Crafty - "Pond Hockey" Hobo Mitts

Throughout the Fall I often mentioned the Christmas gifts I was knitting but wasn't able to share them with you until after the holidays.  A few weeks ago I presented my "Hot Cocoa" Hobo Mitt to you. Today, I'd like to show you a similar mitt in a different style, which I called "Pond Hockey."

The "Pond Hockey" Hobo Mitt is knit using two shades of Patons' Classic Wool.  The majority of the mitt is worked in Dark Grey Mix, while the accent stripe on the cuff is worked in Peacock.  Both yarns are 100 gram net weight and are 100% Pure New Wool.  These mitts were worked on size 3.5 (US 4) bamboo double point needles.

I designed the "Pond Hockey" mitt to wear during outdoor activities (although the recipient of this gift will probably wear hers on trail rides more so than on the hockey pond) so I knit the cuff snug and extra long to keep the wrists warm.  The wearer can use their arms freely without risk of exposing their wrists to the cold, while leaving the fingers free.   100% wool is ideal for outdoor activities as it keeps the hand warm even when the garment is wet by wicking moisture away from the skin.  Unlike those knit from synthetics, wool garments like these require a little extra care; these mitts must be washed by hand and laid flat to dry.

Do you knit?  If yes, what are you knitting now?

Have a great week!

Housewife Confidential - My Official Soundtrack

I did promise a post on housekeeping, and I hate to break my promises.  But then I realized that it's Friday, and really, who wants to think about housekeeping on a Friday?  And then I realized, well, I am going to be doing a lot of housework on Friday (insert frown-y face here), and I bet a lot of my blogland friends will be, too.  How, I wondered, could I make this better for all of us?

I pondered.......

.....I thought.....

.....I scratched my head, and discovered that doesn't help.....

.....I pondered some more.

Just when I was starting to despair that there was really no way to make the Friday chores fun, it came to me...every housewife needs a great soundtrack!  Why not share mine?

I never clean without music.  Sometimes I like to listen to a whole album or tune into an internet radio station, but usually I pick and choose singles from my iTunes library.  This can be a bit time consuming as I hop from playlist to playlist, so I decided to create a housework playlist that I can update from time to time.

My playlist is rather eclectic, with samples from many eras and genres.  I'm not a music snob, I like what I like and I listen to it without apology.  There is, however, a science to my playlist.  

I start with some really high energy, catchy modern hits, like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. This is to get me up and moving.  I'll follow these with a few more up-tempo songs to keep the energy up.  Here's where you'll find Metric, Sam Roberts, and Gnarls Barkley.

After these, it's time for the 80's!!!  Eighties tunes take up a good chunk of my playlist; I like them because they are great songs to sing and dance along to.  I accomplish a lot during the eighties!  My current playlist includes The Pet Shop Boys, Roxette, and REM.

At this point my playlist takes on a retro feel, despite the fact that some of the songs are fairly modern.  I do, however, have Elvis in's fun to dance with your mop to The King!  Keeping company with Elvis are Duffy, Goldfrapp, and Sally Seltmann.

The next few songs are rock and alternative and create the perfect energy to keep pushing through to the end.  I've included songs by Stars, Hugh Dillon, The White Stripes and Queen.  

The last few tunes slow things down while I put away cleaning supplies, light candles, and make a cup of tea.  My list finishes with Foreigner's power ballad "I Want to Know What Love Is," and Feist's "1, 2, 3, 4."

Here's the whole playlist.  It's 26 songs, and plays for 1.6 hours:

1. Hot N Cold - Katy Perry
2. Poker Face - Lady Gaga
3. Gimme Sympathy - Metric
4.  Brother Down - Sam Roberts
5.  Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
6.  How You Like Me Now? - The Heavy
7.  It's The End of the World As We Know It - REM
8.  Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
9.  The Look - Roxette
10. Always On My Mind - The Pet Shop Boys
11. Heaven Is A Place On Earth - Belinda Carlisle
12. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
13. Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
14. Rocket - Goldfrapp
15. Harmony to My Heartbeat - Sally Seltmann
16. Mercy - Duffy
17. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
18. Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
19. Fixed - Stars
20. Reel to Reel - Hugh Dillon
21. You're My Heart - Lioness
22. Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn - The White Stripes
23. Crazy (James Michael Mix) - Alanis Morisette
24. I Want to Break Free - Queen
25. I Want to Know What Love Is - Foreigner
26. 1, 2, 3, 4 - Feist

Do you listen to music while you clean?  Is so, what are some of your favorites?

