Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas gifts, as promised

It was so hard not to share pictures throughout the month as I finished these gifts. You'll probably recognize this purse design from the shop. I made this one with fabric especially chosen for my blue-loving sister. It's reversible, of course.

The idea for this dog bed came from this book. So I guess I didn't really buy it for just one page after all. It was super easy to make- I just bought a piece of foam in the size I wanted and then made a cover to fit with a velcro closure so it can be washed. I fell in love with the fabric and I don't even like dogs.

You may also recognize this bag design from the shop. I made this one for my mom, who tends to carry around a lot of stuff. A lot.

Remember she who loves blue? She got napkins too. To match her dining room that she redid last year.

I think that my first attempt at pajama pants turned out pretty well. I only had to remake them twice. The pattern is from the same book that brought us the dog bed. The flannel that I bought ended up not being as wide as what they called for in the pattern, resulting in shorter pants. It was a Christmas miracle that these pants ended up being for my shortest family member. Whew.

And what can I say about the mice? Fun to plan, fun to make, fun to have sitting around the house. The pattern for these mice was in- you guessed it!- this book. I loved getting to use up scraps, I loved the hand stitching at the end, I loved their little ears. I love that they will be enjoyed to pieces by a certain cat and a doting cat owner. And maybe a few small dogs, when nobody's looking.

Don't they look like they're up to something? Maybe planning an escape. Brenna's going to have to keep an eye on this crowd.

I've got a few orders in the works this week that I should have some pictures of in a day or two. Also coming soon- pictures of watercolor night. And yes, it was as much fun as it sounds.

reason #246 to have soup for dinner...

All the forks were in the dishwasher. True story.

Last year around this time, I came across the recipe for Creamy Tomato Chicken Chowder on one of my favorite blogs and my life was changed. I don't quite remember what things were like before this soup, but I'm betting not nearly as good. Yes, it takes several hours to make, and yes, the ingredients probably end up costing close to $20, but it is all worth it. It makes a TON, so you can always freeze some for later, but we never do because we can't stop eating it. So, since it would be very rude to build something up like this and not share the recipe, here ya go:

*olive oil to coat pan bottom
*1 medium yellow onion chopped
*1 yellow bell pepper chopped
*1 whole bulb of garlic chopped
*1.5-2 lbs chopped skinless chicken breast
(omit for vegetarian or substitute with clams, shrimp)
*8-10 small red potatoes cut in quarters
*1 32-oz box of Imagine Creamy Tomato Soup
*1 32-oz box of chicken broth
(substitute with vegetable broth for vegetarian)
*1/2 cup white wine

*2 cups frozen yellow corn
*1 cup sliced fresh white button mushrooms
All spices are to taste, but at least 1 tsp of each:
*kosher salt
*black pepper
*red pepper flakes
*1/2 cup cream cheese
*1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese

*Combine all ingredients in first section and cook in a dutch oven over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through or if you are making the vegetarian version until the potatoes get a little tender.
*Add all ingredients from the second section and let the soup stew for a while-about an hour or so, adding the spices (third section) and tasting till you're happy.
*Once you're about to serve the soup add in the cheeses, whisking to smooth if necessary. I also made a small amount of flour roux to thicken just a bit as well.  Not sure how to make a roux?  Check out my tutorial here

And since I know you're probably headed out right now to get the ingredients, I will help you out a bit- both Harris Teeter and Kroger carry the Imagine Creamy Tomato soup.

To accompany the soup, I tried out a new bread recipe from Southern Living. These rolls are a cross between a yeast roll and a biscuit and were truly amazing. Maybe my new favorite bread. They are super easy to make and barely require any kneading. For those of you who are anti-knead.

Our new soup bowls are really getting a workout this winter.

Tomorrow I will (finally) be able to share some pictures of the Christmas gifts that I made this year! I'll meet you back here and you can tell me how your soup turned out!

