I think that list could help 2014 be slightly more graceful even if not for the majority of it. Attempting to be as graceful as Grace Kelly is a slightly ambitious resolution for a new year, but if only this year I keep in touch instead of keeping too busy, keep it together when I do get busy, keep a list to manage all the busy, keep a sense of humor to keep the busy-ness from getting to me, and keep reading to keep the busy in perspective, this year might just be a very graceful 12 months…If only…
Thank goodness I finished this project while still in 2013 because if I believed in luck, this little resolution calendar would have spelled some serious bad luck for my new year. For a project that should have taken about an hour, it turned into a December-long hunt for an acrylic frame that could stand up on its own little leg. If you live anywhere near an Ikea though, this frame would be absolutely perfect and you will avoid all of my toils and trials to show you this idea, but since I don’t live near enough to civilization and an Ikea, I had some serious issues: including hammering out a mirror, cracking things that shouldn’t have been cracked, and figuring out gorilla glue is not nearly as super as it says.
Anyway, ignoring my catastrophe, you will need some sort of frame that can stand up on its own, a binder clip, and scrapbook papers to create a resolution for each month of the year. I’m not a resolution-person, but I love the idea of creating a monthly resolution flipbook. Your resolutions are broken up into manageable things to be changed—one a month–and you could even plan out your resolutions for months that you know you will actually accomplish whatever you have in your head. For example, my January is going to be a hideous month packed full of too many things I do not care to do including returning to work and full-time studenthood all in one week. So, my resolution I tucked in my envelope for January is to read a novel of my own choosing, just for fun. It’s simple, not overly ambitious for a month I know I will have less than zero time for anything, yet it’s a little commitment to set aside time for my brain to enjoy a few pages of sheer pleasure. For February, I’m planning on at long last figuring out a few (extremely necessary) blog details I have been too busy lazy to figure out. If I told you all what I still need to figure out most bloggers would probably scream in terror at the fact that I still don’t know these things. I know. That’s why I’m not sharing that little tidbit about myself. It terrifies me that I don’t know it either. But in February? With my little resolution flipbook? I’m going to resolve all that…
In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Jo and Meg are invited to a New Year’s Eve party and with “the united exertions of the entire [March] family,” the girls finally look elegant enough to go “even though Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable.” But of course, both girls are quick to remember that despite the tight shoes and the poky pins, they would “be elegant or die” before going to the party looking plain.
I took an unexpected hiatus this week from VMMV. I’ve been meaning to post these pictures since Monday, but a double butter-cream batch and three parties in just as many days means I haven’t had even a moment to get them up. My favorite little women had our annual Christmas party and it was, as usual, the most special of nights. Somehow we all grew up and got far, far too busy but right before a new year begins we all manage to get back together, dress up, and make another New Year’s resolution to be the most elegant little women we can be. It’s a resolution just vague enough to avoid certain failure and noble enough to be worthy of a fresh start. It’s a resolution for poise under any circumstance, for being simple yet graceful, and, according to Webster, being “pleasingly ingenious on any occasion.” So, in 2014, “let us be elegant or die!” The March sisters strived to be and that’s good enough a model for me.
I wonder when “are you ready?” entered everyone’s vocabulary around Christmas. Besides Merry Christmas that’s the line I hear the most in December and it seriously instantly stresses me out. As soon as I hear it I have to think, am I ready? I thought I was but maybe not since they asked. They’re right, I could probably do more…maybe they’re being sarcastic because they can’t imagine anyone NOT being ready by now…or, or, maybe they’re being sarcastic because they can’t imagine anyone ACTUALLY being ready so early. I can’t stand that question. I really can’t.
I could stand a Christmas cocktail though. Check out this recipe for a Martha Stewart-style cranberry cocktail with red wine, maple syrup, vanilla bean, pink peppercorns and lemon zest! I also thought this recipe looked yummy if you like sweet drinks, and finally this guy looked pretty simple.
For the ice bowl, place holly leaves in a large bowl and then place a smaller bowl inside of it. Fill up the gap with water (the size of your inner and outer bowl and the gap it creates will determine the size of your bowl) and allow to freeze for at least 24 hours depending on how thick your bowl is. Getting the inner bowl to stay put is a bit tricky. I ended up taking some thin wire and wiring it into place as well as placing a weight into the center of the inner bowl. When you’re ready to use it, run a little warm water over the outside of the bowl if it isn’t popping out immediately. Serve ice in it or put a tea light in the middle. **if you do serve ice, keep in mind holly is poisonous so if you want to be super careful, put a piece of parchment down into the center of the bowl before you place ice into it. This will also keep the ice cubes from sticking to the ice bowl**
I’ll admit, I’m not ready, not really. But not because I have a million things to do—even though I do–but I’m not ready for December to fly by so quickly and honestly with Thanksgiving being so late I think 2013 is kind of jipping us all a bit. That just means Christmas music and twinkle lights may have to extend a little bit further into January while I ease into the terrible beauty of a new year– sipping my pink peppercorn and cranberry cocktail perhaps.
