Thursday, December 29, 2011

The little princesses

As most of you know, I accepted nominations earlier this month for a little girl to get a special princess tutu and hair bow for the holidays. What started as one princess set ended up becoming three princess sets because there were such wonderful stories I couldn't choose just one. Today I'm going to share these stories with you.

The first little princess is 3-year-old Malia. Earlier this year Malia and her family received the news that her "tummy aches" were caused by a large tumor in her abdomen. It was wrapped around major blood vessels  and pushing against her kidney and heart. It was discovered that she has a very aggressive childhood cancer knows as stage 4 neuroblastoma. It has metastasized into her bones and bone marrow. Her family moved from their home in Florida to Massachusetts to begin treatment on her cancer. She has had six rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, radiation, surgery, and blood transfusions. She is a very brave little girl who is an inspiration to those around her. She has shown such bravery and determination this year. It is remarkable what the spirit of a three year old child can do! Here are photos of the first gift.

The second princess is Graycie. She is almost three years old. She has struggled from the day she was born. Her mom had an abrupted placenta and Graycie nearly didn't make it past birth. She has endured feeding tubes, surgery, GERD, hypotonia and more. Her family has been plagued with other medical issues with her siblings, unemployment, and even robbery at gunpoint. Yet, they endure through their faith in God. This is truly a family whose beliefs have made it easier to get through the curve balls life has thrown their way. Graycie has also shown courage and strength well beyond her years. I received a very nice email from Graycie's mom after she received her package. Graycie was so excited about her princess goodies, she could barely hold still long enough for her mom to snap a picture to send to me. Here are photos of miss Graycie wearing her tutu shirt.

The third princess is KyLee. This is a little girl who from her young age of 5 is well on her way to a career in philanthropy! KyLee started a community service club in her town. She wanted to make new friends and give back to the community at the same time. She developed this idea on her own and through the help of her mom have had several meetings, hosted a guest speaker on service and completed their first service projects. It is amazing to me the compassion this young girl demonstrates. She should be an example to all of us that it doesn't take any heroic measures to become involved. Each of us can donate a little time toward the greater good of the places in which we live. I received a picture of little Kylee in her outfit, too.

These girls are just three examples of the amazing people growing up today. I read many more stories about girls who were also deserving of a princess gift. I wish I could have made something for all of them. Thank you for sharing their stories with me. My small gift pales in comparison to what these kids are giving back to the people around them.

Simply because the holidays are coming to an end, please do not lose that holiday spirit. Continue to do your own random acts of kindness. I know I feel much happier living in a world of kindness and generosity. Challenge yourself to donate time to a local charity or cause for which you believe. Make a resolution to reach out on a monthly or weekly basis and do something nice for those around you. Remember the basic manners you learned as a child and USE THEM. A smile goes a long way toward someone who receives it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cake Pops

I'm totally a Christmas baker, but I don't generally make cookies. I prefer to make candy or other sweets. Of course I've made my caramels, plus some nut brittle (a variation of a recipe I learned at cooking class) and some homemade hot chocolate mix. Earlier this week, I saw some instructions on how to make cake pops. You know, those cute little treats on a stick they sell at Starbucks and other coffee shops? The great thing about this process is that you didn't need a cake pop maker. Sure, it's easy, but even for this self-proclaimed kitchen gadget diva, it's just one more thing to fit into the cupboards. Anyone can make these cake pops with just a few ingredients and supplies! I'm going to share with you these instructions with my alterations and some things I learned. Here's what you need:

1 cake mix (in a box, pick your favorite flavor, I used white)
2 8oz packages cream cheese (softened)
1 package meltable candy coating
candy canes (or other hard crushable candy)
peppermint extract
lolly pop sticks

First, bake your cake according to the directions on the box. I can't remember the last time I baked a cake in a plain ol' rectangular pan. Let it cool all the way. Then crumble the entire cake in a large bowl with the softened cream cheese. The original recipe called for one package, but I found it's just not enough to keep the cake balls together, so 2 packages will work best. Besides, who doesn't like more cream cheese?? Mix the cake and cream cheese until well incorporated. Then form the cake/cream cheese mixture into little balls. They should be slightly smaller than golf ball size. Place the cake balls onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Once all the mix is used (about 24 balls), place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

While your cake balls are chilling, get out a big ziploc bag. Put your candy canes (or other candy) in the bag and crush them into small pieces. My daughter had a good time with this step! Caution: do not make candy dust. The flavor will be there, but the texture and visual appeal just won't be the same. We used the flat side of a meat tenderizer, but a rolling pin works too. Put your crushed candy in a bowl and set aside.