Monday, December 27, 2010


And suddenly, just as quickly as it arrived, it was over.

In fact, after all the hoopla of getting ready, the actual day was a bit of a relief. A time to breathe again. A time for reading new books and taking naps.

A time for eating the traditional mid-day meal of cheese and crackers and beef sticks.

And, as a special treat this year, a time for walking in the falling snow on Christmas night.

Wearing our Smittens. If you don't have a pair, you are missing out. Especially if you like to hold hands. And let's be honest- who doesn't like to hold hands?

I can't think of many winter activities I like more than being outside during a light snowfall. Add in the magic of Christmas, lights on all the houses, and my sweetheart and you've got a home run.

Because it was such a quiet day, we had time to think about what we were celebrating:

"And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us... and we have seen His Glory."

I hope that, whatever your Christmas looked like, you were able to glimpse some Glory.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

i wish i had a river i could skate away on

Joni Mitchell really said it best. But before I skate away for a few days, I wanted to share a few things.

#1: Christmas Morning Coffee Cake. I have eaten this cake every Christmas morning since I could chew. I can almost promise that once you make it, you'll never stop.

Preheat oven to 325
spray cooking spray in Bundt pan

Mix and beat for 6-8 minutes:

1 box yellow cake mix

1 package instant vanilla pudding

3/4 cups water

3/4 cups oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. butter flavoring

4 eggs

Then prepare filling:

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 heaping tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Pour 1 /3 of batter in the bottom of Bundt pan. Sprinkle 1/2 of filling, pour another 1/3 of batter, sprinkle remaining filling, then pour remaining batter. Bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes.

Mix together:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. butter flavoring

1 1/2 tbsp. milk

Remove cake from pan and spoon glaze over hot cake.

#2: New scarf pictures. The sun came out yesterday and Steve helped me with some pictures, so the scarf should be showing up in the shop very soon.

#3 Wrapped gifts under the tree. Just look at how cheerful they are! I can't wait until next week when I can share pictures of what's inside!

I think that the next couple of days will include very little contact with the outside world and lots of naps. And, if I'm lucky, our neighbor in a Santa suit.

Hope your Christmas is just as merry.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

it's the shortest day of the year

It's hard to take clear pictures when it's so dark outside. I finished this scarf yesterday, that is really just a gift for myself, but I have enough fabric to make another one for the shop. Today, I am attempting to get some pictures of it, but daylight is elusive this morning. Every picture I took turned out grainy. And who wants to buy grainy? So I think that the actual shop posting will have to wait for a sunnier, less grainy day.

Meanwhile, can we talk about how great this scarf looks on our red coffee table? Is it weird that I want to paint more of the furniture so I can use it for photo backgrounds?

I am also loving my serger and the tidy rolled edge hems it can produce. It manages to make things look fancy, while also being way easier than a regular hem. Win-win.

So about this scarf and its origins:
I am almost always cold in the winter. I like to cover every bit of exposed skin. But (and here's the tricky part) I hate turtlenecks. I keep buying them, because they seem like a good idea, but after a day of wearing one, I have been known to say to Steve, "Don't you dare let me buy any more turtlenecks."
I love scarves. I like to wear one all day, inside. But some knitted scarves are itchy and some are too long and sometimes you need to look a little nicer than "hey, I'm wearing my snow clothes inside".
So when I saw this beautiful, lovely-soft, cotton voile fabric by Anna Maria Horner, I knew that a set of cotton scarves was in order. This blue floral is only one of the three fancy prints I ordered. I can't wait to make the other two. I'm pretty sure that I can work one of the three into my outfit every day from now until spring.

What will I fill this shortest day of the year with? A trip to the library, vacuuming (to keep warm, of course), and lots of Pandora Radio with Polar Express typed in the search field (the perfect solution when you're tired of all the Christmas CDs you own). Happy solstice!

Monday, December 20, 2010

holiday prep

Happiness is.... a freezer full of peanut butter balls.

