Christmas DIY

Desserts, DIY, Graphic Design, Life, Recipes

This post contains the following recipes: Eggnog Fudge, Buttermilk Maple Walnut Fudge, Chocolate Covered Caramels, Protein Energy Balls.

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I just love the holidays and everything that goes along with them. All the family traditions that don’t seem very big that just make the holiday special. And as quickly as it comes.. its gone.

The only thing I don’t like about Christmas is the gift buying. Not because I’m selfish.. although I am broke- but mostly because I hate crowded malls and cramped stores and 45 minutes drives to stores that are 2 miles away. This year (mostly because I’m broke) I did DIY gifts for most people. You all know my love of pinterest and all things crafty. So I decided to do homemade treats. I threw around a lot of ideas, it started at mason jar hot coco, then mason jar cookie mix, then mason jar candies (see the pattern..?) So naturally my final idea had nothing to do with mason jars. Well not entirely, I did 2 different gifts, one was mason jars the other wasn’t.

As mentioned above, I don’t like shopping in crowds, so naturally I don’t do Black Friday either but I did do Black Saturday (do they have a name for the day after Black Friday yet..? I don’t know..) I found these cool mini bread pans at Micheal’s that were 3 for the price of 1. So I bought 9 for $6. Then I did some pinterest searching for a cool treat that I could fill them with. I landed on fudge. So I attempted (key word: attempted) to make 3 different kinds of fudge and layered them in each bread pan. Red Velvet Fudge (um yes.) Egg Nog Fudge (very holidayish.) Buttermilk Maple Cream Fudge (buttermilk and maple- end of story.)

The Red Velvet Fudge failed. Miserably. The final product was edible, just not quite the texture of fudge, more of googey, stretchy candy. Good thing I tested it a week early. So what I ended up doing was making the other 2 fudges which turned out much better and chocolate covered caramels.

Eggnog Fudge

Eggnog Fudge via Design with Influence

What you need

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ cup eggnog
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 10-12 oz white chocolate ships
  • 1 jar/7 oz Marshmallow creme
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp vanilla

What you do

  1. Line a 9×9 pan with foil and butter the foil well.
  2. Combine the butter, eggnog, cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has begun to boil, reduce the heat and continue to cook until the temperature reaches 240°. The first time I made this (as a test) I didn’t have a candy thermometer so I used the soft ball method (drop some of the mixture into a glass of cold water, once the drop form small soft balls the temperature should be about 240), which I was actually successful with but I do recommend a candy thermometer if you can get your hands on one.
  3. Once it reaches 240, remove from heat and stir in the white chocolate chips. Stir until melted and blended in.
  4. Add the Marshmallow, nutmeg and vanilla and stir until blended in.
  5. Once the mixture if smooth, spread into the foiled pan. Garnish with some more nutmeg if you’d like.
  6. Let cool at room temperature. Once its cooled, I recommend putting in the fridge for another hour or so to harden- it makes cutting the fudge easier.
  7. Cut and serve.

Store covered, in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Eggnog Fudge via Design with Influence

Buttermilk Maple Fudge

What you need

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup walnuts

What you do

  1. Line a 9×9 pan with foil and butter the foil well.
  2. Combine both sugars, butter, cream and maple syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has begun to boil, reduce the heat and continue to cook until the temperature reaches 240°.
  3. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and walnuts. Stir to mix in.
  4. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes and get ready for an arm workout. After the 10 minutes, stir continuously for about 5-10 minutes. The fudge should be cooled and thick when you’re done. My fudge was a little soft when everything was done.. I think the longer you stir the firmed it will get so stir!
  5. Once you’ve gotten your workout in, pour into the foiled pan and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
  6. Cut and serve. This stuff is actually addictively delish!

My plan was to make labels for the gifts but because my Red Velvet didn’t turn out everything was very last minute and I didn’t have time for that.

In place of the failed Red Velvet Fudge, I did Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels. Like I said, everything was very last minute so I totally cheated here, in the future I will not cheat but I couldn’t take the chance that these wouldn’t turn out and I’ve never made caramels before and have been told they are very difficult.

Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels

What you need

  • If you’re going to cheat.. 2 bags of individually wrapped caramels candies
  • Melting chocolate
  • Sea salt

What you do

  1. Line a cookie tray with wax paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate either using a double boiler or in the microwave. Unwrap all the caramels while the chocolate is melting.
  3. Dip each caramel in the chocolate. Using a fork, remove the caramels from the chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Using another fork, place the caramel on the wax paper, repeat with the remaining caramels. The chocolate will set pretty quickly so pause every few minutes to sprinkle the sea salt on top of each caramel.
  4. Place in the fridge for about a half hour before you remove from the cookie sheet.

