martha stewart

Really Easy Last Minute Gifts (that don’t look like it) – Day 12 and best cookies on the planet

You are stuck for some last minute gifts and your present cabinet is looking pretty bare. What do you do? Bake. Really there are some really nice simple (and quick) recipes. Grab some sweet paper or containers at Target, The Paper Source, Christmas Tree Shops…where ever you can find it.

I head over to Martha Stewart or to Smitten Kitchen or The Whisk Kid for fail-proof recipes. I also like to give tea with my cookies – you can keep it casual but nice, too.

Recently I got distracted and instead of writing made-over my linen closet the Martha way and put together a car caddy – yes, a car caddy. Then in a very un-Martha-like way, the water I had in my caddy leaked all over my carefully prepared perfect tote. Yes, I dried it all out and re-assembled it and it is a little less precious now. Sort of like me.

Here are some of my favorites from Martha, and yes, if it is okay to mention this… she follows me on Twitter! Yes, she does! I was so thrilled when I found out (I told only about sixty million people but was afraid that if I wrote about it she may unfollow me and what then? Sigh, I will have a Martha-less Twitter-stream) and she tweets herself in case you don’t easy candy recipes and stocking stuffers from Martha Stewart on capability mom think so – go here…@MarthaStewart on Twitter. Why does Martha Stewart care what I tweet? Maybe she doesn’t but I wrote about The Whisk Kid who she had on her Color Show last year (of course, Martha probably found her first but I wrote about her first – whee!) Martha should stay tuned for my sister’s handmade wrapping paper – Yes, where is that paper, K?

Candy Recipes from Martha Stewart

Here are paper cones with gingerbread caramels (For an unMartha-like cheat: you can make the cones – any paper will do – and put in store bought sweets). Honestly, none of the recipes are hard. Peppermint bark is a three ingredient sweet that even the busiest mom or most nervous baker (no baking – just melting and cooling required!)

We all know a real-life Martha – you know, the one who is always put together and who hosts a cookie swap effortlessly while also chairing the PTO fundraiser and bakes dreamy home-made confections that make you weep, or, at the very least, not want to share what she bakes? No? You always share? That’s nice…Well, we all have our Martha moments but some have it more than others.

A friend, who we will call KB (she was a ballet dancer and is lovely, graceful, willow-y and she bakes like a dream) gave me this recipe after the following exchange was repeated to her (laughingly, by me).

Me to then 7 year old daughter, “Honey, Let’s go bake cookies together because your mom makes the best cookies on the planet”

7 year old daughter to me, having just recently tasted the cookies from the recipe below, said quite seriously, “No, Mom, KB makes the best cookies on the planet.”

Here you go – You will thank me later!

KB’s Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies heretofore known as The Best Cookies on the Planet

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz, bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar
Photo Credit - David Lebovitz
Photo Credit - David Lebovitz

Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth (you can also put in glass microwave safe bowl and start with one minute in the microwave – increase time by 30 seconds intervals until melted). Remove from over water, cool to lukewarm.

Stir flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into medium bowl. Beat eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla in large bowl until pale and thick, about 8 minutes. (Note: Start beating eggs AFTER chocolate is melted because it takes about 16-20 minutes for chocolate to cool to lukewarm). Fold in melted chocolate. Mix in dry ingredients in two additions.

Chill dough until firm enough to scoop, about one hour. Can be made one day ahead. cover, chill.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two large baking sheets. Shape dough by scant 2 tablespoonfuls into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until tops crack and cookies are just firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

I have loved working with Pragmatic Mom on these posts – go see her last minute gift ideas here. Her make your own labels are as beautiful and easy to do as promised! Incredible! She is always fun and has great ideas, in fact, it was her idea to do this together which is really a Christmas present to me because she has a ton of daily readers and she shared my stuff with them – so nice – in real life and in virtual world. Thank, Pragmatic Mom – I look forward to more co-posting (like co-hosting but better) with you again soon!

The 12 Days of Shopping

I will be posting The 12 Days of Shopping jointly with Pragmatic Mom. Please visit her blog to see the other half of each post.

