Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! It's a little early, but I'm taking the next few days off to spend time with family and friends, eat lots of good food, exchange gifts, and celebrate the reason for the seasonJesus.

Let's take this time of year to focus on what's important in life and count our blessings, slow down, be kind, make memories.

Happy holidays, my friends! Enjoy!

Our Christmas cards (as of 12.20.12)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Year's Holiday Cookie Exchange

On Sunday, my sister-in-law and I hosted a cookie exchange at my place. Everyone brought about three dozen homemade cookies each to swap, and I served up a few new appetizers. It was such a fun and "sweet" way to celebrate the holidays!

My cookie contribution... mini Caramel S'more Cups. Super easy recipe with a chocolate chip cookie base, a Rolo tucked inside, and mini marshmallows + chocolate on top.

Caramel S'more Cups
From Betty Crocker

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® chocolate chip cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
36 round chewy caramels in milk chocolate, from 5 (1.91-oz) rolls, unwrapped
108 mini marshmallows (1 cup)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 36 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. 

Make cookie dough as directed on package, using butter and egg. Shape dough into 36 (1-inch) balls. Place 1 ball into each muffin cup. 

Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven; firmly press 1 candy into center of each cookie until flush with cookie top. Top each with 3 marshmallows. Bake 2 to 4 minutes longer or until marshmallows are puffed. Cool 30 minutes. Loosen edges of cookie with small metal spatula and remove to cooling racks. Cool completely. 

Place chocolate chips in small resealable freezer plastic bag. Microwave on High about 1 minute or until softened. Gently squeeze bag until chocolate is smooth; cut off tiny corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle chocolate over marshmallows. Let stand until hardened, about 10 minutes.

Here are the appetizers I tried. I think I'll keep them in the mix for future parties!

Seven Layer Mediterranean Dip
From greens and chocolate; originally from Circle B Kitchen

20 oz hummus
1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 large)

1 cup shredded romaine lettuce

2 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

3/4 cup olives, diced

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Pita chips for dipping

In large glass bowl, spread the hummus in an even layer.  Then add cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and cheese.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Serve with pita chips.

Prosciutto and Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms
From greens and chocolate

Makes about 20 mushrooms

16 oz package of whole button mushrooms
3 tbsp salted butter
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs (store-bought or homemade breadcrumbs seasoned well with Italian spices)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 thin slices of Prosciutto, sliced into small pieces
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup shredded white cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pop out the stems from the mushroom caps.  Finely dice the stems and set aside.  Heat a saute pan and add 2 tbsp butter.  Toss the mushroom caps until they begin to release their liquid, and are partially cooked.  Be patient, as the mushrooms might take awhile to begin releasing their liquid. Remove from the pan, and set on a baking sheet, open side up.

In same saute pan, add remaining tablespoon of butter and saute the green onions and garlic until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.  Add the diced mushroom stems and cook until all ingredients are softened.  Turn off heat.

In bowl, combine the mushroom and green onion mixture, bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  Lastly, add the grated parmesan and chopped prosciutto.

Stuff the caps with the mixture and top with grated white cheddar. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until cheese is browned.

Taste better than they look (greens and chocolate has much prettier pics!)
Artichoke Wonton Cups
From Taste of Home 
[My mom suggested mixing in some diced jalapeno for more flavor, and after trying the original recipe, I agree that it could use a little boost. But who can resist what's essentially artichoke dip in a cup?!]

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise 
1/2 teaspoon onion powder 
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 
1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped 
1 package (12 ounces) wonton wrappers [I used mini fillo shells instead; find them in the freezer section]

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir in mozzarella cheese and artichokes; set aside.  

Coat one side of each wonton wrapper with cooking spray; press greased side down into miniature muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

 Fill each cup with 1 tablespoon artichoke mixture. Bake 5-6 minutes longer or until golden brown. Serve warm. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Sweet & Tangy Meatballs [great crockpot recipe!]
From Table for Two

Large pack of frozen meatballs
1 16 oz. jar grape jelly
1 12 oz. jar of chili sauce [I used the Heinz version]

In a small pot on medium high heat, combine jelly and chili sauce until they’re combined and jelly is not chunky.

Put the entire bag of meatballs in the slow cooker insert and pour the jelly chili sauce on top, stir the meatballs around until they’re all coated.

