Saturday, December 31, 2011

last minute mirror garland

What you'll need:

aluminum foil

Rip off a medium or large piece of aluminum foil.

Fold in half so the shiny sides are touching, then again and again until you have a decent sized square (not too small).

Use something round to trace a circle onto the foil (or just wing it -- the circles don't have to be precise -- or do squares or triangles!).

Cut the circle out of the layers of foil (bonus! you'll be sharpening your scissors at the same time).

Pull the circles apart carefully (they have a tendency to stick together), but keep them together as matching pairs.

Lay out the circles in the order you wish to have them with the dull side up. Keep their matching circle beside them.

Roll out a length of string over the tops of one row of circles.

Smear glue on the matching circle (you don't have to go crazy to the edges) and sandwich the string between the two circles.

Continue on until you have the length of garland you want.

Cut the string (long or short depending on how you want to hang it -- tied or taped).

Hang and display the garland wherever you like (but hopefully in some sunlight -- sparkly!).

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011


I've been working on these for a while now and I figured it's probably time to let them out into the world and stop fiddling with them a hundred times a day already!

Also I can't for the life of me choose a favourite. I couldn't even decide which individual months I liked most to make a random sampling calendar.

That being said, it doesn't prevent YOU from choosing from the calendars to make your own unique blend. If you've got a favourite, grab it. If they're all your favourite, grab them all! Each is standard U.S. letter size, perfect for printing off at home.

This year, I decided to ditch the watermark (because I really hate them). Instead, I put a license on the photos through Flickr. So remember these are for non-commercial, personal use only.

Thank you ever so much for reading and supporting le blog this past year. Your comments and loving presence really mean so much to me.

(if you find any... mistakes... let me know and I'll fix it up prompt-like. the more you stare at numbers, the more you second-guess yourself)

Outdoorsy pics from 2011 Calendar

Crafty pics from 2011 Calendar

Foodie pics from 2011 Calendar

{note} These will only be available through Flickr for a limited time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

friday fixations: christmas movies edition

I'm going to be watching a whole lotta Christmas movies this weekend. How about you?

{elf} Number one favourite holiday movie. Santa! I know him!

{the original rudolph the red nosed reindeer} This is my favourite childhood Christmas movie. My gram had the piano music and her and I would play the songs from the movie at the piano every year. I learned a lot of piano from that book, actually, but I'll never be as good as she was (dual hands confounds my brain). Wherever it is right now, whoever has it, it's marked up with all of my little cheat notes. I wish I had it.

{national lampoon's christmas vacation} The best National Lampoon ever. I would watch this one in July.

{a christmas story} For whatever reason, this cute story escaped me until a couple years ago when I made it a mission to watch after constantly hearing about it everywhere I clicked. Now I love lamp.

{home alone} One or two or both! (Hint: go with both.)

{the grinch} It's worth a watch just based on the facial expressions Jim Carrey manages to make in his grinch suit.

{the santa clause and christmas with the kranks} Is any holiday complete without Tim Allen? (And while we rolled our eyes at Christmas with the Kranks, we have already watched it twice this year.)

{the muppet christmas carol} Is any holiday complete without the Muppets?

And some unorthodox Christmas movies to sneak in for your man (you know, in between the classics):

{batman returns}
{lethal weapon}
{die hard}
{the ref}
{trading places}

And that's it for me until (at least) after boxing day!

Have a wonderful Christmas! (and these! You must look at these!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

diy: mailable CD sleeves

Ever since I happened to find myself in my friend's car, listening to songs I knew came from a mix CD I made (that were mixed among his songs -- so I know it wasn't one of those, "she's going to be in the car, I'd better put on her tape" pretend things), I've made it a tradition to make at least one mix CD for that friend per year.

When we found ourselves no longer in the same city, I had to rethink my whole CD delivery system. In a very nervous test trial, I constructed one of these, put one standard stamp on it, and popped it in a mail box. I was so pleased to hear it had arrived safe and sound and now, this is pretty much the only thing I use for CD packaging.

Paper sleeves are quick, easy, and do the job just enough to get a CD from point A to point B. Besides, jewel cases are bulky and awkward and (without even considering the mail) no one wants to keep them around anymore (gone are the days of CD racks, right?). I also realize that most songs would be transferred from CD to iPod these days so the need for sending anything more doesn't exist.

I whipped up a bunch of these beauties for Christmas gifts/cards this year, but you can do this for any gift or any reason.

