Sunday, November 27, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a....Crafty Christmas! Part 2.

Other cool gifts we're planning on giving this year are homemade "hand" ornaments. Originally I was planning on making these awesome bird ornaments a la Martha Stewart. However, it struck me that our family would probably rather have something more personal than a pretty bird...perhaps, stencils of their grandchildren's hands?

I can remember making hand ornaments in preschool- well, I can remember my siblings making them at least. They were set in plaster and SUPER heavy- Mama had to put them wayyyy back on the branches to keep them from sliding off. Anyway, I know how much she liked them, so I figured, why not combine the ideas of Martha's great, light dough and the handprint theme?

To make our ornaments, I mixed up Martha's dough, which consists of cinnamon, applesauce, and craft glue. The mix smells heavenly, by the way. After letting it firm up for a bit, I rolled it out. To form the hand shapes, I cut the dough around a tracing I drew for each of my girls on cardstock.

After the dough dried, I painted the ornaments and put the girls' initials on the appropriate hands. I also tied ribbon on and wrote the year on the back in marker.

I think these came out really cute and I hope everyone likes them as much as I do!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a....Crafty Christmas! Part 1.

(Obviously my efforts to blog daily are an epic fail. An ER visit for what I thought was an appendix issue turned into the 12-hour migraine-from-hell, and the blogging train derailed from there. To make up for it, the next few posts will be amazing ideas for how you can make great, homemade Christmas gifts that don't scream 'homemade' or have relatives struggling for polite ways to express their gratitude.)

Idea #1: Liquor, and/or liquor assortment

Making homemade flavored liquor is not only easy, but results in a product that is often superior to what you'd buy in the store. This year Brett and I decided to make limoncello, Irish cream (aka Bailey's), and coffee liquor (aka Kahlua.) Because limoncello takes the longest (upwards of a month), it's already brewing away. The Irish cream and coffee liquors are pretty instant-gratification, so we won't be mixing them up until later. I'll post the recipes for those next week.

Limoncello How-To, based on original recipe posted by Patty Mitchell

You'll Need:

15 lemons
2x 750 ml bottles of alcohol, or one 1.75 L jug (our preference)
Everclear works the best for this, but a cheap domestic (FLAVORLESS) vodka works too
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
Large jars (canning jars work great)
Bottles for the finished product
Decorating supplies (ribbon, print-at-home sticky labels, stamps, whatever)

1. Wash the lemons to remove any wax present. Peel them, using either a vegetable peeler or a box grater. For our method, we used the box grater. Make SURE not to get any of the pith- the white part. It'll make your end product bitter.
2. If you're using the 750 mL bottles, divide the liquor between a couple large glass jars. If you're using the 1.75 L jug, you'll simply remove .25 mL (measure using a measuring cup) and reserve for another use.
3. Add the lemon peel to the liquor.
4. Hide the jars/jug in a cool, dark place. Shake them up whenever you think about it and let stew for at least 2 weeks.
5. Mix up a simple syrup using the sugar and water. Heat on the stove on low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.
6. Add the syrup to the liquor. You may need additional containers at this point- just do your best to divide it equally.
7. Let sit for an additional 2 weeks (minimum).
8. Strain through cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) into clean giftware.
9. Allow to sit for at least another week before using. After that, you'll want to store it in the freezer.
10. Share and enjoy!

Endnote: What to do with all those lemons???

Brett and I love to cook together, and we go through a LOT of fresh lemon, as "lemon juice" from a bottle is persona-non-grata around here. After we made the limoncello, we juiced all the lemons and poured the juice into ice cube trays. Once they were frozen, we dumped them into ziploc bags. Now we have *real* lemon juice readily available! We also made some candied lemon peels with the lemons that were left after we wore our hands out juicing the first 10 or so. We will be giving those away with our limoncello. Throw in some homemade biscotti and a good coffee and you have a delicious Italian gift basket!

Are you having a crafty/homemade Christmas this year?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Poor Bug!

For the first year of Lucy's life, I was *so* diligent about updating the blog with all her milestones. Her first solid food, words, steps...all were duly recorded.

Poor Junie! I haven't done nearly as well with keeping up with her development. We've been good about taking pictures, but...her poor scrapbook is months behind. Luckily I had the foresight to purchase a "baby's first year" photography package when she was first born, so I do have some amazing portraits for her.

Ironically enough, Junie has actually been hitting all her major milestones *much* sooner than Lucy did. At almost 11 months, Junie:

- walks all over the house!
- is very vocal: can say mama, dada, bug-bug
- enjoys playing with her big much as Lucy will let her
- loves dancing to music
- still takes 3 bottles a day, but can drink just fine out of a sippy cup
- eats lots of solids, including nearly everything we eat at the table
- goes to bed when we do, but sleeps in until after I'm out the door for work
- usually has one nursing session during the night, after work, and before bed
- smiles almost all the time- she has the sunniest disposition!
- hangs out on my back whenever she can

We love our Junie Bug!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My last meal.

NaBloPoMo prompt for today:

If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?

Oh, man, do I love food! Cooking is one thing that Brett and I really enjoy doing together- along with watching cooking shows. When we watch tv together (which is actually pretty rare), it's almost always Food Network. We especially love Iron Chef and Chopped. Although our tastes are constantly evolving, there are a few specific things I'm crazy about right now. Luckily enough, they fit perfectly into a cohesive meal! Here we go- I'm including the recipes we use as well.

Hummus with vegetables
(Cup of soaked garbanzo beans, heaping spoon of tahini, swirl of olive oil, squeeze of lemon, as much fresh garlic as you like, sprinkle of sea salt- whiz in the food processor until smooth)

Main entree:
Massaman curry over jasmine rice
(Click on link for recipe- I learned this by heart and now cook from memory)

Homemade, freshly-grilled naan
(Click on link- cooking it on the grill is key. One batch makes enough for two meals for us, so I freeze half and save it for next time.)

Rice pudding made with more jasmine rice, coconut milk, and coriander
(Use your favorite rice pudding recipe, subbing jasmine rice for regular, coconut milk for cow's milk, and coriander for most of the cinnamon. Here's a good starting recipe.)

Beverage #1:
Mango lassi made with homemade yogurt, whole milk, and a sprinkle of coriander
(In a blender: flesh of 2 mangos, tablespoon of your preferred sweetener, cup of yogurt, 1/2 cup milk....blend until smooth, and then sprinkle on coriander.)

Beverage #2:
Expresso with sweetened condensed milk :-)

...And there you have it! What would you pick for your last meal?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween!

PS- To help me get back in the groove, I'm participating in NaBloPoMo- blogging every day for a month! Let's see if I can actually make it :-)