Friday, December 24, 2010

Subject: Wrapped Gifts


Okay, so this will be my last post through Christmas because we are going to my parents' house tomorrow and I'm pretty sure their computer is powered by hamsters on a, no blogging for me. I have a feeling that for Suz's first Christmas my parents' living room will look like the showroom of a girls-only toy store, so who knows if there will even be time for writing with all the new toys she'll (okay, we'll) have to play with!

I wanted to share my wrapped presents, which I am very proud of this year! My favorite thing to do when I have lots of gifts to wrap (which really only happens at Christmas) is to wrap them all in the same paper and then change things up with the ribbon I use, so each one is different:

I got this paper from Target and it was $2.50 for 90 square feet, which means I will be using it for Christmas 2011 and 2012, too. The backside had the grid marks which I love and the roll was really long so I was able to wrap several of the smaller packages when I cut a length of it off the roll, so I barely wasted any. Here is a closer look:

The only thing I had to buy was the paper - I used this opportunity to use up a lot of the ribbon I already had on hand. And I love using paint chips/samples as my gift tags - most are the traditional red or green, but I used a few that were shades of brown or lighter green. I think it's such a fun idea as an alternative to traditional gift tags! Really, I love using those little colorful cards for all kinds of things - I know you were the recipient of one recently! The new ones from the Martha Stewart line at Home Depot are the perfect length for a short note. I also use them to make lists and as book marks. Plus I use them for gifts the rest of the year too, like for birthdays or Mother's Day.

Signing off for now,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Subject: Beatty's Chocolate Cake + MARSHMALLOWS

Despite the fact that we are Jewish, my family has ALWAYS gotten together for Christmas.  I mean what else is there to do??  Even Publix is closed!!

This year my cousin is hosting it at her house.  I asked what I could bring and she said a dessert would be great.  

Beatty's Chocolate Cake Round 2

This time I am going to make marshmallow frosting to go on top.  I wonder how it will come out??  I mean I love chocolate and I love marshmallows.  I think this could be a winning combination.  Maybe it needs a graham cracker crumble on the top while I'm at it?? 




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Re: Handmade Gifts

If you could only see me now.  My jaw is on the floor because I am in awe over your napkins.  It's probably because I don't have the slightest clue how to sew.  (I even send clothes home with my mom when a button falls off.)  You should be SO SO SO proud of yourself!!  I think our friend Margaret has some competition.  

The Japanese umbrella napkins make me think of the gorgeous Japanese papers that Paper-Source carries.  I always wonder who wants to cut up a sheet of $10 paper though?!?

Paper-Source - Chiyogami Yellow Roses
Paper-Source:  Yuzen Cranes

Subjects: Handmade Gifts


So, in an attempt to give something that is original and personalized, I decided to try and make some of the Christmas gifts I would be giving this year. At first I had these grand plans to make quilts for mine and Jonathan's brothers, but that never really panned out. I was going to use a makeshift version of this quilt (this site is so inspiring sewing-wise!), but like I said - the whole thing seemed daunting and I kept putting it off until it was too late to start. Darn!

The other idea I had was to make cloth napkins for my mom and mother-in-law. This was a little more doable and not quite as time-intensive and daunting (or so I thought). I got the fabric from Joann Fabrics the weekend after Thanksgiving, which was nice because everything was on sale and I had tons of coupons, but I think half the female population of this city was also in there. Ack! But, I managed all the same and so I wanted to show you my (almost) finished products.

First up, these are for my mom:

The table in her kitchen seats four, so I made eight total so she would have two sets. (If you count, you'll realize there are only seven napkins here...I'll need to finish one when I get to her house later on this week. My machine was messing up. Mostly I think it was user error.) The colors will also go really nice in her kitchen and the print reminded me of this duvet from Garnet Hill that was available for a long time but now I can't find on their site:

And then I made these for my mother-in-law:

Her dining table seats six, so I made her two sets of six. The colors don't match her house perfectly, but I thought the colors were really nice and I think she'll like them. I really like the mixture of the teal-blue and red in the fabric on the left and yes, the fabric on the right is little Japanese umbrellas. Kind of random given that she is not Japanese and her house is not decorated with any Asian accents, but still I really liked the colors and thought it was just a fun pattern. I mean, what else will you do with fabric that has Japanese umbrellas? Exactly. These are not done - again, my sewing machine! - but they won't take me long to whip up at my mom's house using her machine (which apparently is a lot more resilient to my ineptitude for sewing).

