Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Magic Room

Don't judge a book by its cover. Or maybe the lackluster cover is a good reflection of the shop featured in the book. From the outside, the former bank building that houses Becker's Bridal is nothing fancy. But inside are thousands of wedding dresses, a staff with decades of experience, a mirror that has captured the reflection of hundreds of thousands of future brides, and countless stories.

The introduction did not grab my attention and was pretty weighty. I kept on reading. Once the first chapter began, Zaslow's conversational writing style and keen observations totally got me interested.

Zaslow follows eight brides through their process of finding a wedding dress. Along the way, we meet their families and their fiancées. Not every story has a picture perfect ending.

I loved how he balanced these stories with real-life facts and figures. This isn't a romance novel. This isn't about one bride finding "the one" for a dress and a groom. It's a very good look at the bridal gown industry. He illustrates the changes in the bridal business over the last 50 years or so. Now brides expect to be waited on, fawned upon and be the "princess for a day". Brides can take cell phone photos of dresses and then search the internet for lower priced knockoffs. In the 50s, parents bought the dress and often had the final say and in the 30s dresses were often handed down from sister to cousin to neighbor.

I also enjoyed how he came back to each bride at the end of the book to share details of their weddings and often a photo of the bride in her Becker's dress. He features women with very different stories and backgrounds. I found it an interesting coincidence how many of the fathers worked in packaging.

I especially liked getting to know Shelley, the current owner and granddaughter of the indomitable Grandma Eva who founded the shop, along with her mother and daughter who also work in the shop. They have taken the legacy of Grandma Eva and turned it into a must-stop bridal store for brides in the Midwest.

While I didn't have a Magic Room experience when bridal dress shopping, I did have it when prom dress shopping. The ladies who worked at Emma's Bridal in Dedham found a dress for me that was stunning. I stood up on the pedestal and they all ooohed and ahhed. So I remember how magical that moment can really be when you put on a dress that makes you look and feel like you are walking the red carpet.

This is a very well-written book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be passing it along to my mom and friends. 

This is a paid review of The Magic Room by Jeffery Zaslow for the Blog Her Book Club. All opinions expressed are mine.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sending Christmas Cards!!!

I love Christmas cards. I love sending them. I really love getting them. I love displaying them well into January so I can see the happy faces of the people I love.

I usually make our Christmas cards. It's definitely a labor of love. I enjoy the crafting process but my cards don't get mailed until the week of Christmas if I'm lucky. It gets pretty stressful. More often than not, they become "happy week between Christmas and New Years!" cards. 

Our list has grown by leaps and bounds this year. There are lots of people across the country that I want to send a card, so I thought a Tiny Prints holiday photo card would take the pressure off me. My cousin just finished a photography class. She's coming over to do a little photo shoot of us. Good practice for her and a great Christmas card for us.

We used Tiny Prints the year we got married and I was so impressed the professional quality of the cards. These aren't the typical photo card. Tiny Prints are printed on beautiful thick paper with rich colors and gorgeous fonts. As a crafter that makes me happy. 

I love the clean, modern designs. Here are just a few of the cards I had added to my favorites. Apparently, I'm all about grey and red this year.

This year a lot of the photo cards have designs on the back too. The calligraphy on this one made my heart skip a beat. It's gorgeous!
How fun would this card be if you ended up with a bunch of photos you wanted to use and you couldn't pick just one? 

Have you started thinking about holiday cards yet? How many do you send out? Will you include a photo in your card?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Tiny Prints is sending me 50 free holiday cards to blog about their holiday cards.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spiked Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

Earlier this year Joel had a vanilla caramel bourbon spiked milkshake at Bobby's Burger Palace and loved it.

We had leftover pumpkin pie filling from the Pumpkin Pie Throwdown, so we decided to try making our own spiked milkshakes.

Joel combined the chilled pumpkin pie filling with some brandy and a little buttershots schnapps in the blender and gave it a whirl.
I rimmed the glasses with a cinnamon sugar mixture.  It was silky smooth, pumpkiny and oh so fall. 

