Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tis the Season

It's Christmas time! The most wonderful time of the year! And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit then by decorating...
and making cookies!
Lots and lots of Christmas cookies!

I love the snowflakes...they have me wishing for a white Christmas.
I had a blast coming up with different designs.
I also finally got a good Christmas red and green. Last year I had trouble getting those deep Christmas colors.
All packed up! They make such a lovely gift.

Have you made any Christmas Cookies yet?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Official!

I'm announcing that it is officially fall! I know I hinted at it here, but, after a week of temperatures in the 70s, I'm going to ahead and make the official announcement...IT'S FALL!

I celebrated the change of seasons by...

becoming a redhead...                                                   drinking a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks...


                                                                               (Source)

covering some mini pumpkins in glitter...                        making these weird paper bag flower things...



(Yes, this was found on Pinterest...Here is the tutorial.)


AND by making some delicious pumpkin cookies!
 
They are bites of perfection.


Stop whatever you are doing and make these cookies to celebrate the change of seasons. Make sure you have 30 or so of your closest friends around as this recipe makes a lot of cookies.

Pumpkin Cookies
from Better Homes and Gardens
2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15 ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour

Frosting
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon 





Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla; beat until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

Frosting: In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat in cream cheese. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies or pipe on cookies.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes about 50 cookies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Bread and Brown Paper Packages

Are you addicted to pinterest? I am. Everything is so wonderful, bright and beautifully packaged. I already have a whole Pinboard dedicated to Christmas. I'm always looking for ways to make things look cuter. Last year, I blogged my favorite Ginger Pumpkin Bread recipe. This year, (after the pinterest craze) I had to make it pretty.


Now this cute and tasty loaf of bread makes a perfect gift!

Brown Paper Bag Wrap:
Cut the ends off a brown paper bag
Slide your loaf of bread into the bag
Fold the excess bag on the bottom of the loaf and tape down.
Wrap with twine and tie a bow on top. Attach a note if desired.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spinach Smoothies and Half Marathons

Have you seen these "green monsters" floating around the internet and blogs? Basically a spinach smoothie with the promise of delicious health. You see, I have become a runner (yes again, it never seems to stick).

Do you remember when I ran that 5K and I came in second place? Well, I ran it again this year. I didn't come in second.

 (No, I am not crossing the finish line, I am celebrating the fact that I can see the finish line).

Okay, Back to the Green Monters or Spinach Smoothies...You see, I signed up for a half marathon. Yes, me...I know it's hard to believe. It's the Disney Princess Half Marathon...I get to dress up like a princess, run through Magic Kingdom and have my picture taken with all the different characters. If that doesn't convince even the worst runner to run a half marathon, nothing will. Well it convinced me and three friends so it is official. The training has begun. I must become a health freak, thus the spinach smoothie.

I used some recipe (that will remain nameless since so many people love it) that combined milk, a banana, almond butter, chia seeds and spinach.  I cannot lie. It was gross. I closed my eyes, I pinched my nose, I sputtered, I gagged, my eyes teared up and I downed 3...maybe 4 sips. I admitted defeat and poured it down the drain.

Where did I go wrong? Have I eaten one too many cupcakes? Have my taste buds been diluted by chocolate? I'm not sure, what I do know is I will have to find another "healthy" recipe to boost my running training. In the meantime, back to oatmeal.

What are your go to healthy recipes?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trees

These branch-y trees are probably one of my favorite cookies I've ever made. Each cookie is different. The branches swirl out in different directions as I simply twisted and turned a toothpick through flooded royal icing creating an old mangled look that I find intriguing. 
All that is missing is a small bird perched on one of the branches and this cookie would be perfect, in a quirky kind of way. 
What do you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hand Painted

I love decorated sugar cookies. I think they are so fun and could spend hours pouring over blogs and learning new techniques.

This is the newest technique I've learned and I LOVE it. It adds a delicate element to the sugar cookies. It's called Brush Embroidery, here is a great tutorial.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall is in the air...at least for a moment

This weekend was gorgeous. The sky was blue and the air was cool.  I had my windows open, cranked pandora radio and had some friends over to craft the day away.

Is there a better way to spend a Saturday?

I made a fall wreath out of burlap, which seems to be pinterest's (Yes, I am addicted along with the rest of the world) fabric of choice.

Do you want one of your own? You can have one! All of the fun and none of the work. :)

Fall also makes me think of the beautiful sunflower. I decided to try my hand at some sunflower cookies.

I must say, they aren't my favorite cookie in the whole world...

But, they are my favorite flower and color.


And that is how I spent my first fall weekend.

Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pineapple Flowers


For Gina's Shower (the Country Cookout) I wanted to make a "natural" looking cupcake. I saw these pineapple flowers on Martha Stewart and decided to give them a try. They were quite a bit of work, but I love the final result. 
The cake was a Hummingbird cake, a dense pineapple, banana, coconut and walnut cake topped with rich cream cheese frosting.  It was a very good cupcake, but I wasn't absolutely in love with the cake. I'm going to be on the hunt for a moister version of the hummingbird cake, because I loved the ingredient combo. Now, I must say, the frosting...to die for. 


Many thanks to my mom who helped with all the baking that I did that weekend. Always my #1 fan!