Dec 1: Make Your Own Gifts GRANOLA, Amazing Granola from Nigella Lawson versus Amazing Granola Bars from The Barefoot Contessa

Dec 2: Kids Make Gifts CRAFT (ModPodge versus Clove Fruit)

Dec 3: Personalized Gifts (Fancy Address Stampers versus Pretty Papers Giveaway)

Dec 4: Father-in-Law/Dad and Mother-in-Law/Mom

Dec 5: Tutors/Teachers

Dec 6: High Tech/Low Tech

Dec 7: Hostess/Gifts That Give Back

Dec 8: Sanitation Engineers, Mail Carriers, Hairdresser, Delivery People, Babysitter, Cleaning People, Dog Walker/Dog Trainer, etc. (a.k.a. who else did I forget?)

Dec 9: Husband, Me (Our Own Wacko List); Capability:Mom Husband/Wife

Dec 10: Dog/Cat

Dec 11: Quick Gifts from Whole Foods versus Gourmet Food Store

Dec 12: ’Cause I Am So Together, Last Minute Home Made Gifts: Cookies & Personalized Holiday Tags


Back to Basics – Day 6 of the 12 Days of Shopping – Going Low Tech

It has been a long two weeks. I have been stashing catalogs where ever I could hide them before my husband throws them out. I wanted them for this series of posts and my own personal use… Hmmm…perhaps that explains the immediacy with which these are normally dispatched into the recycling bin.

Alphabet Pillow from Uncommon Goods on Capability Mom blog's 12 days of shopping
Alphabet Pillow from Uncommon Goods

My assignment, go low-tech (Pragmatic Mom has the high tech gifts covered). These are my favorite low, and I mean low, tech gifts (thus the old school catalog finds).

I love the Uncommon Goods catalog – super cute and cool gifts in a great range of prices. Anything from Periodic Table of Elements Blocks for your budding science genius to door mats made out of flip flops or lobster rope.

Arts and Letters:

 

Paper Source's Unravels Pencils

For all ages:  Art Supplies like paper and colored pencils or journal and nice pen, books, wooden toys (yes, for all ages).

Green Planet Kids is a Newton store with a great selection of back-to-basic toys and there are these oh-so cool stocking stuffers from Paper Source (love these peel-y pencils).

Back to Basics: Homemade treats, prettily packaged, with recipe attached, maybe some clove fruit from Pragmatic Mom, little handmade lavender sachets (you can buy lavender in bulk and fill fabric squares with it, so nice), special keepsake ornaments (we give my mom one every year) or a The Hanukah Candle Kit.

Love You More Pillow - Paper Source

 

Cozy Comforts:


Cashmere socks, scarves or sweater, mittens, a favorite team sweatshirt or baseball cap, yoga or fitness gear, fleece from Northface for that particular teen, a Snuggie (I caved and bought these last year!)

 

C is for Chocolate – always! Get some sweet Lindt truffles and put them in a pretty container. Last year I found a template on Martha Stewart’s site for turning a candy bar into a Santa.

Books are a basic and always welcome (even if you know only one book the child has liked, a good bookstore or librarian can give you many more suggestions).

If you are looking for year round reading for kids, I really like the publications from Cricket MagazineMuse for ages 9-14 years and Babybug, Ladybug, and  Cricket for younger children. I also love Stone Soup for the tween age, too.

Upcycled Pom Hat
Upcycled Pom Hat - Uncommon Goods

The 12 Days of Shopping

I will be posting The 12 Days of Shopping jointly with Capability:Mom. Please visit her blog to see the other half of each post.

Dec 1: Make Your Own Gifts GRANOLA, Amazing Granola from Nigella Lawson versus Amazing Granola Bars from The Barefoot Contessa

 Dec 2: Kids Make Gifts CRAFT (ModPodge versus Clove Fruit)

 Dec 3: Personalized Gifts (Fancy Address Stampers versus Pretty Papers Giveaway)

 Dec 4:  Father-in-Law/Dad and Mother-in-Law/Mom

 Dec 5Tutors/Teachers

 Dec 6High Tech/Low Tech

 Dec 7Hostess/Doing Good and Getting Something

 Dec 8: Sanitation Engineers, Mail Carriers, Hairdresser, Delivery People, Babysitter, Cleaning People, Dog Walker/Dog Trainer, etc. (a.k.a. who else did I forget?)

