make: simple DIY packaging

I don’t know about you but Valentine’s Day really sneaked up on me this year.  I feel like I am scrambling to get everything in order and ready for tomorrow.   Because of this, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite ways to package and label gifts.  This quick and easy technique will come in handy for Valentine’s Day or any occasion.  I often do this as a personalized gift tag and I’ve even used it to make last minute place cards/napkin rings at a dinner party.

Here’s what you will need:
+ Card Stock
+ Scissors
+ Ribbon
+ Double Sided Tape
+ Wax Paper
+ X-acto Knife/Utility Knife
+ Pen or Marker

Start off by wrapping the items in waxed paper like a present and secure the packet closed with double sided tape.  Then, take the card stock and write out your valentine’s sayings.  I like mine to be more clever than romantic so I chose a few of my favorite song lyrics and TV show references.  I also hand wrote mine but if you hate your handwriting, you can also type and print the sayings on the labels.  I’ve pdf’d a few of my favorites, you can download them here.

With a scissors, cut the labels into squares and rectangles and using an X-acto knife, cut two slits on either sides of the label.   Next, take the ribbon and “thread” it from the front to the back and then back to the front again.

Wrapped the label around the sugar cookie pocket and secured using tape. Voila, easy and personalized Valentine’s. I think my favorite may be this Downton Abbey inspired one:

Did you see last night’s episode?!?!?  Matthew and Mary just have to get together in the end.


whisk: sugar cookies

A couple of years ago, after a particularly hectic holiday season, I started sending valentines to my friends and family in lieu of Christmas Cards.   And because I’m always eager to share my latest baking successes with my friends and family, these Valentine’s usually contain some type of baked good.  This year, I’ve decided to go with good old-fashioned sugar cookies.

I have to say, the recipe that I am most frequently asked for is a good sugar cookie recipe.  My first response is always, what kind of sugar cookie do you like?  Because like Chocolate Chip Cookies most people fall into the soft and chewy camp or team flat and crispy.   For a long time I was a flat and crispy with butter sugar cookies being my go to recipe.  Then about a year ago I was in Ft. Worth and tasted a cookie from J. Rae’s Bakery and I immediately switched teams.  Then I set about finding a good soft and chewy cookie. I’m going to show you how to make both.

First up, the flat, flaky, buttery goodness of French Butter Cookies

French Butter Cookies
Recipe via Martha Stewart
1 cup (2 sticks or 16 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

+ The recipe says that this makes 5 dozen, but I’ve never gotten more than 3 out of it… maybe I like my cookies thicker than Martha.
+ Since this recipe is really all about the butter, use the best that you can afford.  I found the Kerrygold at Costco of all places.
+ If you’re like me and baking at high altitude, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t need to make any adjustments to this recipe.

To make the cookies:
In an electric mixer with your paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar, beat on high until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

sorry for the shadow, but this is what creamed butter & sugar looks like when you are finished.

Then mix in egg and vanilla until combined.  Be sure not to mix this on high because it will spill over the edges of the bowl.  Sift together the flour and salt and add to the mix.  Stir on low-speed until flour is combined.  If you are going to make round cookies, then roll the dough into multiple logs (I usually make 4 so that they will fit into a gallon size ziploc bag).  If you are going to to roll them out, make four flat discs.  Place in a ziploc bag and refrigerated overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or silpat.  Allow the dough to come to room temperature and roll it out.  Be sure you are working on a clean surface and lightly flour it before rolling the dough. Cut using a cookie cutter and place on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes rotating the pan in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Set aside until ready to frost.

For the softer, chewier cookie, Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
via Pie in the Sky

Ingredients (sea level)
1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

+ This makes about 50 cookies.
+ High Altitude Adjustments: Increase vanilla to 2 teaspoons, decrease baking powder to 3/4 teaspoons

To make the cookies:
In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Then beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Scrape the bowl down and sift in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix on the lowest setting until combined.  Divide the dough into four discs and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.  Lightly flour your clean working surface (I used my counter) then roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin.  Cut shapes using a cookie cutter.  Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silpats.   Bake for 8-10 minutes rotating the pan in the oven halfway through.  Allow to cool on a rack.  Set aside until ready to frost.

I like to ice these with Royal Icing, this recipe makes enough to frost about 50 cookies:
1 cup + 2 T powdered sugar
3 3/4 teaspoons of meringue powder
1/4 c water or milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Combine in a mixer and beat on low-medium speed for about 10 minutes.  Add food coloring and use a knife to frost the cookies.