Even though it’s rather mortifying to look back at former posts, honestly, what was I thinking some days? Last year I was rather happy with how my Christmas DIY’s turned out so in honor of Throwback Thursday, take a peek at some Anthropologie inspired monogram ornaments, an advent tree that can be started any day of the month, and some elegant pearl trees that still, a year later, are one of VMMV’s top posts viewed and repinned. I wince a bit looking at the “special effects” I thought were so cool at the time, and I wince even more because that was only a year ago. Goodness. If you did things that you’re embarrassed about when you were 12, well, you were 12 so you get a bit of a pass, but last year?? Oh well, the whole point of #tbt is to be a little embarrassed anyway…right? And regardless of how unfortunate some of my layouts were, the end products are really rather adorable.
The fact that my abilities and (hopefully) blog-formatting style have improved quite considerably in just a year makes me excited for next year and a bit concerned at what this year’s “beauties” will look like to me in another twelve months. I guess that’s why you shouldn’t place too much confidence in pretty things because in a year, hey, it may not be awfully beautiful, it might just be plain awful.
If you’re looking for a new twist on Christmas cookies, these are pretty wonderful: Shortbread spiced with crushed red pepper infused cranberries or tart cherries, and put together with cream cheese whipped filling and a fudge sauce drizzled over the top. So, so good. It’s a three-part recipe that looks intense but actually only takes about 45 min. to prep. The fudge sauce and whipped filling can even be made a little ahead of time if you’re pressed for time:
For the shortbread
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or cherries)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
Combine cranberries and red pepper, cover in boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes to infuse the berries with the spice. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Add butter and the soaked cranberries. Pulse until the dough clumps and then remove from processor. **if you don’t have a food processor, cut in the butter with two knifes moving criss-cross around the mixture until it begins to clump, it will still be very dry-looking**
Press dough into a square-shape on a piece of parchment. Place another sheet of parchment over the dough and roll until you have a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. **If the dough is not clumping, press the dough back into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for 5 or so minutes. Repeat as many times as you need while rolling out the dough.**
Cut the dough into rectangles or circles to eventually form the top and bottom of a “sandwich.”
Keeping the parchment on the bottom of the dough, place this sheet onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees or until lightly golden.
For the filling
12 cup whipping cream
3 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Combine whipping cream, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until stiff peaks form.
Spread onto the flat side of one, cooled, shortbread cookie. Top with another cookie to make a sandwich.
For the fudge sauce
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
Combine cream and syrup and cook over medium-high until hot
Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Allow to cool and thicken before dipping the shortbread cookies into the sauce.
This recipe as it is yields about 18 sandwiches. I ended up halving the recipe because you kind of need to eat everything the recipe makes in one day or else the shortbread will start to soften, especially with the whipped topping inside, so only make as many as you think you can consume before the day is done…if that means sitting up late to finish off the 18th sandwich, then go for the full recipe! But if you’re not that ambitious, halving it makes plenty.
original recipe via Better homes and gardens Nov. 2009
If only I traveled like the Haynes sisters in White Christmas, my luggage would match my accessories, I’d be in heels instead of fur-lined boots, my coats wouldn’t puff but cinch, and my hats and collars would always be elegant instead of over-stuffed.
Doesn’t that one scene in White Christmas just make you want to drop everything and run off to Vermont? Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen just look so incredibly pulled together yet comfortable and cozy at the same time I don’t know how they do it. Since we’re all used to the cozy laziness of yoga pants, moccasins, and pull-over, over-sized sweatshirts, when we have to jump in the car for hours and hours, or bake, or run to a million stores, we can’t imagine doing all that and donan outfit worthy of photographing. But, what if we weren’t used to it? What if we really did “dress up” everyday. Wouldn’t “dressing up” just become the usual and feeling put together an everyday occurrence?
I might be willing to try it…but with New Years so close, there’s no sense in doing anything drastic this year.
