Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Vegan Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

 

Our Christmas dinner with the family was a hit. We ended up having some unexpected guests (some 21 people in our small two bedroom townhouse), but there was MORE than enough food and gifts to go around! As part of the dessert feast, I decided to try a new take on one of my favorite desserts....sour cream chocolate cake! Not a sole knew it was vegan until after they ate it and everyone LOVED it!

This recipe does not create a super rich chocolate cake, but it is extremely moist. I make up for the lack of richness in the icing I make so its a fair trade in the end.

Ingredients

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used chocolate chunks instead of bark)
1/2 cup (1 stick) vegan margarine (I love Earth Balance)
1 cup hot water
2 cups cake flour OR 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour plus 1/2 cup cornstarch (We used the flour strarch mix)
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces vegan sour cream (used Tofutti brand)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
6 ounces plain or vanilla soy or coconut yogurt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease your pans.

Melt chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler until smooth and set aside. Combine margarine and hot water in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once t is brought to a boil remove it immediately from the heat and whisk in the chocolate.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture all at once and mix well. Finally mix in the sour cream, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the yogurt last and combine thoroughly.

Pour into your pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick removes cleanly.

Let cool for a few minutes before turning onto a rack. I messed up here and tried to remove them immediately and make cakes fell apart.

Once the cakes are cool you can ice your cakes with any icing you want! I added a bit of peppermint extract to mine since it was the holidays and everyone loved it!

Enjoy!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Festive Smelling Home


Having a nice smelling home is something I always strive for, especially since we have two cats. For some reason people who do not own cats think that your house always smells of cat urine which is as far from the truth as it gets. If you properly take care of your litter boxes, scooping every other day and changing the litter every two weeks, will leave your house smelling fine. Adding baking soda to the litter also helps. There is absolutely no reason a cat owners house should smell of cats. Maintaining a nice smelling home is actually pretty easy, but if you are like me, you realize the smells you wish to smell change throughout the year. December brings gingerbread, peppermint, cinnamon, and other baking smells.

Growing up, my mother always boiled a mixture around the holidays that left our house smelling festive and divine. Today, I would like to share this recipe with you.

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Ingredients

1 orange or lemon, thinly sliced (1/2 orange if using smaller pot)
1 stick or 2 tbsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1 tbsp whole cloves

Directions

Fill a large pot with water until it is two inches from the top. Add your orange and spices and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes before reducing to a simmer. Add more water and spices when needed. You can also push the cloves into the orange slices and boil, but this is not necessary.

Simple right? Of course! This will keep your house smelling wonderful all season long. You can also boil pine needles to produce a pine smell if you like and peppermint extract for a pepperminty smell.

Have a wonderful holiday!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Festive Yule Tree and Handmade Ornaments


Welcome all party goers and Happy Yule! My gift to you is a peek into my Yule tree and some of my handmade ornaments. I'm not going to lie, I'm still making ornaments, but that's okay!

Most of the ornaments I purchased or were given to us as a gift from my mother last year. The ones I did buy cost us around $20 total. The handmade ornaments? Free!

The first set of handmade ornaments I have made were inspired by some owl ornaments I found on Pinterest. I am a sucker for birds, so much so I wish to spend my life studying them, so I just had to make these ornaments. You can see in the picture above what I am talking about.


These owls were VERY easy to make, taking about 15 minutes to make 6. First, apply a thin layer of paint to your toilet paper rolls. You don't need to prime first on this project. Just put a thin layer of BRIGHT paint and you should have no problems!


Let it dry, draw your faces either with paint, or in my case, a Shapie, and finish by folding over the tops of make "ears." Of course you don't have to paint the toilet paper rolls. As you can see from the far left owl, I did not paint him. If you are going for a more earthy look, not painting is the way to go!

     

I hope you enjoyed my tree and ornaments so far! I hope the coming year is full of happiness, wealth, and charity.

Happy Yule everyone!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Traditions: Christmas Light Viewing


The Mortician and I had a pretty swell weekend, except for a family mishap on Sunday which I am still trying to forget. My brother is home from basic for a few days; need I say more? Despite the mishap, we had a great weekend. Saturday we visited the Darwin exhibit at Fernbank Nature History Museum. The exhibit was amazing, truly amazing. We spent around 2 hours alone in the Darwin wing of the museum alone. I'm still tickled we managed to go see it before it left. The best part was seeing some of his original notebooks, including his original sketch of the tree of life. I almost cried when I saw it. As you can probably tell, I am fascinated by Darwin. In fact, he is one of my heroes, especially considering what I want to do hinges entirely on his work. But enough about Darwin. I could spend all week talking about him, but I'm sure you guys would get bored of it.


