Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cocktails and Fun

Ladies and Gentlemen… drum roll please…. It’s… officially… CHRISTMASTIME!!!

When I saw this blog, I was instantly inspired. Since I’m not a huge fan of flavored vodkas, I wanted to create a list of drinks that were somewhat diverse and more in my wheel house. To further enhance the Christmas spirit, I thought I would share some of my most favorite Holiday traditions with you. My family and I have been doing some of these for years, some have been adopted from others and some are very recent add-ons to the Christmas traditions list. Below, I’ve provided a much more detailed explanation of the cocktails as well as information about the activities. If you want the breakdown for each cocktail, then click here or click on the headline for each day.  Side note: Most of the recipes have been amended from ones I found on the internet but some have stayed the same. All of the links for the original recipes can be found on the recipe sheet or in the detailed descriptions below.  I will definitely post pictures as we go along!!

Cheers! Prost! Salute! Cin Cin! MERRRRRRRRRRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 13: Two Turtle Doves and A Random Kind Act - This is a great way to begin the Holiday Season and truly get you in a giving mood. I think it's difficult to come up with some small act that will make someone's day a little brighter but this site has some awesome ideas. Some of the “acts” are a lot more expensive than others (and some might be highly inappropriate if you didn't have your kids acting on your behalf) but I think it would be really cool to do something like this for someone. My goal is to come up with something small that will simply make someone smile. I’ve got a couple ideas but I think it’s going to be a spur of the moment kind of thing. Then, when you get home at the end of the day, you can give yourself a pat on the back by whipping up this easy peasy cocktail.  Make sure you chill the glasses and all of the ingredients (other than the syrup) beforehand.  Drizzle the glass with caramel syrup, mix both cocktail ingredients in a shaker then pour into glass. I couldn't justify paying $30 for the large bottle of the Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, so I purchased two of the mini bottles from Binny's.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Wednesday, December 14: Hot Toddy and Craft a Christmas Decoration - With the stresses of the season, the change in the weather and my poor eating habits (a girl must try a sample from every batch of cookies that she makes, right?!), I usually come down with some sort of cold a week or two before Christmas. To soothe any impending sore throats or stuffy noses, I like to make myself an at home cold remedy consisting of hot water, honey and bourbon... aka a Hot Toddy.  If you want to add a little holiday spice, then add a cinnamon stick or put some cloves into the lemon wedge.  It'll be a nice way to warm up a chilly winter evening.  As I sit on my couch, sipping my Toddy, I will partake in a little Christmas crafting.  This year,I decided to make some fun gift tags that will go on all of my Christmas presents.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Thursday, December 15: Oh Starry Night and Tree Decorating – Start with 1 sugar cube and top it off with Cook's finest bottle of bubbly (preferably chilled). If you are feeling festive, adorn glass with a slice of star fruit or some raspberries.  I feel like decorating your tree is the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass of champagne.  Although, honestly, I feel like any activity can fall under the category "champagne toast worthy," as long as you just cheers a lot.  However, we will be toasting to our first Christmas tree in our new home (yay!)... feel free to toast along with us or make up a celebration of your own!

Friday, December 16: Eggnog Martini and “Holiday’s on Ice” - This is where Martha gets delusional. As much as I would LOVE to replicate her recipe for an Eggnog Martini (which I am sure is delicious), I am not coming home after working 12 hours and, while making dinner, preparing something that requires me to make an "ice bath" or wants me to "whisk continuously for 10-12 minutes". I really don't have the patients. Sorry. So, for my Eggnog Martini, I purchased a bottle of Oberweis Eggnog and just added Brandy. Done and Done. I chilled all the ingredients (ha, all 2 of them Martha... corn starch... really?) and the martini glasses beforehand. Since a classy drink deserve a classy activity, it's time to gather up the yuletide for story time. If you don't own a copy already, then you really must head out and purchase Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (or you can borrow one of mine, since I own two).  Every Christmas, we pick a story and take turns reading it, aloud, around our TV Fireplace (don't really have a fireplace so the Christmas by the Fireplace DVD really comes in handy). Why read the "Night Before Christmas" and "The Polar Express" when you can read "Six to Eight Black Men," "SantaLand Diaries" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore?" If reading isn't your thing, then you can always tune into This American Life and listen to an archived podcast, where David Sedaris reads several excerpts from the book.  (For original recipe, click here.)

Saturday, December 17: Glogg and Christkindlemarket - This will be an easy one to make since the lovely German folks at the Christkindlemarket make it for you!! We attend this outdoor fest every year and it is always a good time. I first went to a Christkindlemarket when I was in Germany and I have to say, the Chicago version is pretty dead-on accurate. The Gluwein is served in ADORABLE souvenir mugs (to some people's dismay, my collection is in the double digits already... and yes, I will keep collecting more!) and the food is amazing. It is great people watching and if you’re lucky (aka: get there early), you can get a table in one of the heated sections.