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Toss every couple hours or so to re-coat the meatballs in the sauce. Serve hot.

The picture's a little steamy...

 What are your favorite holiday cookies and appetizers?

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Year of Self-Employment

My last day at my corporate job was Friday, December 16, 2011. It's been a year, if we stick with the same day of the week. At this point last year, I was packing up my office. People stopped by to say good-bye. I turned in my Blackberry and ID tag. I left the building with a couple of bags of stuff and a surreal feeling.

After five and a half years, I was going out on my own. I was taking a leap of faith.

How different my life is now. I love it, but of course, there are things I miss. The steady paycheck, the people, the constant collaboration and feedback, the availability of resources, the fun perks and free magazines, the flow of projects. (And today, I'm missing the company holiday party... ha!)

I learn new things every day, both good and bad, and experience plenty of ups and downs. But even during the challenging times this year, I've recalled the reasons I made this choice and felt reassured in my decision. I have the rare opportunity to pursue my dream, use my talents, make my own choices, and have the flexibility and freedom I desire. The sky's the limit for what I can do.

I have a vision for what I want my business to look like down the line. I'm not completely sure how I'll get from where I am to where I want to be, but then again, I had no idea a year ago what today would look like.

I found this quote below about a year ago, and I thought it was impossible to adopt this attitude, especially for an anxiety-prone person like me. But it's true, if we let go of fear and look for the fun, we'll slowly grow into the person we're meant to be. We'll quietly move to that place where we're most happy and fulfilled.

So much happens, so much changes, in a year's time. In high school, I used to joke that a lot can happen in two weeks. A lot can happen in a single moment too. I'm reminded of this in light of today's tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Let's refuse to take the people and blessings in our life for granted. Let's be grateful that we are living and growing and learning, no matter what our lives may contain. Let's accept the changes that will come along and trust that we're on the right path. Let's pray for others and give of ourselves. Let's remember what's truly important, now during this holiday season and into the new year.

How much has changed for you in the past year, two weeks, day? What does "fear" and "fun" look like in your life?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Club: Gone Girl

Our book club met on Tuesday night at C's place to discuss The Night Circus. C. served up homemade potato-artichoke soup and grown-up grilled cheeses, plus delicious brownies. It was the perfect dinner for a chilly winter night!

Personally, I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would (I'm not usually very interested in fantasy-based novels). Some of the girls found the story a little confusing as it switched between time periods and contained a lot of characters. And the ending was deemed a bit "anti-climactic." The summary on the back of the book might have portrayed it to be focused on the romance between the magicians, but the development of their love was pretty much skipped overand the circus was really the center of the story.

The circus, with its magical tents, intricate clock, and mesmerizing bonfire, captivates anyone who encounters itincluding those of us who read about it. I thought the characters were unique, full of personality and secrets, and the descriptive writing was enchanting. Erin Morgenstern created a whole world and filled it to the brim with magic and mystery.

Our discussion turned to the visual descriptions and how we could picture the circus and characters like a movie in our minds. We talked about how young children approach reading, as well as the apparent relationship between the speed at which a person reads and how much they enjoy reading. I also referenced this Huffington Post article about the workings of our brains while reading... it's something I often take for granted but wow, it's fascinating!

For next month, we'll be reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've heard lots of buzz about this book, and it's been a popular book club choice. Have any of you read it? What did you think? (No spoilers please!)

via Review:
Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2012: On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife Amy disappears. There are signs of struggle in the house and Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect. It doesn't help that Nick hasn't been completely honest with the police and, as Amy's case drags out for weeks, more and more vilifying evidence appears against him. Nick, however, maintains his innocence. Told from alternating points of view between Nick and Amy, Gillian Flynn creates an untrustworthy world that changes chapter-to-chapter.

Calling Gone Girl a psychological thriller is an understatement. As revelation after revelation unfolds, it becomes clear that the truth does not exist in the middle of Nick and Amy's points of view; in fact, the truth is far more dark, more twisted, and more creepy than you can imagine. Gone Girl is masterfully plotted from start to finish and the suspense doesn't waver for one page. It's one of those books you will feel the need to discuss immediately after finishing because the ending doesn't just come; it punches you in the gut.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Your Bookshelf Reveals About You

Currently, there are painters in our condo, working to cover our patched and splotchy ceilings with a nice, clean white hue. After going DIY for the walls, we weren't about to take on the ceiling project. It's awkward to have strangers in your home, whether you stick around or not.

