Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Custom Printed Ribbon: A Delight on New Year's Eve

I am so excited! I got an Epson Ribbon Printer for Christmas!  My mind is swimming with all of the things I can do with custom ribbon.  I want to use my initials like a monogram for a bookmark. I want to try some with my name and cell number to tie on my luggage. I'm going to have so much fun! Happy New Year, indeed.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jewelry Management: Snapware

I am organizing this weekend and when I was in Joann Fabric, I noticed that all of their Snapware storage containers for "ribbon" are half off.  

These clear Snapware containers are the ones that I use for my Jewelry Management (click the link to read more). I highly recommend buying yourself a few to organize your necklaces, bracelets and baubles, oh my. They are great when you want to take your jewelry on the road on vacation, or when you need a system to keep off season pieces under control in your closet.  I absolutely love them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fortune Cookie Slip Garland

I feel really happy that I came up with a cute way to craft with my hard-to-explain collection of fortune cookie slips.  Call me superstitious, but I have never thrown away a cookie fortune that was positive.  After dinner at a Chinese restaurant (or whenever we have take out), I always drop my fortune in my purse and then later stash it in an odds and ends drawer in my craft room.

Tonight when my friend Angie was over, I brought out the the drawer because I was looking for things to embellish some notecards with.  After an hour of making one-of-a-kind notecards, I started reading the pile of fortunes I had amassed.  I knew I couldn't throw them away, but what could I do with them?

A paper garland made the most sense.  Angie offered me the use of her 1 1/2" circle hole punch and I punched circles out of two coordinating double-sided papers that I happened to have.  The circles would be the perfect shape to highlight the little paper slips.  Then I threaded my sewing machine with pink thread and I sewed myself a 12 foot paper garland.  Love love love.
Look how cute it looks! Okay, I agree that my office is a little overwhelming and a fortune cookie slip garland isn't exactly what the room needs, but I love it just the same.  And this is where THIS woman creates.  I am sure that I will find a better place for it, but I wanted to show it to you right away.

This garland ticks off two of my most important criteria for crafting: beautiful and interesting.  The fortunes are inspirational and they give me a wonderful feeling of success moving forward.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Marshmallow Snowstorm: A Christmas Vignette

I am enjoying a quiet snowy morning.  There are snow flurries outside and a considerable marshmallow snowstorm has come to my little village indoors. Can you see the skaters on my mirror pond?  They are hoping for a big mug of cocoa this afternoon.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve and One Creature is Stirring...

It is Christmas Eve and one creature IS stirring! It's me in the kitchen stirring a bowl of my grandmother's Christmas cookie frosting.  I have an entire batch to frost for tonight.  In my family, the big celebration is on Christmas Eve. So today is the big day!

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays.  xo Anne

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bonne Maman makes Beautiful Jam Jars turned Bead Organizers

Lucky for me, my best friend's husband devours a jar of Bonne Maman preserves every week! She knows that I like to paint jam jars, so she asked if I wanted her empty jars before they hit the recycling bin.  Do I?!

I asked her to save the lids for me too, as I knew they would make beautiful storage containers. These beautiful glass jars would be perfect as bead storage for my jewelry making!  

It feels so good to walk into my craft room and see the abundance of components neatly organized (and dust free) on my shelf.  Doesn't it look pretty?  Thank you, Kim, for helping me to up-cycle!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gingerbread House

As you know, I love color and sugar.  It is those two forces that pull me toward the Gingerbread House kits.  I used to make the walls and roof myself with a 2-sided cast iron mold. It really is wonderful. Each side features a different style - log cabin vs. traditional.  So cute!  But...

Time is at a premium these days and I can't resist the perfectly smooth walls of a gingerbread house kit.  Make sure to buy one with a base to fit the walls into (it helps to stay together while drying) and pre-mixed royal icing that you use as the glue for the walls and decorations.

I've made houses that I've loved more, but I think my little house looks sweet with a "candy buttons on paper tape" roof, don't you?  Maybe next year you will fit in a little project like this.  They make a fun centerpiece and smell so good!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa on the Train

The gifts are on the way!  Do you feel like this little Santa, whirling through town with your sleigh full of packages?

I am not sure how I managed to snap this photograph - look at how crisp Santa and his presents are!  And the rest of the photo is an appropriate blur to replicate the rush-rush of this holiday season.  

