Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Painted Christmas Tins

My junior year of college I lived in a cottage on campus. I wanted to fill our house with Christmas cheer, but couldn’t have a [live] tree and had limited funds. So, my mom let me raid her basement craft studio (she taught toll painting classes when I was younger). My favorite project was the painted tins.
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I spray painted the plain tins red, then painted Christmas trees on one, lights on another, and snowflakes on the third. My favorite is the one with the lights.
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Some years I’ve tied the three with a big ribbon to make it look like a stacked gift. Sometimes they’ve sat above my cupboards, other years on an end table, and this year in front of my fireplace.
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The beautiful thing about storing this project is that they fit within each other!
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Monday, November 29, 2010

The stockings were hung…

Four years ago, for our first Christmas as a married couple, I made stockings for me and Nolan.
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(My mantel looks so bare!)
I bought enough fabric at that time to make six stockings (I would love to have 4 kids while Nolan says we’ll have 3 and then talk about it… so at least I knew I would be fully prepared). But then the next year I wanted a matching tree skirt, and had so much fabric just sitting there, and I’d be able to find pretty fabric later, right?
So, fast forward a few years, and Jace is a part of our family, Christmas is approaching,and I need to make him a stocking. Ucreate featured an adorable stocking from Moda Bake Shop, and chose it as one of the projects for the November Create With Me. I loved the style, and found some really cute fabrics at Joann’s that coordinated well with mine and Nolan’s stockings. I even used left over fabric from ours for a few of the stripes in Jace’s stocking. I figure with each future child, I can pick out fabrics just for them and also use some fabric from ours. Then they’ll all be coordinated, but each child will have one unique to them.
(Side story: Stockings were a big part of my family’s Christmas celebration. None of us could go into the living room on Christmas morning until everyone was up, my dad could turn on the tree, and my mom could watch us all enter at the same time. One year, my mom had put a stuffed animal in each of our stockings, so their heads were peeking out. It was magical when we entered the room! Three of the four of us kids had matching stockings (my mom thought she was done at three). Then, my youngest brother was a big surprise! He had a “Baby” stocking for years, and then a few random ones before a traditional Santa stocking was designated his. I’m glad that I’ve found a way to make a unique stocking for each of my children, have them coordinate, yet not have to worry about a surprise later on!)
Here’s Jace’s stocking!
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I love the way it turned out! Instead of just having a cuff at the top, I finished it off with ric-rac, using embroidery floss to stitch it on. I cross stitched his name just like the ones on mine and Noaln’s stockings…
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…and hung it in the middle on the mantle.
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This makes me happy!
I’ll have a post later this week about our stocking hooks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Number 1 @ CSI!

 Oh my, oh my, oh my! On Tuesday I entered this post about our Christmas Tree Breads in the CSI Project's link up party for holiday baking. I was planning on writing that post at some point, but the challenge motivated me to get it up right away. It was fun entering, but I really didn't expect to get chosen or acknowledged. I've entered in several of their challenges before, but there are always so many other projects that I am in awe of.

Well... just before heading up to bed tonight (later than I should have been), I decided to check my blog reader one more time. And what did I see when I happened upon The CSI Project's latest post? I not only was selected by the guest judges, but my project was the number 1 pick! My heart literally jumped! I quickly unplugged my laptop, ran up the stairs with it, shouting in the loudest whisper I could (after all, Jace was sleeping), "Nolan!!!" Of course, he's logical, and after looking at the post all he saw was "#36" next to the name of my project. After explaining to him that it meant I was the 36th entry, but chosen as the number 1 pick, he was happy for me too!

And now that I've shared my excitement, I also have to share how it was because of the CSI Project that I started this blog. In the months after Jace was born, my emotions did fairly well--I had a content baby who allowed me to get more sleep than I got before he was born, I had the perfect balance of a short work week and time at home, and an amazing supportive husband. But I still felt the emotional roller coaster that comes with being a new mom. Because I was nursing, I spent hours on the couch, looking at blogs. I came across the CSI Project one day, and saw the challenge for red, white and blue (yes, it was right before the 4th of July). I felt like trying my hand at something creative. I used to be really creative and crafty--my mom is the crafter of all crafters, and I grew up in constant amazement of her creativity. I did a lot of my own projects over the years, but in the months (and possibly years) leading up to becoming a mother, I hadn't spent much time creating outside of work. I felt a wonderful sense of relief as I made my star wreath. Of course, to enter my project, I needed a blog. So I started Made it on Monday. I pulled old pictures of projects I'd done around the house and posted them in case anyone decided to actually visit my blog--I wanted to have more than just my wreath to look at.