First of all, I like to choose a picture for my background, something that I can clearly write over. Usually, I try to match it with the theme of the CD (if I have one) or a specific name for the CD (if I have one). You don't have to get fancy, of course. In fact, you don't have to use the computer at all. You can handwrite everything, too. This is definitely something you can customize according to how much effort you want to put into it.

The only thing you must do is size your picture the size of a standard CD insert (just the picture, not the border). You know the little picture that goes into a standard jewel case door? That's usually the size I'll use so that when I print out my sleeve, I know it's going to be about the same size as the CD itself. The picture usually works out to 12 cm by 12 cm (or 4.72 inches), but you can take any existing CD you own and measure it out yourself. By ensuring the picture and print boundaries are exactly the same as the CD, I'll know just by looking where not to sew. You don't want to sew three sides only to find you can't fit the CD into the resulting pocket.

Once it's sized you can go ahead and embellish it however you want. I like to add the track listing and a title, but the sky's the limit. After I printed these out, I realized I need to work on scale in Photoshop Elements. It's one thing for it to be clear on the screen, but what it really needs to be is clear once printed out. I've since figured that out for future products, I think. If you size the picture appropriately, move it to a standard letter-sized document, then zoom in for the type, things should print as clear as they were on the screen (while zoomed in -- it's convoluted I know). (This was the first time I've used PE for CD envelopes so I thought things would be the same as in my other program and they weren't. Lesson learned.)

I'll usually make a second picture as a fancy front with the address typed in as well, but this year I opted to go with handwritten to save myself the time of designing a front for multiple people (and getting names and addresses horribly horribly wrong).

When printing in Photoshop Elements, after choosing print, I just uncheck the box marked "centre image" and change the measurements for the top and left position both to 0.5 inches (or 1.27 cm -- gotta love how Canadians talk about inches and centimetres at the same time, right?). This gave me a nice border around two sides of the sleeve which is also a little quicky time technique because now you'll only have to cut out two sides instead of four (if you're going the computer-free route, make sure to leave a little bit of a border -- 0.5 inches seemed like the perfect amount).

After printing my image out onto cardstock, I measured around the other two sides so the border would be the same and cut them out using a paper cutter (if you don't have one of these, you should really get one. They're so handy for straight cuts). My cutter will even handle two pieces of paper at a time which makes this process even quicker, just use some paper clips to hold the paper together to prevent shifting (though they shouldn't shift that much).

Do the same for your front address picture or use the now cut out back to measure out the dimensions for a plain backing (use paper clips and cut as usual).

Now for the fun part. I'd just like to remind you that while paper is really fun to sew, if you do make a mistake, you'll have to reprint and recut everything again. Once holes have been punched into paper, there's no going back. So. Deep breath. Take a front sleeve and a back, paperclip them together, and starting on one side, run a straight line around the edges with your sewing machine. You could get fancy with the thread (different colours for top and bottom stitches) or use a zig-zag or other stitch, whatever you want (I'd love to do two different colours one of these days, but I hate changing bobbin thread so whatever's there is there -- until I run out). Just be sure to keep it close to the outer edge. Don't freak out if your line isn't perfectly straight or if something goes wonky with your bobbin thread and the back looks, um, challenged (as some of mine turned out). I think that sort of stuff really adds to the charm of homemade. Besides, even though you can plainly see all of those imperfections, everyone else will be going crazy for the idea and the gift and won't even notice or care (if the post office girls were any indication).

Once you've gone around three sides, slip your CD into the last open side, push it down into the pocket so it doesn't interfere with your sewing needle, and sew the fourth side shut.

That's it! Now you can put a stamp on and send it wherever you like! (Or just hand it over as a nice little, prepackaged gift.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

friday fixations

{celestial seasonings holiday teas} I'm so glad I found these! Some blog somewhere put the idea into my head (by proclaiming that Nutcracker Sweet was their be all, end all for holiday drinks -- that's all it takes for me #easilypersuaded). I like them all; but if I had to put them in order of favourite to not as favourite, it would definitely go Gingerbread Spice, Candy Cane Lane, and Sugar Plum Spice (this one leaves a weird taste in my mouth). Also try combining Candy Cane Lane with the others. Delicious! It doesn't look like Nutcracker Sweet (or -- holy hell! -- Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride?!) is available in Canada which makes me so angry right now.

