I already posted something on Facebook over the weekend, but I wanted to reiterate it here, as a slight pause before launching into this somewhat lighthearted post. My heart and prayers go out to the families affected by the tragedy in Connecticut. I can’t even begin to articulate how sad I feel about this…

I wanted to share a little look at some of the holiday decorations I’ve put up this year! I feel like I’ve finally hit a good point with the space we’re living in and the decorations we’ve collected over the years. The living area feels very festive and cohesive, and I think not too overdone despite the small floorplan. Much of what we’ve used to decorate with has been bought on clearance over the years (after Christmas sales are my favorite!) or thrifted. I think my favorite Christmas thrift find this year has been the “12 Days of Christmas” glasses. I’ve only found 7 out of the 12, but those were spotted at two different thrift stores (on opposite sides of town!), and only cost between $0.55 and $0.75 each. They’re perfect for serving guests! (Be sure to hover over each image for a description!)

Be sure to check back Friday, as I’ll be posting about my Christmas baking this year!

December 19, 2012 · 28 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays · tags:

Hello! Apologies for the radio silence the last week… Sailor Husband just returned home from six weeks of training, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied spending time with my favorite guy. We’ve baked cookies, finished unpacking his uniforms, went to see Christmas lights at a local botanical garden, and generally been catching up on what we’ve missed over the past weeks apart.

But I wanted to do a little Christmas-themed post before it got any later into the season (I keep forgetting Christmas is this weekend!). I’m usually so excited about Christmas and traditionally have a slew of themed posts. But this year between the move and SH being away, I just didn’t really get into the mood as much, sadly. (If only Christmas were still a month away!)

12.21.11 | wrapped

Let’s talk about what I did get into this year: wrapping! I usually like to come up with some sort of theme and keep things fairly coordinated for packages. Which is fairly obsessive, I know, but I figure this is the one time of year I can indulge my love of matching things. This year I had a huge stack of packing paper from the movers, and desperately wanted to use it as wrapping, rather than just send it off to the recycling center. I loved the unbleached color and knew it would be perfect!

For the tags and trimming, I was originally planning on cutting out gingerbread men and stars from some leftover paper shopping bags. Until I discovered that the holiday Trader Joe’s bags had printed tags for you to cut out. So much easier than my idea! Yet another way I’ve been able to reuse something rather than waste… I also raided my stash of leftover yarn bits and pieces for the string. Which means everything is tied up nicely!

It’s not my most inventive Christmas wrapping, but considering I’ve been a bit preoccupied the past few days, I still think it’ll look fantastic under the tree!

What are some of your favorite “recycled wrapping” ideas?

December 21, 2011 · 29 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays · tags:

What is life without a little excitement? A little racing against the clock and defying even your expectations about how much you can cram into one evening? Picture me, a couple nights ago, fervently hoping I could get my last-minute caramels done and in the pan before I tumbled into bed for the night. I usually don’t wait until late in the evening to make candy (especially since it tends to be so darn messy!), but this was the only time it’d work for my schedule and still give the caramels enough time to set before slicing them up. Let’s just say that boiling sugar and a half-asleep Casey is an interesting combination. Thankfully it didn’t result in disaster, either to myself or my kitchen. lol. However, the caramels themselves did not turn out as expected… I’m not sure if this was operator-error or just fate, but they had to be scrapped at the last moment, which was disappointing…

The boxes have been assembled and the tags finished. I decided to drop the peppermint meringues I wanted to make; those were my “if I have time/energy/inclination” goodies to make, so I’m not in the least bit dissapointed. Because frankly, the boxes are stuffed to the brim:

  • iced sugar cookies (using this cookie and this icing recipes)
  • cherry-chocolate cookies (so, so yummy and got two thumbs up from Sailor Husband! recipe here. I swapped out the cranberries for cherries.)
  • black and white cookies (recipe here.)

I think that should keep all the recipients happy and occupied for a bit, no? As usual, I probably made too many cookies, but at least this year I don’t think we’ll have cookies in the freezer until the summer… lol. I think my favorite were the sugar cookies–I just really enjoy icing and decorating them. Although my decorating is certainly not super fancy, it’s fun and I got to add sugar glitter to everything this year!

One thing that became woefully apparent with this year’s goody-making is that I lack several essential tools in my kitchen. If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d entirely overhaul what we added to our wedding gift registry several years ago… There are a lot of things I’ve found that I really would have used more than others. Gadgets like a cookie scoop–or several in various sizes. Scooping cookies the old fashioned way with two spoons makes for exciting results after they spread and bake. The black and white cookies ended up slightly mismatched and varying sizes, despite my valiant attempts to scoop out “standardized” bits of dough. I also need a candy thermometer. The first year I made candy (tasty marshmallows), I figured I could get away with just using the old ball method. However, considering I’ve continued to make candy–and not just at Christmastime–I think a thermometer would be a wise investment. Plus they don’t take up a lot of space! (My usual reason for not getting whatever kitchen gadget is currently tugging at my pocketbook.) Finally, more mixing bowls. The heavy, earthenware sort that don’t skitter across the counter top easily. I like the metal bowls that I got from my grandmother when she downsized–they are great for things that need to be chilled quickly or working as a double boiler–but they are lightweight. Which presents accident-prone me with some problems! lol.

