Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Day



and togetherness, of course! But mostly gifts and food. (Kidding!) That's what it's all about, right?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas to all,

and to all a good-day!

Isn't this card lovely? I found it at an estate sale over the summer. I love that single pop of red.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Final Spoilers (#4,#5,& #6)

(#4) Zippered pouches from Amy Karol's first book:
(Message to peeps on my gift list: These are the only two of these I made for giving, so unless you see your name on one of them, don't be dissappointed when I don't give you one!)

I made a few subtle changes to the pattern and it took me a few tries to get my process down (these are my fourth and fifth ones), but in the end I was really pleased with the outcome. Among a few other differences, I added the embroidered names and an extra layer of fabric to make these a tad sturdier. I also made my pouches a little smaller (mostly just width-wise) than the pattern specified.

(#5) 4-ingredient sugar scrub (very similar to this one I made awhile back):

And finally, (#6) Pinched Orange Macaroons:

Well, sort of. The recipe was not followed exactly. What I did was first make almond paste from scratch, and to this I added a few drops of almond extract, then orange zest and Grand Marnier to taste. Then bake, cool, and drizzle with melted dark chocolate. I think most of us agree that orange+chocolate=crazy delicious, right?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Finally, a Tree!

(And the secure tree skirt was really no problem at all.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More Ornaments (Spoiler #3)

I am up in the wee hours and was about to work on completing a sewing project when I realized my (my mom's) iron is back at my mom's house. So I will take this time instead to share Spoiler #3 of this year's holiday gifties.

Acorn Christmas tree ornaments. Yes, they go back on the tree (but not the trees from whence they came, as they are a little lost). These were fun to make until my needle started to give out on me and my fingers were sore from forcing said needle through the acorn tops. See, the tops easily separated from the rest of the acorn, so I pushed a threaded needle through to make a loop come out the top, then re-attached them with glue to the acorn body. Got it? These are from the same batch of acorns as those used for the nature magnets. I am still playing around with different decorating methods for these little guys, which brings me to my new gold pen. It was the priciest one ($9, but minus 40% because you can always find 40% off coupons for Michael's on-line, just Google it), but well worth it. I tested the others at the store and the results just didn't look near as good. This one is like liquid gold leaf. It's even called something like that--"gold leafing pen." Love it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Questionable Cookie (Spoiler #2)

I can't quite make my mind up about these cookies. "They're weird at first, but then they get really good" is what Enrique had to say.

They are cardamom pistachio, recipe here. I love the use of cardamom and grinding it fresh really makes a difference I think (I even added a little extra sprinkle to the cookie tops, making for extra cardamom yum). It's the little unexpected pockets of saltiness from the chopped pistachios that kind of threw me for a loop. Now don't get me wrong, I do love sweet with salty, but in this case it just tasted a little odd. At first anyways. The next day they seemed to taste twice as good. I think they were growing on me. But then they were gone because I didn't even make a paltry half batch, but just enough to sample and the rest of the dough (plus an additional batch) went into the freezer. I feel like I really need to have another go at them before I can reach a final conclusion, so for the time being the jury is still out, but it's about to get a lot bigger. Since I was originally planning on these being holiday gift cookies I think I'll still stick to that despite their iffy-ness. It will be interesting to see how other people take to them. Hopefully no puking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Tree Ornaments

These were some of my very favorite ornaments on our tree last year (they actually all belong to my mom, as I am but an ornament-less vagabond).

I love looking at this Santa--something about that plump little face!

Ingenious use of a walnut shell, don't you think?

And, the magnus opus ornament (I really love this one), which at about a foot tall was too big for our tree but was happy on a windowsill.

So, we've yet to put up a tree this year and I've been going back and forth on the idea. I love Christmas and love having a tree, but with the toddler and all part of me just doesn't want to mess with it. But really, that would be giving in way too easy I think. It's just that we have a nice, healthy live tree from last year sitting in a pot on our front porch, so naturally if we had a tree it would have to be that one. Now, I am not very good at math, but I'm pretty sure I know what Pot of dirt in house+Toddler equals. I'm thinking a very secure tree skirt is in order, and then maybe all will be well. Which means I have work to do. More work, that is. I know I just got finished bragging about how I had all my gift-giving business together this year, but then last night I looked at a calendar and thought about a deadline date for gifts that need to be mailed off, and, well, yikes! I need to get crackin'!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Crispy Almonds (Spoiler #1)

These past few days I've been making batch upon batch of the crispy almonds I mentioned a couple months ago. The recipe is from Nourishing Traditions but can also be found on-line. They are so good, but I've found that when I follow the recipe exactly they don't come out quite as salty as I'd like. So for my next batches I may adjust the amount of salt in the soaking water, but for the ones I've already made, they were easily (and greatly) improved by the addition of a little more salt and a little bit of olive oil. I did this with Marcona almonds in mind, which they now resemble in greasiness. I think coarse salt would be nice too, in place of the regular-sized stuff, but I didn't have any on hand, and regular (which, in this case, was this kind) worked just fine.

