Show me your bibs!

Thanks to my racing habit, I now have a nice collection of race medals and bibs. I had been looking for the best way to display them because for a time the racing bibs sat in a file folder in a cabinet and my medals were in a box on my bookshelf. Except for my very first medal, which I placed in a safe space so I wouldn’t lose it and it’s in such a safe place that I now can’t find it. So it’s super safe wherever it’s at. But I digress. What’s the use of having all these medals if I’m just going to put them in a box and forget about them until I get another medal that will end up in the box to be forgotten?

So I searched the Internet to see what was out there. I’ve seen the metal medal (ha) holders but even at $20-something dollars, it was more than I wanted to spend. I also wanted to display my bibs and even though I’d love to plaster them on the wall like wallpaper, I don’t think anyone would like that but me. My friend Kim shared a great idea that I loved and pinned on Pinterest (follow me on Pinterest!). She framed the medal she received from her first half marathon and I thought that was a great idea. So I bought a picture frame and some matting that I could cut myself since I wanted to display my bib along with the medal and mocked one up. I loved the way it looked but then wondered if I was really going to hang so many pictures on the wall. I figure I have a few more years of racing ahead of me and that would be one massive wall of frames.

Then I ran my half marathon and received this medal. Do you see this medal? Do you see that it’s a cork stopper? That would require a shadowbox frame and I didn’t really want to get one. Since I plan on doing this race a several more times, there will be several more potential cork stopper medals so I had to look for another option.

I restarted my search following my Turkey Trot (which I didn’t write about, but it was Thanksgiving morning – a great way to make room for the feast) and came across Running on the Wall and found my inspiration. A couple of trips to Michael’s and Home Depot later, I had my very own bib holder.

race bib display

While it’s not as polished as the ones at Running on the Wall, for less than 10 bucks (I’m guessing; I don’t have the receipts anymore), I have a fantastic place to display all of my bibs in one place. I’m still on the hunt for medal displays (I’m not sure if I want to make one myself or just buy one from them) so if you have any ideas or pins, let me know. Tag me in the pin or link it to this post. I’d love to see how you display your medals.

It’s art if it doesn’t make you giggle

We are winding down the renovations in the new house [I’ve been thinking of doing quick update snippets on the progress with before and after pictures of some of the rooms as they finish…anyone else interested?] and the need to settle on the artwork for my room has returned.

See, earlier last month, when I should have been working on my group projects, I started working on some new art for my new room. Allow me to set the scene for you:

I decided that I want to go for a more “adult” room. Presently, at least, before I dismantled it, my current room was your stereotypical high school kid’s room with every available wall space [and at one point, ceiling!] covered with posters and pictures of athletes. I had posters of Derek Jeter, HWSNBN [when I actually liked him. You know, when he was still a Mariner], Tiger Woods and numerous pictures of other players usually cycled in and out [Wally Szczerbiak, Paul Kariya, Tony Gonzalez, Charles Woodson, Roberto Luongo, Will Demps, etc], as illustrated in this picture [except imagine 3 walls of this]:

Crazy, I know.

But now I want something more grown up. So I trashed all the posters and pictures [except for my ESPN poster. It’s too awesome to dump. I plan on framing it eventually] and decided to start from scratch in the new room. Instead of buying art, which can be kind of expensive, I decided to paint my own pictures on canvas at a fraction of the cost. I found some pictures on iStockphoto and made stencils and viola! New cute art on the cheap:

I love them and was extremely excited for them but now I’m thinking I might want to change it up again. I really love the henna print one and I think I want to scrap the other three and make three more henna designs, especially since my bedspread is henna inspired:


[source]

So my question is, if I end up dropping the other three pictures, what should I do with them? They’re really cute and I think they should be displayed somewhere but where? I don’t know if it’ll fit with the overall feel I’m going for in my room. Maybe I’ll try to put them in one of the other rooms.

Any suggestions?

I come bearing gifts. Yummy gifts.

This year’s Christmas gifts were another epic undertaking [but that seems to be a common theme in all of my gifts] but the end result was utter deliciousness.

There’s something awesome about conquering a treat that otherwise seems so mysterious and difficult to achieve [there’s only a matter of time before I attempt my hand at macarons!]. Everyone thinks you’re a genius and even when you tell them just how insanely easy it was, they scoff and brush it off. I mean, I tried to tell everyone just how simple these were to make [seriously: melt chocolate, chill, scoop, roll, chill, dip] and they refused to hear of it.

Anywho, this year I decided to make chocolate truffles. Oh yes, I turned my kitchen into a chocolate factory that would make Willy Wonka shake his head and scoff. Because it wasn’t that awesome. It was freezing though made for perfect conditions to work with chocolate. Oh, the truffles.

