Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Little Bit of Christmas

Though I was behind on everything Christmas this year, I just had to do a bit of decorating. Frank and I are staying home this year and won't be with my family for the first time. Since it's already a different kind of Christmas, without decorations I was afraid it wouldn't feel like Christmas at all. I only used what I had easily accessible. I was in luck that I had lazily stashed some ornaments under our bed after bringing them home from mom and dad's house earlier this year. The only thing I pulled out of the attic were the lights.

Here is our mantle area after decorating.
The stockings were made by my Amma and hung at her house. Frank gets the big one (in the dark on the left), and all of his presents might fit in there!

My Pawpaw made these little deer. Aren't they sweet?! The red glass candle holder is new to me, but was apparently a wedding gift to my Amma and Papa. My sister in law has the mate to this one. I didn't think it was my style, but on the green glass plate it is perfect for Christmas. I think I will pack it away and just bring it out this time of year.

The crystal candlesticks were Amma's as well. Again, I didn't think they were me at first, but after cleaning them up I think they are beautiful. They look very Art Deco to me, and I love the way the Christmas lights look shining through.

These ornaments were made by my Granny.

Most of my ornament collection is blown glass.
I usually get a couple of new ornaments each year.

This year I picked out the Penguins for Frank

And the Red Bird for me because it reminds me of Granny

A soft pretzel because I thought it was cute and I love to make and eat them, silly I know.

And this one just cause its pretty!

There are lots of ornaments and Christmas decorations that my mom made too, but none of those were within easy reach this year. I'm tempted to purchase an artificial tree on clearance this year. I have plenty of ornaments to fill up a full size one!

I'm spending the day cleaning the house, prepping for Christmas brunch and dinner and eventually wrapping presents. I was trying not to leave the house today, but I do think I will have to after all.

I'm going to post my Christmas dinner recipes later in case you are interested in making them too. I hope you are enjoying this time of year and are not too stressed out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Lights

There is a house near us that puts up an amazing Christmas light display every year. There are lines of cars wrapped around the corner to see the spectacle. We went by last night and I snapped these shots. It is really incredible and these don't even give a feel for how many lights there are. I love those nets around the trees.
Christmas lights in Fort Worth

Christmas lights in Fort Worth

Christmas lights in Fort Worth

Christmas lights in Fort Worth

Christmas lights in Fort Worth

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Handmade Jewelry Jackpot!

It had been a while since I had done a trade with another jeweler. I did two recently and both items came in the mail yesterday! My package from Stacey of Wildflower Designs was waiting for me at the main post office and, as I'm sure you can tell, it made going to the post office worthwhile. I am so in love with this necklace, the stone is gorgeous and the setting really shows it off! I get compliments all the time on the earrings that I have from Stacey and I'm sure this one will be no different.

Necklace from Wildflower Designs

I also did a trade with Claire Buck when we shared a booth a few weeks ago. She mailed me the earrings that she made me and they came in yesterday too. I love them, aren't they clever?! They are fold formed copper and I think the texture and shape are beautiful.

I am so pleased to have these pieces in my handmade jewelry collection!

I love this scarf!

My christmas gift from Kathy
This gorgeous scarf was my Christmas gift from my mom's best friend Kathy who is always knitting. I want to make her something too, but have no idea what. This is the second beautiful thing that she has knitted for me. It is made with Malabrigo yarn and is so soft and luxurious, I feel so lucky that it is mine!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Baking

I went to my parent's house on Friday for a Christmas baking marathon. I think I may have gotten a little carried away. I wanted to make a lot of cookies because we had a party/jewelry sale yesterday that we needed them for, and I wanted to have some for gifting. Most of these recipes are from the Martha Stewart Christmas Cookie Magazine, which you should be able to find at newstands now.

Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares

Coconut Macaroons (recipe here)

We didn't have candied ginger on hand and I really wanted to make the Lemon-Glazed Candied Ginger cookies. Mom made candied ginger from scratch with fresh ginger! I'm glad she went to the trouble because this was one of my favorite of all the cookies we made. I may be making these again this week, because we didn't make that many.

Candied Ginger and Lemon Peel

Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Pecan Cookies
My second try at these and the size is right, but I think I cooked them too long. I want a chewy center, but these are crispy throughout, still delicious though.

Sugar cookies, I added red food coloring and the pearlized sugar around the edges.
They taste as good as they look!

Mom made mini pecan pies (her own recipe)

Raspberry Thumbprint cookies
Made with the Cream Cheese dough and Raspberry jam.

The ones on the far left are the Lemon Ginger cookies (my fav), the ones on the top are mom's traditional Christmas recipe, Cocoa Kiss Cookies, which I don't have on hand.

