I’ve received a few requests for this year’s Handmade Holiday Organizer. Of course, as a complete nerd for any organizing project, I complied, gleefully. (Is there such a thing as a recreational organizer? If so, I think I am one of those.)

Visit here to download the 2013 Handmade Holiday Organizer (the fifth annual!) And organize along with me.

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Blogging Break

08.19.13

IMG_9696Friends,

I am typing right now with a sweet snoozing newborn on my lap, while my three big kids are chasing each other around the family room (all of them doing their best to be helpful and patient, but all of them overdue for either being taken on an outing or being booted out of the house to play there, with the threat of having to clean if they reemerge indoors).

I have had this big, beautiful post swimming around in my imagination to write to you, explaining all the reasons I keep trying to post here but can never quite manage to pull a full entry together, about my jostling priorities and just being real about my time. To tell you the truth, this post I came across is rad and sums up some of what I’ve been feeling.

But the bottom line is, I am feeling like it is now or never to be able to really soak up time with my kids, and that can be a trick even with normal chores and chaos, let alone keeping up with my chocolate shop and this blog. So I am signing off from this blog for now, hoping to get to come back some day soon and post again.

I won’t be dropping completely off the face of the earth. I’d love to see you over on Pinterest, or follow me and my chocolate adventures on Instagram @TicketChocolate or on Facebook.

But for today, I just want to leave you with a giant thank you for the friends you have been and for the many wonderful interactions you’ve given me through Giver’s Log.

 

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So. I have this amazing friend who decided she wanted to create a print publication, and then did.
IMG_9717Amazing, right?

I am totally in awe of the first issue of Childhood, Growing up in Sacramento, and honored to be featured as the Mom Crush. And I am totally in awe of the woman behind the print. Congratulations, Lisa!
IMG_9718IMG_9723dailyschedule(p.s., if you are in the Sac area and need a great photographer, I recommend MG Design Photography, Sarah was clutch with my kiddos and worked wonders for our Childhood shoot.)

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easter egg chocolate truffleIf you’ve never made ganache chocolate truffles before, and you don’t know how simple they are, you may want to look away. Look away now.

Once you’ve tried these you will realize how ridiculously quick and simple it is to make smooth amazing truffles out of your favorite gourmet chocolate, and then there is just no turning back.

In fact, these are so simple that I often have little helpers in the kitchen pitching in every step of the way. Which makes it fun to make them as a surprise treat for grown up Easter baskets.

SIMPLE MICROWAVE GOURMET CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

INGREDIENTS
8 oz of your favorite chocolate (sweetened, not unsweetened), chopped into small, even sized pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz more of chocolate for coating (optional)
1/4 cup powdered sugar + food coloring
or any other coating you prefer (cocoa powder, chopped nuts, coconut, chocolate curls, etc.)

colored easter eggssimple truffles recipe4Prep your coating. If you’re going to use colored powdered sugar, start by adding about 20 drops food coloring to 1/4 cup powdered sugar. (Feel free to mix and blend colors as you like, though straight blue and straight yellow turned out to be my favorites.) Use a spoon to mash the coloring and sugar against the side of the bowl occasionally as it dries for 2-3 minutes until the coloring is evenly distributed.

simple truffles recipe1Start making your ganache. Place your chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. If you can make sure it is chopped fine into even pieces, you’ll have a much easier time with the whole process.

Pour the 1/2 cup heavy cream in a microwave safe cup and microwave until it is hot and steaming. It is alright if it boils for just a couple seconds, but don’t let it boil for much more than that.

Pour cream over chocolate. Let it rest for one minute.

Begin stirring in the center of the bowl with a spatula, working to make an emulsion in the center with the cream and chocolate. Once it is combined in the center, stir in the remainder of the chocolate and cream just until combined.

If chocolate pieces are not fully melting, put the chocolate cream mixture in the microwave and zap it at half power for up to 10 seconds, then stir again. You want to heat the chocolate as slowly as possible.  Chocolate pieces should melt while stirring, not in the microwave. Repeat as necessary.
simple truffles recipe2Pour the chocolate into a shallow pan to cool. A pie pan works great for this. Press plastic wrap against the surface and allow the ganache to set up in room temp for one hour.
simple truffles recipe5Shape the truffles. If your ganache is too soft to shape, place it in the fridge for five minutes or so.

Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop a truffle-sized piece of ganache and plop it into your powdered sugar or cocoa powder. We like to coat before we roll and shape because little hands can shape truffles much better with a coating of sugar or cocoa powder over the top.

