Feb 28, 2014

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Chinese Almond Cookies~


Cookies can be very sentimental. For many, they bring up fond memories and warm fuzzy feelings and they certainly do that for me. Snickerdoodles are one of those cookies but they are only my second favorite.  I will share my mom's fabulous recipe for Snickerdoodles soon but the recipe I'm going to share today is my #1 preferred cookie above all other cookies. My mom used to make these when I was young and she just told me today, that they are her very favorite cookie as well! I guess that explains why she make them all the time. They are called Chinese Almond Cookies. They are light and crispy with a wonderful buttery almond flavor. If you want to make something different and impressive then these cookies should be your choice but be prepared to be asked for the recipe if you do. They should be called Divine Cookies because of their heavenly flavor. These little treasures are great for any occasion but they are just classy and elegant enough to be served at weddings and other formal functions. 

So are you ready for your new obsession? Go ahead, make them but remember... I totally warned you!!! :-}
A light, crisp, buttery almond cookie. The taste is so classy that you can serve these at formal functions.
~Chinese Almond Cookie Recipe~
Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 375.

2 1/2 cups Flour
2 1/2 cups Sugar
1 1/3 cup Shortening
1 tsp Almond Extract
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
Almonds (sliced)

In a large bowl, cream together sugar, shortening and almond extract. Beat 1 egg and add it to the mixture and set aside. 

In a separate bowl, sift flour. Add salt and baking soda and mix well. Combine dry mixture to your first bowl of ingredients and mix until everything is well blended. *(You can chill the but it is not required.) 

Roll the dough into medium size (1 inch) balls and place on greased cookie pan. Press your thumb on the top center of each cookie and place 1 to 3 almonds on top of thumbprint. 

Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes. Check the cookies at 7 minutes because oven temps are different. Take the cookies out just before turning brown or immediately seeing a slight brown on edges. Let cool and enjoy!
~A light crisp cookie with buttery almond flavor. So tasteful and classy you can even serve it at weddings and other formal functions.

Feb 27, 2014

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta~

Pasta rocks! If I have to take a meal to someone with a big family or to a potluck I prefer to make a pasta dish. Pasta is easy, quick and close to fail-proof. It's filling so your family or guests should never finish a meal or leave without feeling satisfied or stuffed. This dish I'm going to share with you today looks and tastes impressive but is pretty easy. It can be made with chicken prepared on the grill or chicken cooked in a pan. I have included directions for cooking it in your skillet if you don't use grilled chicken. 
~Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta~ Chicken and spinach in a rich creamy parmesan cheese sauce with bow tie pasta

Serves 12


4 Chicken breasts  (cut into short strips, chunks or preference)
Olive Oil
3 TB Butter
3 TB Flour
1 cup Whole Milk
2 TB Garlic (minced)
1 cup sliced Mushrooms (optional)
1 medium Onion (chopped) 
10 oz. bag fresh spinach or frozen Spinach (thawed and drained)
16 oz. Bow Tie Pasta (or pasta of your choice)
1 cup Chicken Stock
4 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare water and follow the directions on the package to cook pasta al dente. 

*For grilled chicken: Season your chicken with salt and pepper to taste and grill. After your chicken has been grilled and cooled off a little, cut into thin strips and set aside. 

*For chicken prepared in a pan: Cut your chicken in strips or chunks. Pour a little olive oil in a large pan on medium high heat and cook your chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to overcook your chicken or it will be dry. Once your chicken is done remove it from the pan and set aside. Turn down the heat to medium and melt 2 TB butter. Add garlic and onions. Stir constantly to avoid burning. When onions are almost transparent add the mushrooms. Continue to sauté until done. 

Next add cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and let them begin to melt. Slowly stir in chicken stock and stir until everything is completely melted. Add the chicken until heated fully. (If the sauce is too thick you can add some more milk until desired consistency.)

Lastly, add the spinach and carefully fold it into the sauce.
~Grilled Chicken Florentine Pasta~ chicken and spinach in a creamy rich parmesan sauce with bowtie pasta.

Feb 19, 2014

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Minute To Win It Party Games~

Playing games is one of my favorite things to do. I really enjoy them when our extended family gets together. Minute To Win It games are fun but they are also great ice breakers because they provide so much entertainment for those watching. Here are a few games we played at one of our family gatherings although they are fun for parties, showers, church activities and more!

~Cookie, Cookie, Who Wants A Cookie~

This game is hilarious to watch because of the way people contort their faces. In fact, I had so many funny pictures I could have used but my family members would probably kill me so I tried to find the least embarrassing ones. Just trust me, plan for lots of laughing. 
1.  Pick a couple of people to race against each other. 
2.  Someone holds the timer to tell them when to begin. 
3. The players start with a small cookie on the center of their forehead. They will have to tip their heads back so the cookie stays on.
4.  The object of the game is to slowly slide the cookie to their mouth and eat it without using their hands. 
5.  If the cookie falls off their face then they must start again with a new cookie back on the top of their forehead.
6. The first one to get their cookie in their mouth wins.