Sunday, December 18: Rosemary Bloody Mary and Present Wrapping - How do you make a Bloody Mary holiday appropriate? Replace the celery stalk with a sprig of Rosemary of course (I feel so sophisticated when I say the words sprig and Rosemary). Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix is great and so is Major Peter's Bloody Mary Mix . The additions are totally your call... maybe a little Worcestershire Sauce, some crushed black pepper, a dab of Tabasco perhaps. I used the Rosemary as my tooth pick and threw some olives on there, along with some cubed Parmesan cheese and a small pickle... it’s whatever you want, go nuts. I know it is pretty optimistic of me to assume I will have all of my presents by now but the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon drinking Bloody Mary’s and wrapping presents sounds awesome (I’m kind of a nerd that way). I created a Christmas wrapping station in our upstairs bedroom and it makes it really easy to get everything done in one sitting. Time for me to wrap, bow, tie and tag.

I forgot to make the mallo stirrers :(
but it was still VERY tasty
Monday, December 19: Adult Hot Chocolate and Christmas Lights - When I was younger, my family went camping a lot for vacation. In the morning, we'd be running around while my parents made breakfast and when we would go take a sip of their orange juice, we were told we couldn't have that kind because it was "Adult Orange Juice." For some reason, at the time, it made total sense that Minute Maid would make an OJ specifically for kids and one for adults... Because adults like pulp and kids don't, right? Sorry I got a little sidetracked... So, for this Holiday recipe I'm adding alcohol to a drink that is normally kid friendly. Wait, what?! That's what my parents were doing? In the morning? While camping? That does make a little more sense. Although, I am jazzing up this boring ol' cocoa concoction with a chocolate and peppermint coated marshmallow/stirring stick (click here for further instructions). (Side note:  I discovered a chocolate mint liqueur at Binny's called Crave and decided to try that with the hot cocoa instead of the Godiva.  Ummm, it is AMAZING... I would highly recommend picking up a bottle, or two... or three.)  In keeping with family traditions, when my brother and I were little, my parents would make a huge Thermos of hot chocolate, dress us up in our pajamas and take us over to the Lincolnwood/Sauganash (Touhy and Pratt area)area to check out the Christmas lights. I always remember being in awe of the houses that had mechanical elves, real (formerly alive) deer pulling a sleigh, and a Christmas Tree that goes through the roof (anyone who is from my neck of the woods, knows exactly what I'm talking about). We've also driven down to Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights (ummm... it's FREE) and this year, we are going to walk around Park Ridge to check out some of the wealthier folks. So grab your own Thermos of hot cocoa (alcohol optional... although, I deem it perfectly fine if it's only "just a touch" (as said like an Italian Grandpa) and you're walking around your neighborhood... you're gonna need something to take the chill out of the air... right?) and check out some Christmas lights tonight, where ever you choose.

Tuesday, December 20: Santa Spritzer and New Christmas Tree Ornament - Since this cocktail didn't have an actual name, I decided to make one up. I know I bashed on Martha earlier for having to combine cocktail ingredients on a stove top but the creation of "simple syrup" is one those things that has you teeter the overly-ambitious line, not cross it. You can make the syrup well in advance and store it in your fridge until it is time to use. I opted out the purple grapes for green ones because let's be honest, green and red is much more festive (duh... Real Simple... duh). Every year, since my boyfriend and I have been buying our own Christmas tree together, I have been purchasing personalized ornaments to mark the year. For our first Christmas, I bought an adorable moose couple  and last year I bought two peas in a pod (ours only has two peas :) So cute right? When I first started this, Woodfield Mall had an entire store dedicated to Christmas trees and ornaments but for some reason, last year, they only had a kiosk. So, you’ll have to track it down because I’m not sure where they put it. While I'm there, I hit up the Yankee Candle Store to purchase some of their awesomely Christmas inspired candles.  Last year, I couldn't decide on which scent I wanted, too many choices  , so I bought about 20 of the votives in all different scents. It was great because I got to use a different one each night. Since these little bastards are so expensive, I found a coupon and it might be good to check out the sale items before you go. (For original cocktail recipe, click here.)

Wednesday, December 21: Cranberry Margaritas and “The Grinch” - Feliz Navidad!! Nothing says "Christmas Spirit" quite like tequila. At this time in the Holiday Season, you might be feeling a touch cranky (a little Grinch-like perhaps), that is why you'll definitely need to boost your batteries (and get a glimpse of what your future will look like if you don't) with some Cranberry Margaritas and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  (For original cocktail recipe, click here.)

