The Only Wine Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need!

Grandma Georgia was a creative and talented cook, but baking was her first love in the kitchen. She knew how to perfect recipes and when to keep things simple. Here is my grandmother’s great wine cake recipe.

Update: Originally, I used this recipe at Christmastime. I’m now baking this wine cake in the summertime as well. For the warmer months, I skip the nutmeg and top with fresh berries.

Wine Cake (Yellow Bundt Cake)

Ingredients:
1 package moist yellow cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
¾ cup cooking oil (if you prefer butter, use 1 cup + 1 tbsp. room temperature butter)
¾ cup white wine (the alcohol burns off in the oven) or substitute with Sherry cooking wine
4 eggs
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg + a dash of cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients with mixer on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes
  2. Pour mixture into a well-buttered angel food / Bundt cake pan
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes (Check with a toothpick)
  4. Let it cool, remove cake and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar

TIP:  To make it a gift, place the Bundt cake on a sturdy Christmassy plate and wrap with clear or color cellophane. Secure at the top with a ribbon.

I miss the way Grandma Georgia brought our kitchen to life when she visited my childhood home for the holidays – more of her recipes to follow!

http://sprightlyspruce.com/chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe/

 

12 Safe-Yet-Thoughtful Christmas Gift Ideas Under $35!

Christmas is a time of giving, and a thoughtful Christmas gift expresses this very spirit! However, when it comes to a new dating relationship, neighbors, coworkers, or Secret Santa gift exchanges, finding the right gift can be a challenge.

I’ve certainly been there, so I wanted to create a list for anyone finding themselves in this little predicament. The key is safe, yet thoughtful. No need for an awkward moment!

I found 12 fun & fitting Christmas gift ideas between $10 to $35 that are “safe” yet “thoughtful.”

Note: No affiliate links are on this post; these are examples that I just thought would make really good gifts!

1. Personalized Wooden Spoon Sets

Kitchen spoon sets are a cute gift for someone that spends time in the kitchen, cooking. Check out these personalized wooden spoons on Etsy for ideas. (Tip: Give Etsy 2-3 weeks to deliver.) Wooden Spoons.

2. Spa Gift Set

A unique or non-generic spa gift set. Here’s an example of a simple, yet elegant spa gift from Pinterest called the “Holiday Pamper Box.”

3. Smart Phone & Apple Watch Docking Station

An iPhone or Apple watch docking station could be a perfect Christmas present for someone that’s into their tech gadgets.

I saw this example for under $30 on Pinterest: Docking Station. Or, check out this one on Etsy, for less than $20: Another Docking Station.

4. Candle

Yes, a candle. But, not just any candle. Make it a good one. Look at these candles for ideas on how sweet such a gift can be.

On Etsy: Christmas Candles , On Etsy: Candle Set. (Remember to give orders on Etsy a good 2-3 weeks for delivery.)

5. Journal

For someone into writing or recording their goals, a journal is a cool gift. Here’s an example of a classic, timeless Journal.

I recommend writing a note or quote on the inside cover!

6. Live Potted Mini-Christmas Tree

An adorable mini-potted Christmas trees from 18″ to 30″ is perfect for the person that loves Christmas, but has limited space. I found this tree online as an example: Mini Christmas Tree

Tip: You can find a mini-tree under $20 by visiting your local nursery or grocery store. Be sure to dress it up with a ribbon around the base!

7. Wine

If you know your gift recipient’s favorite type of wine, you can find a brand that suits them.

For instance, Fit Vine has a holiday edition for health-conscious types. (My husband loves this brand and will go to great lengths to locate it.) Whatever the bottle, wrap it creatively, or try a fun holiday wine bottle sweater. I love the kraft paper wrapping on this wine gift: Click here for an example

8. Books

It’s hard to go wrong with a book on a topic your friend/coworker/date is interested in, or you could try something with inspirational quotes. Grab a coffee and browse the bookstore!

9. Stainless Steel Coffee Travel Mug

A travel mug is fitting for a serious coffee lover that takes their morning caffeine on the go while battling the rush hour commute!

Finding a coffee travel mug with their first initial or favorite motto is a nice touch: Something like this…

10. Beanies

This is a great winter gift for a hat lover. My husband gave me three very cute beanies for our first Christmas, and I thought it was great.

Check out Urban Outfitters, Beyond Beanie USA, REI, Amazon, or any favorite store.

11. Cozy throw

A cozy throw or blanket is suitable for just about anyone!

For a little inspiration, check out this cute gift: Cute Throw Blanket.

12. Belgian Waffle Maker

Last December, this was our favorite surprise gift.

Include Christmassy waffle mix – think gingerbread, chocolate peppermint, or cinnamon.

