Friday, December 30, 2011

A Very Happy New Year to You & Yours!

Wishing your family a healthy and happy 2012!

Thank you for checking in on us this past year...
Its been great fun and I hope you have enjoyed our time together.

Lots of love,


Monday, December 19, 2011

One Week To GO!

And the frenzy was in full force this weekend at our house....

It was a cookie-baking, card-signing, candle-making marathon and I can proudly say-- 

I made it to the finish line!  

(but barely!  : )

The highlight of the weekend:
(besides awesome cocktail party at neighbor's house...
complete with awesome baby-sitter at our house!)

was how wonderfully a couple things turned out...

First, I have to tell you--if you have never made meringues...


I promise you: it is the easiest thing in the world to make and you will amaze everyone with how elegant and lovely they are...same goes if you have never even had one--YOU MUST TRY ONE-- SOON!  

They are wonderfully delicious (AND! only like 25 calories a pop!)

I have always been totally intimidated by them, 
so--of course, when I saw the cover recipe in Bon Appetit, 
I had no choice: I had to try them.

Peppermint Meringues
Bon Appétit  | December 2011
by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez


  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 12 drops red food coloring

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about 1 minute. With mixer running, gradually add sugar in 3 additions, beating for 2 minutes between each addition. Beat until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes longer. Add powdered sugar and peppermint extract; beat to blend, about 1 minute.

Dot coloring over surface of meringue; do not stir (the coloring will form swirls when piped). Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip. (alternatively, spoon into a plastic freezer bag, then cut 1/2" off 1 corner.) Twist top; pipe 1" rounds onto prepared sheet, spacing 1" apart.

Bake meringues until dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Let cool completely, about 1 hour (meringues will crisp as they cool). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

Next up:  Soy Wax Candles

For gifts this year, I made candles from soy was simple, fun and easy...and considering how expensive candles can be, I will definitely be making more.  

I bought a big bag of soy wax chips from Brambleberry and added a block of color...
once it all melted down, and it was off the heat--I added the essential oils: 

Cranberry Fig to the red and Siberian Pine to the green.

I poured them in water glasses I bought from Ikea.
Totally lovely and (I think...) a nice gift!

 And lastly, for today:

Home-made Chocolate-Caramel Christmas Bark

With roasted almonds and sea salt....

Dark chocolate gets melted and poured onto parchment paper.
Then, once set, milk chocolate does the same...I drizzle the butterscotch over the milk chocolate and
sprinkle with about a cup of roasted almonds and a dash of sea salt.  

I press in the almonds so they stay put...

 It gets broken up into bite-sized pieces and it pretty much never stays around long...
But it makes a great gift, too.

there is something I just cannot refuse about the salty-sweet combo.

just totally love it...

Did I mention the meringues are only 25 calories each??

: )

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ideas for a Home-Made Holiday Mantle

 Christmas is in full-swing at our house.
We got our tree this weekend--so all the boxes of decorations came out too...We were busy!

During the last two weeks, I've also been busy collecting ideas on how to 
decorate our mantle this holiday season...

(or, really, I should say I've been ripping off  the gorgeous propping and photo shoots I have seen in the million of catalogs we seem to get this time of year...)

It started with the Garnett Hill catalog...I fell in love with their (out of stock and kind of pricey) felt tree trio...check them out here.  As soon as I saw them,  a) I LOVED them and b) I knew I could make them...but then I thought...hmmm, I bet someone else out there has made them too.  

And sure enough:  check out the directions I found from Sew Homegrown here.  
I did use the paper mache cones that you can buy at Michael's...Very inexpensive and easy to work with.

Here is an overview of the mantle so far....

Oh! These little cuties are so, so sweet and I want to make a million more...I made these 2 years ago and if you love all things tiny like I do...make a couple...they were not that hard at all.
Directions here.  From Martha...

The houses are paper mache that I bought thru Hobby Lobby's website.  
I think for the three of them (small, med & large) the set was $10.  I painted 
and sprinkled glitter on them...I want to cover the windows and door with tissue
paper, so I can put a battery operated candle in them so they glow, 
but probably won't get around to that anytime soon....

