Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year Cheers Garland

The pixie dust has settled and there are exciting things right around the corner for us, in the new year. We've finished the holiday take down, in anticipation of our trip to visit my parents in sunny, 80F Florida. And while it means that we're not hosting our New Years Eve party (like last year), we're looking forward to a great time with family.
Cheers to you and to the new year! In the festive spirit, I put together a New Year Cheers garland from a Christmas gift from Sarah Parrott. The coasters she hand-printed with gocco screenprinting on one side and the other side with her vintage letterpress. Very cool. You'll see beautiful handmade calendars, cards, and the coasters as ornaments in her shop, Things are Better With a Parrott. Check it.The garland still needs bows or something at the top of each coaster, but I'll have to fix it when we get back. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Waiting for the Cat with the Bag

From our house to yours, wishing you peace & happiness in the holiday season! If you're celebrating Christmas today, Merry Christmas, as well!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Stuff Round-up

Christmas is almost here, so I thought I'd post a few more holiday things & set up future posts before signing out for the week. I hope you're all having a great holiday, staying warm, and hopefully getting to step away from work for a bit. These cuties are (soon to be were) edible gingerbread ornaments from our landlords upstairs. Note the "girl" with an A and the "boy" with a C...Cute!
...a gift from Right at Home. I painted the chipboard tree green & added the laser cut paper (from a 12x12), added glitter (with Stickles - what a great product!) & a few blue blings. The store was *very* kind to its regular customers this holiday - including a day of free projects, layouts, & a take-home album. The paper snowflakes and flowers slowly filling the house were a great way for me to use all the sweet holiday paper I had in my stash. How About an Orange was my snowflake inspiration this holiday - I love her crafty diys.
And here's a peek of the New Year Cheers garland I just made (from a gorgeous coaster set - a gift from Sarah at Things are Better With a Parrott). I'll post more of the garland closer to New Years. Happy Holidays!

Christmas Cat 2008

I never get tired of seeing what Dooce has propped up on top of her dog, Chuck. In honor of Chuck and his mad skills, I give you Christmas Cat:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Packaging on Crack

In case you're about to set a bunch of boring-looking presents under the tree, consider spicing up your packaging with unusual wrapping (newspaper or butcher paper) or more simply with cute gift tags.

I can't help you out with the wrapping paper, but in case you're running low on gift tags (or have a full color cartridge & want to save a few bucks), here are some free holiday gift tags you can download and print out. I picked them out just for you.
  1. Great Paper Crave tags (from last year).
  2. Sweet hand-drawn tags from Kitty Genius. Another set, as well.
  3. Maybe my favorite, elegant & simple gift tags from Paper Seed.
  4. Cute 4-seasons Gift Tags from Fog & Thistle.
  5. Delicate lovlies (gift tags) from Sew Mama Sew.
  6. Tags on the funky side from Martha Stewart.
  7. A list of free downloadable holiday gift tags.
  8. A free Christmas Card from Canon.
  9. Snowman Card & Gift tags from Mau.
  10. And a card that I love, from How About Orange, with a envelope tutorial included.
In case you have some a grudge against gift tags, you could paint the recipient's name onto the front of the package, as well. And instead of using tape, you might try sewing up the package (see below). Craft paper is probably half the cost of decorative wrapping paper & is recyclable (unlike lots of wrapping paper).For my family-secret Santa gift this year (to Christa) I used plain craft paper, sewed up the edges, painted her name on the front, and added holly in Martha Stewart beads (since they were out for the bird ornaments). The beaded detail (below) is much easier than it looks: paint a shape in glue, sprinkle on the beads, and let it dry before adding the next color. Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cinnamon Bird Ornaments

This weekend we had another holiday get-together with awesome peeps. Chris & Rich played Nintendo, while two lovely ladies (Sarah and Debra) and I conquered Martha Stewart's Cinnamon Bird Ornaments. Most of the pictures were taken late at night, so they're not great. But the final products were impressive!Surprisingly, the ornaments are made from a mixture of cinnamon, glue, and applesauce. The dough is fairly difficult to work with, and has to sit an hour to solidify. Then, after the shapes are cut out, the ornaments are baked for 2 hours, to dry them out. Once dry, you simply apply glue & drop glitter or micro-beads on the glue. Sarah rocked the disco birds and Deb freestyled some of our leftover dough into a parrot, a peacock, and a chili pepper....so all in all, we can say there was much kicking of Martha Stewart's ass.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What to do during a Blizzard

We're finally on vacation and trying to relax for the holidays. So, today seemed like a good day to make newspaper snowflakes. For tips on making your own or sewing them into garland, a tutorial. Damn, I love all this snow!

Cut #1, Cut #2, and Cut #3.

Best Blizzard Ever

From our front door...12/21/08. Gorgeous!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Recipe Rursday: Roasted Chestnuts

These days you can find chestnuts in the produce section of just about every grocery store. We picked up a batch at the new Trader Joe's that just opened in Warwick, but the bag we scooped at Stop & Shop were just as good. In any case, *note: chestnuts are highly perishable, so after roasting them, you will need to open them up to check for rotten ones--a handful had to be tossed. 1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Prep: To prep these little nuts, you need a good, sharp, paring knife. Lay them out on a kitchen towel to prevent slippage, and carve an X onto the rounded side (with the knife's point). Some will argue you should X the flat side (probably because its easier to cut). Ours came out perfect, so I've stuck with Xing the rounded side.3. Dump the chestnuts in a roasting pan or tray with edges and roast for 15- 25 min. I shook the tray to toss after 10 min. & let them roast for 20 min. total.
Look for the edges to peel back and the insides to turn a golden brown. This one (below) is close, but not quite finished.
4. Let the chestnuts cool, but peel while still warm. Sadly, if they're overdone or underdone, the insides will stick to the shell. But when they come out right, they're incredibly sweet. Perfect for a get-together with family or friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Cheer

With lots of our friends leaving town for the holidays, we had a last-minute Christmas party to say hi and see everyone off. At one point there were 14 of us here! Since "the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear" (Elf), a bunch of us rocked the mike till the wee hours. We have some very fun and silly friends. ...And today? SNOW EVERYWHERE!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Admitting Defeat

There's no way that I'll be able to make *all* of our cards this year. I'm thinking I'll be happy if I'm able to finish & mail out at least half of them. But if I see another paper triangle....
More cards finished (12/16/08).

End of December Update: Every single card that we sent out this year was handmade. Clearly, I have obsessive tendencies.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Revisiting 2007 Holiday Craft Projects

Looking back at last year's craft projects...1. Paper Ornaments (old post).2. Glass Ornaments with Funk (old post)3. The Countdown to Christmas Calendar (old post).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Singing Loud for All to Hear

"The Best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." Why haven't we broken out the karaoke machine more this year!!?? Elf is on cable today and I've completely succumbed to the holiday spirit. With a holiday party, Chris' grading coming to a close, and our agreement to buy less & receive fewer gifts this year, December feels more thoughtful & on-track than usual. We truly need nothing around here & the little things like holiday tunes, roasted chestnuts, and paper snowflakes feel luxurious. This year the simplicity of it all is very much trumping the commercialism of the holiday. Rock on.
[The poster is a free download from Readymade. Go here to get your own.]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry & Bright Door Hanger

While this was my own design (I was going for something a little retro), the idea is from the 30 Days to a Handmade Christmas class at SIS. Ingredients: felt, thread (yea!, more blanket stitching around the edge), ribbon for the packages & hanger, and Thickers letters. This year's hanger took a lot more work than last year's (below - which was more of a joke), but will make a great gift for my Secret Santa!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Garland Cards

Breakin' out the sewing machine again! I haven't mastered working around corners with the rick-rack stitch, but there's progress with the straight stitch. I made these next 4 cards from Scenic Route's Garland paper, from a card kit I picked up at Right at Home.

Recipe Rursday: Carmelized Shallots

Chris went through a shallots kick after reading Anthony Bordain's book Kitchen Confidential. Bordain argues that they're a fairly inexpensive way to kick your kitchen creations up a notch -- a cupboard staple, if you will. And so our regular mushroom side went from good to always amazing, with shallots & a touch of butter. Somewhere along the way, we went back to the cheaper, big old white and yellow onions. But oh, the return of the shallot...I'd seen this recipe here and here, (both raving about Ina Garten's recipe). But I didn't bite until someone pointed out that while the shallots are tossed in the melted butter/vinegar/sugar mix, you don't have to dip bread in the buttery/shalloty remnants. I recommend you tell yourself ...whatever you need to.Caramelized Shallots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh shallots, peeled, with roots intact
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan, add the shallots and sugar, and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss well.
Place the saute pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender. Season, to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot.

(We used a thick, silver, puerto rican rice pot. Worked perfectly for this dish. Next time, the plan is to serve the shallots as a side to baked fish or a rice dish for balance).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

O Christmas Tree

We're half decorated around here -- the goal is for each of us to add 2 ornaments each day. Guess whose idea that was! This is what our Spanish speaking Frasier Fir looks like, half-dressed & then, in the dark. Racy!