Wednesday, November 30, 2011

♪ ♫ It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas ♪ ♫

Noooooo, the tree isn't up yet...

At the moment the living room is filled with boxes of welcome signs, which need to either sell, or go live upstairs until next year, hehe. That accomplished (hopefully this weekend), we'll tackle the tree. ;)

But elsewhere in the house, there are little signs that Yuletide approaches...

I've been making these wonderful pomanders, which may turn up as gifts - unless I decide to do as my Grandmother, and tuck them away in drawers, and linen closets...

They're so easy! All you need is an orange, a jar of whole cloves, and some kind of piercing tool, like a skewer or icepick. Poke a few holes, insert a few cloves, and so on, until the orange is covered. The scent is amazing. You can add ribbon and hang them too, like an old fashioned kissing ball. ♥

The china cabinet is filled with Christmas teapots from my little collection. The bunnies are among my favorites...

And of course, The Nutcracker...

I can't remember where we picked up this sparkly old Santa, but he fits right in...

That's Susan Branch's "Christmas From the Heart of the Home" in the background - a must have if you love Christmas cookbooks. :)

In the kitchen, scented candles sit on top of the pantry, next to the old rooster cookie jar. Bayberry and spicy orange are burning today...

And old fashioned ribbon candy sits in a dish atop the woodstove. Soooooo tempting, but I'm trying to be good. ;)

Very soon, we'll trim the tree and hang the stockings on the woodstove mantle.

And I must remember to take a few pics outside, where the old watering can is filled with greenery, and a bright red wreath adorns the front door...

At the moment, there's packaging and shipping to be done! Those welcome signs offered a couple of posts back are flying out the door later this evening. It makes me so happy to think my work is even a small part of someone's celebration. Truly special. :)

I'll be back very soon to share some works in progress, and in the meantime, I hope this finds you decking your own halls, and enjoying every bit of *magic* the season has to offer!

Much love,
♥ Carolee

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Belated and Truly Thankful Thanksgiving

As facebook friends have read by now, the Mice President (hubby John) has been in the hospital this past week battling his old nemesis, heart failure. Not the way we'd planned to spend Thanksgiving, but sometimes the universe has other plans. ;)

Thursday was spent visiting him as he enjoyed a delicious (not), nutritious Turkey dinner courtesy of Reading Hospital and Medical Center. Later, I curled up at home with the furkids, an old movie and a lean cuisine, reminding myself that he was exactly where he was supposed to be at that moment; that he was well cared for, and breathing more comfortably than he had in days. Not the day we'd planned, but gratitude inspiring nonetheless.

The visiting routine continued for the next few days, and he was released Sunday morning. Daughter Courtney came out to join us for a belated, low sodium feast, which we prepared as he caught up on all the sleep he missed in the hospital. Turkey breast, mashed potatoes, apple walnut stuffing, cranberry-orange-ginger sauce, roasted veggies, and for dessert, baked apples with vanilla ice cream and bourbon-pecan-praline sauce (from Susan Branch's Autumn book, and my favorite part of the meal, hehe). ♥

The entire episode served as a reminder that no matter what our circumstances, no matter what our challenges, we still have much for which to be thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving was spent with those you love, and that gratitude was plentiful.

Wishing you all the blessings of the season,
♥ Carolee

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hand Made Holiday Ideas - and a Kahlua Recipe

2011 being our fifth year of a largely hand made Christmas, I'm building quite a store of easy-peasy, make-at-home (or in some cases on the go) gifts for friends and family.

Here's the first one completed this year, a winter scarf (which still needs blocking, thus the slight wonkiness, hehe) knitted from Caron Dazzleaire...

Other projects this year include some small counted cross-stitch pieces, boxes of springerle cookies (check out my favorite stag mold below), and of course home made Kahlua (which I'll get to in a minute!)

Have someone on your list who's short on time to cook? Soup mixes are a great idea - layer beans and spices in an attractive jar, tie a ribbon around it with a recipe, and instant (well, OK almost instant, it does have to cook) dinner. This works well with cookie mixes too. :)

Another idea is scented trivets. Instructions are easy to find online, but it basically involves sewing together two pieces of cotton fabric in such a way as to create strips, or pockets, filling with a mixture of rice and spices, then sewing up the last edge. These smell soooooo good when you place a hot dish or teapot on top.

Remember old fashioned pomanders? They make wonderful gifts - oranges and apples studded with cloves. My grandmother always had a couple tucked away in her linen closet.

How about coupons - for babysitting, for car washing, for house cleaning? When my daughter was little, an evening out with hubby was soooooo appreciated, as was any help I could get with the house.

One year my husband - a musician - composed a song for me and recorded it. It was a beautiful acoustic guitar piece, which I still treasure.

Sooooo many ideas....

Including, as promised, this one. My homemade kahlua recipe. Delicious, and fun to collect the bottles and make homemade labels too. I use old vinegar bottles (thoroughly washed of course), old maple syrup bottles, old screw-top wine or liquor bottles, etc. Here's the recipe (can be doubled or tripled):

3 c. sugar
3 c. water
3 Tbsp. instant coffee (not freeze dried)
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 quart vodka

Simmer water, sugar and coffee for 1 hour, being careful not to let it boil. Cool, then add the rest. Pour into bottles, dividing the vanilla bean as best you can. Keeps for several weeks.


Do you have favorite handmade gifts? Please share...

