Christmas in November: Treats (and recipes!) from the Holiday Craftacular

photo(8)Well folks, this year I broke my own rule. I have a strict policy of “No Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving”. Even as much as I love Christmas time, I do not indulge in Peppermint Mochas nor do I listen to my vintage holiday albums until after I’ve eaten turkey. But this year, when my friend Crystal of Baby Begonia asked if I wanted to be a vendor at her Holiday Craftacular, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

photo(1)Since I’d never really done an event like this, I wasn’t exactly sure how much to make. I wanted a variety, and I wanted to show off how tasty treats can be adorably sweet, but I also didn’t want to go home with 10 lbs. of leftover fudge on my hands, either. I decided to stick with some tried and true holiday favorites, and I threw in one new treat for fun. Fortunately, I guesstimated correctly; I ended up selling everything I made — hooray! But the best part was seeing all the people enjoy the stuff in person. I had a great time and I definitely want to try and do more of these “live” events in the future!

So now for the good stuff … here’s what I made. You’ll recognize these for sure, and I’ve even linked up the past posts in case you’d like to make some this year. (Just wait until Friday, though – okay?)

photo(6)#1 “Elements of the Holidays” Mini Bread Loaves
Inspired by the Periodic Chart of Elements, I think of certain flavors as elements of the holidays. I usually do Gingerbread and Pumpkin Bread, but since my favorite Gingerbread recipe was more labor-intensive than I could pull off under such a time crunch, I opted for making Cranberry Orange Bread instead. These make such nice hostess gifts if you’re an invited guest for Thanksgiving dinner or even if you just don’t want to show up empty handed at the holiday party. I made some Fall themed loaves with brown hounds-tooth fabric I had, attached an orange bow, and voila – they’re ready for Thanksgiving! I also did my signature red and green stripes/polka dots loaves for Christmas.

Learn to make the no-sew packaging yourself, here!
(The post also includes my favorite Pumpkin Bread recipe.)

photo(7)#2 Triple Decker Maple Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge
Yup, you read that right This stuff is ridiculous. The part I love most is that it’s delicious and pretty. I package huge pieces of it so you can see how rustic the pretzel rods and crushed pretzels look on top, even though it’s so decadent that there’s realistically about 4 pieces per “block”.

Recipe and free download for a tag is here, now go make some yourself!

#3 Festive Holly Berry Cupcakes
These are so. freaking. easy. Use your favorite cupcake recipe and pick up a bottle of these Holly Mix sprinkles by Wilton. Yes, I apply the sprinkles individually with tweezers so I can make them perfect. Really, it’s that easy.
IMG_00139#4 Red Velvet Brownies drizzled with Cream Cheese IcingThese were new for me, but I had to make them, simply because I wanted something red! This is a GREAT brownie recipe – super crackly on top, and gooey on the inside. I used a round cookie cutter to cut the brownies so they’d be a perfect fit inside these red/white striped baking cups I had. But, when I cut them, the tops were so crackly that they weren’t very pretty, so I flipped them upside down and iced the bottoms! Wish I would’ve remembered to take a pic before they were gone. Sorry ’bout it.

This recipe is a keeper. Make your own using this recipe here.

Now it’s time to take a break and gear up for more holiday treat making once the season officially begins! Still trying decide on this year’s goodies. What will you be making?

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Crafty: Baby Shower Cupcakes + Favor Boxes

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I had the privilege of making cupcakes and favor boxes for a baby shower yesterday —one of my very favorite kind of projects! The hosts chose a “little man”/necktie theme, and wanted cupcakes for both the party and to take home as favors. When they told me baby-to-be’s name was going to be Lincoln and they wanted to incorporate an Abraham Lincoln quote into the favors, I was inspired!

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The boxes were pretty simple. I bought individual kraft brown cupcake boxes and inserts from a local cake supply store, designed the artwork for the quote for on the back, the two circles on the sides and the tie for the front, and printed on kraft brown cardstock. I was able to tuck the top of the tie into the closure tab of the cupcake box on the front.

