I don’t know what it is about Christmas that brings out the raging craft monster in me, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m covered head to toe in glitter and glue for the entire month of December. There are so many craft projects that I could never “find time” for during the rest of the year, but magically, they bubble up to the top of the priority list come Black Friday. Suddenly my brain is like, “Oh yeah, I know you have a deadline for an article, but the most important thing right now is for you to drink egg nog, listen to Christmas music and finish those red sparkly throw pillows for the couch. It’s vital. The world will end if these pillows aren’t done.” #truestory
One of the fun craft projects I took on this past weekend (after the pillows were done) was making cinnamon ornaments. If you’ve never made cinnamon ornaments, they’re crazy easy, smell amazing, and last for pretty much forever. They’re meant to look like gingerbread, but unlike the regular cookie version with sugar and butter and eggs and all that perishable stuff, these ornaments are made from only three ingredients—ground cinnamon, unsweetened applesauce, and craft glue—which helps them last for pretty much ever. You mix it all together into a dough, cut it out just like regular cookies, dry, decorate and hang. And you have a bunch of amazing smelling ornaments that will last for years and years!
Making these would be a super fun project with kids (keep in mind: although, the dough isn’t toxic, it also isn’t edible, keep little fingers from nibbling might be tricky). But of course, Craig and I had just as much fun decorating as any kid would have. It’s nice to have some fun homemade keepsakes on our tree that we can look back on and say, “Hey, remember that snowy afternoon when we brought out the puffy paints and glitter glue?”
There are a million different recipes and processes out there for how to make cinnamon ornaments, but let me show you how we did ours. Let’s get to crafting!
First up, as any good crafter knows, gather your stuff. You probably have just about everything you need already in the house.
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1-1/2 cup ground cinnamon (look for the cheap, off-brand stuff, you aren’t gonna eat it)
- 2 tablespoons craft glue, optional (I think this makes the ornaments a bit more sturdy, but you can do without it)
- Mixing bowl
- Drinking straw
- Plastic wrap
- Rolling pin
- Baking racks and baking sheets
- Cookie cutters
- Oven, food dehydrator, or just a spot out-of-the-way (for drying)
- Glitter, puffy paints, rhinestones, etc. for decorating, optional
- Ribbon or hooks for hanging
As far as decorations go, these ornaments can really be as simple (just plain dried dough on a pretty ribbon) or as crazy (GLITTTEERRRRR!) as you’d like. I really like the use of puffy paint, because I think it looks like big, thick, creamy frosting when dried.
Alright, onto making the dough. First step, the applesauce, cinnamon and glue go into a mixing bowl.
And then, dig in there with your hands. This really isn’t the job for a spoon, you’re gonna need your fingers to get it all mixed it.
Depending on a number of factors (wetness of applesauce, humidity, etc.) you might need to add more applesauce or more cinnamon to make the dough come together. You want it to be just a touch dry (because it’ll dry faster), but you also want it to hold together enough to roll and cut.
When you can form it into a big ole ball, you’re done mixing. Go wash your hands.
Now it’s time to roll. To keep things clean and easy, I just take a hunk of dough (maybe 1/3 of the whole ball) and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Now roll. You’re looking for between 1/4″ and 1/3″. The thinner you go, the quicker it will dry and the more ornaments you can get out of a batch, but it also makes them more fragile and less likely to last from year to year.
Remove the top layer of plastic wrap (set it aside to use on the next batch of dough), and then go at it with your cookie cutters.
Before you transfer your ornaments to baking racks, take the straw and poke holes where you want them to hang from.
Unfortunate gunshot wound gingerbread man.
If there is a shape you want to make but don’t have a cookie cutter for, no problamo. We’re actually using these ornaments as stocking markers, and we wanted dog and cat shaped ornaments for their respective stockings. So I just did a Google image search for ”dog silhouette” and “cat silhouette” until I found ones that resembled our furry family members. Then I printed them out at the size I wanted.
I cut the silhouettes out with scissors, then placed them on the dough and cut around them with an Xacto knife.
Once all the ornaments are cut out, they go onto a baking rack on a cookie sheet, if you want to bake them to dry them.
