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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sweet Saturday: Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cookies

Hello, my sweet friends! I hope your weekend is going marvelously. :o)

I've made more cookies in the last year than ever before, largely due to the small baking time slots available. I do love cookies and the endless flavor possibilities, but I long to make a beautiful layer cake... smoothing the icing with the fancy angled and straight spatulas my mom gave me for my birthday in November. And piping a pretty border and maybe trying a flower. So many were planned for holidays and birthdays, but they could never happen. (Oh the Christmas winter wonderland I had my heart set on baking!) My sweetheart has a long weekend coming up and I'm hoping to bake him the layer cake I've promised for quite some time.

And for Autumn, my baking heart hopes to return to royal iced cookies. My first foray into the fancy-decorated-cookie world last Christmas was such a joy and I can hardly believe I've yet to have a second attempt. (Oh the beauties I had planned for Valentine's!) I have such an affinity for decorating, be it cards, cakes, or cookies.

That said, there is certainly delight to be found in a simpler cookie and they are such fun to bake! I know some of you aren't espresso fans, but you can bake these for someone who IS and they'll love you forever. ;)

So chocolaty... so espresso-y... Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cookies!
A cookie that tastes like an espresso-laced fudgy brownie... these are spectacular. Despite being simple in appearance AND easy to make, they pack a wallop of flavor. I actually made these a couple of months ago, but couldn't post them because I got wrapped up in I Feel the Love creations. Yet they still stand out in my mind because they were that fantastic.

Espresso innately brings out the best in chocolate, making it richer. While it is often used to enhance the chocolate flavor while being undetected in the finished product, these retain that robust, dreamy espresso flavor. My entire kitchen was filled with the scent of chocolate and espresso while they baked... which was glorious! These are a perfect candidate for holiday goodie packages or festivities where oodles of varieties are enjoyed together. These cookies are exactly what you'd expect based on their name, and with such a wonderfully intense flavor. :o)

Thank you for visiting! Have a beautiful rest of the weekend. :o)

Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cookies
Yield: Approximately 30 cookies (or less if you make larger ones like I do...)

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
¾ cup all-purpose flour
⅓ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts (Optional- I left these out.)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over a saucepan of barely-simmering water, melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup chocolate chips, and butter. Stir until smooth, then remove bowl from heat.

With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs, sugar, and espresso powder on high speed until very thick and pale and the mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, approximately 3 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. 

Into the mixture, sift flour, baking powder, and salt and stir just until combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips and walnuts (if using). 

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake in middle of oven for 8-10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Encouragement Card

Hello, my dear friends! I hope you're having a wonderful day. :o)

I'm happy to have a card to share with you tonight! I used some new goodies to create another card for this month's I Feel the Love Project recipient. We are sending love to a heartbroken couple whose 6-month-old baby passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. :(

"Blessed are those who persevere"
I used my new Timeless Rectangles to make my first shaped-card with Spellbinders dies. :o) Such fun! I hadn't previously had any large enough, so I was excited when I discovered the largest die in this set is big enough to serve as a card base.

Here's an angled view to show the interior, as well as the filigree-designed back. I created the card base using the hinge technique I learned from Becca of Amazing Paper Grace. I'm thrilled to have the complete filigree design on the back, too. :o)
I wanted to send flowers to the grieving parents, so I used my favorite purple Copics (RV91-RV93-RV95) and this lovely Fred, She Said Tulip Trio image. It was a freebie (found HERE) donated to the amazing Operation Write Home organization. It made it extra lovely to work with, knowing that it was created for charitable purposes. Three years later, it's still being used to bless those in need in so many facets. :o) I added two Wild Orchid Crafts pearl sprays to the arrangement for a touch of elegance. A tiny butterfly flutters beside it, which kind of blends into the paper.

