Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Easy Holiday Entertaining Recipes

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
(mobile upload on set with Walmart)

In August, I got the opportunity to head to Bentonville to shoot some segments on holiday entertaining with Walmart. One of the best parts of my job is getting to do filming like this. I will admit,  I actually had so much fun doing my video that I asked if they would let me shoot another video while I was there.

I hope you love these ideas for easy holiday entertaining as much as I do. I am sharing with you an easy barbecue ranch dip that you can create with a chicken bite platter that you can pick up over in the deli, as well as a simple smoked salmon dip that can be served on top of a toasted baguette. These easy appetizers will be my dishes to share at our family gatherings and fun holiday potluck dinners we have coming up, and I hope they can be easy dishes to try in your house too.

How to Make a Monogrammed Coffee Filter Wreath

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

When my book proposal went out in the literary world, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into two bedrooms that were both in need of a serious overhaul, to prevent me from thinking about the big decisions being made. All of that nervous energy turned into fuel into creating my daughter and son’s room into what I had envisioned their new big kid spaces to be.

Over the next few weeks, I wanted to showcase some of the crafts that I created and how I decorated their bedrooms on a budget. The first tutorial I wanted to share was for this easy monogrammed coffee filter wreath for my daughter’s wall.  I am not the first to create a coffee filter wreath and I know I won’t be the last. I read a billion tutorials for making these and then decided to do it my own way with a few tips from each tutorial. When you create yours, I am sure you will do the same on your wreath to create a masterpiece for your home.

These are a beautiful accent to decorate any room in your house. These would also make fantastic holiday gifts for your friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, or teachers and cost about $8-10 in supplies.

Let’s get started. You need a wreath or wreath form of your your choice (I found this flat Styrofoam wreath at Hobby Lobby), a package of 200 coffee filters, hot glue gun, glue sticks (you will need about six for this project), a screwdriver, a lightweight monogram letter of your choice, and a can of spray paint of your choice.

Fold your coffee filter in half as shown here.

Fold your coffee filter in half again as shown here.

On the tip of this you will apply your hot glue and then fold the tip a bit to apply it to the wreath. Secure the glued end to the wreath, flattening it a bit and adjusting as needed.

The top of your filters will look like this. That screwdriver can go into the center to help push the filter into the wreath and save your hands from getting burned. You can risk it and just burn those hands up, but I found the tip of the screwdriver really works to help prevent burns as you add those filters in. I wish I could take pictures of myself doing this as I am doing it, but, unfortunately, I only have two hands and no one to work the camera for me.

Start filling the wreath in with the filters all over. Anywhere that you see that wreath form sticking out should be covered with your filters. You can bend and twist them into the spots, securing these with hot glue. Catch up on all of your favorite shows since you need to do this approximately 150 times.

Please don’t judge me on my favorite show. A girl needs an escape when doing her billions of loads of laundry and other mundane tasks around the house. It makes me feel hip and chic, unlike the 33 year-old woman sitting on her carpet making a coffee filter wreath.

Keep on going around and around and around. Don’t worry if it isn’t even, just do the best you can.  You can trim it all up in the end and no one will ever know.

Once it is all filled in on top, we need to cover the sides of the wreath so we don’t see any of the wreath form peeking out. Fold the coffee filters as I showed you above and this time we will lay them flat against the side to cover the wreath.

Just keep overlapping this final layer to cover up the wreath form as I have pictured here.  This wreath will be very full and the little spots that aren’t covered won’t be seen, so don’t worry!

Once you flip it over, you will see that the back layer is a tad longer than the other layers. Trim those up with a pair of sharp scissors and cut them down so they fit in with the other layers on your wreath.

Once the wreath is all trimmed up, you can mount a monogrammed letter of your choice. I spray painted mine green to match my daughter’s room. I found this little letter at Michael’s back by the wooden craft supplies. This letter was just, $1.99. The key to this is to find one that is lightweight so it stays on easily. Hot glue the back of the letter and secure it in place on your wreath. You can then hang your wreath with ribbon or just hang it on a nail, as I did here, to keep things sweet and simple.

This wall in her room is making me very, very happy right now. It is the first thing I see when I walk up the steps and was so inexpensive to do.  I framed three of my favorite pictures of her, all printed in black-and-white.

The, “Will We have Rainbows Day After Day?,” printable was found for free printing on Making It Lovely.  I found a frame for this at Michael’s for half off and printed it on my printer at home.  It is so sweet and fits perfectly with her personality and color scheme.

I could not be happier with how this wreath turned out and definitely recommend making one or two for yourself or someone you love.

Don’t toss the rest of your coffee filters out after making this wreath. Next week I will show you how I made this bouquet of coffee filter flowers to adorn a nightstand. No one will believe these are made from this household item and it can be a fun craft to decorate any table in your home.

