Monday, November 30, 2009


Look at the pretty, pretty gemstones I got at the Gem Expo! This was my second time visiting the Gem Expo (last time I got some Czech glass flower beads and some freshwater coin pearls) and I had a hard time holding back from buying more strands of sparkly gems. For the most part, the offerings at the Gem Expo aren't my taste (a lot of big, chunky beads and cheap findings for folks who do beading) so typically there are only a handful of freshwater pearls and gemstones tempting me. I was a bit disappointed as there were very few quality pearl offerings this time. I had my hopes on getting some higher grade freshwater pearls to use in knotted bracelets and necklaces. I've been wanting to do more knotting since I made the Edwardian-inspired pearl collar for a recent wedding. Unfortunately there were no pearls that met my standards, so I settled on these four strands of gemstones. From bottom to top: pale blue chalcedony, smokey quartz (one of my absolute favorite gemstones), blue chalcedony and black chalcedony. I was really tempted to buy some $100-$200/strand gems but knew I couldn't make that big of an investment without yet having secured a steady market for my luxe designs. It's nice having the opportunity to shop for gemstones in person. Typically I buy my gemstones online, but it's very difficult to tell the quality of a gem when you cannot see it in person. It's nice to have the opportunity to pick out the exact strands you'd like to purchase.

Next time the Gem Expo stops in Lexington, I'd like to visit the show early on (both times I have gone it has been in the afternoon of the last day) to make sure I can choose from the best offerings.

I love the pale, almost icy blue color of this chalcedony. A similar size strand of rose quartz had also captured my eye but I decided I liked the opaqueness of the chalcedony more than the translucent rose quartz. In an ideal world, I would have purchased both strands, but I was trying to be modest with my budget.

I just love smokey quartz! I have always been mesmerized by it's dark yet translucent color. It's sort of mysterious in the most beautiful way. I also love the way it pairs beautifully with my preferred pastel palette. This strand was my splurge of the day, but it was totally worth it as there are 56 gleaming briolettes waiting to be turned into all sorts of fabulous designs!

Next are some smooth, rich blue chalcedony briolettes. I typically am not very drawn to smooth, polished briolettes but I thought these would make lovely necklace focals! I think this shade of blue is stunning. It works well for a winter or summer palette. I love it paired with icy whites and silvers, and equally with warm golds and corals.

Lastly are the black chalcedony briolettes. These are just a wee bit smaller than the blue chalcedony briolettes above which makes them a bit more befitting of my delicate style. A few are small enough to work beautifully as earrings and the others will make fantastic pendants.

Stay tuned as I turn these gorgeous gems into fabulous new designs!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Start of My Christmas Baking

Aren't these gingerbread tealight holders absolutely festive and gorgeous? These are from Na Miotle and I think they are stunning. I would have never thought of making gingerbread candleholders but now I am dying to make these. Wouldn't they be the perfect addition to a holiday tablescape? I think there is something so traditional and magical about them. There are lots of gorgeous, creative Christmas baking projects over at Na Miotle.

Speaking of holiday baking, I baked my first batch of Christmas cookies late last night! I made my absolute favorite Christmas cookies from childhood and they were just as delicious and addictive as I remember.

The recipe comes from Taste of Home. I remember stumbling upon this recipe in Taste of Home magazine with my mother when I was little. I used to search through the magazines with her to see who could find the hidden toothpick first. :) I cannot remember how old I was when we first made these cookies, but I remember how I instantly loved them and begged for them every year since.

The recipe, White Velvet Cutouts, is essentially a soft sugar cookie with a slight tang from the addition of cream cheese in the batter. They bake up beautifully and don't spread too much as there is no leavening agent in the batter. They make for a beautiful presentation as they bake until just set but not brown (personally I hate a sugar cookie with a golden bottom).

The soft texture and unique flavor of these cookies make them memorable and utterly addictive. I really and truly think I may abandon all other sugar cookie recipes now that I have this one in my repertoire. The recipe includes a simple buttercream frosting which sets up just enough to allow the cookies to be stacked but is still soft and inviting. The cookies aren't overly sweet because of the cream cheese so the frosting adds a welcomed extra sweetness, though they are perfectly delightful without the frosting!

