Hamilton Beach Stand & Hand Mixer Giveaway and Review


**UPDATE: two giveaway winners have been chosen - find them announced below!**

It's time for the giveaway you've been waiting for! When Hamilton Beach offered me both a stand mixer and a 6 speed hand mixer to review AND giveaway to my readers, I was barely able to contain my excitement! I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to try these out for myself and treat two of you.

There was no better time than December to try these mixers. Between my daughter's birthday; school parties; holiday gatherings; and family meals, I got to try out all aspects of these mixers so that you know my personal experience with them.

First, a little about each mixer:

Hamilton Beach Stand Mixer: 




I've felt a little behind in the baking world over the last 10 years as every member of my family + every cooking TV show host has obtained a coveted stand mixer. I am thrilled to say that every recipe I tried with my new stand mixer so far has been a success.

With the stand mixer you get:
  • 3 different mixing attachments: a dough hook, whisk, and flat beater
  • A stainless steel, 4 quart bowl which is dishwasher safe
  • A splatter shield
  • Non-slip feet
  • A tilt-up head for easy bowl access
  • 7 speeds for true versatility

The mixer also has a 300 Watt motor for complete bowl coverage and hands-free mixing.

Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Hand Mixer:




This hand mixer was clearly designed for convenience. It has:
  • 6 attachments: twisted wire beaters, a milkshake mixer, dough hooks, and a whisk
  • A snap-on storage case
  • A pulse function for extra mixing control
  • A burst button for peak power


The Review

I wanted to start my review on the easy side of baking. My first test recipe was my daughter's 6th birthday cake. I made a red velvet cake from a box mix, and used the hand mixer.  Simple, smooth, and as expected - my batter turned out well (and I LOVE the detachable storage case for the mixing attachments).


For my next recipe it was time to turn it up a notch: homemade cream cheese frosting. For the cream cheese frosting I used the flat beater because I was working with something a little tougher: butter and cream cheese.


In order to mix the homemade cream cheese frosting evenly, I first blended the cream cheese and butter, and slowly added the milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

I can't believe it but I forgot to take a picture of the finished cake at the party. I guess I was too busy lighting candles and singing.

After my daughter's birthday it was time to prepare for Christmas. I always make my homemade sugar cookies and amazing buttercream frosting. It's my most popular blog post by a long shot, so I think most readers agree that this recipe is no joke. You can find the recipe here.


Again, I used the paddle beater to create the dough from scratch. Now this is why I wanted a stand mixer. I love the idea of baking almost as much as I love the end product, but what I don't love is the mixing and mess. Having this stand mixer has already improved my attitude towards baking - making these cookies was a breeze!


For the frosting I thought it was time to try out the whisk. Buttercream frosting does not require a difficult amount of mixing as long as the butter is softened. As always, I beat my butter with milk and vanilla, and slowly added powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time. I found that periodically I needed to pause the mixing and scrape down the side of the bowl; however, it's not hard with the tilt-back mixer head.


Finally, I wanted to use the dough hook attachment. During the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve I made 2 loaves of my family recipe for kolache/poppy seed roll.

As with the cookies, I tend to view making dough as a chore, but the stand mixer has changed everything! I used the dough hook to do the work for me: after mixing ingredients, all I had to do was let the dough rise.



Baking for the holidays was never easier.

GIVEAWAY!

**This giveaway is now closed! 2 winners have been selected: Amber S. has won the stand mixer, and Brenda C. has won the hand mixer. Please check your email to confirm you are able to accept your prize! Thanks! **

Guess what? Now it's your turn to get cooking!

TWO lucky blog readers will win one of two Hamilton Beach mixers!

Prize #1: a Hamilton Beach Stand Mixer (view here). The winner will be chosen at random from all entries, and the first winner drawn will win the stand mixer.

Prize #2: a Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Hand Mixer with Pulse and Snap-On Case (view here). Winner #2 will be chosen at random from all entries, and the second winner drawn will win the hand mixer.

To win: enter the giveaway via the Rafflecopter form below. You may choose just one, favorite entry method, or all entry methods below. You must be a U.S. citizen and age 18 or older.

The winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter, and I will contact the winner via the email they used in the signup form. This giveaway closes at 12:00 AM on 2/2/16.

