I try my hardest to not keep candy around the house, but when it comes to Christmas, I simply can’t resist. Hershey’s Kisses, M&Ms, Andes Mints and Reeses Pieces are a few of my favorite treats to keep in the candy jar during the holidays. Oh, and candy canes, of course!

This year, my new favorite candy treat is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, mixing pretzels with Hershey’s kisses and festive M&Ms. I originally saw the idea for this sweet treated used for Valentines Day on the blog g*rated. Since then, I’ve made them for several other holidays, including Halloween and Thanksgiving.

This time, instead of using Hershey’s Hugs (the black and white striped cousin of the Kiss), I found these yummy and festive peppermint kisses. The red and white stripes were the perfect seasonal update to the snack.

Beware: this snack is absolutely addictive. You seriously cannot eat just one. But worry not, it’s still December and those New Years resolutions don’t kick in until the first!

Christmas-Inspired Pretzel & Chocolate Button Bites

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay the butter snaps out into rows, leaving space between the pretzels to prevent them from melting together. Add a peppermint kiss to the top of each pretzel. Put the cookie sheet into the oven for 3-5 minutes. The kisses should get warm, but you should take them out before they start melting and losing their shape. Remove the sheet from the oven and immediately press green M&Ms into the kisses. Before removing from the tray, allow the bites to harden. It helps to put them into the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so.

Tips & Tricks:

  • You can use regular pretzels instead of the butter snaps, but I have found that the butter snaps taste better and since their holes are smaller, easier to manage with melted kisses.
  • Instead of setting the oven timer and walking away, keep an eye on the snack as it bakes. It’s pretty easy to tell when you should take them out if you keep an eye on them.
  • The peppermint kisses took a little less time to melt than the hugs usually do. More on the 3 side of 3 to 5 minutes.
Filed in: Christmas, Desserts, Holidays, Recipes | Leave a Comment »

DIY Texas Steak Rub

It’s long been a holiday tradition in the Shiffler family to make homemade gifts for friends, coworkers, teachers and neighbors during the holiday season. Last year, my mom inspired a new edible treat that I decided to make my signature holiday gift: Homemade Steak Rub.

I started by shopping at the Dollar Store and Walmart where I found I could buy the spices I needed in bulk for a fraction of the cost of regular grocery stores. If you are making large batches, I also suggest checking out Sam’s or CostCo for your bulk buying needs!

Next up was selecting the perfect spice jar. Finding and designing packaging that would suit my discerning tastes and limited budget was quite the project! I searched high and low, online and off for a suitable choice. I went between plastic and glass, big and small, round and square. I ended up finding two nice solutions at World Market. They didn’t have enough of each, so I got 12 of one and 10 of the other.

Stainless SteelWhite Lidded Spice Jars, $0.99 each or 6 for $5.95 at World Market

The jars were the perfect size and the right price! Truthfully, a dollar a jar seemed a bit steep, but I was able to use a $10 birthday coupon (yay for November birthdays!) that they emailed me, which made these much cheaper than any other option.

(Note: This year’s birthday coupon from World Market was not nearly as helpful! 15% off furniture, decor and more and 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages…I miss the $10 coupon with no restrictions!)

After selecting the packaging, it was time to actually make the steak rub. My mom found a recipe for Texas Steak Rub online that looked good so I went with it.

Texas Steak Rub

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Mix ingredients together stir well. Rub spice mixture on each side of steak at least 30 minutes before grilling. Can also be used on chicken, pork and hamburgers.

First, I measured and I mixed up all the spices in a bowl.

Next, I whisked them together so they would be well blended.

Lastly, I poured the mix into each of the spice jars using my trusty funnel. (Oh, I forgot to mention, I washed and dried all the spice jars by hand before filling them.)

The only task left was to design and print labels for the spices. I wanted something with a vintage yet Texas-like look. I was super inspired by Eat Drink Chic’s Vintage Apothecary Labels and decided to use those as inspiration for my packaging. Luckily, Amy was kind enough to share the fonts she used in the comments. I ended up using Mouse Deco, EcuyerDAX and Cheboygan, all available at dafont.com.