This is all a long way of saying that I've become acutely aware of my belongings lately. Sure, it's just stuff, but the things within your home reflect who you are and what you enjoy. They indicate where you've been and where you're going, what matters most to you.

And that's perhaps most apparent in viewing the contents of someone's bookshelf. Or in my case, our one set of bookshelves as well as the countless books scattered throughout our condo.

I'm working from my friends' house around the corner while the painters paint away. S. and R. have an amazing collection of books (S. is a fellow English major!). They have their bookshelves set up like a mini library, but it also serves as a little glimpse of the two of themit feels personal and familiar and interesting. (Bonus: they have a lovely Christmas tree to admire, something we are lacking due to the condo improvements recently.)

I recently read A Cup of Jo's post on the new book My Ideal Bookshelf, a illustrated collection of the favorite reads of one hundred creative thinkers. What a fascinating way to get to know people better. (I also adore the story of her sister and brother-in-law that she shares in the post!)


My own bookshelf is overflowing, books stacked on top of the rows. I have books in every roomwriting-related ones in my "office," cookbooks in the kitchen, little stacks on the coffee table, on my nightstand, in the shelves of the media center, here and there. I own classics, modern-day novels, chick lit, books on style, design, food, entertaining, faith, relationships. Books from college and grad school. Books from various book clubs I've belonged to. Books I've been given as gifts and ones I've picked up for myself along the way.

As I thought about those booksand what they say about meI realized that what I read is very closely aligned with what I write, here on the blog and elsewhere. Those books reflect what I enjoy, my passions and my aspirations. Perhaps bookshelves are much more intimate than they seem.

What's on your ideal bookshelf? What do your books say about you?

Friday, December 7, 2012

If You Don't Like It, Change It

First, let's all say it together: TGIF!

This week, I've been working on getting up a little earlier. Instead of a 9 am wake-up time, I've started my day anywhere from 7 am to 8:30 am (okay, okay... one day, I slept in until 9:30).

I love having the flexibility to create my own schedule, and I'm naturally one to go to bed later and get up later. Plus, I often wake up for a couple hours in the middle of the night (so annoying!), so being able to sleep in a bit is a nice option for those times.

But as much as I wanted to ignore it, I kept feeling this need to wake up earlier. When I did, I always felt more productive.

As my mom has told me: if you don't like something, change it.

via The Everygirl
I wasn't sure if waking up earlier was the answer, but I felt like I could use my time better and get more done during the day, so I decided to try it out and see what happened. If I didn't like it, I could always go back to waking up later. I had nothing to lose.

Well, so far, I do like getting up earlieronce I get past the initial sleepiness and dragging myself out of bed.

I still have time in the morning to browse blogs and social media, check email, and catch up on the latest news flying around the Internet... time to ease into the day. But if I do all of that earlier now, I also have extra time in the morning to do something productive and start my day on the right foot.

In a similar way, I have been slacking on exercise and eating all kinds of carbs lately. I wanted to make some healthy changeseat better, work out more, that kind of thing. So this week, I tried my first "green smoothie" in order to cram more veggies into my diet. Not too bad! And I went to a Zumba class (haven't been to one of those in years!). As a former dance team member, the easy-to-follow, fast-paced moves and high-energy music turned a workout into FUN.

If you don't like it, change it. You have the power to change your life for the better.

What do you dislike? What change can you make to improve it?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What to Do When You're Feeling Uninspired

The number of times I posted here in November was an all-time low for me. I was fairly busy but not any more than normal.

I think it may be because I didn't allow myself time and space to be inspired and be creative.

We are in the process of making some repairs and updates to our condo, which sort of got in my head. Working from home when it's cluttered and crazy makes it hard to focus. Sure, I could scoot out to a coffee shop here and there, but I knew what I would face back at home.

I have to get over it though. I have to stop making excuses.

Lack of inspiration isn't an excuse either. Sometimes, writing is simply a "butt in chair" kind of thing. Sit down and write some words until something comes out, until something makes sense, until inspiration finds you.

And sometimes, there are ways to find inspiration and create new ideas before getting down to business (er, writing). There are techniques to help spark your imagination.

I recently recycled 2010 & 2011 issues of my magazine subscriptions (Glamour, SELF, and InStyle, for those who want to know). They are one of many sources of inspiration for me. And yes, I'm kind of a magazine hoarder...

