Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

Ready or not, here comes 2012!

I hope you enjoyed a restful, happy holiday with your family and friends! I've taken a much-needed break for some of this week (but also spent part of the time upgrading my antiquated computer system). I'm really looking forward to starting fresh on Monday morning, but before that (of course) we'll be having a big New Year celebration.

Well, maybe not. Our holiday "party" is a quiet evening with friends, eating fondue and watching movies. We aren't even really big drinkers, but if I was making a cocktail for our party, this would be the one. If you'd like to share champagne at your New Year's Eve celebration, try this:

Happy New Year
1/4 oz brandy
3/4 oz ruby port
3/4 oz orange juice
4 oz Champagne

Combine brandy, port, and orange juice in a shaker with ice cubes, and shake well. Strain into a champagne flute, add champagne, and share.

Do you have any New Year's Eve traditions? What will you be doing to ring in 2012?

Find this and other champagne cocktails at

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Bones

My kids were home today for the first day of their vacation and we needed a project. Lots of our friends have dogs, so we decided these furry family members needed some goodies, too. I've made dog bones and shared the recipe here before, but this time I used a different recipe. We also used different cutters: I couldn't find my favorite little dog bone cutter, so we made medium and large bones and festive little star treats.

If you need a last-minute gift for your canine friends, combine 2 cups whole wheat flour with a cup of oats and 1/3 cup of peanut butter, then stir in 1 1/4 cups of hot water. Knead the dough on wax paper, using extra flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll to 1/4 inch and cut out into shapes, then arrange on cookie sheets about 1/2" apart. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave cookies in the oven for several hours until they are completely dry. Cool before wrapping.

We wrapped our dog cookies in cello bags with ribbons and added them to the gift bags to the pups' "people." As you can see, they aren't the prettiest cookies, but they smelled pretty yummy in the oven!

Do you make or buy gifts for the pets in your family? What are your favorites?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Package Printable Labels

I'm just starting to wrap packages. It may seem late, but some years I have done all of it on Christmas Eve, so I'm feeling pretty organized! Well, maybe not TOO organized...I realized that I'm all out of to/from labels for the packages. I made some with holiday graphics, and if you need them, too, I'm sharing! (For your personal use only, please).

Download this PDF and then print the file on standard address labels (the ones that come 30 per sheet, 1" x 2 5/8" in size). You could also print them on cardstock and cut them out, then punch a hole in each to use as a hang tag.

If you need larger holiday gift tags for other packages, we have a printable for that, too. I have a whole page of printables and projects, if you're interested. I also have a special mailing list if you'd like to be notified of updates to our projects.

Are you finished with your shopping and wrapping? Please tell me I'm not the only one still putting it all together!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hats off to the hatters

My daughter recently learned how to knit. She's had fun making some gifts this month. Here she is in a hat she made for a friend.

Hats are so much fun. They do so much more than keep your head warm: they can make a fashion statement, or voice support for a sports team. They can make you look sophisticated or silly. At their best they are hugely entertaining. I thought I'd share some of my favorites from Etsy.

 I love this slouchy hat from SWAKCouture.

And this giraffe hat from CellarDoorImages/AtticHats.

If you're looking for patterns to make your own hat, how about this sock monkey from SweetKiwiCrochet?

Baby hats can be precious. This pom pom beanie from Chloe's Crochet Closet is adorable.

Hats for kids are pretty cute, too. Here's a great way to say, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay."

Of course, if the big man in your life feels left out, you can tell him he's okay, too.

If you run out of heads, you can always dress the cat. This reindeer cat hat is by scooterKnits.

Dogs also really enjoy being dressed up. This one is a corn on the cob hat, by anywear.

But my absolute favorite for the season is this Christmas Holiday Elfkin Hat by hatz4brats. I really love the poms. 

How about you? Do you love hats? What's your favorite? Do your pets have hats, too?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last minute Stocking Stuffers

Are you looking for some last minute gifts? We have tubes and jars of lip balm at 50% off! (We even have some holiday flavors like Gingerbread and Sugar cookie!) Order by Monday at noon EST and they'll ship the same day!

We have some tubes and jars, too. Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Holiday Giveaway Winner is...

I'm so excited to announce that the winner of our Holiday 2011 Giveaway is #8 (out of 40 entries), Jena!

Thank you so much for participating! I enjoyed reading all of your gingerbread stories, and I'm looking forward to the next giveaway!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last day to order

Just a little update...

We had planned to take holiday orders through Saturday, but so many items are sold out or running low that we've decided to finish up today, Friday.

If you are still interested in ordering, please place your order today! Contact me with any questions. Our last shipments will go out on Monday, December 19, and we will not be offering rush or Express shipping services next week.