I designed two labels: one for the front, and one with directions and ingredients for the back. You can download an editable PDF to customize the city and state for yourself. Just make sure you have the Cheboygan font installed first!

Download Free Texas Steak Rub Labels

For the stainless steel lidded jars I printed the labels on a natural colored card stock, like this one available at Office Depot. For the white lidded jars, I used white cardstock.

Texas Steak Rub Gifts with White Lids

Cutting the labels was tedious but made easier by the help of my Fiskars straight edge cutter. I experimented with how to adhere my labels to the jars, and after failed attempts with hot glue, a glue stick and double sided tape, I hit up Google to see how other crafters had solved this problem. Luckily, I found the perfect solution! Xyron makes a product that allows you to make a sticker out of any shaped object. Since my labels were small, they fit perfectly into the 1.5 Inch Create-A-Sticker maker. Just run the labels through the x-shaped device and you get a perfectly sticky label!

I finished the gifts off with a raffia bow for a little extra holiday flare. I was so happy with how they turned out and my coworkers were very impressed! I got nice notes from a few friends commenting that the steak rub was delicious, so it’s a good bet that the recipe is worth trying again!

Filed in: Christmas, Freebies, Holidays, Projects | 2 Comments »

Red, White & Wine

A few years back I hosted a 4th of July themed party for my sorority’s junior alumni group. Our club hosts monthly wine nights, so given the proximity to the Fourth of July, and focus on wine, I decided to make the theme “Red, White and Wine.” As is protocol with our group, guests were invited to bring their favorite red or white wine to share with the group and I was to provide snacks.

Most of what I found for this party came from one single trip to Michaels and Target. Target had tons of patriotic partyware and Michaels, as always, was stocked with the tools I needed to pull the rest together.

The theme started to come together quickly at Target. I fell in love with these cute red tins with stars punched out. They were only a dollar a piece, so I stocked up. I’ve ended up using these for various parties throughout the year and was glad I snagged them when I did! (I have seen these tins in blue available at Target this year, for those who are interested in purchasing them.)

At Michaels, I purchased red and white polka dotted paper as well as a set of matching notecards for a dollar that I used as a base to paste on custom food labels I designed.

Red, White and Wine Party Theme

The beginning of my buffet was anchored by a frame that showed off a patriotic print I designed. You can download my “Home of the Brave” poster, free here. I put red plasticware (also found at Target) in one of my new tins and displayed perfectly ripe strawberries in my favorite red colander.

Disposable blue star plates were on theme and made for easy post-party clean up. I used American flags that I found in the dollar section of Target scattered around my apartment to bring a true fourth of July feel. White hydrangeas added a feminine touch to the buffet.

For food, I wanted to go simple but filling. Everyone was coming over work and I wanted to make sure they got something solid in their stomach before downing too much wine! Sliders were perfect for this group. They were filling enough so that I didn’t have to provide a full meal, but still bite size, so guests could eat while mingling. I adorned each slider with an American flag toothpick and I provided different condiments in coordinating white ramekins.

Strawberries, watermelon, and my aunt’s Perfect Pasta Salad, rounded out the food offerings.


For dessert, I whipped up some deceiving yet delicious apple pie cupcakes. That’s right! They may look like mini blueberry and apple pies, but these are actually cupcakes! To make them I made the cupcakes really small then filled them with pie filling and piped on the icing to give it the basket effect. I used this tutorial at Everyday Celebrating to make mine.

The piping was easier than I thought it would be, but still very time consuming. The biggest issue I had was that my icing was too hot. You need to make sure it’s good and cold so that it doesn’t melt. Melted icing makes piping super hard!

Next to the cupcakes, the second most time consuming part of the party was creating the “Red, White and Wine” banner. Using scrapbook paper, my circle cutter, ribbon and white sparkly chipboard letters, I created a themed sign to hang on the drink table. I thought it turned out to be super cute and I’ve re-used the banner and the chipboard letters for future parties.