Thursday, December 22: Jerusalem Donkey and Cookie Baking - I originally heard about the "Moscow Mule" on the Oprah Show (it was on the episode when Oprah and Gale went camping, in case you were wondering) and it sounded absolutely delicious. When I was coming up with my cocktail list, this drink popped into my mind but I wanted to make it a little more festive. What to do? What to do? Obviously, the best I could muster up was a name change (Oh… I hope Oprah doesn't mind!)  When it comes to cookie baking, I'm sure everyone already has their Holiday go-to. However, here are some delicious alternatives if you feel like mixing it up this year.
Friday, December 23: Fra-Ra-Ra, Chinese Take-Out and "A Christmas Story" - No holiday celebration is complete without a viewing of "A Christmas Story."  That being said, I'm including Saki Bombs and Chinese Food to that list.  If you've never done a Saki Bomb before here is what you will need: One bottle of Saki, two bottles of beer (I usually go with Sapporo, yes, I know it is Japanese beer but it is really good... and I've never actually tried a Saki Bomb with Tsingtao so I couldn't recommend), a shot glass, a regular glass and a pair of chopsticks.  Place the large glass on a wooden table and fill 2" high with beer, place the chopstick on top and then place the shot glass filled with Saki on top of the chopsticks.  When you are ready to drink, bang the table and the shot glass will (should) fall into the beer, chug :)  Here is a video explanation if you would like to see it done...  I think the rest of this tradition goes without saying.  So turn the ol' leg lamp on and enjoy a classic movie with some delicious food and drink :)  

Saturday, December 24: RumChata and New PJ’s – Christmas Eve is usually pretty hectic, so I saved the easiest cocktail for last. My brother introduced me to RumChata over the summer and was blown away. It is DELICIOUS and although it looks a lot like Bailey’s, it actually tastes like the leftover milk from Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal… AMAZING. All you have to do is pour it over ice. If you want to go nuts, add a cinnamon stick. That is it!! Perfect for getting ready (who needs a shower beer when you have a shower RumChata?!), wrapping some last minute presents or just enjoying a couple minutes of peace and quiet.  When I was a kid, my parents would allow me to open one present on Christmas Eve.  It was always pajamas and they would always be worn that night so we had new P.J.'s for Christmas morning.  Who am I kidding, we did this last year and I'm almost 30.  It is still fun to open that one gift, even though we always knew what it was going to be... and who doesn't love new jammies?!  

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!  And most importantly, cheers!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BeerShot Battleship

This is a really difficult thing for me to admit... and I can't believe that I am actually saying it... but truth is... oh man, this is hard... ok, so up until this week... I have... ummm... I've NEVER been to a Hobby Lobby. I know, I know! It is an abomination to all things sparkly and hot glued. And, I feel like a total crafting poser, however, I needed to get this off my chest so I can move on with the rest of my life and finally commit to a well rounded life of craft stores. Phew... That being said, holy s*&% Hobby Lobby is AWESOME.

There is one by work and since I had a laundry list of items that I needed to pick up for some upcoming projects, I figured now was as good of a time as any to check it out. For my first project, I wanted to replicate this game that I saw online and apparently (according to someone who has traveled via plane 150 times last year) can be purchased through Sky Mall. When I saw this, my brain started turning a mile a minute because I was trying to come up with ways to make this game bigger and better. So, after a couple additions to the game board and a quick switch-a-roo with the drink of choice.. it is time to get ready for some...
BeerShot Battleship... I guarantee you, this game is going to be fun. 

I wanted to make the game as large as possible, you know, in order to make it impressive, and I think it worked. To just give you an idea, the game took up my entire living room table, which measures 4' x 2.5'.

Clearly, my theme is Go America (since we only had Polish beer in the fridge at the time, America is NOW in an all-out naval war with Poland!). To construct this masterpiece (Milton-Bradley who?), you will need:

* One Foam Board
* 2 Poster Boards
* One Styrofoam Block
* 4 Sheets of Funky Foam
* Masking Tape
* Letter/Number Stickers
* Decorative Stickers (optional)
* Contact Paper
* 42 Plastic Shot Glasses
* 6 Beers (to play one round)

I used the 2 pieces of poster board, masking tape and letter/number stickers to create the 10 x 10 game board (if you want a full visual, this template that I found on Wikipedia will help). I decorated the boards 
with my patriotic stickers and then covered each board with contact paper (to protect these little gems, seeing that we would be pouring beer onto it and duh, I want to be able to use these again). Since I am a math drop out, I failed to realize that each space on the board should be a perfect square in order to use the ships both vertically and horizontally (FINALLY, an answer to the question "when am I ever going to need math in real life?") so I was unable to keep the boats whole. 

Instead, I measured and cut out the 'Funky Foam' to fit each box (you will need 21 for each side) and then copied out this cheat sheet so each player will know how many and how big each ship needs to be. Each side needs:

* One Aircraft Carrier - 5 spaces
* Two Battleships - 4 spaces
* One Submarine - 3 spaces
* One Destroyer - 3 spaces
* One Patrol Boat - 2 spaces

The white Styrofoam block was used to help keep the foam board upright (I drew a line down the middle of the block, length-wise, and by continually dragging scissors along the line, you can gradually create a wide/deep enough slot for the foam board to fit right in).

Once the line is cut out, slide the foam board in place. I thought it was going to be really wobbly but with the foam board about 1/2 way into the block, it was extremely sturdy.

