Saturday, December 20, 2014

easy Christmas gift wrap ideas

Five days 'til Christmas! Let the frenzied wrapping beginning! Last year I shared an idea to let your inner child shine with sponge painted gift wrap. This year I'm taking the minimalist route - basic kraft paper, some pretty Christmas tissue wrapped around the present, perhaps a few gold or silver accents, fancy ribbon (or not-so-fancy twine or yarn), and a cute tag. Ok, maybe not minimalist, but simple! I've rounded up a collection of some of my favorite gift wrap ideas that will be sitting under our tree this Christmas. Enjoy!
First up, I found these silver bags for 2 for a $1 at the dollar store. I painted some mini polka dots with a gold paint pen. Then decorate a square tag from some leftover cardstock. Added a little sparkly twine to the tag and it's done. These are perfect for filling with homemade goodies from the kitchen. 
While browsing in Michaels a few weeks ago, I found a box of cute wood snowflakes for a little over a dollar. A little metallic paint helps them shine when attached to gifts with twine or ribbon. 
Or use that gold paint pen to embellish kraft paper with some festive gold lines.
Got a little girl on your list who's drawn to all things glittery and bright? Dress up plain kraft paper with a sparkly snowflake ornament and a silver tag. 
Remember those neon pot holder weaving kits from the 90s? The ones with the stretchy fabric loops? Here's a classier version of the woven look. Weave a Christmas ribbon around the package and tape it to the back of the package. Add a simple white tag and stick it under the tree.
Gifting goodies from your kitchen? I found these jars in the Target dollar spot. Two for $3! I painted polka dots with my trusty paint pen and added leftover labels from this bridal shower gift. Be sure to include a note to the recipient that the jars are hand wash only. I have plans to go buy myself some for our pantry. If there's any left by the time I get there that is...
Happy wrapping, my friends! Wishing you and yours a merry and joyous Christmas!  


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas baking 101

Confession: I've become slightly obsessed with the sun recently. The moment it chooses to show its face. I literally stop everything I'm doing and bask in the vitamin D glow. This is clearly the most logical thing to do when it only surfaces every five days. Welcome to the dreary Northeast winter days. Thank goodness for Christmas joy, twinkle lights, and holiday baking!

This year instead of leaving all my baking for this last week before Christmas. I've been slowly and steadily planning my attack and filling our freezer to the brim. I've now completely run out of containers and our freezer is maxed out. I am by no means an expert, but thought I'd share a few tips and tricks I've learned when it comes to enjoying your time in the kitchen this Christmas...

1. Whisk and stir to the tunes of your favorite Christmas music. 
I promise it will help you tackle that mound of dishes you just created. (Says the baker without a dishwasher.)

2. Embrace the power of your freezer.  
It's no secret that I love my freezer, but this time of year it really earns its energy saver stars. Freezing is the best way to preserve the freshly baked taste while saving me from having to spend long hours in the kitchen the morning of that holiday shindig. It's also a lovely place to store cookie dough until your ready for your cookie decorating party.
3. Bake only what you personally want to eat.
Do not make your Great Aunt Stella a fruitcake that you yourself wouldn't want a crumb of. Odds are there might be leftovers. Bake and make only what you and your family will be happy to polish off.

4. Giving gifts from your kitchen this year? Assess your gifting supply.
Do you have enough boxes, tins, bags, ribbons, tags, etc? If not, hit the dollar store for the basics and the craft store for snazzier gifting options. And for the love, please don't forget that craft store coupon!

5. Stock up now for future baking adventures.
Technically this applies to year round baking, but I'd be forsaking my frugal self if I didn't tell you to stock your pantry now. Butter, chocolate, nuts, and flour are all on sale for about as cheap as they get. Stock up for the coming months. Don't succumb to paying a third more for a product in a month. P.S. Butter, flour, and nuts freeze well.
6. When in doubt, pull that cookie sheet out! 
Do NOT be that person that serves rock hard cookies. Just don't. Even biscotti, in my humble opinion, should have a slight chew in the middle.

So there's my two cents. Any tips you'd like to add?

If you still haven't decided what goodies your gifting this Christmas, don't fret! Here's a few suggestions from my baking list to get you started:

Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Thumbprints from How Sweet It is. Slightly warmed up with that ganache in the middle...oh so so good! I might have made mine about twice the size. I am my mom's daughter and that's just how we roll.

Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies from Food 52. I've nicknamed these espresso crinkles and increased their size... ;) The hubster is absolutely in love with these.