These almonds are one of a number of hand and home made things I'll be gifting for the holidays. I've been pretty good this year about starting gift preparations early, and I'm pretty excited about a lot of them, which I'll be revealing here in the days to come. (Sorry to spoil the surprise for any recipients. I also won't be using wrapping paper this year so, ha! Maybe I'll even come over to your house on Christmas Eve and rip all your presents open for you and then push you into the fireplace!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Mother's Day Papercut (#2)" or "A Lesson in Procrastination"

So I just now finished this second Mother's Day paper cut I mentioned ages ago. All I added was the upper corner hearts and the quote, and it took no time at all, but I am just really good at putting things off. In fact, there's all sorts of other things I'm putting off at this very moment! So if I ever mention starting something and then it never seems to come up again, I'm probably still "working" on it. (Luckily my Christmas projects have a deadline. More on those later.) Anyway, I thought the message on this particular paper cut was an appropriate one for Thanksgiving weekend. And here's a tip (although it comes a couple days late): "If you're at a Thanksgiving dinner, but you don't like the stuffing or the cranberry sauce or anything else, just pretend like you're eating it, but instead, put it all in your lap and form it into a big mushy ball. Then, later, when you're out back having cigars with the boys, let out a big fake cough and throw the ball to the ground. Then say, 'Boy, these are good cigars!'" --Jack Handey

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Intense Ginger Cookies

These triple ginger cookies accompanied me to a friend's house for Thanksgiving today. I've made them quite a few times over the past year and so much recently that, to be honest, I'm actually kinda sick of them. Not the best endorsement, huh? But, no, they are really very good, especially if you like a real ginger punch. And I love the texture--soft and chewy. I've decided I prefer them without the star anise and this time around I added ground clove (1 tsp.) and cinnamon (2 tsp.) with good results. I've found two tricks that help with mincing the crystallized ginger (which can be very difficult to work with): Freeze the ginger and the knife you'll be using beforehand. This helps prevent a sticky mass of ginger goo. But I was just re-reading the recipe, and I don't think I'd read before the author's advice on turning the crystallized ginger basically into a paste, so maybe I haven't been going about this exactly right. Oh well, the result has been good regardless.

Friday, November 13, 2009


This week Wednesday we (our little family trio plus my dad) travelled a little over an hour outside Austin, to the small town of Fredericksburg. There we found interesting architecture

a German Christmas pyramid (at a standstill, expectedly)
and, the highlight of the trip, an antique store likened by my dad to Miss Havisham's estate. The back of the store and small courtyard it opened onto were remarkebly deserted--of both customers and employees-- giving us free roam for taking pictures.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I hear (mostly children's) music!

I was recently thrilled to discover this:
And also this and this, neither of which I have yet but look forward to getting at some point.

And this

has made for some good listening lately, although I haven't seen the movie yet. But what really made me want to write a post about music is this song. Oh my goodness, I love it. So cute and catchy and just great. So far I only have this one song of theirs, but I am itching to get the whole album.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nature Magnets

AKA "easiest magnets to make ever," because all I did here was glue a magnet on each of these different little nature finds--two shells, two acorns, and a lightweight (lava?) rock.

These came about because I wanted some magnets I could put on the fridge at toddler-level for Zoë to play with. Unfortunately they don't really hold up to the rigors of her play (she throws them on the floor and the magnets fall off), plus I don't know that the glue I used should be on something that might wind up in her mouth. But I am fairly certain they will hold up just fine for normal adult (or older child) use. I've successfully made some with both super glue and hot glue gun glue, and am sure E-6000 or similar would work well, too. Maybe even Elmer's would be fine, which might be preferable since it is not stinky and toxic like E-6000. Here a couple of them are flipped over so you can see the little magnets.

Which, by the way, are the best magnets ever! Tiny and strong. "Neodymium" magnets, they're called, and they're available on Ebay in all different shapes and sizes. For this type of project, I like the round ones that are 1/4" x 1/16." I also have some thicker ones (1/8") and they are almost too strong, but would be good if you're working with heavier objects.

Sunday, November 1, 2009