So, the game is played exactly like regular Battleship except that instead of inserting a peg once your ship gets hit, you fill that cup up with beer and take a shot. In the original rules, the shots were to be consumed, all at once, after your ship has been sunk. However, after 5 quick shots of Zywic, I nixed the idea and switched it over because I quickly realized, I'm not in college anymore :( Play either way you like, but be ready because it gets pretty competitive.  
All I have to say is...
                                   it's time to BATTLESHIP!!

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Halloween Centerpieces

    ** Sorry about the quality of the pics.  Not that I was the best photographer before but I lost my camera cord in the move and had to take all of these pictures with a cell phone.**  

    In the spirit of All-Hallows-Eve (ummm, maybe my most favorite holiday ever), I created some super spooky, super simple centerpieces that I think you might enjoy.  I pulled together a lot of items that already existed in my various craft/holiday bins (I feel like there are so many things that can become a "Halloween decoration" simply by adorning them with spider webs) but acquired some new elements that I absolutely fell in love with and had to share.  The ghostly pictures that I found on Gizmodo are extremely creepy but if you read the article, you'll find that the story behind them is actually pretty neat.  I downloaded the pics from the website and then printed them out at Walgreens.  Sadly, there is an error on the web page and only two of the photos will work but still, they are too good to pass up.

    I found the picture frames at T.J. Maxx and while I bought them for a girls' only spa night, they actually work perfectly for the spooky centerpieces.  I bought the roses at Aldi for $3.99 and spray painted my formerly gold candelabra black.  I used a black table cloth and covered it with a piece of scrap lace.  All-in-all, the centerpiece on the left cost me under $8 (in new materials) and I was thrilled that I was able to reuse items that were purchased for other parties. 

    For the next two flower arrangements, I used white hydrangeas (I'm fairly sure that's what they are called.  I had to look it up.  I usually call them the fluffy white flower balls), orange roses and pumpkins which were all purchased at Trader Joe's for a little over $15.00.  Once again, I reused some materials from earlier projects, then went crazy, absolutely crazy, with the spider webs.

    I hope everyone has a WONDERFULLY haunted and spooktacular Halloween!!  It is time for me to get the rest of my costume together..

    Ohhhh man, I LOVE this Holiday!!!

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Haunted S'More Treats

    We were having some friends over for a little festive fall gathering this past weekend and since I now have a backyard, I wanted to fulfill my lifelong dream of sitting with friends on hay bales, around a bonfire, drinking wine.. like they do in the movies (granted, I feel like this is how all Horror movies start but it still looks like they are having a good time, you know, before they are hunted down by a crazed lunatic). 
    And apparently, I'm not the only one with this dream :) 

    (Note: I just had to say that not only does he love his PetSmart Fall Sweater but he was super excited for the Hay Bale Photo Shoot, so I don't want any emails about how I tortured my dog by dressing him up and making him pose for pictures.  He LOVES it... well maybe not loves it.. but he sure loves the treats I give him afterwards!!) Since it is absolutely outrageous to sit by a fire and NOT eat S'mores, I made some goodie bags so everyone could enjoy a little fireside treat.

      They were extremely cheap (and easy) to make even though I told people I slaved over them for days :)  Shame, I know. 

    To make 35 treat bags, you will need :
    • 1 bag Hersey's candy bars - $2.29 (Target)
    • 2 bags Reece's Peanut Butter Cups - $4.58 (Target)
    • 1 package of 50 cellophane gift bags - $3.99 (party store)
    • 2 boxes Graham Crackers - $4.98 (Aldi)
    • 2 bag Marshmallows - $1.98 (Aldi)

    For a grand total of :
     $17.82 (before taxes, of course). 

    **I made the tags in Microsoft Word and saved the templates here if you want to use them**

    Hopefully, we will get a couple more nice days before the "Winter of the Century" hits us...  fingers crossed, I definitely need to use these hay bales a couple more times!! 

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Etsy Shopping to Pass the Friday