Have a great weekend!  See you next week!


Baby, It's Cold, Wet, & Salty Outside! - Winter Pet Care Tips

It's a funny thing about blogging.  Occasionally, it's almost as if there's something in the air getting everyone on the same wavelength.  Last week, I sat down to plot out the next few months of Nesty, and I decided that, given the dramatic weather Canada's had recently, it would be a perfect time to do a post on Winter pet care.  And then, low and behold, earlier this week my sister-in-law and several other friends shared on Facebook a Weather Network article on Keeping Pets Warm in Cold Weather.  I love when this happens (and not just because it helps me with my research!) because it means that something I feel strongly about is circulating in the mainstream, which is ultimately one of the best ways to bring about positive change.  

And let's face it, animal welfare is something many of us feel strongly about.  And yet, many people who purport to be animal lovers fail their faithful friends miserably once the mercury drops.  Winter pet care is truly an area where animal owners must be willing to step forward and listen to the modern wisdom of vets and other animal welfare experts.  Yes, things were different in generations past.  Dog spent long days and nights outside without shelter, or even worse, tied up with no shelter and no way to find it or keep warm.  Cats were put out and left out in all sorts of horrible weather.  Most of us know better now, and it's good to see the message getting out to those who still don't.  

Even for those of us who's pets are spoiled silly no matter what the weather, the articles on Winter pet care that I've been reading have some good information that we may not be aware of.  For example, did you know that anti-freeze, poisonous to pets, has a taste that's appealing to dogs?  Or that the salt on our walkways and roads can irritate paws? And that, just like their humans, pets can suffer from Winter dry skin, too?

Here are a few of my favorite tips to ensure that your little buddies have a safe, happy, and fun Winter:
  • Be aware of your dog's limits.  Size, breed, and coat type can all affect how your dog will be able to handle Winter weather conditions.  If you aren't sure, ask your vet. 
  • Consider clothes.  Yes, really!  They aren't just for fashion!  Our Yorkie wears a sweater out of necessity; despite originating in the British Isles, Yorkies are very susceptible to cold.
  • Wipe down paws when you return home from walks to remove salt and chemical melting agents that can irritate paws, or cause even more serious issues should your pet lick their paws.
  • If your pet spends a lot of time outside, keep an eye on the temperature and be sure to bring them inside when the temperature drops below what your vet recommends.  And if you hear a warning to bring your pets inside (on the radio, news, etc)  DO IT!!!!  Animals should never be left outside in cold weather if you aren't home to monitor them.
  • Outdoor water bowls can freeze over, so be sure to monitor them throughout the day if your dog spends a lot of time outside.
  • Stray cats have been known to climb under car hoods to stay warm, with disastrous results when the unsuspecting driver turns on the engine.  The BC SPCA suggests thumping on the hood of your vehicle before starting it up to frighten away any cat nappers.

These are just a few of the suggestions that jumped out at me during my research.  There are a lot of great resources out there and they do a much better job than I of telling you how to look out for our animal friends, so I'm going to include a list of links below.  I strongly suggest you take the time to review them; like myself, you might learn something new that could save your best friend's life!

Enjoy the rest of your week!  I'll be back on Friday with a post on everyone's favorite past time, housekeeping!  See you then!

The Christmas Calmdown - A Year of Christmas Prep for a Calm December!

It’s a very special day, readers! Can you guess what it is? I’m practically dancing with excitement and I’m not sure how I will contain myself. 


