Favorites from 2007

These are some of my favorite images from the past year. Some are mine, some are inspirational ideas from other blogs and websites. (Click to enlarge) From the top left: 1)Coffee filter roses. A great, easy, beautiful idea. Remember...Valentine's Day is not far off. 2)From an unknown website. I've adopted this image as Teresa's House of Clutter. Let the end be close. 3)An inspirational note borrowed from Chez Fifi. Oh so true. 4) Katrina Cottage, in pink. This cottage has inspired lots of conversation with my friends and family. The friends' version...a cul de sac of Katrina cottages housing us in our old age. Close enough to visit and help out, but our own little slice of heaven. 5)A double decker fairy garden. Small and portable, jam-packed with charm. 6)Ballard Designs window box. Beautiful. 7) Room Service Home Chef's desk for the kitchen. Simple, functional (and it would fit in a Katrina Cottage) 8) Beautiful mirror embellished with pastel ornaments. Owner, unknown. Isn't this beautiful? 9) BH&G red and white decorating. I love everything about this photo, especially the Westie--I really want one! 10) Heart pillow from Crabapple Hill Studio 11) Angelique Tulips--soon to be popping up in my garden 12) Silvery glass Christmas Tree a la WalMart, in my diningroom 13) Mantelscape, in my livingroom 14) Teresa's hallway, once again. 15) German glass bird among the bulbs. Mine. 16) Bottlebrush tree in Spode, mine 17) Staffordshire pups with poinsettia, mine {courtesy of Great Grandmother Mitchell}.


A day of rest? I think not--

I started excavation (truly) in the back corner of my bedroom yesterday afternoon. I haven't laid eyes on some of that stuff for over a year...and didn't miss any of it. I've got a few bags for Goodwill , a box for Ebay, and lots for the garbage guys tomorrow morning. More to do today, with a Scottish BBC series for entertainment while I work...I've started watching Hamish MacBeth and it's kind of cute, especially the dog--a Westie. If I finish the room by tomorrow, that means I've fulfilled a resolution from...gulp...2005!


Resolutions/Goals, part 2--Embrace Creativity

There are so many projects that I have started/stopped/abandoned throughout the years. Many of them still interest me and I intend to finish those "works in progress" this year. The projects that don't hold my interest---off they go---to the Girl Scouts, the children's room at our library---wherever. They just need to not be in my house any longer. I see so many wonderful ideas and patterns every day...time to make room for the new (after finishing up the old!!).


Resolutions/Goals, part 1

If only I could (would):

  • Put things back where they belong

  • Group "like" things together for easier organization

  • Take the time to do things right the first time

I've decided that I have to make this my goal/resolution for the coming year. I can go for quite a while and stay on track, but then all systems fail and things are in an uproar. While things are pretty well contained right now, it would be a great time to start with a clean slate, so to speak.


Worn out...

...from inactivity. Do you notice sometimes that when you slow down--to relax, to renew, to reconnect--that it's hard to get back to regular, ordinary life? I don't know whether it's the time of the year, or just the fact that I've fallen into a rut, but whatever it is, it needs to change. Throughout the month of December, when it was really too late to do much of anything about it, I was FULL of ideas. Implementation was out of the question, but I did manage to write down the flashes as they occurred. It feels like my mind was on overload most of the month...now it's slowed to a crawl. Afternoon naps beckon.


'Twas the night before Christmas...

Quiet time...a chance to regroup, a chance to reflect, and a chance to write down all of those ideas we've had over the past month...


A Change of Plans

Originally, I was supposed to drive over the river and through the woods...vehicular problems ensued, so a change of plans was in order. For a few days, my new plans included lots of reading and DVD watching...solitude, of sorts. It's gone from "flat to fluffy" around here though...my parents are coming, along with a fly-in by my brother who lives in Arizona. So exciting. I've been tidying up around the house...something I've neglected of late. This afternoon I'm baking cookies--a favorite cookie my grandmother used to make. I mentioned the cookies to my brother on the phone a few weeks ago, and we both had a craving for them. I'll post the recipe and a picture of them later.


A present for me...

A friend from school gave me a gift card for Christmas. I've been reading about this book for a few months, and decided to order it...can't wait 'til it's released!

Another Easy Project--for any time of year

American Patchwork & Quilting

A downloadable PDF of instructions for these cute multi-sized lunch bags can be found here. Quick, easy, and a great use of chunks of fabric scraps. Use as gift bags...the ideas are endless!