    Sooooo, I spent my morning perusing Etsy for things that I would purchase if I actually had some extra money, you know, just laying around.  It was awesome.  However, since I spent all of it on tile, paint and a functioning toilet (granted our upstairs toilet works just fine, I just have to manually push the plunger back down so it fills the tank back up with water.. no big deal....oh and it's red...with an owl on it), my credit card must stay in my wallet.  Below are some items that I fell in love with and hopefully, some of you might find them adorable as well.  That way, you can purchase them and then let me borrow them!  Kidding :)  Kind of...   
    • Wire Wrapped Earrings... Perfect for any weddings or a sophisticated date nights out.    
    • I find Feather Earrings to be super cute for Fall and I really want a pair...  Although, there were a couple more styles that I liked from this person but she isn't really wearing a shirt in those photos and well, that's just a little awkward.   
    • I'm not sure if it is a real thing but I definitely going through some sort of skull phase.  It could be that Halloween is quickly approaching but I am seeing earrings/purses/scarves with skulls on them and snatching them up.  So naturally, these Day of the Dead Earrings would be amazing...  Oh, and these as well.  I'm not sure if one can have too many pairs of skull earrings... ask me in December.
    • My forementioned skull scarf would look AMAZING tied onto this leather handbag.  One should always purchase a $200 leather bag to accompany a $9 scarf, yes? 
    • I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to borrow this Love Birds Necklace from anyone I know (I really did a complete scan of all friends and couldn't come up with any S and J's... sad face) however, this would make a wonderful gift.. hint, hint, wink, wink, wink...    
    • Clearly this coat is amazing.  I would need to start wearing fluffy, short dresses though... hmmmm defintely worth it.  
    • The super artsy posing by the elephant is throwing me off but I think this poncho would be adorable with jeans and some sassy riding boots (I might have gotten distracted by something and wandered over to Zappos for a bit).   
    • Maybe it's because it comes in orange or maybe it's because I've been watching too much Gossip Girl.. No idea why but I really want a cape like this
    Hope your Friday is going as fast as mine :)  Happy Fall Shopping!! 

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Some Easy Fall Fun

    The fact that I have recently been MIA is not due to my crafting laziness.  I promise!!!  Nor, is it the fact that I've gotten take out almost every day for the past 3 weeks.  Well, I have, but the reason is far greater than my unwillingness to get near a stove.  My current home remodel has taken up ALL of my time (that, and this little thing called work) so I have not been able to do/blog ANYTHING.  I have, however, been daydreaming of things I want to do once I've set fire to all of my paint brushes and am finally moved in and settled to the new place.  So here they are, some fun things I want to do this Fall, in no particular order...  
    1. Make my own Ravioli from scratch and learn how to make homemade Pierogies (this will require some assistance from my delightful, little, Polish friend Michelle :)...  I know this isn't a typical "Fall" activity but I can finally turn my stove/oven on without turning my house into a sweat lodge, so I say it counts.    
    2. Knit a new winter scarf.  I've been learning to knit and feel like it's time to up my game.  My dog has enough blankets.    
    3. Enjoy some hot Apple Cider Donuts while sitting in my yard (weather must cooperate, not too cold, not too warm.. looking for the perfect brisk day... let's make it happen Skilling).
    4. Have a Ghost Adventures viewing party since the new season is kicking off on Friday, September 23.  Nothing gets me in the Halloween mood quite like Zack Bagans and his amazing hair gel and graphic tees.  If you've never seen the show before, then I urge you to tune in to check it out (with an open mind, of course).  I promise you wont be disappointed (fyi: you might find yourself making side comments throughout the whole episode, ala Mystery Science Theater, but that's where half the fun lies).  
    5. Get a side job so I can purchase this ultimate Fall sweater.  I love me some "sweater weather" and this one just looks so incredibly cozy.  But, I can be practical and order this comfy cableknit which is more in my price range.  
    6. Drink some Hofbrau Oktoberfest from the one liter stein that I carted back from Munich after college.  Due to its extreme weight and the lengthy distance I carried it, it has been decided that this mug really needs to see more action.  
    7. Finally, finally, finally make my dog a Halloween costume.  I have no idea what he will be yet, but this year, I am making sure it happens. 
    I feel like 7 is a random number to end on but I ran out of ideas... if I come up with anymore good ones (during a fit of spacing out at work) I will make sure to add them to the list!  Ohh man, I am so ready for the Fall. 

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Label Makers are for Wusses

    That's a lie.  I wish I owned a label maker, I sometimes dream about them.  I wish I was kidding.  They are just too expensive.  I could never justify spending that much money (granted, I know they make cheap ones but I dream about the kind of label maker that has different fonts and sizes and colors... ahh a girl can dream, can't she?!) on an organizational device .
    The reason I bring this up is that I am currently in packing/moving mode.  I decided, now, would be a great time to get all our odds and ends organized, contained and labeled.  So, I gathered up my "poor lady's label maker" and headed out to the garage to get to work.

    Now, I know what you're thinking, "that just looks like a dumb pack of stickers and some Mod Podge" and you would be correct.  However, when combined, these two fancy little elements make one helluva label making machine.  I found this pack of stickers at some craft store close-out, way back in the day (but any sticker, of your choosing, would work just as well) and I have been using the glory that is Mod Podge ever since I started crafting (which can be found at Michael's for under $5).  So, it only seemed natural that they combine  forces.  To give you an idea on what went down..

    Although a little excessive, I do believe it will allow us to move everything from the garage over to the new place easily and help to keep everything organized, even after the move.

    I was super excited when I was all done, however, it was a little overwhelming to see just how many tubs I have that contain decorations, craft supplies and costumes.  Yikes.

    I may have gone a little overboard.. ahh well.  
    Once I start labeling, I just can't stop. 