Red, white and blue balloons also gave the room a festive feel.

For the drink station, I found white metal buckets at Target and used them to house the various wine bottles guests brought. I was happy to get some use out of the pretty red wine glass my sister got me for Christmas.

For the non-drinkers, I offered cold water out of my Crate & Barrel beverage jar. I love to slice lemons and limes for the water to give it a fresh, flavorful taste.

It was a fun party with a great turnout! Everyone enjoyed the food and the ladies drank PLENTY of wine! (That’s Pi Phis for ya!) Here is a pic of some of the ladies who attended.

Are you throwing a Fourth of July Party? I’d love to see links to your party decor ideas or pinterest boards!

Filed in: Fourth of July, Holidays | Leave a Comment »

Our lovely gingerbread house!

Earlier this week my friend Rick invited me to join him for a Gingerbread class at the Crescent Hotel. A second date, I was a bit nervous that I would scare him off with my OCD crafting tendencies, but as it turns out he’s a bit of a perfectionist himself, so things went super smoothly!

Neither of us really knew what to expect, so when we arrived we were excited to find not only pre-constructed gingerbread houses but also a well stocked bar! We grabbed some wine and settled in to get the scoop on the evening’s activities from Erica and Juan, the Crescent’s executive and pastry chefs.

They showed off a towering rolling cart with candy, gave some piping tips, and then let us alone to decorate as we saw fit. Rick and I started with a plan to tile the roof in grey M&Ms, but after a few rows we scrapped that idea and opted to start over.

Our second stab at the roof was much more successful. We coated the entire roof in red icing then smooshed candy cane crumbles on top. (Is smooshed a word? Maybe not, but I’m going with it.) We outlined the roof with alternating red and green M&Ms to look like Christmas lights.

Next, we decided to put a wreath over the front door. Rick had insane piping skills so he was tasked with creating the wreath. (Not until after I had him practice on the table cloth, that is. I’m such my mother’s daughter.) While he took care of the wreath, I used a half strand of red candy tape to create a lovely little bow. I LOVE how this part of the house turned out, and I am proud that we did it all by ourselves!

For the back of the house we didn’t have enough faith in ourselves to pipe the snowflake what we desired, so we recruited Erica – a piping pro – to work her magic. While she worked on the back, we added a marshmallow lined pathway, red twizzlers to the door, and brown swirly “flower beds.”

A few short minutes later Erica revealed her amazing creation! Not only did she make an incredible snowflake, but she also added super cute icicles.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but we made little flower boxes to sit in each window with green icing and red flowers out of M&Ms. We lined the outside of the house with white Christmas Tree shaped pretzels. We also went back and made our pathway red to make it pop a bit more.

For the finishing touch, we spread white icing over the entire base, covering it with granulated sugar to make it appear glittery. A huge fan of things that sparkle, this was by far my favorite part! Using powdered sugar, Rick coated the Christmas tree in front with snow and used more white icing to create realistic looking snow drifts. We also lined the entire thing with red berry candies, which was a great accent.

Here is a snapshot of Rick and me with our completed gingerbread house! Although it’s hard to be unbiased, I thought ours turned out the cutest of any house there.

The evening was so fun and I would recommend this class to anyone! In fact, I think it might need to become a holiday tradition!

Filed in: Christmas, Holidays | 2 Comments »

Each year all of my coworkers gather together for our annual company holiday lunch. We cater in food to our office and enjoy an afternoon of eating and chatting. Last year when my boss asked me to pitch in for the planning, I asked if I could take things up a notch and decorate for the event. A $50 budget was all I would need, I promised. He agreed, and I got to work!

Half of me really wanted to do something neat for the event to make it special for my coworkers. The other half of me was intrigued by the challenge of decorating for a party for 20 on such a limited budget!

There are people of every faith in our company so I decided to go for a neutral “Winter Wonderland” theme for the party. The starting point for my decor was a roll of white and silver snowflake wrapping paper that I decided to use as a make-shift table cloth. Not only was it cheap, it made clean up a breeze!