My mother and I always skipped chilling the dough and used a cookie press to shape the cookies for a Spritz Cookie-like effect. Since I don't have a cookie press of my own, I decided to follow the recipe and roll/cutout my cookies. I made a few different shapes but decided these trees were the cutest. I decorated the large trees by spreading the icing out on the cookie and adding a few sugar pearl "ornaments." I thought spreading the icing out evenly was a bit too tedious (I didn't start decorating the cookies until 2 or 3 am and was very tired), so I decided to pipe little star "branches" on the smaller trees.

I rolled and cut my entire batch last night but still have all the scraps from the first roll in the fridge, so I have lots of cookies in my future! It's a good thing too, because between my husband, the six friends he had over today, and myself, there are only a few of the original cookies left! They are that good, folks.

So if you have an opening in your holiday baking schedule, I highly suggest you try these cookies! I'm fairly certain they'll become a favorite and a tradition in your own family.

White Velvet Cutouts
adapted from Taste of Home

2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Buttercream Frosting:
3-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, divided (I sifted mine as well)
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons milk, divided (I ended up using 5)
food coloring, optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour. Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm.

Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch shapes; place 1 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until set (not browned). Cool 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool.

For frosting, combine 1-1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk in the bowl of an electric mixer; beat until smooth. Gradually add remaining sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add enough remaining milk and food coloring (if using) until frosting reaches desired consistency. Frost and decorate cookies.

Yield: about 7 dozen cookies.

200 Hearts!

Yesterday I reached 200 Hearts in my Etsy shop and I couldn't be more excited! I would love to reach 250 by the end of the year. It is such a joy seeing each and every new heart.

I am also up to 75 sales now after all the Black Friday shoppers. I am so glad I'm finally on my way to getting my shop full. Until now my time has been spent mostly on selling at local boutiques and through shows. I'm really pleased to be on my way to having the full range of my work available online for my customers. I still have a long way to go to having even a quarter of my current stock online, but I feel like I'm finally hitting a stride and getting into a good routine.

This afternoon I'll be stopping by the Gem and Bead Show in Lexington and look forward to possibly finding some new sparkly gems to use in my designs. I'll be back in the studio today, packaging up all the Black Friday orders and adding more items to my shop.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Black Friday Purchases

I wasn't originally planning to make any Black Friday purchases this year. That is until I read via Etsy Forums that the ever popular Dennis Anderson was participating in the Black Friday madness. I casually clicked over to the Anderson Soap Company shop and that is where I found these three items that I simply could not resist!

Vanilla Bean Solid Perfume! I mean, seriously, how could I resist? Every time I bake with my unbelievably decadent Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract, I am always so tempted to just splash the stuff all over myself--it smells so divine! If it weren't for the hefty price I pay for the good stuff, I probably would. Don't judge.

Then I found this Turkish Mocha Body Butter and, of course, it got added to my cart as well. I love anything coffee scented. My husband is going to strongly regret this purchase--he despises the smell of coffee. The winter cold and all the dishes I wash (our apartment sadly has no dishwasher) has left my hands quite dry. I am hoping this rich body butter will provide the moisture I need to keep my hands happy this winter.

My final purchase was a stick of the Sweet Orange Luscious Lip Balm. I typically only use Burt's Bees lip balm, but I make an exception every now and then to try different handmade lip balms. I think this Sweet Orange will be lovely.

I can't wait to receive all my new body products from Dennis Anderson. I love being pampered, don't you?! Do you have any bath or body products you swear by?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Last Chance!

Just one last reminder that there are only 3 hours left in the Black Friday Sale! I have been adding new items to my shop all day and am still adding more and more.

These are a few of my favorites amongst the new additions. I just love the Beekeeper Necklace!

Did you find any awesome deals on this Black Friday?

The Sale is On!

Just a friendly reminder that the Black Friday Sale in my Etsy shop is going on right now until midnight tonight (Eastern Standard Time, folks). That means you have a little over 14 hours left to shop the sale.