Coffee Toffee from Smitten Kitchen for my coffee loving family. (She also posted a gingerbread biscotti recipe that's calling my name...maybe next year...)

Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix also from Smitten Kitchen.
We like ours with a 3/4 c. of 2% milk and 1/4 c. half and half and a few squares of homemade marshmallows on top. Rich and dreamy hot chocolate.

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook. Cookies for breakfast?! Don't let the whole grains deceive you, these are truly incredible moist, spiced cookies. The hubster's most requested recipe of the year. You can adapt the nuts and dried fruits in this recipe to your taste. Bonus: these are the perfect filling, yet nutritious treat for new mamas.

Want more? Check out my Christmas Goodies, Cookie! Yum Yum Yum!, and Baking Queen Pinterest boards for more inspiration!

I'll be back soon for some easy peasy last minute gift wrap ideas. 'Til then happy baking!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

all is well, friends

The need to blog hasn't been high on my list lately. Perhaps it's because my thoughts haven't been forming coherent sentences lately. Or maybe it's because I don't want to add one more thing to your list of Christmas to dos. But mostly it's because my heart desired some quiet this season.

Every year I seem to desire an stiller, simpler Christmas. Time to sit and rest in the Truth of Christmas. This year I've had this song on repeat. All is well, friends. Both infant and infinite. Born is our Lord and Savior. My prayer is that we each set aside all the stuff that comes with this season and make room for the King in our hearts.

And that, my friends, is all I have to write today. Wishing you a truly joyous Christmas!

Friday, November 21, 2014

a heart of thanksgiving & a painted pallet sign

Were you expecting a post sprinkled with cranberries, flavored with squash, or buried in butter? Sorry to disappoint you, my friend. But there's just no need for me to reinvent the Thanksgiving wheel. My ma is truly the queen of Thanksgiving. I do my part setting the table, taste testing, washing dishes, singing "let's have a parade!", making deviled eggs, eating everything...but mostly my job is helping the Thanksgiving queen simultaneously make 20+ beautiful, flavorful dishes ready to serve in one single moment. It's a completely homemade and completely perfect Thanksgiving. There's absolutely nothing that needs to be added. Nothing. Well, except a precious Montana family sitting around the table with us...soon enough!

Instead of thanksgiving food, let's talk about a heart of thanksgiving. I'm taking a step back and working on truly be filled with thankfulness in every season. Thankfulness that I was blessed to be born into such a family. Blessed to never know hunger. Blessed to be taught kindness, truth, and love. Blessed to know Jesus. Blessed to be married to a man that desires my good and loves always. Some days thanksgiving is hard. Life trips us up. The world is broken. The hurt is real. The waves are big.

Because I'm a visual, verbal person (does that even make sense?) I decided to make a sign to remind us each day to be thankful. Remember wayyy back in the beginning of summer when I shared a collection of projects in various stages of "doneness"? Well, I'm finally making progress! That lonely rugged, slightly warped, nail-filled plank I found in my parent's garage has been given a new life. It now reminds us every morning to choose joy. Even when stormy seas surround us, our Anchor holds. Just a simple line from Hebrews that speaks to my heart. My soul is firm and secure in the Lord. I know the One that can calm the storm. And that in itself should be cause for thanksgiving in my heart and overflow into my life.

Looking to beautify your own plank of wood? It takes just a few simple steps:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

these are a few of my favorite things (lately)

...what is man that You are mindful of him?
Mat's new single, Heartbeat! It's impossible not to at least bob your head to this song.  Literally on repeat (free on Spotify) as I write. Young Love was pure music perfection and the choice tunes of our honeymoon and pretty much every other road trip we take. Can't wait for his new album!!

Did you know that you can boil apple cider down to a sort of apple cider syrup? Maybe this is old news? But I did it and am now drizzling into anything and everything. Like this cinnamon applesauce recipe from King Arthur Flour's blog, Flourish. P.S. Add this blog to your feed if you don't follow already.

If you're looking for some Thanksgiving books to read with your little ones this year, here's some suggestions from The Children's Book Review. I haven't read all of these nor have I loved all of them, but there's some good options in here.

I'm working on a project to share. Actually, I'm working on about ten projects to share, but this is the one you get a sneak peek of :) It involves paint and an old ladder.

The Book with No Pictures. Because words are powerful and funny. For the little kid in all of us.

An easy peasy marbled ring dish. Easy, cute, and homemade. I'm in.

