Simply Sweet Home

Recipes, Decor, Crafts, Product Reviews, Giveaways and more.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Favorite Posts of the Year 2007

I've been to a few blogs that have countdowns and lists of favorite posts for the year. In the spirit of the New Year, I decided to do the same, as it seems like a fun tradition. So here is list of some of my favorite recipes and other posts for 2007.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tips for Making and Keeping Resolutions

The time has come to make resolutions for the new year. Just about everyone makes promises to themselves to accomplish some goal in the New Year, whether it's to lose weight, keep the house clean, take vitamins, or start a new business. Unfortunately the vast majority of people don't follow through with their resolutions. Why? It's true that a lot of people procrastinate on various projects throughout the year, yet we still manage to accomplish a lot. Why is it so difficult to keep New Year's resolutions? I believe one reason is that we choose the wrong resolutions to make, and the other reason is poor planning.

Here are some tips on choosing and keeping your resolutions:

1. Resolve to do something that's actually important to you. If you choose to do something that is actually important to you, you'll be more likely to make your resolution a priority and stick with it. (For example, you cannot lose weight or stop smoking unless you actually want to.)

2. Make specific goals. (For example, instead of saying, "I'm going to lose weight," say, "I'm going to lose 25 pounds.")

3. Make realistic and obtainable goals. It's okay to aim high, but pick something you can actually do.

4. Take a few minutes to write down your resolutions on paper. Consider posting the list on your refrigerator or at your desk, or some other place where you can see it. You'll be much more likely to do the items on your list if you see a constant reminder.

5. Create a plan of action. Think about how long it will take you to achieve your resolution and what you'll have to do to make your resolution a reality. Then write it down. One main reason a lot of businesses fail is because they do not make a plan; the same can be said for resolutions. When writing down your plan be very specific. Consider creating a timeline for your goals: What do you want to accomplish by the end of January? By the end of May? (and so forth)

6. Keep a calendar/planner. Keeping a calendar can be a helpful tool for you to write down your goals in, and a calendar will help you to chart your progress.

7. Make an extra effort in January & make the resolution a part of your daily/weekly routine. Just like with anything else, the first few days and weeks are the toughest. But after you've made your a plan and made your resolution a part of your routine and you've gotten in the habit of working on your resoultion, the rest should be a down hill effort. (For example, if you resolve to take a multi-vitamin everyday, and you decide to take your vitamin first thing every morning, then after just a couple of weeks, the resolution should be second nature to you. This concept will also work with other resolutions that are a continuous effort, such as quitting smoking, changing your diet, keeping your house clean or organized, exercising, ect.)

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Recipe of the Week: Sausage Balls

For the recipe of the week, I chose to do one of my favorite appetizers...sausage balls. This is an easy and tasty recipe for a party or for a quick snack at home.

1 lb. mild or hot sausage
2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 c. Bisquick (biscuit mix)

Allow cheese to come to room temperature. Combine all ingredients (easier done by hand). Shape into 1 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seasons Greetings

I'd wanted go ahead and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I'll be taking the next few days off, as I'll be going out of town to visit my family. When I get back I'll be posting on some ideas for New Years and winter, and I have a few special announcements to make about the blog and other upcoming projects. Thanks for visiting and please come back soon!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Rudolph Cupcakes

Here's another favorite from Taste of Home. These cupcakes will be loved by kids of all ages, and they are very easy to make and decorate! In fact, this would be a great last minute dessert item for you to prepare, and it's something fun that your kids could help with.

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) cake mix of your choice
1 can (16 ounces) chocolate frosting
48 animal crackers
24 miniature marshmallows, halved
48 miniature chocolate chips or raisins
24 red jelly beans

Directions: Prepare and bake cake according to package directions for cupcakes, using foil or paper-lined muffin cups. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Frost cupcake tops. Insert two animal crackers into each cupcake for antlers. For the eyes, place two marshmallow halves, cut side up, with a chocolate chip in the center of each. Add a jelly bean for nose. Yield: 2 dozen.

My Suggestions - If you're a fan of the Rudolph movie, you could make cupcakes of Rudolph's girlfriend Clairice by use white frosting, and add a piece of red twizzlers to make a bow.