Roll and shape the truffles into the shape of a little robin egg.

simple truffles recipe6Enrobe and re-coat the truffles (an optional step!) If you are going to eat the truffles within the next few hours and want to keep things simple, feel free to skip this step, you are done! I love a hard chocolate coating over my truffles to bite through before I get to the ganache center, though, so I often go the extra mile. Plus a chocolate coating keeps the truffles from drying out if you’ll be eating them after a day or two. (Truffles can last a few days longer, but usually you’ll want to make them just a day or two in advance. Around my house, getting rid of truffles has never been a problem.)

If the truffles are too soft to work with, pop them back in the fridge for five minutes or more.

Melt the chocolate you’ll use to enrobe. Chop it evenly and fine, and put it in a microwave-safe bowl. (Glass is actually not ideal, as it can heat up quickly, a microwave-safe plastic bowl is the ideal option for this.) Microwave on half power for up to 15 seconds, then stir. Repeat until chocolate begins to soften and become clay like, stirring and combining it thoroughly. Lower your time and microwave on half power for up to 8 seconds, stirring between. Melting on very low heat in short increments, while stirring often between, allows the chocolate to stay in temper as you melt it. Chocolate pieces should visibly melt while you stir, not while you heat. If you can keep chocolate below 89 F while you melt (87 F for milk or white chocolate), it will stay pretty and in temper.

Roll the truffles in the chocolate coating, then drop them again in your powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Roll one final time to coat, and set them to cool.

Now sit back and admire your delicious little creations.
colored easter egg chocolate truffleOkay, or bite into a truffle as soon as you can.

Then store these in an airtight container until you are ready to serve, and bring them to room temp before enjoying them, if you can manage to wait that long.

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birthday cake door mat
We just finished two birthdays in one week here. What a party.

I always try to deck out the house after my almost-birthday-child goes to bed the night before their big day, with balloon avalanches and other fun surprises. And of course I am always on the lookout for simple, festive decorations with a big impact—or even better—reusable decorations that become family birthday traditions.

We made a couple of the fun, reusable kind this year.

After a year or two of intending to do it, the kids and I finally put together a balloon wreath from this tutorial (FYI, I used a 16-inch foam wreath form and 4 bags of 72 balloons).
birthday balloon wreath DIY

And this year I came up with another new surprise that I made during one nap time, that’s right, just one, and that I plan to use for years to come.

Say hello to our new birthday door mat.
birthday cake mat by bedroom door

Very fun for placing outside to welcome party guests, or inside at the bedroom door of the birthday honoree, which is what we did this year.

Do you have any favorite birthday traditions?

Now, down to business.

For the mat,
I started with a blank door mat I picked up at Target last week for $10
and whatever bottles of spray paint I had in the garage.
I used a roll of painter’s tape (regular masking tape would have done the job just fine too!)
And I highly recommend a roll of painter’s paper.
birthday cake door mat DIY1

Masking off the cake layers was super simple. Even the more complex shapes took just a little extra manipulating. Then I just sprayed on the paint nice and heavy

birthday cake door mat DIY2
I had all kinds of fun layering paint colors. I found that if I wanted a color extra bright, like my pink stripe, I painted a layer of white first, followed by the final color.

DIY Birthday Cake Door Mat
What do you think? Not a bad way to be welcomed to the party, right? What other birthday traditions do you do?

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How is your week? We are in full birthday mode here with double birthdays. I have a fun little birthday detail to share with you soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to reminisce on a few spring favorites from the archives.

mail an easter egggive the Easter bunny a little help, send eggs via mail
(so far this has worked for me each time and the eggs have made it to their destination, but check out the comments for more info, I’ve had one or two readers who have had troubles)

rainbow-garland210-minute 1-dollar party garland. really truly.

make your own seed tape gardener giftmake your own seed tape (a fun gift for your favorite gardener)

herb garden tipsa quick herb garden how-to

organize your gift wraphow to organize your gift wrap. yay for spring cleaning!

cloth-gift-wrapspringie gift wrap

chocolate-butter-recipetime to picnic! my chocolate butter recipe right here.

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DIY garden notebook plannerI am a sucker for graph paper. Few things make me happier than a whole notebook of graph paper just waiting for me to plan something in it.

Which is why I like to make sure I always have one of these on hand
moleskineThe square (graph) moleskine is a favorite. Particularly this size, the large. It is just big enough to fit some serious graphing or calendaring or planning and just small enough for tucking in a purse.

In fact, just linking to it I had to go buy another set of 3. I think I might have a compulsive graph paper problem.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been taking a moment at the beginning of the spring to draw out, on graph paper, the layout of my little garden. Very little, but still a garden.

garden notebookI’ve done only an herb garden for a couple of years, but would like to branch out a bit more this year.

