Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Simple Creamy Butter Mints

Smooth. Creamy. Refreshing. Melt-in-your-mouth amazing. These simple  little bites of heaven were a big hit at New Beginnings. I had several people ask me for the recipe so I thought I'd post it here.

Simple Butter Mints
3 ounces cream cheese, softened (low fat would work, but why?)
1 Tablespoon butter, softened (I used regular salted butter but unsalted would work just as well. DO NOT use margarine!)
3 cups confectioners sugar
2 drops real peppermint oil (you could substitute 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract in a pinch but I vastly prefer pure peppermint oil. I used dōTERRA oil if you are wondering)
food coloring, optional
superfine sugar for rolling, optional

Beat the softened cream cheese and butter in a mixer until fluffy, about two minutes. Gradually add the confectioners sugar, about 1/3 of a cup at a time, mixing after each addition until combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary. Add the peppermint oil and any coloring you wish to add. Beat on medium speed until the oil and coloring are incorporated throughout.

Roll teaspoonsful of the mixture into balls. Roll the balls in superfine sugar, if desired (I skipped this step). Set on waxed paper and allow to dry for about 20 minutes.

Now the fun part: Using a fork or a clean rubber stamp dipped in a little sugar (if you skipped the rolling in sugar step), gently flatten the mints. Allow them to dry at room temperature for another hour or two before storing them in an airtight container and keeping them in your fridge for up to a month. If they last that long. Which they won't. At least not if your family is anything like mine.

I doubled the recipe and it made quite a few mints. We were eating them for almost a week at our house and I have four boys so that is saying something. These are great for a wedding, a tea party or just about any holiday.

You can use a fork to flatten the mints, but I used a clean rubber snowflake stamp to go with our "Winter Wonderland" theme.

  Rich. Simple. Minty. Delicious.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Under Construction

I logged onto my blog last night to find that it had gone all wonky somehow. I'm in the process of a revamp. Please excuse the mess as I remodel. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Beginnings

Right now I'm serving as a youth leader over the group of 12 to 18 year old young women at church. Aside from teaching lessons on Sundays and weekly activities, there are also a couple of other big events during the year to plan and carry out. One of these is called "New Beginnings" it takes place at the beginning of the calendar year or the beginning of a new school year and is an overview of the program for the young women, their families and any of the girls at church who will be turning 12 and joining the program this year. We held ours a few weeks ago.

We decided to go with a winter theme for the symbolism of white and freshly fallen snow as a new beginning, a fresh start, purity, cleanliness and promise. The young women gave talks during the program, there was a beautiful musical number of "I Know that My Redeemer Lives", some comments from our bishop and then afterwards we had a light lunch.

The decorations turned out lovely and the lunch was nice despite being what my husband calls "woman food."

I wanted to share some pictures of our simple but pretty decorations (above) and the menu.

The Menu:
--Finger sandwiches (ham salad, egg salad, tuna salad, cucumber and peanut butter and grape jelly for the picky eaters)
--Pita chips and hummus
--Crudités with my favorite vegetable dip
--Crackers and cheese
--Olive penguins
--A selection of desserts including: brownies, powdered sugar doughnuts, white cupcakes with white frosting, Hershey's kisses, snowballs (that I forgot to put out) and homemade butter mints
--Lemonade to drink

I'll be sharing a couple of easy DIY ideas and recipes that we utilized in carrying out this event in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wednesday Night Freak Out

There are a few facts you need to know before I relate the story I am about to tell you. Knowing these things will help the story to make more sense and will perhaps keep you from judging me as an unfit house-keeper.

1. We have baseboard hot water heat in our home. There are these ugly heater covers throughout the house that are about an inch and a half from the floor. Dust bunnies and small toys tend to collect in these areas.
2. Sometimes my boys carefully place things under the baseboards in an effort to "surprise" me (like a rather realistic looking rubber snake that I found while sweeping this evening).
3. I do sweep fairly regularly.
4. I cut my boys hair. I usually do this in the dining room area. There are hard chairs and a hard floor so it makes for easy clean up. I often put off haircuts so long that the pile of clipped hair on the floor resembles a small animal.
5. When we moved into our house at the end of September I kept the windows open most of the time because it smelled like something had died.

