Saturday, December 31, 2011

finishing up

Happy New Year's Eve!  Doesn't the end of the year make you super reflective?  I think we're going to list the top five things we are most proud of in 2011.  Instead of the end of the year reminding you that you didn't accomplish all your goals, why not focus on what you did get done? 

It is beautiful here today- sunny and 60 degrees!  We're using the unseasonably warm weather as a chance to get some yard work done before the real cold sets in. 

Our big plans for tonight include serving dinner to some folks who are really just like us, only they will be sleeping in a temporary spot tonight, while we come back to our permanent home.  Nothing like a little perspective to finish out the year- thankful, thankful, thankful. 

Once we get home, I've planned some appetizers for a late dinner, and then we may do something completely crazy like a Mary Tyler Moore marathon on Hulu.  And, if you can believe it, I'm super excited. 

One of the things I am so thankful for is how much my blog and shop have grown in 2011!  Thank you for stopping by and reading and maybe even commenting or purchasing!  I love sewing so much and I wouldn't be able to do near as much of it without your support.  I can't wait to see what kind of exciting things we can get into in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

brown paper packages tied up with string

I made a couple of wreaths for my mom and sister this year.  Have you ever tried to gift wrap a wreath?  Thankfully, I didn't think about that part before making them, or I may have changed my mind. 

Everything worked out for the best though, because Steve came up with a great plan.  Not surprisingly, the plan involved a roll of brown contractor's paper from Lowe's that he's been wanting for some time now. 

We made large gift bags out of the paper that the wreaths could easily slide into.  Then I punched some holes and made handles out of garden twine. 

Then, I felt so inspired that I decorated the bags by writing "brown paper packages tied up with string" on them.  I've never actually given or received a brown paper package tied up with string before.  It seemed like kind of an occasion.  I wanted to make sure they noticed. 

I'm looking forward to more creative projects with our roll of brown paper- I'm picturing a table runner with the menu written right on it or maybe a monthly calendar that covers a whole wall. 

Are you excited about the new year yet?  I accidentally started writing 2012 on things about a month ago, so apparently I'm ready.  I always like even years better anyway. 

We don't have any concrete plans yet, but I'll be sure to let you know what we end up doing to celebrate on new year's eve.  If history is our guide, it will be super fun and a little bit crazy! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

in this house, socks ARE the good gift

You know how people joke about getting socks for Christmas?  Like socks are a disappointing, boring gift? 

Not around here. 

Sliding into a soft pair of new socks is almost enough to make me forget how much I miss wearing sandals.  They're like a treat to encourage my cold feet to make it through the winter ahead. 

I especially love the details- orange stitching along the toe, a purple heel, maybe a ruffle at the top.  I am completely enamored with hidden details on clothing that will usually only be seen by the wearer.  It's like I'm wearing a fancy secret. 

This year, Steve outdid himself by getting me these socks.  Yes, that is a fox.  Fox on socks.  It's like I'm in a Dr. Seuss book. 

I received lots of thoughtful gifts this year, but there's just something about socks.  They're hard to beat. 

I hope your Christmas was full of good gifts!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Over the past few weeks, we have had the joy and privilege of helping our friends prepare to bring their baby home.  He is their first child, a son.  They have been waiting for him for a long time. 

There is so much to do to prepare for a baby, isn't there?  We painted and set up furniture and shopped for clothes and bedding.  They knew that life would be different with a baby, that he would change their lives, and they wanted to be ready. 

This week, he is home.  There has been a constant stream of visitors, some from quite far away, all to welcome this baby.  They bring gifts.  They just want to see him.  To hold him. 

This is a very special baby. 

There is another Baby too, of course, that we're waiting for.  All of us.   

And every year, at this time especially, I try to get ready for Him.  To free up some space in my heart, in my life.  Knowing, counting on the promise, that He will change it completely. 

I don't know exactly what to expect.  I'm not sure how messy things will get.  There will almost definitely be sleepless nights. 

But how can I resist?  How can we?  At any other time of year, it's easier to shy away and make excuses.  But now, with the old story so fresh on our lips- is anyone immune to the wonder and joy of a Baby?

Let every heart prepare Him room.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas dinner

I think that our dinner party last Sunday will go down as one of our favorite holiday memories.  Even the planning and preparation was fun.  Steve and I spent most of Sunday in the kitchen together and just cooked the afternoon away to a soundtrack of Christmas carols. 