All packed up and ready for giving!
So from the magazine we made:

Cranberry Coins (not pictured here, but delicious)
Jam Filled Cream Cheese Cookies (but we made them into thumbprints)
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate-Pecan Cookies
Iced Sugar Cookie Cutouts (didn't ice or cut out, but rolled in silver sugar and dyed red)
Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies
Pecan Sandies
Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares

We also made:

Cocoa Kiss Cookies
Coconut Macaroons
Amaretto and Peppermint Truffles
Mini Pecan Pies

Wew, that was my first Christmas activity of the season and though it was exhausting, I fully enjoyed it. Now to clean the house, start Christmas shopping, maybe a little decorating, grocery shopping, etc. I'm a bit overwhelmed this year!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Late Fall Light

I had been noticing this gorgeous orange glow coming in my office window in the late afternoon. Our Crepe Myrtles are just now changing color and are so beautiful. They are one of the only trees around that still have leaves on them. I was bummed that I hadn't caught pictures of the fall leaves, so I had to go out and snap some of my crepe myrtles when I saw this.

Our Japanese Maple is still bright red, but the leaves will be gone soon.

Lucy loves napping in the afternoon sun. Can you blame her?
Though I have been too busy to be outside much, I have been appreciating the gorgeous sunny days that we have been having. I know they won't last forever with winter on its way.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homemade Soft Pretzlels

I have had a bee in my bonnet for some time about making homemade soft pretzels. Of course Frank was on board with that plan and we finally did it on Saturday. After my bagel making experiments I wasn't quite sure how the pretzels would turn out. I googled for a recipe and decided on Alton Brown's highly rated one. We were not disappointed!

I made the dough in the stand mixer, easy peasy.

Like bagels, you boil the formed pretzels in water with baking soda. This process seemed much easier for some reason, maybe because I didn't have to use a floured kitchen towel? Also, this dough only required the one original rising. Once I formed the pretzels I boiled immediately. With the bagels the dough rose, then the balls rose and then the formed bagels needed to rise. This process was much quicker. Oh yeah, and there was no water in the oven for steam.

After boiling I brushed the pretzels with egg wash and sprinkled with sea salt.

And VoilĂ , they turned out perfectly!

We had them with our current favorite beer, Abbey from New Belgium. I also made cheese fondue on the stove (I have never wanted a fondue pot until now) and we also had bratwurst with them.

I will most definitely be making this recipe again!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My personal couture seamstress

Yes, I have a personal Couture seamstress to sew me party dresses that fit perfectly! She is also known as my awesome mom, Connie Akers. My mom is just too good to me. When she moves away to the Hill Country I'll be going through withdrawals. I have mentioned before that I do love to sew, but I can't make fitted things for myself. Perhaps if I had a dress form I could, but mom just makes it look so easy. She knows where to take things up to make them fit just right.

My bridesmaid dress for Robin and Chases' wedding is one of those custom fit items. We used Vogue 8494 (purchased for $3.99 at a Joann sale, of course!) and made a wearable muslin. I did do the sewing on the muslin version, with mom helping me to fit it perfectly. We didn't take the muslin apart, but transferred the changes to the pattern pieces directly from the dress. That part was a bit tricky, but worked out in the end. In my opinion, this pattern is too complex for a casual sundress, but does fit like a glove and is quite flattering. On this version I had cut a larger skirt to accommodate my curves and we put some pleats in to easily fit it to the bodice.

Here is my muslin in a striped Seersucker.
It looks much better now that it is ironed and hemmed.
vogue 8494 in striped seersucker

The dress for the wedding needed to be Navy and I found some great fabrics at Golden D'or in Dallas. They have an annual summer sale and I got my fabrics during that. I got a Linen Weave Silk for the main fabric, Silk Dupioni for the contrast bands and Silk Organza for the pleated ruffle (my addition to the pattern).

I was so nervous to cut into the fabrics because they were so nice.

As I mentioned before, my seamstress (mom) did the sewing on this one. I was just too worried about messing something up and the dress had to be perfect for the wedding!

Here is the completed dress. I love the weight of the Linen Weave Silk, I think it would be considered a suiting weight. It really has a nice structure to it without being uncomfortable, and fits so well. We did view B with the contrast bands and added the organza pleated ruffle to the bottom. For the ruffle we doubled the organza and used a pleating board to make the pleats. We ironed it really well, took it out of the pleating board and stitched the pleats down to keep them in place.

Navy bridesmaid dress

Ruffle detail
Navy bridesmaid dress detail

Dad and I in front of the paper moon at the wedding.
This is a good view of how the dress fit me.
dad and I at Robin and Chases wedding