Long time no see

I'm kind of at a loss for words right now.  How do I jump back into blogging after almost three months of being absent?

Apparently like this...

I pre-ordered my new Hannah Swensen mystery, Devil's Food Cake Murder, back in January.  There are always so many good recipes in these books!  The stories may be a little predictable and lack-luster, but I usually feel like I'm visiting old friends when I read these books.

The first recipe I had to try was Strawberry Shortbread Cookie Bars.  Doesn't that just sound amazing?

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies Bars

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar (don’t sift unless it's got big lumps)
  • 1 ½ cups salted butter, softened
  • 1 can (21 ounces) strawberry pie filling (I used Comstock)

First Step
  1. Mix the flour and the powdered sugar together in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Cut in the softened butter with a two knives or a pastry cutter until the resulting mixture resembles bread crumbs or coarse corn meal.  (I did this in a food processor using cold butter cut into chunks layered between the powdered sugar and flour mixture.)
  3. Spread HALF of this mixture into a greased (or sprayed nonstick cooking spray) 9-inch by 13-inch pan
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn golden brown.
  5. Remove the pan to a wire rack or a cold burner on the stove, but DON’T TURN OFF THE OVEN!
  6. Let the crust cool for 5 minutes.
Second Step
  1. Spread the pie filling over the top of the crust you just baked.
  2. Sprinkle the crust with the other half of the crust mixture you saved. Try to do this as evenly as possible. Don't worry about little gaps in the topping. It will spread out and fill in a bit as it bakes.
  3. Gently press the top crust down with the flat blade of a metal spatula.
  4. Bake the cookie bars at 350 degrees F. for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden
  5. Turn off the oven and remove the pan to a wire rack or a cold burner to cool completely.
  6. When the bars are completely cool, cover the pan with foil and refrigerate them until you're ready to cut them. (Chilling them makes them easier to cut.)
  7. When you're ready to serve them, cut the Strawberry Shortbread Bar Cookies into brownie-sized pieces, arrange them on a pretty platter, and if you like, sprinkle the top with extra powdered sugar.
These were pretty darn tasty.  I had a piece after they cooled for a couple hours last night, and to be honest, I wasn't that thrilled.  However, after they chilled in the refrigerator, they were amazing!  The strawberry filling tastes so much better chilled.  I'm actually kind of sad that I like them so much better because I will probably finish off the entire pan myself.  Ryan isn't a huge fan of shortbread, so I doubt he'll be having any of these lovelies.

I Heart Pyrex

Just popping in quickly to share a give-a-way that Pyrex is doing.

Click on over to Pyrex to request a free "I Love Pyrex" potholder!  They're only giving out 120,000, so act quickly!

I don't know about you, but I love my Pyrex cookware and bakeware!

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for the link to this offer.  :)

Shopping List

I hope the new year is treating you all well!

We had a great time with our friends and family over the last few weeks.  The holidays are interesting to me.  You can't wait for them to get here, then they go by so quickly.  And even though you look forward to them each year, you're happy they're over with.

I was talking about this with a client today.  I mentioned how I just feel differently about Christmas as I get older and how the magic will probably (hopefully) come back if or when we have kids.  He agreed.  He thinks it's a circular thing.  As a kid, you can't wait for Christmas, and as a young adult, you lose a little of it's magic.  When you have kids, the magic comes back.  But when they're grown up, you tend to lose it again.  Then it starts all over when you're a grandparent!

At least I have something to look forward to!  Kind of like Christmas...

Speaking of Christmas, I purchased myself a little after-Christmas present yesterday.  An app for my iPod!  Normally, I only download the free ones, but I couldn't help myself this time.

It's a Shopping List (Grocery List) by hensoft.

I spent about two hours last night playing with it and making my shopping lists and sorting coupons for this weekend.  Oh yeah, I had fun.  :)

Here's a sample from my Walgreen's list:

You can make a list for each store you have to visit.  You can include the price per item, how many you need to buy, and sort them all into categories.  You can even check off each item as you put it in your basket.  It even totals your list for you and adds your local sales tax if you want.

This type-A girl is in heaven.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

♪ ♫ ...twelve Precious Moments ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ eleven favorite carols ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ ten hanging candles ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ nine door knob hangers ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ eight dozen pretzels ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ seven Christmas movies ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ six wish list items ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ four clear glass bulbs ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ three quick breads ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ two craft projects ♫ ♪

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

I thought it was fitting for the final 12 Days of Christmas post to be my Nativity scene considering Christmas is really about Jesus.  And it's better to post late than post never, right?

This set was my mother's. She used to leave it up all year long, and I've always admired it. When I got married, she gave it to me. I told you she was the best.
I do apologize for the delay in posting this last addition to the 12 Days of Christmas posts.  Life sort of got in the way, which I'm sure you can relate to...especially around Christmas!

