Flying Home at Christmas

The day after Christmas. Sometimes, I'm sad to see it over with and other times I wish it lasted all year; I want the lights always up and the living room lit with nothing but our tree. So pretty. I know it's really a celebration of our Savior's birth and, sadly, I'll admit to overlooking that at times and getting caught up in the shopping and spending and baking and preparing. Add to that how much crafting I've been doing lately and well....I think you get the idea.

One of the things I haven't yet tried is working with embroidery hoops as a medium for art. It's so clever, all that can be done with them from just covering them with different fabrics and using them as wall art like this from Desire To Inspire

to embellishing the fabric you choose like this hoop from Under the Sycamore...

or using it as a frame for special pictures like Danielle from Take Heart...

So I knew that I wanted to make something and I already had all the supplies I needed but this was one of those projects that you don't necessarily have a clear idea about ~ at least, not when it comes to the finished product ~ just one that you keep working on and playing with; adding to and taking away from and no one in particular that you set out making it for. I just kept playing and stamping and cutting and embroidering and before I knew it, it started taking shape. I didn't want the stitching on the back to be visible so I cut out a circle of burlap to cover it up which worked out well.

Christmas morning, after all the excitement at our house had died down and the boys were happily playing with their gifts, I received a call from my mom letting me know that my cousin Helene, who'd been diagnosed with leukemia about three months ago, had passed away at about 2 that morning. Over the last week, she'd contracted pneumonia and with a severely weekend immune system and other complications, her body just started shutting down. It was a terrible shock for all of us. In spite of the loss, however, my aunt Karel (Helene's mom) still wanted us all to get together for Christmas because she felt that's what Helene would have wanted since it was her favorite holiday and she'd spent the last few weeks preparing for it.

After we hung up, I looked down at this little project I'd been working on for the last couples of days and knew immediately who it was for and why I'd been prompted to make it. That's so God, you know? I stamped the date on the back, wrapped it up and presented it to my aunt yesterday. Something to look at and know that even though her daughter isn't here with us now, she's flown home...home to Jesus. She's good now.

Godspeed, Beb. I love you...


Red Velvet Snowballs

There's one kind of Christmas cookie that I MUST have every year. One of those, "....it's not Christmas unless..." kind of cookies. You know what I mean. For me it's the snowball also known as Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes. My mom used to have this little hard plastic box filled with Betty Crocker Recipe cards. Anyone remember those? I can still see the card for the colored sugar coated Russian Tea Cakes...green, purple and red. Magical to my 8-year-old eyes. I'm not sure when my mom started making them covered in powdered sugar but that's what she's done for years and it's how I make them and they are my favorite and my best.

The recipe is pretty basic and you can find it all over the web and as a rule I prefer the original taste of the crumbly, buttery shortbread gems but this year, what with all the hullabaloo over all things red velvet, I decided to glam mine up a bit.

Here's what I used:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar plus extra for rolling
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp red food coloring
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the almond extract, food coloring and cocoa powder. Once incorporated, add the flour and pecans.

Roll into generous 1-inch balls and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes and then, while still warm, roll into powdered sugar.

Personally, I like to roll mine twice because the first sugaring kind of melts around the warm cookie and the powdery look is lost. Watch out for little hands sneaking cookies when you're not looking (or when you're busy taking pictures for your blog).

And expect sprinkles of white all over your clothes - it's one of the perks! They also make it impossible for others not to know what you've been up to in the kitchen .

Aren't they pretty though? Love the dark red against the white and just a hint of chocolate in each gorgeous bite. They're perfect to give to your neighbors this Christmas.


Dictionary Page Garland

I've kind of been on a roll lately making ornaments for our tree which I'm glad about because I was having a bit of a dry season the last couple of months. Enter my wonderful old dictionary with pages and pages (literally) of availability for every idea I've had. I don't even think I've gone through 3/4 of it yet because it's so huge! Couple that with the repeated raiding of my linen closet and tearing up sheets, quilts and pillow cases for my crafting pleasure. I tell you what...nothing releases tension like ripping up fabric! Except maybe breaking dishes. I'll have to try that sometime.

