{Christmas craft} Reindeer food

Over the weekend I cleaned out the abyss that is my sprinkle/frosting/everything cabinet and found a bag of Christmas sprinkles from a cookie decorating party in 2008. (EIGHT YEARS AGO!) Thankfully, I knew how old they were since I dated the bag. Nice work, self.

Anyway, I had been perusing Pinterest and came across a “recipe” for reindeer food.

Reindeer food

Reindeer food is completely inedible for humans but will be quite a delight for the birds! Err, I mean, Santa’s reindeer.

The recipe is simple: whatever you want (that birds enjoy).

I went with ~ 1/2 cup of oats (buy them in bulk!), 1/4 cup of bird seed, and some of all the sprinkles I had in my everything cabinet.

Reindeer food

It’s really easy to make, and if nothing else, do it to make room for a new set of holiday sprinkles!

I had fun and I know Michael’s daycare friends will love their packages of reindeer food tomorrow!

Trinity Tree Farm

A couple of weekends ago, Brandon, Michael and I hopped into the car and drove 20 or so minutes east to Trinity Tree Farms, in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

Trinity Tree Farm

Brandon has been trying for a few years now to get me to skip our annual trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot in favor of a U-cut tree lot.

(In my defense, I thought he wanted to drive into the forest and actually cut down a tree from nature– too many Christmas movies, or something, I guess…)

I subscribe to Red Tricycle and they sent out a great compilation of U-cut lots in the greater Seattle area. So, we did our researched and ended up at Trinity.

Due to Michael’s afternoon nap, we got a later start, which wasn’t ideal with Christmas tree shopping. But it wasn’t raining and we did catch some daylight.

Trinity Tree Fram 1

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Trinity Tree Farm was lovely.  It’s a bit out of the way and the signage to get there was very clear and there was ample parking. They offer complimentary hot chocolate and other snacks are available for purchase. My favorite part was the roaring campfire. Michael and I sat around it with several other families. We toured the available trees to cut, but didn’t find the perfect one and ended up buying a pre-cut tree.

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We were hoping to catch Santa, but we he left hours earlier, so Michael sat on Brandon’s lap instead!

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Michael is turning into such a little boy!

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I hope you are having a wonderful pre-holiday and I look forward to hearing where you like to get your Christmas trees in the comments below!

 

Christmas 2015 recap

Somehow the holiday season is already wrapping up and I’ve been getting ready to go back to work (!!!). Baby vacation is officially over on Monday. What a crazy wonderful past four months I’ve had! I digress. Let’s focus on the past week or so. Here is our Christmas 2015 recap:

Michael visited his first (and second) Santa and did a stellar job! He’s such an adorable kid. (‘Course I’m biased, since I’m his mom…)

Michael's first Santa photo

Michael’s first Santa photo

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

Michael was skeptical with his visit to the Santa at Theo Chocolate

New Christmas Eve tradition

Michael, Brandon and I started a new tradition: reading the Polar Express before heading to bed on Christmas Eve! Michael didn’t quite understand the story yet, but he will in a few years.

Christmas morning brunch

My parents came over bright and early on Christmas morning and we made the fontina and spinach baked eggs with garlic brown butter breadcrumbs from the latest cookbook we’re cooking from, Seriously Delish, along with hashbrowns; a fruit salad of pineapple, blueberries and raspberries; and chicken sausage. We paired it with mango mimosas. Truly seriously delish.

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas morning brunch

Christmas tamales 

As I mentioned last week, we have a tradition of making tamales for Christmas. This year we made them on Christmas day.

Christmas evening tamales

Christmas evening tamales

We followed our recipe, but this year paired the tamales with some black beans, queso fresco, toasted pumpkin seeds, a kale salad with a spicy lime vinaigrette, and red and green tortilla chips with homemade guacamole. I think this will be our new usual. The whole meal was delicious!

Our Christmas night feast

Our Christmas night feast

Christmas treats

I also made a recipe that I’ve been lusting over for a few weeks: the clementine-cocoa nib meringues from Eating Well. (We picked up the nibs while Michael visited with the Santa at Theo!) These were super easy to make and delicious.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

Clementine-Cocoa nib meringues: SO GOOD.

