Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ritz Mint "Cookies"

I am not a big fan of Ritz crackers. I know probably very odd. So when I saw this recipe I thought that doesn't even sound good to me. But Master loves minty sweets so I decided to make them. And oh my how I love them too. They were an unexpected surprise the salt from the cracker against the mint and chocolate just tasted really good to me.

This recipe is from Kraft - I got it from their Food and Family magazine.

1 pkg. (8 squares) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers (36 crackers)
1 candy cane (6 inch), crushed

Mix chocolate and extract.

Dip crackers in chocolate, turning to completely coat each cracker. Carefully scrape off excess chocolate. Place crackers in single layer on waxed paper-covered baking sheets; sprinkle with crushed candy.

Refrigerate for 30 min. or until chocolate is firm.

I have never done the variation because Master doesn't like peanut butter but I know know I would love them!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter "Cookies"
Omit peppermint extract and candy cane. Spread each cracker with thin layer of peanut butter before dipping in the melted chocolate.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Favorites

Holiday Baking Essential List - must haves for baking during the holidays

DELISH: 8 Easy and Elegant Christmas Candle Ideas - just a quick do's and don't when decorating with candles

Simply Recipes Turkey Leftover Recipes, BHG Fresh Ideas for Leftover Turkey, and Food Network Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes - all sites with ideas for your Thanksgiving leftovers

Martha Stewart Handmade Cards - if you are mailing out cards...this is the time to finish up handmade cards or to buy some (photo from Martha Stewart)

5 dollar magazines - Amazon is having a special $5 for a year subscription to Real Simple, House Beautiful, Food and Wine, Southern Living and several others.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Cooking Tips

These are Thanksgiving day
(and day before) cooking what to do if your turkey is still frozen, reminder to clean out your fridge so it has room for those make ahead dishes and left overs, what do do if you over salt your gravy and so on.

Eat Turkey - Holiday Cooking Tips

Food & Wine Thanksgiving Tips

BHG Thanksgiving Kitchen Tips

Holiday Cooking Q&A

10 Trick for a Trouble-Free Thanksgiving

Make Fool Proof Gravy

How to Fix 10 Common Problems

Martha Stewart Turkey Tips

How to Carve a Turkey

BHG Thanksgiving Kitchen Emergencies

Martha Stewart Recipes for Leftovers

Butterball Turkey-Talk Line - 800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372)

ADDING: BHG Roasting Guide -- This is REALLY a great link but I think you need to be a member. Being a member is a free sign up. And you can opt out of their mailings. I get a few of the newsletters though as they are good. Anyway back to the link it is has more then just how to roast a turkey it does it for beef, chicken and so on. But you put in when you want the turkey to be done, the weight and it will tell you so much great info on how to get that turkey done by the time you want.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Cookies: Peanut Butter Blossoms

* 48 Hershey's Kisses
* 1/2 cup shortening (or butter)
* 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* Granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

This recipe can be doubled also as they make good gifts.

High Altitude: Add an extra 1/4 cup flour and I grease all my cookies sheets

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Travel For The Holidays

Instead of me outlining my domestic godessness (cough) to all of you, I'm asking anyone out there to give it to me.

We're traveling for the holidays. We'd be leaving on Tuesday night, arriving on Wednesday night, and eating at noon on Thursday. That'll include one night in a hotel before we get there, and when we get there, very little time/space to contribute to the cooking of the Thanksgiving feast. My mom will have the stove occupied with the turkey and other trimmings.

So I'm looking for recipes of things that will travel well. At best, I can bring a cooler and keep it cold with ice. I'd have to cook it on Tuesday so it also needs to store for two days without losing flavor/form/whatever.

Any suggestions for awesome Thanksgiving recipes? Anything from potatoes and side items to desserts to hors d'oeuvres? Even something I could whip up quick on Thursday morning, if it didn't require oven use?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Favorites

These are a few of my favorite things...

Thanksgiving chat with Alton Brown: Admittedly, everyone I know that's brined a turkey has done so after watching Alton Brown do it on Good Eats. The chat's from 2001, but Alton Brown weighs in on everything from side dishes to desserts to turkey and ham, including recipe ideas and alternatives for traditional dishes.

Chipotle Bacon Jam Recipe: Because bacon makes everything better. Well, nearly everything... and what it won't fix, I bet new shoes will!

