DIY Cones

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A couple years ago my cousin gave me this sequined tree as a gift for Christmas. I love it – I like the modern shape and it’s sparkly so it’s really pushing all my buttons. After a few years decorating with it, however, I decided it was a little lonely and needed some friends. I’ve been seeing these cones everywhere, but it seems like such a bummer to pay actual money for something that I might not be into in a couple years. I’m weird about decor like that – if it feels like an heirloom and I love it, I will spend whatever I have to, but if I feel like it’s trendy or not well made, I am the cheapest person in the world.

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Lucky for me, I had seen these DIYs a few weeks ago, and I had them in mind when I picked up some tinsel garland at Target last week. I went a little rogue on the making a cone – I just used an old clothes box and twisted it, and then trimmed the base – you can see that one of them is a little tilty. I used hot glue and it took me maybe 10 minutes to complete both of them. I love them. I love that they match, I love how fluffy they are, and I especially love that it cost me $3 to make both of them, as opposed to $10-$40. Not that those are an exact copy, but it’s the same look.

If you’re feeling like you want to pump up your holiday decor last minute, this is a great project to try. I also think it would be cool to make a mega cone that’s covered in ornaments, but that might be another project for another year.

DIY Wire Ornaments

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When we were putting up our tree this year, I realized I never shared these ornaments I made last year. I love those wire hangers that people use in wedding photos all the time, and I thought that would make an excellent ornaments. It took a little practice but I could pretty quickly make some cute ornaments that looked great tied around a bottle of wine or across a present. I actually made some that were personalized too, but a batch of our ornaments somehow went missing (?!) and I can’t find them anywhere. I’m trying not to freak out, since I’ll probably come across them somewhere really dumb in March, but I also really hope I didn’t lose the lasercut Etsy ornament I bought David last year, and a bunch of handmade stuff. (sob)

Anyway, I thought maybe you, like me, would need a last minute gift idea, and these are pretty easy! All you need is wire and jewelry pliers.

Grown Up Drinks For Christmas

christmas drinks for grown ups

Aaah, the holidays. The season of family, friends, cold weather, good cheer, and … cocktails! A problem I run into every year is that I want to drink something festive, but I can’t think of anything appropriately Christmassy that isn’t super sugary. Well, this year I’ve kept my eye out for good seasonal drinks, and I have a little something for everyone.

David and I actually came up with a couple recipes, too. We altered a couple standbys to make them feel a little more seasonal, and so far they’ve been a hit!

christmas drinks for grownups

The Nog Russian

Basically, a white Russian with eggnog instead of cream. So good, even if you’re not a huge ‘nog drinker. I’d recommend making your own eggnog, because I think it tastes way better. If you’re local, we did find some really good stuff at the Fresh Market – it’s from Homestead Creameries.

1 oz Kahlua
2 oz vodka
2 oz Eggnog

Pour the Kahlua and vodka over ice and stir – you want them to be mixed up so your eggnog doesn’t curdle. Add the eggnog, enjoy!

Peppermint Mudslide

equal parts of:
Kahlua
Peppermint Schnapps
Irish Cream

Stir together – add a splash of vodka to taste – we like ours with more of a bite.

Little Jerry

This drink is named after Little Jerry Seinfeld, for no reason at all, except that’s the episode we were watching when David came up with it. It’s been my standard winter drink for a couple years now – it’s refreshing and light, but the grapefruit and almond make it taste wintry.

2 parts grapefruit juice
1 part vodka
.5 part amaretto
Mix. Add a cherry if you like – I usually do.

I’ve been seeing some great recipes on Pinterest too:

We made this Bourbon Epice the other day and it was super tasty. We didn’t have cinnamon bitters so we just used regular and added a piece of cinnamon bark – it did the trick!

This cherry whiskey smash is right up my alley. I love any drink that has ‘smash’ in the name.

The cinnamon maple bourbon sour sounds appropriately festive.

Cranberry ginger vanilla margaritas are very on theme (red and green!) and are a tasty alternative for people who uh, don’t love bourbon.