Incidentally, our kind next door neighbor stopped by during this time to drop off a gift for us, which turned out to be a cookbook and a set of appetizer plates.  I'm sure he felt pretty good about his gift choice, as we were both wearing aprons when we answered the door. 

Steve took lots of pictures while we were preparing, but we ended up with precious few of the finished products.  Possibly a sign that it was too tasty to waste time photographing? 

For an appetizer, we served Honey-Rosemary Cherries and Blue Cheese Crostini.  The sweetness of the cherries was a lovely compliment to the tangy blue cheese. 

For the soup course, we served an old favorite- Roasted Butternut Squash soup.  This soup is quite easy to make and I just kept it warm in the crock pot until we were ready to eat.  I usually leave out the nuts, but this time opted for pecans which gave the flavor a little more depth. 

The main course was beef tenderloin, Buttermilk Mashed Potato Bakes, and Green Beans with Mushrooms and Bacon.  The tenderloin only needed a little salt, pepper, and soy sauce for seasoning.  I baked the mashed potatoes in ramekins so they would be easy to serve and stay hot longer.  The recipe I used had lots of great ideas for add-ins.  I used caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese, and parsley. 

We made the Chocolate Peppermint Cake a day ahead, which turned out to be a great idea.  It was much easier to shape and ice the cake once it had been cooling in the refridgerator overnight. 

The cake doesn't look very fancy, but it sure does taste fancy.  The peppermint filling goes well with the bittersweet chocolate. The icing is a chocolate ganache, which is made from melted chocolate and cream and then beat as if you were making whipped cream.  It was light and airy and not overly sweet and we all loved it. 

It's so rare that it happens, but I love a meal that takes hours to finish.  I like to eat slowly, to appreciate each dish as it comes, and have plenty of time to talk in between.  We had such a lovely group of friends to share this meal with and nobody had to rush anywhere.  How often does that happen during the holiday season? 

I can hardly believe how quickly the month is passing.  We made a list last night of the final things we want to do before Christmas and I don't know if we'll fit them all in.  Today I'm baking cookies and making some more scarves to restock the shop- last January was a busy scarf month and I want to be ready! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

there is so much to celebrate

I've spent a lot of time in this particular spot over the past few weeks.  More time than usual, even.  I had orders to finish.  I had Christmas gifts to finish.  Funny how every project has the same deadline at this time of year. 

At around 11pm Friday night I declared them all done.  DONE! 

Saturday morning found me wrapping gifts, boxing things up, and printing postage from my living room.  The joy of not going to the post office the week before Christmas is almost unparalleled. 

Incidentally, Saturday morning found Steve getting our oil changed before our holiday travels.  How do you efficiently get an oil change with only one car?  You choose a mechanic about two miles from your house and jog home and back while you wait.  That Steve.  He's so industrious. 

We ran errands (but avoided the mall), wrapped more gifts, and baked a cake.  Then, just when it seemed like the day couldn't get any better, we got gussied up and went out to dinner.  Fancy dinner. 

We were celebrating this weekend.  Celebrating that night, seven years ago, when it was cold and there were Christmas lights and Steve asked if I'd spend my life with him.  If I'd wrap my life around his life wrapped around my life. 

And the years go by and still the great mystery of it all stops me in my tracks sometimes and I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  That two lives can turn into one and that the one is so much more than just the sum of the two. 

I love to celebrate that night, one of the happiest of my life.  We ate delicious food and lingered at the table and shared dessert.  Then we came home and cuddled up on the sofa to watch one of our favorite Christmas movies and laughed and laughed.  It's the laughing together that's the best part. 

If you can believe it, that was only the beginning of the weekend.  Last night we hosted a dinner party that was so much fun we still can't stop talking about it.  Tomorrow I'll share some pictures, as well as the recipes, in case you're looking for some holiday food ideas. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

evidently spray paint doesn't expire

We're having friends over for dinner this weekend  and I was dying for some new table decorations to make the evening really festive.  Instead of one big centerpiece, I usually like to do something very low that runs the length of the table.  My default is to use all of the glass jars and candle holders I've collected over time, maybe spruced up with some ribbon or something.  But don't you think that December gatherings call for an extra dose of fancy? 

Me too. 

Enter gold spray paint. 

As I was rummaging through the kitchen for glass jars, a memory of once owning gold spray paint for a project in college pushed its way to the front of my mind.  I ran upstairs to check.  It was still there, right in the paint drawer! 

So, for this project you will need some old glass jars (I chose these jelly jars because of the ridges) and a can of gold spray paint.  Maybe you had some in college too? 

