DIY

Hot Cocoa from Mrs. Claus!!

My ADD brain cannot handle elaborate, perfectly orchestrated holidays full of crafts, baking, and other holiday cheer. 

When I naively suggested we "adopt" an Elf on the Shelf, I had a Pinterest board full of crazy cute ideas and visions of wonder and mirth on my kids faces. Fast-forward to the second week and I was already a pro at reasoning out why our elf, Peppermint, wasn't budging. Who knew that remembering to move a stuffed elf could be so hard! 

I want Christmas to be magical for my girls, but I'm a busy Momma and it cannot happen at the cost of my being stressed out! So while the Elf was a bust, I did create one tradition that I absolutely love because it has all the elements of holiday wonderment I'm going for, but is very, VERY easy! 

Years ago, I decided a fun stocking stuffer for the girls would be hot chocolate, and what would be better than if it came straight from the North Pole and Mrs. Claus's kitchen?? 

Some years the labels I created to re-cover my Private Selection hot cocoa canisters were a bit thrown together, last-minute, but my girls didn't notice. They thought Mrs. Claus's hot cocoa was THE BEST thing ever and looked forward to it every year.  

For a few years now, I've wanted to take some time, do the label up right, and put my lettering and lettering skills to work, creating the beautiful label I had always wanted it to be — and this year was the year! 

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And I'm so excited that now you can use it too!! The printable is only $3 and you can print as many as you need, year-after-year. It really is an easy & inexpensive way to add magic to your kid's Christmas morning & create fun memories! 

If you use it, please show me!!! I'd love to see it in action! Tag your photos #homeagaincreative

xoxo, 

Lori Danelle

Kool-Aid Hair Dye

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To be honest, I love this dip dyed hair trend. In college, I often was sporting streaks of pink, purple, or blue. I think this dip dye approach looks a whole lot better than what I used to put my hair through! 

I'm of the opinion, that my kids can do WHATEVER they want to with their hair. 

It's hair. 

It will grow back. 

And now that we're homeschooling & don't have to worry about school dress code rules, we decided to give the kool-aid trend a try. 

See below for instructions!  :) 

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How to Dip Dye your hair with Kool-Aid

Make sure your hair is completely dry, brushed, and in a low ponytail.

Boil 1.5 cups of water + 2 packets of Kool-Aid – we used cherry for my daughter with dark brown hair & raspberry lemonade for my daughter with dark blonde hair. The blue did not turn out at all, even though standard hair color has worked for her much better in the past. If you're set on trying blue, I would add more packets, and perhaps lengthen the time as well. Otherwise, I'd pick a red, or maybe purple. :) 

Once boiling, pour into a heat safe mug or cup & submerge the end of your ponytail is soon as possible. THE WATER IS VERY HOT. BE INCREDIBLY CAREFUL!! 

I just had the girls sit in chairs backed up to the kitchen counter & watch a movie on their iPads. Periodically, I would swish their hair around & break up any clumps to make sure all of the hair was getting saturated. 

After 30 minutes, use an old towel to squeeze or blot excess water out, then let hair dry COMPLETELY. We used a blow dryer to speed up the process. Wash as normal. 

The results is beautiful, vibrant & fun color that is theoretically temporary.. . .  :) We're going on about a month with it in P's hair & have seen very little fading. 

What do you think? Should I do mine next?  :) 

xoxo Lori Danelle

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How to Fix your Squeaky Stairs

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It's been awhile since I shared the everyday tips & tricks that I'm doing around my house, but I always enjoyed it, so I thought I'd start it back up.

Plus, you need to know about this. :) 

The master bedroom in our house is right next to the stairs. My daughters and I, particularly in the summer, are night owls. Nate, on the other-hand, is not. This is mostly due to the fact that he gets up around 4:30 am (I have no idea how he does this) to work out and then beat Nashville traffic into work. We love him & all that he does for us!!

Our stairs have always creaked, but recently they've gone to a whole new level making it impossible for anyone to go up or down the stairs without waking our hard-working, but very exhausted man. So the other night, I decided there had to be something we could do. 

Turns out there is. 

There's a brilliant little kit out there called the Squeeeek No More Floor Repair kit that I truly wish I had thought up myself. It's so smart. 

First, you have to find the floor joist, or in my case the saw-tooth looking board running under the stairs called the stringer (no, I didn't know that before this project!) that runs on both sides of the stairs and often the middle using the included joist finding tool. 

I found that mine was 18.5" from either edge, so I measured over on each step and aligned the included depth control tool.

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I then used my drill to screw in the specially scored screws with the customized driver bit. 

The depth control tool will case you to stop with the screw head about 1 inch out of the carpet. Never fear. This is on purpose. Just be careful if you're walking around with bare feet! 

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This is where the magic happens! 

The depth control tool has a notch that you will then slip over the head of the screw. 

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 Simply turn the tool to the side with a little bit of force, and . . . 