I’ve also been really digging mulled wine. Super simple to make, really tasty, and you can pretend it’s healthy.

These spiced pomegranate cocktails sounds fruity and delicious, and once you’ve gotten the simple syrup made, easy to put together.

I saved the best for last. The winter spiced old fashioned. OH MAN. I think this girl is my new best friend.

Time to get festive!

Embroidered Monogram Ornaments

embroidered monogram ornaments

Holiday ornaments are an easy way to give an awesome gift. I love that my tree is filled with mostly gifted ornaments – I have some that my aunt made for me in the late 80s, and early 90s, and I love putting up my tree and having a nice memory attached to each ornament. I mean, not that ‘remember that time we went to Target and bought these’ can’t be a nice memory, but it’s fun when some of them have a deeper story.

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I have a ton of embroidered ornaments that my aunts made me when I was little, and I love them. So, I thought I’d try an updated version to keep the tradition alive. I don’t have any nieces or nephews yet, but I do have little cousins who I adore, and bonus – they can’t even read this blog so I can talk about it here!

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I wanted to do something with a graphic twist, so I went with big letters and fun patterns. It took me a little while to hit my stride – I would definitely recommend just doing cross stitch or straight stitch variations if you’re not a super experienced embroiderer, but it was really fun, and quick! I ended up ordering some ornament frames online, but they didn’t come with cardboard backs, which was a bummer. I think if I were doing it again, I’d get some 2 piece mason jar lids, spray paint them, and use that. It would save a lot of time cutting out cardboard circles! I also found this sweet book online - there are so many ideas for embroidering monograms in there – I did quite a few of these and I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of ideas I wanted to try. It’s a great resource. Actually, even if you aren’t going to do this project, if you are a designer you should definitely check it out.

embroidered monogram ornaments

Tell me about your favorite ornament memories in the comments! David and I both have a bunch of ornaments we made when we were little – he was cracking me up this year with his snarky commentary on the stylings of young David – some of them are pretty classic.

Easy Peasy Octagonal Tree Skirt

 

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Look, I made a real tree skirt! I felt like since I have a sewing machine now, my yard of flannel that I never even bothered to finish was not really cutting it in the tree skirt department any more.

Back when we went to the beige fabric store, I had found this fabric. It was the right price, it seemed neutral and festive, and it was kind of synthetic feeling. Usually that is a detractor, but for something that I probably won’t be washing that often, I feel like a plastic-y fabric is a good choice.

I decided to go with an octagonal shape for two reasons. 1) I felt like cutting and sewing a circle would be hard and I didn’t want to deal with it, especially since I wasn’t confident I’d do a good job and be happy with the end result, and 2) I thought an octagon would be a more modern look.

For once in my life I didn’t just immediately start hacking into the cloth, but actually went ahead and made a template to try to get the right look. Cutting an octagon, it turns out, is all about the angles, and I’m super glad I made a second template because I got it wrong the second time. I’m still not totally sure what it is about the angle that makes it an octagon and not a square, so instead of trying to explain it to you, I’m just going to link you to this tutorial on how to cut an octagon out of paper, so you get the idea.

I did cut a little circle out of the middle, because nobody’s going to see that anyway and I wanted to give it a try. Cutting out of that many layers of fabric was tough, so what I did was lay a ruler down and cut a couple layers, and then cut the rest using the already cut layers as a template.

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The rest of it was just hemming, and then adding a trim. I used a very stretchy trim, which was a BAD IDEA because that sucker was a bitch to keep straight. I had to go back and sew a lot of it by hand, so I’d definitely recommend a nice stiff trim that won’t freaking shift around every time you think you’re on track.

I like it! I think it looks nice and festive, and it should definitely get us through a couple years. Most of my sewing projects right now I am assuming I’ll want to redo in a couple years when I have some real skills, so I’m glad this fabric wasn’t too expensive or precious. I would say that having a white skirt with a real tree is kind of a bummer, because you can see every needle shed – a real problem when you have a dog whose favorite pastime is backing his butt into your tree as you shout ‘no! Sit!. I’m starting to wonder if he’d mind if we tied his tail to his leg for the season. However, as the month goes on and we get some presents under there I don’t think it will be as noticeable.

