My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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Entries in Christmas (21)


I ♥ A2: Midnight Madness

On Friday night Frank and I walked downtown after dinner for Midnight Madness where everything in Ann Arbor was open late for holiday shopping and winter festivities.

We decided to start our evening at Bill's Beer Garden, which recently opened up in October of this year and is located at the Downtown Home and Garden store. They have a small kiosk that they serve a variety of drinks from with picnic tables and chairs set out for patrons to relax with their beverages.

This weekend was the last weekend that the beer garden was open for the season and it was jam packed with people. There were a few fire pits set out to keep people warm and in addition to the normal beer and wine they had hot cider and mulled wine on the menu.

Frank had a beer and I of course had mulled wine since I was so chilly. It was a really fun and festive atmosphere and I am looking forward to going there next summer when it is warm out.

After finishing our drinks we ventured out to Main Street. Everything looked so pretty with the trees along the street festooned with white twinkle lights and all of the shops decorated for the holidays. 

The streets and shops were bustling and it was so crowded that we decided not to venture into any stores and check things out another day. The atmosphere was great and we did a walk up and back on both sides of Main Street peeking in the glass display windows. All in all it was a fun winter evening and got me into the holiday mood.

Is your town decorated for the holidays yet? Do you have any holiday fairs or events that you have been to or are coming up? Have you started your holiday shopping or are you slow like me?


Canned Goods for Christmas

This year for Christmas I gave canned goods that I made at the end of the summer and early fall. I made cinnamon applesauce, pickled tomatoes with rosemary, and spearmint orange jelly. The last two are from recipes from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication Canning which I picked up at my grocery store last summer. I love canning and it seemed like a perfect gift to give this year.

To make the tags I cut 3/4" x 2-3/4" strips of cardstock. clipped the corners on one end to make a tag shape and used my 1/8" hole punch to create a hole for threading. I then wrote the contents of each jar on the tag.

For the cinnamon applesauce, I embellished the tag with some sticks of cinnamon and tied the tag to the jar with twine for a rustic look. To cut the small pieces of cinnamon I scored the stick with a serrated knife and then snapped off the piece.

To decorate the pickled tomatoes with rosemary I used red ribbon to attach the tag to the jar. I then hot glued some rosemary that I had dried from garden this summer to the back of the tag.

On the spearmint orange jelly, I used my hot glue gun to add an orange leaf to the back of the tag and a dried kumquat slice to the front. I then tied the tag to the jar with a lime green ribbon. To make the dried kumquat slices I cut some kumquats into 1/4" slices and then baked them on a cooling rack (not a cookie sheet - they will stick!) at 250 F (125 C) for about half an hour.  

Of course even though I have given away a lot of canned goods this year, I still have plenty left for myself. In fact I couldn't help but keep all of my vanilla pickled sweet cherries. Is that bad?


Seafoam Salad

I think it has to be a law of nature that every family in the Midwest of the US must have a time honored, treasured family Jell-O recipe. For my family that recipe is none other than the fabulously delicious seafoam salad.

Trotted out only for the special occasions of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, seafoam salad was the highlight of the holiday meals for my sister and I while we were growing up. For a seemingly disastrous period in the nineteen-eighties my grandmother tried an experiment where seafoam salad was served for Thanksgiving and a red and green Jell-O ribbon salad was substituted for seafoam salad at Christmas. Needless to say there was a major revolt in the ranks.

Even though my tastes have changed and grown, as an adult I still love this simple Jell-O recipe. Seeing the pale green Jell-O salad topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries is like a time machine for me. It just tastes like the joy and magic of the holidays and makes me feel like a little kid again.

