- I suggest removing the skin, cutting the fruit off of the mangos and then pulsing in the food processor. It will save a lot of time and energy not chopping by hand.
- Make sure sugar is completely dissolved before adding pectin and lemon juice to avoid a grainy consistency.
- Try this jam on ice cream, in yogurt, on pancakes, or in Easy Cheater Hand Pies. It’s pretty much good on anything.
Christmas starts in July. That’s it! That’s the big secret that Martha and every other Martha Stewert-Like blogger isn’t telling you about Christmas, and all of those beautiful hand made decorations and gifts. I am sharing this little secret with you, because every Christmas the same thing happens to me.
It starts in the Fall with Halloween; I call it Holiday Fever, and I get it bad! I see all of these beautiful hand made decorations and gifts everywhere. They sparkle, and shine — and taunt me. “Make me. Make me! Make Meeeeee!” They call from the magazine rack in the grocery store. “Don’t you want to give me to your friends?” They beckon from my e-mail. “Your house will be the prettiest on the block,… if only you will decorate it just like this.” I hear as I scan my favorite craft blogs every morning. But what they aren’t telling you is, you have to start planning months in advance to achieve these beautifully decorated houses and handmade gift baskets. If you are a procrastinator with high hopes, like myself, then you may have attempted to get all of these things done in previous Decembers, only to have Christmas come and go in a hot, stressful, flash; leaving you feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.
How can you achieve a beautifully decorated home, make heartfelt handmade gifts and still have the time to enjoy your friends, family and true spirit of the season? Easy, start now! There are so many things you can do in the summer to prepare you for the Fall Holiday Season. Here are a few (ok, several) suggestions to get the ball rolling.
1. Start collecting! Start collecting pine cones for decorations (or one of these cute, homemade fire starters) on your next camping excursion. Not only will you save time, but you will save money, buy not having to buy them.
2. Spray Paint now! If you have items (like your pine cones) that you want to paint gold or silver (or white, or green, or red…) do it now. Spray paint doesn’t dry well in the wet Fall weather; dry summer heat is ideal for spray painting.
3. Get cooking! (Or canning.) Homemade jams or jellies, and liqueurs are always appreciated. Jams can be made and stored for months in advance, saving you time later. Liqueurs need time to infuse with flavors and taste better with a little age, so they really need to be made ahead of time. In order to save yourself precious “holiday time,” avoid giving “fresh baked” gifts that have to be made the same week they are given. If you like giving fresh baked cookies, consider making the dough ahead of time and freezing it in an airtight container. That way you will always have fresh baked cookies on hand within 15 minutes.
- Here is a link to a blog with 50 different canning recipes.
- Creative Culinary has an amazing Chocolate Liqueur Recipe.
- Of course, I love my Mellocello and it needs a few months to infuse, so get started now.
- My favorite Christmas liqueur… Coffee Liqueur, like Kahlua, only better!
- We made this Elderberry Jelly last year. It was a huge hit! Elderberries ripen in late summer and early fall, so you have plenty of time to plan ahead.
4. Get Sewing! Or Crafting. There are so many handmade gifts that can be sewn or crafted ahead of time. My current favorite blog is EverythingEtsy.com They have…
- 101 Simple Handmade Gift Tutorials
- 101 Handmade Holiday Tutorials
- 101 Handmade Ornament Tutorials, and more!
5. Simplify! Don’t try to design a different homemade gift or basket for every single person on your list. Pick one or two crowd pleasing themes for your baskets, (or sewing pattern, or craft) and stick to it. Here are two of my favorite gift baskets:
- Coffee for Two Basket: Include 2 coffee cups, homemade irish cream, chocolate or coffee liqueur (made ahead), a tin of your favorite coffee and a bottle of milk or cream. Save your coffee tins and frappuccino bottles over the summer. Remove labels and decorate with your established theme between now and Halloween. Set aside until Christmas, then fill with store bought bulk coffee and milk or cream just before gifting. You can even make Biscotti a month in advance and store in an air tight container, or cheat, and buy it from your bulk store. Oh, and one more tip; wait to buy your baskets until you know what is going in them! This will save you money, and a head ache, when you go to put them together. I speak from experience on this one.
