In the middle of all my holiday cookie baking this Christmas season, I decided that I wanted to do something different besides just the different varieties of cookies. Currently we have in our freezer: Gingerbread, peanut butter kiss, sugar, molasses and chocolate chip cookies. My husband was in the pantry this morning and picked up a block of white chocolate that I keep on hand for my cake pop dipping and he seen on the package a recipe for almond bark. That got me thinking. PEPPERMINT BARK!
Peppermint bark is the perfect representation of the holidays, and in looking into online recipes and how-to videos on making the perfect peppermint bark, I learned that the better the chocolate that is used, the better the bark it will be. Go figure. At first I was planning on grabbing the white and dark chocolate blocks I have for cake pops, I soon realized this may not be the best tasting option now that I know what to look for.
The best chocolate, both white and dark, there is are the ones that are made with real cocoa butter, and not ingredients that contain oils instead. Realizing my pantry chocolate had the latter, I quickly turned to my go-to chocolate for fondue – Velata’s Belgium Chocolate! Every time I bring out the fondue chocolate for parties or gatherings, everyone always compliments the taste of it, so I had the A-HA moment, let’s use it for Peppermint Bark! And just my luck, the packages are the perfect portion sizes, so no measuring needed!
Here’s how I made it, turned out PERFECT, and can’t get my husband’s fingers off of it .
That is it!
Line the bottom and sides of a square pan with tin foil, and smooth it out as much as possible.
Warm the Velata Dark Chocolate in the microwave until melted. I put it in the microwave for :30 seconds, then :30 seconds again. If more time is needed, just continue the :30 second intervals with a close eye to prevent any melting of packaging.
Once melted, pour it into the tin foil wrapped dish.
With spatula move chocolate to cover the bottom, touching the corners and sides and to smooth out the chocolate.
Next, put it in your fridge for about 20-30 minutes (depending of chocolate used) until hardened.
While waiting for that, I decided to do some damage to the candy canes for the topping. Three is plenty enough, I did more because I was making more than one batch, plus use this to top off my sugar cookies too . Put them in a large Ziplock bag and pound away using what you have available. I used the flat side of a meat hammer.
Once dark chocolate is firm, it’s time to do the same with the white chocolate layer. Quick and easy.
Yum! Love the smell of white chocolate. While still melted, it’s time to sprinkle the peppermint chips on. As much or as little as you desire.
Back into the fridge for 25-30 minutes. Go grab some wine, or your favorite cocktail. Red wine goes very well with this bark. I’m pairing them together now!
Once hardened, you can break it apart, or I prefer to cut it into different shaped triangle pieces.
And that’s it! Belgium Chocolate Peppermint Bark that tastes like you bought it from a high end chocolate shop. IT’S THAT GOOD!
Perfect for gift giving! You can wrap in wax paper and put it into a small holiday tin, or even cut it into squares and stack them into a candy bag, tied with a ribbon and gift tag. Ideas are endless, and made with love! If you do want to make for gifts, you can buy Velata’s chocolate in bulk, cost-saving options.
And since this turned out so good, I’m going to make a toffee bark version using broken up toffee pieces and Velata’s Caramel Milk chocolate! Double Yum!
This past weekend marked the 4th birthday party of my oldest son Brody. Brody made the big decision months ago that he wanted a Cars 2 birthday cake and all things cars on his big day. So about a month before, the Cars 2 invitations were sent out to family and friends and it was off to the races to plan for what decor, games, etc. to create. To start, my first method of inspiration was of course, Pinterest.
We live on a few acres here and we have quite a large backyard so my first idea that came to mind is that it would be a perfect space for a race track. But what could they ride? I was looking at different derby cars and dune buggies available on Amazon, but that idea went out the window due to expenses. The second idea of renting pedal cars also went out the window when they wanted quite a large sum of money for only four hours of fun. But then with inspiration from Pinterest, a picture came across my screen of homemade boxcars, PERFECT! It was decided that Cars 2 boxcars of Brody’s favorite characters would be created.
That next day during my lunch hour, I went to Lowe’s and bought eight large move-in boxes on the cheap. The mission has started.