On Monday I’ll show you a fun way to package your valentines.  Do you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe?



the goods: I Heart Pinterest

Katie posted earlier about the marvelous world of Pinterest, and I wanted to give my two cents as well. As a graphic designer, I’m on the computer ALL the time. When pinterest popped up, I was skeptical at first on how to use it, but suddenly one day the light bulb went off and I finally saw the advantage of using it. I could finally house all of my bookmarks in one place and access it anytime, anywhere, anyplace. Last year I was at the ranch and wanted to make a recipe from my Master Chef Board. Two seconds later I had the recipe at my finger tips via the computer. Are you the DIY type and need a last minute gift idea? Check out our craft board here. Seriously folks, pinterest is the best thing since sliced bread. For those of you who are new and are looking for additional peeps to follow, check out my suggestions below. Happy Pinning!

DIY Projects/Sewing
Brett Bara – Favorite board – Craft Ideas
CityCraft Callie – Favorite board – Sewing Projects

Graphics & Pattern Inspiration
Bri Emery – Favorite board – Design Done Right
Jennifer Pace  – Favorite board – Patterns

Interior Design
Abbe Fenimore – Favorite board – Offices
Decor8 – Favorite Board – Kitchen Inspiration
– favorite board – Bar Cart is Back

Fabulous K  – Favorite Board – Color Crush Boards
Txdesigngal (my personal Pinterest account) – My Style Pinboard

make: framed chalkboard art

For the last few weeks, I’ve been playing with a few different DIY artwork techniques.  Until now, they’ve all been pretty disastrous.  I’ve used water colors and puffy paints; tried words and patterns but nothing really worked.  So, I turned to an old favorite.  Chalkboard paint.  Maybe its the repressed teacher in me, but I have always loved writing on chalkboards.  Plus I am amazed that you can buy paint that will turn any surface into a chalkbaord.  Sidenote, did you know that you can also buy magnet and whiteboard paint.  Those folks over at Rust-oleom are geniuses!

So, this easy project only took about 30 minutes of real work time (25 hours total with drying time).  Plus since I tend to constantly move art around my house, I love that I can pop that bad boy out of the frame and change the quote whenever I feel like it.   Ah chalkboard, you are my favorite!

Here’s what you’ll need:
+ 1 piece of poster board (larger than the frame/matte)
+ painters tape
+ pencil
+ ruler
+ chalkboard paint (I used rust-oleom spray paint in black)
+ chalk

With a pencil and ruler, draw an outline of the shape of your chalkboard.  Then using painter tape (or masking tape) outline the shape.

Follow the instructions on the paint can for application.  If you are using spray paint, be sure to work in a well ventilated area.  I got a little bit of a headache from this project (even though I was only applying the paint to a 12 inch x 12 inch square.)   Spray in even sweeping motions from side to side.  Allow first coat to dry for 1 hour and then apply a second coat.

Once you have finished applying the second coat, carefully remove the painters tape. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours.  Then to finish the paint, take a piece of chalk rub the side on the chalkboard surface.  Erase and you are ready to go.

Start drawing or writing.  I came across this quote recently and knew I had to put it somewhere in my house to remind me to stop comparing myself to others.

I’m think I’ll make a few more of these and put them in frames around the house.   What’s your favorite use for chalkboard paint?



swoon: Ode to Tangerine and Neon

I’ve started to notice that neon is popping up everywhere, and as a child of the 80’s (hello hypercolor t-shirts!), I’m pretty excited for this trend. In addition to pantone announcing Tangerine Tango as the color of the year for 2012, I have a feeling this year is going to be extremely colorful, fun and bright.

Dress . Bracelet . Shoes . Clutch . Lip Gloss . Ring . Earrings

whisk: sweetheart cake

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Biscoff Spread.  So obsessed that I’m embarrassed (NO I’M NOT) to admit that I’ve gone through six jars in four weeks.  So obsessed that I tell everyone who will listen about it.  Lucky for me, blabbing about my obsessions sometimes works in my favor.  So when one of my friends who had heard me rave about Biscoff Spread, came across this recipe on design sponge and she immediately sent it to me.