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Mummy Bottles

    It is NEVER too early to plan for Halloween!!  Granted, this is coming from a girl who has an entire shelving unit in her garage comprised of tubs containing Halloween decorations.  But still, it is never to early to get ready for the most spooktacular holiday, ever.  This little project happened to be a bit of a challenge because I tried a couple different ideas (that clearly didn't turn out) before I came up with this one.

    My first idea was a take on this gem, which I found while I was perusing Pinterest.  I wanted to paint the bottle black and decorate it with spider webs, so I could make a spooky flower vase.  However,  the idea of the crafting challenge was to only use items that I had lying around the house and clearly, after several attempts of trying, I realized I did not have the right kind of paint.  I will revisit this idea though and let you know how it worked with puffy paint and spray paint.

    So, in order to cover up the bad paint job on the bottle (trust me this looks a lot worse in person than in the picture) I decided to turn my spider vase into a mummy vase.  

    I started off by using an old piece of scrap fabric to make the mummy wrap.  I cut slits into the fabric, each about an inch apart and then ripped the fabric to make the strips.

    After, I pulled the loose strings on each strip to give the edges a nice fray.
    This part can get a little tedious but it is definitely worth it because the strips look really cute when you're done.

    Next step was to knot all of the ends together, this way I had one long piece of fabric to work with rather than a bunch of smaller pieces.
    I kept the knots as small as I could because I knew there would be several on the bottle and didn't want it to be overwhelming.

    Time to start the mummification process.  Since the fabric is slightly transparent, my first layer was designed to cover the whole bottle,
    then I just wrapped the following layers around the bottle in a rather haphazard manner.

    I finished by tying the loose end to one of the preexisting knots and bingo-bango, I had a mummy on my hands.

    The cherry on top, if you will, was to give this little sucker some eyes. I used some construction paper to cut out the eyes and attached them with the sticky photo squares.  

    I decided to make my mummy a family, because he/she seemed so lonely, so I wrapped up my two mini bottles of Sutter Home wine (don't even ask why I have those in my liquor cabinet.  Apparently, I feel like I am going to experience a wine crisis and will need to open up the mini bottle to hold me over until I can get my hands on a real bottle) and added them to the mix.

    I can't decide whether I should turn the larger bottle (aka former vodka bottle) into a vase or refill it with booze/mixer for the Haunted Bar (this is the bar that will replace the current liquor cabinet in my home, come Oct 1 of course).  Ah, such a big decision!  Thankfully, I  have some time to figure that out.  One thing I do know is that I am definitely going to decorate a bottle of wine/six pack of beer/bottle of booze like this for Halloween.  It would make a Boo-tastic (Sorry, I couldn't resist :) gift for someone.  

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    Hula Wine Kozie

    My craft wall does tend to get mocked on a regular basis but I like to think that it provides me with the necessities needed to do something festive on the quick.  I always keep a drawer full of Raffia available for when I need to swiftly decorate a present or upgrade a blah old' bottle of wine to a gift.  It is the most amazing stuff in the world.  Let me give you the rundown. You can pick it up at any Michael's and comes in a variety of ways.  I usually go with bagged stuff (seen on the left) but it also come on a roll and in different colors.  Cost wise, it can run anywhere between $2.50 and $5.00, depending on which kind you get.  I love this stuff because nine times out of ten, we are swinging by the liquor store on the way to someone's house to pick up a bottle of booze/wine and I will grab some raffia as we run out the door so I can put the gift tag on in the car.  I think it jazzes up a package and makes it look like you spent time decorating something, even when you haven't.  
    Sorry friends!! :(  

    I wanted to use the raffia in a different way and decided to take the bundle I had on my craft wall and create my own ball of yarn out of it.  That way, I could crochet myself a square piece that could be used as a decorative wine kozie.  To start, I just tied the ends together and then wrapped them around the nearest object, so it wouldn't get all tangled up.  

    Don't panic, I used an old remote so I was still able to TiVo through the commercials of Renovation Nightmares.  Thank you HGTV!  I wasn't concerned about making it look 'clean,' so I left the knots a little longer to give it some character (and cover up any mistakes) in the end.  The look I am going for here is hula grass, so I wanted little bits of raffia coming out every which way.  Once I made a long enough bundle, I attached my crochet hook and got down to work.  

    I used a bottle of wine (it was just lying around) to measure out the length of my first piece.  Note: the piece will shrink a little bit as you crotchet further so it's better to have it be a littler longer rather than a little shorter.  

    I discovered that the best part of this project was that it didn't have to be perfect.  I definitely skipped some holes and had some sections that were longer than others.  Raffia is pretty unpredictable and has a bunch of random strings that will get in your way or get stuck on the crochet hook.  However, when I was done with the square, I pulled at it till some of the bigger mistakes weren't as noticeable and then pulled out all  the knot ends to cover up some of the other areas.  

    I knotted two longer pieces of raffia on opposite ends of the square.  