With Brody sitting on my lap that night, we went through the Disney YouTube videos of each of the Cars 2 characters spinning on turntables. Brody picked out his eight favorites, and thanks to one of my favorite programs Snagit by TechSmith, I took a screen capture of the cars front, side and rear for use of drawing them. The eight cars Brody chose were Finn McMissle (his favorite), Lightning McQueen, Holly, Madar, Torque, Carla, Axlerod and Francesco.
With initial direction from this photo and looking at my screen captures, the characters were penciled in on the boxes, and cut out using scissors and an x-acto knife. The cutout section from the first side was used to draw the cut-out area on the other side. The overlapping/gluing areas were scored with an x-acto knife, folded in place and glued together with my hot glue gun.
For paint, I purchased three spray cans of white paint that came combined with primer, and one can of each color I was planning to use. I spayed the primer to cover up the blue Lowe’s logo and wording and put two coats on the areas that will remain white (front windshield/eyes, side windows, lights, etc.) A quick glance at the screenshots helped determine these areas.
Once I got the cars primed in white, I masked the areas I wanted to stay white. This is where I wish I did a bit more research on if they had large sheets of masking tape. They really should if they don’t. Working with what I was dealing with, I did this in two different ways for curvy and large shaped areas. I first lined wax paper in lines of masking tape then drew my shapes, cut them out and peeled them off. I would like to say this was a brilliant idea, but sometimes the wax paper was difficult to take off, and sometimes it ripped. In the end, I did the last couple cars by putting the masking tape on the cars, drawing the shapes, lightly going over the lines with an x-acto knife and then taking off the excess. This worked better than I thought.
Painting the cars with a couple coats of their color spray paint and letting them dry, I took off the masking tape to reveal the white parts and they were starting to look really cute.
Back inside to draw on the eyes, and tracing all the windows and other lines with a black sharpie, followed by markers for all the colored eyes, the Cars 2 characters took form and Brody started flipping out! I used black small plates for the wheels.
I would recommend cutting hand holders instead of stapling straps on like I did. Some held up, some not so much.
The cars turned out better than I envisioned and hoped for! In the end, all the smiles, kids making loud car sounds and plenty of laps around the 200′ race track was worth every bit of effort that went in to create these cute lil’ buggers.
And since the weather was so warm, we had all of our little guests bring their water clothes and towels too. We set up a HUGE Visqueen plastic sheet in our front yard down a hill and put a couple sprinklers on it, with colored cones going down the side to create a water race track. It was a big hit!
Other fun cars themed games and decor we had:
A bean bag toss game while the kids tried to catch them in funnels (not pictured).
The Refueling Stations featuring fuel oil as beverages (a concoction of kool-aid and food coloring), and relabeled water bottles with a Cars labels I designed easily, printed, cut and taped on. I also did labels for the mini M&M containers to keep theme. If interested, you can download the templates I created below.
And a popcorn station with the different flavored popcorn in large funnels. Paired with the M&M treats.
The Cars 2 cake, cupcake and chocolate tire donut station.
And of course the easy, yummy chocolate fondue station which was a huge hit with the kiddos and adults. I always keep a ton of this easy chocolate on hand for mini gatherings, dinners, or big events like this. Brody wanted the Caramel Milk Chocolate for his party.
Allinol (get it?), Brody had a fabulous World Grand Prix B-day!
Thanks to all our friends and family that came out to help celebrate.
If you would like to see more photos from the party, click here.
If you are interested in any of my screen captures to create your own box cars, or to use the templates I created for the water bottles, fuel stations or M&M containers you can download them here.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share and pin as you please .
Ever since I seen my first ‘baby in mother’s hands’ photo, I knew I just had to do that photo when I had children of my own.
Something about that one pose just always said so much more than the ordinary… a mother’s love, her protection, just the purity and serenity of it. With that, I always knew I wanted to make it really special.
Once my first child was born, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew it was going to be quite some time to get it finished but realized back then that the wait and hopes that it would be a reality one day would make it that much more meaningful. So I waited. and waited.
When Brody was seven-weeks-old, I took him to get his photos taken at Portrait Innovations. Telling the photographer that the first pose (before any crying, or sleeping, or nursing came into play) I wanted to have my son in a diaper in my arms facing left. After a funny first look, the photographer preceded to do what he was told. .Portrait Innovations doesn’t do large prints, and since I wanted a large canvas of it done, they allow you to request high-res images from corporate (only if you purchase the cd of all your prints) free of charge. They kindly emailed it to me, with copyright letter to give to printer.