This train set is part of my friend Pam's magnificent holiday display.  As you make your way across town this week, drive carefully and think of yourself as this little Santa and listen for the sound of a train whistle announcing the arrival of all these Christmas presents - Choo choo!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chocolate Cottage Cake After a Buttercream Snowfall

Today, I'm baking this darling cottage cake.  I am hosting our annual family tea for my aunt, cousins and sisters-in-law and I thought that a chocolate cottage after a buttercream snowfall would be the perfect dessert.

The cake pan is called Gingerbread House and it is made by Nordic Ware.  You can find it online (the link is above) or in many specialty cake supply stores.  I just love it.

My go-to cake for this pan is Betty Crocker's Super Moist Cake Mix in Chocolate Fudge.  It fills the pan, bakes evenly and has a wonderful chocolate flavor.  The buttercream is the classic butter/powdered sugar/vanilla recipe.

Monday, December 16, 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Treebeards' Butter Cake Bites

These adorable 12 Days of Christmas cupcake picks made one of my favorite cookies dessert look extra special. This is a rich and delicious bar cookie that is a wonderful addition to any cookie platter.

I made my euchre group pretty happy when I showed up with a batch of these Treebeard's Butter Cake Bites.  The recipe was first published in the Houston Chronicle years ago and is all over the internet since then, so I feel okay sharing it with you here. The credit goes to Treebeards!

Treebeards’ Butter Cake

1 (2-layer cake size) package yellow cake mix (Pillsbury’s Super Moist)
1 egg 
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, whole
1 pound powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass pan with Baker's Joy (nonstick spray with flour).

Mix one beaten egg with dry cake mix and melted butter to a moist dough consistency and press mixture evenly into pan.

In a clean bowl, beat cream cheese with 3 eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Pour batter over crust. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  (Watch carefully so crust does not get too brown. The cheese mixture should sink into the center somewhat, leaving a firmer crust around the edges. Cool, dust with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.


Source:  Houston Chronicle

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Beautiful Bed - add your own touch to linens and more

I was wandering Homegoods with my mom, telling her that I wanted to change my sheets/duvet/pillowcases to give our bed a more Swedish look and highlight my cane bed.  I was admiring red and white sheet sets in the store and mooning about design icon Katrin Cargill (who I met in 2005!), Swedish-style in a bedroom and linens.  Then she said...I might have something.

Look what she found in her linen closet.  She'd given away the duvet long ago, but she had the top sheet, dust ruffle, 2 King cases and 2 European shams in this beautiful black and cream toile. I love it! I think I'll be making myself a monogram pillow this January.

I had the cream matelasse coverlet and I dolled up 2 plain cream pillowcases with by sewing on a band of black and cream calico fabric.  Cute, eh?  

I have read studies that show that walking into your bedroom and seeing a "made bed" is good for you, literally.  It somehow show peace and order in your life and allows you to rest more easily.  It doesn't sound very scientific, I know, but it makes sense to me.  So, if a made bed it good for you, a beautiful bed must be even better!  Sleep tight!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wood Veneer Postcard Makes an Interesting Winter Display


The top of my piano looks beautiful in cream, gold, sage and blue, don't you think?  A collection of meaningful items all work together and give the eye a rest from the bright reds and jewel tones of Christmas.  My dried hydrangeas reside in an empty water bottle I brought back from England - remember
The star of this vignette is this tiny woodland scene.  It is actually a card made by a German company called Finkbeiner and found it at Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It is sold with an envelope and you can mail it! When you are ready to put it on display, you gently bend the wood veneer and fit the tab into the slot.  I love how delicate the cutwork is and it really draws your eye in.  I just re-watched the Shirley Temple movie, Heidi, and this could be the landscape leading up to Grandfather's cabin.
The fact that this display will look just as pretty in January is a bonus.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Paint Glass Ornaments with Gold Leaf

I wanted the look of high-end, department store ornaments and I got it. My simple 3 item craft project turned out exactly as I had imagined.  I must have seen an ornament like this long ago, because when I found the gold leaf paint I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted an extra large glass ball painted solid gold at the top, moving down to brush marks and then onto no paint at all at the bottom, so the tree and lights would show through the glass. Pretty specific, huh?

I was able to find a set of four (4") clear glass ball ornaments at Micheal's craft store.  I used a paint similar to this Martha Stewart brand of gold leaf paint and an inexpensive bristle brush, because I wanted to see the brush strokes.