A few last minute winter crafts

Photos from bhg.com

I have found so many wonderful ideas on the Better Homes & Gardens website. Last night I was looking through the December issue of the magazine, and they have a few new patterns for tiny cottages. The two pictures above are from the website, and they include a PDF download with the patterns. Find them here.

These would be so cute all through the winter season interspersed with snowmen.


Just one week...

We had our luncheon carry in at work yesterday. I would say that the real hit of the event was a simple cream cheese topped with Dr. Pete's Praline Mustard Glaze. Served with Wheat Thins...oh so good. One of our co-workers has a part time job at a kitchen boutique, and she brings in amazing things. This glaze was just exceptional...it would be great as a ham glaze or over a pork loin. I "googled" the glaze...it's available online at several places. I need to get some for the New Year's traditional pork...or just to snack on!


Snow or No Snow?

It was my intention to upload some local snow scenes this morning, but unfortunately (fortunately?) there is very little snow to photograph. I had my boots pulled out, my snowshovel ready and brought the snowbrush in from the car (it never does me any good when there's lots of snow on the car and the snowbrush is on the floor of the backseat or in the trunk). I'm not a fan of snow, but when it's this close to Christmas and the slow crawl across the bottom of the tv screen during my personal Christmas movie festival cries out snow, blowing high winds, and ice, I just really expected to wake up to blizzard-like conditions. Instead, I'll brush the light dusting off my car windows and drive off to work on just another gloomy Sunday afternoon.



This morning while channel surfing/knitting/doing laundry I came across Paula Deen making a wonderfully simple appetizer...brie with a brown sugar, nut, and brandy topping. I'm having a few friends over Thursday evening for a craft night, so along with hummus and pita crisps, I think I'll serve this:
Wheel of Brie
Chopped Macadamia nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brandy
Mix the nuts, brown sugar, and brandy together. Cover and refrigerate at least overnight, or up to 3 or 4 days. Just before you're ready to serve this, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put the brie into a pie plate or other high-heat resistant baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes; remove from oven, add nut topping to the top of the cheese. Return to oven for 3 minutes. Place onto a serving plate; surround with apple and pear slices, crackers, or baguette toasts.
After watching Paula whip up this appetizer, I decided to trudge through lots of rain and sleet to the grocery...we're having a carry in at work Monday, and I've been asked to bring in chili...so I needed my #10 cans of chili hot beans and diced tomatoes...the basis for my "big pot" of chili. I picked up 2 wheels of brie and some more chick peas for hummus. I'm ready!


Friday Night Treat

Hummus with toasted Pita Bread

2 cups drained canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
3 Tbs. tahini
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more, to taste
2 to 3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. Toasted Garlic Oil
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
6 pita breads
1 tsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chickpeas, tahini, the 3 Tbs. lemon juice, the 2 to 3 Tbs. garlic oil, cayenne pepper and salt. Process until smooth, adding some of the chickpea liquid to loosen the texture. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and more lemon juice, if needed. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface and refrigerate until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving. Prepare a medium fire in a grill. Grill the pita breads until grill marks appear underneath, about 1 minute. Turn the breads over and continue grilling for about 1 minute more. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges. Drizzle the hummus with the 1 tsp. garlic oil and sprinkle with the parsley. Place the bowl on a platter and surround with the pita wedges. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

With the weekend upon us, it's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the surroundings of our decorated homes. No better way to do this--and to celebrate ourselves--than with a light, refreshing Cosmopolitan! Here's my favorite recipe:

Ice cubes as needed

2 fl. oz. citrus vodka

1 Tbs. triple sec

1 Tbs. cranberry juice cocktail

1 Tbs. fresh lime juice

Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice cubes. Pour in the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice cocktail and lime juice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serves 1.


Shopping...not a bad experience!

Last night my daughter and I finished our shopping...sales abounded everywhere, but there really weren't too many people out there. We had both been avoiding the mall and were pleasantly surprised by the lack of shoppers. We decided to go completely different this year and buy a "couple" gift for the grandparents...we were both drawn to this pattern of stoneware...Romancing Provence...and bought luncheon plates, bowls, and the footed mugs. Very cute. I found some coordinating fabric to make placemats and napkins...a new look for the new year. After a quick pass through the men's department and ladies' apparel (sweaters, of course!), we were on our way back home...2 hours door-to-door. Not bad for the shopping experience we had both been dreading. More wrapping to do, but we are officially DONE!