Do you see where this is going?

As I was sweeping this evening, I saw what I thought was a hunk of hair that I had missed sweeping up from cutting my boys' hair a couple of days ago under the heater. I bent to pick it up because for some reason the broom wouldn't grab it. It was like it was stuck up in the heater a bit. When I pulled it out I realized that it was NOT hair or dust or a toy that my boys had put there to surprise me. It was a dead bat.

I freaked out. I screamed. I dropped the bat. I screamed again. I rushed to the sink to wash my hands with thoughts of rabies running through my head. All my boys and the neighbor kid came running to see what was the matter. I called my husband and told him that he had to come home right now because there was no way I was going to touch that thing again. He was excited. He told me that this was the best thing that had happened to him all day (he is a biology/animal physiology professor at the local university).

I washed my hands again and called my dad.

I am not typically a screaming person (except for spiders--I hate spiders). Snakes, lizards, frogs, even mice? No big deal. But a dead bat? In my house!?

On the one hand bats are great because they eat mosquitoes. On the other hand bats are kind of like mice that fly AND have rabies. And suck your blood and turn you into a vampire. Besides that, it was just a shock since I was expecting something entirely different than a dead animal--an animal that definitely belongs outside. You might scream too.

I gave the bat a wide berth and waited for my husband to get home before I would look at it closer. I mean, what if it wasn't really dead but was just stunned from the cold or maybe unconscious? That could happen, right? What if it started flying around my house trying to suck my blood and give me rabies? I was torn between being grossed out and worried about disease and being fascinated and wanting to check it out. I blame the former on my mother and the latter on my dad.

When David got home, he donned some disposable gloves and picked it up to examine it closer. It quickly became evident that this little guy bit the dust quite awhile ago. Sadly his wings have already decomposed so we couldn't pull them out to examine them. The best we can figure, the little bat corpse had been stuck up in the heater cover and just finally became desiccated enough that it partially dropped out (and was mistaken for a chunk of hair by yours truly).

We triple bagged it so that my husband can take it to work and I made him promise that he would actually take it and that it won't be hanging out (<---see what I did there?) in our freezer for the next six months. We had a brief discussion about white nose syndrome in little brown bats, because that's how we roll at our house. And then we all washed our hands again.

And I disinfected the dining room floor.
The end.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Homemade Crispy, Buttery, Delicate Golden-brown Croutons

When it comes to homemade bread, I am a crust girl all the way, but with store bought bread not so much. Recently I had to make a bunch of finger sandwiches for an event at church and naturally for such an event crusts had to be trimmed from the bread to make it all fancy-like, so for the last week I have had a large plastic container of bread crusts hanging out on my kitchen counter.

Although I don't typically love store bought bread crust, I'm not one to just waste food either. My husband was in school long enough that we appreciate the importance of living frugally. In our family, we have adopted the old pioneer adage of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."  So, what to do with all those bread crusts?

My first thought was bread pudding, which probably would have been fine, but 1.) almost all recipes I found called for removing the crusts of bread and discarding them before making the pudding which kind of defeated the purpose, and 2.) I'm trying to cut back on sugar. Being alone with a bread pudding in the house for most of the day would not have been a good thing.

Upon further consideration I decided to try my hand at making homemade croutons. Now store-bought croutons are just okay for me, but let me tell you, these croutons blow store-bought croutons out of the water, ahem, I mean salad. These croutons are delicious, super simple and made the perfect accompaniment to my healthy, non-sugar-fied salad for lunch. Bonus: It made a huge batch so I have plenty of croutons to keep me in salad bliss for the next few weeks. I plan to keep them in my freezer just to be safe.

While I used mainly just the crusts and a couple of heels of cheap white bread that were hanging out in my cupboard, you really could use just about any type of loaf bread. If you have kids that hate crust or no one will eat the heel at your house maybe you could stockpile them in your freezer until you have enough for a nice large batch of crispy, buttery, savory, delicate, golden-brown croutons. They are perfect with salad, but we've been eating them by the handful as well (so much for a low carb diet).

