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Archive for January, 2011

Looking for some fun ways to add some Valentine touches to your home?  All of these simple craft decor ideas are from Better Homes & Gardens.

Create a Heart Banner using scrapbook papers, fabric and/or felt.  Thread the hearts using ribbon.  The banner looks adorable draped from a headboard.  It would also look great hung from a mirror or hearth.

Make a wreath of hearts using heart cutouts or punches.  Glue the paper hearts to a cardboard circle or heart cutout.  Hang with festive ribbon from a chair, a mirror, a door.

Decorate a simple candle with paper heart cut-outs.  Wire the hearts together to form a circle around the candle.  Instant Valentine’s candle makeover!  Just remove the ring of hearts once Valentine’s Day is over.

Create beautiful heart pouches of paper or fabric to hold Valentine goodies.  String with beautiful ribbons.

Happy Crafting!

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This past weekend I pulled out my Valentine’s decorations.  I am always so tempted to move right from Christmas to Valentine’s decor, as our home always looks so bare after being spruced up for Christmas.  But I do usually wait until mid-to-late January.

When I’m packing up my Christmas ornaments, I set aside my red mercury ornaments and my silver hearts — to use for Valentine’s Day.

I fill several apothecary jars with the red mercury ornaments and red heart ornaments.

And I display my silver heart ornaments in a glass bowl — along with some vintage glass garland.

Years ago, I started collecting antique postcards by holiday.  I have some postcards that were sent in the 1900s.  I like to display some of the Valentine postcards on my entry table.

You can never go wrong with fresh red tulips at Valentine’s.  I tuck small vases of tulips in bookshelves and on tables with other Valentine’s decorations.

Tucked in our bookshelves are a few Valentine plates along with a few painted wood crafts from many years ago.

Have fun adding touches of Valentine’s in your home!

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Jeff got the Nespresso Citiz espresso and cappuccino maker for Christmas.  He LOVES good, rich espresso and has been wanting this machine since he first heard about it.

I’m not much of a coffee drinker … at least I didn’t use to be.  But this thing makes a great cappuccino or latte in less than a minute.  And, it’s so quiet!

Jeff ended up getting the Nespresso Citiz 120 (above).

It’s sleek and streamlined in design.  And, it is so simple to make coffee with this!  It comes with an aluminum frother which you can set to latte or cappuccino foam.  You can make both hot and cold frothed drinks.

You use coffee capsules — which you must order online (or find at a few upscale stores).  There’s no mess!  There’s a great variety of coffees (16 in fact) and you can make:

          • Espresso
          • Lungo
          • Cappuccino

The capsules are more expensive than buying coffee beans by the pound, but it’s a lot cheaper than Starbucks.  The only downside is that there is no easy way to recycle the capsules.

For coffee lovers, this is definitely a machine to check out!

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Since we’re still having cooler than normal weather here in So Cal, I’ve been making a lot of soups.  Jeff’s happy – since he normally grills 5 nights a week.  He says it’s too cold to grill.  (I know.  We’re wimps.)

This Beef & Barley Soup is an adaptation from the Rainy Day Beef & Barley Soup in the Simply Classic Cookbook. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks (a Seattle Junior League book).

Beef & Barley Soup

Serves six to eight

Ingredients:

1  1/2 lbs. Beef Round Steak, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3/4 tsp. Salt

1/2 tsp. Pepper

2 Tbs. Canola Oil, divided

2 cups Onion, finely chopped

1 cup Carrot, diced

1/2 cup Celery, diced

1 lb. Mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp. Garlic, minced

1/4 tsp. dried Thyme

6 cups Beef Broth

1/2 cup pearl Barley

3 Tbs. fresh Parsley, chopped (optional)

Directions:

1.  Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper.  Place 1 Tbs. of oil in dutch oven and brown beef until no longer pink.  Transfer to a bowl.

2.  Heat remaining oil in same pot.  Add onion, carrot and celery.  Cook, stirring until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms, garlic and thyme.  Cook 5 minutes more.

3.  Add beef broth, barley and beef to the cooked vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until beef is tender, about 1  1/2 hours.  You can add water, if necessary during the cooking time.