I did run into one snag however. It’s very important that you break up the chocolate nib/powdered sugar combination before you fold it in to the meringue. I wasn’t as diligent about it and chunks of chocolate got stuck in the tip of the piping bag and made things trickier.

Our family feast

We concluded the Christmas weekend with a prime rib feast at my parent’s house, with asparagus, potatoes, and a delicious salad, paired with a pinot noir. The place card snowmen I made last week completed the table scape!

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our Christmas 2015 feast

Our place settings

Our place settings

Here are a few more of my favorites from this year’s Christmas celebrations:

Santa's little helper

Santa’s little helper

Three generations on Christmas!

Three generations on Christmas!

Santa Baby!

Santa Baby!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and 2015! Cheers to an even better 2016!!

Christmas tamales

For the past several years Brandon and I have created our own tradition of making tamales on (or around) Christmas. Making tamales requires just a little bit of pre-planning (supply buying and day-of timing) and are fairly easy.

We use this recipe from Pepper Fool, of course with our own tweaks:

For the tamales:

  • 1/2 eight-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh masa
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz purchased salsa verde (We use the LaVictoria Thick’n Chunky Salsa Verde)
  • Shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken (about 2-3 cups)

Toppings:

  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Onions
  • Whatever else you want!

Prepare corn husks:

Soak the husks in water till pliable. Make sure they are fully submerged. If using room temperature water, they made need to soak for a few hours.  To speed this up, you can put them in simmering water for 10 minutes and then let them continue soaking while the water cools. 

To make the dough:

Beat the vegetable shortening in a mixer until very light, for about a minute. Add 1/2 pound (1 cup) fresh masa to shortening. Beat until well blended. Continue beating, adding alternately the remaining 1/2 pound masa and the broth, adding only enough broth to give consistency of medium thick cake batter. Then sprinkle in the baking powder and salt. Beat 1 minute more.

To form the tamales:

Remove husks from water when they have softened. Pat husks dry. Tear extra husks into 1/4 inch wide, 7 inch long strips one for each tamale. Take one that is at least 6 inches across on wider end and 6-7 inches long. Lay out this corn husk with tapering end toward you.

Tamale making begins

Tamale making begins

Spread a couple of tablespoons of dough mixture into a square, leaving at least a 1.5 inch border on side toward you and 3/4 inch border along other sides. Add chicken, cheese and salsa. (Along with whatever else you decide to add!)

Filling the tamales

Filling the tamales

Pick up two long sides of corn husk and bring them together, overlapping one over the other.

Fold up the bottom section of husk tightly right up to the filling line. Leave top open. Secure it in place by loosely tying one of strips of husk (or some baking twine) around tamale base.

Wrap up the tamales

Wrap up the tamales

Repeat with remaining husks and dough mixture.

Stand tamales on the folded bottom in prepared steamer, being sure they are not packed too closely in steamer they need to expand.

Cover with layer of leftover husks. Check carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, adding boiling water when necessary. Cover with lid and steam for 1 hour.

Unwrap the tamales, discard the husks and serve with additional salsa on the side.

Our tamale feast

Our tamale feast

Yield: 4-6 servings

 

Cork snowmen ornaments (or wine charms or cute decor!)

Can you believe that Christmas is this week? I certainly can’t. The past four months — well, year, really — have flown by. We did manage to get Michael’s first Santa photo in, and we’ll hopefully visit two more Santas this week. Of course I’ll share the photos soon.

Last week I shared yarn ball ornaments. I have another super easy ornament to share with you: Snowmen wine cork ornaments!

As you know, I enjoy a good wine. As a result, I often have a cork or two on-hand for crafting purposes. (Sometimes I have hundreds of corks on-hand, when I want to make a cork wreath or something.) These little guys are so cute and so easy.

Wine cork snowmen!

Wine cork snowmen!

Gather your supplies:

  • Cork(s)
  • A block of orange Fimo or Sculpey modeling clay from your local craft store (The only difference that I’m aware of is that Fimo used to be hard before you warmed it up by sculpting with it. Sculpey has always been soft from the get go. Now they’re pretty much the same.)
  • Screw eye (also available at your local crafts store — in the jewelry-making section — or at your local Home Depot of Lowe’s.) These are one per ornament, so buy the appropriate amount.
  • Black Sharpie pen or black paint pen
  • Super glue (possibly already on-hand from your Thanksgiving appetizer platter making!?)
  • Toothpick
  • Ribbon (optional)

Instructions:

1. First, roll out the carrot noses. Mold the clay with your fingers to the appropriate size. Mine are approximately 1/2″ long and 1/8″ thick. I roll mine a little wider on the base, to look more like a carrot. I also use the toothpick or my fingernail to add some lines. I sculpt the base of the carrot against the pad of my finger, so it’s a little rounded, matching the curvature of the cork. (This will help with the gluing in step 3.)

