Instant Gift: Leftovers Labels

We have all done it – stuck something in the back of the fridge or freezer without a label and then… time goes by. What is this stuff? Is it still edible? How long has it been here? Is this cooked or raw? And after all of those doubts crowd in we throw out the food, because why risk food poisoning?

Or we label things poorly – a piece of scotch tape half-sticking on, written in fading ink. We still have no idea what the thing is. We still pitch it out. There must be an easier way! Oh wait, there is – with simple leftover labels you can write the name of the food and the date right on the containers!

And with a little thought, you can even turn these handy little labels into a practical, appreciated Christmas gift that I think most people would love and actually even use. First off, print of a sheet (or twelve) of the leftover labels –

leftovers

Then make them gift-worthy! Here are a few suggestions –

  • Package them up with some cute magnets (either DIY some or buy them from a crafter) so the recipient can stick their labels right on the fridge.
  • Bake something tasty and use a label to identify what it is. Include a couple of sheets of blank labels for the giftee.
  • Put together a lunch kit – a reusable lunch bag, some reusable snack bags, and an insulated container/mug (all of which you can either make or buy) and of course – a couple sheets of labels.
  • For someone setting up house for the first time (college kids, first apartment, etc.) put together a kitchen basics gift basket – some wooden spoons, towels, mixing bowl or two, some food containers with lids, and a set of the labels.
  • Make an organizer kit – this is perfect for people that love to organize. Include a calendar, some chalkboard labels, chalk pen, an assortment of tags, colorful twine, and some leftover labels.

Don’t be afraid to give practical gifts to those on your list this year. Put some thought into what people need and they will certainly appreciate getting something they will actually use – just make the presentation fun and well-considered, and you can’t go wrong. Happy giving!

When Life Gives You Tangerines, Make Pomanders

Too tired to blog? Basically, yeah. It’s the hell time at the work place. And it’s hard to believe that Christmas is in just four days. But we have been doing things recently, even Christmas-y, seasonally appropriate things in real life. We got the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving per usual, and decorated the house.

Money for a whole house worth of outdoor lighting wasn’t in the budget this year, so we’re winging it. I’m hoping to pick up some outdoor light sets and pieces at the post-Christmas sales this year, naturally. It was important to me to do some kind of outdoor-visible lighting this year though so I’m making magic with battery-operated candles. Low-key Scandinavian feel, let’s call it. I’ve got Dollar Tree faux tapers in all of the windows (which I totally forgot to photograph).

And my pride and joy items are these lovely little lanterns. I’ve got four in total; two on each street-facing porch. I actually scored these lanterns in the post-Halloween clearance for 50% off a Target. One of my favorite holiday clearance scores yet, since they’re plain black and can be used year-round. The only thing seasonal about them was the black and orange price tag! I got them for just $9.00 each. $72 worth of lanterns for just $36? Seriously, a major score. The second I saw them in the store I knew just how I wanted to trick them out for Christmas – with red jingle bells and ribbons!

lantern

Naturally, the ribbon and bells were deals as well – the ribbon I had in my stash, picked up in the post-Valentine’s Day clearance. If I recall correctly, I got it at Hobby Lobby for 70% off for just $1.20 for a whole spool. And the jingle bells I got for $3.50 a tube at 50% off at Hobby Lobby. I grabbed a tube for each lantern, so thinking in full price terms, I got two for free! So all in the lanterns ran me about $13 for the Christmas display, but I almost don’t even want to count the price of the lantern since I can literally use them all year.

We also picked up some greenery when we got the tree, so I made two door wreaths. The wreath hanger was another post-Halloween 50% off find – a heavy-duty black hanger for just $1.50, and all because it had that little black and orange tag. Love it. Post-Halloween clearance nets my best all-purpose scores of the year. I wanted to add something to the wreaths like battery-operated white lights. I thought I had some in my decorating supplies but apparently I don’t, and I didn’t find any at a good price. I did find  some more of red glittered “berries” on clearance at Hobby Lobby for $0.80 per stem last week, so I picked up a dozen and added some to the wreaths, as well as some indoor cedar arrangements I made up.

wreath

I also made a planter box with some of the greenery. The glittered “berries” I had from last year (a 50% Michaels deal – $1 each!) and the battery-operated candles I picked up at Target in last year’s post-Christmas clearance, for 70% definitely, though I might have scored those at 90%. Can’t remember the percentage exactly, or the price I paid, though I know it was super low because my price point thresh hold for stuff like overpriced battery-operated candles is rock bottom.