The snow globe was fun to make...Got the idea here.

The topiary needs some fine tuning, i.e. smaller berries...but this was
easy to make.  I got a moss ball at the craft store, put a stick in it and then put
it in a little pot I add, using some floral oasis foam to keep it put.  
I covered the foam with moss.

The little critters are ornaments that I got on sale at Macy's.

It still kind of a work in progress, but my thinking was part village, part forrest with woodland creatures, part whimsey, and part mercury glass...I love mercury glass!!  I need to invest in some good pieces; these here are just cheap knock offs...but for now they do ok....

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Holidays Are Here!

The holidays are here and YIPEE!! I love them so much...I am especially excited because for some odd reason this year, I am WAY ahead of my usual scramble-at-the-last-minute schedule.   Christmas cards ordered: check!  Christmas gifts shopping for cousins and friends: check!  Home-made Christmas gifts for teachers and friends figured out, supplies ordered and ready to roll: triple-check!  

All by December 5...not bad!  
What makes things even nicer is pulling out the holiday crafts I have made in years past...
that are already done!  

that I made for the kids last year.

If you google "home-made advent calendars" (and click images) 
there is gaggle of interesting and fun ideas out there...I looked at  ALOT OF THEM--everything from Land of Nod to the craft blogs...

And in the end, the one I ended up making was one that I designed myself because I wasn't seeing anything that suited me exactly right.  I have one place to put it and that is on the back of the front
door, so it had to be long and skinny...I loved the color scheme of:

Red, Hot Pint, Dark Green, Medium Green and like a lime Green

At Christmas time, Trader Joe's sell chocolate coins (from money around the world)
and the make a perfect little treat for each pocket.

This year, the kids put four in each pocket--just so Greg and I can grab a bite
of chocolate as we are headed out the door....

Did I mention how much I LOVE the holidays...

Here are some shots of the outside of the house.

Josie, The Christmas Dog...all she needs is red bow!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgivings, Past & Present


I love Thanksgiving SO so much--I really do...I think it could easily 
be my favorite holiday.*  Its just about good food, being with family 
and having a little down time--which is always so needed.  

Beyond all that, of course, is the fact that Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reflect on
 how fortunate we, as a family, are... and to be thankful for all that we have.  
This--more than anything, is what I hope
we can instill in our children about this holiday.

I am the crazy mom who, night after night, tells her kids
 if they haven't cleaned their plates with 
"Right now, there are children starving in Africa 
because they don't have enough food to need to eat all your dinner, 
because I am NOT throwing any of that food away!"  

Yes, that is me...and I am unrelenting in this when it comes to throwing food away. 
I don't do it, I loath to do actually kind of breaks my heart if I ever have to toss good food.

But anyway, back to Thanksgiving...there is SO much to be thankful for, but
if I can just get my kids to really, REALLY understand how wonderful and
precious good, home-cooked food is and for them to really be thankful for it, 
I will feel like, in a big way, I will have succeeded as a parent.  
Because then, they will know what a priority wholesome food is 
and with it, they will nourish themselves and their loved ones.  

And honestly, that is all that I can ask for.

Onto the crafts...This is the GIVE THANKS banner I made two years ago.  Pottery Barn Kids
did something similar (and was the inspiration) but as I recall it was around $60+ and
there was no way I could spend that kind of money.  

So, I made one.

Here's a detail shot...I used old buttons, felt, yarn and my trusty hot glue gun.

It was fun to come up with different ideas for each letter; like each was its own work of art.
And it just adds a nice warm and festive touch to the house...

without going TOTALLY over-board--

which is what we did in this next photo...see below.

Yes, there is the thanksgiving table, in all its glory, circa 2010.

I got it in my head two or three years ago that kids would like to play with puppets!  I mean,
c'mon...doesn't every kid like a cute puppet?  Well, my kids like these for all about 5 minutes 
and then they are off to something else, but I can't help it...I still put these guys out--even if its 
only me  that plays with them!