I made four different flavors:

1) White Chocolate Champagne

2) Peanut Butter [dipped in bittersweet chocolate – if I were to do this again, I’d use a semi-sweet chocolate instead]

3) Chocolate Nutella

and my absolute favorite: S’Mores. Oh yes I did.

Oh, wait. It gets better!

Why, yes that IS a marshmallow in the center! How’d it get there? It’s like magic! Or the power of smooshing two halves of the truffle around the marshmallow. This little nugget tastes so awesome that I am super sad that I don’t have any more extras. They were the first to be eaten. Oh. I would so make this over and over and over again. In fact, I think I will in the future.

Aside from the S’Mores truffles, my other favorite part of this year’s gift was the packaging. Of course. This was made simple thanks to one Martha Stewart Crafts. I stumbled upon her food packaging set at Michael’s and thought they were the cutest thing ever. I debated the merits of attempting to replicate them on the cheap but realized that when everything was said and done, there was no way I’d be able to do so any cheaper than buying them. And then fate stepped in and they were put on sale! I was SUPPOSED to use these boxes!

And I am so glad I did. They had everything I needed: boxes, inner scalloped boxes, tissue paper and those cute labels. The only additional thing I bought was the baker’s twine because I thought they needed a little something on top. Definitely a good add. My only complaint was that the corners of the bottom portion of the boxes didn’t line up as nicely as they should have and made it a bit difficult to get the top box on. You should check that out Ms. Stewart.

I am starting to look for ideas for next year. I know that I’m not always saving money by making these treats [especially when you add up the cost of quality ingredients] but I know my friends really look forward to receiving these gifts and genuinely enjoy them, which is really the only point.

Don’t call me the bag lady

Alright, after a momentary setback, we’re back and rolling. This year’s much talked about Christmas gift baskets/bags were quite the undertaking, only because I had been fretting about what to make because I had forgotten what I decided to make. Remember, I came up with ideas for the next two Christmases last year because that’s just how my mind works – of course now I have the old second idea for next year’s gifts and a new idea I came up with while I was making this year’s gift. I should write these down so I don’t have to worry about what I’m making next year.

But that’s another post and I really should be writing that down for safekeeping. Hopefully I don’t lose the paper I write it down on. And we’re moving right along. Again.

So the contents of this year’s bags; I went with the bags again…I mean, when you can get 13 bags for 4 bucks with a 40% off coupon [yay Michael’s!] that’s way better than buying individual baskets, even if they are a buck. And I still got to decorate them the way I first imagined when I wanted to do boxes. Yeah, I wanted boxes at first after seeing one at the deli down the street from the office, which was where I got the decoration idea from in the first place. Plus the bags came in handy since I ended up having to leave quite a few for people who weren’t home when I stopped by. They hung quite nicely on doorknobs and mailboxes.

Did you follow all of that? I hope so because I’m not repeating myself.

But back to the beginning, the contents of this year’s bag was a jar of hot cocoa mix and Mexican wedding cookies. Yes, the same Mexican wedding cookies I made for the baking/football party earlier this year. I’m kind of sneaky like that. I had never made them before and wanted to try them out and that was the perfect avenue. Especially since I had originally planned on making macarons but was left scrambling for a new idea because I didn’t like the ones I picked up from Miette on a whim. I was slightly disappointed and never finished them. If I can figure out a recipe that doesn’t taste all that…meringue-y then I’d totally make them again. So we’ll see.

So to avoid that, I tested these cookies. Which worked out perfectly well since people liked them the first time and were still excited to get them the second time [people like my mom who has declared them her new favorite cookie and Tim who tore into the cookies the second he saw them].

mexican wedding cookies

Along with testing the cookies, I also tested hot cocoa mixes. There were quite a few recipes online and I originally thought of making a Mexican hot chocolate mix but eventually gave that up after not getting the right combination of spices [at one point all I could taste was cayenne pepper. Not very tasty]. I picked out a couple that I liked that didn’t involve non-dairy creamer and went to town testing them [thanks Tam, Lindsey and my Mom for your help and advice – I know that was a lot of cocoa to drink in a short period of time].