(branch. ha. I totally didn’t even plan that.)

As I contemplated my new garden plans, I got to thinking I really needed a pretty place to dream out my garden.

And I got to thinking I really needed all of my years of garden plans in one place.

And I needed one place to keep all the great tips and plant favorites I hear from friends.

So I put together a printable label to make my own official garden planner, and am sharing it here so you can have a place for all your garden dreaming if you like.

:: GARDEN PLANNER  ::
GARDEN PLANNER :: Click to download here from Dropbox
Ore click to here: Garden Planner (1645)
(depending on your browser, after you click you may need to right click and Save Image As)

garden markers and printablePick up a couple square moleskines if graph paper is your thing. Or if you are more of a blank paper person (my other favorite) moleskine has something for you too. Or ruled. Or upcycle something pretty out of a cereal box. Stick on your label, and start drawing.
garden care package
printable spring labelgarden quotegarden plannerHappy garden dreaming.

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CHICKEN COOPSomething has gotten into us this year.

I want to say this spring.

It’s been so sunshiney this year in Cali. I’ve been wearing tshirts and having daily guilt trips when I listen to national weather reports. Maybe that’s what’s gotten into us.

Or maybe it’s that we have many many talented friends and family who are amazing at growing and raising and preparing and preserving their own food (like my friend & running buddy, who is my hero and has butchered and cleaned a chicken. What a woman.)

Whatever it is, we’ve got the bug.

Brent especially has the bug.

It started last summer, when we decided to give up on our dog-house–turned chicken coop and Brent built our new coop (from these online plans).
CHICKEN COOP 2And now Brent is always looking out for the flock, and showing up with more birds to add to the party every now and then. And it’s only escalated from there.

FARM BOOKThis is his new favorite book. It’s kinda fun, take a look.
GARDEN BOOKThe book has some very cool pointers. And some pretty thought-provoking arguments. And while we are not yet digging our own outdoor latrines yet—yes, you can find pointers for that in the book—we’re kind of getting excited about taking some new steps towards self sufficiency.

We’ve got the coop, and this winter Brent planted a whole orchard.

Thanks to a friend who knows all about that. Since we don’t.

Not bad for a former townhouse couple.

And the kids are now chicken chasing pros.

I’m liking where this is going.

And I am gathering up courage to expand my garden a bit (more on that tomorrow). I am trying to decide if I can pull that off with a new baby this summer. And new chocolate recipes to tweak for the shop. But even more of a concern is whether I can pull it off with my totally black thumb.

And I would really like to get better at composting. Any tips?

In fact, any self-sufficiency tips in general, or favorite sites? I’d love to hear a few. This is so not my area of talent, but I don’t know, I’m kinda getting excited.

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13-oz-sm11

valentine in the mail

At our house, we are all about the sprinkles.

sprinkles

I think it all stemmed from having three very picky eaters for children.

What? You don’t want a peanut butter sandwich on wheat? How about a peanut butter sandwich on wheat with sprinkles? Yes?

heart sprinkles

Now we pull out sprinkles more for special occasions, any time we need a little party to celebrate some accomplishment earned. Sprinkles on yogurt, sprinkles on breakfast. Sprinkles are the perfect instant party, aren’t they?

valentine dessertvalentine pancakes

So we thought sprinkles would also make the perfect Valentine surprise. We mailed off a few over the weekend.

valentine mail

If you found sprinkles in your mailbox, what would you sprinkle?

 /  /  /

if you’d like to see more happy mail, here are a few of my favorites from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A Holiday StockingA Disposable Camera | A Sponge | A Tube of Bert’s Bees | A Wreath and Twinkly Lights | A Disguise | School Supplies A Pair of Flip Flops | A Big Ball | Plastic Eggs 1 and 2 | Silly Putty|Shovel & a Bucket | Ribbon Sticks | Bubblewrap Hopscotch | Fan Mail | Waterbottle Care Package | Bouncy Balls Sticky Notes | Jr Mints | Frisbee | Mini Banner and Mini m&ms

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We got a head start on Valentines day here last month making our own fleet of valentine airplanes (you can get the printable for the banner right here).

We’ll be mailing out some valentine mail this weekend that I’ll share. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few lovey dovey favorites from the archives.

-classroom valentine-valentine 1-valentine 2-valentine 4-airplane valentinegold-border1

 

/// from the archives ///

valentine DIY

// flourless chocolate cake (most favorite cake ever.) //
// a tube of Burt’s in the mail // speaking of mail…fabric mailbox tutorial //
// Jr. Mints via mail // message macarons (plus a simple macaron recipe and how-to here) //

valentine cakes

// poetry cake // 10 places to proclaim your love (image via here) //
// a perfect souffle //

valentine dinner idea

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mom business advice2

Before I ever started this blog or my chocolate shop, I would have afternoons when I would put my two kids down for quiet time, then walk back out to a house that was all mine for an hour and a half. And I would think this

“hmm. I really wish I had some professional outlet to work on right now.”