Here are the awesome Black Friday Sale details:

All orders placed during this time will receive 25% off.
Buy 4 items, get a 5th free.
All orders over $50 (after discounts are applied) will receive a free gift.

To participate in the sale:
Add desired items to your Etsy cart and proceed to checkout. Enter "Black Friday" in the "message to the seller" during checkout. You can wait for a revised PayPal invoice to be emailed to you before making payment or you can submit payment immediately and I will issue you a refund through PayPal for the discounted amount.

The fine print:
If buying 4 items, to receive a free 5th item, please add 5 items to your cart. The 5th free item will be the item of lowest price in your order.

This offer may only be redeemed on items listed in my Etsy shop at the time of the sale and cannot be applied toward custom orders.

Payment must be made within 3 days or discounts will be void.

I will be adding new items to the shop throughout the day and relisting sold items. If something has sold that you had your eye on, feel free to contact me to check and see if there is another available.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

As Good as the Hype

I have wanted to try Nutella for a while now, especially having seen so many tempting looking desserts pop up at Tastespotting and Foodgawker that featured the spread. On Sunday when I headed to Kroger to get some chickens to roast, I saw the Nutella on sale and I had to grab a jar.


Nutella is even better than I could have imagined. The consistency is delightful and I am crazy about the nutty, chocolaty flavor. I have been enjoying Nutella on homemade bread for breakfast all week.

Now I am dying to bake with Nutella. Since I've been meaning to try my hand at french macarons, I think these Coffee and Dark Chocolate-Nutella Macarons just might have to move to the top of my to bake list.

I am planning on baking on Saturday as part of my Christmas decorating fun. These may not be particularly Christmas-y but I might just have to make these this weekend regardless.

Buttercream Rose Stud Earrings

I listed these Buttercream Rose Stud Earrings in my shop this evening. There are nine different colors to choose from including white and black and everything in between! I only have a pair in each color available at the moment, so if you find a color you love, I suggest you snatch it up!

These would make great stocking stuffers. You could get one for each of your best girl friends and choose the color that fits each of their personalities the best.

Or you could be a bit naughty and keep them all for yourself.

Don't worry, I won't tell. Besides who could blame you?

And at $9 a pair, these won't put a dent in your wallet.

I'll be adding plenty more studs, hair pins, rings and the like to the shop tomorrow.

And don't forget about the Black Friday Sale!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Desk Makeover

I just won these pretty Anthropologie knobs on eBay! With shipping, these knobs came well under $3 each which is a steal considering Anthrpologie's knobs typically cost around $8-$12 on average. I have been wanting to paint my hand me down desk and give it some life with pretty knobs and decorative paper to line the drawers. My desk, which used to be my husband's, is currently a honey-colored, boxy eye sore. I'd like to sand it down, give it several coats of fresh white paint, add these pretty knobs to the drawers and line the shelves with some kind of sweet patterned paper.

This desk from a before & after featured on Design*Sponge is along the lines of the shape and style of my desk. I just love the clean, modern look the white paint brings to the desk. I also adore the chair that was painted and reupholstered to coordinate with the desk.

And here is a shot of the pretty lined drawers. I just love that unexpected pop of pattern! This desk was made over by Laura of Groovin With the Grizas, you can find more photos and details of the makeover here.

I am hoping to tackle my desk makeover shortly after new year.

Scarf Love

I have been drooling over the Cashmere Squiggle Scarf from Anthropologie for the past few winters and I still can't get over how beautiful it is. I would kill to visit an Anthropologie location in person to have the chance to try on this gorgeous scarf. At 100% cashmere, I imagine it would sinfully soft! I still remember the time I first felt cashmere when I was around 14. It was life changing. I need to own something cashmere!

I think that either one of these stunning cardigans from J.Crew would also curb my cashmere craving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Black Friday Sale!

To help jump start your holiday shopping...
♥ ♥ ♥

I will be offering the first ever That Winsome Girl Black Friday Sale starting at midnight on Thanksgiving and ending at midnight on Friday, November 27th (Eastern Standard Time).

All orders placed during this time will receive 25% off.

Buy 4 items, get a 5th free.

All orders over $50 (after discounts are applied) will receive a free gift.