~Idle Hands~

This game was really fun for the little kids. They would stand behind the adults who had their hands behind their back. They would slide their arms around the front of the adult and be their hands for them. They would attempt to feed them food and drinks. The person that eats the most chips, cookies, marshmallows, etc. in the minute wins the game.

~Shake, Shake, Shake, Shake Your Booty~

This game starts out with an empty kleenex box with a hole on either of the smaller ends and a ribbon or twine threaded between the two holes. This allows the box to be strapped onto the back side of the players with the opening of the box visible. Inside the box you can place a 10-15 items that should all be the same. In the picture below we used jingle bells but you can also use, small balls, marbles, marshmallows or any other small round objects. This is fun because they really have to dance and shake their booty to force things out of the box. The one who removed the most items once the timer rings wins the game.

~Stack 'em Up~

Next are several games that all have stacking things in common. For each game below the same rules apply:
1.  Pick a couple of people to race against each other. 
2.  Someone holds the timer to tell them when to begin. 
3. The object of these games are to see who can stack the most things before the timer rings. They are the winner! 
In this game we stacked Ding Dongs. 

We stacked marshmallows using chop sticks.

This game calls for a partner, a popsicle stick in one 
persons mouth and some dice to stack on the stick.

They must hold very still while their partner stacks dice.
In this last game they stacked golf balls. Yes, it really is possible to stack golf balls. Stack as many pairs of golf balls as you can before the timer goes off. Whomever stacks the most pairs wins.

I hope you found something fun your next party, church activity  or family gathering. Thank you for stopping by! :-) 

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Wedding Gift Basket~

Got bridal gifts to make? I don't know about you but when I get invited to a bridal shower, I immediately feel a little pressure to come up with something creative. If you are crafty like me then you probably have felt the same way a time or two. These feelings intensify when others make comments like, "I can't wait to see what great idea you come up with LeAnn?" Don't get me wrong, I love making gifts and finding creative presentation ideas but when time is limited, I stress...uneccessarily. The first step is to admit your problem though, right? Now I just need to figure out how to stop doing it! 

So, I got invited to a close friend of the family's bridal shower. When I looked at the list of items she registered for I immediately fell in love with the beautiful white towels with a white shabby rose. Towels are not the most exciting gift but I knew these towels had potential. I grabbed the towels and went up and down the aisles in Target trying to find something creative to put these lovely towels in. After an hour of searching and finishing off a left over bag of m&m's from the bottom of my purse, I decided to give up and started heading to the check out line when I saw "it!" It... was a square laundry basket. I was so happy. I found my unique but useful container! Here's what I came up with. 

I used this fun idea as my BRIDAL SHOWER /WEDDING GIFT. I mentioned the towels the bride registered for already and I included other bathroom goodies like soap, back scrubbers and luffa sponges. I used shimmer white, cream and shades of brown tissue paper on the outer edge of the basket to tie in the colors of the soaps I added. (For detailed instructions you can watch my YouTube video at the bottom.)

My favorite thing about this gift that I feel makes it unique, is the square laundry basket that will also be useful because we all have laundry! When you are finished you can shrink wrap it or add netting around it with a bow.  This was a close friend of the family so I made it larger but you could search for a smaller basket or container if you arent purchasing as much.

This also makes a great HOUSE WARMING GIFT idea. Use the same concept for a gift with a decorative box, galvanized bucket, wicker or wire basket or even a cute kitchen strainer. Add a few different items to fit the occasion like kitchen towels, soaps, a candle and maybe some yummy quick bread or cookies with the recipe! 

Here's my video for detailed instructions. It includes how to build up the height in the basket so the gift doesn't sit too far inside. I hope this helped you get your creative juices going. Thanks for visiting!

Feb 11, 2014

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Valentine Photo Shoot~

I am super fortunate! I am surrounded by wonderful photographers in my family. My sister Sarah took pictures professionally but now uses her skills to blog for her family. My sister-in-law Ambyr is also a professional photographer and still does a few things for close friends and family. My cousin's wife, Danielle is a photographer at Creatively Chic. They are all fabulous and I'm amazed by their talents. 

~Valentine Photo Booth~

Before I go any further, I just have to say that I am absolutely in love with this photo booth made with old pallets by my friend Candace and her hubby!  It's a great basic booth that can easily be changed for any holiday or occasion. So today it will be shown in a Valentine photo shoot done by Danielle. I love how she captured the personality of each of the cousins with their different poses. 

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Isn't this too stinkin' cute? This little girl is a hoot and catching her swipe some candy from the candy jar is totally her. This is definitely one of my favorite ideas!

Photo by Danielle from Creatively Chic

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Photo by: Danielle from Creatively Chic

Are they adorable or what? I hope you enjoyed the ideas. Don't forget to follow my blog or check back with me for that tutorial on the photo booth! Have a Happy Valentine's Day! :-) 

Feb 4, 2014

Posted by LeAnn Johnson

~Valentine's Day~


I LOVE PARTIES! Actually, I love any kind of celebration! I love searching for creative ideas, planning, preparing and especially decorating. I love watching people come into a room and immediately be affected (hopefully in a good way), by the presentation I have created. It's rewarding to provide an atmosphere where people can be together, have fun and make lots of memories!