The only instructions I can give you is that you dip the brush in paint and move it across the glass slowly and carefully.  I hung the painted ornaments in my laundry room to give them ample time to dry.  Then I put them on the tree and voila!  A fancy touch you can make yourself.  I've seen many make-your-own projects online lately and frankly, they look homemade.  This little beauty looks like it is right from an art gallery or department store.   

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Vintage Christmas Centerpiece

Ooh la la! I love to showcase different ways to display vintage ornaments and this might be my new favorite!  I turned a simple glass cloche (you can find them reasonably at the store, Home Goods) upside down, gently placed my vintage treasures inside, placed a kiwi green plate on top and holding both the plate and the cloche, slowly turned it right side up.

My ornaments are safe inside (They're dust free too!) and all I have to do is watch to make sure no one "lifts" the cloche up.  I hosted my book club this week and I placed this festive decoration on my kitchen island, surrounded by snack and sweets.  

This kind of decoration is beautiful and interesting.  In person, you can't help but admire all of the different colors and styles.  Do you remember the story of the pale pink ornament in the center?  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent By Candlelight inspiration

Advent by Candlelight is a lovely church service and dessert event arranged by a church during Advent.  The purpose is to offer a quiet evening of reflection and fellowship for the women of the congregation and community.

Our church has "table hostesses," who sign up to decorate a table, provide dessert and invite their church friends (and special guests from their lives) to sit with them at their Advent by Candlelight table.  When there are open spots at the tables of 8, the Advent by Candlelight coordinator fills the spots with church members interested in attending.  

Guests usually arrive around 6 pm, check in and receive a name tag and then congregate over punch and light refreshments as the hundreds of women arrive at the church and connect.  At 6:30, members and their guests are given a candle and program as they file into the sanctuary and take a seat.

A short service typically consists of a choral piece, inspirational readings, biblical text and the singing of hymns.  The candles are lit and the attendees file out in silence and reflection.

The next 30 minutes or so are spent admiring the tables, all lit by candlelight. The creative table decorations are a fun outlet for the hostesses to inspire and delight.  Visual and edible decorations make everyone get into the holiday spirit.  

Every year, mom and I sit at a mother/daughter table with our friends from church.  This year we were the guests and were free to relax and enjoy the decorations of our hosts.  We sat at a darling Scandinavian-theme table of red and white.  There were birch coasters for the delicate metal candle stars; red striped ribbon tied on the napkins and paper stars scattered on the table.
There were tables with family heirlooms on display - look at this beautiful, what I believe to be German Pyramid, powered by candles.  
The Wise Men and Shepherds are on a wooden circle that is powered by the heat of the candles.  The fan on top turns and allows the procession to file past the nativity.  It is a work of art.
I love this next picture, framed so that you can see the candlelight from two tables.  This is the perfect occasion to use a candelabra. 
There is an inherent calm in a room filled with candlelight.  Everyone felt special and appreciated.  The hostesses did a wonderful job designing pretty tables.
A dreamy Winter Wonderland table hosted by a mother-daughter team, Micke and Linda.  I love their collection of churches.
Look at the roses in this elegant red and white table - this feels like a party!
I love the ring of Santas around this majestic gold bottle brush tree. It looks glorious.

What a night! I am proud to say that our table was a last to leave that night. We were talking and laughing far into the evening and we just kept our conversation going as we helped our hostess pack up the table.

Would you like to see some of the tables that my mom and I have decorated?
I hope these images inspire you to host your own Advent by Candlelight table next year.

This is our "Town with a Marshmallow Snowstorm" table.
This is our "Vintage Green & Red" table.
This is our "Gold Pineapple with Red Plaid" table.
And last year's "Vintage Ornament" table.  Such fun! I can't wait until next year!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gingerbread Ornaments

I have to show you this holiday tip.  You know that I love to make Gingerbread Men to hang on my Christmas tree, but not everyone has time for that.  Look what I found at Costco! Edible gingerbread ornaments that are ready to hang! 

They show them decorated, but I would hang them with a red and white check ribbon and leave it at that.  So cute and so festive.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Delightful Gift Under $35: Holiday Gift Guide

You can have a beautiful holiday, giving all of my favorite holiday gifts...all under $35.