And my mouth immediately began to water.  Just looking at the recipe,  I knew it was a winner.   Especially given my recent Biscoff adventures failures, I knew I had to try it.  The first time I made this cake, I followed the recipe to a T.  As is often the case, it was great but my mind started to wander thinking of how it could be better.  Within seconds, I knew that the Devil’s Food cake was no match for my favorite, nine-ingredient chocolate cake.   That nine-ingredient, simple cake never fails me.  It’s a cinch to make, right out of the pantry plus it is so moist it tastes as though pudding is the key ingredient – almost more of a brownie than a cake.  So for the second time around, I married the two and the Sweetheart Cake was born.  Easy enough for everyday and impressive enough for a special occasion, so if you’re entertaining and looking to impress this Valentine’s Day, look no further than the Sweetheart Cake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Nine-Ingredient Chocolate Cake
+ 1.5  c. all-purpose flour
+ 1 c. sugar
+ 1/4  c. unsweetened cocoa powder
+ 1 tsp. baking soda
+ 1/2  tsp. coarse salt
+ 6 T  vegetable oil
+ 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
+ 1 T white vinegar
+ 1 c. cold water

Biscoff Ganache
+ 4.5 oz. + Milk Chocolate, chopped
+ 4.5 oz. + Dark Chocolate, chopped
+ One 14 oz. jar of Biscoff Spread
+ 1 pint less 1/3 cup heavy cream

To make the cake:
+ Center the rack in your oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line an 8 inch round pan with parchment.  Butter parchment and dust with cocoa powder.
+ Sift flour into prepared 8in round layer cake pan. If you don’t have a flour sifter, place the flour in the pan and stir with a whisk for a minute.  Add the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Using a fork stir together until the dry ingredients are mixed together.

+ Using a tablespoon, make three different “wells” in the dry ingredients.  One large, one medium and one small.
+ Add the liquid ingredients to the wells as follows: Large = Oil; Medium = Vinegar; Small = Vanilla
+ Then pour one cup of cold water over the entire pan.
+ Using your fork, stir the batter so that it is mixed.  You should be stirring for about 2 minutes at most.  Make sure there are no pockets of dry ingredients in the corners and make sure you get everything off the bottom and skim the bottom to make sure that the parchment is still flat.  Keep in mind you want it to be mixed but by no means do you need to go for broke here, use your judgement.
+ Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until when a toothpick or knife inserted in the center of the cake can be clean when removed.  Another hint is to gently push the top of the cake with your fingers.  If it springs back its ready.
+ Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.

To make the Biscoff Ganache:
+Using a double broiler or your microwave melt the chopped chocolates until they are just smooth.  If using a microwave, heat in 30-second increments stirring between rounds. Should take about 3-4 minutes.  You don’t want to over heat this so make sure to go slow and stir.
+ Once melted, pour the chocolate into your mixer.  Add the entire jar of Biscoff Spread.  Whisk until just combined.

+ Add heavy cream straight from the fridge.  It needs to be cold so make sure you don’t leave it out.  Whisk slowly until the liquid is combined and then whip just until soft peaks form.

To assemble the cake:
You don’t have to make this a layer cake, it’s fantastic just frosted with the ganache but if you are feeling adventurous or have been wanting to attempt a layer cake, this is the one.  Both the cake and frosting are very forgiving so if you break a layer or your layers are uneven, the ganache will hide the crumbs + all manner of sins (see the picture below…the bottom layer broke… shhhh)

+If desired, cut the cake in half using a serrated knife.
+Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop about a third of the ganache on the bottom layer.  Using a knife, spatula or offset spatula, spread the ganache from the center of the cake towards the edges.  Attempt to make the ganache as even as possible.
+ Place the second layer on the cake.  Scoop half of the remaining ganache on top.  Clean your utensil (knife, spatula or offset spatula) and then use it to evenly spread a thin layer of the ganache from the center towards the edges.  You want a majority of the frosting to spill over and frost the edges.  Use your utensil to spread around the edge of the cake.
+Scoop the remainder of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake.
+Using a potato peeler, cheese grater or microplane, shave additional chocolate on top.
+ Cover and chill for at least an hour so that the ganache sets.

Cut, serve and be prepared to swoon.  I know I say this every time, but this really is one of the best cakes I’ve made.  The combination of the dense, fudgy cake and ganache is outrageous.  The ginger/spice cookie flavor from the Biscoff Spread counterbalances the sweetness of the cake perfectly.     Let me know if you make it!



stitch: this girl’s friday clutch

Equally appropriate for a Friday night out on the town and a fashionable trip to the market, This Girl’s Friday Clutch is big enough to hold more than a tube of lipstick and is sure to make any outfit adorable.

I mean, look at her… she’s the perfect combination of business and pleasure and has quickly become my everyday companion.  This bad boy only took about 45 minutes to make.   She’s so cute, it made me forget the four (YES FOUR) failed attempts at putting in a zipper.  Plus, she introduced me to my new best friend, the invisible zipper foot.  What can I say, I’m in love (and just in time for Valentine’s Day!)

Once you get past the zipper phase, this bag is a cinch.  If you are intimidated by the zipper (trust me I get it- 4 failed attempts), then follow the instructions from Kristi’s iPad case to put in a snap closure.

