Friday, November 23, 2012

Small Business Saturday

 Black Friday ?
Not this girl !
When I was young , sure.
Now , I'm afraid I might cause serious injury to others
( or myself )
There is absolutely nothing I need that bad to wait in line,
in the cold,
with rude , crazed people.
But here is a shopping day I can get behind 100%,
Small Business Saturday.
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Small Mom and Pop business' is what started this country.
Warning - here comes the nostalgia again.
If you've read my blog before ,
you probably know I have been a small business owner.
I LOVED being part of a small Main Street community.
Where you greeted your customers by name.
Customer service was my top priority.
As was price and quality.
But I always felt that if you gave your customers the best possible service ,
they wouldn't mind paying a little more.
Maybe some people don't think that way but I do.
I've gotten myself in trouble more than once with my tirades about poor customer service.
But I stand behind that .
Good customer service is that important to me .
This post is for those small town,
main street business',
hanging in there in these hard economic times.
They are important for more than just the products and services they provide.
They are important for community survival.
They are important for COMMUNITY.
You know what I mean ???
I am highlighting a few of my favorites from my corner of the world.
Please check out their pages, websites or if you are in the area, their business.
I am providing links where ever possible.
These business' represent quality product, reasonable prices and
EXCELLENT customer service.
They are business' I frequent as much as possible.
New Hampton, Ia,
They have everything and I mean everything . From home improvement needs , to gift ware to home decor. Their staff is so knowledgeable and friendly. If you walk in there without being greeted and asked if you need help , I'll eat my hat . I mean it . 3rd generation family owned. It doesn't get any better than that.
A fantastic quality floral shop. I love a great floral shop. I was in the business too long not to appreciate the hard work and stressful business it is. They have excellent floral designers, reasonable prices and excellent customer service. They also have home decor, a local art gallery, and my favorite Iowa wine.
Clermont Iowa ( my second home )
Marty and Carol have a fantastic Art Gallery with art from around the area artists , a great selection of  home decor and a wide selection of Iowa wine. They are hard working, friendly people and I visit them often. Wine tasting is always available ( but that's not the only reason I go ! )
Elkader , Iowa
The Cooper Frog
Unfortunately , no web site of FB page.
This is one of my all time favorite stores. It is a great mix of old and new, used and repurposed. Deb is such a fun lady . I never entered her store with out her greeting me. She is absolutely SWEET to each person that enters . Her prices are outstanding.
 I love the whole community of Elkader, and shop it often in the summer especially. But I am only mentioning business' with excellent customer service and the others haven't lived up to that yet. Although the town has awesome shops well worth a visit. I you are a lover of junk, vintage and just good stuff , spend a day in Elkader.
Last weekend I spent the weekend with my friend Rhonda in Ankeny.
She took Em and I to the most fantastic places in Des Moines East Village !
Oh my !
It's probably a good thing I don't live there,
I would definatley spend too much money.
The most unique shop I have ever been in - hands down.
Unusual plants , garden art , BEAUTIFUL window display.
If I EVER worked in the flower/plant world again , it would only be in a shop like this. You can tell it belongs to a person that loves living green things and is frequented by the same. It had such a magical feel to it , I didn't want to leave. Thank goodness the girls humored me and let me browse as long as I wanted.
Fantastic little shop with environmentally and socially conscious products. The shop owner was so friendly and talkative. Please check out her website. Her products were so unique that I just can't explain them all, art , lotions, books.. we even found the essential oil Em was looking for.
The biggest, best displayed selection of oils, vinegars and spices I have EVER seen ! They had spices I didn't even know existed. You can buy their oil and vinegar in bulk , bring your empty bottles back and refill them. I was overwhelmed ... where to start... but the staff was so helpful . I left with a bag full and it will definitely on my must stop list for the next time I visit.
There you have it ...
a list of my favorite small business.
If you are in the area , please visit them.
If not please visit a small business in your neck of the woods.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordless ( almost) Wednesday

Some days Your the windshield,
Some days your the bug.
I'm having a bug kinda day...
I will fortunately spare you the negative of my day
and share the positive.
Baby Evan
Addie loves Baby Evan
Yep... most of my day was a bug kinda day ,
but this handsome little man and
my sassy girl make my day !
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Carmel Apple Cupcakes - Baby Shower Part 2

I made The* Most* Amazing cupcakes for the baby shower.
Yes, I am bragging ,
They* Were* That* Good !
Since it is fall ,
I wanted to make a "fallish" dessert.
But whenever I have a gathering at my house ,
cupcakes are expected.
Maybe even  required.
I had found a recipe last year for Carmel Apple Cupcakes
and made them,
but it was a disappointment.
Way too messy and the flavor just wasn't there.
I went to my go to sites ,
Pinterest and
Allrecipes was the best source and I did find several.
I am NOT a "from scratch" kinda baker.
I am more of a " doctor up a mix " kinda baker.
I took the "ideas" from a few and made up my own.
Most of the recipes call for the carmel on top.
That's what I did last year ...
one word , MESSY.
And I'm big on surprises inside my cupcakes
plus I wanted the carmel to be significant.
I was afraid regular carmel would melt to fast and kinda fade away,
Sooo... ( again)
I choose to use Wherther's CHEWY carmels.
They are not quite as soft , and the flavor is phenomenal.
I also wanted them to be rich and not "spice cake like".
 ( tired of that yet )
I used a Butter Cake mix.
It's a yellow cake mix but you use butter instead of oil.
Here's my recipe:
1 Butter Cake Mix
 ( I like to use Pillsbury, mostly cause of the DoughBoy on the box, plus there is pudding in the mix )
Mix as directed.
2 apples , finely chopped
( I used Jonathons but I think any tart apple would be great)
Mix the apples into the cake mix.
Fill the cup cake liners
(please use liners )
1/2 full or however full you get them, mine are never the same .
Side Note -
One of my favorite cupcake recipes Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes) says to put 3 tablespoons of batter then the peanut butter cup then more batter . Really , I am not a going to take the time to measure tablespoons of batter into the liners. Which is probably why I do not have consistently sized cupcakes. But I'm OK with that.
Then ,
 and this is the really important part,
poke an UNWRAPPED Wherther's CHEWY carmel into the cupcake batter !
Top off with some more batter and
Carmel apple cupcakes.
Almost as important as the cupcake is the frosting .
 I topped these delish little guys with a cream cheese frosting.
Not just any cream cheese frosting but a butter cream / cream cheese frosting.
Oh* My* God !
I found this recipe on also.
 I pretty much followed that one ,
 I did add more powdered sugar than was called for.
I kept saying these were the best cupcakes I had ever made.
Which wasn't good , cause I couldn't stay away from them.
But Hubs still prefers the Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes.
He's more into chocolate than me .
Make these !
Trust me .
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Diaper Cake - Baby Shower Part 1

We had another baby shower over the weekend.
That's right another shower ,
but different niece.
My sister will go from not being a grandma to
being the Grandma of 2 in the matter of a month !
She is BEYOND excited !
So anyway...
being the awesome Aunt I am,
I had another shower.
With the help of Emily and Sarah of course.
On Friday when we were supposed to be cleaning and decorating,
( had to get the Halloween down and Fall up )
but we were  having cocktails and cruising Pinterest for ideas instead.
I had made "cupcakes" out of onesies and receiving blankets for Spencer's shower,
( which I forgot to take pictures of )
and I wanted to make something different for Jenna.
we were drinking these yummy cocktails and cruising Pinterest,
( so many great ideas  )
and we decided to make a diaper cake.
In my day  ( long , long ago ) they made them out of cloth diapers
but I knew someone had to have made one out of disposable diapers,
and guess what ?
A LOT of people did .
So many cute ideas and two basic ways to make them.
We picked the method we thought would be easiest and fastest.
And it was.
I think we had this cute little guy whipped up in under 30 minutes.
The little monster head on top is actually a hat.
Em and I think the hat is what totally made the cake.
The "recipe" we used called for 40 diapers.
That's what we got but we didn't use that many.
Ours was a 2 layer Diaper Cake.
Of course , I didn't take any " in progress" pictures ,
but you can find a video on the basic method we used HERE.
We did not , however , use anything as a support in the middle.
I really don't think it was necessary.
But as with everything ,
 I changed it up a bit.
We rolled receiving blankets around the diapers and secured them with safety pins,
then we tied tulle around the whole thing.
We attached the monsters feet ( booties ) to the diapers with safety pins also.
We attached teething rings with tulle to the sides and made bows to look like his arms.
There are so many ways you can switch this up .
But I am so thrilled with how it turned out ,
 I hope I have an opportunity to make another one.
Stay tuned for Baby Shower Part 2.
I made the most AMAZING cupcakes !
I'll be sharing those soon.
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