Create*Bloom*Grow

Growing through life creatively…


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Christmas in Cologne (Köln), Germany

Continuing up the Rhine, we get to Cologne, Germany or Köln as it is known locally. This was the largest city we visited on our cruise and a fantastic day long adventure. The centerpiece of Cologne is the Kölner Dom or the Cologne Cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. If you play your cards right, you can see the spectacular Dom in at least 3 different lights (morning sun, sunset and after dark). I highly recommend planning to spend a long day on Cologne. There is much to see and do. Another interesting note is that it is filled with Roman influence and artifacts.

Christmas Market Cruise

Loved the simple, but elegant decorations on this building near the Dom.

Christmas Market Cruise

It was always so funny to see the markets boarded up and quiet before they opened in the morning. Definitely, the calm before the storm.

Christmas Market Cruise

Something you would be unlikely to see available for sale in the US 🙂

The Christmas Markets are truly a treat for all of your senses. So many amazing things to see, hear, touch, taste and smell!

Christmas Market Cruise

As seen outside an Irish pub. Leave it to the Irish to be over it all…

Christmas Market Cruise

With so many markets in Cologne, we really enjoyed the different themes. This gnome market was cute.

I highly recommend taking the little tourist train around if you are trying to cover a lot of ground. Cologne is definitely the biggest city we visited and the sights are spread out.

Christmas Market Cruise

What happens when Santa has spent too much time at the biergarten.

Christmas Market Cruise

Speaking of biergartens, we had a fantastic German lunch at Früh and enjoyed some Kölsch which is the specialty beer of Cologne. Similar to  champagne, it can only be called Kölsch if brewed in Cologne. We have been lucky to find some Kölsch-style microbrews since returning home.

The Lindt Chocolate Museum was really cool. This lovely angel is made out of white chocolate and very large. In contrast to these cute & too cool Santas.

Christmas Market Cruise

I love nutcrackers! This guy was awesome!

Christmas Market Cruise

The theme of the Christmas Market near the chocolate museum was nautical. Fun and different!

Christmas Market Cruise

More fun things to see back at the market near the Dom.

And in case we are hungry….

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It is always good to know that your hot dogs are #blessed.

As the sun sets, it casts a lovely golden glow over the cathedral.

Christmas Market Cruise

The lights begin to come on.

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And more magic is sprinkled over a lovely day.

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Keeping at our “100 Pins in a Week” Challenge

Continuing on (with delayed writing of the blog posts by a few months)…This has definitely been a fun and inspiring adventure for us.

Day 3 – Monday (7/20)

We started out the morning with a little card making time.

Occasionally, we have to put the challenge aside to pursue other mother/daughter fun we had planned. Today it was a trip into my friend’s salon for make up lessons. I wear make up most days, but it is pretty much the same every single day. I’ve never really “played” around and experimented with different looks. Although I am very clear with my daughter that beauty comes from the inside, I want her to know more than I know and I thought it would be helpful to get some professional advice. Bonus points that the person giving the lesson was not selling any particular line. This was of course followed by a trip to Ulta – every tweens dream. We *should* be going onto Pinterest to get some ideas to try. But since my only board about makeup or hair is called “Cosmetically Challenged”, that shows you my interest/skill level on these things.

Late afternoon was a little more card making. Between the 2 of us, we made cards with ideas inspired by 8 different Pins. Here is a quick photo of a few of the cards we made:

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It is kind of hard to tell, but the one on the bottom in the middle is a donut. The flat side is where it would stand up. WAY too cute!

At dinner, we decided to spend some quality time in the kitchen making Skinny Orange Chicken, the Benihana salad dressing and Disneyland-inspired Dole Whips. YUM!

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Not quite as brightly colored as the Benihana dressing, but tasty nonetheless.

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Skinny Orange Chicken was really good. Definitely a keeper to share with the family later!

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Tasty, frozen goodness.

Project Pin Count – 11

Total Pin Count – 26

Remember, you can keep up with us on Pinterest by looking at my following 2 boards:

100 Pinterest in a Week Ideas

100 Pinterest in a Week DONE


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Checking in on our “100 Pins in a Week” Challenge

We are having a blast! It is so fun actually taking the time to try some of the great ideas we’ve seen on Pinterest.

Day 1 – Saturday (7/18)

1st order of business was to get a care package out to the boys at camp. The past few year, the camp has had a theme and we have decorated the box (a poster mailing tube just to be different) to go with that, but now that he has advanced to Boy Scouts there is no specific theme. Cruising Pinterest for some creative ideas yielded the idea of wrapping the contents of the box into a giant cling wrap ball. How irritating – and PERFECT.

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The Contents (mostly for the Scout with a few for Daddy).

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Take one item at a time, roll and add another.

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Here is what it looked like in the box.

