Thursday, December 30, 2010

We Need A Little Christmas: Visiting Family

Despite all of the decorating, baking, shopping and gift wrapping, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without family. I traveled back to the Midwest to spend the holidays with my sister and her family. Being able to experience the magic of Christmas through children's eyes is a wonderful gift. All in all, it was a fairly quiet week, spending lots of time with my nephew and nieces (all three of them, not only adorable, but smart as whips!), baking cookies, cooking, fixing snacks, playing, playing, napping, then playing some more, making crafts, coloring and opening lots of gifts! And with that, I bid adieu to the 2010 Holiday season. As always, happy to see it come and happy to see it go.

We Need A Little Christmas: Handmade Gifts!

Let's be honest, not everyone appreciates a handmade gift. These are usually people who don't make things themselves. And that's ok. But there are some people who do appreicate a handmade gift. And luckily there is one of those in my family, my grandma. I always have grand plans for what to make, but as usual time ran out and I ended up with something very simple but useful. Potholders. Which are quite the stash buster. These were made from fabric I had on hand (home dec weight, so they are pretty durable) and have a layer of Insul Brite on the inside, so that they are fairly heat resistant. And who doesn't need some cheery colors in their kitchen?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We Need A Little Christmas: Wrapping Presents!

On of my favorite things about the holidays is wrapping presents! I try to think outside the box (pun intended). Pictured here are tags made out of cereal boxes and stamps, more tags made out of fedex envelopes and silver doilies and gifts wrapped in traditional wrapping paper with garland, brown paper and a page torn from a catalog.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We Need A Little Christmas: Baking!

In the spirit of the season, I decided to make some homemade peanut butter cups. I had some ambitious plans about making some for everyone I knew, but you know how best laid plans go... I had read some about chocolate and melting chocolate and how you shouldn't use chocolate chips, so I started out with a big bar of chocolate from Trader Joe's (the pound and a half one). Unfortunately, I needed way more than said chocolate bar and didn't have a chance to go back to Trader Joe's and decided that I would go ahead and follow the recipe and make the remaining peanut butter cups with hersey bars and chocolate chips. Bad idea. The batch made with this method ended up grainy and didn't taste right. So sadly, I only ended up with a small amount of peanut butter cups that are good enough to give out. What are you going to do? So, lesson learned, go with your first instinct. I started with this recipe, but would recommend using an equivalent of a good chocolate bar, instead of using chocolate chips. Word on the street is that the wax in the chocolate chips does not lend to good melting. (Upon reading more about melting chocolate, turns out that the grainy chocolate outcome may have been caused by water! Apparently the littlest bit of water in chocolate causes it to seize up. I was working by the sink in my mini kitchen, so I guess it's possible. Just a word of caution if you happend to attempt to make these.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

We Need A Little Christmas: Shopping!

For practical reasons, I do alot of my Christmas shopping on line, but in the spirit of the season, I make sure that I do go out and do a little old fashioned, brick and mortor shopping. Today's destination was nearby, charming, historic, downtown Ellicott City. Dressed up in it's holiday finery. Complete with beautifully decorated shop windows, strolling Christmas Carolers and lightly falling snow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We Need a Little Christmas: Decorations!

The Christmas season can go by fast and furious! I hate to admit that there were a few years when I didn't really embrace the season, didn't decorate and did all my shopping on line-I was taking the easy way out. And those years, it didn't really seem like Christmas. So, in that spirit, here's one of my favorite Christmas feather wreath! If you want to make your own, all you need are a couple of feather boas, a wire wreath form (may need to paint it white) and a bunch of coordinating ornaments. Deck your halls!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The House that Jack Built

The minute I arrived at my sister's house, for the holiday, my 4 year old nephew (who is relentless) asked if we could make a gingerbread house. So, one night after bedtime, I snuck out and bought a kit. Thanksgiving morning, Jack and I put it together. One of his twin sister's helped, the other one ate the candy.
Here's our proud home builder! I think it's a new tradition!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Preparing for Winter or It's Really Hard to Take a Picture of a Scarf

Winter is fast approaching, not that we would know it from the weather we've had in Maryland this week, it's been in the 60's recently (thankfully) but we are only 11 days to Thanksgiving, and we all know what comes after that-December, which kicks off my least favorite season, Winter. Given my dislike for Winter, I try to have things around me that 1.) will keep me warm and 2.) are pretty. Enter this Gathered Flannel Scarf from Make it and Love it. I went shopping for flannel at Joann's today and sadly didn't find any solids. All they had were prints (kid's pajamas) most of the prints were very juvenile. I was just about to give up when I came across this cheery pink with black circle print and decided that this just might be the thing to keep me warm and give a little color to my usual black sweater wardrobe. I bought exactly one yard of fabric and used almost all of it. I mostly followed the tutorial, but I had only bought one yard, so I ended up having the put in a center back seam to get the needed length. If you want to avoid the seam, then you'll need to buy 2 yards, to get to something around 60". Other than the fact that I forgot to buy matching thread to handsew the opening closed, and had to return to Joann's the next day to pick this up to finish, this was a very quick, probably put together in a little over an hour. It was also incredibly affordable, the flannel was on sale for only $2.99 a yard! I apologize for the really terrible picture, but it's hard to photograph a rectangle of fabric!

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm blogging about...umm...Pot Holders

This may truly be the height of mundane things that I have made, but I needed some new pot holders, had some scrap canvas, an old towel and this handy tutorial. Unfortunately, I didn't have an fun embellishments to add, but this Ikea fabric is one of my favorites and I'm happy to find a use for the scraps. Perfect for my winter cooking. And just might have to make some "prettier" ones as Christmas gifts.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh, Deer...

