Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Whether or not you celebrate the holiday, I hope you are enjoying the day with your family and friends.  I wish you all peace and goodwill.  

My father on Santa's Lap, Year unknown (early 60s?)

Christmas 1985

I'm in the white with my cousin, my sister and parents are looking cute in the background.

Christmas 1986
 My mother and I, playing with a ballet doll.

Christmas 1986
My cousin, My sister, and me, overwhelmed. 

December 2012

I took my reindeer dress to sit on Santa's lap.  Who says I'm too old for this?

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Projects: Christmas Cocktails

Seasonal snacks don't have to end with sweets and coffee flavors.  One of the great bonuses of being an adult is being able to indulge in adult beverages (responsibly). Here are a few fun holiday drink recipes I tried out this year.

5 ounces sparkling wine
.5 ounce cranberry juice
.5 ounce orange juice
Mix together and pour into glass.  A delicious twist on a mimosa! 

Spiced Champagne
5 ounces sparkling wine
.5 ounce cinnamon schnapps
.5 ounce butterscotch schnapps 
Mix together in a glass, a spicy champagne cocktail!

Spiced Apple
3 ounces apple cider
1 ounce spiced rum
.5 ounce cinnamon schnapps
.5 ounce butterscotch schnapps
Pour all ingredients into shaker with ice.  Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Spiced Nog
6 ounces egg nog
1.5 ounces spiced rum
.5 ounce butterscotch schnapps
Mix, pour into glass.  Top with cinnamon.  I'm not normally a big fan of egg nog, but the butterscotch complements the creamy texture.   

Peppermint Bark
1.5 ounces chocolate wine (like Chocovine)
 1 ounce vanilla vodka
1 ounce peppermint schnapps
splash of milk
Shake ingredients over ice.  Pour into glass.  Garnish ideas: rim the glass with chocovine and crushed candy cane.

Mint Mudslide Milkshake
1 ounce creme de menthe
1 ounce coffee liquor (like Kahlua) 
1 ounce irish creme liquor (like Bailey's)
1 ounce milk
1 2 scoops peppermint ice cream
Blend all ingredients.  I used an immersion blender, but you can can easily make a bunch at once for a party.  It is a tasty dessert and drink all in one!  Garnish ideas: Mini Candy Cane

There are some more great ideas over at the Boozeblogger, who did 12 Drinks of Christmas in 2010. 

Don't like liquor?  There are tons of great seasonal beers and wines.  Bring a bottle from a local vineyard or brewery on out of town holiday visits!  I picked up Christmas Wine Carolina Red and Naughty and Nice sweet white, both made nearby at Duplin winery to take home to Virginia.  I actually have no idea what they'll taste like, but the bottles were too cute!   

Thank you all for joining me for the 12 projects of Christmas.  This has been a great exercise in making myself write and learning to document projects.  I do hope to continue blogging regularly even after the holiday.  Please send me links or photos if you decided to try any of these projects.  Got any ideas for next year?

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Projects: Creative Packaging

My mother has always been amazing at wrapping christmas gifts.  She is great with bows, and always comes up with the best combinations of ribbon and paper.  I bet people would pay her to wrap their presents.  I've always liked having cute gifts to give away, but I don't like to spent a lot of time wrapping.  I guess I get bored easily!  My gifts also have to be able to travel, so intricate bows that may not survive a car trip are not really an option.  Here are a few of my gift wrapping tips!

My gift wrapping stash.  I have a number of small brightly colored papers from the Target dollar spot.  I also like to buy paper on sale after Christmas.  It's a great time to get the fancy papers from places like World Market. The tub houses my boxes, ribbons, tags and bags.  My mother trained me early to save bows and bags for re-use.  Anything that was purchased new was bought on after Christmas clearance.  

Stock up on reusable boxes!  Not only do they save time and paper, but you can stick them back under your tree once everything's been unwrapped.  The boxes on the right are from Dollar Tree, and the one on the left came with some Christmas cards my mom purchased years ago.

Need a box for something tiny? This is made from a toilet paper roll. Doodle on it with metallic markers, paint it, or have the kids color festive designs!

Use an inexpensive stocking and some ribbon to fancy up a wine bottle.  You could stick chocolates in the toe to round out a hostess gift!

Run out of gift bags? Make your own! Kraft paper is everywhere this year. I purchased these little kraft paper bags earlier in the year.  I doodled with metallic permanent marker, folded over the tops, punched holes, and tied a bow.  You could do this with any size of paper bag!