And we couldn’t just let the outside of the box go plain, so it got embellished with a number of Boy Scout comics we found on Pinterest.

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Project Pin Count – 7

Total Pin Count – 7

No weekend would be complete without a number of parties to attend. Today it was time to head off to the water park for a tween’s birthday party. Any endeavor cannot be all about taking, there has to be some giving too, so here is a new idea I am pinning to Pinterest. I wrapped the gift and used my Cricut to cut out the birthday girl’s name. How fun is that?

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Use your Cricut and vinyl to personalize a gift.

Project Pin Count – 1

Total Pin Count – 8

When we got home from the party is was time for a little less than glamorous business. Hop over to Pinterest for a stain removing remedy. Tried rubbing baking soda into a grease stain that already went through the washer & dryer. Jury is still out on how it went as I still need to run it through the wash again.

Project Pin Count – 1

Total Pin Count – 9

After a busy day, the girls were not hungry for a big dinner, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try some Baked Mozzarella Sticks. YUM!

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Project Pin Count – 1

Total Pin Count – 10

10 Pins for the 1st day. Not a bad start!

Day 2 – Sunday (7/19)

Time devoted to our challenge was a not much today as we went to an outdoor art show and a bridal shower. We were able to squeeze in a little card making time. I am very much someone who is “inspired” by the ideas on Pinterest and don’t feel the need to copy them exactly. I’ve been to a card-making workshop were everyone meticulously cuts scraps of paper to the exact size of the sample and creates an identical copy. I am more of a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of girl. But we had a blast and crafted a number of adorable cards, including one for the bride-to-be.

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Cards

Project Pin Count – 5

Total Pin Count – 15

We are going to need to move our tails to get to 100 this week! Remember, you can keep up with us on Pinterest by looking at my following 2 boards:

100 Pinterest in a Week Ideas

100 Pinterest in a Week DONE


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100% Not Irish

I know they say that, “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day”, but I am not so sure. I grew up going to Catholic school. Generally, at Catholic schools (especially back in the 70’s and 80’s) there are a lot of Irish and a lot of Italians. I am a quarter Italian and 0% Irish. I often felt fairly out of place not being 50% or 100% one of those 2 nationalities. Today is the day that I am reminded I am 100% NOT Irish.

I love the enthusiasm. I tend to be pretty spirited about whatever I am doing, but have found that I just can’t quite pull off much for St. Patrick’s Day. I always wear green and we eat the requisite meal. I am happy my kids are past the leprechaun trap stage as that was a special kind of torture for me.

At any rate, I am thrilled to be invited by much-more-Irish-than-me friends to their house for dinner. I was asked to bring dessert, so in the spirit of my Lenten crafting challenge, I had fun with it. I started yesterday and am done by noon today which is huge for me as I am the “Queen of Procrastination”. I did Thin Mint Truffles and Minty Mini Cupcakes.

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These are the Thin Mint Truffles. Throw a box of Thin Mints in the Cuisinart and combine with a block of cream cheese. Roll balls and dip in chocolate. What is not to like? This is probably a good time to mention that while I am fairly crafty with a lot of things, cake pops (or anything rolled and dipped) are not my strong point. I doubt anyone is going to complain!

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Next up the Minty Mini Cupcakes. Homemade double chocolate mini cupcakes topped with fluffy mint butter cream. They are topped with pieces of Andes mints which did not come out of the bag quite as pretty as I imagined them.

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I bought these at Walmart before Christmas and they never ended up in any of my Christmas cookies. I think they will be quite tasty and I look forward to using them again soon.

I hope all of you have a wonderful St. Patty’s Day however much Irish you are!

 


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Special Delivery

Part of my cookie baking madness happens so that I can give homemade cookies to my kids’ teachers.  My Mom always went overboard with teacher’s gifts and I certainly feel it is important to follow suit as teacher’s deserve to be appreciated!

In the early years of trying to figure out how to package the cookies for the teachers I stumbled across the idea of plain pizza boxes and this is now my signature presentation.  I order them from my favorite website – Papermart.  I add a bow and a tag or label and I am good to go…

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I love them for a number of reasons:

  • It is a totally unique presentation.  You should see people’s faces when you hand them a pizza box!
  • The cookies are contained and covered (and will not be slipping off the side of the plate as I drive them to their destination).
  • The flat boxes make them easy to transport.  Even with the bow, you can stack them up.
  • I don’t have to fight with the Saran Wrap.

Inside the box, I arrange an assortment of cookies (trying to separate like colors).  Here is a quick shot of what the teachers got yesterday.  I still have not hit the point in my cookie baking this year where I am decorating the cookies, so they are slightly less colorful than some years.

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It is easy to put together the boxes then add to them assembly-line style.

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Once they are loaded and the bows/tags have been added, I throw them in my handy bag (who doesn’t love their 31 Gifts Organizing Utility Tote?!??!) and head to school to play Santa.