There are three methods that work for drying the ornaments:
- Baking: Pop the ornaments on a baking rack on top of a baking sheet in a 200° oven for about 2-1/2 hours until the ornaments are dry and hard. This is the fastest method, but it also results in a little bit of curling and bubbling.
- Food Dehydrator: Place the ornaments on the racks of a food dehydrator, and dry at the highest setting for about 6 hours.
- Air Dry: You can easily just put these ornaments on baking racks and dry them in an out-of-the-way place. This method takes a few days, and obviously works best in dry climates (I wouldn’t try this method at the beach house in Florida).
I’m impatient, so we baked them.
After a glorious, snowy day nap with the scent of cinnamon wafting around, these ornaments were ready to get glammed up. Just let them cool out of the oven, and then you can start decorating. Or, if you prefer, you can just tie a pretty ribbon through the hole now and hang them.
But we glittered the heck of these guys.
You might notice that the edges of the ornaments look a little rough.
Nothing a quick buff with a fine-grit sandpaper won’t cure.
Then let your creativity go wild. If you like the shimmery, snow-fallen look, I highly recommend picking up an extra fine translucent glitter to go over everything. It makes everything look like it was kissed by a sunny snowy day.
This recipe makes about 20 or so medium-sized ornaments. Which just happens to be the perfect number of ornaments for two adults to decorate in about an hour.
Because we were heavy-handed with the glitter glue and puffy paints, we let them dry out on the kitchen table overnight.
And then we strung the ornaments with coordinating ribbon the next morning.
And wrote the year on the back with a Sharpie. Because it’s always nice to know when something handmade was handmade. I have a handmade ornament on our tree that I made in Kindergarten, and I always get a kick out of seeing the year “1989″ on the back.
And up on the tree they all went.
Making these was so fun and so delicious smelling that this might have to be a new yearly tradition for us. Although, our 9′ tree is so packed with ornaments (as you can see), that we might have to get a second one just for a cinnamon ornaments!
What’s your favorite holiday craft? Do you have any holiday crafting traditions?
I literally just had this for lunch, and it was so delicious I knew I had to hop over to my computer (with a full belly) as quickly as possible and tell you guys about it.
The original idea for these little open-face sandwiches comes from a meal I had while visiting my in-laws in Thunder Bay, Ontario last month. For lunch one very chilly day, we sought refuge from the frigid wind in the warm and cozy atmosphere of The Growing Season—a local whole foods restaurant. Pretty much every single item on the menu looked like it would be right up my alley, but I took the suggestion of my sister-in-law and ordered the garden grill—an open face sandwich of pesto, grilled veggies and feta.
It did not disappoint. It was such a simple concept, but the resulting sandwich was warm, flavorful and the perfect centerpiece for a light lunch. I knew immediately I was going to need to recreate it at home. And, just my luck, our CSA just happened to have fresh basil pesto in stock this week. Kismet, right?
Admittedly, this sandwich isn’t a quick lunch option—roasting the veggies alone takes 15-20 minutes—but if you’re just kicking around the house one weekend afternoon, this is a great option. You could also roast a bunch of veggies on the weekend, and then assemble and finish these guys under the broiler in a snap for a quicker version.
I can assure you this isn’t the last recipe inspired by The Growing Season. In fact, I snagged myself a take-out menu so I can keep track of all the deliciousness that they serve. I might just make my way through the whole thing like a checklist.
Roasted Veggie, Pesto and Feta Toasts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 2 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thinly
- 1 red onion, sliced thinly
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 slices whole grain bread
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the olive oil and garlic. Add in the sliced pepper and onions and toss with clean hands until coated. Spread mixture in one layer on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and bake in preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- While veggies are cooking, arrange the four slices of bread on a separate cooking sheet. Spread one tablespoon of pesto on each slice of bread.
- Once veggies are finished, preheat the broiler. Then layer the peppers and onions evenly on the four slices of bread. Top each slice with feta. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until feta begins to brown.
Serving size: 2 slices. Servings per recipe: 2.
Have you ever been inspired in the kitchen by a trip to a restaurant?
