Oh, Sweet Friday

It's raining and I'm sick, and it's been a long and busy week, and so I decided I needed a little Friday treat. One of the best sweet recipes I have is again from my mother-in-law. After having these cookies on a visit and forgetting to ask for the recipe, I had to have her e-mail it to me. These are quick and easy and one batch makes a lot, so I end up keeping some out and then freezing the rest. They are excellent when reheated in the microwave for a few seconds, too. You can mix up what you add to them, too- I sometimes do dark chocolate instead of semisweet, or not add the nuts. They do get crumbly pretty quickly, though, so make sure you double-Ziploc bag them or put them in a sealed container.

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

9 Tablespoons room temperature butter
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2/3 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 extra large egg or 2 small eggs
1 2/3 Cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips and
2/3 cups white chocolate chips
2/3 cups walnuts or pecans if desired

Heat oven to 350. In large mixing bowl combine butter and both sugars. Beat with wooden spoon or mixer until the mixture is soft and fluffy. Set aside. In a small bowl, break the egg and mix with a fork. Add egg to the mixing bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the bowl. Mix until just combined. Add all the chocolate chips and mix until thoroughly combined.
Roll by tablespoons into balls and place on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 24 cookies.

That's all there is to it. My only trouble is remembering to set the butter out to soften- happens every time! Enjoy!

To Facebook or Not To Facebook?

To Facebook or Not to Facebook? That is the question I've been asking myself since I started my shop on Etsy. Just about everyone has one. I feel like I should have one. But I'm not sure. I don't (really) know how it works, though I'm sure I'd be able to figure it out. I'm using Twitter, which I never thought I'd use, though I'm still trying to understand all those hashtags and retweets, etc. Like Twitter, I don't know if Facebook would be helpful to me or not. How do people find you on Facebook any easier than they would on Etsy? If you get "like"d on someone else's page, then I suppose all the people looking at their page will see yours? But what makes them click?

I suppose what I'm going to have to do is go in, sign up, and see what I can figure out. It's helpful that my teams have posted a lot of information about it, and have given their page links so I've got something to look at. So, readers, do you have a Facebook? Do you find it useful? is there some magic formula to it? I'd like to know!


I had a busy couple of days designing and making lots of new things for the shop and I'm very excited about them all! In particular, I've developed a line of announcement bookmarks- a creative way to send information to someone and they are reusable, so maybe, just maybe, they won't get thrown away right away (I hope).

Now, I'm not a graphic designer, so I don't have those cool custom designed backgrounds that you see on the beautiful invitations and announcements that other people offer on Etsy. In simple terms, that means don't have a lot in the way of graphics. Still, I think these are classy enough to get the information out, and I like to think that the paper layers provide some visual interest. And they're different! That counts for something, right?

I had a few Save the Date bookmarks listed previously, but honestly, they were kind of crude and I wasn't completely happy with them. It's certainly a learning curve when trying to develop something new. I finally decided to overhaul them when I got the chance to make some college graduation announcements for a very nice woman I connected with through Alchemy on Etsy. She wanted something different than the standard announcement done in her school colors. So I came up with these, although I've changed the name and enough of the information to make them samples. I think they're pretty fun and interesting. We crammed a lot of wording onto that 2 1/4 inch space!

Once I did those, I really wanted to get to work on those Save the Dates. And so I came up with these, customizable to the client's information and color scheme.

Who wouldn't be excited to get one of those in the mail?! I did have some baby announcement bookmarks listed but I need to work on those, too. I think the ones below are super cute; the problem is, people are really excited to show off their new baby, usually with a beautiful photo, and I just don't have the space for that! So those are on the back burner for a while.

Old baby announcements- needs work!

On a similar note, I've got bookmarks listed as table favors: a takeaway treat for party guests! They can be customized for the event in color and wording. I would love to do them for an event where everyone gets their own personalized bookmark with their name on it. How special would that make people feel? Can you tell I'm excited?

There are so many options with these bookmarks. Now I'm hoping to find some people who want to be a little creative!