What craft projects have you been working on? Feel free to share any links to what you are working on! Access all of our craft fun on MomAdvice by visiting our Craft Section. Happy crafting, friends!

Pin It

Happy Halloween from the Clark Family

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween to your family from ours!  I wanted to share with you a few of the pictures I took of the kids in their Halloween costumes. This year the requests were to be a Ninja and to be Rapunzel.

Last year’s fairy costume that we picked up from Cracker Barrel magically transformed into the perfect Rapunzel dress. After buying a terrible, terrible wig to go with it from the local costume shop, I found myself at the Disney store to pick up the authentic Rapunzel hair that she could play dress-up with all year long. She was so excited when she saw it and was willing to compromise on not having the official Rapunzel dress as long as she could wear a pink sleeved shirt underneath to make it look like the real Rapunzel.

The Ninja outfit I picked up at Walmart for  $12. Of course the only way I could get my son to agree to do pictures with his sister were in full Ninja attack mode.  After we were done with the photos, I couldn’t stop laughing and looking at them. I think my daughter has her mama’s flair for the dramatics. I wonder if I will be watching her on the stage like my parents watched me.

Not to be outdone by our children, my husband and I schemed and dreamed of costumes for months this year.  I don’t mean to gush, but it is moments like this when I look at my husband and think, “How did I get this lucky?” I have been with this man since he was fifteen. Our parents used to drop us off for our dates because neither of us could drive. We were high school sweethearts that really worked out, and I think I know everything a girl could know about him.  Then something like this comes up, and he surprises me.

In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, we went as Marry Poppins and Bert from my favorite childhood movie.  We both wanted to make sure we got the look right.  The clothes we both already owned. The bow tie I am wearing was his  from our third prom together (I still had it in a box of mementos from our high school days). I tied grosgrain ribbon around my waist and grabbed the umbrella from my husband’s car. We found Ryan’s hat and gloves at Walmart and my hat from a local costume shop.  The broom was an inexpensive broom from Target that he took the stitching apart and spray painted with a $.98 can of spray paint from Walmart.  I got a sprig of daisies to weave into the hat and just took my giant purse that I use daily as my, “carpet bag.” We probably spent about $20 or so on the whole look, but had the best time making these outfits happen.

I did splurge and buy myself a tube of fancy red lipstick. I have always wanted to wear red lipstick, but never felt confident enough to do it.  I am hoping to wear this on a date night or two.  The color is Red Zin from Bare Escentuals and I am really liking it for a little something different.  Maybe this old girl can surprise her husband once in awhile too!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Have a safe and fun night with your family and friends this evening!

Behind the Scenes with Aldi Supermarket

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This past week I got the unique opportunity to step behind the scenes and find out more about Aldi Supermarket and the products that they offer their customer. As a longtime fan of the grocery retailer, I could not wait to see how this company operated and, frankly, how in the world they can offer food for such a low price.

During the trip I got to do a wine and cheese tasting, got a grocery store tour to learn more about how their stores were set up, and then I got to participate in a blind taste-testing of the products to see how they compared with other national brands.  There was truly not a single element of this trip that I was not fascinated with.

The first question on everyone’s mind was how do they get their prices so low?

This is an answer that we were told would take years to explain, but the main points all pointed to simple cost-cutting measures, employee training that goes beyond other grocery stores,  a limited selection of items, smart store design, and in-house private labels. The savings are in the big things like having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock shelves and then are reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

All of these little and big things translate into great prices for their customers.

If you have ever stood in a line at Aldi, one thing you will see is that these cashiers work at lightning speed and can wait on customers quicker than any other store I have ever been to. You may not know it, but Aldi offers smart packaging that can speed up your wait time at their store. In this picture is a single bag of chips, simply held at all different angles. Practically every corner of their bags and boxes have a UPC code that can make scanning your items that much faster.  Go ahead and take a peek in your pantry at your Aldi items and you will see it too. It is one of those things that you may have never noticed, but translates into saving time for you.

The typical Aldi store only has between 6-8 employees and it is common for their employees to celebrate 15, 20, or 25 years of service. They pay their employees significantly higher than the national average and with 20 hours a week, they give their employees full health insurance benefits. Employees go through extensive training and they do everything from putting out the new pallets of food to ringing up the customers to tidying the store. It is this efficiency and the smaller pay rolls that translate into big savings for their customers.

Perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was discovering the amazing wine selection that Aldi offers. I admitted that I walked by the wine section of the store because the low prices on the bottles made me question the quality of the wine. I will never look at their wine section the same again after their wine tasting.  Don’t believe me? Aldi has received many awards and accolades for their wines.