The only gifts that make sense to me are those that you bought for a reason. I am known for stopping my family and friends in the middle of them tearing off the wrapping paper, to tell them a little something that will help them understand the inspiration for the gift.  I like presents that will improve the life of (and of course, delight) the recipient. Here are my suggestions for some products I love and why.  Hope this helps make your holiday shopping a tad easier. Ho ho ho!

For Your Mother, Father or Any Home Cook: Digital Meat Thermometer
I live by the dial with this handy digital thermometer that tells you exactly when your meats, roasts and chicken are perfectly cooked. You set the desired temperature and it will beep when it's reached.  This gadget puts people at ease, trust me.

For Those Who Love to Bake: Kitchen Aid Flex-edge Beater
I bought myself this wonderful rubber-edged mixing blade and I can't live without it.  Made by Kitchen Aid, so you know it fits, this item is like having a rubber spatula in the bowl whirling around with your ingredients.  My sugar/butter bases have never been so fluffy.

For Any Woman with a Pulse: Elf Makeup Collection
My heart pounds at the sight of color.  And I have a soft spot for anything that slides open/has secret compartments like a Barbie camper.  Everyone will have fun trying these flattering shades of eye makeup, blush and lip gloss.  It is just fun, and that's what gift-giving is about.

For Those Who Loves Paris: Paris: Delight in the City of Light by Anne Reeves 
I am tooting my own horn by suggesting my books, but girl-after-girl has told me how much they have loved dreaming about Paris through the pages of my modern coffee table book.  How could I not pass on the recommendation to you?

For Those Who Can't Live without their Gadgets: Waterproof Beachproof iPad case 
I love the idea that we can still go to the beach and read magazines, get messages and take picures safely with this case. Yes, I relax too, but this is a safe win/win for us technology lovers.

For Those Who Like To Be In The Know: Beekman 1802 Blaak Drizzle
My friends Josh and Brent of The Fabulous Beekman Boys have an amazing company that is changing the face of small business.  Their business is growing by leaps and bounds since they won the Amazing Race. I love everything they do, but Blaak Drizzle is my favorite product they make.  "Blaak Drizzle is a reduction of balsamic vinegar, figs and the the native elderberries that grow wild around Beekman 1802 Farm and all over New York state."  I use it in salad dressing, meat marinades, with a cheese plate.  I just love it and your friends will too.

For Someone Who Loves Inspiring Coffee Table Books: Finding Delight or Moments of Delight by Anne Reeves
I was told the other day by a reader that she leaves my books on her coffee table year round.  She loves how they look sitting out as modern coffee table books and she loves the content even more. If she likes them that much, I should recommend them to you, don't you think?

For Those That Love to be Organized: Susan Branch, Year of Notepads
Susan Branch is known for her delightful illustrations and books.  The note pad set I am recommending has one notepad for each month, with "August" at the top and whimsical drawings along the border.  The set also includes post-it notes.  This was the gift that was so successful that in the 2 Christmases since I gave it, my mom has found it on her own, bought it, brought it to my house, handed it to me and said "I want this again."  If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Upcycling: Ornament Storage Solution

I've been collecting vintage ornaments for a few years now and I want to remind you of my favorite way to store them: in Costco's clear apple boxes and clear organic egg cartons.  Save your clear containers throughout the year and your precious ornaments will have a free place to stay safe and sound. This is upcycling at its best. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Calendar: Boxes Filled With Treasures

I was over at my friend Angie's house for one of our "Glue & Gab" sessions when I suddenly, I simply had to made an Advent calendar. We usually sit in her dining room with glue, paper and scissors and work on something that has been on our mind. Angie is a real scrapbooker, with supplies and technique on her side. She makes scores of beautiful memory books and has captured a lot of wonderful family moments on some oh-so-cute pages.

I am not a scrapbooker, but my love of paper and stickers runs deep.  When I was talking with Angie, I was reminded of the super cute Advent calendar that she made last year.  She said that if I was in the mood to make one, I could use her Cricut paper cutting machine.  It starts with a simple cardboard cubby made by Scrapbook Company "Close To My Heart."  Then you need to buy 15 sheets of coordinating scrapbook paper (a selection that is a little bit stiffer than traditional paper works best).  I cut each piece of 12 x 12 paper in half and fed them one-by-one into the Cricut, loaded with the "Artistic Cartridge."  The Artistic cartridge allows you to choose "3D box; size 2.5 inches.