Hope this helps! Happy Gift Giving!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Fluffy Yet Chewy!

Chocolate chips cookies are a must-have for the holidays.

Why? Because they just taste so good. Not to mention being as close to universally liked as a cookie can get!

In the spirit of finding a chocolate chip cookie loved ones could fully agree on, I set out to find the right balance of texture + taste. My husband loves fluffy-textured chocolate chips cookies, while my baking friend prefers chewy. Personally, I like the puffier chocolate chip cookies, but with the sweetness of chewy.

Bottom line: after trying out, and fine-tuning different recipes, I created my happy medium cookies in both texture and taste.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter (room temperature) TIP – Do NOT heat or melt the butter

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 package vanilla instant pudding (I used JELL-O Instant Vanilla pudding)

2 eggs

1 package (or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

OPTIONAL: For chocolatier cookies: hand chop an 8 oz. Chocolate bar with a knife, in place of the chocolate chips *I got this tip from The Food Lab blog.

OPTIONAL: Sprinkle a little sea salt onto the cookies once they are complete, and push the salt in a little.

(I plan to try out these two options on my next batch!)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugars, vanilla pudding mix, and vanilla extract. Beat until it has a creamy texture. Gradually beat in the eggs. Gradually add the salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Then, CHILL DOUGH IN THE REFRIGERATOR FOR ONE HOUR.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Drop dough in slightly clumpy tablespoon amounts for each cookie – about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges.

Cool cookies slightly and then remove the cookies from the cookie sheet. AFTER EACH BATCH, RUN THE COOKIE SHEET UNDER COLD WATER & DRY before placing the next batch of dough on it.

Milk & Cookies

This was the recipe I felt worked best. My cookie taster said “Wow. These cookies are REALLY good.” I agreed, and enjoyed a couple myself, with some A2 milk. Good stuff.

Happy Baking!

Photo credits: Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

 

 

It’s Operation Christmas Child Go-Time!

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD National Collection Week is November 18 – 25

What is Operation Christmas Child? It’s a way to give to children in need, around the globe on Christmas day. All it takes is a shoe box filled with thoughtful gifts and useful items.

Pack your shoe box with toys, hygiene items and school supplies. Consider including a photo and kind message. Track your shoe box and see its final destination to a girl or boy who will open it on December 25th!

Operation Christmas Child

Here is a shoe box I packed last year.

Shoe box #1:

Stuffed animal, bounce ball, hair accessories, glow in the dark flashlights with extra batteries, pens and pencils, notebooks, stickers, and toothbrushes

The Operation Christmas Child STEPS are easy:

  1. Find a shoe box – any shoe box in good condition will do! Or, you can order the red and green shoe boxes from Samaritan’s Purse. Just make sure they’ll arrive in time for National Collection Week.
  2. Go to Operation Christmas Child  Once on the web site, Select Girl/Boy, Age Range, Donate $9 per shoe box, Print your label(s)
  3. Pack your shoe box.
  4. Take your shoe box to an official drop-off location. There are 5,000 drop-off locations across the USA.
  5. Save your tracking label receipt to track your box.

Shoe box #2:

Deflated soccer ball with pump, glow in the dark flashlights with extra batteries, baseball cap, pens & pencils, crayons, small notepads, toothbrush, and yo-yo – I quickly learned larger shoe boxes are easier!

Our shoe boxes were delivered to a “hard to reach” location in The Philippines.

I hope this post reaches many, and that you’ll share your shoe box 🙂

Cheers to a beautiful holiday 2019!

Christmas Crossword Puzzle!

Visit this link to PRINT a Christmas Crossword Puzzle with 34 words:

Christmas Crossword

You can click on the “show answers” button for an answer key, or contact me if you want to check an answer!

Here’s a list of the clues (with added details) you will see…

ACROSS

2. Sugarplum
7. Brand of eggnog
8. Abomin____ snowman
10. Ice crystals falling through the atmosphere
11. European city/empire of Christmas origin
13. String for a Christmas tree
15. Reindeer
17. Christmas trees
18. Scrooge’s former business partner
20. A bishop known for helping others who became a Saint
22. Guides lost sheep
23. Nylon foot and leg wear
25. Ninth reindeer
27. A type of sled
29. Days of Christmas
30. Fast reindeer
31. Modern Christmas tree country of origin

DOWN

1. “A loving heart is the truest wisdom” – A Christmas Carol
3. Affirmative
4. Original Christmas feast bird in England
5. A type of wood
6. Reindeer
7. Holiday movies and greeting card company
8. Northern lights
9. A December flower
12. Holiday bread
14. Italian sweet bread loaf
16. Inhabits middle-earth and the north pole
19. A jolly happy soul
21. Flightless bird
24. Thin shiny Christmas tree decorating strips
25. A Christmas Color
26. A green plant with prickly edges and red berries
28. Trust in

15 Fun Pre-Autumn Projects for Fall 2018

Mid-to-late summer is when I start getting ready for the Fall season. I’ve found the more I prepare ahead of time, the more money I save when the holidays arrive. Not to mention the easier it is to relax and enjoy the spirit of the season. My “pre-autumn” preparation to-do list includes fun projects and some light organization. Enjoy!

