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 »

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 »

This past weekend I attended the wedding of two dear friends, Derek & Linda, in St. Louis. It was beautiful and hands down one of the prettiest I have ever attended in terms of décor. I can only imagine the copious amounts of planning that went into each detail, from the plentiful poinsettias at the alter to the lavish white floral centerpieces at the reception.

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Filed in: Christmas, Holidays, Weddings | 2 Comments »

Next time you are on a vacation instead of bringing home cheesy souvenirs that you’ll never use, consider buying a Christmas ornament. Write the date and location of where you bought it and store it away for Christmas! (Don’t bother getting down your Christmas boxes; store them in your china cabinet!)

When tree-trimming time comes around you’ll have a drawer full of new ornaments to decorate your tree and you can enjoy recalling the memories from each of your vacations from the past year!

World Market has a brilliant collection of destination ornaments. With most of their baubles costing under $10, you can stock up for the places you’ve been but don’t have an ornament for!

Having a travel tree is not only fun and pretty but a great conversation topic for your holiday party! Wow your guests with tales of adventure from all the different places that are highlighted on your tree.

After years of collecting ornaments my parents have an amazing, eclectic tree with ornaments from all over the world! Mine is small, but growing as my globetrotting adventures continue!

{Photo Courtesy of: EdZA}

Filed in: Christmas, Holidays | Leave a Comment »

Voting is now open for the Holiday Inspire Me! Entertaining Contest! going on over at Hostess with the Mostess. My entry – Whimsical Christmas – was selected as a top 10 finalist out of over 400 entries! The final decision is being left up to Hostess Blog readers! So please visit hostessblog.com and vote for me! Voting closes on Friday at 12:00pm EST.

Thank you all for taking the time to vote and good luck to all my competitors!!! Everyone did a fantastic job!

Filed in: Christmas, Holidays, Life | 1 Comment »

The centerpiece is the inspiration for this tablescape. The traditional red and gold give this table a traditional feel while the glitzy accessories give it a modern touch.

I am entering this on behalf of my Grandma who created this beautiful centerpiece for my Aunt. We didn’t intend to shoot a table like this but once I saw the centerpiece I couldn’t resist! Just goes to show you that inspiration can come from anywhere!!!

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Filed in: Christmas | Leave a Comment »

For my Whimsical Christmas party, I plan to serve Christmas Cocktails from my 1001 Cocktails book that I received last year for Christmas. The recipe is simple:

1 bottle of champagne

1 cup of cranberry juice

1 sugar cube for each glass

1 cherry garnish for each glass

I plan to have the champagne glasses setting on a tray and garnished with a red and gold ribbon with Yaupon Holly tied to the stem (from the front yard).

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Filed in: Christmas, Cocktails, Holidays, Recipes | Leave a Comment »

This weekend I’m hosting an intimate dinner party for me and my friends. A month ago I was at Target browsing my favorite place – the dollar rack – and found this awesome wrapping paper. I grabbed it up and stored it for the holidays. I completely forgot about it and when I began to start thinking about party ideas I was so excited when I remember I had it! Instead of wrapping presents, it became inspiration for my WHIMSICAL CHRISTMAS theme!

I already had a bunch of the things I ended up using on the table. A few things like the napkin rings, Ikea ornaments and red wine glasses were gifts I’ve gotten recently. My best advice is use what you have and you’ll end up saving a lot more money! I hope this theme can “inspire YOU!”

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Filed in: Christmas, Holidays | 4 Comments »

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