(I’ll take a moment and let you absorb that…)

For some of you, that announcement will either have you:

A - Tingling with excitement that the holidays are that much closer, or,

B - Recoiling in horror that someone’s bringing THAT up again so soon, or

C – A bit of both.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, I hear you. Really, I do. I absolutely adore the holidays and look forward to all the preparations and busy-ness that comes with them. However, sometimes the hustle and fuss can catch up with you, and that’s what happened to me this year. I had visions, not just of sugar plums, but of homemade gifts, multiple trees, and a surfeit of home cooked gourmet goodies. I started strong. I achieved a lot. But somehow, despite my best intentions I found myself insanely slightly stressed and racing to the finish line. Sitting back after the big day, I found myself thinking; there HAS to be a better way!

Regardless of how you feel about the holidays, the truth of the matter is that they’re here before we know it, often leaving us overwhelmed, underfunded and out of time. How many of you have declared time and again that you are going to get organized, spend smarter, and start earlier? Me, too. 

I mentioned this to my cousin Ainsley of Pattycake Manners. She and I had been keeping each other updated on our respective preparations and challenges throughout Holiday 2010. Shortly after the holiday, she presented an idea to help avoid the Christmas crush in Deceember 2011.

We would work together and keep each other on track. By making a challenge of it, we could keep the preparations fun and stay motivated to finish. We’ve made a list of ten goals, and our aim is to complete them throughout the year, thus reducing the amount of Christmas craziness. And just to keep us on our toes, we’ve decided to post our progress on our blogs. We’re calling it…

The Christmas Calmdown

A Year of Christmas Prep for a Calm December

Each month, on or about the 25th, Ainsley or I will post an update presenting the goal for the coming month and update you on our progress with previous goals. I don’t want to give too much away but we plan to include things like Holiday Cooking, Home Decor, Cards and Gifts, and of course, fun ideas for making the holidays special for pets and kids. There’ll even be how-to’s and tutorials, and lots of pictures on our progress.

We’ll be alternating posting responsibilities; Ainsley will be posting on the first goal in February. Here’s a link to her wonderful blog Pattycake Manners; be sure to bookmark or follow her blog so you don’t miss the first goal! Because of course, we want YOU to get involved, too! Follow along with our goals, and each month let us know in the comments how you’re doing and what progress you’ve made. There’s no pressure for you; do one goal or do them all. Or, do none and just cheerlead for Ainsley and I in the comments! For our July post we’re planning a “Christmas in July” linky party where you can link up your related posts to share and inspire (more on that later). So grab a button and let everyone know that this year, your Christmas will be full of fun and meaning, and short on stress and disappointment. 

There’s no goal this month, we’re just getting warmed up, but if there is a topic you’d like to see us cover, please let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to work it in!

Here’s a little note from Ainsley…

Hi All! 

First of all, a great big WELCOME to The Christmas Calmdown! I can’t tell you how excited I am to be starting this project with all of you. It’s no secret that I love Christmas, and one of my favorite things about prepping for the holidays is all the handmade goodness. I knit, I scrapbook, I bake, and I love to make my own greeting cards. I love knowing that my friends and loved ones are receiving something I’ve made, with my own hands, just for them. I enjoy the process of making a plan, gathering supplies, and settling down to create something full of love and warm wishes. What I do not love, however, is when I leave these projects just a little too late. The To Do list gets longer, the days get shorter, my patience dwindles, and the joy I normally feel in going the “handmade route” disappears. With The Christmas Calmdown, our hope is that we can spread these projects out over the year, and in doing so, leave ourselves, and you, plenty of time to enjoy the process of getting ready for the holidays. I do hope you’ll join us!

Here’s to a new kind of Christmas!

Kitchen How-To For You - Spiced Bean Tagine

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy tasty stews.  However, by now you may be getting a tiny bit tired of heavy, gravy rich meat and poultry stews.  The Moroccan tagine, with it's fresh, sunny flavours and spices, is perfectly hearty but not a bit heavy.  Served over brown rice, and topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, you'll almost forget all about the snow!