Frugal cooking tip: buy tortillas in bulk. Freeze half wrapped in foil. Cut up the other half into triangles. Bake for about 4 minutes on each side in a 350 degree oven with a sprinkling of salt. The amount of time will vary based upon what type of tortilla and what kind of baking sheet you use. Watch carefully - they can turn dark quick! Oh so simple, but so deliciously satisfying. Warning: they are mildly addicting.

This book is on my list of things to read. Anybody read it?

I'm definitely decoupaging letters for the office gallery wall. Because let's be real - a beautifully written and illustrated children's book is art.

And in Etsy shop news: my shop has a name! It's a secret though. You'll just have to wait with baited breath on the edge of your seat. Just be sure to eat, sleep, and do the other necessities of life while you wait. My only hint is there's a nod to my family and one of our beloved traditions in the name. Now onto all the business license yada yada stuff. Ick. Brings me back to my grant writing days...

Hope you've found a new favorite thing of your own on this list <3

Friday, November 7, 2014

dreaming big

Happy November, friends!

I currently sit in the middle of craft chaos while the north wind whistles under the front door and up the stairs. [Note to self: buy a new door sweep.] There's card stock piles, overflowing boxes of ribbons, old scraps from past projects, rolls of kraft paper, paintbrushes, and rumpled burlap strewn about our office. Total chaos, and yet it's monumental! For the first time in years, I have all my crafting supplies together in one place. Let's just soak this moment in...

Ok, moving on because there's important work to be done - purging, organizing, and decorating! I've got a few ideas for the office percolating away in this crazy brain of mine....
1. Our old apartment kitchen table will get a chic makeover and become my new crafting table (and blog shoot background! Finally!)
2. An old frame the hubster thrifted for me will lose the nasty quilt and become a bulletin board in a diy-inspiring gallery wall. I'm thinking a spring green frame and painted burlap cork board.
3. Empty gallon paint cans will be upcycled into beautiful containers. 
4. And my crafting supplies will get organized in some sort of cohesive, efficient way on a shelving unit we don't presently own. In time, my friends, in time.

And in this space, I will create, blog, and craft unique and beautiful things for our home, friends, and my Etsy shop.

WHAT??! I know! I know. I just shocked myself by writing it out loud for all the world to read!!

A creative fire has been kindling inside of me for years now. Thus why the blog was birthed two years ago - a place to share creativity and hopefully inspire others to work on their own projects. I actually made a shop account two years ago, but chickened out on launching it. In hindsight, I'm glad I waited. The years have given me time to mull over the details of what I want the shop to look and feel like.

Fast forward to last March when I could no longer stand the dreary days of winter and longed for anything bright and cheerful. The billy ball flower tutorial was born and blogged. I never imagined I'd get such positive feedback. I knew then the time was coming for me to take a step of faith and see what happens.

And so friends, expect word in the near future of a Etsy shop grand opening featuring stationary, painted gift bags and gift wrap, billy balls (because they'll forever have a special place in my heart), and perhaps even an upcycled art piece or two.

 With love, Caitlin

P.S. If you've got an idea for a shop name, I'm open to suggestions!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

link love lately

Fuzz bud has absoultely nothing to do with the links below except that he was a perfect model resting in the fallen leaves. Ok, let us continue with links I'm loving lately...

Homemade Cookie Butter. I repeat HOMEMADE cookie butter. Since the hubster and I have now moved to the land of no Trader Joe's, this officially saves us from cookie butter withdrawals. And you can choose your own cookie base! Even better. 

Roasted Carrot Hummus - I've been waiting until I had some sweet, fresh from the farm carrots to try this recipe. The perfect protein-rich snack!

DIY Crepe Paper Pumpkins - Pumpkin decorations that can used again next year? And made out of paper? What's not to love?! I'd also suggest making them in white and gold for a Thanksgiving table centerpiece. 
I've made it my mission to not stop until I find the perfect shoo fly pie recipe. I'm starting with this recipe that Bon Appétit published from Wendy Jo's Homemade in Lancaster Central Market. 

Gold Tipped Cork Leaf Wreath and Copper Herringbone Pumpkins - Still loving metallic accents especially for the holidays.

Extra Flakey Broccoli Cheddar Soup Mini Pies - The mix of flavors and stellar photography on Tieghan's blog are incredible.  Add this one to your blog feeds if you haven't already!

For your inner-child or your actual child, monster s'mores!

P.S. I'm the Crafty Superstar (eek!) this week on Cut Out + Keep! Thousands of crafty tutorials and inspiration from talented bloggers...need I say more?

