Monday, December 22, 2008

Tardy Pink Saturday or Sometimes You Wake Up and It's Monday...again

Beverly and Pink Saturday ladies, I have to apologize. For the second Saturday in a row I have eagerly signed up to add my pink two cents and not delivered. I am so sorry. I have excellent pink items waiting in the wings: a white tree covered in pink stuff complete with a handmade pink ornament (Thank you so much, Peggy!). I let all the hubbub get the best of me and just didn't get it together. I will have to trot that post out for my next Pink Saturday.

I would like to leave you with something pink in remembrance of Saturday...and pink on Monday is good, too. I saw this glittery pink reindeer in Marshall's this past weekend. It stopped me in my tracks with its fabulous-ness; my jaw's my favorite shade of pink, too! My husband saw the picture when I got home and said, "You definitely should have bought that!" He's so sweet; now I wish I had bought it! You can bet I'll be back in that store as soon as I can to see if its still there. better still be there...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thoughts on simplifying

Dearest Crafty Cousin Overseas (yes you, the one who sews) and Smarty Cousin Who Works and Goes to School (yes you, the one who loves lamp) I was going to write this to you in an email, but I thought it might make for good blog fodder. So this one's for you two!

It it weird to think that we are so deep in the Christmas season that we are beginning to see the other side (only 8 days!). I've been wondering why its weird to me, and I think that a big part of that feeling results from the fact that I have yet to embark on an all-day get-everything-at-once shopping haul like I usually have to do this time of year. I am one of those procrastinators who, without meticulous planning and constant calendar-checking and list-making, just lets time get away until deadlines are looming over me sapping my peace, joy and sanity. I LOVE creatively wrapping gifts, but when I have to wrap all 27 NOW so we can load the car and drive 3 hours to Family Get-Together #1, followed by a few hours sleep and a 4 hour drive to Family GT #2...well its just not so fun anymore.

How did I arrive at this point in the season further ahead of the game than I realized?

As look back I realize I actually started thinking about the people on my gift list earlier this year. Hubs and I are pressing on in our war with our clutter which carries over into our gift giving as we want to give gifts that will be delightful and truly useful to the recipient. With this in mind I had to start earlier than usual thinking about what to get that would meet those criteria. Just reminding myself who all I wanted to give to kept my brain working on the possibilities and ideas for what to get popped into my head when I least expected it.

I've allowed myself to go with my first instinct on gifts whereas in the past I have agonized over whether or not this item would be that person's most favorite gift of all time. Realistic goals, anyone? I've come to believe that its all about telling the recipient that I thought he or she would like this item and that it comes with my love, no matter how large or small the gift. Am I right, people??

For example, and I'm only telling you this because I don't think he reads the blog, I bought 2 bars of soap for my grandpa. These weren't just any soap; they were of the handmade variety from Dennis Anderson's Etsy shop, and they were made using beer! Grandpa enjoys a beer now and then, and I'm pretty sure he uses soap. This soap will be better for his skin than many of the varieties in the stores which contain harsh chemicals (for real; google it), and its a bit of a novelty. Maybe it will take the mundane task of showering and put a little zip into it. Maybe he'll open it and think I've very weird (I did feel the need to put in a note letting him know this was not a hint; he's a feisty one and I'd never hear the end of how his supposedly loving granddaughter let him know she thought he smelled bad). :) Like it or hate it, he'll know that I put some thought into the gift and that I love him, so its wrapped and under the tree and I'm not worrying about it.

One of the most helpful tools that has simplified the gift giving process is our budget. Hubs and I have a strict budget for Christmas gifts. I LOVE seeing just how much I can get for my money; not much makes me happier than snagging something fabulous that's perfect for one of the people on my list and getting more than seems possible for the money allotted.

I've been much more creative in sourcing my gifts this year:

--Thanks in large part to all you fabulous lady bloggers out there (I'm sure there are fabulous men bloggers out there, I just haven't found any in my home decor/craft line of interest yet) I've been thinking more and more about what meaningful gifts I can make for those I love. A couple people on my list will indeed be receiving gifts I personally have worked on.

