Christmas Candids: A few tips!

I just watched a video of people unwrapping puppies and I’ve never been more grateful for family photographers.  We all want to capture the cheer and joy during holidays and gatherings so here are a few tips for photographing this year’s festivities.  First off, it really doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with a phone, point and shoot or a DSLR, these tips will work for you. Second, have fun while photographing, try to capture candid moments and remember to put down your camera for a few hours and really enjoy the moment as it is unfolding.  Happy Holidays!

White Balance

  • Check it!  The camera’s default setting is Auto White Balance, but that may not be the best option for the scene at hand.  Change the white balance to Incandescent or Fluorescent to see which setting works best for your home and lights.  If that sounded like Chinese to you, check out this Photography 101 post.

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Point of Focus

  • Pick one.  There is SO much going on at the holidays that you might see cookies, presents, lights and decorations all in one scene.  Decide what the point of focus is for your photo and zone in on that.  If it’s a little boy unwrapping a present, the photo is about his expression not the christmas tree behind him so frame the boy, not the entire living room.  Think about what you want to stand out about the photo and choose an angle that will highlight the subject not distract from it.

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Shooting on Burst Mode

  • Anytime you’re shooting action like unwrapping presents, a New Year’s toast, someone blowing out candles, shoot on burst mode.  It might also be called continuous mode and depending on your camera and settings it will take anywhere from a couple to a dozen shots each second.  Shooting on burst mode is the perfect way to capture every expression especially in candid situations.

Out-of-focus Christmas Lights

  • Lots of folks are always asking me how to achieve a bokeh effect with Christmas lights – good news, it is super easy! Simply choose a low aperture a.k.a. fstop number and that will effectively blur whatever you are not focusing on, in this case it’s the lights.  An example?  If I’m photographing my nephew in front of our Christmas tree, I want the tree to be visible so I can set the scene, yet he is the main focus of the photograph so I would set my aperture to f2.8 and focus on his sweet little face.  The tree behind him would be out of focus and therefore the lights would attain the bokeh effect. In the photos above, all three photos are of the same scene, but the light circles grow bigger as they become more out of focus. I simply pointed my camera at a Christmas tree and turned my focusing ring just out of focus, a little out of focus and majorly out of focus.

Photographing Outdoor Lights and Decorations

  • There are a few things that are relatively difficult to photograph.  Outdoor Christmas lights are one of them.  You basically have a really bright object (the lights) against a really dark object (the house and sky), which makes a tricky situation to expose properly.    I feel like we have all been here before.  You see an amazingly gorgeous sunset and you think, ‘family photo opp!’ only to be completely disappointed by the results.  You either end up silhouetted against the sun or you use the flash and hate the unnatural outcome.  It’s the same type of deal, dark and light competing for a proper exposure.
  • Head outside during twilight when the sky is nice and blue – right after sunset, but before it gets dark.  You have a small window of time for these shots, only about twenty minutes.  Set up your camera and tripod.  Choose a low ISO number like 400.  Also choose a slow shutter speed somewhere around 1/25 of a second or slower.  Set your aperture according to your light meter and then experiment from there.  I usually set up the shot, ISO and shutter speed and then take a dozen shots adjusting my aperture by one stop (click) each time.  Then I’ll scroll through the shots, decide which I like the best and set the aperture accordingly.  This time I’ll play with the shutter speed a little bit by adjusting it a tiny bit faster or a tiny bit slower.  That way you get a good variety of exposures.

Good luck and let us know if you found any of these tips useful by posting your pics to IG and tagging us 🙂

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Easy Citrus Sweets

Oranges are our ingredient of the season. You can find our complete archive of orange posts here. Around the holidays we love to use them for crafts, drinks, and treats!

Christmas is so close! Today we’re popping in with a couple of orange treats : candied rinds and orange-flavored marshmallows. Both recipes are so easy to make, take relatively little time (so you’ll still have time to make them when you’re up late waiting for Santa), and they make a unique addition to any dessert table and hot cocoa mug!

liveseasoned_w2015_orangetreats12_wm-1024x696 copy First up, the candied rinds. I like to use a combination of orange and grapefruit for this recipe. It’s nice having the two flavors, but I also really like the variation in color that using more than one variety of citrus provides. Candying the rinds requires boiling them in a sweet syrup before rolling them in sugar, and while both steps are meant to create a sweet, candy, the finished rinds can still have a some bitter undertones that may make your lips pucker. This is one of those flavors that keeps some people coming back for more while others (Calder) pass after their first sample.

