Monday, December 28, 2015

Holiday Matchboxes

I can't resist things that are colorful and tiny. It's why I love dollhouses and candy and making matchboxes into art pieces!

I made at least 12 holiday matchboxes this year and had fun handing them out to friends and family. I used to sell little collections at art shows and I still have a few for sale here.

I use scrapbook paper, glue, sticker embellishments (have you seen Michaels Craft store at the holidays lately? They are loaded with cute decorations like these.) and let my imagination go wild.

I just knew you'd like them!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Heart of Christmas

It was a year of changes for us. Christmas away from family, without my dad and in a little apartment we now call home. Truly bittersweet.

We are lucky in so many ways. Healthy and strong with good jobs and a bright future in an exciting part of the country. We are together and we are forging a new path. I tried my best to make a beautiful and cozy Christmas for Dan, my mom and me.
When I was in Michigan in November, I packed a box of Christmas decorations and mailed them out here, making sure to include one of my vintage nativity sets

The light was streaming into our apartment window and it gave my little gathering a happy mood. It was only later when I was looking at the photograph that I noticed one ornament was reflected in the window. A single heart.

Wherever you are this year, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holly Wreath: A Magnificent Holiday Decoration

I had never seen a wreath made of real holly before - what an accomplishment! The many points of each holly leaf is sharp and I am sure that constructing these wreaths is a challenge. But it is oh so worth the effort! 
I took these photos on Nov 27, 2015 and at the time, each wreath cost about $55 at Squak Mountain Nursery and Greenhouse. When I returned a few weeks later (looking for amaryllis bulbs about to bloom), I noticed that they were all but sold out. If you are thinking of buying one as a give next year, shop around Thanksgiving for the greatest selection.

Have a HOLLY jolly Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Waterlogue: My Ideal Christmas Card

I want to remind you about my favorite app, Waterlogue. This magnificent piece of software can create a watercolor of your favorite image in minutes. There is really nothing more to say, except that I LOVE it and intend to use it to create custom Christmas cards next year. I want to take a pretty photo of our "new" living room with a decorated Christmas tree and use that as our card. We will be in a house again someday, right? For now I am enjoying this image immensely and wanted to share it with you.

Once your waterlogue watercolor is created, you can save it as a JPEG and then upload it to a holiday card printing site to create cards in volume.
This is the photograph I used to create watercolor above. I caved and bought a huge artificial tree at Home Depot (a Martha Stewart brand) and it is perfect. My husband loves Christmas too and I didn't want to be practical and buy a skinny nothing tree just because it would make sense.  This tree makes sense to us.

Merry Christmas! And order yourself the Waterlogue app! It is about $5 and you can use it over and over again to create "original" watercolors.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Card Display: A Tree

I wanted to show you a Pinterest success! I had to change the materials and process, but the inspiration came from a blog called Thyme is Honey. She used IKEA clips that attach to wall and went on from there.

I decided that I could use removable Command strip light clips and a string of white lights. That way I could use Scotch tape to attach the cards to the white wire between the lights and I wouldn't damage the walls in our temporary digs.

It looks so cute, don't you think? I taped a folded sheet of tissue paper to the wall to create a visual trunk. As the cards come in, they go right on the wall. My "no-where-to-set-anything" apartment stays tidy and my Christmas cards can easily be read and admired.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Seattle: Urban Craft Uprising: A Maker Show

I have longed to have face-to-face contact with a vibrant community of makers and I think I have found a place to start meeting people.

Though I founded my ANA cigar box purse business twelve years ago, over those years I have mostly kept to myself, creating and selling one item at a time to individuals, after a short burst of juried art shows. 

I have an Etsy store online as a showcase of my inventory, but I find most people want to look long and hard there and then come choose a cigar box purse, Delight magazine tote or jewelry item in person. 

I am very interested in opening an Amazon Homemade online shop (the moment they offer accessories as a category) because the world headquarters for Amazon is in Seattle, my new home! I want to support them with my brand and be available for events and perhaps, speaking for women entrepreneur conferences.

As I walked through the broad offering at the Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, I thought to myself, this city is where I belong.
The December-event for Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle was impressive. The items for sale were of the highest quality and were often made with small batch manufacturing machinery (letterpress, laser cut etc.) which creates a reliable consistent product. Other vendors had the irreverent feel, like a knit hat that looked like a roasted turkey, complete with white paper flounces on each drumstick/ear flap; definitely crazy, certainly fun. She was the clearest example of the we-are-makers-and-we-make-what-we-want philosophy.
My favorite fabric store (in Seattle or anywhere), Pacific Fabrics had a beautiful display of kits, fat quarter fabric squares and various notions designed to raise my blood pressure. I bought an advent calendar panel from them last year and I can't wait to have a house so that I can show it off to full advantage.

