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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crafty Link-Up

These felt Christmas trees are cute, and I bet they'd be pretty easy to make. (Things Organized Neatly)

I am probably going to try Iron Craft 2011. Read more about it here. (Kat Knits)

5 Creative Ways to Recycle and Repurpose a Gift Sack. Because you probably picked up a couple over the past week or so. (Money Saving Mom)

This sounds amazing! 15 Minute Oreo Pie. (Money Saving Mom)

I don't remember if I had posted this one already or not, but Tortilla Snowflakes would be a fun kid project to make and eat. (Money Saving Mom)

This PVC pipe frame is cool looking. (DIY Network)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

The menu this week will consist of whatever we end up eating. My grandpa passed away on Thursday, and we are in the midst of funeral preparations and family gatherings. I will be back next week with a new plan, more recipes, and hopefully some baked goodies to share!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What I'm Reading...

The Doll Dilemma pretty much sums up how I feel about a lot of kid toys nowadays. (Northern Cheapskate)

The holidays are jam-packed with waste-producing activities. Here are some suggestions for Reducing Holiday Waste. (Simple Organic)

Luke 2. Because Christmas isn't complete without the best story of all.

Have a Merry Christmas, safe travels, and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Crafty Link-Up

These sound yummy! Oreo truffles. If I didn't already have a bunch of ideas on my baking list, I might have to add these. Maybe after Christmas... (Simply Frugal)

Here's a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate. Also, there's a link to a list of food holidays - did you know there's a food holiday every day? Cool! (Xoelle via Swagbucks)


If you have lots of extra gift tags, you could make a Holiday Memory Game. What a cute idea for little kids! (Money Saving Mom)

Have I mentioned I love Gifts in a Jar? I really do. (various sites via Unsophisticook)

This is just a cool idea. Christmas Tree Mobile. (not Martha)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

These are a classic that are always delicious!

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together. Roll into balls, and roll in sugar to coat. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Top with Hershey's kisses after baking, and cool.

Ritz Cracker Sandwiches

These are an easy and very kid-friendly treat!

Put peanut butter between two Ritz crackers. Melt either chocolate chips or almond bark and cover. Top with your choice of sprinkles, and put in the fridge to harden the chocolate.

I made 4 dozen, half milk chocolate, and half white chocolate. It takes about 4 oz. chocolate per dozen sandwiches.

Aren't they pretty? I remember making these with Mom when we were younger.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Just in case you missed them (or wanted to review them), I did a series of 20 Homemade Christmas Ornaments over at The Deal Seeker. You can see all 20 posts and get directions here. These are a few of my favorites...





Menu Plan Monday

So far we have been sticking pretty close to the two-week plan I posted last week. I spiced up the veggie stir fry a bit with garlic, red pepper flakes, and curry powder, and added some almonds to mine. It was delicious! I will definitely do that again. We just munched on snacky foods one night, so we just got rid of the freezer food night.

So, for this week, we still have planned:

Monday: Tortilla Pizzas
Tuesday/Wednesday: Cornbread Taco Bake
Thursday/Friday: Homemade Pizzas
Saturday/Freezer: Spinach Lentil Pasta (because I just realized that we'll be doing family Christmases and those meals will be taken care of, so part of this will go in the freezer)

The hardest part for us lately has been lunch time. We've been rotating turkey sandwiches, macaroni & cheese, and frozen pizzas. I know we can do better than that, but those are quick and easy. Salad fixings don't last very long, although I suppose I could start picking some up for the first few days after grocery shopping. Anyone have any good lunch ideas that are toddler friendly?

If I have time this week, I want to try to make up a big batch of pancakes or waffles for the freezer, or possibly even some muffins or banana bread. I like having baked yummies for breakfast, but I never feel like making them at 6:00 in the morning. I can't imagine why... With the holiday baking I have yet to do, this may get pushed back until next week, but we'll see.

Homemade Christmas Presents: Thank You Notes


These may become one of my go-to gift ideas, because they're easy to make, and everyone can use thank-you notes! (Or should use them, at least)
I must admit, I took the easy way out, and bought a set of plain folded note cards with envelopes. You could make your own with cardstock easily enough. I used photos taken by both myself and the recipient, and coordinating pieces of cardstock. A little glue to hold everything together, and voila! personalized thank-you notes.
I got this idea from my sister Rachel, who made me some custom cards for my baby shower last year. I still use them, and I think they are spectacular!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What I'm Reading...