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I use a technique that I learned years ago from Martha Stewart, and it’s consistently worked well over the years. But I’ve noticed that she offers a number of different methods for candying citrus rinds on her website, and they vary widely in both the ingredient ratios and the cooking times, so if your variation differs from my, by all means, stick with what you know.

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges & 1 grapefruit
  • 4 cups sugar, plus more for coating
  • 4 cups water, plus more for boiling
  • chocolate, optional

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 How-to

  • Prepare the rinds. Cut the ends off the fruit and make 5 to 6 slices through the rind, but not the fruit, from top to bottom. Gently remove the rind pieces with your fingers. You can leave most of the pith attached to the rind, but use your pairing knife to cut off any excess or particularly mangled sections. I use this opportunity to make the pith side of my rind smooth, and if I have a grapefruit with a particularly thick rind, I may slice of a little bit extra. Cut the rinds into 1/4 inch slices. If the grapefruit rinds are particularly long, I will cut them in half.
  • Place the rinds in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat this process one more time.
  • Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the rinds and reduce pot to a simmer. Continue simmering for about an hour. At this point the strips should look translucent. Remove the rinds with a slotted spoon and let them cool on a baking rack.
  • Once cool, roll the strips in  sugar. You can also dip them in melted chocolate for an extra special treat.

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I think these make a great addition to any cookie or chocolate tray, but they would also be a fantastic garnish on a slice of chocolate cake or (minus the chocolate) in your Christmas-morning mimosas!

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Next up, orange-flavored marshmallows! I’m in love with these. The first time I made marshmallows was last February, and making them a second time just confirmed how easy it is to produce these light and fluffy sweets! I used the exact same corn syrup-free recipe, with the exception of using orange extract in place of the vanilla and orange dye in place of the red. Otherwise, I followed the tips and steps to a T, so rather than retype everything, I’ll just redirect you to that post and below I’ll share the fluffy orange-y goodness in photos.

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The real magic happens in this recipe when you start to beat the hot liquid with an electric mixer. Before your eyes the tan liquid turns white and expands as air is incorporated.

Once you’re done whipping the marshmallows, it’s just a matter of deciding what to do with them, and you have a few options. Are you going to add a color? I like playing with marbling. With my last batch, I mentioned that I was too reserved with the marbling, so I tried to go bigger this time. I poured half of the marshmallows into a square baking dish, then added red and yellow dye that I blended together as I marbled it through that layer. I then poured the rest of the marshmallow into the pan and again, mixed it slightly to move the dye up into the second layer. As you can see from the first marshmallow photo, I ended up with some pretty good orange streaks. You can also go with a solid color, or you can try stripes!

In addition to color, you can think about size and shape. I go for the big, fluffy squares, but since it’s the holiday, you may want to use cookie cutters to make shapes. If so, then pour your marshmallows into a larger dish to create a thinner layer that’s easy to cut out.

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Ok, now once your marshmallows have cooled, you just have the hard job of deciding how to eat and gift them. Start by dipping some in a big mug of hot cocoa, or let them a while and melt right into your mug. I did that today, and it creates this really tasty orange marshmallow layer on top of the cocoa, with each sip you get a bit of the melted, gooey orange flavor and it’s amazing. If you’re not going to keep them all to yourself, you could package up a few marshmallows and pair them with a good cocoa as a stocking stuffer. Just make sure to use an airtight bag for packaging, because you don’t want them to dry out before they’re enjoyed. 

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There you have it ~ two ways to add a note of citrus to your holiday! Now we’re off to finish wrapping presents {and we’ll be doing it with that mug of cocoa above, obvs.}…. oh, I may be experimenting with one more way to add some citrus to my homemade chocolates. We’ll be back with the full report if it works!