So, Valentines Day is approaching. It's a time for yummy candy, class parties, homemade cards and gift ideas that show others how we truly feel about them. Today I'll share a table idea (for the meal of your choice), for your loved ones with a few personal Valentine gifts for kids with a rhyme to match each one. I have also created a breakfast in bed idea, 9 quick Valentine party favors and a White Velvet Stuffed cupcake recipe with a fun cupcake topper idea. I also have a quick centerpiece for your table that can hold all the party favors you have put together for a party or for your table to decorate your home until Valentines. I picked up all of my Valentine party favor supplies for this post at one of my favorite stores- PartCity

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

~Valentine's Day Breakfast in Bed~

Here is a little breakfast in bed idea to serve on a cute tray. What person wouldn't love to receive something like this upon waking? You can change it up a bit to appease whomever you are serving whether it's your husband or the kiddos. 

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com
Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

Of course, you will have also have breakfast made for that special someone as well. I plan on tying a red balloon in the shape of a heart on the tray for a little added fun. 

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com
Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com
It would also be fun to put a cute note or valentine card inside the mailbox that they could read while eating.

~Valentine Table and Gift Idea~

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

Here is a view of one of the place settings. I made the placemat from wrapping paper from Party City along with the paper products and doily. My son's valentine is a finger football game with a rhyme attached. I gave you the details of the 3 different valentines for my boys (on their plates in this pic) and the rhymes I made up for each one. You will find them at the very bottom of this post.

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

I love this little 3-tiered tray with a few valentine treats that look festive on the table for those who visit to enjoy and for those in your house so they could snack on them throughout the week or however long they last! :)

~Valentine Cupcakes~

Here are some fun Valentine cupcakes that are a festive treat for neighbors, coworkers or even a class party. I got the red and white cupcake liners, Valentine sprinkles, curly ribbon and suckers on top of the cupcakes at Party City. I found the suckers (pink pop favor kit) in the girl baby shower section. I used the "thank you" stickers included in the kit but added a heart sticker over it and then added curly ribbon at the base of each sucker to make it fun for Valentines. I stuck a sucker in each cupcake after I scattered each one with the Valentine sprinkles first. (I would not suggest trying to sprinkle after you put the sucker in. Don't ask me how I know that. :)

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

Hershey's Hugs, Lindor white chocolate truffles or white chocolate chips)
1 Box White Cake Mix 
1 cup Flour
4 Egg Whites
1 1/3 cups Milk 
1/4  cup Sour Cream
2 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Salt

3 cups Cream Cheese softened
1  1/2 cup Butter softened
1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl add the cake mix, flour, sugar and salt.  Mix well.  Slowly add milk, oil, sour cream and egg whites in that order.  Mix until well blended.  Pour the batter into cupcake liners at barely half full. Place a Hershey hug (or use Lindor truffle or 4 white chocolate chips) in the center and top off with batter. Bake 20 minutes or until they look done.  Mix cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar together. Frost cupcakes after they have cooled off. 

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

~Valentine Centerpiece and 

Party Favor Ideas~

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com
I love this large mailbox! I found it in the wedding section at Party City. It's a fun centerpiece idea to decorate and a great display for your party favors. Another idea is that you can leave it up and perhaps place a little note each day for the kids reminding them for the 14 days up to Valentines of the many things you love about them!
Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

I have 9 party favor ideas from supplies I found mostly in the valentine section at Party City. A few of the party favors were found in the general party favors. I used valentine cut outs and doilies that I turned into tags by writing a message on them. 

*Top left corner- see 2nd pic & idea below for the rhyme

*Top row, middle pic- I love your "Bubbly" personality!

*Top row, 3rd pic- Friends "band" together is a valentine favor made from hair bands in the valentine section

*2nd row, 1st pic- "Brace" yourself and Be Mine! 

*2nd row, middle pic- see 1st pic below for rhyme I made.

*2nd row, 3rd pic- I can "heartly" keep my eyes off you!

*3rd row, 1st pic-  "Twizz" U Be Mine?- Twizzlers in a little bunch tied with tulle from the wedding section

*3rd row, middle pic- U R 4-Ever "Tattoed" on my heart! 

*3rd row, 3rd pic- See 3rd pic below for my rhyme- I used their cutouts and I used their printed valentine tablet and cut out the shapes for the tag.

Photo by: Sarah Martin for crafty2thecore.com

Here are some party favors I made for my sons to put at the table for their Valentine breakfast or lunch. I made up the rhymes attached to each one. I wrote on a card I got from a tablet of pre-made valentines and cut outs from Party City but you could easily make your own and print it out if you don't print well. In case it is hard for you to read the rhyme I will type it out for you.


Soccer is a game-
Bad kicks you can't afford
When it comes to Valentines
It was I- who truly SCORED!


To play finger football

It takes good aim-
Please be my Valentine


When you play this game
I hope you have fun-
If Valentines were baseball
I'd have scored a HOME RUN!

I hope you enjoyed my Valentine ideas! Thanks you for visiting my blog. I hope you will follow me so I can share lots more with you! Have a great Valentine's Day! :-)

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