    This allowed me to tie it onto the bottle, just like you would lace up a corset.  The raffia provides a decent amount of give so don't panic if there is a large gap in the back.  You will be able pull the corset strings tight to close it up.     

    For the last part, I made some gift tags, which can once again cover up any errors in the kozie, and shockingly, tied them on with some strings of raffia.  

    And you are done!  It took me a little longer than an hour long episode of Renovation Nightmares (are you really surprised when chunks of drywall fall on your face because you were THROWING your hammer around the room...

    (not so much Renovation Nightmare as Renovation Stupidity) and I think it was well worth it.  Now, I can give a bottle of 2 Buck Chuck as a gift and no one will know until I'm gone :)  Kidding, maybe... 

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Pig Candy and Coffee Can Ice Cream

    I decided it would be so much fun to whip up some coffee can ice cream, like I did back when I was 10 and in Girl Scouts.  Although, why they chose to give us a device that sounds like freight trains crashing into cars that are crashing into windows (it is that freakin' loud) makes no sense to me.

    I wanted to jazz it up a bit and make it more tasty than blah old vanilla.  So, what to do?  What to do?

    I have been intrigued by this "bacon ice cream" phenomenon and wanted to try it out.  So, I figured I would whip up some Pig Candy (oh, what is this you say?  Why, Pig Candy is the only way one can make bacon even more delicious than it already is.  Preposterous?  Absolutely not, you bake brown sugar onto bacon to make it salty, sweet and extra crunchy!  See?!  Bacon just got better!) and mix that in with ice cream.  When I asked my lovely boyfriend for ice cream flavor suggestions, he shouted "Maple Syrup Ice Cream!" and I realized by the look in his eye that I would have to make him some Maple Syrup Ice Cream... with Pig Candy Bacon.  Look at us compromising!!

    First, the Pig Candy.  I followed this recipe from Mommy's Kitchen and made sure I loaded on the brown sugar.  Next, onto the ice cream.  You will need:

    • 1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream 
    • 1 pint Light Cream 
    • 2 Tbs Maple Syrup (we used the real stuff because when my man wants syrup, he gets syrup)  
    • Salt 
    • Ice
    • Small Coffee Can 
    • Large Coffee Can 
    • Old T-Shirt
    • Duct Tape 

    I know I said that I was going to use things already in the house but I was feeling a bit nostalgic and needed to channel my inner Scout, so I actually ran to the store to pick up some of these items.  This recipe is almost as easy to make as the Pig Candy.  All you have to do is combine both creams and the maple syrup into the small coffee can and seal the top with duct tape.  Place the small coffee can into the large coffee can and fill the gap with ice and salt.  Seal the lid of the large coffee can with duct tape, then wrap the t-shirt around the outside can, once again secure with duct tape (this way you won't freeze your hands off because if you've ever made a martini -not taught in Girl Scouts, weird - you know, ice makes metal COLD).   Then...

    It took about 20 minutes of constantly moving the container around before all the liquid transformed itself into delicious ice cream.  After a couple scoops, a garnish of Pig Candy and a sprinkling of the baked bits of brown sugar that was stuck onto the aluminum foil from the bacon (I waste nothing that is stuck to aluminum foil; not cheese, not crispy brown sugar, NOTHING)...

    Although I had to run to the store, this whole thing cost me under $15 ($15 because a thing of 'real maple syrup' costs $10... outrageous Canada, outrageous).  Luckily, I save coffee cans because I think I will use them for other projects (or I'm too lazy to pick up the garbage next to the garbage can) so those were free.  I bought 1/4 lb of bacon from the deli counter at our produce place (it's way cheaper that way and I can buy the exact amount I actually need) and it cost $0.98, plus the two creams came out to $3.00.

    Soooooooo good!!  I do know that if I was still  in Girl Scouts, this would have gotten me a patch.  I want my patch!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    The Summer Crafting Challenge... Cookies and Milk

    Since it has been way too humid, for what seems like all summer, I can no longer enjoy outdoor activities.  I've been thinking of things that I can do with all my free time and while I absolutely LOVE Bravo, I need to break away from ALL of the Real Housewives (and Jeff Lewis and Matchmaker Patti and Rocco) and be slightly more productive.  Therefore, I have begun The Summer Crafting Challenge.  I wanted to see what I could make/create/redo/ simply using things that I already had lying around the house/garage or what I can find while walking around the 'hood (aka my parents' house/garage - ha, I dare you two to go out of town again).  My goal is to have a new post every other day...  Let the challenge begin :)

    To start this little adventure, I figured I would tackle something easy.  Cookies!!  Who doesn't love some delicious cookies and milk?  People who have to turn on an oven on a 90 degree day... but I guess this is a lesson learned.  Anyway, I saw this adorable post on Pinterest and wanted to create my own out of sugar cookies.  I had some frozen dough in my freezer from earlier this summer and figured it would be perfect.  

    I chose three adorable shapes:  Shooting Star, Beach Ball and Summer Love (aka: the star, circle and heart cookie cutters that I already own becoming summerized!)  

