Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rag Garland and Ornaments

The xmas holidays are over, but I am still thinking about decorations. The two decorations I want to make for myself before next year are raggedy fabric garlands and ball ornaments. I've already purchased some syrofoam balls for the ornaments, now I just need some string lights and some fabric.

The darling ornaments above can be found here. I love the ones covered in burlap. Burlap is another fascination I have right now. I'll create a post just for burlap soon.

I love this primitive rag garland from Brown Paper Packages.

I also love this more elegant rag garland using a string of lights. I found it here along with a great tutorial.

I'm thinking I'll create a more primitive look in the living room. I want to use a strand of white lights on green wire and attach green fabrics so that it mimics greenery. In the dining room, I want to work mainly with whites, creams, and browns (like burlap). Maybe I'll add a little bling in there with some white glitter to mimic snow and a few touches of silver or gold. Now that I've actually experienced snow on December 25th, I don't feel as silly using snow as a decorating theme.

Creating xmas decorations is not that high on my priority list, however, so we'll see if I get any made by next year or not.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pilosale on Etsy

I usually visit once a day to at least look at the home page to see what catches my eye. I have discovered a lot of great sellers this way. Today I discovered an adorable shop called Pilosale. The alphabet-bear pillow above was on Etsy's home page. I am crazy about baby and kid's items anyway, especially beautiful handmade creations like this pillow. I need to post some of the items I have purchased for my nursery-in-the-making. But for now, enjoy some of my other favorite items from Pilosale.

I am really into garlands these days, and I love this butterfly garland. This would be beautiful in a nursery, a romantic grown-up bedroom, or wrapped around a xmas tree.

Pilosale sells these cute loot pails separately or in combination with the crowns (she makes capes too). They are created from felt made from recylced soda bottles.

At first glance, I assumed this was notebook paper fabric. But no, this fabric is stitched to resemble notebook paper. Ingenious! This pillow also comes with a matching duvet cover. Pouches, cards, and more are also avialable in this same notebook style.

Sigh. If I could only purchase the whole store.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Quiet Holiday Dinner for Two

Once I knew Lee and I would be at home by ourselves on xmas, and that I would have to prepare dinner, I began thinking of more than what kind of food to put on the plate. Since it was the first xmas we were by ourselves in our own house, I began thinking about what plates to use, what tablecloth to use, and what I could use to create a centerpiece for the table. I became quite overwhelmed.

In the end, we wound up with a humble table for two. I gave up on ironing a tablecloth, but I did create a centerpiece out of a candle and some fake pine cones I had in my craft stash. It was nice dining with candlelight. It was nice eating at the table. We usually just eat our meals on trays in the living room while watching television (a bad habit I want to correct before having children).

I liked having the challenge of creating a meal out of what we had on hand. I would have enjoyed it more if I had been feeling better, though. I have a sinus infection and have been suffering from dizziness and nausea daily.

The challenge was not too tough, because we had plenty of food around the house. I decided to use some chicken thighs I had in the freezer, farro we brought back from Italy, and the last of the loaf of bread for a sweet bread pudding.

I had never eaten farro until we brought this bag back from Italy. We bought it in Montepulciano, Tuscany. It is quite heavy and held us up in customs a bit, but I really like the taste and texture. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and texture a bit like an al dente pasta. I opened the bag up earlier this year and made a farro risotto with dried porcini mushrooms. It came out tasting a little too earthy, but I knew I would like experimenting with the farro until it was all gone.

My thinking with the farro was that it could be mixed with vegetables, nuts, and even cheese to resemble a stuffing to go alongside the chicken (Note: stuffing is not something I have ever eaten during the holidays, either...we eat dressing down here in Alabama). I searched the internet for farro recipes keeping in mind that as far as vegetables (besides carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes) I had some zucchini and one green and one yellow bell pepper. I also had several nuts, including pistachios, almonds, and pecans. As for cheese, I had parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, and a little bit of shredded mozzarella.

My search turned up a recipe for Zucchini and Farro Gratin over at Closet Cooking. This is one of my favorite food blogs. Whenever I am craving something, I can usually find something delicious there. So Zucchini and Farro Gratin it was, with some cheese substitutions. The recipe called for parmigiano regiano and gruyere, so I used the parm and the other two cheeses I had available. I used regular bread crumbs instead of the panko he used. I had some panko, but I just wanted to use bread crumbs. I also didn't grate the zucchini but just diced it into small pieces. They provided a welcome crunch on the plate next to the soft chicken and vegetables I made.

I had a bottle of Chardonay, so I settled on cooking the chicken with wine, herbs, and butter...yum, butter. I don't use butter, especially real butter, that often. I added onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes as well. As for the herbs, I used fresh thyme, a little fresh rosemary, and some dried sage. The vegetables ended up being delicious. The chicken was good as well. It was a litte tougher than it should have been, because I added too much wine and water to the pan and had to cook it too long.

The chicken served with the gratin and the rest of the Chardonnay made for a good meal. It just wasn't real holiday fare. I still really want some dressing. The meal was a little one-note too. We usually like more contrast and kick to our meals. A fresh salad with fruit and soft cheese would have been a nice addition. But, we made do with what we had. I need to do this more often, because we spend way too much money on food, and a good bit of it never gets used.

For dessert, I made a Nutella bread pudding.

Needless to say, it was yummy. Anything Nutella is delicious. It is also really easy. I just cut up our leftover whole-wheat sandwich bread and toss it with one can of fat-free sweetened, condensed milk, 1/4 to 1/2 cup Nutella, one egg, and enough milk to make enough of the mixture to cover the bread. I bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, and voila, a delicious, comfortng, chocolate dessert.

After dinner we watched The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers until we got so sleepy we couldn't keep our eyes open. Not a terrible way to spend the evening. Oh, and Santa did bring me a step ladder and some chocolate. He also brought me two surprises--a cheese grater and a wine saver kit.

We woke up this morning to more snow. We ate leftover gratin and finished watching the movie. I have the unused chicken thighs marinating in the fridge for my first attempt at chicken tikki masala, one of the only Indian dishes Lee likes. Indian is one of my favorite cuisines.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wow Santa...A White and Quiet December 25th!

I woke up to my first white xmas this morning. We received about three inches. I got all dolled up, and we attempted to head to Birmingham to spend the day with Lee's family. Afraid we might have trouble making it back home, we decided to turn around and spend the day at home...just us and the critters.

The dogs love the snow.

I laughed so hard watching Lee build this snowman. He had a lot of four-legged help.

As soon as he turned his back on it, Anni took a big bite out of it.

The dogs even took one of the snowman's arms.

They ran around catching and eating the mini snowballs I threw at them.

This is the first xmas that it has been just the two of us. We usually spend the day, and the day before and after, with either his family or mine. I don't quite know what to do with myself here at home.

We ate leftover pizza for lunch, but I guess I'll have to make us a xmas dinner now. It's a good thing the house is well stocked with food. I've got several different meats in the freezer, potatoes and some other basic veggies, plenty of eggs and cheese, and even some fresh rosemary and thyme. I ought to be able to make a decent dinner from all of this. It may not be turkey, dressing, his Aunt Evelyn's best-in-the-world-green beans, cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole, but it will have to do.

Here are some more snowy photos from this morning:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Etsy Holiday Decor

During my current bout of holiday spirit, I have been searching for seasonal decorations. Here are my favorites:

What a great use for old doorknobs from No Sugar, Extra Cream.

I wish I had thought of these great pocket watch ornaments first. They are available with a variety of ribbons from Leslie Jansen.

I love the way crafty people are upcycling sweaters these days. These heart ornaments from Red and Company are adorable.

Great vintage winter scenes like this are placed on ornaments and other decorations at Shabby Chic Ski Boutique.

I see lots of tin and silver platters at antique stores and thrift stores. Her Majesty's Pug turns them into decorative chalkboards.

I love dragonflies. Here is one from Mudgoddess that I'd want to display year round.

These sweet little birds can be found at Sushipot.

These gorgeous butterfly ornaments are made by Prince Design UK.

This sweet little pig is available from Middleburg.

These ornaments made from ceiling tin are from Cottage in the Sun.

These beadboard beauties are from The Shabby Chic Cottage.

Dear Santa

This year I'm not wanting anything too expensive or fancy. I am dreaming of some basic things:

step stool (so I can reach the top shelves without dragging one of our rickety chairs from room to room)

chocolate (more than ever since I'm not on antidepressants right now...need all the seratonin I can get)

mattress pad (just a plain one to replace the one that is getting threadbare)

new house slippers

This isn't too much to ask now, is it?

I'm already thinking about next year, though. Perhaps next year you can bring me some dining room furniture (chairs, buffet, hutch), a nice, big Dutch oven, a new mattress, a proper christmas tree (taller than 2.5 feet), and a baby.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Holiday Decorations

Some years I get into the holiday spirit and want to decorate, and some years I could care less. This year I'm definitely in the mood for the holidays. I've pulled my decorations out of the attic, flipped through seasonal magazines, repeatedly visited, and have even been tinkering with some of my own creations.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of bling. I love rustic, natural, and primitive decor. Most of the holiday decor I own was made locally by two different crafting women who make prim decor. I try to buy a piece or two each year so that one day I can have holiday decorations all over the main rooms of the house. My husband doesn't get this. He thinks we have enough already. He also doesn't get why I need several different pairs of black shoes. He is also the one who put up our tiny christmas tree this year...don't look too close or you'll see that he used paper clips to hang the ornaments.

The snowman in the bucket above is one of my favorites. I have it sitting on an antique step ladder that belonged to my great, great aunt. There are lights inside the bucket too, I just didn't have them plugged in when I took the photo.

I found this frame at a thrift store a few years ago, and I decided to attach twine to hang whatever on it. I decided the other day it would make a great holiday card holder, and we've got some cute cards to show off. Several of our friends and family have had babies this year, and they are featured on the cards.

Here's to decking the halls.