The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens is a fairly inexpensive lens that has been recommended to me over and over again from the moment I got my Canon XSi. The lens works well for indoor, low light conditions and I could really use that during our short, overcast days.
I bought a basic KitchenAid mixer on sale so it was nice and cheap. However, the bowl it comes with doesn’t have a handle on the side and I didn’t anticipate how, well, handy that would be. Fingers crossed somebody will get me this replacement bowl with a handle. Also, having two mixing bowls would be very convenient lots of times, like have one bowl chilling for whipped cream while making gingerbread in the other. I also sort of want one of these new fangled beater blades.
I want to perfect my calzone making this winter. This baking stone from Old Stone Oven will also help keep a constant oven temperature, which I need badly. I just went and measured my oven to make sure this one would fit inside. When I made those calzones I accidentally burned the bejeezus out of my thumb so I bought some idiot proof OXO Good Grips Silicone Oven Mitts shortly thereafter, and they’ve served me well. They have a nice ring to hang on a hook as well as a magnet so you can store them on the side of your fridge.
Shortly after we got a PlayStation 3 Netflix announced they were offering free streaming content for it. The PS3 is also a Blu-ray player (it also plays regular DVDS and does a better job of it than our old DVD player, oddly). We may never leave the couch, in which case we’ll also need the PS3 remote.
But we need more games! Scott and I like to play games together, instead of against each other, and we’ve already worked our way through Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (both were SO much fun). Games you can play together (as opposed to networked) are lacking, but here are the ones we’re looking at next:
I decided to take a literal interpretation for my Christmas cookie project, and I also wanted to try making a cookie that stands up on its own. A partridge in a pear tree was just perfect.
The good news is that I have found you one kick ass structural gingerbread recipe. The bad news is that while it’s technically edible, you wouldn’t want to eat it as it’s very tough and could potentially do some damage to your teeth.
I’ll be honest here, I wish I could do this over. It was my first time working with serious royal icing and I didn’t quite get the hang of it. After way too many batches of gingerbread that couldn’t hold up under it’s own weight I ran out of time and the icing technique suffered.
I made separate pears and used royal icing (recipe below) to glue them on.
Besides the pears there are only three pieces:
I’m trying to show how they fit together:
The tree pieces fit together to hold everything up, and the bird perches on the branch that extends out front. The tallest part of the tree is just over nine inches tall.
Here is an overhead view:
Gingerbread recipe, printable pattern, tips, and many, many pictures when you click MORE.
Felt-o-rama: classic fibers for modern crafters: Felt Christmas Trees – Merry and Bright!. So easy and so fun. Via Spinning Jennie.
FilzFelt | Holiday. Felt ornaments, so cool.
pies and gossamer thread trees « West Coast Crafty. I love the little thread trees that Susan made. The instructions are in a book being sold to raise money for charity, it’s available only through Dec. 31st: Crafty Tree Trimmings.
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody – Santa Baby….. A chocolate and crushed peppermint dipped rim for this mug of cocoa, beautiful.
Holiday Cards by theironcurtainpress on Etsy. Iron Curtain Press are the people who made my wedding reception favor cards and thank you cards, this is the holiday section of their Etsy shop full of good stuff.
Ugh. I have come down with a cold of the sort that makes me cranky and tired, but too uncomfortable to want to try to sleep. We’re snowed in here in Seattle and cabin fever is making itself known so my only wish is to feel well enough to take a walk in the snow to our nearest coffee place to sip some hot cocoa in the company of neighbors who have skied through the streets to get there. Instead I’m home wishing I had my sense of taste back so I could more fully enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. So I wish you a happy holiday with the understanding that I’ll have the energy to mean it with more sincerity in a few days.
Sugared cranberries: snappy, sparkle, and pop. at Bon Appegeek
What’s a good recipe for gingerbread construction materials? at Ask Metafilter
Peppermint Meringues at Joy the Baker
swissmiss alpenglow project, gorgeous
Expandable Christmas Stocking at Neatorama
ornaments to make at How About Orange
Korknisse, hat and sweater for a wine cork! Thank you to Aruni for the link.
