Wednesday, November 30, 2011

decking the halls

Today I'd like to welcome guest poster Christina Johnson who's going to share some ideas and tips for updating your holiday decor to create a modern style that's festive and fashionable. Without further ado...

(image via Ballard Designs)
The holiday season is close upon us. This is a great time of year when we can flex those design skills to create a warm and inviting home or stylish Manhattan apartment for the holidays. Design trends change every year and there are so many options for creating a striking Christmas theme. Digging out old decorations is a good place to start. Take a good look at what you already have, and explore new ways that you can use them. Keep the family heirlooms and your favorite decorations, and look at ways in which you can incorporate them with a theme you have chosen or with a current trend. Those green and red beaded garlands have probably seen their day, along with the tacky discount ornaments and knick knacks you may have bought 5 years ago. It’s time to toss them out and try something new.
Reflect on a style you like or a theme you want to try. It does not have to be elaborate, but it helps to have a well formulated plan or theme. Here are some important things to consider when deciding on Christmas decor.
(image via Centsational Girl)
Rethinking Color: The traditional Christmas colors are green and red. Should you stay with this combination or go for something bold and different? Try working with different shades of the same color, like navy with light blue, fuchsia with baby pink. The effect this creates is elegant and pleasing. 
You could even stick to one tone for all your décor, choosing from bold, striking colors like silver or gold. A popular trend is to mix gold with silver. This theme works very well even when you add splashes of rich jewel tones like burgundy, eggplant or forest green, all of which add balance to the striking beauty of gold and silver. A mono-toned white theme also works beautifully on its own and when combined with silver or gold.
(image via Martha Stewart)
Focusing on Details: It’s always the little things that matter; even when it comes to décor. You don’t have to go for a big decoration overhaul. Look at what works with your existing décor. Add a few pillows, light some candles, rearrange your artwork. Some twinkle lights artfully placed around a fireplace can infuse a room with Christmas cheer. 
(image via Room Service)
Get a variety of pine cones and arrange them in baskets. You could even spray paint them to match your color scheme! Candles add a beautiful touch and can be combined with any theme you have in mind. Place some ornamental Christmas balls in a clear glass container. This looks great as a mantel piece or could add color and sparkle to a coffee table.
(image via Miss Mutard Seed)
Decorating the Tree: There is no cure for cabin fever like decorating a Christmas tree. Whether your tree is artificial or the real thing, the possibilities are endless. You could go for single toned or multi-colored lights. But remember, first the lights, then the garlands and last of all the ornaments. Sticking to this order simplifies the decorating process. Single tone decorations, especially in white, gold or silver make for a stunning Christmas tree. Choose a skirt that enhances the décor on your tree. A simple skirt works well if you are using many colors on your tree. If you are going mono-tone or with a theme, you could add a rich skirt that complements the theme or color scheme.
(image via Dommie)
Playing Mix and Match: When your tree comes down, take a few of your favorite ornaments and place them around the house to add some punch to your existing décor. Twinkle lights from the tree when placed over doors, keeps the mood festive long past the last carol sung. Changing the ribbons on an artificial wreath can take it all the way into spring.

With a little planning, some creative thinking and a willingness to try something new, you can create a tastefully decorated home for the holidays and beyond.

Thanks for the inspiration, Christina! I can't wait to break out our Christmas decorations and get started. I'm thinking brown paper packages, red ribbon, and lots of woodland animals. How do you plan on decorating for the season?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

our advent calendar / a DIY tutorial

With Christmas right around the corner I've had lots of projects going on, and I finished this one just in time! I've been wanting an advent calendar for a while but haven't found an affordable one that I like, so I decided to make one.
For this project you need a self-healing mat, ruler, and rotary cutter (or just a plain ol' pair of scissors), alphabet stamps (I got mine at Michaels for a dollar!), a stamp pad, twenty-five mini envelopes (mine are from Paper Souffle), twenty-five mini clothespins (also available at Michaels for just a few dollars), a hole punch, a corner rounder, ribbon and/or yarn, and a list of Christmas activities. As you'll see, some of the materials are optional. Ready for my favorite part of this tutorial? The Christmas activity list is available for you to download and print! The link is located at the bottom of this post. Hooray for freebies!
First, I used the alphabet stamps and an ink pad to mark each envelope with the days leading up to Christmas, beginning with "one" and ending with "twenty-five." You could just as easily use numerals instead. The brown ink wasn't extremely visible on the brown kraft envelopes, but I just went with it.
Next I printed out the list of activities on card stock and selected the ones I wanted to do (it's five pages long so you can choose your favorite ideas). I cut them down to size - about 2" x 3" - using my paper rotary cutter, ruler, and self-healing mat. If you don't have those things on hand (I have them for quilting), you can just use scissors and eyeball it. Just remember that the cards need to fit into the envelopes!
These next few steps are optional... I rounded the corners of each card,
punched a hole in the top of each one, 
and threaded a short length of ribbon through each hole.
Finally, just slide the cards into the envelopes! You can choose which day you would like to do certain activities on and pay attention to the dates, or just insert them randomly and be surprised each day. Some of the ideas on the list might not make sense to you. "Eat seven fishes on Christmas Eve," for example. That one only applies if you're Italian or married to one. "Construct Lego Santa & his reindeer" might not be applicable in your house either, but Matt has a kit he's been making every year since he was little, so that's a big one in our house. While compiling the master list, I used some of Jordan's ideas, some of Danyelle's, some from here, and then of course lots of my own. There are forty-four activities (there were supposed to be forty-five but I realized I created a near double after I uploaded the file!) so you I hope you can find twenty-five that will work for you.