Last night we baked cookies and wrapped gifts and watched Elf and had lots of Christmas fun until well past our usual bedtime.

Making peanut butter balls is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of messy-hands action involved. The kind where I take off my rings, roll up my sleeves and go through two aprons.

Steve managed to get a little bit messier than I did. And, as I was cleaning up the counter, I heard him declare, "I think that this baker's chocolate is my favorite kind of chocolate!" I turned around to find him happily licking his hands at the sink.

Later, when he was feeling a bit ill, I asked, "How much did you eat?" and he said, "It's kind of hard to tell when you're eating it off your hands." True that.

We also made snickerdoodles, to satisfy someone's love of plain cookies.

And we wrapped a million little gifts. Doesn't it looks like Steve is the fastest gift wrapper ever in this picture? Today I had the pleasure of taking the stack of packages to the post office and putting them in someone else's hands. I love it when my part of the job is done.

As we speed towards the excitement of the weekend ahead, I am thinking about the words from our advent calendar last week:

He did not wait
till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished
world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of
anguished shame he came
and his Light would not go out.

This Christmas season, that's what I'm banking on- that no matter how deep the darkness, the Light will not go out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

the answer

Six years ago, on a cold night in Virginia, Steve insisted that we take a walk. He wanted to look at Christmas lights. I wanted to stay inside, like normal people do in the winter.

But I gave in. We walked and talked and ended up at a large Christmas tree on campus. And then Steve did something totally surprising: he asked me a question that would change the course of my entire life.

The answer, of course, was yes.

The answer still is.

Every day I wake up next to him, and the answer is yes. I mop the floors and do the laundry, and the answer is yes. We have a misunderstanding, and the answer is yes. We laugh until we cry, and the answer is yes. We change jobs and buy groceries, rake leaves and go to church. The answer is yes.

Life doesn't turn out the way we thought it would, and the answer is yes.

I coudn't have known then what our life would look like today. I can't know today what our life will look like in six more years, or ten, or forty.

But I knew the right answer. I didn't have to puzzle it out or phone a friend or check my notes. The right answer had been staring me in the face, waiting on the tip of my tongue, for quite some time. So when the moment arrived, I was ready.

I'm still ready.

Sometimes life seems like a test. I scribble in the margins and do some long division and try to apply what I've learned. And under all the little questions that make up a day, there is the one big question that now mostly goes unspoken. But it's still there and it's still just as important as the first time he asked.

And today, I am thankful that I still know the right answer.

Friday, December 17, 2010

finally something to show

Yesterday we had a "snow day". It was cold and rainy and Steve worked from home and I worked from home and all in all it was very cozy and nice. I accomplished much in the way of cooking and sewing. In fact, all of the things that needed to be sewn before Christmas are now lined up in a neat row.

My biggest project of the day was finishing Riley's apron. The idea of making an apron for someone who is only two feet tall was, as you might imagine, very appealing to me. Isn't everything cuter when it's mini?

And who can cook without ruffles? Certainly not me and Riley seems like a girl who would appreciate a ruffle or two.

I hope she makes lots of soup this winter in her play kitchen and that she enjoys looking cute while doing it.

Oh my gosh- did you mention soup? Oh, that was me? Well, whatever. The soup of the week is chicken noodle and it is darn tasty. I'm trying to kick a cold and I do believe every myth out there about chicken noodle soup. It's better than NyQuil. And lots tastier.

To accompany the soup, I whipped up some crescent rolls from scratch. They were surprisingly easy, taste nothing like the ones that come in a tube, and made me wonder why I had never tried making them before. I love that chubby crescent shape.

I think that today's episode of "Kick the Cold" will include some reading, a little hand stitching just for fun, and a large dose of hot chocolate. Round that out with a weekend of cookie-baking and Christmas movies and I'll be back in action by Monday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

what I can and cannot show you

I wish that I could show you pictures of all I've been working on this week. But most of the things I am working on are Christmas gifts for my family. And since I think that my family makes up at least half of my blog readership, I'm gonna have to save the pictures for a post-Christmas treat.

