To continue the creative Christmas posts…DIY sketch dinnerware! I made a few mugs, and the appetizer plates below, and it was so fun to tailor the designs to each recipient.
The little sketches are all done with regular or super fine Sharpie, and drawn onto plain glazed ceramic that I picked up at various home good stores. After drawing on the plates or mugs, I baked them at 350 degress for one hour, and then let them cool completely in the oven.
I found that going over the design twice to three times prior to baking really helped them stand out, and also enhanced longevity through wash and wear.
I’ll definitely keep these in my arsenal of gift ideas. I’d love to try some with colored Sharpie too. So cute!
All of the holiday gifts have been distributed, which means it is time for the creative Christmas recap!! I was almost 100% successful in making all of my gifts this year (I’d say 5% were store-bought), so I figured I’d share some of my ups and downs (this is the first in a 5 part series which I will lovingly call “Creative Christmas.” Get excited!). I had a great time working on projects for friends and relatives; I wish I could have made even more! Guess I’ll have to start earlier next year!
I’ve never used watercolors before, but decided that now is as good a time as any to start. And I love them! The variety of tones and depth of color they produce is completely different than acrylic or oil paint, and I am moderately obsessed with the way they elevate representations of everyday objects. The little vignettes I painted are specific to the interests of the recipient…
…an avocado for a guac lover…
…a set of little wine bottles for a vino-loving friend…
…the Fire Island lighthouse…
…and a very glamorous artichoke (which I finished in a gilded frame).
The largest painting (the lighthouse) is 9×12 inches and framed to 11×17 (I forgot to photograph this), with all of the others fitting in 5×7 frames.
I loved working with a small brush and building layers of color and detail. I will certainly be continuing to refine my style and I can’t wait to make more gifts!!
Check back soon for part two of the Creative Christmas recap…(*hint* – it has to do with DIY patterned china!)
I’ve jumped on the succulent bandwagon. Like everyone else, I have become moderately obsessed with these little guys. They are so cute, and seem difficult to kill, which is great for someone with my history of massive plant failure.
I got these particular plants at Home Depot (which has a surprisingly diverse selection). I’m not sure what they are called, but the two smaller ones were under $3 a piece, and the larger one came in at $8. Initially I put it back after hearing the price, but couldn’t leave it. With the fun little leaves, it is the clear favorite and the splurge (a whole $8!) seemed worth it.
While the appeal of planting them in a beautiful glass container was strong, everything I read about ensuring succulent success said it all had to do with drainage. Drilling holes in a pretty glass container quickly made this option far less desirable. I ended up using what I think was at one point a dish for a bonsai tree. It was a strange dusty black, so I spray painted it grey, which I think works really well with the grey-blue tone of the plants. It also has excellent drainage in the bottom which I covered with coffee filters to prevent soil leakage.
Overall I’m very pleased with the results. And I’ve managed to keep all three plants alive for over a week, even through the transplant process. A win all around!
Every year my Nana would make delicious treats using produce from my grandfather’s garden, including wonderful relishes and thinly sliced bread & butter pickles. Towards the end of the summer she’d make piccalilli, a sweet and tangy relish, with all of the green tomatoes left on the vine when the weather got cool.
This past weekend I decided to try my hand at putting this year’s crop to good use. My family couldn’t find Nana’s recipe, so I did some research and came up with a blended version of some I found online.
Through process of elimination, I weeded out ideas such as adding cauliflower and cabbage (didn’t seem quite right) but remembered flecks of red (bell pepper) and the distinct sweet-tart taste. I decided that a process taking multiple days wasn’t for me, and neither was one that required the somewhat frightening canning process. Simple, straightforward, and traditional – that was what I was looking for.
I think what I ended up pulling together came out great; I knew once I started the final cooking process it just smelled right (this realization was followed by a small happy dance complete with “it smells right!” cheering). The spices were on-point (surprising since most of the recipes called for whole allspice, which I don’t think most people have just lying around) and I felt like I was on to something. Plus, it only took half of a lazy Sunday to make, which seemed quick compared to the two day process some recipes called for!
I wrapped the spices in a coffee filter (you could use a tea ball) and let them infuse into the veggie mixture as it cooked. Overall, the process was easy; just chop veggies, soak, cook, and then put in canning jars! I knew it would all get eaten quickly, so I didn’t bother with the preserving process.
I’m very pleased with the results, and feel like I was able to recreate a recipe that is very close to my heart. Now I can carry on my Nana’s tradition through many more fall seasons!!
makes about 4-5 cups of relish
4 cups chopped green tomatoes (this was about 8 small tomatoes for me)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
1 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tsp whole peppercorns
6 whole cloves
1 tsp whole mustard seed
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup salt
1. Chop all vegetables. Slice the tomatoes and run through a food processor, pulsing to achieve a small chop (like salsa). Don’t worry about the seeds; they are so small that you don’t even notice them once the relish is done. Do the same with the red and green pepper, except take out the seeds.
2. Put veggies into a large non-reactive bowl, like plastic or glass. Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in 4 cups water, heating over low until clear. Pour salt water mixture over the veggies.
3. Stir and allow to sit for 4 hours.
4. After 4 hours, strain veggies through a fine sieve. Rinse VERY well or your relish will be too salty. Resist the urge to eat the veggies as salsa; the mixture smells delicious and I was tempted to take a tortilla chip and dive in!
5. Bundle spices in a coffee filter and tie closed, or put in a tea ball. Place spices, veggies, sugar, and vinegar in a non-reactive pan. I used my large nonstick wok-type pan since I didn’t know how my sauce pans might react.
6. Stir well and bring mixture to a boil. Boil gently, stirring often, for 30 minutes.
7. While the mixture is still hot, spoon into warm, sanitized canning jars, leaving an inch of air at the top. Seal jars, turning the lids until just tight. If you’re lucky, you may hear the telltale “pop” a few hours later, indicating that your piccalilli has been sealed and will last into the winter months (if it doesn’t get eaten before then). Allow jars to cool on the counter for a while and then put in the refrigerator to store.
Enjoy as you would any other relish. We love it as a spread on subs, or as a topping on hot dogs or kielbasa. Yum!
Just wanted to share the beautiful arrangement my mother put together yesterday – all with roses from her garden! Hard to believe they still look so pretty in October. The full blooms of different sizes and colors looked so elegant in a simple vase – perfect for a brunch or shower. I think the casual set up makes the most of the almost-gone-by blooms, and they end up looking like a classical painting!