Friday, December 28, 2012

4 Things.

I hope this finds everyone rested and relaxed following the long holiday weekend!  I spent it with family.  It is so wonderful to spend Christmas with children!  It's good to remember the magic.  As much as I enjoy the holidays, it's good to get back to your normal routine, isn't it?  Or is that just me?

With the new year ahead of us, everyone needs a new calendar!  Here's a link to 25 Free 2013 Printable Calendars from Everything Etsy.
As a child, we always went to the movies on Christmas Day.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon!  Have you seen any new movies that came out this holiday?  I'm going to see this one tonight. 
I think I'm going to pick up some knit fabric and make myself a no sew stamped scarf from Design Sponge.  Need to keep warm this winter!
I keep New Year's Eve pretty low key these days, but it's nice to have a few friends over and have a few drinks and appetizers.  Try this concept of Easy Goat Cheese Appetizers from A Beautiful Mess
And with that, I wrap up my last post of 2012!  Excited to see what 2013 will bring!

Friday, December 21, 2012

4 Things.

There are some inexplicable tragedies at schools that I have seen in my lifetime, Columbine, the Amish school in PA, Virginia Tech and now the Newtown, CT shootings (to name a few).  I'm never sure how to handle these sort of events, but to pray to the victims, to pray for our great country and to pray for peace.  And to hold close my loved ones and be thankful for the miracle of having them in my life. 
As we enter the week of Christmas, may we all find the joy and peace of the season, remember that the little things are the big things and be mindful of the real reason for the season.
Below, are a few pictures from New York City, taken during a recent visit.  I love New York, it's big and bustling, but exhilarating.  It always feels full of possibility. 
The window displays were so amazing!  Although difficult to photograph, lots of glare from the windows.  But here's a good one I took at Bergdorf's.  A little gingerbread house made of glass and jewels.
 We also went to the Met to see the Matisse exhibit, which was amazing!  We also were able to see this tree, equally amazing! 
The tree at Rockefeller Center
Below are just a few good shots of some ornaments.  Because we all need a little Christmas.

-After all the heavy eating, we all need a light and healthy meal.  I can't wait to try this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken & Black Bean Tacos, from Skinny Taste.

-I'm pretty sure I don't have the space for this, but I love this idea for a Living Succulent Tree from Prudent Baby.

-Want to make a gingerbread house, but have a more modern taste in architecture?  Take a look at this Modern Gingerbread House from Oh Happy Day.  (And a little tip from me, as long as you won't be eating this, don't be afraid to construct your gingerbread house with hot glue.  Leave the frosting for the decoration.)

-Are you sick to death of bad Christmas music?  (I actually LOVE music and especially Christmas music, but let's face it, some of it is just not good.)  But think you might like a little something to raise your holiday spirits?  Here are my favorite albums.
-The Hotel Cafe presents Winter Songs.  
-A Very Special Christmas.  This 20+ year old album is still one of my favorites.  The Whitney Houston version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" always makes me a little weepy.  It's that good. 
-A Motown Christmas is actually from the 70's and a true classic.  Stevie Wonder has a few hits on this one.  Enough said.

-Are you still looking for a something quick and easy to give to neighbors or co-worker or maybe the school secretary?  This recipe for Eggnog Bread looks easy and festive!  From Evy's Tree.

Friday, December 14, 2012

4 Things.

I've been working on a few Christmas crafts over the past week.  We had a stocking decorating contest at my office this week.  Here is my entry.  Cute, no?  I kept it pretty simple, added some pom pom trim, rolled flowers and stamped my name on some kraft paper.  I didn't win, but it was still a fun little project. 

We also had a secret santa gift exchange.  I was lucky enough to pick a friend's name.  We were able to list three gift ideas and one of her requests was a plant.  I put together this terrarium for her.  Doesn't it look cute on her desk?  I just might have to make one for myself!  (A close up of the little handmade mushrooms can be found here.  I had a few extras.)