10 Ideas for Pretty Alternative Wrapping at Mighty Girl
The Bishop’s Wife, a cup of cheer cocktail at Modern Cottage
This is my favorite cookie this year. They are easy enough to make to qualify as something to make for cookie swaps, especially if you’ve, um, waited too long to make them to allow a roll of dough chill long enough to do slice and bake varieties. I modified this recipe ever so slightly from the Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies at MarthaStewart.com.
I used sanding sugar to coat the balls of dough because it adds a nice bit of crunch. I didn’t have white sanding sugar in the house so I used demerara sugar, which is a light brown sugar. I suspect a white sanding sugar would be prettier, but I do like the extra molasses boost the demerara gives.
Here are some balls of dough before being plunked down on a baking sheet:
Sparkling Chewy Molasses Cookies
Makes three dozen cookies, more or less.
I’m very excited, this year my favorite Christmas movie finally came out on DVD! Bernard and The Genie was a movie stumbled across by accident one year when I’d come home from college for the Christmas break and my college sleeping schedule meant I wasn’t going to fall asleep until 1 a.m. at the earliest. Bravo (I think) was showing this strange movie and I only watched because Rowan Atkinson is in it. I knew I’d like the movie when the main character, played by Alan Cumming, is dumped by his girlfriend and fired from his job in the first five minutes.
The movie was made in 1992 and is a particular brand of good/bad that I’m sure is tempered by my feelings that this film has become my very own tradition. According to the Amazon reviews the quality of the movie, which was originally made for television, in 1992 remember, is not so great on DVD (I have not opened mine yet) so you might want to look for a copy in a mom and pop video store if you’re curious, I don’t think it’s worth splurging on. But it certainly is making me happy.
This is for any readers living in the UK who are frantically looking for gifts (updated to add that Paola has given free international shipping to readers, see below for details): please allow me to suggest having a look at mirrormirror, the online boutique of Paola Thomas whom I interviewed when I was the guest blogger over at Design*Sponge last year.
I always find myself falling in love with things in the mirrormirror shop that I didn’t know I wanted. These Porcelain Votive Candle Holders by Swedish ceramicist Karin Eriksson call to me, and the orange tea towels simply belong in my kitchen. I love the idea of a few peacock ornaments hanging from a tree. These Sweet Horse Chestnut Earrings are amazing and, as I’ve seen Paola wearing them, incredibly lightweight. If only I had the money the amazing Ray Mirror would have a good place in my home.
To help you the Top 5 Gifts are listed, they are: Stacking Egg Cups (which I want), Bathtime Selection Box, Solar Powered Sunjar, Creative Interiors Colouring Book, and Teeny tiny butterfly bowl. To help even more there is a whole section of gift sets. Free shipping is offered on orders over $50 until December 24th.
update: Paola has offered free international shipping to Not Martha readers! To get it choose the International Shipping £0.00 option and quote Not Martha in the ‘where did you hear about us’ box. Thanks Paola!
I’ve assembled a list of stuff that has appeared on Not Martha over the last year or so in the hopes that it might help you with the great gift search for the holidays. If you’d like more informaiton about any given thing I’ve put at link to the [post] where it originally appeared.
We were given one of these as a gift and we find it so outstandingly useful we don’t know why we didn’t get one for ourselves earlier. This on fits firmly in the “gift that keeps on giving” category. [post]
Canon Rebel XSi
I bought myself the Canon XSi after my point and shoot simply stopped working. I couldn’t be happier with it, and the price is very fair at $635. The model that is on step down (and the one I originally wanted), the Canon XS, is currently a why-didn’t-I-wait-for-it $475. [post]
Canon DSLR accessories
These came highly recommended by commenters (thank you!) and which I have on my own wish list. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens came highly recommended as an inexpensive lens that is good for taking low light pictures in doors. The Crumpler 3 Million Dollar Home bag is recommended as able to hold a lot without looking conspicuously like a camera bag. I’m also eyeing the Crumpler 4 Million Dollar Home bag, which will hold a few extra lenses.