If you're looking for the free download, it's right here!

P.S. Here are twenty-five more awesome advent calendars.

Monday, November 28, 2011

it's Christmastime!

Now that Thanksgiving is over I think we can finally say it's official: it's Christmastime! This week I have some fun things lined up, including a special seasonal tutorial and a guest post. And of course, we have to watch Elf. What better way to welcome Christmas? 

Friday, November 25, 2011

hello weekend

(image via Nag on the Lake. I couldn't resist posting another vintage Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade photo!)
First things first: happy birthday to my most wonderful husband, Matt! Our plans for the day are completely up to him so for starters we're having our furnace serviced. Just the sort of thing I like to do on my birthday. Not. Really, though, I'm looking forward to celebrating with him throughout the day. We're having one of our favorite meals for dinner - black bean & sweet potato tacos - hooray! Then tomorrow Matt is working on a Christmas film with some teens from our youth group, and afterwards we're meeting some friends for dinner. I'm bringing chocolate pretzel pie and I. can't. wait. to eat it. One thing I'm definitely not doing this weekend is going shopping! Are any of you braving the crowds?
And now, the link love.
- here's some good news for those of you shopping in Providence this weekend
- a thank you note in calligraphy is always pretty. plus, this one's free!
- love the idea of how Sharon started The Little Cafe
- download and print this cute (and free!) 2012 owl calendar
- these style tips gleaned from the J.Crew catalog are spot on 
(my favorite is number six - ha!)
- this Christmas tree in miniature (well, as miniature as you consider three feet tall to be) is on its way to our house!
- make this sweet and simple chocolatey gift to give to friends (or just keep it for yourself, I won't tell)
Hope your weekend is well spent as you recover from Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

P.S. I forgot to report back on last Friday's dinner and dessert - the roasted butternut baked penne was fabulous! I did make a few changes though - doubled the recipe, only used Pecorino Romano (my fave) because I didn't have Parmesan or mozzarella on hand, mixed the sauce in with the pasta instead of pouring it on top, and I fried the sage leaves in butter instead of using them fresh because when are sage leaves fried in butter a bad idea? Sadly, the brownies left something to be desired.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

giving thanks

(image via Peaches by Plums)
In honor of Thanksgiving, here's a list of ten things I'm thankful for - 
1. the love and hope found in Christ
2. my family, especially Matt and Ezra
3. our church 
4. spending every day with Ezra
5. good friends
6. all the teachers I've had over the years, especially a few who inspired me to become one 
7. that I've developed sewing skills with the help of my friend Lorraine
8. the ability to enjoy delicious food, specifically cheese and chocolate
9. that I have all five senses
10. blogging (I know, I'm a dork)
Today I'm celebrating the holiday with family and friends. How are you spending the day?
{Give thanks to the Lord for He is good Psalm 107:1}
P.S. Kermit looks like a great 'live-on-the-scene' reporter, doesn't he?!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

for the love of rustic poptarts

Ahh, breakfast, you are my least favorite meal of the day.  You are often hurried and rarely satisfying, but I think I found a way to make you enjoyable.  Pop tarts, enter stage left.  And no, I don't mean the kind that come two to a silvery sleeve.

The flaky, buttery crust was a savory complement to the sweet homemade strawberry rhubarb jam inside. Once again, a yummy breakfast rescues my morning from the pit of despair, when I usually find myself contemplatingwhich is worse: buttered toast or plain oatmeal. Now if only homemade pop tarts weren't so labor-intensive...
(recipe from Bon Appetit)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the tiniest mermaid

My friend Amanda's daughter Sophie was born eight days after Ezra so we were looking forward to celebrating their birthdays around the same time.
My original plan was to make Sophie a little gnome like the one I made for Ezra, but when I saw this tutorial I knew it would be perfect.
I changed my mind because Amanda was planning a swim themed party for Sophie so a mermaid was a much better complement to her ideas than a gnome. 
We bought The Tiniest Mermaid to go along with the little doll.
P.S. Don't you love the wrapping selection at Target?

Monday, November 21, 2011

homemade bagels

Homemade bagels... what a wonderful way to start the day, don't you agree?
Now that Matt has mastered making bread in the bread machine he's moved on to bigger, err, smaller and better things. Well, at least they're better to me. I think he still likes plain ol' whole wheat bread the best. 
Mmm... a toasty bagel slathered in butter with a cup of tea. The perfect way to start a Monday morning.