I highly recommend attending an Urban Craft Uprising - they are held once every Winter/Summer and they have an extensive selection of interesting, high quality gifts, kits and quirky mementos. 

When you see a Gift Guide in Country Living, Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living magazine, they are exactly the caliber of items you'll find at this show. Come back and shop!  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sugar Cookie Recipe: Goggle Anne Reeves

A reality in this modern world. It is easier for me to google "Anne Reeves, sugar cookies" on my phone to find my grandmother's cookie recipe, than it is to find her vintage recipe card in my new apartment. 

It is odd but true. Since I have blogged for 8 years (forgiving a major chunk of this difficult year), my google results are quick and accurate. I am living in an apartment for a year or so and I have knitting supplies in my ottoman, jewelry making tools in stacked hat boxes and silicone pans in my sideboard. Finding anything is a challenge and I find myself looking up myself to have access to my own recipes. I thought you would appreciate how funny that is.

For your convenience, I am including my famous Sugar Cookie recipe here.

Nama's Old Fashioned Rolled Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter in mixing bowl. Beat in sugar, egg, milk & vanilla. Add flour, salt & baking powder. Mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap in waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour. Use plenty of flour on board, rolling pin & cookie cutters to prevent sticking. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper) for 5-8 minutes.

Nama's Frosting

Mix 2 Tablespoons of hot water to 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix with knife. Tint with a drop or two of liquid food coloring.

Note: Using hot water makes the frosting shiny. Add drops of hot water as needed to perfect consistency.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fresh Cranberry Cake is lovely at Christmastime

I was first introduced to the idea of a rich buttery cranberry cake by my friend Kathleen. I was so taken with it, in fact, that I urged her to offer it for sale in addition to her famous scones. I didn't want to bother her for the recipe, so I started searching online for something that sounded similar so that I could bake it for Christmas.

This recipe is my go-to for fresh cranberry cake and was published by a woman named Alena in Spain. We were halfway through this cake (above) when Dan announced that he'd like me to make it again. Immediately. Please note that I do not make the sugar/nut topping that she states is optional. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Simple Holiday Centerpiece: A Juniper Bough

As you know, my husband and I am in a small apartment in Seattle this year and my grand holiday style had to be downsized considerably.  

The kitchen table acts as a hub for eating, frosting cookies, Christmas card writing, bill paying and the like. So I wanted to have a holiday centerpiece that I could move easily. This year, the answer was a fresh bunch of juniper (look at all of the gorgeous dusty blue berries!) tied with some ribbons and a trio of glass votives. It is simple and festive. I bought the greens at our local super grocery store (I know!) and the cost was around $4. Oh, and the scent of pine was won-der-ful.

What do you use as a holiday centerpiece this year?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Beekman Boys at Target: Farm to Shelf

I want to highlight a wonderful new product line called Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry at Target, created by my friends Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge (aka The Fabulous Beekman Boys). You might know them from their television show, or as winners of The Amazing Race or even from a cookbook signing at the Country Living Magazine Fair. 

I went to college with Josh and I am so very proud of the brand he and Brent are building. You must read their version of this exciting partnership. It not only brings the produce of small farms to the shelves of Target, but actually directs a portion of the profits back to small American farms. 

That is a Win-Win that is truly Fabulous-Fabulous.
It takes a great marketing mind to encourage fans to take a "shelfie" - a photo of themselves with a stocked shelf of Beekman 1802 product at Target. I obliged and posted it on Facebook to help lend my support to their growing brand. 

You can read my blog posts about visiting Josh and Brent at their home and farm in upstate New York and shopping in their Mercantile in Sharon Springs.

Beekman Boys are Married 

Visiting Beekman 1802 Mercantile

Beekman Boys: Goats Galore

I encourage you to seek out the Beekman 1802 Farm Pantry products at Target and give them a try. So far I love the Pot Roast Starter (the kitchen smelled so good), the Rosemary Sprig Salad Dressing as well as the Rosemary Garlic Veggie Seasoning. The Backyard Cherry Pie Filling is next on my list and I know it won't last long.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Make Gingerbread Lookalike Ornaments

Aren't these darling? I found deep brown chipboard hearts at Ben Franklin craft store in Redmond and knew that they could become Gingerbread-like ornaments for me Christmas tree.