Avoid Costly Mistakes at the Store. It's so easy to spend money, but maybe some of these tips will help. (Northern Cheapskate)


How to Get to Know Your Neighbors. Do you know your neighbors? We know some of the other people in our building, and they rock. Our upstairs neighbors lent us a fridge last month when our freezer went out, and everyone's been helping shovel with all of the snow. (The Greenest Dollar)


Goodnight, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the... Here's an article on how to check for bedbugs before letting used furniture into your home. (Northern Cheapskate)


13 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions. I'm a big fan of having goals and making lists, and resolutions fit perfectly into that. Also, can you believe it's almost the end of the year? (The Happiness Project)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I like to make the more complicated cookies around Christmas time. I guess I just don't take the time otherwise, but I really should. I love baking! I knew I wanted to do sugar cookies, so I got out Grandma Winter's recipe and realized that I don't have shortening, nor did I really want to buy it for just this one recipe.

I found this one to use instead. The problem with this one, which I realized once I had made and chilled the dough, was that it's too soft and sticky to be conducive to shapes. Sad. So circle sugar cookies for us this year.

On the plus side, they are really delicious cookies. They aren't quite as sweet as they could be, although I'm almost positive that's because I used wheat flour instead of all purpose. I would bet that people will still be willing to share, and I know for sure that Jonah will go a little crazy when he sees them in the morning.

Baked goodies, gooey frosting, and sprinkles to top. What could be better?

Homemade Christmas Presents: Bubble Magnets

Here are the directions and a picture of the first set I made for myself awhile back. These are great heavy-duty magnets, and they're customizable to the recipient, which is great!

For this particular set, I put them in a tin from a Glade Scented Oil Candle that I ran out of inserts for. So it looks pretty, and smells nice too!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homemade Christmas Presents: Woven Rug

Here is a craft project that, when I initially saw it, I thought was going to be quick and easy. I discovered that it was not very quick, and while not difficult, it was not as fun as I had hoped. Still, I think it turned out pretty well.

I didn't take very many pictures along the way, but here is the project right before I started weaving. I cut 4 old bedsheets from the thrift store into 285 strips. Yes. Two hundred eighty-five. I started to dislike this project around strip 45 or so. This project would be much easier with a rotary cutter, or at least a good pair of sewing shears. I just had standard scissors.

I used part of a large cardboard box for my loom support. I cut strips in that about an inch apart, and a couple inches down, and then put my strips in between. For the long part, I used 15 sections, each with 10 strips. For the shorter, weaved part, I used 28 sections, each with 5 strips (I think, if I can do math correctly).
Once everything was weaved, I tied sections of strips to each other and gave the whole thing a trim.

Jonah helped me test it out once it was done. I think it turned out pretty nice, but I don't know that it was worth the effort (or my sanity, or getting little fabric bits all over my living room). What do you think?
I got the idea for this project here, though mine is a bit different.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crafty Link-Up

This is just a wonderful transformation, from an old entertainment center to a play kitchen. (Babycenter via Simple Mom)

12 Days of Christmas Presents for Teachers. This is a really cute idea, and I think kids would have a lot of fun sneaking the presents to their teachers. (How Does She via Money Saving Mom)

Felt Christmas Wreath. Looks pretty easy, and you could leave certain color combinations up year-round. (The Inspired Room)

DIY Modern Paper Ornament. These look really cool, although time consuming. Maybe a project to try after the holiday busy-ness is over? (How About Orange via not martha)

Reusing Onion and Potato Bags as Gift Wrapping. I like this idea, and I think they look pretty, but I have to ask...wouldn't your presents stink like onions? (Money Saving Mom)

Deck the Halls...with Items from Your Kitchen. Some cool decorating ideas using supplies you have in your pantry. (Unsophisticook)

Oh to have the space to have a yarn collection like this. (Things Organized Neatly)

This seems like it would take a lot of time (and a lot of peppermints!), but it's really cool looking. Homemade Peppermint Wreath. (Common Sense with Money)

If you have any golfers in your life, this Golfer's Snowman Ornament would be an adorable present. (Full of Great Ideas)

