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  · 12-8-2014 · categories:christmas · shopping ·
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  · 11-17-2014 · categories:christmas · food · holidays ·
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  · 12-24-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
· comments  · 12-17-2013 · categories:christmas · links ·
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.
- 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.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-12-2013 · categories:christmas ·
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  · 11-21-2013 · categories:christmas · seattle ·
· comments  · 12-21-2012 · categories:christmas · holidays · links ·
My friends Freshly Picked and The Alison Show got together as The Craft Pack and made a book full of delightful and easy (really, seriously) DIY holiday gifts. The book is called A Hip Handmade Holiday: Gifts For Everyone On You List For $10 Or Less and I super duper love it. It’s a PDF download and includes nine how-to videos, pro tips and lots and lots of printables.
Susan and Alison gave a presentation at Camp Mighty last month and Alison said (to applause) that if your idea of crafting is printing something onto sticker paper and slapping it on a jar, then this book is for you. There are also project with great instructions that teach you a technique and give some room to improvise if you’d like.
There are projects for women, men, pets, the house, things to treasure for years and those gifts for last minute print-and-glue moments. Susan and Alison have curated their offerings incredibly well so the book offers just a few projects for each category but every single one is gorgeous, clever and well explained. If you want to follow each project by the numbers they’re great, but there is also room to use the technique as a starting point. There are pro tips and how-to videos scattered throughout the book. The printables include every holiday card you could wish for, all the stencils you need and stickers to cover treats served in jars, paint cans and bottles.
I’m highly impressed with the balance they’ve struck here and if this is the type of quality that can come through non-traditional forms of publishing I clearly need to be paying closer attention. Susan and Alison have labeled this book “No. 1″ and I hope there are many more to come.
I’m a little obsessed with the Ho Ho Ho pillows.
Just so you know: If you buy the book through the link here I get a percentage. That percentage goes right back into hosting costs for this here website which are doubling due to higher traffic. This isn’t something I’m complaining about. Just, you know, noting. So thanks.
As a way of saying hello The Craft Pack is offering a $50 Michael’s gift card to Not Martha readers. Yay, thank you The Craft Pack!
If you’d like to enter just leave a message with this post, and if you want answer this question: Have you ever sent a DIY gift to a family member? What was the most successful or the least? (My answer: a trio of candied nuts were beloved, but the hand knit scarves mostly got a polite thank you.) You’ve got until next Tuesday, Dec. 18th at 12 noon Pacific (my) time to enter, at that point I’ll close comments. The fine print applies. Good luck! Closed, thanks to everybody for entering!
· comments  · 12-13-2012 · categories:books · christmas ·
In my 3D Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies post last year I explained how to create your own version from an existing cookie cutter and I also offered a ready to go printable version that you could use. I wasn’t ever happy with that pattern so I’m updating it. The pages to print out are below, and they have been added to the original project as well.
I’ll be making these again (as soon as I have a working dishwasher, because ugh) and using royal icing and sanding sugar to decorate the branches instead, I think it’ll look far nicer.
A view overhead showing how the cookies fit together to make them stand up.
Click on each of these to view or download and print them.
· comments  · 12-10-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
I was going to show you my updated pattern for the 3D Christmas Tree Cookies today but yesterday morning my dishwasher decided it didn’t want to do it’s job anymore and I decided I was going to ignore it by not entering the kitchen, which means no baking is getting done right now. So! Instead let’s talk about cookie swaps.
I’ve got a few cookie swaps coming up and I am considering something new. My usual cookie swap recipe is of the slice-and-bake variety, the Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies from Martha Stewart are a go to. (Also very helpful is this slice-and-bake cookie palette over at Smitten Kitchen.) The slice-and-bake means I can lovingly mix the dough a day or two before hand then bake the night before or the day of the swap and, since I have not been stressing over six dozen cookies for the majority of the day, I’m a happy person at the gathering. This year I wanted to do something different that would let me cut out a bunch of shapes (since I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and have my technique down). These gingerbread wreath cookies are under consideration. And then yesterday I came across these:
Edge of the mug cookies cutters! I previously came across this concept when doing research for my tiny gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug but at that time the only cookie cutter sets I could find were ones you’d order from the UK or were no longer available, just ghost catalog pages found through a vigorous search. You can also cut a slot into any cookie, see this page at I Am Baker for examples, but I think we’ll all agree that a dedicated cutter is faster. I know, this is me saying that. I am the one who is always making needlessly complicated things because they amuse me and suddenly this is too much bother. (In my defense, I had made a few test runs of DIY edge of the mug cookies and they all sort of tipped over and fell off the mug so I gave up on it.)
I think I’ll be using these edge of the mug cookie cutters and making cocoa-friendly cookies out of basic shortbread dough for my cookie swaps. They’ll be fun and quick and hopefully novel enough to delight people.
But I’m curious: What is your favorite recipe for cookie swaps? Do you bring something practical? Or a family recipe? Do you attempt to dazzle? Or do you pick a cookie that you know to be delicious but might not look like much? Have a cookie that is a consistent crowd favorite? Share!
· comments  · 12-7-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
Earlier I posted about how to turn a tree shaped cookie cutter into one that is interlocking and standing (shown above). I wrote about the way to interlock three cookies but I wanted to say that I started this project by using the same 8 inch tall cookie cutter and much thinner dough to make trees that used six layers that slotted together. I made them in the same year I showed the gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug. Here are some photos that I took waaaay back in 2009:
I made small ones that used three cookies, and large ones that used six cookies:
Trouble was that the larger trees curled, the layers of dough wouldn’t cool flat no matter how careful I was, leading to them looking like this:
It had a nice geometric look but just lacked a certain amount of charm and, dare I say it?, looked like beef jerky. Also, it required rolling dough out to a point where it was unreasonably thin. Still, at that point in time I was a bit caught up with interlocking as many cookies as I could.
The smaller trees were flat and looked fine but I’m happier with my current version using thicker dough that allows you to decorate the edges. My lesson? More isn’t always better. Um, less is more? That sounds better. Ok, Happy Holidays everybody I’ll see you in the near year!
· comments  · 12-22-2011 · categories:christmas ·
I made 3D Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies for Christmas. They slot together and don’t require icing to hold them up. Below I explain how to 3Dize your own cookie cutters and I also provide printable templates in case you don’t have a tree cookie cutter you like.
Click through for a how-to.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 12-21-2011 · categories:christmas ·
How to: Make Modern Perforated Christmas Trees » Curbly | DIY Design Community. These look like the porcelain ones from West Elm, nice job.
12 Days of Christmas Gifts | Mighty Girl. Love!
MinuteFrame: Order a framed photo in less than one minute. This one is the service of a friend of a friend, and I have not tried it but it looks so darn handy. Very simply you upload a photo to have printed at the 5×7 size, they do the printing and framing and ship it to your giftee.
mirrormirror: Christmas Cupcake Decorating at Trophy Cupcake. Paola includes tip numbers and notes on technique for some fancy cupcakes. They look great Paola!
Calvin and Hobbes Snowmen Truffles · Edible Crafts.
Festive Topped Jars at You Are My Fave. Simple and very impressive! Via Edible Crafts.
Felted Bell Ornaments – the purl bee. So sweet.
· comments  · 12-19-2011 · categories:christmas · links ·
Have you seen this amazing Gingerbread Brownstone made by Kitchen Table Scraps? Even better, she shows how to make it including shaping the rounded front windows, adding all the detail and lighting it from the inside. Super greatness.
· comments  · 12-13-2011 · categories:christmas · food ·
· comments  · 12-6-2011 · categories:christmas · links ·