Friday, December 13, 2013

Tips for Perfectly Wrapped Gifts

I jokingly refer to myself as a professional gift wrapper.  I used to work in a jewelry and gift store that was known for their free gift wrapping.  Not only was it free, but it was beautiful.  We put a lot of effort into making sure that every package looked just the way we wanted it to.  Customers would oooh and aaah over the gifts and ask if we had to take a class to learn to gift wrap that way.  And I LOVED it!!  I absolutely LOVE wrapping gifts! I have wrapped everything from small to large gifts; squares, cylinders, you name it; flat envelopes containing gift certificates to giant wall clocks!  Here is my method, along with photos, to help you!

The most important part of gift wrapping is making sure that you have the appropriate size paper.  The paper should wrap around the package with just a little bit of overlap.  The ends should fold up to just a hair over the halfway point of the package.  See the photo below:
Notice how when I fold up the paper on the end, it goes just past the "half way point" of the box.  This will ensure that the ends will fold nicely with out holes or loads of excess paper.
Now that you have the appropriate size paper, lets begin.  This package will take 3 pieces of tape the wrap. The only time I use more than 3 pieces of tape is if it is an odd shaped or very large gift.  Begin by wrapping your paper around the package.
I begin by wrapping it around the shortest distance.  Not sure if that wording makes sense or not, but you can see in the photo that I wrapped it around the short way. 

Next, when I get to the overlap, I fold over the edge that is going to be on the outside.  This helps re-enforce the edge so that it doesn't tear as easily while I'm wrapping, transporting etc.   Another key step to having a beautiful gift is pulling the paper tight!   DO NOT tape the paper to the package!  Hold it in place with one hand while you pull the other side tightly into place.  Then tape it down.
 Pulling the paper tight is very important.  Loose paper makes an ugly package.  Now we move on to the ends.
Start by folding in the side that has the seam.  Smooth it out, pull tight and then crease it.

While you hold the top part tightly in place, fold one side in.  
Next, fold the other side in.  Make sure that you are holding the first sides in place and pulling everything as tightly around the package as you can.

Now, fold over the edge and pull the bottom into place.  If you have everything nice and tight, you will need only one piece of tape on the last flap to hold it all in place.  Repeat on the other end.
Next, take your fingers and run them along all of the edges, sort of creasing the paper around the box.  It will make the edges clean and crisp looking, and if your paper is a little loose it will help hide that.  Done!  Your gift is wrapped, and you only used three pieces of tape!  Read on for instructions for adding ribbon!
I love finishing gifts with ribbon and bows.  Cut a section of ribbon that is big enough to go around your package both directions.  Place the approximate center of the ribbon across the top of the gift.  Wrap is around the edge and then flip the gift over.
Line the ribbon up with the paper seam so that it will cover the seam.  Decide if you want your ribbon to wrap around the center or to one side.  I like doing mine to one side.  This is a little difficult to explain, pull the ribbon tight and twist the ends around each other as shown above.
Pull the ribbon tight and wrap it around the edges.  Flip the gift back over so that it is top-side up.
Trim excess ribbon and tape into place.

Now you can get a little fancy of you want.  Cut a section of ribbon and form a shape like shown above.

Run the edge of your scissors along the ribbon "tails" to curl it.

Then, if you get one of these fancy do-dads, you can shred the curls.

Then it looks like this.  So pretty!

Tape your curls over the spot where the ribbon met up on the package.
Add a bow and arrange the ribbon curls around it.  Voila!  You are finished!
Final Thoughts:

  • I buy the purple Scotch tape that is a satin finish, gift wrap tape.  It looks nicer because you really can't see the tape.
  • Use large prints on large packages and small prints on small packages.  Never the other way around if possible.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gymnastics Subway Art

I was on Pinterest, trying to come up with an idea for a Christmas gift to give to my daughters' coaches.  I saw a subway art pin, and I thought, "I'm sure someone has made a gymnastics themed one."  So, I googled it, and I was right!  The problem was, they wanted $22 to buy it :(  Not in my budget.  I had to figure something else out!  So, I opened Publisher and went to work!  I'm pretty pleased with my result!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chopped Broccoli Coleslaw

With this recipe I was trying to copy cat the broccoli salad that I get from the Wal-Mart deli.  Let me be honest ... I like this recipe even better!
So, when I was making it I didn't measure anything, I was just going by what it looked like.  That makes it hard to write a recipe!  I can approximate amounts that I used, and it is very easy to adjust this recipe.