Since I spoke about a new family tradition yesterday, I figured I would talk about an old one today. Every year people decorate their houses with lights, blow ups, plastic reindeer, garland, etc. And every year my family sets out to look at those decorations. Saturday night, after the museum, we drove around to look at all the beautiful lights and to see what houses were for sale in the area. We saw some truly amazing houses. I would love to post pictures, but I do not have the consent of the home owners.

Christmas Vacation house
This is a great activity to do with the family because it only costs you the gas. Lake Lanier currently has an entire area of their park decorated with lights. As tempting as it was to go it was $40 per car and a bit of a drive to get there. Honestly, not worth it when I can do the same thing around town for free.

source
I know there is much to be done around the holidays, but why not set aside one evening to spend with your significant other. Drive around local neighborhoods, play some holiday music, and sip on hot chocolate while picking out your favorite houses!


Do you take your family out to look at the lights? When do you like to go out?

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Traditions: Yule Tree


Welcome fellow party goers. I apologize for my tardiness, but family matters and work took president yesterday and I was unable to post as I wished too. I hope that you will still enjoy my post regarding our Yule Tree.

In November we were lucky enough to come across a Christmas Tree outing for four for only $35! I couldn't believe it! In the package was a 6 foot tree, 2 s'mores, a hayride for 4, access to their petting zoo, and slide rides for kids. We don't have any kids, so just the the Mortician and I went on a Thursday afternoon when NO ONE was there.

First, we stopped and pet all the miniature goats, frolicked with the chickens and loved on the pig.

Next, we picked out a tree. The selection was thin as they had no unloaded their truck yet, but we found one instantly that spoke to us. Fortunately it fit into my little car. Yes, we actually stuck it IN the car not on it.

Normally they require at least 10 people for the hayride, but the owner took the two of us out anyway to feed the cows. I love cows.

We ended our day by buying some local honey (great for allergies which the Mortician has) and some homemade peach cider. Both are delicious although I won't be partaking in the honey too often.

This is the first time in my life that I have ever had a real tree and I have to say I am excited. We finally get to cut our first Yule log, which I am looking forward to in the coming weeks.

Traditionally, the Yule Log is cut from the past year's tree or from the same location as the tree and burned on Yule or as part of Christmas to honor the God and bring good luck in the coming year. A piece of the log is saved to kindle the fire for the next year's holiday fire.

source
Don't have a fire place or don't want to deal with the mess of acquiring a Yule Log? No problem! As the tradtion has been passed down, people have altered it to suit their needs, the most popular being the Yule Log cake, a chocolate cake decorated to look like a Yule Log. Recipes regarding making a Yule Log Cake are endless!

Do you have a live or artificial tree? Do you partake in the Yule Log tradition?

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some Christmas Decor


I am slowly but surely decorating for the holiday season. As many of you already know, this is the first year living in a house of my own, so my decorations are scarce, but I am working on it. Since we are on a pretty strict budget, I can't just run out and buy everything I want. Most of the stuff I want will have to be purchased in the next couple of years as I slowly build our holiday decoration supply. Moving, we only had a small 3 foot tree and some icicle lights. We did have ornaments, but the cats decided to use the box as their litter box and we had to throw them all away. So, all new ornaments this year on top of everything else. The little tree is not up since we got a real tree this year, for the first time I might add, but I hope when we have room that I will be able to set up the little tree as well.

Today I want to share some of my decorations on the dresser behind our couch. I had the move the dresser down to fit the tree, but that's okay! Worse things have happened in this house!


Not much, but it is so festive!


The boxes are from the dollar store and were used as gift boxes last year. My mother gave them back to me and I decided to use them as decoration this year since there are no gifts that will fit in them this year...that I know of.



The ornaments are the same ornaments we used to decorate our tree so everything matches!


The tree is from Target and I bought it on sale for only $5! I was going to make my own decorative trees, but the foam was between $8 and $16 and nothing like the size of this beautiful silver tree...so I invested the $5 and I think it is working out nicely.


The star and bell are also ornaments, large ornaments, that I picked up for a dollar and two dollars at Target. They are the same colors as out other ornaments and look nicely paird with the tree.


Have you finished decorating your house, or are you taking it one step at a time? I know some people like to do it all in one day, but I could never personally do that. I am so picky and decorate slowly over several days. I guess that's just me though!

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: No Bake Cookies

 

Tasty Tuesday is back from a two week break! This week's recipe is No Bake Cookies. These are quick and easy, so quick and easy in fact, that I can make up a batch after dinner or whenever I am craving chocolate! Furthermore, these are a healthy alternative to other holiday treats! If you are participating in a cookie exchange party, these are great cookies to prepare last minute, although I don't condone it!

source
Ingredients

1 3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup vegan margarine
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter, any kind will do
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Combine sugar, milk, margarine and coca powder in a sauce pan. Heat until rolling boil forms. Cook for 1 1/2 minutes. This is a critical stage. If you cook too long, the cookies will turn out dry and crumbly, but if you don't cook the mixture long enough, the cookies won't set up. However, not cooking the mixture long enough is better than cookie it too long. To force the cookies to set up, you can put them in the fridge or freezer and eat them cold instead of room temperature.

