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!)


How are you doing on mailing your holiday packages? We spent an evening a couple nights ago wrapping and are so close to getting packages off, but not quite there yet. I love that feeling of sending off the final holiday package.

We did manage to get one surprise off in the mail last week.

I put together a stocking (as in I sewed it myself—you have to understand this about me, any time I sew any thing I consider it a major life accomplishment) and the kids and I packed it to the brim with goodies. (We had to live up to last year’s holiday happy mail.)

We packed it so full, it looked like a little stuffed sausage. But it still weighed in at 10 oz. (See current first class postage prices here). Just to make sure my mailing label didn’t slip off, I stitched it right to the stocking in the back. Then I did a quick stitch to close the top.

and off in the mail it went.

and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A 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

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details


I have some exciting news I have been meaning to share with you. This December we were hugely honored over at Ticket to be featured in this month’s InStyle and Southern Living.

We were thrilled. I’ve been subscribing to SL for years, never mind that I live an hour or two from the Pacific.

And while I’m on the topic of chocolate. Some other exciting news, we’re having a big ol’ ONE DAY sale in the shop today. If you have anyone left on your list, get them taken care of!

And one final, very exciting announcement. We are now offering fresh fluffy homestyle vanilla bean marshmallows in the shop all on their own. Each mallow foursquare includes four irresistible 1-inch cube mallows. Having one of these slowly melting into your cup of hot chocolate is, well, a little bit of heaven. I love these little cubes of fluff.


 This is a little family tradition of ours. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was young enough to wear one-piece peter rabbit pajamas.

It is a tradition I decided to start for our kids after the first Halloween they came home and did this:
[ That pic was taken many long years ago. That little tubster of a baby
is now my 2nd grader. Watch out, mamas. They grow up fast!]

We let the kids go a little crazy on Halloween night. And we explain to them that crazy means, like, four pieces of candy. Okay maybe five. Okay one more tootsie roll and then you’re brushing your teeth and going to bed. I mean it!

Then the next day, we have them each count out 25 pieces of candy.

And we cut out a zillion little squares of wrapping paper.
Then we get wrapping.
This project would easily work with non-sugar goodies too. But we are guilty of always using our Halloween loot.

Once you have all your mini packages wrapped, you can number them or not number them. As a kid I used to always like to start small in early December and finish big.

Then you can either hang them from a bough, which was our old-school method.
This does require some knot tying, which my kids are still way slow at. So, out of sheer laziness, we discovered that our little packages looked great under a teeny tree.

And I don’t know about your house, but at our house this advent is accompanied by at least three or four or five other advents. The good news is that we will not ever accidentally overlook Christmas.


[ Me and my dad. ]

Ever since I can remember, my family has had two advent traditions that were always a favorite part of childhood for me. Now I do them with my kids, who love them as much as I ever did.

Family traditions are the best. right?

For some reason, the thought never came to me to share them here, until now.

I’ll be sharing our first advent tradition today. In just a few minutes.

Don’t go far.



I think I am officially dubbing today advent calendar day here on my little blog. For starters, here is a little printable from the archives. Click here to print an advent on sticky notes that works great in a stack, in sack lunches, or anywhere else you can think of.

Stay tuned for more today.

{ 1 comment }

Hello fellow chocolate fans.

I have a little something I have been antsy to share with you for some time.

I’d like to introduce you to Ticket Chocolate’s first-ever eating chocolate.

We call them our Beloved Bars.

Each chocolate bar is a tribute to a Beloved food. A dish that has meant something big in my life. You know how certain dishes are just that way?

// // //

The Waffle Pecan Bar

The Hazelnut Cherry Stuffing Bar

The Grasshopper Pie Bar

The Roasted Chestnut Bar

// // //

We spent the better part of the summer working these out (me and our amazing kitchen staff, who are honest-to-goodness artisans. And also patient, patient people.)

I even dusted off my old high school art supplies to create our matchbook covers.

(don’t judge. it’s been a few years : )

Each bar is hand built

to be something pretty wonderful.

Or at least I think so.