 Dec 9: Husband, Me (Our Own Wacko List)Capability:Mom Husband/Wife

 Dec 10:  Dog/Cat

 Dec 11: Quick Gifts from Whole Foods versus Gourmet Food Store

 Dec 12: ‘Cause I Am So Together,  Last Minute Home Made Gifts:  Cookies Personalized Holiday Tags

12 Days of Shopping – Kids Make the Gifts – Crafts on Day 2

I really do love homemade gifts the most – especially from my children. I have every gift they ever gave me and now I understand why my mom kept that macaroni necklace I made for her (thanks, Mom). I also love the messiness of Mod Podge and the only reason there isn’t more of it in my house is because I tend to go on sprees…yes, there have been Mod Podge sprees.  One weekend my oldest and I reclaimed a table (then proceeded to Mod Podge the inside of an old medicine cabinet). No, I am not suggesting you do a table for a gift. Just showing that you can.  We used a calendar with gorgeous prints that I picked up in the Anthropologie sale bin last year. This year’s version is shown below from Paper Source (love this store, too!). Don’t be silly, I spent under $10 not $20. Paper Source also has a great sale section, too.

capability mom roskd mod podge

Gather any paper you that like – wrapping or old books or cards. Tip: I like to put them in a folder in the basement so my very tidy spouse doesn’t mistakenly throw them away (invariably I forget where I put them, though so it’s the same as if they had been thrown out). So on to the craft! Here is a site I have mentioned before, Mod Podge Rocks. It has tons of great projects and this is one is particularly easy and fun!

Just using an old Altoids tin or small box you can make a gift card holder – make the gift cards, too! Plain cards and stickers are sweet. The finished project shown is from Mod Podge Rocks.

Here are the raw materials capability mom uses mod podge to make holiday fiftsthat I pulled out of the craft drawer (oh-so-different than the present drawer!). You can also put a handle on the tin and style it as an adorable mini-purse.

If you aren’t excited about this project, here is an easy Mod Podge Pencil Holder from Family Eduction –  you can fill it with baked goods, Lindt truffles, candy canes or candy kisses for a teacher or hostess gift. All you really need is an empty can, Mod Podge and some paper. Now don’t get all Martha and perfect about it. Break out the Mod Podge and go. Plain glass vases, cans, bottles, jars …everything is fair game. You can decorate the container with your children then fill with flowers (made out of the sweet paper or real) or baked goods that you make together.

I personally like to see tree shaped styrofoam either painted or Mod Podged or plain with Hershey candy kisses all over, probably because my mom has them every year.  Education.com makes it a counting activity for little ones and uses a glue gun to make their tree. Wow, was that what my mother was doing, too? No, I am pretty sure we just randomly stuck most of the kisses on the tree (which is all good, too). Speaking of education moms – head on over to Pragmatic Mom – her craft is adorable and super easy and not messy at all –  Clove Fruit which I like to do even after the children become tired of it. Put down some paper (newspaper is fine) and when they are finished wrap them in tissue (this is a good gift to start now).

capability mom finds a counting activity project from education.com

I am officially a writer…because my linen closets would make Martha herself weep

capability mom gets organized with martha stewart
Photo - Martha Stewart

I am a writer – no, not because I just got paid to write (that happened a while ago) but because when I joined NaNoWriMo (nothing smoother? from writers, really?) I became suddenly extremely interested in cleaning, specifically all of the closets in my house. I have yet to tackle the junk drawer or the basement, but Martha Stewart herself would be proud of my linen closets (except I slacked and didn’t label everything – that may mean I am also still sane). Why? because I am supposed to be writing 1,600 plus words per day and I am not even close. Brutal, to even attempt it with a family, a part-time job and a modicum of a social life… plus I do like to sleep at least 8 hours and I am just not cutting it – the writing, the sleeping is going well, thanks.

Part of this is good for me because I have never even admitted I wanted to do this (write a novel) but I also am slightly risk averse and never want to fail at anything but here I am publicly announcing that I am writing a novel and now publicly failing to deliver. I should be ashamed but instead I am thrilled, thrilled that I was bold enough to try it and smart enough to know I am in the weeds and am not getting out any time soon.

I did write for a few hours on Sunday afternoon while the rest of the family was at the Boston College Women’s Soccer game and you may think I have all day during the week but it is surprising how much of my time is really taken up with household matters and not just the made up ones. Now I have to go…write? No, I could be doing that now, right? Nope, even better! I found a car kit that I need to put together first…Thank you, Martha!

capability mom puts off writing for another day with help from martha stewart
Photo - Martha Stewart

 

 

 

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