Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Creating Free Digital or Printable Invitations

One of my dearest friends is pregnant with her first little one, and it's a girl!  Living in a house full of boys, I get extra excited at any opportunity to get crafty with my favorite color, PINK!  Her mother-in-law and I are throwing a fun co-ed shower for the happy couple and we decided on a pink and gold Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme.  I immediately took to Pinterest and have been pinning like crazy.  When it came time for the invites, the parents-to-be decided they wanted an email invitation.  I went to Evite and Paperless Post and while they had some great design choices, they didn't have exactly what I was looking for.  I don't know about you, but once I get an idea in my head, I get stuck on it and nothing else will do.  So, to PicMonkey I went.  If you have never used PicMonkey, get on it.  I absolutely love this site.  It's a great tool for bloggers looking to spice up their blog pics, but it is also perfect for designing your own invitations.  Did I mention that it's FREE!  They do have a Royale membership that has a few extra features, fonts, and overlays, but I've always managed to get by with the free version.

To make this invite I went to PicMonkey and clicked on the Design option.

That will bring you to a page that looks like this:

On the left you will see the basic edits available to you.  First you want to pick the color of your card, if you are going with a white card, skip this step.  I wanted pink so under Canvas Color I played around until I got exactly the shade of pink that I wanted.  Once you are happy with the color, click apply.

Next you want to add in your decorations, I decided to keep it simple with just a few gold stars in the top right corner.  From the little menu on the left, click on the butterfly.  This will give you a bunch of little shapes you can use as decorations.

I clicked on the Stars because, um, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Stay with me people.  Of course you can use whatever you want.  Keep in mind that anything with the little crown icon is a Royale feature so you will have to pony up to use those.  I picked a nice basic star and then played around with the color until I got a shade of gold that I was happy with.  Then I copied the heart and resized it to get a few different sizes and rotated some of them to create visual interest.

Finally I clicked on the Tt from the menu on the left and inserted text boxes for all of the text I wanted to enter.  I used the same shade of gold as the stars.  One cool thing to keep in mind with text is that in addition to their fonts (non-Royale options are somewhat limited), you can use any fonts that you have on your own computer, yay!  Once you have it how you want it, click save, name it, and save it to your computer.  I was super excited with how this turned out!

In case you are thinking to yourself, "Wow Lauren, this looks great except for those random black boxes," I just added those on top for this post to protect their privacy.  Once you have the invitation saved to your computer you have a couple of options.  You can have them printed (or print them yourself if you have a good printer) and mail them out.  The parents-to-be wanted their invitations emailed out so I had to find an online invitation service that would let me upload my own design.  After a little bit of searching, I found a site called Celebrations that will allow you to upload your own design.  It's a free service, unless you want it ad free in which case you have to pay to upgrade.  This means that with a little bit of creativity and some time at your computer, you can design, send out, and manage RSVPs for your own custom invitations for FREE! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata

I know it's been quite a while since I last posted, but I'm back!  Things have been crazy busy around here and something had to give.  Hopefully you haven't forgotten about me in the meantime.  I recently hosted a potluck brunch for a bunch of my girlfriends and made this delicious Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata.  It was such a hit, that I had to share it with you all.

I love entertaining, but it can be hard to cook when my boys are awake.  That's why I love recipes that can be made, or at least prepped, in advance.  This strata is perfect for brunch for a crowd, but it would also make a delicious Mother's Day breakfast.  You completely assemble the strata the night before and then in the morning, just pop it in the oven.

My favorite omelette is one with cheddar, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes with some sausage on the side.  I had planned to incorporate all of those flavors into this strata, but then I realized that I had forgotten to get the spinach at the store so I just used the others.  Evidently I was super distracted while I was at the store because I also bought the wrong sausage.  I wanted to get mild Italian sausage and I did, but I accidentally bought chicken Italian sausage.  This worked out perfectly so take my happy accident as an example and get whatever kind of sausage you like, spicy, mild, pork, chicken, as long as it's sausage it will be delicious!

Start out by browning your sausage.  Once it is browned, drain it if necessary and then set it aside.  Then cut up a loaf of bread into cubes, you can rip it too if you want it to be more rustic.  You want about seven or eight cups of cubed bread.  I used a french loaf this time but I've also made it with sourdough, both turned out beautifully.  It's better if your bread is a little bit stale, but if you forget to buy the bread a day or two in advance, don't worry about it.  Put half of the bread cubes into a 9 x 13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Next you are going to layer on half of your toppings.  For me that was shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, and chopped cremini mushrooms.  As I said, I had planned on adding some fresh spinach so feel free to add some of that too, or whatever veggies you like with your eggs.  Then repeat your layers.

In a bowl crack a bunch of eggs.  I happened to have extra-large eggs so I used 9, but if you have large eggs, use 10.  Pour in 3 cups of milk, I used skim, just use whatever you have.  Add in some dry mustard, salt, and pepper, and then whisk it all together.  Pour the egg mixture all over the bread.  If any cubes of bread are sticking up and dry, push them down a little so that they soak up some of the liquid.

Then cover it all and stick it in the fridge.  The next morning, take your strata out of the fridge while your oven is preheating.  Bake your strata at 325 for about an hour.  I'm sorry to say that my guests arrived and I forgot to take a picture of the strata when it came out of the oven, perfectly golden and smelling divine.  Luckily, this piece was leftover so I was able to snap a couple of pictures for you all.

Overnight Sausage & Vegetable Strata
  • 1 lb. mild chicken Italian sausage
  • 7-8 cups cubed bread
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 9 extra-large or 10 large eggs
  • 3 cups skim or low-fat milk
  • 2 tsp. dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  1. Brown the sausage in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.  Drain any fat and set aside.
  2. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Put half of the bread in the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the cheese, sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes.  Repeat the layers with the remaining bread, cheese, sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, dried mustard, salt, and pepper.  Pour evenly over the ingredients in the baking dish.  Press down any bread that is sticking up and dry.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next morning, bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes or until golden brown.

I'm linking up with Cook It Craft It Share It, Crafty & Delicious, and Showcase Your Talent Thursday.