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  · 02-12-2013 · categories:holidays ·
· comments  · 02-11-2013 · categories:holidays · links ·
I adore clever things for Valentine’s Day and I’ve collected a few of my favorites. These are all things that give my brain a little spark.
Go see them all in my post over at Babble!
Pictured above is the Heart Attack by The House That Lars Built.
· comments  · 02-8-2013 · categories:holidays ·
· comments  · 12-21-2012 · categories:christmas · holidays · links ·
Gingerbread Block Project | Kitchen Table Scraps. Remember the fabulous gingerbread brownstone? This year Renee is organizing a gingerbread block project, to be displayed and benefiting City Harvest. You can join in!
BY HAND Gift Guides: BUILD. A story that led By Hand magazine to Lee Valley via an offline friend and then validated by Ron Swanson. Lee Valley is catalog store that I’ve loved since high school (which was, ahem, pre-internet shopping era).
A beer/bicycling guide to Portland here, Hop in the Saddle. Via Foodie Gift Guide: Part Deux | The Urban Grocer
Munchkin Munchies: Peppermint Stick Platter. I love this, but I suspect the whole platter would melt quickly in our humidity. I would have to seal it with something food safe and right about there it sounds like too much work.
Cool Tools – Guide to Gift Guides 2012. Lots of tools and gadgets things in the practical to awesome spectrum.
· comments  · 12-17-2012 · categories: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 ·
· comments  · 12-3-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·
Urban Craft Uprising, the winter edition, is coming up very soon here in Seattle! It’s December 1st and 2nd, 11am to 5pm at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. As usual there are free craft demos and book signings as well as a swag bag for the first 100 people. Don’t wory, if you cannot make it in time to grab a bag they have have an hourly raffle. And this year there is a $1 coat check, so hopefully those aisles will be a little easier to navigate (the show is nearly too popular for it’s own good). I’m excited by all the artisan food vendors they have, and the number of new vendors as well. This is my favorite sort of shopping!
· comments  · 11-26-2012 · categories:holidays · seattle · shopping ·
· comments  · 11-20-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·
Melting Wicked Witch Cookies at Juniper Moon Fiber Farm.
Spider Pinata DIY at Oh Happy Day. That is one meaty looking spider.
Easy Last-Minute Costume Ideas For Adults | Celebrations with Design Mom. This video has a few simple ideas that are low-commitment but still fun.
Pumpktris, A Playable LED Lit Game of Tetris Inside of a Pumpkin, at Laughing Squid.
Secret Horror – The Morning News. Six horror movies you might not know about but are worth watching.
skulls at Design Crush. A post by yours truly.
· comments  · 10-31-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·
Remember last year when I made a 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree out of interlocking cookies so that the tree stands on it’s own? I had so much fun making it that I decided to do something for Halloween too. This time I made a tree from four pieces so that the eight branches resemble spider legs. Perched in a dish of candy it looks rather creepy.
To make this I used one batch of Gingerbread House dough from Simply Recipes that was divided into four equal pieces before chilling it. I roll it to 1/4-inch thickness and bake it until the edges are browning so that it’s as dry and strong as possible. Directions and templates are all below.
I think I have some changes to make but in the mean time I feel like I’ve figured out how to roll out gingerbread dough with as little swearing as possible. As much as I love making gingerbread for construction purposes I really dislike rolling it out. Here is my set up:
The Roll-Pat is an investment but it gives me a smooth surface to use. It grips the tabletop and keeps parchment paper from slipping. A nice, heavy and super wide rolling pin with handles also makes a huge difference, before this I only had a cylinder rolling pin but this one with handles makes the job a lot easier. I have a 15″ rolling pin and it is large enough for everything I’ve used it for so far. I have both silicone and rubber rolling pin rings (one set has 1/2 inch and the other has 5/8ths inch heights). I cannot fit the thicker rubber rings around my larger rolling pin so I switch to my narrower rolling pin if I need to use them.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 10-26-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·
· comments  · 10-22-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·
These Trick-or-Treat cookies have a surprise inside. Each cookie either holds a treat, like mini chocolate candies, or a trick, here they are small sugar ants. Which will you get? You’ll have to break one open to find out.
How to make Trick-or-Treat cookies:
Make one or more batches of cut out cookie dough (recipe below, or use your favorite) and after chilling it take it out of the fridge to warm up so it can be rolled out. Preheat your oven to 350 and clear a shelf in your fridge or a spot in your freezer large enough to hold a cookie sheet.
Roll out one half of your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4th inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut out your cookies, dipping the cutter in flour to keep it from sticking. We’ll be baking the cookies on this same parchment so space them about an inch apart.