Here are just a few of the accolades that Aldi has received. Did I mention these bottles are all under $6?

Wine Spectator

Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc
Best Values Award
Received 85 points

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
Received 85 points

Beverage Testing Institute

Landshut (Germany) Riesling Mosel 2010
2010 World Value Wine Challenge- Top 10 White Wine $8 and Under Exceptional Value
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010
World Value Wine Challenge- Top Dessert Wine $8 and Under Best Value German Dessert Wine
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

Of those wines that I sampled, I fell in love with the Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti, the Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009, and the Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010.  Most of the bottles were $4.99, which make them quite affordable both for entertaining and for giving around the holiday season.

We paired these wines with some of Aldi’s cheese offerings which included a delicious goat cheese, a Havarti cheese, and Brie cheese. All of the cheeses were equally delicious and I am looking forward to offering these with these wines around the holidays.

I am a longtime customer and super fan of the products that Aldi offers, but the blind taste test that I participated in surprised even a super fan like me.  Aldi is challenging shoppers to switch from national brands to their private label Aldi brand for the holidays, to save their families up to fifty percent on their shopping.

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands. Even though I love Aldi, I can be a bit of a food snob when it comes to certain foods like high quality cheeses and meats.

When we taste tested Tyson chicken versus Aldi chicken, I truly loved the Aldi brand better. I knew the meat that I had tasted must have been the Tyson meat, but I was dead wrong. It goes to show that sometimes we are just conditioned to believe one brand is better than the other.

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the Aldi Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie.  The Aldi pie is pictured on the right and you can tell just by looking at the bottom of the crust that the pie cooked and browned more evenly.  The difference in the taste was significant and the price was 28% lower.

Even being the Aldi fan girl that I am,  I came away feeling validated that the choice that I had made to shop at the store, out of necessity due to the financial strain we had been under, for our family was a good one.  The cost-cutting measures of the store do not cost-cut on the bottom line of the quality of the items in the store. In fact, the company does their best to offer a better product that the name brand.  After doing this blind taste-testing, I believe they have exceeded the standard.

If you haven’t checked out the store before, you really are missing out on so much.  I can feed my family of four for $220 for three weeks by shopping there. I do not clip coupons. I do 95% of my shopping at this store. I am rarely disappointed in the quality. If I ever was disappointed though, they offer a double guarantee and I could bring the item back for a refund and get it replaced. I don’t know very many places that offer that to their customers.

If you want to learn more about shopping at the store, I have several resources that you can check out on the site:

Aldi Supermarket

Aldi Menu Planner

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

The Aldi Queen Blog

If I was a fan girl of Aldi before, this trip took it to another level for me. I can confidently say that this store is THE place for families on a budget.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s talk! Have you shopped at Aldi Supermarket before? Did anything surprise you about the behind the scenes look? What is your favorite item to buy at the store? Please share!

Pin It

How to Decoupage Pumpkins

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I love to create inexpensive decorations for fall and these easy decoupaged pumpkins are a craft that I have been wanting to try for awhile after spotting this technique in an old issue of Better Homes &  Gardens Magazine. You won’t believe how easy it is to decoupage a pumpkin and since they were so easy to create, I made two to adorn each side of my console table.  Today I wanted to share with you how to create your own decoupaged pumpkin that you can do with your kids or as a fun craft after the kids head to bed.

All supplies for this project were purchased at Walmart and each pumpkin cost approximately $7 to create.

Supplies Needed For This Project

Faux Pumpkin

Modge Podge (or make your own for less)

1 package of paper cocktail napkins (in the party supplies section or in the seasonal section of the store)

Foam brush

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Yarn (optional)

Size 5 Double-Pointed Needles (optional)

Twist off the stem on your pumpkin. It should come off pretty easily. Set this aside for later.

Grab your stack of cocktail napkins. When choosing these, I would go for a darker color than this if you don’t want to have to do two layers. Another option would be to spray paint your pumpkin white. I just did two layers of napkins on mine, but you can do whichever works best for you.

Unfold the napkin, and then cut it into two long rectangles down the middle where the fold is.

Using your foam brush, spread your Modge Podge on the pumpkin and then cover in one of your paper napkin rectangles.  Apply the napkins very gently and try to smooth out any wrinkles as you go.  No matter what you do, there will be wrinkles and possibly tears because the napkins are so delicate.   I like to think they add a lot of character and texture to the pumpkin though.

Repeat this layer of paper all the way around. Repeat, as needed to cover the pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin is covered in paper to your satisfaction, apply one or two layers of Modge Podge over the entire pumpkin. Allow it to dry for several hours or until the glue has hardened.

