Recipe: Easy Peppermint Fudge Brownies

One of my favorite flavor combinations is peppermint and chocolate. And luckily, the holiday season is the perfect time of year for baked goods featuring this tasty pairing. These easy-to-make peppermint fudge brownies have a great mix of dark, fudgy chocolate and brisk peppermint. Thanks to a dressed-up boxed brownie mix, they are super easy to make, but they’re so decadent that no one will ever know you used a baking shortcut!

These delicious peppermint fudge brownies are super simple!

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Meet a Minted Artist: Annie Mertlich of Wildfield Paper Co.

Casual, bohemian, whimsical, vintage, organic. Those are the five words that Annie Mertlich uses to describe her style of design. As for the words we’d use to describe Annie as a person, we’d say prolific, hard worker, and unstoppable creative energy. Annie is the visionary behind Wildfield Paper Co. and the woman who works around the clock to build her brand that’s become known for breathtaking watercolor florals.

When Annie entered and won her first Minted design challenge in 2013, she was simultaneously working a full-time job that sucked the creative life out of her. About four months after winning, she quit her day job on what she calls a “hope and a prayer,” in early 2014. Although she says she wasn’t sure if she’d succeed as a self-employed creative, she was very optimistic and determined to make Wildfield Paper Co. a reality. “I had no idea at the time how big of an impact those early Minted challenges would have on the success of my business,” Annie says. Fast-forward nearly three years later, and she’s a creative force to be reckoned with. Here, Annie shares more of her experience of building her passion into a successful career as an independent designer and entrepreneur.

A Very Merry Christmas” and “Peace on Earth in Watercolor” holiday cards by Annie Mertlich of Wildfield Paper Co.

Minted: How did you discover Minted?
Annie Mertlich: I remember being so unhappy at my job and desperately seeking a creative outlet. I worked at a company doing creative work, but the environment was so toxic that I really needed something creative that wasn’t for that company. I remember browsing Pinterest for some Christmas decorating inspiration, and I came across a beautifully designed card and I followed it through to Minted. I read all about how Minted’s Design Challenges work and joined right away. The first challenge I entered was the 2014 big holiday challenge!

Did you study art or design formally in school?
I did classic training with a composite major in painting, printmaking, and drawing from Southern Utah University, a little university in my hometown. It may be a smaller university, but the art program is highly acclaimed, and they really push you to discover your potential. It was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. With a composite major, we really had to take a lot of different classes to fulfill the credit requirements. I ended up learning so many unique artistic techniques that I likely wouldn’t have explored otherwise. I never anticipated liking watercolor, but I was required to take the class and I fell in love. Bonus: I met my husband at SUU.

How many hours per week do you usually work, and what does “work” mean for you?
I’m honestly too scared to keep track — it averages at about 12 hours per day. During my busy seasons, it’s usually closer to 17 hours a day. I’m running the full business, so work is really everything from painting to posting on Instagram, billing clients to ordering shipping and printing supplies, and filing taxes to responding to emails. I wear all the hats.

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DIY: Eucalyptus Garland Christmas Card Display

Written by Sara Albers and Melissa Fenlon of  Alice & Lois

This hanging display of fresh eucalyptus is a modern way to display your Christmas cards and holiday cards. Best of all, it’s simple to make—all you need is fresh greenery, wire, and a nice long branch you can probably find in your backyard.

Christmas Card Display Ideas

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Recipe: Salami Cheese Ball

One of my all-time favorite holiday appetizers is the ubiquitous cheese ball. I’m not talking about the store-bought ones, but rather the irresistible homemade versions that taste a million times better. I have a couple of cheese ball recipes I love, and this easy one from my beloved Nana is among them. Back in the 80s, my grandma made a little cookbook to give to her children filled with all of her go-to holiday recipes, including her favorite Christmas fudge, the herb bread she makes every holiday season, and this tasty cheese ball. A few years ago, she reprinted the cookbook and gave all of us grandkids our own copies. It’s really fun to read through it and think about our family’s holiday food traditions.

cheese ball with salami, ranch, and green onions

cheese ball with salami, ranch, and green onions

This cheese ball is as easy to make as it is delicious. It takes about 10 minutes to put together from start to finish, and you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until party time. It tastes great with all kinds of crackers and breads, looks pretty on a serving plate, and gets rave reviews from everyone who tastes it. I’m excited that cheese ball season is here again and can’t wait to take this to one of my holiday parties this year!

Click through for the ingredients and instructions…

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DIY: Felt Holly Garland

When it comes to holiday decorating, I like to come up with a fresh, new take on last year’s decorations—it’s a fun way to repurpose embellishments you already own. For this project, I turned my strand of red and white felt balls from last year’s Christmas tree into a festive garland of holly to drape over a mantel or wall.

My DIY felt holly garland pictured with Minted art print “A Deer Friend” by Andrew McClintock

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DIY: Colorful Wood-Block Ornaments

Written by Sara Albers and Melissa Fenlon of  Alice & Lois

Every holiday season we love to make ornaments. Last year we shared a few faves: a personalized initial ornament and our fabric-covered tree ornament. Today we’re excited to share the latest addition to our DIY ornament obsession, these modern and colorful tree adornments made from one-inch wood blocks. We chose bright, unexpected colors to add some fun and flair to the tree—choose your favorite color combinations to match your holiday decor.