Flip video recorder
We have a tiny Flip video recorder and it’s fabulous. It does on thing, take good web quality video, and it has the simplest of controls. It has a pop-out USB connector right on the side so you can plug it right into your computer or laptop to get the videos off easily. They come out in Quicktime format, perfect for YouTube. A more recent model, the Mino, is even tinier. [post]
Eton Emergency Radio
We have a hand crank emergency radio and I feel prepared for the next time the power goes out in our neighborhood and I have no idea what is going on or, more importantly, where I need to head to find a hot cup of coffee. [post]
Product Body bath goods
I was very lucky to get to try some Prodcut Body products out and think they are outstanding. Everything is natural and made fresh to order, the line was created to be safe to new moms and kids. Any one of these scrubs, lotions or bath goods would be very welcomed under my tree. [post]
Eau de Yosh perfume
Unfortunately alcohol based perfumes make my nose itch so I was very happy to receive a sample set of Yosh perfumes last Christmas. All of her perfumes are oil based and I’ve become a big fan. U4EAHHH! is my favorite and I’ll be buying a full sized bottle knowing I’ll be using all of it. [post]
Babyliss 1/2″ hair straightening iron
I know it seems a bit strange to include this is a possible gift, but I’m so in love with my tiny Babyliss hair straightening iron I just had to include it here. It’s perfect for just straightening my bangs each morning, it heats up quickly and I can get close to my scalp without any trouble. I consider it essential for the smaller jobs. [post]
DB Clay wallets
DB Clay makes very cool wallets out of durable eco-friendly fabrics. I go to inspect the one we gave away on this site and I was very impressed with the quality, and fell in love with the pattern. [post]
Doane Paper notebooks and notepads
Doane Paper combines lines and grids so each page is good for sketches and notes, I find it insanely useful. It’s availble in full sized note pads and 3.5″x5.5″ notebooks, each come in packs of three. [post]
boygirlparty has a whole array of goods with her characters on them. You can buy small prints, original artwork, and notepads that Susie has designed. Also take a look at the boygirlparty goods currently offered by Chronicle Books – notecards, sticky notes and a journal. [post]
Tiny Jar Pies
If you’re feeling ambitious these tiny pies baked in a jar were received as a unique treat, and so cute if you’ll allow me to say so. Also consider the cakes baked in a jar that inspired these pies. [post]
KitchenAid food processor
This KitchenAid food processor is one of the models recommended by Cook’s Illustrated magazine and I love having it. Chopping things? Making pie dough in mere seconds? All things I couldn’t do without anymore. And it’s easier to clean that I thought it might be. [post]
Simple Human no-touch soap dispenser
Wanna make somebody’s year? The Simple Human no-touch foam soap dispenser is giving somebody a bit of luxury every time they go to wash thier hands. Not to mention how useful this would be for all those times you have hands covered in butter or flour or raw meat juice of some kind and just need to get your hands clean. I don’t own this, but I really wish I did. [post]
OXO kitchen scale
I bought the OXO kitchen scale because of the little pull-out display. I love it and it makes me feel like an expert baker. Also, the whole thing fits neatly inside a gallon sized zip top platic bag, which allows you to keep it clean when you’re flinging flour around. I flirted seriously with the small-but-mighty Escali Primo digital scale, just look at all those colors. [post]
Breville electric kettle
I use my kettle at least twice a day so I wanted one that would look great sitting on the counter. This Breville one has a simple design, a nice grippy handle, and a pleasant little ding when it’s ready. The large top opening makes it very easy to fill. I’m very pleased with it. [post]
Baker’s Edge brownie pan
I think this Baker’s Edge pan is the neatest thing I’ve seen for a long time. It’s squared off squiggle chamber allows you to cook brownies so that each piece has at least two edges. It’s brilliantly designed. While you can make lasagna in it (it’s easy to cut and put out in portions!) they do have a lasagna sized pan coming out in March. [post]
I love my dutch oven, a four-quart sized one, and am just hoping somebody will buy me a larger one next. The pot cooks better than I expected, and cleans up easier than I expected. It’s true love. Next I’m eyeing the Mario Batali 6 quart pot, it even has a stainless steel handle so you don’t have to worry when you put it in a hot oven. [post]
Riedel O tumblers
We’ve got a set of these Reidel O stemless wine glasses and use them often. They are Ridel quality at a significantly lower price and, we’ve tried this, can make an inexpensive wine taste better. [post]
Vacu Vin rapid ice chillers
These Vacu Vin rapid ice chillers are simply gel packs that you keep in your freezer and when you have a bottle of wine, a beer, some champagne you need to cool down quickly you just slide it over the bottle. It seems cheezy but it works really well. We use ours often enough that I’m considering buying the far better looking Vacu Vin Rapid Ice Cooling Carafe. [post]
I know a startling number of people who have celiac and I recommend the book Gluten-free Girl to all of them. This book is Shauna’s story of how she came to be diagnosed, and there are lots of delicous recipes throughout the book. [post]
Apartment Therapy Presents
reusable shopping bags
I’m a huge fan of reusable bags that fold up really small, I carry a handful with me and keep a bundle in my car and I’m never caught needing to use a plastic bag, it’s fantastic. I’ve tried out a few and here a short summary. My favorites are the Envirosax becuase they fold up the smallest, but I have heard some complaints about their quality. My next favorite are the RuMe bags because they are very large and sturdy.