I wanted to make a garland for our tree (which I don't actually have just yet) and I wanted it to be lonnnnggg because I hate that when I buy it, it mostly comes in 6 ft increments then there's always a gap or I always run out because I didn't buy enough. This year my decorations are cream and silver and vintage-y so off to the linen closet I went and found an old, dark cream, twin-sized sheet that I promptly started ripping up into 3-inch wide strips then started tearing pages out of my dictionary and cutting those into 1/5-inch wide strips that I crumpled up before I flattened them out (I like the look plus it makes them softer and more malleable).

I put a strip of hot glue halfway down one side then halfway down the opposite side then laid it down the center of my fabric strip (note: if there are images on one side of your page and you don't want them to show, just make sure that this is the side you put the glue on).

I wanted something on top that would pop so decided on some thin, shear black ribbon.

Originally thought of making a ruffle but ended up pleating as I went along; much easier imho.

I just kept going and stopped at 19.8 feet. Our tree will be about 6 feet and I want the garland to be generous. I have enough supplies left over to go longer if I need to.

It turned out pretty and I'm looking forward to seeing it on the tree with my other ornaments and lots of white lights! This would also be pretty as ribbon for a gift wrapped in brown kraft paper. Ahhhhh.....

Have you ever made a garland for your Christmas tree? What materials did you use?

Over The Moon!

Okay...so i'm totally excited! My most favorite store in Belmont Shore ~ Blue Windows ~ has taken some ornaments I made on consignment! How cool is that?!? I went in today to take some pics of the display; it looks so pretty.

I've been shopping here for over 12 years; I'm so in love with it. It's one of those stores that you can always find the perfect gift in....always. And at Christmas time they put out the greatest ornaments; different...artisan...vintage...classy. I'd made the angel wings and little rosette wreaths and I thought, "What the heck! I'm going to take these in and see if the owner would be interested in them." Why not, right? You only live once and I'm so done with holding back because of whatever reason(s) I tell myself. The worst she could say is "no." And you know what....she didn't.

In fact, when she called me to talk about having them in the store, she said that the rosette ornaments looked familiar to her and had I just made some for a Christmas dinner at a church? Well, indeed I had ~ the same dinner she'd attended! Crazy right? That's so God! Anyway, I don't know if they'll sell. Naturally, I hope they do but I'm just over the moon that something I made is IN. A. STORE. Woo Hoo! And hey, if you live in Long Beach or nearby, pop on into the store to check it out along with my little pretties. I just know they'd look great on your tree.


Sophisticated Salt Dough

I can totally remember being a kid and making salt dough ornaments at Christmas time. Snowmen, hearts, stars all painted and glittered, albeit a bit lumpy, hanging heavy on the tree. Fun.

Thirty plus years later, they're still fun to make and can have a more sophisticated look. Enter Pinterest....my newest and best love. Yours too? It's okay ~ I understand. I was inspired by these from Even Cleavland

and these from Marley and Lockyer (actually of white clay)

I love how elegant these ornaments look especially knowing that they come together with the most humble of ingredients: salt, flour and water.

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup warm water

I put the dough hook onto my kitchen aid, put in all the ingredients and let it go for about 8 minutes. A bit of scraping and repositioning was needed in the process. You could mix it all by hand too; just make sure it's nice and smooth and everything's well incorporated before you start rolling, stamping and cutting.

I'm doing my tree in silver and cream this year and I love the script stamp M&L used. Found one a Michael's for 50% off along with a pretty leaf and some silver ink.

I rolled out, stamped and cut the dough directly onto my silpat because I didn't want to move them once they were ready to go into the oven. Also, stamp before you cut so as not to flatten your desired shape.

