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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy holidays!

merry christmas & happy holidays, from our family to yours.
see you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

artichoke dip

christmas, or actually just about any holiday or special occasion, just wouldn't be the same without larene's artichoke dip. whenever it's around, i find myself eating it, & nothing else... it's that good. so this year, my christmas gift to you, is the super secret recipe...

larene's artichoke dip

2 jars marinated artichokes
2 cans artichoke hearts in water
2 cups of mayo
2 cups of sour cream
1 can medium diced green chilies
2+ cups of grated jack cheese
2+ cups of grated cheddar cheese

empty of the jars & cans of artichokes into a strainer & using your hands squish them up good; then rinse & chop them up even more.

in a bowl mix:
mayo, cups of sour cream, & diced green chilies. when the mixture is combined, add the "squished" artichokes.

spread the mayo artichoke mixture into the bottom of 9x13 pan & top with the mixture of cheeses.

bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour, or until the bubbly & the cheese is melted.

serve with LOTS of chips.

yum! yum! yum!

image via here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Last Minute Gifts

still needing something special for your friends & neighbors? but, you don't exactly want to break the bank & you need it asap? check out THIS post HERE. maybe you'll find some inspiration.

image via elle's studio.

my little helper.

while frosting cupcakes for gavin's pre-school party, little o just had to help. unfortunately, for him, i've found that a 2 year old isn't exactly the best kitchen helper. luckily, for both him & me, the used can of frosting proved to be the perfect babysitter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

today my feet LOVE me.

yesterday the boys & i traded the responsibilities of the REAL world (the 3-layer cake i am supposed to bake for tonight's church party, finishing up the christmas presents, package deliveries, house cleaning, & stamp lick'n) for the frolic & fun of the magic kingdom. the only responsible thing i did all day was choose some really fabulous footwear. you see, last week when we visited the happiest place on earth, it was freezing (yep! even in sunny california, sometimes it gets cold!). with my warmth & comfort in mind i chose to wear my fuzzy, furry, & very warm uggs. but, in case you don't already know, those boots definitely aren't made for walking. by the end of the evening, & the entire next day, my feet, legs, even my butt was sore. so, even though it was once again freezzing, & even though those warm & toasty boots were calling my name, i turned to my trusty crocs... they are so dang comfy! now normally, i'm not a "croc" kind of a girl. i love 'em for my kids, in fact for little ones, they are my preferred footwear of choice. but on me, i've always felt they looked a little too much like clown shoes... & i'm just a little too fashion conscious to be able to pull that look off. but THESE shoes are both comfy & cute, the best of both worlds!

image via crocs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

here comes santa claus.

a couple of weeks ago i got the boys all gussied up for a date with the big man himself... santa claus. & as the story goes, "he was dressed all in fun, from his head to his foot, & his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; a bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. his eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! his cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! his droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; the stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; he had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. he was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf". unfortunately, that's where our story takes a turn - instead of laughing when owen saw him, he cried, & cried hard.

we tried all the tricks... everything from watching santa interact with other kids, to me trying to sit with owen & that jolly happy soul. but nothing worked, little o just wasn't having any of it. but, at least gavin was thrilled to read santa his christmas list.

later that afternoon i found owen asleep on the floor. i guess you could say he was tuckered out... being terrified of santa must have exhausted him. the funny thing is, now, every time & everywhere he sees santa, he gets all excited. even if the pictures this year didn't exactly work out, we do have proof that owen hasn't always been so scared...



images courtesy of ana brandt photography

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

nutter butter santa cookies

more holiday baking going on in these parts. last time we kept it simple, this time around we are getting fancy. just kidding, these are super easy too. however there is some chocolate dipping involved. but seriously, it's not complicated... my 3-year became our designated chocolate dipper - it's that simple!

first of all, gather your supplies: nutter butter cookies, white chocolate baking chips or mini marshmallows, white chocolate for melting (you can use candy melts or white chocolate baking chips), mini m&m's, granulated sugar (optional), red sprinkles (the granulated sugar kind), red hots & some wax paper.

next, melt your chocolate using a double broiler, or using the microwave (my personal pick). then grab the center of your cookie & dip, baby, dip. the top portion is going to be santa's hat - so dip that a 1/4 or so of the way in, & the bottom is going to be santa's beard - so dip that a little less than 1/2 way. but don't worry about specifics... just do what you think looks good.

lay your cookies down on wax paper & sprinkle the top half (santa's hat) with the red sprinkles (if you leave just a touch of white chocolate peeking through it looks like his hat has a bit of a furry trim), & if you'd like, sprinkle his beard with the granulated sugar to give it a little extra "sparkle".

now, add a white chocolate chip, or mini marshmallow (i usually cut the marshmallow in half), in an off-center position on santa's hat for his pom pom. & using a little white chocolate, glue on some mini m&m's for eyes, & a red hot for his nose. & finally, after all that hard work, you've got your finished product.

trust me, these will be a BIG hit at your house. EVERYONE will be volunteering to help. just make sure to have some extra supplies on hand, because i'm sure there will be some nibbling involved.

ho! ho! ho!