Friday, October 17, 2014


We're currently in the process of planning, designing, painting and fixing abijillion things in this place. Ok not literally, but it certainly feels that way. My brain has been boggled more than a couple of times since moving in. There have been days of unending painting, but there have also been small triumphs...

The gallery wall from our abode days has made a comeback.

I now have a cozy new home for my spices. 

We bit the bullet and bought an Ikea metal shelving unit for the pantry to hold the all-important baking ingredients.

And then there are the questions (and occasionally answers) that mull around in my head for days... 

How much foaming sealant do we need to rid the basement of secondhand smoke? A lot.

Where is the slow leak from the toilet coming from? The rubber seal. It's been fixed!

Where do we find a bookshelf big (and cheap) enough for all the stuff that still need a home in our office? The re-store! But how in the world do we get it home? 

How many cans of carpet cleaner does it take to eliminate the carpet black lines along the the trim? More than one...

Where are those ginormous spiders coming from and how do we make them go away now

What should I plant in a sun-less, weed-infested flowerbed? Is it worth the dozens of dollars in bulbs? 
How many coats of paint does one door need?! At least three.

Should I make a some art or thrift a large statement piece for the wall above the big couch? Thrift.

How is it possible that our trash/recycling company does not recycle cardboard? Who wants all our broken down boxes? Anybody???

Thursday, October 2, 2014

hello, October

September was quite possible the longest, yet fastest month ever. I packed in the evenings at the lakehouse while the hubster cleaned and prep walls for paint in our new home. We spent a weekend painting the living room and dining room. We said goodbye to the lakehouse and had a surprisingly painless move. [Thank you to those of you that helped and prayed!] I'm now in the midst of unpacking and organizing while the hubster continues to spend his days helping tweens negotiate the crazy world of middle school. Pretty sure I have the better end of this deal...

And so we now happily welcome October from the comfort of our new home. The screeching sound of guinea hens and honking geese has been replaced by the the clip clop of horses and the wheel roll of buggies on the road. For those of you who have asked for photos, here's a few real-life snapshots of the downstairs:
The kitchen cabinet dresser got an upgrade and is now being used as the entertainment center. We're contemplating taking out a drawer to house the dvd player. It fits perfectly in its new home.

Back in my preschool teacher days, I'd come home with so much junk that my parent's bought me an entry organizer for Christmas one year. The hubster and I haven't been able to use the top part since we got married. So glad to have it up and functioning again. 

Our free kitchen table in it's rightful home. The place mats are covering up the flaking veneer. This is most definitely on our project list!

I've changed the kitchen cabinet set up about eight times so far. But if there's one thing I've learned the last few years, it's how to cook in a rental galley kitchen.

The pièce de résistance - a walk-in pantry! It's hard to tell from the photo, but it's almost the same size as the kitchen. This pantry is going to make life a whole lot easier!

Hope you enjoyed the mini tour! It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint, a thorough cleaning, and furniture does to an empty house. I'm excited to slap some paint on the remaining walls upstairs and churn out some blog projects in the kitchen and craft room (aka spare bedroom aka office aka the room with all the homeless stuff). I've got a list of projects to undertake and some actual time to do them. Get ready my friends - this blog is about to be back in frugalish action!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

the life of a teacher's wife

Once again I'm popping in to say hi, I miss you, and sorry for being such a finicky blogger lately!

I'm feeling all the feelings and it's time I share them with you. When you're married to a teacher, a year doesn't begin in January. Nope, a year begins in August and when that teacher isn't contracted the summer is full of interviews, rejections, cheerleading, more interviews, questions, prayers... When a certain day rolled around and there still was no news, we made a new plan for the when/where/hows of real life. And then the next day, hubster got the call and suddenly that plan was out the window. An elusive contract(!!) and we need to move and you start in three days? Ummm...ok!

Let's summarize: We're saying so long to family, friends, and the county we were both raised in and moving to a little townhouse outside of Lancaster. It's cute, has a little backyard, a walk-in pantry, needs a coat of paint on the walls, and a major dog hair carpet cleaning. I'm leaving my job and a little one who won't understand why I'm there one day and gone the next. We now have to begin the church shopping process all over again. Ughhh. Our front room is filled with the smell of cardboard and packing has once again become part of my weeknight routine. Cleaning and painting will occupy the few weekends we have before we move in.

Basically, September is going to fly by. If it's silent around here, you'll know why. I'm pretty sure the next time I write it will be from our new home with new lighting, diy adventures, and recipes to share. See you in October, my friends!

