31 January 2013

And they are off!

It's time!

If you signed up for the third annual Valentine swap, you will have received an email from me with your swap partners information last night. If you don't see it, check your junk mail just in case. If you still don't see it, send me a direct email.

This year nearly 400 people are participating! Swappers come from 12 different countries and just about every state in the union. Even a few of my friends and relations signed up to swap (so if anyone gets a weird Valentine made from old soup labels or guitar strings, there is a 90% chance it's from someone I know). 

PS: Be sure to take some pictures of your Valentines and send to me. Or better yet, share them on my facebook wall so everyone can see what you are sending and receiving!

PPS: Want to swap cards with me?  Send me a Valentine by Feb 14 and I will send you a St. Patrick's Day card in return sometime in early March. Didn't you always want a St. Patrick's day card? Yeah you did. Send to:

Aunt Peaches
332 S. Michigan Ave
Ste 1032 #A987
Chicago, IL 60604-4434

Be sure to CLEARLY print your name and return address on the envelope.

Happy Valentines!

30 January 2013

Yarn Hearts

Six excuses I tell myself to get out of learning to knit:
  1. It will give me carpel tunnel syndrome.
  2. I already crochet and suck at it. Do I really need one more thing to suck at?
  3. It will allow me to make custom sweaters for my cat. My cat already hates me and the last thing she needs is a legit excuse to get angry and pee on stuff.
  4. It will distract me from learning to hand quilt. And macramé. And install faucets.And other stuff.
  5. I will do it and I will get addicted and the yarn will suck all the moistness out of my hands and one day I will wake up and see a hand coming out of my sleeve and think OH CRAP, THE CRYPT KEEPER IS HERE!
  6. I can make other stuff with yarn. Like, this...

As I mentioned last week, I’m not big on knitting. And I don’t crochet much either. But for whatever reason I can’t help but stroll through the yarn aisle every time I go to a craft store. It calls my name. I can’t turn away. On rare, rare occasions, I let myself buy something too. This time it was red and pink and orange.  It came home with me and said, GURL, you need to make something with me. What’s it going to be? – A scarf? – A hat? – Some badass granny square potholders?

I said, No Gurl, today we are making yarn hearts.

It doesn't get much easier than this.

This is about the easiest, laziest, fool-proof project on the planet. In fact, I am ripping this idea off a daycare craft I made in 1983 (shout out to all my peoples at Palisades Preschool!) as Christmas ornaments using bits of acrylic scrap yarn and paste made from flour and water. They were supposed to be stars but came out looking like spaghetti – that’s the charm, right? Preschool art. It's open for interpretation.

The only problem was that after the spaghetti stars dried and went home looking pretty, they fell apart and flopped over on the tree. I think the paste might have reconstituted when put in contact with the moist tree or something. That said, I am swapping out the old fashioned glue for Mod Podge – I trust it will last a long time. Did you see what it did to my Eastereggs? Twelve years and counting!

Note: Mix the glue solution in a disposable cup with a plastic fork, or similar.

29 January 2013

Jambalaya Boxes

It's that time of the year when tourists descend upon New Orleans like a bunch of drunk and shirtless locusts. Middle aged conventioneers with names like Stew and Skip take up with sorority girls, frat boys, and Lousianans alike in America’s spring break: Mardi Gras. Yes, it’s that time of year, but it isn't all bad for the good people of NOLA — they get free jewelry.

And by jewelry, I mean beads. 

Lots of beads.

Hippy Ti Yo beads!

Mardi Gras is the only holiday I know in which people throw shiny things off of floats and hang said shiny things on trees and doors and fences and anyone who will flash a tata or two. If anyone else knows of another free jewelry holiday, YOU LET ME KNOW, OKAY?

It’s been a few years since I have been to New Orleans for the season, but last time I prepared as best I could by grabbing beads enough for ten people plus half of Jackson Square. Plus, I get abuncha green ones around here every St. Patrick’s day, plus the occasional bag full of beads in the thrift store now-and-again…plus...well, put it altogether, and I am always stocked with a drawer full of Mardi Gras beads. No, literally, there is a drawer labeled MARDI GRAS BEADS. It comes in handy more often than you would think.

This year, considering Fat Tuesday is February 12, I thought it would be fun to mash it with its neighboring holiday—Valentines, on February 14.  The end result is a glitzy chocolate box with Cajun flair that I can use to harness my sparkle tooth. Of course you could use it to give away cookies or homemade treaties...I have my sparkles to think of. 