- Spa Basket: Make skin care items over summer and decorate the jars ahead of time, so all you have to do is put the basket together come gift giving time. Here are a few recipes for DIY Skin care products: Exfoliating Scrub, Bath Salts, Bath Bombs.
6. Pick one theme and stick to it. Whether it be red, green, and blue plaid; blue and white snowflakes; snowmen or nature inspired; pick a theme and stick with it. You will be amazed at how much easier it will be to decorate your home, and your gifts, if you pick one color combination or character and focus on that when purchasing or creating your decorations. Plus, your friends and family will be amazed at how well “put together” everything looks when even your tree decorations and presents match.
5. Start your decorations early. You don’t have to hang them, but most decorations can be made ahead of time and stored unit the fall.
I hope I have motivated you to get started on those Christmas gifts and decorations, or at least got your wheels turning. For more DIY decorating and Gift ideas, see my Pinterest page!
Italian Mellocello-Refreshingly Mellow Lemon and Vanilla Infused Alcohol
OK readers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. We like to booze it up a little at my house. Especially during the summer. There’s just nothing like an ice cold fizzy concoction to take the edge off, and cool your head in the hot summer sun.
This amazing lemony yellow treat is bright and summery, not just in color, but in taste as well. Plus it has a lingering “mellow” vanilla finish that will definitely “chill you out” this summer. My husband and I made this for the first time last year and we loved it so much that it ended up becoming the unofficial “Signature Cocktail” for our wedding, or rather wedding party, as it was just too good to share with all of our 250-odd guests. This summer, we doubled the recipe with intent to share a little… We’ll see how that goes.
I’d love to take credit for this amazing liquer recipe, but I can’t. Unfortunately, I can’t give anybody else credit for it either, as my husband printed it (without reference) off the internet last Spring, and I have no idea where he found it. No matter where it came from originally, you are going to thank me for sharing it. I guarantee it. You will notice this is a two part process with a bit of waiting for the alcohol to infuse, but it is totally worth the wait!
Italian Mellocello Recipe
2 750 ml bottles of Everclear (or Vodka if you prefer)
5 Vanilla Beans
6 c distilled water
4 c sugar
Sanitized 2-3 Liter glass jar with lid (we used a big pickle jar)
Fine mesh sieve
Bottles or container for bottling final product
1. Wash and dry lemons thoroughly.
2. Pare off spots, blemishes and stem ends.
3. Using a very sharp paring knife or peeler, remove zests (that’s the yellow part of the peel) and place in distilling container, or pickle jar as we like to call it. Be sure you do not get any of the white pith, for it will make your mellocello very bitter. If you do, just use your knife to scrape it off, before dropping the peel in the jar.
4. Add Everclear to jar.
5. Slice vanilla pod down the middle and scrape insides into your mix.
6. Seal tightly and allow to steep in a cool, dark place for 3 months. We sealed our lids with Saran Wrap and duct tape to be sure it was air tight. If your container is not air tight, the alcohol fumes will evaporate and the drink will lose it’s potency.
7. Swirl lemon peels around twice a week to mix oils and alcohol.
1. After 3 months has lapsed and you are ready to bottle your concoction, you will want to sweeten it up a little… or a lot, whichever you prefer.
2. Bring 4 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3. Meanwhile, strain your lemon infused alcohol, through a cheese cloth lined sieve, removing all the peels and vanilla grounds. Squeeze cheese cloth to be sure you have removed all of the alcohol and oils from the peels.
4. Add sugar-water to lemon-alcohol and stir.
5. Bottle your mellocello! It’s done! . . . or drink it, whatever. I won’t judge you.
The longer you let it set after bottling, the smoother it will become, but it is perfectly drinkable right away. I suggest storing it in the freezer as it is delightful served “up” ice cold. I prefer mine in a rocks glass topped with seltzer water. So refreshingly mellow. I really hope you try this recipe. I know 3 months is a long time to wait for a cocktail, but it is so worth the effort and time put into it, and it will be ready before you know it. If you start yours today, there will be plenty of hot summer days left to enjoy your mellocello.