That is when I found the amazing company, Canvas On Demand. And not knowing then, but knowing now that I am hugely in love with this company. Mainly because they took such great care of me and the prints of my sons. Definitely helps too that they still have Brody’s baby canvas up in their showcase next to Ty Pennington.
I ordered a 2′ x 3′ canvas of Brody, with a 1.5″ thick Gallery wrap.
When it was time for my second son Tanner to grace us with his presence, I made sure to put it on the calendar that we must do his first professional photos when he was also seven-weeks-old. This time, same instructions just facing right. And again, did the special request for high-res image.This time around, Canvas On Demand was on Groupon so it was like speaking just to me. BUY me. I bought the Groupon after finding out that the money for it can be used for a canvas as big as I wanted it, even when the Groupon said for a certain size. They also have really great deals now and again, so I tend to just wait for one of those to pop up with a purchase like this.
Talking to a rep about what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look just like the one I did from years past, I was blown away at their service! She pulled up Brody’s artwork (seriously printed 3.5 years ago), took the new artwork and did her best to match them up and sent me approval of what it would look like to make sure I was happy. I expect this from local printers, I’m a production manager (one of my many jobs at my company) for goodness sake, but for a large national company to this magnitude to treat me like a mom-and-pop shop, was truly outstanding! So Canvas On Demand, if you ever come across this post, THANK YOU!
It was just a few months ago, I was shown a catalog from Uppercase Living. Turning to the pages to bedrooms, I came across the saying ‘side by side, hand in hand, heart to heart’ and I was SOLD. I knew once I got the last canvas done of Tanner, this would be the perfect saying to have in between.
Since my bedroom walls are a grayish-blue and most of our bedroom furniture is a deep black-brown, I chose the colors of the wording to be ‘Stone Cottage’ and ‘Slate Gray.’ I ordered the 18″ x 7.75″ so it would work with the large canvases on both side.
Finally, after over 3.5 years of waiting….my vision of this is finally real, picture-perfect on my wall.
Relaxing, serene and full of love.
I know my boys will eventually grow up and not be my snuggly baby boys that I am so honored now to hold and hug and kiss, but I will always have these two special memories adorned on my wall, and so happy I get to be reminded of it each morning, and each night.
I love you beyond words Brody and Tanner. Beyond words.
Yes, I tend to be more on the ‘last minute’ side rather than the organized scheduler. I knew Valentine’s Day was coming up soon. I told myself last week it was ‘next Tuesday.’ Still… today it’s the 13th of February and I’m picking up my boys from daycare when it hit me that Valentine’s Day is actually tomorrow.
Thankfully, my husband and I don’t really celebrate this holiday with gifts. So there is still time during my lunch hour tomorrow to pick up that card with sweet nothings jammed inside it. But what about cute Valentine’s for my boys to bring to daycare tomorrow morning?
So as I was preparing the boys their dinner this evening, I contemplated in my pantry and decided on a game plan.
Marshmallow Pops – (similar to cake pops, but with A LOT less work, and A LOT less time to complete)
Pictures are pretty self explanatory. First, we got the marshmallow pops ready by inserting a stick into each of the centers.
Next, I just recycled a large Keurig coffee box we still had in the house and jabbed crosses into it with a knife. Worked perfect for holding them in place and to let them dry later.
We took turns inserting the marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and circled the stick around to get chocolate 1/3 to 1/2 way down the marshmallow. Do a couple quick turns of your wrist once it is out of the chocolate to let any excess fall back into the pot.
Time for sprinkles. Brody of course probably ate more than he put on, but hey.
Brody loved it!! He also loved poking holes into separate marshmallows with his finger while we were waiting, then filling the entire inside with sprinkles and stuffing the entire thing in his mouth, but that could be another post all together.
While I was waiting for them to dry, we went to the office to say hello to my girlie best friend, Pinterest, and see what free Valentine’s Day printables were out there. I came across these darling ones. Perfect for Brody and Tanner to give to the daycare kids, that happen to be mostly boys. A lot of the ones I found were too lovey-dovey for my manly men .