Sorry for missing last week’s Top Chef discussion, friends! Since we were traveling, I just got to catch up on the episodes last night, and now I’m all ready for the finale. Just like always, I’m going to stick my commentary under a jump, so if you aren’t current on this season of Top Chef, go ahead and skip this post (and the comments).
Anyway. Speaking of that meal. Anyone else spend the entire time thinking that if this had been filmed just a few years ago, the chefs would have been serving Sarah Palin? Ha! That’s all that was going through my mind during the entire dinner with the Governor.
I think probably my favorite meal of the past two weeks was one that all the judges seemed to hate—Lizzie’s salmon sourdough sliders. I thought the idea was incredible and looked like something right up my alley! I can’t wait to take the idea and make it my own. Even if Lizzie would have knocked that one out of the park, it was her time to go. She just wasn’t even close to the caliber of Brooke and Sheldon (and even Josh).
For this week’s elimination, I knew in my heart it was going to be Josh. I mean, I think pretty much everyone had Brooke and Sheldon pegged as going to the finale within the first few episodes of the season, but I was so sad to see Josh to go. Especially a day after missing the birth of his daughter. I wonder if he wishes he was sent home the elimination before? I mean, if you’re going to be eliminated anyway, wouldn’t it be better to be eliminated earlier and get to see the birth of your child?
And speaking of the upcoming finale, my pick has always been Brooke, and continues to be Brooke. She is creative, well-trained, sweet, kind, gracious and just a damn good cook. Although, I have to admit, her constant breaking-down-crying-fear of all the cool things she gets to do (go on a cruise! fly over Alaska in a helicopter!) is grinding my gears a little bit. But she does manage to overcome those fears, so that’s definitely a positive quality.
When it comes to her cooking, all of her problems in her dishes have been so minor compared to her competition. It’s almost like the judges are trying to find something wrong with her dishes just so she doesn’t look so obviously like the favorite to win. I just don’t see how she can’t win, unless she just absolutely implodes. Sheldon is creative and talented, but I think he gets into his own head so much and skips the important, but basic steps (like, uh, tasting something before you plate it!).
I’m so excited for the finale! Part one airs next Wednesday, February 20th at 10/9c. And the season finale is Wednesday, February 27 at 10/9c! Make sure to set your DVRs.
Alright, which dish was your favorite from this week? Who do you think will take it all?
This post is sponsored by Bravo. Photos courtesy of Bravo. All views are my own.
1. As excited and grateful I am to be jobless, I am also the kind of terrified that you can’t even really put into words. I don’t do well making leaps. And this leap is a doozy. My emotions are alternating between this and this.
2. I don’t really like Thought Catalog. Yes, I realize this makes me either old or out-of-touch. Or maybe both.
3. I feel guilty whenever I bring reusable grocery bags from one store into a different store. I have these really amazing canvas Trader Joe’s bags that are my favorites, but it feels way wrong to load them up with my Whole Foods or Rainbow Blossom goodies.
4. I busted my blender motor again. This is twice now. I love you, KitchenAid, but your blenders just can’t handle my addiction to frozen fruit smoothies. In related news, who wants to buy me a VitaMix?
5. I like Jon Stewart more than I like Stephen Colbert. There, I said it.
Do you have anything to confess?
Alright guys, who is ready to talk about this week’s Top Chef episode? I know some folks are saving up episodes for later, so I’m going to hide this week’s discussion under a jump to make sure we don’t spoil any of the fun for anyone.
Alright, enough vacation talk. Let’s talk about the food this week. I was actually really unimpressed with all the dishes during the Elimination. Maybe the whole “thinking out of the box” thing just doesn’t translate well to TV watching, but I had no interest in trying any of them, really. I’m a pretty adventurous eater, but scrambled scallops? I don’t know if I could go there.
I know Brooke’s frog legs and mussels dish was the winner, but I never really understood what was going on with it. Was it a dip? Was it a soup? Was it a salad? I actually thought Stefan and Sheldon’s dishes sounded the most appetizing, and they were the losers! It must have just been that I was attaching to what I recognized? Who knows. It was definitely the first time watching Top Chef that I never had an, “OMG I MUST EAT THAT NOW!” moment.
