I’ve been having a bit of a time getting into the Christmas spirit for reasons that will soon be clear. I did make a few attempts to get in the mood though.
One of my 30before30 goals was to adopt a family for Christmas. I had no idea how hard this would be. I work for a satellite location of my main employer so I couldn’t easily join their program, my church wouldn’t be doing theirs until far too late for me to be prepared, and when I called the country social services program they were all out before the middle of November. That’s an amazing thing for all those families but I knew there still had to be a market. I managed to find one via my last employer’s giving tree, getting a mom and her daughter. I made sure to get them everything on their list and threw in a few extra holiday treats and gift cards so they can do some extra shopping too. It was an easy project but one that did make a difference.
The other way I got into the holiday spirit was by going on my last date night of the year. Another of my 30before30 goals was to go on a monthly date night for all of 2014. Date night had to be a meal + an activity. Can I just say I chose the absolute worst year for such a goal? (Don’t even get me started on the goal for Peru…) I had my job go from decent to destructive, I got a new job, had to start a new satellite office for my employer, my husband’s job took up a lot of his time, I stopped working out, my commute doubled/tripled, someone hit my car, a beloved high school teacher of mine passed away from cancer which sent me on a minor freakout, I decided to buy a house in January and spent all year looking, and decided to sell my own home. I don’t mean to say that my year was a bad one but it was unnecessarily stressful and I really just want to move on to 2015 and all its potential. Date nights for this year were hard due to scheduling, snow, stress, and at times being a little unhappy with where things stood in life. That’s probably why I wanted the date nights more than ever but there were moments when trying to grab a meal and a movie seemed like the most painful experience in the world.
Thankfully our December date night was a much better ending to the series. All those issues from before were over. My husband and I decided to take some time off work so this past weekend didn’t have work looming over us. We took my parents out to the Lafayette Square Holiday Parlor Tour in St. Louis. Lafayette Square is an old historic neighborhood in one part of the city. It was hit by a tornado years ago and parts of the neighborhood fell into decay while others aged and needed improvement. Starting in the 1980s the neighborhood improvement picked up the pace and they started renovating what could be fixed and doing matching infill to keep up the historic charm of the neighborhood. Now upscale bars, small businesses, art galleries, and brunch spots have moved in. When you see bad things about St. Louis on the news, know that the city and county are huge places and there are so many great things here.
A few times a year homes open their doors for tours. It’s a great chance to see how people have improved their homes, their antique decor, or just their fun touches on the houses.
After making it to most of the homes we jumped to the county for a meal at Pastaria. Pastaria is run by one of the top chefs in STL and the country, Gerard Craft. Pastaria isn’t one of those snooty kinds of places though. You can get pizza, pasta, and gelato and go home happy. The gelato is always a fun experience. Last time I went I got a salted caramel. This time I ended up with a blackened carrot while my parents ended up with a parsnip one. You just never know what you’ll get except you’ll be stuffed when you leave.
Date nights ended on a good note. I hope in 2015 we can keep making our best attempts to go on date nights and they can be a bit more spontaneous and convenient.
One of my easy 30 before 30 goals was having a real Christmas tree. All this one required was going out and buying a tree and tree stand.
It’s never quite that easy. I also needed new lights since my old little fake one required so very few and then I needed a garland of some kind since I didn’t quite have enough ornaments either and then I needed a tree skirt because I didn’t actually have one before, just some fabric. Other than those little additions, this was quite an easy project.
I love putting up ornaments each year. I have always had a red, silver, and gold theme going on with my husband and then we throw on some old favorites. I’m realizing my ornaments kind of have a monopoly on the tree.
I already had quite a few wrapped gifts waiting to go under here. I’m waiting on a few more to arrive and I still have at least 2 to make. Here’s a little photoshopped up dreamy version of my tree.
Nova still isn’t quite sure what to think of the new tree. My biggest worry is that she will try to sneak a taste at the presents. She has learned how to unwrap gifts on Christmas morning and now seems to think every package just might contain a dog bone. Tough luck puppy, those are all hidden till when Santa Paws arrives.Pin It
You’ve probably seen these glitter ornaments all around but naturally I had to have a go at it. These were surprisingly easy. You’ll need two funnels, mop and glow (I used an off-brand), clear ornaments, and some fine glitter.
I poured about a half tablespoon of the mop and glow into the ornament via the funnel, then I placed my thumb over the top and gently swirled the cleaner around. Make sure to get it coating the entire inside of the ornament. Don’t shake it, that will make bubbles. Use your second funnel to pour in about a tablespoon of the glitter. Now you can place your thumb over the top and shake it till the glitter coats every last inch. Pour your extra glitter out to reuse on more ornaments or another project.
I hope you all have a Merry Christmas this year. I’ll take tomorrow off to spend with my family and hopefully I’ll have some fun things to share later this week. Happy Holidays everyone!Pin It
Do people still give watches for Christmas? I hope they do. I love watches and I hate seeing cell phones pop out every time someone needs to know what time it is. Plus, watches are such a classic for accessorizing.
