Digital Mystery Box Contents

I know…it’s a Mystery Box…aren’t the contents suppose to be a mystery?

The folks at Cricut are encouraging us to show off projects we make with the contents, so I thought I would share mine.  If you are interested in buying this Mystery Box, there is still time to buy it…but I’m guessing not much time, so trot on over here to buy it: My link to the Digital Mystery Box

This is a DIGITAL Mystery Box, so that means there’s no waiting for your box to arrive. It shows up in your Design Space right away!

You get lots and lots of great content with this digital MB.  Two groups of projects stand out to me right away.

The first is the always beautiful projects from Leo and friends over at Dreaming Tree.  One of the projects is this  beautiful tray with potted hydrangeas!  Now everyone knows that hydrangeas are one of my favorites, so I gladly forked over the $7 for the file from Dreaming Tree last year.  Now you can save that money and  get it and quite a few others with this purchase!  Isn’t it beautiful?

Completed tray with three hydrangea pots
Look how beautiful this is!
Pink Hydrangea Closeup
Closeup of the pink vase of hydrangeas


And the second set of projects is all mandalas!!!  I think there are five different mandalas that can be cut in vinyl or even iron-on.  Plus there are projects that can be colored with pencils.  Who doesn’t love coloring?

Here’s my half weeded mandalas I did in silver vinyl.  Lots of weeding here if you like that!  I’m about to cut one for my niece in the new Cricut SportFlex material for her yoga jacket in a blue metallic!  Oooh!



One final thing.  If you are a Cricut Access subscriber, you will automatically get HALF off this digital Mystery Box…making it only $15 for all these fabulous projects!



Pasta Puttanesca

pasta puttanesca
Pasta Puttanesca: a pantry pasta sauce

There are all kinds of stories related to the name of this dish.  If you know a little bit of Italian (or other Romantic language), you can probably figure out why.  Puttana translates into prostitute and it’s been theorized that this is a dish women “of the night” would use to lure men.

Because most everything in this dish can be kept in the pantry, I like to think of it as a quick dish when you have little fresh food on hand.  And, well, that can go along with the story line, too.  It’s something that can be whipped up and eaten in bed when you’re too tired to make a whole meal.

Either way, it’s delicious and worth a try!

Pasta Puttanesca
Your Dutch Oven is great for making sauces like this one!


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 fresh garlic cloves, chopped (or equivalent minced)
  • 1 can of anchovies
  • 3 heaping tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. linguine


  1. Heat olive oil in your Dutch Oven and add the chopped onion, cooking until translucent
  2. Add garlic and anchovies and cook for a few more minutes
  3. Add capers, olives, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or while you prepare the linguine
  4. Toss some of the liquid with the linguine to avoid sticking
  5. Heap a portion of linguine in a pasta dish and top with a generous portion of sauce
  6. Top with shaved Parmesan, if desired

Mouth-Watering Chicken Marinade

I’ve used this marinade for both boneless breasts and bone-in wings/drummies and it always tastes delicious.

For best results, marinate your chicken pieces overnight; the marinade will really penetrate through the chicken!

I got an air fryer a few weeks ago and I used it to cook my marinated chicken and it came out fabulously!

Chicken Marinade

  • 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil (any kind/I used corn oil)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped

I mix all the marinade ingredients in a large zippy bag and in shaking it. Then I toss in the chicken and marinate in the fridge. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

I was able to marinate about a pound of chicken breast AND a large portion of chicken drumsticks with one portion of marinade, because I reused it.

You can reuse marinade, just don’t use it on cooked chicken!


What is a Cuttlebug®?

Cricut Cuttlebug
Cricut Cuttlebug is great for embossing, cutting and adding dimension to flat paper products

Cuttlebug® Basics

A Cuttlebug® is a non-motorized machine that can cut out dies, emboss intricate designs and also score paper to create 3D paper embellishments. If you like to make elaborate cards or scrapbook pages, having a Cuttlebug® would probably prove extremely helpful to you.

One of the most prolific users of the Cuttlebug® machine is Anna Griffin, a designer who is often featured on the shopping network HSN.  Anna and Cricut teamed up to create a brand new option for the Cuttlebug® called Cut And Emboss, which allows you to both cut and emboss very intricate detailed paper pieces.  Being able to do both cutting and embossing of the same paper allows you to craft both with and without your Cricut Maker or Explore.

It’s important to note that Cuttlebug® is not the only manual die cutting machine on the market.  As such, embossing folders and even dies that you purchase from other companies such as Sizzix will work in your Cuttlebug® and vice versa.  That means that most dies and embossing folders are interchangeable, which is a good thing for the home crafter.

How does the Cuttlebug® work?

Think of the Cuttlebug® as a manual die cutting machine like your Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore.  Instead of designing on your device, you put the entire project together by creating layers–sort of like making a sandwich–that you run through the slot on the Cuttlebug® machine.  The machine exerts extreme pressure on the plates, your folder and the materials in your layer sandwich to either emboss, cut or emboss and cut.

Do I need a Cuttlebug® to make things with my Cricut machine?

You do not need a Cuttlebug® to craft with your Cricut, but having one will take your projects to new levels.  Adding dimension with intricate embossing folders will elevate your paper layers to new heights, making them look more professional.  Embossing paper and other materials with incredibly intricate details cannot really be achieved by hand.  In addition, sometimes a design is so intricate that it would take a lot of time to cut using the blade system of a Cricut Maker or Explore machine.  Running an intricate die through your Cuttlebug will achieve wonderful results in more than half the time!

What else can I do with a Cuttlebug®?

Embossing with the Cuttlebug® can be simple or more complex.  You can sand your embossed white cored paper to show the detail or you could use stamping ink to highlight the design.  You can also use ink inside the embossing folders to create a very special inked and embossed look.

Additionally the Cuttlebug® can be used to score paper, which eliminates the need for tedious marking and scoring to accomplish the same task.  Making rosettes by hand used to involve making dozens of scorings with a stylus and scoreboard, but this can now be achieved quickly and efficiently with the Cuttlebug®.

One of my favorite uses for the Cuttlebug® is as a die cutter for flamboyantly designed words, as these can waste a lot of paper when done on the Cricut Explore.  The Cuttlebug® uses smaller sized paper, so it’s a great way to use up paper scraps or to maximize your use of specialty paper, such as glitter, velum and cardstock.

Who is Anna Griffin?

Anna Griffin is a lifestyle designer with roots in the creation of elaborate wedding and event invitations.  Her style is very floral and she is known for creating intricately layered cards; she enjoys using “old world” designs in fresh new ways.  Anna has been working with the Cricut (Provo Craft) company for several years, developing digital content as well as launching her very own version of the Cricut Explore and Cuttlebug, which is detailed in gold and cream tones.  She is a frequent guest on the shopping channel HSN and has presented tools and papers exclusively for the channel.  She is based out of  Georgia and has her own blog and online store.

Where can I buy the Cuttlebug® machine and accessories?

The Cricut Cuttlebug® is available on the Cricut website, of which I am an affiliate.  If you are planning a purchase of the Cuttlebug®, embossing folders, additional plates and intricate die cuts, please feel free to use my link with my special code (CRICUTNEWBIES1), which will give you an additional 10% off your purchase of most items and free shipping:

My special link to Cricut, which should be used with the code CRICUTNEWBIES1 for maximum savings

Cricut Cuttlebug Mint Machine
The Cuttlebug includes all the necessary plates and rubber mat to cut and emboss!

Please note:  As an affiliate of Cricut, I may be compensated a small percentage by Cricut for any orders you might place. #ad


Maple Bacon Cinnabon-Style Buns


Perhaps you may think there is no earthy way to improve upon a Cinnabon.

But I’m hear to tell you it’s possible and I’ve done it, too!

How could I improve on what could be the most decadent food on the planet–the Cinnabon?  By adding bacon, of course!

Tell me who doesn’t like bacon? Or real maple syrup? By combining bacon and maple syrup with my already over-the-top Cinnabon-style Buns I have managed to create the perfect mashup!

And the cool thing is this recipe doesn’t require that much extra work!  Just sprinkle crumbled bacon on the filling before rolling and substitute maple for the vanilla.

The results are simply divine!

ICYMI (In case you missed it) I posted my original Cinnabon-style recipe on my blog before.  You can find it here: Cinnabon-Style Cinnamon Buns

The recipe below includes the additions that make them Bacon-y and Maple-y.  But, hey, if you don’t like bacon…just leave it out!

Maple Bacon Cinnabon-style Buns


For the dough:

  • 1 packet (or 2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 cups of flour (I like King Arthur the best!)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

For the filling:

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Six slices of cooked bacon, crumbled

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (half of a regular sized brick)
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavoring or maple syrup (the flavoring gives a more intense maple flavor, but the syrup does fine, too!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt


  1. Dissolve the yeast in the room temperature milk.  Allow it to proof about 5 minutes; proofing occurs when you see some little bubbles in the milk.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1/3 cup of softened butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar and mix with your hand mixer until incorporated.  Add the two eggs and mix.  Then add the salt plus the yeast milk.  Once your wet ingredients are well mixed, begin adding in the flour one cup at a time, mixing after every cup until all four cups are incorporated.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and kneed lightly to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.  Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with a moist cloth.  Allow it to rise to double the size, which will take about an hour.
  4. Make the filling by combining the brown sugar, cinnamon and softened butter together.  The filling will be grainy, which is fine.
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, remove it to your work area and roll it out to about 12 by 16 inches.  The dough should be somewhat stiff, not doughy like bread and about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Spread the filling on top of the dough, leaving a one inch end of just dough and about 1/2 inch edge on the other sides.
  7. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles all over the cinnamon filling.
  8. Begin rolling the dough from the short end and rolling somewhat tightly until you reach the dough only end.  Expect some of the filling to spill out on either side, but it might be good to keep the ends even when rolling.  Do this with your hands. (You can roll them lengthwise, but when I did that my buns didn’t have room to rise and they practically jumped out of the pan.
  9. Cut the rolled dough in half and line both halves up side by side as a guide.  With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch slices.  I ended up with 8 Cinnabon-sized slices when rolled from the short side, which was perfect.  Make sure they are not crammed into the pan!
  10. Place the slices–cut side up–into a well greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
  11. Put your risen buns in a 350 degree preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes.  Check them after 20 minutes to make sure they do not over bake.  You want them to be golden brown and you want to be able to smell the baking cinnamon.  They will be a bit puffed up, but they will deflate a bit when cooled.
  12. While the buns are in the oven (haha!), assemble the icing by first mixing the butter with the cream cheese and maple syrup or flavoring.  Then add the confectioner’s sugar slowly, mixing and then beating until light and fluffy.  Do make sure you use a hand mixer for this…I made my icing both ways and the mixer icing was much creamier!
  13. Allow the buns to cool for about five minutes then spoon a heaping portion of icing on each of the buns and use a butter knife or cake spatula to spread it out across each of the buns.  This is an easier way to ensure all the buns get the same amount of icing.
  14. Enjoy with lots of hot coffee!  Yum!