Like the creole dish they were named for, these boxes are an eclectic jumble of decadent elements. Jambalaya is also a popular song and a line dance (click here to learn en français!). The idea came to me after thinking of other songs to use describe this project. For a while I’d call them I Left My Heart in Louisiana Boxes but decided that would be too tacky. Not nearly as tacky as Cajun Stripper Boxes, (the beloved Doug Kershaw song), but that's a personal call.

So, the question is, how do you make one of these nifty boxes for yourself? Read on!

28 January 2013

Old Fashioned Chicken Boil

This is not a food blog.

I just want to clarify that.

It's not that I don't cook (I do) or can't cook (I can)...it's just that there are plenty of people who do it better. In posting recipes here, I fear that I would over-inflate my skills by trying to shove my recipes down your throat.

This post, however, is not a recipe; it is a way of life.

Plainly put, the power of chicken soup is not to be underestimated. And I'm not talking about some old Touched-By-An-Angel-Offshoot 1990's self help book. No Ma'am. We are talking soup. Chicken soup. It's important. Especially in winter, and double especially for someone like me who takes public transportation every day and comes in contact with every manner of residual filth. Seriously, y'all, one day, just one day, I would like to walk into a subway car in winter and not have it smell like hot dog water. One day I would like to gaze through a bus window and not find it smeared with ketchup and, Dude, wtf is that? Maple syrup?

I'm still waiting on that day. Until then, I supply my immune system every advantage I can give it; clean hands, ample tissues, lots of sleep and...*drum roll*... frequent rounds of old fashioned chicken boils.

I know what you are thinking:

What is an old fashioned chicken boil? Isn't that just like chicken soup? Can't you just get a can of chicken soup?

Comparing a can of chicken soup to an old fashioned chicken boil is like comparing a kitchen knife to a surgeon's scalpel. They are not the same thing. And while anyone can make a great chicken stock by boiling up a carcass for a few hours, there is something scared in the act of making soup. Healing. Nurturing.

The recipe below comes from my father who got it from his mother, who got it from Big Alice, who probably got it off a cabbage farmer back in the old country or something. I don't know. But I do know this: it's good. If you grew up on homemade chicken soup, your recipe is probably 95% the same. The only thing different about mine is that the end result usually looks thick, silky, and opaque -- as opposed to the golden brothy stuff.

25 January 2013

Bramble Patch: January 2013

A list of my favorite internet distractions from the month of January. 

Two words: Confetti Bowl. I am making this. I am soooooo making this.

I had planned to write a post on my top ten favorite camera phone tips/tricks/apps. But then I found THIS POST and I'm all, Ughh, this is waaaaay better than what I could have produced!

Does your house get dry in winter? Mine sure does. This is a simple (and delicious) way to perk things up.

A Valentine care package? And it's super cute? Why, thank you.

Speaking of Valentines...let them eat cake. Awesome cake. Awesome mailable cake.  

Fifty percent of the time I check in on Twitter, it's to see if Anti Joke Cat has posted anything new.

A mother's prayer, courtesy of Tina Fey.

My other baby, I Believe in Strangers, is chugging along. Anyone who has ever struggled with job hunting will appreciate this one.

Reading: Fraud by David Rakoff.

Watching: Downton Abbey. But isn't everyone?

Munching: Homemade chicken soup. I would like to declare that everyone around me is sick but me. BUT ME. This is the healing power of an old fashioned chicken boil!

Listening: Radical Face, Always Gold.

Wearing: This parka. It took me 14 years of living in cold weather to break me down into buying a fugly old snow parka...but now Parka and I are besties. She is always warm, wind proof, waterproof, has 7 enormous pockets so I don't even need a purse half the time, AND she comes with built-in fingerless gloves (great for driving or phone doodling). Holy crap I love this coat.

Most popular post this month: Sexy Men Who Knit.

Moment in cat history: Lolabelle has taken to keeping warm under the covers of the bed. I am petrified I will accidentally sit on her.


24 January 2013

I’m not good at giving gifts. 

Look, it’s not that I don’t try. I do. It’s just that I tend to make or buy things that I think the recipient needs; fingernail cufflinks… a leopard bathrobe…a gift certificate to the Jamaican beauty supply store. Granted, I am absolutely right, the recipient would indeed benefit from such things. But do they actively want such things? Perhaps, not so much.

To combat this problem I have taken to the gift of Photoshop. Fact is, I am pretty good at using Photoshop software. I can say that without conceit because my talent is limited in scope. Very limited. Useful skills like airbrushing or batch processing—nope. Imposing cat faces on 1980’s hair bands—yup.
This skill came to me as the result of a brief college internship in the photo archives at a well known magazine. I won't say the name but it started with Play and ended with Boy. And before you ask, no I never dealt with naked people.  Skin grafting birthmarks of off centerfolds—nope. Etching in hair plugs on Gore Vidal—yup.