The caramels will harden (the teeth breaking hard), so if giving these as a gift recommend to the recipient they do not store them in the fridge, they are completely fine being store at room temp.

With the above recipes I made about 9 gift packages.

I also couldn’t knock my mason jar ideas so I did a few other gifts using masons jars. I just happen to have 5 extra mason jars lying around from when I first moved and thought I would use 12 mason jars as decorations in my house.. so those didn’t cost me anything (but the dollar store sells mason jars!). Then I found this cool pinterest recipe for protein energy balls and thought that a few select people would appreciate them than the sugary fudge so I filed the jars with the protein energy balls.

Protein Energy Balls

What you need

  • 2/3 cup raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raw oatmeal flakes
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • mini chocolate chips (optional- Surprisingly I preferred them without the chocolate)

What you do

  1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
  2. Using a food processor, process the almonds, walnuts, oats, cinnamon and salt to a fine meal.
  3. Add the agave nectar and vanilla and process to mix.
  4. If you’re adding the chocolate chips throw those in and give it another mix.
  5. Roll the dough into small balls and place on the wax paper. Wetting your hands every so often makes rolling the balls a litter easier. Repeat with remaining dough.
  6. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for about an hour.

Protein Energy Balls via Design with InfluenceI filled 5 mason jars with protein balls doubling this recipe.

These could have turned out much better if things just worked out how they were supposed to. But of course they never do…

Christmas Fudge DIY via Design with Influence

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Humor, Uncategorized

Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. I love the season, the holidays, the holiday cheer the traditions (big and small) and the snow.. I love the snow! As a kid I used to think it was a law that it had to snow on Christmas, I guess every year when it didn’t snow I just forgot and always assumed it had snowed the previous year. So you can image that I hate that last week the ground was covered in white and it was in the 20’s and this week it shot up to 60, which of course melted everything on the ground and is now holding at a steady 40. So much for a white Christmas…

It doesn’t feel all that much like Christmas this year. I think its because I’ve moved out and all that I have to remind me of the season are a few decorations I stole from my dad and a sad Charlie Brown Christmas tree sitting on a shelf. I honestly feel like I haven’t even heard that much Christmas music and that stuff is drilled into your head earlier and earlier every year.

So tonight I tried breaking out some movies that were Christmasy, but I ended up crying to a movie I have only seen once and forgot was actually one of those sad Christmas movies. And then somehow out of the blue I remembered an oldie but a goodie. It’s one of those movies that I’m not even sure if it was popular among other people or if I and my childhood best friend just loved! “Babes in Toyland.” Anyone? Someone please tell me they loved this movie as a child as well.

But considering nobody owns a DVR player anymore, and I only owned it on VHS. I had to resort to more modern means. Thank you, Youtube!

So for any of you “Babes in Toyland” fans, or any of those people who’s childhood wasn’t as wonderful as mine.. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

15 Pinterest Users Every Designer Should Follow

DIY, Graphic Design, Humor, Interior Design, Life, Photography, Recipes, Selling Yourself, Typography

Pinterest has easily become one of the most popular social media outlets ever and a huge addiction for myself. If you follow me regularly on here you know I’m a pinterest-holic. Not just for recipes, or crafts but I visit pinterest almost daily for general design inspiration. It’s a great resource for all things design. So here is a list of 15 designers that every designer should be following on pinterest.

Free Font Friday

Graphic Design, Typography

Happy Free Font Friday! Enjoy!
Click here for some more as well.

Fairview by Riley Cran via Design with Influence

Fairview by Riley Cran

Cylburn designed by Dai Foldes via Design with Influence

Cylburn designed by Dai Foldes

Venera Designed by Joe Prince via Design with Influence

Venera Designed by Joe Prince

Kelson Sans designed by Bruno Mello via Design with Influence

Kelson Sans designed by Bruno Mello

Klinic Sans designed by Joe Prince via Design with Influence

Klinic Sans designed by Joe Prince

Fun with Brand Standards

Graphic Design, Humor

As a graphic designer, we try our hardest to make sure everything we do is prefect and up to our highest standards. As a graphic designer working in a marketing department, we do the same. Except we also have to make sure everyone else in our company is trying their hardest to make sure everything is prefect and meets OUR highest standards. And well, that’s just not easy.