My own watch was looking a little big on me lately. I like my watch to have a little bangle effect to it but it was starting to knock into my keyboard and my desk way too often. That’s where this handy watchband link remover comes in.
About a decade ago I used to work with watches and jewelry so I have a certain affinity towards them. This item here is the best tool for removing links from standard watchbands. You can’t use it for a screw-on band or for a stretchy band but it works perfect for one like mine and most on the market. The best reason to do it yourself is convenience. For under $3 you can always change your size should you gain/lose weight or just want a better fit and you don’t have to wait in those long after-Christmas lines. This isn’t a sales pitch, this is just how I use my own tool.
First up, you need to find the pins. They shouldn’t be too hard to locate as they’re on the edge of each watch link. Check both the left and right sides of the link and find the skinnier point for the link (hint- it should not have a line down the center) and that’s the side you want facing the ABC end of your link remover.
Put the pin facing the ABC side and line the pin up with your little screwdriver tool. Now screw in very gently until the pin pops right out. Set this pin aside, you’ll need it later. Now repeat this step on the opposite end of the link you are removing. The link and the second pin should fall out. You’ll want to keep that pin and link in case you need to resize in the future.
Now, time to reach for that first pin you set aside. You’re going to use the top compartment on your tool to hold the watchband on its side. Make sure that skinny side from before is facing down. Now push your pin in, skinny-side first, and give it a firm push until it clicks in place. Then you’re done!
You may want to remove links from above and below the watch face for balance and you’ll just repeat this process if that’s the case. If you’re still not convinced, the watchband link remover is also one of those perfectly priced items that will qualify you for free super saver shipping on Amazon if you’re just under that $25 mark. Don’t forget- the free shipping cutoff for Amazon is tomorrow, Tuesday 12/18/2012!Pin It
Today’s ornament is a really simple one that adds some texture to a Christmas tree. I found some gold paper on clearance at Michael’s while I was picking up the clear glass ornaments. When I got it home I decided to cut it into quarter inch strips with my paper cutter.
Once you get the strips cut (I used a dozen per ornament) wrap them one at a time around a pen or in my case, a chopstick. I would wrap them tight at an angle and then let go for the effect you see in the photo above. Have some variety in how tight you wrap or at what angle. The goal is to have a bunch of little ribbons made of paper. Then just gently slide each strand into your ornament one at a time.
When they’re all in, give the ornament a little shake just so they all jumble together. Here it is on my tree with my marbleized ornament in the background. See how well they coordinate with the gold color in each of them? This is a great filler ornament to pick up some colors and make for a matching tree.Pin It
This past weekend I tried a bit to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas can be a hard holiday for me. I feel like if I don’t get something done then I’ve let people down and if I do get it done it’s often to the sacrifice of my own happiness. Awesome, right? I’m sure I’m not alone but it’s a constant struggle for me to find some balance.
This weekend was spent trying to find that sweet spot. I went with my mom down to Cherokee Street in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, it’s a walkable street with brick historic homes and storefronts. Many shops are filled with antiques or crafts. If you visit, you’ll notice the amazing food in this area too. It’s sort of the Mexican food capital of St. Louis. Today was also what is known as the Cookie Spree where every shop on the street that is participating has a cookie tray inside. Can you say way too stuffed?
I ate lunch at a place called Neveria La Vallesana. Very good burritos there. I also did a ton of window shopping. If you want some fun places to shop, The Purple Cow, Retro 101/Cherry Bomb Vintage, and St. Louis Curio Shoppe are your stops. If you want something practical, check out China Finders, Lady Jane’s, Haffner’s Antiques, or Hammond’s Books.
My two favorite shops of the day both heavily featured antiques. Elder’s Ltd had 3 stories of some of the most beautiful antique/mid-century furniture at reasonable prices. It’s a shame I wasn’t looking for that this time but I’ll definitely be back. My other favorite was the place I got my big purchase of the day, Bella. I’m not sure my dog is impressed but I’ve got high hopes for turning this tea cart from Bella’s into a bar cart. There was a 20% off sale going on today and they gave me a great deal and I can’t wait to get to work on this beautiful piece.
Oh and notice my blue dining room rug in the background? It got moved to the living room this week. I don’t know why, I just decided to mix it up. I might end up with a new rug in the dining room and it’ll work with this new bar cart look. I’m just trying to decide if I want to stick with blue as my accent in the dining room of if I’d rather go with a bolder color. Stay tuned for updates one day on that front.
The dining room did get a bit of a new look minus the rug being taken away. We put up our Christmas tree! It may not look like much, being a $16.99 purchase from back in 2005 but it means something. The year my husband bought it was his first in a new apartment back when he was still just my boyfriend. I was really sick that winter and had just gotten some bad news that I’d need more treatment so I am pretty sure he bought that cheap little tree to cheer me up at a time where money was tight.