{tea cups} That's a really surprising addition, right? At first, all of my granny tea drinking was taking place in plain ol' ceramic mugs and then I thought, "I am the biggest idiot on the planet!" cuz I have shelves and shelves of pretty, dainty tea cups and saucers. You know, just sitting there, doing nothing. So I started drinking my teas out of pretty cups and not only did I feel pretty using them, but I realized that tea cups are perfect for tea because they're just insulated enough to keep the tea warm while you drink, but they don't keep it boiling hot for (what feels like) forever like a standard ceramic mug does (and the tea cup itself seems to stay at a reasonable temperature too). Mugs are best left to coffee and hot chocolate, I think.

{christmas music} Maybe since I'm not in a retail store every day or because we missed out on Christmas (a little) last year, I'm kinda hooked on listening to festive music during the day. This is my favourite mix to start on, then I just let it run on to the next and the next. (Actually, when I think about it, I'm probably listening to this music because it's so budgie friendly, i.e. he either sleeps through songs or chatters away with them. There is no angry squawking when Christmas music is on.)

{light effects} That perfect moment when the sun comes into the main floor living room and hits the sparkly things on the Christmas tree in just the right way so as to reflect little dots of light onto all of the walls and the ceiling. I tried to capture it in a picture, but it just didn't do it any justice. And, on the weekends, when we're lounging and watching Netflix in that room, it's fun to pull the curtains closed and look at the shadows of the snowflakes I have stuck on the window.

Here are some videos I love right now, too!

{christmas hedgehogs} Remember those "choose your own ending" books? Well, here's a super cute choose your own ending hedgehog video!

{shit girls say}You identified with at least one thing in there, didn't you? Come on. You know you did. I need more of these videos pronto.

{snl call your girlfriend} Finally! Spastic, random dancing is acceptable!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

fantasy baking list

Just because I'm not baking (much) this year doesn't mean I can't divulge what I'd love to bake (or make), like, tomorrow!

{1 chocolate covered peanut butter filled ritz crackers} I don't know what it is with me and chocolate covered anything lately, but I just want it and I want it right now. These would be so buttery and sweet with that necessary touch of salt.

{2 sriracha chex mix} Idle Husband loves sriracha. Like, loves it so much, I'm buying a new bottle at the very least once a month. I think we'd both like this a lot. Sweet, spicy, crunchy. It sounds like it hits all of the right notes.

{3 bacon jam} I mentioned this one before, but it's worth mentioning again. Mostly because at least once a weekend we have a conversation about how much bacon is too much bacon. Should we really be eating bacon once a week? Maybe we should cut down to once a month... and then we have that conversation again the next weekend after finishing off (you guessed it) another plate of bacon.

{4 low fat gingerbread cookies} Ok this one I might actually try making. I've made cookies with applesauce in the past and they turned out very cake-like. I'm so curious as to whether these are as true to gingerbread as it seems like they are. {UPDATE: I've since made these and they are fantastic! I found the dough to be extremely easy to work with -- which is rare for me -- the taste was very gingery and the texture was soft and cake-like which worked really well. These are definitely going to be my go-to gingerbread cookies.}

{5 lofthouse-style cookies} I've also mentioned these before, but I just can't get them out of my head. Still. I've also come across these other versions, here, here {UPDATE: I made this version. They don't taste quite like Lofthouse, they're more like a plain sugar cookie (just bigger and softer); but they are still very delicious} and here. Yes, that's right. I'm so obsessed with these cookies, I have four possible recipes to try. And that's saying a lot, isn't it?

{6 macaroons} I love coconut so much, I have it on my muesli every single morning. (And sometimes, I'd eat it out of the bag with my spoon, so now I mix it with nuts and raisins to stop myself from doing that.) These have been haunting my dreams so I bought another bag of coconut with the thought of perhaps making them at some point in the future (but with the thought that I could totally stop myself from making them cuz I'd eventually use the coconut for breakfast anyway). But I do have a carton of egg whites that need to be used up soon, so I might be making these more now than future (there's my grand excuse. I found it).

Other notable recipes:

melomakarona This is a traditional Greek Christmas cookie. It tastes kinda like gingerbread but they take it one step further by soaking it in a sugar syrup (one of two ways with all their desserts, I'm telling you!). I think the parents gave me their recipe, but this one is already online if I don't get around to making their's this year for you.
slow cooker sugared pecans or walnuts I can cook it in the crockpot, so I'm already 90% pro-this recipe.
five ingredient carrot cake I've had this on my list for a while now. Hello, upcoming birthday cake.
no bake chocolate pumpkin pie I'm already a big fan of her recipes. Also, can I take out the chocolate? (also, I'm all over the place aren't I? High fat! Low fat! Unhealthy! Healthy! I can't seem to make up my mind.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

wrapping ideas

You've probably started wrapping gifts by now, but I thought that if you were stuck for ideas you might like a little round-up of some of my favourite wrapping and embellishment ideas.