Now that the season is really upon us, I plan on using this Fancy Christmas Bow tutorial from According to Kelly, while wrapping gifts next week.
Looking a for a fairly easy afternoon project?  I'd love to give this DIY Christmas Tree Repurposed Jar Snow Globe tutorial a try, from Makely School for Girls
I'm going to close today's post with a two ideas for edible gifts for neighbors or coworkers.
-Chocolate Drizzled Carmel Popcorn, from eighteen 25.  I love this idea.  You can make a big batch, package it in some cello bags, tie on a pretty ribbon and you have a beautiful present!  For quite a few people all at once.
 -Candy Cane Kisses Cookies, from The Larson Lingo.  My sister mentioned that we might do some baking with her kids, during my visit.  I think this cookie has lots of things kids could help with.  Making the dough, rolling balls before baking, unwrapping the kisses, topping the cookie with the kisses....  I'm going to suggest this one!  (This blog post is also a "linky party" for cookie recipes, so there might be some other great ideas!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Entertaining: Cowboy Caviar

Tis' the season for entertaining!  This appetizer is perfect to set out before a big holiday meal or to bring to a party.  I happened to bring this to an office party and it was, as usual, a big hit! 
I had everything I needed at home except for the peppers and the chips, for this "pantry recipe".  A quick tip about pepper purchases: Look for the packaged peppers in your grocery store.  You can usually buy all three needed in one package at a much lower cost than buying three individually.  There are many recipes for this on the internet, but this is my own interpretation.

Cowboy Caviar
-3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-1/2 cup olive oil
-red pepper, diced
-yellow pepper, diced
-orange pepper, diced
-1 can corn, drained
-1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

In a small sauce pan, bring apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil to a boil until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Let cool.  Mix peppers, corn and beans in a bowl and pour syrup over vegetables and beans.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Drain and serve with scoop tortilla chips.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Restorative Baking

Ah, real life.  Let's face it, it tends to encroach one's inner joyfulness from time to time.  Even during the Christmas season.  Especially during the Christmas season.  When you feel all of that pressure to be jolly.  So what's a girl to do?  But find a way to get it back.  I recently had a little heart to heart with a designer friend of mine, about how sometimes you just have do something.  (As in create something.)  Anything.  It's true.  There are few things that make me feel better than the creative process. Having an idea, putting it into action.  Seeing the fruits of your labor. So, I have been very productive.  I decorated a stocking, planted a terrarium (separate post on those two items to come), and then decided to do a little baking.  Baking can be simple and easy as well as restorative. 

I made a couple of Cranberry Orange Buttermilk Snacking Cakes, not sure what I'm going to do with them yet.  (Eat them, I guess.)  But when I saw the recipe on Say Yes to Hoboken, I couldn't get the beautiful pictures of it out of my head. I just loved the stark contrast of the red cranberries against the white cake.  Very Christmasy. As the original blogger states, it would make a lovely neighbor's gift this holiday season.  (If you want the cake to be sweet, it is a cake after all, I suggest bumping up the sugar content to 1 cup.  I also would go ahead and spring for the raw sugar for the topping.  I didn't and think that it would cut the bitterness of the cranberries quite a bit.  You could also easily substitute lemons for the oranges.)  Delicious with your afternoon cup of tea.

Cookie baking.  Does any other culinary experience feel more like Christmas than baking cookies?  I was not feeling terribly patient, not patient enough for the rolling out the dough, cutting out the cookies, decorating with piped frosting variety.  So I took a different route.  I followed this guide for the Slice and Bake Cookie Palette from Smitten Kitchen.  The dough recipe is simple and you can add in a few optional ingredients to add a little something, or not, you can just follow the original recipe.  I kept it pretty simple and just added orange zest. Especially since I was intending on decorating.  I also liked that I could make this dough ahead of time. I ended up making the dough on Saturday, baking on Sunday and decorating on Monday for a party Tuesday.  It definitely makes things less overwhelming to be able to break things up over a few days.
These look like snowflakes, right?  Not quitting my day job.  Still felt good to make something. They taste much better than the look.

After all, the Christmas season brings a thrill of hope, right?  Don't forget about the traditions of the season to keep the spirit with us.  The joy is there.  It is.  Even if you have to work at it.  It's worth getting it back.

Friday, December 7, 2012

4 Things.

This adorable picture is of the window art at Cath Kidston.  I walked by this window every morning on my way to get coffee while in Cardiff.  Made me smile every time!  I hope this finds everyone getting into the holiday spirit!  I put up my little Christmas tree over the weekend.  I don't spend the holidays here and always hesitate to decorate, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas without a few decorations. 