I’d given up freelance copy editing two or three years before but was craving something work-ish again.

(As I am having this flashback, I cannot remember what my house looked like while I’d be thinking these thoughts. There was probably a dishwasher to empty and laundry to start and things to dust and wipe and organize!)

Then there are days like yesterday. My two big kids are in school, it is just me and my little man Reid all day–and a baby on the way. At the end of a day of laundry folding and birthday gift shopping and helping on homework and cleaning up accidents and all the usual, I am thinking something more like

“ha! I so don’t have this mom thing down, how is it that I run a business again?”

Every day I am always evaluating and reevaluating my priorities. As a mom, I’ve learned that different stages can mean big changes in how much I can manage. I was very fortunate to have a mom + businesswoman friend to go to when I was thinking of starting my chocolate shop. We were literally a day away from putting down money on our custom chocolate molds, and I called her and said, “Should we do this!?”

It was amazing to have seasoned advice, and I was thinking how I would love get the same insight from every mom-blogger or mom–businesswoman out there.

Sometime if you’re interested, I will have to give you the play by play of how a day usually goes around here. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share my big lessons learned, and what is often going through my head as I decide what to take on. Here goes.

gold-border1

Starting a Business While Being a Mom
/// th
e WORST of it ///

1. A business isn’t precious.
Sometimes when my business to-do starts to get a little big and hairy, I look at it and think, you won’t be leaving home in eight years, you won’t be making me drawings of the two of us holding hands. Truthfully, there are some ways in which a business just doesn’t measure up.
2. It is a trick taking phone calls while trying to clean rice crispies stuck to the floor and remind your children not to climb on the furniture.
When I was an editor I would handle calls all day like nobody’s business. I have to admit that now I get a little nervous picking up and saying hello, not so much because I’m worried about kid noise in the background, but I think my brain is just in mom mode. (I have a friend watch my little Reid one day a week and those days I am in more shop-owner phone-call-taker mode.) And yes, I am guilty of acting all pro on a phone call while cleaning up rice crispies.
3. There is a bigger chance of big priorities colliding.
There are often times when I have to let one thing go a little bit to catch up with another. I am fine with that! But the truth is that a family has big priorities, and a business has big priorities. Most of the time I can schedule these so they work out, but sometimes, it is a week or a month of full emergency mode!
4. Your business is often your me-time.
I’ve never felt like everyone should only accept a job they love and adore, but for a mom who has an option of starting her own business, I think differently. It should be something you truly enjoy or you’d better be making some decent bucks. Just my opinion. For me, I am just getting to the point where I can just take a week and read a book while still occasionally getting some sleep and making some family dinners. I’ve missed that!
5. It takes a while before you learn to balance, and you can’t have that time back.
I am finally in a place where I have some solid non-negotiables in my life. Favorite gym class on Tuesday, sitting down to listen to my kids practice music before school, taking calls from family and going to stop by friends’ houses, etc. I really felt like there was a learning curve for me, to know what to let slip and what to commit to. During that time, I was more rushed, more frantic with everything. That is a time you don’t get back—with the kids or the husband or your sisters or your friends or your parents. I think it is just good to make sure the timing is right before any big, not-absolutely-necessary commitment.

gold-border1

Starting a Business While Being a Mom
/// the
 BEST of it ///

6. You get the best ideas while folding laundry.
I feel like, as a mom, I deal less with creative-block or wondering what I’ll do for my next project. I have a good ratio of thinking time to doing time—I find plenty of time while folding laundry and bussing kids for the ideas to bubble up when they’re ready.
7. You don’t have the opportunity to get aloof.
I always think that as a business owner, I don’t have to guess what an average mom who has a budget to maintain and a life to run is thinking. Because I am one. And as a mom I do like having my toe in a business world that is growing and changing every day.
8. If something is going wrong with your business, it’s not that hard to put it in perspective.
We had plenty of moments when starting my chocolate shop when we thought a certain new detail might be the ruin of our business plan. After initial panic, I was always able to think, hey, I’ll always have my job as mom, and I like that one.
9. You meet the raddest people.
Seriously. A blog or business is a great excuse for meeting more cool people. The only trick is making sure you still have time for all your rad family and friends.
10. You’re already a master at going with the flow.
I am convinced that I am completely amazing at rolling with punches all thanks to my experience as a mother. When I really need to relinquish control or change a game plan, I rock at it.
11. You’re kids see you modeling making something happen.
Overall, I’ve had fewer chances to have my kids pitch in on small parts of my work and be a part of errands of my business than I thought I might. Maybe that will come still. But they are all about starting their own mini-recess shops or diving into a big project.
12. Doing housework is a treat once you’ve worked too long, doing work is a treat once you’ve done housework too long.
Who knew how much I could look forward to a whole day set aside just to cook and clean?

