Archive | December, 2009

I’m Dreaming of a Crafty Christmas…

14 Dec

I’ve been neglecting my blog the last week or so for one major reason – I’ve been SO busy!

Between cooking – making marshmallows from scratch, and batches and batches of graham crackers, and three or four sets of various breads, and a big Asian-inspired feast complete with boba tea (oh yeah if you make Chinese steamed buns, make sure you put parchment paper on the bottoms or you’ll be cleaning your steamer for a week…  I know first-hand!) – and crafting – cards, ornaments, basically anything anyone will let me near – and decorating – our house, the neighbor’s house – and nursing a very sore knee (dangit I have no clue what I did), I’m pooped!

I wanted to share some of my handiwork!

First, the Christmas lights (yes, this is technically mostly my hubby’s handiwork, since the’s the monkey who gets on the top of the ladders)…

On our house:

Big chunky colored lights on the top, net lights on the bushes, and my $5 thrift store vintage light-up Santa that I adore 🙂

And our neighbor’s house:

This is the fourth year we've helped the neighbor across the street with her lights. She really goes all out and we benefit because we get to see our handiwork from this vantage point every night!

And our tree:

We went out to a tree farm in Potrero to pick our tree this year. They didn't have my Noble Fir - only Monterey Pines. It's pretty and it smells good, but this tree is DROOPY now, despite having been cut the day we got it and put it up (we think it's just the type of tree because it's taking in lots of water). Anyway this is the night we put it up.

Last night we went to hubby’s work Christmas party.  They do a gift exchange there.  One of our gifts was these “Super-Special Star-Shaped S’mores”:

Homemade s'mores kit!

I finally made the marshmallows and graham crackers from Smitten Kitchen (and trust me, it’s totally worth it, they’re amazing!) and we packed them up in little cellophane baggies with skewers and instructions and everything.  In one of the baggies, we also put this baby:

S'mores ornament!

I know it’s a pretty horrible photo – to tell you the truth, I’d have sworn I took a better one until I went looking throug my recent photos to put this post up.  Now I’m sad because it was a really cool ornament.  It was shaped just like the s’mores in the kit – with the same star-shaped cookie cutter – and the “marshmallow” had a thin webbing on it that looked just like it was melty and roasty.  I put a lot of work into that thing!

Speaking of putting work into ornaments, here are a few others I’m working on (they’re all Christmas gifts, so if you’re family please look away or at least don’t give away the surprise!):

"Home 2009"woodgrain detail - the mantle has the same woodgrain, made from smooshing and stretching together several colors of brown all at once.

the stockings, hung by the chimney with care (with mini candy canes!)

Mistletoe Mooses

Moose details 🙂

Snow Family 200

Snowgirl detail

Teddy bear!

He's beary cute (sorry, I couldn't resist!)

Puppy!

I'm totally proud of this killer bow!

Penguin - I love his body but I'm not totally sold on his eyes...

OK - this one's not a gift. It's for me. Eeyore, because he reminds me of my sweet kitty who died in '05

I love this tail!!!

I’m seriously wishing I’d gotten my start sooner.  I’ll barely have time to finish family presents.  I’d hoped to start an Etsy shop, because this is really fun and they’re turning out really, really cute.  I am having an easier time with every piece (these were not posted in order of when they were finished) and getting details and technique down.  Model Magic is kind of a pain in the butt, because it’s very sticky – you can probably see in the moose details shot where her face stuck to his sweater – but it’s also very malleable, incredibly blendable (I mixed most of the subtle colors), and very light.  Which means even the big ornaments won’t fall because they are too heavy.  The other thing is that it glues well – so even though I’ve had a couple of oopsies (like Eeyore’s ears, that fell right off the day after I made him), they were easily fixed with plain old Elmer’s.

Now on to the cards…  We have 84 people on our Christmas card list this year.  I don’t even know HOW I got that many people to send cards to!!!  A few of them will be getting special cards – parents, siblings, great aunt and uncle, grandma, grandpa – but most will be getting “regular” cards.  Except that our regular cards this year – with the exception of the two I gave out when I saw some family members before we were finished making these – will be handmade by us!

