnished them with these cute toothpick signs that say "Pirate's Life For Me."

The candy buffet table. For those of you who know me really well you know I love me a good candy buffet! (To see some of my past candy buffets: and
You can click on the picture above to see things in better detail. I gave each candy a name based on pirate life or Peter Pan. I borrowed a decorative trunk from my parents' to serve as a treasure chest for the pirate loot and nestled in several glass jars and vases along with some Dollar Tree hurricanes to hold the candy.
Buried Treasure: Rolos
Pirate Loot: Fruit Cream Candies in pirate wrappers
"Second Star to the Right" Bursts: Starbursts (Remember? Neverland was the second star to the right.)
Cod Fish: Swedish Fish (Peter Pan calls Captain Hook a Cod Fish alot in the movie)
Cannonballs: Whoppers
Pixie Dust: Pixie Sticks
Don't be afraid to think outside the box (or inside the box as the case may be!) for different candy buffet ideas.

* Most of the pirate party goods I found at Dollar Tree or Hobby Lobby, two of my favorite stores!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Everything is more beautiful when wrapped in satin ribbon...Thanksgiving Centerpieces

I just wanted to give you a glimpse of some Thanksgiving centerpiece ideas I have been working on. A tip for you: Satin ribbon is a must have. It pulls everything together and makes it look more elegant. Here I have taken some fallish things like wheat, leaves, pumpkins, and a cornucopia and using a little satin ribbon, made it into a stunning and easy centerpiece.

This first centerpiece is made using a $5 vase from Walmart (you could easily use your Dollar Tree hurricanes to recreate this look!), a bundle of wheat from Hobby Lobby, and a big, fat, gorgeous, cranberry colored satin ribbon. Have I told you lately how much I love satin ribbon?

Light a candle in the middle and you have instant Thanksgiving beauty!

This is a cornucopia I bought a couple of years ago for 90% off at Hobby Lobby. I think I paid 79 cents. Add a few mini pumpkins, a bundle of wheat, and a satin ribbon...and you have an easy, thrifty, sophisticated centerpiece.

A candle holder from Michaels looks stylish with fall leaves surrounding it. And don't forget the satin ribbon!
So simple yet the impact is huge! Having a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece doesn't have to be expensive, stressful, or time consuming. Work with what you have and you might be surprised to see what you can come up with! I will show you our final Thanksgiving table later in the week...and I would love to hear what you are doing with your table so leave me a comment. No really. I want your comments. Thank you :) and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A cute and thrifty Thanksgiving message

You can print out your own version of this cute Thanksgiving sign HERE. And be sure to check out some of the other cute, free printables available at Craftily Ever After too. I printed this at Walgreens and popped it in a garage sale frame - so easy and adorable!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Feelings of Fall

I walked into my sister-in-law's house yesterday night and was immediately overcome with that fall feeling. Do you know what I am talking about? Cozy. Warm. Beautiful. Familiar. Peaceful. I am not sure I can capture that feeling in words, but it made me want to smile.

I was so impressed with the impact of walking into my sister-in-law's home. She had simple yet beautiful fall decorations. The soft glow of candlelight made the house more cozy (candlelight always seems to make things simply stunning). I was surrounded by the sounds of family togetherness. The smell of a home cooked meal permeated the air. But more importantly, it was a feeling that the Spirit was there. And it made me happy. If you are a part of my faith, you know what I am talking about.

So I thought I would share a little fall goodness courtesy of the Cluff family. Thanks for letting me share a part of your home, Erica! And if you are ever longing for that feeling, visit the Cluff's home...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Target Halloween 75% Off

An early morning run to Target yielded some Halloween goodies at 75% off! You know I can't resist Target, Halloween, or 75% off! They had several aisles still full of Halloween stuff so I recommend checking it out if you want to snag some good deals for next year.

Here is some of my loot:

A cute Halloween shirt for Spencer - $1.50
2 adorable throw pillows for $3.40 each
black fish net stockings (I wear these in the winter even when it's not Halloween!) for $1.25
black party plates, napkins, cups around 50 cents each (I like to use these for Tech football game food - go Red and Black!).

There were plenty of other good deals to find - look for things that don't always have to be used for Halloween... they had a bunch of costumes left and Halloween candy was marked 50%. I think a bag of fun size Twix may have found its way into my cart :).

This fun wig for $2.50 will be great to have for next year! Did you see my friend Elizabeth wearing a similar wig for our Halloween party (pictures can be found on my family blog)? I was excited to get this for our costume box. I've been working on getting a few things each Halloween for Jeremy and I to use for costumes.
Oh how I love me some Halloween clearance! Have you snagged any good deals at after Halloween sales?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Spooky to Spectacular

Here is my transformation from a Halloween mantel to a more fallish, Thanksgiving mantel:

Remember my 25 cent green garage sale vase (spray painted Heirloom White) that showcased my Halloween branches?

Here it is all prettied up with a pumpkin topiary on the mantel! I love it...

* sigh *
I love fall :)
I know it won't be long before we are decorating for Christmas, but I just wanted to prolong the fall goodness for a little longer.
And I did it using things I already had around the house.
Gotta love a beautiful change that didn't cost a dime!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What makes a great Halloween get-together?

Mummy Dogs

Candy Corn Cupcakes
(mmm...not my favorite cupcake ever. I made the frosting recomended on Our Best Bites and was not impressed. They still looked fun...)
White chocolate dipped pretzel rods with Halloween sprinkles

Nutter Butter Ghosts, courtesy of my sis-in-law, Shanna

A "cauldron" or cooler bubbling with homemade rootbeer...yum!

Eyeball (grapes) salad

2 snazzy grandparents and a pirate throwing gang signs :)

"It's the Great Pumpkin!" Charlie Brown

Happy Halloween!