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli (fresh, not frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage (I used the pre-bagged mix)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cooked, chopped bacon
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup coleslaw dressing (I used Kraft, but you could also make the recipe below
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make It:

One step!!  Toss it all together and let it chill for an hour.  You can easily adjust amounts on this, especially the amount of dressing.  Some people like it lightly dressed, and others like it swimming in dressing.  I would suggest that you add it a little at a time while you toss the salad.

Make Your Own Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1 to 3 t sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
Whisk until smooth

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Probably my favorite dish at Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberry sauce.  I know that sounds crazy, but I love it!  Here's the thing though, it can not be from a can!  The difference in flavor between making it fresh and buying it canned is huge!  Whole berry cranberry sauce is SO easy to make!  Can you boil a pot of water and stir?  Then you can make this!

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 12oz package of whole cranberries
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 a cinnamon stick (if you don't have this, use about 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

Make It:

  1. First sort out your cranberries, checking for any bad ones, and wash them.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  For the orange, cut it in halve and squeeze the juice into the pan and then toss in the  rest of it.  The peel has so much flavor that you do not want to miss!
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  I like to place a splatter screen over my pot.  When the cranberries pop, they can splatter out.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes or so, until you are confident that all of the berries have popped.
  5. Allow sauce to cool completely then fish out the orange halves and cinnamon stick.
  6. Chill for a few hours before serving.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Dip

I went to a ladies retreat a while back, and each person brought snacks to share.  One woman, Jane, brought this amazing dip!  I can not describe how delicious this is, you HAVE to make this!

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, mostly drained
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pkg dry ranch dressing mix

Make It:

  1. One step!  Puree all ingredients together and chill in the fridge for a few hours to meld the flavors!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cheesy Potatoes

These potatoes are pretty much the yummiest side dish ever!  There are so many variations on this dish, and I have tried it many different ways.  The great thing about it is that it makes a great dish OR a base for lots of mix ins.  Ideas for mix ins:  chopped ham, bacon, sausage, ground beef or any combination or your favorite veggies.  Personally, I like it the way it is or with cubed ham mixed in.

Gather Your Ingredients

1lb frozen potatoes, thawed (you can used shredded or southern style)
8oz sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 small onion, diced
crushed cornflakes or Ritz to cover top
melted butter to drizzle on top
salt and pepper to taste

Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease your baking dish.
  2. Combine soup and sour cream thoroughly, and then fold in the potatoes, onion and cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Be cautious with salt though, the soup has a lot of salt in it already.
  3. Pour into baking dish and top with crushed cornflakes.  Drizzle with melted butter.
  4. Bake,covered, for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on your oven).  Take the foil off near the end of baking to help crisp up the topping.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Little Mama's Short-Cut Meatloaf

This is my super simple short-cut meatloaf.  I always prefer to make as much of my food from scratch as possible, but I also know that I do not always have time to do that.  Some nights, I need easy recipes that I can pull together to avoid eating out.  So, here is the meatloaf that I can actually get my picky eater to eat!