And yes, I realize there are more than twelve figurines in my nativity set.   I'm only counting the animate objects, not the houses and palm tree.  I had to make it fit the song, okay??  :)

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

♪ ♫ ...eleven favorite carols ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ ten hanging candles ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ nine door knob hangers ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ eight dozen pretzels ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ seven Christmas movies ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ six wish list items ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ four clear glass bulbs ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ three quick breads ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ two craft projects ♫ ♪

These are going to be just as good as my favorite Christmas movies.  I can hear the groans now...  And for that, I'm not even going to try and explain my reason for loving these songs.  The list is mine, not yours.  :)

11.  "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day" by Clay Aiken

10.  "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync

9.  "Grown-Up Christmas List" by Michael BublĂ©

8.  "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Zooey Deschanel and Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrel)

7.  "Skating" by Vince Guaraldi Trio

6.  "Someday at Christmas" by Stevie Wonder

5.  "The Nutcraker Suite" by Brian Setzer

4.  "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings"
by Barenaked Ladies Feat. Sarah McLachlin

3.  "Once Upon a Christmas" by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers

2.  "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" by Amy Grant

1.  "Mary, Did You Know?" by Kathy Mattea

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

♪ ♫ ...ten hanging candles ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ nine door knob hangers ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ eight dozen pretzels ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ seven Christmas movies ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ six wish list items ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ four clear glass bulbs ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ three quick breads ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ two craft projects ♫ ♪

This is my beautiful mother dancing at my wedding.

This is my absolute favorite picture of her ever.  It shows her personality to a T.
My mother loves giving people presents and used to make these wonderful Christmas ornaments... 

...out of earthenware cookie molds...

I remember giving them to some of my friends' parents and most, if not all, of the teachers and administrators at my small private school one year for Christmas.  My mom said she made about 60 of them over the Thanksgiving weekend.  And then she had a migraine from you-know-where because of all the potent fragrance.

My mom is the best.

I asked her if she would help me make some this year to pass out as presents.  She drove all the way to my house (about an hour from her house) to help me make them.  Have I mentioned that my mom is the best?

What you'll need for this project:
  • Earthenware cookie molds  (Ours are by Brown Bag Designs and Longaberger.  We've found that Terracotta molds do not work as well.)
  • About two wax tarts per cookie mold  (I'm sure any kind will do.  We have only ever used Yankee Candle tarts.)
  • A double boiler - one that you don't mind not using for food after the project is complete.
  • Toothpicks/coffee stirrers
  • Thread/string/thin ribbon
In a double boiler, melt two tarts.  Or three-four if you're going to make multiple candles out of the same scent.

Once melted, pour into a cookie mold(s) at room temperature.

Once you notice the edges start to set-up (the color will lighten around the edges), stick a toothpick or coffee stirrer where you'd like to place the hole to hang the ornament from.

Please forgive the Halloween tablecloth we used to protect my island from candle wax.

We've used toothpicks in the past, but you're very limited to the thickness of string you can pull through the finished project.  This year we used a round coffee stirrer on about half of the ornaments we made.  This allowed us to use thin ribbon as our hangers instead of string.

After you've inserted your toothpick/hole making device, place the cookie mold in the freezer for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your mold.

You'll know when your ornament is ready to come out of the freezer because the edges will look like this:

The ornament will also pop right out of the mold without having to tap or pry it out.

After you've taken the ornament out of the mold, gently twist your hole making device until it pops all the way through the wax. 

We let our candles sit for a bit on a wire baking rack before pulling the string or ribbon through the hole and wrapping them up. 

Here's a (poor quality) photo of ours wrapped and ready to go:

And here are some on the tree.  I just love how the heat of the bulbs fills the room with the scent of the candle.  My mom has had some for over 10 years that still smell great!

Oh, and don't worry if you mess one up.  The great thing about wax is that you can just re-melt it and try again!

*The wedding photo of my mom dancing is courtesy of the wonderfully talented Nicole Blair of Nicole Ladonne Photography.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

♪ ♫ ...nine door knob hangers ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ eight dozen pretzels ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ seven Christmas movies ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ six wish list items ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ four clear glass bulbs ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ three quick breads ♫ ♪
♪ ♫ two craft projects ♫ ♪

Door knob hangers?  Yeah, I don't know what to call them either.

When Ryan and I were married two summers ago, I tried to think of everything.  I'm a super detail oriented person, and I didn't want to leave out any details.  AND I wanted to make everything special.  This included the pew decorations for the church.

I know a lot of people use pew bows and a lot of people don't use anything at all.  I knew I didn't want bows.  I wanted something different and something that I could use again. 

Our wedding had a underlying theme of "Sophisticated Polka Dots" (whatever that means), so I decided to use pomanders for the pew decorations.  Our wedding colors were black and white with small touches of red.  The only red in the entire wedding were my bouquet flowers and Ryan's boutonniere. 

I lied.  The sashes for our chairs were red.  Everyone else had white. 

There was a little red on the place cards and the M&Ms in our favors were red. That's it. I promise.

I didn't want anything else red.  Once I figured out what I wanted to do, I was on a mission to find white pomanders.  As luck would have it, I couldn't find any.  I did, however, find some great red pomanders at Jo Ann Fabrics for super cheap after Valentine's Day.  They were perfect to line the aisle, and I actually loved that they were red instead of white.  It seemed to tie in the red of our flowers.  I had to change the ribbon to black, but that was a small price to pay for these beauties.

 Here they are in action:

We were even able to immediately reuse them at the reception.  Here they are on the high-top bar tables:

But what to do with them after the wedding?  I knew I wanted to keep them.  I even had other brides ask me if I planned on selling them.  Sorry.  Not for sale.

Then I came up with this idea:

They make our doors look so pretty and Christmasy!  There's been a few casualties as the result of getting stuck in a closed door, but it's nothing a little hot glue can't fix.

I love that I found a way to reuse them.  I think about our wedding every time I see them.  And that makes me smile.

*All wedding photos are courtesy of the wonderfully talented Nicole Blair of Nicole Ladonne Photography.