Monday, December 15, 2008

the latest in home decor.

we've added a new accessory to our home decor... a rope tying o's bedroom door shut. little owen has been climbing out of his crib for awhile now, but it's only been recently that he realized he can actually open his bedroom door. (& trust me, 5 am wake up calls are no fun). if you've been reading for awhile, you know this isn't the first time we've encountered this. back in the day, you might remember, we had a similar problem with gavin. & although i LOVE the look of the black & orange rope stretched out across our hallway, it looks like santa will be bring THIS special present for owen this holiday season.

gingerbread houses.

one of my talents definitely isn't making a proper gingerbread house. for one reason or another mine always seem to collapse. but this year i have a new found hope... a couple of weeks ago i received personal gingerbread house making lessons from none other than disneyland's executive head pastry chef, chef jean-marc viallet. okay, so they weren't exactly one-on-one lessons, but it was a very intimate group. this week i'm planning on putting his "tips & tricks" to the test. (one i'm definitely using - instead of "gluing" my house together with royal icing, i'll be using melted white chocolate.) with any luck, i'll be creating my own gingerbread village in know time. want to check out more of chef jean-marc viallet tips? go HERE.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

magical reindeer dust

so i've heard of pixie dust, but until yesterday afternoon, i had no idea what magical reindeer dust was. but now, i know we'll be making lots & lots of reindeer dust in the near future...

magical reindeer dusts consists of:
1 cup sugar
1 cup instant oatmeal
1 cup glitter (or, if you live in an area with lots of "non-magical" creatures, you might want to substitute sprinkles for the glitter)

mix everything together & package with the following poem/ instructions:

the legend of magical reindeer dust
it has once been said,
that right before you go to bed.
you should sprinkle magic reindeer food,
to quickly bring Santa and his brood.
for many years the legend has been told,
to boys and girls, both young and old,
sprinkle the food throughout your yard,
then finding your house won’t be so hard!
the reindeer can smell the food for 100 miles,
just do not leave it in big piles!
after you do this you must go to sleep very fast,
so Santa and his reindeer will not pass!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

mod podged frames

you've asked, so i'm delivering.... once again, here are the instructions for mod podging your very own picture frames.

supplies needed:
an unfinished frame (the dollar specials are always great), wood stain, a piece of card stock scrapbook paper (larger than your frame), a jar of mod podge, a sponge brush applicator, a tiny bit of sand paper, a razor blade or exacto knife, & a tim holtz distress ink stamp pad (my favorite is the tea dye, & you can pick it up at your local craft store in the "stamping" section).

1. stain your frame. you don't have to stain the entire frame, just the areas that will be visible after you mod podge the paper to the front... that means you will be staining the back of the frame, the outer sides of the frame as well as the inner sides (near where the picture will go) & don't forget to stain the dowel that you will be using as the stand.

2. once your frame is dry, it's time to get your mod podge on... the first step to the art of mod podging is to apply a light layer over the entire surface to be mod podged (the front of the frame) & let it dry for about 30 seconds or so. the timing isn't setting in stone, you just want it to set-up a touch.

3. next, you apply another layer of mod podge & then position your chosen card stock on top of the frame (pay careful attention to any particular areas that you don't want to cut away & steer those parts away from the center or edges of your frame).

4. press the paper firmly to the frame, smoothing away any air bubbles that may form. (it's kinda like wall papering... i found it helpful to use an old credit card to help smooth the paper out.)

5. once the paper is set in place, let it sit for about 5 minutes, then recheck your frame to see if any more bubbles have appeared. if there are, press the bubble down again. if it still doesn't stick, take a straight pin to release the air under the paper & press it smooth.

6. once your frame is dry, put it right-side down on a cutting surface & using your razor blade or exacto knife, trim off the extra paper from around the edges & from the center opening of the frame. & don't worry, it doesn't have to be perfect, you are going to be sanding it later.

7. using your sand paper, sand all of the paper edges (that you just trimmed) to ensure that they are smooth.

now here comes the super-secret, super-easy, but super-fantastic step...

8. THIS little stamp pad rocks! it's the magic, that makes everything look beautiful. using your stamp pad, go over all your newly sanded edges... your going to be "covering up" the bright white of those newly cut paper edges. make sense? you can also use a sponge, or paper towel to pick up ink & get into those "hard-to-reach" places. you can use the stamp pad as much or as little as you like to create a more vintage look. sometimes i just use it on the edges, sometimes i'll use it to completely cover the entire scrapbook paper. you can also use a little water to spread and smudge the ink... experiment with it.

9. once your paper trimming, sanding & ink-applying is done, apply at least 3 more layers of mod podge on top of the scrapbook paper. apply a layer of mod podge & let it dry for about 15 minutes, then apply another, and let it dry, etc. (sometimes, i've even applied more of the vintage-y ink in-between layers of mod podge, i told you, i love the stuff!).