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Confessions of an Obsessive Compulsive Christmas Cookie Baker

There are many creative avenues I love to pursue, but most don’t make me quite as OCD as baking Christmas cookies.  It all started one year when I was single, living in San Francisco and working a stressful corporate finance job.  One weekend in December, seeking a creative outlet, I started baking Christmas cookies and just DID NOT STOP.  At the end of the weekend, I looked around my sugar spattered kitchen and wondered what on earth I was going to do with them all.  I decided to have a “Cookie Party” which was to be an Open House where friends and family stop by to enjoy some cookies and holiday cheer.  What fun that was!

Fast forward 15+ years, a husband, 2 kids, a move (or 2 or 3) to the suburbs, I still continue this fun tradition.  It sometimes gets a little out of hand – both the baking and the party (we once had more than 150 people stop by)!  Luckily, my family enjoys it and my husband is great about washing the mounds of dishes required to make so many cookies.  I have done it almost every year with just a few exceptions.  Last year I took a year off, so this year I really need to turn it up.  Having a new double-oven will make it even more fun.

Here is a quick shot of one of the tables from 2011.

Cookie Party

Recipes have been gathered from a variety of sources.  I always start of with Chocolate Krinkles because my Mom made these cookies the morning I was born (after mopping the floors on her hands and knees and before making it to her 11am doctors appointment, but I digress) and I just think it is a good way to kick things off.  Next inspiration came from Southern Living at Home’s Christmas Cookies book.

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This is actually the 2nd copy of this book I have owned as the first one nearly disintegrated.  I honor that 1st Cookie Party, but making a few of the same recipes that I have made every year (Peppermint Swirls, Coffee Crisps & Oreo Cookie Balls).

My second source of recipes is Better Homes and Garden’s annual Christmas Cookies issue.  This magazine comes out around September 1st (I am not going to lie when I say I start “stalking” the news stands not long after that date) and can be found a most craft stores and sometimes even the supermarket.  I have these dating back to 1998.  I just got the bright idea last week to look for older issues on EBay (duh!).  “Viola!” several issues are already on their way to me!

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I usually make about 30 different kinds of cookies and nearly 2,000 individual cookies.  Because this much crazy baking would involve a thousand trips to the store if I didn’t plan ahead, I do create a spreadsheet to list which recipes I plan to do, where I can find the recipe and what ingredients they require.  I do sometimes get inspired by new things along the way or decide to make multiple batches of my favorites, but this gives me an idea of where to start.  How else would I know that I needed 40 cups of flour, 31 eggs and 13 cups of butter?

I guess it is time to stop procrastinating and get baking!  I will keep you posted on how it is going this year and maybe share a few of my favorite recipes…


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In Love with a Bug

If I had to pick just one tool to craft with, it would likely be my Cricut!

A little about me and my “Bug” since the story of my 1st Cricut is actually kind of a funny one.  One of my friends had mentioned that she did not think she would be using her Cricut much as she transitioned to digital scrapbooking.  She had also mentioned that she was interested in taking up golf.  WAY back in the day when I was single and working a corporate job in San Francisco, my parents bought me golf clubs thinking that would be beneficial to my career.  After injuring my back, doing a 180 degree change in my career goals and meeting my husband who was not a golfer, I realized that golf was not in my future.  I proposed to my friend that we trade my golf clubs for her Cricut.  This sounds kind of crazy now when Cricuts are pretty reasonable, but back when they first came out, they were pretty pricey.  We made the trade and I have been chirping along ever since.  Although I still have this original “Baby Bug”, I have had several since that time and am currently doing most of my work with an Expression 2 machine.

These machines can take your scrapbooking to amazing new heights.  In addition, I have found so many uses for this machine outside of scrapbooking.  I have used my Cricut to make signs for my business, banners for my school, countless projects for my Girl Scout troop, greeting cards, posters and projects for my children’s school assignments and much more.

Perhaps the most interesting use of my Cricut came as I was getting ready for a bridal shower I was throwing for my nephew’s fiancee.  I remembered back to one of my own bridal showers that was done by my husband’s co-workers.  One of the cool, local ethnic food places near my husband’s office in Berkeley, CA had taken a plate of hummus and decorated the top of it with a multitude of different spices in a patchwork quilt design.  That gave me the idea to decorate my own hummus…or in this case monogram it!

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To do this, I started by spreading my hummus and giving it a fairly flat surface.  I then took some heavy paper and cut out a large M (using the Creative Memories Divine Wedding cartridge).  Instead of using the shape that the Cricut cut out, I used the outside (the negative of the shape) as a stencil.  I placed this gently over my hummus and sprinkled some paprika over the opening.  I carefully lifted up the paper and was left with the above result.  Pretty fun for a last minute idea 10 minutes before I ran out the door to the shower!