Even evergreens need an extra layer in December. These trees are made from the sleeves of old cable-knit sweaters! My favorite, cozy sweater finally shrank, pilled, and stretched in ways that I could no longer really be seen in public with it…however comfy it still was. It still was so wintery though, I cut off the sleeves, stitched up the seam, and made it into cozy, Christmas sweater-sleeve trees for part III of VMMV sweater week. (check out part I and II as well if you haven’t been following along!)
For the tree, you’ll need construction paper, an old cable-knit sweater, and a needle and thread:
Start by forming a cone from heavy construction paper.
Then, cut the sleeve off of the sweater and make another cut down the length of the sleeve so you have a sort of blunted triangle shape.
Wrap the sleeve around the cone. For one cone, the wrists were wider than the arms so these sleeves went wrist first over the cone with the wrists forming the widest part. For a different sweater, the wrist was tighter so this became the tip of the cone. Play around to see how it best fits the cone and then stitch up the back of the sleeve so it fits tightly.
Tuck in the edge of the sleeve into the hole formed by the paper cone at the top. If the sleeve doesn’t form a nice border at the base of the tree, tuck that edge under as well and hot-glue to the inside of your cone.
Embellish! That’s the fun part, I added little pom-poms and a few stars made with sweater scraps.
You could just leave the cones by themselves, but a little rustic base made it looked so whimsical I had to add it. You will need some short, straight sticks, rubber-bands, and floral foam:
Gather twigs (I used grapefruit twigs) and tie them together using a rubber-band. Make sure your twigs are fairly straight and mostly all the same length.
Push the tight side of the twigs into a piece of floral foam that just fits into the base of the sweater-sleeve cone. The foam needs to fit tightly so it can support the tree!
Push the twigs and foam into the base of the tree. You’ll have to play around with the twigs a bit to get an even base that will stand up straight but once you get it just right, it’s very steady!
I love this project. It’s so cheap, recycles something you’d otherwise probably throw out, and looks so adorable. Each one looks different depending on the sweater and the embellishments you use, and they’re so simple yet make quite the statement if you make a little grove of them…Baby, it may be cold outside, but even your evergreens can be cozy in their sweater-sleeves…Now go get a sweater a get busy!
Drape the sweater over the stool and cut around the shape of the top of your stool, leaving about an inch extra to sew a pocket for the elastic.
Fold the edges over a 1/4″ and then another 1/2″ on the underside of the fabric. This is going to be the sleeve for the elastic.
Sew the folded edge down to create a sleeve, leaving the ends open.
Attach the safety pin to one end of the elastic and feed through the sleeve, the fabric will start to bunch up as you pull the elastic through. Don’t let the other end of your elastic get fed into the sleeve though! I didn’t cut my elastic until I tried the sweater “beanie” back on the stool to make sure it fit.
Once the elastic is completely fed through the pocket, test the sweater cover on the stool to make sure it fits, mark how long the elastic needs to be, cut and sew the ends of the elastic together, and then sew up the open ends of your sleeve.
Fit the cover back over the stool and you’re done!
When windshields and roofs are frosted over every morning and the sun hides every day at 4:30, it’s high-time to make everything cozy. These stools are part II of III of Sweater Week and the best part? You can do all three projects with just two sweaters. If you don’t have any old sweaters, check Goodwill! They have some beauties for just a few dollars. I will have to admit though, I found one that I went home, washed and dried, made the mistake of trying on, and couldn’t bear the thought of scissors cutting that cozy wrap off of me so I kept it. Oops. But, if you can find one that doesn’t fit, Goodwill is a good spot to look! You could also staple the sweater pieces to whatever stool you’re recovering if you want something more permanent and skip the entire sewing part, but adding elastic to make it interchangeable depending on the season is pretty cool…uh, warm!
It’s Christmas Sweater Week! I can’t tell you how excited I am for this week to finally share three DIY Christmas projects using sweaters. They’re all so simple, the most difficult part of each of them was deciding which to share first–they were all my favorites.
These cozy-corns had to be part one though, they were really too cute not to start off the week with. You will need acorn caps, an old sweater, pillow stuffing, and hot-glue:
Using small squares of fabric cut from an old cable-knit sweater, stuff a small amount of pillow stuffing into the center of each square.
Pinch the corners of the corners together to make a teardrop shape.
Dab a small amount of hot-glue to the inside of an acorn cap, add the teardrop and you’re done!
If you want to hang them as ornaments, just attach a piece of twine with another dab of glue to the top of the acorn cap and then hang them along with real acorns, or just set them out in a dish.