In a separate bowl, add the oats, peanut butter, and vanilla (Don't worry about mixing yet).

Next add the sugar mixture and stir to thoroughly combine. Do this while the mixture is still hot so it will melt the peanut butter.

Finally, drop cookie sized drops of the mixture onto wax paper. Let set up.

As I mentioned earlier, you can force these cookies to set up by putting them in the freezer or fridge.

This is honestly one of my favorite cookies. Do you have a favorite holiday cookie?

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

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Growing up, we ALWAYS had a stocking hanging over the mantle. Last year was my first Christmas with the Mortician and I was actually living with him. Our house, however, did not have a mantle, so we missed out on the stockings. Yes, I know, you can hang them other places but it just didn't feel right to me. This townhouse does have a mantle, as some of you saw in October when I decorated it for the fall, which means I hung stockings. They are nothing grand at the moment since I didn't feel like buying super expensive stockings this year. Instead, I purchased some $1 stockings and they'll do the job just fine.

Sometimes its hard to fill the stockings, especially for adults. After visiting Target a million times in the past 3 weeks, I have seen aisle and aisle of kid stocking stuffers and gifts, but nothing geared toward adults, at least nothing that would be considered a stocking stuffer. So what do you give adults in their stocking? I've complied a small list of ideas which will suit both men AND women so you don't have to worry too much about the sex of the person you are giving too.

1. Personal Care Items
          - Tooth Brush/Tooth Paste
          - Deodorant
          - Bubble Bath/Bath Bombs/Beads
          - Soap
          - Chapstick
          - For Women: Makeup Items
          - Hand Sanitizer/wipes
          - Lotion

2. Treats
          - Favorite Candy
          - Small cheeses or meats (I don't encourage this, but its an idea)
          - Drink mixes
          - Cookies
          - Tea
          - Coffee
          - Other small food items like honey, drinks, etc

3. Other (This includes more gifty items)
          - Socks
          - T-shirt in a can
          - Gloves
          - Hats
          - Hand Warmers
          - Small Electronics such as watches, headphones, speakers, etc
          - Cell Phone Case
          - Batteries
          - Pocket Book
          - Pocket Planner
          - Small Translation Books
          - Sun Glasses
          - Jewlery
          - Scarves
          - Candles
          - Playing Cards
          - Gag Gifts

I know when you set off into the store it can feel like there is NOTHING that you can place into an adults stocking, but I hope this list helps you find the items your loved one wants or needs. I tend of focus on things people need rather than just what they want. I tend to make half the stocking personal care items or small gifts they need and the other half treats and things they want. That way the person gets a variety and you know at least half of the items will get used and most of the other half eaten!

Happy Shopping!

<3The Mortician's Wife

Saturday, December 10, 2011

DIY: Holiday Wreath


Welcome all party goers! As a special treat, I have put together a tutorial on how to make the beautiful holiday wreath that is currently adorning my door this month.


Supplies

Grape Vine Wreath
Thin Branches (I collected mine from my backyard)
Willow Branches (Curly branches)
White Spray Paint
Ornaments
Floral Decorations
Optional: Floral Wire (I didn't use any but you may want too)

Directions


First gather your grape vine wreath. If it has leaves in it, remove the bulk of them.


Next, remove the leaves from your branches if there are any. As you can see from mine, they are thin, very thin. If you can't find any in your yard, try purchasing some from the craft store. Remove the leaves from your branches if they contain any and start feeding them into your wreath until you have something like what is pictured below. You can secure your branches with floral wire if you like, but if you feed them well enough you don't need the wire.


Next, spray paint your wreath white. Only spray lightly, though. You don't need to put a thick coat on the wreath. You want just enough to give it a white appearance but leave it snowy looking. If you like, you can use spray snow. The point is to achieve a snowy or icy looking wreath.


Next, feed your willow branches into the wreath. Since I bought silver branches, I didn't need to paint them before feeding them into the wreath. If yours are not already white or silver, add them before you paint the wreath.


Next, gathering your floral decorations. I sprayed the ends of mine so you wouldn't see the brown within the wreath.


After they dried, I broke about the silver beads and put three clumps throughout the wreath. In the lower left corner, I added the ornaments (1 large and 1 small) using the left over wire in the sprig. If you don't have left over wire, you will need to purchase some. I then clumped the beads and acorns around the ornaments to give it a finished look.



Finally, hang your wreath up and enjoy!