I hope you do too.

p.s. I am fully fascinated by food stories. Do you have a beloved food? I would love to hear about it, and hear the story behind it. Stop by our flavors page some time and scroll to the bottom to share.


harry potter party
Earlier this year I threw a combined birthday Harry Potter party for about 40 kiddos that turned out to be seriously low-stress. Maybe I’m starting to get the hang of this party thing? I’d better not get too sure.

I have been wanting to share a few pics with you for some time, and thought will all the spooks and tricks and treats around the corner, now would be the perfect time

harry potter party invitations
To be fully honest, the invites were probably the biggest time splurge. But invites are my favorite. I used glassine envelopes (I bought from here), confetti, and an invite and label using a font I found here.

We decided the main even was going to need to be a game of Quidditch. Obviously. We managed a few successful brooms (we made brooms only for our “seekers”) out of pool noodles wrapped in fleece and tied off with yarn. Easy peasy.

harry potter party quidditch broomsticksWe decided on chocolate frogs in place of cake. I used this mold and did my own version of a cake pop, just not the pop part. Just drizzle a little chocolate (or confectioner’s chocolate melty if you don’t want to worry about chocolate bloom), and tap it around to coat the frogs. Once it cools, squish in some cake pop filling, and drizzle a little more chocolate over to make the bottom of the frog. I dropped these guys in a takeout box and closed with a ribbon and a label.

harry potter party chocolate frog recipe
I totally cheated on butter beer. Cream soda + a drizzle of Wilton butter flavoring I had left over. All the kids were thrilled.

harry potter party butter beer

Quiddich was a hit. I picked up a couple bludgers for us to toss at the kids while they played, and we decided on a few quaffles to keep things really hopping, which I got from the dollar store. The hoops were about as simple as it gets, pool noodles threaded onto a piece of hose that we screwed into a 2×4. We assigned a couple seekers per game, and sent them off searching for a golden easter eggs (we’d hid several before the party started). And hid a Harry Potter joke inside they got to read when opening it.
Harry Potter party quidditch

We ended the party with a book exchange, which turned out at least as good as I could have ever imagined.

The kids left happy and worn out, with some new reading material. Mission accomplished.

birthday party






Tell me, did you ever play with these growing up?

Light Brites was definitely one of those things I was very excited to introduce to my kids.

Recently, while keeping my 3-year-old entertained, we discovered we could use our Light Brigtes to make this

I was surprised to discover how simple this was.

We took our recent booty from the pumpkin patch and hollowed it out like usual. Then we just had to scrape out a little extra to make the pumpkin walls a tad thinner than usual.

When we wanted to carve out some holes for our Light Brights, all it took was one of those handy safety carvers, and we were set.

The results were fantastic.
I did find I had to illuminate our jack-o-lantern with a night light instead of only a candle.

We decided the idea was too good not to share, so we piled some Light Brites in a tube, taped them up, and added some postage.

Now that I’ve mailed them off, there is is just one thing I’m trying to decide. I have several readers who have mailed coconuts. Do you see where I’m going with this? And I have a reader (hi, Angi!) who knows of someone near her who sticks postage on mini-pumpkins every year and mails them off as surprises.

So…do I mail the pumpkin too?
and incase you’d like to see a little more, here is my favorite fun mail inspiration from the archives (or follow my 13 oz or less Pinterest board, or see it all right here):

A 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

find postage rates for happy mail right here along with other mailing details



Tasters Wanted


UPDATE: All REQUESTS to be a taster must be RECEIVED BY 7:00 PM (PST) tonight.

I am feeling jolly.

We have a couple holiday hot chocolate flavors we’ve been working on for months that are, at long last, almost ready for the shop.

We are on the verge of finalizing recipes, we just need some final input.

So we were wondering, would you be up for taste testing for us?

Taste testing would go a little something like last year.

Just leave a comment here if you are feeling so kind as to volunteer your palate,

or stop by our facebook page and volunteer.

Let us know if you are a dark or milk chocolate fan, or if you are willing to taste both. Or let us know if a friend will be tasting along side of you. Tonight we’ll pick a handful of tasters from those who are willing and we’ll pack up some samples and get some chocolate on your doorstep.

