A Very Southern Christmas Card

Merry Christmas, dear readers! To round out the 8 Days of Christmas I wanted to share a Christmas card I designed for one of Carolina Pear's favorite wedding planners, Leigh Pearce. The card is just like Leigh - fun, sweet and so very Southern!
That's all, folks! See you in 2012!

Merry Kittymas!

By now we're all well aware that I'm a crazy cat lady. In case you want more proof, here's my cat and my mother-in-law's cat getting into the Christmas spirit.

Does this snow village make me look fat?


Who Doesn't Love Presents You Can Eat?

I love the idea of holiday baking - pouring all of my heart and soul into something delicious to be enjoyed by my family and friends as they gather to celebrate. Notice I said the IDEA of baking. In reality, recipes that have more than 6 ingredients make me all nervous and twitchy and then I run screaming from the kitchen. To overcome this I have collected several stupidly simple recipes over the years. I prefer things that are off the beaten path, a breath of fresh air amid a sea of cookies and cupcakes. Here's a few of the staples that get me, sanely, through the holidays.


1 bag (12-16 ounces) oyster crackers
1 pack Ranch Dressing Powder
1/4 t lemon pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
3/4 t dill weed
3/4 C oil

- Mix ranch and oil, then add other spices.
- Pour over crackers, stir and spread in a casserole dish.
- Bake at 250 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring periodically.
- If you choose to double this recipe, just bake for 10-15 extra minutes.


3/4 C dried cranberries or cherries
3/4 C natural almonds, broken into pieces*
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (2 C)
8 ounces white chocolate (1 1/3 C)
*I prefer sliced almonds because they don't require breaking, and they're easier to bite into

- In small bowl combine almonds and fruit, set aside.
- Melt semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate separately, according to package directions.
- Stir slightly more than half of almond mixture into semi-sweet chocolate. Spread chocolate mixture to about 1/4 thick on a large ungreased cookie sheet.
- Drop white chocolate by tablespoons onto chocolate mixture. With tip of a knife, swirl chocolates for a marbled look.
- Sprinkle with remaining almond mixture.

Bon Appetit!

'Tis The Season to Re-Purpose!

You might think that with all this holiday celebrating I haven't had time to make stuff out of garbage and scraps. You would be WRONG! I'm not just talking about my cheap and easy wreath, either. 

What's my mystery trashy craft project? Making reusable gift bags from random fabric! I read this blog post on Choose to Thrive and decided that I, too, could and should make reusable fabric gift bags. So, faster than you can say "Why are you doing that? You know you can just buy wrapping paper, right?" I got my kiester to the thrift stores to round up my supplies.

According to my inspiration post (which I highly recommend you read, because she can ACTUALLY SEW) you can use just about any fabric you want: clothes, linens, scrap fabric, etc. However, I am a novice seamstress so I stuck to fabric (shirts and linens) that have the maximum amount of finished edges so I didn't have to, you know, finish them myself. As you can see from my handy little diagram, I sourced my materials from many different thrift store departments.

The easiest thrifted-fabric-to-gift bag is the pillowcase. Buy a pillow case and tie it shut with a ribbon. Done and done. I did go the extra mile by tacking the ribbon to the pillow case - strenuous I know. This isn't really necessary, but it keeps the ribbon from getting lost when the gift is opened. Honestly, it took me longer to Photoshop this diagram that it did to actually finish my pillow cases.
Shirts are only slightly more advanced. I ran a line of stitching across the top of the shirt to create the closure (bottom) of the bag, making sure to start just below the armpits. To get a little more room in my gift bag sometimes I curved my line toward the collar, as shown in the diagram. The existing finished hem of the shirt will be the opening (top) of the gift bag. Then I just added a ribbon, like on the pillow case. Again, I know almost nothing about sewing or constructing garments. This seam would undoubtedly fall apart with frequent washing or regular use, but for this purpose it will probably be OK.
 Here is one of the gift bags I made using the above method, both closed and open.

 I could have broken out the sewing machine for attaching the ribbon, but I'm still lazy. Why use a sewing machine when a whip stitch will do? Bonus: if the ribbon gets all wrinkled and gross after a while, I can easily snip it off and replace it.

 The last type of fabric I used was something flat and square like a napkin or place mat. The napkin can either be tied furoshiki style...

... or tied with a ribbon...

... which is tacked onto the napkin like so:

As for gift tags, I go the cheap and easy DIY route with those, too. Each tag is a rectangle (about the size of a business card) cut from card stock with the corners trimmed with my corner rounder. I use a mini-hole punch and some baker's twine to make a hang loop and then I hand write the inscription. A regular hole punch would work just fine, but I have a small one so that's what I use. Then I just run the ribbon through the hang loop before I tie the bow.