What does your tree skirt look like? I just saw on Design*Sponge that the new thing is having a basket instead so now I feel like a real dummy for making this skirt – whatever, I don’t have the space to store a basket anyway.

 

I Made Felted Stockings

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I’ve always been a little stocking obsessed. When I was small my mom made my stocking that still hangs in our home today. I loved it – it’s got applique and little bells on it and it was basically like a toy that got filled with toys. I’ve also always liked the idea of filling a sock with gifts. I am on board with anything involving gifts.

So I was pretty excited when David and I decided to hop on board the stocking train last year. We bought tiny stockings from Target after we realized that actual, nice stockings are hella expensive, and I decided to make some ‘next year’. Well guess what, bitches. Next year is here!

felted stockings diy

I was going to put this off for another year, but then I found these and knew I had to make them. I used ecological wool, (that store got me my wool within the week, btw) and this pattern. (I added 15 rows to the top so that I could fold it over). They knitted up super quickly, and felted up even better, which was a huge relief. I’ve never felted anything before, so I am very happy that they turned out so well and all my knitting was not for naught.

I do want to embroider mine and David’s initials in white yarn on them at some point, but honestly I’m kind of scared to mess them up, so maybe I’ll get them monogrammed? I don’t know.

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Here’s a shot of them in our space. We don’t have a mantel like all you lucky people with fireplaces, so we hang them over the bar. It’s real whimsical.

Chris-MIX 2013

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If you hate holiday music you should just move along, because this post is going to really annoy you. I LOVE holiday music. This should come as a surprise to no one, since I like to think I am a pretty festive person in general, and I completely buy into every kind of special holiday crap there is. That being said, I feel like holiday music tastes are usually very specific, because it’s usually so rooted in what you listened to growing up, and your normal taste might not apply. I know for my family it was the Carpenter Christmas album, and you can think whatever you want about them, but Karen Carpenter has the voice of a beautiful angel, and Merry Christmas Darling is my (very sad) jam.

Regardless of personal taste though, holiday party mixes are one place where you need to get it right. There are only about 10 different songs, so if you aren’t careful your guests will be listening to six different versions of ‘Blue Christmas’ in a row and that’s kind of a bummer. I know you’re reading this and panicking about your upcoming party, but don’t worry because I have you covered. Bet you didn’t see that coming! I made this playlist with a couple things in mind – no repeats close together, long enough that you can put the entire playlist on repeat and it won’t feel repetitive (it’s 2 hours long) and mostly upbeat, jazzy songs. Perfect for getting the energy up at your party, but not distracting.

Click here for the chrismix playlist on spotify.

I’m also including the link to my regular Christmas playlist. This sucker is 7 hours long, and it’s basically just a dump of all the songs I like.

Gifts (you can make) Guide: Boozy Stuff

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This is a running joke between David and I – we are always gifting/receiving alcohol for Christmas. It’s kind of the perfect gift, because we tend to like gifts the gift-ee can consume, and if you know the person’s taste, it’s pretty easy to get something you know they’ll be excited about. HowEVER, I worry it looks like we’re obsessed with alcohol. We aren’t. Just unimaginative.

This gift guide isn’t going to help with that perception. Did you know you can make just about any kind of drink you can imagine? You can make your own gin! You can make your own bitters! You can make cherries that will knock the socks off the little red dye no. 40 cherries at the grocery store, and I know for a fact that homemade Bailey’s is 100% tastier than the store bought stuff. The best part about all of these is that they’re super impressive, and don’t take that much effort, just a little time. So no excuses.

Brown – You can infuse your own bourbon, which sounds so tasty. There’s this mint flavored bourbon, which is genius for your friends who are obsessed with juleps, or cherry infused, coffee flavored, or if you’re really bold, bacon infused. I have had bacon bourbon before, and it’s good – I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to try it myself, though. If you do, please let me know how it turned out! You could also make homemade Fireball whiskey, if you are okay with admitting you like Fireball. I’ve tried it. I liked it. They took my snob card away.

