Crock Pot Cider

Making Hot Cider in the Crock Pot is super simple, makes the house smell delicious, and perfect for any holiday get-together. And it is insanely simple. Sure, you can find fancy recipes for mulling spices, but this crock pot cider takes only four ingredients (three will work in a pinch), and then you just let it simmer to perfection!

Make easy crock pot spiced apple cider - takes only 5 minutes of prep time, and 4 ingredients!

You’ll need:
Apple juice or apple cider (large bottle from Costco, or two smaller ones from the store)
Orange
Whole Cloves
Cinnamon stick (if you can’t find one, just don’t use it – no big deal)
Knife
Crock Pot

making crock pot cider

Cut slits in the orange, about an inch or so apart. We’re just cutting into the peel – not slicing up the orange.

cut into orange

Poke the cloves into the peel, between the slices. I like making pretty lines, but you can get fancy with letters or shapes if you like.

press in cloves

cloves in the orange

Put the orange, two sticks of cinnamon, and the apple juice all in the crock pot. Simmer on High for about 6 hours. Switch to low for serving. Yum!

warm spiced cider in the crock pot

The perfect warm drink for a cold day!

crock pot apple cider - takes just 4 ingredients, and 5 minutes of prep time

 

Quilted Christmas Stocking

Looking to make new Christmas Stockings this year? Or just want a fun way to practice your free-motion quilting? These quilted Christmas Stockings are easy to make and fun to quilt!

Fairfield Quilted Holiday Stocking

Start by grabbing your fabric, stocking pattern, chalk pencil, basting spray, backing fabric (one for the back of the quilting, one for the lining of the stocking), ribbon for hanging, and of course your Fairfield Batting.

supplies for quilted stocking

Baste your layers – the batting between a layer of red fabric and a layer of backing fabric (I used muslin).

Trace the stocking on the fabric. Flip the template and trace again, a mirror image.

trace stocking

Quilt both sides of the stocking – but make sure to go beyond the lines.

quilted layers

Cut out the stockings, and cut two lining pieces.

cut lining pieces

Stitch the top of a lining piece to the top of a quilted piece. Repeat with the other set.

stitch tops

Lay the layers on top of each other, right sides together as shown in the above image, then stitch all the way around, leaving a 4″ hole for turning.

Turn right side out through the hole, stitch the hole closed, and tuck the lining into the socking.

tuck in lining

Stitch on a loop of ribbon to hang.

attach ribbon loop

Now make more for the whole family!

tie up holiday stocking

Christmas Tree Half-Square Triangle Quilt

I was sent a fat quarter bundle of Robert Kaufman’s Holiday Flourish fabric for a fun challenge with the other Fairfield designers. When it came in the mail, I was excited, and full of ideas. But then deadlines came, and the bundle was pushed aside, and so were the ideas.

But, projects have a magical way of becoming important again when their deadline is due… and that’s what happened with this project! I went to Quiltmarket, and when I came back, I had to get started making something with these fat quarters. I picked up a fun half-square triangle ruler at market, and was excited to use it… so I thought I’d make a fun wall hanging that looked fun and scrappy with half-square triangles.

half square triangle christmas tree quilt

finished size: 30.5 x 30.5″

 

This bundle was perfect for making the wall hanging! And at 2.5′ square, this wall hanging is the perfect size for anywhere in the house.

 

To make the wall hanging, you’ll need:
4 black fat quarters
7 gold fat quarters
1 yard backing fabric
1/4 yard for binding

From the Fat quarters, make your half-square triangles. They’re all 2″ finished triangles. Use whatever method you like to make them. I used a ruler that makes 24 at a time – you can use triangle paper, or the old method of cutting squares, drawing a line diagonally down the center, then stitching on each side. If you do this method, your cut squares will be 2 7/8″ to make the 2″ finished HSTs.

For the quarter square triangle, cut 3 4″ squares – two gold ones and one black one.
67 black-on-black HSTs
22 black-on-gold HSTs
135 gold-on-gold HSTs
1 quarter-square triangle

quilt supplies

Once you have all the HSTs made, it is time to stitch them together to make the tree shape. You can lay them out on a design wall, or the floor, and stitch them one set at a time to make your rows. Or, you can cheat like I did!

Fairfield has a new line of interfacings that will be available in stores starting January. I pulled out the lightweight fusible interfacing, and drew a 2.5″ grid on the back. Then I fused the squares onto the grid to keep them in place. Once all the squares are fused in place, I was able to stitch down a whole row at once!

stitch down rows

Once the top was pieced, I quilted the top using Fairfield Superior 80/20 Blend batting. I used a walking foot for some simple straight-line quilting. The fabric was already so busy, I decided it didn’t need busy free-motion quilting.