I bought red and white stripe narrow ribbon, cut it into 6 inch lengths and tied the ends together to make individual loops.  I placed a drop of hot glue on the back of the heart (just below where it dips in the center) and set the knot on the ribbon into the glue. Now my ornament can hang on the tree.

I bought one bottle of DecorArt Snow Writer dimensional paint and used inspiration from Swedish websites to create folk designs on the front of the heart. It was so very easy.

I allowed the paint to dry overnight and it looks EXACTLY like frosting on a cookie. Ho ho ho! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

O Christmas Tree: Make Your Own Ribbon Garland

Beautiful and interesting. Those are the words I think about when I am buying or making Christmas decorations. The "11 Ladies Dancing" ornaments came to me when I traced a Martha Stewart magazine template (for an extending paper garland) and converted it into 11 ballerinas that I could dress in paper gowns. A ribbon at their waist is the perfect place to catch the hook of an ornament hanger.

Since we are spending Christmas in an apartment in Seattle, the majority of my Christmas ornaments are still back in Michigan! I flew some non-breakable ornaments out with me (i.e. dancing ladies) and purchased a collection heart ornaments made of laser cut wood. 

This post, however is meant to highlight the plaid ribbon garland I made. Can you see how it adds a bit of depth and shine. I just love it. I have never made garland before and it was too easy (and effective!) not to mention it to you.

It all started when I attended a church rummage sale in Issaquah this fall. I bought a Ziploc bag full of tiny vintage ball ornaments for 50 cents. Inside there were roughly 60 faded blown glass balls, all about the size of a macadamia nut. I cut 15 lengths of plaid ribbon (two inches long) and threaded 4 ball ornaments onto each one. Then I tied each group of 4 ornaments onto a long length of the same patterned plaid ribbon. It created a beautiful garland with shiny baubles every few inches and the whole project cost less than 5 dollars.

While its not realistic to count on rummage sales, you could easily buy small ornaments at the craft store and create your own version. Deep green velvet ribbon with a mixture of both shiny and dull gold balls; Pastel plaid ribbon with lavender and yellow balls. The options are endless. 

While this was my first custom garland, it won't be my last. I'm having too much fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Poinsettias: Squak Mountain Nursery is an Incredible Resource

Have you ever seen 18,000 poinsettias? Squak Mountain Nursery boasts a selection that grand! If you're in the area, you should drive out to Issaquah and see for yourself. When I say the shopping is bountiful in Seattle, this is what I mean.
I love the tradition of bringing a poinsettia to a loved one during a Sunday visit over the holidays and I saw several families choosing just the right one for grandma while I was there. Walking into a greenhouse full of poinsettias was exciting somehow and I wanted to share it with you. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Gingerbread Men: Big and Small

Yesterday I began my holiday baking. An army of gingerbread men have been baked and decorated and are all ready for my new book club's holiday cookie exchange tonight. 

My secret recipe is actually an adaptation of the Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cake Mix that was published by the company years ago. To the box mix, add 1/4 cup hot water, 2 Tablespoons melted butter and 2 Tablespoons of all purpose flour. Mix together and roll out on a floured surface. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-9 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
I wanted to show you my "life imitating art, imitating life" photo above. This year I found a dollhouse-size baking gingerbread scene (in the mini section) at Michael's Craft and I have it nestled as a gift for Day 7 in my tin advent calendar.  When I started rolling out the dough for this first batch of gingerbread men, I realized how great it would look next to the teeny-tiny version. Voila!

Do you bake gingerbread men?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Adorable Advent Calendar

It's December 1st! Time to start the countdown to Christmas on your advent calendar.

I am completely taken with my new tin advent calendar. I found it at Michaels Craft store on sale for 50% off the $15 price tag - how could I resist? The only drawback is that the teeny-tiny tin pockets have been challenging to fill. You can see that only the Ghirardelli chocolates are a good fit. Since there are no kids in the house, I am comfortable tucking things in the pockets as I find them. My goal is to finish by Christmas Eve!

I found the darling Swedish clothespin doll girls at my new favorite garden store, Molbak's. One of my other favorite finds is the chocolate "Swiss Army knife." It was for sale in the candy section at Cost Plus World Market.

Are you counting down to Santa on a calendar that is special?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pepper Wreath Perfection

What's hot, bright and packs a punch? A fresh pepper wreath! I absolutely love these vibrant wreaths and I intend to buy one the moment I have a house. I simply do not have the wall space to show it off properly. But when I do...

