Category Archives: DIY Projects

Christmas Recap, Part 1: The Cookies

And suddenly… it’s almost a week after Christmas. Everyone I know seems to share the same sentiments- there’s about a month of anticipation and preparation for the holidays, and then, it’s all over. I’ve been in some weird holiday-real world limbo for the last few days, where I’ve been making bargains and compromises with myself. Things like, “Let’s try to wait until after lunch to dig into the sugar cookies today” and “Put the new Kindle away for a couple hours and knock out the editing work you need to do.”

Speaking of the Kindle… Yes, I got one for Christmas. I told myself that even though I was mainly interested in it as a reading device, I should just ask for the fancy Kindle Fire so I’d have more flexibility and be able to read the colorful, glossy, digital version of Bon Appetit. However… so far, about 95% of my time with my Kindle has been playing games like Endless Escape (this involves puzzles and cleverness, so I’m not ashamed about this) and something ridiculous called Sky Burger (more ashamed about this).

Back to the cookies. As usual, I had lofty cookie aspirations this year. I bought ingredients for four types of cookies, but after making just two batches of dough, I found my cookie energy waning. After all, there were gifts to wrap and a tree that, as of December 22, was still not decorated. And I had to make these customized magnets for our friends (because they love their kitties as much as we love ours):

cat magnets

Hey, check out that Christmas card!

Thus, my Christmas to-do list required some prioritizing, and I had the freeing realization that I didn’t have to bake all the cookies before Christmas. And really, other than a tube of almond paste, all of the other ingredients could be used elsewhere if I decided I didn’t want to make the cookies at all.

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Ultimately I ended up making the following:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies.  These are the same cookies I made for our wedding. That time, I tripled the recipe and spent three days baking them. All the wedding excitement must have blocked out one key thing from my memory: I hate making sugar cookies. Don’t get me wrong- these are delicious and if you are a more patient person than I am, they are worth the effort. But what I discovered last weekend is that the process of rolling out dough, cutting out cookies only to have half of them get messed up because the dough is too soft, balling up the dough and re-chilling it, and then going through the process again was more than I felt like doing. So, sorry folks, it will probably be a while before you get more of these from me!*

Thumbprint Cookies. Made especially for my husband, who has a weakness for pretty much any sort of fruit filling when it is enclosed in a buttery, sugary womb, regardless of whether it is a homemade pie or a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. These are not very different from the Trios I made last year, except they’re just single cookies rather than clusters of three with different fillings. In other words, these are way less tedious, which was apparently the major criterion in my cookie selection this year.

Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Are these ginger cookies masquerading as chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies disguised as ginger cookies? I think they are just the best of both worlds. I added a dash of ground ginger in addition to the candied ginger. And Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are wonderful in these. I don’t think I can go back to Nestle.

*To be honest, not many people got cookies from me this year, and I feel guilty about that… There was some poor planning in terms of organization/storage containers/running late to family events and not having time to assemble containers to take with us. It was not my intent to bake five dozen cookies only to keep most of them for ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Which is why there will be another cleanse in January. More on that soon.

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Random Moments of Happiness: Days 24-25

Day 24: Online DIY Crafts. What is it about this time of year that suddenly makes me want to make crafts? Eleven months out of the year, I have nothing more than the occasional fleeting thought about wanting to DIY anything. But as Christmas creeps near, suddenly I find myself stalking blogs and Pinterest boards and having an urge to raid the aisles of Michael’s or Hobby Lobby for hot glue guns, decorative paper, hole punches, and Xacto knives.  Last year, I made about seventy (give or take) gift bows out of magazine pages.

Most recently I’ve been lurking about How About Orange.  Who knew you could make tiny boxes out of paint swatches, or that paper snowflakes could look this good? And there might just be some other ones that I’m not going to share right now in case I want to use them for Christmas presents….

Day 25: Awkward Family Christmas Photo Shoot, 2012.Yep, it happened. We still have to design the cards and get them printed, but the hard (and fun) part is over.  I still can’t tell you very much. But I will tell you that my sister (our photographer) at one point said, “This just seems wrong.” And at another point, “I’m uncomfortable!”  Mission accomplished. Don’t worry, we compensated Emily for her time and discomfort. With chili.

 

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Random Moments of Happiness: Day 4

Several years ago, Nick and I made our own Christmas card. What started as, “Hah, wouldn’t it be funny if we sent out Christmas cards with a picture of our cat?” somehow evolved into this:

Why yes, that is a Winnie-the-Pooh holiday jumper that I’m wearing. It was corduroy and had plaid flannel side ties. I kind of regret that it went right back to the Goodwill after we were finished with the photo shoot.

How could we possibly top that?  Let me rephrase that: How could we possibly top that without alienating or offending anyone included on our Christmas card list?  There have been several possibilities thrown back and forth over  the last few years, but most of them would require either the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster or the purchase of alternative cards to send to some of our relatives.

So 2010 and 2011 passed with no new attempts to make a new card. But this year is going to be different.