I am sharing this post on …
In our family we like to keep our babies’ gender a surprise until after they are born; just as nature intended it. For this reason we often wait until after the baby is born, and throw a combined baby shower and “meet the baby party.” My sister-in-law recently had a baby girl; they named her Lilja, which means Lily in Gaelic. I was asked to help with the baby shower and graciously accepted. I’d been waiting for the opportunity to host a girly tea party for someone and this being my sister in law’s first girl, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. After convening with my co-hostesses, I got the green light and was put in charge of the cupcake tower and decorations. Since our beautiful new addition was named after a flower, we decided that the tea party should have a floral theme as well. I decorated the cupcake tower with pink, yellow and lavender paper, white tulle and pink and yellow bows, then started planning the cupcakes. Fondant flowers, heaps of fluffy buttercream and colored baking cups danced around in my head. I couldn’t wait to get started! After a quick trip to the store for some special ingredients and a box of allergen free cake mix for my cousin and her daughter, I was off to work on a very special baking and decorating adventure. It was so much fun! Check out how the party turned out!
Cake Pop Tutorial
(as per my interpretation of Bakerella’s video tutorial)
One box of your favorite cake mix or your own favorite cake recipe.
One can of your favorite frosting
1-2 bags of candy melts (or chocolate chips and 2-3 TBLS cooking oil mixed)
Cake decorations of your choice
Tools and Supplies
Mixing bowls (one microwave safe bowl)
13×9 cake pan
Styrofoam block for standing pops in once complete.
Decorating accessories of your choice. I used Wilton Decorating Frosting and decorator tips.
1. Prepare cake and bake in 9×13 or larger pan.
2. Allow to cool.
3. Cut cake in quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, break in half and rub halves together over large mixing bowl to crumble. I found it best to have small crumbles, and wonder if this may even work better if you let the cake set overnight uncovered befor crumbling.
4. Once cake is crumbled, add Prepared frosting starting with about half the can, adding more as necessary until you get a nice soft doughy consistency. (Think something between refrigerator cookie dough and regular cookie dough.)
5. Roll dough into balls (or egg shapes for Easter egg pops) and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Allow to refrigerate at least an hour to set up befor skewering.
6. Once cake balls are set up. Melt your candy melts in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted. Working quickly, dip tip of lolli about 1/2 inch into melted candy or chocolate, push tip 1/2 way into ball, then dip ball into melts, coating completely. Allow the excess to drip off into the bowl, rolling the pop back and forth between your finger tips. Then push other end of stick into styrofoam block and allow to set until hardened.
7. If you plan on piping, let the candy harden first. If you want to sprinkle them with sprinkles or colored sugar, you will need to do that before the melts set up completely.
Presentation: I let mine sit over night then placed small cellophane bags over them and tied it with curly ribbon to make them a little more fancy. I also wrapped my block in brightly covered wrapping paper for a nice table presentation.
Easter Cake Pops
My mother in law hosted a huge Easter celebration this year, and I knew there would be lots of kids, so I wanted to make something fun and special for the kids to take home, and really, what is more fun than cake on a stick?! I mean you can put any food on a stick and it instantly becomes more fun and enticing. Ice cream, hot dogs, even vegetables! I’m sure many of you have seen the cake pops that Bakerella is popular for making. If you haven’t heard of her, I’ll just tell you, I don’t know if she is the one who came up with the idea of putting cake on a stick, but she has definitely mastered it! I watched her video on how she makes her cake pops, and decided “This looks simple enough. I’ll just whip some up for Easter!”
Well… let’s just say, “she makes it look easier than it is.” I’m no Bakerella, but I think I did a pretty decent job considering. Check out the pics below and if you feel inspired, check out the recipe here. Please share with me if you have experience making cake pops and if so, what you have learned. I think the most important lesson I learned is that refrigeration is key! The cake balls really need to set up before moving forward. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and give them a try!
Hello and Happy Monday to all of you! Today I would like to show you how to make an adorable Easter or Valentine’s Day Decoration: an Easter Egg Tree! I just love this idea, so cute and easy to make. Plus, the materials are cheap and easy to find. Be sure to visit my post “Snow Day” for more ideas on how to make a Valentine’s day themed tree.
I have also included the details of my Blog Launch Party Giveaway drawing, and how to enter for those of you who are hearing about it for the first time. I was in a hurry when I posted the original photos of the giveaway prize last Thursday, so I have posted some better pictures at the bottom of this post as well. First, let’s check out this awesome little craft that could be your next centerpiece or even gift for Teacher.
Easter Egg or Valentine’s Tree:
Small clay pot
acrylic paint and brushes (optional for decorating pot)
foam block(s) for floral arrangements
cloth material for base of tree
butter knife or tongue depressor
bowl for tracing circle
small sturdy branches
Easter egg or Valentine’s Day ornaments
Step 1: Select your pot and paint it if you prefer. I cheated and found this pre-decorated one (as well as foam block and Easter eggs) at Dollar Tree.
Step 3: Remove block(s), poor a large amount of craft glue into bottom and along sides of pot. Replace foam block(s.) Add more glue and top with cotton balls, leaving a space in the middle for the “tree.” Wipe any excess glue off of the rim or outside of pot and set aside.
Step 4: While glue sets, lay out cloth material face down on a clean, flat surface. Use a bowl with an opening at least an inch in diameter wider than the pot as a stencil. Invert bowl on material and trace with ball point pen or fabric pencil.
Step 6: Apply a thick bead of craft glue along the inside edge of the pot. Place circle of material over pot with x in the center. Use butter knife or tongue depressor to tuck ends of material down into the pot. Set aside.
Step 8: While holding stems together, push branches through the x in the material and down into foam at least 3 inches. You may want to secure with a little extra craft glue, but it may not be necessary.
Pat yourself on the back. You made an adorable tree your kids will love to decorate for Easter.
Now about that exquisite giveaway…
Here is how to enter…
First Entry: In order to receive the first entry please leave a comment on your favorite Fabulously-Homemade blog post thus far, telling me what you like about it AND follow me via e-mail, FB or Twitter. The first entry is required in order to receive additional entries.
Additional Entries: You may receive an additional entry for each of the following, but you also need to post a separate comment on my blog telling me you did each one:
- Post a blog about my Blog Launch Party and giveaway on your blog or website with the following link: http://fabulously-homemade.com/easter-egg-tree-and-giveaway/
- Post a Facebook update about the Launch Party and giveaway with the link: http://fabulously-homemade.com/easter-egg-tree-and-giveaway/
- Tweet about it with the link: http://fabulously-homemade.com/easter-egg-tree-and-giveaway/
- NEW! Pin me to your home decor, arts and crafts or food and beverage boards on Pinterest!
It’s that simple! Just blab about me to your friends, then comment every time you link my page, follow or Pin me. (If you are already a follower please let me know in a separate comment as well.) That’s a total of 5 comments equaling 5 entries!
And here is what you can win…
Start your morning (and end your day) with spa quality skin care, that will leave your skin as soft (and as beautiful) as silk. The TimeWise® Miracle Set® provides incredible age-fighting results to help give you younger-looking skin. Don’t believe me? It has been featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine, In Style and several other “glossy” publications. Click here for more information on the 11 age-defying benefits of the Miracle Set.
Next in the bag we have a little something for those other areas you may want to firm up before the warmth of Spring: The Timewise Body Visibly Fit Lotion. This silky-smooth body lotion combines the benefits of Mary Kay’s patented* TimeWise® complex with the benefits of amino acids and botanicals. It improves skin firmness, provides up to 10 hours of moisturization, and improves skin elasticity and texture.
Do you love perfume? Wish you had a fragrance for every day of the week? If so, this next gift is for you! Enjoy six mini fragrances in a pretty little gift box tied with a pink satin bow.There is a fragrance for every person and every occasion in this set, and they could all be yours!
Finally, engulf yourself in this glorious, silky-soft, light pink wrap. This wrap is big! We are talking a whopping seven and a half feet long by 2 and a half feet wide big! Or is it the other way around? Anyway, it’s big enough to keep you warm in a chilly winter breeze. It’s satiny smooth with just enough soft fuzz to make you feel glamorous and comfortable. Whether going to a cocktail party or just the craft store, you won’t want to leave home without this gorgeous wrap! It can even double as a throw for your Valentine’s Day Tablescape! The satiny bag can double as a matching decorative pillow case too. Just place a small throw pillow inside and button it up!
Well get posting ladies, because you do not want to miss any opportunities to enter this drawing. You and your skin will thank me. Remember, contest ends at 10PM PST, this Thursday. Good Luck!
I am participating in Metamorphosis Monday
Thank you to all of my readers for all of your well wishes. I am still in bed recovering from a minor surgery with all these great craft ideas floating around my head that I can’t wait to get to. It’s just killing me not being in my craft room painting, sanding, or gluing; so what can I do? Come up with more craft ideas I can do once I am healed, of course! Here are some projects I am just dying to try, as well as some websites that have been keeping me entertained while I am laid up…
- Make your own Transferware!
By the way the above image is actually a painting, I found when looking for an image for the link (I didn’t like the image on the webpage.) The artist has some beautiful still life paintings of transferware, teacups, and other household objects on his webpage.
- Restore metal outdoor furniture. I actually have a specific piece in mind, so stay tuned to see how it turns out.
- Pruning Blackberries. Just something I have been wondering about lately.
- Growing Blueberries. Looking foward to Spring!
- Something to do with all those extra canning jars!
- Create your own style on polyvore.
I hope these webpages keep you entertained until I can get back to cooking and crafting! Stay tuned! I’ll be back in no time!
Quick, easy and cheap, kid friendly homemade gift for your teacher, assistant, lover, friend or kids!
This craft is so easy and super cheap! I found these little hinge top jars at dollar tree and knew they could be the basis of my next craft project. There is just something about a glass jar that makes me want to fill it with something special for someone special. Below are two ideas for Easter and Valentine’s Day, but the possibilities with these stout little jars are endless. I plan on going back to get more for organizing my office/craft room next week.
For this one, I filled the jar with Jordan Almonds purchased from the bulk bins at my grocery store.Then tied on a bright pink wire edged ribbon from Dollar Store. I finished it with a tag I made of card stock and colored paper. I used paper punches to cut out the circle and flowers, and glued a tiny little crystal in the middle for a little sparkle. I fastened the tag with a little wire rose for a little extra embellishment, but you could easily use a thread or some twine. I also thought it would be cute to tie a small silk flower on in place of the tag. You can usually find these roses in the Bridal department at Michael’s, but I found 12 bundles at Goodwill for .99 cents. SCORE!
For the Valentine’s “Jug Of Jellies,” I filled the jar with red, pink and white jelly beans, but for an extra special Valentine, consider filling it with gourmet chocolates, peanut butter cups, or truffles.
Obviously, I tied this one with a red satin bow. The tag is card stock and the hearts are actually stickers from Dollar Store. (Can you tell I’m a Dollar Store addict?) As you can see I tied this one on with the same little white rose,and on the jar bellow, I slid the tag onto the ribbon, tied the bow and then tucked a tiny bouquet behind the ribbon.
There are so many possible variations for this little gift jar. You could do black and orange jelly beans for Halloween with a little spider charm, or decorate one with a color motif to match your favorite sports team, fill it with your best chip-dip and bring it to game night to share with friends! Be creative! Got an idea? Share your ideas with me. I’d love to hear them.