Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday flowers

A fistful of freesia, oddly out of season but still fragrant and graceful.

freesia, table
{freesia, table}

They're one of my favorites so I couldn't resist even though they seem a bit out of place when you can see Christmas lights twinkling in the background.

freesia
{freesia}

Another packed weekend coming up, but then I should have a few quiet days next week. I have lots of kitchen time planned and hopefully I'll manage to fit some sewing in as well. We're going super minimal with gifts (none between D and me, stockings only with the family), so I don't have much to do in that department but it's always nice to get a few little things made up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Felt clouds

Just for fun, because I have lots of things that I actually should be doing and I like to procrastinate ...

felt cloud
{felt cloud}

I made some cloud ornaments out of white felt and some leftover silver vinyl from the wreath project. I just sketched out some clouds, cut two of each out of felt and one slightly smaller out of the silver. Handstitched everything and stuffed it with a bit of cotton batting.

mini cloud
{mini cloud}

Clouds don't really have anything to do with Christmas, of course - I just like the shapes.

tree with clouds
{tree with clouds}

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ikea Christmas

We made a very quick stop at Ikea because D needed to pick up something for work. It would have been even quicker, except that I found this fabric and then had to find someone and convince them to cut it for me. I got red and blue.

ikea loot
{ikea loot}

Ikea fabric is almost always 59" wide, which makes it perfect for easy tablecloths. I was in love with this pattern the moment I saw it and it's even better when you see it in full scale. Like many of the Ikea fabrics, it's a gorgeous 100% cotton that's hefty enough to be close to canvas. Clearly worth much more than the $4.99 a yard that it actually costs. 
{snoa flinga fabric, photo from Ikea}

I took the last of the red at the Orange County Ikea, so my apologies to anyone who tries to find it there. Hopefully they'll restock. They also have placemats in the same pattern.

We picked up a few of these moose wine gift bags and a couple rolls of wrapping paper. Even though I keep trying to get away from wrapping paper, I like to have good patterns on hand.

My love of Ikea fabric is pretty well documented ...
first visit to Ikea fabric section
Ikea tablecloth 1
Ikea tablecloth 2
Ikea tablecloth 3

To be fair, it is pretty amazing fabric. The fact that it's starting to take over my credenza storage space is going to become an issue at some point.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The weekend, briefly

It was a weekend jam packed with good things and way too much food.

Kristin's beautiful baby shower, expertly organized by Angel.

kris's baby shower - peonies
{peonies}

kris's baby shower - desserts
{desserts}

kris's baby shower - cake in a jar
{cake in a jar}

The craziness that is the annual family gingerbread house party. It was a particularly good one this year, I think. D used golden grahams to make a shingled roof. I managed to snap a photo of Circe that is only semi blurry. I tried to get one of her beloved new friend, but he's one of those puppies that's like quicksilver. Hard to catch on camera.

gb 2010 d frosting
{gb 2010, d frosting}

gb 2010 circe
{gb 2010, circe}

gb 2010 snowy
{gb 2010, snowy}

gb 2010 reindeer candles
{gb 2010, reindeer candles}

There was more - birthday pumpkin pies for my dad and D, a sunset that was so amazing that I nearly crashed the car driving home, a quick, late night trip to Ikea.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, D!

It is Dustin's birthday and it's one of those years where it just doesn't come together. We had a crazy weekend (hence the lack of a recap yet - we got home too late for me to get photos uploaded). He has to work late today, we have other plans most nights this week, we haven't done laundry in way too long, we're low on groceries and I haven't even thought about getting a birthday dessert lined up.

So, in lieu of any official celebration, I swear I will stop at the store and pick up a dessert, quarters, and also eggs, so we can resume eating breakfast like normal people. And then I will do at least one load of laundry, even though I can last longer in the laundry siege and I have a bad relationship with our washer, which frequently breaks down when I use it. I will wait and not watch the Dexter finale until you are around, even though I'm dying. Oh, and if you make it home in time, I will totally spring for dinner. Anywhere you want, and I promise I won't wear sweats.

birthday cake
{photo of a dessert that i did not bake}

Please note that sometimes I manage to do a good job on birthdays - witness the gift selection from 2008 and the birthday brunch from 2009.  It's hit or miss around here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday flowers

Small and simple this week ... and I was too busy to get any pictures until it was already dark.