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German Christmas Markets

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In October, we revisited our adventures in Thailand.  We thought we should give you a glimpse of what we were up to a few Decembers past.  In 2010 Katie and I went to visit Calder, her fiancé (they’re married now), who was living and working in Germany.  Our trip was amazing and I think it had to do with a few key factors: Katie, C and I all get along really well, C is fluent in German (hellllllo helpful!) and we kept the trip spontaneous and largely unplanned.  Mix great buddies with little stress and lots of snow and you have a Christmas adventure that will never be forgotten.  Oh and breakfast!  Almost every hotel offered a complimentary breakfast, which consisted of a big deli platter with lots of yummy meats, cheeses and the best baked bread.  You are also offered eggs, cereal, yogurts and fruit.  We started each day with coffees and cheese, please tell me how we could have possibly had a bad time? I actually had such a blast that I completely forgot to e-mail a final paper to a professor during the trip! Yep, I wrote a ten page research paper and forgot to turn it in that’s how awesome our Christmas trip to Germany was.

Now when I think of Christmas traditions, I actually think of the German Christkindlmarkt.  I feel like visiting the markets is the most historic lens I’ve ever looked through when it comes to the holiday season. The markets are held in the center of villages, towns and cities.  The backdrop and surroundings of each market is historic and stunning in itself.  Every Christkindlmarkt has a variety of gifts and holiday goodies.  The markets are a glimpse of the past; you won’t find tacky Christmas commercialization here.  Over the course of a week, we visited five markets ranging from enormous to quaint. Each market had crib figurines, ornaments, toys, wood carvings, decorations, candles, furs and a variety of other crafts and goods.  The markets also had the most amazing food.  It kicked any American fair food’s behind.  We usually ate some type of bratwurst and sauerkraut on a fresh, crusty roll. We kept warm by sipping glühwein and sampling dozens of treats throughout the day.  Each city’s market had a slightly different vibe and while I loved visiting every one, Esslingen’s medieval market may have been my favorite.  Read on to see why…

Continue reading

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Cinnamon Ornament Surprise!

Hey! We’re popping in this weekend to share another super simple Christmas craft (this is for the folks that have finished their shopping – if you’re rushing around the mall today, don’t even bother to read this post). You’ve probably seen some version of cinnamon ornaments popping up on your Pinterest page? Or even made them as a kid? They are super easy, relatively fast, and a fairly kid-friendly project.

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So, why are we sharing yet another cinnamon ornament post? Because as I was prepping mine for the tree, I realized that they would also make a really cute garland! The key here is to make a batch with shapes that are close in size, then your garland will hang nicely and you won’t have really heavy and big ones weighing it down in different areas.

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Ingredients

You can use your favorite recipe, but I like the ones that have a little bit of kids’ glue in them.

  • 1 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp white glue

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 Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients together, adding more or less applesauce depending upon how dry your mixture is. You want it to form a nice ball that sticks together, but still feels slightly dry.
  • Cover the mixture and let it sit for one hour.
  • Break your ball into three or four sections for rolling. Roll out one section at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. If the dough seems too dry when rolling, you can always spray it with a bit of water.
  • Cut out your shapes and add a hole for hanging. I used a wooden skewer to make my holes, and I think they were *just* barely big enough. Since there will be some shrinkage as the ornaments dry, you want to err on the side of a larger rather than smaller hole.
  • Place your ornaments in a 200F oven for two hours to dry, turning them halfway through. If your dough was on the dryer side or you live in a dry climate, you may want to check on your ornaments after an hour and a half.
  • Once cool, using baker’s twine or another string for hanging.
  • To make the garland, I brought the twine up either side of the ornament and tied a knot at the top, this allowed the ornaments to hang parallel to the string rather than perpendicular.

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I ended up making two pieces of garland. The little three-piece one hangs just inside our door on a wall that was just an empty space, so you see it and the tree as you enter the house, creating a nice little Christmas scene when you enter! The longer one hangs on the empty wall going up our staircase, but because the staircase is open, we still get to see it from the living room, which I love.

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There you have it, a super simple twist on an old Christmas craft, and one that you can use to decorate a small space that could use a touch of cheer! xo

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Weekend Project : Knit a Stocking (or three!)