This weekend, I decided to try some freezer paper stenciling. You can find the basic instructions here. Turns out that I don't have an x-acto knife (hard to believe, I know) and am pretty adept with scissors, so that worked out fine for me. I also didn't buy specific fabric paint, I bought a textile medium and mixed it with very inexpensive craft paints (2/$1), which was far less expensive than buying fabric paints. However, I did end having to do about three coats of paint. Let it dry overnight, then peel off the paper. My outcome was, well, ok. Does it look homemade, definitely. It was my first attempt, so perhaps my technique will improve next time. I had a little bleeding beyond the stencil. I think I'll try next time with fabric paint, perhaps it will end up less runny? Think that I'll use one of these for a lunch tote. I have about a million of these little totes, bought for practically nothing, so you'll probably see more of this in the future.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Wreath, of the Yarn Variety

I had started to see many yarn wreaths pop up on the internet and with Christmas fast approaching, wanted to give one a try. I didn't, however, really see any tutorials for one. So, while shopping one day, picked up a styrofoam wreath form (only 10", starting small for once) along with some raspberry and dark lime green yarn. Just when I was about to start work on this yesterday, I came across this tutorial, on Take Heart's blog, found via One Pretty Thing. (If you are a crafter and don't know about One Pretty Thing, you are missing out! Everyday, she scoures the web in search of tutorials and posted them here! I check it everyday and find a ton of project ideas there.) I whipped this up one evening, while watching TV, it went much faster than I would have thought. I'm on the hunt for some pretty velvet ribbon to tie around the top, the ribbon selection at the big box fabric and craft stores is dismal, perhaps I'll find some online. (I did just order ribbon from The Ribbon Retreat. Great selection, really low prices!) This wreath did not end up being very Christmas-y in the end. But, I think it will pass. When you see a wreath in December, you can't help but think Christmas, right?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Addicting Art of Decoupage

I had some additional circus paper leftover from this project, and not wanting it to go to waste, knew what to do with it when I saw this little paper mache box at Joann's for $1. I think it will make an adorable gift box for jewelry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Book Recommendations, Decoupage

Just this summer, I finally read, "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. It's a FANTASTIC book and I can't believe I've waited so long to read it. I won't be giving too much away by mentioning that the plot revolves around a circus. Reading it lead me to re-read a favorite of mine, that is also circus themed, "Wonder When You'll Miss Me" by Amanda Davis. I highly recommend both. So I happened to be at Micheal's the other day, shopping for scrapbooking paper (and no, I'm not a scrapbooker, but am a little obsessed with papers-you should see my notebook collection-and have recently taken up decoupaging) and came across a circus print!! It immediately made me think of these books, but then I put it back, telling myself that the last thing I possibly need is more paper. But before leaving the aisle, saw it again and told myself I could have it (especially given that we're talking about .69 a sheet, not a huge expense), but I had to actually DO something with it. So, this is what I came up with. I had bought this little galvanized bucket over the summer, fully intending to put a plant in it. But when I got it home, realized that it was much to small. It's just been sitting there on my window sill for months. I decoupaged it with my pretty circus print (and a sheet of a coordinating print) and now I have a new little pot.... Think I'll use it in my kitchen for a pen holder.
If you haven't tried decoupage, you must! It's such a quick (if you don't consider the drying time), easy (if you have the patience for cutting) and satisfying project. Messy, too. I don't mind it, but I wouldn't recommend that you do with with, say, freshly manicured nails. I've even recently come across a blog entirely dedicated to Mod Podge (a decoupage medium), Mod Podge Rocks. I will caution you, after you've completed your first decoupage project, you start feeling compelled to cover everything you own in paper.
**Decoupage tip: I've discovered that covering your work surface with wax paper keeps everything clean and your project will not tend to stick wax paper as it would to, say newspaper. Wax paper will also keep your project clean (as opposed to newspaper). That Mod shows EVERYTHING.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Picnic Bag

I haven't blogged for a while. Not that I'm not working on stuff, just that I've been working on a few presents, so I can't post those...don't want to ruin the surprise! I came across this bag that I made LONG before I had a blog, but it was such a good tutorial, I wanted to share it. It would make a great gift bag...imagine it filled with a bottle of wine, some cheese and a baguette. I also think that it would make a good little lunch bag. So, introduce you to sewtakeahike's Lucille Bag. Now go directly to your sewing machine and make some for Christmas!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Little Autumnal Baking...

Last weekend, I bought a few too many apples at the Apple Festival, so I searched and searched this week for some sort of apple recipe. I finally came across this Whole Wheat Apple Muffin recipe on Smitten Kitchen. If you're at all interested in cooking blogs, I highly recommend Smitten Kitchen. Not only can this girl cook, she can also take a really beautiful picture. (Cannot help but to link to her posting for her son's 1st birthday cake-so adorable!!)
I did not officially, make whole wheat muffins, as I didn't have whole wheat flour on hand, but used 100% all purpose flour and it seemed to work out fine. These muffins are so moist, so delicious. Definitely worth making from scratch. And while my surplus of apples is finally dwindling, I have no idea what I will do with a dozen muffins and 16 mini muffins....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

National Apple Festival

I joined my friend Heather and her family on an annual trip to the National Apple Festival in Biglerville, PA. As you may have guess, they had just about every apple delicacy ever imagined: apple pizza, apple daquiris (misnamed, as they were non-alcoholic), apple sauce (which they were making right there on premises), apple butter, apple cider and of course, apples in many varieties. We ate a lot of fair food (pumpkin funnel cake, anyone?), walked around a lot and bought our weight in apples. It was a gorgeous fall day and full of good wholesome fun in the country.