--Crusts of about 24 pieces of bread (give or take a couple slices), cut into cubes. It doesn't hurt if they are slightly stale.
--Olive oil (more than you might think--about 6 tablespoons)
--Kosher salt to taste
--Freshly ground black pepper to taste
--Beau Monde seasoning (optional--this has salt in it so use a little less salt if adding this)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put your bread cubes in a extra large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and add a generous sprinkling of Kosher salt (I think I used somewhere between 2 teaspoons and a tablespoon--this really depends on your personal preference) and freshly ground black pepper (I used maybe around 1/2 to 1 teaspoon). Toss the bread, oil and salt and pepper with your hands until things seem evenly coated. The bread should not be saturated--just lightly coated. Go ahead and taste a little and adjust your seasoning as necessary. Spread the cubes evenly on a jelly-roll sized baking sheet and sprinkle with a little of the Beau Monde seasoning, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes stirring halfway through baking with a wooden spoon. They are done when they appear light golden-brown and crunchy.

Why don't you try them? You can be living in a crouton crunching paradise in about 20 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014's Word of the Year

I love the clean-slate-feeling of a new calendar year. I love the new year as a time for resoluting (as my brother-in-law phrased it)--a time of self-evaluation and goal setting for personal growth. The problem is that I kind of have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations for myself. My "New Year's Resolutions" list has been known to get pretty lengthy in the past and then by the second week in January, I'd be clinging to the last vestiges of unbroken resolutions and feeling like a capital "L", Loser because of all the ways I had failed and fallen short. No more.

Last year I decided to follow a trend I had been seeing to choose a "word of the year" rather than make a lengthy list of resolutions. Last year's word was "persevere" which ended up being pretty apropos. I went through some really hard things; there were a few times when I was absolutely pushed to the brink mentally and emotionally and all I could really do was just hang on and pray to get through. That one little word gave me focus and helped me in those dark times.

About a week ago I started thinking of possible words for 2014. My list included:
Rejoice, Adventure, Create, Magic, Grateful, Steadfast, Brave, Grow, Active and Serve. I like all of these words. They are good words, but there was one word that seemed to speak to me more powerfully than the others:


adjective \ˈfr-wərd, also ˈfō- or ˈf-, Southern also ˈfär-\
: near or belonging to the front part of something
: moving or directed ahead or toward the front
: moving toward the future or toward a more advanced state or condition
(Merriam Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forward)

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (2 Nephi 31:20, emphasis added)

"Forward" is kind of similar to "persevere", but more than "persevere" it implies movement. 

To me, "forward" means forging ahead. It means "tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it". It means personal progress. It means "the future is as bright as your faith". It means endurance. It means "trusting in good things to come". It means "the past is to be learned from but not lived in." It means doing something--anything--because moving is better than standing still.

"Forward" means looking to the future with faith while conscientiously progressing in the present.

"Forward" can change the world.
Where would Middle-earth be if Sam had stopped moving forward?
Of course, I'll inevitably make mistakes and fall short in the coming year. That's okay. Through repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ I am free so that I can continue my forward momentum instead of dwelling on the insufficiencies of the past.

The present is a blessing and the future is full of wonders. Forward, ho!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

DIY Autumn Pastel Painted Vases at Simply Designing

If you like distressed or shabby chic style decor, there's a super simple project up on Ashley's blog over at Simply Designing today. You can check out my latest post for Simply Designing HERE.

And if you like this you might also be interested in my "Autumn Inspiration--Pastels" pinboard on Pinterest for lots of beautiful inspiration pictures for the pastels for fall trend I mention in the post.

Here are the links to my posts on Simply Designing including the previous posts in case you missed them:

DIY Father's Day Fly Fishing Box
DIY Patriotic Wreath Trio
DIY Covered Buttons for Magnets
All Natural Homemade Lip Balm
and today's post
DIY Pastel Autumn Painted Vases