The beautiful papers are NitWit Collections' Potting Shed, which I truly adore. This was my first time using digital papers. At first, it went horribly and I was quite frustrated. Thankfully, after a couple of hours away, I decided to try it one more time and am so glad I did. After a few tweaks, it worked much better. I love the delicate flowers on the white background and the sweet heart-shaped blooms for the card base layer... they just felt perfect for this cause. Nature's beauty can be healing, especially when hearts are added in for good measure. :o) The papers are lightly inked with Walnut Stain distress ink.

The pretty butterfly in the top corner is a digital stamp from Wee Stamps, a freebie offered last week to coordinate with Sylvia's newest (adorable) release. I colored it with the same purples as the tulips and added some Star Dust to the outskirts of her wings. Inexplicably, I put this sweet butterfly on the wrong side... a mistake that confuzzles me. She was supposed to be on the opposite side as the bow for balance, but I'm trying to let it go. It's hardly something these heartbroken parents will care about, which is what I try to remember when creating for I Feel the Love. The recipients see love and reprieve, not crafty mistakes. It certainly teaches perspective.

The Scriptural truth is from K Andrew Designs Scripture Sayings stamp set, which I heat-embossed in silver. It is immovable, just like God's Word. :o) Pearls accent all three frames of the card, but they're hard to see on this little one. The ruffle-trimmed ribbon is from May Arts, which I had just enough left to wrap both layers. (Since I wanted to pop up the layers but have more ribbon visible, I opted to wrap it around each.) The bow is centered with a flat-back scalloped pearl from Wild Orchid Crafts.

It's not often I don't know what to say in my posts, but it's one of those rare moments. I wish I could do more to help those who are mourning the loss of sweet Baby Mason. Hopefully this card will encourage them to persevere through this nightmare. My heart is tucked inside, confident that their lives will blossom once again as beautifully as these tulips. 

Sweet Baby Mason... gone far too soon due to a drunk driver's tragic choice.

Thank you for visiting! I wish you a twinkly and blessed week. :o)

Challenges entered:
 *Craft Your Passion~ In the Garden
 *Crafty Catz~ Pick and Mix! (The optional embossing is my heat-embossed sentiment)
 *Crafty Ribbons~ Flowers Galore
 *Creative Creations~ Shaped Cards
 *DL.Art~ Thankful Thursday Linky Party (Anything Goes)
 *Inspire Me Fridays~ Anything Goes
 *Lady Anne's~ The Great Outdoors
 *Make It Monday~ Anything Goes
 *No Matter Which~ Bingo (Ribbons-Flowers-Bows)
 *Stampin' for the Weekend~ Anything Goes

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sweet Saturday: Key Lime Pie Squares

Happy Saturday, my sweet friends! I hope you're having a lovely weekend! :o)

While I may not have a tropical vacation planned for the summer, this sweet treat certainly whisked us away to a confectionery paradise. Key Lime Pie is a beloved dessert, but sometimes bars are the way to go. The perfect alternative? This fantastic summery delight!

Key Lime Pie Squares!
This recipe did not stay bookmarked for long. Only a few days went by before I whipped these up for my family and they were a HIT. The filling is a flawless combination of sweet, tart, and creamy... everything a Key Lime dessert should be. Rather than a typical graham cracker crust, these beauties are made with a gingersnap crust. I melted a little, being the ginger lover that I am. I decided to crush Anna's Ginger Thins to make my crust and it was an excellent choice. The bit of spicy warmth from the gingersnap crust pairs so well with the bright Key Lime filling. I used just over a box to make the required 2 cups of crumbs.

Speaking of the filling! Another atypical component to this recipe is the addition of a tiny bit of cream cheese, which isn't often used in the pie. The recipe creator is truly brilliant. Just enough is used to make these delightfully creamy with a bit of tang. I was fortunate to have Key Limes available to me, so I used fresh juice for the filling. If you cannot find any locally, I suggest using the highly-regarded Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice. You can't miss the bright and chipper bottle.

The only change I'll make next time (and there WILL be a next time) is to add a dollop of freshly whipped cream. :o) I was too rushed this go around, but thankfully no one seemed to mind. ;) Give yourself a piece of paradise and bake this incredibly simple, flavor-packed dessert.