+ 1/2 yard decorative fabric for outside of clutch
+ 1/2 yard fabric for lining
+ 1/4 yard of heavyweight fusible stabilizer
+ 1/4 yard of batting
+ 14 inch invisible zipper (color matched to either the outer fabric or lining)
+ rotary cutter
+ Grid Ruler
+ Iron
+ Coordinating thread
+ Sewing Machine
+ Invisible Zipper Foot


Cut the fabric:
Cut two 9 inch by 12 in pieces of each of your fabrics (2 outer, 2 inner) and the stabilizer and two 8 inch by 11 inch pieces of batting (you’ll have eight pieces total)

Side panels:
To assemble the side panels, think of them as two sandwiches.  Start by placing the one cut piece of the decorative outer fabric face down on your table.  Then the stabilizer, followed by the batting.  Since batting is an inch smaller all around, just try to center it (doesn’t have to be perfect).  Then place one piece of the lining fabric face up on top.  Repeat for the second side panel.

Pin the layers of one of the side panels together along one of 12 inch long side of the fabric.  You are only going to sew one side of the sandwich to hold it together.  You want to do this one edge on a long side, this will prep for the zipper.  Sew using a 1/4 inch seem allowance.  Set aside.  Repeat with the second panel.

Invisible Zipper:
Next, let’s tackle the invisible zipper.  Like I said, the key for this is having an invisible zipper foot.  I tried using just a regular zipper foot (attempts #1 & 2) and the plastic zipper foot (attempt #3) before realizing that it was worth the $15.95 to buy the actual zipper foot for my machine.  Quite possibly the best decision I’ve made this week.  The beauty of the invisible zipper foot is that it has a groove that holds the coils so you are always sewing as close as possible to the zipper (but not on it).  This will result in a uniform seem and closure.  Also, it prevents you from sewing OVER the coils (attempt #1) which will render the zipper useless.   I know zippers can be scary but with the proper equipment and some patience, they are a great tool.  I referenced this tutorial over on for this.  Their instructions are clear and concise plus the article has pictures for every step of the process.  Reference it, hell bookmark it, so that if you get confused you can easily see the steps.

First you will need to prep your zipper.  To do this unzip it and place it face down on your ironing board.  With your iron on the lowest setting, press the zipper flat (the coils will roll).  As long as you have your iron on the lowest or synthetic setting, you won’t melt the teeth.

Once you’ve ironed both sides of the zipper flat, we are going to pin it to the fabric.  Take one of your side panels and pin to the edge that you have already sewn together.   Place the right side of the zipper on top of right side of the outer decorative fabric of one of your side panels.  The zipper teeth should be away from the raw edge of the panel (see above).  Line up the outside of the zipper (the side without teeth) to the outside of your side panel. Once one side is in place, repeat this step with the second side panel.

With the invisible zipper foot on your machine, line the teeth up on the right hand side of the foot and start sewing.  Removing pins as you go.  Sew from the opening of the zipper down to the bottom.  With the second side panel, you are now going to want to line the teeth up in the left side groove.

Sew again from the opening of the zipper down to the bottom.  Then, carefully pull the zipper closed making sure that you don’t pull the zipper off (attempt #4).   Switch to your regular zipper foot and sew from the last stitch you were able to make with the invisible foot to the end of the zipper to secure the bottom to your fabric.  Repeat on the opposite side.  Cut away excess fabric and steam the seams.

Finish the clutch: 
Open the zipper again and place the right sides of the outer fabric together and pin around the remaining three edges.  The purse should be inside out and the zipper should be open.  Sew around three edges using a 1/4 inch seem allowance.  Make sure that you sew over the zipper on the sides to complete the purse.   Turn the purse inside out, start by using the eraser of a pencil to turn the bottom corners out so they are square and pull everything through the open zipper.

Fill ‘er up:
Insert money, id, cell phone, perfume and lipstick and you’re ready to hit the town.

Have a great weekend everyone!



the goods: This is the Month to…

I can’t believe February has already arrived! With Valentine’s around the corner, we have new iPhone wallpaper available to download below. Personally, my favorite of the bunch is #2. Epic indeed!  If the options below don’t float your boat, click  here for additional iPhone wallpaper.  Cheers to February.  xoxo Kristi




To download the files from a desktop, right click (control click on a mac) the selected image and choose save as.  To download the files on your phone, open in your browser (safari on an iPhone) click on the image you would like to download.  When the page with only that image opens, hold your finger on the image until the “Save Image” menu pops up and then save.  Transfer the image to your phone and visit settings/wallpaper to select the file.  Email us at if you have any issues, we would be happy to help you!