flowers, lights, satsuma
{flowers, lights, satsuma}

Big weekend coming up - a dear friend's baby shower + a few birthdays + the annual family gingerbread party. I'll try not to give myself any permanent scars (I still have a pretty gnarly one that goes all the way around my wrist from last year).

flowers, lights
{flowers, lights}

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Risotto with butternut squash and mushrooms

AKA leftover veggie risotto.  Risotto is the perfect one dish, cold weather meal. I love the quietness of standing in the kitchen, reading a book and drinking a glass of wine while stirring the rice. It takes about 30 minutes to cook, enough time to relax after a long day but not so much time that I'm ravenous before it finishes.

butternut squash and mushroom risotto
{butternut squash and mushroom risotto}

Risotto will take pretty much anything you throw at it - all you need is the basic technique. I had leeks, mushrooms that needed to get used quickly and a butternut squash, and they all came together beautifully. The sweetness of the butternut squash was the perfect contrast to the earthiness of the mushrooms. This is my favorite combination, and I'll sometimes add a bit of sliced proscuitto at the end, if I have it around. It adds a nice touch, but we didn't have it this time. You could easily sub a small onion for the shallots and leeks.

rice
{rice}
Butternut squash and mushroom risotto (serves 4 heartily)

For the risotto:
A chunk of butter (a few tablespoons)
1 shallot, diced
2 large leeks, sliced and washed
20 oz. sliced mushrooms, mix of crimini and white (this is just what I had - you could reduce this if you don't want piles of mushrooms)
1 cup arborio rice
4 - 5 cups hot liquid (I used 2 cups chicken broth, because I had it, and 3 cups water)
Small handful of sage leaves, diced
Dash of salt and pepper
Handful of grated Parmesan or other cheese

For the squash:
A couple tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt + pepper
1 medium butternut squash, chunked

: Get your squash started - cube it and toss it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread it out on a baking sheet in a single layer and pop it in a 400 degree oven. It will need 30 - 40 minutes.

: Make a basic risotto - start by sauteeing the shallots and the leeks in the butter over medium heat, until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until they are soft and much reduced in size. Toss in the rice and stir it about for a couple of minutes, to coat it. Pour in a bit of hot liquid (step back - it's going to steam like crazy!) and stir it in. Add the chopped sage.

: Now comes the slow part. You have to stay in the kitchen so you can stir the risotto every few minutes. Once it absorbs the liquid you've added, add another cup. Continue doing this until the risotto is nice and soft but not mushy. Keep the liquid simmering briskly during this time. It usually takes about 30 minutes for me and you're adding liquid every 5 - 10 minutes. You may not need the entire 5 cups of liquid. When it's finished, the risotto will be creamy and tender but not mushy.

: Hopefully your risotto is finishing just as your squash is coming out of the oven. Dump the squash and the Parmesan cheese in the pot with the risotto. Stir everything together. Serve immediately.
 Apparently risotto is not supposed to be reheated, but I love it as leftovers and D agrees. Maybe we're just not very picky? 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Psssssttt...

The holiday sale in the shop is ending tonight at 8 pm PST. Use code BLOGLOVE20 for 20% off all orders up until then.

heart of light

The four phrases napkins have been going pretty quickly (I'm so happy that you guys like them as much as I do) but I have 8 sets left in stock, so there's still time to snatch them up. The ENJOY napkins are currently sold out - sorry! They probably won't be back in stock until after Christmas, although there's a tiny chance I'll have more ready by next week. Chalkboard gift tags are available, and always a good bet for the holidays. I used them with my re-useable felt gift wrap last year, and I'll be using them again this year for sure. As always - contact me if you need larger quantities than you see listed and I'll be happy to set up a reserved listing just for you.

Everyday tea basics + holiday tea

Tea is a pretty serious business for me. I don't even know how much I drink - I think I average a 12 ounce mug every hour for the first half of the day and then every two hours after that.

saturday afternoon tea
{saturday afternoon tea}

For everyday, I drink plain black tea, bagged or loose leaf, depending on how convenient I need it to be. Start with fresh, boiling water. Steep for 4 - 5 minutes, until the tea is fairly dark. Absolutely no sugar, but I do take milk. Never, ever add the milk until the tea is completely finished brewing. If I'm going to drink my tea sans milk, I'll usually cut a little bit of time off the brewing, so it isn't quite so dark. Skimp too much and you'll think you're drinking ditch water - lightly colored and tasting vaguely of twigs.