I discovered this recipe years ago on the President's Choice website (You can find the original President's Choice recipe here.  My how-to follows their recipe fairly faithfully, with just a few changes.  If you need more detailed cooking instructions, be sure to hop over to their recipe.)  Over the years I've made adjustments, and in our house we fell into the habit of serving it over brown rice and topping it with a dollop of sour cream, or, more recently, Greek yogurt.  It's the perfect recipe to jump start a clean eating campaign; it's so hearty that you don't feel deprived, and the amazing combination of lemon, olives, veggies and spice makes it feel like a real treat!  

I also love how fast and easy this dish is to prepare, yet it sounds, looks, and tastes totally exotic.  If you're hosting a dinner party and need a meat-free entree, look no further than this terrific tagine!

Here's the How-To!

What You Need

Olive Oil
2 Cups of Chopped Onions
2 Cups of Sliced Carrots
1 796 ml (28 oz) Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 540 ml (19 oz) Can of 7 Bean Mix
1 170 g bag of Baby Spinach (or a few good handfuls)
1/4 Cup of Sliced Green Olives
2 tsp Finely Grated Lemon Rind, or a Splash of Lemon Juice
1 tsp Chinese Five Spice

How To

1. Prepare carrots and onions
2. Heat oil over medium heat
3. Cook the onions until they begin to soften
4. Add the carrots and cook until the carrots are almost tender.

5. Add the tomatoes, with juice, and the beans.  
6. Bring the tagine to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until it starts to slightly thicken up.
7.  Add the spinach and stir until it's wilted.
8.  Add the olives, the lemon juice or rind, and the spices

Serve over brown rice (or grain of your choice) and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.


And Now, The Weather! - Understanding Winter Weather Warnings

I always love writing my Nesty posts, and I rarely struggle to find subject matter.  Sometimes, however, my subject matter literally falls from the sky...

It was a wild and wonderful weekend in the Pacific Northwest as a multi-day snowstorm descended on our area.  Almost 7 feet fell over approximately 3 days, and this snowfall coupled with low temperatures and high winds made for quite the aftermath.  I knew this was no normal storm when I came home Saturday night, in the middle of the storm, and had to dig my way into my house.

Ten minutes later I was inside, furnace blaring and the kettle whistling, pondering this weather system.  Snow is not a rarity in Northern British Columbia.  Indeed, Kitimat means "People of the Snow," and we'd heard the stories of snowfalls so deep people had to shovel their roofs before their steps.  That being said, even the locals agreed there was something extra wild and wooly about this storm.

Curious, I conducted a few Google searches and discovered that our current storm was the result of an Arctic Outflow.  What's that, you say?  Well, it was new to me, too, so I searched a little further, and on Wikipedia, I found the following definition:

An Arctic Outflow Warning is based on a combination of wind speed and temperatures which produce wind chills of at least -20 for at least six hours during the winter when very cold Arctic air breaks from the interior mainland of British Columbia and spills out through mountain gaps and fjords.
Ah.  Mountain gaps and fjords.  Well, that pretty much describes Kitimat!
This mystery solved, I got to thinking about regional weather warnings and how they vary across North America (and indeed the world).  I often hear from my readers how interesting they find life in Northern British Columbia and Canada in general, so I decided today to share with you some of the winter weather warnings we hear and experience throughout the colder months.  I'm going to insert actual passages from Environment Canada, and then add my two cents.  

Heavy Snowfall - What do most people think of when they think of Canada?  Snow!  And while, contrary to popular belief, we don't have it year round, most parts of Canada do receive a fair amount of snow.  
Heavy Snow can greatly reduce visibility, create hazardous road conditions, and knock down trees and power lines.
- Environment Canada
Nesty Notes - Prior to the cold weather setting in, make sure your home and car are ready for the worst.  Remember to check your 72 Hour Emergency Kit and stock your car with food, water, blankets and a winter emergency kit.  Keep your shovel where you can get to it; ours was inside our porch, a good thing it was considering our sheds were buried under the snow.  And speaking of shoveling, keep an eye on your driveway; sometimes it's easier to stay on top of it throughout the snowfall than to try and remove seven feet of snow all at once.  If this happens, try to befriend someone with a snow blower.  Cookies help.