I know everyone’s experience is different, and I would absolutely love, love, LOVE to hear what you’ve experienced in work-life balance, kids or no kids. It is always a trick, and I think we can learn lot from each other.

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alt design summit business card roundup5Hello friends.

I am home again. After my week in SLC at Alt Summit, and a few days of catching up on sleep, email, and restocking the fridge, it is good to be back.

I have a little re-cap, or more of a hodgepodge, of my favorite Alt insights I’ve been jotting down. But I thought I’d start by sharing a fun detail, a peek at a few business cards,

mine + a few I came home with me in return.

I left my business card-making (and wardrobe planning!) to the last minute, for a good reason. So I was thrilled when everything pulled together in the end.

envelopesFor my cards, I started by lining up about a zillion kraft coin envelopes and spray painting!

Then I chopped up about a zillion chocolate bar samples and wrapped them up in pretty gold liners.
chocoalte barschocolate barstickerFinally I pulled out one of my favorite things ever, my name stamp drawn for me by the amazing Michelle of Meant to Be Calligraphy. I love this stamp and stamp it on everything all of the time, so it went on my cards. I sent it off to my printer and got the final pieces back.
amberleefawson
alt business cardsalt summit busines cardsA huge thanks to an amazing husband who did some serious assembling with me Tuesday night, while watching Downton Abbey with me. Ya. He’s a good man.
yellow borderFrom my first Alt moment, which for me was tagging along with a fabulous group of women on the Trax on our way to the Hello Social, the business card trading was a fantastic non-stop frenzy.

I have to say that for someone who loves inspirational classes and furious note taking, my favorite part of Alt was meeting a zillion new people. It was incredible to me to get to say hello to the real-life artists and bloggers and shop owners driving the blogs and shops I adore. Here’s just a peek at a few cards in the stash I got to bring home.

Peck Life / Leslie Fandrich / Cooper House / Hitch Design Studio

alt business cards1btwig / Terra Savvyalt business cards2bHank & Hunt / Engaged & Inspired / Sweet Lulualt business cards3bBetter with June / Paging Supermomalt business cards4bMeg Biram / Melissa Esplin / Parker Etcalt business cards5b

p.s. if you’re like me and can’t get enough, Ez of Creature Comforts (who was also amazing to meet in person) has a roundup of her big stash of cards right here

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Big News

01.10.13

amberlee 2013

I have news. Brent and I are expecting baby #4.

My 90-year-old grandpa says we are infanticipating. The word works, i think. We could not feel more excited or grateful as we anticipate the coming change in our lives.

And it has left me thinking a few things.
1 :: Before I ever had my first child, a wise woman I adore said about having children, “You can never be ready, you can only be willing,”
2 :: which is sage wisdom when you consider what the job entails. This clip had me in tears, laughing with tears. For days.
3 :: Morning sickness is just winding down for me.  I find this has left me feeling that I could conquer the world! if necessary. Somehow I always feel like living through morning sickness is one of my greatest accomplishments ever. All I did was survive. But it leaves me feeling like such a woman. Watch out world.
4 :: I haven’t cooked for months. I am so ready to cook.
5 :: Holy moly I still have a child to finish potty training. Good thing for item no. 3.

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AmberLee alt

I am headed to ALT summit this year.

And am beyond excited.

It will be my first time at ALT. And my first blogger conference ever.

Though not my first conference ever. Back in my pre-mommy years, when I was in the textbook publishing biz, I was sent to conferences with all the other assistant editors. We’d be ushered to after-dinner parties with a list of higher-ups we were instructed to
say hello to.

It was a great exercise for a girl like me, because as you know,

I am a hopeless introvert. It was just the prodding I needed to make the most of things, ready or not!

Have you been to a conference before? to ALT? What are you glad you knew? What do you wish you knew?

I have one more piece of news to share with you, of a more personal nature. I am thinking it is going to make putting together a wardrobe for ALT a little more interesting.

(p.s. fashion advice welcomed! fashion is so not my strong suit. punn kind of intended. And I did listen in on an ALT fashion class by this lovely and stylin lady yesterday and it was hugely helpful!)

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