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I just used the various scrapbook papers I had available for the cupcake toppers — the hosts requested blue, lime green, yellow and orange — and cut little neckties. I used my 1-in. scalloped circle punch to use as a backing and tape to a toothpick.

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All in all, pretty simple stuff — I do love a baby party!

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I Love a Mix CD: Songs I Liked in 2012

A new year calls for reflection, and I like doing that best by compiling all the music I’ve loved listening over the past year. They may not be the best songs of 2012, but they’re the songs I loved at least. Feel free to download and enjoy.

Happy New Year!
2012mix-web-cvrCZ

Click here to download the mix

Track List:
2012mix-web-tracksCZ01/Teen Age Thugs* – Sonny + The Sunsets
02/Only in My Dreams – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
03/Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala
04/Better Girl – Best Coast
05/Sixteen Saltines – Jack White
06/Ruin – Cat Power
07/When the Lillies Die – IO Echo
08/Hail Bop – Django Django
09/Clouds Are Lies – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
10/Elegant Design – Pond
11/Origins – Tennis
12/Dreams (Fleetwood Mac cover) – The Kills

Christmas Goodies: Old Fashioned Fudge

Everybody who knows me knows that I enjoy a retro slant to almost anything. Hair styles, clothing, music, imagery … yeah, everything. So this year, I stayed true to form and decided to make some old-fashioned fudge to give away during the holidays, because you know there’s nothing more “retro” than that.

Milk Chocolate Fudge w/Candy Holly Sprinkles

White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Fantasy Fudge with Chopped Walnuts

There’s a reason fudge has always been such a traditional favorite to give as gifts for the holidays. First off, it’s so easy to make! Seriously, it doesn’t take a lot of time, and the biggest thing you’ve got to worry about is not burning your chocolate. It’s also not very expensive — most recipes yield quite a bit, and because a little piece of fudge goes a long way, you’ve got lots to give out.

It took hardly any time to make the three varieties I selected. Once you get it all together and pour, you’re pretty much finished. And with so many ways to cut and embellish the fudge, it can look festive without being too labor-intensive, too!

The 1st fudge I chose to make was Martha Stewart’s Foolproof Holiday Fudge. You don’t even need a candy thermometer (see, I told you it’s easy!). I personally think Milk Chocolate tastes better than semi-sweet, and because I wasn’t going to add nuts or anything to this batch, I especially wanted to use real milk chocolate. I used the same recipe to make the White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge as well, and simply substituted peppermint mini-marshmallows for the regular ones (and of course, I used white chocolate).

The third batch of fudge I made was the tried-and-true Fantasy Fudge recipe, also the same as Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge (AKA White House Fudge), which is completely old-school and retro as it gets!

Sorry Martha — as much as I love you, Mamie wins with this one. This fudge was perfection. Martha’s is tasty, but a little different in texture. I loved it, but Mamie’s is exactly what you expect fudge to taste like. It’s dense, rich, chocolate-y and absolutely requires walnuts. I decided to lightly sprinkle the fudge with Christmas-colored nonpareils, to keep things looking cute. Thanks to Martha, I got the idea to cut my fudge into circular pieces with a fondant cutter — they fit better in the cute mini-treat cups when they’re cut that way, and there’s just something about the round pieces that make them look a little fancier.

Bring the retro back and surprise your friends and neighbors with a sweet little box of holiday fudge. They’ll love it!

I Love a Mix CD: Starin’ Out the Window of the Station Wagon

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Mr. Four-Eyed Girlie and I really love station wagons. We’ve been lamenting the fact that you can no longer get one of these wood-paneled beauties anymore and how we really wish we could bring these bad boys back.  So in honor of the station wagon, here’s a compilation of songs that should remind you of what it was like sitting in the backseat, staring out the window.

You’ve got Spotify, don’t you? If not – you’re missing out! So much music to listen to, and it’s all FREE!

I Love a Mix CD: Best of 2011


>>Click to download Carrie’s “Listen Up, 2011!”