We actually made cards in 2007 – we picked up a kit and put the cards together in all sorts of ways – but this year we went one step further.  Most of the cards we made this year were from scrapbooking supplies, not a kit (16 of them were kit cards, though).  I made about 90% of the cards – hubby was busy and just wasn’t “feeling” it, but he came in and made a few, with his unique creativity, in the end.  These are some of my favorites (but don’t feel badly if you don’t get a favorite, because I love them all and every single one is unique):

Joy

Snowball Fight! (the snowballs are bits of glitter glue... I had fun)

Just For You

Do Not Open Until Dec. 25th

And because I’m a total nerd, I took fancy photos of all the cards we made:

Hubby's handmade cards (including one featuring a dog trying to get the cat who climbed the tree and one featuring a cat sitting in front of - but looking like it's being incinerated by - a fireplace) 🙂

The "kit" cards - red-and-green style (I actually used a bunch of stickers and embellishments from other sources on these cards, but the cards themselves were colored and are quite a bit smaller)

Blue "kit" cards

A duo of cards featuring my hand-done art. Yeah, there's a reason why there were only two!

"Scrap" cards - where I took bits of paper from other sources and sort of stuck it all together. I really love the one featuring the penguin (on the left).

Dark blue cards

Light blue cards

Muted colors

Red and Green cards

White cards (I made the poinsettia on the right side out of scraps of red cardboard!)

 

Today’s assignment?  Lots of dishes, some laundry, and (hopefully) finishing up the Christmas shopping and wrapping, making the last of the ornaments that we’re planning to ship, getting the Christmas list ready to merge, and finishing signing Christmas cards!  Tomorrow we’d like to get the cards and the package to the East Coast sent off…  Whew!

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Vanilla Bean Pudding

3 Dec

To compliment my chocolate pudding, I decided to attempt a vanilla pudding recipe.  I used the same basic ingredients in the same basic formula, but I did reduce the amount of milk, since there was less dry ingredient than the chocolate recipe.

This recipe uses a vanilla bean, mostly because I found them at Costco and I’ve been looking for an excuse to use them.  But I know you could use vanilla extract (next time I’ll try it and let you know how much).  It lent a really nice fresh vanilla flavor, plus the pretty vanilla bean specks!

So here’s the basic recipe:

  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut open and scraped

Again, the steps are simple (sorry, I didn’t take photos!):

  1. Stir together the dry ingredients in a pan.
  2. Add the milk and stir together.  This is also when you add the vanilla scrapings and the halves of the bean.
  3. Turn on the heat to medium.
  4. Stir, stir, stir.
  5. Repeat #4.
  6. Let the mixture come to a boil and let the cornstarch thicken up the whole thing.
  7. Remove the vanilla bean halves before you turn off the heat and transfer the whole thing to a bowl for cooling!

This has a nice fresh vanilla flavor and is not too sweet (just perfect!).  I didn’t even take a photo of the finished product, because to be honest it’s vanilla pudding, so it’s not terribly appetizing in a photo.  I think I’m going to find an excuse to make my grandmother’s zuppa inglese (an Italian dessert similar to a tiramisu, which involves layering ladyfingers with chocolate and vanilla pudding – and those of you who know Italian, please don’t ask…  I don’t have the faintest idea why a pudding dessert is called English soup!), and use the fresh pudding!

You could also make a fresh carmel sauce to drizzle over it…  It’s killer!

Ditching the Pajamas

1 Dec

I made an observation this afternoon to my husband: I’ve spent less time in pajamas since I’ve been staying home all day than I did when I was working, at least the last year or so of my job.  I’d come home and quickly change from my work clothes into PJs.  Maybe it was that I didn’t want to get my work clothes all full of cooking?  I think it was more because I wanted to “take off” work as much as possible.

I’ve also watched less television and woken up consistently less exhausted.  We have been going to bed at a consistenly earlier time, which helps (about 1/2 hour earlier than we were).  But I’m also sleeping.  Which really helps.

I also went for a walk today – about 3 miles – with my neighbor.  First of all, I’ve had more energy all day.  I feel awesome (if a bit sore).  I know I love walking – when I was doing it all the time I felt like a totally different person.  So this is no surprise.  But it is refreshing.  And second of all, I have said for years I wanted to get to know my neighbor better.  I’ve always been so stressed out that even when we’d do things together I don’t think I was a particularly good friend.  Now we’re going to go walking a couple of times a week – and I am so excited to finally get to spend time with her! 

I’m just feeling so blessed…  And enjoying living the kind of life where pajamas are only for sleeping.

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