Okay, now good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Creating Custom Etsy Shop Graphics with Stock Photography


To celebrate the opening of my new Etsy shop, Minted Pines, I am going to teach you how to create and customize your very own Etsy shop kit!



In this tutorial I am using photos from my new stock photography shop, which were all photographed by me, and I am now offering to you as 100% royalty free, commercial and personal-use photography. These photos can be used by designers, crafters, writers, bloggers, and small business owners for any web use, and some print uses.


These royalty-free stock photos can be used an unlimited number of times online, so they are perfect for creating a cohesive visual brand identity for your small business, shop, or blog.

Today, we are using the photos to make Etsy shop banners; product image place holders; and a shop icon/avatar.

I will also be teaching you to use two different resources, which are completely free when you use just their free resources: Canva.com and PicMonkey.com. Let's get started!

1. Making a banner on Canva.com

First, sign-in or create an account at Canva.com. Some of Canva's designs and elements are free, and some are not. I will be using exclusively free layouts and elements in this tutorial.


To start, I selected the "Etsy Banner" project from the home page, and under layouts, I chose "Terrific Terrariums".


The first step in customizing this banner is to replace the photo with your stock photo. Click uploads, and upload your own image. After uploading, drag and drop onto the current image in the Canva design. This will replace their image with your own.


Next, you can alter the image with a filter, or adjust the brightness, contrast, and more. To edit the image in your banner, click on the image; two tool bars will pop up - click "filter" to edit the image, and "crop" to adjust the size and portion of the image in the banner.


In this banner, I want to adjust the transparency of the black box surrounding the text. I like being able to see some of the stock photo underneath. To adjust the transparency, click the black box; click the arrow on the right side of the tool bar that pops up, and adjust the transparency slider until you are happy with how it looks.


Now it's time to adjust the text. Replace the Canva text with your own shop name. Change the font to one you use with your business, or one that coordinates with your aesthetic. You can also adjust the text size and color with this tool bar. Canva also has dotted line guides that will pop up to assist you in centering your text.

Now, just change the name of your file, and download to your computer. The banner is already sized perfectly for use on Etsy.

2. Creating a shop icon and image place holder:


An Etsy shop icon needs to be at least 500 pixels square. To create this, I chose the  square "Album" project from the Canva.com homepage, and selected the "Surf School" layout.


If you already uploaded your stock image for the Etsy banner project, you won't need to upload it again - it should still be in your Canva uploads. Simply select your image again, and drag and drop it onto the layout.


After adding your image, adjust the color of the circle overlay if you like. Here, I chose to change the circle to black.


Next, edit your text. Replace the Canva text with your own, editing the font, size, and color to fit your brand. You can delete any unneeded Canva text by clicking on it, and clicking the trashcan in the toolbar that will pop up with it.

Image place holder ideas include: reserved listings; custom orders; bulk orders; buy-one, get one deals, etc.


Change the title of your design, and download it to save. A square image place holder of at least 1000 pixels wide works well for both product image place holders and Etsy icons. Remember to consider the layout of your image when uploading to product photos, as images will be cropped by Etsy to fit their thumbnail size; however, you will be able to adjust the thumbnail to some extent.

3. Using PicMonkey.com to create an Etsy Banner

In my experience Canva is easier to use as it does all of the hard work of measuring, laying out, and cropping for you. On the otherhand, PicMonkey.com can be more flexible and makes it easy to crop and edit size.

When creating an Etsy Banner on PicMonkey, you must first upload the image by selecting, "edit" on the homepage.


Next, you will want to crop the stock image to 760 pixels wide by 100 pixels tall. Use the "no fixed proportions" on the crop tool drop-down menu to do this. Click and drag the crop grid on the stock photo to get the right portion of the photo you want to feature in your banner.


Next, add an overlay. Click on the butterfly graphic on the left side of the screen. Select "Geometric" from the overlay menu, and click your shape just once. The shape will appear on your banner. Click and drag to place the overlay where you want it on your banner, and click and drag the corners of the overlay to change the size. You can also adjust the transparency of the overlay by adjusting the "fade" slider on the overlay pop up menu.



Now it's time to add text. Click the "Tt" symbol on the left side of your screen. Select the font you would like to use on your banner, and adjust the size and alignment as needed. I chose to center my text on the overlay.
 When finished, click "save", rename, and save your banner at the highest quality image setting.