I can’t tell you much at this point without ruining the surprise, but I can tell you that Nick and I went to not one, not two, but three Goodwill stores yesterday to find the perfect attire. We actually found my clothing, and our inspiration, at the first stop, but it took Nick a bit longer to find something that somewhat resembled his artistic vision.

You’ll have to wait another month or so to see the final product, but I think it’s gonna be good.

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My New Favorite Thing: Needle Felted Critters

This blog entry is dedicated to my mom.  Because I know she’ll like it and I’m pretty sure a good combination of nature and nurture from her is why I got so excited about this topic.  As my dad put it, my mom “likes little things that look like the big things.”  (Let’s hope that doesn’t apply to everything.)

It’s a good thing classes haven’t started yet, because then I might feel a little guilty about the amount of time I spent last night browsing Etsy for handmade, pocket-sized animals.  Why was I doing this?  Well, because I happened to notice  that one of my favorite bloggers, Movita Beaucoup, had a page with some needle felted animals she crafted, like Morley.

Image by Movita Beaucoup

If I was lucky enough to have Morley live with me, I am pretty sure I would carry him everywhere.  And probably talk to him.  Because the way his head is tilted clearly indicates that he is a good listener.

So then I got curious.  And suddenly it was three hours later and I had flagged twenty-five little fuzzy animals on Etsy.  Here are some of my favorites:

This little guy comes with his own home!

Hamster with crocheted play hut by BitsofFiber

Of course there were lots of cats who caught my eye….

Oliver the Orange Kitty Cat by LittleElfsToyshop

Eskimo Kitty by Lazzi217

There are sooo many bunnies I want to share with my sister!

Easter Bunny Baby Rabbit by SteviT

Bunny Friends by darialvovsky

Black & White Bunny by TCMfeltDesigns

Teeny Tiny Gray Bunny by LittleElfsToyshop

Apparently you can actually get custom sculptures of your pets!  I told Nick that if we ever find ourselves in a position to lavish each other with extravagant gifts, I would like a custom needle felted version of Bailey and Matilda.

Custom Two Kitty Pin Cushion by BayColonyDesigns

Custom Poseable Dog by GourmetFelted

There are even DIY kits you can purchase!

DIY Brown Cat kit by HanamiBoutique

But my favorite….?

Axolotl by CreturFetur

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Fun Project: Recycling Magazines into Gift Bows

My sister is one of the “greenest” people I know.  When she is giving me a hard time for not recycling the lid from my Starbucks latte, I might say that she is obnoxiously eco-conscious, but 99% of the time I really appreciate and admire her conviction.  I think after living in close proximity to her for the last couple years, Em has worn off on me.  She’s the reason that I finally started remembering to take my reusable shopping bags into the grocery store with me and why I am slowly replacing our cleaning supplies with more environmentally-friendly products.

Emily is also incredibly creative and artistic, and I was impressed last Christmas when she created her own gift bows out of magazine pages.  So last night when we had plans to hang out and I was feeling crafty, I asked if she would show me how to make these bows.  Thus, I have to thank her and give her credit for this.

Warning- this is kind of addictive.  If you’re the kind of person who gets sucked into a novel project and obsesses over it for the next couple days, this warning is for you.

I believe Emily got the idea and instructions from Whole Living.  Somewhere along the way I got it in my head that there is an extra strip of paper required.  I changed the center part a little bit, too, so these are a little different….  I did go back and try to follow the directions exactly.  I like mine better.

All you need:

  • some colorful pages torn from magazines
  • double-sided tape or adhesive dots
  • scissors
  • a ruler
  • a ball-point pen
  • a sturdy box to store your final product (particularly useful if you have cats who might mistake bows for cool new toys)

Why yes, this is a Fruit of the Loom advertisement.  But I promise you, once it is cut up, you’ll never recognize it as underwear.  (Although I told myself the same thing about an Always ad and then the brand logo ended up prominently on top of the bow.)

If the back side (heh- no pun intended) of your page is a lighter color, I suggest using that side to draw your lines.  Vertically, divide the page into ten 3/4-inch strips.

Leave three strips the full length (they should be about 11 inches).  Trim three strips to 10 inches long and three strips to 9 inches long.  Cut two 3 1/2-inch-long pieces from the final strip.  So, to recap you should now have:

  • Three 11-inch strips
  • Three 10-inch strips
  • Three 9-inch strips
  • Two 3.5-inch strips

Start with the little guys (the 3.5 inchers).  Form one strip into a loop, fastening with tape/ adhesive dots, overlapping ends of loop as little as possible (to maximize width of loop).  Insert other strip through loop and fasten ends to form another loop (like chain links).  Use adhesive to anchor the loops so they look like this:

Next, work with the long strips.  Holding the strips with the desired side face-down, twist each end to form a pointy loop, fastening the ends in the center.  The loops should have the desired color facing out.

Starting with the largest strips, layer them, attaching with adhesive.

Finish by placing the double loop in the center.

To make mini bows, adjust to the following measurements:

  • Strips should be 1/2 inch-wide
  • Three 7.25 inch-long strips
  • Three 6.75 inch-long strips
  • Three 6 inch-long strips
  • Two 2.25 inch-long strips

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