To us graphic designers, every little things matters; where that word is placed, where that graphic is place, how much white space a design has, how big that font is, what color that bullet is. Everything matters.. because we know, that subconsciously, everything matters to the viewer as well. The smallest thing can make the difference between grabbing someone’s attention and losing someone’s attention. Why can’t anyone else see the importance of that?!

When I was in school I took an entire class that focused solely on how to develop brand standards. So when I started my job and was ask to further develop our brand and expand upon the existing brand guidelines (which were less than 10 pages, I might add..), I was more than up for the job. I took our 10-page brand guidelines and blew it up to a 40-page document. Now this might actually seem extreme, but I included everything; missions statement, language, fonts, logos, collateral, documentation, templates, etc. Plus the document is fully interactive and you can access any of those files directly from the document. It’s a great resource. The problem is nobody, except myself and the marketing team actually utilizes it.

It’s so difficult to get anyone outside of a marketing team to follow brand standards and to care about the little details that we care about. We’ve tried many different approaches to enforce brand standardization and none seem to get the ball rolling. Each day we report on misuses of brand language, we’ve tried calling people out, we’ve tried creative trivia.

But we can’t be the only company with these issues, and well we’re not. Every company has this issue, so we took to Google for some advice and one of my co-workers came across this great video.

Which I want to reshoot and distribute to my co-workers to see if maybe they will save a duck’s life. Too bad we don’t have a mascot here, we’ll have to improvise.

If anyone has any great brand enforcement ideas, let me know! We’re desperate here.

Touching Strangers

Life, Photography

I hope the title of this post is what drew you in because it in no way crosses a line into the “creepy.” Touching Strangers is a project by Richard Renaldi in which he asks people on the streets of New York City to pose with strangers as if they were lovers, friends or family. These people were asked to show a brief amount of affection but the effects of the experiment were amazing. Their facial expressions and body language show much more and you would never be able to guess from the final piece that the subjects had know each other for less than 20 minutes. Check out this video as well.

Top 7 Resume Blunders

Graphic Design, Humor, Life, Selling Yourself

I’m going to try something new because I’ve been in the “working world” for about a year and a half now and I think its about time I stop spouting other people’s knowledge and start sharing my own. With that, I’m going to throw in a disclaimer: You can’t sue me for bad advice.

I’m a Graphic Designer working in the Marketing department of a software company, so I do the pictures not the words (that’s my tagline. Not really…) I’ve been bossless for about a year now, meaning I don’t have a director- I work under the COO right now. But we’re now looking to fill that spot and fortunately I am being involved in the hiring process. How many recent graduates can say they got to pick their own boss..?

UNfortunately this means resume reading, and lots of it Ugh. But being on this side of the resume is a nice change of pace, and quiet frankly a freaking relief, not to mention a huge learning experience.

But everyone has been on the other side of the resume before. I was fortunate at my graduation time to not have to do a lot of work on my part to land the job have. But there are people out there that look for months, years to find a job and it all starts with the resume.

Your resume, is who you are. It’s the single piece of paper that advocates for you when you’re not there to do it for yourself. And if your resume fails at this, well there’s only one person to blame. You are the creator of that resume, so if fails that’s because you set it up for failure.

Being part of the hiring process for my new manager, I’ve looked at over 50 resumes. Every single one brings me back to college classes where I was taught what not to do when developing a resume and it astounds me how many people make these mistakes because honestly, most of them are common sense. I’ve picked out the top 7 mistakes I encountered while reading these resumes.

1. Spell check is your best friend.

In the technological world we live in these days there’s this wonderful little thing called spell check. I’m not prefect- I can’t spell to save my life. I’ve handed out many things that have had spelling errors on it and I’ll admit that I sometimes forget to use this trusty little tool. BUT when writing your resume, the single piece of paper that tells someone who you are and what you are capable of, you should NOT have spelling errors. Is that what you want to tell people you’re capable of.. spelling words incorrectly..? Of course though, even spell check doesn’t catch everything, that’ why asking a friend or family member to scan over your resume doesn’t hurt either. The position I have been scanning resumes for is a Marketing Manager, and these of all people, should know better than to send in a resume with spelling errors. Shame on you. This is sure to land your resume in the trash can.