Seriously... how yummy does a simmered concoction of bacon, garlic, chipotle, Mexican hot chocolate and coffee sound? This is definitely on my must-make list. If you aren't a chipotle lover, try
this version.

Crafty Love: Perfect for
knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers... Ravelry is my addiction. And I'm not alone... over half a million have joined this site. It's one of the best laid out social communities I've seen, that helps me keep track of my yarn, tools, and patterns, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. My favorite part? The ability to see what other people have done with the same yarn that I have no idea what to do with.

Tyler Florence's French Onion Soup
One of my favorite comfort foods is French Onion Soup. Not the ones that taste just like broth from a can with cheese on top... I want the complex richness of wine and seasonings, perfectly paired with the right amount of cheese. Especially during the holidays... this is one of those dishes to savor and unwind over.

5 Homemade Bath Salts & Soaks I'm a big believer in devoting some time to relaxing and unwinding-- especially during the holidays. Here's some recipes for homemade bath salts and soaks, as well as recipes for homemade foot soaks. (Great for gifts, too!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sinful Torte

I have seen this recipe under many names but I call it sinful as it is oh so good.

First Layer: 1 cup unsifted flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter or margarine softened, 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (have used almonds too)

Mix together flour, sugar, butter and walnuts until crumbly. Press in the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes - until lightly brown. Cool.

Second Layer: 8 oz. package cream cheese - softened, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 cup cool whip

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Fold the whipped topping. Spread over cooled crust.

Put the pan in the fridge while you prepare the third layer.

Third Layer: 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 cup whole milk, 4 egg yolks, 3 tbls butter, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 3 squares unsweetened chocolate - chopped

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt. Gradually stir in milk and chocolate. Cook over medium until thickened and bubbly. Stir constantly. Reduce heat, cook and stir two minutes. Remove from heat. Separate eggs. Beat yolks slightly in bowl. Stir 1 cup of the chocolate mix into the yolks. Return all to saucepan, bring to gentle boil, cook, stir 2 more minutes. Remove from heat - stir in butter and vanilla. Cool in fridge before gently spreading over second layer.

Forth Layer: After the third layer is cool, spread the rest of the whipped topping. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holiday Prep: Nov. 16-22

This is what I would like to get done this week in preparing for the holidays...but I am sure it won't all get done as we have to go out of town for business for 3 days. But here is it anyway...

1. Finalize Thanksgiving menu (I would normally do this earlier but we were unsure if we would have an oven for Thanksgiving - but we will. It is delivered today.)
2. Make out shopping list for Thanksgiving
3. Start watching grocery store sales to see what I can start buying for Thanksgiving but also holiday baking and party needs.
4. Make a list any more supplies needed to make Christmas gifts (I did a budget last week to know how much I can spend)
5. Start updating holiday-card mailing lists (We have 2 lists - business holiday cards we send out and then personal)
6. Get holiday cards out (I bought them last year - if I hadn't I would start making them or buy them now)
7. Get Thanksgiving linens out - make sure laundered and pressed
8. If making any table decorations for thanksgiving, get started on those.

Here are some good links for holiday prep...
Plan-it Thanksgiving from Ocean Spray - the site not only has a printable calender but it has tips for stress-free prep, menu planning, a serving calculator, table setting help and other helpful tips in planning Thanksgiving.

Free Thanksgiving Planner - this is lovely. It is a pdf file that you print out - it has a place for shopping list, recipes, menu planning, guest list, a calendar, seating arrangement and then just a place for notes and ideas. It looks prettier then the one I have for my holiday planning folder so I am going to print this one out for this year. And try to create one just as pretty for next year.

From Real Simple 10 Tricks to a trouble-free Thanksgiving - it has problems with solutions.

Real Simple Thanksgiving Timeline

(meant to post this yesterday but of course the internet went down just as I was going to)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Baked Brie with fruit and nuts

This is a great "prepare ahead" appetizer that is always well received!


• 1/2 cup apple, chopped
• 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
• 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
• 1/4 cup dried cranberries
• 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, packed
• 1/4 teaspoon cassia cinnamon
• 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
• 1 round (8 ounces) Brie cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Coarsely chop apple with food processor. Combine apple, apricots, pecans, cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon in small bowl and mix gently. Stir in butter just until ingredients are moistened.
3. Cut Brie in half horizontally. Place one half of the round, rind side down, on pan. Spoon half of the apple mixture onto bottom half of Brie, spreading evenly. Top with remaining half of Brie, rind side up. Spoon remaining apple mixture over top. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is soft and just begins to melt.
4. Serve with sliced French bread.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tips from Woman's Day for the Holidays - Part 2

Part 2 of the Woman's Day November 17, 2009 issue holiday tips. It had quite a few tips on how to save money around the holidays...I thought I would share some of my favorites but with my spin on them.