planter

And here’s a picture of the complete side porch. I think it turned out pretty nice overall –

porch

Lest you think we spent the entire weekend outdoors freezing in the cold, we did have some indoor pursuits as well. Little Man and I baked some cute little gingerbread houses using the Nordicware pan I picked up on – you guessed it – Target post-Christmas clearance last year. Believe I paid around $6 for that little gem, at 70% off. Little Man really got a kick out of the powdered sugar “snow”. They’re almost too cute to eat!

gingerbread

And last but not least, what do you do with an entire box of tangerines that a shall-remain-nameless toddler begs you to buy, eats three, and then rejects the rest? Friends, if life gives you tangerines, you make pomanders.

pomanders

Let that be a lesson to all of you. You can make the best out of a lot of things if you have too. And that is Christmas at Apartment (House!?) Farm so far this year.

A Post-Thanksgiving Note

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving day yesterday, with plenty of good food and things to be grateful for. We had a bit of a mixed bag – Little Man is still under the weather, and we’re all past the point of exhaustion, between moving house, work stress, etc. But we did have a nice day overall, and we have a lot to be thankful for this year.

This evening, I am embracing the holiday spirit. I have the Christmas channel playing on Pandora. I’m sitting in my own home, which is cozy and warm. There are a few inches of snow on the ground. I’ve got a gingerbread loaf baking in the oven – I’m trying a new recipe from Katie at the Kitchen Door that looks really promising. We’ll have that for breakfast tomorrow before we go over to Oney’s Tree Farm to pick out our Christmas tree. I’ve got most of the Christmas decorations up from the basement – we’re not 100% unpacked, and there’s still the living room wallpaper situation to deal with, but we are decorating! I couldn’t go through a holiday season without celebrating it; it just wouldn’t feel right to me.

But most of all I feel content, which I think can sometimes be a fleeting  state of affairs. So I think my holiday season is not only off to a good start, but the right start – and I hope yours is too.

Merry Christmas – With Cocoa!

I’m sitting on the sofa next to our lovely lighted Christmas tree, all aglow with multi-colored orbs that illuminate the shiny, sparkly, glittery blown glass ornaments that adorn it. My son is sleeping next to me, my husband watching the Dr. Who Christmas special behind me while sitting at his desk. I have candles lit in all of our milk glass and Christmas candle holders; the entire house is awash in soft light. And sitting on the coffee table before me is a steaming mug of hot cocoa.

As many of you know, it is our Christmas day tradition to celebrate at home together – no traveling, no guests – just a special day for us. It was extra special today since it our son’s first Christmas. We woke at a leisurely hour and breakfasted on scrambled eggs and bacon, because that’s what we had a taste for. We lounged around a bit and then dove into our gifts. We celebrate modestly at our house, with just a few well-thought-out gifts for each other. My husband got me a game I’d had my eye on, which will be great fun to play after dinner, as well as a cast iron cornbread pan – which I had to try out right away at lunch. I baked up a pan of cornbread to go with 15 bean soup and it was great. It’s a round pan divided into wedges, so every piece is an end piece! And that’s the best piece of cornbread if you ask me. I gave him some acrylic risers to display his award-winning miniatures pieces as well as a pair of glasses etched with Viking helmets and a bottle of his favorite adult beverage. And for our son – fabric fruit and veggie baskets, a book, an embroidered name plaque that I made and a quilt that I sewed him. In his stocking he received felt booties that I sewed as well as four miniature Sesame Street board books. So a nice, simple gift exchange.

This afternoon we relaxed – played with the baby and his new fabric food set on the floor, read the Saveur that was in my stocking and worked on a little sewing. Husband worked on some of his miniatures. The baby got to nap a lot. I’ve mixed up the dough for Russian teacakes and it’s chilling in the fridge, and I’ve got bread dough for pain d’epi on it’s third rise in the kitchen. In a bit here when I get up, I’m going to make a double batch of snickerdoodles and do a bit more sewing. Maybe have a bath later.

Dinner tonight will be our traditional meal – Norwegian meatballs, mashed potatoes, dill gravy, bread stuffing and ligonberries. And I’ll mix up a little warm glogg to go with it as well. Cookies for dessert, of course. One of the best things about Christmas day has got to be dinner. We’ve been having this one for years (sometimes we add a ham or turkey breast alongside) and it really hits the spot.