 . . . the screw SNAPS OFF JUST BELOW the surface of the wood floor! 

What??!?!?! I told you this was ingenious.  

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Crazy easy and because the screw breaks below the surface of the floor, nothing for you to step on or feel on your feet, doesn't mess up your carpet. . . . all-in-all, BRILLIANT. 

In our case, the stairs do still creak some. . . but my daughter literally just ran up the stairs as I'm typing this sentence and I only heard one small pop – which is a million times better than it was 3 days ago! – but I think that it due more to how our stairs were built than to the failure of this product. :) 

So, if you also have creaky stairs, or floor, quit thinking there's nothing you can do about it and go grab this kit. . . and some extra screws. You'll need them. ;) 

Recipe: Peppernuts

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I've been posting pictures of them on Instagram & unless you know me personally or live in an area with Swiss/German Mennonite roots, you've probably been wondering: What in the world are peppernuts??? 

I hear that a lot. 

They're a tiny cookie made with Christmas-y spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and anise oil. 

Though a bit labor intensive, I beg you to give these a try, especially since it's an ideal activity to make with help. Now that my girls are old enough to actual offer up USEFUL assistance, we've made it our tradition to roll out the dough over a Christmas movie. I've also thought it would be fun to invite some friends over to chat, drink wine & roll peppernut dough. (Want to join me?)  

My Grandma has been making these as long as I can remember, making them in time for Thanksgiving and not letting the peppernut jar run dry until after New Year's. I didn't even realize what a novelty they were until I moved away, and have since enjoyed making the tradition my own. 

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Melt in Your Mouth Peppernuts

1 cup butter
1 and 1/2 C. sugar
1 beaten egg
2 T. dark syrup
3 and 3/4 C. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. anise oil (or 2 t. anise extract)

Cream butter, sugar, syrup and egg. Add dry ingredients and anise oil.

The dough is really stiff, so for the sake of your mixer, don't make a double batch. I personally just follow one batch immediately with another. The dough will also look a bit crumbly. If you're worried that it's not going to stick together at all, you can add a little water, one Tablespoon at a time – but would not add more than 3 Tablespoons.

Divide the dough into 3 or 4 balls & then chill the dough.  

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This is the part where it's fun to have friends or at least a movie. :)

Working with 1 dough ball at a time (the rest stay in the fridge), roll out into long snakes the size of your little finger. Again, sometimes the dough can be a bit crumbly. The trick is to develop a smoosh-roll technique. Roll it out gently, if it starts to crumble a bit, smoosh it back together and then keep rolling. It's taken many years to perfect. ;)

Keep chilled. I like to roll out all my dough at once, piling it high on a rimmed cookie sheet in the freezer. Putting them in the freezer makes them a bit easier to work with.

Slice into small pieces and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on paper towels spread out on your counter. 

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One more weird fact for you: This is probably the only cookie that isn't better directly out of the oven. I know. Weird, right? 

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They're amazing by themselves, but try them with coffee. Trust me.

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So. Good. And addicting. You've been warned. :) 

Let me know how you like them!

xoxo—Lori

In case you'd like to know more about these little cookies, here's some more background information I've dug up: 

Like most baked goods, there are many variations of peppernuts. While most recipes call for cloves and cinnamon, some also use nutmeg or anise. A Danish recipe for pebernødder requires white pepper, while most recipes don’t use pepper at all. Some versions of the German pfeffernüsse contain pecans, ginger, or cardamom.

In the Netherlands, St Nicolas, patron of children, sailors and the city of Amsterdam, arrives by boat from Spain with his white horse and his helpers, chimney sweeps called Petes, to assist him. It is a busy time for St Nick, crossing the roofs with his horse while the Petes take the presents down the chimneys. Traditionally, the Petes also scatter “pepernoten” around for the kids.

German Mennonite women used to make the dough several weeks before Christmas and let it chill for up to a week in a cold cellar to let the flavors mellow.

Years ago, a reader on my blog, excited to see a photo of what she called “our peppernuts”, shared that her husband’s grandmother made them every year. Her mother-in-law didn’t share the recipe with her until she had been married for 25 years as it was a closely guarded family recipe that they knew had been in the family for at least 150 years. She was told that each village or family had their own shape and version of peppernuts, and the recipes were never shared outside the family.

Printable Olaf Valentine's Day Treat Topper

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If you've sees much of my work over the years, you'll probably agree that this isn't the most awe-inspiring thing I've created. However, it is making Munchkin & Peanut quite happy, and sometimes, that really is the point! Remember, we did name our puppy Sven, after all. ;) We filled our treat bag with a melted Olaf – 3 marshmallows, 2 mini-marshmallows, 2 pretzel sticks, 3 chocolate chips, and a candy corn), but any candy would work and still get the sentiment across.

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If you've got Olaf fans at your house, perhaps you'll appreciate this years' printable as well. If not, check out our previous years here and here. Click on the image below to download the printable file.