And that star wreath lead to pulling my sewing machine back out and making a Yankee Doodle Romper for Jace, and then a dress, and then a shirt for a friend's daughter, and I just couldn't stop. I felt energized when I created. I loved the outlet of starting and finishing a project in one evening. To look at what I had in my cupboards, drawers and closets, and find a way to make something new. I loved pouring over other people's posts and bookmarking their projects for inspiration. I loved the affirmation from sweet comments. Checking my email each morning became the highlight of my day. I think it's safe to say that this blog and what it represents has made a huge impact on my life. I might be going crazy without it. I'm sure I'm a happier mom and wife because of it. This blog is my accountability partner for creating new things--I keep wanting to add new posts, and know I've been slacking when my daily hits start to decrease. 

So while I feel like a silly celebrity giving their award acceptance speech, and the music has started playing, I'm so excited to have my Christmas Tree Breads chosen. Not for the button on my sidebar (although that is fun), but because it reminds me of why I started this blog, what it has done for me, and how much I want to continue with it. Now if only it wasn't 12:30 my time, which means 3:30 am for my mom, or else I'd be calling her right now!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Christmas Baking Tradition: Tree Breads

My first Christmas with Nolan I was introduced to the wonders of “tree bread.” What is tree bread? Only the most absolutely wonderful yummy cinnamon roll type Christmas treat. Becky, my mother-in-law, makes quite a few of them each year to give out to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, and the family enjoys their own tree on Christmas morning. This is one of the tree breads I made last year (the picture was taken before putting it in the oven):
The finished product is golden and beautiful, fluffed up so there aren’t any gaps, and then topped with powdered sugar icing and decorated with sprinkles. In the process of making quite a few, I had posted a Facebook status about making tree breads. My aunt asked how to make them, so I took pictures along the way. The photos in the post are from last year, and sadly I forgot to take a final product picture. I’ll make sure and capture the final beauty when I make mine this year.
My first Christmas as a Nelson, I had Becky walk me through the process, taking notes along the way.
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The recipe for the dough is the one Nolan’s grandma always used for her sweet rolls (I think it’s an expanded version of the sweet bread recipe from Better Homes and Gardens’ cookbook).
Sweet Bread Recipe (one batch can make 4 trees):
-3 cups milk
-3/4 cup warm water
-1 teaspoon sugar
-2 tablespoon dry yeast
-3/4 cup oil
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon salt
-3 eggs
I’ve heard from a lot of friends that making bread is intimidating to them. I love having my notes from watching Becky make it to refer back to.
To make the perfect sweet bread dough:
-Preheat oven to 200 and then turn off.
-Bring the milk to a boil in the microwave (about 5:55) without scalding it.
-While the milk is warming, put the warm water in a bowl, mix in the sugar, and then sprinkle the yeast over the top before gently whisking in to mix well. Let sit.
-Add oil, sugar and salt to warmed milk and pour into mixer so it can start to cool (I use my absolutely wonderful Bosch, which was given to me as a shower gift from Becky specifically for making tree breads!).
-Make sure microwave bowl has cooled (I use a Pampered Chef glass batter bowl) and beat 3 eggs in it.
-Make sure the milk is lukewarm (you don’t want it to kill the yeast), add eggs and yeast (which should have raised to about double the original amount) to milk mixture.
-Turn to 1 (on the Bosch) to mix thoroughly.
-Add flour by the cup (I think I end up using about 6 cups total in the end) until the mixer cleans the sides of the bowl. Start by adding the flour to the outside of the mixer, and then as the dough forms, add it to the center so that the mixer will clean the dough from outside and inside.
-Put about a tablespoon of oil in a stainless steel bowl and spread around.
-Put dough in bowl and press into it so that the entire bottom side of the dough is coated in oil. Fold in sides so the oil covers the top. Flip dough so all exposed surfaces are coated in oil. This will prevent the dough from drying out.
-Cover with a linen towel (or any lint free towel) and put in oven to rise.
-When dough has raised, punch down and kneed the air bubbles out. Divide your dough into quarters.
To make tree breads:
-Brown Sugar
-Powdered sugar (or any glaze or frosting of your choice)
-Sprinkles, red hots, cherries, or any topping of your choice
-Take one of the quarters of dough and roll it out into an off-shaped square (see below).
-Spread the dough with softened butter, rub brown sugar over the butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
-Fold one corner to the opposite so your folded dough looks like an arrowhead/triangle/Christmas tree.
-Cut slits in the bottom (leaving the middle uncut) to make your trunk.
-Cut off part of one side’s strip so your trunk won’t bee too thick.
-Fold the short side under the middle, and wrap the long side under and around the short side.
-trim off the bottom excess
(I save the scraps in bread pan and then bake it for wonderful cinnamon bread that makes the most AMAZING French Toast!)
-Carefully transfer the tree to a parchment lined cookie sheet (the parchment paper is important if you don’t want to scrape gooey brown sugar gunk off your cookie sheets).
-Using a sharp knife, make indentations where the branches would be, slightly angled up.
-Slice through the tree from near the center out, cutting slits along the indentations for the branches.
-Twist each branch upward about two times. Shift and shape each branch so that it has a nice tree shape.
-Allow to rise a bit before baking so that the tree will be nice and full.
-Bake at 350 in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes (I can’t remember the exact amount of time, plus my oven cooks slowly) until top is golden and it’s cooked through.
-Drizzle with a powdered sugar/water glaze. I like using this glaze instead of a frosting because you can still see the tree.
-Top with sprinkles, red hots, cherries, or anything you think would make your tree look decorated.
I wrap cut up cereal boxes with wrapping paper, put my tree on that, and then wrap in colored plastic wrap and tie a ribbon around it before giving them away. These have become a hit with the people I work with! You eat them by cutting off the boughs of the tree. It’s delicious!