Then I bound it, and the quilt was done!

christmas tree quilt from half square triangles

Holiday Home Tour

Well hello there! I thought I’d take you on a little tour of the front room, decked out for the holidays. Not the entire house… because you don’t want to see my disaster of a wrapping station, or the front room that’s looking particularly lived-in after the entire family has come down with the flu (it was a rough weekend). But I’ll give you a little peek into the mostly-un-photoshopped parts of the house that have been decorated for the holidays.

If you want to see some other bloggers’ Holiday spaces, check out this post over at Denise Designed for details on the holiday home tour.

First, our front door. I made the Ornament Bricks this year. The wreath I made years and years ago – just a simple store-bought garland wreath that I wrapped with a string of bells. I love that it jingles whenever we open the door!

The Santa mat was a gift… I love that it adds a little extra holiday ho-ho-ho!

Holiday Doorway

view of the front room

Inside the door is our Christmas tree. We move around the couches at Christmastime to fit the tree. The two rockers belong to my kiddos – they were first birthday gifts from my in-laws. My MIL also made the Santa that stands to the right of the tree. Behind Santa is an Advent Calendar that I stitched up from a fabric panel years ago – but we’ve never actually used it to count down the days to Christmas! On the back of the door is the wreath I made this year.

tree and ornaments

At the top of the tree is a simple star (my 5-year old was super excited to put the star on top of the tree this year), and just below the star are my two turtle doves. I love my doves, I’ve had them as part of my holiday decor for years.

two turtle doves

You can also see the ornaments that hang from the valences. I have ornaments from all the downstairs valences. A simple way to add decor throughout the house.

holiday decor

Hanging from the mirror is the elongated wreath I made last year, and next to it a fun sign…

small table runner

On the coffee table between the tree and the sofa is a table runner that I made back in 2010. It is a simple quilt-as-you-go runner made with strips of holiday fabric. On the runner are my Santa Candlesticks.

dancing snowglobes

Also on the coffee table are my little dancing Hallmark snowless snowglobes. I’m not sure what these are called, but Hallmark sold them years ago, with a new one coming out every week or so. I wasn’t dedicated enough to get the whole collection, but someday need to go on Ebay to get more of the set. I love these guys, and so do my kids.

You can see on the couch is a Christmas Quilt, this one made by my husband’s Auntie. She’s an avid quilter, and made this flannel quilt for us years ago. I love snuggling under it during the holidays.

end table

Between the sofas is a little endtable. I have a beaded mat, some holiday coasters, my Mason Jar with Light-up tree, and this year’s photo of the kiddos with Santa. I’m loving Viv from the V Spot’s holiday tradition of framed holiday photos that come out every year, and want to start that tradition with my boys. Although I doubt I’ll be re-painting the frames each year.

living room

Next is the china hutch. We don’t have a fireplace, so the china hutch is where we hang our stockings. Before we had the hutch, we hung our stockings from the banister.

stockings on the china hutch

I hung my simple silver ball garland between the stockings.

stockings hanging

I made the stockings 4 years ago. The names are cross-stitched by hand. The snowman image and the cross-stiched name are machine appliqued onto the stocking, which has a furry cuff.

mom and dad stocking

Grandma, Grandpa, and Auntie have stockings that match ours, because they joined us for Christmas that year. The baby’s stocking was made last year to match. The fabric is a white-on-white print that doesn’t show up in the photos, but gives some subtle contrast on the fabric.

banister

Past the dining room is the banister and a snowflake hanging from the stairs that holds Christmas cards. I have decor up in the rest of the house, but I’ll save that for another day… or maybe another year.

Most of the decor in the house is up-high, or very kid friendly. With two little guys, I want them to feel like they can touch, play with, and be part of the holiday decorations. Christmas is for the kids, after all, and they shouldn’t be afraid of interacting with it… right?

Make sure you check out Denise Designed for the list of home tours, and you can also check out the Everything Christmas Pinterest Board for more inspiration!

Christmas Home Tour 2013

Gilded Holly Holiday Wreath

Gilded Holly Wreath on Always Expect Moore

Wreaths are a great way to spruce up any part of the house that has a door… but especially the front door. I love having a wreath on my front door. I think it makes it welcoming and inviting… before my guest even crosses the threshold. For the last 10 years or so I’ve used my jingle bell wreath… so this year I thought it was time for a new wreath. I whipped up this Gilded Holly Wreath in about an hour… it was simple to make, and has just the right amount of shimmer and glam, while still being simple. Totally my style – and a great way to welcome guests at my front door!