Winter Storm - This is what we experienced this past weekend and, while it's pretty to look at, it's not all curling up by the fire and sipping hot cocoa...

Winter storms are large-scale weather systems, hundreds of kilometres across, that are called extratropical cyclones because they form and develop outside of the Tropics. These storms gather their energy from the temperature and moisture differences across the boundary where different air masses meet or collide. The larger the differences in the temperature and moisture  levels across this boundary, called a front, the more energy there is available for the storms to develop. This is why some are stronger, or more intense, than others.
Winter storms tend to move from west to east and can produce strong winds, heavy snowfall, freezing rain and bitterly cold temperatures as they impact any given area.
-Environment Canada

Nesty Notes - In addition to ensuring your emergency supplies are in place well in advance of the cold weather season, when a winter storm in in effect, please listen to the road reports and do what the police are advising you to do!!  I will never understand why people feel the need to go careening around in their cars in the middle of storms. Stay out of the way of snow removal crews (a popular commercial in Nova Scotia notes "This isn't a feather duster I'm driving!") Also, remember your pets!  They should NEVER be left outside during the cold or inclement weather of any kind.  End of story!!!

Wind Chill - If you've ever found yourself walking into the wind on a cold winter's day, you've experienced wind chill:

Wind chill is when the wind makes cold temperatures feel even colder. Environment Canada’s wind chill index will tell you the combined cooling effect of these factors on the human body. It uses temperature-like units to liken the current conditions to how cold your skin would feel on a calm day.
Days with an extreme wind chill value can cause exposed skin to freeze very rapidly, leading to frostbite. Wind chill can also play a major role in hypothermia, because it speeds up the rate at which your body loses heat. Protect yourself by taking appropriate steps to stay warm when you are outdoors.
-Environment Canada

Nesty Notes - In my experience, when there is a wind chill warning in effect, unless you absolutely have go out, these are days to stay inside.  If you must go out, make sure you bundle up; thermal underwear, hats, mittens, and a warm coat and boots are a must.  Essentially, cover all skin and cover it well.  Now is not the time to worry about fashion.  If you don't have a car and need to go somewhere, take a cab or the bus; it's worth it.  Keep kids inside.  And again, bring your pets in.

There are other winter weather conditions, like blizzards, blowing snow, and snowsqualls, but for today I'm focusing on the ones that particularly effect my area.  This link will take you to Environment Canada's web page of Winter Hazards which is where I got the excerpts listed above.

Stay safe and warm!  I'll be back on Friday with a vegetarian family favorite, Spiced Bean Tagine.  See you then!!!

Stay tuned...

Today's post on winter weather warnings will be a bit tardy! Sorry gang, I'll have it up sometime today!


My Evolution of Knit + A Blogoversary!

This is a rather big week for Nesty.  Tomorrow, January 18, is my first "Blogoversary."  So I'd like to take a moment to thank all of my wonderful readers for a really great year.  Each comment and new follower made my heart jump with excitement and motivated me to continue writing.  As time passed and features, mentions, and awards began to arrive in my inbox, I was beyond thrilled at your recognition of my work.  

When I started blogging a year ago I really didn't know much about the community that exists here in Blogland.  I've met some truly wonderful people and through your writing I've become connected to your lives.  I have read posts with excitement to see if someone's baby has arrived or if their surgery went well.  I've grown misty when sadness has visited some of you.  I've commiserated and lent advice, especially with regards to relocation.  And on the occasions when a favorite blogger decides to leave blogging, or just plain disappears, I've felt their absence and missed them.  It's been an incredible and rewarding time, and I'm looking forward to what the next year will bring.  And so, whether you've been following since the beginning or just joined up, Thank You so much!!!