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 cup of your favorite instant stuffing mix (I like Stove-Top Cornbread)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T milk
  • 2 T ketchup

Make It:

  1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly, I like to use the "stir" speed on my stand mixer.
  2. Form into a loaf in a baking dish.  I use my glass Pyrex dish.
  3. Bake at 375 for approximately 40 minutes.  Because ovens vary, check your meatloaf prior to the 40 minute mark (maybe around 30) to make sure it doesn't over cook.  If it gets overdone ... it will be dry!
**Notes:  This recipe easily feeds my family of 4 (2 adults and 2 young girls).  You can very easily double the recipe, but you will likely need to bake it longer.  In this case, you may consider lowering the temperature depending on how your oven bakes.  Personally, I try to make my meatloafs a little less thick so that I do not end up with a raw center and a dark outside. **  Also, try sauteing some veggies to throw into the mix if you have time!  Try onions and bell peppers.**

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

LIttle Mama's Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

Eight years ago I joined a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) at my church.  I didn't know at the time the impact that decision would have on my life.  This group was a life saver for a young, first time mom like me!  I could go on all day about how much I love being a part of MOPS, but this post is about a recipe.  The reason I mentioned MOPS is because we start each meeting with brunch, and a HUGE part of our brunch is the breakfast casserole.  They. Are. Delicious.  There are a million different recipes for breakfast casseroles, but I wanted to make up my own.  Call me a control freak, but I like to make food my way :)  As always, use what you have and omit things that you don't like.  Don't like onion?  Leave it out.  Prefer ground turkey or bacon?  Use that instead.  Make it your own...the you like it.  Use my recipe as a blueprint.

Gather Your Ingredients

  • 1lb mild or hot ground pork sausage
  • 1lb frozen hash browns, thawed (use shredded or country style)
  • 12 eggs
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup diced sweet peppers (I used a mix of red, yellow, orange and green bell)
  • 3 good size cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • a good size dollop of sour cream (1 to 2 T)
  • 4 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flake
  • Lawry's seasoned salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking oil spray

Make It

  1. Brown pork sausage in skillet.  Begin adding veggies when the sausage is almost cooked through. (If you add too soon the liquid will cook out and your meat will boil instead of fry)  Peppers and onions first, followed by garlic and tomato and pepper flake last.
  2. Drain meat mixture and allow to cool.  While it is cooling, grease a 9x13 baking dish.
  3. Place hash browns in a large bowl and sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper to taste.  Add meat mixture and half of the cheese, mix thoroughly and dump it into the baking dish.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream and a sprinkle of seasoned salt and pepper.  (Cut down on dishes by using the same bowl you mixed the potatoes in)  Pour over the potato mixture.
  5. Top with the remaining cheese.  Spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking oil to prevent the cheese from sticking.  I like to let this sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  
  6. Bake at 350 for approximately 50 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, or until the cheese on top is bubbly and slightly brown.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Button Bracelet - 15 Minute Craft

You will find these all over Pinterest right now.  Just google "button bracelet" and you will get thousands of tutorials on how to make them.  I am the creative activities coordinator for my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group this year.  That means that I am in charge of planning crafts for our moms to do at various meetings.  I need simple and inexpensive crafts for our 50+ moms to creative in a 20 to 25 minute time frame.  This craft fit the bill perfectly!

The longest part of this craft was selecting my buttons.  Once I had them selected, it only took 10 to 15 minutes to make the bracelet.  I read several instructions for these and tried a couple, but none of them worked for what I needed.  They either involved sewing (which takes too long for my time slot), used materials that were not in my budget for this large of a group or just didn't work (ie. the bracelet ended up too small for my 6.5 inch wrist).  So, what do you do when that happens?  You make it up yourself!

I was able to use coupons at my local craft store and plan this craft for about $10, and after 50 women make a bracelet I will have lots of left overs.

Gather Your Materials

  • 24" of 1mm waxed cotton cording (in the jewelry making section)
  • 10 to 12 buttons of various sizes, shapes and colors
  • scissors

Make It

  1. Start by folding your cord in half.  Tie a knot to form a loop at the folded end, this will become your "hook".  Make sure that the loop is big enough to fit your button through.
  2. Before threading your buttons onto the cord, lay them out to make sure you like the pattern.  Then thread them on and slide them together to your liking.
  3. Once you have them all on, wrap it around your wrist to check the length.  If it is too long, take some buttons off and if it is too short, add some more buttons.
  4. Tie a square knot under the last button and trim the excess cord.
You are all done!  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Little Mama's Super Yummy Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad!  It's always been something that I just throw together, but I have had SO MANY people tell me how much they love it and ask for my recipe.  Well, here it is!