Envirosax: fold up nice and small, don’t drag on ground when held as a tote (I’m 5’2″ and they come close to dragging, so beware), come in patterns and solid colors, able to be hiked over your shoulder using one arm (again, I’m short so this might not be the case for taller people).
RuMe: Fold up to size only slightly larger than Envirosax, very sturdy construction, almost hit ground when I hold them as a tote, patterns and solid colors, able to be hiked over your shoulder using one arm. These come in a smaller size I find perfect for holding knitting projects and books from the library.
Baggu: Made of ripstop nylon it folds into a tidy flat, square pouch that is not attached to the bag. Lots of great solid colors and nice big stripes, but the handle is too short to hike over your shoulder using one arm. There is no danger of it dragging on the ground when I’m holding at a tote though, so if you’re short you might take a close look at this one.
Flip and Tumble: You scrunch it back into it’s attached container, which is a lot of fun and faster than folding up the others. Otherwise I find the handle to be too long, it drags if I hold it as a tote, and the single handle doesn’t distribute weight as well and bites into my shoulder. They have a new Loopt bag which I have not tried out yet but looks like it’s a bit shorter and has two handles.
Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm CSA
Know a knitter who has everything? I suggest buying her a share in a some actual fleecy animals. Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm is a Yarn CSA and shareholders get to follow along with the animals, it’s really cool. [post]
Felt Flower kit
These needle felting kits by Made By Moxie have everything you need to make a flower pin and include enough wool to make quite a few. The foam included is eco-foam so when you’re done with it you just dissolve it in a bowl of warm water. Also take a look at the Mega Kit of Ultimate Felting Enjoyment. [post]
Stitched In Time
A book with clear instructions on how to get started beading, and detailed instructions for a whole bunch of great projects. [post]
A book with projects for adding decoration to clothing and things in your home, with a really great eye. [post]
Full of fantastic creatures for you to make, complete instructions. [post]
The Boss of You
Lauren and Emira have put together a step by step and encouraging book for women who want to start, or already own, their own businesses. Personal experiences, real life interviews and examples throughout. I’ve been reading their advice since they first started their Raised Eyebrow Web Studio. [post]
Clear directions on how to take that thing you make and start a business, lots of real life interviews and encouragement. [post]
Eloise R. Designs
It’s not too late to get a set of adorable Eloise R. Designs Christmas cards, or stock up for the upcoming year. Take a look at some of the collections and you might never be at loss for a card again. [post]
I love the Lotta Jandotter line of goods and this book is full of simple but stylish projects for you and your home. Also take a look at Lotta Prints, which shows you how to print patterns on fabric and surfaces in your home. [post]
A book full of great projects that encourage you to not be so worried about folling strict rules or patterns, I love everything in this book. [post]
Sew U and Sew U Home Stretch
Built By Wendy brings two books to the person who wants to make their own clothes. These are thick books that talk you through the process of making your own patterns to your own measurments. Sew U Home Stretch teaches you how to work with stretchy knit fabrics.