gilded holly leaf wreath suppliesTo make your own wreath you need:
Grapevine Wreath
Holly Leaves (I got mine at Consumer Crafts .com)
Martha Stewart Gilding adhesive & Gilding
Martha Stewart Decoupage in Opal
Paint brushes
Hot Glue
Ribbon

 

 

 

Start by laying out the Holly Leaves – they stick together, so make sure you get them individually laid out. Then run a line of gilding adhesive down one side of the leaf.

paint edges with gilding adhesive

Once the glue goes clear, press the leaves to the gliding sheets.

press leaves to gilding

When you lift up the leaf, if there are any bald spots, just press it back onto the gilding sheet. Once all the bald spots are covered, rub the leaf between your fingers to rub away any extra gilding.

rub off gilding

Once you have all your leaves gilded, put a light coat of decoupage over the leaves. This seals in the gilding and adds a little extra sparkle.

Decoupage over the leaves

While the decoupage dries, which won’t take that long, tie the ribbon around one side of the wreath.

tie bow

Then start gluing the leaves into place.

Hot glue on the back of leaves

I start with the leaves closest to the bow, and then move out, lifting the leaves and adding others underneath.

place leaves

To give the wreath some balance, I added some leaves on other parts of the wreath.

glue extra holly wreaths

And it was that easy!

all holly leaves in place

Whimsical Holiday Entertaining Recipes

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.Holiday Entertaining with Smart & Final #shop

This Holiday season, we’re staying at home. I have let my family and in-laws know that they are all welcome at our house… but we don’t plan to do any holiday traveling. We traveled last December, and we’ve done a lot of traveling this year for family parties and events. Now, we get to enjoy some time at home. Which is perfect for me, because I love Holiday entertaining. I love dressing up our home, and welcoming guests. I love cooking and preparing delicious treats. This holiday, with the help of Smart & Final, I thought I’d come up with a sweet twist on drinks and appetizers.

Instead of traditional drinks and savory appetizers, I came up with some sweet candy sushi and drinks that use Country Time Lemonade and Kool Aid as the base. But don’t let the Kool Aid and Lemonade fool you… these drinks have kick!

I started by making the Candy Bar Rolls and Starburst Nigiri.

candy bar sushi platter #choosesmart #shop

For my “sushi”, instead of rice I used Cheerio treats.

To make your own Candy Bar Sushi Rolls you need:
2 tbsp butter
2 c  mini marshmallows
3 c Cheerios
2 Snickers bars
2 3Musketeers bars

Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan on med heat. Add marshmallows. Stir until melted together. Add Cheerios, and stir until fully combined.

Tip: to keep everything from sticking to your spoon, spray your spoon with non-stick spray.

To turn the Cheerio treats into candy sushi, pour half of the still hot Cheerio treat mixture on a piece of aluminum foil, sprayed with non-stick spray. Use your spoon to spread it out into a large rectangle. Place two candy bars (with wrappers removed, of course) down on the middle of the rectangle of cheerio treats. Fold in the sides of the foil so that the Cheerio treats encircle the candy bars. Roll the treats in the foil to even them out around the candy bars. You’ll feel them melting into the chocolate coating on the candy bars a little. That’s fine.

Remove from the foil and set aside to cool. Repeat with the second half of Cheerio treats and two more candy bars. You can use the same piece of foil, and no need to re-spray with no-stick spray. There will be enough left on the foil.candy sushi roll #choosesmat #shop

Once the Cheerio treats cool, cut into pieces about 1″ wide with a SHARP knife.

Make Candy Bar Sushi #choosesmart #shop

To make the Starburst Nigiri, you need:
2 tbsp butter
2 c mini marshmallows
3 c Cheerios
Starburst Candies (unwrapped)
Sprinkles (optional)

Make a batch of Cheerio treats, just like before. Make tablespoon-sized balls of treats on foil. Make sure to spray both your spoons and foil with non-stick spray.

Put 3 starburst in the microwave. Times will vary based on your microwave, but mine took about 10 seconds. You want them slightly softened, NOT melted.

Pull the warm Starburst into the shape of a slice of raw fish, and set on top of your cereal treat “rice ball”. Dip in sprinkles if you like.

As long as I was giving Cheerios and candy bars a more “mature” look in the form of candy sushi, I thought I’d give CountryTime lemonade and Kool Aid a makeover. Because what is more welcoming after a long drive than a refreshing drink?

Pitcher of Kool Aid #choosesmart #shop

I made a Kool-Aid a-rita. Which is the delicious love-child of a Margarita and Kool-Aid. You can make it on the rocks or blended, the recipe changes a little based on how you want to serve it.

kool aid a-rita #choosesmart #shop

Kool-Aid a-rita on the Rocks:

3 parts Kool-Aid
2 parts Tequila
1 part Grand Marnier
Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Blended Kool-Aid a-rita

3/4 c Kool-Aid
1 c Tequila
1/2 c Grand Marnier
Add a scoop of Kool-Aid powder
Fill blender with ice, blend until smooth. Garnish with a slice of lime.