10. when everything is good & dry, at this point you are pretty much done... so pat yourself on the back, find the perfect picture, & ta da! you have a finished product.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

tickled pink.

did i mention i was pregnant?

Monday, December 8, 2008

big beautiful eyes.

my sister-in-law recently turned me on to THIS great little makeup kit. being as "makeup inept" as i am, she knew i would appreciate it's ease. "a complete eye contouring & concealing kit for all eye colors... this little kit is all you need to line, define & contour your lids like a pro." not only are the colors picked out & packaged in a cute, nifty little set, but it even comes with instructions. yep! "detailed, step-by-step application instructions" are included - perfect for a gal like me, who needs someone to hold their hand through the application process.

image via sephora.

Friday, December 5, 2008

meet my new friends.

recently i've met some new gals & we've become fast friends. they are always ready to get their craft on & think everything i make is darling. i'd love to introduce you...

& ms. extraordinary

want to make some new friends of your own? go HERE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

oreo cookie snowmen

we started off the holiday baking with a little something that required absolutely no baking. actually, to be absolutely honest, very little was involved other than eating lots of mini m&ms, and a few oreo cookies, because they are super easy! but, in the end, our tummies were very full & we had a plate full of cute little snowmen. so now, to get you in the holiday mood, i present oreo cookie snowmen...

to start, gather your supplies... white fudged covered oreo cookies (yep! you read that right. you don't even have to dip the oreos in chocolate. i told you it was easy!), black & orange decorating gel, and if you want to get really fancy - mini m&ms, but those are totally optional.

step one: with your orange decorating gel draw a little sideways, triangular squiggle for the carrot nose.

next, using the black decorating gel, add two eyes & a mouth. then, ta da! your done. see... i told you it was easy. but if you want to get fancy... you could always add some accessories. perhaps some mini m&ms ear muffs (check out the very first picture. see that little guy sporting the yellow ear muffs?), or use the decorating gel to add a little scarf, the possibilities are endless.

bet you can't make these, without getting frosty the snowman stuck in your head. have fun & be sure to eat an oreo or two for me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

favorite christmas reads.

so, i was pulling together a list of my all-time favorite christmas reads & i thought i'd share. maybe you'll find a story or two that will become a new family favorite, or perhaps you'll re-discover one you had forgotten about. here's a few books & stories i'm looking forward to sharing with my family this year. if i've missed any of your favorites, please share! i'm always on the lookout for something new.

the tale of the three trees
the polar express
teach the children the true meaning of christmas
how the grinch stole christmas
why christmas trees aren't perfect
the night before christmas
olive, the other reindeer
the christmas orange
the max lucado christmas collection
christmas nails
a special place for santa
m&m christmas poem
the christmas miracle of jonathan toomey
the white envelope
the giving tree
santa's prayer

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

a new box of crayons.

during our recent holiday excursion i discovered my newest, favorite kid friendly item... crayangles. they're exactly what they sound like, triangular shaped crayons. perfect for restaurants, planes, or any other time you don't want to deal with crayons rolling away. & maybe i'm crazy, but i swear their triangle shape enabled my littlest one's grubby little hands, to get a better grip on the crayon. although the small package of 4 crayons easily fits in my purse, i kinda wish i could find a big 'ole box for everyday use. i did manage to swipe a few boxes from the restaurant (please don't tell), but when i need some more i'm definitely heading HERE.

image via here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

countdown to christmas

it's december 1st... time for the christmas countdown to begin. i love me a cute advent calendar, & there are so many to choose from. i still love THIS one, luckily i picked it up last year. but THIS cookie sheet advent calendar has defiitely caught my eye, as well as THIS "advent in a box".

so how do you countdown? add a new ornament to the tree each day? celebrate with a small gift or special treat? read a different christmas book each night? last year we started the tradition of doing an "activity based" advent calendar. sometimes our "activities" are big outings & sometimes they are just little things, but we try to do something a little special, every single day... spreading christmas cheer throughout the entire month. so here's this year's list:

1. write letters to santa
2. watch: how the grinch stole christmas
3. go to disneyland
4. go christmas tree shopping
5. attend a christmas tree lighting
6. ride the irvine rail roade christmas train
7. read: the tale of the three trees
8. make hot chocolate floats
9. watch: the nightmare before christmas
10. start our own "white envelope"tradition
11. have a picnic dinner by the christmas tree
12. dana point harbor boat parade of lights
13. ding dong ditch christmas treats
14. read: the christmas orange
15. gingerbread house
16. watch: white christmas
17. make home-made bread for hot chocolate & toast
18. newport beach boat parade
19. have breakfast for dinner
20. have a fondue/ candy cane dipping party
21. read: why christmas trees aren't perfect
22. drive around to see the neighborhood christmas lights.
23. watch: elf
24. sing christmas songs, tell the story of the true meaning of christmas, & read the christmas story

here's to a happy holiday season! it's definitely one of the happiest times of the year!
image via flickr.