Saturday, December 24, 2011

Last Minute Gift Ideas and a Favorite Hot Apple Cider Recipe

I am sorry I wasn't able to post yesterday....
I am a little short on time, so I will have to post about the one room in the house I decorated after Christmas.....

I thought I would do a quick post, and share some last minute gift ideas with you....
These were our favorite gifts to make and give out this year....

1. An antique european grain sack wine and or beverage bag along with a bottle of wine and or sparkling cider.....

2, Homemade marshmallows and hot cocoa mix....

(an image of cookies the kids and I made last year)

3. Sugar Cookies...
We used our favorite recipe,
for the frosting we used a Penzey Spice Recipe....

I also wanted to share a family favorite hot apple cider recipe with you....
We make this every year during the holidays....
Not only does it taste good, it will also make your entire house smell good : )

Hot Apple Cider
6 cups apple cider 
(our favorite is the 365 Organic Apple Juice)
6 cups of pear juice
a pinch of ginger
3 whole cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
10 cloves
1 TBLSP of fennel seeds
Bring all the above ingredients to a boil and let simmer for 25 minutes....
Then enjoy!

Before I go I want to remind you that Jeanne Oliver's camera bag giveaway is still open on my blog....
If you would like to enter you can do so by clicking here.....
Thank you Jeanne!

I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Thank you so much for taking the time to stop in and read my blog.
Merry Christmas to you and your families!
Take Care,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Special Guest Blogger, Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey, Home Tour

Happy Holidays Everyone!
I hope you're enjoying this wonderful season!
I would like to thank Maria for having me as a guest on her inspirational blog today!

My name is Cheryl and my blog is called Sweet Young Journey.
I live in Santa Barbara with the love of my life and our two precious daughters.
I have a passion for interior design and photography!
My goal is to create beautiful and comfortable spaces in my home for my family and friends to enjoy.
Blogging has been a fabulous discovery for me, because I love sharing my design project from my life and home with others.
I would like to share with you a tour of our home during the holiday season.
I hope you find it bright and merry!

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

This recycled tin barn star was found at a local antique store. I used mason jars as candle holders to complement this look.
To add a little greenery, I tied snippets from the Christmas tree to the jars with Dutch butchers twine from Maria's store.
You'll see Maria's lovely red twine in several different looks in my home.
Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

A simple branch was used to hang the burlap stockings above the fireplace.
A branch is an easy way to bring the outdoors inside.
Beneathe the stockings, I placed an old country stool casually covered with a small wool rug. I added some white lanterns, candles and some gathered pinecones to finish the look.

Every year, I buy fresh garland from my local home improvement center to make my own wreaths similar to the one hanging from the mantel.
These wreaths are an inexpensive way to fill your home with holiday fragrance, plus, I love the simplicity!

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

A shaggy wool rug, a pair of found tree stumps used as a coffee table and a reindeer made from canvas with real twigs for antlers give our living room a cozy winter feel.

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

I used inexpensive burlap to make a tree skirt and added some pretty white ruffles to coordinate with the stockings.I've also made a pennant banner out of grain sack material and butchers twine to use as garland for the Christmas tree.
It's really easy to do and requires no sewing, just a little bit of time.

I made a no-sew Christmas tree garland tutorial for you...

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

1. Trace a triangle with a stencil on desired fabric and cut out triangle shape. I used a cookie cutter for my stencil.
2. Using a hot glue gun add glue to the top of one side of the triangle
3. Use a tool (I used my scissors) to measure spaces in between triangles.
4. Add twine across the glued area
5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

In my girls room I've added Maria's adorable little grain sack stockings, a Charlie Brown Christmas tree standing proudly in a galvanized bucket and paper stars made from old sheet music. A pair of angel's wings found at a local antique store lend to the room a heavenly touch.

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

A fluffly Santa teddy bear rests on an antique white chair. Adding a touch of whimsy is a little sign reminding the girls "better not pout."

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

On my dining table I used grain sack material as a runner and 3 lovely potted plants on top of white ironstone plates (or any casual white plate will do). For a bit of extra holiday cheer, I added these fun red patterned drinking glasses as well as Maria's little stockings to use as a pocket to hold a fork and knife.

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

Guests enjoy having their own baguettes which I use as a name place holder by stamping their names on a card. A coordinated idea for napking rings is to cut out a 1 inch star from the grain sack fabric and glue it to an 8 inch piece of twin and wrap the twine around the rolled napkin and tie a basic bow or knot.

A rustic heart shape wreath simply hanging on my decorative door represents my feelings regarding the holiday season.

Styling and Photography by Cheryl of Sweet Young Journey

I hope you enjoyed the tour!
I'll soon be sharing a tutorial on my blog how to make the burlap tree skirt, wreaths out of garland and some handmade ornaments out of grain sacks.

Best wishes for a Happy Holiday and New Year!
Thank you once again Maria!


Thank you Cheryl! I love the way you decorated your home for Christmas!
I love this post Cheryl did about turning apples into paint cups!
I hope you get a chance to visit Cheryl's blog.
Sweet Young Journey

I will be back on Friday with some Christmas decorating.
Take Care,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Special Guest, Lara Sheleheda of Air Kiss, Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently I asked two talented women to share a holiday decorating idea and or a favorite holiday recipe
on my blog, to share with you during the holiday season....
Today I would like to introduce you to one of those bloggers, Lara Sheleheda, of the blog, Air Kiss.
I love Lara's photography and food styling, and I know you will too.
I hope you get a chance to visit Lara's Blog.