Thank you for helping to make this season so much fun! We appreciate your interest and enthusiasm, and wish you and your family a very happy holiday!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gingerdead (er, bread) Men

Nothing says, "Happy Holidays...or else," quite like Gingerdead Men.

I'll admit, I have a weird sense of humor. I try to tone it down a bit here, but I have an obsession with sci fi movies. I like vampires and werewolves and aliens. As a kid I read Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. When I saw this cookie cutter/stamp, it spoke to me. So here we are.

When we make gingerbread cookies, we always use my Aunt Anne's recipe. Of course you don't need to use the Gingerdead Man cutter/stamp, you can use all those boring cutters like bells and stars and snowflakes. (Which I used, too, because it would be hard explaining to the in-laws why I'm sending them cookies with skeletons. "I eat dead people." Yeah, easier to send snowflakes.)

Anyway, here's the recipe for yummy gingerbread cookies that you can make in all kinds of shapes and decorate with your favorite icing.

Aunt Anne's Gingerbread Men
3/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup shortening (I used butter)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger (or more...I go a little crazy with the ginger)
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp baking powder

This dough will be really stiff and you may need to help kids mix and roll it out. I creamed the butter and added the molasses, sugar, egg, and spices. Then in a separate bowl I combined the salt, baking powder,and flour, then added this mixture a cup at a time to the butter mixture. By the end it is much easier to work the dough by hand until you can form it into a ball. I refrigerated mine until I was ready to roll it out; it will need a few minutes at room temperature before you can roll it out.

Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thickness onto wax paper, then cut out desired shapes and transfer to lightly greased or nonstick cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch between cutouts. (At this point you'd use your cookie stamp to make the skeleton imprints on your gingerboys. If you had my supercool cutter/stamp, that is. You can also leave those skeletons in the closet and stick with the snowmen and stars.)

Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes or until cookie edges have browned slightly. Cookies will harden as they cool, and can be decorated with icing of choice. I'll leave this up to you can see from my photo, we chose a butter frosting that tastes yummy but didn't make nice smooth bones like the ones on the cutter box. They recommend royal icing, but I didn't have pasteurized egg whites, so I improvised. I'll bet your skeletons will look much better than mine. Which sounds bizarre, I realize.

Happy Holidays...or else.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Smiles with Wags and Wiggles

Those of us with "furry family members" know that they enjoy the holiday season almost as much as their taller, balder siblings. Our cat loves the Christmas tree, the extra visits from family and (furry) friends, and the special treats he can sneak when people aren't looking. But his most favorite part of the holiday seems to be his stocking. He understands that those goodies in the crinkly paper are his, and he helps my kids to open them on Christmas morning. This year he'll have an extra special surprise because I discovered Wags and Wiggles.

The catnip eggplant was the first cat toy that caught my eye, but designer Shawna Ziemer of Sebastopol, California makes so many other fun pet toys that it was difficult to choose. Shawna is the mom of four kids and three dog-kids who has combined her love of fabric and design to create delightful and sturdy chew-and-throw-and-carry-and-play things for cats and dogs. From mushrooms to stockings and birds of many kinds to my favorite colorful veggie toys, Wags and Wiggles offers many styles of pet toys made of high quality decorator fabrics. Cat toys contain organic catnip, while dog toys are triple stitched for durability (squeaker optional). Shawna also offers a selection of felt leash bags and totes in several sizes and a variety of pet motifs.

I'm so glad that Shawna is joining us today for our last small business feature, and I hope you enjoy learning more about Wags and Wiggles and Shawna's creative pet toys and accessories!

1. Santa (or Martha Stewart, if you prefer!) is looking for unique gifts to share with the special pups on his (her) list. Which Wags and Wiggles product would you recommend?
I think Knotty Santa would be a great addition to Santa's pet gift giving list. Probably would have to say the Lobster for Martha. :)

2. Puppy kisses or kitten snuggles?
Puppy Kisses!

3. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to...
Watch Christmas movies with my kids.

4. My favorite (new, most popular) gift idea at Wags and Wiggles this season is:
My most popular gift idea by far has been my Catnip Stockings, I have had to replenish my stock 3 times already.

5. And most importantly: Naughty or nice?
Is there a nice naughty option?

To see Shawna's work, make sure to visit her Etsy shop. Check out her Facebook page so you can keep up with any new designs. You can also follow Shawna on Twitter and the Wags and Wiggles blog.

As I mentioned, I really loved this catnip eggplant, so I got one for Nardo. I had to hide it, though, because the catnip was so fragrant I knew he'd unwrap it early. "Good luck holding off on the catnip toy until Christmas," Shawna told me. "I can tell you how many times my packages have been hijacked by cats as soon as the mail is delivered. :0)" I know Nardo will just love it.