Doesn't your computer need a little holiday spirit too?  How about downloading one of these free digital wallpapers from West Elm
Would you like to do some holiday entertaining, but feeling overwhelmed by the prospect?  I enjoy this easy holiday party idea from Cup of Jo.
I love this idea for a quick and easy party treat.  A Make Your Own Trail Mix Buffet, from Kojo Designs.
In the UK, they call TJ Maxx, TK Maxx.  At any rate, they aired this Christmas commercial about every 8 minutes.  I LOVED it.  I love Otis Redding and if you really watch what happens, it also tells a very sweet story.  In fact, the first time I watched it, it made me tear up a little.  I've realized that jet lag makes me very emotional. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Visiting Cardiff, Wales

I recently had the opportunity to visit Cardiff, Wales for business.  Luckily, I did have a little free time to walk around the town a bit.  We stayed right off the town square and could walk every where!  It was so clean and safe.  While I have traveled a lot, I have not spent much time in Europe.  This visit to Cardiff makes me want to go back, next time just for fun!
I stayed at the Radisson Blu, which I would definitely recommend for location.
Hope you enjoy my snapshots!

 Window decoration at Cath Kidston

 The UK's version of the Dollar Store. 

 They had a few special spots set up for the holidays.

 One of the things I noticed was the emphasis on domesticity!  The following pictures were taken at John Lewis, which is a big box department store.  They had a whole department of sewing, knitting and crafting supplies!  It would be like going to Macy's and buying some yarn. 
 Loved this hot pink sewing machine.

There were lots of "arcades" off of the main town square.  Sort of alleys that had lots of little shops and cafes.  These big steel gates closed them off at night.  

 Even the bottled water was cute! 

 It was so cold and damp I drank copious amounts of peppermint tea.  I had a tea kettle in my hotel room and a fully stocked tea supply.
 And finally, I had a sighting of the Royal Couple!  It was so exciting!!  I attended a WRU vs New Zealand Rugby match and they were seated in the next box. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

4 Things

 I am wondering how quickly I can write a blog post.  Do you ever have one of those weeks that you just feel a little behind and don't think you can ever catch up?  You think that you almost do and another little thing sets you back just another little step.  I know that we've all been there, but it's maddening, isn't it?

But on with this week's post!
Eat:  This cold weather really means soup to me.  In fact, I've started to make a pot every Sunday and then bringing it for lunch throughout the week.  How about these yummy (and easy) recipes for soup from The Little Red House?  I think that Black and White Chile recipe could definitely be made in the good old crock pot!
Make:  I can't wait to make this necklace from Thanks I Made It.  So cute!  Would also make a nice gift!
Totes:  If you know me at all, you know that I am obsessed with tote bags!  I can't even say why, but I have always loved them.  So they get their very own category!  I love this tutorial (it's a video) on a Stamped Totebag with Leather Straps from WhimseyBox.
Wrapping:  I love wrapping gifts.  Perhaps more than a person should love something that will be torn to shreds, but I do.  Here's a good reference guide for Gift Tags printables and tutorials, from One Pretty Thing.

Finally, the next two weeks will be quite busy, so I'm going to take a little blog break!
I hope to have some fun new content when I return to this little corner of the world in December!
Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to be thankful for the real blessings in your life!

Friday, November 9, 2012

4 Things

Thank goodness it's Friday!  This week has been a doozie!  I was honestly relieved to go to the dentist yesterday (a chore I typically hate), sit quietly in the waiting room for 10 minutes and mindlessly read the November Issue of Bon Appetit.  I have a big work project that I need to start, but couldn't figure out where to begin.  I was able to sort out my thoughts, as I sat in the chair, getting my teeth cleaned (no cavities!).  Perhaps I don't hate the dentist as much as I thought!  (Remember, if you can't get out of it, get into it!  It really works!!)

Make:  I keep seeing great ideas for presents to make for that hard to shop for person.  How about a Personalized Throw?  You can pick up a plain inexpensive fleece blanket almost anywhere, then add some applique!  Brilliant!  Full tutorial on Maize Hutton.

Decorate:  That big turkey dinner is right around the corner.  You've probably thought about your menu, but what about the centerpiece?  Check out these Tips for Autumn Floral Arrangements from A Beautiful Mess.  Including feathers?  So pretty!