Since the place setting would be the biggest feature of the table, I decided to concentrate most of my budget here. I purchased a pack of white, 12×12 inch scrapbook paper from Michaels to use as placemats. Next, I layered a silver charter plate. I own ten silver chargers and borrowed another six from a friend who I had gifted a set to the previous year for Christmas.

I splurged on large square paper plates that I found at Paper Affair. They matched perfectly and I just had to have them! Mixing the chargers with the paper plates gave a much classier look to the table.

I used white napkins and plastic silverware that we had around the office and rolled them up nicely tying them off with white curling ribbon I already had.

The place settings were completed with clear plastic cups that we had at the office. I spiced each cup up with a sparkly foam snowflake sticker.

For the centerpieces I decided that balloons would be a cheap way to make a big impact. I bought a pack of white balloons at Michaels, filled them for free using the helium tank in my apartment leasing office, and tied them off using white curling ribbon.

I anchored the balloons into three round, short glass vases that I own. I tied the balloon bouquets to binder clips and hid the clips by covering them with white floral beads, which I had from another party. (The binder clips were a last minute solution that our engineer Gary came up with!)

I used my trusty hot glue gun to adorn each vase with a stripe of glittery ribbon that I bought at Michaels and accented them with glittery foam snowflake stickers. Tea light holders were given the same treatment, except I added a white ribbon on top of the silver for a bit more depth.

I over bought on the ribbon for the vases and ended up using a spool to serve as a table runner. I spaced the balloon vases and tea lights down the table and filled in the blanks with silver jingle bells.

For the buffet I also covered the tables in wrapping paper. I used extra white scrapbook paper to outline where the dishes should sit and put out serving spoons. I decorated with two silver sparkly reindeer that I use in my home Christmas decor, plus a few snowflake napkin holders I had lying around. I used white chipboard letters that I had from a different party to spell out the party’s theme.

For the party I brought my two Crate & Barrel Cold Beverage Jars to serve water and iced tea. Again, I used the snowflake stickers  and silver scrapbook paper to give them a little interest!

We already had our Christmas tree up and poinsettias around the office which also added to the ambiance. As a finishing touch, I brought my Yule Log DVD and put it up on the flat screen TV that is displayed behind my desk. Everyone got a kick out of it and it added a homey feel to the office!

The best part of the party was enjoying the food and the company of my coworkers. The party lasted into the late afternoon and everyone had a blast! Here is a pic of me and Mike and Steve, the two partners in our company:

Our holiday lunch was proof positive that you don’t have to have a big budget to throw an impressively decorated party. I had so much fun putting it together and fit all my purchases in just at $50 and a dime!

For those of you who are interested, here are the supplies I used. I broke them down by what I own and what I had to buy. Not everyone probably has as well of a stocked craft/party closet as I do, but simple substitutions could be made if you don’t have all these items. This also makes a good case for making investments in neutral party decor like vases, tea light holders and beverage dispensers that can be used across your various parties, no matter the theme! 

What I Had:

  • White curling ribbon
  • Paper napkins
  • Plastic silverware
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Silver chargers
  • Round, clear glass vases
  • Clear glass tealight holders
  • White floral beads
  • Silver reindeer
  • White chipboard letters
  • Cold Beverage Dispensers
What I Bought:

  • Snowflake wrapping paper
  • 1 Package white scrapbook paper (12×12)
  • White Balloons
  • Several spools of thick, silver sparkly ribbon
  • Fancy paper plates
  • Sparkly foam snowflake stickers
  • Silver jingle bells
Filed in: Christmas, Holidays | 5 Comments »

Bunny Love: Bunny Shaped Napkins - MarthaStewart.com and GoodHousekeeping.com

Aren’t these bunny napkins the cutest?! I found inspiration for this easy craft while searching around for Easter table ideas on the blogosphere. I had never seen these before but obviously I’m out of the loop because once I started looking, I found them everywhere! Good Housekeeping added a button and whiskers to theirs and is my personal fav, but I also like the simplicity of Martha’s crisp white bunny.