So I can't show you the gifts I completed over the weekend.

I can't show you the gift I am currently hand stitching in my spare time.

I can't show you the apron I am working on for Riley Grace. Not because I think that toddlers are big blog followers, but because I don't have any pictures of it yet. But soon. Very soon, I think.

However, to make up for all the things that I can't show you, here are a few that I can:

I can show you this picture, taken at the Billy Graham Library last Saturday night. We went for the lights and caroling.

We stayed for the live nativity. I wish you could see more of the animals in this picture. They were all chewing. If only I could show you the chewing, because it was cute.

I can show you this picture of our lifegroup Christmas party last night. Our white elephant gift exchange requires you to find something in your house that you no longer want. Somebody else's trash = the best kind of gift.

And I can show you a very pregnant woman wearing a very tacky outfit.

I can show you someone who sleeps in a twin bed, and, as luck would have it, got a whole set of dinosaur sheets to go on it.

I can show you some of the ugliest Christmas outfits you are likely to see this holiday season, unless you happen to attend a Red Hat Society luncheon.

I also cannot show you how cold it is here- you'll just have to take my word for it. I find that vacuuming keeps me warm, so I think that our house will be very clean this week.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

the best way to spread Christmas cheer

We have reached a new level of holiday cheer over here. Steve gets 100% of the credit for the idea and I get 100% of the credit for actually doing it and between the two of us, we are unstoppable. I am in love with this red coffee table. It's a good thing I ran out of paint, or some of our other furniture would be in danger.

This year I did not buy any decorations (except the tree) and I didn't even use all the ones we pulled out of the attic. Simple and homemade is the name of the game. Lots of fresh greens. Lots of ball ornaments, collected over the years, used almost everywhere but on the tree. I like to mix things up a bit.

We have a special love for advent calendars around here. In December, I don't want a single day to sneak by without being noticed. We are going to savor every one.

I spent several hours last week creating this new advent calendar for our family room wall. It is loosely based on one I saw in the Pottery Barn catalogue and I love how it turned out. The actual days were created several years ago, but the hanging apparatus is new. Made out of garden twine and sticks from our yard.

These felt flowers are sprucing up the pillows on the green sofa and are also for sale in the shop. I love being able to easily turn a neutral pillow into a Christmas decoration. If I had time to make more of these flowers, I would string garlands of them around the windows. Maybe next year.

We don't have stockings on the fireplace, but I put a couple in the guest room, just in case anyone wants to stay here on Christmas Eve. I'll bet Santa could sneak in the window just as easily as the chimney. I'll even leave it unlocked.

I'm telling you- nothing is safe from the decorating squad (which is mainly just me, and a little bit Steve, but "squad" sounds so much more official). Even the wall hangings got gussied up for the month. I like to buy fancy ribbon on sale during the week after Christmas. There is no shortage of ribbon around here.

The dining room is ready for meals with friends and lingering over a second helping. Or maybe just Steve and I and some soup. Which, by the way, was french onion this week, but there are no pictures because french onion soup isn't very attractive. But she has a great personality.

The tree was decorated courtesy of Mia and Uncle Steve, mostly. We just used the straw ornaments this year, which are very kid-friendly. Now that Mia's gone, I need to find some more kids to pull stuff off the tree.

The family room is my hang out spot of choice these days, for obvious reasons. If only you could smell the pine and spice candles or hear the choirs singing on the radio. Pictures don't even do it justice.

The days are already slipping by too fast and I try to catch them as they swirl away. The 8th will quickly become the 15th and before we know it, the moment will have passed.

Good news though- the Reason we celebrate doesn't fade away on the 26th like all the music and lights. He settles right in for the long winter- sleet, muddy boots, and all.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover