A Few Things

1. I just realized that yesterday was Thursday and I didn't do a Pinterest post again.  And I actually had something to post, too.  Well, maybe next week.  I'm finding it hard to keep track of the days right now.

2. I am pretty sure I am going to change the name of my shop, as previously referenced here and here.  If you're new to the blog, I was going to change my shop name to "by the book" but found out someone already has that name and I can't use it.  Anyway, many of you wonderful readers gave me some suggestions, and I have been pondering and mulling and rolling it around in my head, and I think I'm either going to become "handmade by the book" or "by the book handmade".  I know I ask this a lot, but...thoughts?

3. You know I love my humor on Fridays....

4. To all the blogs I follow- I am trying very hard to read and catch up with you.  You may get some rogue comments from me on posts from weeks ago.  I promise I'm still there!

5. Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or other merry holiday.  We will be celebrating with lots and lots of family, and are looking forward to it very much.  Stay safe and have lots of fun.

Happy Friday!

Holiday Mantel

Taking a cue from Pam over at Mercantile Muse, I thought I'd show off the one other decorated thing in our house besides the Christmas tree- the mantel.  Since our house is still in DIY construction mode, we don't spread the decorations around because no one is going to see them.  The tree goes in the corner in our dining room, and the mantel is on the other side of the room, on the dining-room-side of our double-sided fireplace.  It's mostly covered with knick-knacks from students I had, or junk from places like the Christmas Tree Shop, but I really like all of the things that are up there and love to see them from year to year.  Plus, we have our stockings hung up.  We all have one, even Casey the poodle.

Our card wreath- much more full now!

Gus had a great time unwrapping everything this year, faster than I could even put things up.  It's going to be even more fun when we can finally expand from the dining room.  Do you have a mantel that you decorate or another place you put all of your small items?  My mom has a high shelf that's full of snowmen, for example, which is more coordinated than mine, but I like the mish-mash effect.

Holiday Party Etiquette

On Saturday we were invited to three separate get-togethers: a lunch visit with friends we hadn't seen in a very long time, even though they don't live too far from us; a dinner at my cousins' house because they will be away on Cape Cod for Christmas; and an evening get-together at our neighbors' house, who dropped the invitation on us just a few days before it happened, which is typical of them, but we try and make an effort to show up.  Since the last of the three was going to start at 8pm and it was stated that all the other kids were going to one of the other neighbor's houses with a baby-sitter (poor girl), we opted to put Gus to bed and take shifts at the party, which was right around the corner.  We did the same thing on New Year's Eve last year and it worked out fine.

Cue me, taking the first shift, slightly after 8:00 because we had just gotten home from visit #2, but no one is ever on time to parties at this house anyway, and I brought Greta with me figuring everyone wanted to see her and the husband said it was ok to bring her along.  I walk in (because this is one of those just-walk-in houses) and I'm greeted by a sea of faces looking at who's interrupting their party, or so it seemed because everyone was already there in their COCKTAIL DRESSES and suits and ties.  Pardon my shouting, but I've never been so embarrassed in my whole life.

Again, there's me: out all day with two kids, jeans and a sweater (nice but not cocktail attire), hair in a disaster bun, had a baby 6 weeks ago (not that I'm out of shape- I'm surprisingly in shape, but my pants still don't quite fit).  In a sea of black and red and heels and makeup and jewelry.  I managed to get out of there in under an hour, citing Greta's fussing/need to be fed (because oh, yea, I brought a baby with me), promising to send the hubs back for his shift.  The hubs refused to go.  First, he didn't want to put on a suit and tie and second, he was in disbelief and a little bit angry.  He said, "You should have said something like, 'I didn't realize it was a dressy party,'" but when you are deer in the headlights, your brain doesn't always work properly.

So please, do me a favor this holiday season: if you have a party, please inform the guests of the proper attire before they make an ass out of themselves in front of people whom you don't necessarily know well, and if you go to a party, make sure you look just a little extra nice just in case.

Pinterest (I Tried It): Candy Cane Blossoms

Welcome Pinners and friends!  If you've tried something from one of your pinboards this week and blogged about it, you can link up your post at the bottom of this one.  I really love to see what you come up with and how you interpret your pins.

I'm back!  A couple of weeks away (and realizing, oh, crap, it's Thursday!) and I've actually tried six pins this week (more tomorrow).  I'm so proud.  This week I made the aforementioned peppermint cookies, found here at Baked Perfection.

These looked so cute and were pretty easy to make.  Turns out that this recipe is right on the back of the Hershey Candy Cane Kisses package!  Now, like Risa said in her post, I didn't get nearly the amount the recipe suggested- I only got 31, but I made them a little bit big.

Of course, these came about with Gus saying, "Let's make cookies, Mama."  How do you say no to that?  I knew I was going to make these before Christmas and freeze them anyway, so why not?  However, that meant that the two sticks of butter the recipe called for were located in the freezer, rock solid, the complete opposite of what you need for baking.  Aha!  I remembered another site I just pinned the other day: how to bring butter to room temperature at my baking addiction.

In no time I was grating my butter sticks and zapping the shavings in the microwave for a few seconds, and it worked like a dream.  I also made my own colored sugar with granulated sugar and food coloring, although I did not heed Risa's tip to let the sugar dry (read the whole thing before starting, Kristen).

Maybe that is why mine came out something like this:

Now, the hubs had the good camera when we made these, so there are no in-progress pictures, but Gus was having a great time with these.  He was pouring and stirring and rolling the dough in sugar like a pro.  Like I said, we did make these a little bigger than suggested, but I have no idea why they spread so much.  Luckily, they still taste good!

So how about you?  How were your pinning experiments this week?  Link up below or leave a comment!  And remember- same time next week!  I had a lot of fun trying this one out and may stick to the sewing board for a little while.

Feel free to grab a botton to add to your post to share this link-up with your readers!
life by the book

Holiday Treats: Scottish Shortbread

Hey, check me out over at The Blue-Eyed Owl for the story behind these shortbread and to get the recipe!  They are easy, even for the non-bakers.

Holiday DIY: Christmas Card Holder

Oh, Martha, you've done it again.  In the Living magazine from last Christmas (I think) was this wreath:

The website says it's from 2002, but I think last year's issue was favorite's from seasons past.  Anyway....

I loved the idea of this wreath.  We have always had a problem with where to put Christmas cards. On a table, they're in the way.  Same with the mantle, where I have all other kinds of knick-knacks.  No good doorway to string them up around, and so on.  We do, however, have an empty spot over the mantle, perfect for this hoop!  So last year I made one, and it's back this year:

This is the easiest project.  All you need is a large wooden embroidery hoop- I got mine at Michael's in the knitting/embroidery aisle, with a 40% off coupon (like $2 or 3)- on which you attach mini clothes pins- also at Michael's in the doll/miniatures aisle.  Alternate them facing in then out every few inches around the hoop.  It helps to lay them out first, just in case.  Use wood glue to secure the pins down.  Trust me when I say that white glue and rubber cement both do not work.

Then loop a long piece of ribbon around the top of the hoop where the metal tightener is and tie a bow.  Loop a hanger through the back of the knot (Can you see my twist tie? High-tech!) and hang.  My ribbon is wired, so it's not as floppy as Martha's.  I like the look of hers, but my ribbon was hanging around in the Christmas bin for years and free is always good.

The clips hold the cards and photos in place nicely.

Quick, easy, and pretty attractive against our fireplace.  I suppose you could always paint the hoop if you'd like to make it more fancy, but we like the rustic look.  Maybe some day I will change the ribbon to something more Martha.

Holiday Treats: Peanut Butter Balls

I love to cook and bake and I do it often, but I know that not everyone does, so I was so excited when I looked through my Christmas cookie list (yes, there is a list) and saw these awesome no-bake peanut butter balls on there because I knew they would be perfect to share with you.  They are super easy for bakers and non-bakers alike, and I promise I'll make it as painless as possible.  Plus, just think of them as crunchy round peanut butter cups and that will probably keep you going.

