Free printable reindeer motif easy wrapping paper for soap or other small tchotchkes


Hello and Happy Christmas Eve! I wanted to share this little soap gift bag I just made, because maybe you, like me, are still wrapping gifts!

We are about to leave to go Christmas meal grocery shopping and pick up Matthew’s gift to himself at Best Buy. We have the most amazing food lineup which includes dairy free butternut squash mac & cheeze from Oh She Glows, turkey bacon white wine skillet from Pinch of Yum, and fresh strawberry pie, which is Matthew’s favorite. We are making that tonight for Christmas Eve because we realized Christmas day is a Friday, and we don’t eat meat on Friday’s! So we are having an asian Christmas meal: vegetable pad thai and vegetarian eggrolls. My family makes the best eggrolls so I learned well. Everyone likes me when I bring eggrolls to a potluck. (Yes, that is how I make friends, if you were wondering.) We are staying put for Christmas because we’ve been galavanting all over the US lately for our wedding/honeymoon.


Well, I put together this little Christmas packaging for Trouvés’ soaps. I don’t sell these soaps online right now but am considering bringing them back. You can follow the tutorial below for how to fold a sheet of printer paper into a little Christmas package, below. I’ve also included the reindeer wrapping paper you can print out on your printer. My husband thinks they are elk because he’s the wildlife guy, but whatever.

Here it is! –> Click to download the PDFreindeer_motif

I cut 3/8″ off each side and 5/8″ off the top to package my soaps.


How to make Julia’s Butter Pecan cupcakes perfectly light and buttery

cupcake_butter_pecan2The other week I wanted to make a half batch of cupcakes for our dessert. I was about to frost it when I realized there was hardly any store-bought frosting left. I proposed I walk to the corner store to buy some, but who goes grocery shopping after dinner? When I need to think really creatively, I either close my eyes or stand really still while the wheels turn. A few seconds later it hit me- we had 1 cup of leftover heavy cream from Thanksgiving! I whipped that up and let Matthew taste it. I don’t think he was expecting such a taste explosion in his mouth, judging from his reaction. I think it was the spirit of Julia Child helping her namesake make great food (I was actually named after Julia Child.) I made these cupcakes once for a friend’s birthday, and I always peek around at people to see their reaction. One guy at another table took one bite, then just shoved the entire thing in his mouth in one fell swoop. I think that means he liked it?

First, here are a few photos this week of our little simple life- getting our Douglas Fir Christmas tree this week that they brought down from Oregon- It smells delicious! Getting and putting up your first real Christmas tree together, though, requires a LOT of communication and patience… and good cheer! Today I also knit a few rows on my beige wool Wiksten Jul hat. I love it already, but I guess that’s why knitters are addicted to knitting- because it’s not just the end product but also the process. I crocheted a hat eons ago that looks similar to it, but it’s made of acrylic so it’s not ideal. I used the branches from the bottom portion of our tree to make this simple wreath, with green floral wire leftover from our wedding. I could have went crazy and made a Country Living-esque wreath but who has time for that, especially when we just moved and I’m trying to figure out how to wife?


I also toasted on the stovetop in a little olive oil 1/8 cup chopped pecans and sprinkled this on top of the cupcakes. Heavenly. You know someone likes your recipe when they ask you how to make it. I told Matthew my secrets. I either add a tiny bit more oil or a chopped up strawberry into the cake batter to make it moist, light, and fluffy, and I make sure not to overbake.

Julia’s Accidental Amazing Butter Pecan Frosting

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

1/2 Tbs. organic sugar

1/2 Tbs. pure almond extract

Whip all ingredients on medium speed for about 7 minutes until peaks form. Make sure not to whip too much as it will turn into butter. Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.


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Easy, scientific way to wrap a gift

I love giving and receiving beautifully-wrapped gifts. It’s a thoughtful gesture that is making a creative comeback. I have figured out a simple, sustainable, and scientific way for me to wrap an aesthetically pleasing gift quickly. 1) neutral wrapping paper is a safe bet 2) Layer tchotchkes in different textures and prints to make it fun 3) Add a sprig of something living to make it come alive!


– roll of brown kraft paper or a paper bag (recyclable materials!)

– decorative washi tape (optional)

– sprig of something living, or some tschotkes you have laying around (once I planted a sprig someone had used on my gift, and had it for over a year!)

– twine or cloth ribbon (I save ribbon people use to giftwrap my gifts)

– a gift!

Directions: It’s easy, just wrap it and bling it out!

pretty wrapped gift birthday christmas
There’s a sample bottle of Thieves, some Yarrow plant from my garden, a 3-D textured tag I made, and the polka dot thing is a line of hair ties I have.
pretty wrapped gift birthday christmas
With a vial of flowers from my yard: red rose, yarrow, and some purple lamb’s ear stuff.

pretty wrapped gift birthday christmas

DIY homemade stuffed plush turtle

This is my good side

I bartered with my friend a year ago to have him hack into something for me (ask me no questions), so in exchange I taught his wife how to sew.  I’ve taught wee little kids to women in their 60s how to sew, but I’d have to say, we had a good laugh when I saw how very little Melissa knew about sewing or anything related to sewing, compared to others. This was mainly because her mom sewed everything for them so she never needed to obtain that particular skill.