I couldn't find a link to the whole article but I did find a link to one little section of tips on 4 ways to host a cheap party. I really love doing a party that just has appetizers and desserts. The other tip about sticking to one drink is a good idea. A friend had a Halloween party this year and she served 2 mixed drinks and that was it...everyone loved it.

I also suggest having a hot-cocoa party. If you want to do a little gift for your guests to take away, make some handmade ornaments, some homemade hot-cocoa mix or give them tins with cookies. Maybe do a Holiday movie night with different flavored popcorns and the hot-cocoa bar. Many possibilities in making a party less expensively.

For gift giving...
They had tip called the "rule of 20" - which was sit down and make a list of everyone you have to give a gift to and then whittle that down to 20 gifts.

Family Gifts - Such as if you have a your whole brother's family why not just do a family gift instead of 6 gifts for every person in the family. I think good family gifts are board games, a classic movie on dvd and a box of microwave popcorn, a popcorn popper with some popcorn and popcorn seasoning (that is good to make at home too), tickets to a play or movies, family memberships to the zoo or a museum, a box of fruit, a basket of different hot cocoas and teas or a basket of hot cocoa (make it homemade) with different add-ins homemade marshmallows, caramel syrup, red-hots or peppermint sticks, candied ginger (look here for more add-in suggestions).

Co-workers - Do you have to give to all your co-workers? Why not just bring in food. Such as holiday cookies and candies or bring in breakfast - make an egg casserole or muffins and fruit salad.

Friends - Get all your friends together for brunch or lunch. And say that being together is your gift to each other. One year all of us got together to go to the local museum and then to lunch and that was our gift to each other quality time together during the holidays. It was much needed during the stress of the season so was a great gifts to have fun and laugh with my favorite girlfriends.

Gift Exchange - pick names, rotate names with your family one yer have Aunt Sue and then the next your brother-in-law or do a secret santa. All these things help spend less money on gits. If you are only buying for cousin Joe instead of 13 family members that is going to cut your holiday shopping list down.

What to give...
The friend with expensive tastes - they suggest if the friend likes designer things - do a key chain or wallet. One year I did exactly that I gave a friend a key chain by her favorite designer. During the holidays they usually put those things on sale too.

The friend who is struggling - I really like what they suggested in the magazine...if it is a family that is struggling maybe pay for soccer or dance so their kids so that don't lose those activities. Or ofter to babysit. When I lived in Ohio, I had a friend really struggling and I told her I was coming to pamper her. I told her I would be making dinner while she soaked her feet and read a novel. That way I brought over bags of groceries. Much more then was needed for dinner. And stocked her fridge and pantry. The dinner I made - made plenty of left overs that I froze so she could take to lunch or have for dinner on busy nights. She also got to just sit in a chair and relax for a bit. And indulge in some pampering which when you are struggling that is something that doesn't happen often. I also have done gift certificates for this at places that I know they can get staples such as I have given gas gift cards or gift cards for Target or Walmart knowing they could get groceries if needed with it. Because if they are struggling those things are needed although I would love to give them something more personal sometimes what is needed is more meaningful.

The friend who has everything - They suggest looking at their daily life - do they go to coffee everyday? do they use put out fresh flowers weekly? do they listen to music on their way home from work? Use those things to brainstorm....maybe a travel mug with a gift certificate to their favorite coffee place, a new vase with flowers or a cd you think they would like. In The Art of Giving book they suggest homemade things - cookies, flavored vinegars and oils for cooking, infused liquors, shoe bags, coasters, sachets, candles, soaps and bath salts. And that is usually what I go for when the person has everything or the person is hard to buy for also.

The person who never likes anything - WD suggests giving the person what they already like...a bottle of wine they like, a perfume they like, music from an artist they like and so on.

Mom and Dad - WD suggests hobby gifts. Ask a person who already does that hobby what they really liked as a gift. The hard thing for me on this one is my parents really don't have hobbies. Their free time is spent with their church and family. So I usually look to that category above people who have everything or are hard to buy for. I do think it is a good idea though to go to hobbies for that person that has everything too. Maybe give that knitter a really extravagant yarn (ask another knitter what to get) or a walker might really like certain water bottle.