Sculpt the noses

Sculpt the noses

 

"Carrot" lines

“Carrot” lines

2. Bake the noses per the instructions on the clay. I overcooked my first batch, so watch them carefully and err on the side of under cooking them. They will burn, turn color, and stink up your house for days if cooked too long.

3. Once the clay has cooled, add a dab of super glue to the base of the “carrot” and attach to the cork. You’ll need to hold it there for 10 seconds or so, to secure it.

4. Use the Sharpie to draw on the eyes and mouth of your snowman. You don’t need mad drawing skills for this as you’re drawing circles. (Like I said, so easy!)

Snowmen in process

Snowmen in process

5. Screw the screw eye into the top of the cork.

6. Add a decorative ribbon if you’d like. Your new cork snowman can double as an ornament or as an accessory to a bottle of wine you’re gifting friends or family. Or, you can just set them out since they’re so dang cute.

The possibilities are endless with these cuties. You can omit screw eyes and instead slice the top of the cork and turn these into place card holders! (Be sure to slice at an angle, which I didn’t do.)

Ornaments OR place card holders! All ready for Christmas!

Ornaments OR place card holders! All ready for Christmas!

Now, open a bottle of wine so you have a cork for this fun project!

I hope you have a great week! Now I’m off to brainstorm 2016 resolutions. Anyone have any ideas for me? Please share!

 

Yarn ball Christmas ornaments

With Christmas in only 10 days (!!!) I’m excited to share a Christmas ornament that is so easy, so cute and so perfect for anyone who knits or crochets or has a love of yarn. As I type this, my mind is going crazy with ideas about how to make this more cat-centric, it could even be a gift for the crazy cat ladies in your life too. (No judgment, I’ve been a proud crazy cat lady for 10+ years!)  I made four of these last year, and found the idea on Pinterest. (I love Pinterest!)

Yarn ball ornaments

Yarn ball ornaments

First, gather your supplies. A trip to Michael’s or JoAnn’s Crafts will set you up perfectly for this for pretty cheap. Depending on the value of coupons, this could be less than $5 total!

All the supplies you'll need for the yarn ball ornaments

All the supplies you’ll need for the yarn ball ornaments

  • A skein of the yarn of your choice (Yes, I looked up what that was called!)
  • A package of the ornaments you want to cover
  • Wood beads
  • Skewers (any size 6” or longer)
  • Super glue
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors

For the needles

  1. Select pairs of wood beads that are similar colors.
  2. Cut sets of skewers (if necessary) in similar lengths
  3. Apply super glue to the inside of the wood bead. You could probably also use hot glue, but the hot glue might get everywhere. If you do use super glue, be very careful about applying the glue and having it unknowingly seep drip through the beads and onto your fingers. It glues very securely and very quickly! (Yes, I speak from experience!)
  4. Hold the end of the skewer flush with the outside of the wood bead, to make it look like a knitting needle.

 

Yarn ball ornament "needles"

Yarn ball ornament “needles”

For the yarn balls

  1. Start the yarn ball by taking the gold or silver “topper” off of the ornament. (It’ll be returned once the yarn has been applied)
  2. Take a piece of tape and tape the end of the yarn onto the ornament.
  3. Start wrapping the yarn around the ornament. And keep wrapping…and wrapping…and wrapping…and wrapping… But seriously, switch up the direction from time to time and wrap the ornament until all of the glass is covered and it looks like a ball of yarn.
  4. When you’re nearing the end, simply cut the yarn and tuck it into a previously-wrapped section.
  5. Put the topper back on, lace the “needle” through the yarn and your finished product is ready!
First thing first. Starting the ornament.

First thing first. Starting the ornament.

Wrap, wrap, wrap.

Wrap, wrap, wrap.

More last-minute Christmas present ideas to come! Have a great rest of the week!