Consider:  My heart continues to be heavy with thoughts of the Hurricane Sandy victims.  I want to write something deep and heartfelt, but I am at a loss for words.  I thought this post from A Blog About Love was quite poignant.   May we all have gratitude!  (Especially in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but always.)

Download: I love these Fall Wallpaper downloads from  IMM Living Blog, via How About Orange.

Friday, November 2, 2012

4 Things

This was my view when I walked outside on Wednesday morning.  I was so thankful to see the sun!  Things have been a bit rough around these parts as we hunkered down and waited for Hurricane Sandy to pass through, earlier this week.  We were incredibly fortunate here in Baltimore and other than very heavy rain and wind (although scary and violent at times), did not suffer from much damage.  My heart is broken watching all of the scenes from New York, New Jersey and other places up the coast.  The devastion has been weighing on my mind.  Many thoughts and prayers are being sent their way!  I realize that I could have easily been in that exact situation, if the storm had followed a different path.  Certainly makes me appreciate every flip of the light switch, every drop of clean drinking water.  
 As I waited for the storm to pass, I did have a few candles burning.  In case the power, went out, I didn't want to be in complete darkness.  I thought these were pretty on a vintage tray that I love. 
I was stuck at home for about 36 hours and while I never lost power, one can only watch so much tv and surf the internet for so long.  I happen to love puzzles, and happened to pick this one up at the Dollar Tree a few weeks ago.  I can't remember the last time I bought one, let alone worked on one.  I was so happy when I remembered that I had this one on hand.  This is the progress I made in one evening.  For 500 pieces, I thought I made a pretty good dent!

Think:  I love this about taking are of what you have.  Something to think about as we near Thanksgiving.
Make: Looking for some handmade inspiration?  Every November, I love to follow Sew Mama, Sew's Handmade Holiday postings.  For the entire month of November, they post an assortment of gifts that you can make with a theme.  For example, Nov 1st was Gifts for Little Kids.  I not only use this to think of gifts to make for Christmas, but also reference it for the upcoming year. 
Cook:  I recently found out that I have to follow a nut free/peanut free diet, which poses a problem particularly when it comes to lunch!  I can't wait to try Lunch Without Nuts: 19 Simple Ideas for Peanut-Free Lunches, from One Crafty Place.  Lots of original ideas, even if you can eat nuts. 
Entertain:  With the holidays ahead, there is a lot of entertaining to prepare for.  And not just the main event.  If you have guests coming, you have to feed them before and after Thanksgiving dinner too!  Check out this Guide to What to Cook When Company Comes from Life In Grace.  What a wonderful list of recipes!  She also did a whole month long of tips for October on Hospitality which are thoughtful and useful.

Hope this finds everyone safe and warm.  Hoping that we all have an uneventful and dry week ahead!

Friday, October 26, 2012

4 Things.

I am suffering from a bit of writer's block, so I'll just leave you with this beautiful picture that I took while in California about a month ago.  It's a good one.  So good, I might have to print and frame this one. Enjoy!

Bake:  While I should be minding my waistline here before the holidays, I can't stop thinking about this recipe for Pretzel Dogs from Cupcakes and Cashmere.  Wouldn't it be the perfect thing to make your littles before trick or treating?  Or just for snacking on while watching a little college football?

Make (for the holidays):  If only I had more confidence in my ability to paint, I would be making three sets of these Nativity Peg Dolls for my nephew and nieces, from Lil Blue Boo.

Make:  Still looking for something for your Halloween porch?  These are pretty classy, from Honestly WTF.

Make (for gift giving):  I can't help but reiterate that Christmas is right around the corner.  I'm planning on making some gifts this weekend, just to get them out of the way.  I've realized that I have a crazy November so if gifts need to be  made, it needs to happen already.  But I digress.  Check out this tutorial for a leather mouse pad.  Finally, a gender neutral handmade gift!  And relatively easy. Perfect for that tech-y brother.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trick or Treat Bags. Cereal Bag Stenciling.

Guess what?  I actually made something!  I visited my sister, my nephew and nieces a couple of weeks ago and wanted to bring them something useful.  Aunt Emmy can't show up empty handed!  I made them some simple Trick or Treat bags based on this tutorial from Alpha Mom.  The website details this craft very thoroughly, basically you create a stencil out of a cereal box. Then using fabric paint, utilize said stencil on a tote.  I purchased totes for $1.50 each from A.C. Moore.  This was a quick and easy project and they loved them!  That's my adorable nephew in the last picture.