Pretzels could also be used for ears, and you could use a number of candies for the nose including M&Ms, Skittles, and Red Hots.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Savings

Between now and New Year's is a great time to get good deals on Christmas decorations and other items. A lot of holiday items will not go on sale until the day after Christmas, but some stores are starting to discount items now. If you look in the right place, you can get a bunch of great items for 25, 50, and even 75% off the retail price. Here are a few examples:

Ornaments - I collect ornaments. I use some ornaments for my tree, and I display others in a cabinet throughout the year. If you collect ornaments or are planning to get new ornaments for your tree next year, now is the perfect time to do it. Every year I see new ornaments that I like, but it can get expensive after a while. Waiting till after Christmas to buy the ornaments I want has saved me a lot. Ornaments also make great gifts. My mom collects Hallmark ornaments, and her birthday is in January, so I usually try to pick up a couple of ornaments for her.

Cards - There's a huge markup on Christmas cards. The day after Christmas, stores will have an entire bin full of discounted Christmas cards. It's the perfect opportunity to buy ahead for next year.

Wrapping paper, gift bags, and supplies - Why not go ahead and buy extra gift wrapping supplies for next year?

Calendars - I love picking out my new calendar for the year. Usually I buy from the calendar stand that is set up in the middle of the mall. Several years ago I bought my calendars early. I'd see the one I wanted and I'd want to get it before they sold out. But a few years ago, I saw that had a 75% off sale after New Year's, so I decided I would wait till then from now until. But then last year I was walking through the mall a couple of days after Christmas, and I found that they had already put the calendars on sale. Anyway, if you haven't bought your calendar for the New Year, wait till after Christmas and check the stand at your local mall for a good deal. If they're not on sale yet, then check back after New Years's. Stores like Wal-mart and Target will discount their calendars as well, but they usually wait a little longer.

Christmas decor, trees, clothes, ect. - You can find great deals on all other decor and clothing for yourself or for next year's Christmas presents. I bought my new Christmas tree the day after Christmas last year. It's a lovely 6.5 foot tree, and I got it for about $10, and I absolutely love it! As long as you have a place to store it, stock up! (especially if it is something that you'd like to have regardless of the price and if it is something that you would have to buy in the future anyway!)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chocolate Bon Bons

Bon Bon Ingredients:
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 qt. chopped pecans
1 c. coconut (optional)

Coating Ingredients:
9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (approx. 1 1/2 bags)
1 bar paraffin wax

Sift sugar into a bowl; cream in butter. Add milk and vanilla; stir until smooth and creamy. Fold in nuts and coconut. Refrigerate until firm. Roll into balls. stick toothpicks in each ball (for dipping) and refrigerate again until firm (about an hour or so). Melt chocolate and wax in double boiler. Dip bon bons in chocolate mixture, and set out on wax paper. Let dry completely.


- Sticking the toothpicks into the balls before they are refrigerated (rather than sticking the toothpicks in just before dipping) will help the balls to stay on the toothpick during the dipping process. If you stick the balls with the toothpick just before dip them, they will be more likely to fall into the chocolate, and you'll have to fish them out with a spoon, which can be very frustrating.

-Upon removing the toothpicks, you'll probably be able to see very noticeable holes from the toothpick and any chocolate that was attached to the toothpick. For this, I recommend using any left over chocolate (or make more if needed), and spoon it over all the holes.

-Be sure to use semi-sweet chocolate chips and not milk chocolate, or else the mixture will not turn out right.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Poke Cupcakes

Here's a cute and simple, easy to decorate, cupcake recipe from I make a similar recipe to this in a sheetcake, and now that I've seen this recipe, I'm ready to make the cupcakes. The recipe calls for red jello, but I think green would be good as well. This would also be a good recipe for Valentine's Day, or any holiday really....just change up the colors.

This is also a great recipe because you can do anything you want with it, making it as simple or as elaborate as you like. Personally I'm thinking of leaving the marshmallows off, but I think I will try the sprinkles. But either way, I'm sure you'll like it!

1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Brand Gelatin, any red flavor
1 tub (8 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed
Red or green food coloring
suggested decorations: colored sugar, colored sprinkles, crushed candy canes and/or JET-PUFFED HOLIDAY MALLOWS Marshmallows

PREPARE batter and bake as directed for cupcakes. Cool in pans 10 min. Pierce tops with fork.
STIR boiling water into dry gelatin mix until dissolved; spoon over cupcakes. Refrigerate 30 min. Remove from pans.
TINT whipped topping with food coloring; spread over cupcakes. Decorate as desired. Store in refrigerator.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Coconut Macaroons

This week's recipe of the week is for coconut macaroons. I found this recipe a couple of weeks ago in BHG and decided to make it for my husband. (he loves coconut!) All the macaroons were gone within a couple of days, and he immediately asked when I'd be making some more! Give it a try:

4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 14-oz. pkg. flaked coconut

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Inlarge mixing bowl beat egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt with electricmixer on high speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at atime, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in coconut.
2. Using an icecream scoop with 2-inch bowl (or scant 1/4-cup measure), dropcoconut mixture in mounds on prepared cookie sheets. Place on separate racks in oven. Bake 20 minutes. Turn off oven; let cookies dry in oven 30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Makes 28.
3. For small cookies drop dough by teaspoons. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand and cool as above. Makes 60.
4. Store in airtight container in single layer at room temperature up to 3 days. Freeze up to 3 months.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Cookbook Giveaway

I'm happy to announce that Marye at is giving away a lovely cookbook filled with chocolate recipes for the Christmas season. The book is I’m Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers and Ron Manville and was just published in October of 2007.