Next time you make pumpkin pie, consider whipping up a cocktail with the leftovers while you wait for the pie to finish baking. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011


We took a road trip down in Chatham on Cape Cod this weekend. The weather was simply glorious. Sunny, blue skies and 85 degrees. I wish we could have had more days like that this summer. 

While we were there I took some photos for the October Photo Challenge.

Blood Red
I've been dreaming of this red flannel hash from Hangar B since Memorial Day. The hash of beets, yukon and sweet potatoes is topped with a horseradish creme fraiche and a side of sourdough toast. Delicious. It was so worth the 90 minute drive to get there and the 45 minute wait to get a table.

We had lunch at The Corner Store. They make the best breakfast burritos. This time I had a wonderful grilled eggplant sandwich with feta, hummus, spinach, marinated tomatoes and kalamata olives on this amazing 7 grain bread from Pain D'Avignon. So so good!

We discovered this window down a little alley off of Main Street. There was a lovely older lady working in the gardens who pointed out different plants to us as we walked through.

Faceless Portrait
I can't believe I had my toes in the ocean over Columbus Day weekend.

October Skies
I didn't photoshop this photo. The sky really was that blue and cloudless. It was spectacular. We haven't had many cold nights so most of the trees are still green. 

Can you see the face in the tree trunk? 

Letter Art
I'm still on the hunt for an S but for now, here is W.

Tarte tatin from the Chatham Bars Inn. Behind it is the chocolate obsession that Joel ordered. We sat on the veranda and enjoyed the twinkle lights and the warm breeze. Earlier we had coffee drinks in the tavern and watched the last quarter of the Patriots game. The perfect ending to a wonderful day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October Photo Challenges

Something Purple
This is the last purple hydrangea hanging on from the bush. All the rest have started to dry out and turn darker hues which are also beautiful. 

Street Lights
Our town has been under a boil water for seven days. It has not been fun. I would make a terrible Laura Ingalls Wilder because I did not enjoy brushing my teeth with bottled water and boiling big pots of water to do dishes. Around the corner from our house the fire hydrant is flushing the water. I pulled over to take this photo and in the process was splashed from head to foot by a passing car. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Happiness Is...

Having funny, charming, loving, loyal and wonderful friends that you've known forever.
Watching those friends grow up and become amazing adults.
Spending a day with those great friends and their lovely spouses and their adorable, boisterous, beautiful children.

That's what happiness is.

I used a digital cutting file from Kerri Bradford for the title. If you have a Silhouette or Cricut, you must check out her store. She has the best designs. The punched border is also a Kerri Bradford design. Later this week, I'll share my printer's tray made from her This&That: Autumn kit.

For the photo collage I used Photo Clusters No. 10 from Katie Pertiet at Designer Digitals. These are my new favorite way to get a lot of photos on one page. So super easy to use. 

Tell me, what's your Happiness Is?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hello October

Hello, October. I'm looking forward to football, comfort food and beautiful foliage.
I'm doing a photo challenge for the month of October with some friends. We have a big list of inspiration prompts to use as guidelines.

This is my take on Something Orange.

I stopped in the middle of prepping for supper to take photos. Butternut squash is my absolute favorite vegetable. And that's saying something because I love veggies. I picked this up at the Farmer's Market at City Hall from Noquochoke Orchards in Westport MA. They also sell a variety of apples and gorgeous dahlias. That's a whole lotta happy in one farm stand!

Today, I'm making the Barefoot Contessa's roasted squash. I'll toss the peeled and cubed squash with some olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme from my herb garden. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice for even roasting.

We'll have it with pulled pork sandwiches and harvest spice beer from John Harvard's Brew House. This is one of my favorite fall beers. Then we'll watch the Patriots take on the Oakland Raiders.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

World Cardmaking Day Blog Hop

Did you know that October 1 is World Cardmaking Day? Will you be getting your craft on today?
The holidays are right around the corner so I want to share a Christmas card..