Ingredients List
- 1 can of sliced pears in heavy syrup, drained with juice reserved
- 1 package of lime Jell-O
- 1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.)
- 2 Tbsp. warm water
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream 
- Pear halves (optional)
- Maraschino cherries (optional)

- Over a medium heat burner heat pear juice to a simmer
- Remove pear juice from heat, stir in Jell-O until dissolved and set aside
- In a separate bowl, use a potato masher to mash cream cheese with warm water
- Add slightly stiff Jell-O and beat until fairly smooth
- After Jell-O mixture has cooled, use potato masher to mash pear slices into the mixture
- Whip up whipping cream and fold half into the Jell-O mixture
- Pour Jell-O mixture into a dish and place into the refrigerator
- After Jell-O has set up (about a half hour) finish by spreading the remaining whipped cream on top 

Tips and Tricks
- Although a potato masher works best with this recipe, in a pinch you could use a dinner fork to mash up the cream cheese and pears.
- For best success with whipping up whipping cream make sure that both the whipping cream and bowl are very cold. I like to pop my mixer bowl in the freezer for a few minutes prior to using it.
- I like to garnish my seafoam salad with pear halves that I have thinly sliced and maraschino cherries.
- To make sure that the maraschino cherries don't bleed red juice all over the whipped cream I rinse my cherries and blot them dry with a paper towel before adding them on top of the seafoam salad. 


Christmas Flowers

As a hostess gift for a Christmas Eve dinner I was attending I made this simple flower arrangement.

To begin, I bought green pom pom mums and a bag of cranberries at the grocery store. I wrapped a wide piece of coordinating green ribbon around a narrow glass vase, tucking under the end and using a glue gun to secure it. I then added a red ribbon over top which I tied into a bow in the front. 

After trimming the mums down to the desired length I arranged them in the vase. To add some extra color to the arrangement I then carefully added cranberries around the stems of the mums.

The arrangement turned out to be bright and festive and since I could make it with items from the grocery store and ribbons I had on hand it was easy and inexpensive as well.


New York Day 2: Holiday Markets & Tasty Treats

On Tuesday, our second day in New York, Frank and I started off the morning by picking up breakfast at Sullivan Street Bakery which is just around the corner from our hotel. I opted for a pastry filled with ricotta, gruyere and pancetta while Frank had the Pizza Bianca (olive oil, rosemary and sea salt) and Pizza Patate (potato, onion, olive oil, rosemary, and black pepper). Not only was it convenient but it was absolutely delicious.

After breakfast the rest of the day was all about the holiday markets. We started off by walking up 8th Avenue to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. The market was festive with red and white striped tents festooned with greenery and lights. Wandering around looking at all the vendors was really fun. The stalls were bustling with people and we even saw a CNN camera crew interviewing shoppers. I ended up buying some cool postcards with graphics of transit lines from cities across the U.S. and around the world from Line Posters. We also couldn't resist picking up a snack of a yummy truffle-cheddar pretzel from Sigmund's Pretzels and a hot chocolate from No Chewing Allowed! The hot chocolate was ridiculously decadent and had a chocolate truffle placed in the bottom of the cup before the hot chocolate was poured over it.  

From Columbus Circle we walked down Broadway and through Times Square en route to Grand Central Terminal. With all the hustle and bustle and the buildings plastered with enormous advertisements there is nothing quite like Times Square.

Grand Central Terminal was teeming with people when we got there. Frank was particularly interested in checking out the new Apple Store which opened up there earlier this month. At 23,000 square feet it is enormous and has a cool atmosphere taking up the whole east balcony overlooking the station.

From Grand Central Terminal we hopped on the subway to visit the Union Square Holiday Market. Many of the vendors were the same as those at Columbus Circle so we didn't do a lot of browsing, but being late in the afternoon we were hungry and ready to try some of the food stalls. First up was pork meatballs topped with a sweet and spicy cranberry horseradish chutney from Mighty Balls. Still hungry we got lentil soup and Persian chili from Taste of Persia. The soup had a delicious flavor and was chock full of beans and vegetables. We finished off with a trio of miniature canoli in eggnog, girl scout cookie, and white chocolate macadamia flavors. 