So tell me: what are your favorite kitchen gadgets? Particularly for dessert and cookie making?

December 17, 2010 · 45 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays,in the kitchen · tags: , ,

It’s the little details of the holidays that always get me. Presents prettily wrapped. Finding the perfect dress to wear on Christmas Day (or finding one stuffed away in a box and rediscovering it!), buying the yearly ornament, crafting up little bits and bobs to decorate the house or myself with… I’ve been toning down things a bit here so I don’t get too exhausted by the frenetic pace I tend to keep up right before Christmas. (which is laughable, I know–humor me and my delusions), so I’ve been focusing on little projects that are easy to tackle in an evening or less.

First up was wrapping! Now granted, we don’t have a ton of recipients for gifts. Nor do we have children yet, so I can do coordinating presents and not worry too much about my wrapping not being appreciated. lol. I really like making packages pretty–it’s something I do for occasions other than Christmas and for Etsy purchases. I also like doing it on the cheap. Which doesn’t mean tacky and shabby of course; it’s amazing what I can throw together that reads “holidays” but uses a lot of supplies I have around the house already. This year I went for a simple scheme using brown kraft paper (already had), red and white baker’s twine (stash), red and white stars (punched using a hole puncher I picked up at JoAnns, but the paper and string were in the paper box) and simple round gift tags I made. The punched and strung stars may look a bit complicated, but they weren’t that time-consuming–just a bit fiddly. I do like the finished look though–and hope the recipients do too!

Now after that little jab at tacky, I do have a few things to show you that do border a bit on tacky. I can’t help it–I do like a bit of gaudiness and kitsch during the holidays; bright colors and a smattering of glitter always seem apropos! But it’s not something I usually gravitate towards, so I though I’d kitsch-things-up for myself this year with a couple glittery headbands and a sparkling deer. Don’t laugh… my sister already did when I told her what I had done. lol. The headbands were inspired by this gorgeous one that Erin sported last week (which looks far better and somehow normal on her than me!), and just consisted of headbands I covered (using my tutorial) and stitched some glittered foliaged I picked up on sale. Easy!

The reindeer brooch is kind of a tradition for me. A couple years ago I bought a bird ornament after Christmas and turned it into a necklace. As someone of acquaintance at the time astutely observed: “only you would go around wearing a bird as a necklace!”. True, very true. In the spirit of my adoration of slightly madcap accessories, I found this sparkly reindeer ornament at JoAnns last week. A few snips to remove the hanger, a bit of hot glue and a couple of good-sized pin backs (yes, it needs two), and voila! Instant Christmas brooch. I shall revel in my tackiness and gleefully embrace it until January 2, when all my gaudy things go back into hibernation until next Christmas.

Have you been working on any little holiday projects? Do share!

December 16, 2010 · 51 lovely thoughts
posted in creativity,holidays · tags: ,

If you followed along with my holiday madness last year, you know that I adore Christmas and this time of year. It also means that I get to go a bit wild (or more so than usual) in the kitchen, as I delight in making long lists of goodies to bake for the purpose of giving to friends and family as gifts. After I got married, I started a tradition of cookies and at least one candy-type item in the mix. This year it’s about four types of cookies and a new-to-me candy that I’m super excited to make. But more about those next week… This week I’ve been baking and preparing to decorate cookies. I’m having to start about a week before I normally do (yes, I know some people start even before now, but I tend to wait a bit!), but that’s because my holiday schedule is such that I won’t have time later.

The first cookies I made were traditional sugar cookies. I always try to do these since I have such fond memories of making them with my mom and sister each year. I remember not only how tasty they were, but how much fun I had decorating them–despite things getting a little wild with the sugar glitter and red hot candies sometimes! I think that is partly why I still like making them (aside from just loving a good sugar cookie): I get to decorate them. While I haven’t done that yet (it’s on the schedule for this weekend), I have been gathering up supplies like gel paste food coloring (which gives a deeper, richer color to icing than the commonly found liquid coloring), delicate sugar glitters and white pearl candies (both from my favorite bake shop: Bake it Pretty). I stuck with a smaller assortment of cookie cutters this year, keeping with the simple shapes that I remembered being the most fun to decorate last year. Now just to decide on what colors to mix up…

For the cookie recipe, I used the same one I baked last year. Although this year they had the homemade vanilla in them, which Sailor Husband swears makes a huge difference. He said they tasted just like the cookies he remembers getting at bakeries on Long Island, NY when he was little (and this is after trying an un-iced cookie!). So that’s a good sign! This weekend I have several other types of goodies to bake, so hopefully next week I shall have some other recipes to share.

For packaging I’m planning on using some Martha Stewart boxes I got at the craft store. I was planning on using tins, but couldn’t find any that I liked and weren’t $5 each (once again, I’m on a teeny budget for Christmas stuff this year!). So a coupon and trip to Michael’s were what sealed the deal for me with these. Plus they’re pretty cute and red and white. I’m also including hand written “menus” in each. So I guess that infuses a little bit of DIY into the mix with the premade boxes!

So the house has been smelling heavenly and the air has been full of Christmas music. Because what is holiday preparations without the appropriate tunes? I’ve been listening to a bunch of remixes on 8tracks, but would love to know: what is your favorite holiday music to get you in the spirit?

December 10, 2010 · 31 lovely thoughts
posted in holidays,in the kitchen · tags: , , ,