I'm partial to the Lipton Yellow Label tea, which is very basic but strong. I get it from the local Indian grocery store, but you can also order it online. It isn't the same as the Lipton you see in most grocery stores, even though they both come in a yellow box. Confusing, I know. As a more expensive (but more readily available) back up, I like the Tazo Awake. Of course, I think that if you start with hot enough water and brew it properly, you can get a drinkable cup of tea out of an offbrand tea bag that expired years ago (desperate situations and all that).

For the holidays, I step it up a little ...

Harney and Sons
{harney and sons white christmas and holiday tea}

Holiday tea is a sort of sacred ritual for me. It's black tea with some spices and citrus and just the smell is enough to make me feel a little calmer. I make it even more indulgent by using real cream rather than my usual milk.

I like to pick up the custom holiday tea blend from the tea shop in my old college town (Bamboo Tea House in Claremont, for locals) but I didn't make it this year. Harney and Sons Holiday Tea is an excellent alternative - good black tea with spices. I fully admit that I also purchased the White Christmas tea solely because I loved the tin. I promise I'll actually try it out and report back.

I had a little bit of a meltdown on Saturday when I realized that one of my nemeses*, the FedEx ground delivery guy, hadn't bothered to buzz me to come down and sign for the package of tea, but had instead just decided to leave a note and redeliver on Tuesday. I was really, really looking forward to that tea. And now I'm finally enjoying it.

writing thank you notes
{writing thank you notes, holiday tea, previously}

* The plural makes it sound worse than it is - I really only have two nemeses. The FedEx ground delivery guy who consistently fails to deliver or misdelivers packages, and the senior checker at the Santa Monica Michael's, who sneakily manages to be unbelievably rude but never when anyone I know is around to witness it, thus doubling the offense by making me look crazy. I've only actually complained officially about the FedEx guy, because I figure I would probably also be rude if I worked somewhere as hellish as Michael's.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Unidentified vegetable

So, this appeared in my CSA box.

mystery veggie
{mystery veggie}

Help, please? It looks like mutant cauliflower. I'm equal parts terrified and fascinated.

mystery veggie
{mystery veggie}

Monday, December 6, 2010

The weekend, briefly

The light was lovely this weekend, as it is right before it rains. The downpour held off until Sunday evening, which was perfect, really. Very cozy. I packaged up orders and we trimmed the tree and I tried to soak it all in, this final weekend before the holiday madness gets started. Seriously. The calender is booked every Saturday and Sunday for the rest of the month, to say nothing of midweek happy hours. I love it, but it takes a bit of mental preparation.

disco ball ornament
{disco ball ornament}

satsumas
{satsumas}

tree, trimmed
{tree, trimmed}

cheesecake, eaten
{cheesecake, eaten}

ornaments
{ornaments}

leeks, waiting
{leeks, waiting}

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday flowers

I rescued a few of the yellow flowers from my pre-Thanksgiving bouquet and made a tiny arrangement, only slightly dying. D picked up some simple white flowers from the farmer's market, so this week we have a bounty.

white + yellow
{white + yellow}

I think that white and green is one of my favorite color combos lately.

white flowers, green leaves
{white flowers, green leaves}

This is our only free weekend for the entire month of December (now that I think about it, we might not even have a free day for the rest of the month, let alone two) and we haven't figured out how to spend it. I'm sure it will fill up quickly. I'm hoping the Christmas tea I ordered arrives so I can revel in it for as much of the month as possible.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heart of Light - shop update + holiday sale!

I had hoped to have more done for the shop before the holidays, but somehow there never seem to be enough hours in a day. And obviously, I have very crucial things to do, like make wreaths.

But, there are a few new things up and as a little thank you to all you readers, I'm offering a 20% discount in the Heart of Light shop from now through next Wednesday (12/8/10). Just use coupon code BLOGLOVE20 at checkout (doesn't apply to shipping, taxes or special custom pieces). As always, if you would like a larger quantity of any of the items, please contact me and I'll be happy to set up a reserved listing just for you.

heart of light

A little peek at some of the new items ... 

I designed the "check one" tags last year and finally had time to stamp and package them last month. They're simple manila gift tags for people who don't like having to fill out actual cards. Or just for people who like a deadpan sense of humor. Fill in the blanks, check off the appropriate box and you're good to go. They come as a set of eight, simply packaged in a glassine envelope.

"check one" tags

"check one" tags

The "enjoy" napkins were designed as my personal gifts last year. Everyone in my family got a set for Christmas. We made the switch to cloth napkins a couple years ago (accidentally, because we were too lazy to go out and buy more paper towels) and we've never looked back, so we use these all the time (you can see them in use way back at new year's eve last year!). These large (~18" square) napkins are excellent for every day use. They are super sturdy 100% cotton, not fine linen. They absorb like crazy and they can be tossed in the washer and the dryer. I've even bleached ours a couple times on accident, and they still look fine. Hand printed, by me. Sold as a set of four.

"enjoy" napkin set

The "four phrases" napkins are a little more playful and a little less elegant. Large block letters encourage guests to dig in, pig out, eat up and chow down. Again, they're sturdy and absorbent. Hand printed, by me. Sold as a set of four.

"four phrases" napkin set

"four phrases" napkins

And on the personal accessories front - the silk + leather headband is a piece I'm really loving right now. I braid hand dyed bias cut silk with metallic gold leather (carefully sourced and dyed without any lead at all). Soft elastic is securely stitched to both ends, so you can simply slip it over your head and go. The design is simple, but the materials are luxurious, one of my favorite combinations.

silk + leather headband on white
silk + leather headband on 1

The woven headband is handwoven by me out of a beautiful cotton/linen blend striped fabric. The result is a bright spattering of colors in a very soft headband. Secured with elastic. I made myself one of these months ago and it's been my go to for every day wear.

woven headband on 3
woven headband on white 2

There are also a few new colors available in the rosebud belt, which you can see here.

rosebud belts 1

A million thanks to D for taking the headband shots for me. It's a painful process, because I hate modeling (and not having control over the camera myself) but I didn't have time to schedule a real photoshoot with my sis and I wanted these up for you guys when the discount went live. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas wreath 2010

It's December 1st, officially open season on holiday crafting. We'll ignore the fact that I made this wreath in November, well before such a thing was appropriate.

This year's wreath started, as all good things start, with a large cup of tea. Also, wool felt.

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010}

I traced over some olive leaf pictures and created a black and white file in Illustrator, then printed them and cut each one out. I traced around the cut outs on green wool felt (of course, polyester craft felt works but it simply doesn't feel the same - if you aim for at least 60% wool, you'll be much happier) and also on some metallic faux leather (wanted real leather, but it could not be had) that I purchased from the local upholstery store for $5 for a quarter yard. Black sharpie worked best on both, although I was a little woozy from the fumes. Make sure you trace on the back of the metallic material so you don't have to worry about the lines showing!

Then I cut and cut and cut. This part made me very thankful for old episodes of This American Life.

Pieces all ready, I protected my coffee table with wax paper, set down my wreath frame ($2 at the craft store) and started hot gluing. I attached the ribbon first, because I wanted the leaves to go over it.

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010 - assembly}

At first I tried to come up with some kind of logical process, like applying the metallic leaves first and then adding the felt. In the end, I just ended up gluing like crazy, adding leaves wherever I thought they looked right. This was the fun part.

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010 - gluing}

Adding leaves to the back as well gave the wreath a fuller feel. I initially imagined it as being more sparse, but sparse is actually a lot harder to do and I would have needed to be much more precise with my placement.

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010}

And here it is, hanging on the wall in the grey winter light. I'm probably safe to move it to our front door now, without risking anyone defacing it out of sheer annoyance.

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010}

christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010}

If you'd like the leaf file, it's right here. You only need to print and cut out the leaf pages once, but you'll want to trace at least two sets onto your materials. I traced each leaf onto the wool felt twice and then made a half batch using the metallic vinyl.

Here's a little shopping list, if you'd like to make your own ...

Felt (wool or wool blend preferred), ~1/2  to 3/4 of a yard
Metallic leather or vinyl (optional), ~ 1/8 a yard, probably much less
Marker for tracing on fabric (Sharpie is fine, or fabric marker)
Leaf templates (you can use my file or a picture or you can trace actual leaves)
Sharp scissors
Wreath frame (mine was about 14" across)
Ribbon, for hanging
Hot glue gun