Oh, and about that cocoa. You didn’t think I’d mention hot cocoa and leave you all hanging did you? When I want hot cocoa, I do not want some fancy triple chocolate concoction hiding under a pouf of whipped cream. I don’t want peppermint. I don’t want home made marshmallows. I want the Swiss Miss that I grew up with. But I don’t want the preservatives and dairy by-products that pre-packaged drink mixes are laced with. And besides, it’s just as easy to make your own. If you just want one decadent cup, or you want to make a batch for a small crowd, here’s what you’ll need –

Single Mug

2 tablespoons cocoa

4 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

big pinch of salt

2 cups soymilk (or milk, if you can have that)

For a Crowd (serves 6)

3/4 cup cocoa

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 cups soymilk (or milk)

For either quantity, you’ll want to put your cocoa, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan over medium low heat. Slowly whisk in your soymilk until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved and it’s heated through, but don’t let it come to a boil. If you still have little lumps of cocoa, just pour it through a fine-mesh strainer. It happens, and it can be hard to whisk them all out. You could also make it with water instead of soymilk if you’re inclined – it’ll still taste great, though not quite as rich.

I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas and got to spend some good quality time with your loved ones. And fortunately, the holiday isn’t over yet! I encourage you to whip up a batch of tasty hot cocoa this evening and let the good times linger. And hopefully you all get one more free day like I do tomorrow – hot cocoa also makes a nice breakfast beverage treat.

Countdown to Christmas

Well, here we are – one week until Christmas. I haven’t posted anything about it because I’ve been so busy getting ready. It’s been a veritable Santa’s workshop at Apartment Farm this year. I made a quilt, embroidered name plaque and baby booties for the baby this year. And I’ve got four sewing projects and a little something for husband to finish up this weekend too. And of course, we still have wrap everything. Busy, busy!

I’ve also been baking cookies (of course). Recently I’ve done chocolate chip and soft gingerbread drop cookies. Tomorrow I’m going to do a double batch of snickerdoodles, dipped in red and green sprinkles, as well as some Russian teacakes since those are husband’s favorite. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get to the spritz this year since I have no idea where the press is. I think it’s in a plastic bin at the bottom and back of the canning cupboard, where it will have to stay. I just don’t have the energy or the will to unpack everything in there to dig it out. Next year though.

And despite some drama, we were able to purchase our annual Christmas ornament – a nativity scene of Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus. We thought it was especially fitting this year since we brought home our own wee babe just three months ago. And we didn’t have a nativity ornament yet, so double-win. The baby loves looking at the Christmas tree – all the bright colors and shiny and glittery ornaments really catch his eye.

We’ve been having a lot of cozy time in at home, which is the perfect way to spend cold winter days where it gets dark before four o’clock in the afternoon. We actually have a fair number of Christmasy Golden Books, so we’ve read through those. And we’ve gotten a few Christmas and winter-themed books from the library. We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer together. This week we’re going to try to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. And I’ve been doing a lot of crockpot and casserole dinners – bean and ham soup with rosemary, scalloped potatoes, chicken with onions and tomatoes in red wine, and the like.  And I try to bake fresh bread every week – I’ve been doing a lot of pain d’epi and rye loaves.

So we’ve been busy, but we’re really enjoying the season and hope all of you are as well!

Recent Sewing Projects

Now that the season of mass gift-giving is over, I can post a few of the sewing projects I did for Christmas. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted (and like a broken record every year, in January I vow to start my Christmas projects for the next season right away…). At any rate, these are the crayon rolls and craft totes that I made for my nieces. I also sewed a black, red and white apron that for some reason I can’t find the photo of on my computer. C’est la vie.

Happy New Years!

What a year it’s been; it flew by so quickly I almost don’t know where it went. I’m pretty excited because on this last day of 2010, four month’s into living at our new apartment, we finally have internet at home! Small successes are sometimes the most important ones.

Christmas was wonderful. We got to see most our of family, and my sister even brought my nieces out here so we could celebrate in the city. For our Christmas dinner at home I made Norwegian meatballs with dill gravy, mashed potatoes and peas – a small low-key dinner this year. Husband got me the bread knife I’ve been coveting for about forever and a wrought iron spice rack, among other things.

Our New Year’s Eve celebration tonight will be low-key as well since we’re both still suffering from the most awful colds ever – sore throat and everything. The morning was spent in ultimate boring fashion taking down all of the Christmas decor (minus the tree) and reorganizing the kitchen and crafts area. It’s nice to start the new year tidy and organized. Tonight I’m going to make pan-fried lamb blade chops and poor man’s risotto, with tunnel of fudge cake for dessert. And we’ve got a nice bottle of champagne to enjoy, even though we’re still both sick. And of course tomorrow, we’re both all geared up to watch the Winter Classic hockey game. A cozy weekend in is a great way to celebrate in my opinion.

Thanks everyone for continuing to stop by my little slice of the world. I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Years!