Happy Valentine's Day!! xoxo Lori

Printable Valentine's Treat Bag Topper

Last year we started the tradition of making our Valentines & it's a choice I fully enjoy! The girls get really excited dividing up the candy, filling the bags & putting them all together, and I think they take a lot of pride in giving their friends something they helped make. Plus, this way we can be sure we won't be the 5th girl to be handing out Frozen cards. :) Important? Not really. But we do like to encourage individuality over here! As much as I liked last year's card, I think the design we came up with this time is even better!

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And on the back is lots of room for the girls to write out their friends' names. ( I love kindergarten writing!!) 

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So, if you're still needing to get your Valentine's together, I've made a printable just for you! These toppers fit the Spritz favor bags that you can pick up at Target, but you will need to fold the bag over a couple of times. Enjoy!!

Click on the image below to download:

DIY Star Christmas Tree Topper

Last year, I found & pinned a tree topper offered by Land of Nod. This year, I decided I was ready to buy it, but of course, they no longer offer it. :(

So I did the only thing I could: Made my own — with a couple of changes to suit our family's style.

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It is a little hard to see in the photos, but I added a bright pink star under the white one &  hand-stitched the smaller stars and circle to the large main star with a decorative blanket stitch. I think it adds a bit of whimsy to a somewhat folksy design. And since I just can't help myself, I made up a pattern to share with you. You can download the pieces here.

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Once you have the pieces of felt cut out, Stack the two stars & circles, securing with fusible tape or similar. Repeat with the second set.

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Center the stacked stars & circle onto the large star, securing with fusible tape or similar. Stitch around edges of each small star & the circle with a sewing machine, or hand-stitch with a decorative blanket stitch. Repeat with the second set.

Place triangle piece on the front of the star and stitch 1/2 inch from the edge.

Clip curve. Repeat with the second set. 

Fold triangle to the back & iron to press in place. Repeat with the second set. 

Place both stars together, front to front. Sew around the perimeter, 1/2 inch from the edge, dot to dot.

Align the triangle pieces & sew together 1/4 inch from the edge, starting where you stopped on the star and continuing all the way around, leaving the space between the dots open. 

Turn the star right-side-out through the hole left in the triangle. Use the eraser end of the pencil, or other blunt object to help push out the star points.

Stuff the star with fiberfill, pushing it into the star points, leaving room in the body portion to push the triangle into it.

Hand-stitch the opening on the triangle closed using a ladder stitch. 

Push the triangle up into the center of the star, creating a cavity that you can slip over the top of the Christmas tree, securing your Star Tree Topper in place.

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Get some help and put the star on your tree & enjoy!!!!

I'm loving the way our family room looks this Christmas. I even added my new Christmas canvases to our walls. They were the PERFECT finishing touch.

DIY Apple Cupcakes

Cupcakes that look like apples are a surprisingly versatile treat. So far, I've made them twice. Once for a Snow White Princess Party & most recently for a Apple-tastic AppleJack (My Little Pony) Party. But they could also be used for back to school, teacher appreciation, or Fall themed parties.

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To start, make cupcakes using your favorite box mix. You don't want the mounding over type of cupcakes, so divide the batter to make sure you get all 24 cupcakes. For optimum results, use a white cake mix with red liners. We like chocolate cake, so that's what we used — and I think they still look great. The trick to making Apple Cupcakes?

Donuts.

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These by Entenmann's are PERFECT. Apparently, their donuts come in 3 sizes: Regular/Full size, Mini, and bite-size. Make sure to get the Mini size which are exactly the size of the top of a regular size cupcake, while the regular size donuts are too big & the mini are too small. Plus, they come in a 12 pack, which works out perfectly with one box of cake mix. Also, get the chocolate ones. I know, the powdered sugar ones are better, but believe me, I learned the hard way that they just don't work when it comes time to frosting them.

Cut all the donuts in half like a bagel.

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Next, whether you make your own frosting, or purchase it, you'll need to dye it red with a gel food dye. Even when spreading the frosting on, I like to use a pastry bag to make it easy to apply. With your pastry bag, or a knife, put a dab of frosting on the top of the cupcake.

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Top & smoosh down with one half of a donut.

Again, using your pastry bag, pipe out enough frosting on top of the donut to cover, then spread it all out with a knife.

To complete your apple, you need a stem & a leaf. I found these Rips in our grocery store's candy aisle and they are exactly what you need. Again, one bag is enough for 24 cupcakes, plus a few red ones for you to snack on while your making them. See? I'm here for you!

I found if you cut each rectangle in half on a diagonal, you can then cut 2 good sized leaves out of each piece of candy, like this:

To make them stem, you'll need Tootsie Rolls. Roll them out into snakes, and then cut into stem-sized pieces.

Insert into the indent of the donut, and Viola! You've got some amazingly cute apples!!