Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

To all of my family and friends around the world, I wish you a blessed Christmas and much joy and good health in the new year to come.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Slit Latch Gift Card Holder

It is Christmas eve and suddenly you realize that you've forgotten to get a gift. Or perhaps, as in my husband's case, he realized he needed a little gift for his staff so he said to me, "Hey Skippy! (yes, he calls me 'Skippy') Can you make me TWENTY gift card holders? I want to give my staff Tim Horton's gift cards." "But of course, my dear," I replied. "I'll just whip them up between the sewing and baking I've got going on right now!" **please note sarcasm**

OK, I did agree to make gift card holders for him and this twist bottom version was actually quite simple to do. If you are able to view Splitcoast Stamper's website, you can see the tutorial HERE for this Slit Latch Gift Card Holder by Jane Matsumoto. Jane's instructions are easy to follow and I whipped up 20 of these Slit Latch Gift Card holders in just a few short hours. (seriously, that wasn't long considering there were 20 to make).

The card is held closed by the "slit latch" design in the bottom (positioned between the Merry Christmas stamp. (I used Papertrey Inc. sentiment stamp). On the inside to hold the gift card I used a Stampin' Up! Slit Punch. I'm not sure if Stampin' Up! still carries this punch. It is from several years back but one that comes in handy for a lot of fun projects.

The fun "Coal again?!" stamp is a 2005 Fluffles Stocking stamp made by Stampabilities. I colored with Copic markers and then added stickles for lots of glitz on the pine branch. The designer paper is from Bo Bunny and the card stock is a bright light green from Stampin' Up!

Whew! I *think* I'm ready for Christmas now....that is as soon as I finish some last minute baking.

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

My December Book Reviews

Have a Little Faith: The Story of a Last Request
by Mitch Albom

Goodreads Review:
In Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom offers a beautifully written story of a remarkable eight-year journey between two worlds--two men, two faiths, two communities--that will inspire readers everywhere.
Albom's first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an eighty-two-year-old rabbi from Albom's old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.
Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he'd left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor--a reformed drug dealer and convict--who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.
Moving between their worlds, Christian and Jewish, African-American and white, impoverished and well-to-do, Albom observes how these very different men employ faith similarly in fighting for survival: the older, suburban rabbi embracing it as death approaches; the younger, inner-city pastor relying on it to keep himself and his church afloat.

My thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed Have a Little Faith. So much so, I couldn't put it down. First of all, and the story aside, I enjoy Mitch Albom's style of writing. Whether it is one of his works of fiction, like The 5 People You Meet in Heaven or For One More Day or his non-fiction, like Tuesdays with Morrie or his latest, Have a Little Faith, Albom's voice is as though he is sitting across from you as a dear friend who has come for a visit and tells you a story, always with a message that won't leave you immediately. You'll find yourself thinking about the characters, the events that take place, the setting and always, how would you respond to the events or situation. I highly recommend Have a Little Faith.

Here is a video interview with Mitch Albom to pique your interest:

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of a Christmas Eve night. If the experience doesn't change Scrooge's ways, he will end up walking the Earth forever being nothing but an invisible and lonely ghost, like his deceased friend Jacob Marley. Mr. Scrooge is a financier/moneychanger who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth. He holds anything other than money in contempt, including friendship, love, and the Christmas season.

My thoughts:
A Christmas Carol is a Christmas tradition. I never tire of reading it and discover something new in the characters with each reading. I love this story this year, last year and I know I will rate it high in the future. A true classic.

Promise Me
by Richard Paul Evans

Publisher Weekly Review:
The bestselling Evans is back with another earnest tale set around a certain holiday in December, but this time he's got something up his sleeve. Beth has everything, a loving husband, an adorable daughter ("a joyful combination of lunacy and grace"), and a great job where she works with friends. But when her daughter becomes mysteriously ill, and she discovers that her husband is dying, her perfect life falls apart. She is soon impoverished and embittered, and still can't discern the source of her daughter's illness. Then she meets a handsome stranger, who diagnoses the illness and convinces the wary Beth to trust again, only to disappear with the home equity loan he pushed her into getting. Devastated once again, Beth's resolve is tested when he returns with a truly unbelievable story. Believing him means altering the entire course of her life. Evans combines his usual holiday themes with a bizarre twist lifted straight from science fiction. Readers will undoubtedly feel attached to Beth, even as they struggle to understand the bizarre relationship she finds herself entering into. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

