Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cocoa Candy Cane Marshmallows

If you're wondering what to do with leftover candy canes, these hot chocolate toppers might be the answer. The original recipe (from Better Homes and Gardens) called for a powdered sugar mixture to adhere the crushed candy cane, but I thought I'd try dark chocolate instead. They were so simple to make and I ended up making almost three dozen; we enjoyed them with hot chocolate after the belated Christmas dinner we had over the weekend. I also wrapped some up in cellophane and made labels (the perfect opportunity to test out my new Xyron sticker maker). I've been playing with other presents too - the cake dishes my little brother gave me and the light tent that Brett built for me. I have these two guys to thank for the photo results above. With out further ado, here's the recipe (you can download the labels here too if you like):

Ingredients: 30 large marshmallows (about half a standard bag), approximately 3 ounces of dark chocolate, 10 standard size candy canes
Instructions: {1.} Enclose candy canes in a sturdy sealed bag and crush using a rolling pin. Place crushed candy canes in a small dish. {2.} Completely melt 3 ounces of dark chocolate in in a small dish. {3.} Dip each marshmallow in chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, and roll in crushed candy canes. {4.} Place on a wax-paper-covered baking sheet. Briefly refrigerate - only as long as it takes the chocolate to harden, then store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

With Every Christmas Card I Write

My 2008 Christmas cards were finished a little later than last year's, but as most of them were hand delivered it worked out nicely. This year candy-pinks, pale green, and of course snowy white have really dominated things. The "cards" are glossy prints of the button and house photo with a handwritten message in red ink on the reverse. I sprinkled a few iridescent confetti stars inside velum envelopes before tying them up with a bit of baker's twine and addressing them with matching "Send To" labels. The stars are really my favorite part of this and Brett was remarkably patient as I ridiculously circled Michael's three times in the holiday rush looking for the perfect confetti, snow or glitter for this purpose. I'm so glad I settled on these - when the light hits them a certain way they're the same sea-foamy green as the "Noel" type. On a related note I'm sending out a "Correspondence List" postcard, so check your in-boxes everyone! I hope you all enjoy the season, perhaps I'll be back once or twice more before the new year. Can you believe it's almost 2009?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Best Things

As the twenty fifth approaches, there's been an increasing amount of present wrapping, tree trimming and hot chocolate sipping. But every year watching White Christmas seems to top my list of traditions. It's one of those musicals in which every number is a favorite, and really what's not to love? Bing hamming it up with Rosemary Clooney in "Count Your Blessings"; Danny Kaye's comedic expressions and Vera Ellen's impeccable tapping in "Choreography." I suppose one of my favorite aspects of this 1954 musical is that it seems to look back to the forties and prior . There's a clear consciousness of the World War II legacy embedded in the plot and frequent incorporations of Irving Berlin's earlier compositions. "White Christmas" joins a swingy rendition of "Abraham" in the line-up, both featured over a decade earlier in Holiday Inn (1942). And "Mandy" (1919) is revived in the nostalgic Minstrel Number. Anyway, if that alone isn't compelling, there's an array of costume and color - I just love Vera Ellen's ensemble (feathered hat, dress, muff, gloves and shoes all in bright pink) and Rosemary Clooney's dramatic black gown.

Images are altered stills from White Christmas, Paramount Pictures (1954).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Homemade Christmas Garland {A Tutorial}

Grab a cup of hot cocoa and some scissors and settle in for a long winter's night of crafting! As promised here's the "Homemade Christmas" tutorial. Ice skates, evergreens, mittens and reindeer - all in snowy, glittery white and accented with a ribbon color of your choice. You just might be tempted to leave it up through January! Hope you all enjoy it, and feel free to share photos if you make one of these wintry garlands -or another creative variation of your own.

You'll need: a printer, 1 sheet of card stock for stencils, sturdy white paper like card stock or watercolor paper for ornaments, white glue, old paintbrush, glitter, mini clothespins, white paint, ribbon, scissors
How to make: {1} Click the button above to download the template pdf. Print on a sturdy piece of cardstock. {2} Cut out desired shapes to make stencils. {3} Trace stencil shapes on sturdy white paper - I used watercolor paper - and cut out shapes. {4} Paint a thin layer of glue on one side of ornament and apply an even layer of glitter. {5} Make enough glittered ornaments to fill in a desired length of 1/4 inch ribbon. I lightly whitewashed mini clothespins (available at most craft stores) with acrylic craft paint and used them to affix ornaments to ribbon. {6} Hang across a door frame, mantle or window and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Little Mysteries

The weather's been lovely of late - diffuse afternoon light, violet skies at dusk, and low thick fog. On a gray morning weeks ago, we finally made it to the Fairfax flea market, and I collected a handful of old photos along with a mid-century birdwatching book (which I'm sure will make their way into future posts). The most curious find, was at the bottom of a bin of old papers - a negative in a puzzling envelope. Across it's front, "Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S." was printed in an official typeface, the phrase "Birds & Bananas" penciled smoothly beneath. So very strange. I scanned the negative, and the image itself has such an enchanting use of light - blurred and atmospheric. An ethereal brightness shines through delicate curtains, and a spindly white birdcage contrasts the dull sepia of a room with patterned wallpaper. It's melancholy yet almost inspirationally calming in a collage with cheery yellow canaries from my sketchbook and a tartan button for good measure. It all kind of reminds of one of those cloudy, rainy days with intermittent bursts of blue sky and sun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To Grandmother's House We Go

In the corner of Nana's sewing room, next to the little old desk and the White machine sits a giant glass jar filled with buttons. Round ones and square ones, some in mother of pearl, others in nautical brass or 60s bright orange plastic. Some with sparkling stones, some long since parted from a brown plaid coat, some with peculiar letters, anchors or entangled monograms. They've been there for as long as I can remember, always a source for the creative pursuits that dotted the timeline of my childhood.

This Thanksgiving I found myself somewhat bored between the potatoes and the pie, and the kitchen was so bustling that my dishtowel-wielding hands were never called into action. So I thought I'd take a turn through those old buttons. Mischievously I lifted the glass lid, somewhat effortlessly compared to the way I'd struggled with its weight as a little girl. What resulted is the collection above: pink, bright, cheery, mismatched.

Nana let me take them home as an early Christmas present. Thrilled, I thought to pair them up with the cardboard house (from Michael's) I decorated last week to look a little like a teeny watercolor sketch I did this summer (it's pictured in the border above). I suppose a photo shoot featuring buttons and glitter "snow" is entirely ridiculous. But everyone has their quirks. Besides, they've inspired a "Homemade Christmas" theme for my projects this holiday season. Think houses, hearth and a reliance on classic craft supplies - plain old paper and scissors, glitter, buttons and string. Of course there's a craft tutorial in the works for you all! To be posted as soon as I finish final exams.