4. Etsy Product Image Place Holder

Upload your stock photo again on PicMonkey. This time when cropping, select a pre-determined ratio. For an Etsy image place holder, an 8 x 10 (landscape) crop works best. Make sure your image is at least 1000 pixels wide.


Add an overlay, center, and adjust transparency and color however you wish.


Layer over with text that is the same or compliments the text you used in your banner.


After centering text, save your image at the highest quality available on PicMonkey.

5. Etsy Shop Icon

You can use the same open file from your Etsy product image place holder to create the square shop icon.

Edit the text to say your shop name, or use a monogram such as "FT" for FERN Terrariums in this example.


Crop the image to a square with the text directly in the middle.

Save the image at the highest quality PicMonkey allows.

And that is it for a basic Etsy graphics set! You are not limited to just Etsy graphics when you buy commercial-use images from Minted Pines - you can create graphics for your website, blog posts, Facebook cover & buttons, Twitter, Instagram, newsletters, etc. The possibilities are really endless!

Need help with this? If you purchase any of my stock photos, I can help make them into shop graphics for you! Message me on Etsy if you have questions before purchasing. Or, visit Minted Pines now!

Three Things I Love This Thursday: Black Cat Hats, Cookie Mugs, & Coloring Calendars



They're the top three things that I love this week. They may be sweet, smart, or good to eat...

► If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may now how I feel about black cats, and how I am the proud owner of a black cat named Little Bear (although 99% of the time he is referred to as 'Kitty Boy'). I came across this lovely black cat hat by J K Design in the Flourish Handmade Gift Guide on Pinterest, and I am so charmed by it. It is handmade by Julia in St. Petersburg, Russia, and as it offers plenty of stretch it looks like it is one-size-fits-all (beneficial when ordering online!). 

This mug would have been a great novelty gift for the holidays, but honestly, I would have kept it for myself. While I don't usually eat cookies with my coffee, the occasional doughnut might find its way in there. The mug is from Uncommon Goods and is back-ordered until April, so get on the list now if you like it as much as I do.

► Finally, it's the new year and time for a new calendar. I haven't gotten into the adult coloring book trend yet (although I have been tempted), but I did jump at the chance to get a coloring calendar. It was January 9th when I realized my wall calendar was still open to December 2015. While grocery shopping I came across this 2016 Color Me Happy calendar, which you can also buy on Amazon. Especially during the winter, I think this calendar will be a fun little treat for me to unwind with.

She Makes a Home 2015 Year in Review - and looking ahead to 2016


One of my favorite things to do at the start of each new year is look back at what I've done on the blog the year before. January 2016 marks the eighth anniversary of She Makes a Home! It's absolutely incredible to think that when this blog started I was a 22-year-old newly wed college senior living in a tiny apartment. If you'd like to look back at previous year-end reviews, check out 2014, The 2013 Review that Never Happened2012, and 2011.

So here we go: these are my favorite posts; my most popular posts; and my most useful posts of 2015.

January

January started with a list of six kitchen tools that have totally changed the way I cook. I told you why I love them, and where you can find them online.


I also touched on the "frosting" vs. "icing" debate, which you can vote on. Admittedly, it is a superficial debate; however, some people only use one term or the other, and I wanted to know why.


February

February is always about Valentine's Day for me. As a greeting card designer, it has to be. I re-published 2 printable freebies for you to download for Valentine's Day - a set of 6 mini Valentine notes, and a printable robot girl that you can frame or turn into a card.


I also shared how I found an amazingly comfy queen size mattress and a gorgeous mid century modern bed frame, plus bedding for $1,000. My husband and I had been using the cheapest, full-size mattress we could find since 2008, so this was kind of a big deal for me.

March

My big project in March was painting my daughters' room a gorgeous shade of lilac purple. Because we lived in apartments when my girls were born, I never decorated a nursery. I wanted to give them a beautiful room that they wouldn't grow out of too quickly. Since writing this post, I have bunked their beds and added some new art and curtains - I'll have to update with a new post soon.