The original .pdf download was four to an 8.5 by 11, which was rather large for a small project like this. So I just doubled them up and printed them at 50% on cardstock. Turned out PERFECT. Cut them out with scissors and put a hole punch in the corner and we wrote the boys’ names on the back.
I had these treat bags laying around since you never know when kids need treats for things, and just wrapped the valentine card with it using the ties the treat bags came with. Now that I am remembering, the treat bags came from Micheal’s.
and Voila. Easy treats for Valentine’s. Yay!
Brody liked the ‘I’m Wild about you’ Monster one the best.
We made about 25 of them….
But only 18 ended up in the container to go to daycare. Oooops, I wonder where the rest went .
P.S. We did save one for Daddy when he comes home tomorrow from the fire station. So now he gets a card and a marshmallow. I am such a wonderful wife! lol.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you noticed recently, I started running again.
Usually I would find myself just running (in my minivan) to the nearest fast food restaurant during my lunch hour to avoid trying to find a parking spot downtown, having to go out in the cold, or making the excuse that I didn’t have time to do anything else but a drive-through because I needed to get back to work. These were my excuses anyway, even though on the inside I was just craving Wendy’s sea salt french fries with two sides of ranch.
But those cravings didn’t do anything but make me lazier, while pretty much putting all my ‘baby weight’ I ever tried to lose, back on.
I don’t know how it is for you, but for me to make lifestyle changes where weight is concerned…I need there to be what I call, life events. Not just, “I want to lose weight” but actually physical events where I force myself to do things that in my current state wouldn’t feel comfortable with doing. Events with deadlines.
Previous events that worked for me:
Break-ups usually were a good one in and after college. Some people stay in their jammies and slippers while sobbing over chick flicks and eating pints of Häagen-Dazs. Not me. I ran. And while I ran I imagined myself in the cutest mini-skirt and tank top when the time came that I might accidentally run into my ex at a bar. Happy to say, that imagination became a reality once, and it felt AWESOME!
Wedding. You don’t get many times, if any, where the party means all eyes on you. And just knowing pictures of this day would surface time and time again in albums, on your wall at home, tagged online, etc. and never wanted to look back and say, “UGH…let’s not look at those.”
Double whammy: Honeymoon. This is a two-for-one where not only you want to look good in your dress, but shortly after you will be spending the week in a bathing suit. And again, pictures of this event would surface too.
But then what? Babies!!
Pregnancy brings all kinds of prettiness, let me tell you. Had to say good bye to the belly ring and hello to the stretch marks. (Still want a refund on my belly butter for that one.) And usually during this time of my enlarged-self, the last thing I wanted to do was weigh-in in front of complete strangers (aka nurses), but month-by-month I had to do it and watch the scale roll in higher and higher as they jotted it down, calculating my above average percentage of weight gain. Yes, gaining weight during pregnancy is good for growing babies. But eighty pounds in my first pregnancy…not so much.
And you know darn well, well at least with me….I had no urgency to lose the weight when we knew we wanted to have a second child. I lost a bit to be comfortable with myself again, but there was no big commitment to the gym, a track, or love of working out when bottles and diapers were consuming my life.
But now, with two amazing boys and no plan for any more pregnancies, I decided it was time that I needed to create new ‘life events’ that would encourage me to be healthy again….and since I didn’t see any in my near future…I decided it was time to create them.
Introducing my forced life events:
#1: I signed myself up for my first half marathon, the Bayshore half-marathon in Traverse City.
#2: I coerced my husband to RSVP us to a firefighter wedding in the Caribbean with gobs of other firefighters on his department. Yes, forcing myself in a bathing suit in front of ALL of them.
Now if that is not incentive for losing weight and getting back in shape, I don’t know what is.
Both of these ‘life events’ will be occurring in May. So, last week began my official 18-week half-marathon training program.
Happy to report that my first week, I clocked 6.5 miles on the treadmill, 10 miles on the bike trainer and 5 marbles in my ‘Gone’ weight loss jar.
35 more to go…..and many, many, many, more miles to log.
But already feel better. And now I find myself when I am running (well jogging/fast walking at this point) imagining myself in that cute mini-skirt again…on the beach this time…and not for any type of revenge….but for just ME instead.
Thanks for listening!
What life events do you have coming up? What are you doing to get ready for them? Please feel free to share!