A Primitive Christmas

This picture is taken in one of my favorite areas of the house...a little square hallway that is the intersection of kitchen, diningroom, bedrooms and bathroom. The area can become quite the "catch-all"; the bookcase (below the barn red chest) is filled with cookbooks...and assorted other items that just haven't found a home yet. This Christmas "look" is what I usually strive for...primitive and simple. That's why it's so odd that I'm attracted to the glitz and glitter this holiday season.



Guard dogs?
Day 1 of "toning down" my news viewing...saves some time, for sure. I do need a dose of Good Morning America to start my day, though. A little pre-work "soft news"...and I see the snow and ice blanketing the Midwest. Our temps today are to hit the high 60's...crazy, yet once again I'm thankful that we don't have ice and snow.
Our library's annual Christmas Breakfast is this morning...always a nice way to start the day! Food, doorprizes, and getting a chance to talk to co-workers from the branches is always fun.


Monday, Monday

The gloom and rain continues--my question? Where was all of this rain last summer when my little tomato crop needed it? I'm grateful that we have rain instead of snow or ice, but this is supposed to continue for the remainder of the week.

Do you sometimes question yourself as to why you watch news on TV on a pretty regular basis? Lately it seems like there's little "good" news and a preponderance of bad to awful news. Maybe I should just be content and oblivious by hearing the rain and knowing it's raining, and tuning out the wickedness in the world.

On a more positive note--maybe--it's just 2 weeks 'til Christmas Eve. My daughter and I are venturing out Wednesday evening after work to finish our shopping for Gran and Gramps...everything else is wrapped and under the tree. That's a good feeling.


Holiday Craftiness...there's still time

photo from purl bee
These are among some of my favorite "finds" for the week...holiday craftiness. Tutorials for making the felted stars can be found here.

photo from dottie angel

This wreath was found via Artsy Mama's blog (visit her, she's having a 500th post giveaway). Artsy Mama has a very ....hmmm...well...artsy blog. Lots of great ideas and inspiration. The yarn wreath was actually posted here, on Dottie Angel's blog.

photo from purl bee

These little air fresheners...how cute! They could easily turn into ornaments. Instructions can be found here.

For the "Ultimate Handmade Holidays Master Craft List", visit Sew, Mama, Sew. In November, she hosted a month-long homemade crafts tutorial project. There are instructions for making a multitude of gifts. A great site to keep in mind for next year's gifting.


A Saturday night ramble...

I can't believe how hard it was not to post for a few days. Can you say ADDICTION ? Is there a 12 Step Program for Bloggers? In the past few days I've visited lots of new blogs, following links from my "standard" reading material. There are so many talented creative women posting so many wonderful ideas, photos, artwork, recipes, and in-general thought provoking ideas. It is truly amazing how connected we can all become without ever leaving the comfort of our homes. Scary? for sure, but the wonderful ideas that are shared and refined make it not so frightening. Since we live in such an immediate world now, with instant news and almost instant gratification, it's hard to imagine anything else.

The winner is...

Jen R. from Sanctuary Arts at Home . Congratulations! Please send me an email with your mailing information.


100th Post and Giveaway...

I've been trying to double up on posts the past few days to reach the magic number of 100. I want to be able to have my little giveaway before the final hectic days of the holiday postal rush get in the way! If you'd like to join in on the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post by midnight CST on Friday 12/7/2007. I will be giving away a copy of Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest by Mary Carol Garrity and a copy of Vintage Cottages by Molly Hyde English. A few surprise treats will be added to the package...

I leave you with my "thought for the day" from my new favorite book, The Holy Man by Susan Trott:

"When you are reading a magazine or newspaper, consider reading a novel or poetry. When reading a novel, consider reading a book on astronomy or bird behavior. Realize you have at least an extra hour every day, probably four, in which to learn a language or calculus. Use your mind to the hilt. Life passes quickly and, toward the end, gathers speed like a freight train running downhill. The more you know, the more you enrich yourselves and others."

More Cookies!

Photo from Herb Companion
How pretty is this? Find the "how-to" here...along with many more tasty herbal cookie recipes.

Cookie Exchange!