This recipe came to me through my oldest and dearest friend when we were hosting a cookie exchange one year.  If you've never done one, you make one dozen cookies for each person invited (for them to take home) and one extra dozen for taste-testing during the party.  That way everyone ends up with several dozen types of cookies but you only have to make one.  Anyhoo....she made these crispy peanut butter balls and they were a hit.  While I was teaching, I made them for my students one year (before peanut butter was banned shortly thereafter) and they ate them all.  Quickly.

For the how-to on these great treats, hop on over to Dandelions and Lace where I'm guest posting today!

Holiday Fun: Trimming the Tree

Fun surprise!  Little Sapling Toys is offering my readers a discount!  Use BOOK10 at checkout, which is valid for 10% off any purchase in their Etsy shop. It will run until December 22nd.  Hooray!  Remember this set from the other day?  They have all kinds of neat wooden toys.  Go check it out!!  And now....on to today's post!

We've been working hard around here.  We've baked a couple kinds of cookies already (recipes to come!), presents have been bought, but not quite wrapped yet, and we lugged all the decorations out of the basement.  Gus and I worked hard on the tree last week and I finally got a few non-glare-y photos to share.

Our tree is tall and skinny, from the days when we had just a narrow space for one in our apartment.  I wondered when we would finally fill up the tree and need a bigger one, and two kids, a dog, and a house later and I think we may be there.  I love our tree, though, so we may just need to edit next year because we are getting overrun with ornaments!  Here are a few of my favorites:

 Our full tree!

 I love the look of antique glass (?) ornaments.  We have a bunch.

 Rustic snowman

 Stuffed reindeer

 Teapot (of course!)

Polish pottery tree- matches our dish collection, which I should share one day

I really love unwrapping all the ornaments each year and rediscovering what we have and the ones we cherish.  Gus was an ornament monster this year, unwrapping faster than I could hang them.  It was quite an experience.

And just for you (well, for me too) I found some fun ornaments and how-to's, all on Pinterest:

Things to try for next year!!  Did you make any ornaments this year?  Do you have a tree-trimming tradition?  Favorite ornaments?

Happy Friday!

(Check back here Sunday for a link to my chocolate peanut butter ball recipe guest post!)

Handmade Gift Guide: For the Kids

I have been on the hunt for a few small things for the kids for Christmas (ok, it's really weird to me to say "the kids" now).  We don't really do too much- we have a large family and wonderful grandparents who are so generous in their gift giving, so we don't want to go overboard ourselves- but we like to make sure there is something small from Mom and Dad and a few small things from Santa, even if they'll only know it's from him through pictures later on.  Gus is into Santa this year and told us Santa is going to bring him a backhoe (love it).  Greta will have no idea what's going on but for Gus's sake now we need to make sure Santa brings her something, too.

And so, this has taken me to Etsy, from which the neatest handmade toys can be found:

Happy shopping!

Holiday Treats: Snowman Soup

While digging out the Christmas decorations this weekend, I found an old favorite classroom favor that was gifted to me by one of my students from my very first class.  I liked it so much, and it's so easy, that I copied the format and gave it to my students year after year at holiday time.  Since giving a "Christmas" gift wasn't really allowed, this was the perfect treat to hand out:  Snowman Soup!

In a holiday treat bag, place a packet of hot chocolate mix, a candy cane, some marshmallows, and a few Hershey kisses as the "soup" ingredients.  Close it up and attach the poem!  The beauty of this is you can do so many variations: Hershey hugs, Andes candies, starlight peppermints, holiday Peeps, etc.  The combinations are endless.  This has always gone over really well with the kiddos, who all want to go home and make it right away, but I'm sure that it would be a welcome treat for adults, too.  You could jazz it up with a chocolate spoon or one of those chocolate-covered peppermint sticks that they have for coffee.

Have fun with this winter warm-up treat!


Well, a few more unexpected events kept me away from the blog for a few days, and let me tell you that  I really could use some humor to end my week.  Let's just say that the hubs and I are very happy that it is now December because November was not our best month.

How peanut butter is made.

Office Space, anyone?

Happy Friday!