UPDATED: I used the pictures from making tree breads a previous year. Here's a finished version:

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Enjoying a Cozy Day at Home


We woke up to this today:

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Yes, it’s just a light dusting of snow (which my dog LOVED running through). However, here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, we don’t just get powdery snow. We get ice. Our roads are just one big sheet of slickness, so I’m staying home today!

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I’m going to work on finishing this project that I started yesterday…

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And watch this cute little boy be so busy doing absolutely nothing!

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And a happy, snowy, cold birthday to my wonderful sister-in-law, Anna!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Giveaway Reminder!

My friend Natalie is giving away a scarf from my shop and tomorrow is the last day to enter. So head on over to her blog and enter to win the Bubblegum Ruffles Scarf!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Becoming a Woman of Discipline

I had a wonderful time at my church’s women’s retreat this weekend. The theme was “Simple Journey,” and there was a panel of 5 ladies representing 5 seasons of life: 20’s, 30’s 40’s, 50’s and 70’s. I loved how what I took away from the retreat was a collection of points from each lady’s message. One speaker (in her 20’s) spoke about desires, and asked “What do you desire?”

I’ve been struggling with the fact that my house is a disaster. I see ladies who keep their homes clean and their lives in order. While I follow a schedule as far as getting to work goes, my time at home seems chaotic and lazy at the same time. I’ll sit for hours staring needlessly at Facebook and blogs, convincing myself that I need this reward for spending my 9 hours at the office each week. I need it because I’m a mom and need my downtime. I need it because I cook dinner each night. But with all this “need” comes a lot of guilt. I feel guilty that my husband does all the dishwashing. I feel guilty for the disaster he must come home to each day. I feel guilty that my son is not growing up in the clean home I’d love to provide for him. And then when I feel so guilty, I feel tired, thus feeding my need to sit endlessly, and so goes the cycle of need and guilt.

So when Kristin asked what I desire, the word discipline came to mind. I deeply desire to be a woman of discipline. I want the simplicity that comes with a life of discipline. Yesterday, I finally disciplined myself to not open my laptop or turn on the TV until I’d had my quiet time—spent time doing what should be my daily devotions. The women’s Bible studies at church have been going through Cynthia Heald’s study, “Becoming a Woman of Simplicity.” Since my schedule doesn’t allow me to attend the study, I was given a copy to go through on my own. After letting it sit in my car for almost 3 months, I finally opened it up. I loved what Cynthia had to say about what it means to live a simple life, “My definition of a woman of simplicity is one who lives a God-paced life. She waits for God’s leading, and she has time to be still and know her Lord. She has a deep abiding rest in her spirit. She is a woman of profound simplicity because she has only one focus: being simply and purely devoted to Christ.”