Invert your dried pumpkin, and cut a square of napkin  to cover the bottom of the pumpkin. Apply two layers of Modge Podge to the bottom and any missed layers on the bottom of the pumpkin. Let it dry.

You can leave your pumpkin as is and just hot glue the top back on, but I wanted to add one other layer to these pumpkins. I knitted two leaves for each one, out of scrap yarn, to decorate the top of the pumpkin. This is a great time to use any yarn up that your kids claimed was too scratchy or the end of a ball of yarn that you just couldn’t part with.

I used this free knitted leaf pattern (leaf number one) to create these little yarn leafs for the tops of my pumpkin. The picture above shows the back of the leaf, you want the other side of the leaf to show on your pumpkin. Create your leaf stem as long as you like for your pumpkin.

Hot glue the ends of your leaves to the top of your pumpkin. Hot glue underneath the stem, and then secure it to the top of your pumpkin. Hold this all in place for a minute or two to make sure that it is secure.

Enjoy your little pumpkins in a favorite corner of your home, on your kitchen table, or wherever else a pumpkin might look beautiful. I am looking forward to using these all through the fall and I even think this gray and white one might be a perfect one for the winter holidays too!

It matches perfectly with my Yarn Wreath on my door and adds a fun element to my fall decorating.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

11 New Pumpkin Recipes to Try This Fall

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I will admit that there is nothing that I love more than cooking with pumpkin in the kitchen.  Today I wanted to showcase eleven different ways you can use those cans of pumpkin in your kitchen and none of them happen to be pumpkin pie… at least not this week! There really are so many sweet and savory dishes that can be made from canned pumpkin and these happen to be eleven of my delicious ideas for making pumpkin work for you this year!

Have you ever tried pumpkin pasta?  Over the years this dish has become the most favorite dish for fall and one bite of this will tell you why! The kids think it looks like macaroni and cheese so it does not take much coaxing to get them to try a bite. My husband loves the turkey sausage and the meaty flavor of this dish. Me? I just love the creamy pumpkin taste in my mouth!

If you are worried about how your family will react to pumpkin pasta, scale the pumpkin back. You can do between 2/3-2 cups of pasta, depending on your personal taste. Start with a little and ease your family into the two cup ratio.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta

Pumpkin waffles are a special tradition that are enjoyed after a day of pumpkin picking at the pumpkin patch. These are truly my favorite waffles of all the different variations we make and a fantastic way to use those cans of pumpkin in your pantry!

These will make your  house smell just like a pumpkin pie as the batter hits the hot waffle iron, filling the room with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

These are a very delicate waffle and can be tricky being pulled from your waffle iron. Add 1/4 cup extra of flour if you feel like the batter is too delicate and be sure to give these ample time in the waffle iron to set up. The crisper they are, the easier they will be to pull from your waffle iron. be sure to leave these on at least four to five minutes. If you try to take them off sooner than that, they will not taste as good or set up as nicely.

Deliciously Spiced Pumpkin Waffles

I wanted to figure out a way to use the leftover cans of pumpkin we had from our Thanksgiving feasting last year, and I decided to create my very own Baked Pumpkin Donuts with a Maple Syrup Frosting that would be the perfect use for the pumpkin leftover. What started as a way to use up leftover pumpkin is now worked into our fall activities and this year my kids will be enjoying these with big mugs of  homemade hot cocoa on our little front step outside when we do our raking this year.

These are flavorful and almost like a glass of wine, you can taste all the different flavors as you eat them. You can taste the hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, the rich pumpkin flavor, and then that maple syrup sweetness from the light glaze drizzle. The texture is different than a fried donut and more like a muffin or a good piece of cake. They are not overly sweet though and the pumpkin really seems to add a savory quality to these.

Baked Pumpkin Donuts with Maple Syrup Frosting

There are few things I love during the holidays more than a giant gingerbread waffle. I found this recipe from Rachael Ray about five years ago and it has been a family tradition every year since then. On Christmas morning together, we open our presents and I mix up these waffles to share together after the presents.

These gingerbread waffles incorporate all of the holiday flavors I love- molasses, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar, pumpkin, and nutmeg. What more can I say? The only downfall to this recipe… you can’t eat just one!

Step out of the box and have a little gingerbread before Christmas and find yet another way to use some of that delicious pumpkin!

Gingerbread Waffles

There are few things in the world that say Christmas to me more than the flavors of gingerbread.  Our family tradition is, as I mentioned,  to indulge in Gingerbread Waffles on tree decorating day and for Christmas morning.

I am proud to say these Baked Gingerbread Donuts were a creation all my own that incorporated all of those flavors from our favorite Gingerbread Waffles into these delicious donuts. A firm believer that the donut pan is a worthy investment in any home, these donuts are proof that the investment pays off… especially around the holidays. Work these donuts into one of our family traditions this year and you will thank me for it!

