Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Gift Wrap

Call me crazy but I love wrapping presents. I find it relaxing and seeing the finished product just makes me smile. I'm not overly meticulous (my corners don't always line up and the tape usually has dog hair stuck in it) but I do like to get creative. This year, in keeping with my Christmas colour scheme of red, white, and brown, I wrapped all our gifts in coordinating paper.

I always keep a few rolls of regular, ol' brown parcel paper from the post office on hand as I find it's the easiest to jazz up and suitable for all occasions. I also picked up a roll of cranberry red paper from Ikea and a patterned red paper from Superstore.

Since my wrapping paper is pretty basic I like to use unique ribbons to dress my parcels. Red, white, and brown twine, leftover lace trim, and some scrap fabric work perfectly in this area. Last year I topped my presents with pine cones as well but there are lots of other clever finishings for gifts (think feathers, sprigs of pine, dried flowers, or small plush toys for young kids).

I'm not a big believer in greeting cards so I usually just make my own little gift tags from craft paper and Washi tape or stamp the recipient's name right on to the wrapping paper. It's cheap and personal and looks pretty crafty too!

Gift bags are, of course, a quick and easy way of wrapping presents. When I receive a gift bag that I like I hold on to it for future use. I also keep generic shopping bags that don't have store names on them to use for gift wrap. The Dollar Store is a great place to buy inexpensive bags and tissue paper too.  

If you wrap your presents early enough they can really add to your holiday decor. Now I can't to unwrap them!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa Baby

One of the activities from our advent calendar was to visit Santa. We took Wesley to meet Santa at the mall last year and it was a successful trip (ie no tears). The photo was adorable so we decided to make it an annual tradition. I had pretty realistic expectations about this operation, I've seen photos of friends' almost-two-year-olds with Santa and they're not great, so I thought he would probably sit on Santa's lap and maybe he would look at the camera. When we got there we were the third people in line so during our 5 minute wait Wesley would wave and smile at Santa and laugh when Santa waved back. This was great! My expectations grew: maybe we'll get a genuine smile for his photo! Instead, we got this:

This was the best of the options. He didn't cry but he sure wasn't impressed. Oh well, I love it because I think it really captures the moment. (Note: he smiled HUGE when Santa gave him a candy cane - why don't they do that first?).

And because I can't help myself, here is last year's photo:

What a difference a year makes! I have both photos framed next to each other and every time I look at them I smile. Then I see this photo and burst out laughing:

Hahaha! Maybe next year we'll get the perfect Santa photo. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Calendar

I've been on a bit of a hiatus over the last, oh, 7 or 8 months while I've been back to work but now that my little one is in day care full time I've found some tiny pockets of time to myself and I've been DYING TO BLOG.

Last year I didn't blog at all about my Christmas decorating so I thought now would be a good time to make up for that. I'm not the type to go crazy with the seasonal decor, I subscribe more to the theory that "less is more" so come holiday time we only decorate our mantel and Christmas tree, which is just enough for me.

Our mantel is easily the focal point of our open concept main floor. Because it is so long it is my favourite area to decorate. The past couple of years I've stuck with a pretty neutral Christmas colour scheme of red, white, and brown. I love the rustic, natural look of browns and beiges mixed among cranberry red and ivory. Last year I made a long garland by knotting little pieces of red and taupe scrap fabric along a strip of white linen. I laid it along the top of the mantel then broke it up with clusters of giant pine cones that my mother in law brought home from California. A simple pine wreath and some faux berries in a vintage milk bottle were added in as well.

One of my favourite blogger's, Mary from Urban Farmgirl, was selling these rustic advent calendars in her shop and I fell in love. I was so excited about how the little linen bags match my holiday decor perfectly. I was also excited to be able to count down to Christmas with my son without feeding him candies every day. I made up 10 tags with activities to do together such as baking cookies, tobogganing, and visiting Santa, as well as 5 gift tags, which correspond to small presents.

Of course, the other 9 bags have chocolates in them (I couldn't deprive the little guy).

We're only on Day 6 of our advent calendar but little Wesley is catching on. I won't lie, he's the most excited when he finds a little red candy in the advent bag but he's also had a good time decorating, visiting Santa, and baking cookies so far. Tonight he opened gift number one and ate supper by battery-operated candlelight.

Who knew that an advent calendar could create so much family fun?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shiva's Strawberry Party

For those of you who don't know, Shiva is our Great Dane-Labrador and she recently turned two years old (that's 14 in dog years). We never meant to be one of those families who celebrates their dog's birthdays with parties but last year we hosted a family bbq and had so much fun we decided to make it a tradition. We serve hotdogs and lemonade, it's casual and fun. 