Since I don't get to use my Photoshoping skills much these days, I take it out on my friends and loved ones. For example...

Neil and Lola. You may have seen this last summer. Lola was pasted into a photo of Neil and it hangs in my dining room portrait gallery. Everybody who comes over asks about it.  

How'd you get Neil Diamond to pose with your cat? Can you hire him for parties? Can I get him on my Christmas Card?

Today, January 24th, is Neil's birthday. So we took him off the wall and set him down for cake and kitty time. 

Happy birthday Neil!

Speaking of wonderful people born on Jan 24, my friend Amy (aka Mod Podge Amy) has a dog Roxie who loves Star Wars. Okay, maybe it's Amy who likes Star Wars. But Roxie and Yoda are like twins. The resemblance is staggering.

Happy birthday Amy!

My friend Kelly's birthday was back in September. Given the fact that this is the Kelly who once made me a flamingo dressed as Pippi Longstocking, this needed to be special. Kelly loves Hall & Oates (pardon my redundancy, I mean, everyone loves Hall & Oates) and since her maiden name is Ott, well, this just needed to happen....

Do you have a weird talent that comes in handy for birthdays? Caricatures? Custom limericks? Astrology forecasting? Custom cakes shaped like feet?  Do tell...

23 January 2013

In Progress: Valentine Tree

So, speaking of Valentines, I am working on a Valentine tree. It’s sort of like a Sweedish paskris tree, but without the feathers. Or the Easter. Or the Spring. So basically a Valentine tree is how I bribe myself to move all the Christmas crap to the basement.

No judgements. It's working.

Quick reminder – there are only two days left to sign up for the Valentine swap. You in?


22 January 2013

Wax Paper Pillar Candles

Have you ever been to one of those hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurants with red checkered table cloths and big drippy candles in Chianti bottles? You know the ones that dribble wax all over the bottle? It builds and builds and builds up over time and it looks sort of creepy but you let it go because you think This is just like Lady and the Tramp!

Well, this post is like that except with Shabbat candles and diet coke bottles. Romantical much? And no dripping wax. And no Lady. And no Tramp.

Hashtag Disappointed.

Hashtag WhoWillEatSpaghettiWithMe?

Last month, a reader, Guinevere, asked me about the candles featured in a post from last fall. It didn't occur to me to do a tutorial on it but since I was setting the table this weekend, I thought I'd do a quick demo. This is a cheap and easy way to get some height on your table without buying a bunch of expensive candle sticks.An it involves drinking abuncha soda and a trip to the 'Ethnic Foods' aisle. Wahoo!

The hard part with this is finding candles and bottles that fit perfectly. Too big and they are useless-- too small and the candle slips inside the bottle. I have found that most soda bottles fit perfectly with Shabbat candles* but you experiment and see for yourself. Some larger long stem candles fit in beer bottles, or sometimes you can use a butter knife to whittle the bottoms (or use an open flame to melt it down) to make them fit, but this is one combo that always works.

*What are Shabbat candles? Traditionally lit by the woman of the home 18 minutes before sunset each Friday, Shabbat candles are are part of most Jewish households. You can buy a whole box of them in the kosher food section of most grocery stores for $2.00, sometimes less. They burn clean, no drips, and last 2 to 3 hours.

They look really good bundled together on a glass cake plate or platter, just don't bundle too close. Hello fire hazard! Although no paper is fire proof, wax paper is slightly safer as the melting wax will smother the flame and prevent a full out flare up. But still. Don't catch fire y'all. Smokey says so.


So there it is Guinevere, I hope that helps!

Anybody else have a follow-up question on something you saw here? Send me an email...it might make for a future post! 

18 January 2013

Homemade Confetti

After my confetti mirror post earlier this week, a couple of people emailed me to ask about making homemade confetti. I had assumed, wrongly, that everyone was well practiced in the time-loved art of shredding tissue paper. I did it a lot as a kid. In part because there were a lot of confetti occasions, and in part because my parents asked me to make it when they needed to keep me busy. Note: next time you need to a few hours to prepare for a birthday party and your kid won't leave you alone -- set them in the corner and tell them to make confetti. BOOM, right there, you have three hours minimum.

As an adult, it takes a lot less time to make confetti. Ten minutes? Maybe less. I'm a lot handier with scissors. All you have to do is fold up some tissue paper, cut then 2" fringes along the edge, then slice across. Sort of like dicing an onion. The smaller the slices, the smaller the pieces. The smaller the pieces, the longer you will find them in your carpet. Consider yourself forewarned. It's pretty easy. Like, really easy.