    Scratch that.  Stupid sugar cookies.  There was not one star or heart that didn't break when I tried to remove them from the pan.  I'm not even showing the "after baking" pictures because it is too depressing.  I think they would have turned out really well if I was able to actually keep them in one piece.  On a happier note, my dog loved all of the bits that came flying off as I was trying to fight each cookie with all my might.  

    Oh well, on to my other idea.  As I dug through my freezer to find the sugar cookie dough, I came across those pre-cut "take and bake" cookies.  Peanut Butter cookies nonetheless.  Even better!!  I had to get over the thought of preheating the oven again but figured I would bake these little gems first, and then when they were still warm, poke the holes in the middle with the straw.  

    BAM!  Once I pulled the cookies out of the oven, I transferred them to a different cookie sheet and used the straw to make the holes.  After a couple wiggles (make the hole a little bigger than the straw because it will shrink up a little as they cool) and a couple twists back and forth, the middle came right out.  The dough stuck in the straw but came out with a little puff on the other end. 

    Now, I have a delicious cookie and milk treat that I can carry to bed with my one hand and I can carry my book in the other.  Like I said before, I'm trying really hard to break this Bravo addiction!!  

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Fight the Heat, Have a Digestif

    Apparently, Tom Skilling has it out for us Chicagoans.  First, he pelts us with THE record-breaking-national-news-making Snowpalooza of 2011.  Now, he is at it again with an excessive/intense level heat and thunderstorm warning.  Come on Skills, this is outrageous!!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of sweating, particularly when I am standing still or simply sitting motionless in a chair.  The only thing that would make it decidedly more relaxing is extra humidity.  So, bring on the rain.  I love living in Chicago, mostly because I get to constantly complain about the weather. However, this is crossing a line.  Let me put it this way, it is so hot that my normally hyperactive spaz of a dog did this when I asked if he wanted to go outside.  

    Then, to compound this "excessive heat" matter even further, there came the age old dilemma, what to have for my after dinner snack/cocktail?  I'm a big supporter of the after dinner drink (which, up until this point, I always called an aperitif.  However, Google has informed me that I am incorrect and what I am really referring to is a digestif. Ahhh I now have to take back all the times I acted snooty in a French restaurant...  Shame.  I was told an aperitif is a drink you have with or as an appetizer.  You really do learn something new everyday) and I usually go with a “straight-up” liquor, like whiskey or bourbon.  A great digestif (sounds fancy, right?) for fall and winter but the thought of drinking something that “warms” my throat and stomach makes me want to faint.  As a snack, the usual go-to is Western Mix from Blain’s Farm and Fleet (yes, you read that correctly but don’t you judge me till you tried it) which is a mix of salty corn nuts, sesame sticks, some other kind of nuts and some indistinguishable tidbits (whatever it is, it's delicious) in a savory spicy flavor but again, I had issues with the firey throat thing.  No thank you.  To end this heat induced predicament, I had to come up with something that sounded refreshing and satisfied my cravings for an after dinner snack and cocktail.  Get ready because I think I’ve discovered a doozy… 

    Watermelon and Lemon Sherbert with Chilled Patron and Lime Salt

    BAM!  It is perfect because it is all cold, so very deliciously ice cold.  You have a super summer treat with the watermelon, throw in a salty component and then top it off with Patron (who doesn’t love Patron?!?!  Ok, even if you’re not a huge Patron fan, I strongly encourage you to whip up a batch of the watermelon and lemon sherbert), honestly, it works on all levels.  I found the Watermelon Sherbert recipe at Better Home and Gardens and just added the juice from half a lemon to each serving.  It is an extremely easy recipe (despite me hacking at it like a drunken pirate, which resulted in watermelon juice covering ¾ of my kitchen) and I was told that I have to make this again. 

    I put the Patron in the freezer for several hours to make sure it was nice and cold and I think the only thing I should have done differently was put the shot glasses in there as well.  I wanted everything to be ice-tastic and I feel like frosted shot glasses would have been the proverbial cherry on top.    

    For the lime salt, I combined 2 Tbs Kosher salt and the zest from 1 lime into a coffee grinder.  It made it a nice powder, which allowed for more coverage on the edge of the shot glass.  I juiced ½ a lime and mixed it all together.  I then placed it in a saucepan and let the mixture simmer on low to evaporate the moisture.  Make sure you keep stirring to prevent the salt from burning or sticking.  It will take a little bit but in the end, the salt should have the consistency of partially wet sand.  Once it is cool, use lime juice to rim the shot glasses and then dip them in the lime salt. (Tip: You only need a little bit of lime salt to get a lot of flavor!! Since it is ground up, the mixture is pretty dense and it might be way too over bearing if you lick off a lot at one time.  I speak from teary eyed experience.)  

    I do guarantee one thing though, small sips of Patron followed by some outrageously refreshing Watermelon and Lemon Sherbert will be a welcome addition to your HOT summer nights.  

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