My mother's wrapping tendencies rubbed off on me enough to want the gift tags to coordinate with the paper.  Don't have any matching tags?  Cut (or use a craft punch) a few out of kraft paper or spare paper bags and use a coordinating marker. 

If you are running out of ribbon, put those scraps to use!  Yarn and fabric can be easily used as embellishment.  

If you are running low on colorful paper, use small pieces to dress up kraft paper or newspaper.  You could also use colorful magazine pages to bring in a burst of color.  Don't forget doodling all over that blank paper.  Every present can be a work of art!

I am excited to have most of my presents wrapped and ready for transport home.  How are your holiday preparations going?  Are there any holiday activities you are hoping to get in before the big day?

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Projects: Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

I love anything with chocolate and peppermint.  Peppermint bark, mint m&ms, they are all favorites of mine.  I usually make these chocolate peppermint brownies with the No Pudge brownie mix, but I thought I would try to make a batch from scratch.

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 a cup non fat vanilla yogurt
1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract (depends on how minty you like it)
1 cup mint chocolate chips(optional)
crushed candy canes (for topping)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all dry ingredients until blended.  Add yogurt and peppermint extract.  Stir until smooth.  It will take a lot of stirring to mix all the powder, but it will turn dark and fudge if you keep stirring.  Mix in chocolate and mint chips (optional).   I put mine into cupcake cups, to make them easier to give away, but you can smooth the batter into an 8 or 9 inch square pan.  sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until brownies reach your desired consistency.  Since this recipe contains no raw ingredients, your brownies can be as fudgey as you want them to be!   I baked my cupcake brownies for 20 minutes.    Let them cool, or top with ice cream for a delicious treat.  Enjoy!

Mmm brownie batter

If you want to make these using your favorite brownie recipe or boxed mix, just add the peppermint extract, chocolate chips and candy canes after following the normal baking instructions.

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Projects: Stocking Stuffers

Stuffing a stocking can get very expensive very quickly.  Just because things are small, doesn't mean they are inexpensive.  But stuffing stockings is so much fun! For today's post I'm going to share with you some of my favorite stocking stuffer ideas.  I will not be sharing the actual stocking stuffers I may or may not have made, because their recipients may be reading.

Mint Chocolate Blossoms, adapted from The Cooking Photographer

Edible gifts:  A mini loaf of bread or a packet of cookies will make someone smile.  For kids, try homemade candies.  It's a great excuse to try something new in the kitchen, but not have all those tasty treats haunting you.  If you don't bake, try a jam or jelly from a local vendor.   Pinterest is a great place to find recipes (as well as new blogs to follow), but don't forget the recipes that come from the food companies.  I'm in the process of making these sandwich cookies from Ghirardelli, and I always follow the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag.  Snack Picks has a whole slideshow of tasty looking holiday ideas.

Photo from Leethalknits

Small Knitwear: This one is a little more time consuming, but ends in a big payoff.  You could knit a simple hat, like Leethal's scant, pictured above.  You could also put together a pair of wrist warmers, or even a coffee cup cosy!  There are tons of free and low cost patterns to be found on Ravelry.  Looking for something even smaller?  Try this crochet necklace from The Making Spot.

Photo from Make and Takes

Health and Beauty: Rice bag tutorials are all over Pinterest, and they are a great useful stocking stuffer.  The photo above is from a tutorial over at Make and Takes.  Once you have the general idea, you can make these in any shape or size.  I even made these with kids at the library once.  I pre-sewed the bags out of white cotton so they could decorate and fill them.  we closed off the bags with iron on hem tape.  A simple body scrub is also an easy stocking stuffer idea.  Check out this tutorial for lavender foot scrub over at Frugal Granola.

What kind of homemade presents are you making this year?  What do you like to stuff in stockings?

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Projects: Ornaments

Homemade ornaments are a great personal touch to any Christmas tree.  I know one of my favorite parts of decorating the tree with my family was pulling out the ornaments I had made throughout my childhood.  A few have made their way to my tree at home, but most still stay with my mother.  Like my angel tree topper, they are a part of every Christmas.  Here are a few simple homemade ornaments I tried out this year!