After getting our fill of tasty treats we grabbed the subway again to go to Kalustyan's. It is an amazing shop full of all sorts of food stuffs but the reason for me to go is the fabulous selection of high quality spices. Frank and I stocked up on bulk packages of all sorts of things. Who needs a pound of poppy seeds? Me, of course!

We then headed to 601 Lexington Avenue to visit a friend of Frank's that works there. Frank's friend's office is on an upper floor of the building and the conference rooms have amazing views of the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center.

After a short rest at our hotel we headed to Broadway for a production of Rock of Ages. Booking last minute during holiday season we had limited options and the campy aspects of the show really weren't my style. Despite the show not being my taste the performers were talented and I like the cozy atmosphere of the Helen Hayes Theater where the production was staged.  Two years ago at the Helen Hayes Theater I had a chance to see The 39 Steps, a farce based on the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name, which being an old movie buff I absolutely loved.

At ten o'clock we ended our evening by dining at Momofuku Ko which was an amazing experience and deserves it's own post later. It was another wonderful day in New York.

If you are interested, check out the rest of our New York trip here: Day 1, Day 3Day 4.


New York, New York

Frank and I both had a lot of vacation left at the end of the year so we decided to take a pre-Christmas road trip to New York for a few days. We arrived in New York yesterday afternoon and after checking in at our hotel in Hell's Kitchen we headed to Chelsea Market to wander around.

Chelsea Market is a feast for the senses. There are so many amazing food shops and I loved wandering around the kitchen supply shop looking at all sorts of cool tools that I covet. All the food smelled incredible but with dinner reservations at six at Del Posto we didn't want to ruin our appetites. We couldn't resist stopping at Amy's Bread for an olive bread twist and tea, however. Everything at Chelsea Market was decked out for the holidays and I particularly liked the mass of lights creating an arch by the clock in the center of the market. It definitely had me in a festive mood.

We still had some time before our dinner reservation at six so we took a little walk around Hi Line Park. Hi Line Park is built on a section of a former elevated freight railroad spur that was used to transport goods directly to factories and warehouses without disturbing the traffic on street level. As trucking became the primary means for distribution the line fell into disuse but was revitalized as an urban park opening in 2009.  The park does an amazing job of incorporating original elements of the train line with plantings. I particularly thought that the seating that could roll on the old tracks was really cool. Since the park is elevated it also provides some beautiful views of the city that Frank and I enjoyed.

At six Frank and I headed to dinner at Del Posto. We had the five course tasting menu which was absolutely amazing and deserves its own post later. After dinner we headed to Rockefeller Center to see the decorations and the Christmas Tree. Everything was beautifully lit up and I really loved the enormous ornaments lit up in the fountain nearby.

Around Rockefeller Center we stumbled upon a cool light show displayed on the side of a building. Initially we saw huge gears ticking down so we waited and when it got to zero a show began with the windows appearing to move and snowflake bubbles exploding of the face of the building.

We then went up to the Top of the Rock Observatory to see the view of the city at night. The view was gorgeous, especially the Empire State Building lit up in red and green.

We ended the evening by getting drinks at a small bar in the West Village called Little Branch. It has a very nondescript door on the street but when you descend the stairs you find a cool bar with amazing drinks. It was a great way to end a wonderful day.

If you are interested, check out the rest of our New York trip here: Day 2, Day 3, Day 4.


Monogrammed Fleece Scarves

I wanted to make something fun and personal for Frank's nieces for Christmas and I thought that fleece scarves would be cute. I made the scarves in each girl's favorite color and then appliqued each girl's first initial on the scarf.

To make the scarves I started off with a piece of fleece and used my rotary cutter and quilting ruler to cut it 6" wide and then cut 1/2" wide fringe on the ends.

For the monogram applique I printed out each girl's initial in the font Georgia and cut it out. I placed the letters right side down on a coordinating piece of felt, traced them and then cut them out.

