A Vintage Christmas…Sorta

I love vintage things, but unless I make some lucky  finds, I can’t usually afford them. I was spoiled with great thrift stores when we were living in Madison. Houston thrift stores leave something to be desired. The ones with … Continue reading

This is what happens when your favorite antique mall has a store wide sale…

Things are rather busy here. I’m frantically trying to finish some Christmas gifts before we head home to PA late next week, and Ad is working his little tush off to finish his thesis. Fortunately, I made some time to … Continue reading

Warm Fuzzies

It has been a week of warm fuzzies. I love holidays and I love food, so this is a good time of year for me! Ad’s brother came to spend a week with us, and we had a friend join us for dinner on Thanksgiving Day. Our menu was roast turkey, butternut squash and barley risotto, garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli with walnut butter, green been casserole, potato rolls, wine, and pecan pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. This was my first time roasting a turkey, and after the three of us plus the internet figured out how to get the little wire metal bit out from between the turkey’s legs, things went fairly smoothly!

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Ad has been hard at work on his thesis, so while he was at school his brother and I had a thrift store marathon – 6 in a row! I found some more bits for the wedding, and this adorable vintage deer. How sweet is she?! I think this could be the dangerous start to a new collection…

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I’ve gotten in some serious crochet time recently, and have found a new favorite crochet spot. I usually sit on the couch in the living room, but I really love the light that comes into the bedroom in the morning and early afternoon. It’s the only room in our house with two windows, and the little desk in there is a good spot to get things done when I make the effort to clear a space.

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And this little guy kept me company while I worked.

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Traditionally, we put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. I always demand a real tree, despite the mess. I love the routine of selecting one and cutting it down, and I love the way it makes the house smell. However, this year we decided not to bother with it. We’ll only be here for a few weeks until we head home to Pennsylvania for Christmas, and then we won’t be back until the the beginning of February. By that time our little tree would have lost all of it’s needles, which would have been a giant mess.

So instead, I put up my tiny table top Christmas tree! It was mailed to me a few years ago by a dear friend, when I was still living in Washington and there was a period of time when we weren’t sure that we’d be able to come home for Christmas. This little tree makes me so happy. It came with lights, tiny candy canes and nutcracker ornaments, a star topper, and even a little tree skirt! Christmas lights make things exponentially cozier.

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Here’s a sneak peak of a project I’m in the midst of! I can’t wait to finish it and show you the results.

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I hope you all had a full, tasty, family filled Thanksgiving. Now…for some leftovers.

 

The Coziest Kind of Christmas Shopping

I know it’s only the middle of November, but while I’m curled up on the couch with a cup of tea watching the snow float down outside, I can’t help but think about Christmas. I’m mulling over the perfect gifts to give, which is something I probably put too much thought into. I know the point of the holidays is not really to shower people with material things, but I really do enjoy giving gifts. It’s something I look forward to for months. I have a number of gifts that I’m making by hand that are currently works in progress, but there are always some folks who it’s difficult to make things for, so then I have to buy.

I love shopping for Christmas gifts online, mostly because it can be done in pajamas! Despite the cost of shipping, I think it ends up saving me money in the long run. It’s so much easier to shop around online for the best price for a particular item, than it is to drive from store to store to check prices. Of course it saves time and gas money too. It also stops me from being tempted to pick up things I didn’t plan on purchasing when wandering through stores.

For gifts which provide some charitable benefit, Kiva, UnicefSERRV, and Heifer International are my go to websites. Kiva and Heifer International are both great options for the person who already has everything or the folks who are really hard to buy for. You can make a donation to a good cause in their honor, w/out giving them another material item to find space for. Heifer International even provides you with free “honor cards” which you can give to your giftee to explain your donation. Unicef  and SERRV both offer beautiful fair-trade and handmade gifts, particularly  some very nice jewelry.

My other best online shopping friend is Etsy. I love to support folks who are making handmade goods, and it’s always better for the environment to buy vintage rather than new. In full disclosure, this is a shameless plug for some Etsy shop owners that I personally know and love, not that they don’t deserve it!

My aunt and her friend have recently opened an Etsy shop, StichinMoms, where they sell incredibly reasonably priced fabric goods and quilts. I just love colorful pastels, so my personal favorite is this one…

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My dad also has his own Etsy shop called bittercressMCM, which features quality, vintage, mid-century modern home goods. Picking a favorite from this shop is hard, but I think at the moment I have to choose these chunky owl book ends from Blenko.

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Another Etsy shop that I like to order gifts from is EarthTenderCreations, which sells hand printed silk chiffon scarves that are made by my best friend’s mom. Every time I give one of these scarves, it’s a huge success. You can see why!

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Below are a few other websites and Etsy shops that I like to buy from…

UsefulBooks is an Etsy shop that sells funky little handmade travel journals which use recycled paper and maps. I’ve had great success ordering from this seller, and she has worked with me to make my purchases personalized. I see that this shop has also started selling wedding guestbooks now, so I might have to get myself one of those!