Because of all this, I realized I needed to take the first step and recommit.

I want to recommit myself to writing here more often. My goal is three times a week, and while I may not always hit that goal, it's herewritten out for all you lovely readers to see.

And don't worry, I'm dedicated to writing quality content. I still believe in quality over quantity, but I also believe in consistency!

I'm making this commitment both for youbecause I love sharing my ideas and life, in hopes of making yours a little better and brighterand for mebecause I need to remember that sometimes the very act of writing will lead to inspiration, rather than the other way around.

Staying inspired isn't easy, so that's why we're covering the topic of creativity in our Create.Compose.Communicate newsletters during the month of December.

Are you ready to recommit?

I hope you'll join me and Sarah for our exploration of creativity, inspiration, and finding the courage to write even when you don't feel like it. We'll cover lots of ways to overcome that uninspired feeling. But the first thing to do is commit to writing, no matter what.

If you haven't yet, go ahead and sign up here. The first newsletter of this month goes out tomorrow, December 6.

Check out what Sarah has to say about creativity over at her blog, Inspiration-Driven Life.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Club: The Night Circus

Pre-Thanksgiving, our book club met at C.'s place to discuss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. C. served up a whole spread of Mexican cheese & black bean enchiladas, plus rice and chips with salsa and guac. Like many ladies I know, I love Mexican food -- delicious -- and I'm addicted to chips + pretty much any type of dip. (These recent meetings have really stepped up the standard in the food department!)

I'll confess, I only got through half of the book... though I did read the whole thing several years ago. I've been having a hard time finding time to read because I get sucked into my husband's TV-watching and then I find some ridiculous show I want to watch and then all of a sudden, it's time for bed and I haven't opened my book.

But the group as a whole really enjoyed the book this month. I have to say, I wasn't sure what people would think because it's slower-moving, and as many classics go, it's a different type of plot than today's bestsellers -- the story of a life in an older time and place, rather than something that makes your heart race as you turn the pages. But everyone loved it, and it prompted a discussion of poverty, education, and politics -- tricky topics for book club discussion but interesting nonetheless.

For next month's meeting, we're reading The Night Circus. After reading the summary, I didn't know if I'd get into it... but I had a bunch of reading time over Thanksgiving, and wow, I'm flying through it. Fascinating story. I'll discuss more once we meet!

via Review:
Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: Erin Morgenstern’s dark, enchanting debut takes us to the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, a circus that arrives without warning, simply appearing when yesterday it was not there. Young Celia and Marco have been cast into a rivalry at The Night Circus, one arranged long ago by powers they do not fully understand. Over time, their lives become more intricately enmeshed in a dance of love, joy, deceit, heartbreak, and magic. Author Morgenstern knows her world inside and out, and she guides the reader with a confident hand. The setting and tone are never less than mesmerizing. The characters are well-realized and memorable. But it is the Night Circus itself that might be the most memorable of all.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I'm counting my blessings... my faith, family, friends, home, health, food, and work I love to do.

Thank you for following my little blog. I hope it inspires you to try new things, to create, to not be afraid of messy rough drafts, to gather your friends and family close.

This year, we're celebrating with Scott's family. When I married Scott, my family grew and now includes even more wonderful people... and for that, I'm thankful.

I'll leave you with a few peeks at last year's Thanksgiving festivities at my parents' house :)

My mom sets a beautiful table...

The main entree

Side dishes!

Pies galore...

Game time with the fam

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Place of Quiet

Now that I work from home and on my own, I have pretty quiet days. The radiator hums a bit and buses occasionally barrel by on the street outside. Sometimes, I turn on the TV or some music for background noise.

But I've realized my days aren't actually quiet at all.

At the end of the day, I often feel spent. My attention and focus is frayed. My mind is overwhelmed with tips and blog posts and products.

The buzz of social media and emails and links to this article and that video are so very loud.

It's this type of noise that keeps me from being creative. Of course, it all has the possibility of inspiration. But too much of a good thing is simply too much.

I find myself yearning to get lost in a novel or scribble away in my journal... or just sit and think.

But the clash and bang of what's going on around me becomes a distraction. At times, it feels my only escape is sleep, the shower, church, or yoga class... those rare times I am away from my phone, the computer, the TV, and all is quiet.