17 January 2013

Elizabethan Baked Goods

Hey you.

Happy Thursday.

I was making you some jumbo banana nut muffins because I know how much you like them, but the thing is, I ran out of liners. They got used up on a lamp or something. Or maybe it was giftwrap. I could have just greased the pan but my muffin rack is sort of gross. That was not a pun. My muffin rack is perfectly clean, but you know, it looks rusty in the corners. Is your tetanus shot up to date?  You should work on that.

Anyway, the bananas were already blackened to mush and they couldn't wait until the weekend for me to get to the store, so I made do with coffee filters. They worked fine. Now your muffins have bananas, nut and ruffled collars. 

Elizabethan baked goods – you got ‘em.

16 January 2013

Sexy Men Who Knit

Let’s be clear on this: I do not knit.

Lots of my friends knit. I like knit wear. I like knit people. For me, mere knowledge of someone’s knitting ability will spark my interest in them as a friend. I like people who knit almost as much as I like people with cats. And that is a lot. On the rare occasion I should meet someone who enjoys knitting and cats, they are instantly recruited into a special club of my own creation, complete with hats and secret handshakes. A club so special, so exclusive, nobody knows of its existence except for me. And you. And all the other crazy cat ladies wearing rainbow-plush eyelash yarn scarves that would put Bill Cosby to shame. We are the Free Masons of homespun craft goods. I could get cut out just for talking about it on the internet. Shhhh….

Did I mention we have hats? 

But, you guys. I know you guys. I know there are knitters out there in my silent reader rough. Perhaps you haven’t joined my secret club yet, but believe me, I know what you like. You like chocolate. You like crafts. You like cats. You like sexy men who knit.

Let’s talk about it.

Ryan Gosling

Everybody knows that crafty ladies love Ryan Gosling. Maybe it’s because he is so handsome. Maybe it’s because he starred in The Notebook. Maybe it’s because he is waaaay wholesome and counts Mormons and Mousketeers as family. Maybe it’s his Rad As Hell early 90’s dance moves. Hard to say. But knitting most definitely has something to do with it.

Gosling picked up knitting on the set of Lars and the Real Girl (a great movie, btw) while spending the day on set in a retirement home surrounded by old ladies.

Okay, seriously, for a second here, try to imagine you are sitting around your nursing home one day and all the sudden, Ryan Gosling, in all his buffed out arms and peanut butter hair glory, comes up and says, “Hey Granny, teach me to cast on.”


And Ryan ain't the only one...

14 January 2013

Confetti Mirror

I had big plans for a New Year project featuring confetti but then a Julie Andrews marathon came on the TV. There went my Sunday.

Honestly, how is one supposed to craft with Julie being all Mary Poppins and nun like and such? You can't just Climb Every Mountain and use scissors at the same time. That's just flat out unsafe.

Since I had already made three pounds tissue paper confetti, I decided it was going to be used elsewhere. Somewhere. So this weekend I made about five different things. Prepare yourself to get confettid out! You'll see the rest of them later, but for now, while my carpet looks like the aftermath of a clown convention, I thought I'd start easy: a mirror.

Instructions on this are easy.

11 January 2013

Third Annual Valentine Swap

Attention handmade valentine lovers!

For the third year running I am inviting my readers to participate in the biggest, most snazztastic valentine swap of all! Last year 210 folks participated from all around the world. That means more than 600 Valentines were exchanged between total strangers, all in the name of love.*

*let's sing it together.

Courtesy of Lacey. I have an illustrious history with Valentines.
I know what you are thinking....

Gee, I love the sound of this valentine swap. How does it work?
Well friend, I am glad you asked. This is the nitty-gritty: You send three handmade valentines to total strangers = You will receive three handmade valentines from total strangers.

09 January 2013

If you are a parent or a person who works with children, you probably know of Haim Ginott. His book, Between Parent and Child, was published 40+ years ago and has never gone out of print. It's a thing.

And even though I don’t have kids or work with them, I read Ginott's work in college and find myself thinking of it often – usually when dealing with difficult adults. Honestly, it is weird how much seven-year-old girls and over-educated-and-ill-tempered-grown-ass men have in common. The thing is, this expression above seems to work. On everyone. Try it. For real: next time you find yourself in a rough patch with someone, find a way for them to secretly overhear you saying something nice about them. Then just wait and see what happens. I'm telling you, it works like a charm.

Do you have any special tricks for working with difficult people? I would love to hear.

Pin It button on image hover