I love party-planning and my favourite place to buy my supplies is the online shop Sweet Social. While browsing through all the pretty items one day I came across these adorable baking cups and instantly I had a theme to build Shiva's party around: strawberries! Here are a few photos from that afternoon.

We decorated with my staples: tissue paper poms, crepe paper streamers, and fresh cut flowers all arranged to resemble strawberries. 

Strawberry cheesecake & strawberry daiquiri Jellybellies were on hand along with Maynard blush berries that were pretty tasty. We added some frozen strawberries to our lemonade this year and topped them with strawberry slush. Hotdogs are our traditional doggy birthday meal so we had all the fixings to compliment them. 

Dessert was vanilla cupcakes in those adorable little baking cups and, of course, fresh strawberries. For the four-legged guests I found these strawberry-shaped dog cookies at Bone & Biscuit in Summerside - too perfect!

 {Shiva's boyfriend, Moose, enjoying his treat}

 {the birthday girl}

A huge thank you to our family and friends who came over to celebrate our girl's second birthday. She's a lucky dog to be so loved.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Khaki Green and...

I've mentioned before that I often latch on to a particular clothing trend and buy multiples in that style (stripes, plaid shirts, maxi dresses, etc). Lately when getting dressed I find I'm wearing a lot of khaki green (also known as army green). It's versatility makes it an easy substitute for more classic neutrals like black or tan. I like to wear it with prettier pieces to balance out the masculinity that army green is typically associated with but it pairs just as well with motorcycle boots or a tailored blazer.

I've been wearing khaki green and...

 pastel blue



glittery gold

 feminine dresses

Depending on how you pair it, khaki green can be worn in any season. I'm looking forward to wearing my skinny pants with sandals instead of boots, though, I'm getting really tired of our extended winter!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happiness Project: Blogging

So I've been MIA in Blogland since returning to work from maternity leave almost a month ago. I've really missed it but I've had a hard time finding a moment to sit at the computer and write out my current thoughts and inspirations. I've had a few partly-finished pieces sitting in my "drafts" folder for weeks and it's time to finally get them out there. Being away from blogging has made me realize how much I enjoy it - organizing my ideas and expressing them through photos and writing has been so much fun and more than a little therapeutic. So as part of my Happiness Project resolution to "be more creative" I've decided to make time at least once a week to work on my blog. I hope you can stop by to say 'hi' - thank you so much for your patience!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ombre Cake

Ombre, the progression of a colour from a dark shade to light, is all the rage right now. Hair, clothing, and decor have all been affected by this trend and now we're even seeing it in food. I've seen lots of pictures on Pinterest of layer cakes in shades of purple & pink and thought a green ombre cake would be the perfect addition to Wesley's St Patrick's Day First Birthday Party (photos here).

I started with two boxes of white cake mix. You absolutely could make your own cakes from scratch but it would be tough to get a pure white cake, which is important for your colours to turn out, and I'm a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. I divided the batter in to 4 bowls and added gel food colouring a little at a time until I got the shades I wanted. I cheated a bit and used two different colours of green so that each layer really looked different but just one colour with increasing amounts would work too.

I used 9" round cake pans so that the layers were thinner. The trick to a successful layer cake is ensuring that your layers are level. I've read that if you bake your cakes at a lower temperature for a longer time then they won't rise to get that dome top. I've tried that and it doesn't work for me. Instead I used a cake leveler to slice off the tops of each cake which also helps to keep their heights uniform.

I froze each layer of the cake in individual freezer bags overnight so that they would be easier to frost. For the icing I used a simple buttercream frosting (recipe here), warming it slightly in the microwave to make it a little more spreadable.

The palest shade of cake is your base layer. I spread a generous amount of icing on top and then gently placed the next darkest shade of frozen cake atop it, continuing until all four layer are stacked. I then frosted the whole cake, starting with the sides, with a thin layer of icing. This is called the "crumb layer" as it traps all the tiny crumbs that tear away from your cake as you frost it. I let that frosting set (about 20 minutes) then added another layer of buttercream icing. I finished it off with a few shakes of green sprinkles and a single green candle.

Cutting in to the cake is fun when you see each layer of green cake come together, fading to the palest shade. Mine crumbled quite a bit when pulling out the first few slices because I cut them so thin (they were each 4 layers high!) but that could perhaps be avoided by using a denser cake recipe.

I received a lot of compliments from our guests and I have to admit that the cake was pretty tasty. It's definitely a fun twist on a classic layer cake and one that I will likely repeat for many birthdays to come.