Ok, maybe three’s a stretch, but we’re all a bit crazy at this time of year. This is the first year we’re celebrating Christmas morning as our own little family of three, and we didn’t have stockings. Knowing that, my original plan was to do something fun and easy. Maybe buy a couple pair of festive knee high socks or some cozy looking wool men’s socks and use those for this year. But a month or so ago I ran across some bulky yarn, decided it was perfect for stockings and worth just testing the waters.

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It’s easy to fall down the knitting hole, but with so many other balls in the air, I didn’t want this project to consume me. So I picked up two skeins of yarn (one red and one white) and wanted to see how long it would take to knit a single stocking and how far the two skeins would go. When I knit that first stocking in a weekend using only those two skeins, it was a no-brainer to knit the other two!

If you have ever knit a sock before, this is a project that you can easily finish in a weekend. If you’ve never knit a sock before, then this project may take you a little bit longer, but knitting big is such a great way to learn some new soc-knitting skills, and I include links to some of my favorite resources in this post. Plus, a common problem for a first time sock knitter is finishing that second sock and/or getting it to match the first; you won’t have that problem here!

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Whenever I hear “knit stocking” the one thing I worry about is how dense the stitches are. If you have a loosely knit stocking, then as soon as it’s filled with treats, the stocking will stretch and you’ll get that holey look between the stitches. I wanted to avoid that, and one of the easiest ways to do it is to knit with a bulky yarn on needles that are a few sizes smaller than what you would normally use. That’s exactly what I did here, and it produced a nice dense fabric that doesn’t stretch out of shape too much when filled.

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Resources

  • Cast on. Turkish Cast On
  • Increasing. M1L and M1R
  • Short Row Heel : basic instructions or a video with a method for eliminating the little holes that are common at the start and finish of the heel. This heel is really easy to make, and the holes are so (soooo) minor, so I don’t want that to deter you. I have my own way of dealing with them by picking up extra stitches and then decreasing them later, but since you’re knitting a simple stocking that won’t be worn, you could easily just use some extra yarn to stitch the hole closed – if you even get them!
  • I cord bind off. You will have to use the cable cast on before starting the I cord bind off.

Materials

  • Yarn : Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in fleece (white) and claret (red)
  • Needles : US 10, you will need either one long circular for the magic loop method or a set of double pointed

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Instructions

You will be knitting these stockings from the toe up to the cuff. I’m going to give you a set of generic instructions that can be used to knit any stocking of this size, and then I’ll give you the details for the specific patterns you see in the photographs. I’ll assume that your stitches are split evenly between two needles (i.e. that you’re using the magic loop method).

  • Cast-on. use the Turkish method to cast-on 20 stitches (ten on each needle). Fortunately, these instructions show you how to do the Turkish cast-on with exactly that number of stitches, so you can follow it step by step.
  • Begin Knitting. When I start a sock, I like to knit one and a half rounds before starting my increase rows (I always think that knitting across the first needle creates a single row for the tip of the toe, and then knitting a complete round creates my first official round – I may be crazy).
  • Start the increase rows (this comprises the toe area of the sock). Round 1 (increase round) : k1, M1L, knit to the last stitch on the first half of the stocking, M1R, k1. Repeat over the stitches on the other half of the stocking. Four stitches added. Round 2 : knit all stitches.
  • Continue repeating rounds 1 and 2 until you have 44 stitches on your needle.
  • Knit the foot. Knit straight for 27 rows.
  • Knit the heel. Use the short row method to knit the heel. You will work the heel over the 22 stitches that are on one half of your sock. When making the stockings, I wrapped 7 stitches on each side of the heel, leaving 8 unwrapped in the middle.
  • Knit the leg. Once your heel is finished, knit the leg of the stocking for 53 rows.
  • Bind off using the i cord method. This is a great technique for binding off the stockings because it creates a strong final row that will not stretch out over time (unlike a ribbed cuff) and as you’ll see, it also seamlessly morphs into a loop for hanging your stocking. The only problem is that you may not be able to really stretch the cuff if you want to sneak an over-sized present in the stocking! The other problem that arises is that the loop for hanging your stocking will be placed where ever you start the i cord bind off. Thus far we have been knitting the stocking in the round starting from one side of the sock; you don’t want your loop on the side, but on the back of the stocking. Before beginning the i cord bind off, knit 11 stitches so that you are now positioned at the center back of the stocking. You will work the i cord bind off over three stitches, just like these instructions (lucky you!).  Once you come to the end of the cuff, don’t cast off the three i cord stitches, rather continue knitting an i cord for 21 more rows.
  • Finish your stocking. Sew the live stitches of your i cord to the start of the i cord row ~ creating a seamless-looking i cord band with a loop in the back. Weave in all loose ends. Hang your stocking and cross your fingers that it doesn’t get filled with coal!