Right now you are cutting two parts of each cookies (the top and the bottom) so if you have an asymmetrical cutter be sure to flip it over and cut half of them mirror image, as shown above.
Trim the parchment away from the dough so that it’s small enough to sit on your cookie sheet and slide the parchment onto the cookie sheet. Put this in the fridge or freezer to firm up so you can pull away the excess dough.
Later we’ll baking the cookies right on this sheet so trimming the parchment means they’ll bake flat. I keep the cookies on this same parchment throughout so they don’t have a chance to lose their shape.
Once the dough has firmed up pull away the excess from around the cut out shapes. You can save the scraps for more cookies later.
Before baking chill the cookies and the cookie sheet again for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. (You can roll out your second layer while you’re waiting, instructions are just under the next photo.)
Bake for about 10 minutes, checking and rotating the cookie sheet half way through. After that check often and remove once the edges of the cookies are just starting to look brown and the tops look set.
Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes until the cookies are cool and strong enough to slide them off the parchment and right onto the cookie rack.
Roll your second half of the dough to 1/2″ or 3/8″ thick. You’ll be cutting the middles for you cookies so only cut half as many this time, so if you cut six earlier, you only need three now. (No need to make mirror image cut outs this time.) Use smaller cutters to create a hole in the center of each shape.
Trim the parchment, slide onto a cookie sheet and chill the dough as you did for the first round. When it’s firm remove the excess dough from the outside as well as the inside of your shapes.
Again, chill these very well on the cookie sheet before baking them. Check and rotate after five minutes and keep an eye on them after that. Remove when the bottom edges begin to brown and cool carefully, as you did for the first set.
While your cookie pieces are cooling mix up some glue from one cup of powdered sugar and four tablespoons of milk (as per the recipe below). Put this into a sandwich sized zip bag and clip a teeny tiny corner off.
Lay your cookies out so the bottom piece has the flattest side up, the middle and tops will have the flattest side down. When constructed the top and the bottom of your cookies will show the pretty side that was up while they were baking and they’ll look nice and tidy. If you have asymmetrical cookies here be sure all the bits will match when they are sandwiched.
Glue the middle part of your cookie to the bottom.
Fill the cookies with your trick or your treat. Be random, no cheating! Don’t overfill them and check to make sure the top of your cookie will fit on with no trouble. It’s much easier to do this not before more sugar glue is introduced.
I made four different shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones and coffins (my favorite).
A detail shot to show the middle layer of cookie is a bit thicker than the top and bottom layers.
Glue the top on, decorate if you’d like, and you’re done! Now, serve these and see how much fun people have breaking them open.
Important: Make sure anything you might put inside these cookies is edible, you don’t want somebody accidentally swallowing something like a plastic spider (which I really, really wanted to hide inside these).
These cookies were inspired by the Pinata Cookies made over at She Knows, which are genius. Since I didn’t need mine to be striped I used a cut out sugar cookie recipe instead and created a thicker middle layer. I did try to cut the cookies out when the dough comes out of the oven and is still warm, the technique that is in the She Knows recipe, but found it created an edge that was too crumbly.
I used a set of seven Halloween cookie cutters made by Wilton for the cookies you see here. I cannot seem to find the same set online, it came packaged in a coffin shaped box and it’s probably already 50% off at Joann. The middles of my cookies were cut out using my Ateco 12-piece round cutters, which I love and find myself using often.
I find rolling dough to be tedious so I invested in a Roll-Pat (that page shows it as Roul-Pat but mine says Roll-Pat on it). It’s similar to a Silpat but oversized and the bottom layer grips your counter top. This is lovely because I prefer to roll dough between two layers of parchment and this keeps the parchment from slipping on my counter top. Love it, especially as what I think of as gingerbread construction season arrives.
There are so many options for what tricks you can hide inside, here I used some black cake decorations made by Wilton, they are complete edible but don’t taste like much. I also considered some small flat sour gummy candies, salted licorice coins, various cake decorations (skull and crossbones!) and Pop Rocks. For the treats the only things could find that are small enough are mini M&Ms or (my favorite) Valrhona Perles Craquant. Sadly I found that Reeses Pieces or candy corn wouldn’t fit inside, I tried. A friend mentioned that mini-candy corn might exist in the world and if I’d managed to find some I definitely would have used that as well.
I’m also considering seeing if I can make the coffin cookies tall enough to fill with some sugar skeleton pieces I found. I’d also include the Valrhona Perles Craquant as graveyard dirt. And small gummi worms if I can find some.
Click more for the recipe. [Read more →]
· comments  · 10-18-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·