I didn't use a pattern for the napkins, but I did follow the directions I found here. I tried to do mitered corners. Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't - I couldn't figure out what determined whether or not they worked. Whatever! You can just do an Internet search for "cloth napkins DIY" or something to that effect - tons of sites are out there! This project was really fast and easy, but it got repetitive. All the prep work took longer than actually sewing the napkins. After washing the fabric, I then had to measure and cut, then iron them and then measure out the seams and iron those...20 times. Ugh.
My napkins measured 16" so I cut them 17" and did a 1/2" seam on all four sides (I think that math works). Two yards of fabric made eight napkins and to make six I got 1.5 yards. Now I have some scraps that I will need to find a use for soon. Maybe I'll make a quilt of all my scraps one day!

And next year maybe I'll start earlier and make it a truly handmade holiday!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Subject: Freshly Picked

Dear Melissa,

The other day when we opened our front door, we found this sitting on the stoop:

Isn't it fun? It's from my friend Holly and her family. The lemons are from her parents' yard and she added the clementines for some color. I love how some of the lemons still have a stem and leaves attached. It seems odd that lemons would be ripe and growing right now, since I always associate them with summer and lemonade, but a squirt of citrus seems like a bright spot on a cold winter day, you know? I also love the ribbon and how she threaded it through a hole in the note. The whole thing just works. (That's a line from the movie 'Hitch' that is often used in our home.)

Decorating with citrus for the holidays reminds of this Lemon Leaf Garland from Jordan Ferney's blog. Something about it seems so fresh and nice. I happened to catch a very small portion of the White House Christmas special on HGTV last week and I saw that a tree and mantel in one of the rooms was decorated with the same kind of citrus/nature motif. I mean, if the First Lady is doing it, it must be good, you know?

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Subject: Master Bathroom UPDATE!

Hi friend and happy Friday!

The weather here has been terrible, which has made me lazy allllll day. Anyway, I know it was so (SO) long ago that I first talked to about painting the Master is the 'after' to my before.

I ended up going with Sherwin-Williams' Bagel. Originally we did not like this color...but now I love it! How funny! I first called it "fleshy" and you agreed and said it was too much like what I already had. We were waaaay off. Jon helped me decide. If you remember, I liked E and F, but E was too light and F wasn't much of a change. Jon pointed out that G was right in the middle of E and F. (To refresh your memory, E was Acorn Yellow and F was Yellow Squash, both by Benjamin Moore.)

As I was painting, I started to get nervous: the color was looking really orange-y. But the more coats I painted on, the better it looked and the richer the color got. I ended up doing three coats rolled and two coats cutting in. The room isn't very big so I have SO MUCH paint left over. (Question: Why don't they sell paint in the half-gallon??? That would have been perfect for me. A quart may not have been enough but a gallon was way too much!) Since I had so much paint, though, and I wasn't worried about running out, I put each coat on really thick, which I think helped with the final look.

And here is the light fixture's after:

I really like the white against the new wall color. We removed the fixture from the wall and I used several coats of high-gloss white spray paint. I don't love the frosted glass shade, but I haven't been able to find a clear glass shade that would fit. I'll keep looking though. Probably the fixture and shades were sold together in a kit, so the shades were specially made to fit the fixture. Kind of annoying!

You will notice we haven't yet framed the mirror. I've noticed that projects that involve my husband tend to stall a little bit, so I guess eventually we'll get there. The weekend after Thanksgiving I bought a yard of white denim to make a Roman shade when my mom is able to come over and help me. That will be the next picture I post of this bathroom!

I'm so glad it's done and every time I go in I admire my work! It's amazing what you can accomplish over the course of two solid naptimes! Like I said, it wasn't a big room so I was really able to take my time and I'm so pleased with the end result.

Don't you think a successful project gives you the fuel and drive to complete more?

Hope you have a great (dry) weekend!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Subject: MPix

Let me just start off by saying...It's FREAKING COLD OUT!!!  I'm so cold, I sometimes want to be wearing gloves and a hat in my house.  

Now, on to more important issues.  Have you ever heard of MPix?  It's the crème de la crème of online picture printing.  I only mention this because I know you recently took family portraits.  For the frame-worthy shots, I highly recommend you print them through MPix and be sure to do it on the metallic paper.  You will be amazed by the quality. 

I just ordered these two pictures early last week and they arrived in three days.  AMAZING!!

Re: Mad Men Party UPDATE

The party came out AMAZING!!  Love all the pictures you took!!  I wouldn't have been able to get the full effect without them!  Your friend did a fabulous job.

So, Hubby has been reading our blog, which is borderline invasion of privacy since these are basically our e-mails, but he thinks in costume you looked like...