Those of you who have been following since the beginning may recall my adventures in learning to knit.  Anyone out there remember this?
 Just yikes!  But, as I mention in the original post, my goal with this project was to actually stick with it and get it cast off, no matter how ugly the finished project was.  This scarf could really be a cautionary tale of all the things you shouldn't do, but I'm still really proud of it because once it was finished I knew how to cast on, knit, perl, and cast off.  I was ready to go.  Bring on the projects!
For my next few projects I concentrated on items that would help me learn the basics of knitting.  The turquoise scarf is knit in a basket weave pattern (a basket weave pattern requires you to alternate knitting and perling at regular intervals.)  I also got to make a fringe!  The watch cap was my first project on a round needle, and although it was far too small to wear, it got me very excited about projects that could be knit "in the round."  And so, for the first time, I searched online for a pattern and found the pattern for the cute red hat.  The cute red hat is a lesson in why it is important to pay attention to the type of yarn and needle size the pattern calls for.  Yet again, my hat was too small, however it was the first item I looked at where my mistakes weren't the first things I saw.  

As cute as these projects are (in a retro sort of way) they really weren't items I would wear.  I was on the lookout for my next project and I was determined I was going to wear it.  At Christmas came the item that completely hooked me on knitting.  My husband's aunt sent me a skein of Kochoran wool, a pair of chunky bamboo needles, and a pattern for a seed stitch scarf.  This project knit up beautifully and fast, and I was soon proudly wearing my work.  This is the sort of gratifying project that I absolutely love; in fact I have recommended it to beginners.   This was also the project that turned me into a yarn snob:

This project boosted my confidence, and I knew it was time; when I started knitting, my motivation was that I wanted to make mittens and socks.  And so, I enthusiastically jumped right in and decided to tackle socks
 After the socks, I never really looked back.  The past few months I've been knitting up a storm.  I came up with a "collection" of items that I gave for Christmas gifts.  It was so fun embracing the "design" part of knitting; adjusting a pattern, experimenting with colour and fibre combinations, and even making up names for my garments.

One of my favorite items to knit (besides socks!) are hobo mitts. These go by several names but they are basically fingerless mittens.  I made these for my niece, my sisters and my sister in law; each pair had a unique twist to them that made them "one of a kind."  I really fell in love with these cuties and they almost didn't make it into the gift box!
 At a craft show, I bartered two Tiny Totes for a skein of chocolate brown yarn (I was bored and had forgotten my knitting).  While sitting at my table I played around with the yarn and decided that they would make adorable hobo mitts.  The yarn is actually an acrylic nylon blend; compared to the alpaca and sheeps' wool of the other projects I made it didn't sound as nice but it knit up into a delightfully warm and snuggly mitt.  To give it a pop of colour (and a bit of snob factor) I added a cherry pink stripe in Baby Bamboo yarn.

For all my hobo mitt projects I followed essentially the same pattern, but made a few adjustments.  For the Hot Cocoa mitt I wanted a snug fit, so I decreased the last few rows on both the hand and the thumb.  The fibre choices (synthetic and plant based) for this project would make it ideal for someone with wool allergies or ethical concerns.

So there you have it, my evolution of knit!  

I'll be back on Wednesday with a post about severe winter weather conditions and what all those warnings actually mean. And on Friday I'll be sharing one of my all-time favorite recipes, and it's awesome; vegetarian, high fibre, cheap and low fat!  Oh, and absolutely delicious!!  See you then!

Retro Recipes - Chocolate Chip Cookies

-Cookie Monster
 Alrighty, we've got something good cooking today!  After all the gourmet goodies that go along with the festive season, I was ready to bake up something sweet and simple this week.  And what could be better than Chocolate Chip Cookies?
Last month I decided to treat myself to some new baking supplies.  I found a three pack of actual steel baking sheets (swoon) at a terrific price!  I am rather traditional when it comes to cooking supplies; I'm not a big fan of non-stick or other coatings.  I also picked up an extra long cooling rack and a new patty-shell pan (this was non-stick but I'm on the lookout for an alternative).  It was great to have all this during my marathon holiday baking sessions, but now that I'm back to reality I have an even deeper appreciation for them.  For months I'd been baking cookies on one cookie sheet (sad, I know) and cooling them on a wee little square rack.  On weekday nights when I just want to whip up a batch of something, it moves along so much faster now with three pans!  My cookies turned out so lovely; no burned bottoms, just perfectly browned.  