Which Wags and Wiggles toy is your favorite?

Monday, December 12, 2011

7 Stocking Stuffers you can mail for $5

I'm sure you've noticed how expensive it can be to ship packages, and this time of year it really adds up. I'd love to be able to offer free shipping, but the costs are just too high for a very small (read: micro) business like mine.

Luckily, there are ways to keep shipping costs down. Meet my friend, Small Flat Rate Box. At $5, the Small Flat Rate Box is the fastest, least expensive way to ship. But when they called these "small," they really meant it: they measure about 8.5" x 5.25" x 1.5". You're probably thinking, "What the heck would fit in there?" I decided to show you.

Here are 7 stocking stuffer ideas you can mail for $5:







20 lip balm tubes—or jars—or a combination of the two

a combination of the above that fits. If you're wondering whether your order will fit, contact me to find out. If your items can fit in the Small Flat Rate Box and ship safely, we'll choose it for you automatically and refund the difference in shipping price. (If you order larger items, we'll choose the larger flat rate boxes if it will save you money, too.)

Check out our other stocking stuffer ideas, and let me know if you have any questions at all! I'm happy to help!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A week left to order

We'll be taking orders through December 17 for shipment by the 19th or 20th. Please order soon if you'd like to receive your items before Christmas! After the 17th, unless you are ordering items that are in stock, we won't be able to guarantee delivery before Christmas.

Talk with me if you have any questions at all about ordering! Thank you!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Good Clean Fun with Soapylove

Remember in Elf when Buddy talks about traveling through the "seven levels of the Candy Cane forest" and the "sea of swirly twirly gum drops"? Those places seem very far away and fanciful until you see the work of San Diego designer Debbie Chialtas.

Debbie is the owner of Soapylove, a handmade glycerin soap company that specializes in colorful, fragrant, adorable soaps and bath products. Debbie's Soapy Pops, Cupcake Fizzies, and Super Fizzie Mini Bath Bombs are sold all over the world and would be at home in any elf's (or child's) bath. In addition to creating a kaleidoscope of bathtime treats, Debbie is also a teacher and writer, sharing tips on soap crafting through her blog, classes, ezines, videos, and books.

I'm so pleased to have Debbie join us today for the latest in our small business features! I hope you enjoy learning more about Debbie and Soapylove! 

1. Santa is looking for new gifts to share with the kids on his list. Which Soapylove product would you recommend?
I definitely recommend a Soapylove Gift Box Set. The glossy box is full of coordinating goodies: a Soapy Pop, a Cupcake Bath Bomb, and a box of our adorable and SUPER fizzy Mini Bath Bombs. The box is tied with a luxurious polka dot ribbon and you either get a matching pin-back button or lip balm depending on which set you pick. There are 6 scents to choose from. It's a very generous gift! 

2. Rudolph or Frosty?
I love Rudolph. He's so sweet! I always thought Frosty was a little freaky, kind of like a circus clown. No thanks!

3. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to...
make crafts. This year I want to use paper clay to make pretty textured dishes as gifts. You can use found leaves, doilies, buttons, or whatever to press designs into the clay. Here's the link if that sounds fun to you, too! Of course a Christmas tree really sets the mood, too! 

4. My favorite (new, most popular) gift idea at Soapylove this season is:
Well, I still really love the Cupcake Bath Bombs which are new this year. We have a Peppermint Twist style which smells amazing and is so adorable! I know a lady who kept one on her desk to scent her area and use as a decoration. She got compliments constantly! 

5. And most importantly: Naughty or nice?
That's easy - NICE! Soapylove is all about nice, and being nice is one of my life philosophies! Be nice, do good, and you'll have no regrets. :) Happy holidays!

To shop for your own Soapylove favorites, visit You can also learn more about Soapylove on Facebook, and follow Debbie on Twitter and at the Soapylove blog.

Soapylove also has a super channel on YouTube with soap crafting tutorials and design inspiration. (And make sure you watch Soapylove's adorable.)

I just love the Soapy Pops with the embedded hearts and clouds. What's your favorite Soapylove treat?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

There's no treat that goes with winter fun like hot cocoa. My kids still expect to come in from snow and ice activities and have their cocoa waiting for them. The only thing they might like more is to have their hot cocoa in cupcake form. Wait, I think I'd prefer that, too!

While I sometimes make "real" hot chocolate (like this recipe we tried a few winters ago), more often we simply warm some milk and stir in a mix or (even better) Ovaltine. The addition of Ovaltine and coffee to this cupcake recipe makes them as chocolaty as my kids' favorite winter treat. And the marshmallow cream frosting and mini marshmallows take these over the top. They'd make a great treat for a holiday bridal shower!