Baked Gingerbread Donuts

At the first sign of fall, you will find us flipping a batch of these Pumpkin Pancakes on our griddle. In fact, the first cool morning this year, we threw these together for a fun family feast after church. I have a feeling that you will want to make a batch of these yourself every year once you have them.

These pumpkin pancakes are truly light and fluffy with just the perfect balance of pumpkin and spices. I have never experienced a more perfect pancake and a drizzle of syrup with butter makes these a delicious morning treat on a cool autumn day.

Fluffy Light Pumpkin Pancakes

A first time canning experience led to one of my favorite hostess gifts of all time- a delicious Pumpkin Butter perfect for spreading on dinner rolls! You can triple your batch and let it cook in the slow cooker for six hours to make a larger quantity without a lot of effort. Keep this recipe in mind when creating those holiday gifts!

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins are my family’s favorite side dish if it fall or the dead of summer. I try to make sure to stockpile pumpkin for just this reason and you might be doing the same after making a batch of these for your family! Best served at room temperature, they are deliciously moist and a fantastic side accompaniment to any meal!

Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins


Nothing says Fall to me like a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I have learned to make this little creation at home and would encourage you to do the same to save a few dollars this fall. A batch of this simmering away on your stove will bring the scent of the Fall season right into the room. This milky coffee treat tastes just like a little pumpkin pie with a hint of cinnamon spices throughout. Top the latte with a little fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon to round out these beautiful flavors.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

If there is any recipe from my recipe collection that I plan to hand down to my children, this would be the recipe that I hope to share with them. This pumpkin bread is a cinch to pull together, is made from entirely pantry ingredients, and is an elegant gift for the holidays. I hope you love it half as much as I do and can share a loaf with your family this fall!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

*****************

Fresh Pumpkin Puree? Why not!

Did you know that you can make your own pumpkin puree? It is very easy and a great way to get your money back on the pumpkins you bought!

The Tightwad Gazette recommends not cutting into your pumpkin until after October 30th. Save the cut out portions in your fridge and the day after Halloween, you can begin to process it. Simply cut the flesh away from the skin and dice it, just as you would do with squash. Fill a pot with your cubes and add two inches of water to the bottom. Simmer the pot until the pumpkin is soft. Then all you have to do is run it through your food processor and you can freeze this into two cup portions (the equivalent size of the canned stuff).

Just as a side note, when thawed, the puree will be more watery than the canned version. Just allow the water to drain out and use the pumpkin as usual. For more great pumpkin tips, be sure to visit our “Oh, Glorious Pumpkin,” article for more ideas from selecting the most perfect pumpkin ever to what to do with those delicious pumpkin seeds.

What is your favorite pumpkin recipe? Feel free to share those links and ideas here!

How To Make a Yarn Wreath For All Seasons

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Yarn wreaths are easy to create with a mere ten-fifteen dollars  in supplies and a whole lot of your own individual creativity. I have been dying to create my own handmade yarn wreath, but I hate to store out-of-season wreaths in my limited amount of storage in my house. I decided to create a wreath that you could use all year long that would be perfect for your door or to give as a gift this holiday season. I partnered with Walmart on this DIY project and I am excited to share it with you.

Supplies Needed:

1 straw wreath (large or small- this is the large one, pick this up at your local craft store if your Walmart does not carry floral supplies, approximately $4 for the larger size)

1-2 balls of yarn, depending on your wreath size (I selected Vanna’s Choice in Silver Heather, $2.77)

1 fabric quarter ($1.27)

2 pieces of felt ($.20 each)

1 autumn floral pick ($1.99)

8 alligator clips or 1 1/2″ bar pins that can be clipped to the back of your flowers (look for these over by the ribbon section or in the jewelry section of the Craft area, approximately $1.99)

Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Scissors

Stamina, Pop Tarts, & Food Network for entertainment

Leave the plastic intact on your wreath to help cut down on the mess as well as to help your yarn to slide into place. Begin by tying a knot on the back of the wreath with the first ball of yarn. Carefully wrap the yarn around the wreath, covering it with the yarn. Continue doing this until the entire wreath is wrapped with yarn and then finish by tying it with a knot again on the back. A small wreath will only use one ball of yarn, but this larger wreath ended up taking 1 1/2 balls to cover it. Covering the larger wreath took me about forty-five minutes. I recommend tackling this with a Food Network marathon. And a box of Pop Tarts.