ClearDIY gin! DIY gin! I SO want to try this. You could also infuse your own vodka, if you’re into that. I’m not a huge vodka person, but I think it’d be cool to make some more unusual flavors, like black pepper, or cilantro. Those would be good in bloody marys.

Liqueurs – What a strange word to spell. Anyway, this is where some real fun is to be had. Make your own peppermint schnapps, Kahlua, or Bailey’s Irish Cream, or limoncello – all of these I think taste better than store bought. If you’ve never heard of krupnik, it is an excellent gift/drink to try. It’s very good served warm, and super spicy and sweet – my aunt was into making it 6 or 7 years ago, and I remember liking it, but thinking the alcohol taste was too strong. Luckily my taste has matured since then.

Syrups & Mixers – You can make just about anything into a syrup – my favorites are strawberry syrup, ginger syrup, and a raspberry/lemon one I came up with – take a box of raspberries and the peels from 2 lemons, and simmer in 4 cups of water until the raspberries have lost their color. Filter through a fine mesh seive. Stir in 2 cups of sugar, and add more to taste, stirring until it’s dissolved.  Be careful when stirring the fruit – you don’t want to disturb it too much, or else the final syrup will be cloudy.

This homemade tonic syrup recipe is intriguing too – way cooler than using canned tonic! It would also be cool to make bloody mary mix – just leave out the booze. I’d use the bloody rooster recipe, since everyone loves sriracha.

Garnishes and bitters – How cool is this candied grapefruit zest recipe? I can see substituting lemon, or lime too – any of those would taste awesome as a drink garnish. I also love this brandied cherry recipe. I am a huge fan of cherries in drinks. It’s like a little snack to make you feel better that your drink is gone. I think making your own bitters sounds exciting and fun, especially since flavored bitters are kind of expensive to just buy on a whim. Jessica from How Sweet Eats has a good recipe for some fun flavors, and if that’s not your thing, here’s a recipe for regular bitters.

I think that’s it for homemade alcohol ideas! If you have any good ones (I’m thinking like secret family recipes, holiday traditions, etc etc) please leave them in the comments – I love that stuff.

Gift (You Can Make) Guide – Eat It!

gifts you can make guide - food

photo courtesy of how sweet eats.

Okay you guys, I can’t help it – I’m making some gift guides. I wasn’t going to, but I have so many gift ideas that if I tried to make them for everyone I would go broke and insane, so I’m just going to leave them here to hopefully inspire you instead.

Today’s gift guide focuses on ideas for group gifts, which is one of my favorite concepts. What’s better than making a big old batch of something and dispensing it among your friends and loved ones like a benevolent, maybe a little sleep deprived Santa? Cookies are, of course, a great standby, but as much as I love cookies, they’re pretty time consuming, and you have to make a lot for it to be an actual gift. I do not consider a bag with two cookies in it a gift. That’s more like a cookie appetizer.

Anyway, it’s fun to mix it up, and with minimal effort and cost, you can make some pretty sick gifts. Let’s get down to it.

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Popcorn – remember when your dad would come home from the office with that big tri tin of popcorn? I would about dive head first into that thing – but now I can just make my own and pig out on popcorn whenever I want. I think a little trio of homemade popcorns would be adorable, but any of these would shine on their own, too.

Caramel Corn, Cheesy Corn, and here’s something called Chicago Mix which I have never heard of, but I am definitely on board with. You could also try something a little more out there, like these peppermint crunch bites, or fluffernutter popcorn. There’s also Italian breadstick popcorn, sweet and spicy wasabi popcorn, or bacon popcorn. You could even just go totally lowbrow and add ranch powder, (and cheese powder too?!) and tell everyone it’s a special mix or something.

I mean, don’t do that. That’s lying. It’s still tasty, though.

Truffles – delicious, you can mix in literally anything and be heralded as a genius. Roll them in crushed oreos. Or sprinkles. Or nuts. Mix in rum. I feel like this idea is super obvious, but it’s a cliche for a reason. Here’s a good basic truffle recipe, or you could get fancy and make something different, like eggnog truffles, chocolate coconut truffles, peanut butter truffles (psych, those are buckeyes!), or these cabernet chocolate truffles. You may notice a lot of these links are from How Sweet Eats. Jessica basically dominates the truffle game.