2. PDF it.

When I was in school I converted everything to PDF, this of course was because of the programs I used, but I’ve gotten into a habit of converting mostly every final document I send as a PDF. I do this for many reasons;

  • Not everyone has the same programs, version or fonts you do. This means the way you see it on your screen isn’t always how someone else sees it on their screen, so just don’t take the risk.
  • PDF files are easy to open and view. Most people won’t be looking at your resume on their tablet, etc but why not give them that option.
  • Spell check is your best and worst friend. It can save you, but it can also sink you. Here’s a story: When hiring a new employee at our company a few months ago, I was given the opportunity to interview him. With this, the hiring manager sent me over his resume via email to prepare. It was a word document so when I downloaded it, it opened right in word. Well on a black and white resume, what’s the first thing you see..? Christmas! Green and red squiggly lines. Since I wasn’t the one person who decided his fate, he was still considered- he got the job and has definitely excelled. You might think that this disproves my point but really it doesn’t. If the hiring manager had been the kind of person who threw a person’s resume in the trash can because of a little spelling error (like I would have), then he never would have gotten the opportunity to prove himself. When you send your resume in a word doc the reader doesn’t even have to read it to see that you didn’t take the time to use spell check. Which in a lot of cases, depending on what position you’re applying for, could land your resume right in the trash can.

3. Are you really qualified?

I’ve been there too. Everyone goes through that time where they apply to anything and everything.. where you jump on every opportunity that you come across so that hopefully in those 100 positions you apply for, you get at least one interview. But you know what.. you aren’t actually qualified for most of them, are you? Everyone is desperate at one point or another. But if you’re applying for a manger position you should at least make sure you have at least some experience as a manager (or at least some experience in the working world.) I can’t tell you how many people right out of college with no experience are applying for a manger position. People will laugh at you and then.. your resume gets thrown in the trash can.

4. Less is more. Seriously.

As a resume writer you need to think from the point of view of the resume reader. There have been over 50 resumes submitted for the position we’re looking for. If I read them all thoroughly, how long do you think that would take? (You do the math, I don’t do math..) Whatever the answer is, most people don’t have that time lying around. There is room in your resume for sentences; that room is in the beginning for any kind of “objective/about” statement and that’s the only place. Majority of your resume should be bullets and phrases because they are short and concise and they get to the point. One resume we received was 5 pages long. 5 pages…? I get that, with more experience comes more pages but that just means you need to find the most important things to say about each job you’ve held. 5 pages is not something I want to read. Trash can.

5. There is such a thing as an ugly resume. Don’t have one.

You think because I’m a designer, I have an edge or maybe I’m just more critical but a resume can be ugly. Trust me. The format and presentation of your resume can make it sink or swim. Your resume should be easy to understand and interpret and the way you lay it out plays a huge role in that. As a designer, I know that you can make things appealing without images and fancy design.
One thing that can help is being creative with fonts. Just because Word gives you a default font doesn’t mean you need to be default (and if you’re worried about the person who receives your resume not having that font then stop and go back to #2.)
Another thing is structure and adding elements. I hate word, so I can’t get specific here about how to do these things because we’ll I don’t design in Word but add some structure so it doesn’t look like you just typed everything out and add some elements like line dividers and call our boxes, etc.
Take the time to do some research on the best ways to layout your resume and design the typefaces. Resume appearance can make you memorable and get you the job (or at least the interview.)

6. When you refer to the company to which you are applying.. call them by the correct name.

Now this might be me being picky because as a marketing professional at my company we have been aggressively trying to get our company to follow our brand guidelines (this is our next plan of attack) One of these brand discrepancies is the use of the acronym that has been adapted for our company’s name. So for example, if the company is called ABC Operations, don’t call them ABC for short when you’re writing you cover letter or addressing them by name, because that’s not their name. Like I said, this may be me being picky but I know for a fact that the acronym that’s used for my company is not written anywhere that a prospect candidate might see it so there’s no reason that prospective candidate should think using that acronym is okay.

7. There’s confident.. and then there’s cocky. Tread carefully.

When I was in school this is one thing my teachers stressed. Artists are cocky, we are proud of our skills and love to talk about our work so we were taught that its good to be confident in how we talk about our skill but getting too cocky can be a real turn off. One of the resumes that was submitted started right off, the first thing at the top of the resume, by telling us the job titles that he preferred, none of which included the actual title given in our job description. Another resume told us that his qualifications “demanded immediate consideration.” The second example isn’t so bad but could have been written in a less cocky way.

Like I said you can’t sue me for bad advice but I’m pretty positive this isn’t bad advice. I’m not here telling you how to write your resume, I’m not telling you what key words you should use and how to phrase certain things, not even the kind of content you should include. Because that’s the kind of advice you shouldn’t take from me. What I am telling you how to avoid the stupid little things that you over look, and reminding you to do that little things that take 5 seconds to make your resume better.