How to Make Pineapple Flowers
Technique from Martha Stewart

Step 1: Skin a pineapple and cut out any rinds or seeds that remain. 
Step 2: Slice pineapple into thin (as thin as you can) round slices.
Step 3: Bake slices at 225 degrees for at least 30 minutes on each side. The purpose is to dry them out so you could bake them for much longer. 
Step 4: Once almost completely dried out, transfer to a cupcake pan and form pineapple slices into bowl shapes. Let dry over night
*Note: The next morning when I went to decorate my cupcakes, not all the pineapple flowers were completely dried out, I put the pan in the oven again and kept a close eye on them. If you want a deeper color, leave them in the oven longer.
Step 5: Get out your kitchen scissors and cut slits around the pineapple cup to form petals. 
Step 6: Place on top of your cupcakes and enjoy your creation!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Simple Beauty

Currently, I am in love with the simple beauty of a mason jar. There is something rustic and simplistic about a mason jar filled with flowers. They are inviting, not too pretentious.

At a women's retreat with church, Meg the artist behind Milk and Honey Market created some beautiful arrangements that overflowed from the humble mason jar.

I took this idea and filled the jar with my favorite flower, the Sunflower. 

To complete a warm rustic atmosphere for my sister's Country Cookout I placed floating candles in the mason jars. 


Why stop there? The rafia bows have me all giddy. I picked up a bunch of filler greenery from Sam's Club for $2.01 (including tax) and filled my favorite vase. 


How do you use a mason jar?

Country Cookout

I threw a couple shower for my sister and (now!) brother-in-law. The theme was country cookout. It turned out better than I thought. I will break down the different elements in future posts. Here is an overview in pictures.


Write a message on a stone: alternative to a guest book


Heart-Shaped Bird Seed Ornaments/Favors
  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Name

It's been a long silent summer. And I'm ready to be back!  I've missed writing and baking. So, I decided to give my blog a small facelift, and begin again!

Welcome to the new and improved Sweets By Francesca. This blog will include party planning and baking delicious desserts. What's a delicious and cute dessert without a party? And, what's a party without a delicious and cute dessert? There will also be some crafting and life thrown in the mix as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Babies.

The blogger picture uploader thing is back up and running I'd like to share some before and after pictures of my baby Calvin. If you are not a dog lover, well shame on you, but I think that this little mischief maker just might change your mind. 

BEFORE: The shagmaester


AFTER: The clean-shaved cowboy. 
I'm sorry, call me obsessed, but if that picture with those big eyes don't make you smile, I don't know what will!

In other news, I have a friend who is about to have a real baby. And when I say real, I mean one you can't stick in the bathroom or in a crate when it's driving you crazy (I guess you can't call babies "its", probably not PC (that means politically correct, mom :)). To celebrate my friend's little girl, our small group threw the parents-to-be a surprise shower. I finally had the chance to make monogrammed cookies!
I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe that I've used for my butterfly cookies, Christmas favors, my 100 blog post celebration, and my halloween cookies, I've used it all these times, but I've never posted the recipe. Well folks, to celebrate the fact that this blog will make it to see another day, I'm going to post this sugar cookie recipe. Get ready, it's a secret family recipe, one that goes back generations...okay, no, I found it off a blog, albeit a very good blog, but it's not mine, nor my families, nor a secret. Nothings a secret these days with facebook, twitter, blogs...I digress. Come to think about it, I can't think of a single "secret family recipe."Mom? Do we have a secret family recipe? If we did, I'd probably share it, or brag about having it, so maybe it's best if I don't even know a secret family recipe exists...Anyway, back to the cookies.


Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures before the party so these pictures are terrible, but you can get an idea.
 
Cookies, Chocolate and my cute husband!  

The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe for perfectly shaped cookies
From Annie Eats


1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
2 ½ c. sifted flour



Cream butter, add powdered sugar. Blend in remaining ingredients-egg, extracts, salt and flour. Divide the dough in half and roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper (about 1/4 inch). Chill until firm. Remove wax paper and cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased sheet. They do not have to be separated very far since they won't raise. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden. Cool, ice and eat! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calvin

I haven't blogged in about a month. I've thought about throwing in the towel, closing the curtain, packing it up, calling it quits...I'm not sure if I am completely ready to say goodbye. Single Tear. So while I am pondering, I decided I'd give you an update on my life. Just a brief update. Mostly an update about calvin, because he is the apple of my eye, the thorn in my side, the pup I love to pieces but can make me crazier than I ever thought possible. It's a good thing he's cute.

I was going to upload really cute pictures of his haircut...but alas, the blogger upload picture thing is not working for some reason. Just my luck, the one time I decide to blog in a month.

So here is a video for your enjoyment.


The update is going to have to be put on hold since pictures are not uploadable at the moment. So goodbye then, hopefully I will see this "edit post" page sooner than next month.


Monday, May 23, 2011

It's SummaTIME!

Finally. Turned in my last paper today. I couldn't not be more overjoyed or exhausted! 

So I made a wreath to celebrate. 



I like to celebrate by making things. I also like to celebrate by making huge messes...
I wanted to "Organize my life" which evidently means tear everything down and try to figure out somewhere else to put it. My house is a disaster zone. Poor Calvin doesn't know what to think and I am overwhelmed and uninspired. 

We also bought another desk from goodwill for the home office/guest bedroom we are creating. They wanted $40 but Bradley talked them down to $19.99... That's my man!
This is the before picture. I hope the "after" picture will come soon enough, but I don't like the color I painted it...uhoh. So we shall see what messes I will make this summer. 

So, every room in our home is A MESS and under FRANSTRUCTION (yeah I think I'm clever). But hopefully it will all come together and be FRANTASTIC! Stay Tuned!