RockyTopSoapShop is an Etsy shop that sells some delicious homemade soaps, and it’s actually a good source of gifts for the men folk in your life (if they’re in to beer soap and beard oil).

Daedalus Books has some of the cheapest prices around on books and calendars, and a really great selection. It’s hard for me to place an order w/out throwing in something for myself.

It’s time for another cup of tea, and time to get back to those half finished gifts that I mentioned before!

 

 

And this is why we steam block, folks!

I’m in Christmas gift mode. The holidays are coming, and I am determined, as always, to give as many handmade gifts as I can. And if they aren’t hand-made, then they’ll be charitable or sustainable if possible. More about that last bit in a later post!

One of my favorite gifts to give is hand crocheted scarves. They work up quickly, and are very in style at the moment. They’re easily tailored to the recipients particular style or colors, so they feel very personal. The key to making a crocheted (or knitted) piece pop is blocking. Yarn, be it acrylic or natural, tends to be springy. I crochet pretty tightly, and the tighter the stitches, the greater the tendency that the yarn has to curl up on itself. This results in murky looking stitches, especially if the pattern is lacy. See?

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Not good. Luckily, the process of steam blocking is extremely simple and only a little bit time consuming. An added bonus is that steaming yarn makes it softer, since the whole process works by relaxing yarn’s fibers, which is a huge benefit for projects that are worn close to the skin like a scarf. So how do you steam block an acrylic piece?

1. Start by stretching and pinning your piece into the desired shape. I stretched this scarf quite a bit to show off the detailed fan pattern. Note that my pins are placed as parallel to the ironing board as possible, so that I can get my iron as close as possible. You also want the pins to be fairly close together, so that you don’t get any funny looking points along the edges of your piece.

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2. Set your iron to its steam setting, and begin hovering it as close as possible to your piece w/out touching it. I usually go for about half an inch of space, but if you’re not comfortable holding it that close, then by all means give it some more distance. You DO NOT want the iron to touch your piece, so it’s better to leave some room and steam for longer, then to accidentally get to0 close and kill your acrylic. Touching the hot iron to acrylic yarn will “kill” it, which leaves you with flattened, melted looking stitches.

3. Steam each section of your piece for just a minute or two, until the steam has been allowed to saturate the entire piece and it is warm to the touch. Denser or more tightly stitched pieces may require a little more time.

4. Once you’ve steamed, walk away (but turn off your iron please!!) and let that baby cool completely before unpinning it.

5. Once your piece is completely cool to the touch, start taking your pins out. If the piece springs back when a pin is removed, then you need to steam a little more. Replace the pins, and steam again.

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Easy, right? And it makes such a difference. Check it out:

Before Blocking…

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After Blocking…

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I added tassels on to each end, and this one is now ready to gift. If only I could keep it…

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The details for those who are interested…

Pattern: Fan-Centered Scarf, by Barbara Khouri, from Crochet One-Skein Wonders

Yarn: Red Heart, Boutique Unforgetable, in Echo

Hook: 4mm

 

Air Dry Clay Ornaments

I’m heading home to Pennsylvania for Christmas in just 2 weeks time, so the rush to finish up Christmas gifts is here. I needed something small and inexpensive to give to my boss, and one of these air dry clay ornaments was the answer! They’re inexpensive, and really easy.  You can buy air dry clay at craft stores, in various colors. I got a large container for about $12.00.

1. Start by rolling out your clay, no less than 1/4″ thick. If you get them much thinner they have a tendency to curl while they’re drying, and they’ll also break more easily.

2. Now the fun part. Choose something that you want to imprint on your clay. I tried buttons and rubber stamps, but didn’t like either of those. I settled on some doilies, ric-rac, and the netting from a bag of oranges. Whatever your choice, press it on, or lay it on your rolled out clay and give it one or two more swipes with the rolling pin.

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3. Now cut!  And poke a hole for stringing.

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Looks good, right?

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4. Let them dry on a rack for 2-3 days, flipping once or twice a day. Once they’re completely dry, sand down the rough edges until they’re smooth.

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5. You could definitely stop here, but I didn’t. I sponged over the raised parts of the ornament with some metallic champagne colored paint, to make them shimmery.

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I think I’ll be keeping this one!

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Christmas Tree Day

Christmas Tree Day happened this weekend! I had two strapping young men about the house (Ad’s brother was visiting) so I put them to work.

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But I helped too!

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Ad bought a new tree stand (our cheapo goodwill one from last year bit the dust) and put the tree up while I was out this morning. Nice, right? I wrestled with the lights and decorated it this afternoon. At the farm where we cut our tree, they were selling bundles of pine boughs for $3 each. I’ve got arrangements in almost every room of the house now, and it smells so wonderful.

On  a completely different note, how cute are these prairie dogs? We went to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, which is free (woohoo!), and was pretty much deserted since it’s winter (double woohoo!).

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And the opposite of cute…

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That one in the back just makes me laugh! He looks deeply unimpressed with life.