It sounds like a wonderful prize for one and all. The contest ends at midnight on December 18, so hurry on over to her page to check out all the details.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Cupcake Designs

I'm new at cupcake decorating myself, and I am absolutely amazed at some of the cupcake designs that I find on the internet. Here are a few Christmas cupcakes for you. Even if you're no cupcake artist, you may be able to make something similar to these, or at least ge an idea, and if nothing else, they're very pretty to look at.

Flickr member - kagekonen

Flickr member - bakerella

Flickr member - paulahennig

Flickr member - momskitchen

Flickr member - who ate all the cupcakes

Flickr member - NZ Cupcake Queen

Flickr member - ambjer

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Peppermint Brittle

2 pounds white chocolate
30 small peppermint candy canes

Line a large jellyroll pan with heavy-duty foil.

Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on medium setting for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Place candy canes in a plastic bag, or between two pieces of waxed paper. Using a mallet or rolling pin, break the candy canes into chunks. Stir peppermint into melted white chocolate. Spread evenly in pan, and chill until set, about 1 hour. Break into pieces by slamming pan on counter.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fantasy Fudge

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is make (and eat) all the great candies, cookies, appetizers, get the picture. So for the next week or so, all of my posts will be devoted to pictures and recipes of holiday sweets and treats. I decided to start with a traditional favorite, fudge.



3 cups sugar

3/4 cup margarine

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 12-oz. (340 g) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 7-oz. (198 g) jar Kraft Marshmallow creme

1 cup chopped nuts

1 tablespoon vanilla

Traditional method:Combine sugar, margarine and milk in heavy 2-1/2 quart saucepan; bring to full rolling bail, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate till melted. Add marshmallow creme, nuts & vanilla beat till blended. Pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.

Microwave method:Microwave margarine in 4-quart microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) 1 minute or until melted. Add sugar and milk; mix well. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil, stirring after 3 minutes. Mix well; scrape bowl. Continue microwaving on HIGH 5-1/2 minutes; stir after 3 minutes. Stir in chips until melted. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Recipe of the Week: Crunchy Cheese Crisps

This week's featured recipe comes from Taste of Home. It's another tasty yet simple appetizer recipe, and it's also low in fat. Nobody will be able to eat just one.

1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips
1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Shape into 3/4-in. balls. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack. Yield: 4 servings.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tips to Avoid Spending Too Much This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. Christmas is just three weeks away, and Hanukkah has already begun. Millions of shoppers will rush out to the local mall over the next few weeks and spend hundreds of dollars on presents for friends and loved ones. Unfortunately most everyone will spend more money than they orginally intended.

Don't get me wrong. I love the holiday season, and I love to watch family members open the gifts that I carefully selected for them. After all this is a season for giving. I also cannot ignore the fact that our crazy spending sprees are great for the economy.

However, I don't think it's a good idea to spend beyond your means, even if it is Christmas. A little splurging is okay, but we should all be careful. Unless you have an organized shopping plan and a little time to think things out ahead of time, it is very easy to get carried away, and before you know it, you are either out of cash or you've racked up a huge credit card bill. For this reason, I chose to write the following article. It features some tips on how you can save money and lists some inexpensive gift selections. This is a must read for anyone who hasn't done all their holiday shopping yet:

Tips to Avoid Spending Too Much This Holiday Season

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gift Wrap Organizing Ideas

You don't have to spend a lot of money to be organized. In fact you can often use items that you already have around your house to organize with. All it takes is a little thinking outside the box. Here are a some ideas that I found around the net and a few that I've come up with myself.

Under the bed boxes - I use these to store my gift wrap. I had looked around for an organizer at the store and didn't really find one that I liked so I decided to use 2 boxes I already had at home. I use one for Christmas bags and gift wrap, and I use the other one for Birthday and other occasion wrap. These are great because they are long enough to hold any size gift wrap as well as other supplies, and you can conveniently hide your wrapping supplies away and get them out when you need them.