It’s that time of year again, and I made my compilation with my favorite songs of 2011. Please excuse the complete lack of any tracks from the new Black Keys album – it’s hard to choose one, and I figured they’d be showing up in all kinds of other top lists anyway. Also, due to extreme negligence, there are no tracks by The Kills either. I concede this is just lame, but somehow the new album was off my radar and I haven’t given myself adequate time with it yet. I’m confident you’ll love these tracks though, and I am very happy to be happy with music in 2011 (as opposed to last year)!

Track list:

01/Marathon – Tennis
02/My Country – Tune-Yards
03/I Stayed Too Late – The Ettes
04/Deadbeat Summer* – Neon Indian
05/Two Against One – Danger Mouse + Daniele Luppi feat. Jack White
06/Solitude is Bliss* – Tame Impala
07/Bumper – Cults
08/Santa Fe – Beirut
09/German Love* – Starfucker
10/Weekend – Class Actress
11/The Suburbs (Arcade Fire cover) – Mr Little Jeans

*Track not released in 2011, but 2011 was when I discovered it … so there you have it.

Party: A Retro Cherry Birthday!

This post is sooo tardy, but it’s a week later and we’re still recovering from our daughter’s 1st birthday party! Of course, it was a lot of fun, but a huge reason it was so special was because of all the loving preparation that went into things from both sides of the family! This post is to honor all of the handmade and homemade special details of our birthday party for the little miss!

#1: Go-ims

Go-ims are traditional decorative “towers” that are usually trimmed with hard candies and/or beans for a Korean 1st Birthday Party (dol). My husband and my mother-in-law lovingly spent days and hours working on these for the party! They used white beans, black beans, kidney beans, red/white/pink chocolate spree, black m&m’s and mentos to decorate all 3 of the go-ims. My husband designed all 3 of them first – he found an awesome tiger template to use in honor of being born during the year of the tiger, and he then he put together a retro-looking one with Ruby’s name and starbursts. Finally, he mapped out a patterned design with all red, pink & white candies to look more pop-ish and modern.

Hard at work!

As you can see, each individual candy and/or bean was glued to the paper towel roll (which was covered with poster board to make it smooth) one at a time. Patience and determination prevailed! I wish we had remembered to take a picture of the back of the tiger go-im: My daughter’s birthdate (11-02-10) was on the back.

This is the only pic we have where you can see part of it – but it looked great!

The go-ims were beautiful, and we’ll always have memories of special bonding time during the time these were made. I love this one of Ruby with her Halmoni (grandma) on the day of her party:

#2: Cherry cookies

Aside from incorporating some of the traditional Korean Dol traditions, I wanted the party to have a “retro cherry” theme. I saw a birthday party online that was a big inspiration, and it had these perfect cookies with cherries on top that I was dying to re-create (with my own spin on them of course). Since my parents are known for their masterful baking skills (they made 150 bride cookies and 150 groom cookies for favors at our wedding!), I asked if they’d help me out. Mom baked 48 sugar cookies and whipped up a batch of her own buttercream fondant, and Dad set out to cut out leaves and cherries to decorate each cookie.

This was at the beginning when he was using royal icing to “glue” the fondant base to the top of each cookie.

Moving on to adding the duo of cherry pieces …

Then, he took the extra leaves that were left over to cut stems for each cherry (he’s meticulous!). It really made them look all that more polished … and they tasted as good as they looked!

I can’t thank my parents enough for this … there’s no way I could’ve pulled off this impressive array of cherry-themed treats without them!!!
Red Velvet cupcakes with a cherry-on-top:

Mini-Cherry Cheesecakes and Chocolate Cake Balls:

The entire spread in all of its glory!

#3 Favor jars filled with Cherry Sours

I had been saving baby food jars for awhile in hopes of using them somehow and decided to use them for favors at the party. Pretty simple, but made with love nonetheless. What can I say, I’m a stickler for a theme …

#4 Ruby’s Retro Tunes Playlist

Since the actual process of burning CDs seems so wasteful these days with folks using MP3 players and all, we decided to ditch the actual CD and just post our compilation for download (You can download the playlist here, if you want). The mix is simply songs that make Ruby smile, with a retro slant (of course!).