I set up some cardboard in the front yard and worked my way in a circle around the jars, spraying lightly.  After about ten minutes, I gave them a second coat.  Then I went on a walk to let them dry thoroughly. 

After an hour, they were ready to be sanded.  I used a fine grit sandpaper (probably 220 or 320) and spend some time sanding both the edges and the flat areas on each jar.  I wanted plenty of light to be able to get through. 

As a side note, this project is especially fun if it happens to be 60 degrees in December where you live.  Otherwise- maybe you'd want to move? 

I gave the jars a good hand wash in the sink and then they were ready to go on the table. 

Each jar got a candle and a piece of tulle tied around it.  For added flair. 

I'm so excited for this weekend!  We have several fun things planned, plus there should be plenty of time to cuddle in at home with our tree and some Christmas tunes.  I find myself savoring every Christmas-y moment as we rush towards the big day, and always wishing for more. 

Hope your weekend is full of holiday magic! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You may have missed the party, but you didn't miss the prizes

Well, we've thrown our last Plumfield Party for the year and I finally got around to putting away all the merchandise that had been packed up like a mobile craft fair for the past six weeks.  I filled a basket with items to be photographed at a later date and posted in the shop.  It was a pretty full basket. 

I fully intended to put off this task until the new year, but the light was so lovely this morning that I just had to take some pictures.  In the interest of productivity, I decided to take pictures of things that needed to be photographed anyway, as opposed to Christmas ornaments or my egg salad sandwich.  But it was a really great sandwich, I assure you.

Most of these items were samples that I made up for the parties using exciting new fabrics.  Even though we plan to throw more parties in the spring, I plan to make different samples for those in springier colors and patterns. 

We are settled into the time of year when I can't show many pictures of what I'm doing, because what I'm doing is making Christmas gifts.  But it's fun and they're cute and I'm sure I'll do a big recap after they've all been handed out.  I love handmade gifts. 

I also love that we are traveling two times this month, which gives me two opportunities to pack up my new duffel bag.  I think that, of all my new projects, I am the most excited about this one.  I want somebody to order one, just because I can imagine how much they'll love using it.  I think it would be the perfect thing to spend a little Christmas money on.  Don't you love it when you get Christmas money?  Such a treat, to get to pick out one more gift for yourself after the holiday hubbub is over. 

There are only 12 days left until Christmas- can you believe it?  There are still so many celebratory things that I want to squeeze in!  I think that tonight we'll watch a Christmas movie and maybe wrap some gifts.  Sounds like the perfect end to a sunny day. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

48 hours of holiday fun

For most of our younger lives, Natalie and I were inseparable.  If you had plans with one of us, you had plans with both of us.  If you thought you'd hired one babysitter, you got two.  And, during the month of December, we were especially inseparable. 

I have so many happy Christmas memories and traditions that have her face all over them.  We'd shop for gifts together.  We sing the Twelve Days of Christmas while hanging ornaments with her family.  We'd work at the wrapping booth with my mom.  We'd host parties, plan surprises, and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. 

Distance is a hard thing.  These days, our Christmas festivities are limited to phone calls and one fabulous December weekend where we try to squeeze in all the fun we can.  I'm so thankful to still have that. 

We went on a dinner date, just us grownups.  The food and atmosphere were terrific and the company was even better.  We talked and laughed and shared meals and desserts and it felt like we might be in college again.  Natalie and I shared a love seat and went to the restroom at the same time and the handsome men across the table paid the bill. 

We hung around the house with the kids, usually all piled onto one bed or sofa.  I know I'm biased, but those are the funniest kids I've ever met.  Rose doesn't say a lot of words, but has a few favorites that she bellows out in a very low, throaty voice.  Just imagine ogre-like noises coming out of that sweet face.  It's hilarious. 

We cooked together and opened gifts and played games into the wee hours.  We listened to non-stop Christmas music and had the fireplace going morning and night.  We finished off a gallon of apple cider and a gallon of homemade Chex mix. 

It was the best kind of weekend. 

It's a good thing that I love our home so much, or I'd be feeling pretty melancholy today.  But I've got the tree lights on and Christmas music playing.  I've bumped the thermostat up a few degrees, as a treat.  My plan for the afternoon includes some hot tea and quilt stitching.  I've also got a few final Christmas projects for the shop to finish up. 

Still have some shopping left to do?  Everything listed in my shop is ready to ship, so you have plenty of time to order a few more gifts! 


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