Homemade Limoncello

As some of you might remember, I have an extraordinarily prolific lemon tree in my backyard.

So just for kicks I decided to try out a little something I had pinned awhile back: homemade Limoncello.

A friend of mine (who also has a prolific lemon tree) had pinned/made the same recipe, and after she told me how easy it was I decided to give it a go.

The end result is below.  I gave them out as Christmas gifts to a few close friends.   If I ever make it again I think I'll bottle it in a container that makes it look a little less like a urine sample ;)

It was super-easy to do.  Now I'm just waiting to hear if my friends liked it since I myself don't drink.

If you'd like to make your own, you can find the recipe HERE.  I didn't use 160 proof vodka so perhaps mine was a bit wishy-washy.  I'll let you know once I get some feedback.  



Unique Ideas for Holiday Gift Wrap

Last week I hosted my second annual gift wrapping party (read about last year's party HERE) and I swear it has changed the way I think about wrapping gifts.

What was once a miserable (and lonely) chore has now become an opportunity to create something beautiful in the company of good friends.

But it also means that I need to step up my game.  In order to ensure that my party doesn't become stale I need to bring fresh ideas to the table with each new season.

Thank goodness there are bloggers-galore who are more than willing to share their gift wrapping ideas with the world.

Today I am thrilled to be sharing sixteen of these great ideas over at Looksi with my newest curated collection.

Click HERE to get to the collection.  All relevant entries are labeled:
{Elena's Holiday Gift Wrap Collection}

Looking for additional holiday posts?  Click on the links below:



Holiday Popcorn Buckets

When my older daughter was attending preschool in Chicago, she went to school with a little girl whose mother was a well-known event planner.

And while I was certainly aware of what she did, I never really gave it a lot of thought.  To me she was simply a fellow mom engaging in the same joys and struggles that I was experiencing.

There was, however, one time when I got a teensy glimpse into her world.

It was very pretty.

And very fun.

You see, on this particular occasion she was involved in planning the preschool's holiday fair.  In her world this was probably just tiny blip on the radar, but to me it was incredibly inspiring.

One of the many little details that intrigued me was a table filled with holiday buckets containing a mixture of candy & popcorn.  It was such a simple idea, but executed so brilliantly that I've kept it in the back of my mind all of these years.

She simply bought up a bunch of metal Christmas buckets in Target's Dollar Section.  (They have them there every year.)  Then she mixed red and green candies with popcorn and served them up in the buckets.

It was festive and simple--the perfect idea for a holiday gathering.

Well, being the hoarder, um, savvy shopper that I am, I quickly realized that these buckets go on sale after the holidays.  Every year I scoop a bunch up, usually at about 75% off.  (That's right, for about twenty-five cents apiece.)

This year the girls and I decided to use them for their holiday gift offerings.  (Read about last year's gifts HERE.)

 I'm not going to lie.  I shamelessly stole my friend's entire idea. And it was so darned easy, and turned out so stinking cute, that I'm now I'm going to share it with you:
  1. Buy a big bag (or two) of Kettle Corn.  (I got mine at Whole Foods.)
  2. Buy some red and green candy.  (I used mint M&M's, dark chocolate M&M's and red hots.  We wanted Jelly Bellies but couldn't find them in red and green.)  
  3. Mix candy and popcorn in a big bowl.
  4. Scoop into bread bag-lined buckets.  (<-- I used bread bags because I had them and didn't want the mixture falling out of the buckets as we transported them to school.)
  5. Tie with baker's twine.
  6. Label.  (I used my Silhouette, but you could also just attach cute gift tags.)
The whole process took about an-hour-and-a-half and cost under $25.  That's not bad when you consider that we now have 21 gifts to hand out to the girls' friends on the last day of school.

Feel free to jump in on this action--but just be sure to leave a few buckets for me at Target's after Christmas sale.  I think I'm going to need to restock! 



Mason Jar Gift Card Holder

Looking for a cute way to present a gift card?

First, get yourself a mason jar and hot glue some cute bottle brush trees to the lid.

Then grab your gift card...

...wrap it in tissue and insert it in the jar.  (It will fit in a standard mouth jar if the card isn't in a paper holder.)

Add a cute tag and, voila!  Your gift just went from drab to fab!



Chalk Board Wrapping Paper

Next week I'm hosting my second annual Holiday Wrapping Party.

In an effort to keep things fresh, I'm trying to come up with new and interesting gift wrap ideas.

For this reason I've decided to take my love of black kraft paper to the next level.

Using a roll of black Kraft (or bulletin board) paper and a white chalk marker from the $1 Spot at Target, I've created this fun "chalkboard" wrapping paper.

Check back for more holiday wrapping ideas when I debut my curated collection of DIY gift wrap on Looksi later this month.



Photo Props for Christmas Cards

So, I don't want to brag or anything, but get this:

My Christmas cards are DONE.  

That's right, done-zo!

As in complete, finished, and ready to be mailed.

(Dont hate me; I'm not always this with it.)

In fact, there's actually a downside to this year's with-it-ness...

It's that I didn't think to make these fun photo props until after I had ordered my cards.

Bummer for me, but possibly not for you.

To make your own you'll need a Silhouette, a few pieces of cardstock, a little hot glue, and some lollipop sticks.  (Buy yours HERE.)

Don't have a Silhouette?

No problem!  Below are links to free printables I found on the internet.  Simply print them from your computer and cut them out.

Oh Happy Day
Talk Crafty to Me
Simple Simon & Co.
Cora Mae Design
Melinda's Musings
Online Labels

...and then you can be with it just like me!



Bottle Brush Snow Globe

The holidays are approaching and I've been busy!

(Which is why you haven't seen much of me lately...)

But here's a little peek at one of the items I've been creating in my crafting lair (aka the garage):

The big one is in a pickle jar.

Because you know I like using those one gallon pickle jars:

...and the little one is in a Bonne Maman jar (because it would just be sinful to throw one of those away).

I got my bottle brush trees at Michael's where they were 40% off (hollah!) but if you don't have a Michael's nearby, you can purchase an assortment HERE.

I added a little lettering with my Silhouette and filled the bottom with epsom salts and glitter.

I think the finished product will make a nice centerpiece on my dining room table.

Although maybe I should just keep it in the garage.  (At least there I can appreciate it...)


What Do You Get For The Grandparents Who Have Everything?

This post has been made possible by Shutterfly and Looksi Square.

With Christmas fast approaching (and Hanukkah approaching even faster) I find myself in the midst of that yearly dilemma:  What the heck do I buy for my in-laws?  

I mean seriously, those guys have everything they could ever want.

They don't need any more knick-knacks...

or bric-a-brac...

or candy...

or even gift cards.

But you know the one thing grandparents can't get enough of?


And in our family that requires a bit of travel.

Which brings me back to my question:  What do you get for the grandparents who have everything?

Luggage tags from Shutterfly, of course!  What better way to remind them why they need the luggage in the first place?

Here is the one I made for my mother-in-law:

And the one I'm designing for my father-in-law:

The back is a blank surface on which you can write your identifying information with a Sharpie, but I chose to include his phone number in the collage above.  

A huge thank you to Shutterfly for rescuing my gift-challenged-self yet again!

Looksi and Shutterfly have invited me to participate in a creative brand collaboration.  I have been provided with product compensation for this post, but all opinions are my own.



No Birthday Card? No Problem! Shutterfly Stickers to the Rescue!

This post has been made possible by Shutterfly and Looksi Square.

So, I'm writing this on a Friday, which should be a happy thing, right?

Well, kind of...

You see, at this very moment I am staring down the barrel of a three-birthday-party-weekend.  

And to those of you who are thinking that three birthday parties is a happy thing, I say once again:

Well, kind of...

Because to a mom, three birthday parties means three presents: presents that need to be purchased and wrapped. 

Now I'd love to tell you that I have a "gift closet" tucked away somewhere, a place where I store a variety of pre-wrapped presents appropriate for different ages and genders.  

(But I don't.)


A three-birthday-party-weekend usually finds me in a last-minute panic at the local toy store.

And while I'm there--if I'm lucky--I might manage to buy some decent wrapping paper.

But no matter what, you can always be certain about one thing:

I'm going to forget the card.