Once your wreath is covered, you can embellish it however you like. For my wreath, I chose two different types of flowers and used alligator clips to clip these to my yarn wreath so I can switch these out with the seasons.  To see how to make these easy Fabric Flowers, go to last month’s Close to My Heart Pin to get that tutorial. I am also posting that vlog below for even more visuals on this easy flower. With one fabric quarter, you can make two of these for your wreath. If you want more fabric flowers on your wreath, purchase an additional fabric quarter in the same fabric or another fun fabric. I covered the alligator clip with a little square of felt so I could make sure it doesn’t stick to my wreath.

The other type of flower that I added to my wreath is a simple felt flower. These are so easy to make. I am showing you with this gray felt, but made six of these in yellow for my wreath. Begin by cutting a wavy circle out of your felt. The bigger the circle, the bigger the flower, the smaller the circle, the smaller the flower. If you want them all the same size, use the first one as your template for your other flowers.

Begin cutting into the circle in a spiral motion. Around and around you go with your scissors until you get to the center. Leave the little circle at the end of your spiral intact.

It should look like this long piece of twirly felt. It will not be perfect.  Just remember that you can trim and angle everything the way you want it when you start creating your flower. It will look beautiful!

Starting with the end where you begin cutting, roll the felt back up. Keep wrapping and wrapping until you get to that little circle at the end. You can hot glue the felt as you go, but I found that the felt flower holds together well if you wrap it tightly enough.  Feel free to trim if you have any bits of felt sticking out or not laying as nicely as you like.

Open an alligator clip up and situated it between that little circle of felt. Secure it to the felt flower with a little hot glue.  Make as many of these felt flowers as you like for your wreath.  For my wreath, I made six out of the two pieces of felt.

Now comes the fun part. Take your two Fabric Flowers and your six Felt Flowers and begin clipping them on the side of your wreath. The best part about the clips is that you can move them around until you have them situated in the perfect place on your wreath. No worries about gluing to the wrong place.

Next fill in around the flowers with bits of your floral pick that you purchased. I weaved in a few leaves and a little of the fun berry foliage until I was happy. You can tuck your floral pieces into the alligator clips of your flowers or weave it under the wrapped yarn, whichever feels more secure.

Step back and admire your handiwork. Isn’t she beautiful? We will be revisiting this wreath in the Winter season and I will show you other cute idea for embellishing it. The possibilities with this wreath are truly endless and the best part… no giant wreaths to store until next season!

I am participating in the Nesting Place’s, “You Made a Wreath Out of What?” linky party! If you have a wreath, you should too! Happy wreath making!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

Incredible Melted Ice Cream Cake with Chocolate Marshmallow Ganache

Monday, July 25th, 2011

As with all traditions in our family, it started as something simple and became something special. Last year I let my kids pick their own birthday cakes for their special days from my bookshelf of cookbooks.

Since last year, my dessert cookbooks have since become bent and worn, from bookmarking and thumbing through pictures of cakes just for them. When the kids are bored, they will run over to that shelf, pull down all the cookbooks and reminensce about what they might choose for their next birthday…as early as ten months down the road. Discussions and negotiations are made when they select the same recipe and the cookbooks return to the shelf until another rainy day of planning.

Ethan had this Melted Ice Cream Cake marked several times since his last birthday. It was this or the biscotti recipe that he bookmarked for me.

Biscotti is not really a birthday cake, sweetie,” I told him as he handed me his bookmarked cookbook.

“Well, it should be. It is delicious,” he replied.

Did I even know what biscotti was until just a few years ago? I can’t say that I did.  I fear for his wife someday.

I also had never heard of a melted ice cream cake before, but the concept is a simple one. Simply use a cake mix and replace the liquid that it directs on the box with a good quality ice cream and your eggs.  Not only is this one an easy cake to create, it can be made into a brand new flavor with a different ice cream flavor or a different cake mix. The possibilities are truly endless with this cake and the results are surprisingly delicious.

The most important thing with this cake is to not cook it too long, or it can become dried out and will lack the moistness that you want in it. Smothered in a homemade chocolate marshmallow ganache, this cake takes ice cream and cake to a whole new level.

The best part? Melted ice cream is actually encouraged. With a July birthday, that is one feat that is easy to pull off!

Recipe:

Incredible Melted Ice Cream Cake

Ingredients:

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix

2 cups (or 1 pint) good quality melted ice cream, your choice of flavor.

{Cookbook author note: The author states that it is important to use a good quality ice cream because the cheaper ice cream has more air in it, which will not equal the two cups of liquid you need for this cake. If you use a cheaper brand, melt it and then measure to create the two cups of liquid needed for this one! }

3 large eggs

Chocolate Marshmallow Ganache

For the frosting:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

6 large marshmallows

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a Bundt pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside. Place the cake mix, melted ice cream, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend  for three minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 38-42 minutes (mine took just 38). Remove and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the Bundt pan and allow to to cool for 30 more minutes. Frost the cake once cooled with the Chocolate Marshmallow Ganache.