More homemade present ideas, as linked in Money Saving Mom posts: Homemade Sugar Scrub, Homemade Hot Cocoa Cones (cute!), and Homemade Lotion. (Money Saving Mom)

These photo cubes are adorable. (The Simple Dollar)

Have old books sitting around? Use them in crafty ways. (Alisa Burke)

31 Days of Prayer for Your Husband Flip Calendar. A thoughtful reminder. (Better Life Blog via Money Saving Mom)

Embroidered and Embellished Onesies. Aren't these just adorable? Definitely adding this to my after-Christmas crafty list. (Lindsay Sews via Money Saving Mom)

I love gifts in a jar, and S'mores in a Jar sounds delicious! (Money Saving Mom)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Turkey Stuffing Casserole

Ingredients:
  • Turkey or chicken, cooked and diced or shredded
  • 1 can corn or 1 bag frozen broccoli, cooked
  • 2 cans cream of something soup (mushroom, chicken, celery, whatever)
  • 1 box stuffing (or equivalent amount of leftover stuffing)
Prepare stuffing as directed on box. Layer chicken/turkey and corn/broccoli in bottom of 13x9 pan. Top with creamy soups, and finally stuffing. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until heated through. Add shredded cheddar for last 5 minutes if you want (I would recommend it - it's really good!)

This is probably one of the best Thanksgiving leftover meals ever, because you can use up both turkey and stuffing, without it necessarily tasting exactly like Thanksgiving dinner. It's also really easy to do with chicken any other night of the year. Gotta love easy!

Menu Plan Monday

Here is our tentative menu plan for the next two weeks:

Monday/Tuesday: Turkey Stuffing Casserole
Wednesday/Thursday: Veggie Stir Fry (just rice, a bag of frozen stir fry mix, and any extras we might add)
Friday/Saturday: Multi Bean Soup

Sunday: Leftovers from the freezer
Monday: Tortilla Pizzas
Tuesday/Wednesday: Cornbread Taco Bake
Thursday/Friday: Homemade Pizzas (probably a Mexican one and a Veggie Ranch one)
Saturday/Sunday: Spinach Lentil Pasta

Since this is my very first Menu Planning post, I don't have all of my recipes to link just yet. As they come up, I will try to post them so you can try them too!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What I'm Reading...

How to Have More with Less at Christmas. Because sometimes, we all need a reminder that too much is too much. (Living on a Dime)

Pack Rats in Fiction - are you a White Knight? I have some pack rat tendencies, although I'm trying really hard to limit what I keep around "just in case". (Unclutterer)

Video blog: My Very Simple Homemaking Binder. I can't decide if this would make me more organized or not, but I do love a good to-do list. (Money Saving Mom)

Short and sweet - Six Reasons to Let It All Go. We are doing some more uncluttering once Jesse's school break starts next week, and I'm really excited for it. (Unclutterer)

How do you display Christmas cards? Read the linked article and the comments for lots of ideas. (Deal Seeking Mom)

You've seen plenty of ads for the greatest gifts ever and "must-haves". How to Deal with Holiday Marketing. (Northern Cheapskate)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 oz. chocolate, melted
I chose to double the recipe, because even though I had never tried these, they looked really good!


Mix together butter, peanut butter, and sugar. I started with a spoon, but at the end found it easier to use my hands. Roll into balls. I made some bigger and some smaller, I think 24 small (1 tsp. or so) and 26 bigger (1 tbsp. or so). Place on lined baking sheet (I used aluminum foil) in the freezer for 10 minutes. Melt chocolate chips while you are waiting.


I used 8 oz. of milk chocolate chips (all that I had left!) and 3 oz. of white chocolate chips. And I gooped it on there pretty heavy, so I ran out before I was done. This recipe also called for just dipping them halfway, but I chose to completely cover them. How you cover them is up to you. Refrigerate for 25-35 minutes to set the chocolate.


These are super rich, but super yummy! This recipe is definitely a keeper! I clipped it out of a magazine (I believe Real Simple) at some point earlier this year, but hadn't gotten around to making them yet. My mom always made peanut butter balls as one of our holiday treats, so I chose to make that my first holiday goodie this year. What treats are you making?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I am excited to say that today I made my first cheesecake ever. And it was delicious! I used a recipe I got from my mom, because I have always loved her chocolate chip cheesecake.