I had finally settled on one recipe [thank you Alton Brown] but still had some tweaking to do. It didn’t help that I was so sick of drink hot cocoa by the end of it and I was having trouble getting the mix to completely dissolve in the water with the additions I made [it left a lot of deposits around the cup]. I had seriously contemplated just copping out and buying pre-made mix and going from there but part of me felt so disappointed and defeated. I even bought sample packets from Cost Plus! Thankfully, after pricing things out [look at that; I can do math] it turned out to be more economical to just make my own so back I went into the lab/kitchen and worked it out a bit more before I finally [FINALLY] got it. All it took was a quick whirl through the food processor and then through the sifter and wah-la! Completely dissolving cocoa mix without the messy, greasy residue from the additional chocolate I added in [that was part of my tweaking to the original recipe]. And the best part was that it didn’t leave gunky not completely melted chocolate bits on the bottom of the cup! Success!

So the packaging, which is actually my favorite part of the entire gift [what can I say? I LOVE packaging]. I did not make the labels myself. The ones for the hot cocoa jar were borrowed labels from the Paper Source website and sized them down a bit so they’d fit and printed from my own computer. Illegal? Not really [right?] since it was for personal use only and I totally credited them when people asked. But there was no way I was going to spend the money on buying labels that were $5 for a pack of 8 labels [the circle ones were $5 for a pack of 6!]. I mean really? The only one I actually made [thanks to Excel] was the tag for the front of the bag that was inspired by another one from Paper Source.

But I am quite pleased with how everything turned out. And yes, I was called Martha Stewart but that’s okay. It was completely worth it. And now I can relax until next year.

Consider this a peace offering. Now with pictures!

So you’re going to have to wait one more day for the Christmas gift bag reveal. I was planning on writing about it today [actually I wrote the post already!] only to find out that I didn’t upload those pictures yet and since that kind of post is no fun without pictures, we’ll just have to wait another day.

But I do have a post with pictures for you today. Behold, the gold shoes that I have looked up and down and between the couch cushions for. And the ones UPS refused to deliver for a second before finally handing them over because they enjoy making me get upset and frustrated and nearly frothy at the mouth.

shoes

Okay, not that last one but I wouldn’t put it past them that they’d love to see me all rabid like.

After all the online and real life searching, I happened upon this beauty from Nine West, the Jiopa. While they didn’t have a gold option, per se, the color that popped up that seemed closest was their “natural satin.” I still wasn’t sure but I thought even if the shoe didn’t turn out to be a gold color, I’d still get that shoe in another color because they were just that cute.

the pleats!
They even have the coveted pleats I wanted!

Thankfully I was able to walk by a Nine West store downtown and happened upon these shoes and was able to try them out. Thank goodness because I couldn’t even get my Frankenfoot into my regular size! So up a half size I went only to find that while they fit, they were just a bit too snug in said Frankenfoot and after a slight hesitation, asked for the next size up, which was a full size bigger than what I normally wear. Well wouldn’t you know it fit though just a bit long but still doable. Plus, it turned out that the natural satin was a goldish color that incidentally matches fairly well with the gold in my dress.

I ended up leaving empty handed since I could get a better price online than in the store. Which worked out even better since I was able to buy a wide shoe in the next size up from my original size, which fits like a dream.

Continue reading

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pops…revealed!

This weekend’s project was dedicated to those lovely cheesecake pops I had been obsessing over since coming across said tidbits of awesomeness on Mimi on the Move [sadly I cannot remember from what source I even learned of Mimi…I hop around A LOT of blogs during the day] on a Daring Baker’s challenge back in April.

Mine didn’t come out as prettily as the Daring Bakers’ but they were still very delicious. Instead of using the regular cheesecake recipe that was suggested for the challenge, I opted for a pumpkin cheesecake to go with our Thanksgiving themed get together. After combing through a lot of different recipes, I settled on one from Paula Deen and went to work.

These are all my ingredients. It’s a really straightforward recipe, which was great since this was my first attempt ever at making a cheesecake and I was kind of nervous [what if it cracks? It doesn’t matter silly, you’re scooping them into balls anyway] but went ahead since, how hard could it be? Especially since I was only making the filling and not the crust?

the ingredients

It was hardly worth the worry. The most important thing though is to make sure the cream cheese is completely at room temperature. Mine was kind of close but I went ahead and started since I couldn’t stand to wait another 20 minutes or so.

i love my kitchenaid!

In went the cream cheese, pureed pumpkin pie mix, sugar, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and because I love pumpkin pie, a bit of pumpkin pie spice [this was my own addition and I just poured so I don’t know how much I actually put in but it wasn’t that much…probably about 1/8 or ¼ teaspoon? Maybe?]

Then into the oven for an hour. Even though some folks in the reviews said it wasn’t necessary, I plopped my pan into a water bath for some extra insurance, even though I knew it wouldn’t matter if it cracked.

Waiting was the hardest part…

waiting

and waiting

and waiting some more

Continue reading