Under the tree...

I won't lie to you and claim that I only gave and received handmade gifts, 'cause my nose would grow like Pinocchio's. With items like Wii and Nintendo DS games on some people's lists, it's nearly impossible to stick to a purely Handmade Pledge. But I did do a heck of a lot more sewing this year than any prior year, so I'm pretty proud of myself (and exhausted!) Here are just a few things that appeared under the Christmas tree...

I made Andalucia kitchen sets for each family. I embellished some pre-purchased towels with my 1.5" wide ribbon and then added either a pot holder or an oven mitt to each set.

My mom & dad got the Mod Blooms Fire set and my sister, Caty and hubby, Jason, got the Birdie Damask set:




My brother-in-law, Sean and wife, Alicia, got the Mod Blooms Earth set:


And my father-in-law, Jim, got the Moorish Tile set. I made him a pot holder instead of an oven mitt (cause I was told guys like pot holders better... something about big hands...)


I made an appliqued name pillow for my niece, Asja. Her room in FL is decorated in an "Under The Sea" theme -- lots of blues, greens & aquas with a touch of Nemo. So this should fit right in:


I made another appliqued name pillow for Sophie. Her room is pink, pink, pink with a Princess theme:


And since Sydney already has a name pillow, I made her a giraffe stuffie based on a pattern from Melly & Me (I met these ladies at Quilt Market this past October and they were such a delight! I couldn't wait to actually make up one of their cutie creatures!)


I just adore how she turned out! I used Tiny Dots Petal for her main body and Tiny Dots Earth for her hoofs and horns.


My dad received a handmade leather-bound sketchbook I purchased on Etsy from this seller. What great customer service -- he shipped it out the same day! Then I went to Heather's parents shop to get a plaque with his last name put on the front flap. Papi loved it!!!


Even Jon got bit by the handmade bug this year and decided at the last minute to make a Beer Turkey! Yep, you read it correctly. His friend, Todd, pointed him to this recipe using Hennepin beer and a few spices that I was not too keen on... especially the rosemary! I don't know about you, but I cannot stand the smell or taste of rosemary, so I was a tad nervous about this. But, to my utter surprise, the turkey turned out AMAZING! I could not taste the rosemary at all and it was so juicy and tasty I had seconds & thirds... and so did everyone else!


Christmas was great! And the best part of all, as usual, was watching the kids as they opened their gifts, jumping around so much I could barely get a good picture! What a blessing that is!


Sophie was beside herself with her new princess pillow... "A perfect match!" she said.


But by far my most favorite memory of this day was watching Sydney running around the house while clutching her new giraffe -- which she quickly named Pinkie -- and screaming "This is the best gift EVER!!!" WOW, that in itself made all the sleepless nights, back pains and headaches from the past couple of weeks totally worth it.


I'm happy to report that my family stuck to my wishes for a handmade Christmas too. I set up a Wishpot list a couple of weeks before Christmas and it contained lots of items I had *hearted* on Etsy, like handmade jewelry and knitted goodies, which are now in my possession... YAY! I even got a gorgeous handmade necklace from my dear friend, Daria, which brought me tears of joy. I'll share all these soon! :)

Oh, and I can't end this post without mentioning a little surprise I received in the mail a couple of days before Christmas. This Andalucia camera strap and fabric-covered journal came from Gabi at My Funky Camera. I have to say, my camera and I are feeling mighty spoiled these days. Thanks, Gabi!


Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas! off to veg out some more...
Three handcrafted gift ideas

As promised, here are a few ideas you can do quickly at home without a lot of effort or skill needed. And if, like me, you are feeling like you're cheating on your Handmade Pledge, these ideas oughta get you back on track...

1. Peppermint Bark
(Oh, lovely, delicious, tempting peppermint bark)


All you need is:
  • 1 package of white or dark chocolate morsels
  • About 6 - 8 candy canes or a handful of those cute round peppermint candies (I know you are all in deep admiration of my technical lingo here, but try to contain the applause until the end)
  • Peppermint Extract

Here's how you make it:
  • Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  • Put all your candy canes or peppermint rounds inside a heavy duty zip-lock bag (the freezer bags are great for this). Then take it to the garage and pound on it lightly with a hammer until all candy pieces are smashed down to dime size or smaller.
  • Melt your chocolate morsels according to the directions on the package. Since I don't own a double boiler, I opted for the microwave method and it worked just fine. Just remember that the white chocolate is a bit more stubborn than the dark. It starts to harden a lot quicker than the dark chocolate, so you have to work twice as fast!
    NOTE: It just occurred to me today that not all packages of morsels have melting instructions on the back (I usually buy Ghirardelli, which does, but the Hershey brand doesn't) so if you need to know how to melt them in the microwave, a good rule of thumb would be to start slowly... like 30 seconds on medium power, then take it out and stir it . If the chocolate is not melted completely then microwave again in 15 second increments until it's completely melted. :)
  • After your chocolate morsels are melted, add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and stir quickly. Immediately, pour mixture down on your cookie sheet making sure it is spread evenly.
  • Drop peppermint candy pieces down on your chocolate mixture until it is covered evenly. You can even push some down with a spatula or a fork.
  • Cool in fridge for at least 10 minutes (I always cool mine for about 1/2 hr.) Break into odd sized pieces and enjoy!

P.S. You can do the double layer kind too, with dark and white chocolate. I opted against it because my family members are pretty divided on what kind of chocolate they like. Jon won't touch white chocolate with a 10-foot pole, and I prefer it to the dark!

This is an excellent gift idea! Just prepare colored tins with a layer of parchment paper and fill with your homemade bark. Tie the whole thing with a bow and add a handmade gift tag... just like the ones below.

2. Handmade Gift Tags


If you're like me and have kept all your old Christmas cards from years past, this is an excellent craft to do quickly one afternoon and even get the kids involved.
  • Just buy a round paper punch at any craft supply store, 1.5" - 2" diameter works great!
  • Punch out your old cards. No need to center the design... the wackier the better. I used some of my ModGreetings overages for this project.
  • Then using a hole punch, punch out a hole near one end of your circle (about 1/8" from edge),tie a piece of ribbon or jute through it and VOILA!
By the way, I am loving the look of brown craft paper with natural jute for my presents this year. It has such an earthy, organic feel, dontcha think? Add to this my recycled gift tags and I'm feeling pretty good about my pledge. ;)


3. Framed photos


I must say that a framed photo is about the easiest, cheapest gift you could ever make that will be received well by all. Well, that is, if you follow these simple rules:
  1. Grandparents LOVE pictures of the grandkids, so knock yourself out.
  2. If the framed photo happens to be a gift for a more distant relative or a friend, you'd better make it a picture of themselves or their kids (chances are they won't be putting a picture of you on their wall... just saying!)
Photos don't have to be professionally shot to make a good impression. A candid photo or fun snapshot can make a great gift if presented creatively! You could even use a cool picture shot at a park or playground. Get yourself some premium quality photo paper and print them at home, or take your photos to your local photo lab for an enlargement. Most of them will do these in 1 hour!

The frames can be thrift store or garage sale finds. Nothing too fancy needed! Spray paint is your friend. And you can even embellish your painted frames using buttons, shells or found objects and a little hot glue. Let your creativity roll...


Hope everyone is having a fantastic Holiday season! I've been sewing up a storm, how 'bout you? I promise to share my handmade gifts with you all after Christmas (since my family and friends all read my blog it would kinda spoil the surprise!) ;)
Once upon a time...

... I vowed never to eat or let my kids eat McDonald's again (after watching this video) yet in the past 6 weeks I've averaged between 1 - 2 runs through the McD's drive-through window per week! It just seemed like the easiest/fastest/best idea at the time, and yep, I regretted it every time, but the kids were happy and fed!