--I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with Etsy, the web marketplace for all things handmade (and that would be thanks to those two cousins mentioned at the top of this post). I log on every weekday and some weekends to check my favorite sellers and see which of my favorite items are still hanging around tempting me. A couple people on my list will be receiving wonderful items handmade by some talented person out there.

--A few people will be receiving items I scoured the internet to find, often at better prices than I could get from a store and some items that would be impossible for me to obtain at all otherwise.

--We even found one of the best gifts we'll be giving this season on Craig's List! How green is that!!

Yes, I have ventured to the stores for some stocking stuffers, and I have a couple more things I need to pick up, but there is no list that I have to knock out in a 6 hour marathon. Now if I get a chance to go to a store I can stroll through and look at all the shiny stuff for my own enjoyment. If I see that perfect item, great! If not, no big deal!

It's been an adventure to arrive home from work this last week or so to a new package (or 3!) sitting on our front steps. Packages are just plain exciting even if the contents are a gift for someone else. Plus they come in their own handy box which means I don't have to scrounge up my own box or wrap an oddly shaped lump. Its been great!

Next year I hope to make the majority of my gifts. That means I'll need to learn some new skills and get comfortable with some new tools in 2009, but it'll be worth it to see the smile those gifts will bring.

I just have to remember that it's a love thing, not a card to be punched or an ordeal to be endured.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Special Report: Man Invades Tuesdays with Dorie

Please welcome hubs, my guest poster today. You can find the recipe for these Buttery Jam Cookies over at Heather's blog Randomosity and the Girl. Enjoy!

Yes…I said it. I am over six foot tall, over two-hundred pounds, can tear phone books in half and lift small cars…..but today my task was no feat of strength or bravery. It was a simple request to help my wife by baking a pan of Buttery Jam Cookies following the detailed directions from Baking: From My Home to Yours. While my sweet wifey….who dominates the kitchen…was narrating the Christmas cantata for the elderly in our church, I was navigating the rough flour dusted waters of cookie making.
I started by pulling out the hand mixer and briefly considered how I could speed up the process by inserting the beater into my power drill (yes, it has happened before during a bet involving organic peanut butter). After mixing the butter that wifey left out for me, I added the sugar and egg. I got a little lost on the word “satiny” that Dorie used. I don’t know that my mixture was “satiny,” but I did want to use it as a moisturizer and then lick off any leftover residue.
After adding the dry ingredients and more beating I found that the cookie making process wasn’t as hard as I thought. Indeed, reading directions and following them has been my downfall and the downfall of my gender, but in this case things were going well. The only difficulty I had was spooning out teaspoon sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. I’m sure that my “spooning process” was no different than most, but it was a sticky mess that took 25 minutes.
The only change I made to the recipe was to use blackberry jam as that was the first jam I could find. The blackberry jam was very good, but did result in purple cookies which I find unnatural.
I did enjoy my morning in the kitchen baking, but I know that it would be best if I stuck with tearing phone books.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Heidi's Very Vintage Christmas Swap

One of the best parts of this blogging thing is the swaps you can sign up for! I LOVE getting mail, and getting boxes full of stuff is even better. I was very excited to be a part of 3 different Christmas swaps this season. Heidi of Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly hosted the Very Vintage Christmas Swap and boy, did I rack up the goods!

My partner was Mommy Holly and she hooked me up.

With a box this festive you know the stuff inside is gonna be GOOD!

First up: a cute little Christmas card!

Everything was hidden by tissue paper and packing peanuts, and it was such fun to dig through and pull things out. Like this gorgeously wrapped package. Red and white toile-like paper printed with Christmas scenes, topped off with a luscious wribbon, a bling bling snowflake and a little bell...this girl is too much! In the best way possible! Inside that package was a glitterly gold "Happy Holidays" banner that is being showcased on my living room wall at this very moment.