Santa’s Sock Stocking Detail

  • Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the white yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
  • Knit the 27 rows of the foot in red.
  • Switch to the white yarn and knit the heel.
  • Knit 40 rows of the leg in red.
  • Switch to the white yarn and knit 11 rows in seed stitch.
  • Knit one complete round plus 11 stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking. Finish with the i cord bind off.

Striped Stocking Detail

  • Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the red yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
  • Begin the stripes. Switch to the white yarn, but don’t cut the end of the red yarn (you can carry both colors up the length of the stocking, drastically reducing the number of loose ends that you’ll have to weave in). Knit five rows in white. Knit five rows in red. Repeat this pattern for 25 rows (ending with five white rows and just before starting a red row). Knit two rows in red.
  • The heel area. I like to work the heel in the middle of a stripe so that there aren’t any funny color switches immediately before or after the heel. Continuing to use the red yarn, knit the heel. Once the heel is complete, knit three more rows with the red yarn. When looking from the front/top of the stocking you should see the five red rows of the stripe pattern.
  • Knit the leg. You are now at the start of a white stripe. Continue working the five row stripe pattern for 50 more rows.
  • You are now at the top of the stocking. Knit 11 more stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking and continue using the red yarn for the i cord bind off.

Snowflake Stocking Detail

  • Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the white yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
  • Knit the 27 rows of the foot in red.
  • Switch to the white yarn and knit the heel.
  • Knit the 52 rows of the leg in red (not the 53 listed above!).
  • Switch to the white yarn. Knit one round plus 11 stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking. Work the i cord bind off.
  • Finish the stocking by embroidering a snowflake design into the side of your stocking. I make a very simple design using a backstitch. I decided to embroider the snowflake because I wanted it to have six points (like in nature), but it’s hard to find and/or to design a knit snowflake pattern with points rather than eight. As for other embroidered embellishments, the skies the limit! I added a line of running stitch around the toe and heel areas. You could add number of snowflakes, varying their size and shape.

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If you knit a stocking, we would love to see it! Leave us a comment below or tag us on instagram @liveseasoned. Happy knitting or happy rushing around buying those last minute presents ~ either way, we hope you have a great weekend!


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Citrus Champagne Spritzers

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Cheers to citrus season!  Growing up, my mom would order a half dozen boxes of oranges from the marching band fundraiser, which meant orangeade all winter long.  I miss those big boxes and that orangeade so today I made something a little reminiscent of my childhood + alcohol 🙂  This citrus champagne spritzer has fresh squeeze oranges and lemons, but don’t fool yourself, it is still winter.

This bubbly and fresh drink turned my cheeks pink! It was the perfect pal for present wrapping today.  Do I sound like the loneliest person on the planet?! Wrapping presents with a drink that I’m calling pal? Don’t answer that. But hey, if your holidays are hectic and you need a mocktail, try this recipe sans champagne and cointreau.  Replace the alcohol with sparkling lemonade or use the sparkling orange and lemon soda as the base, but whatever you do, ENJOY IT!

Citrus Champagne Spritzer Ingredients:

  • Prosecco (1 bottle makes six+) refrigerated
  • Cointreau refrigerated
  • 3 TBSP orange juice
  • lemon or orange sparkling beverage refrigerated
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 12 sprigs of thyme rinsed and dried

Some notes:

  • I use a one ounce shot glass to measure the ingredients, but if you don’t, one ounce equals two tablespoons.
  • You can leave out the cointreau if you want.  The flavor is wildly different, but just as amazing.
  • You could use Korbel Brut or a riesling instead of Prosecco.
  • This is a perfect big batch cocktail because there is no ice!*

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 The how:

  • In a sauce pot, stir together a half cup of sugar and a cup of water.  Turn onto medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat, add four or five sprigs of clean thyme and place a lid or plate on top of the pot. Let steep for ten minutes. After ten minutes passes, remove the thyme sprigs and strain simple syrup if necessary (all my thyme leaves were intact so I didn’t have to strain).
  • In a tumbler, mix 1 ounce thyme simple syrup, 2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and half ounce cointreau. Stir well.  Add prosecco (I didn’t measure, just pour accordingly)
  • Top with a splash of sparkling lemon or sparkling orange soda.
  • Garnish with a thyme sprig or two and serve.
  • *If you are making these citrus champagne spritzers for a crowd, stir up a big batch all at once.  In a large pitcher combine 3/4 + 2 tablespoons simple syrup, 1 + 3/4 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup lemon juice and a 1/3 cup cointreau. Stir well, add the champagne and top with one can of sparkling orange or lemon.

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These sparkling citrus champagne spritzers are perfect for a holiday party *ahem champagne toast ahem* or in my case a preholiday wrapping party.  Mix up a whole batch or put on Mixed Nuts and drink one by yourself 😉

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Felt Ornaments

Hey! I looked at our calendar and realized that we have entered a week of Christmas crafting making on the blog! This isn’t necessarily gift crafting, just more little projects to decorate the tree, your walls, to send off in the mail (technically, I guess that’s giving), and maybe we’ll even have something to eat or drink by the time the week’s complete.

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Today I’m talking about the felt ornaments and wreath that were pictured in this post. Both of these ideas came from my Christmas board on Pinterest, but unfortunately the links associated with the pins won’t take you to the original source for attribution. You’ll see that I’ve pinned many different felt ornaments, and I’m thinking that over the next few years I may make quite a few as we become a house with two little boys! Felt ornaments are just so kid-friendly, with a big loop, they are easy for little hands to hang and pull off the tree, and there’s so little investment in terms of both time (the the case of the ones I’ve made) and money, that I don’t mind if little A throws them around a bit while playing. Plus, they look really cute.

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For today’s ornaments, I was first inspired by this photo. In addition to the stars, I added a few hearts with white stitching to our collection, inspired by these red felt ornaments. I personalized the stars by using a red blanket stitch around the edges, and I drastically simplified my hearts from the inspiration photo, eliminating the stuffing and choosing simple stitches that would follow the hearts’ edges.

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Supplies & Tools

  • Felt
  • embroidery floss
  • thin jute
  • sewing needle
  • scissors
  • shape template

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Instructions

  • Find or draw your template. For my templates, I did a Google image search for  “heart clipart” and “star clipart”. I was able to find images that included hearts and stars of different sizes, so I printed them out and cut out the size that I liked for each.
  • Trace your template on the felt and cut out two of the same shape. As you can see from my template, I traced around it with a marker. Having those marker images on your felt isn’t a problem, because you can have the marked sides face inwards.
  • Sew your pieces together. Use three stands of embroidery floss for the embroidery. Holding the two felt pieces together (marked sides in), use your favorite stitch to hand sew the pieces together. I used blanket stitch for all of the stars, but was more creative with the hears, using blanket stitch,  back stitch, and a simple combination of long and short running stitches to create the third.
  • Add your loop for hanging. I used skinny jute for the hanging loops. You can find this in craft stores, and it’s usually sold in a smaller quantity than the bigger balls of fat jute (you can see the packaging in my supplies photo). The jute will not pull through your felt as easily as the embroidery floss. I found that it was easiest to thread the jute through the eye of my needle, pierce the felt with my needle, and then move the needle in circles to create a larger hole (but one that is still snug) for the jute to fit through.

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While we were so excited to put the tree up, after the lights were hung it looked so pretty that we’ve been really lazy about adding more decorations. But a few nights ago we were looking for one more activity for little A before bath time, so I pulled out these ornaments and a few others for him to add to the tree. The pictures aren’t great, but I think you can tell that he was excited to get in on the tree action (clapping after each ornament was hung), and now it’s become a daily activity to remove and rehang a few.