How do you save money at the holidays? What are you favorite gift giving ideas?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Favorites

Tank Top Totes - Master doesn't see that I need many purses as I go almost every where with him. So I don't have very many purses. But when we travel I am or go out on jobs I carry a tote. And so these caught my eye. Inexpensive to make and so cute! Also eco-friendly as you are recycling by repurposing. In addition to those wonderful qualities, I think these would be great holiday presents. (Photo from Crafty Nest)

Slow Cooker Favorites by Cooking Light - During the holidays time is a premium so I use my slow cooker non-stop as it just saves me so much time. These recipes to me are different and look so good. I can't wait to try a few out.

Love to Know Crafts - Card Making - One gifts I gave years ago was handmade cards. I made different occasion cards - birthday, anniversary, get well, blank cards, congratulations, wedding and so on. I put them in groups of 12 to 24 cards with some stamps and stickers to my grandparents. And they loved it. Not only did it save them money since they are on a fixed income. But they were handmade and they loved the thought of giving someone a handmade card especially one made by their granddaughter. I also made thank you notes one year for Master as a gift for his business. I used his logo and info on the back so it those getting it would have that on hand.

Retail Me Not - This is a place for coupon codes and discounts. I have used it MANY times. Whenever I am ordering something I stop there first to see if I can find a discount - often I at least save on shipping which I like. It also has printable grocery coupons too.

Easy Handmade Bows from BHG - Some very lovely bows and some that I never new how to make. So excited to try out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tips from Woman's Day for the Holidays - Part 1

Woman's Day November 17, 2009 issue had quite a few tips on how to save money around the holidays...I thought I would share some of my favorites but with my spin on them...(I can't find the article online or I would link to it.)

Shop for less...

in your house - I often have things I bought throughout the year to give as gifts and then forget about. So make sure you look around your house before you do any shopping to see who you already can mark off your list.

online - they said that if you can't touch it you are less likely to buy the $130 dollar scarf verses the $30 one you found online. So shopping online will save you money. Also find places that have free shipping or direct shipping of gifts to your recipients so that you save money on mailing.

craft fairs - handmade items that are beautiful, thoughtful and usually cost less. Also you can combine this one and the one above by shopping online at

thrift stores - It has to be the right item to me but I agree with this one. One year I found a really pretty necklace that I knew was the perfect style for a friend so got it for her.

Something not to spend money on...wrapping paper.

* We have tourist information not to far from us and we stop in often so I can pick up a free Colorado map to use in art. But this year I am going to wrap gifts in a map. I am going to circle where we are on it. Maybe do some decoration around it. And then I will put a tag on it that says something about from M & d in Colorado to....the names of the people getting it. I might print off a little section of map from where they live and make a tag out of that saying from Colorado to...whatever state they are in.

* I also had a couple beautiful calendars last year and the year before that I saved I think I will use them as wrapping paper and also to make bows like I described in the book review of Simply Green Giving.

* If you have kids, give them some blank pages of newsprint or other paper to draw on and use that to wrap gifts.

* Fabric - I have some cream colored muslin that I could use fabric paint on or I could hand stitch some holiday shapes such as stars, candy canes or stockings on it. Or just tie it up with a pretty holiday ribbon.

* Newspaper isn't my favorite wrapping - but if you do it so that the lines are crisp and decorate it with a pretty tag and bow then it can look stunning.

* Brown paper sacks with rubber stamping on them or cut out silver foil stars or last years greeting cards and glue on to it.

Reinvent your spending less then $10.

* lights - One year we went to a friends house that had a couple trees in their home but one tree was just lights and use an item she already had as a tree antique silk shawl that I had seen her wear often but now looked so pretty as the tree skirt. When I was growing up my Mom put around the front door a string of lights and green garland (whatever she found cheapest - evergreen, on). And that simple decoration always gave a holiday glow that said home to me.

* music - playing music at home sets the mood for the whole house.

* family photos - Dig out the old holiday photos and replace the ones you have out right now with those. Buy some dollar store plain frames and apply red or green buttons on it. Or decoupage some gift wrap on to it. The holidays are about family so having those memories scattered throughout the house creates a great holiday decoration.