Well, how proud of a teacher am I, when a year later Melissa attempts to make this plush turtle toy for a baby shower, and nails it for the most part. 😉 She got the pattern for free off the world wide web (ask me if you want me to find the pattern for you.) She bribed me with getting to hang out with her cute kids and conversations about the best kombucha 2nd ferment recipe, so I helped her make this little turtle friend. We loaded the kids and snacks into the car on a rainy Saturday, and off we went to Hancock Fabrics. (Sidenote: I always forget how hard it is for parents to shop with kids in tow, the boys using anything long and narrow as a sword.)

I had her stop the car before we left the parking lot so that I could buy some $3 kettle corn from a man with a hook for a hand.

Well, the turtle toy was quite easy to make. Melissa the novice sewer finished this little guy in no time, mostly by herself! Now he’s ready for a new home.

stuffed plush turtle toy diy handmade
I love you

Hint: If there is a remnant fleece bin at your local fabric store, head there. We got our remnant fabric for $3 for 2 turtles.

Amish caramel corn recipe for May Day

The last time I celebrated May Day was probably in grade school, so I had to look up exactly what people did to celebrate the day. I learned that people usually give a mixture of flowers and candy.  I wanted something simple to make for the neighbors and I didn’t have time to buy anything, so I made caramel corn from this Amish recipe.  It’s one of the best corns I’ve ever eaten that I audibly commanded myself a few times to stop sampling it.

I didn’t make enough popcorn to fill 8 paper lunch bags, so I made a food cone out of cardstock (harder than it seems, folks) and stuck that in the paper bag. I also found free May Day printables online and cut those out, and voila! A happy little May Day basket for both friendly and irritating neighbors.  I knocked on doors and walked away, and only got found out by one neighbor who yelled “thank you!” to which I responded, “Happy May Day!”

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My “Blue Ribbon winner” biscuit recipe encounter

I was in downtown Des Moines talking to a lady about cookie cutters- She said she was buying one as a biscuit cutter for her son for their family biscuit recipe.  I thought to myself “If her son is setting out to make biscuits, this has got to be some recipe.” I inquired “is it a secret recipe?”
“You don’t happen to have it memorized do you?”
“I do actually.”
“Would one be able to get it from you?”

So I got the recipe, and she mentioned how it’s won multiple awards, including Iowa State Fair blue ribbon winner.  Now I feel like I’m the winner.

My first attempt. Heavenly.
My first attempt. Heavenly. Butterly, light. Soft.

Biscuit Recipe: Iowa State Fair blue ribbon winner

2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tb. sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 stick butter
2/3 cup milk
1 egg

1. mix dry ingredients
2. Cut in butter until pea-sized. Break egg into milk and mix well. Add to dry ingredients. Stir just until barely mixed.
3. Knead 5-10 times on floured board. Roll/pat to .5 to .75 inches.
4. Cut into rounds
bake at 410 degrees for 8-10 minutes. invite me over to dine. The less the dough is handled the lighter your biscuits will be!

(my note: I sifted the flour, but I’m not sure if she meant for you to, so I added maybe 1/4 cup more flour to get the right texture. The trick to biscuit making is also to have flour on your hands and surfaces since everything is so sticky!)

Perfectly wrapped: Peanut butter fudge recipe

I never knew making fudge would be so simple.  It’s about ten times easier than making caramels for the first time.  I made both this holiday season, and the fudge was a success! (We’ll have another try at the caramels maybe around Valentine’s Day) The fudge is smooth and creamy and a nice homemade holiday gift.

(Update: The best part of making sweets is sharing them with others, in theory. The lazy part of me did not want to go outside in the cold, knocking on people’s doors and potentially freaking them out, but the old Mission Year part of me forced myself out the door. If not every day, it’s imperative that one present their neighbors with some good tidings at least at Christmas! One came to the door with his shirt off, but when it’s Christmas we let these indiscretions slide.)

I presented the fudge as gifts along with a card I made on Illustrator. The pastry boxes are from Hobby Lobby, and the circular “Merry Christmas” tags I made on Illustrator then punched out with my Fiskars 2″ circle punch. My adapted recipe is below. I opted not to microwave the items since I try not to use the microwave too often.

Next time I think I’ll make homemade pesto as a gift since it’s about a thousand times better for you than fudge, but still a nice homemade gift.


free circle gift tags

Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 64 1-inch pieces

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, plus additional for greasing pan
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (1 lb or about 3 3/4 to 4 cups) powdered sugar, unsifted

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8- x 8-inch pan. Melt the 1 cup butter and peanut butter in a saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Carefully stir in the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until evenly combined. The mixture may become a little crumbly at first, but continue to stir until the ingredients are smooth and a nice “dough” forms.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer, pushing to fill the corners. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the fudge. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Use a large knife to cut into 1-inch cubes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Source: Barely adapted from Pennies on a Dollar & Annie’s Eats, originally from Alton Brown, via The Food Network


Be careful when measuring the powdered sugar. 16 ounces (or 1 lb) of powdered sugar is equal to 3 3/4 to 4 cups. Do not think in terms of liquid measurement where 16 ounces equals only 2 cups.