I used a straw to make the holes but a bamboo skewer would work just as well. When everything was ready, I gently slid the silpat onto a cookie sheet and popped it into a 200 degree oven for about 4 hours, essentially drying them out. They'll continue to harden up over time and you can embellish them further. I rubbed some of the silver ink I used for the stamps onto the outsides and backs of my ornaments and then made ties out of torn strips of muslin. I hung them on a little felt tree that I have and I'll keep them there until we get our big tree in a couple of weeks.

These would be great tags to embellish a gift with or make a dozen and give them to a friend who likes a vintage shabby feel to her ornaments.

Favors Favors Everywhere!

I can't believe I haven't posted in over two months! It's not like I haven't been crafting ~ clearly (see above) ~ it's just a whirlwind of stuff that's been going on in my life which would require time, snacks and copious amounts of wine to tell you about so instead I'll just show you some pics of the favors I've been working on. Remember my last post where I showed you the ideas I'd come up with for our church's annual Women's Christmas Dinner? You all liked the ornament which ended up getting the most votes by the ladies putting this shindig together and I became a paper pleating, fabric rose making and glittering machine. 260 of these little babies! Fortunately, I had lots of great help which made the jump in number (an extra 100) easier to swallow.

The dinner was last night and the sanctuary looked lovely decked out in "rustic royalty": gold, burlap, red and creamy muslin. Every plate was home to a favor for each of the ladies who attended and I secretly watched several of them pick theirs up and 'ooooo' and 'ahhhhh' over them. Smile.

The jury's still out on whether or not I'll do this again next year but for now, I'm done and I can focus on decorating my own home for Christmas. Believe it or not, I'm making some of these for our tree too. They are pretty and versatile when it comes to color, fabric and ribbon.


What's Your Favor Fancy?

This year I was asked to head up the Favor Committee for our church's annual Women's Christmas Dinner. I was super excited and gladly accepted (in June!) and at the same time have been somewhat stressed out trying to come up with some ideas which I'll be presenting today. A think ahead planner I am not ~ I fall more into the the big time procrastinator category. Am I preachin' to the choir here? Anyone?

There's a bit of criteria I had to follow in deciding what to make: easy, relatively quick and no more than $1 per person. With the pages from a big, old dictionary for inspiration, I started trolling the internet for ideas and finally came up with three:

I had my own criteria in coming up with ideas: I didn't want this to be a favor that accidentally gets left on the table (know what I'm sayin? i've done it myself') and I wanted to present three items with different feels ~ something that could be used seasonally (the decoration), something that could be used throughout the year (the clothespins) and something that could be used that night (the little cone which will be filled with miniature shortbread cookies).

Which of the three favors do you fancy? Would you forget any of them? Are there favors that you've gotten at past functions that you've really loved?

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This Is What I Did Today

There are days when I wake up in the morning thinking about cooking. Kind of a "hmmm....what would be fun to make today?" thought. Sometimes it's cookies or a simple cake. Sometimes a portabella and bechamel lasagana, a light and airy pavlova or fresh peach jam.

Today, it was mayonnaise. Not very elegant, I get it. But WOW! Creamy, tangy and a deep rich color - not the creamy white from the market. This is a rich and pale chartreuse because of the extra virgin olive oil that gets slowly poured in towards the end.

There are tons of recipes out there for mayonnaise made with evoo, but they're all pretty similar. Actually, I got inspired to make my own because I was watching Ina Garten ~ that sweet Contessa ~ make some on her show. She added fresh basil to hers (uber yum!) which I really wanted to do but I was fresh out. It was still delicious though and I slathered it on some soft sourdough bread and made a really good sandwich for my lunch today.

After that I played around with an idea for a favor for our church's Ladies Christmas dinner. I'm the captain of that committee so... I came up with these which I like because they're useful you know; not just for that evening or the holiday season but something they can use throughout the year.

I still need to come up with a couple more ideas though so please feel free to throw some my way. Criteria: INEXPENSIVE ~ not more than $1 per person and we'll have about 150 ladies; also quick and relatively easy.

Have you ever received a favor at a church function?
What did you like about it? Did you use it or get rid of
it that night by leaving it at your table (not judging).

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