I think that’s the important way for me to find some balance this season. Just stop and take a step back and remember all the little reasons to try hard this season. I don’t have to do everything right or everything perfect but I should try to do it with love and care and let the pieces fall where they may.
Last year a lot of people made homemade snowglobes with mason jars and little Christmas decorations. I was inspired by the idea but wanted to go even smaller. I again took some Michael’s clear ornaments and used them for this project. My other key supplies were fake snow (leftover from my snowman ornament), hot glue, a funnel, tweezers, and mini Christmas trees a little less than an inch tall.
Start by taking the top off your ornament and sliding the tree in with your tweezers just to check for fit and placement. When you find a look that works for you, pull the tree back out, plop a little hot glue on the bottom of the tree, and then quickly slide it back into your ornament, pressing firmly but not forcefully into the bottom of your ornament and hold in place just until the glue is set.
Your next step is to take that fake snow and sprinkle some into your ornament. I found it easiest to push it in with a funnel but your mileage may vary. Just add a little at a time till you like your level.
You can mix this ornament up in a few ways. I added two trees in one of mine like the one at the top of the post. I also think adding in a mini house with some snow could be adorable too. The idea is just to make an Christmas ornament with a beautiful winter scene inside.
What does your favorite winter scene include?Pin It
I’m sure all you Pinterest junkies have seen this tutorial on how to make marbleized nail polish designs.
When I was making my Christmas ornaments, I wondered if this would be possible to adapt onto the ornaments using paint. Sadly my acrylic paint was a major fail so I decided to go a little crazy and just try out some nail polish to see what would happen. My first experiment came out a little blah but it definitely showed promise. I rewatched the Youtube video and remembered to help spread my first drop of polish out a few inches and then gave it another shot.
You’ll want to start with a plastic container filled halfway up with water and at least 2 shades of nail polish. The key here is to drop 2-3 drops in the center of your last circle. I alternated a drugstore red shade and gold shade, dropping each in the center of the last drops. The next step is to dip your ornament into the center of your marble pattern. I dipped the ornament’s bottom in not realizing it wouldn’t be very visible that way. Try instead to dip the side of your ornament in.
The polish will “catch” on your ornament and will stick to the curve of the design.
Depending on how you pattern your water design (this one had 3 separate circles inside of one big circle) you will end up with ornaments that can look similar or completely different.
I love how these came out. If you screw up, the effect is abstract so you can just pretend it was part of the look you were going for. These were the most complicated ornaments I made and also one of the most forgiving. I’d love to see these in different colors and designs and I’m already thinking I might have to go pick up some turquoise nail polish for my peacock-themed tree I do each year.Pin It
This year I wanted to challenge myself to create 5 different types of ornaments from those clear glass ornaments you can find at craft stores. I spent this past weekend trying to be creative and think of some new ideas. I wouldn’t normally share Christmas projects before Thanksgiving but I know Black Friday will have some deals at Michaels and other craft stores so I wanted to share some ideas with you before you hit the sales.
Today’s idea is one perfect for having your grade school aged kids help you put together. Just fill a clear glass ornament with some fake snow. You might want to use a funnel to help pack it in. Set up some black and orange craft paint and let the kids go wild painting on a carrot nose and some eyes and a mouth made out of “coal”. Your end result will look something like this.
It’s an easy way to dress up some ornaments. I’ll be sharing some more ideas for jazzing up clear ornaments over the next week or so. They’ll vary in difficulty so you can find a style at every skill level.Pin It
I’ll admit that sometimes in life, I can go a little overboard. I mentioned before that I had some eggs to use up before I left town for my vacation and the apple bread just didn’t cut it. I decided this would be the perfect time for me to get ready for Christmas. That’s right, back on September 12 I decided to bake 11 dozen cookies for Christmas. I made 6 dozen chocolate chip ones (recipe coming soon!) and 5 dozen of today’s recipe, M&M cookies.
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I did in fact bake 11 dozen cookies and packed them away in 3 separate containers. One container was eaten in the week before my trip. It held 2 dozen cookies. The other 9 dozen were split between 2 more containers and one is still safely tucked away for Christmas. The other has been eaten in the month since I returned. This is how I roll. I bake a bunch of cookies, eat most of them and save a couple dozen for Christmas. Over the next few months I’ll stock it with some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread and sugar cookies (undecorated), and some double chocolate chip ones. The ones I don’t eat by Christmas become a January snack, though to be honest I’m usually cookied-out by then.
I store my cookies for up to 3 months in an airtight stackable container already cooked. I just pull them out about 90 minutes before I eat them and they’re perfect.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups shortening
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tablespoons vanilla
- 6 Tablespoons water
- 5 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon baking soda
- 10 oz mini M&Ms
- Cream together the sugars and the shortening. Blend in the eggs, vanilla, and water.
- In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients and gradually add them to your wet ingredients.
- Gently stir in your mini M&Ms (regular will work as well) and bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes.