Friday, December 31, 2010

Collection a Day

Today is the last day of Lisa Congdon's year-long blog project of documenting a collection a day.

Interesting. Seems we have somethings in common.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Whooo's Ready for the New Year?

My Owl Barn presents a fun free 2011 calendar.

The 2011 Owl Lovers Calendar lets you choose from many artists' owl illustrations to make a custom calendar. Even if you have never considered your self an owl lover in the past, browsing at My Owl Barn might make you fall in love with our little woodsy friends for the first time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Calling

Better answer!

There's still time to send a message from Santa to a good girl or boy through the wonder of newfangled technology at Portable North Pole.

Images from The Graphics Fairy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Season's Greetings

Wouldn't these make charming gift tags, collage components, postcards, vignette additions, or Christmas dinner placecards?

Images from The Graphics Fairy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Season's Eatings

Find photography of beautiful food around the world, cookie recipes, and the answer to, "What did Katie eat?", in this issuu of What Katie Ate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To: Us From: Helen - Orange We Lucky?

Helen Dardik of Orange You Lucky has a bit of Christmas colorfulness to share with everyone - free holiday gift tags to download, print, and use.

And here at How About Orange is a bonanza of free printable holiday labels.

Wonderful gifts for our gifts!

Monday, December 20, 2010

All the Fun Without the Sugar High

Over at Jolly Allsorts you can have all the fun of decorating a very cute, traditional, virtual, gingerbread house without the sugar high or sticky carpets.

Or you could try one of these um..., "interesting" kits.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hey! Unto You a Child is Born!

We've had our annual reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. We were looking for inspiration as we have, by default, become the director of a Christmas pageant just as Grace Bradley (played by Loretta Swit in the movie version) did.

Grace Bradley, the mother who takes over when the pageant director of many years breaks a leg, is a character worth emulating. She shepherds the unruly Herdman children as they take over the play, defends their right to be there, and doesn't pale at their behavior even when Mary is found smoking a cigar in the ladies room, Baby Jesus is loudly patted and burped, and the gifts of the magi are replaced with a much more practical (in the view of the Herdmans) Christmas ham. In the end she appreciates that the Herdman's interpretation of the events at Bethlehem comes from the perspective of a family that very well understands the difficulties faced by a family that we usually think of as more holy than human.

Our own experience of being mother to pageant participants gives us great empathy for the child who would rather not be there, can't not fidget, hates to dress up, would rather play hockey with the shepherd's crook, lipsyncs songs, refuses to stand by a girl, or wishes they could be any other part of the nativity than the one they have been assigned. They all hang in there for one reason or another - Mom or Dad's evil eye, threats, bribes, promises, or the carrot-on-the-stick of all-you-can-eat Christmas cookies after the pageant ends. Maybe they even get something out of it. Right?

And it is always the best Christmas pageant ever. Right?

Saturday, December 18, 2010


By the end of today we will, with the help of a large group of enthusiastic teens, have made hundreds of cookies and candies for the good people who support our youth by placing orders for these goodies. The quality control will not be up to our usual standards, but the product will taste good and will perhaps make some money and memories for the young people involved.

Here's what we will be making on our own next week as quiet Christmas carols play and a cup of Christmas cheer sits next to the mixer. If a child wanders through we will be glad for the company, and if they want to help that would be welcome, but if they are only interested in snitching some dough and being ready with a mug of milk when the timer goes off we're good with that too.

Gingerspice Molasses Cookies

2 cups flour
2 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
¾ cup margarine or shortening
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. cloves

1/3 cup sugar (to roll dough balls in)

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat margarine or shortening and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg and molasses. Add the flour mixture and blend well. Refrigerate the dough overnight or for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Shape dough into walnut size balls for small cookies (makes about 60). 1 ½” balls will make about 40 cookies.
Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets leaving room between for spreading.
Bake 9-10 minutes or as needed for the size of dough ball. Cool briefly on sheets before removing to cooling rack.
Store in an airtight jar for crispy cookies or in a more loosely-lidded cookie jar for chewier cookies.