In addition to making their way onto the tree, I used one of the stars in our new wreath. Again, I’m borrowing and modifying this idea from something brilliant I saw online. 
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Supplies

  • grapevine wreath
  • white bottle brush trees
  • moss roll (you can see the packaging below)
  • hot glue gun & glue

How cute is that wreath? It came together easily with a few supplies from the craft store. The project is relatively self-explanatory : wrap the moss around your wreath, slipping it under a few of the larger vines if possible (this just takes a bit of wiggling). Glue the trees where you would like them. Tie a star ornament from the top of your wreath. Bam!

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Once I hung this and the green garland above the door, I realized that we have a lot of brown and green going on out on the front porch. Maybe this year it would have been nice to go with something brighter? But I’m loving the peaceful look every time we walk in the door.

liveseasoned_w2015_wreath1_wm So, that’s my little felt project for the season. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with felt (or even had a little supply of it in my craft room), and I’m excited work with it more in the future. I really enjoyed making these ornaments because they were so easy and mindless to put together, creating a polished result. What does that mean for you? If you want to slow this weekend, but still feel a little bit productive, this is a great meditative project

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Embroidered Christmas Cards

liveseasoned_winter14_stitchedxmascards-3-2I like to call them stitchmas cards.  I wanted to make cards this year, but I don’t have a printer so I had to think of an easy way to add a design.  I drew a few doodles, messed around with some graph paper and I came up with these simple card ideas.  Depending on how detailed you want to get, this is a great kids craft as well.  Add a few cute and easy stitches to your handmade Christmas cards this year.  I dare ya.

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Supplies:

  • Piece of cardboard or foam to work on
  • Card stock (I used scrapbooking paper and these in neutral)
  • Blank cards or folded card stock
  • Paper cutter (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Needle
  • Thumbtack
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Glue

The How:

  • Doodle a design on a piece of notebook paper.  It’s up to you how complex you want to make your cards.
  • Tape the design onto the card stock and the piece of cardboard you are working on. Use the thumbtack to poke holes at every angle in your design.  If you’re using graph paper, poke holes in each corner of the squares.
  • Carefully remove the tape and doodle.  At this point, I poked secondary holes onto my tree design adjacent to the original holes. I did this so I would not have to backstitch the entire design; instead it is similar to a running stitch.  The design and hole placement is really up to you.  There’s no strict rules for stitching cards, just a general practice.
  • Once you are finished stitching with a particular color, use a small piece of tape to secure the thread.  If you’re using paper with an adhesive backing leave the thread loose until the entire design is stitched.  Carefully remove the backing, pull the threads tight and stick them down.  Adhere the sticky sheet to the front of your card and place it under a stack of books.  If using regular card stock, use rubber cement to glue the design to the front of your card and place under a stack of books.

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Have you already mailed out your holiday cheer this year? I like to wait until the last moment so that my friends and family open their card closer to Christmas and New Years. That or I procrastinate until the week before where you’ll find me hustling to make them all in time 😉liveseasoned_winter14_stitchedxmascards-8

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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share your a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

Katie Here:

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I had a fun time and learned a lot at an herbal-infused chocolate class that was put on by our local apothecary. As well as coming home with some amazing chocolates and a head full of ideas for Christmas, I learned how to make rose hip jam! It was something completely new to me, so it was fun to both learn about it and sample it in some of the chocolates. Now I’m making my own in hopes of recreating that deliciousness ~ more details to come. A chocolate making post is definitely in the works!

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I was also busy this week finishing up the photo book that I give to Calder every Christmas. The book is fill with photos taken over the course of the year. They always start with the previous year’s Christmas and end with the current year’s Thanksgiving – that way we don’t miss any holidays and there’s some consistency. This is a little tradition that both of us really look forward to. While it’s hard to fit the time in to make one, it’s so much fun looking back over the year in photos, and Calder loves opening it on Christmas morning and taking a moment to slow down and flip through the pages. At close to 300 pages and over 400 photos, this is our longest one yet, but with a kiddo as cute as A. Max, it was hard to keep my photo number down! We’ve also found that with all photos being digital, this is a great way for us to print out a selection and having them on the bookshelf. Do you have any fun photo-related traditions that get them off your computer and into your house?

