Not Martha

A (Sort Of) Gift Guide

I love gift guides but, honestly, I find myself using them most often for the sources they draw from so please allow me to just go ahead and tell you about the spots I’m using for ideas this year:

Kickstarter at MoMA – That neat stuff that was on Kickstarter but you might have since lost track of? Here it is! Also see: the whole gifts section. (I’ve been eyeing that Bubble Necklace for a few years now. Not a hint. Ok, yes, it’s a hint.)

Good Gift Games at The Morning News – An annual curated list of tabletop games by Matthew Baldwin and one of those things I look forward to every year. I know the guy in person and can vouch that all these games have been well tested over rounds of beer with good people at good pubs. I’m going to throw my support on the Marrying Mr. Darcy: The Pride and Prejudice Card Game and also call up a past game that is a most-played in my house: Forbidden Island.

Cool Tools: Mark’s Picks and Under $10 – Have somebody on your list who is a Maker or very practical or just plain hard to shop for? Cool Tools will have a suggestion for that one thing that they might not already know about. Among the most well received gifts to family that I’ve given have come from past Cool Tools recommendations including a craft assistant setup for a model-making family member and guitar tuning devices for my part-time rock star husband. (If said giftee just likes knowing about neat things they might love the Cool Tools book, which I fully admit to becoming engrossed in myself, it’s huge like a coffee table book and packed with information like a catalog.)

Brit+Co Shop – Among the many awesome things in this shop I’m particularly in love with the Gold Leaf Valet Kit with Lovely Indeed, the customizable wood burnt Cheese Board with Design*Sponge and the wooden Pop-Out Ornament Cards. See also: the whole Tech (Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote for an iPhone!) and Merrymaking Color Block Muddler!) selections. Full disclosure and blatant self promotion: this winter I have my own collaboration with Brit+Co for a set of mini gingerbread house mug topper cookie cutters which, as of me typing this, should be back in stock to purchase on Friday 12/12/14. Update: The DIY Kits have sold out, thanks to everybody who purchased one!

What are your favorite sources for the difficult to shop for?

· comments [6] · 12-8-2014 · categories:christmas · shopping ·

Tiny Gingerbread House decorations

Here are the decorations I’ve collected to decorate the tiny gingerbread houses that decorate mugs which I’ll be making this year. The houses are so small that decorations to be sprinkled on are all you need. I tend to keep an eye out for holiday worthy sprinkles and decorations all year long, so some of these might have had me contemplating the holidays in the middle of July.

Crushed candy canes – Easy, colorful and festive. Also, candy canes are easy to find at the corner store or, say, in the lobby of your bank so you don’t need to make a special trip to find sprinkles. (If you use the pre-crushed sort I promise I won’t tell.)

Nonpareils – Tiny and crunchy and if you get one of those containers with sections for six different colors you can create your own color mix.

Sugar pearls – These are like giant nonpareils, I found these at a discount store.

Itty bitty edible gold foil starsItty bitty edible gold stars! These are amazingly cute. I’ve found these sold by Wilton in the baking aisles of Michael’s and Joann stores as well as specialty cooking shops.

Gold dragée – I want more gold in my holidays so I was thrilled when I found these. Unlike their silver counterparts these are safe to eat since they’re made using edible metallic dust.

Oversized sprinkles – Colorful like twinkle lights. These are from Wilton and they make me very happy.

The next three options are great for creating a simple snowy roof:

White nonpareils – I like the details of a sweet covering of precious little snowy white balls.

Sanding sugar – The larger sugar crystals sparkle nicely.

Edible glitter – I bought this at a specialty cake supply store where the owner assured me that the edible glitter is the best for reflecting the sparkle from twinkle lights. I’ve done a terrible job at conveying that in this photo.

The last row are all from a decoration set that came in one container.

Holly leaves and berries – Sweetly festive.

Tiny snowflakes – You can place these individually if you want, or just sprinkle them on and let randomness do it’s job.

Tiny candy canes – Much to my dismay they don’t actually taste of peppermint, but all is forgiven because they are terribly cute.

Don’t forget! This winter I’ve collaborated with Brit+Co on a DIY kit which includes cookie cutters for my tiny gingerbread houses! It makes creating the gingerbread houses very easy. Go have a peek!

· comments [11] · 11-24-2014 · categories:holidays ·

Holiday Mug Kit collaboration with Brit+Co

I’m so utterly thrilled to announce this collaboration with Brit+Co to create a DIY kit for my tiny gingerbread houses that sit on the edge of a mug!

The kit includes two cookie cutters that are 3D printed (!!!) and each kit comes with a mug, a pen for decorating or personalizing the mug and recipes for gingerbread and royal icing. May I suggest that the kit would make a wonderful holiday gift? Even if just for yourself?

They’ve created a complete DIY tutorial for baking and assembling the house.