I used Tulip soft fabric paint in Mandarin Orange.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

4 Things.

It's Sunday night and I've just realized that I didn't write a blog post last week.  I couldn't decide if I should just skip it or write it a few days late.  I decided to go ahead and post a few days late.  Although this means I'll have to post twice this week.  I think I'm up for it!

Cook:  Have I been posting a lot of chili recipes lately?  Possibly, yes.  But this Vegetarian Chili: 3 Ways post was too good not to mention.  I'm not vegetarian, so I will be add either some roasted chicken or some browned ground beef.  Will still be super healthy.  I think I'll try the pumpkin version this weekend!  From A Beautiful Mess.

Make (for your little one):  If you haven't decided on a Halloween costume for your little one yet, might I suggest this Eiffel Tower costume from  Oh Happy Day?  I realize it might be a bit of a hard sell in our commercialized culture, but there might be a little Francophile among us.

Make (for your friends):  Believe it or not, Christmas is really just weeks away.  It's true.  And if you're planning on making any gifts, you best get started!  If you need a little inspiration, check out Everything Etsy's list of 101 Handmade Gifts for Her.   (Because, let's face it.  Most men wouldn't appreciate a handmade gift any how.)

Tips:  While I usually wear contacts, I do technically wear glasses.  I thought this Makeup Lessons for Gals with Glasses was fantastic!  From Refinery29.

Friday, October 12, 2012

4 Things.

I traveled a little for work last week.  We found ourselves with a little time to kill before heading to the airport, so we decided to check out downtown Charlotte, NC.  What a nice downtown area!  Very clean, easy to navigate, easy to park.  I came across the above mosaic installation.  So pretty!
I also thought I owed you an update on the much touted flea market.  It was, well, a bust.  Poorly advertised, very few shoppers.  But I thought you might like to see my lovely display.  This was about 1/4 of our table.  I've since decided that I prefer to shop at flea markets, not sell at them.  Oh well.  You live and learn.

Visit: As a girl from Missouri, I never take for granted what a real pleasure it is to live right on the Chesapeake Bay.  This weekend is the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race!  Looks like there will be some spectacular boats to be seen.

Make: Need a memo board?  How about this simple and easy one from Jenni Home StudiosSimply made from an embroidery hoop, fabric and string

Bake: Feel like a little autumnal baking? How about trying this Ghost Cake from A Beautiful Mess

Watch:  The cooler temperatures make me want to snuggle beneath a blanket and watch a great movie.  Possibly a documentary.  A Cup of Jo lists 10 Great Documentaries.  I remember hearing about "First Position", when it came out this summer.  But not surprisingly, it wasn't showing at my local megaplex.  Actually, I just might see if a few of these are available on itunes for download for my upcoming travel! 
(Ok, officially rambling now.)
Enjoy the weekend!

Friday, October 5, 2012

4 Things

I just returned from a business trip to the south.  The people were so nice!  And those women were so done up!  Hair, nails, real lipstick, the belt matching the shoes matching the purse.  The whole deal!  Such a difference a few hundred miles makes.  Visiting new places is always a great experience (although flying isn't always a great experience).  But hey, I made it there and back unscathed, so I'm counting that as a win.  This week's picture was taken just outside my office building, just along the sidewalk.  The leaves are beginning to fall.  And with that, I share a few more fall like bloggy links....
-I can't wait to try this Black and White Chicken Chili from Giver's Log.  It's getting to be chili season, isn't it?
-Are you the type to enjoy a little pumpkin carving?  Check out these 6 Beautiful Pumpkin Projects from Going Home to Roost.
-With the fall comes camping and hay rides, which will naturally lead to everyone's favorite fireside dessert, the s'more!  A Beautiful Mess presents Tips for Great S'Mores.
-I tend to cook a little more when the temperature gets a little cooler, so why not try the Best Brussels Sprouts recipe from Cup of Jo.
My first foray into flea markets is tomorrow, hope it's a big success and most importantly a fun experience!  I'll take pictures and hope there will be something to share next week. In the meantime, have a great weekend!