Once the balls have chilled, melt your candy coating. Apparently, I am the world's worst candy melter. I ruin the candy more than I actually melt it. I could claim that I'm not used to the cooking temps of my new range, which is true, but mostly I'm a candy melting moron. I thought that melting on the stove would be easier when it came to dipping because I could keep it warm. In two words: EPIC FAIL. I burned the candy in the pan, it clumped and congealed and had to be thrown out. The particular candy I purchased had a special tray and instructions to melt in the microwave. Use them. :) Here is my failed candy.

Anyway, start with just a small amount of the melted candy coating. I found that I needed to make 2 steps of the process where it originally had one. Remove the cookie sheet with your cake balls from the refrigerator. Dip the end of the lollypop stick into the melted candy and stick it into a cake ball. This will help the sticks stay in the finished cake pop. I also purchased the 8" lolly pop sticks that are about 1/8" sticks. The next time I make these, I'm going to get smaller sticks. I think these were just a little too big, but you try what works for you. Put the pops back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes. The original instructions did not include this step and I had quite a few pops that crumbled. They still tasted great, but didn't exactly qualify as a "pop".

Now, melt about half of the candy. Once melted, add about 1 tsp of peppermint extract to the candy. If your choosing to make these at other times of the year and using candy other than candy canes, you can change the flavor or omit all together. For holidays, it does make a pretty tasty pop to flavor the candy peppermint. Then take about 4-5 pops out of the fridge and dip into the melted candy. Use a spoon to coat the entire ball with the candy. Once coated, sprinkle the crushed candy canes on the pop. Place on another cookie sheet covered in parchment to cool and harden.

After I got the candy melted properly and the sticks insterted and cooled, these were pretty easy to make. They look really pretty and taste awesome! And SO much less expensive than buying them :) Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I am truly humbled.

My last post asked for nominations for a little girl to receive a special tutu and hairbow set. I didn't want to post again for the folks that were new readers and didn't want to search for the giveaway information. The stories I sent to me were from moms, grandmothers, aunts, and friends. I read stories of girls who are in the midst of medical treatments, overcome a disability, had a challenging year or started a community service organization. Little girls whose sponsor felt strongly why that child should be the winner. In every story, I felt the love these sponsors have toward the girls. Some stories made me cry.

The stories were so remarkable, I couldn't choose just one winner. I have chosen 2 girls to receive a tutu and hairbow set and a third girl to receive an applique tutu shirt. It was hard enough narrowing the field to three! I wish I had time to make something for all the little girls. I feel very fortunate to be sharing in part of someone's joy this holiday season. I will be announcing the winners and sharing their stories. However, I want the winners to be surprised, so I will not be sharing until after the packages have been delivered. This will likely be after Christmas. Please be patient.

I urge all of you to look into your heart and do a random act of kindness of your own. As I said, I am humbled by the stories of these wonderful children. I hope my own daughters can be as poised, generous and brave as the girls I read about. Your act doesn't need to be grandiose or expensive. How about paying for the coffee of the person behind you in line at the coffee hut? What about filling the slots in a candy machine with quarters for a child to get a free gumball? How about helping a neighbor by shoveling their sidewalk? Have you thought about writing a thank you note to someone who is especially good at what they do? What about telling your child's teacher or daycare provider or school bus driver how much you appreciate them? How about making a tray of goodies for a friend? There are so many ways to show thankfulness and appreciation. Pay it forward. End the year with good karma.

Thanks again for sharing these wonderful stories with me. If you have be the recipient of a random act of kindness, please post a comment or email to Through the holiday season, I'd love to be able to share your stories as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness

I admit it. I'm a sap for a good heartfelt story. I'm not a cry at a Hallmark commercial kind of gal, but tell me a true story about something someone did in memory of someone special or simply to be a better person and I'll tear up every time. Let me tell you more about why I'm posting this. First, my disclaimer statement: It is not my intention to be exclusive to Christians in this post. I recognize each person has his or her own beliefs and I respect and honor each of your rights to choose those beliefs. My family, however, is Christian and we celebrate Christmas, so for ease in writing this post, I will be speaking about Christmas.

I think most people would agree that holidays have become more commercialized, especially Christmas. If you are a parent whose children have access to any other children or media, you especially know what I'm talking about. It is very hard to separate the true meaning of Christmas from the advertising of it. I feel thankful we don't have cable TV and watch almost no TV in our house. It has helped prevent some of the "gimmes" with the kids.