April

In April I shared my teal entryway. Every room was a different color when we moved into our house over 4 years ago - I'm talking red, yellow, navy blue, mint green, dark green. It's taking longer than I would like, but I am slowly getting the whole house to a color palette of my liking. Most of the house is grey, so I loved the idea of a bright, bold entryway from the garage.

May

May was all about the outdoors. I shared many projects for creating an inspiring "playscape" for our girls. I wanted it to be a space that encouraged imaginative play, and didn't cost a lot to create.

June

June was a busy time for me, personally. We had a lot of mini family vacations, and did some traveling for work as well. I took an Instagram class with Holly Becker and was focusing a lot on nature photography. I built a photo library for myself to use a reference when painting or drawing plants. Some of my favorite inspirational photos ended up on my Instagram feed.


I was also still practicing calligraphy, and felt inspired to share past blog contributor Rachel Anne Jones' no-spill ink well tutorial.

July

July was all about me turning 30. I was still keeping my personal life pretty busy, and that showed on the blog. There were a lot of things I wanted to do so that when I entered my thirties, I felt how I wanted to feel on the inside. This included trying new things I wouldn't usually try; "coming out of my shell" a bit more - a term I really dislike, but I don't know how else to say it. I wanted to explore my town a bit more, and do more things on my own. I wouldn't normally go to a museum by myself, but I did and really enjoyed myself. You can see my 30 Before Thirty in Ten Days list here.

August

In August I participated in the August Break, which was perfect for me as I was really getting into painting and actually doing something with all of those nature photos I took. I shared my inspirational flatlays, and the watercolor botanical patterns I was working on. I talked about my journey to pattern design, and offered a link to a pattern design class that you can take for free if you're new to Skillshare.

September

In September I shared my DIY natural watercolor tutorial. The project is less about making your own paints, and more about the learning experience you get with painting from nature. I designed the tutorial first for Skip to My Lou blog, as part of their summer series for kids and parents. As an adult I can say it's really fun to do on your own as well.


I also shared the final product of my pattern design lessons. It was so exciting to actually digitize a pattern I made from scratch, and be able to offer it to you as a printable freebie, which is still available (but possible not for much longer). I am hoping to offer more printable patterns in the near future.

October

I'm one of those people who tend to get overwhelmed when there is too much to do, and I end up procrastinating and not doing anything. This is true even with fall cleaning. There is just SO. MUCH. to do on my cleaning checklist. I created an action plan to make the whole process much more manageable, complete with free, printable checklists.


I also wrote a short tutorial on the new Etsy feature, Shop Updates. Even though I don't use them as often as I would like, I love that this feature is now available, and I like the idea of it both from a seller and a buyer perspective. Learn what they're all about, here.

November
November was all about my joy for the holiday season. I LOVE Thanksgiving. I LOVE Christmas. The air just feels a little different in November and December.


I expanded the products I offered in my shop this year, including ornaments and home decor. I was amazed as how well my new line did, and I shared some of that here.


I also experimented with hand-stamped holiday cards with a stamping bundle from Stampin' Up. I showed you the different ways you could stamp and emboss your own cards, gift tags, and envelopes, and offered the bundle as a giveaway to one lucky winner.

December

December was busier than November, but I was still able to update the blog. I published my tutorial on DIY Lunar Phase earrings, which made it on to Craftgawker. I had so much fun making and would love to make more of. It's an incredibly easy way to make custom jewelry, and is a gorgeous gift for any time of the year. It would be an awesome project for older kids and teenagers as well.


I also decided to address some of the most common reasons a shop does not do well on Etsy. As I said in the post, I am not a top seller and I don't claim to know everything; however, I have been selling on Etsy for over 8 years now, and I certainly know what it takes to go from no sales to decent sales. If you're struggling to sell on Etsy, I suggest reading this post to see if any of it applies to your shop.

Looking Ahead to 2016
I can't help but feel 2016 is going to be an amazing year. 2012 was a very wonderful year for me, and I feel like I've spent 2013, 2014, and 2015 learning new skills, gaining new knowledge, and working on myself. All of that effort is coming together now, and I see a new year ahead with great products in my Etsy shop; inspiring posts (and a new Etsy boot camp) on the blog; printables such as worksheets and art; good health; exciting giveaways; and a published book on the horizon.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog in 2015, and I hope we can connect more in 2016. Thanks for being a reader!

Your friend, 
Ashley
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