My thoughts:
I've always enjoyed Richard Paul Evans' Christmas stories. They are romantic and sweet and a nice holiday easy-read. However, this was not the case this time with Promise Me. I tried to give this two stars and perhaps I should since I did read the whole book. Generally I'd have stopped much sooner. The story was intriguing at first and I didn't mind the time travel aspect. However, it turned bizarre and quite frankly, distasteful to me with the relationship Beth developes with her future son-in-law. The final scene and end of the story I found to be contradictory to Beth's search for the love she deserved in her husband. I never felt a connection between her and her husband, only that he loved her but no indication that it was returned. There are so many inconsistancies and what I found rather bizarre in her relationship that I just can't give this book more than one star. I really wanted to like this unusual story, but as I turned the last page all I felt was disappointment.

I see the ratings for Promise Me all over the place with many giving it 5 stars down to my 1 star. I guess this is a case of personal taste and preference.

Here is a video synopsis:

Until next time,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Tradition - German Springerle Cookies

Everyone has a special cookie or sweet that they look forward to during special holidays. At Christmas time one cookie that I look forward to making is German Springerle Cookies. They are a beautiful white biscuit embossed by using a special carved rolling pin that impresses the design onto the dough. You make them at least a month in advance of when you want to eat them because saved in a cookie tin, the flavor of the anise oil and seed enhances.
In doing a bit of research on the cookie's history I learned that name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means "little knight" or "jumping horse." Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes.
These cookies are white, flavored with anise oil and seeds and are made with a very simple egg, flour and sugar dough.

Before I place my cookies on the buttered parchment paper before baking I sprinkle the buttered parchment paper-lined baking sheet with anise seed. This way, there is a slight addition of the anise seed to the cookie as well. The original recipe didn't call for the seed but I like just a touch and since it is on the bottom of the cookie it doesn't interfere with the design on top.
In my family my husband and one of my sons really like these and now Springerle Cookies have become a holiday tradition to have at least a few to share. Both times my son was deployed to Iraq I made sure that in his Christmas goodie boxes these cookies were included. They travel well. The are hard on the outside and soft inside. And best of all, they improve with age.

Here is the recipe I use. If you don't have the detailed rolling pin, don't worry. You can cut them into rectangle with a knife after you've rolled the dough.

German Springerle Cookies

4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon anise oil
4 cups all-purpose flour

Prepare baking sheets with buttered parchment paper. Avoid using insulated cookie sheets as they will cause the springerle cookies to brown during baking. These cookies should remain white and only the bottom will brown very slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed of your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, butter and baking powder and beat at high speed for 15 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. (And YES I said 15 minutes! This is a time I'm ever so grateful for having a stand mixer that I can turn on and let run.)

Now add the anise oil and flour, just mixing the flour until the dough holds together in a ball.

On a lightly floured board, knead the dough a few times (the dough will be sticky at first so knead in just enough flour to make it manageable.

Roll out the dough with a standard rolling pin, into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Do NOT roll any thinner than 1/2 inch. This is important!

Next lightly flour your springerle special rolling pin and roll slowly and firmly over the dough to make a clear design impression. DO NOT roll it back and forth. You just want to impress the image into the top of the dough. Using a sharp knife cut the cookies apart and trim off the outside edges. Roll out scraps of dough in the same manner as before. BE SURE TO FLOUR THE ROLLING PIN AND BOARD BEFORE EACH PRESSING. THIS WILL INSURE THE DOUGH WILL NOT STICK.

Place cookies on your prepared baking sheets. Let the cookies stand, uncovered, overnight to dry. DRYING PRESERVES THE IMAGE DURING BAKING. I put my sheets in the refrigerator overnight to dry. This keeps unwelcomed fingers and perhaps a paw print or two away from cookies.

The next day PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Bake one baking sheet at a time. Bake approximately 10 minutes or until slightly golden on the bottoms, but still white on top. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to wire racks until cooled. (let the cookies stand overnight to completely dry before storing.

Storage: Keep cookies in a tight container for 2 or 3 weeks before using to achieve the best flavor.

The number of cookies yielded will depend upon the size and thickness of your Springerle cookies. I usually get two cookie sheets full.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

And the winner is.......