Caramels – I freaking love caramel. It’s my favorite. The cool thing about this is, while it’s kind of time consuming to wrap it up, you could make a huge batch, spend an evening cutting + wrapping + eating it, and have caramels for days. There are a lot of cool recipes out there too, to make you seem like you tried extra hard.

You can do regular caramel, chocolate covered caramel, caramel with marshmallow inside (send me some of that), salted caramel, whiskey caramel, apple cider caramel, basically, please make these all and send them to me. Thanks.

Barks – I like this because you don’t have to be precious about making sure it looks good – you’re supposed to break it up! I found recipes for cake batter bark, peppermint bark, or double chocolate peanut butter bark. I love that sweet and salty. I saved the best for last, though. S’mores bark. I am so hungry right now.

SaucesCaramel sauce is obviously a clear winner in my book, as well as praline sauce. I think it’d be cute to give this with a pint of ice cream as a hostess gift. You could also make chocolate peppermint syrup, which would go great in ice cream OR would make homemade peppermint mochas. And since it’s hot chocolate season, it would be perfect to pair with a jar of homemade marshmallow fluff. 

You could also just make straight up marshmallows and give them out with little tins of hot chocolate mix.

SAVORY

Salts – Did you know you can make your own flavored salts? I found this site that has a ton of recipes, but my favorite were the wine salt, chipotle lime salt, and sriracha salt. You can also make your own lemon pepper! 

Olive Oils - I think flavored olive oils would be a really nice gift as well, especially if your friends and family like to cook. (Although I mean even if they don’t… you can dip some bread in that shiz and it’s amazing.) This is a good resource for how to do it. I think garlic olive oil would be bomb (although be careful, this article says that using raw garlic can encourage botulism so uh, don’t do that!). You could also get kind of crazy and try infusing it with black pepper and lemon, paprika, vanilla beans (for making things like olive oil cake or olive oil ice cream – which I’ve tried, and it is delicious.), basil and cilantro, jalepeno and lime, or rosemary.

Pickles – Pickles are pretty easy to make, and super delicious. A while ago I went through a phase where I would make my own pickles and then eat them on Ruebens, which was amaaazing. You could make spicy dill, garlic dill, bread and butter, or sweet pickles. Make them all and give people a pickle quartet.

I saved the best for last. This onion and pepper relish is my crack. It sounds weird, it is so good. You put it on a block of cream cheese and eat it with crackers, how could it not be good? Make a double batch, and keep half for yourself, that’s how good it is. I made this a couple years ago, and it was a big hit. I was going to can it, but I chickened out at the last minute, because I have a fear of poisoning people. Not so much a fear as a healthy concern, I think. Anyway, make this. It’s delicious.

Okay, that’s it for today. I didn’t expect this to get so out of control, but stay tuned for part two, the boozy gift you can make guide.

Happy Thanksukkah!

Welcome to the best weekend of the year. I hope you’re ready.

According to my grandmother, this is the only time that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will coincide in 8000 years. I am not sure where she’s getting her facts from, and I’m not totally sure I believe her, since this is the woman who also makes up ‘Yiddish’ words, but I am very much on board with this scheduling miracle. Hanukkah can tend to get overlooked in my family, since there’s always so much going on this time of year, but tonight my whole family will be together, and we are going to eat the crap out of some latkes and light candles like it’s our job. It’s gonna be great.

I had planned to list out a few things I’m thankful for, but it kind of feels a little braggy for some reason? I also wonder why you would care, because I mean, as much as I love everyone, I kind of don’t care what you’re thankful for? Don’t wanna read about it, will maybe make you write it down and take a picture of you.

So instead I will just say that I am very thankful for all the love in my life, for my good health, and for the opportunity to chase my dream every day. I hope you all have those things in your lives too, and I hope you eat a truly ridiculous amount of food tomorrow. Don’t leave me hanging, guys.

I’ll be back on Monday!