First, I took inspiration from Snowflakes and Dragonflies and her glittered light bulbs that have been going around Pinterest.  I had a few that I had bought a few years ago as replacements and never used.  They've just been sitting in my Christmas box.  

I could have painted them with glitter modge podge like my tree topper, but I wanted to use the big glitter, so I painted each with modge podge and sprinkled the glitter on top. 

I saved the extra glitter from my pine cone mini tree, so they are gold and red.  I also decided to break out my old friend Epsom salt to make a few snowy bulbs.

I wrapped the tops with ribbon and looped it to make a little hanger.  These would look really cute attached to a gift, or hung on a hanger with the stocking of a loved one!  

I also wanted to crochet some stars. I bought some white yarn with silver metallic thread, and used this super simple pattern from summerfete

When I finished the star, I slip stitched up to one point, and chained until I made enough to form a loop, and i slip stitched it closed.

Cute little white star!  These are soft and great for low hanging ornaments around pets and small children.  They are also flat, so they can be mailed inside cards!

Here are some great links to other ornament tutorials!  I hope you find the perfect ornament to place on your tree!

Photo from The Witchcraft
Speaking of ornaments you can mail, this adorable paper craft ornament from The Witchcraft is attached to a card for easy gift giving.  When you pull the string, it turns into a little Christmas tree!  The website is in Japanese, but your browser (I use Google Chrome) can translate it for you.  

Photo from Michele Made Me

Michele Made Me has a great ornament overview, linking to 19 free tutorials she's put out over the last few years, and 3 paid PDFs.  

Photo from Grainline Studios

I am in love with this tiny narwhal ornament from Grainline.  She whipped up a bunch for an ornament exchange, and was sweet enough to share the pattern.  I may have to make one of these for my own tree.

I hope you have found inspiration for something new to grace your tree, or that of friends and family.  

What are your favorite tree ornaments?  Are they homemade or store bought? 

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Projects: Tree Topper

When I was in first grade, we made angel tree toppers in girl scouts.  We put glue on some white fabric, wrapped it around a cone, and added a styrofoam head and ridiculous curly doll hair. Until recent years, when she's opted for a smaller tree, my mother has used my first grade angel to top the tree every year.

Since I purchased my slim tree, I've used a number of different things for tree toppers.  I've used a dollar store twig star, a wire reindeer, and various other home made solutions.  In short, i've been too cheap to purchase a store bought topper.  As I mentioned in the post about glittery candles, I'm really into the glitter trend that has been adding to Christmas sparkle, and I wanted to bring that to my tree topper.

My homemade, stash supply using, sparkly star tree topper!

Supplies used:
Cereal Box
Tacky Glue
Modge Podge
craft glitter (large and fine)
Scissors, paint brush and a Sharpie.  I realize I leave these basic tools off the supply lists a lot.  I imagine you lot are bright enough to cut things with scissors, but perhaps I should be more thorough?  Thoughts?

I followed this tutorial from The Glue Gun Girl to make cardboard stars out of a cereal box.  I had a really hard time drawing an even star, but I kind of like that my stars turned out imperfect.  If you need a perfect star, she links to some free star templates.  You don't actually need two for this project, I figured I could use the second one elsewhere.

Instead of painting a solid color, I mixed Modge Podge with glitter.  I started out with the same big gold glitter I used on my pinecone mini tree, but the spaces between the glitter flecks were too big, so I added a bunch of the Martha Stewart glitter in yellow gold and bronze.  

I painted it on my stars!  I was a little worried that the modge podge would get rid of some of the sparkle, or wouldn't cover the purple sharpie lines, so I laid it on pretty thickly.  I left my stars to dry overnight.

For the tree topper base, I made a cardboard cone using my mini tree tutorial.  I covered it in green felt, so it would blend in to the green tree.  

My star after drying.  Still sparkly, and not shedding glitter.  Success!  I did have to refold all the creases, as the weight of the modge podge flattened the shape a bit and made the cardboard a bit rubbery.  

I put glue on the tip of the cone and stuck it to the back of the star.  I also cut a little rectangle of felt, smeared it with glue, and wrapped it around the top of the cone and flat against the inside of the star. 

I let this dry for a few hours, glittery side down.

The star in it's new home on my tree.  I find it's imperfections charming, and a lot more me than something perfect.  

What do you guys top your tree with?  Where do you stand on the Angel/Star debate, or do you go with something entirely different?  

Missed something?  Check out The 12 Projects of Christmas.