Supplies Used:
cardstock: Bazzill (blue) and Paper Source (beet)
patterned paper: Basic Grey Eskimo Kisses Powdered Sugar
stamp: Wreath for All Seasons, Papertrey Ink
inks: Close to My Heart

I used a sketch from Jen Del Muro. This would be an easy card to mass produce for holiday cards. Four simple components that can be cut and stamped in batches and then assembled. I used a non-traditional color scheme for a lighter, airy feel to a Christmas card.

I support Operation Write Home and their mission to supply troops with blank handmade cards they can send home to their loved ones. There's something special about spending time making cards knowing it will help our soldiers keep in touch with their family and friends. My best friend's little sister served a tour of duty in Iraq four years ago. I remember how much we loved getting a note from her. She was so great at sending thank you notes for care packages. Back then she was "adopted" by a group of Red Hat Ladies who sent her blank cards for writing home. When I learned about Operation Write Home last year, I knew I wanted to pay forward the kindness of those ladies. 

Heather will be deploying to Afghanistan next month. Making cards is one small way I can support her and all our soldiers. 

The deadline for sending Christmas cards to Operation Write Home is October 31. But they are always looking for birthday, love and thank you cards. 

Thanks for hopping by today! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

SOWA Farmers Market

The SOWA Farmers Market is held in Boston every Sunday from May to October. There are lots of local farmers, vendors and artisans selling their wares along with - my new obsession - food trucks! We had a great day just poking around the different tables and enjoying the warm spring weather. I hope we can back there before they shut down later this month. 

I cut the title with my Sillhouette from brown cardstock. The photo frames are from Designer Digitals. These are my new favorite way to get a lot of photos onto a page. Paula Gilarde does this a lot and she inspired me to try using photo frames at a crop a few years ago. The patterned paper and journaling spots are Jillibean Soup. I used a metal wavy ruler from Creative Memories to make the torn border.
Supplies Used:
patterned paper: Jillibean Soup Cup of Yak, Meatballs and Brown Rice
journaling spots: Jillibean Soup
other: Creative Memories wavy ruler, Kaiser red pearls

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crop for a Cure - November 5, 2011

Please join us on Saturday, November 5, 20011 to Crop for a Cure.

This all-day scrapbooking event raises money for the Stars and Stripes Relay for Life team.

Your $35 donation includes lunch, snacks, beverages and a welcome gift.
Plenty of space for scrapbooking, stamping or general crafting.
Raffles and chair massages will also be available.

Spread the word! Bring a friend!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Elves Wanted

This layout just makes me smile. The photos are a collection of Christmas cards of some of my favorite kidlets. I always save the photo cards and the handmade cards every year. So if you sent me one, it's safely tucked away.

To make this layout, I trimmed the four cards to fit onto a 9x9 square layout. That's the size of my Christmas album. I started with a base of Basic Grey patterned paper and Die Cuts With a View lime green cardstock.

The Paper Thrills Challenge #16 was to use stickers as your background. The catch? No alphabets allowed.
I dug deep into my stash for these 7 Gypsies 97% Complete Christmas stickers. I bought a ton when they first came out and still have a few sheets. I took the word strips and layered them on a strip of red cardstock. One larger quote sticker was also backed with cardstock and popped it up with foam squares.

It's not too soon to start thinking about Christmas. Pulling out my holiday stash made me want to start working on Christmas cards soon. Have you started thinking about Christmas yet? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Love These Girls

Challenge #10 at Paper Thrills was to a "use your stash" challenge. If you are like me, you could scrap for months straight without buying a single supply. These challenges are a great way to use that stash up in new and creative ways.

We were challenged to not use patterned paper. That's an easy one for me because I love cardstock. The twist was to use stamps, paints, stamps, etc to create a background pattern. I'm not a very technique driven scrapper but I love how this layout turned out.

The background is embossed Core'dinations cardstock that I sanded to add some texture and color. I put a piece of KI lace cardstock over the cream photo mat and sprayed it with gold Smooch spritz to make the photo mat.