Getting a Head Start on Fun Fall Projects & Décor

  1. Save any pretty jars for candle making or illuminating with mini string lights
  2. Practice perfecting a recipe for holiday gifts or gatherings
  3. Have fun trying out homemade pumpkin spice or cinnamon latte recipes
  4. Start adding Fall accessories to your wardrobe, so you’re ready when Fall arrives
  5. Visit arts & crafts stores for first “dibs” on seasonal décor
  6. Give thought to Halloween Costumes to avoid the last minute rush
  7. Collect pine cones and branches for natural, seasonal décor
  8. Find festive “Save the Date” cards for any gatherings you plan to host

Photo: Shutterstock

Getting Organized for the Fall

  1. Put any spare change in a jar, every day, to start a holiday fund – coins add up!
  2. Hang stored blankets and winter jackets in the sun to re-freshen them
  3. Buy tickets to a football game or haunted mansion tour once they go on sale!
  4. Consider an organizer or big calendar dedicated to the BUSY “BER” months
  5. Print out schedules for favorite sports teams and TV shows
  6. Organize closets to make room for coats, rain gear, and Christmas presents!
  7. Declutter shelves to make room for holiday gift wrapping and décor

I plan to keep organizing, decluttering and seizing bargains during these more relaxed summer days so I can “breathe” a bit more when the busy season arrives.

Important Mention

While this post is focused on the happy part of the pre-season preparation, home maintenance and safety are extremely important, so I’m setting reminders to check our vehicle tires and windshield wiper blades, smoke detectors, air filters, and rain gutters before the blustery season hits.

For a comprehensive home & safety list, check out this Fall Checklist.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, but do get excited about the fall season!

 

 

 

Shop Christmas in July & Buy Made in America

What’s so great about Christmas in July? Well, for me, checking off holiday shopping during the relaxed summer month equates to more time for enjoying the actual holiday season when it arrives! Plus, I like bargains. I have a goal for Christmas 2018: Shop Christmas in July for great holiday gifts and décor that are Made in America.

I’ve put together a retailer LIST (below) for Christmas in July + Made in the USA that I plan to either shop or add to my wish list.

But first…

The Purpose

1. Support businesses and workers right here in the U.S. where products tend to have excellent craftmanship, adhere to environmental standards, and regulate fairer wages and safer working conditions.

2. Contribute to a healthy economy

3. Made in the USA product labels can be tricky, so we need to do our research!

Almost 8 in 10 American consumers say they would rather buy an American-made product than an imported one, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. And more than 60 percent say they’re even willing to pay 10 percent more for it. For some, the decision might stem from a belief in American quality and safety. Others might think it’s the best way to support the American economy and workers. But in our increasingly complex global economy, how much meaning does a label stating “Made in America” still hold? – Consumer Reports Special Report, 2015

The Criteria

1. Retailers that sell truly American Made products

2. Businesses participating in Christmas in July or at least having some sort of sale this July 2018

The Plan

1. Watch the Hallmark Channel’s “Christmas Keepsake Week” July 13th – 28th while I shop! It wouldn’t be as fun to buy gifts without first setting the holiday mood.

2. 100% Made in the USA for my online shopping

Here are the retailers on my list:

GoRuck  (Gear and apparel) 

Fleabags (Women’s bags) 

Polar Max (Winter gear)

K’Nex (Toys!) 

TheRusticCountryHome (Custom painted signs and Christmas home décor on Etsy) 

Fox River (Support our military: great socks and original sock monkey) 

J.W. Hulme Co. (Clothing, accessories, gifts) 

Maptote (Accessories, totes, travel) 

Ebbets Field Flannels (For the retro sports fan) 

Stetson (Clothing) 

Yankee Candles (The big candle company!)

A couple more companies that might not be having a July sale, but I just think they’re so cool.

Liberty Bottles (Beautiful, quality water bottles made with recycled materials)

The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. (Adorably creative Teddy Bears)

Between these stores, I should be able to meet my goal. Of course, there will be times when an overseas manufacturer may better suit my needs. Yet my hope for this Christmas in July is to expand my favorite brands to include Made in the USA!