I have seen multi-color pepper wreaths for sale in the Seattle area farmers markets beginning in September and I am happy to report (late November 2015) that even though the local farmers markets have closed for the season, you can still find wreaths in perfect condition at Pike's Place Market - both inside in a permanent stall, as well as outside the main building in a tent vendor.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Holly for the Holidays

Can you believe that this is a Holly Tree? What a beautiful specimen! I have been travelling in Michigan for a few weeks and I will return to Seattle for the holidays to put down roots.
I am planning on buying large sprigs of holly this year (perhaps at the Garden Center/Holiday Wonderland - Molbak's) to decorate a tin-pocketed advent calendar that I have. When I saw this beautiful tree in Volunteer Park in Seattle, WA, I realized that I am moving to a zone that could support a healthy holly bush. What a bonus! When I finally buy a house, I am going to plant holly bushes and grow my own festive touch.
Do I have Christmas music playing in the house already? Oh, yes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Elk: Charming Charlie

We were driving back from Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Washington (post to follow) when I saw my first elk! We were on a side road near Suncadia resort when a small herd of elk meandered across the road. The cars stopped and let them pass, which gave me a chance to notice the elk and open my camera phone.

I bought an elk charm years ago when I was in Montana and I never felt good about it...until now. 

Now I've seen an elk and I qualify for an elk charm. Thank you, Washington.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sugar Management: Fill Test Tubes with Sprinkles

I love sugar and color...and being organized. This simple project ticks all the boxes and makes me very happy every time I see it in my kitchen. I see no reason the grocery store sprinkles have to reside in those ugly plastic tubs.

Show them off in your kitchen and you'll find more occasions to add a little something-something to your baked apples, yogurt or brownies. I know I do!

I mention it today because as Halloween approaches, these perfectly-sized glass test tubes with cork stoppers from Martha Stewart Crafts are available at Michaels, often on sale.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Great British Bake Off: Sugar Driven Television At Its Best

Knowing that my dining room table looks like this in December, you won't be surprised to learn that my new favorite television show is The Great British Bake Off

The show was already on Season 6 (!) when I found it and I have watched most of the episodes, season by season, on YouTube. I have found that you can watch some of the seasons on PBS, so check your local listings.

The premise of the show is that 12 amateur bakers compete each week for the chance to be crowned Britain's Best Home Baker. The show is filmed in the summer, in a large white party tent on the grounds of a British estate. Each baker's station is painted a different pastel color (blue, pink, yellow or mint green) equipped with an oven and appliances match. The entire setting is a wonderland of color and sugar - my kind of place!

What I love about it is that there seems to be enough time for them to complete each task, so they aren't cutting corners. You get to see the real process they use with parchment paper, different kinds of pans etc. I just love it. The contestants are kind and help each other, give supportive glances if someone gets a harsh critique and are always there to consult on the proper oven temperature. 

There are two hosts, Mel and Sue, who add lighthearted commentary and always seem to know the right thing to say if a cake is listing to the left. The hosts take turns announcing the "Star Baker" of the week and who has unfortunately been eliminated.

The judges are cookbook author, Mary Berry and renowned baker, Paul Hollywood - both famous on that side of the pond and its fun to see the bakers nervous to have the duo taste their creations.

Have I convinced you? This is sugar-driven television (for a girl like me) at its best. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Embroidery with Whimsy: Have Your Cake

A work in progress from this summer: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too embroidered dishtowel. A great project for a hazy day by the lake. Stay tuned. I'm in Seattle now and I forgot the finished product in Michigan! It'll be back with me next month and I'll show it (and how I did it) to you then.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

World Record: Most People Participating in a Paint-By-Numbers Project

We did it! 2,852 people painted a fish at the Issaquah, Washington Salmon Days festival and by doing so, set the new Guinness Book record for people participating in a Paint-by-Number project. 

I believe the town is still waiting for the of(fish)al declaration by Guinness, but the Issaquah Press has made the announcement.
A few of the 2,852 artists at work.
You can see a portion of the "Great Migration" masterpiece, above. My work was in blue. Ha! If you ever get a chance to have a little fun and set a world record, do it! My new friend and I had a great time chatting in line and being a part of the master plan for the festival.