{1 yarn and string} With a little yarn you can create cute decorations for any package. I've also used string and I liked the look of that as well. What skills do you need to do this? None and that's my very favourite kind of DIY.

{2 make your own gift bags} I mentioned this before, but I still love it. It's a "forever kept in my brain" kind of DIY.

{3 snow globe wrapping paper} I don't think I'd ever do this as intended, but I like the round snowflakes all over each package. Maybe I'd just do that instead of going through the hassle of snow globing all of my gifts (paging Martha Stewart's team of elves!).

{4 cut out designs} I did this. It was hard to get the placement correct. But (despite some tearing) I like how it looks.

{5 sparkle tags and velvet ribbons} Anything that sparkles is a win in my book. In fact, just take a glue stick and some glitter and glitter the hell out of pretty much everything. I used a glue stick and some pretend glitter (read: hole punched coloured paper -- the hole part) and stuck it on a package in a random pattern to look kissed by glitter. Just glitter it! (That's my new Christmas slogan.) I also adore the scratchy sparkles with the soft velvet. That's a good look.

{6 burger paper} This is not a DIY unless you're really artistic or have amazing pictures of burger ingredients you can blow up and print out onto wrapping paper (hmm). This is about the only wrapping paper I've actually wanted to buy in many years. But they assume I wrap gifts in boxes like a pro. Gifts in boxes that are appropriately sized for burger stacking. (Where are those damn Martha Stewart elves?)

{7 sewn kraft paper bundles} Messy. I like messy and carefree these days. Or do I? I'm all over the place.

{woven paper} If you have a lot of time on your hands or you've got one or two extra special presents you want to decorate, this would look so cute. And with newspaper. You have to use newspaper or it will look wrong.

please note the super awesome pink hydrangea gift tag I printed and cut out myself

Also I really have to suggest you search for "free printable gift tags" (and go through the images) if you use gift tags for your gifts. I've been saving the ones I really love every year (whether I use them or not) and it makes my life so much easier to scroll through the files on my computer and choose what fits in and works for me each year than to try and find something from the store. There are so many gorgeously designed tags for free that there's no reason at all that you should buy them from a store (and anyway, good luck finding creative, design-y and unique tags in any store on the cheap).

I love printing them myself because I can print only what I need. I don't have a whole lot of people to gift to so usually I can remember who gets what, and I don't need to print out a full sheet of tags. I get what I need and I don't have a bunch of them sitting around, being all useless and taking up space (it's more environmentally friendly this way, too, I think). And if you want them sticky, just buy some sticker paper. (That's on my to-do list. Sticker paper would be really handy to have around for a lot of things.) The same principle is true for holiday cards, too.

And just for you, here are the gift tags I especially love this year:

everything! (I found the above tag here last year, but there's also a whole bunch of other Christmas stuff for downloading, including cards and wrapping paper.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

friday fixations

{cubicle refugee} I love this tumblr! Its images are all organized by colour and I'm a sucker for anything arranged like a rainbow. Swoon!

{pomegranates} In case you missed it, I found this video on the correct way to open a pomegranate and my life is forever changed. If you do some quick research on how to pick a ripe one (heavy, bright red colour, large, blemish free, firm not too soft) you'll also have no troubles finding a delicious fruit. And did you know that you can dry them for decoration as well? I've had one in my pantry for about a month now. It's lookin' pretty good!

{brown and pink gift wrapping} I've been wrapping gifts in kraft paper and using pink tissue paper as a highlight for my Christmas gifts this year. I love the look of the bright, almost neon pink against brown. Actually, I love any neon colour against brown right now. I think I might make this my standard wrapping for everything. I can easily change the tissue paper colour and kraft paper is available year round (and it's fairly cheap. I've been wrapping gifts and using mine for templates for almost three years now and I'm just finally feeling like I might run out -- but then again, I hoard all the little scraps to use for smaller items should the need arise at some point in time).

{gift bag diy} I love love love this tutorial! It's easy and only takes minutes of your time, I swear! I had a tiny gift I needed a bag for and, despite having two boxes full of premade gift bags, I didn't have a single one that was small enough yet (ironically) large enough to fit my gift. Literally 5 minutes later, I had the perfect sized bag that also fits in with all of my other wrapped presents. Genius! The only thing I did differently was in regards to the handles. I used a hole punch and some ribbon to string through and tie tight. This is a gift I'm hanging on a door -- to thank the people who helped me up off the sidewalk after I slipped -- so I wanted it to have a big loop to go over their door handle. I think I'll be ditching all of my other gift bags at the Value Village after Christmas. They're always too dumb and phony looking (and never the right size) for me to use anyway .