But...cooking from my mom's recipes is not the same as my mom's cooking. She guesstimates more than measures, and sometimes makes substitutions without ever writing them down. I have learned this by now, so when I tasted the cheesecake, it was just a bit off from hers. My dad stopped by and had a piece, and informed me that even though the recipe uses a graham cracker crust, she has always made hers with Oreos. Mystery solved!

Doesn't it look yummy? Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or marg., melted
  • (3) 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • (1) 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 tsp. flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, sugar, and butter; press evenly into bottom of 9-inch springform pan. In large mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add milk, beating until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. In small bowl, toss 1/2 cup chocolate chips with flour to coat; stir into cheese mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over top. Bake 1 hour. Turn oven off; allow to cool in oven 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree with Children Around

I debated whether or not to put a Christmas tree up this year. Jonah, at 14 months, is very curious and likes to pull everything out of everywhere. Still, it's not quite Christmas without a tree, at least not for me. So I decided to go ahead.


Our tree, in all it's glory, is right in the middle of all of the toys, because that's really the only kind of open spot in our apartment. I use the bigger toys to kind of block off the tree, and it actually works pretty well.

You may notice that the bottom of the tree has fewer ornaments than the top. That's because the only ones in the "Jonah zone" are either soft, or sturdy enough that I don't think he'll break them. (I have only been wrong about one so far, and the hot glue gun fixed that).
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When decorating a tree with young children, it's best to put the ornaments on while the kids are sleeping. Otherwise, they will immediately pull them off as soon as you put them on. I learned this the hard way. Also, realize that the first few days are going to be spent saying "no!" and "don't touch!" a lot. It's been a few days since I put the tree up, and Jonah is finally used to it. Curiosity is natural for little kids, and if you're okay with them exploring the tree, let them. I'd rather have mine be a little more hands off.
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I decided this year to leave some ornaments off the tree. You know those glass balls that shatter when they drop? Not up there. The really heavy ceramic angels that have to hang from the sturdy bottom branches? Not so much. I would rather have those safe and sound in a box for a few more years, knowing that I can hang them for many years after that.
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Some of the best ornaments for the bottom of the tree are homemade - check out my 20 Days of Homemade Christmas Ornaments over at The Deal Seeker for some ideas to get you started!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Simple Christmas Decorations

When it comes to the Christmas season, it can be tempting to do an entire home makeover to fit in every last Christmas decoration, wreath, tree, DIY idea you found on a craft blog, and so on. Sometimes, though, it's best to keep it simple. This year, we have just a few decorations out in place of (rather than in addition to) our normal chotchkes. And I think it turned out quite well.

Our friendly little snowman family, alongside some cinnamon scented candles and our advent calendar. What a cute little display!



We received the stained glass nativity as a wedding gift, and I think it is just gorgeous! A couple little angels, and our new (last year) family tradition of a yearly snow globe complete this shelf.


On shelves where little hands can reach, it's best to do decorations that are okay to play with. My Grandma Winter crocheted these carolers a long time ago, and I was blessed enough to get to keep a set of them! There's also a lamppost somewhere, but a certain little boy already walked off with that. It makes a good sword, apparently.

We also have a tree up (more on that soon!), and a holiday centerpiece on the dining room table. But that's pretty much it for this year, and I think it's just enough. What decorations have you put up?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Welcome to Kate's Great Crafts!

Welcome! I realized once my craft projects started taking over my deal blog that perhaps it was time for a change. My interests have shifted, so why not start something new?

If you have been following me over at The Deal Seeker, some things will look familiar to you. I plan on continuing my weekly Crafty Link-Up and What I'm Reading... posts, because those are some of my favorite features. I also want to add a weekly (or bi-weekly) menu planner, complete with recipes and pictures, because those are creations too.

To get your crafty fix for the day, check out my 20 Days of Homemade Christmas Ornaments over at The Deal Seeker. Once those are done, expect to see a lot more crafty projects over here. I can't wait!

In case you were wondering, there were a couple different names I had wanted to use for this blog, but they were all already taken. So while I normally go by Katy or Katherine, for this blog, I guess I'm Kate. It works for me!