For me, a disciplined life will lead to a simple life. I am going to stop treating what should be rewards as necessities. I need structure, so I’ll follow a schedule (one with room to be flexible when needed). And I’m going to have goals that are attainable, so I won’t need to feel guilty for not being the woman I want to be. And with all this discipline, my life (and thoughts) will become more simple.

Last night, I came up with four daily tasks for myself: make the bed, have a quiet time, pick up the living room, and have focused play time with Jace. Then I came up with my weekly tasks: vacuum, clean the toilets and wipe down the bathroom counters, sweep the entry way and kitchen, laundry and straighten my room. After that I listed my monthly tasks: make baby food, cut Nolan’s hair, clean Jace’s room, clean the showers, mop and plan my month. I then wrote them out on a weekly planner and scheduled when I would do each thing. It’s amazing how doable everything feels when I look at it in the scope of a month.

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Obviously there are some tasks missing like the kitchen, but those will fit into our normal routine. After defining my tasks, I set some goals for myself: no computer time until I’ve made the bed and had my quiet time, and then only a half hour until I’ve completed all the tasks that I can before Nolan comes home. No TV until I’ve made my bed and had my quiet time, and then it can only be in the background until I’ve completed all my tasks. Start dinner before Nolan comes home twice a week. Post on this blog three times per week. List one new item on Etsy per week. I feel like my goals will help me accomplish a lot while not feeling too rigid.

After just one day of following this, I can’t believe how much I’ve gotten done while also feeling rested! I came home from work, put Jace down for a nap and had my quiet time. He didn’t fall asleep during this time, but at least wasn’t fussing. When I was done, I cleaned his room while he played in his crib. Then gave him a bottle, put him back down for his nap, and ate my lunch while enjoying my half hour on the computer. Then I cleaned my living room and vacuumed as I had scheduled, followed by some time on the computer while watching TV. I love sitting here and looking around at my neat living room. And I know I’ll love getting Jace up from his nap in his no longer stinky room!

I can’t believe the peace that’s already covered me as I’ve focused my thoughts and trusted God to lead me through my day. And now it feels good to get it all out on paper (or should I say blog?). If you are already a disciplined woman whose life is in order, I applaud you and am amazed you followed me through this entire post! If you are like me, though, and have had many of the same struggles and mental cycle, I hope we can learn together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Miscellany Monday

I know that Monday is just about over and that most people will actually be reading this on Tuesday… but the alliteration’s just too fun! I had a great weekend (and I count Monday as part of my weekend).

-I made my first sale in my Etsy shop on Friday! My wonderful Aunt Dana purchased a rosette clip. I feel kind of like the little kid selling candy bars whose sweet aunt makes sure they don’t have to go back to school empty handed… but I’m so thankful and excited to have my first sale! And since she made her purchase during my grand opening (which I’m still trying to figure out how long that should last), she got a free gift with her purchase!

-I spent the weekend in Newport, Oregon with 170 ladies at my church’s Women’s Retreat. Instead of having one speaker, they had a panel of 5 speakers ranging from in their 20’s to 70’s. I was so blessed by all they shared!

-I helped with the collecting of gifts (we draw names and in the end each lady took home a wonderful present), and was given a gift for serving. I loved how the ladies coordinating the event took simple items and added special touches to make this gift extra special.

The box, with a mug from the retreat (the theme logo and verse are printed on it), a necklace and a candle:
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The necklace was a scrabble tile pendant, but rather than just putting it in the box, they put it in a jar filled with stones and a flower on top:2010-11-15 021

The mug:
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A candle that they wrapped with grosgrain ribbon and topped with a burlap flower
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I loved the extra touches they made to take it from a gift to a true token of appreciation.

-I loved coming home to Nolan and Jace. Jace has been so sweet today, making sure I know he loves me without being clingy. This child has been very noisy since day one, but today he took those noises and made purposeful sounds. For a while, “dadadadada” has expressed happiness. Tonight, “Dada” is what he said when he saw Nolan. Until now, he’s babbled, “bububububuh,” and this evening, after we said “Bye-bye,” he waved his hand and said, “beh beh.”

-My son is cute:

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He found a “transfer” tag that fell off my suitcase and has been attached to it all afternoon and evening! Here he is showing it to me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grand Opening and a Give Away!