{baking soda and water} Do you have a ghetto toaster oven? You know, where the door is so grunged up and disgusting looking you can barely see what's inside anymore? Maybe this applies to your oven door? At any rate, I found this tip for cleaning an oven window on Pinterest and since my oven's new and the door isn't all that bad, I thought I'd give it a try on my toaster oven (which was totally ghetto). I am really kicking myself for not taking before pictures. Dumb! After two applications, I swear to all that's holy that the glass looks practically brand new again! Now, it's not as easy as they'd have you believe. Put it on! Wait! Cleaned like magic! If we're talking about at least two years of grime (in my case), you'll have to use some elbow grease (my arms are angry for not moving the toaster oven off its shelf and onto a more hip-height surface) and possibly more than one application. The major trick that I discovered is that you have to use the little cakes of baking soda (that accumulate when you're wiping it off) as scrubbers on the tough spots. They'll do (some of) the work for you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

whipped shortbread

Sadly, this is going to be the only entry in my Christmas cookie baking this year. Well, I might try my hand at some gingerbread, but I'm definitely not going to make a bunch of cookie samples to give out as gifts. That's only because I'm more likely to eat half of them myself. Hello. I have no willpower.

I thought a small package of shortbread cookies would be a nice gift for the Greek parents (especially in light of all the jam they sent us earlier this year), so I found this cute little tin (at the thrift store) for them to travel in. The shortbread is pretty Christmas-y, too, but I mostly chose it because I feel like it's a cookie they'll appreciate.

Greek confections can go one of two ways. They can either be doused in syrup and covered with a layer of sugar so thick, you have to brush half of it off to eat it or they're almost bread-like with just a hint of sweetness. Maybe a touch of citrus flavour.

So these are kind of Greek-like in their simplicity. Fairly plain looking, slightly sweet, but they have a very delicious melt-in-your-mouth, buttery texture.

Since I'm sending these in the mail, I opted out of my usual glazed cherry on top and went with sprinkles. Glazed cherries probably wouldn't look so tasty after a trip through the mail.

{whipped shortbread}

2 cups butter (salted or unsalted is fine, but it must be butter)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut the butter up into cubes or rectangles to make it easier to beat. The secret to these cookies is to beat the daylights out of the batter so it's best to make these with a stand mixer. Beat the butter on a generously high setting until well creamed. Add the icing sugar in increments beating slowly at first, increasing to a high setting (to avoid getting a big cloud of sugar in your face). Add the cornstarch in increments in the same manner as the sugar. Add the flour in increments, continually beating in the same manner as the last two ingredients (I hope you're not covered in suspicious looking white powder at this point). Add vanilla and beat to mix and whip completely. It should be super soft and fluffy at this point.

Scoop with a cookie scoop or teaspoon. Make sure to press the tops down a little before baking.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until golden.

{note} Variations: pressed with a sugar-dipped cup; pressed with a fork to make a cross-hatch pattern with sprinkles on top; add a nut on top; press in a chocolate kiss; press in a glazed cherry; squish with a clean cup and after baking, dip into melted chocolate and let cool; switch out the vanilla extract for peppermint, then add crushed candy canes to the top (or a mini one); using smaller rounds of dough, press down with thumb then, after baking, spread icing on one side and sandwich with another cookie; flatten with a clean cup, then use a stencil to get a design in the top, as seen here. (I've only done the cherry, so let me know how things turn out if you use any of the other ideas!)

{noted} For the parents, I halved this recipe so it only made one sheet of cookies. Me. Eating them all. Not going to happen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

november recap

Happy name day!
{idle husband's name day cake was really basic this year. a banana bread baked in round cake pans with leftover chocolate ganache from my macaron baking days. simple but crazy good}

I'm so happy with November! I have all of my gifts done and wrapped! I just need to work on cards now and I'm set for the holidays.

Pomegranates, you don't scare me anymore
{noticed the pomegranate seeds on the cake? I wish I had tried my new technique for opening those crazy things properly cuz I would have made a pomegranate cake instead. here's what worked for me. they're really yummy with chocolate}

Oh. I still have to decorate the house. That's on this weekend's agenda. Have you decorated yet?

Got my first ornament today!
{I received my first ornament in the swap. it came with a chocolate kiss}

And here's a little desktop photo for you for December. I hope you like it!