The journal spot is a Papertrey Ink stamp and die combo stamped in aqua pigment ink and backed with watermelon cardstock. I used the same watermelon cardstock in the upper left corner and stamped and embossed a leaf patter on top of the circle. Then I added some chipboard butterfly that were embellished with some pearls and twine. The die cut title and flower accent are super old My Mind's Eye that worked perfectly with the color scheme of this layout.

Journaling reads: Having lunch with Patrice was a delight. She is just as sweet in person. So glad we could spend the day with her.

Paper Thrills Sketch Challenge

The challenge this week over at Paper Thrills is a sketch.

I love sketches because they are a terrific jumping off point for a card or layout. Sometimes my layouts closely follow the sketch and sometimes they don't.

For this layout, I used Jenni Bowlin bracket shaped ledger paper for my background instead of a circle. I added some strips of Crate Paper patterned paper behind the three photos and finished with some journaling and a big, bold title in the upper right hand corner to balance the photos.

Journaling reads: It's one of our favorite date places. We have a lot of fun walking around checking out new decor ideas. IKEA also sparks childhood memories for Joel. I love hearing about his summer visits to his grandparents' in Sweden. The meatballs and lingonberry jelly rock too.
I hope you'll play along with this week's challenge at Paper Thrills. Link me up to your layouts!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Enjoy The Ride - Masculine Gift Card Holder

Sometimes I can't help bringing Crafty Me to the office. Recently one of our contractors left to take a job in Iowa. As a thank you/going away present, I bought him a Visa gift card that he could use for gas or food or whatever on his drive from Boston to Iowa. 

The Papertrey Ink stamp set, Enjoy the Ride, is one of my favorites for masculine cards. Especially for a guy taking a road trip! 

I created a pocket card to hold the gift card on the inside. I started with a 13" x 5" strip of black cardstock and scored at 5" and 10". Then I embellished the front with a 4" x 4" square of patterned paper and punched a 2" circle from a scrap of red cardstock I hand drew a circle on the red circle instead of inking the edges with black. I liked the balance of the line against the black card base.

I stamped the card outline with black Versafine and then Sky Blue pigment ink. My favorite thing to do with this car stamp is to color the headlights with a clear Spica glitter pen and a layer of Glossy Accents. I also colored a few details on the car with a silver Creative Memories pen. Adds interest to the car! I popped up the car with foam adhesive for even more dimension.

Inside the card, I added a 1 3/4" strip of patterned paper and a stamped sentiment from the Enjoy the Ride stamp set. I used ATG adhesive on the top and bottom of the small folded strip to create a pocket. The gift card fit perfectly inside. 

This could be a great idea for Father's Day or a Teacher Appreciation Day gift too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I've long been a fan of Cook's Illustrated and the companion PBS television show, America's Test Kitchen. I've even been able to test recipes for them and many are among our favorites. Recently I read about the America's Test Kitchen challenge to Boston Bloggers to try their Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Now, I've got to say that my mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe is pretty darned perfect. So could the experts at America's Test Kitchen produce a cookie that was BETTER than hers? I was skeptical but willing to try it. The ingredients are the same as my favorite recipe. It's the proportions that are different: 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk and more dark brown sugar than white sugar. 

I followed the recipe suggestion to weigh the dry goods. This isn't something I normally do. I have vivid memories of my Nannie's hand on mine as we lightly spooned flour into a measuring cup and then leveled the surface with the back of butter knife. I always think of that when I bake. She said it was the key to light instead of leaden cakes. She was an amazing baker as is my mom. Me? I'm good at following a recipe.

This time I pulled out the digital scale that Joel bought long before we were married and weighed the flour, white sugar and dark brown sugars.

The magic is in the 10 tablespoons of browned butter, which makes the kitchen smell amazing. 