Sarah Here:

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I had a pretty relaxing week at home.  Christmas came early when my UPS man delivered a brand new vacuum cleaner to my door on Monday.  Receiving an enormous unexpected package was really exciting! I love mail and I send care packages a lottttt, but it’s rare that I receive one myself.  The new vacuum gave me an intention for my week: clean. everything.  I finished up my cleaning spree by carrying my weight in cardboard and recyclables to the center tonight. I also took a trip to the laundromat where I had eleven washers running simultaneously. I was in and out of there in an hour and a half. It was pretttttty sweet. Yes, I just wrote a whole paragraph about the joys of cleaning one’s home.  I love this vacuum cleaner more than I thought was Sarahly possible.

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In between elving Christmas projects, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week.  I shared the almost vegan jam muffins yesterday.  I made sloppy joes for the first time in at least a decade and I realized, they are not that good. Just a pile of saucy crumbly meat.  I also channeled my brother Jeff and made a pizza casserole that was delicious and devoured within 24 hours.   I also made some pasta e fagioli soup and lots of cookies! I’ll be sharing some of those recipes with you at some point soon. Right now I’m snacking on a big bowl of couscous that I seasoned with cumin, tarragon, ground cloves, salt and butter.  Happy weekend! If you don’t have breakfast plans for the next couple days, whip up those jam muffins!

 

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Almost Vegan Jam Muffins

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A couple months ago, I was invited to a JAMboree hosted by a dear friend.  She described it as, “a sweet swap and contest of sorts.” She had us all cook up a favorite jelly, jam chutney or conserve and bring eleven quarter-pint or half-pint jars of our entry to her home.  She served wine as everyone had a taste of all the entries.  After all the wine sipping and socializing all the guests voted on their favorite and a winner was chosen.

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I’m not here to tell you I won. Before this, I had never canned solo.  I’ve done it plenty of times in my mom’s or Katie’s kitchen, but never in my own little apartment.  I was a little bit intimidate and overwhelmed by the possibilities.  I went to the farmer’s market to purchase supplies and I came home with 12 pounds of onions.  I was in a burger with blue cheese and onions phase.  I decided to can caramelized onions, which I now realize was the most unexciting offer, but at the time I was really excited about to make a big batch of them.  I cried. A lot. It was glorious.  Anyway, I mailed in my entry because I couldn’t attend in person (you’ll see me at the 2nd annual JAMboree!) and a month later my mom gave me eleven jars of delicious and interesting jams to try.  I had totally forgotten that I would be receiving jars of jam in exchange for my caramelized onion slop.  I’m over my blue cheese burger phase and well into my what do I do with all this jam phase.

I intended on creating a vegan jam muffin recipe, but in my morning daze I added honey to the muffins.  Technically honey isn’t vegan, which is why I hereby name this batter creation the almost vegan jam muffins!  You could swap out the honey for maple syrup or another preferred sweetener, but I love them just the way they are.  For the milk, I simply used almond milk; you can use whatever you prefer.  Instead of adding an egg, I created a flax meal egg substitute, the easiest and most reliable in my experience.

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 Ingredients:

  • 1 + 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or whatever milk you prefer)
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1/4 vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup jam (I used a friend’s strawberry balsamic)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP ground flax meal
  • 3 TBSP water

 The How:

  • In a small cup stir 1 tablespoon of ground flax into 3 tablespoons of water and set aside.  This will transform into your egg substitute.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a standard-sized muffin tin.
  • Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl whisk together the milk, honey, vegetable oil and vanilla extract.
  • By now the flax and water mixture should have a gelatinous texture resembling that of an egg. Incorporate the flax egg into the wet ingredients.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the flours and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Pour the jelly into the batter and stir just a few times.  You want the jelly to appear in large swirls throughout the batter.  Add some more jelly if you want sweeter muffins.
  • Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 of the way.  Batter should make 12-15 muffins.
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick into the center of the largest muffin.  If it comes out clean they are done.  Remove the jam muffins from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Enjoy with tea, coffee or juice 🙂  These almost vegan jam muffins are hearty enough for breakfast, but delicious enough for dessert too!  The strawberry balsamic jam was SO tasty.  I was tempted to add nuts or oats to the muffins, but I really wanted the jam to shine in this recipe and it really does.  These whole wheat muffins have the perfect about of moisture and sweetness for a breakfast snack.  Now that they’re all gone, I’m left wishing I had more strawberry balsamic jam!

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