To participate in the sale:
Add desired items to your Etsy cart and proceed to checkout. Enter Black Friday in the "message to the seller" during checkout. You can wait for a revised PayPal invoice to be emailed to you before making payment or you can submit payment immediately and I will issue you a refund through PayPal for the discounted amount.

The fine print:
If buying 4 items, to receive a free 5th item, please add 5 items to your cart. The 5th free item will be the item of lowest price in your order.

This offer may only be redeemed on items listed in my Etsy shop at the time of the sale and cannot be applied toward custom orders.

Payment must be made within 3 days or discounts will be void.

♥ ♥ ♥
What a great opportunity to stock up on gifts for all the women in your life!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cozy is Key

I have been ill for the past several days. Thankfully I am feeling much better now. Being sick has got me dreaming of cute and comfy loungewear. I have seen some of the cutest slippers this season and I could really use a new pair of pajamas. I am loving the combination of cute but casual tanks, loose fitting pajama pants and sweet ballet slippers.

I love this colorful pairing. The top and bottoms are from Old Navy while the slippers are from Payless. Aren't those ruffled, cable-knit ballet slippers to die for?!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Caramel Apples

I made caramel apples a few days ago. I couldn't remember the last time I actually ate a caramel apple and I had never made any before. I used this recipe for Fleur de Sel Caramels from the wonderful Ina Garten which I made a couple of months back and adored! I bought cream and apples and had been meaning to make these for several weeks. However, the apples got eaten and the cream turned into Philadelphia Style Vanilla Ice Cream, so the caramel apples got put off for another time.

Thursday night, while I was waiting for Project Runway to begin, these beauties were born! I ended up getting seven caramel apples out of the recipe and had a bit of leftover caramel which I added a couple of tablespoons of extra heavy cream to (in hopes of turning it into more of a sauce) and stuck in the fridge for later.

I left four of the caramel apples plain and then melted and drizzled semisweet chocolate over the remaining three. I really liked the sweet, salty caramel paired with the chocolate. I am so glad I finally made these caramel apples. I love fall sweets and this is one I will definitely make again in the future.

I just love the way the caramel glistens.

What are your favorite fall recipes?

Friday, November 13, 2009 Fame, Sorta!

I just happened to browse over to to look for a naan bread recipe when I saw this:

Click to view larger!

Do you see it? Right there under "Favorite Photos" are my Halloween Spiderweb Cookies which I posted about earlier in the week. They received the most votes for the favorite photo today and I was absolutely delighted! I guess the cookies turned out pretty well despite them being my first cookie decorating experience. Another big thank you to my friend Keith who snapped this photo for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Earrings in the Shop!

I just listed a few new earrings in my Etsy shop, including these girly earrings which I completely adore. I also have these available in a festive pairing of green and red. I will be spending the rest of my work day getting some new pieces made which I will photograph and list in the shop tomorrow.

I am focusing on getting lots of inexpensive but fabulous pieces listed in the shop for holiday shoppers. I have started a section of stocking stuffers which includes a variety of small, inexpensive (under $10) items which would be great to additions to a stocking.

I am also planning on having a "great gifts under $10" and a possibly "great gifts under $20" section where I pick out a several of my favorite items within these price points.

Here's to hoping the lighting will be in my favor tomorrow so I will be able to photograph lots of new pieces. It would be fabulous if I could get my stock up to 100 items by Monday. I am really hoping to have at least 150 to 200 pieces available by the end of next week so there will be plenty to choose from for gift giving.

Red Velvet Birthday Cupcakes

Tuesday was both my mother and mother-in-law's birthdays. My hubby and I joined his family for the birthday celebration and I made these red velvet cupcakes. This red velvet recipe, originally from I Heart Cuppycakes, has become my go-to red velvet recipe. I have made these red velvet cupcakes three times now and they have never failed to bake up to a beautiful, tender dome. I posted the recipe on my blog after the first time I made these amazing treats. I was in a frenzy Tuesday afternoon, rushing to Kroger to get buttermilk and cream cheese for these red velvet wonders and throwing together the cupcakes (including handmade gum paste flowers) from start to finish in less than 2 hours. Unfortunately Kroger didn't have regular Philadephia cream cheese stocked and I was in too much of a hurry to ask for some, so I substituted 1/3 less fat cream cheese in the frosting. I was hoping this wouldn't noticeably affect the frosting; however, it didn't set up as firmly as normal. Despite the less than perfect frosting, I was pleased with the way these turned out.