Have a sweet weekend! :o)

Key Lime Pie Squares
Yield: 16 squares

For the crust:
2 cups finely crushed crunchy gingersnap cookies (or graham crackers)
3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted (or if using unsalted, just add in a couple pinches of salt)

For the filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
4 large egg yolks
14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
½ cup key lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest (approximately 1 lime)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on the sides, and lightly spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the crust: Pulverize the crunchy gingersnap cookies into a fine crumb with a food processor. (If you're like me and don't have a food processor, simply put the cookies in a Ziploc baggie and crush with a rolling pin.) Pour into a medium sized bowl and mix with the melted butter. Press firmly and evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes as you make the filling.

Make the filling: In a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on high speed until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks, scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and lime zest until combined. Pour into the warm crust.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges of the bars begin to brown. Allow the bars to cool at room temperature in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 2 hours.

Once chilled, lift the bars out of the pan using the aluminum foil overhang. Cut into squares. Store squares in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 1 week.

Source: Sally's Baking Addiction

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Love for All Seasons

Happy Friday, my dear friends! I hope you've had a blessed week. :o)

Today I'm sharing the card I made for my sweet dad for Father's Day. It was a wee bit later than I had planned, but he lovingly said he knew it would be worth the wait! Thankfully, he does indeed love it. :o)

For his special card, I veered away from some of the more typical 'masculine' themes to truly make it tailored to his favorite interests. He loves nature and cherishes his flowers, so I made that the primary focus. His heart is filled with so much love that it was vital to include a lot of hearts. Not only is he so special to me, but he is so special in general.

Because of that, I didn't want the front to be exclusively for Father's Day... I put that sentiment inside. Rather, I wanted to showcase what his love has always been toward me and my four older siblings...

A love for all seasons. :o)
The patterned papers are from the fantastic Heidi Grace Daydream paper pad, which I love for its whimsical take on nature. The hearts and branches pattern atop the woodsy base looks so lovely in person. Love is falling down upon the heart-shaped trees I created, just as he endlessly showers us in fatherly love.

The trunks of the sweet trees are a cut file from the Silhouette Online Store, appropriately titled cute tree by Sarah Bailey. I love the branches! Each treetop is a classic heart shape, filled in with seasonal delight. To have nice-sized trees, I made this a tall card (approximately 4''x7'').

The leaves are from my Cheerly Lynn Designs Mini Fanciful Flourish die, with two shades for Spring and three for Autumn's splendor. The Summer tree, backed with a heart full of sunshine, is decorated with Wild Orchid Crafts pink mist roses and a sprinkling of rhinestones. That tree is popped up with foam tape for dimension, as it is his favorite season. He gets so much joy from his beloved flowers. :o)

The Winter tree is covered in Core Couture snowflakes, which are the negative cuts from an EK Success border punch. Each one is centered with a tiny rhinestone for an icy sparkle. Even the popped-up grass border is blooming with love, courtesy of a super old Fiskars punch. :o)

The computer-generated sentiment sits atop a Spellbinders Fancy Tags Three die, to which I cut off the bottom part for spacing purposes. Many times he has laughed at me as I chased butterflies around his backyard, so I added a sparkling Martha Stewart small monarch to the corner. Her glittering trail is reminiscent of the sparkling love he has passed on down to me. Maybe that's why I'm so sparkly. :o) He has this card front and center on his living room hutch and loves it something fierce. I am so thankful for him and love him with all of my heart. :o)

Thank you for fluttering on by! I hope you have a sunshiny weekend ahead. :o)

Challenges entered:
 *Charisma Cardz~ Pink and Green
 *Created With Love~ Favorite Things (flowers, hearts, and rhinestones)
 *DL.Art Thankful Thursday~ Father's Day or For a Man
 *Dream Valley Challenges~ Father's Day/Masculine
 *Inspire Me Fridays~ Anything Goes
 *Lady Anne's Challenge~ The Great Outdoors
 *Make It Monday~ Anything Goes
 *Paper Playtime~ Anything Goes

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Praying for You Sympathy Card

Hello, my sparkling friends! Thank you for your incredibly sweet words on my first mini album. I was feeling some serious bloggie love. :o)

Speaking of which... a new month means a new recipient for the beloved I Feel the Love Project. For June, we are honoring a precious child, known as Baby Mason. At only six months old, he passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. :( A drunk driver's tragic choices cut short this beautiful life.

