Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cards! And Tags!

Wow...what a week it has been!  The holiday season is busy enough, but throw some intense work stuff on top of it, and it's downright stressful!  I have had a really hectic couple of weeks at work, and can't even tell you how relieved I am to be on vacation after that!  I am glad to say that I got done what I needed to get done before being out of the office for two weeks, so I can rest easy and enjoy my time off!

When things get really busy, the to-do list tends to pile up, and that just creates more stress.  Anyone who knows me knows that stress + me = not a good situation.  That is definitely my weak area.  So I do a lot of thinking and planning ahead, trying to anticipate things that need to be done, so that they don't sneak up on me and create pressure that I don't need.  Of course my wonderful husband helps in this area- generally speaking, I can ramble off a list of what is stressing me out, and he will just take care of it.  It sure is good to have him on my side!  It is so easy to get caught up in all the "shoulds" of this time of year, isn't it?  I should finish my shopping, I should get all the wrapping done, I should this, and that, and the other, oh, and throw in a band concert here, a dance recital there, a Christmas party over yonder, and yeah, things get a bit out of hand.  It is good to take a few moments for a reality check and remember that: I am one person.  I am human.  I can only do so much.  And if things are not perfect, the world will keep turning, time will keep rolling on, and life will go on.  Being "the one who makes the holidays happen" is a lot of pressure, but it doesn't have to be.  I have to keep reminding myself that it's ME who makes it that way, because *I* want everything perfect, and *I* have control.  I want my family to have the most wonderful holiday EVER, but it's no good if they don't have ME in there somewhere!  It is all too easy to forget that.

So anyway, we are now 6 days away from Christmas!  My kids are so excited!  We have watched some of the fun Christmas shows from my youth, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  We have the tree up, the cards are mailed, and I have all the stuff purchased for Meredith and me to do the holiday baking.  That will be done in the next couple of days.  We like to make cookies and other treats and deliver plates of goodies to neighbors and friends.  This year, I have some really YUMMY stuff planned!  Look for a Kitchen Creation in my next post with some of the recipes that we plan to make!  Last year, we discovered some incredible mint chocolate chips made by Nestle, and they are great in cookies.  So we will do those again this year, in addition to some oatmeal white chocolate chip cherry cookies, chocolate dipped macaroons, and some dipped pretzel treats, as well as my mom's special fudge.  I can already feel my waistband expanding....but how can you resist at this time of year???

Ok, onto the crafting business.  I guess I ended up having a bit of a Christmas rush in my Etsy shop after all!  I got several orders last week, which was a very nice surprise!  I hope everyone who ordered was happy with what they got!  So that was fun.  I signed up to participate in a Hello card swap on the PBS Swappers group, and that has kind of been hanging over me for awhile.  The cards are due in to the swap hostess by the 30th, so I have had that in the back of my mind that I need to get that done.  I had some paper that I had in mind to use, that I picked up when I went to JoAnn's a few weeks ago, and finally got time today to flesh out my ideas.  I like what I came up with, and hopefully everyone else will too!  I have to give credit where it's due, and report that I used a card sketch from the Mojo Monday blog as the base for the card.  I just love this site!!  I feel pretty good about my ability to put colors together and whatnot, but I'm not so great with layouts, and this site is really helpful in that area!  I am not sure why I felt like using springy colors here...maybe I'm getting a bit weary of winter already.  But I really liked the striped paper, and that is where I started.  I also had an embossing folder that I wanted to use, with leafy vines and little birds, which gave me the idea to use a Sizzix die I have with a bird as well.  So here is the final result:
Well, at least the recipients only have to wait a few months until spring, and it will be just perfect!

I mentioned that Meredith and I will be doing our baking this week.  I thought it would be nice to make some little tags to go on the plates of goodies that we will bring to our friends, when we get them all made.  I put these together, and they are very similar to the card I made for Kendra that I didn't get a picture of a couple of weeks ago.
The poinsettias should be pretty recognizable from earlier in the year.  Fortunately, I had a few already made, and had punched out a bunch of the leaves ahead of time so all I had to do was assemble them and put them on the cards.  These cards are 3x3 inches, so perfect for a little gift tag.  I love the plaid paper on the bottom- it's hard to see in this pic, but there are red lines that run throughout the green, so it looks lovely with the poinsettias.