The one thing I haven't told you is WHY I am doing this. I have multiple (equally crazy) reasons:

1) I don't enjoy wrapping presents. It's not like I despise the act of wrapping presents - I'm fairly good at it - I'm just not the sort of person that delights in finding the perfect wrapping paper, crafting the perfect bow or adding the perfect finishing touches. Plus, it makes me sad to see all that effort ripped apart in seconds. I would rather sew a few dozen gift bags once than have to wrap presents year after year.

2) Wrapping presents in paper is INCREDIBLY wasteful. The paper, the tape, the boxes, the bows - so much stuff! Many people have made an effort to switch to fabric shopping bags because it's wasteful to bring home plastic or paper grocery bags. To me, wrapping gifts is no different. Buying paper gift bags is better, but you still need tissue paper to hide the gift. By using fabric wrapping materials I am keeping wrapping paper out of landfills and recycling centers AND I am giving new life to thrift store items.

3) It helps me save money. In total I spent $30 on thrifted fabric and $5 on ribbon. That's not change you can dig out of the couch, but I feel it's on par with what others spend on paper/bows/tags/etc. BUT if I get use those bags again next year, my cost moving forward will be $0, unless I have to replace some ribbons down the line.

4) I like to be weird. I am that person that gets a kick out of saying "oh, I made that" even if it earns me an odd look. I often make things I could easily buy, but that's the fun of it. I like that my pile of presents looks different from everyone else's. Plus, I get a smug satisfaction knowing I wrapped a gift in about 10 seconds - put gift in bag, tie bow. Easy peasy.

Of course, the one down side to this hair-brained scheme is the possibility that someone will keep or *gasp* throw away one of my bags. To prevent this, I am not using a fabric bag for anyone whose gift will be dropped off and opened without me being there. In those circumstances I will either use a paper gift bag, saved from gifts we received in years past, or a brown paper lunch bag. Don't feel too bad for my friends, I jazzed up the lunch bag with a stamp and some ribbon. For those opening gifts with me, I have already dropped hints like "... that's the nice thing, I can take the bags back and re-use them next year." So I've indicated I'd like them back without having to say "I'm glad you like your gift, now hand over my bag." But I will totally keep you guys in the loop if this whole thing blows up in my face and all of my bags get trashed. And not in the fun, drank-too-much-eggnog sense.

The Rest of the House Gets Dusted With Holiday Fairy Dust, Too

Another day, another dose of Christmas cheer. I've already share my manicure, my mantle decorations and my wreath tutorial. Now it's time to let the rest of the house join in the fun, too.

When I walk in the front door I am greeted by this pillow, a family favorite, resting on my vintage bentwood chair. I blogged about this pillow last year, but I couldn't resist sharing it yet again. Last year it sat in a chair by the fire, this year it mans the front door. I love a pillow that doesn't mind a change of scenery.

Speaking of vintage bentwood chairs, the twin of the guy above is sitting next to our media stand holding a present that was too large to fit under the tree. Some may like to cram everything within the confines of the tree skirt. Not me - I like to spread the presents around the room to double as decorations. Guarding the present are two ferocious cuddly stuffed bears. I am not a fan of stuffed animals in general* and also try to avoid decorating with anything that seems precious or childish. However, I make exceptions during Christmas and my inner-softy comes out.
*I read the Velveteen Rabbit too many times as a child and therefore am convinced stuffed animals have feelings and know they've been outgrown, abandoned, etc. Feel free to have me committed after the holidays.

Just around the corner from the media stand is our wine bar which also got the Christmas treatment. I put out Luke's Santa plate (just waiting for cookies), a copy of The Night Before Christmas that was mine as a young girl, my milk glass pedestal candy dish (stuffed with Andes mints) and my year-round fruit bowl sitting atop a stack of Christmas books and filled with - you guessed it - pine cones. I'm tellin' you, you really can't beat free stuff.

Next up: the guest bathroom! As you may remember the guest room got decorated last year, and this year is no different. Some people find it odd to decorate a bathroom, of all places, but I like to be lazy and only decorate the rooms that visitors interact with. So that narrows it down to the living/dining/kitchen (you also may remember that I have an open floor plan and that all those are essentially one big room) and the guest bathroom. I also like to be lazy with my decorations. All it took to get this room into the spirit was swapping out some wall art. Bathroom - framed pictures + wreath = decorated.

I added a cheap yet adorable felt basket from Target's Dollar Spot, filled with pine cones (it's really a sickness at this point) and a swanky red candle to one side of the sink...