I couldn’t be more pleased, go have a look!

· comments [14] · 11-17-2014 · categories:christmas · food · holidays ·

Easter Egg Food Color Palette

If you need to do some last moment Easter Egg dying these instructions will help you create simple, vibrant eggs using supplies from the grocery store.

A few years back I spent some time using good old fashioned food color to dye very saturated and vibrant eggs for my Easter Surprise Eggs project. I wasn’t quite happy with a few of the colors made back then so this week I set out to refine the process and what went from an easy and cheerful activity quickly turned into obsessive madness as my kitchen and dining room were turned into an egg dying laboratory. Timers were used, results were carefully examined and tweaked, charts were made, home production assembly lines were perfected. (A whole lot of my manic energy came from the fact that most of my week was spent with various crews of workers fixing our ceiling. I’m glad to report that the room is very nearly back to normal.)

The most fun part? I had an excuse to buy eggs in those large flats of 30. I never get to do that!
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· comments [11] · 04-18-2014 · categories:holidays ·

Giant Kinder Surprise Eggs

My Easter treat for this year is a couple of giant Kinder Surprise eggs. Look at how big they are! It’s shown here with a regular sized Kinder Surprise Egg for scale and a Mini Kinder Egg which I added because I happened to find them in a local shop.

The Mini Kinder Eggs are filed with hazelnut paste and bits of hazelnut. They are delicious and I recommend you grab some if you see them.

If you’d like to see what was in my giant Kinder Surprise eggs click through for all the details. (If not I’ll be back later with a spectrum of vibrant eggs dyed using food coloring!)
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· comments [28] · 04-16-2014 · categories:holidays · kindereggaday ·

last minute Valentine’s Day

I’m not very focused on Valentine’s Day this year, we usually cook a fancy meal and stay in but this year we’re feeling a bit of cabin fever so we’re headed out to see the Lego movie and get cocktails at our favorite local bar. I might still get a little creative, here are some last minute Valentine’s ideas that have caught my attention.

Printable pop culture valentines over at Mighty Girl. See also: her roundup of nerdy valentines.

Valentine’s Day cocktails at Serious Eats. I’m also looking at their bitter anti-Valentines cocktails.

A simple paper heart garland that can be whipped up with office supplies, at Just Bella.

Last minute Valentine’s Day party at Oh Happy Day, a few simple things you can probably grab at Target to make staying in a celebration.

Bake a heart (or a broken heart) into a cupcake from Bake It In A Cake. (I’m still in love with all her ideas.)

I’m not a huge fan of cut flowers (because I’m thinking ahead to when I inevitably leave them too long and end up with dead flowers and a moldy vase) but my favorite Valentine’s gift remains this String Of Pearls plant (even though we’re on version #3) which Scott admits he bought me on the way home from work.

I hope you have a romantic Valentine’s Day, unless you’re dreading Valentine’s Day in which case I hope you have a really amazing Friday.

· comments [4] · 02-13-2014 · categories:holidays ·

links: christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I’m going to take the next week off and I’ll be back after the new year. I hope your holidays are warm and full of cheer and all that stuff.

How To Build An Indestructible Gingerbread House : The Salt : NPR.

Bon Appétempt: Video Attempt: How to Make a Bread Wreath. I love that something goes wrong about 3/4ths of the way through. Exactly like at my place but with far more composure and a whole lot less giving up and ordering pizza.

Orangette: From now on, a good recipe for spiced nuts. It’s not too late to make them for the holidays!

Perfect Party Wine: Sparkling Wine Under $20 | Serious Eats: Drinks.

Hot Ginger Toddy – Not Without Salt. I’ve been trying a few toddy recipes this year and this one is my favorite, I took it to a party and it was a big hit.

· comments [0] · 12-24-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·

links: christmas

defective yeti — The 2013 Good Gift Games Guide.

Savory treats for a holiday cookie plate | Ask MetaFilter “The answer to this is almost always cheese straws.”

Eleven x Seven: Core77′s Ultimate Gift Guide for Designers.

12 Most Surreal Light Installations at Lyon’s Festival of Lights – My Modern Metropolis.

What is your favorite 2013 gift guide? What are the most interesting gift guides from blogs and niche publications? | Ask MetaFilter.

Orangette: Their good work. An excellent set of gift suggestions.

A Present You Need a Crowbar to Open? Behold, Man Crates! | Brit + Co. Ha ha ha, that’s awesome.

The Portland 75 | Serious Eats. It uses Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Eau de Vie, which I have always wanted an excuse to buy.

· comments [2] · 12-17-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·

Illusion Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree this year is an illusion. Well, sort of. It’s created from twinkle lights reflected in a large mirror. The tree is meant to be mostly viewed at night when it is lit up. After all it’s the time of year when by the time we’re home it’s always dark and, let’s face it, we could use some cheer.

