Winter Break Snapshots

What a winter break we’ve had! We have one more day left tomorrow, and we’re going to do what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks – spend it outside. It seems like we’ve really hit our stride this year when it comes to embracing the winter. Of course, it’s all about good clothes, a good spirit, and just doing it, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Today, I’m sharing just a glimpse of what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

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We started our break in Steamboat Springs, CO (one of our favorite ski towns in the state!). We arrived at the start of a snowstorm that lasted well into the next day and maybe the day after? I can’t remember. But we still had a great time skiing and snowshoeing all over the mountain.

On our third, and final, day in town, we visited Strawberry Park Hot Springs before driving home. We had been here once last winter, and it was just as magical as I remembered.

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We arrived home the same day that Sarah and our family flew into town, and then every pitched in and helped us prepare to host a big party for C’s office. There was definitely a moment of “what are we doing?!” the night before, but in the end, the party was awesome, the food delicious, the company amazing, and the music pumping.
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The party was followed by a day of rest and then it was off to the mountains to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad with Santa! We did this last year and I was really excited to do it again. When you arrive at the station, there’s hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts to munch on. Then you board the train and start riding with the excitement of knowing that Santa’s going to come and sit with you to say hi. It’s such a nice way to visit Santa, because there are no lines – you just wait in your seat on the train until Santa gets to you, meanwhile, the train’s moving through the beautiful Colorado mountains.
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Back in Boulder, we did more hiking. christmas_break2016_12

And snowball throwing. christmas_break2016_13 christmas_break2016_14

And then it was off to the mountains again for more skiing and snowshoeing!
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Home for more hiking…christmas_break2016_24 christmas_break2016_25

And here we are, relaxing, making our list of resolutions, and preparing for one more day on the slopes before we’re back to a regularly scheduled week.

I hope your break was full of warmth, family, food, and all of that holiday magic. xo

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Last Minute Gift for Pre-schoolers

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It’s Christmas week!!! We’ve been having so much fun with Alex this year since he really understands that Christmas is something special, but he’s still asking a lot of questions and trying to make sense of what’s going on around him. “When can we open the presents?” “We get to put the tree in our house?!” “It’s Christmas season, but not Christmas day, right?”

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

Somehow it’s turned into a busy week around here, but some people have more on their to-do lists than others. I mean, Calder’s laughing at us because he hasn’t even started his Christmas shopping yet! How does he do it?

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Boulder got hit with a big snowstorm today and I was totally unprepared. I should have bought that molasses yesterday so we could be making ginger cookies today. Or ran to the craft store so I could put together some other little gifts. Instead, we’re just playing with play dough and eating leftover tortellini. #lifeishard

So, while the boys nap I’m working on a plan for the next few days.

  • We’ll make those ginger cookies.
  • I want to make some of this English toffee (scroll down).
  • I’m waiting for our Christmas cards to come and hoping to pop those in the mail.
  • We don’t include a letter with our cards, but Plum Organic’s holiday letter template has me cracking up. Ours is above. You just answer a few quick questions and the letter is made for you.
  • I just burned some Palo Santo because it makes the fire in our gas fireplace seem a bit more real and rustic.
  • I’m almost done with Luc’s stocking and then I want to start new winter hats for Alex and Luc. While working on this year’s design, I came across Tricksy and think it could be really helpful for future colorwork projects.
  • I’m now in the last-minute personalized gift stage of my shopping, so I’m spending quite a bit of time here and here. How about you?
  • Yesterday I reserved tickets for our first Christmas ride on the Georgetown Loop RR. Santa’s going to be there! I asked Alex what he’ll say when he sees Santa. “I’ll say ‘ho ho ho’ back to him.” Fair enough…. and yesterday he was going around saying “Merry Christmas Everyone!” to everyone. <3

And that’s our snow day, a whole lot of scheming going on over here.

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DIY Christmas Crafts

Today we’re rounding up past Christmas crafts. While Sarah was busy ordering gifts yesterday, I was finishing up the decorating. I love to get everything up as soon as possible so that there’s plenty of time to enjoy it (plus, I need the decorating out of the way so that I have every extra moment left to think about gift shopping!). If you’re taking your time and in need of decorations, we put together a list of past DIY projects that we made, love, and were excited to put out again this year.

This list provides a range of projects from those that can be finished in 30 minutes to others that may take a few hours, and the skill-level required varies from the simple to the more complex. In addition to decorating your house, some of these projects like the felt and cinnamon ornaments make great gift tags. What we have here is a little bit of something for everyone.

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DIY Christmas Presents : Eats & Treats

Merry Monday everyone! Christmas is coming quicker than I can handle, so while I shop online today, I’m also going to whip up a few homemade Christmas gifts that everyone on my list will enjoy.  I love giving and receiving edible gifts. Knowing the treats were made with love and care in someone’s kitchen makes them extra enjoyable.  If you still don’t have a present for me, here are a few suggestions 😉 liveseasoned_spring2015_hazelnutliqueur3-1024x889 liveseasoned_spring2015_hazelnutliqueur6

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Holiday Drinks

Happy Thanksgiving stateside friends!  No matter where you’re reading from, these delicious wintery drinks will be cause for celebration.  Gather your friends and family (or your cat) and start mixin’.

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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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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…

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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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