Click through for the step-by-step instructions…

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DIY: Gem Christmas Ornaments

Written by Kathleen Ballos of  Snowdrop & Co

Even though we haven’t set up our Christmas tree yet, that hasn’t stopped me from crafting some ornaments ahead of time! These gem ornaments are super simple to make— plus, they have a secret compartment for candies and holiday treats! Check local packaging stores (or jewelry-packaging sites online) to track down plastic boxes and keep reading to see how to turn them into colorful ornaments for the holidays!

DIY Gem Christmas Ornaments | Julep DIY Gem Christmas Ornaments | Julep

Click through for step-by-step instructions … 

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Behind the Design: “Joyful” Wedding Invitation

Chicago-based Minted designer Carolann Belk Parran of Pink House Press shares her vision and the creative process behind her hand-lettered wedding invitation “Joyful.”

hand-lettered wedding invitation

What was the inspiration behind this design?
I was in the middle of planning my own wedding, so I thought about what words I would want my guests to associate with my wedding from the moment they opened their invitation. I knew I wanted to do something fun with typography, so I decided to give the word “joy” the most prominent and central role so that the happiness of the couple could really come through. 

Describe your creative process – from initial idea to end result.
Knowing that I wanted to do something typographic for this design, I first decided on the wording and which words to make most prominent. I sketched out the design making the words “joy” and “marriage” largest, and filled in the empty spaces with the floral filigree. To finalize the design, I scanned in the words and floral pieces that I wanted hand-lettered, and positioned complementary fonts for everything else.

What are some challenges you faced as you were designing?
I wanted my hand lettering to look clean and smooth because I was mixing it with fonts, and that’s always difficult when moving from pen and paper to digital. I used the help of my Wacom tablet to digitize this design, but just purchased an iPad Pro and am excited to play with that to make the digitization process easier in the future!

Describe the type of bride or wedding you imagined this design would complement?
I envisioned this invitation for a sweet Southern belle whose spirit exudes the title of this design, “Joyful.” And with such a long season for outdoor weddings in the South, the floral-inspired filigree would perfectly suit an outdoor celebration (like my own!).

What wedding trends do you love right now?
I love that more and more couples are breaking from tradition or are putting a new spin on an old tradition to make their day more personal. And now that guests tend to be more spread out and have to travel farther for weddings than in the past, I love adding in a little local flavor in the form of wedding favors, décor, welcome bags, or food and drinks!

hand-lettered wedding invitation

Tell us about your workspace.
I was excited to get my very own home office when I moved to the Chicago area last year! I now have lots of storage space for my printers and presses, and a large desk where I can spread out my pens, brushes, and tablets. But realistically I usually meander over to the couch to work by the TV.

How did you come to design for Minted?
I had heard about Minted through the grapevine and knew they held design challenges, so when I had a little spare time from my then-day job I decided to submit a little watercolor illustration I did on a Sunday afternoon. I always think the best worst thing to happen in my Minted experience was that this very first entry got picked, because it made me think that winning challenges would be easy (spoiler alert: it wasn’t!).


More from Pink House Press:
• “Joyful” wedding invitation
• “Evergreen Wishes” holiday card
• Carolann’s Instagram

More from Minted:
• Wedding Invitations
• Save the Date Cards
• Wedding Websites

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DIY: Bright Clay Trees Christmas Card Display

Written by Kathleen Ballos of  Snowdrop & Co

Looking for a cool, colorful way to show off this year’s batch of Christmas cards and holiday cards? These bright and modern clay trees are the perfect way to save your mantel from a paper blizzard.

Christmas Card Display Ideas: Bright Clay Trees
Holiday card display ideas

Click through for the step-by-step instructions

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4 Pinterest Tips to Help Your Content Drive Traffic + Sales

Pinterest is a platform of discovery. In 2016, the Pinterest community has grown to more than 150 million monthly users around the world who use the social media network to find over 75 billion ideas for them to save, to try, and to purchase. It’s the only social network that people go to save ads. To help you generate traffic and sales, we’ve put together four Pinterest content strategy tips to help you cut through the clutter and advertise your products.

1. Know Your Keywords & Popular Search Terms

To generate traffic and revenue, you must generate awareness of your product pins through proper keywords and pin descriptions. Think like an SEO strategist. What is SEO? Search Engine Marketing is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. Check out the Moz beginners guide to SEO here.

Once familiar with SEO, align your Pinterest profile, boards, and pin descriptions with the popular search terms under the umbrella of your products or services. Not sure how to find keywords related to your product? Try the Pinterest search bar as a starting point. Type in a keyword and see popular associated searches.

Not only will you be found on Pinterest, you’ll also be found via the major search engines, like Google.

Additionally, artists who have their own professional website with ecommerce capabilities should consider adding Product Pins. Product Pins update keyword text directly from your website, which makes it easier for Pinners to find information about things you sell by including color, style, pricing, and availability. Alongside increasing searchability, Product Pins also enjoy more prominence on Pinterest feeds by offering eye-catching branding icons and bolded text.

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