Thanks for considering.



Sweater weather is here. It’s official.

I love the change in seasons. Love pulling out my favorite sweaters and my favorite mug and my cozy winter bedding.

Over at Ticket Chocolate, we decided to put together a little something to celebrate fall that I think you’re going to like.

This week, and this week only, we will be awarding one winner

a $100 GIFT CARD to any Select Registry Inn, to be used at any of the almost 400 independent inns in the US and Canada that are members of Select Registry. (Only the finest independent inns are part of Select Registry, and you’ll understand why after you read this).

and a $50 GIFT CARD for Ticket Chocolate (plus a bonus chocolate sampler).

All you need to do is start planning your dream getaway on Pinterest.


1. Follow Ticket Chocolate on Pinterest via HERE.

2. Follow Select Registry on Pinterest via HERE.

3. Pin the chocolate! Pin one or more Ticket Chocolate hot chocolate Ticket Sticks you want to taste, from Include #TicketFallGetaway in the description of each pin.

4. Pin the inns! Pin one or more Select Registry inns you want to visit, from Include #TicketFallGetaway in the description of each pin.

5. Email us at to let us know you’ve completed everything above. Or come back to this post and leave a comment.

Inns pictured from here 1, 2, 3, 4. Chocolate pictured from here 1, 2, 3, 4.


All entries are due by Friday, October 19, 2012. | One lucky winner will be announced Monday, October 22, 2012 on Ticket Chocolate’s Favorite Sweater board. | The winner will receive (1) $50 Ticket Chocolate gift card, (1)Ticket Chocolate hot chocolate sampler, (1) $100 Select Registry gift card, and (1) Select Registry guidebook. | NO Purchase Necessary. Open only to residents of the 50 United States | and D.C., 18 years of age and older. ENDS: Friday, October 19, 2012.


Fall Favorites


Yesterday here felt like fall.

Glorious fall.

So I thought I’d share a few fall favorites from the archives to send you on your sweater-and-boot-wearing, leaf-changing, blustery, cozy way this weekend.

My favorite, tried and true homemade caramel recipe.

Mini caramel apples + notes on making the perfect caramel apple.
Pumpkin printables available right here.
Chili. And cornbread. In a jar.
Fall care package.
And another care package idea, and Pumpin Pie Milkshake recipe.
And a simple project to keep you cozy this fall. I’m thinking I need one in black and orange. go giants.


I am sharing one of my favorite chili recipes


over on Glad Mom Made.

This is one of those recipe I’ve never made without having a recipe request.

Yum. It’s a keeper.

UPDATE: I’m posting it below as well! I’m not sure the full instructions are up yet on Glad:

1 rotisserie chicken or 4 chicken breast halves
3-4 cans undrained navy beans or other white beans
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp chili powder
2-3 cans chicken broth
1 cup white cheddar or monterey jack, shredded
1 cup sour cream (optional)
3 tsp black peppercorns

Preheat pan to just above medium. Saute onions and garlic in light oil. Bring broth to boil, if needed, boil chicken and remove. To boiling broth, add onion an garlic mixture, spices, and beans. Simmer for 30 minutes. Shred chicken. Just before serving add chicken, shredded cheese, sour cream if using, and peppercorns (I crush half and sprinkle the second half on top). Serve with tomatoes, extra cheese, and corn chips or corn bread.


Are you ready for holiday mode?

I’m not even going to answer that question.

but it is going to be so worthwhile, digging into the holiday to-do list now, to make December calm enough to celebrate, to really celebrate. That is my goal each year.

I was going to wait to post this until Monday, but I’ve gotten a few emails and comments and wanted to post as soon as I had it ready.

Visit here to download this year’s 2013 Handmade Holiday Organizer

And feel free to follow along with me on Pinterest to see all my holiday favorites.

I’m digging in this week! It’s a tad earlier than last year, but that means the checklist will be totally done and completed two whole days before Christmas. That felt best for me. I am feeling jolly just thinking about it.