... I swore off sugars and caffeine and yet I think I've consumed my weight in peppermint bark and Mocha Frapuccinos just in the past couple of weeks. (bark recipe coming soon, along with some fun handmade ideas)

... I took the Handmade Pledge and then spent nearly my life's savings on Wii and DS games (and a few other electronics). I don't suppose they would've enjoyed a hand-made version of these items. ;)

... I promised my family that I would "take a break" after Quilt Market and yet in the past couple of months I've worked harder than I ever had. Projects include, but are not limited to: completing and submitting my next fabric collection, drafting 3 patterns for my new Boutique Sewing Patterns collection (due out in Spring '09), drafting 3 pillow patterns for an upcoming issue of Quilts And More magazine, doing some photography and an interview for an upcoming issue of Sew News magazine, and sewing a ton of Christmas gifts for family & friends. Hmmm... maybe after Christmas I can take a break?

made by hand

Is it just me or has anyone else out there noticed how many more people are embracing the Handmade Pledge this year? Maybe it's been like that for a while, but it just seems like every blog, website & tweet I come across promotes handmade items, whether it's handcrafted holiday gifts, baked goodies, ornaments or even handmade wrapping paper, boxes and cards... it's everywhere and such a delight to the eyes!

In the spirit of my Handmade Holidays, I wanted to share a little surprise I received in the mail from my favorite aunt, my Tia Olga (plus it's more proof that this sorta artsy-crafty, OCDish madness really runs in the family!)

She made these handcrafted felt stockings for the girls and they totally blew me away! Can you imagine how much time went into these?? Every little feature on every face was hand stitched. Every sequins and bead was hand applied. All the little toys and figures were carefully stuffed to give it that 3-D look...


There are balls, puppy dogs and teddy bears spilling out of Santa's bag...


There are pretty ballerinas and old-fashioned train engines gathered under the tree...


Each stocking is beautifully personalized...



She even autographed them for us...


I can assure you right now these will be cherished forever. If I could display them all year long, I so would!


And speaking of 'made by hand', the girls finally sat down to write their letters to Santa. Here's Sophie's. It's gonna be darn near impossible for me to stick to my handmade pledge with these sort of items (especially the top 2!)


Sydney's list (dictated by Sydney and written by her big sister, since Sydney can only write her name and the numbers 1 - 7 right now) is a bit simpler... I think I can get creative and still please her. ;)


P.S. In the past couple of days I've made about 120 gift tags out of my recycled greeting cards and two batches of peppermint bark, one with dark chocolate and one with white (remember my obsession with this candy goodness?) My family seems to prefer the dark, which is quite fine with me because I adore the white! More on that at a later post. I need to get back to work... deadlines approaching! :)
A new bag and a new do

I'm carrying a new Marieliz original on my shoulder as of yesterday! Not that my old one wasn't good enough anymore, cause it so is! But with all the hand-beading and special details, I thought my Birdie Damask purse was better suited for special occasions. My new ModBlooms purse will be my everyday bag... big enough to carry all my junk (and those of you who know me well know what I mean!) but still stylish enough to turn heads. Get your own here.


I'm also sporting a new do as of this morning. I cut off all my red tips, which were not even red anymore but some kind of yucky, faded, in-between shade, and made it more of a blunt cut. No layers this time... long and straight in the front and a tad shorter in the back. Sorry about the blurry picture... best I could do in a bathroom mirror with terrible lighting...


If you're wondering who's jewelry I'm wearing, my necklace was custom-made by Erin of The Vintage Pearl using Andalucia fabric scraps and my ring was also custom-made by Ash of In Full Bloom.

Support Indie artists. Buy handmade!
Andalucia goodies

I apologize for my bloggy absence. It's not like me to be gone from here for so many days, but I have a good excuse. I'm working on 3 different big projects that will soon be revealed and the deadlines were all around the same time... as a matter of fact, I am still working on 2 of them, due next week, so I'd better get back to it.

Anyway, first I wanted to thank everyone for your wonderful comments on Sophie's b-day party. It was a TON of work but so worth it! The girls had a blast and it gave me the push to finish and perfect the Lil' Chef sewing pattern (since I had to make 5 prototypes! LOL!)