Frank and I are heading to New York for a pre-Christmas vacation so I had plenty of time on my hands during our drive yesterday. After I had done all the cutting at home I brought the scarves with me to do the hand stitching in the car. I pinned the felt letters to the scarves and used a small stitch to applique them, hiding the tails of my thread under the letters. 

I bought the fleece when it was on sale half off and got the felt at a ¥100 shop (Japanese version of a dollar store) when I was in Japan. With the fleece, thread and felt each scarf cost under three dollars and took less than an hour to make. I am really happy with how they turned out and hope that the girls like them on Christmas.


Kitschy Christmas Sweater 

Last Saturday, my friend hosted a house warming party for his new condo with an ugly Christmas sweater themed party. I was incredibly jet lagged from just returning from Japan and was not up for going out to hunt for a Christmas sweater at the local thrift stores. I knew that I couldn't show up without wearing something festive so I decided to quickly decorate a green sweater that I already had.

I wanted my sweater mod to be temporary so I decided to use some white craft felt that had a low-tack sticky backing that was easy to attach to the sweater but also easy to remove. I drew a reindeer onto the back of the felt, cut out the design, peeled off the backing and then applied it to the sweater.

The reindeer needed a little gussying up so I attached a googly eye and then safety pinned on a red pom-pom nose and white pom-pom tail. The final touch was tying a red ribbon and small bell around the reindeer's neck.

The whole effect was pretty kitschy and it fit right in with the other crazy Christmas sweaters at the party. It only took me 15 minutes to decorate the sweater for the party and then the next day I returned my sweater to normal by just peeling off the felt and unpinning the pom-poms. 


Holiday Party

With being out of town to Japan, New York and New Orleans this month I'm not going to be able to host a holiday party this year but I thought I'd share my Christmas decorations and food from my party last year.

For decorations I made table runners out of teal and white fabric. I also made pillows out of coordinating fabric and used white felt to add a snowflake motif on one of the pillows.

I kept things simple for my tree decorations with white lights, teal and silver ornament balls, pinecones that I spray painted silver and teal, and silver pipe cleaners that I twisted into spirals.

For the tables I filled vases with extra ornaments and some extra branches I trimmed from my tree. I also put some of the painted pinecones and ornaments in a wooden bowl on my serving table. 

I like to try to make some food ahead for my parties so I made three different cheese balls a few days before that just required garnishing before serving.  The lemon-parsley gougeres can be made ahead and then baked right before the guests come. I also made individual shrimp cocktails by putting a little bit of cocktail sauce in the bottom of a small glass with shrimp and a slice of lemon.  For something sweet I made honey-poached pears with marscapone drizzled with chocolate. I used whole small pears and cored them from underneath to keep the pear intact for presentation. I was happy that with so much I could make ahead everything was stress free for me at the party and I could spend my time enjoying the food with my guests instead of in the kitchen cooking.


Hand Rubbed Sage Holiday Gifts

With two weeks until Christmas I've been in full swing with holiday preparations. I thought I would share a holiday gift that I made for some friends and family last year.

At the end of the summer I had huge quantities of sage left in my garden. I didn't want it to go to waste so I harvested it and dried it by hanging it upside down in a dry location using twine.

To turn the dried leaves into hand rubbed sage powder I placed the leaves in mesh colander with a bowl underneath.  Using my fingertips I rubbed the leaves through the collander which turned it into a fine, fluffy powder. 

For storage I found cute plastic containers at Target and filled them with the hand rubbed sage.

To make the labels I used a picture of sage from my garden as a background. I added "sage" and "from Lisa's garden" using word art and then printed it out of matte photo paper. I trimmed the prints into circles and attached the labels to the containers with craft glue. 

The sage containers went over well with the recipients and it turned out to be a great way to use up my over abundant supply of sage before the frost set in.