Sunday Special

Two days ago, it was pushing 60 degrees here. Today, we're putting on a fire and waiting for overnight snow. So in that spirit of winter that just won't end, I'm going to give you my recipe for a great, easy, warm-you-up beef stew. Technically, it's not my recipe- it's my mother-in-law's (and she may have gotten it out of some cookbook or magazine, but I don't know that to cite it). She is a great cook. Whenever we visit I always end up coming home with a recipe or two, particularly desserts (more on that to come). This is a great recipe because it's one pot, everything is rough chop, there's little muss, little fuss, and it can even be done in the slow cooker if you have one. It comes out thick and rich, unlike all the other stew recipes I've tried. I'll give you the basic recipe and then give you some options at the end.

Beef and Barley Stew

2 1/2 lbs. stew meat or beef chuck cut into small chunks
3 T flour
1 tsp pepper
Salt or garlic salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil (or other oil)
4-5 petite red potatoes rinsed and cut into chunks
1 large onion rinsed and cut into quarters
4 ribs celery rinsed and cut into pieces
8 ounces carrots cut into chunks
1-32 oz box beef broth or 4 cups water and 4 tsp. beef boullion
1-14.5 oz can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 cup quick-cooking pearl barley (in the rice aisle)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat the beef chunks in the flour/pepper/salt mixture and cook in a dutch oven or other large pot in the oil over medium-high heat until browned. Add all the other ingredients except for the barley, cover the dutch oven and put it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Add the barley (it will still look runny at this point) and cook for another 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

It's as easy as that! If you are a slow cooker person, follow the recipe- browing the meat on the stove first- then instead of adding everything and putting it in the oven, put the meat and everything else but the barley in the slow cooker and cook 4-6 hours on high or 8 hours on low. About an hour before serving, add the barley and let that cook for an hour (until barley is tender). Remove the bay leaf before serving. I haven't tried it in the slow cooker, so if anyone does, let me know how it comes out!

Helpful hints and options: I mix the flour with the salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag, add the beef, and shake it up to coat it. Then you can just pour it into the pot. To make it even easier, I use baby carrots, which means no peeling and no chopping. I just throw them in whole and they get soft enough to cut with a fork. Instead of red potatoes I usually use 2 russet potatoes because that's what we have hanging around most often. I also rough chop mushrooms and add those, and throw in some frozen corn and peas. The more veggies I can cram in, the better. I do check the stew as it's cooking, giving it a stir, and adding some water or broth if it looks like it's drying out.

We always have leftovers with this meal, and it's even better the second time around. Give it a try on any busy day when you need to get a meal together but don't have a lot of time to spend on it.

The Handmade Pledge

A few days ago I was visiting some of my teammates' blogs, and I came across this button (basically, a graphic to click on that links you to another page) that said "I Took The Handmade Pledge". I was interested. What is the handmade pledge? What does it entail? I did a little research on good old Google, and found out that the pledge was part of a collaborative effort between Etsy and several other handmade venues to encourage people to buy handmade gifts throughout the holiday season, although it is still alive and well online right now. The idea is that buying handmade links the buyer and the maker, supports our economy, supports the local artist, and allows for more individuality rather than everyone buying the same stuff from the same stores. You can read more about it here and if you want to take the pledge you can do it here. There are 52,824 pledges as of me writing this.

So this gets me thinking. I like the idea. I LOVE the things I find on Etsy and I would love to be able to buy so many of them. I have found things that could be gifts for so many people (including me!). I had already been thinking that I could get gifts just on Etsy from now on since there is so much to choose from. I always find something beautiful, interesting, or surprising. I myself could probably take the pledge. But part of the pledge is to encourage those giving YOU gifts to buy handmade. And therein lies the snag. I don't know if I feel comfortable requesting that of my loved ones, whom I shouldn't be expecting to give us gifts, who may not have the money to spend on something handmade, who may not be comfortable buying online, who may not understand WHY I would want them to do something like that when there are plenty of stores around with perfectly good stuff. I really do like the idea, but it's something I'm going to have to think about a little more.

What do you think? Is the handmade pledge something you could do? Have you already done it? Do you see yourself having issues with it? I'd like to know where you stand on this one!