I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for the recipe.  These cookies receive a hero's welcome everywhere they go (it's true, they do!).  Gourmet has it's place, but more often than not you'll hit a winner with tradition.  BHG's recipe does not disappoint.  It uses a mix of white and brown sugars which I find makes for a better tasting cookie, richer and with more depth (I used demerara so they my cookies had that extra caramel-ly, molasses-y flavour).  I used my best vanilla and for the piece de resistance...Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips.Click here for Better Homes and Garden's Our Best Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.   (I used the mix of shortening and margarine and skipped the nuts) 
Ahhhh, a thousand wonderful memories in one bite.  Sip your ice cold milk, close your eyes, and let the magic work.  There are no words.  Or are there....?


Festive, Fast, & Functional Champagne Magnet!

Well, friends, we are well on our way to mid-January.  This weekend I packed away Christmas, we ate the end of the baking, and tomorrow I am buying a healthy, clean eating grocery order.  The "Christmas Hangover" is over and we are settling comfortably into the New Year.  And I must say, it feels good.

What's a "Christmas Hangover?" you ask?  Not what you think it is...but more on that in a future post.  

After a much needed break, I am starting to feel creative again.  The hand knit gifts (which you will see in the not too distant future) were much loved and appreciated, but yowzers my hands were sore by Christmas Eve!  But now, now I feel like making stuff!

The first urge came on New Year's Day.  I was tidying the kitchen and I found the cork from our NYE champagne hanging out on the counter where it had been left the night before.  As I was heading for the garbage I took a look at the cork and paused.  I've always loved champagne corks; I find them rather fascinating.  There's the excitement that comes with removing it, of course, champagne is a celebratory drink and it's always fun to stand around and watch someone work that cork out.  So much the better if it overflows, or if you have to duck to avoid a flying cork.  In the calmer light of day, the cork itself is a little marvel of science, design, and ingenuity.  How do they get it in there?

So, after a few moments with the cork, I realized that I was starting to get sentimental about it.  I am trying to stop doing this; we recently did a "purge" of our belongings and swore to each other that we would stop keeping every little thing that had "meaning".  (Rest assured, I threw away a lot of NYE paraphernalia from previous years.) But this cork, it was just so neat!  So special!!  Surely there was something it could do...

And then it came to would make a really funky fridge magnet!

Turning to the fridge, I found what I was looking for; a plain circle magnet that had fallen off the back of another magnet a few weeks earlier.  I'm not one to toss something functional just because it doesn't look pretty anymore, and so my plain 'ol magnet was earning his keep on the fridge, holding stuff up.  Today, however, luck was smiling on my old, chipped magnet ' was makeover time!

Sixty seconds in my craft room plus time for drying and we were finished!  As soon as I saw it on my refrigerator I knew I would have to share this no-brainer craft with you.  The best part is that it is almost completely made of repurposed items (although if you don't have a spare magnet lying around, you can buy them).  Here's a tutorial:

First the fun part, drinking your champagne!  We got Henkell Trocken, 'cause I'm a classy chick.  Okay, okay, it's a sparkling wine, not champagne. Picky, picky, picky...

Next, get the cork.  Isn't it pretty?  Depending on the level of frivolity at your celebration, you may have to go looking for the cork.  May I suggest under the sofa?  Oh, and also depending on the level of frivolity at your celebration you may be about to have a whole collection of champagne magnets.  Good for you!  Cheaper by the case anyway!!!