Being off work this week, I am looking forward to some free time to think about some new crafting projects, as well as spend time with my family and friends.  One of my local friends is having a wrapping party in the next couple of days, and that should be fun- get something done and have a good time with friends, all at the same time!  I just know that my vacation time is going to fly by, and I hope to fill that time with some good memories.  Happy holidays to everyone!  May the season fill your hearts with joy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Bookmarks- Teacher Gifts, Plus a Few for my Shop

We are going into the last week of school before the winter break, and that means it's time to figure out holiday gifts for teachers!  Traditionally I have given gift cards, or a few times I gave some wonderful handmade soaps from this great store in downtown Salem.  My son is now in high school, so we don't need to do gifts for his teachers, but my daughter, being in 4th grade, really wants to give something to hers.  She has her main teacher, of course,  but also wants to give something to the music teacher, who also runs the choir program, and the librarian.  Well, guess what makes GREAT teacher gifts?  Bookmarks!

Meredith did a little research last week, to find out what colors her teachers like.  Based on what she found out, we came up with some designs (well, I should say that she did, with minimal assistance from me.  She very definitely has her own opinions!)  She is happy with the results, and I hope the teachers will be too!
This one is for her regular teacher.  I've had these flowers for some time, but have never used them before now.  They are Bougainvillea in purple shades.  I wish I knew how to pronounce that...
This is for the music teacher, who said that her favorite colors are red, yellow and turquoise.  We used two out of three here with these lovely yellow daffodils.  I got these awhile back but have never used them before either, and I think they are so cute!
Finally, this one is for the school librarian, who reported her favorite colors as red, brown and green.  Again, we went with two out of three.  This design should look familiar- it is the Classic Rose design that I had in my shop when I first opened it.  While we were making this one, I went ahead and made a couple extras so that I could relist one in my shop.

Meredith and I hit a couple of craft stores today before we got to working on these, and we found some interesting new papers.  I am such a sucker for papers- I really need to work on my self-discipline!  I also found this cute ribbon, black with little white paw prints on it.  I remembered seeing some black paw print stickers, and thought that combining the two would make for a cute bookmark.  I was right, if I do say so myself!
I would love to find some paw print stickers that are a little bit bigger- but these were what they had in JoAnn's, where I got the ribbon.  I'll be keeping my eye out for others when I'm out shopping in the future.  Isn't that ribbon precious?!

Well, that's it for this week.  I need to get to work on my Hello card for the swap on the PBS Swappers group- those are due at the end of the month!  I got all my paper for it, I just need to sit down and figure out a design and then make enough for the swap.   Right now, though, I'm off to make a few Christmas cards to send to family members with our annual family picture, which I will leave you with.  Have a great week!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Back From a Break! A Few New Items, and a New Kitchen Creation

Whew!  Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I am busier than ever!   Thanksgiving was lovely- we had my cousin and her husband down from Montana, and had a blast with them.  We even did a little Black Friday shopping, which I usually try to avoid like the Plague, but went since my cousin is totally into it.  Apart from the sleep deprivation, it was fun!  I have the shopping almost done, but not quite, and I still haven't wrapped anything.  Got my cards but haven't addressed them yet.  Still have to write the annual holiday letter.  Yikes- too much to do!!

This weekend I finally did carve out some time to get some bookmarks done and a card made for my BFF Kendra, since I need to send her package out tomorrow.  We have an annual tradition of sending each other an ornament for Christmas, and this year I got hers when we were on vacation in Leavenworth, WA over the summer.  I did not think to get a picture of the card before I packaged everything up, but that is ok, because it's really  not one of my better works.  Sorry Kendra!  Anyway, I did some much needed maintenance on my Etsy shop, relisted some items that had sold previously, and listed a few new items as well.  You will remember the map bookmark I posted about awhile back- I made a couple more of those, as well as two other map designs that I did not post previously:

These are from the same bunch of scrapbook paper that Kendra sent me awhile back, and I really like these- they are kind of Old-World looking.  They are actually the same map pattern in different colors, which I had not noticed until today!  I really like them.  I need to get over to  Goodwill and see about finding some atlases that I can use, since this is such a neat concept!

(Side note, does anyone know why Blogger wants to put all these random extra line spaces before and after the photos??  Arrggghh!  So frustrating!!)