Image from http://www.susanbranch.com/

Once again, while wandering around through blogland, I came across a Cookie Exchange at Jessi's blog. The image I used above came as an email from Susan Branch's newsletter. In the email, if you clicked the recipe title within the cookie jar, the recipe popped up. Very cool. I'm including the Christmas Nut Cookie recipe from Christmas from the Heart of the Home, one of my very most favorite holiday books to look through and cook from. Her illustrations are just so charming and just right for the season.

1-1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. Crisco, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. finely chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, or pecans)
2 TBSP vanilla
4 c. unbleached, unsifted flour
powdered sugar to roll cookies in
Cream butter, Crisco & sugar together. Add other ingredients (not the powdered sugar). Be sure to work in all the flour. Roll into a large ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Before baking, allow the dough to sit at room temperature till just soft enough to handle--about 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Roll the dough into small walnut-sized balls; place on ungreased cookie sheet 1" apart. Turn oven down to 275 degrees; bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before rolling in the powdered sugar.
The recipe says it will make 9 dozen; I've never rolled that many out of one batch of dough, but you do get lots of cookies!


A Brisk Start to the Week...

Photo from bhg.com
Yesterday the temperature was in the mid-60's; very windy and very rainy. An all-around gloomy day. Late in the afternoon a huge cold front blew through, and the temperatures dropped into the 20's. Brrr...it's supposed to remain cold all week (probably all month and for the rest of the season!!).

I just love this chair decorating idea from Better Homes & Gardens. So simple, so homey, so easy to do. I'm going to cover a couple of pillows with a plaid flannel and put them on 2 chairs flanking the fireplace in the dining room to contrast the black and white toile and plaid on the dining room table.

This evening is the final meeting of my Literature class for the semester. I love school and really enjoy this teacher, but it will be so nice to come home from work at 5 and not rush right off to class. A whole evening has been gained...if I don't squander it.

Don't forget to stop over at The Inspired Room. I visited last evening and the wrapping tutorial had begun. Great creative ideas...and a cool giveaway.



After Kohl's...

Kohl's was quite the place to be this morning. Fortunately, our town has 2 stores and the one on the westside is an easy in/easy out type of place. All of the ornaments and Christmas items were 65% off...The "mercury glass" kugel-type tealight holder was just $5.00 and the "mercury glass" pedestal was $19.00, reduced from $49.99. It was a must-have to display the glitter cottage. The mercury glass is so heavy...and I love the fact that the pieces can all be used after Christmas. They had so many nostalgic ornaments...reflector type, so many "Old World" knock-offs, all just beautiful. I stuck with just small round ornaments for the bottles since they would fit the scale a bit more. The large ornament to the right of the pedestal is one of my favorites...pinkish mercury glass. A long twist of white garland and little white lights behind everything and the mantel will be officially finished. I purchased a few more mercury glass pieces...all at great discount, but I'll save the finished mantle photos for a later date.

Saturday Solitude...and more decorating!

It's quiet around the house this morning, as it is most mornings. I have little projects planned for today...finishing up a Christmas letter...it's been a few years since I've sent out Christmas cards and I want to give a brief update on our lives far away from old friends and relatives...addressing cards, finishing up a knitted wrap I started last year before Christmas, finish a set of pears I've been knitting off and on for a few months so I can felt them today, going out to Kohl's to look at their Nostalgia collection of ornaments...I read about them on a blog yesterday and they're just what I need to complete the mantel decorating (a pure rip-off of the cover of Merry & Bright....old glass bottles with ornament toppers), bake Christmas Nut cookies from the Susan Branch Christmas from the Heart of the Home cookbook (just like Mexican Wedding cakes), and finally...wrap gifts. Oh...and finish my final paper for the semester for class...based on three of the four plays we've read in the past four weeks. At least there's no final exam to study for! Other than the paper, none of these projects should take much time, and of course, some can be done almost at the same time...love that multitasking! I think that first on the list (after more coffee), will be to head out to Kohl's...it's what I dread most...shopping on a Saturday during the Christmas season, but I can be in and out with what I want and then settle back into the nest for the remainder of the day.


Merry & Bright

It seems like I've been "on hold" for this book almost forever! The editors have outdone themselves on this one; it's filled with wonderful ideas for Christmas decorating...301 ideas, to be exact. The colors and themes used throughout the book are so appealing...wish I could just twitch my nose and have everything decorated. Wouldn't that be oh-so-cool?

Coming Next Week @ The Inspired Room...