* fabric - hit the fat quarters and least inexpensive fabrics to make a table topper or cover over an existing pillow. I saw a really cute picture in Better Homes and Garden of a pillow covered with red fabric. They wrapped it up just like a package and then tied it with a pretty green ribbon. And had pretty pillow packages on the couch.

They had a lot of tips so I think I will split this into a 2 part post.

Monday, November 9, 2009

100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do

Excellent article on service from a restaurateur's perspective

Part 1 (tips 1-50)
Part 2 (tips 51-100)

My favorite: 9. Do not recite the specials too fast or robotically or dramatically. It is not a soliloquy. This is not an audition.

Book Review: 2 Christmas Books

Christmas: Making the Perfect Celebration by Carolyn Bell

If you want a complete guide that gives you ideas for food, entertaining, decorations, gift giving and crafts for the holiday season - this is the book for you. The book begins with a countdown to Christmas, with helpful tips on what to buy when, and which preparations should be done first. It includes a week-by-week countdown to help you plan and organize your Christmas shopping and cooking, plus a timetable for preparing food on Christmas Day and suggested holiday menus. I found the recipes and projects to range from simple to complex. There are projects on how to create a festive table setting, how to decorate your home with projects to make wreaths, garland and candles, how to make homemade ornaments to decorate your Christmas tree and how to create your own holiday cards and gift-wrap. It has a whole section of crafts to make with kids too. Their are menus and recipes for holiday dinners, vegetarian meals, party foods and buffet dishes. The recipes include several different stuffing recipes, sauces and preserves, desserts and treats, drinks and cocktails and edible gifts. There were some recipes that sounded delicious to me and others that I didn't sound appetizing to me at all. I really enjoyed the vegetarian meal selections. The book also included techniques on how to test cakes to see if they are done, how to make almond past and royal icing, how to stuff and roast a turkey, how to make a glaze and so on.

As I said it is a complete guide to Christmas...with over 200 recipes, 50 projects and 1400 color photographs.

Although I think the book was very well done and has so much to offer I didn't make notes while I had this checked out and I didn't create any of the crafts. I am not sure if that though was because I checked it out in the summer and wasn't yet really in the holiday planning stage. I do think it would be worth another look. I remember really enjoying the edible gifts recipes and many of the crafts.

Christmas in Minutes: Festive Crafts in Less Than an Hour by Carol Cox

Product description:
Who isn't busy during the holidays? Clear, concise instructions teamed with brilliant yet simple ideas make this new book a must-have for holiday crafters with little free time on their hands. Taking only five to fifty-five minutes to complete, each project can be fitted into a busy schedule. The 30 projects are arranged in sections according to the time required to complete them. For example, gift tags decorated with bay leaves and rosemary sprigs can be made in under 15 minutes. It takes only 30 minutes to make a calla lily centerpiece. Forty-five minutes is plenty of time to make door wreaths, a glimmering silver twig tree, or an elegant eucalyptus garland. Designs use simple and available materials (natural or artificial) such as pinecones, fruits, ribbons, cinnamon sticks and grapevine wreaths to give your home that handcrafted feel without a lot of work.

If you are intimidated by flower arranging or using flowers in your decorating, this book might be a good start. It has some simple projects to do in 15 to 45 minutes that look elegant and just perfect for the holidays. I am not going to say it is great book. It does have some good arrangements but some of them are also a little busy - to me. But for a start - I think it would be a good to even just read to get ideas.

Some of the projects...
Cally Lily Tree (on the cover)
Dried Apple Ring
Berry Heart Chairback
Festive Pinecone
Clove studded and carved limes
Leaf Wrapped Candles

Also how-to instructions on how to make a triple bow, dry fruit, make lime roses, moss rope and so on.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Repurpose Containers for Holiday Giving



We get the big tins of nuts at SAM's and so throughout the year I keep them to decorate and give Christmas cookies and candy in as gifts. The nuts are great for the holiday season to make chex mix or candy clusters.

The tins can be decorated in many ways. Cover it with scrapbook paper or decoupage it gift wrap or scrap paper. I painted them with gesso first. It is a primer that helps the paint stick. I then just sponge painted over the gesso with the inexpensive craft paint. A few I handpainted with Christmas trees.

For the lids - some of them I used gesso on some of the lids and sponge painted them too. And others I cut round template from paper and covered with paper. A few I rubber stamped like the on in the picture. Others I just covered with solid red or green paper and did a little note or tag on the top for the recipient. Others I hung the tags off the side like in the picture.