... and another of my childhood Christmas books on the other side. If you haven't read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree I highly recommend it. It is a sweet story about a little girl living in the Appalachian Mountains during the Civil War and it is, hands down, my favorite Christmas book. Heck, it's one of my favorite children's books in general.

Last, but not least, we have an item that has been hotly disputed in many an online forum: bathroom reading material. Some find it gross that a book or magazine lives so close to the toilet and is handled by folks while they do their business. Others find it courteous to leave things in the bathroom for guests to peruse while they sit a spell. I look at it this way: my grandmother, one of the most polite, most concerned-with-etiquette women I know has reading material in her guest bathroom. If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.

Long story short, my usual reading material tableau - a stack of books with a spare roll of TP on top - got replaced with a Christmas book and a fancy gold basket. Swanky, no? So if you come to my house and have to use the restroom you will see that I was thoughtful enough to supply you with something to read AND some holiday cheer. You're welcome.

Handmade Holiday Wreath

Yesterday I showed you the wreath I made to go over my holiday mantle-scape.

Now I'm back to show you how I put it together. I knew I wanted to use some brown craft paper I had leftover from an old project, so I headed to Pinterest in search of paper wreath tutorials. Holy cow, are there a lot of them out there! After sifting (and sifting, and sifting) I finally found my inspiration:

Now that I had my inspiration, I set out to scour thrift stores for the cheapest possible materials. Some people go the obvious route and buy a wreath form when they make a wreath, but - hello? - those things are expensive! Not me, I looked high and low for anything that was round, lightweight and cheap. The winner:

... this wicker basket, charger thing. I'll give 1000 bonus points to anyone who knows what that basket thing actually is. My favorite part? The 99 cent price tag.

"But wait," you're surely thinking, "who wants a wreath with a basket-weave center?"

Nobody, that's who. Luckily for me the basket oddity was constructed from 2 main parts so the basket-weave middle could be separated from the wicker band with just a few dozen pries with my flat head screwdriver.

In the end I was left with this round, lightweight yet oddly-asymmetrical (which I didn't even notice until I got the middle out) base on which to construct my wreath. Ta-da!

This is the part where you're all impressed.

Not as impressive is the fact that the edge of the basket was a wee bit broken. I wrapped the joint with tape to stabilize it and keep it from breaking further and called it a day. I knew the fullness of the leaves would hide my patch job entirely.

My inspiration didn't provide much of a tutorial, she only mentioned how long it took her to glue all of those little paper leaves. I made the executive decision to simplify my life by using fewer, bigger paper leaves. Most tutorials I read included making a cardboard template to trace so that all the leaves would be the same size. I did not do this because A) who has time for that? and B) who cares if all the leaves are identical? The answer to both A and B is not me. So my method was this:

-Start with several sheets of craft paper that are 22" x 32".
-Meticulously cut the sheet into 6 even strips using a ruler, a pencil and an x-acto blade.
-Realize that you're wasting your time and that speed is key. Also realize that paying close attention to your task is distracting you from the finer plot points on Glee.
-Haphazardly cut strips of craft paper that are roughly 5" x 22".
-Shoddily cut strips into 8 similar but not-at-all equally sized rectangles.
-Fold (but don't crease) each rectangle in half, lengthwise.
-Think to yourself that the someone in charge must be smoking crack because no teenage boy, gay or not, would wear Kurt's ridiculous half-sweater.

Where do you even BUY a sweater as dumb as this? It's a partial sweater, with a TURTLENECK!
image source
Also, this is stupid, too.

-Cut an arc along the open side of each folded rectangle, creating a symmetrical leaf shape.
-Using a glue gun, attach leaves to the wreath base in neat rows to assure even coverage.
-Panic because the coverage is NOT even and just start stuffing extra leaves everywhere until the wreath is finished, or until you burn yourself with your glue gun, whichever happens first.

I never kept an official count, but I think I used somewhere between 75 and 90 leaves. It is important to note that the fold in each leaf serves two important functions: it allows you to make symmetrical, non-wonky, leaves quickly AND it gives the wreath lots of depth and shadow once you're done. No one wants to look at a flat, dull wreath. And I mean no one.

You could do this with a number of different papers - patterned scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, book pages, black and white photos, whatever butters your toast - to change up the look. However, I would recommend a fairly stiff paper if you want fullness without having to make a zillion leaves.

You likey? Stay tuned for yet more Christmas goodies tomorrow. More than one post in a week? Who am I and where is the writer of this blog?