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Announcing the grand opening of my new Etsy Shop: Ruffles ‘n Such! This shop is all about ruffles, flutters and flowers! I’ve been having so much fun adding these cute embellishments to the clothes and accessories I make, and kept hearing from people that they’d love to buy some of these items, so I finally figured I’d set up an Etsy shop with this feminine focus. What can you find in my shop right now?
I plan on adding more scarves and clips, as well as ruffled bags, flutter flower shirts, and ruffle shirts soon.
If you have a chance, please head over to Ruffles ‘n Such and let me know what you think!
But the fun doesn’t stop there!!! My friend, Natalie, has a really fun blog called Blonde at Heart.
She has all sorts of great stories about her blonde moments (despite being a brunette), shopping adventures, scuba diving, fashion, and whatever is on her mind. I love reading her posts because I can totally hear her voice. She’s a sweet person, a really caring friend, and always fun to be around (yay for me getting to spend the weekend with her at our church’s women’s retreat!).
Well, Natalie just hit 300 followers on her blog (and has actually gone beyond it already). That’s a big accomplishment in my mind. I celebrate every single follower I get, so when she reached that milestone, I knew it was time for her to have a give away! She’s giving away one of The Bubble Gum Ruffles Scarf from my Etsy shop!
So if you’d like a chance to win, or you just want to read her fun stories, or both, head on over to Blonde at Heart!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ruffles + Red = Wonderful

I’ve been having fun making shirts lately. I love browsing through DownEast Basics and Anthropologie's websites, as well as doing a search for “ruffle” on Etsy. I drool enough to rival my teething 9 month old. And then, I go have some fun with $5 worth of fabric.
A few weeks ago, I actually followed a pattern for a shirt, and then added some ruffles as embellishments.
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I wasn’t super thrilled by the neckline of the shirt (it was a little wider than is easy to wear without having to constantly check straps). But I liked it paired with my khaki jacket (the same one I paired with my fluttered flower shirt). Here I am before going on a date with Nolan. It was fun knowing I made both the shirt I wore and the purse I carried.
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I bought some more red jersey knit and this time decided to create my own shirt pattern as I went. I used another shirt I like the fit of as my template, and then had a lot of fun just creating. I’m really happy with the final product. So far, it’s my favorite shirt because of both style and fit.
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I did a double layer of pleats/ruffles over the shoulder, and then the same thing on one hip.
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I liked not feeling the need to throw a jacket over this shirt! Now to go drool some more…

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dressing Up the Staircase

I have several projects in the works right now, but none to the point of blogging. I did make another ruffle bag—my best one yet—to be given as a gift at my church’s women’s retreat next weekend, but of course forgot to take pictures before turning it in to be wrapped. Guess I’ll have to make another one! I’ve also made a bunch of rosette clips, but need to remember to take pictures when I have natural lighting. Oh, and Jace’s Halloween costumes took some work.

But I have completed one household project over the past few weeks. One that I had the intention of finishing months ago. I love the posts I’ve seen lately of how people have hung a variety of frames and pictures in their staircases. I knew mine needed some dressing up.

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I always hoped to paint, so I used that as an excuse for a while. Then I pulled out a bunch of frames that were unused and arranged and rearranged them on the floor of my living room. Then I’d stack them and put them out of Jace’s reach on the loveseat. Then someone would come over and need a place to sit, so I’d move them to the floor… I’m sure you can picture the cycle we’ve been in.

I finally realized that if I wait until I print the pictures to put in the frames, and if I wait until I paint my staircase, I’ll never see the frames leave my living room. So I went ahead and hung empty frames. First I laid them out one more time in my entry way.

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Then I hung them in the staircase.

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Then I looked at them straight on instead of from the stairs and realized they were all angled. No wonder the ones hanging on a ribbon were hard to get “straight.” So I adjusted them, and was happy with how it turned out! Now, every time I walk up and down the stairs, I’m motivated to get pictures printed. I’ve already filled one of the empty frames!

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I told you about how I made the “Together We Make a Family” plaque in this post. I made the verse sign a few weeks ago. A friend on Facebook made a sign with the verse and I really liked it. I had a blank canvas sitting in a closet, and thought it would be neat to do a silhouette of an oak with the verse. I painted the whole canvas dark red. Then printed off a picture I found online of an oak, cut it out and traced it onto the canvas and filled it in with white paint. I freehanded the lettering for the verse.

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Fun story: the day after I finished this, I was webcamming with my mom on Skype about what she and her visiting friend were doing. She said they used her Cricut to cut out vinyl letters of her friend’s family verse, “…something from Isaiah about oaks.” I pulled out my sign. Turns out they’d been using the same verse!

I’ll be linking up with some of these great parties!