The sugars, vanilla, salt and eggs are whisked into the melted butter. Three rounds of whisking and resting helps the sugar dissolve completely. (I used those 3 minutes to fold laundry while watching the Celtics game.)
Speaking of brown sugar, have you tried a brown sugar bear? This little guy keeps brown sugar moist and pliable for months and months. No more rock hard brown sugar.

Then the flour and baking soda are stirred in followed by the chocolate chips. I didn't have any nuts in the pantry and I wish I did. I love walnuts in my chocolate chip cookies. 

The finished dough has a consistency like Play Doh. It's not shaggy and loose like a typical chocolate chip cookie dough. The recipe called for a #24 scoop. I wanted more "traditional" sized cookies so I used a cookie scoop which made 48 cookies. 

The verdict: completely delicious! They definitely were crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The browned butter adds a wonderful and unexpected toffee flavor to the cookies. Joel and I each ate one last night while they were still warm. Perfect with a glass of cold milk. This morning we packed some to enjoy with our lunch at the Brimfield Fair where my mom gave them a thumbs up too. 
I'll definitely keep this recipe in my files. It was easy to follow, easy to execute and easy to clean up. Thanks Cook's Illustrated for another winning recipe.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Paper Thrills Challenge #8

This week over on the Paper Thrills blog, the challenge is to use a print ad.
Like the ad, my page has a subtle print on the top third and a bolder print at the bottom.
I was inspired to use three photos and lots of blue on my layout as well. 
Journaling: Mom and I took Brendan to freshman orientation at UMass. We bought him lunch at Judie's (of course!) How did he grow up so fast?

Pop on over to Paper Thrills to see the ad. We'd love for you to join in!

Supplies Used:
cardstock: Club Scrap
patterned paper: Making Memories
embellishments: Making Memories
journal tag: Luxe Designs
ribbon: May Arts
letter stickers: American Crafts

For the Thrill of Paper

Have you checked out the Paper Thrills challenge blog yet?
It's a brand-new site with weekly challenges.

It's a great place to try new techniques, use up your stash and get scrapping!
I'm very excited to be part of this design team and hope you'll check it out.

I want to share my projects that were created for the Paper Thrills Design Team submission.

Color Palette Challenge: The warm rich colors in the inspiration photo were perfect for this photo from a trip to San Diego back in 2003.
Ad Challenge:
I really love ad challenges. I get so many great ideas this way. From this ad, I was inspired to put the photo on the right side of the page, turn die cut patterned paper into an oversized mat, and the grey background
Sketch Challenge: 
I mixed it up by using the sketch to create a birthday card. I interpreted the circles in the sketch with polka dot prints.
California Sunset
cardstock: Bazzill, patterned paper: Scenic Route (orange print), Pink Paislee (black brocade, blue houndstooth, purple brocade), Basic Grey (orange and black), punch: Fiskars (border), EK Success (circle), journaling tags: Pink Paislee, label: twogirlzstuff (, gems: My Minds Eye, pen: Micron, foam adhesive: Creative Memories
cardstock: Club Scrap (grey, cream), Bazzill (black); patterned paper: Pink Paislee (lime die cut), Luxe Designs (turquoise); letter stickers: Making Memories; pen: Micron
Happy Birthday
cardstock: Paper Source (grey), Bazzill (black), patterned paper: Pink Paislee (blue dot on cream), Luxe Designs (cream dot on turquoise), journaling tag: Pink Paislee, stamp: Papertrey Ink Communique Sentimentsink: Versafine (onyx), ribbon: Wrights, stick pin: Pink Paislee

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Project64 - Week 10

Week 10 color is white. The challenge was to photograph white on white but I didn't have the chance to set up a shot. Today I kept my eye open for white in our travels.

These hydrangeas caught my eye at the grocery store.

I loved the texture and shape of the white glass in the light fixtures at Bobby's Burger Palace and in the Dale Chihuly glass scuplture; both at Mohegan Sun.

But my favorite from today is the vanilla caramel bourbon milkshake Joel had today at lunch.

Please head over to the Project 64 blog to see all the other white entries from this week.

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