Look at all these goodies! I was so impressed with how pretty everything looked together. Holly, you totally get the prize for most visually harmonious group of swap goodies.
And here's what I sent Holly!

Look at that precious wreath! Totally looks vintage. That postcard in the middle is actually vintage, complete with handwritten message, cancelled stamp and postmark from the early 1900's (I think...I didn't take a picture of the back before I sent it!).
Holly doesn't get snow where she lives so I included the snowflake stickers to help her imagine piles of snow all over the place. I don't get snow either, Holly, and I am severely jealous of those of you who do! I just want one good white Christmas and then I'll be fine.
The little house on the left is a box of chocolate covered graham crackers from Germany. It was called the Witch's House or something like did that merchandise order go? "Yeah and uh, send us 500 of those Christmas Witch treat things. Americans love Christmas Witches"...I'm a sucker for treats made of real ingredients (none of that hydrogenated stuff, please) and from other countries. You know I have about 5 more of those things at my house right now. We'll see if they actually make it to all the stockings I bought them for...

Here's a close up of the "VINTAGE" banner. Made it myself! These are definitely not traditional Christmas colors, but that snowman paper was too cute to pass up, so I let it dictate the color scheme. Holly says it is on her tree. Holly, you need to post a pic of your tree so I can see what else is on it!

The sparkly white stars were made from wool blankets from the 1930s. The reindeer is a vintage wax figurine that I think used to hold a think red taper candle; there's a spot in the back just the right shape for a skinny candle; its even got bits of red wax on the edges. Aren't those little snowpeople so cute! You can buy these and other chenille characters at Country Route Prims on Etsy. No connection; I just like to share the good news about great products!
I had such a great time putting together Holly's swap box and getting to open the one she sent me. Thanks to Heidi for hosting such a fun event. Join the fun and go sign up for Heidi's Very Vintage Valentine Swap!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

Update: 12/16/08

I actually did get up early last Wednesday morning 12/10 and bake up a batch of the cookies. I just fell asleep right after that and just now woke time to post pictures of the results! There they are up there all sliced up. I cut that first batch too thin, so you'll notice some brown edges in the next photo. This batch was definitely a bit crispy for my taste. They weren't burnt, but definitely crisp.

Ah, but the second batch. I cut them wider and they were just delightful. They didn't smack you in the face with a "Wow! These taste amazing!" yet they were completely irresistible. I seriously ate the majority of both batches...if only my goal was to gain weight, how successful I would feel right now. Even the uncooked dough was just so YUMMY!

Ahh, me a little bit of that right there (Viewer discretion advised).

Good stuff. Make these cookies. And then eat a bunch to make me feel better.


This week in Tuesdays With Dorie we are making Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies. You can find the recipe and Ulrike who actually chose this week's recipe over at Kuchenlatein; you might have to scroll to the very bottom of the page like I did to see the picture and the link to the recipe.

So far this has been a simple and straight forward recipe.

Creamed butter: check

Sugar and eggs added: check
Some vanilla, flour, salt and baking powder finished off the dough. Dorie cautions against over working the dough, so I tried hard to stop mixing before I wanted to and get it shaped and in the fridge as quickly as possible. These could be rolled out and cut using cookie cutters or shaped into a log for slice-and-bake cookies. I chose the slice-and-bake because that sounded like the quickest and easiest way that these cookies could get done and find their way into my mouth. This was still a bit tricky as the dough was very soft and slightly sticky. I'm a trooper though and didn't give up. Let that be a lesson to you. Whichever method is chosen the dough has to chill for at least 2 hours before being baked.
I've got my plastic-wrapped cookie dough logs chilling in the fridge and in a perfect world I will get up and bake a couple dozen to take into work. We'll see if I wake up in a perfect world tomorow.

Beaters, spatula and any other dough covered surface I can find for a late night snack: CHECK!
I'll post a picture of my cookies before work. Because I'm going to wake up early enough to not only slice and bake these babies, but to finish out a witty and informative post, too. Goals, people! Always set goals!