Serve with milk or coffee. Relax.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Noel, Noel

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

by: e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas is Coming

Over at isak - beautiful happy things a different resident of a house on their colorful Advent calendar is introduced each day through a little verse.

Visitors to the blog may leave comments (rhyming ones are encouraged - we have left several) with their own story about the character and a suggestion of which item from the isak catalogue they think that character would be giving as a gift. Leaving a comment enters the commentor into a daily draw for isak treats. Nine days left til Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Cold is It?

So cold that even the household machines are complaining. (-20 F at its lowest.)

The boiler stopped twice which led to a service call that found nothing definitively diagnosible and an uneasy feeling as the mercury was dropping.

The microwave quit which led to two undercooked pansful of Ramen being poured down the drain which stopped up the pipes which led to a visit from Roto-Rooter.

The snowblower refused to go even with a team of experts called in for consultation which led to some aching backs and arms (and some very kind favors from neighbors - thank you).

The garage door decided not to close without manual help.

So far the sewing machine, computer, cars, oven, and refrigerator are hanging in there and the prediction is for a warming trend by week's end.

We'll be fine.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Naughty or Nice?

"I used to be Snow White, but I drifted." - Mae West

Victorian vamp image from The Graphics Fairy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Well, That Was Really Something

Our sophisticated meteorological equipment tells us that we received 14" of snow this weekend.

A white Christmas is looking like a pretty sure thing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Neighborhood Watch Caught Napping

A giftwrapped parcel was left in our mailbox a few nights ago.

Inside we found this book:

With the following note attached:

For Dr. Retlow,


Open Immediately!


The note was unsigned. We love/hate a mystery.

Handwriting analysis has eliminated some obvious suspects.

The use of a title of respect has cleared even more persons of interest.

Alibis have been provided by yet another category of possible stealth gifters.

Who could have left this anonymous present?

At this time we are pursuing the theory that the gnomes themselves have planted this intel because they do enjoy a fair fight.

If you witnessed any suspicious activity on the night of December 10, between 6:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. please contact our anonymous tip line at 1-888-ISN-ITCH.

Perhaps the gift giver truly has our best interests in mind, however the possibility of a psych-out by the enemy is not out of the question.

Keep your eyes peeled.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Season of Sharing

Amy Schimler of Red Fish Circle creates wonderful, whimsical prints, illustrations, and textile designs.

Here she generously shares this cheerful, woodsy, card for download as a little gift for her readers.

Now that's the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweet Dreams

Two projects in one week. We're on a roll.

Pillowcase making is a great way to use fun fabrics and gives almost instant gratification from just a small amount of effort.

The technique is the Hotdog Pillowcase pattern. We were going to provide you with a link to sewing directions, but after twice being taken accidentally to the internet equivalent of a bad neighborhood while looking for the best version, we gave up. You are on your own googling for it, or you can contact us for a print pattern to be delivered by non electronic means.

We can safely tell you that the fabrics are "spotted owl" Alexander Henry Fabrics collection and "Freebird" by MoMo for moda, and the "Colorful Christmas" collection by Mind's Eye/Riley Blake Designs. Cute and or/cool, Eh?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Xmas Lit

It's a great season for reading.

To be deemed a favorite, a kid's book must be, above all else, as wonderful on the 100th reading as on the first. Humor, great illustrations, and a really good story are other qualifiers. Evoking tears makes reading a challenge, but is not a reason for penalty, and is usually a symptom of a book being a very meaningful read.

Our bookshelf sags under the weight of our Christmas book collection. Here are just a few of our family favorites.

Max's Christmas by Rosemary Wells

Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Father Christmas and the Donkey by Elizabeth Clark, illustrated by Jan Ormerod

Little Tree by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza by David Shannon

The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

Support your local bookseller!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shotgun Shells, Batman Smells*

While the men are off shivering in their tree stands waiting for that trophy buck to pass by, the womenfolk are convening and crafting. Many try hard to do it in a most green way recycling anything and everything that can be made into unique Christmas decor.