So, since I can't really post any sneak peeks at this moment of what I'm working on (believe me, I'd love to, but it's just waaaay too soon!) I thought I'd post a few beauties that I've found online while browsing some of my favorite sites.

Get your Holiday shopping done!!!

These absolutely striking camera straps can be found at My Funky Camera. I actually gasped when I first came upon this picture truly by chance!

This adorable, and purely retro, apron can be found on Etsy at Boojiboo:

And another, totally different take on an apron, but just as fun is this one by boutiqueolliegirl:

Also on Etsy, I found this sweet little Bib & Burp set from Upsiedoodle:


This sweet girly skirt from kbellabambino:

And this decoupaged removable camera strap from PriddyCreations:
(Amy is offering $5.00 off these camera straps -- she's got more than 1 style -- if you mention you saw it here!)


There are just so many pretties out there, I'm just having a blast checking them all out. If you have anything made from Andalucia, please, please, please add your photo to my ANDALUCIA FLICKR GROUP so I can better find you! And thanks to all of you who have joined the group and added your photos so far... so much talent out there, I'm blown away!

OH, and if you would like to get yor hands on some Andalucia fabric and ribbon to make your own goodies, check out my updated link on my sidebar >>>>>>>>>>
(stores, let me know when you get them in so I can add your link too!)

OK, I'd better get back to work now! My goal is to finish all my project by end of next week so I can have a nice, quiet Christmas with my family... we'll see how all that goes! ;)
Sophie: Sweet. Silly. SEVEN!
(warning: photo overload ahead!)

The invitation: these went out in pink envelopes, of course!


The party prep: I finished the last of the 5 ModBloom-shaped aprons for the Lil' Chef sets the morning of the party, talk about last minute! I love how they turned out. Each girl got a different apron with matching oven mitts and chef hats...


The Lil' Chef sets were stuffed inside personalized pink goody bags and accompanied with mini cookie cutters and candy-covered pretzel sticks...


Here's a closer look at the five goody bags. And yes, that's Sophie's beloved Nintendo DS with games & accessories at the front...


The dining room became "party central" with an explosion of PINK! I got those Chinese paper lanterns at Walmart... they're from the Martha Stewart collection. Fresh flowers completed the mood and made the room smell oh, so sweet!


A closer look. The place settings, table cloth and drink umbrellas are also from Walmart. I had all intentions of making a patchwork tablecloth out of my Petal colorway of Andalucia, but I just ran out of time. (I'm still gonna try to make a Christmassy one with all the Fire prints!)


My sister, Caty, made a scrumptuous bread pudding (for the second time this weekend... we gobbled up the first one on Thanksgiving Day!)


Even Jon helped out in the kitchen by breaking down the bread into little pieces...


And yes, Caty is wearing a Moorish Tile apron I whipped up right before the party.
(Useless tidbit of the day: did you know that Moorish Tile was the very first design I ever made for Andalucia? Yep, the whole collection pretty much stemmed from it. I developed Flowery Stripe and Tiny Flower by extracting portions from Moorish Tile and repeating them in different ways.)


I worked on the sleep-over cake. It looks kinda gross here but you'll see... after the girls decorated it, it turned out pretty cute!


THE PARTY! The girls had a great time dressing up as Lil' Chefs. They got to make personal pan pizzas first...


Sophie and her cousin, Asja...


Sophie and Sydney...


Sophie and Raeesa...


Sophie and Jordan (with her tattoo-filled face)...


Asja and Sydney...


While their pizzas were in the oven, they decorated their Nilla Wafer "faces" for the sleepover cake (some took a bit longer than others! LOL!) ...


The sleepover cake:


The birthday girl:


Me and my baby!


The girls played dress-up and tag for a while (I can't believe I didn't get any pictures of that!) and then it was sleepy time. We set up 5 sleeping bags in the basement and the girls collected pretty much every plush dog & cat in the house to keep them company at night...


The next morning we woke up to a great surprise from Mother Nature:


All in all, a great time was had by all! Thank you all again for all your great party suggestions!
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