When we bought our house it came with a large mirror that we placed at one side of our dining room where it reflects the view all the way down a hall to our back door. It’s in the corner that would make the most sense to set a Christmas tree so I decided to use the mirror instead of obstructing it. I was also still thinking about floating Christmas trees; my previous ornament tree was fun but I missed the twinkly lights. So a floating, lighted, reflected light tree it was. It’s got the added benefit of taking up very little space so we didn’t have to move a pair of chairs out of the way.

Here is another view showing how the tiers of the tree appear to float (if you look really hard you can see me holding the camera):

To assemble the tree I used dowel rods and some metal wreath forms which I took apart. After it’s all together the frame that is assembled is surprisingly sturdy and lightweight but it likely won’t hold a traditional strand of Christmas lights, I went with those micro LED lights on the delicate copper wires. I secretly was looking for an excuse to buy those mini lights because they are awfully charming.

MATERIALS

  • two strands of 20-foot long micro LED lights on thin wire
  • three 1/4 inch dowel rods in the 48 inch length (found at hardware stores)
  • six tiny screw eyes, brass if you can find them
  • gold twist ties
  • 6″ box wreath form, I found these at Jo-ann
  • 12″ box wreath form
  • 18″ box wreath form
  • 24″ box wreath form
  • heavy duty wire cutter
  • needle nose pliers
  • regular pliers (your wire cutter tool might do double duty as this)
  • black duct tape
  • black electrical tape
  • safety glasses (non-negotiable)
  • work gloves
  • paper or markable surface large enough to cover a work surface or area on the floor that is at least 48″ x 24″
  • gold paint and brush (optional)
  • thin gold tinsel (optional but nice to have)
  • required: a mirror that is at least 48″ tall and 24″ wide

Note on the lights: The micro LED lights shown here were bought at Restoration Hardware and you can also find them over at Amazon in both warm and cool variations.
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· comments [7] · 12-12-2013 · categories:christmas ·

Seattle’s Gingerbread Village

Each year here in Seattle chefs from the Sheraton hotel pair with architects from various firms to create a Gingerbread Village display that is truly stunning. The village is free to view and donations are taken for the JDFR. This is the 21st year and the theme is “there is a rhyme and reason this holiday season” and the various structures are based on classic nursery rhymes. If you’re here in Seattle I highly recommend making a visit to see the gingerbread village part of your Christmas tradition. It opens this year on November 27th and stays up for viewing in the Sheraton lobby under the new year. If you like to avoid the crowds, or if you just want to extend the holiday as long as possible, going in to see the village after Dec. 25th means you’ll have more time to linger and study the details.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a peek at the gingerbread structures in the midst of construction. I managed to play it cool but I was so excited to learn what goes on behind the scenes.

From the factoids I got: “The gingerbread creations are made from an estimated 1,200 pounds of dough, 800 pounds of icing and hundreds of pounds of chocolate, almond paste and candy. Creations are designed in partnership with Seattle’s top architecture firms and trade associations, and are made possible by more than 2,500 volunteer hours from the Sheraton’s hotel staff.”

Chef John Armstrong told us that people keep an eye out for candy they can use all throughout the year.

Since the display is up for over a month they do have to use some non-edible interior support. By the time this is ready to be viewed by the public nothing inedible will be showing.

He also showed us the industrial oven which was massive and has eight surfaces that can each hold a bunch of full sheet pans. Yet in order to bake some of the gingerbread pieces needed they had to extend the baking surfaces to be large enough to hold them. That, people, is some serious gingerbread.

This boat has to be built in pieces because, no joke, it’s too tall to fit inside the room where it’s being constructed.

Kids respond most to the past gingerbread creations that have lights and movement so almost each sculpture will incorporate some of that. This entire ship will sway back and forth, I cannot wait to see it’s finished state.

All the details in the walls here are hand carved into the gingerbread before being baked.

The clock shown here was created by coloring dried pasta then embedding it into a pane of sugar while it was still hot. So smart.

Figurines awaiting showtime.

I love the Gingerbread Village every year but I think this year is going to be really special. Thanks again to the Sheraton and Chef Armstrong for taking the time to show me behind the scenes!

· comments [3] · 11-21-2013 · categories:christmas · seattle ·

Hell Yeah Bonfire In A Corn Maze

The sky even put on it’s best spooky display for us that evening.

Remember back when we managed to sidestep the issue of a tiny house keeping us from holding a dinner party by renting the back room of a restaurant and the result was an awesome time? Well that experience led us to holding another gathering in a setting that I wish I owned — we held a bonfire party in the midst of a corn maze. And it was festive as hell. If you can manage to find something similar I highly recommend doing this. Heck, let’s all make it an annual tradition.

It was late September but the corn was really, really tall.