What fun for me and I hope for you too, was the Sew Mama Sew Holiday giveaway! I had so much fun exploring other blogs, signing on to follow many new blogs, and seeing the fabulous creativity from all around the world.

And also a real treat for me was to read the 145 comments left by all of you lovely people around the world. I was touched by the responses to my one simple question which was, "why would you like to win the Alice Tote?" I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every comment and was glad that I could use the random number generator to choose the winner.

So without any more chit chat, because I know you want to know who was the winning number, I shall announce that MELISSA was the winner of my Alice Tote bag. I've contacted Melissa and her tote will be on its way to her Monday morning.

Again, many thanks to everyone who took the time to look at my blog and leave a comment.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Stocking stuffer idea: Teabag Pouch

I wanted to make and give some small gifties from the heart, but with the time drawing near for Christmas giving, what could I make quickly and easily and yet would be from the heart and useful? Suddenly it hit me! A teabag pouch that one can throw in the purse, bag, glovebox or tote. A hot cup of tea always at hand for the recipient.

There are many tutorials for teabag pouches (carriers) on the internet and I liked them but decided to tweek some of the ideas and came up with my own version. The simplicity and ease to make these became a bit addictive as I put them together. All you need to make my version is:

1 FAT QUARTER of your favorite fabric
1 button
Trim (I used rickrack but this is totally optional)
sewing machine

And once folded and buttoned up, the pouch fits in the palm of your hand containing your favorite tea and room for sweetener if you like, too. Below is a photo of it opened out displaying your tea.

Select your tea of choice and then fold the right side to the middle.

Next, fold over the left side like this: (below)

Then flip up the bottom and button it shut! (below) VIOLA! Your tea literally at hand as it fits in the palm of your hand.

If you are interested in a pictorial tutorial showing the sewing process, let me know in the comments and the next one I make I'll put together a tutorial.

Now, I'd better wrap these up quickly for some gift giving this weekend.



Friday, December 10, 2010

It's a holiday time giveaway!

Each year SEW MAMA SEW holds its annual HOLIDAY GIVE AWAY and I'm delighted to announce that I am participating with a giveaway item:


All you need to do for your chance to win this tote is to leave me a comment on this post telling why you'd like to win it. It is as simple as that! You'll have until midnight eastern time on December 17th to leave ONE comment here for your opportunity to win. I'll use the random number generator to choose the winner and will mail the tote to the winner on Monday December 20th. (International entries are welcome to join in!) PLEASE BE SURE THAT IN YOUR COMMENT THAT YOU LEAVE ME YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR A MEANS TO CONTACT YOU IF YOU ARE THE WINNER.

And be sure to check out the Sew Mama Sew blog post regarding the Holiday give away, click right here on SEW MAMA SEW to take you to the site and see the bloghop. There are three categories of giveaways including: Giveaway Day ~ Sewing + Knitting Supplies/Materials, Giveaway Day ~ Handcrafted Item(s) + Supplies/Materials, and Giveaway Day ~ Handcrafted Item(s)

Have fun on the blog hop for holiday time giveaway!



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies.
With the angelic host proclaim:
Christ is born in Bethlehem

Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!

I made a lot of these 'snow globe' shaker cards this year using the PEACE ON EARTH cling set from SERENDIPITY STAMPS. The inside is stamped with the sentiment, "Peace on Earth."

While shaker cards aren't difficult, they do require a few steps to the production and making approximately 25 of these I wasn't sure if it was do-able. As it turned out, it was indeed do-able and actually a lot of fun. I set up a production line of the assembly order so that once I had all of the individual components stamped and cut out and the embellishments ready and set out on my work table, I simply circled the table assembling one step at a time. I was surprised how quickly a large batch of these went together once I was organized.

Using the larges Scalloped Circle Nestibility die I cut my white cardstock base on a folded A2 card size (4 1/4" X 5 1/2"). Being sure that there was a bit of the fold that would NOT be cut by the scallops so that I'd have a card to open. I used a Stampin' Up! punch for the "ornament top" - I'm not sure what the punch is called but it looks like a fold tab punch.

For the image I used Stazon black ink and stamped the image on clear transparency film. I colored the backside of the image with Sharpie permanent ink pens. Then on top I added some glitz and sparkle with Silver and Red Stickles glitter.