The above graphic is from buyhandmade.org/badges. You can use the button on your blog or other webpage if you decide to take the pledge.

A Crafty Valentine

Here's another find from the student teaching box in the basement. I was going to wait to share until tomorrow, but I figured if anyone wanted to actually make it to use for Valentine's Day, then a little advance notice was in order. This is the easiest-to-make Valentine card holder. The design isn't mine- it's the work of the wonderful teacher I got to work with- but it's too cute not to share.

All you need for this is two pieces of construction paper in Valentine colors (11 x 17 makes a bigger envelope, but 8 1/2 x 11 works too), scissors, and a stapler. Start by folding each paper in half and rounding off one corner (on the non-fold side) with scissors.
Open one of the sheets of paper and lay it flat, placing the other one inside (fold-side facing the bottom).

Fold the remaining side over so it resembles a heart.

Staple the open edge all the way down to secure it closed.

You can add a handle by cutting one long strip of construction paper. If you have access to lamination, that helps it last, but it's not necessary. Staple each end of the handle inside the top of the heart.

And there you go! One Valentine card holder ready to decorate! You can also write a name on the handle so everyone knows who's who.

If you use the smaller paper, this is how it sizes up- pretty cute!

Decorate your envelope with multi-colored and multi-layered hearts. The easiest way to make a heart is to take a square piece of paper, fold it in half, make a half-heart shape with the fold to the inside, and then unfold!

Glue the hearts down to keep them in place. Use lots of colors and different sizes!

So there you have it! It's a fun and easy project that doesn't require too many materials. The kids (and adults!) will have fun making them, and you can save them and use them year after year if you like. Happy Valentine's Day!

A Nice Surprise

I'm sure you can tell how excited I am about the rainbow lettering note cards and bookmarks that I was talking about yesterday. So how nice it was to wake up today, check out what's going on in the shop, and find out that slovintage put my rainbow thank you cards (the accidental thank you's!) in an Etsy treasury!

If you've never seen or made a treasury on Etsy, then let me explain. A treasury is a selection of 16 items from sellers other than yourself that you put together in a collection, usually with some sort of theme. It's a great way to highlight the great items people are offering. My thank you's are part of a collection of white items. You can see it here.

I've made several treasuries so far- they really are a lot of fun. You can go here and click through them if you feel like browsing, and there are thousands of others as well. It's quite an honor to be selected from the hundreds of thousands of items available. So be included, all I have to say is:

Winter Wonderland

This was the view from the backyard yesterday morning. Bear in mind the grass is at least a foot and a half lower than the top of the snow. It's pretty to look at, though!

Fabulous February

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, I created a few things for the shop in case people were looking for gifts. My favorite started as custom work for a super client. She was looking for Valentine's gifts for teachers and decided on some of my square magnetic bookmarks, along the lines of this one, except with the teachers' names on them:

Then she decided that my mini square magnetic bookmarks would be great "cards" for the Valentine's exchange at school and ordered a set for the class. They are a great size for children's novels (or adult paperbacks) and they look adorable with the monogram on the front. I decided to list them in the shop in case anyone else was looking for Valentine's cards, available in red and pink.

I love the idea of these as a classroom gift because they encourage reading and they are useful! They (hopefully!) won't just be thrown in the trash when they get home, as is the fate of so many school Valentine cards.

The Beginning

In the middle of snow, snow, and more snow, I opened By the Book Paper on etsy.com. It all started with an idea from Good Housekeeping magazine, an article on handmade holiday gifts. I had been on Etsy before and decided it was something worth giving a try. What followed were a few months of pondering, wondering, planning, plotting, and agonizing over the right name, followed by the fun part- the creation of the first items to list.

The shop mainly features bookmarks of different shapes, sizes, and designs, but there's also some notecards, gift tags, and bookplates there, too. Most of the items are layered, mixing papers of different color and texture. Wander over to
bythebookpaper.etsy.com and you will see the end result.

Come back and visit me here to see what new things I'm putting in the shop, as well as a smattering of other odds and ends as they happen.

My first listing! Square magnetic dragonfly bookmarks.