We need quiet time to replenish our energy, tap into our imaginations, restore our passion for life and creating. Silence. Peace. Deep breaths. Dreams. Prayer. We need it even more now when the noise is threatening to take over every moment. Let's make room for quiet.

A recent "unplugged" moment. (Well, the mixer doesn't count, right?) 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Face the Unknown

This beautiful 2013 planner from Design Darling is heading my way. (Yes, I'm still a paper planner girl!) We're making holiday plans with family and friends. And this morning, I read Brittney Castro's piece for The Everygirl, "What Do You Want for Yourself in 2013?"

All signs are pointing to next year. Of course, I don't want to wish away the next few weeks. In fact, I want to hold onto them and savor every moment of celebration, family, and gratitude that comes with the holiday season.

But I can't help thinking about the new year. It's a fresh start, but for me, I'm not sure what will be written in the pages of my new planner. Sure, I have weddings, my sister's college graduation, birthdays, and a dentist appointment to add. 

It's the other things thoughthose unknownsthat drive a Type-A planner like me crazy. Growing my business, starting a family, and who knows what else... I have hopes and dreams and plans, but I don't know how or when they'll happen.

When dealing with uncertainty about the unknown, I realized there are three ways to go:

1. Determine what you can and cannot control. Do what you can and let go of the rest. It's impossible to know how one action or one step will affect the bigger picture, so try lots of new things and just keep moving forward. Don't allow uncertainty to hold you back, and at some point, you'll reach your goals, you'll get what you're working for, and you'll find a sense of certainty and peace.

2. Think of "the unknown" as "possibilities." Transform a negative into a positive. With a pessimistic mindset, the unknown can feel scary:
Anything can happen... I don't know what to do. What if I fail?
What if what I want doesn't happen? What if bad things happen?

By re-framing the unknown into opportunities and possibilities, it becomes:
Anything can happen! So many good things that I can't even imagine can happen!

3. Worry. Freak out. Lose sleep. Stress. Ugh... not fun. And not productive.

Moving forward, I'm doing all I can to choose the first two options. When I think about it, if I knew everything, where would the fun be in that? Planning it all out doesn't leave room for spontaneity. It doesn't allow for keeping an open mind and going off the planned path when opportunities come along. 

The unknown shouldn't be something to fear. It's a blank slate, filled with amazing possibilities.

How do you deal with the unknown?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When "No" Means "Not Now"

On Tuesday, I turned 28 years old.  We had dinner with Scott's family last weekend, and this coming weekend, we're going out to celebrate -- just the two of us on Friday and with a whole group of friends on Saturday.

So on the actual day, I enjoyed some relaxation time and opened gifts from my family and Scott (you can check out a few snapshots below). 

But throughout the week, I've been thinking a lot.  I've been reflecting on the past year, but mostly I've been contemplating the coming year.

Birthday roses from my in-laws

Fun polka-dot tights for the family birthday dinner

Free birthday pumpkin spice latte!

I voted!

Yummy lunch of white cheddar mac & cheese with onions, peas, and salmon

Girly birthday outfit: pink cardigan, purple pants and a bit of sparkle

Gifts from my family!

Scott's gift! Classic and beautiful.

It's probably the first time in my life when I'm unsure what the next year holds.  Yes, I quit my job last December and wasn't sure how my business would grow in 2012, but I did know I was finishing grad school and nannying for the first half of the year.  And I do know I'll continue to work hard and spend time with the people I love in the 12 months ahead, but there are more unknowns than ever before.

The good news: in the midst of the birthday celebrations and my time of reflection, I found peace.  I received a "no" this week -- one of many that I have received and one of many to come -- but this time, I didn't see it as a "no."  I realized it was simply a "not now" -- a sign that I was going to be okay, I was on the right path, and I shouldn't give up, worry, or feel discouraged.  It was a moment of complete trust that God has a plan and He is taking care of me.

And as part of "not now," I also refocused on the "now" -- today, the present time, my life as it is right now.  So much of the time, we're looking to the past or the future.  In this coming year, as a 28-year-old, I hope to savor the present and treasure this year of life, whatever it brings.

I hope to remember that "no" doesn't always mean "no, end of story."  In those quiet moments of prayer and questions and gratitude, I hope to find peace again and again... to understand that "no" often means "not now... be patient and focus on all the good in life at this very moment."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why Editing is Important

November begins tomorrow -- and with it, a new month of Create.Compose.Communicate, my weekly writing newsletter in collaboration with Sarah of Inspiration-Driven Communication.