Magnets don't stick to cork all on their own, so go get the glue.  I used Aleene's Tacky Glue; I find it's good for adhering different kinds of surfaces to each other (like cork and magnet).  A little tip; apply glue to both surfaces and let it sit for a minute before attaching them.  This will make the glue tacky and will aid in adhering the surfaces.

Now, let the glue dry.  I didn't take a picture of this because I mean, come on.  A picture of glue drying?  Really?

Be patient and let it dry well.  Leave it alone for a few hours.  This is the hardest part of the craft!!!  We are all adults.  Leave. It. Alone.

Hey look, it's dry!  I must say, that's one classy magnet!  And that's a mighty cute dog!  He was one of my Christmas presents.  They called him "Rodney" in the feature but the shelter workers were actually calling him "Rod Stewart."  And he lived at the shelter for, like, five months, so he really thought he was Rod Stewart...

"Have I told you lately that I love you?"

 There is a resemblance, no?  Five pounds of love there, folks.  Anyhoodle, the neighbors think we're wacky enough; yelling "Rod Stewart!" out the back door wasn't going to help our image so he became Max.  I loves him!

Good luck with your magnets!  If you don't have your NYE cork anymore, what luck!  Valentine's Day is right around the corner!
Friday is a Retro Recipe...and it's a goodie!!!  See you then!

I'm Back, This Time With a (12 Month) Plan

Hi Everyone, and Welcome Back!

It feels really great to be posting again; after my holiday break I am refreshed and full of ideas for future posts.  This week, you can look forward to learning how to make the world's most  ridiculously easy craft (if you still have a champagne cork lying around from NYE, put it aside) as well as a "new" Retro Recipe.  Today, however, you are going to hear all about my 12 Month Plan for Holiday 2011.

Why, you ask, do I need a 12 month plan for Holiday 2011?  Good question, glad you asked!  I am a self-confessed Christmas nut, I love all things holiday and, as such, tend to bite off more than I can chew a little too late.  Try as I might to adopt the "what gets done, gets done" mentality, the truth is that I get bitterly disappointed when I don't achieve all my holiday goals.  This is what led me to be designing gnomes on December 22 for my Cookies & Gnomes kitchen tree.  Incidentally, the cookies never made it onto the tree.  Actually, they didn't even get made, and this bugged me all Christmas long.

You get the picture.  I am the queen of REALLY BIG IDEAS, and I am for the most part good at executing them.  It just seems at Christmas that these REALLY BIG IDEAS come fast and furious and with a huge sense of urgency, as if Santa's departure truly depended upon my successful completion of a COOKIES AND GNOME TREE!!!  Or perhaps HANDMADE MITTENS FOR ALL!!  Why not NEW STOCKINGS FOR HUMANS AND CANINES WITH MATCHING TREE SKIRT?  And let's not forget HAND DIPPED TRUFFLES, the very important HOMEMADE CRACKERS, and last but not least HONEST TO GOODNESS REAL PLUM PUDDING!!!!! Which doesn't contain a single plum; who knew?

So, here's the plan.  I'm making a list, and I'm checking it no, not twice, 12 times this year.  On (or around) the 25 of each month, I'll be updating you on my progress.  Oh, what's on the list you say?  The Twelve Goals of Christmas!  Projects, items to buy, plans to make, anything that I can potentially do throughout the year to prepare in advance for Christmas.  I'm also going to be preparing a Christmas Countdown To-Do List.  Oh yes I am.

But wait, there's more!  I'm not in this alone.  My cousin Ainsley from Pattycake Manners is going to be my partner in crime! Not just for the Twelve Goals of Christmas, either!  She's come up with a great idea where we are going to pick 12 handmade projects that we want to achieve by Christmas 2011.  We'll be sharing these with you and updating you in a series of shared posts.

I can't wait!  My first holiday update will be on January 26, so be sure and check back!  Oh, and just in case you thought Christmas 2010 was a mess in the Nest, it really wasn't.  It was lovely.  On the 26th, I'll be sharing some photos and memories of what I did achieve this holiday season.  Gnomes and all!

Have a wonderful week!  It's great to be back!