Small rubbermaid containers and file boxes - Use file boxes to store bows and ribbons and smaller containers for gift tags and other small supplies.

Ziplok bags - Use these to hold name tags, tape, ribbons, small bows, and small gift bags.

Shoe boxes - Shoe boxes can be used for scissors, bows, tags, gift bags, tissue paper, and just about all your gift wrapping supplies. You can also use shoe boxes to make a ribbon dispenser, as show below.

Paper towel holders - These also make good ribbon holders.

Garbage cans & laundry hampers - These are perfect for holding long rolls of gift wrap.

Large boxes - Whenever I buy something, I generally keep the box if I think I can use it or just in case something needs to be returned. This year I moved, and I still have a lot of my stuff in storage at my dad's house, including my gift wrap containers. Well, a few days ago I bought a new vacuum cleaner, and rather than leaving my wrapping supplies in the middle of the floor, I decided to put them in the vacuum cleaner box for the time being. The box was the perfect size for the rolls I had. You could also use your Christmas tree box to put your gift wrapping supplies in and purchase a plastic storage container for your tree. (I always find it difficult to get the tree back in its box anyway, and it will be safer in a plastic container.) And if you're partial to things looking good, you could always use some spare wrapping paper to make the box look festive.

Shoe rack - In the picture above a shoe rack was used to store bows, tages, scissors, tissue, and other supplies.

Coat Hangers - Use a tie/belt hanger for ribbons, or attach a shopping bag to a regular coat hanger to store paper.

Baskets - If you have any spare wicker baskets around the house, they would be useful to store gift tages, ribbons, and bows. Baskets are great because there are so many kinds to fit your needs. You can use baskets with or without handles, and you could also consider sewing baskets and picnic baskets. These are also relatively cheap at the craft store or dollar store.

More Ideas

Create your own gift wrap center. Use a spare closet, or create a gift wrapping table/area in a corner of your office or craft/sewing room. This could be used just for the holidays, or you could use it year round if you wrap a lot of presents throughout the year. You could also use a spare bedroom or other room in your house that's not currently in use as a a temporary gift wrap station for the holidays.

Organize Magazine has a lot of great ideas for organizing giftwrap, using items in your home.

Country Living has a great article this month that shows you how to create a gift wrap station in your home.

Improvements Catalog has a very cool portable gift wrap organizer/table for $79.99 (pictured below).

Digg it

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gift Wrap Organizers

Every year I buy new gift wrap, no matter how much I have left over from the year before. Usually I'll buy a couple of traditional rolls and a couple of Disney rolls or some other cartoon wrap, and then I'll use some of the new paper and some of the old paper for my presents. But no matter how much paper I buy or how many presents we have, we always have left over paper. And just like in other things, I like to have my wrapping paper neat and orderly, or at the very least, all in one place together.

There are several benefits to have a gift wrap organizer. First of all, an organizer will prevent your paper from getting wet, crumpled, or otherwise destroyed. Secondly, by placing your gift wrap supplies in an organizer, it will save you time because when you get ready to gift wrap, all your supplies will in one place. You won't have to search for extra tape or wonder, "where did I put that bag of bows?" And finally it prevents you from having excess clutter, and it just looks a lot more neat and clean.

Here are a few organizers that I found for sale on amazon. I've provided pictures and highlighted some of their features for you. In one of my next posts, I'll have some more ideas on how you can organize your gift wrap using items in your home & how you can create a gift wrapping station.

This organizer is primarily for wrapping paper, although you could place some gift bags or bows in it as well, if you don't have a more than a few rolls of paper. This is a simple and inexpensive tote if you are someone who doesn't really wrap a lot of packages. This container has wheels and would easily store away in a closet or attic, and it will protect your paper from moisture and prevent it from getting crumpled.

This is a great organizer if you wrap a lot of packages throughout the year. It's also great if you have a limited amount of space because it hangs right over the door. It has spaces for everything you need. There's room for several rolls of paper, bows, ribbon, scissors, tape, and gift bags. It's also very convenient. You can store your gift wrapping supplies in a "hidden" spot, and yet whenever you need them they are right there. You don't have to pull out a big container, and you only get out the items you need. I would definitely recommend this one if you are somebody who does a lot of present wrapping.

This is another great organizer that hangs inside a closet. You can store several rolls of paper, as well as ribbons, bows, name tags, and other supplies.

This gift wrap organizer is made by Rubbermaid. It has a carrying handle and would conveniently fit in a closet, under a bed, or in a corner of your office or craft room. It will also protect your gift wrapping supplies if you store them in the attic. It holds several rolls of paper and has a space at the top for storing bows & other supplies.

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