You'll certainly have to forgive these photos, I didn't finish these cupcakes until after sunset and my camera cannot function without natural light. I really want to practice my skill making gum paste flowers. I'd love to get some luster dust in a few different colors so I could add some dimension to my flowers.

What are you favorite cupcake flavors? I've been thinking about pairing a peanut butter cupcake with a rich, glossy chocolate ganache frosting. It sounds divine in theory, no?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mason Jar Sewing Kit

I love the look of these sweet little mason jar sewing kits from Martha Stewart Living. I could sing the praises of the usefulness of mason jars all day long. Not only are these little mason jar sewing kits adorable, they are extremely practical. I have caught the sewing bug lately, inspired by my favorite crafter, and I could certainly use a few of these jars around my studio to house my small but growing collection of threads. I have a stray mason jar around from some hot cocoa mix I made last Christmas and I can't wait to make one of these! If you are interested in making your own, Martha offers some instructions and there is a great tutorial by Creative Ramblings with some very helpful step-by-step photos.

Happy crafting!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I've been meaning to post these for over a week now. I baked and decorated these spiderweb cookies for Halloween. This was my very first attempt at decorating cookies with royal icing and, while they didn't turn out perfect, I am quite happy with the result. Decorating with royal icing takes patience and a steady hand, neither of which do I have often. This was great practice though! I always dream of becoming a fantastic cookie decorator like Bridget of Bake at 350 whose post inspired these cookies.

I am looking forward to working with royal icing again around Christmas as I plan to bake, build and decorate my very first gingerbread house. I am incredibly excited about the holidays. Each and every day I have to fight the urge to take out my humble little 4' tree. I have a small but adorable collection of Anthropologie ornaments and a few sweet ornaments I received last year for my first married Christmas. I can't wait to decorate for the holidays.

A big thanks to my friend Keith, a great photographer, who supplied these wonderful photos for me to share with you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cookies & Cream Fudge

I have been wanting to make Cookies & Cream Fudge for several months now and I finally made some yesterday evening. This fudge is perfect! It isn't painfully sweet like a lot of fudge I have tried and it has a nice firm, but soft texture. It's the perfect fudge, in my opinion. If you are a fan of cookies 'n' cream flavors, or like white chocolate and/or Oreo cookies, you will go crazy over this fudge.

And what makes the fudge even better is the fact that it is laughably easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. I am always drawn to the sinfully thick slices of fudge you find at fudge shops, but I am turned off by spending $5 or more for a single slice of fudge when you can easily make a huge batch for less. Seriously folks, you have got to try this recipe. I poured mine into an 8x4'' loaf pan which yielded deliciously tall slices, just like your favorite fudge shop. Here I have cut each slice into three pieces for a more manageable bite. I served these up to the hubby and some of his friends and they were quickly devoured!

Cookies & Cream Fudge
adapted slightly from All Recipes
yields 2 1/2 lbs of deliciousness

18 ounces Nestle white chocolate chips (about 3 cups)
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups coarsely broken Oreo cookies (about half of a 1 lb. 2 oz. package)

Line an 8x4'' loaf pan with aluminum foil and spray with a non-stick spray. Alternatively, you can also use an 8-inch square pan.

Break Oreo cookies into 4 to 6 pieces gently with hands and set aside. You want coarsely broken cookies as small bits with crumbs will turn your fudge gray and result in a grainy texture.

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, salt and vanilla extract, stirring constantly. Once the white chocolate chips have melted completely, remove from heat and gently fold in the crushed cookies until well incorporated.

Spread the fudge evenly into your lined pan. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours, before cutting.

Lift fudge from your pan and gently peel off the foil. Cut fudge into 12 thick slices. Each slice can be left whole or cut into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. Store the fudge, covered in the refrigerator.

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