As much as I love Sheldon, and am happy he is continuing on, I was actually pretty surprised they sent him home instead of Stefan. Sheldon’s dish seemed to be the worst of them all (especially considering he chose his ingredients first) and his excuse of “not being inspired” was just absurd. Whereas Stefan’s dish wasn’t great, but I don’t think it was way off the mark either. I guess maybe they were taking into account previous performance, too? Because if so, then Stefan was obviously the one to go.
I’m still waiting for Lizzie to go. It seems like every single one of her dishes has something wrong with it. They are good enough to where she doesn’t get sent home, but never good enough to be exceptional.
Alright, which dish was your favorite from this week? Who do you think will be next to go home? Also, don’t forget to vote to Save a Chef. I’m voting to save Chef Stefan!
This post is sponsored by Bravo. Photos courtesy of Bravo. All views are my own.
Good morning, everyone! Who is ready to talk Terra? I’m super excited! But before we dig into that, I do have a little bit of housekeeping to tackle. When we first decided to do a BTHR book club, lots of folks were interested, but the interest has definitely fizzled as we put the book club into action. So I’d love for you to answer a few questions for me. A) Are you still interested in continuing with the BTHR book club? B) If so, what changes would you like to see? Thanks!
Now, onto the debut novel from the amazingly talented Gretchen Powell. Be warned, spoilers abound!
Before I talk at all about Terra, I have to admit, I’m incredibly biased. Not only am I an insane fan of Gretchen and her blog, but Gretch also tapped me to design Terra’s cover. I jumped at the chance to design the cover because I’d read the first two chapters of Terra and was so impressed with Gretchen’s writing that I knew it was a project I just had to be a part of. I’m so proud to have my work on the cover of this novel. I hope it does the inside justice, because damn, I love the inside. But because I’m personally invested in this book, I’m sure my review is totally, 100% biased.
I’m a huge, huge fan of the YA dystopian genre, which means that I am incredibly picky about books in it. This is such a hugely popular genre right now, and, honestly, there is a lot of crap out there (and I’ve read pretty much all of it), but I think Terra really stands out among the superstars in the genre. If I’m being totally honest, I was nervous to read Terra because Gretchen is such a good friend of mine. What would I do if I didn’t like it? What if the writing was bad? What if I didn’t like the characters? But I didn’t have to worry about any of that because I was honestly blown away with how good it was. The writing was colorful and interesting without being distracting or over-the-top. The characters were interesting and well-developed. And the world Gretchen built was simultaneously totally realistic and totally unbelievable (in a great kind of way).
My favorite thing about Terra is how Gretchen struck an incredible balance with the character of Terra herself. So often, in YA books, heroines are either (a) insanely strong-willed, closed off and emotionally stunted (I’m looking at you, Katniss) or (b) weak, simple-minded and whiny (I’m looking at you, Bella), but honestly, I think the vast majority of women in the real world are both strong and vulnerable, and I think Gretchen did an incredible job painting Terra as that “every” woman. At points, I felt like Terra was saying and doing things that I would do in that situation. But then at times, she was being so strong and powerful that I found myself looking up to her. I think that’s a really tough balance for any author to strike in a character, especially in a first novel.
I think what I love the most about Terra is that it’s obvious that Gretchen absolutely loves this genre, loves writing, loves her characters and loves this story. There is so much care put into each and every word in this book. Every phrase, every sentence, every paragraph was purposeful and helped build the story. I think many self-published authors do themselves a great disservice by not working with talented editors, but it was obvious from Terra that Gretchen had an incredible creative relationship with her editor—and the end result is a beautifully flowing story that had me sucked in from the first page.
Alright, let’s have a discussion!
Since Gretchen is so awesome, she’s agreed to pop in here and answer any questions you guys have for her, so make sure to ask ‘em in the comments. Feel free to write-up your own review, but I have a few questions about Terra that I’d love talk over with you guys:
- At what point did you know something was “up” with Adam and his story? Even if you picked up on it early, did you figure out what his secret was or was that a surprise?
- What did you think the machine Terra found was?
- If you were living in Terra’s world, do you think you’d live in the skycities or the groundworld?
- If you were casting the movie of Terra, who would you cast as Terra and Adam?