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 10oz shredded, cooked chicken
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 2 to 3 scallions, sliced (I like lots of onion so I use 3)
  • 10 to 12 red grapes, quartered and then cut the quarters in half
  • 2 to 3T mayonnaise, just enough to coat all of the ingredients
  • salt and pepper to taste

Make It:

  1. There's only one step ... combine ingredients and let chill for at least 30 minutes or longer to combine the flavors. 
Want to kick it up a notch and take the flavors to a whole new level?  Add a handful of chopped pecans ... you'll thank me!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Kitchen Tip - Fruit

Maybe some of you have already figured this one out, but in my mind ... I'm a genius! LOL   I have had one too many experiences with "gross things" lurking on the inside of my fresh fruit.  So, I now "prep" the fruit before consuming it.  With kids in the house, I also spend a lot of time slicing apples etc for them.  I have one of those apple slicers, but it doesn't work on all fruit.  One day I saw my under-utilized melon baller and voila!

  1. Step One ... slice said fruit in half.  If it has a hard pit in the middle, slice through as far as you can and then rotate the fruit until it is cut all of the way around.  Then grab each side and twist until it comes apart.

    2.  Step Two... Use the melon baller to scoop out seeds.
    3.  Step Three... Slice fruit, trim any ends (like where the stem is) and enjoy!

Pinterest Tested ... and Adjusted

I have clicked on every pin of this recipe that I can find, and I can not for the life of me find the original source!  It is for an Italian Seasoned Chicken, Potato and Veggie Bake.  Most people who have reposted it are calling it Italian Chicken.  I have found THIS link and THIS link ... neither of which seems to be the original.

Well, there are tons of people singing praises for this dish ... talking about how delicious it was!  I decided to try it out!   My review of the recipe (cooked as is):

  • The chicken was over cooked.  Could have been due to oven variances, so I would not count this as a strike against the recipe.  Everyone's oven cooks differently, it is important to know your oven and make adjustments to recipes when needed.  (For the purpose of a review, I wanted to cook it exactly as it was listed)
  • My BIG issue was this.  You know how when you cook chicken, the fat cooks out and makes this white ... I don't know how to describe it ... confetti, maybe.   Well, you guessed it ... chicken fat confetti through all of the veggies!  It was very off putting!
  • My BIG praise for this dish is that the Italian Seasoning combines beautifully in this dish and tastes great!  Well, that's not news ... I have been combining Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix with my foods for years.  
Bottom Line ... The flavor is good, the cooking method ... not so much.  Keep in mind that this is my personal opinion of the dish cooked as the original pin states.  Never fear, dear readers ... I have redeemed this recipe and made it new!  I want to post it on a separate post so that it is not hidden in this one.  As soon as it's posted, I will link the two posts!  Stay tuned!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fourth of July

Just wanted to share a few pictures from our July 4th celebration!  I used a fireworks photography tutorial from Marcink Designs to help me capture my images.  While I wasn't able to get my camera to do everything that she recommended, her instructions were very simple to follow and I am happy with my images.

And now for a few family fun pics :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Creamy Southwest Pasta Salad

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 1lb cooked pasta, rinsed and cooled (I used mini penne)
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 2 to 3 T southwest seasoning blend (or a packet of taco seasoning. I used Tastefully Simple Southwest seasoning)
  • 2 c. shredded, sharp cheddar
  • 1 c. corn kernals
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 c. sliced black olives
  • 3 to 4 scallions, sliced

Make It:

  1. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream and southwest seasoning ... set to the side to allow flavors to blend.
  2. Combine pasta, veggies and cheese in a large bowl.  Toss with mayo/sour cream blend until well coated.
  3. Let sit in refrigerator for a few hours.
**Other suggestions:  Adjust the amounts of veggies based on which ones you like and omit those that you do not like.  Grape tomato halves would be a yummy addition, I didn't have any on hand.  I also thought, after the fact, that a can of rinsed black beans, sliced banana peppers or jalepeno peppers would be yummy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Caterpillar Cake

I made this cake for my cousin's little boy.  They celebrated his first birthday in May!  I was originally going to do a Very Hungry Caterpillar inspired design, but was unable to realize that idea.  I need to work on writing, but I thought it turned out pretty cute :)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sweet Shots

Just a few of my recent "sweet shots".  I am trying to get lots of practice!  I am hoping to do a more in depth workshop some time later this year!  We'll have to see ...

Drinking My Greens - 3 Months

I have been drinking Greens by It Works for three months now.  My goal was to improve my health using food based supplement thus decreasing my dependence on pain medication for my back/neck injury.

I feel like I am definitely headed toward my goal!  After three months, I have decreased appetite and almost none of the daily bloating and yuckiness that I once felt.  My headaches are not completely gone, but they have decreased dramatically and the severity has too.  I do still have neck and back discomfort, but the horrible pain has faded into an annoying ache.  While I still get a bit fatigued here and there, in general I have more energy.  I have also noticed that I have more good moods and less cranky times.

I am super excited to see how I feel after a year!

I also tried a couple of the so-called "skinny wraps".  They. Are. Awesome!  I have crazy results from using just two of them!  Sorry folks, I'm not comfortable posting photos that are revealing enough to display my results.  If it's any indicator of their effectiveness ... I will tell you that I have more coming!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Apple-Cinnamon Pecan Pancakes

A variation on the Better Homes and Gardens Buttermilk Pancakes recipe.

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • 1 c AP Flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c chopped pecans
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 grated apple

Make It:

  1. Combine dry ingredients (first five) and make a well in the center.  In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients.  Stir together until just combined, do not over mix.
  2. Heat griddle to a medium high temperature setting and lightly coat with oil.
  3. Use about 1/4c to 1/2c batter per pancake.  When the pancakes get bubbly and set, flip them and cook for a few more minutes.
  4. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fish Fry!

Yes, I could have done a better job staging this photo.  My excuse ... my family was yelling at me for making them wait while I took photos!  LOL

My husband is a fisherman and our daughter loves to go fishing with him!  I'm not sure what she enjoys more, the activity or the end results ... a meal of freshly caught, fried fish!  We have tried multiple ways of cooking up their catch of the day, and this is by far my family's favorite!

Gather Your Ingredients:

  • Fish Fillets - We usually have about a pound or two, just depends on how they were biting that day!
  • 1/2 c AP flour
  • 1/2 c yellow corn meal
  • 1 T Lawry's seasoned salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 2 eggs - beaten
  • Oil for frying

Make It:

  1. Combine flour, corn meal, salt and sugar in a medium bowl or zip top baggie.  Beat eggs in a separate bowl.
  2. Heat about 1 inch of oil over medium to medium high heat, depending on how your stove cooks.  Fish cooks quickly, you do not want to burn the crust but you also do not want the crust to absorb the oil. It's a fine balance.
  3. Coat fish in the flour/corn meal mixture, then dip into the egg.  Next coat in the flour mixture again.  
  4. Fry for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until it reaches a nice golden brown.  What it closely and check a piece before you serve it.  Once you get your system down, you'll be able to tell when it's ready :)  Drain on paper towels.
****Adjust ingredient amounts based on how much fish you are frying.****

Family Fun!

Just thought that I would share some photos from our Memorial Weekend trip :)
Kiddie Rides at The Track Family Fun Park
Bumper Boats at The Track

Such a good big sister, riding the kiddie rides at Silver Dollar City!

Roller Coasters are their favorites!  At Silver Dollar City

Completely tuckered out!  She said to me, "Mommy, I want to sleep in my stroller."  So precious!