Just a quick little post to start the morning. Be sure to visit Melissa at The Inspired Room beginning Monday. She has quite the week-long party lined up, featuring a kick-off by McMasters & Storm. If you missed her last party, you won't want to miss this one!


Favorite things

Oprah has her list of favorite things and so do I. My listing is not as costly as hers, but all are satisfying on a certain level. Great stocking stuffers and/or a nice treat for yourself.
Clinique Color Surge Shea Butter lipsticks...sheer, soft, and smooth.

Johnson & Johnson Melt Stress Away products...moisture wash, massaging moisture, and body lotion. Soothing, and a nice, clean fragrance.
Stonewall Farms Republic of Tea Hot Apple Cider Tea Jam. So good on cinnamon scones.
Republic of Tea Hot Apple Cider...delicious on these cooler days. The aroma is wonderful.

The fragrant indoor garden...

Photo from Whiteflower Farm

Today is a good day to start forcing bulbs for holiday bloom. Narcissus, or paperwhites are truly the easiest and quickest bulbs to force. They grow so fast and bloom so quickly...if only the scent was a bit better! I have groupings of bulbs in various containers; most of the bulbs are anchored by pea-gravel instead of soil. About every 2 weeks, I start a new container so there are continual blooms throughout the holiday season. I noticed several boxes (now reduced in price) at Sam's Club last week...a huge savings over the kits you can buy at Target from their Smith & Hawkin collection.


Needed: more greenery! My plan this morning is to go out with my cutters and take some cuttings from evergreens (next door...don't tell!!). My entryway needs a bit more green to layer at the base of my Santas and snowmen. Many more Santas need to come out and play...it's just finding the right place for them. It's finally a nice sunny (but cold) day here. Yesterday was just downright nasty with rain, gloom, and wind. The sun makes such a difference!

Just one more class to go for this semester--of course a paper is due on Monday--and there are no more weekly quizzes! A first for this semester. No reading assignment, either. Seems we just have to show up and turn in the paper. I'm really looking forward to the semester break, but even more...looking forward to graduation in May.


More Decorating....

I love using this book as inspiration for holiday decorating. It's filled with vignettes, beautifully decorated trees, and wonderful ideas. Later this week, I want to visit one of the stationery stores...I don't think they're open today...to purchase some fancy cocktail napkins to embellish some smaller ornaments. I think the Caspari brand of papergoods has the toile pattern. A friend is hosting what is to become a monthly crafting get together this Thursday, so that might be my project...even though knitting is easier to drag along!


Toile Ornaments

Photo and Directions from BHG.com
While catching up on blogfriend visits this morning, I came across this easy (sounding, anyway) ornament project. I really like toile...even though I'm going for the pastel look this Christmas, they would be great package tie-ons, and I'm sure I can find a way to incorporate toile into my holiday decorating...the red and white would be great around Valentine's Day, too.

Here are the directions, as found on the Better Homes & Gardens website:

  • A piece of toile pattern trimmed from a dinner napkin and decoupaged onto a basic ball becomes an elegant ornament.

    What You Need
    Round ornaments
    Red and white spray paint
    Medium-size drinking cups with 3-inch-diameter openings
    Toile napkins
    Flat artist's brush
    Decoupage medium

    How to Make It
    1. Remove the ornament tops and spray-paint some with red, others with white.
    2. To steady the ornaments, place them top side down into the cups.
    3. Cut out images from the napkins and lay them right side down into the palm of your hand.
    4. Brush a thin coat of decoupage medium on the image, and carefully press it onto the ornament, smoothing wrinkles.
    5. Allow ornaments to thoroughly dry in the cups.
    6. Replace the painted ornament tops.


Black Friday

This Christmas tree is located in our library lobby. I've pulled out lots of holiday decorations in the past few days when I haven't been cooking...it's definitely going to be a more scaled-down look. If I can force myself, I'd like to visit Target this afternoon...they usually have rosemary topiaries and Christmas trees. I'd like one for one of the mantles, and perhaps a Norfolk Island pine. I have lots of little Christmas trees...various sizes...and I think I'll use them throughout the house instead of putting up one huge artificial tree. I'm still lovin' the idea of turquoise, pink & silver...lighter and airier.
I'm already tired of the holiday ads...big sales if you want to get up and shop at 4AM. I'm feeling more of a handmade Christmas coming on...that way, crowds can be avoided and frustrations can be minimal.