Friday, November 18, 2011

happy weekend

(imaga via Design by Kelli)
I am so looking forward to dinner tonight - I'm making penne with roasted butternut squash. I get chills just thinking about it. Then for dessert I'm going to make black bean brownies. Yes, I said black beans and brownies in the same sentence. I will admit I'm a little scared, but I'm optimistic and will let you know how it goes. If they are repulsive there's always these. As for weekend plans, it's birthday parties for us again (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), along with a bridal shower on Saturday morning. Which means I've had lots of fun wrapping gifts lately! My new found skills will come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.
As usual, here are some links I wanted to share with you...
- definitely want to have a pinterest party in the very near future... who's with me?!
- I'm thinking my father-in-law's fighting fish Saint Rocco could use a nice getaway to a fish hotel. I think I'll tell him to put it on his Christmas list.
- some thoughts on holiday shopping
- here's healthy change forty-six
- don't these look like the perfect weekend pants? hence the name, I suppose...
- visit London and you can pretend you're engaged to Prince William
Hope your weekend is spectacular!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

monsters at work and at play

My friend Briten took some photos with her iPhone of her kids playing with their monsters from Ezra's party.
I heard that one monster suffered the loss of his eye but thankfully Briten is handy with a needle and thread and performed surgery. He's currently on the mend with a button as a replacement.
The best part about these monsters is the names the kids gave them - Pinkberry, Mr. Freeze, Garf, and Cherry Pie. What?! I love them!
Even the Casey the King Charles Cavalier wanted to play :)
{exhausted from all that imaginative play}

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a big quilt

Remember these fabric strips? Well, I finally have a finished product to show you. This here quilt is the biggest quilt I've ever made, and I must confess - it took me waaay longer to complete than I thought it would.
I went with a simple design of striped blocks that I alternated placing vertically and horizontally with solids mixed in, too. Now that I look at the photos, it's kind of like a maze. A really easy maze.
It's a queen size quilt, but it won't completely cover a queen size bed. It's meant to be folded at the foot and used on chilly nights for extra warmth. 
Simple straight line quilting different widths apart seemed like just the thing to both echo and complement the different stripes in the quilt.
And of course, my assistant was on hand for the photo shoot.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

spaghetti squash & a snack

Recently we had roasted spaghetti squash for dinner. One half was savory - vegetable broth, Italian herbs, and grated Pecorino Romano (mmm... salty). One half was sweet - vegetable broth (I know, not really sweet, but it worked), cinnamon, honey, and butter.
I had to scoop out all the seeds to make room for the filling but I didn't want to toss them.
I figured I could roast the seeds, too, just like pumpkin seeds. What's the difference, really?
They came out perfectly toasted and deliciously salty. Side note: do you like my pot holder? My cousin's daughter Kennah made it for me when we first moved in our house a little over three years ago. It's my favorite pot holder.
This tasty little pile of spaghetti squash seeds quickly turned into...
this sad looking empty-ish dish and napkin strewn with seeds. They were gone before the squash was out of the oven. Guess I just have to make some more!

Monday, November 14, 2011

a monster bash

Now that the dust has settled, I'm so excited to finally share Ezra's birthday party. My friend Keri snapped lots of photos for us and I'm so thankful that I didn't have to worry about capturing all the little details.

The theme and decorations were all based on Ezra's Ugly Doll and the colors of Ezra's room

Upon entering the room (we used our church's fellowship hall), guests were greeted by Ezra's stuffed animal collection. 

I hung one photo from each of his month shoots on the wall... after looking at them all lined up I couldn't believe how much he changed from month to month!

This photo book was created on Shutterfly to use as a guest book.

Of course we had to have pom poms. Three hung over each table as a vague pom chandelier.
My mother-in-law, my mom, and I baked up lots of sweet treats for all our guests. We served coffee, tea, water, and Yacht Club soda.

{rice krispie treats} 
(made with fluff, the secret ingredient, instead of marshmallows!)

{vanilla cupcakes}

{fruit salad}

{chocolate cake pops}

There was a 'sugar cookie decoration station' for the kids (inspired by this party), although I think a fair amount of adults got in on the frosting and sprinkle action. 

Ezra was much more impressed with his little cake when it was topped with a flaming candle than when he was allowed to dig in...

Rather than eat it himself, Ezra decided to share some with his Uncle Brendan and cousin Jacob.

I'll admit it was a little dry. He must have been parched.

Each place was set with an orange monster, er, a clementine with a googly eye - (idea from here)...

...the eyeballs seemed to migrate to human foreheads very quickly. 

I got the idea for the 'adopt a monster' favor from party perfect, and then a few months later found these great patterns for mini monsters. My mom and my aunt along with my cousin's daughters (ages 9 and 4!) worked overtime to help me get these finished in time.

Many thanks to everyone who helped us celebrate Ezra's first year!

P.S. Check out the awesome gift that Keri made for Ezra!
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