I didn't buy any tins or containers last year to give gifts. Everything I gave was in a repurposed container. I used oatmeal containers, glass jars, plastic tubs (cool whip, margarine or yogurt) and crystal light containers (that are a tall tube) covered with scrapbook paper or wrapping paper. Every jar or container I use I try to think of another way to repurpose it. They are easy to decorate and great for giving holiday treats.

(I will try to post a few more pictures of containers that I repurpose this year.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Favorites

Epicurious Thanksgiving - recipes, menus and videos

Kaboose Thanksgiving - recipes, decorations, crafts

Thanksgiving Crafts - BHG thanksgiving crafts - paper crafts, table top crafts and crafts to do with kids

Handmade Gift Guide - a huge list with links to handmade gifts to make for kids, grandparents, men, co-workers and so on.

Martha Stewart Christmas - Christmas crafts, cards, decorations, cookies, gift wrapping ideas, gift ideas

(Photo from BHG link - easy table decorations)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review: The Art of Giving

The Art of Giving: Gift Ideas to Delight the Senses by by Liezel Norval-Kruger

This is from description from publishers:
Gift giving is a universal custom, but in today's harried world many of us have moved away from the more considered and creative aspects of what should be a very personal act. It should be a gesture of love, friendship, celebration, acknowledgment, and thanks. The Art of Giving is filled with inspirational ideas and practical information for the discerning gift giver on how to achieve beautiful, artful, and thoughtful gifts.

Taste, smell, and touch are the pivotal chapters. They draw on our capacity to indulge ourselves and those we love through each particular sense. Each chapter is filled with ideas and tantalizing images, as well as practical information on how to create and present wonderful gifts. Another chapter, on wrapping, will show you how to achieve expert finishing touches and inspired solutions to the most awkward of gift shapes. From handcrafted soaps and homemade potpourri to beautifully wrapped candies and an entire picnic for two, the endless variety of ideas in this book offer something for everyone. Turn to the back of the book for recipes, templates, diagrams, labels, and other do-it-yourself essentials to tell you how to do it all. For anyone who wants to create and give gifts that are more expressive, meaningful, and heartfelt than something grabbed off the shelf or ordered over the phone, The Art of Giving offers a wealth of inspiration and practical advice.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the photos and the style of the gifts and ideas. The Art of Giving is filled with lots of DIY gift ideas that are inexpensive, attractive and simple to make. Also this is a great book to find ideas for those on your gift list that are impossible to shop for people. The book I previously reviewed about green giving...was good but this book has better ideas that could be implemented with green options. Such as it has tubes covered with paper, photos or postcards. Or gifts wrapped in news paper and then tied pretty ribbon that don't look cheap but look like it was wrapped professionally because the folds are so crisp. Or wrapped with felt and embroidery thread to do simple stitches to close it. All their examples were lovely and I can't wait to try some of them out this year for holiday giving.

The book includes recipes, craft templates and instructions and label templates in the back of the book also.

Some crafts and recipes I want to try and give....
Milk & Honey Bread
Infused Brandy
Fresh Feet Bath
Shoe Bags
Sewing Kits (that would be good for men or women)
Beaded Coasters
Hot Chocolate Cream

Plus MANY MANY more ideas.

If you can't get to the book before the holidays, here are a few links to help inspire and create.....

Felt Sewing Kit by Martha Stewart

Altoid Tin Sewing Kit - I don't think this one is done as well as it could be but it does provide inspiration

Mending on the Go Kit

Cocktail Times - Pear Infused Vodka - look at the related links too - they have herbal infused vodka, cranberry spiced infused vodka and a couple others.

Married with Dinner - Pear Brandy - I like the tag she did on the bottle too

Amateur's Guide to Drinking - Infuse This - Pear and Vanilla Infused Sake & Strawberry and Cherry Infused Brandy

Betz White Shoe Bag Tutorial

Craft Ideas - Shoe Bag Instructions

Beaded Coasters by Martha Stewart

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Review: Simply Green

I am going to do these reviews together since they are very similar books by the same author. These are books I wouldn't necessarily buy but check out from the library. Both give some really creative green alternatives.

Simply Green Parties: Simple and resourceful ideas for throwing the perfect celebration, event, or get-together by Danny Seo

I really enjoyed the photos/styling of this book. I enjoyed many of the ideas. Seo brings the concept to reduce, recycle and reuse upfront in party planning. Very nice ideas about reusing household items or getting items at thrift stores to repurpose for party decor. Many of the ideas are very chic and can be adapted to fit your needs.