 

I like giving my guests two different drink options when entertaining. That way, if they’re not a fan of a particular drink (or the booze in that drink), they have options. I made the second drink with Country Time lemonade:

Sweet Suprise CountryTime Lemonade Drink #choosesmart #shop

Sweet Surprise

Sugar rim with 50/50 mix of CountryTime Lemonade and Sugar
3 parts CountryTime Lemonade
1 part Vodka
Pour in glass over ice
Top with a splash of Chambord (about 1 tbsp)
Add a Maraschino Cherry
(the Chambord and Cherry will sink to the bottom)

The surprise is the cherry at the bottom of the drink.

If you’ve never sugared the rim of a glass before, it is easy to do:

How to Sugar the rim #choosesmart #shop

Mix a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of the lemonade mix together on a small plate. On a second plate, pour a little of the prepared lemonade.

Dip the rim of the glass into the lemonade. Let the excess drip off. Then dip into the sugar mixture. It is that easy!

Holiday entertaining has never been as sweet!

Oh – and keep a pitcher of un-spiked Kool-Aid and Lemonade around for your under-21 houseguests!

Smart and Final is a great store for all your entertaining needs – from meat to dairy, produce to paper goods, they’ve got you covered! Check them out on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/SmartFinal and on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/SmartFinal

And right now there is a great promotion going on! Save $5 when you buy 5 select General Mills, Mars, and other products (like the cereal, drink powders, and candy bars used in my recipes), AND get free Adult-Child movie passes!

Save 5 and get a free movie ticket #choosesmart #shop

Sugar Cookie House Decorating Party

When I was a child, we got cookie cutters for making gingerbread houses. And every year, I’d bake gingerbread, cut out the pieces, and we’d make entire villages of cookie houses. It was one of my favorite Christmas memories.

After I moved out on my own, I found my own set of gingerbread house cookie cutters, but I started substituting a firm sugar cookie dough for the gingerbread. Because although I love the smell of gingerbread, I find that most people prefer the taste of sugar cookie. Myself included.

I want my sons to grow up with the tradition of making cookie houses. Last year we built them with cousins. This year, we invited friends over to come build with us.

I sent out e-vites to the parents, inviting them to come over. They were asked to each bring a bag of candy, and I’d provide the houses.

I headed out to Smart & Final to pick up what I would need: plates to use as the house bases, ingredients for the sugar cookies, ingredients for the icing, and some candies to get the party started (and add variety). You’ll find each recipe I used for the party at the end of the post. I also used plastic tablecloth on the roll from Smart & Final on the table – makes clean up so much easier! Smart & Final is a great place to shop when hosting a party – they have everything from plates to chafing dishes to to-go boxes so that your guests can take home their leftovers!

The day before, I made the cookie parts, let them set, and that night I used Royal Icing to put them together, and secure them to the plate.

The next morning I made Buttercream frosting for the kids to use. I find that Royal Icing is too tough for most kids to squeeze out, so I used Buttercream for the kids instead. Royal Icing is great to keep candy on securely, since it dries candy-hard, but the sugar cookie houses for the kids didn’t need to get that hard, so Buttercream frosting worked just fine. I put a couple tablespoons into each zip-top bag, and snipped off a corner of the bag to make multiple icing bags without multiple couplers and fancy cake tips… and also with less mess! The sipper side of the bag prevents the frosting from accidentally coming out the back.

All the candy was put in bowls in the middle of the table. This way kids could easily get what they needed.

The kids had a blast creating their houses!

Firm Sugar Cookie Dough
2 1/3 c flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt
1/2c butter
1c granulated sugar
1 egg
Mix egg butter, and sugar. Beat until well mixed. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Put in fridge for at least 20 minutes. Roll out onto a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin, and cut to size. Bake for 7-10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Royal Icing
3tbsp Meringue Powder (find in the baking section of your craft store)
4c sifted powdered sugar
6 tablespoons water (a little more or less as needed)
Put all ingredients in bowl and mix well. BE CAREFUL, if the icing gets too thick, it can and will break your mixer… it is like food cement. If the mix is still to heavy, SLOWLY add water 1tsp at a time and keep mixing until done.

Buttercream Frosting
1/2c shortening
1/2c softened butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4c powdered sugar
2 tbs milk

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a mixer until fully incorporated and creamy.

Get more great holiday ideas below or at the Smart and Final Social Circular. You can also check out Smart & Final on Twitter and on Facebook.


I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Smart & Final #CBias  #SocialFabric #ChooseSmart