Great job getting into character.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Subject: Mad Men Party UPDATE

Hi-eee! So it was about a million years ago when I last told you about my friend's Mad Men party and wanted to give you the deets on the actual night. First: it was awesome! My friend did such a great job planning and there was the perfect amount of people. Everyone dressed up - most of the men were in suit & ties - which made the whole affair seem extra special and almost made it feel like we were at a wedding reception. She had lots of heavy hors'dourves which were delicious and a fully-stocked bar (picture below - it was the only picture of the bar I could find...sorry for the cheesey folks on the side!). She had printed up little cards with "recipes" for making drinks from the show, like a Manhattan, an Old-Fashioned and a Gimlet, which became my personal favorite. It's the drink Betty ordered in the bar at the end of season 2, right after she found out she was pregnant (so much for prenatal care) and right before she Did the Deed with a random guy at the bar in some back room at the bar (classy).

The weather was cool but not cold and the guys spent most of the night outside by a bonfire, smoking cigars and enjoying their Scotch or Bourbon while the ladies stayed inside and played an enthusiastic game of Pictionary/Charades with 1960s-themed clues. (Examples: Rosa Parks, Zorro, the Bunny Hop...all very hard to draw/act out.) It was especially fun because you could choose to draw or act it out - it was your choice - but you were going head-to-head against a player from the other team. It was fun. Trust me. Don't we all look especially Stepford-esque here???

All in all - dressing up for a party is the way to go. Everything just feels more exciting and fun. And I stuck with my goal of only wearing clothes from my actual closet. The same went for my husband. I did purchase false eyelashes and a friend-of-a-friend gave me an awesome "poof" and flipped up my hair on the ends. And she did it without a Bump It because she said they are "cheating." Awesome.

Anyway - it was a successful night and very fun. I think I will re-watch Season 4 soon...the party made me miss the show!

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Subject: Happy Birthday to YOU & Cake Prints

Melissa! My long list friend. Oh-ma-gosh...I am so sorry I have been MIA this week. No, Suz is not taking up ALL my time (although a great deal of it - who knew babies were so needy?!). However, I did spend some time this morning whipping up some homemade baby food (sweet potatoes). Can I just say: there is nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction I get when I open up my freezer to a half-dozen bags brightly-colored, ice cube-shaped fruits and vegetables for my little girl. And the number is growing as she gets older and tries new food. (Variety is the spice of life, after all, even if you are only 8.5 months old!) And it's cheap! I bought four sweet potatoes at $.15 a pound (a POUND) and just filled up two ice cube trays, which is the equivalent of 32 meals. That is nuts!

Anyway...I just felt very accomplished and had to share. Moving on...

So, I LOVE those cake prints too! Wouldn't that be such a great birthday gift for someone to enjoy year round? Something about the sweetness (no pun intended, seriously) reminds me of the Etsy artist Janet Hill, who I am obsessed with and would one day like to own at least a print, if not an actual original. Aren't these fabulous???

The colors are amazing and would look great in my bedroom, although my uber-masculine husband may object to paintings of dresses hanging in his eyeline so it's the first thing he sees in the morning. But a girl can dream! Don't you just want to BE in these paintings? Love.

Also, I love your wish list for your birthday. I am very much intrigued with your at-home wardrobe. I am in desperate need of an alternative to pajama pants (it's bad for morale) that aren't actually jeans. Plus it's COLD here, but winter clothes always look so bulky that I feel like a big marshmallow if I layer on too much. Your JCrew sweats (I use that term losely) are the perfect choice, though. I also love the idea of something like these from the Gap:

They would be great as house shoes but also super warm to run out to the mailbox in too. I don't think I would wear them to the grocery store, but I'm not making any promises! I've realized that Stacey&Clinton (they're like one person) have no idea about staying home and the wardrobe necessities therein. I don't want or need to get dressed to the nines everyday, but I do need something that isn't pajamas. I think I could take some cues from Gwyneth's "uniform" on GOOP too.

And I love the plates from Anthro! Something about the inky blue of the octopus is really nice to me and the Ladies-in-Waiting would be adorable in your Ruffle Bathroom!

I have missed you! It's so good to finally catch up!

P.S. In the time that I have been writing this, Ina the Cat has climbed onto my lap and fallen asleep...and I'm on a laptop! I forget how snuggly she is in the winter!

Subject: Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

So, K, I guess I will just continue to talk to myself.  Where are you?!?  Is that baby of yours taking up all your time??  :)  Hi Suz!!

Just wanted to send this your way.  I came across it a few months ago, but never sent it to you.  Too cute right??

Recipe Box by Rifle Designs - $125
Spoon Recipe Cards by Rifle Designs - $10

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Subject: Cake Prints

I'm pretty sure that Jordan Ferney's blog was the first blog I ever read.  And I'm pretty sure you're the person who introduced me to her!!

Well, did you read that her red-headed hubby is selling prints of his Let Them Eat Collection for $39 each??  The only question now is, which one to get?!?

Monday, December 6, 2010


So, my birthday is less than one month away.  Lately, I haven't really wanted for much, but after Hubby and I ran to the mall this weekend, I spied a few things that top my list of "I'd love to have this."