For the Chocolate Marshmallow Ganache: Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place the marshmallows, butter, and milk in a medium-size heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir until the marshmallows are melted, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the confectioners’ sugar & cocoa mixture over the marshmallow mixture. Ad the vanilla and stir until the frosting is smooth and satiny. Use at once to top the ice cream cake. I was able to pour this right over the cake, and it will harden as it cools.

Prep Time: 5-7 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: 16

Recipe Source: The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

Looking for more cake ideas? Check out our Perfectly Pink Barbie Birthday CakeDarn Good Chocolate Cake, Oreo & Fudge Ice Cream Cake, & Blueberry Muffin Cake for just a sampling of the cakes we love around here!

Frugal Tips for Throwing a Fabulous Birthday Party On a Budget

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

It is hard to believe that my little guy turned nine this year!  When people told me that the years would go by quickly, I did not believe them. It has seemed though that I blinked my eyes and he has grown up. As we do each year, I look forward to celebrating him and wanted to share with you the results of another fun patriotic party that we threw to celebrate Ethan and his awesomeness.

This year’s Walmart Moms challenge was to embrace the 4th of July using supplies from their store and I hope you will love these inexpensive additions that I added to our party this year.

I am lucky to have one child who has a 4th of July party every year and one child who has a Christmas birthday.  I always pick anything that is red for these parties because I know that they will serve double duty for our birthday bashes.

I hate to waste any money on paper products and decided this year I would make an investment into napkins for outdoor party. These bandanas in navy and red were the perfect solution for outdoor entertaining and a steal for just $1. I grabbed these over in the Women’s department by the purses and accessories for women. Honestly, if you have any party theme, they had everything from zebra print, to camouflage, to hot pink designs. I picked up sixteen (a $16 investment)  of these and rolled silverware sets in each one and put them in the glasses for easy grabbing.

Last year, I got these silverware sets for very little money at the wholesale club.  They aren’t the best quality, but they work so wonderfully for occasions like this. Thrift stores also sell silverware and you can often find bags of it very inexpensively. Rolling these into sets made it easier for everyone to grab what they needed and kept the line for the food moving a little quicker. When you are serving a large group, taking an hour to get everything set up like this will really pay off!

Our burger baskets from last year are still going strong and are always a hit at parties. I found these at our local restaurant supply store ($14.99 for 12) and I purchased one package of delicatessen paper ($4.99 for 500 sheets) for my family celebrations. These are not only used for our parties, but for pretty much any cookout our family does.  I couple these with small plates for appetizers or sides that just won’t fit in the baskets and an additional plate for the dessert table. These really have paid for themselves over and over again and I love a nod to anything retro.

Tissue paper pom poms are my new favorite thing to make. I made these in shades of pink for Emily’s Barbie birthday party this year and thought it would be fun to have these on hand for our patriotic parties too.  These cost $1 in tissue paper to make (I grabbed the tissue paper over by the Hallmark displays at our Walmart store) and can all be done in about thirty minutes.

Visit this tutorial to get the scoop on how to make these.  I did the same thing as I did with that tutorial, but cut the corners to a point instead of the rounded, more feminine corners that I did for my daughter’s party. I have packed these away to be brought out for next year’s party or (minus the blue) these could be added for a Valentine’s Day celebration with the addition of one of my pink pom poms from my daughter’s party.

I love a good red, white, and blue theme, but you have to appeal to what your kids desire too. Each year I let my children pick their own cake out of my stack of cookbooks and then I ask them what character they would like to go with for the year. This year, Ethan said he wanted a Bakugan cake. I visited the  toy section of our store and found these little guys for $10 to put on top. Whatever tops the cake, doubles as part of their birthday gift so these little guys were rinsed after their cake debut, and are now performing Bakugan battles in my son’s room.

The cake itself was a melted ice cream cake created from a cake mix and a pint of the birthday boy’s favorite ice cream. Tune in on Monday for that recipe and for the homemade chocolate marshmallow ganache that frosted the top. The Wilton sprinkles were leftover from last year’s party and worked perfectly again to add a little nod to the 4th of July theme.

Last year’s star garland was hung (free), a red tablecloth that I have had for about eight years was placed on the table (free), three flags from our party two years ago were nestled in red tissue paper and a glass apothecary jar that I had in our family room (free), and a navy bandana was angled beneath the cake for to add a little bit of color to the display ($1), with the three tissue paper pom poms hung from white ribbon above ($3).