P.S. Follow along on instagram for moving updates!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

summer chicken salad sandwiches

In a perfect blogging world, you would have seen these sandwiches well over a month ago. But alas I don't live in that world. Need some proof? Exhibit A. So it's now August[!!] and I'm finally sharing this recipe that is traditionally a part of our family's 4th of July feast. My mom makes these sandwiches as the centerpiece of a quintessential picnic dinner that usually includes pasta salad, fruit salad, lemonade, coffee blonde brownies... Basically the meal is perfection and is always more exciting than any fireworks show.

I decided long ago that this recipe needs to be made more than once a year. I tweaked the ingredients a bit to reduce the fat while still keeping the chicken salad creamy and refreshing. Make the chicken salad ahead and bring all the sandwiches fixings with you on a day trip to the shore or a picnic in the park. Or if your in the midst of the dog days of summer, rest your oven and your air conditioning bill and enjoy this chicken salad as a no-cook dinner.
A few recipe notes:
  • The recipe calls for shredded cooked chicken. I highly suggest poaching your own chicken breast and keeping it in the freezer for stress-free meals like this one. Here's a tutorial for all you poaching newbies. 
  • I sliced and layered the avocado on the sandwiches because I knew we'd be eating the leftovers the next day. I didn't want the chicken salad to turn an icky, exposed-to-air avocado brown. Yuck. But if you plan to eat the chicken salad the same day you make it, then go ahead and mash the avocado and replace half of the Greek yogurt with the avocado. This recipe variation would have a 1/4 c. each of mayo, Greek yogurt, and mashed avocado in the chicken salad.
  • My mom always serves the chicken salad on crossiants. It's perfect for special occasions, but for everyday meals I serve it on homemade wheat challah that's been cut into rolls. Whole wheat sandwich bread is also a great option
Summer Chicken Salad Sandwiches
[recipe adapted from my mom who got it from a Hellmann's]
Makes four sandwiches

2 c. shredded cooked chicken
1/4 c. reduced fat mayo
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/4  heaping c. chopped scallions
1 tsp. dried dill (or 1 tbsp. fresh dill)
1 tbsp. dijon
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
4 rolls or enough bread for four sandwiches
1 tomato, sliced
1 avocado, sliced (or mashed - see note above)
Handful of romaine lettuce (enough for four sandwiches)

1. Mix the chicken, mayo, yogurt, scallions, dill, dijon, salt, and pepper together.
2. Layer the sandwich fixings and chicken salad on the bread. Don't forget to season the avocado and tomato with salt and pepper.

3. Enjoy!

the creative collection link party button

Saturday, July 19, 2014

printable gold bunting card

Once again I'm here to apologize for the blog silence lately. In the midst of long work days and busy weekends, I've been trying to not let the easy breezy fleeting days of summer pass me by. Instead of shooting a post, we head to one of our favorite parks for an evening walk or an al fresco dinner. When I normally might be testing a new recipe to share with you, I've opted instead to use the panini press, smash summer's bounty between two pieces of bread, and have dinner on the table in fifteen minutes. Call me crazy, but that makes a lot more sense to me than spending all day in a sweltering kitchen! And so please excuse the sporadic posting, it's likely to continue for the remainder of the summer...

...but to make up for the lack of consistent posting, I've made you a printable! Truthfully, I made this card a few months ago for all the weddings and graduations we have or will be attending in the near future. And since I know how much you love printables and pretty cards, I thought I'd be nice and use my preschool skills and share the love.
This card is a conglomeration [word of the day!] of a few of my current loves: simple card designs, bunting, and the kraft/gold color combo that's everywhere lately. It's dressy enough for a wedding, but simple enough for any special event. Bonus: this card is minimal effort with beautiful results!
If you've downloaded any of my printables in the past, you know the drill. Click on the link below and a dropbox window will open with the pdf. The card prints up ready to be embellished. Give the bunting a gold tint, write your words of wisdom, and send it on its way.
Gold Sharpie
Kraft Card Paper
Bone Folder

1. Click here to access the printable pdf for your own personal use.
2. Fill your printer tray with the 8"x5.5" kraft card paper (the card size will be 4"x5.5" when folded) and print.
3. Use the gold Sharpie to color in the bunting.
4. Create a crisp fold with a bone folder or ruler and you're finished!
The perfect beginner homemade card for all you newbies out there and an attractive addition to your card stash for all you seasoned crafters. Happy crafting!