Christmas Decorations

Let's take a peek at what Christmas looks like at my house this year:

I love Christmas. Love, love, LOVE it. Give me hot cocoa and Bing Crosby and color me happy. Unfortunately being jobless doesn't pay well so I was determined to break out my not-so-inner cheapskate and do Christmas the frugal way. I pulled out my already owned Christmas decorations, as well as some things that aren't typically used for decor and went to town.

My vintage ottoman is the perfect place to lay out a few holiday books, some new and some that were mine as a kid. Luke loves to read so I like to have books stashed around the house for him. Speaking of Luke, he is the reason our tree is rocking the lights but no ornaments this year. He seems to do pretty well staying away from other people's Christmas trees, but I didn't want to risk it. Don't worry, our ornaments will be back in full force next year.

My mantle got the free and easy treatment, too. My first step was to mentally sort through what I had to work with and decide on a color scheme of clear glass, white and brown. Christmasy, right? Sorry, I've never been one to drape red and green everywhere.

On each end of the mantle I placed a glass vase (originally bought for my wedding reception) filled with pine cones from my back yard. That's right, these babies only cost me the 4 minutes it took to scavenge in the yard. And that was at night - I bet I could shave at least a minute off my time in the daylight. And I only found one spider. For those of you that prefer to buy your (spider free) pine cones at the craft store, where's your sense of adventure? One measely spider is well worth getting a whole basket of pine cones for zero dollars. Then I layered in some texture and a contrasting shade of brown with a pair of rattan votive holders - one for each vase o'pine cones - that I snagged at a thrift store for a whopping 35 cents a pop. I continued my brown scheme with some bronze sleigh bells (which made an appearance on my door wreath in years past) in a flower vase. Is it just me, or do you love unique vase fillers too?

To balance out all the brown I added a pair of vintage white tree candles and my newest milk glass bowl filled with - you guessed it - pine cones. Are you sensing a theme here? Then I finished everything off by tucking in some sprigs of greenery. I have a shrub in my yard that seems similar to a holly tree - dark, waxy leaves and red berries - so I was able to snatch up some more free holiday garnish.

Last, but not least, I whipped up a wreath to fill the open space above the mantle. I don't want to give everything away, because I have a full tutorial to share with you tomorrow, but this baby only took $0.99 and a few episodes of Glee to come together. Yes, I'm a Gleek. Is anyone surprised by that?

Subtle texture, simple color scheme, delicious shadows. Come to mama.

Well, that's it for my living room. Except for one last look at my hearth, because I couldn't help myself. I'll be back tomorrow for even more Christmas details!

Christmas Goodness, As Promised

You've heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, right? Well, times are tough so let's do the 8 Day recession version instead.

Let's start with my festive holiday manicure. I didn't want to go over the top, in-your-face-Christmas, but I wanted a little sparkle. I've blogged about this smoky grayish purple color before, and it is really hard to capture in pictures, but this is as close as I think I can get. I love that it's dark without being black, and color without being bright.

To provide the aforementioned sparkle I added a glittery topcoat. I think it looks like the night sky. Even better, I had a second job interview on Friday - I'll spill details if I hear any good news - so maybe these stars will be festive AND lucky.

A Shameless Request for Votes

Hey guys, remember me? Probably not because I'm a terrible blogger. My days have been filled with applying for jobs and forcing a toddler to eat his vegetables - which is thrilling, trust me - but it isn't exactly blog fodder. I have some Christmas posts coming your way, but in the mean time let's talk about my harrier better half.

When my hubby isn't busy being an architect or spawning adorable babies he likes to invent things. Not in the kooky guy with gears and springs way, but in the awesome build stuff in our wood shed way.

not pictured: my hot hubby

He is also just a bit obsessed with playing video games and being no more than 3 feet away from his iPad at any time. So he came up with a nifty device that will allow him to ignore me while doing both of those things simultaneously.

graphic by my hubby, who is more awesome than yours

"iPad games are limited by the touch screen. The lack of tactile response and poor ergonomics makes some games (i.e. first person shooters) annoying after a few minutes of game play. By creating a case and controller combo that connects to the Ipad port this will allow game developers to create games like Call of Duty for the Ipad and get the same experience as an x-box. By concentrating on the ergonomics of the handle, players can play for hours without their hands cramping. The ICade is a similar product that solves a problem for retro-style arcade games. This concept is trying to do the same for more modern games."

To spread the word he posted his idea to Quirky, a website that helps form introductions between developers and inventors. If you think his idea is nifty, too, click here to view his idea page and then vote for him! You get 1,000 bonus points if you share the link on twitter/on facebook/on your blog/via skywriting. Or if you're a bazillionaire who loves to invest money in awesome ideas, email me and I'll be happy to relieve you of some of your money.
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