Wednesday, January 30, 2013

a gifts countdown to valentine's day

A countdown will begin in about a week for Valentine's Day. Jacob should enjoy opening these little gift ideas throughout the week leading up until Valentine's Day. Some are totally small, some are cheesy, some are from the heart. Some ideas I borrowed, while some are Ashley originals. Feel free to borrow them too. :)

a small display of love

Day 2: Donut you know I love you a whole bunch? 
This day's gifts will include donut holes for breakfast and Donut-Shop Coffee K-Cups. 

Day 3: Surround yourself in love.....or in pizza or burgers. Enjoy dinner!
Since I'll be gone, some money in a cute homemade envelope will be perfect for a dinner out.

Day 4: You send me over the MOON.
A 6 pack of Blue Moon, a favorite. You could also use a play on "roses are red, violets are blue."

Day 5: You melt my heart <3
A Valentine's Day s'more with heart-shaped pink Peeps instead of marshmallows. 

Day 6: Orange you glad we are lovers?
Orange juice for breakfast! Good ole' regular oranges or something orange flavored would work too.

A literal attack of hearts.

Day 8: Make a little love today.
Paired vodka with cranberry juice. Really just combining two things that go together and marry well.

Day 9: Nothing clever here, as this will actually be Valentine's Day and this is an actual gift. 
A handmade crafted wooden ring box from Etsy - thoughtful, practical, and homemade - can't get better than that!

Monday, January 28, 2013

remember, i love you (a valentine's day gift)

I mentioned how I'll be leaving in just over a week on a business trip for work and I'll be coming home back to Chicago on Valentine's Day. I am super excited, but it is always easier to be the one to go away and be busy than the one to be left behind. To make my time away sweeter, I am leaving my man a little countdown for while I am gone. Something small (and sometimes cheesy) to open.

"Remember, I love you" will be day 1 and will start the countdown off in the perfect and cheesiest of ways. 

I spotted the idea through a night of blog-hopping and knew this was a good way to start. The idea is to have hearts hidden around your home or wherever you want. Anytime the recipient finds a heart it's supposed to be a little reminder of yourself and how much you love them.

I started off using some leftover felt, fleece, and thread from a previous craft project that has yet to be blogged about. 

I freehanded a heart on paper, cut it out, and used it for a template to draw directly onto the fabric with. With two pieces of the cut out heart shape of the same fabric, I hand stitched the hearts together, leaving a bit of room to fill the heart with stuffing before closing the heart up. 

A few episodes on Netflix and I was good to go. 

When Jacob sees the Valentine's Day countdown that will be along our bay windowsill, he'll see something like this (except less artistic blur unless he happens to be squinting his eyes):

I grabbed a decorative wooden bowl to fill with the hearts. Each of the countdown days has a number/sign combo to go with it. I love the color coordination and little hearts everywhere. Yay for love and yay for Valentine's Day crafts! The first thing that will be spotted is the "remember, i love you <3 ashley" sign. Then, in the case of the first sighting, an empty bowl (or maybe a bowl with just one heart so he knows what to look for).

I whipped up a "remember, i love you" card so he knew the idea behind the vision. 

The card reads:

remember, i love you <3 ashley


Seven felt and fleece hearts are hidden around the apartment. You should find them in various spots. Anytime you find one, remember it's my way of letting you know how much you mean to me. Fill up this bowl and think of me every time you see it.

I'm not going to lie, I secretly super excited to hide the hearts. I better be clever enough so they are discovered right away!

Monday, January 21, 2013

birthday beer cake

What do you give to your man for his birthday when he is easy to please and doesn't ask for much?

A birthday beer cake! Whomever came up with this idea is brilliant. Jacob will be 24 next Sunday and this birthday beer cake will compliment his day perfectly. Although this idea has been floating around for quite some time, he'll wouldn't know that and will absolutely love it. 

The process is simple and quick, but will have quite the happy impact I suspect.

Here's how I approached this little birthday project:

I bought a 12 pack of canned beer. Instead of buying cake rounds which I have read many do, I utilized what I had (because he won't care or use the cake rounds) with cardboard from a shoe box and a pizza box.  I determined I'd use eight cans on the bottom tier and four on the top. This helped me judge how large to trace the cardboard circles. 

The rest of his gifts will be wrapped in red wrapping paper, so that's what I used to top off the cardboard circles to complete his gift. He'll never know where the cardboard came from and I didn't have to spend money on something that could be created.

I place each of the cans in a circle formation on each tier. To complete the cake, I took some extra black ribbon I had on hand to wrap around each tier. I also made a little "24" sign for the top. 

Hopefully he'll understand what the intention was. If nothing else, he'll enjoy how long it takes him to finish his "cake." 

Monday, January 14, 2013

valentine's day heart attack (in a jar)

It's never to early to start those Valentine's Day crafts, right? I sure hope not, as it has me really quite excited. I have been craft-deprived.

I will be adventuring on my first business trip the week before Valentine's Day and I couldn't be more excited (hello Boca Raton). This, however, means I will be separated from my love for longer than I'd like. I arrive back to Chicago late on Valentine's Day, so we will be faux celebrating the next day. I figured this trip was the perfect excuse to a "countdown"....many craft-based and love-centered gifts will be included.

The first of many ideas is the Valentine's Day Heart Attack. It sounds strange, but it's about to be a whole bunch of adorable coming right at you.

The idea originated from a photo with a box full of hearts. Producing guessed it, heart attack. Or as some may say, an attack of hearts.

Here's my version:

Instead of just including a bunch of blank hearts, I wanted to write on each one. Something I love about my man - looks, personality, things about us a couple, etc. It all started with cutting out a bunch of hearts out of scrap scrapbook paper. And I mean a bunch. Then, I took my time writing things out to include in my heart attack.

Once I wrote out many, many reasons, it was time for assembly. Instead of a box, I wanted to use a small jar I had decorated that was begging to be utilized. I used a red glitter/glue mixture and did an ombre paint technique along the bottom of the jar before Christmas, but never got around to finding a use for the cute thing. This small jar was perfect for a bunch of small hearts. 

I mixed up the patterns of paper, began layering, and filled the jar till it was full.

I added a cut out heart on top with some double sided tape and wrote "attack" on it. A little bit of ribbon and this project is complete.

If you are looking for some inspiration on what to write on your hearts, here are a few of the things I included (some are more generic and some definitely are not):

  • the way you support my dreams, no matter how big
  • you are always willing
  • pillow and blanket floor parties
  • you know how to have fun
  • you never give up
  • your misspelled words
  • your eyes
  • the way you love to figure out how things work or are done
  • you make me feel important
  • the way you act as a sounding board
  • how you care about how you look
  • the amount of whipped cream you use
  • your good heart
  • your determination to make a good and worthwhile life for us
  • that you want a "forever" too
  • how there is always room for a snack
  • how you make people laugh
  • when you break out your dance moves
  • the tuft of hair that sometimes sticks up
Take your time with the hearts. It's important to be thoughtful and think things through. Afterall, if you're going to give someone a heart attack, you might as well make it good. <3

Sunday, January 13, 2013

jalapeno cream cheese pinwheels

It's no secret my love of spice. I have concocted up some fajita seasoning to use in recipes for a little extra heat. I have whipped up some baked taquitos with a bit of a special sauce that had some oomph. I gave baked jalapeno poppers a try and loved them. They captured the heat of the jalapeno, the creaminess of the cream cheese, and a little bit of crunch.

I wanted to recreate that taste and made up a batch of these jalapeno cream cheese pinwheels.

These are the perfect for a lazy Sunday (like today) or are fun for an appetizer on game day. This recipe mimics a similar process as my pizza roll-ups recipe.

Here's the recipe:

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Pinwheels

What You Need
1 package of refrigerated pizza dough (Pilsbury)
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar, mexican, and monterey)
2 jalapenos, diced
1 tablespoon of sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine in a bowl the cream cheese, shredded cheese mixutre, diced jalapenos (I used fresh and diced myself, but you could also used canned), and sugar. Mix until well blended. The best way I found was using my hands. As long as you're willing to get a little messy and are careful to not touch your face or eyes after touching the jalapenos, this is my recommended way to blend.

Unroll the pizza dough on a floured surface. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the dough. 

Roll the dough up lengthwise. Cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices and place on a greased baking sheet. This recipe made about 30 of these pinwheels. 

Place in the 350 degree F for 14-15 minutes, or until the dough turns golden brown. 

Serve up nice and hot. I thought they tasted fantastic alone - completely mimicking the taste of jalapeno poppers but with ease and not too much effort.

Perfect for a Sunday. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

baked brie appetizer

After knowing I was going to spend my first Christmas holiday in Chicago, I wanted to make fun, new, exciting appetizers. One: because everyone needs a good excuse to try something new. Two: to get used to starting my own traditions and moments outside of my beautiful and wonderful family. One of the appetizers I made and shared was the crockpot crab dip. Another favorite was this baked brie appetizer.

There is something about a good specialty cheese. It makes you feel fancy. It makes you feel grown up. It brings some spice to otherwise a chilly winter evening. 

I'd only ever had brie once before but never bought it myself. After researching and learning about the texture of brie and what pairs well with it, I decided to do a toasted baguette style appetizer.

Here's the recipe:

Baked Brie with Honey and Dried Cranberries on Toasted Baguette

What You Need
A baguette (I went with a French mini loaf)
Brie (I used President brand in a wheel formation)
Dried Cranberries


This doesn't really need directions, because it's just that simple. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Take your baguette and slice it into small 1/2 inch slices. You can slice as many or as few as you'd like. Note: we reheated a few we didn't eat and they did okay, but I think they are best when freshly made. Place on a cookie sheet.

Open the wheel of brie cheese. Cut into thin slices that will fit the size of your cut baguette. Note: Brie has a white rind around the outside of it. This is edible. We chose to left it on and I don't think it affected the flavor one bit. Place the cut pieces of brie on top of the sliced baguettes.

Drizzle honey over the baguette/brie slices. Top with dried cranberries. Place in oven for approximately 10-15 minutes. You only want the baguette to become toasted and the brie to become a little more creamy.

And voila! Appetizer done. The cheese snob wannabe in yourself is now content.