This project only took me about 30 minutes and turned out fantastic. Total cost was around $12. To buy something like this in the store would cost you between $20 and $50. Just to buy a wispy wreath is $20! I paid $5 for the grapevine and nothing for the branches (except the willow branches which were $2)!

I hope you have enjoyed my tutorial and wreath and have fun blog hopping!

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Invitations

I finally finished putting together some holiday party invitations for everyone. I only made three this time so I hope you aren't too disappointed. Like my last Thanksgiving invitations and what not, these are also editable. I didn't go to the extreme with the text like I did in the cookie invitations so the creativity is left up to you this time! All I have done is provide a very simple layout! I hope you enjoy them!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0KnNmfNfzc8NWtzZVBYNW1FT2c/view?usp=sharing


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0KnNmfNfzc8M1EtWUVYSlpPWXc/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0KnNmfNfzc8c0Ywa2xzWDQtdTQ/view?usp=sharing

Are you throwing a party this year? I know we are, but its all family so we didn't send out invitations. If we were going to have friends and family, I would have.

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cookie Party: Invitation and How To

Around the holidays, it isn't uncommon to gorge yourself on cookies. Since cookies are such an integral part of the holiday season, people have begun throwing cookie parties where they exchange cookies, recipes, and holiday cheer. My mom participates in one every year, or almost every year, and brings home some pretty amazing treats. Of course, the treats don't have to necessarily be cookies; some of the ladies bring homemade candies to share. I considered throwing a party of my own this year, but I don't have a large enough friend base that would be interested in participating.

Anyway, why not have a party of your own this year? To help you out, I've included a free printable invitation for you to enjoy! It is editable so you can change the dates, times, and other information.

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/107411775/Cookies-n-Cocktails

Never thrown a cookie party before? Well, Kitschy-Koo have a wonderful post regarding throwing a cookie exchange party.

Throughout the upcoming week, I plan on sharing some cookie recipes with you. Some of them are my own, others from magazines, blogs, or friends.

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife

PS: I am currently working on holiday party invitations. Hopefully I will have 3 or 4 finished by tomorrow. You can also expect to see some free printable gift tags within the next week.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays


Well, we had a fantastic vacation. Tomorrow, instead of a recipe, I plan on showing you some pictures from our trip to Savannah. I would have shown them today, but we got home so late last night that I didn't have time to get the Mortician to download them before we went to bed. After running several errands, working on some projects, picking up, etc. I finally decided I would go ahead and write up a quick blog post. Its nothing special, but it should be helpful for those of you who decorate and entertain during the holiday season.

Preparing for the holidays is often dreaded my men and women of the home who decorate for the holidays and especially those who entertain during them. This year we are celebrating Christmas at our house. Twenty odd people are going to be crammed into our two bedroom townhouse for a couple hours to celebrate the gift giving season. Luckily, I am NOT stressing about the holidays! Why? Because I follow a few simple steps.

1. Make a List

Make a list of everyone coming to your party, supplies, decorations, food, etc. Make up a to do list and state on it early! Nothing will help put things into perspective and keep you organized like a list.

2. Divide Up Gifts

Exchanging gifts for the holiday? Divide them up! Put everyone's name in a basket and have people draw names to see who they will be getting a gift for. This ensures everyone gets a gift so there is no awkwardness and saves everyone money, especially during this economy. If you can't get everyone to draw names, draw them yourselves. We are going to be buying for couples at our holiday celebration to cut down spending and make the gift exchange easier. Not everyone knows each other extremely well, so this way it will be easier on everyone.

3. Divide Up Meals

There is no way in hell I'm making all the food for everyone. Instead, I'm asking everyone to bring something. Best way to do this to make sure no one brings the same thing is to start a list and contact each party individually. My list isn't done, but its getting there! I have a couple more parties to call before everything is settled. This is cheaper for us all and saves me time!

4. Fake Clean

You don't have to deep your house before guests come. Most won't know the difference anyway. Lightly clean the areas guests will be. Vacuum and declutter. That's really all you need to do. Don't worry about  dusting everything, washing your furniture, cleaning the windows, etc. Also don't worry about areas your guests won't be. You don't need to clean your master bedroom or the kids rooms. I doubt people are going to be eating dinner and what not in there. The only room you need to deep clean is the bathroom the guests will be using. This is a given though.

5. Have an "Open House" Party

What does this mean? An Open House party is one where you don't have an formal seating or anything like that. Instead, guests roam around, eat where they want (in the designated areas), and converse with whom they want about they want. This way you are less stressed, guests have more fun, and the all around party takes on a much more relaxed feel so you can relax too.

What do you do to minimize stress during the holidays? Any tips you'd like to give our readers? I hope your holiday is a little less stressful!

Look Alive!
<3The Mortician's Wife
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