4.  Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

NOTES: I’ve made this soup with leftover grilled steak – and it’s delicious!  I usually use Trader Joe’s stock for soups.  Since this calls for 6 cups of broth, I sometimes use 1 box of beef stock (4 cups) and 2 cups of chicken stock.

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Last night I stopped by Target on my way home to see if they had put out their Valentine’s stuff.   Jackpot!!!  They have some really cute things out for Valentine’s Day in their Dollar Bins!

Natalie and I have an annual Valentine Card-Making Party.  This year will mark our 7th party!  With that being said, I’m always on the hunt for cute craft items for cards.  Finding them at a discount or on sale is even better!

I found these cute papers in the Target Dollar Bins.  They come 8 sheets for a $1, so I bought the Valentine & Cupcakes, the Metallic Hearts and Glitter Sheets.  They aren’t the same quality as most of the scrapbooking papers, but when you’re supplying decorative craft papers for 20 – 25 girls, it works just fine!

I also found these adorable decorative baskets/boxes.  A dollar each.  Wouldn’t these be cute as birthday party “gift bags”?  Or as containers for home baked goodies for neighbors and friends?  I love the decorative prints!

I bought several of the larger baskets/bins.  I plan to use them at the party to hold the various craft supplies and tools.

These mailboxes are adorable to display cute valentine’s.  They have them in red, pink and white.

And lastly, I bought this cute block set (only $2.50).  It says KISS, HUGS, LOVE, and my favorite XOXO.  It reminded me of Gossip Girl …

XOXO  -Lori

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Coconut Cream Bars

It’s not exactly the time of year to be thinking of desserts … with New Year’s resolutions and all.  But, this is a great dessert.  And, it’s easy to serve at a party — as you can serve bite size pieces.

These Coconut Cream Bars are from Martha Stewart.  They are easy to make.  And, if you are making them for a party, you can make them the day ahead.

Coconut Cream Bars

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients:

2  1/2 cups sweetened, flaked Coconut

3 Boxes (5.3 oz. each) Shortbread Cookies, coarsely broken

1 cup plus 2 Tbs. Sugar

6 Tbs. Cornstarch

1/2 tsp. Salt

4  1/2 cups whole Milk

6 large Egg Yolks

6 Tbs. cold, unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces

1  1/2 cups Heavy Cream

3 Tbs. Confectioners’ Sugar

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread coconut in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake, stirring once or twice, until golden (8 to 10 minutes).  Let cool completely.  Leave oven on.

2.  Process cookies and 1/2 cup coconut in a food processor until finely ground and mixture begins to clump together (about 2 minutes).  Transfer mixture to a 9 by 13 rimmed baking sheet.  Press into an even layer on bottom.  Bake until golden and firm to the touch (12 to 15 minutes).  Let cool in baking sheet on a wire rack.

3.  Whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large saucepan.  Whisk in milk and egg yolks.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil (5 to 6 minutes).  Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Add butter, whisking until combined.  Stir in 1  1/2 ups of coconut.

4.  Spoon the custard onto cooled crust; smooth top with an offset spatula.  Press plastic wrap directly onto custard surface, to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

5.  Beat cream and confectioners’ sugar in a large chilled stainless steel bowl until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.

6.  Cut custard filled crust into 24 bars (each about 3 by 1  1/2 inches).  Transfer to a platter.  Spoon whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip.  Beginning at one corner, pipe a zigzag pattern over each bar.  Sprinkle bars with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

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I spent the good part of New Year’s Day taking down all the Christmas decorations.  It’s definitely one of my least favorite tasks of all time!  The house always looks so bare after being spruced up for the holidays.

This year, I did a complete inventory of our holiday decorations — taking pictures and counting key items.

My plan is to email a few of the pics to my phone, so I’ll have them on hand when I come across potential holiday decor purchases in the future.

At times it’s hard to remember how many silver mercury trees I have (and what they look like).  Or, what size candles do I need for my mercury candle holders?  And, do I really need another crystal garland?

I also bought a few more plastic containers (Target – day after Christmas) to store the remainder of our Christmas decorations.  Everything is put away and ready for next year.

Happy New Year!

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