The theme for the upcoming month is "Put on Your Editor's Hat" and will focus on tips and tricks for improving your rough drafts.

I'll be honest though... I don't love editing my own work.  (Other people's work is another story... I love helping others improve their writing!)

Most of the time, when I finish a blog post or an article or a paper, I'll go back through and reread it.  I'll change a few words, re-phrase a couple sentences, maybe pull some information to a different paragraph.  But I don't usually make a lot of changes.

One reason for the lack of changes at the end: I self-edit as I write.  With each sentence I type, I revise as needed before moving on.

The other reason: it's hard to look at your own work critically.  It's tough to "kill your darlings," as the saying goes.

As annoying or difficult as editing can be, I've learned that it's a crucial part of the writing process.  There is nothing worse than seeing an error in your work at a point when it's too late to make changes (yes, editors are human and don't always catch everything!).

Here's why it's important to edit:

1. Editing establishes and maintains your credibility.
Typos and errors will distract or confuse readers.  And it may make them question the validity of your content.  Whether you're writing for an editor, your boss, a client, or a friend, editing ensures that what you're saying isn't overshadowed by how you're saying it.

2. Editing gives you a different perspective.
While writing, you have a million thoughts running through your head and out your fingertips. Afterwards, switching to an editing mindset allows you to look at the words with new eyes and see inconsistencies or inaccuracies. Overall voice and tone become more apparent too.

3. Editing provides clarity.
When you edit, you have the ability to view the big picture, something you can't see while in the midst of writing. Upon review, perhaps you'll find that your conclusion now requires a slightly different introduction than you started with. Or maybe your main point shifted in the process or your paragraphs need to be re-organized.

4. Editing boosts creativity.
Playing with sentence structure or word choice comes into play once your draft is complete. You'll be able to spot repetition or weak sentences and then mix things up, making your writing sharper and stronger.

If you haven't signed up for Create.Compose.Communicate, be sure to sign up today. Our first newsletter of the new month goes out tomorrow, November 1.

Bonus: get Sarah's thoughts on why editing is important by visiting Inspiration-Driven Life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween at Home

This year, we didn't dress up for Halloween.  Scott loves scary movies and I love candy, so we combined the two for our Halloween celebration.  A few friends came over to watch the Notre Dame game (woo hoo! 8-0!) and then view some parts and pieces of scary movies.

I tried out this Glitter Guide recipe for Halloween Compost Cookies by Clara of Channeling Contessa for the occasion.  As our grocery store didn't have black and orange M&Ms, I used Reese's Pieces and they worked perfectly!  (Yes, there are crushed potato chips in the dough... trust me, you'll love the sweet + salty combo.)

I also made another batch of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles.  Yum!  It was the perfect way to celebrate the holiday (and the Irish win!).

How are you celebrating Halloween?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Cookie dough without the "dangerous" raw eggs?  Yes, please!  For K's bridesmaid lunch and nails last Friday, I made these chocolate chip cookie dough truffles.  So darn good.  If I didn't have to bring them to share, I might have been tempted to eat them all myself.

You can find the recipe below and on which I discovered via {av} and her recent "chocolate fix" post. [I did not use the popsicle sticks in my version, but be sure to check out the Bakerella link for another really cute and creative variation!!]

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
chocolate candy coating
popsicle sticks, cut in half (use kitchen scissors to make a clean, smooth cut)
  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  • Mix in milk and vanilla.
  • Add flour and salt and mix on low until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Chill dough in refrigerator for about 30 minutes until firm enough to roll or scoop into 1-inch balls.
  • Place rolled balls on a wax paper lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. (I had mine in for about an hour so longer is okay, too)
  • Melt candy coating following instructions on the package. Remove a couple of balls from the freezer at a time and insert the cut stick into the ball. Dip in candy coating and let any excess fall off back into the bowl.
  • Add small sprinkles on top and place on wax paper to set. If the chocolate pools at the bottom of the ball, dot the balls on the wax paper until most of it is pulled off the ball and then place it on a clean spot of the wax paper to set.
  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.

The "dough" rolled up and ready to be dipped!
Dipped and decorated with gold sprinkles!


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