Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Sweatshop Item #6: Balsam Candles

I had a large square balsam-scented candle whose wick had run out, leaving large hunks of lovely, scented wax around an empty core. I melted down the wax and stuck wicks in the middle to make recycled candles.

I also reused a large candle jar from another candle that had run is course. I'm not sure how much of the scent's strength is lost in melting down, but for now the candles still smell wintery and wonderful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Sweatshop Item #5: Chili Mint Bourbon

I've been meaning to try this infusion ever since I was served a fantastic Fiery Mint Julep at the Red Stag.
I added a sliced serrano pepper and a fistful of loosely cut mint leaves to 750 mL of bourbon. I let the serrano steep only two days and left the mint in for four days. The result: a fresh-tasting bourbon with a fiery aftertaste. So delicious.
These drinks will be served at my family's Christmas Eve gathering along with our new favorite (thanks to Jess), December Stormies. I also bottled some up as a gift.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Sweatshop Item #4: Hooded Towels

I'm told that the super-hero T-shirts I made last year for my niece and nephew were a big hit. So this year I'm going for a variation on a theme: hooded towels that double as boxing robes ...not that I condone child boxing. Xavier (The X-terminator), Cora (The Crusher) and Finn (The Fantastic) all get their first initial sewn onto the back of their towels. Here's hoping bath-time gets a lot more fun.
Thanks to Make and Takes for the idea!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bed Warmer

Winter is here. Days are darker and Minnesotans are swathed in Smartwool, shearling, and my household's personal favorite: Long unds. I've only recently discovered that winter is a glorious time of year... as long as you have the right clothing. This little bag of warmth is my new winter staple. I honestly have begun using it several times a day, as well as at night.

It's a variation on a rice bag that you heat in the microwave. I found the pattern on Make It Do. This version is cotton on both sides. I didn't heed the warning about only using 100% cotton, and my first version had a faux shearling-type underside. But upon warming the underside would sweat. I realized the cotton transferred the heat better anyway, so I ditched the shearling in the second version. I chose buckwheat for the inside. When heated it has a very faint grain smell, which I actually find sort of comforting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Sweatshop Item #3: Christmas Caramels

Every year I make an edible gift to give to my very large extended family for Christmas. I've given biscotti, pesto, candied oranges and homemade marshmallows. This year: Caramels. Tonight I was invited to a Christmas cookie exchange so I made the caramels as a test-run.

The recipe is simple but requires patience - the caramel has to be 248 degrees exactly to be the correct firmness. I spent a lot of time peering at my thermometer.

And they came out very nicely. I wrapped these in wax paper, but I found cello wrappers and boxes online for the real gifts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Post: Super-Hero Capes

My friend Rachel has been pondering what sort of gift to make for her good friends' 4-year-old twins, Bruno and Natasha. She settled on super-hero capes, but it doesn't stop there.

Blue and pink capes sewed from satin with iron-on letters, inspired by Superfly Kidz.

Rachel is a food writer. She recently reviewed a quirky local pizza joint whose delivery dudes dress up as super-heroes and drive electric buggies to deliver their pies. Rachel developed her own super-hero persona (Pink Thunder), complete with a pink spandex body suit and bulbous white helmet, and rode along for a night of deliveries for her article.

Her plan is to send the capes to Bruno and Natasha along with a picture of her Pink Thunder alter-ego. Bruno and Natasha may still be young enough to indulge in the fantasy that "Pink Thunder" has selected them as her young apprentices... or at the very least they'll romp around and delight in their new play capes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Sweatshop Item #2: Knitted Neck Scarf

The pattern for this neck scarf is in Martha Stewart. It's surprisingly easy, although I had to re-knit this particular scarf three times in order to get the sizing to perfectly match a single skein of yarn I wanted to use. That's a little bit crazy, but so satisfying when it finally worked.

So far the holiday sweatshop is successfully churning out the necessary pre-holiday gift preparation. Plus, I like this scarf so much I'm knitting one for myself.