Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

I just finished this cozy read by Rosamunde Pilcher - Winter Solstice.  If you're looking for something to warm your heart this time of year, I highly recommend it.  It begins in London but the characters all end up on the grounds of an Estate-turned-hotel on the Scottish coast (a bit of a plus if you've been reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and are now interested in Scotland).  It's a bit predictable, but sweet and relaxing and heartwarming as well.  Enjoy!

Besides reading, I've been keeping busy with a bit of this and that to get ready for Christmas.  Yesterday I finished up some more felt birds from the patterns I printed at the Down East Thunder Farms website.  It's nice to simply print a pattern, cut and stitch it without having to invent something or figure it out.  Plus it's relaxing to do a little hand stitching, and the results are pretty cute!  Here are are some of the ornament gifts I made:

The eastern bluebird,

the snowy owl,

the ruby-throated hummingbied (with a toothpick beak)

the common crow,

and the chickadee!
 The chickadee is now adorning the rustic card holder I wrote about in the previous post, but most of the others have already gone to their new owners.

I've done a little baking as well.  One thing I decided to try is this recipe for homemade dog treats, one of the first things I ever pinned on Pinterest.  There are only 4 ingredients and the dough mixes up and rolls out very easily.  The neighbors on both sides of us are multiple-dog households, so I thought I'd share them.  I can't testify to how they taste, but they've got a nice cup of peanut butter in them and Cassie just loves them!

I also made a pan of this 5-ingredient Graham cracker toffee:
I topped it with chopped almonds and coconut and they are rich and scrumptious!  If you like toffee and need an easy-to-make party contribution or gift, they are perfect.  Try not to eat them all yourself!

 I only did a little real baking this year because I've finally gotten out of the mindless eating habit and I don't want to get back into it over the next two weeks.  But I had to bake at least a few cookies and I chose these:

They are the classic Jewel brooch cookies, gingerbread (from a box mix), white chocolate-dipped pretzels, and coconut macaroons.  We have enough to pick on ourselves and some to give away, so I think that'll be it for me as far as holiday baking goes (except for maybe a cheesecake for dessert Christmas day). 

Most of the shopping and even wrapping are done, so now all I have to do is the Christmas cards.  They're going out a little late this year, but better late than never!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Quick Holiday Project

I love projects that are quick, cheap, and useful, don't you?   The last few years, I've kept all the Christmas cards we received in basket on top of the piano - they're contained, but not really easy to see or read.  I've been wanting one of those wire card holders you hang on a wall, but didn't want to spring for the $25 or more (plus shipping).  I recently saw something in a catalog to display cards or photos made from old barn wood criss-crossed with twine.  I came across some birch branches in the backyard and decided to modify the idea.  This is what I came up with:
 After cutting the branches to size, I tied them together at the corners with florist's wire.  Then I strung some ribbon back and forth between the side branches and added some bows and clips.  Couldn't be easier!  It makes a nice display on the back of the front door and all the cards and photos are easy to see and read.   I can take it apart for easy storage to reuse next year... And it cost nothing!  I love it!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Here to stay is a New Bird..."

Don't you just love seeing the cardinals in winter?  That bright spot of red among the winter grays, whites and dark greens is so cheery, I just love it.  And they are so perfect for a Christmas tree!  A whole tree decorated just with a vast variety of cardinals would be really stunning, wouldn't it?

In my bird-stitching experiments this fall, I didn't attempt to make a cardinal because I couldn't figure out how to get the crest into the folded circle pattern.  But I recently came across this website, with lots of free downloadable patterns for bird ornaments stitched out of felt, which I love. I'll probably make a bunch of these for Christmas.  However, most of her patterns are kind of flat, with just wings added and a little bit of stuffing.  I wanted the cardinal to have a bit more dimension so I found another one here.  No free pattern, but I went to the drawing board and came up with a prototype.  I decided to make his wings out of plaid flannel, and also added a stripe of it to his tail.  Isn't he cute?  I was going to give him away, but I like him so much and I have the perfect spot for him:  Here, in the middle of my ivy topiary near the kitchen window!  I have two of these wreath topiaries, so I'll have to make another one for myself.  I love these quick, satisfying projects!