Once dry it is time to assemble. I used the largest circle die and cut out the transparency film as well as a plain white cardstock circle which would be used as the base of the "globe". Next, and probably the tricky-est part, I cut long strips (about 1/8th of an inch wide) of foam tape. Attaching the foam tap around the perimeter of the plain white cardstock base and then filling the center with "snow" and then carefully covering the top with the transparency film that has been already colored. This "disk" I attached to the scalloped cardbase. Then using two circle dies nested together I cut the RED circle that surrounds the globe and adhered it to the top of the transparency film. This covers the sight of the foam tap beneath as well as providing color.

Finally, I added the bows at the top and a silver cord for hanging.

I realized, too, an error I made and didn't notice it until after I photographed this particular card. Do you see my mistake? I missed coloring one little section of the red ribbon surrounding the earth. Not to worry, I fixed that mistake before mailing the card! I'm so glad I discovered my "OOPS!" before I'd sent the card out.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Santa Claus is coming to town

"You better watch out.
You better not cry.
Better not pout I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town."

One of my all time favorite and highly prized stamps in my stamp collection is the original Gumball Graphics Santa stamp. And it is true, I use it for at least some of my cards every year, though I try not to send a card with this image to the same people each year. *wink* To me, there have been many wonderful Santa Claus interpretations but none come close to this particular image. I do consider myself fortunate to have been able to purchase this stamp before it disappeared.

Much to my husband's delight, I have made a concerted effort to keep this year's cards flat...or as best as I could not too bulky with embellishments soas not to have to mail with double the postage. My dear daughter claims she always knows when she's receiving a handmade card by me because, as she calls them, they are FAT CARDS, meaning the envelopes are huge and puffy. Well, not this year.

For this card I used the snowflake embossing folder and ran it through my Cuttlebug for the cardbase to create the snowflake background and then randomly added a tiny hint of glitter to the snowflakes to make them sparkle. Mr. Claus's image is mounted on royal blue metalic cardstock. I colored him with a few copic markers and added a bit of sparkle to his beard, hair and eyebrows with a sparkly Sakura Gelly Roll pen. I love using this pen. It doesn't add any color but the sparkle does subtley catch the light.

I punched a few snowflakes with a Martha Stewart snowflake punch and added ultra fine blue and crystal glitter to them. Then a thin silver cord on the side with a bow to finish it off. I really enjoy the blue, silver and white combo for Christmas!

These were fun to put together. I'm going to make some small gift tags for presents using the Gumball Graphics Santa stamp. He's such a jolly old elf, don't you think?

Until later,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sleigh Ride

"Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing
Ring, ting, tingle-ing too.
Come on it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you."

FINALLY! I'm making my Christmas cards. I could hardly wait to ink up this stamp by Impression Obsession with the two beautiful draft horses and I'll be sending these to my horse loving family and friends this Christmas.

It has been so long since I've made a lot of cards I had to rediscover and reintroduce myself to my stamps, inks, papers, ribbons and embellishments. Seriously! Once I got started, though, I began finding tools and supplies I'd forgotten I had.

I stamped the image with Versafine Onyx black ink and embossed it with clear embossing powder. I didn't want to fuss too much with coloring the horses since the stamp is highly detailed. Of course, as you already know, my horse is black so I decided these two should be black as well so I added a bit of grey copic markers to the horses for highlights but otherwise kept it simple.

The wreath surrounding the horses was fun to embellish. I added Christmas green flower soft product to the wreath and the berries are dots of Christmas red stickles to make them glitter.

The background paper is some very old Anna Griffin Christmas paper that I had in my stash. I love this holly berry paper and decided that I should quit hoarding it and use it this year on some cards.

It has felt SO GOOD to be stamping and cardmaking again after a long summer busyily doing other hobbies. I've promised myself to be better in the new year to come to work on my card supply and send more cards. Emailed messages are so quick and easy and keeping in touch via facebook, email and texting has some advantages, I'm sure. But what more of a gift can you give someone than to send a handwritten note and card from time to time to remind that person of how much you care. So there is my resolution for 2011: stay in touch with family and friends with a snailmailed gift of love.

This is not the only Christmas card design I've made so more will come. I've had a regular production line going.

Until next time,