We are creating in the name of love for Baby Mason's parents, Yvette and Santiago Villega, Jr. Any type of encouragement card is perfect. I needed a few days to settle on a direction because my mind was all over the place. Sympathy cards are innately challenging for most crafters, myself included.

I pressed on to create a tangible hug out of paper. In this time of oppressive darkness, I chose to send them sparkles. Every speck of glitter and every rhinestone is meant to be a sunbeam. All it takes is one glimmer of light to break the darkness, right? (I didn't want to risk anything, so I used five million.)
An angled view to better show the sparkly bases, foiled pattern, and dimension... if only there was a magical way to capture Shimmer Spritzed-flowers.
This card actually began with the gold. Our prayers are stored up in Heaven in golden vials, so this creation was inspired by that Truth. I wanted this card fully enveloped (embraced!) in golden prayers. The glitter paper is from Jo-Ann's, though I do not know the brand. I opted to pair it with green and peach, which is a first for me. The beautiful patterned papers are from Kaisercraft's Sweet Nothings collection, which I've been anxious to use. (The golden loopy border beneath the middle panel is a cut file from Bird's Cards.)

Rather than going my typical "100% nature" route for sympathy cards, I wanted to make every inch of this about the prayers we are saying for this grieving family. Turning to the sweet artistry of Elisabeth Bell to visually deliver my actions, I chose this adorable stamp titled "A Child's Prayer." She is colored with Copics and cut out with a Spellbinders Labels Four die. Some Star Dust may have fallen on her peachy nightgown...

Sparkles were added to the tiny bows on her braids and I couldn't resist adding a heart-shaped one to her teddy bear's paws. He's praying with all of his fuzzy little heart, too. I heat-embossed a simple flourish with gold embossing powder, providing a touch of movement: divine power swirling around us as we offer up our selfless intercessory prayers. A lightly-sponged border of Dried Marigold distress ink surrounds our prayer warrior with a heavenly glow.

The butterflies are a We R Memory Keeper's cut file from the Silhouette Online Store. I made them solid instead of designed so they could properly sing their praises. It is so vital to praise in all things. These singing butterflies are hovering above their golden shadows, encouraging the precious parents to lift up their hearts in song.

A collection of peach and white Wild Orchid Crafts flowers provide a touch of nature's beauty. Lilies, hip rosebuds, and tiny rosebuds are extra sparkly from Shimmer Spritz. A sprinkling of rhinestones and a pearly heart stick pin complete the arrangement.

Lastly, I turned to my beloved Tiny Tags 2 and matching metal dies from My Craft Spot for the perfect sentiment. I adhered it with a heart rhinestone because you can never put too much love onto (or into) a card. The shiny gold ribbon that it rests upon is from my stash.

Sweet Baby Mason is safe in Heaven, but his parents desperately need our love.
Thank you for fluttering on by! I pray your day abounds in hope. :o)

Challenges entered:
 *A Gem of a Challenge~ Emboss It (Heat-embossed flourish alongside image)
 *Charisma Cardz~ Tons of Layers
 *Created With Love~ Anything Goes
 *DL.Art~ Thankful Thursday Linky Party (Anything Goes)
 *Make It Monday~ Anything Goes
 *No Matter Which~ Bingo (Die Cuts-Flowers-Sparkle/Glitter)
 *Paper Playtime~ Anything Goes
 *Sarah Hurley Challenge~ All That Glitters is Gold

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Special Mini Album (My first!)