Here's what you need for the cupcakes (if you've wondered how to make chocolate cupcakes from scratch, or have worried that it would be too hard, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!):
1 cup hot water
1 tsp instant coffee (use decaf or omit if you're making these for little kids)
1 Tbsp Ovaltine (I used the malt flavor, but choose whichever kind you like!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare your cupcake pans with baking cups. Stir the coffee, Ovaltine, and unsweetened cocoa into the hot water and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and mix in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Sift the dry ingredients with the flour, then add dry ingredients to the butter, alternating with the cocoa mixture and mixing well. Fill baking cups about 1/2 full and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool while you prepare the frosting.

Marshmallow Cream Frosting
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt
3 - 4 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbsp marshmallow cream

Cream butter and stir in confectioners' sugar, adding the pinch of salt, then add marshmallow cream and vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve a spreadable consistency. Once cupcakes have cooled, spread or pipe frosting (I used a pastry bag without a tip and quickly swirled on a thick layer) on each cupcake. Top with several mini marshmallows and a peppermint stick or piece of candy cane. 

Do you enjoy hot cocoa on a cold day or after sledding or skating? Maybe you'll like hot cocoa cupcakes just as much! Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Holiday Card 2011

The annual holiday photo shoot is finished. As my kids get older it's much easier to get a decent photo of both of them, but we still have a generous number of "bloopers." Here are some of my favorites:

Extremely fuzzy children.

Awkward Family Photo entry #637

Fixin' the hair

"Don't touch me."

Almost there...

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sarva Soap Co: Beautiful Soap, Naturally

"Natural" is a term used so often these days, and it always seems to mean different things to different people. But when Cleveland soapmaker Michelle Gilbert says that her Sarva soaps are natural, she means business. 

Sarva Soap Co. offers soaps with 100% natural ingredients. Michelle brings extensive knowledge of aromatherapy to her soap artistry, combining subtle essential oil blends with pure vegetable oils and butters to create vegetarian and/or vegan friendly soaps. Her palette includes botanicals, clays, and spices, which lend their natural hues to each elegant bar. The result is soap that is not only beautiful but "a treat for your skin and your senses."

As Michelle returns to Sarva after a 10-month sabbatical, I'm thrilled to have her join us today. I hope you enjoy learning more about this gifted artisan and her lovely soaps. 

1. Santa is looking for new gifts to share with the special people on his list. Which Sarva Soap would you recommend?

Everyone loves Ritual! It feels so special. It's got a super silky feel, and it's a hefty bar that just seems to last forever. Ritual is a salt soap, which means it's made with 50% sea salt. It's not scratchy at all... in fact, the salt melts into the creamy lather as you bathe and leaves your skin feeling like you've somehow magically exfoliated. My fiance is absolutely hooked on the essential oil blend (cedar, sage, citrus, and a touch of mint), and women love it just as much... I may have found the perfect "spa/unisex" essential oil blend! I get such a kick out of watching people's faces as they hold a bar, breathe in, and a calm smile creeps across their faces.

2. Hot cocoa or mulled cider?
Option C: Ginger-orange... tea? :-) Grate 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger per desired serving, and simmer the ginger in water with some honey (agave if you're vegan, or date paste if you are sugar-sensitive like me) along with lots of orange slices or a drop of orange essential oil (just one drop is all it takes). Strain if you like, or don't strain if you really like ginger! Warming, comforting, and spicy-sweet. 

3. To get in the holiday spirit, I like to...
On the first snowfall, I bundle up and get out into a forest. Cleveland has an amazing Metroparks system, and I have some favorite locations. Sometimes I take my camera. Breathing the air, feeling the quietness, watching the snowflakes, I connect with the peace of winter. I also like to reduce my usage of artificial light and enjoy candlelight and companionship, be it kitty or human! For me, the season is about going within and nurturing, savoring the change in weather, and connecting with simplicity. Nature helps me do all of these things.

4. My favorite (new, most popular) gift idea at Sarva this season is:
...still on the drawing board! Nah, seriously, it wasn't in the plans to reopen yet, but I was so grateful for my most loyal customers that I wanted to offer something to give as holiday gifts, kind of as a thank you. So I have made a limited supply of customer favorites, and soap trio gift boxes are always a huge hit. I'd say, keep watching and let's see where this goes... I have some awesome ideas brewing and plan to keep it small and special from here on out.

5. And most importantly: Naughty or nice?
I'll never tell ;-)

To order Sarva soaps, please visit their website. You can also learn more about Sarva Soap Co. at Facebook and follow Michelle on Twitter.

I'll admit, I'm a fan of Sarva and never met a bar I didn't like, but I love Purity and of course Lavender Rosemary, and I'm looking forward to trying the new Peppermint Twist soap. Which Sarva soap is your favorite?


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