This year has been different with the holiday for a couple of reasons. My oldest daughter is 3-1/2 and is old enough to understand beyond the tree, lights and Santa. My youngest is 1-1/2 and actually will appreciate a gift instead of the box and wrapping paper. BUT, for the first time since I was a kid, we've been talking about the meaning behind Christmas. My oldest goes to a Christian pre-school and learns Bible lessons each day. They've been learning the story of baby Jesus, singing Christmas songs and gearing up for the Christmas program (which this mama is so excited to see!). Talking about Christmas with her and having the focus be on celebrating Jesus' birthday (her words) has helped bring the focus back to the reason for the season for all of us. She gets as excited when she sees a nativity scene as she does when she sees a decorated tree.

We know that Christmas has become a time of sharing gifts. Most of us exchange gifts with the people we love. Many of us purchase and donate gifts to people we don't even know. For years my girlfriends and I adopted angels instead of exchanging gifts amongst ourselves. When I was a retail store manager, I asked my sales associates to buy a book so we could donate books to children in the community. Some people do random acts of kindness and ask that the recipient pay it forward. This weekend alone, I saw a quarter taped to a vending machine labeled "random act of kindness." In a bathroom in another store across town, there was a bag with some diapers and wipes and a card offering these to a mom who might need them. I read a story in this morning's paper about a white envelope on a tree. A woman began this tradition in the 80s where she did something nice for someone or made a donation to someone in need. She wrote down her gesture (and sealed in a white envelope) and gave it to her husband as his Christmas gift. This became the cornerstone of this family's Christmas tradition.

All of this generosity got me thinking: What can I do to make someone else's Christmas better? I may not be financially able to adopt an angel or donate money to charity, but I do have creative skills and supplies to make a special treat for a special child. I've seen others do something similar to this in the past, so the idea isn't mine. I'm just hoping to make a little one's holiday brighter. Here's the plan:

I will be taking nominations for one week (starting now). This nomination should include the name, address and story of a little girl who deserves a holiday princess treat. Next Tuesday (December 13), I will select from the entries one child who will receive a handmade princess tutu and matching hair bow (see picture for example). This will be mailed to the winning child as an anonymous gift (or from Santa if you would prefer). All nominations should be emailed to The winner will be announced on this blog and on my Carlia Creations facebook page (after the gift has been received). You may submit as many nominations as you want, however each nomination should be a separate email and only one nomination per child. This is open to any child living in the United States. If this is for a child who celebrates a holiday other than Christmas, please provide me with that information so I can wrap and send accordingly.

I looke forward to reading your submissions and sharing my little piece of holiday joy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gorilla Bread

I have the most amazing recipe to share today. First, I have to apologize for not posting for so long. I  have a couple of posts floating around in my head, but I just haven't taken the time to write them up for you. This time of year gets busy for everyone, so bear with me and I'll do my best to keep new ideas headed your way.

Way back on Halloween, Carlee asked to watch some PBS Kids during her quiet time. We don't have cable at our house and our bunny ears only get CBS and 4 channels of PBS. Fine by me. I would rather the kids do anything but watch TV. However, Carlee isn't napping anymore, so I do let her watch PBS for a little bit so she rests and this mama gets some time to rest too. Anyway, flipping from CBS to PBS, there was some daytime talk show that had Paula Deen showing how to make monkey bread. It was a super simple recipe and I filed it away to try out. Recently, I thought I'd try it, so I searched online for her recipe and found this tasty variation. You MUST try it. It is a simple treat for a breakfast/brunch or even a dessert. Here's what you need: (note-I made a double batch because my bundt pan is on the larger size. Adjust the ingredients accordingly.)

20 (2 cans of 10) refrigerator biscuits
1/2 cup sugar
1 T cinnamon
8oz cream cheese, cut into 20 cubes
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup walnuts (optional I did not use these)

Grease and flour a bundt pan. Preheat oven to 400. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, stir until dissolved and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. Open the cans of biscuits. Flatten each biscuit slightly, place a cube of cream cheese in the middle of the biscuit and fold it over, pressing the edges to seal. Drop each biscuit pouch into the cinnamon and sugar to fully coat.

Put half of the nuts in the bottom of the pan. Place the sugared biscuits into the bundt pan. Once the bottom has been covered, pour half of the butter/brown sugar mixture over the biscuits. Repeat the steps using the rest of the ingredients. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove the gorilla bread from the pan while hot to prevent sticking.

I thought my husband was going to melt into the floor when he ate these. He had a look of pure bliss on his face. SURE to be a crowd pleaser!