There are lots of tutorials out there so here are a few I found to be helpful and comprehensive. Come & Peek shows that you don’t need fancy napkins to create beautiful bunnies, making them with paper napkins.

I found some cute home-made napkin bunnies on Flickr too. I loved this one with polka dotted nakpins by Heidi Kennedy of  My Paper Crane.

Bunny Love: Polka Dots

I can’t wait to try to make these cuties for myself! And you can be sure I’ll post the results here when I do!

{Photos Courtesy of: MarthaStewart.com, My Paper Crane, and GoodHousekeeping.com}

Filed in: Easter | 10 Comments »

Easily Easter

Enjoy this guest post by my mom who has some great ideas for Easter decor and tablescaping!

Easter is a time for reflection, reawakening and renewal – a time to remember and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Decorating for Easter is fun because it gives us a chance to infuse in our homes the bright colors of Spring and reflect on all the symbols of Easter and what they mean. So what do lilies, colored eggs and bunnies have to do with Jesus?

There are many traditions associated with these decorations. Many people think the Easter Lily, with its majestic white blooms, represents the purity of the risen Christ. I always include a cross or several crosses in my Easter decorating because of the subtle “reason for the season” reminder.

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Filed in: Easter | 4 Comments »

Today is a special post on Pottery Barn tying together the I’m Sold! and Surprising Sources series.

I'm Sold on Pottery Barn

Though I can hardly afford to shop at Pottery Barn it is still one of my favorite places to “shop.” Instead of shopping for plates and napkins and silverware I shop for inspiration! I love getting the PB catalogue in the mail to see what the new trends in decor and entertaining are. And I’ve had a ton of success at recreating some of their tablescapes and decor ideas with much less expensive versions I find at TJ Maxx and Walmart.

The staff is super friendly and always willing to help you match your color palette or give great tips and tricks. The two PB staffers above, Roy and Darren taught the recent Spring Entertaining Class and were friendly and full of energy!

Another great reason to “shop” at Pottery Barn is to find out about all their fun FREE events. It is a fun way to meet other entertainers in your area and spend a morning sharing ideas! Here’s a recap of the class I attended and lots of spring & easter entertaining ideas!

On Sunday I woke up early (early for me on a weekend at least) and headed to Pottery Barn to try out their Spring Entertaining class! It was lots of fun and the instructors were full of great ideas! Enjoy the following pictures and spring entertaining tips from the notes I took at the class!

Easy Easter Brunch {Photos courtey of PotteryBarn.com}

Easy Easter Brunch

The class started off with tips for throwing an Easter brunch celebration. The instructors explained that brunch could be early – before church – or in the early afternoon after church. They gave these great tips and insights into what is “hot” this season for Easter entertaining:

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Filed in: Easter, I'm Sold! | 7 Comments »

Pottery Barn Entertaining Class

Looking for inspiration for your spring-time soirees? Then get your party planning tush to Pottery Barn this Sunday, March 15 for a complimentary entertaining class! I have attended a few pb classes in the past and have always come out super inspired and excited. The classes are usually on Sunday mornings before the store opens to the public. There has always been a good crowd when I’ve been (usually women) and it is really fun to spend the morning chatting and collaborating on design with other décor-loving friends!

Our local store has a great instructor who makes the class very participatory and is very good at explaining how to recreate the displays you see. One of my favorite parts of the class is that you don’t feel any pressure to buy anything. (PB is often a bit out of my price range) But if something catches your eye they offer 10% off all merchandise used in the class to those who attend. The main goal of the classes seems to be to get people in the store during a non-peak hour and explain more about all the services that PB offers.

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Filed in: Easter, Events | 3 Comments »

I had so many pics from my party I decided it merited two posts! (Go To Part 1) Here are photos and recipes from the food and beverage part of the party. More after the jump!

Pat O's

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Filed in: Appetizers, Cocktails, Mardi Gras | 2 Comments »

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