This year's version of the santa tree ornament made at a certain annual gathering of dedicated crafters should really appeal to all the uncles, nephews, sons, and husbands. A few of this group's many other past representations of the jolly old elf have started with spoons, walnuts, dried okra, keys, christmas tree bulbs, and milkweed pods. They're crafty and clever and surely already dreaming up Santa version 2011.

*Robin laid an egg,
Batmobile lost a wheel,
and Joker broke a leg.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Young and the Reckless

Continuing on our mission of using materials already on hand, and with holiday gift giving in mind, we dusted off the sewing machine and cranked out a few sets of these coasters inspired by Joelle Hoverson's book, Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts .

These will not be given to the young people who, we recently learned, have been mocking us behind our backs for our compulsive coaster use (and a few of our other foibles). Hey, a person can't be too careful with the heirloom Target coffee table and priceless Ikea sideboard, and overhead lighting really is intolerable but, well, nevermind, anyway...these are easy to make and nice to have around if you are of the pro-coaster persuasion. The book has many other fun projects that are listed by amount of time commitment from less-than-2 hour to more-than-12-hour gifts. There are still more than 400 hours until Christmas and a huge stash of lovely fabrics...coasters for everyone!

Monday, December 6, 2010

(Black and) White Christmas

Dear Santa,

Please bring color printers to all the good girls and boys in NDLand this Christmas so that they may have the wonderful gift of hue all the year through.

Thank you,


Fun, festive and free printable holiday downloads from west elm.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Birthday Cake

The Deluxe Devil's Food Cake almost straight off of the side (we make chocolate frosting) of the Softasilk cake flour box is the cake for birthdays at the NDL household.

Boxed cake mixes were in heavy use in the early days when a 9x13 pan was toted to a ballfield, or the backyard, or a playground for lively parties with young and enthusiastic, but unsophisticated, cake eaters.

Over time the birthday boys have matured as have their palates. The celebrations have mellowed and party attendees are patient enough now to wait while a three tiered confection is sliced and plated and passed around the table, and are appreciative of the made-from-scratch effort.

The youngest turned 17 last week and the cake recipe was made and served for the umpteenth time to family who could be present, and to the faithful neighbors who have shown up three or more times a year for the last 24 years to partake in cake and share the moment. Our wish as the candles were blown out on this most recent birthday was that the lure of the cake will keep the birthday boys coming round on each of their special days, as often and for as long as possible.

Wherever they wander, wherever they roam, we hope they'll remember, there's no place like home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Look Everybody, Ethel Brought the Filbert Balls!

They were always a bit hit at the annual electric company Christmas party. Picture them on a festive cookie tray right between the eggnog and the Tom and Jerry punch bowls. Now Reddy Kilowatt's Filbert Balls can become a tradition for your home or office party too.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tis the Season

For making and receiving handmade gifts.

If you want to make these snug slippers we can loan you the pattern from the Spinnern Yarn Company book.

Or if you have a little time between now and December 25and you want some other, possibly more up-to-date project ideas, STC Craft has free handmade holiday patterns for 14 different lovely things that would delight anyone finding one of them under the tree on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Only 24 Shopping Days (less 6 hours across the pond) 'til Christmas

We have a new favorite blog. Smitten by Britain is the creation of an American who eats, sleeps, breathes, and, along with guest bloggers, writes about all things British all the time. A recent post highlights some of the best adverts on the telly this holiday season. This one for Morrison's features many of our favorite things, little British kids wearing wellies and jumpers and speaking in a most charming fashion, brussels sprouts, Christmas crackers and crowns, and a Dickensian feast.

And another. From Marks and Sparks. Look for Twiggy.

More favorite ads as chosen by Smitten by Britain here.