A couple more florals that I listed, one to replace one that sold awhile ago, and another that I made awhile back but didn't get around to photographing until now:

 The one with the teal, lime green and blue butterfly delphiniums is similar to one I did before- the difference is that I had used teal handmade paper on the previous one.  On this one, I used regular scrapbook paper of the same color.  Interestingly enough, within about 15 minutes of listing these in my shop, I got an order for that one, plus the pink and green dyed daisy bookmark!  First time THAT has ever happened!  Maybe I will have a bit of a holiday rush after all!

I'm still in on the PBS Swappers paper craft group, but have been too busy lately to participate in any of the challenges.  I have joined a couple of the swaps though.  Most recently, we did a winter bookmark swap, and of course I participated in that one!  I did not get a picture before I mailed them off, but this is the picture that our lovely hostess, Christy, posted on the PBS Swappers site:

That one was fun to make!  I used two different Martha Stewart snowflake punches plus another smaller snowflake punch and layered them in purple, white and silver papers.  The outer frame is a deep purple, and the background is actually a blue vellum over white card stock, so it gives it a nice icy-looking finish.  I have joined two swaps that will be taking place in the near future- one is a Hello/Hi card, and the next is a Thank You card.  I already have a couple of ideas for the Hello card, and will be working on that one first, since the deadline for it is the end of the month.  The Thank You card doesn't need to be done until next month, so first things first!

Finally I have a new Kitchen Creation to share.  This was a new experiment, and while I think it can use some tweaks for next time, it turned out pretty tasty.  I was inspired by a package of pork stew meat that I ran across in the grocery store, which I don't think I've ever seen before.  But maybe I just haven't been looking for it. In any case, since we have been all turkeyed-out for the last week after Thanksgiving, I was browsing the pork section in the meat department and had to get it when I spotted it.  I recalled a recipe that I had made many years ago that I loved at the time, and then of course lost the recipe, but that is what inspired this dish.  The lost recipe was for a pork roast in the slow cooker, with potatoes, green cabbage and onions, seasoned with fennel seeds and a little vinegar.  I thought that perhaps I could take that same idea and make a stew with those ingredients.  I did not have any cabbage or fennel seeds- but, hey!  I had some brussels sprouts and a fennel bulb, so why not use those?  Now, I know that not everyone likes brussels sprouts, but I happen to love them.  If you don't like them, you can leave them out.  It's ok, I won't be offended.  I was flying solo without a recipe here, and like I said, there are some things I would do differently next time, so the recipe here is what I would recommend including those changes.

Pork Stew with Potatoes, Fennel, and Brussels Sprouts


(Some items are not pictured.  That's because I figured out a few things along the way, after I took the picture.)

1 lb. pork stew meat, trimmed and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 slices of bacon, diced
1/4 cup flour
Potatoes- about 4 (I used Yukon Gold), halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, sliced lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, then sliced thinly crosswise
About 3 cups brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed, and quartered lengthwise
1/2 of a fennel bulb, core removed, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
salt/pepper to taste


1. Cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy.  Remove bacon and set aside, reserving fat in pan.

2, Place flour in a large resealable bag and add some salt and pepper.  Add pork cubes and toss to coat well with flour mixture.   Remove pork from flour mixture and shake off excess flour.  Heat reserved bacon drippings in skillet and add pork.  Brown well on all sides.
3. Place potato slices on bottom of slow cooker.  I used my 6-quart cooker.  Add onions, leeks, garlic, and fennel.  Add pork.  Combine chicken broth and vinegar and pour over the top.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.
 4. Lower heat to Low and add brussels sprouts to the top.  Replace lid and continue to cook on low, about 4 hours, or until brussels sprouts and potatoes are tender.

5. Stir to incorporate ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, add a bit more vinegar.  Serve topped with reserved cooked bacon.

My notes:  I really liked this.  It's really tasty with a little bit of tang from the vinegar, but it's not overwhelming.  The onions add a little bit of sweetness, the fennel gives it an earthy undertone, and the pork is falling-apart tender.  The vinegar gives the brussels sprouts a nice bright flavor, and the smokey, salty bacon brings it all together.  This is admittedly not the most *attractive* dish I've ever cooked, but it was tasty, filling, and warm, and just perfect for a cold late fall night.
Hope you enjoyed this Kitchen Creation!  I love to cook and love sharing recipes, so if you try one of the recipes I post here, I would love to hear from you!  Please feel free to leave me a comment and ask any questions you might have or tell me how you liked it!