Last year Scott and I visited half a dozen corn mazes because I love them. We went to one night maze at Bob’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm and it was spooky and fun but half way through the maze we were surprised to come across an area with bonfires and a little concession stand selling cider and s’mores kits and suddenly it was THE BEST THING EVER. Turns out? Bob’s Farm has totally dialed into my desires because they have small and large private bonfires areas that they rent out.

I thought about this for an entire year until Busywork was headed over for a visit and responded to my subtle suggestion (Can we do this? Let’s do this! Please!?) with a yes. So, we invited a bunch of people, gathered all foods that can be heated on sticks (hot dogs, s’mores), borrowed some commercial thermal carafes for hot cider (thanks again Maggi for the hook up with Caffe Vita!) and we were on our way.

We warned everybody to wear waterproof shoes and bring flashlights and we took care of the rest. The idea was to find your way through the first half of the maze, join us for warm sugary foods and head back through the rest of the maze. A few people became stuck in the corn maze for a while and we had to send Scott (former Eagle Scout) in to retrieve them which was a bummer. The corn maze was so much easier last year, I swear! If we do it again I’ll suggest joining us first to fuel up before heading into the maze.

You guys, if you can you should totally do this. It was great.

All photos above belong to Laura and are used with permission. Thanks Laura!

· comments [4] · 10-18-2013 · categories:events · halloween ·

Star shaped foods for the Fourth

We aren’t doing anything special for this July 4th, unless you count sitting on our deck reveling in the sunshine. Ahhhh. But I do want to point towards my post from earlier this year talking about star shaped foods. I made these for the Oscars but hey, stars are versatile. I’m definitely going to make the star shaped corn chips again, they were easy to make and strong enough to stand up to guacamole but not so strong that they Captain Crunch the inside of your mouth. You know?

Other star foods I’m eyeing include the star shaped mini pies at Say Yes to Hoboken and, of course, the star shaped watermelon slices for fruit salad.

· comments [3] · 07-3-2013 · categories:food · holidays ·

links: Easter

Eggs! – The Crafts Dept. Sources for quail and duck eggs for Easter.

DIY Sprinkle Easter Eggs | Studio DIY. Very cute.

Modern Parents Messy Kids: Creative Play Easter Basket Idea: Water Bead Eggs. I love the glowy transparency she has going on here.

Unique Easter Gift Basket Ideas for Adults – Creature Comforts.

glitter pissing: creme egg showdown.

· comments [6] · 03-27-2013 · categories:holidays · links ·

A Dozen Fabulous Easter Egg Ideas

I’m a bit in love with all the possibilities that surround Easter Eggs, here are a dozen of my favorite Easter egg crafts and ideas. (Over at Babble.)

· comments [3] · 02-28-2013 · categories:holidays ·

Valentine’s Day Treasure Hunt, Three Ideas

Scott and I have a tradition of creating treasure hunts for each other. He started it! When we were first dating I came back to my apartment one day after a business trip (or long day at work? or maybe just a Monday?) to find a small trail of clues from my kitchen to a closet to my computer and then to a stuffed animal. I was smitten.

Treasure Hunt Idea #1

Here is one hunt I set up for Scott on the first Valentine’s Day that we lived in the same apartment after we moved to San Francisco. I hid a dozen small cards around the apartment with messages. I put them in spots where he’d find them while getting ready for work in the morning. For example I tucked a card that said “I love your smile” in the medicine cabinet next to the toothpaste. I hid more inside a coffee cup, under his pillow, his computer bag, the pocket of his coat and inside the shoes that I knew he’d be putting on.

I made the cards above by cutting 1.5 inch cards out of colorful cardstock and using a heart punch, though you can cut the hearts by hand. My original cards were created with scissors (all I had at the time) and were all a bit off center.

Treasure Hunt Idea #2

If you want to send a message why not scramble it? This is an idea I’d been planning on using this year but, oops, I guess he’ll be expecting it. For these I bought tiny envelopes, found at a local scrapbooking store, and filled them with punched out hearts.

Each heart has one or two letters on the front and a number on the back. Once each one is found and put in order they spell out a sweet message. You can use as many hearts as you need for whatever message you have in mind.

Treasure Hunt Idea #3

Scott did this for my birthday a while back but it would be just as great at Valentine’s Day. He hid little toy capsules filled with toy rings (they echoed my engagement ring) around the house. Then, at different times, I was given two maps. One was numbered on vellum, the other was a layout of the house. Put together they revealed locations of the capsules.

Treasure hunts like these don’t have to be elaborate to create utter delight. Scott and I have been together for 13 (14?) Valentine’s days and there have been flowers and restaurants and probably chocolates but it’s the treasure hunts like these that I remember the most of all.

· comments [12] · 02-12-2013 · categories:holidays ·