*And just for the record, I think it was totally awesome of the Native Americans to share their food with the pilgrims and teaching them how to grow local seeds and fish in those early Thanksgivings of the 1620s...I DO NOT think it has been so great how the anglo folks have been treating the Native Americans ever since...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Craft: A Vintage Book Leaf Wreath-For My Sister

 There is something so warm and wonderful about a beautiful wreath--hung on the front door...
welcoming you inside.  And there seems to be something so traditional about it too.
but traditional in like an ancient Greek and Roman kind of way.

From Wikipedia:

The use of the laurel wreath arose from the Greek myth involving Apollo, Zeus’ son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne. When he pursued her she fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her, in which Peneus turned her into a laurel tree. From that day forth, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head. This became associated with what Apollo embodied; victory, achievement and status and would later become one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece and Rome.

The Romans use of laurel wreaths echo the Greek traditions. The wreath was a symbol in the arts, literature, government and education in Roman society. In the arts, it expressed that one was valued and respected with a laurel wreath resting atop one’s head. Ovid, the famous Roman poet, is almost always depicted with laurel in his hair. Kings in both Greece and Rome donned the laurel wreath to illustrate sovereignty. Julius Caesar for example, proclaimed the laurel wreath "to be a symbol of the supreme ruler." The wreaths worn by kings were reminiscent of the traditional laurel wreath by the shape and its connotation yet were embellished with gold and gems. This eventually led to the modern day crown.

But then, there is the origins of the Advent wreath:

In Christianity, wreaths are used to prepare for the Advent season or the "coming of Christ." The first known association with these now modern day wreaths dates back to the Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. In 1839, Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath made from a cart wheel to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach. For every Sunday of Advent, starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he would put a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he would use a red candle. The Advent wreath is constructed of evergreens to represent everlasting life brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represents God, with no beginning and no end. The Advent wreath is now a popular symbol in preparation for the coming of Christ, to mark the beginning of the Christian Church’s year and as décor during the Christmas festivities.

So, yes...very interesting!  I like to know the origin of the objects in our lives that maybe we take for granted or maybe we have no idea that this every day object had its roots in Greek Mythology--
 Just fun to know!  

My latest wreath-making project is something I wanted to make for my sister...I got the idea/inspiration/directions from Martha Stewart...See here.  
I thought this was a fitting gift and its a fun twist on an OLD idea...

I took Luca's vintage copy of Robinson Crusoe 
(SORRY LUCA!!--I will replace, I promise!)
and cut out about 60 leaves...
and then cut out another 30 because the dogs chewed up 1/2 of the first batch! 
(but by the end, I was a pro!)  

To do this: I cut out and glued together two pages, 
with floral wire in between them.  I then cut out the leaf shape and then wrapped
brown floral tape around the base...(all very clear in Martha's directions)

and I winded and twisted them onto a circular base that I made out of more wire 
and finished the whole thing off with a pretty bow...

I think it turned out really well, but what is so cool about it is that if you get 
up close and really look, you can see some of the illustration details.  This is fun
and kind of makes the wreath come to life a are some examples:

So, there is it is: my vintage book leaf wreath for my sister.  A nice warm welcome
for her door and fun to look at too...

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spaghetti & Marshmallows!

Last week, I came across this AWESOME BLOG!!  I cannot even believe how awesome this blog is...its called What I Made--and it is hands down, one of the coolest blogs to look at for kids and adults around.  I found this post about spaghetti and marshmallows and thought that would be a fun thing for me and the kids to do--so this past weekend, we got a bunch of spaghetti and a couple bags of marshmallows and tried our hand at making some, ahem...towers...

First, you start with your building supplies.  
We went for your basic spaghetti and your average marshmallow in regular and mini.

Its a little sticky and takes a light touch...

but then, you kind of get the hang of it...

and Volia!  Our first structures emerge!

Its kind of all about using exact lengths of spaghetti...but c'mon, who were we kidding??

We were just having fun.

Magda did build a tower that got pretty tall.  Very impressive; she realized quickly that the cross pieces helped to reinforce and give more stability.

But in the end, just how stable can a mini-marshmallow be??

Sadly, her tower went down in a blaze of glory...
in a kind of slow-motion, folding over on top of itself sort of way....
Which made us all laugh.  A very fun project which we highly recommend!