While some may say these are so early 2000, I live in my brown uggs.  When it's cold outside nothing keeps your feet warmer.  Plus they are great in the snow!  A pair in black surely makes the list.
Classic Short Ugg Boots - $140

From one JCrew lover to another, here's what I spied when returning multiple pairs of sweatpants that I purchased and did not need.

JCrew Marled Knit Snood in Ivory and Black - $49.50

JCrew Button Flap Mittens in Poppy - $25

JCrew Vintage Pajama Set in Navy - $69.50

Here's a bag that I've been eyeing for about a year now.  It also comes in gold, so the toss up is which color to choose.  I think the silver would surely make sweatpant outfit days a little more fun!  Oh, and for those interested, it's on sale at Bloomies!
Foley + Corinna Wrapped Chain Leather and Mesh Crossbody Bag - Originally $325 Now $227.50
And to round out the list, some plates I've been swooning over to hang on my dining room wall.  Here are my favorite Anthropologie picks.

Petite Fille Plate - $24.00
From the Deep Salad Plate, Octopus - $18.00

Ladies-In-Waiting Dinner Plate - $24.00

Hope you had a great weekend!  

PS - Love Gwyneth, Love GOOP, Love Apple, Moses and Chris, too.  Oh, and her mother is just so beautiful and talented as well!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Subject: GOOP

Mel -

Going into the weekend, I thought you might like some good Internet reading, so I wanted to share this link with you. Have you read GOOP before? I'm kind of obsessed. It's Gwyneth Paltrow's own personal blog. Now, I don't know if she writes all the content herself or if she tells someone else what to write...and frankly, I don't care. I love it! I love reading all the health articles (I really want a juicer now!) and all the links and ideas she shares...brilliant. I can't wait to visit a city where she recommends restaurants. My friend Michelle has been to her recommendations before and said they are spot-on. For example, she had the best Mexican food of her life (seriously) at a Gwyneth-recommended spot in London.

I have decided I am a big fan of Gwyneth's. I like that she is a legitimate actress (who was darling when she won an Oscar) but she hardly ever gets any bad press. She really seems all about her family and kids and being down-to-earth (except when she talks about clothes and everything is waaaay out of my budget). And I like how she married a rocker (because that's what actresses do, right?) who happens to also be British so she spends a lot of time in England but she hasn't adopted this annoyingly fake British accent (i.e. Maddona). Plus she was great on Glee (and I loved her character name, Holly Holiday) and she doesn't hide the fact that she eats lots of pasta but also busts her butt in the gym to keep herself looking svelte (contrasted with actresses who shrug and insist they have good genes). PLUS she was amazing at the CMA awards. Who knew she could sing? Country? Exactly.

Anyway. I'm reaching Creepy Fan Status, so I'll stop.

Happy weekend and happy reading!

P.S. One more thing: She is a big fan of the site Smitten Kitchen. Me too! I love the thought that Gwyneth Paltrow reads the same sites as me. It makes the world seem smaller, you know?
Image courtesy of People.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Re: Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Chef Melissa -

I'm so glad the cake worked out. It seriously is delish. I myself enjoy the coffee flavors because I do like coffee (I'd forgotten that about you!) and, as Ina says, coffee is an ingredient that brings out the flavor in chocolate, along with salt and vanilla. Anything that makes chocolate more chocolate-y, I love! But yes, the actual cake part is a great base for other flavors toppings. I love the idea of something simple like Cool Whip and some berries. Maybe some kind of chocolate syrup too? Mmm!

Recently I re-worked one of my mom's famous cake recipes and used Ina's chocolate cake for the base and then used my mom's icing recipe to top it. My mom usually uses a store-bought German chocolate cake mix, but I knew the Beatty's cake was always so moist and fabulous, that I wanted to try it out. It was perfect! Plus, my mom's icing recipe is for a two-layer cake (with some left over), so really - it was just meant to be!

Here is the icing recipe for Lass's Mom's Hershey Bar Cake:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. regular sugar
10-1.5 oz. Hershey Bars with almonds - chopped*
12 oz. Cool Whip

Beat cream cheese and sugars until smooth. Stir in Cool Whip. Fold in chopped Hershey bars. Ice cooled cake.

*My mom recommends using three large Hershey Bars with Almonds, which is a little less than what is listed above but still quite enough. Also, you want the bars pretty fine, so putting them in the food processor is the fastest (and easiest!) way to get that consistency.

There was SO MUCH of this icing left over, I used it to top graham crackers when I needed a quick dessert after dinner (or breakfast) once the cake was all gobbled up.

I think there may be some baking in my future this weekend!

Happy eating,

P.S. Your picture is so appetizing! You do a great job with icing...way better than me!