Hi everyone! I'm Lara from Air Kiss and Maria invited me to guest post at her gorgeous blog. First of all, let me say it is such an honor to be here at one of my very favorite go to blogs for stunning photography. You are truly gifted in that art Maria! Maria has never ceased continually amazing me with her beautiful and unique style from day one.

I am completely addicted to cooking and baking food, styling it, and photographing it. You can see more of my photos over at my blog, Air Kiss. Right now it has been all about the making and; baking of holiday sweets. I am making my first p√Ęte de fruit  tomorrow - the last sweet on my agenda. But, I can't wait to dive into some healthy winter vegetable salads which I'll be sharing soon.

In the meantime, my kitchen has been filled with the smells of chocolate and cool peppermint lately. Who doesn't love peppermint in December? Even better when it is with some chocolate!

These cupcakes are adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. Such a great book to have if you love baking up really great cupcakes. These are the Devil's Food Chocolate cupcakes paired with her 7-minute meringue frosting. I didn't have Dutch-process cocoa powder, so I used Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder. I put some candy canes in a Ziplock bag and bashed them up with a the back of a wooden spoon. Then I rolled over the crushed pieces with a rolling pin to get them finely crushed.

Between the batter and the meringue, there are ten eggs used in this recipe. Good practice for separating egg whites!

I love using Ateco pastry piping tips. I used the Ateco #809 for the chocolate chip shape piping. You pipe straight down and then pull the piping bag right up to make the little peak. A Wilton #1A will also work for this.

These cupcakes are super delicious after they have fully cooled and the flavours have had time to meld. Do the freezer for portion control method like I do to avoid temptation. ;-)

I hope everyone has a holiday full of peace and cheer!

Thanks for having me as your guest, Maria!

Ghiradelli Chocolate  Cupcakes
makes 32 cupcakes

3/4 cup Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Let cool completely before frosting.

7-Minute Frosting
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book
makes about 8 cups

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg whites, room temperature

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Thank you Lara!!!
You can also find Lara on....

I will be back with my second surprise guest tomorrow evening.
Take Care,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Decorating for Christmas.... and a Jeanne Oliver Camera Bag Giveaway

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend.
I finally got one area of the house partially decorated for Christmas over the weekend and have a couple pictures to share with you today....

We finally got our tree up as well...
It just isn't decorated yet...

I have a lot more pictures to share with you....
I will be back soon with a few more images and details about the room and our Christmas tree : )

On another note...
I wanted to share with you Jeanne Oliver's beautiful new clothing line, The Coming Home Collection, Jeanne recently released.
I hope you enjoy a preview of Jeanne's new line, I love it.
Jeanne is also giving away the Natalie Camera Bag to one lucky reader today.....
So be sure and read the giveaway information at the bottom of the post.

Jeanne also published the above lookbook.  Be sure and check it out.

Don't you just love Jeanne's work.
Jeanne is truly an inspiration to me....
Last spring I interviewed Jeanne, if you missed the interview, I hope you get a chance to read it.
Bethany LOVES her bag and uses it everyday to pack her art supplies around....

Now onto the giveaway information!
One lucky person will receive one Natalie Camera Bag!
The giveaway ends December 28th at midnight.
1. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment on this post.

If you would like additional entries you can do the following.
Please leave a separate comment for each entry.....

2. Post about the giveaway on any of your social networking sites, such as twitter, facebook, blogger, and or pinterest.

I hope you get a chance to visit Jeanne's shop and blog.


I will be back with more holiday decorating.
Take Care,

Dreamy Whites Shop

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Marshmallows, Gift Ideas, and Serving Hot Cocoa during the Holidays

I first want to thank all of you who left such kind comments about my daughter's 
Nicole appreciates every comment.
Today I wanted to share a fun recipe and a quick gift giving idea.....
I come from a large family and all of us girls learned how to bake....
A lot of times for Christmas my favorite gift to give is baked goods or homemade candies.
The fun part is finding something fun to put the baked goods in....
I thought I would share a gift idea I have done in the past....

They are both so simple to make.

Nicole made the marshmallows and Bethany made the hot chocolate....

Just a warning on the the marshmallows...
They have to set up for a couple of hours, however it is hard to not eat all the marshmallow cream while it is in the process of setting.
The nice part about making these marshmallows, there is hardly any stirring involved.

Throw in a few peppermint sticks to make your gift more festive....
These are the best peppermint sticks, you can find them at Sur la Table

I thought it would be fun to put a bag of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows in an antique french
You can also find new cafe au lait bowls at Anthropologie....

For the hot chocolate my favorite type of chocolate to use is Penzey's Dutch Cocoa.

I found these cute red and white checked food bags at Sur La Table......
That way your food is safe if you are using vintage canisters to put your baked goods in....

(I will be listing these french canisters in my shop today....)

I also wanted to share a fun way to serve hot cocoa during the holidays using a french cheese board.....

I have a bit of an obsession with these antique French cheese boards....
I think they would work great for entertaining purposes.

I put the cookies on a french ironstone platter....
I love to use my antique ironstone on a daily basis, if you would like to read more about caring for your ironstone dishes you can do so by clicking here.....

 I used a red striped grain sack runner on the table....

I tried to make the table seem more festive by adding the peppermint sticks and the red and white ribbon......

I hope you get a chance to try the homemade marshmallows.....
You can find the recipe for the marshmallows here....
You can find the recipe for the homemade cocoa here....

If you don't want to use vintage tins for your homemade gifts,
my other favorite option is to use Martha Stewart's boxes from Michaels...
They also have a great selection of ribbon to choose from.
What is your favorite thing to put your baked goods in when giving them as gifts?

Take Care,