Eating Festival Food: check
Shopping for Arts and Crafts: check
Enjoying the Fall Weather while Walking the Streets of Issaquah: check
Setting a World Record: check

I declare the 2015 Salmon Days in FISH-aquah, Washington to be a success!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Salmon Days: Issaquah, Washington

Autumn has arrived in Washington and the salmon have returned. Can you imagine that when the smolts (I call them salmonlets) are released into Issaquah Creek outside the hatchery, they swim up Issaquah Creek and through Lake Sammamish, the Sammamish River, Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Puget Sound, the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into the Pacific Ocean. Are you kidding me? That is incredible. They are expected to live 3-5 years out in the ocean until their DNA tells them it is time to return home to spawn and they travel that exact same path in reverse. I am not a scientist, but I think that is fascinating. Can you see the salmon jumping (above) in Issaquah Creek?
This is the open air salmon ladder that the fish jump up on their way into the hatchery. The salmon are back and its cause for celebration indeed.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Salmon Days in Issaquah, Washington: Part 2

What a weekend! This was my first experience with Salmon Days in Issaquah, Washington...excuse me, "FISH-aquah, Washington" and it was a delight.
The weekend celebration is timed with the return of the salmon to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to spawn. In this nature-centered region, salmon are celebrated. Nothing says it more than this larger than life kite making its way through the crowd.
Festivals mean food, and the choices were endless. I regret not having salmon fresh off the grill at the Kiwanis Salmon Bake in Gibson Park. I didn't realize it was an option until we were ready to leave - next year!
I did, however, make the genius move of ordering an apple dumpling with ice cream and caramel sauce. It was as if the apple was peeled, cored and steamed before being baked in a satisfying crust. It was so delicious I would do it all again. In my mind, that is the sign of a good festival treat. Not too rich, not sickeningly sweet, not outrageous, just delicious.  Apple season is here and I love it.

More tomorrow on other aspects of Salmon Days.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Belle Epicurean: Afternoon Treat

A pear almond brioche, an apricot pastry and lots caffeine. Sometimes this is all you need to save an afternoon. Thank you, Belle Epicurean.

Pacific Northwest African American Quilters (PNWAAQ): An Exhibit in Issaquah

It was a love of fabric, design and quilts themselves that brought us to the "I Am: Pacific Northwest African American Quilters" exhibit and lecture at Blakely Hall in the Issaquah Highlands on September 12th.  

The Pacific Northwest African American Quilters exhibit showcased how in the right hands, fabric becomes art. Many of quilts were self-portraits that harnessed the power of computers to determine the light and shadow of the human face. That information allows the quilters to chose the color and pattern in fabrics to create their likeness.
The founder of the Pacific Northwest African American Quilters, Gwen Maxwell-Williams, shown in her self-portrait (above) addressed the group, thanked them for their support and spoke about her many years of quilting, connecting and expressing herself through the fabric arts.
Members of the group offered quilts for sale (above) and had a row of sewing machines set up and humming along, ready to give demonstrations.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Seattle Symphony: Piano Competition

I brought my mom back with me to Seattle and we had only been here 5 days when she asked if we had plans for September 15th. I told her that the world was our oyster and wondered what she was thinking.

She had been going through the stack of Seattle/Seattle Met magazines in the apartment and read that the Seattle Symphony was holding its first-ever piano competition, in partnership with the Young Concert Artists and the Washington Piano Arts. My mom said that she had listened to broadcasts of piano competitions on the radio for years but had never had the chance to attend one in person. That was it, we were going to the Seattle Symphony Piano Competition at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.

The process began last Spring when a panel of reviewers started listening to audio recordings submitted by applicants worldwide. The panel selected 8 pianists from the submissions and the live competition began on September 15th with a Recital Round. Those who made the cut proceeded to the Semi-Final Round on September 16th. At last, three finalists (Kevin Ahfat, Kenny Broberg and Vijay Venkatesh) performed on Friday night for a ticketed Final Round.

My mom and I attended the afternoon Recital Round on September 15th and heard Peng-Chian Chen, Peter Chuang-Chuang Fang, Vijay Venkatesh and Sean Yeh perform. It was a fabulous experience and it was interesting to see (and hear) the vast differences between the pianists and their interpretations of the same piece of music. 

Vijay Venkatesh was our favorite and I commented to my mom during intermission that I felt like I had actually seen him move out of reality and into the music while I watched. He was completely absorbed and it was moving.

Kevin Ahfat won the competition (congratulations!) and we were happy to hear that Vijay Venkatesh tied with Kenny Broberg for second place - Bravo! The Grand Prize was a $10,000 cash prize, many future opportunities and a performance on the Seattle Symphony's Opening Night concert on September 19th. What a week Kevin had! 

Second Prize was a $5,000 cash prize and a consultation with Young Concert Artists and First Chair Promotion. The competition also awarded a $1,000 cash prize to Audience Favorite, Kenny Broberg.

Once upstairs, we admired the magnificent almost candy-like chandelier "Crystal Cascade" by Dale Chihuly, from the second story overlook outside the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall where the piano competition took place. 
I know that over the next decade I will spend many nights in this magnificent building and attending a piano competition makes for a fun first memory.