Amy Butler In Stitches and Little Stitches
Amy Butler’s Little Stitches book full of projects for children, very clearn instructions and patterns tucked into a pocket in the inside cover. In Stitches is full of projects for yourself and your home, simple clear instructions and pattern storage in the inside cover. [post and another]
Here are a few of the first places I look when I need inspiration:
Delight.com has offerings for everybody and collects fantastic sets of items.
Each year stories come out about the evils of gift cards and etiquette stories telling us they are tacky. Me? I love getting gift cards. I just cannot find any fault with somebody admitting they have no idea what I might want and therefore giving me a gift that I get to pick out myself. I especially love getting gift cards for a store I don’t have to drive so gift cards for Amazon.com are ideal.
Do you live in Seattle and still need to get some Christmas shopping done but dread having to resort to a mall and push your way through all those sober people? Then consider the Drunk Shopping Event in Ballard! tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. From Yelp:
How perfect! Drunk shopping and then you can finish the week with a meal at Hattie’s Hat or The People’s Pub.
PurseGuard Ultra, not only does it hang your purse from the edge of a table, it sounds an alarm if someone removes it, good in a crowded restaurant. at Chow
What the best formula for Calcium supplements? at Ask Metafilter
Angry Christmas Crackers at Cool Hunting
Bake and Shake on wishing to be “loving a magazine as much as I loved the few years of Sassy I was old enough to find relevant“. Amen.
I heart this upside down snowman, at Magpie and Cake
Re-Nest on the return of Brownberry bread, and the violent unrest the discontinuation of this bread caused. As crazy as it sounds, I understand, I love that bread.
Malenie Falick (did you know she keeps a blog?!) on the sheep and wool related art of Andy Goldsworthy, just take a look at the last photo in that entry.
Mighty Goods has an excellent round up of spot-on suggestions: Holiday Gift Guide, Luxury Gift Guide, Budget Gift Guide, Stocking Stuffers for Grown Ups, the 2008 Calendar Guide and Kids Stocking Stuffer Guide at Mighty Junior.
Etsy has a huge collection of gift guides for recipient, occasion, price and interest.
Readymade’s gift guide to 155 perfect presents, each behind a door.
Rare Bird finds with a gift list for those very specific, and very hard to shop for people in your life.
Leite’s Culinaria on Best 20 Food Books of 2007.
The Food Section’s 2007 Holiday Gift Guide.
And I’ve collected a bunch of stuff I love and stuff I want over at Amazon, it’s full of things that are useful and, unexpectedly, largely monochromatic. (I wonder what this reveals about myself?) It’s true, I get a small percentage if you decide to buy something from there, money that will go the upkeep of this site and into my I want a Nikon D40 fund (which currently contains the 37 cents I found in the bottom of my bag). I also took the chance to put together lists of books by bloggers, there were so many I broke them into categories – food, crafts and sewing, knitting and fiction and non.
I wish everybody a Merry Christmas, I hope it’s warm and bright and has full electricity and internet access.
Here are some (blurry and poorly composed) photographs of the gingerbread display in downtown Seattle this year.
Kiddley continues the great projects:
And Kungfoodie has gathered an impressive amount of information on making gingerbread houses, excellent.
Culinary Fool on sparkling shiraz, I love sparkling reds.
Mint chocolate brownies at Shelterrific. It uses York Peppermint Patties.
Candy Cane Cake! at Sunset Food. (I forget where I saw this one.)
Some very soft trees at Two Straight Lines.
This is a beautiful chocolate advent calendar, at Brownie Points.
David Lebovitz’s best holiday snack ever.
Pretty snowflake templates at Freshly Blended.
Check out the Christmas stocking with a special access panel at Skona Life (about half way down). Awesome. Take a look at the rest of the site too, it’s beautiful.
Drink accessories at Cool Hunting. I like the chocoates that perch on the lip of your glass.
The Anticandy at Smitten Kitchen. They look perfect.
Martha Stewart’s Tree Trimming How-To at Modern Roost.
It’s beautiful, but might be deadly, go see the Peppermint Fluff Martini at The Spirit World.
Gingerbread house patterns at The Kitchen.
I’ve always wondered if it was safe to eat the silver dragees or not. The Dragee Report at The Kitchen.
DIY Holiday Tree to download and print out, from HP, very cool. At Swiss Miss.