Hello, my cherished friends! As predicted, my little blog has been silent for a bit. This special project required a lot of time to come to fruition and I thank you for your encouragement along the way. :o) I've missed you and cannot wait to see what you've been up to!

I had it on my heart to create a mini album for 22-year-old Ashley, one of the recipients of May's I Feel the Love Project. She is battling her second form of cancer, which breaks my heart. She fought it off as a child, but 15 years later was diagnosed with a completely unrelated rare form of cancer. I badly wanted to make her something extra special. I hope she loves this and feels every ounce of love that I packed into it.

Because this is a picture-heavy post due to the nature of the project, I'll resist telling the tales I'd love to share... the reasons for the choices I made, the sappy inspirations, etc. All that truly matters is that my and God's love sparkle brilliantly through it. Hopefully that will be made clear from the pictures alone. :o)

Ready to see my first mini album?! It was a JOY to create, particularly since it is for such a worthy cause. I'll never know Ashley personally, but I like to think we're connected through my daily prayers for her.

99% of the designer papers in this album are from Graphic 45's Secret Garden collection, selected specifically for Ashley. I wanted to give her a beautiful garden. :o) The gorgeous shimmer I added to every flower and butterfly throughout does not show via photograph. This album is so very sparkly in person. Naturally! :o)
A better view of the spine covering is at the end of this post... I used a Crop-a-dile for the first time! *swoon*

This is the only time I'll show photo/journaling mats/tags. Most of the pages contain 2-3 that pull out, double-sided for extra storage of special moments.
Don't worry, I eventually ran out of time to show each page side-by-side. ;)

I couldn't resist sharing a close-up of this intricate fan. I adore it and hope Ashley does, too. It is a cut file from the Silhouette Online Store, which I adorned with some of my favorite things: rhinestones, crinkle ribbon, and a Wild Orchid Crafts rose.

Above is a garden gate, with the background paper one of my all-time favorites. I popped-up the embossed gate and set the photo mat just above the foam tape. This, and the lace lining one side, enables Ashley to switch out pictures whenever she likes. They nestle in nicely without requiring any type of adhesive.
My first gate-fold! The lacy heart opens up to reveal a decent sized photo mat, which is lined at the bottom with a border so she can swap out pictures.
A tab at the top pulls out a circular mat, which easily goes in and out of the frame that is popped-up only on the lower half. These Prima flowers are especially gorgeous in person, thanks to  their beautiful shades and a hefty dose of Shimmer Spritz. I went through ¾ of a bottle for this album. ;)
The sweet little envelope is a cut file from the Silhouette Store, which opens up to a tiny surprise. I tucked a note inside to remind Ashley how loved she is. :o)
And these goodies are stuffed into the main pocket. Scriptures and sunshiny words for her to keep in or out of the album. (I snuck presents into her present... ha!)

The last page, kept simple to hold a large mat for an extra special photograph. The butterfly is leaving a trail of sparkling love with a few rhinestone hearts. That glistening love extends far beyond this album.
I poured more into this project than anything I've previously done. Two bouts of cancer at only 22 is unacceptable. I've prayed for this gift to deliver healing love. And that waves of joy and grace overtake Ashley every time she holds this as she heals in His perfect love. She will beat cancer once again and will be filling this album with new pictures for decades to come. :o)

Thank you for fluttering on by! I wish you a sparkly weekend of love, blessings, and all things beautiful. :o)

Challenges entered:
 *Celebrate the Occasion~ Use a butterfly on any project
 *Craftin' Desert Divas~ Linky Part (Anything Goes with Ribbon/Twine)
 *Crafty Ribbons~ Anything Goes with Ribbon
 *Divas by Design~ Tie a Ribbon
 *Fab 'n' Funky~ For the Girls
 *Frosted Designs~ Punches (I used a few, including the spine border on each page)
 *Fussy and Fancy~ Bling it On
 *Love to Create~ Read All About It! (Book, bookmark, or something to do with reading)
 *Make It Monday~ Anything Goes
 *Simon Says Stamp~ Anything Goes

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