Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Kitchen Chairs!

I just ordered new chairs (in RED!!) for the kitchen from Pottery Barn. I am so excited. I've had these picked out for awhile. We were making do with a $100 dinette set from K-Mart that Heinz bought while we were dating. The chairs have been falling apart for some time now, and Heinz would put them back together with some bolts and stuff. But this weekend I sat in one that was leaning and I almost fell backwards. So we felt like the time had come to buy some new ones. I brought a bit of our curtain fabric to Pottery Barn and held it up to a sample of the red chairs, and it matches PERFECTLY. Like they were made for each other. I can't wait to get them in!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Is SOOO Wonderful

I think there's too much pressure for Christmas to be perfect. Everything's supposed to be fun, cheery, and happy all the frickin' time. And a lot of time it isn't. (Especially when you have to deal with an alcoholic around the holidays.) It's easy to start stressing about getting everyone the right gift (oops, I can't forget my neighbors, I better make some homemade treats), getting your cards out on time (I'm a freak and want to make mine, which adds to the stress), plus there's work and making dinner and cleaning house on top of all this Christmas goodness. Then you have to see as much family as possible. Let's cram it all in!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a scrooge. I love making gifts and treats, I love making Christmas cards, and I love spending time with people I love until it starts to be dysfunctional. I just think the idea of Christmas is overblown. Maybe I have it wrong in thinking I'm supposed to be happy all the time. The magic of Christmas is supposed to be for little kids, I guess, and it's up to the adults to make sure that happens for them. My niece has been asking for homemade marshmallows, and I think about years from now when I'm old and I can't make them anymore, that perhaps she'll remember how Aunt Leah loved her enough to make them for her and how much she enjoyed them in her hot chocolate. Just like I remember my old babysitter Mrs. Chick and her butter cookies and how much I looked forward to that tin of cookies every year. I always think of her when I make them and about all of the hard work she put into them.

What are some ways that you enjoy the holidays without stress? I just have to let some things go and realize that not everything can be perfect.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dali Decal Coupon Code for My Readers

The nice folks at Dali Decals left a coupon code on my post about the decal in the guest bedroom for my readers (all five of you).

"Thanks so much for the write up too! As our way of saying thanks, here's a coupon code you and your friends can use for $10 off, no minimum purchase. Coupon code is leahinthesouth1"

I am already planning my next decal: I'm going to have them do a custom quote for the slanted wall of my craft room that you see right when you walk in the room. It's going to say "Leah's Craft Room of Awesomeness" unless any of you have another idea.

According to Dali's website, they're having a 10% off deal right now anyway along with free shipping. The code for that is HOLIDAY09 and it ends on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sea Salt Caramels

I get a lot of card ideas and stamps from Impress Rubber Stamps. I saw this caramel packaging and wanted to make some, even thought I didn't know what Sea Salt Caramels were. But I found a lot of recipes for them. I ended up using third-person Grandma's recipe and just added the Fleur de Sel at the end like what some of the other recipes recommended. A tip for making the caramels easier is to buy precut squares of wax paper to wrap them in.

Packaging from Impress Rubber Stamps:

My version of the packaging. I designed the labels in Quark (don't be hatin') and printed them out on card stock and attached them with scrapbook adhesive squares.

Here's the Recipe:
Caramels or Sea Salt Caramels

1 pound light brown sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
½ pound (2 sticks) butter (I use salted)
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fleur de sel (sea salt), optional
Extra fleur de sel to press into cut pieces
Special equipment: parchment paper, candy thermometer, wax paper squares

Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir mixture until temperature reaches 245°, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.
If using fleur de sel, sprinkle 2 teaspoons on top of caramels after 10 minutes. Let caramels cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cool.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. Lift caramel out of pan and place on parchment paper sea salt-side up. Cut caramel into bite-size pieces and wrap in 4-inch squares of wax paper. If using fleur de sel, you may press some extra into cut pieces. Don’t use too much because a little bit goes a long way.
Makes about 6 dozen caramels.
NOTE: This recipe can be easily doubled. Use a bigger pan to cook the caramels and pour into a 13x9-inch pan.

Detective Kits

Some months ago I was brainstorming ideas of books to get for my friend's son who is a voracious reader. I remembered the Encyclopedia Brown books, which made me think that it would be fun to make detective kits for Christmas. So I have spent some time putting them together for him and my nephews and niece. I got Encyclopedia Brown box sets for the 9-year-old boys, I Can Read Berenstain Bear Mysteries for the 7-year-old, and a Strawberry Shortcake mystery for my 5-year-old niece who is obsessed with pink. Planning the boxes was so much fun. I designed ID badges and business cards, and also included fake mustaches, magnifying glasses, mini clipboards and notepads, and a really rad invisible ink pen that includes a light to read the messages. I think that these would be great favors for a mystery-themed birthday party.