Every. Single. Time.

And sometimes that's not a problem; sometimes my daughters like to make their own cards.  

But on a three-birthday-party-weekend? One that also includes play rehearsal and tennis lessons and homework?  Well, those are the times that you will find me fashioning a lovely card out of scraps of leftover wrapping paper.

So when Shutterfly offered me some of their photo stickers, I knew just what I wanted to do with them:

I took a picture of each one of my girls holding out a present towards the camera.

I left my older daughter's in color, but for the little one I played around using black and white with a pop of color.

Then I added a little message.  You can do this right from the Shutterfly site if you don't use a photo editing software.

So now, no matter what happens, each girl has a cute way to indicate that a present is from her and I don't have to buy cards for awhile.

Everyone's a winner!

And that, my friends?  That is definitely a happy thing!

Looksi and Shutterfly have invited me to participate in a creative brand collaboration.  I have been provided with product compensation for this post, but all opinions are my own.




My Easy as Pie-Pie

Hello Friends!  What follows is a post I wrote for the Frugal Girls last Thanksgiving.  Since this is my absolute go-to recipe for Turkey Day, I thought I would share it with you here.  Enjoy!!

Are you looking for a fall dessert that tastes great, looks beautiful, and is easy to make?  Well, sit over here by me, my friend, and let me tell you a little story.  

About ten years ago, before I was a person who blogs about cooking and crafting and baking, I was not so handy around the kitchen.  Cooking and baking scared me.  A lot.

That year an edict was handed down from my mother-in-law.  In order to be admitted to Thanksgiving one was required to bring dessert.  "Any dessert you'd like," she told me on the phone.  At this I breathed a sigh of relief and exclaimed, "Cookies!  I will bring homemade, oatmeal raisin cookies."  It was the perfect dessert.  My husband loved them.  My father-in-law loved them.  I knew how to make them.  What could be better?  

There was a pause on the other end of the phone and then my mother-in-law said, "Any dessert you'd like... as long as it's a pie."

Oh no.

This was a problem.  In my mind, pie came in two categories: embarrassingly easy pies that involved a can opener and a pre-made crust... or scary pies: pies with homemade fillings and flaky, delicate crusts. Pies that involved pie weights.  

Obviously I was meant for the first kind.  But I didn't want to be cherry-pie-filling-in-a-can girl.  What I needed was a pie that required cherry-pie-in-a-can skills but tasted like it had required pie weights and other fancy utensils.

So I turned to the big guns:  my mom.  Now I should say that my mom can totally pull off a fancy pie.  But I also knew that somewhere in her arsenal there had to be a pie for me.  

Much to my relief there was: this fabulous cranberry-apple pie.  And today I'm going to share it with you.

To make the pie itself you will need to following:
  • 1 premade pie crust
  • 3 cups peeled, diced, cored apples (I use approximately 4-5 Golden Delicious.)
  • 1 sixteen oz can of whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2T to 1/4 C of sugar, depending on your tastes

First you'll want to cut up your apples.  I use this nifty, coring device:

Then you peel them:

I left mine this size, but usually I cut them up smaller and I think that's probably the better method:

Then you add your cranberry sauce:

...and your sugar.  I went with two tablespoons:

To this day I am still not a pie weight kind of gal.  If you are a maker of flaky, homemade pie crusts, by all means go for it.  I, however, stick with my friend the Dough Boy and no one has ever complained.  (This pie is all about the filling and topping, anyway.)
I use a 9 inch pie pan.

Add the filling to the crust:

(You're already seeing the potential, aren't you?)

At this point you'll want to set the pie aside and make the crumb topping.  For this you will need:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine cut into small pieces

Combine dry ingredients:

And add cut up butter:

Now it's time to have a little fun.  I've tried mixing this topping by using two forks but by far the most effective method has been my hands.  So give them a good washing, take off your ring (which I forgot to do last time...) and start mushing the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks something like this:

Then you simply sprinkle the topping on the pie:

I like to put my pie on an old cookie sheet because the juices often run over the side.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees and the end result should look something like this:

The finished product is a perfect blend of tangy and sweet, certain to get you admittance to all the best Thanksgiving dinners!

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