After all of the boxes are cut out, you can fold them along the perforations/scores and then glue the flaps together with a glue stick to create the box.  I chose a variety of green papers and I just love how it turned out.  I decided not to number the boxes as it would interfere with the overall effect.  I have been having a lot of fun choosing the stickers to adorn each box.  You can see that I am still 3 stickers shy, but I couldn't wait any longer to show you - Advent has begun!  And these boxes are big enough to hold wonderful treats!

I saw Angie make her Advent calendar last December and percolated on how cute it was all year long.  I am showing you this project now, so that maybe next year will be your year!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Baking Event: Christmas Cookies with Friends

Oh the grand plans we had for this event!  My friends and I were going to get ahead on our holiday baking.  It was to be a blitz of flour, sugar and salt.

I bought tons of ingredients, pulled out all of my sprinkles and made a pot of white bean chicken chili to bolster my friends after a long day at their real jobs.  

How did my first baking event go?  Well it wasn't a bake-tastrophe, but we didn't accomplish nearly what I thought we would. My three friends and I ate dinner together, talked all about the cookies we love and ended up with only 2 hours to actually mix and bake.  How did we think we could do this on a weeknight?   

Next year (yes, we've already decided to make it a tradition) we are going to pick at Saturday in November and really get to it.

The funny thing is that the one cookie we did mix and bake were so delicious that we ate them all.  The green "Spritz" trees were the best I've ever tasted. We mixed a double batch of this Almond Spritz recipe from Better Homes and Garden (add green food coloring to the dough) and used an electric cookie press, which was finicky, but effective, to press them out.

We had to press the button on the electric Spritz for just the right amount of time (experiment) to get a perfect cookie.  Once we mastered the timing, it was a breeze and we easily spritzed and baked 150 cookies.  Then we divided by 3 and packaged them in freezer Ziploc bags.  Then Dan and I ate or gave away most of our allotment.  These were so good I will make them again in the next week or so.

We also made to two batches of dough that we personalized with a variety of mix-ins.  The recipe can be made and frozen, then sliced and baked later.  Our base was Martha Stewart's basic vanilla dough.  The first batch was vanilla dough, so I added unsweetened coconut, white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  I shaped the dough into a log and rolled it in large sugar crystals. Then I wrapped the log in waxed paper, slide it into a freezer bag and labeled it with the instructions (Slice and Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 min.)  I can't wait to try them!


Our second batch of this dough we followed the direction in the recipe to customize it and make chocolate dough.  I had Valrhona cocoa powder on hand and we knew that it would make the very best chocolatey base. I had a lot of choices, but settled on white chocolate chips.  These cookies should taste delicious - plus a chocolate cookie will add some variety the cookie plate. Yum.

So it is December 3 and I have 2 frozen doughs and a lot of Gingerbread men. Not nearly enough for all of the guests I am having over this season.  I'd been preheat the oven and get back to work!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ribbon-Wrapped Wreath

A ribbon-wrapped wreath.  Say that 10 times fast!  My front door has a fresh coat of dark green paint and I wanted a bright and happy wreath in a contrasting color to really show it off.  Enter apple green.  I am drawn to apple green this season and when I came across this 1 1/2 inch apple green satin ribbon at Michaels Craft store, I knew it would be perfect.
I bought an 18" foam wreath form and 4 rolls of ribbon.  I secured the beginning and end of each roll onto the wreath with flat topped straight pins pushed directly into the foam.  It works like a charm.  The bow is made from one roll of ribbon, plus about half of another roll.  I tied the ribbon onto the bottom of the wreath with a simple knot and then tied two basic loop bows. Then I attached another piece of ribbon and tied another basic loop bow. I made sure to leave long ribbon tails hanging down.   

To finish the look, I used a short piece of ribbon to cover the series of knots (I placed it over the front and tied it gently behind), which makes the bow appear to be one complicated knot.  You too can make this easy but stylish holiday wreath in about 20 minutes.    

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Delightful Books To Give This Holiday Season




Gift giving hint: My books (Moments of Delight, Paris: Delight in the City of Light and Finding Delight) are all in stock and ready to ship (or be picked up) for holiday gift giving.  This month only, each book is $30 (purchased directly through me in blog sidebar. I'll credit the $5 after transaction). Oh, Santa!