Okay so the bad things....There were some things I didn't get why he felt they were green. I mean there shouldn't be a lot of trash after a green party. And he suggested using bamboo paper plates. Now that is more eco-friendly then the plastic disposable plates or regular paper plates...but what would be even more eco-friendly is using real everyday plates. Getting a plain white porcelain plate - and you can plan any party around that. Or picking up odd sets at thrift stores and mixing and matching is always to me a better choice then paper. He also did bottled water. Plastic bottles water bottles....I loved what he did with them making flavor waters but why not pitchers of filtered tap water with fruit in them instead of plastic water bottles.

Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrappings, Tags, and Gifts from Everyday Materials by Danny Seo

I liked this book better then the party book. Again I really enjoyed the photos/styling of this book. He really hits the concept to reduce, recycle and reuse over and over. Some nice ideas about reusing household items or getting items at thrift stores to repurpose to wrap your gifts, make handmade gifts and gift tags.

I enjoyed seeing him make bows from the scented perfume cards in magazines. He tore them out very carefully. And then opened up the scented edge. He cut 1/2-inch strips across the sheet, starting at the scented edge and stopping an inch from the end. Then you fold it up accordion style - neatly stacking the strips on top of each other. With a pair of sharp scissors take each strip and curl by pulling it over the blade. The quicker you pull it over the blade the curlier it will get. And then attach to gift. The colors and images on the bow turn into a bouquet of colorful ribbon.

He also used the same concept of curling ribbon by pulling VHS tape out of the plastic tape cassette. And he wrapped a wine bottle in newspaper leaving 5 inches extra on top and cut that into strips and curled also.

Some things I didn't feel looked great. He took an old string of christmas lights to tie around a package but I just didn't think it looked good. I believe it probably could have but I just don't feel it was styled right in the book. Something else I wasn't sure about was that he used the inside of silver foil part of potato chip bags to wrap gifts. He washed them of course and then wrapped so the silver was showing out. But I just wonder how someone would feel opening a gift wrapped in a potato chip bag? I guess if they knew you were going green maybe they would accept it but would they think you were weird? Does it matter to save the environment? I don't know. But I thought it was odd. It looked pretty in the book - just wasn't sure how someone would feel opening a gift wrapped in it.

Overall the book did give me ideas for wrapping and decorating gifts more eco-friendly. I think often people forget repurposing is a green option. I will be posting a few things I did last year to wrap gifts by repurposing containers - nut containers, frosting and even a grated Parmesan cheese container.

Meanwhile check out these links for gift wrapping and especially green gift wrapping...

Gaiam Life - 10 Green Gift Wrapping Ideas

Passionate Homemaking - Frugal and Green Gift Wrapping

Green Package Wrap Ideas

Earth Easy - Gift Wrapping Alternatives

Also I posted these links before but are good ones at the holidays...
Paper bow making - Recycling magazines, old books and scrapbooking paper

There is also a great article on gift wrapping in Simply Service Holiday 2008 issue by marg_it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Book Review: Lotta Prints

Lotta Prints: How to Print with Anything, from Potatoes to Linoleum by Lotta Jansdotter

I keep going back and forth on if I would give this book 3 or 4 stars. The style of the prints, the photos, the set up of the book - inspiring. Just lovely. The actual instructions to techniques used - lacking. Most of it is basic printing information that is found online or in other books - with better instructions. So it didn't give me any new ideas as far as techniques but as far as inspiration - yes it did! Really easy designs that would leave anything you print on looking so pretty. One such inspiration I can't wait to try is the wall hangings. They were ceiling to floor simple cloth wall hangings with a simple print on them. Very pretty - giving a room a splash of color with a minimalistic approach. Another plus to this book - many of the print designs could go for either male or female. They are very unisex friendly. Often prints books I have seen are very hearts, flowers and sunshine type designs but this book often has geometric designs put together in a very pleasing way that would work for any gender. I don't know if it is a book I need to own but I do think it would provide me inspiration on print design if I had it on my shelf but wouldn't teach me anything new about print techniques.

HANDMADE GIFT IDEA: Take plain tea towels, ties or totes and do potato printing on them. Here are a few links with how to's and also inspiration: Craftzine Tater Stamping, Creative Kismet Potato Printing and Creative Kismet Lotta Inspiration


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