The trifle that I shared with you is a new family favorite and I couldn’t wait to make it. This glass trifle bowl was only $6.97  at the store and will be used over and over again in our house. Everyone must have had the same idea as me because they were all out of these at our store. Thankfully, my girlfriend happened to be at another Walmart when I called, and she snagged one at her store and saved the day for me!  I can’t wait to try other desserts in this and even use this bowl for decorating in our house. Be sure to check out the recipe for the red, white, & blueberry trifle!

Two summers ago we bought one of those atrociously large water slides to put up in our backyard to keep the kids entertained. Bought on clearance towards the end of the summer, it has paid for itself in party entertainment and for days when I just want the kids to entertain themselves.  The past couple of parties the weather has not cooperated with this form of entertainment for our guests, but this year proved to be just the right amount of humidity and sun that we could put this up for lots of slides and fun with our cousins.  I hate putting it up, I hate taking it down…but anything that can keep the kids happy and entertained for hours on end seems like a fantastic idea for a party.

There is nothing catered at this party and I try to mix in a few old favorites with new recipes each year to our party menu. I work hard to make the party planning process as painless as possible. Everything is done in stages during the week so the last day is just a matter of pulling everything together.  The cake is baked and frozen until the big day, all ingredients are chopped in bags and ready to go, the decorations are hung the day before, I try to incorporate one recipe that can be thrown into our slow cooker, and I do my best to make the last day as fun as possible for me too!

A few of the standby recipes we used this year were our Perfectly Pulled Pork Sandwiches, our Pesto Pasta Salad, and our Birthday Party Punch. More recipes will be coming in the next two weeks!

Of course, no party would be complete without the birthday announcement on the door. The kids have really come to love this tradition of hanging our birthday balloon wreath so everyone knows that their special day has arrived. It isn’t a party without a wreath.. at least that is my philosophy. There is nothing that makes me happier than these simple traditions of fun, food, and family.

happy 9th birthday, ethan alexander!

I hope this gives you a few ideas for your own parties and would love to hear how you keep your parties fabulous and frugal!

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

Sweet & Simple Mother’s Day Gift

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day. We really celebrated simply this year and it was still just as perfect. This year I decided to drop the Mother’s Day gifts the day before Mother’s Day so I could really enjoy a day to myself too this year. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like a fresh bouquet of flowers bought just for me. I know our moms love them just as much so I headed over to the store to pick up a pretty  bouquet for each of them.

Supermarket bouquets can sometimes not feel as special as the fancy florist so I love to add my own little touches to the bouquets to make them a little more special. You can find rolls of tulle over in the craft section of your superstores or in the wedding section of large craft stores. Cut off a long strip of it to tie an elegant bow on your bouquet.

This bouquet was wrapped in pink and I thought this bow matched it perfectly.  Sometimes the smaller bouquets are wrapped in plain plastic. I love to fill the plastic out with colored tissue paper on the outside or have the floral department wrap the flowers for me.  Don’t forget to take those price tag stickers off the outside. After all, don’t we prefer if people don’t know how cheap we really are?

We made little personalized cards that we printed on 4×6 photo paper. I slipped these between the plastic layers and I am sure the little cards were saved as refrigerator mementos, as all personalized cards are. Just like the teacher cards that I made last week, start by uploading your photo to Picnik. Under the CREATE tab,  select EFFECTS, then select the BLACK & WHITE option to change your picture to a black & white image. While still under the CREATE tab, select the option for TEXT. Once you are in text, put in your message for your mother. Make sure not to put your text all of the way to the edge of the photo because it may cut it off when you print it. It is better to get it a little further in to assure that you don’t waste ink, paper, or your time!  The font I choose for these images was Pupcat. You can do all of this with a free membership to Picnik.

We also framed our favorite picture from Easter and then tied it with another tulle bow. I found inexpensive frames for each of our grandmas and I printed out the photos on my photo printer. We knew these would be a real hit with our grandmas. After all, what kind of grandmas would we have if she didn’t love our pictures?

Then we shocked them with our elegant flower deliveries. I don’t know who enjoyed that part more.

Happy Mother’s Day to our moms. We love you both!

I had a fantastic Mother’s Day. We went to church, I mixed up the waffle batter, then climbed back into my bed to be served. The kids loved serving breakfast to me in my bed and were very professional about checking on me often to see if anything else might be needed. I finished a library book, climbed out of bed for a half price frappe at Starbucks, and then climbed back in bed for the rest of the day. I got lots of hugs, kisses, storytelling, and tickles in with my children. I did not cook anything all day. I did not do one chore. I did not move from my bed hardly at all. It was perfect. It cost $2.22 for the whole day. It was just what I needed.


What did you do for Mother’s Day? Tell me what you did to celebrate YOUR day and Mother’s Day for your family & friends?