And with the time we're not spending at the mall, let's make time to enjoy the season; mix up some old fashioned cocoa, pop some popcorn, watch an old movie...make snow angels if you're blessed with snow, make cookies with your kids, cuddle your furkids (or if you have room, adopt another), sing carols, host a holiday potluck, visit friends and loved ones, and tell them how much they're loved and appreciated.

Wishing you all the blessings of this most *magical* season!

♥ Carolee

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Of Shows, Shopping - and a Holiday Bargain. ;)

I believe it was Thomas Wolfe who said "You can't go home again"...

A quote I came to consider and appreciate this past weekend, after schlepping 160 welcome signs (two trips in the little Beetle) down to Fairfax, VA, for the annual - and usually well attended - Holiday Craft Show.

It had been a long while since I done an old fashioned craft show, but I remember them as being somewhat of a shopping frenzy. Husbands were generally left home, as groups of women spent the day holiday shopping with friends - and doing some serious buying. It was the ideal way to pick up unusual, hand made gifts and decor - items made with love and care rather than mass produced in China. Eight or ten years ago, if you wanted something hand crafted by the artist, you attended a show.

But the internet has changed all that. Hand crafted items can easily be purchased online now, and with so many folk art marketplaces, worldwide selling sites like Etsy and eBay, and the explosion of blogging and social media sites like facebook, there's no need to venture far from home in search of hand made treasures.

I'm not complaining, mind you - to the contrary, I make my living on the internet, and not a day goes by I don't bless the fact that this is so. ;)

But as such, you'd think I'd see the trend. Not that craft shows aren't fun - but I should have allowed for somewhat of a decline in attendance, and perhaps taken a bit less product. Live and learn, eh? ;)

The upshot of all this is that I have quite a few original, hand painted welcome signs left. If you click on the photo above, you'll see the designs available - I believe there are several of each, with the exception of the snowman with the bright red buttons. I think there are just a few of these left, with "Winter Welcome" painted at the top. Oh, and it's a bit tricky to see in the photo, but the banner held by the woodland snowman (snow-lady?) says "Joy" in gold. :)

Most of the designs are seasonal, but can be left up throughout the winter, and a couple of them - the teapot birdhouse (my own favorite) and other birdhouse - are year-round designs. All of them are protected with an exterior varnish, so are fine for hanging outdoors. Oh, and if you scroll down to the previous blog post, you'll see a close-up of several.

As you can see in the photo, the price at the Fairfax show was $35 (considerably less than the usual eBay price, even a couple of years ago). But since they need to find homes for the holidays (and there are no fees involved here on blog, hehe) I'm letting them go for $29.95.

Multiple purchases are fine, and I can combine shipping on two signs in the same box ($8 for east coast, $11 for midwest and south, and $14 for the western states.)

These are available on a first come basis, and when they're gone, they're gone. I won't be accepting any orders.

To purchase one - or several for holiday gift giving - just shoot me an email at with "Signs" in the subject line. Let me know which you'd like, and how you'd like the personalization to read, and I'll get back to you confirming availability, get them lettered this week, and shipped next week (after Thanksgiving). ♥

In the meantime, I'm off to double check the inventory, so I can keep track of what's still up for grabs, hehe...

Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Holidays!
♥ Carolee

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Fairfax Preview

It's deja vu all over again, as I return to my crafty roots and spend next weekend personalizing welcome signs at the Holiday Craft Show in Fairfax, VA...

I look forward to meeting old friends and new (always the best part of any show), but for those who live too far, or can't make, it, I'm offering just a few of these personalized signs (only 2 of each design available) at the craft show price of $35 + shipping, this weekend only.

Designs include grapevine wreaths on a sage green or ivory background...

Mailbox signs in forest green or cranberry (fun, because you can also add first names)...

And two different snowmen...

The lettering shown here is just a sample of what the finished piece might look like, so if you'd like to claim one of more of these, shoot me an email at with your location, and what you'd like the sign to say. :)

It's very late here, and we have a busy day tomorrow, so I'm calling it a night now. But I'll be back first thing in the morning to respond to emails and such.

Thanks for taking a peek!
Back very soon....

♥ Carolee
11:20 AM Sunday, ETA: The signs are now on their way to Virginia, but can still be purchased and personalized, with shipping sometime the week prior to Thanksgiving. :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Harvest Santa

Every once in a while, an event comes along so strange and magical, it just cries out to be commemorated in some way...

Such was the pre-Halloween snowfall of 2011. An accumulation of four inches left us here on the east coast wondering was this Halloween or Christmas?

Like Santa here, I suppose it was a little of both...

As always, he's an original, one of a kind piece, handpainted in acrylics with a clear acrylic varnish. I had such fun painting all the little details; his rabbit and mouse friends, the garland of acorns around the base, the crow on the back...

He'll be up for grabs on the PFATT Marketplace in just a few hours (Nov 11th, 10AM Pacific or 1PM eastern) and as always, will go to the first person to email after the update.

I'm hoping to have more Santas to follow (different themes) so if you're a fan of the Jolly Old Elf, stay tuned...

Back very soon!
♥ Carolee

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A New Practical Magic Piece and a Crafty Return

This is the time of year when inspiration comes at such a fast and furious pace, it's difficult to keep up with it all! Ideas are spinning and swirling around in my brain like a holiday cyclone, and I'm trying to capture as many of them as possible.

Before we get into upcoming holiday goodies, here's a peek at a very special project which has occupied much of my time lately. A wonderful, long time collector commissioned this child's chair, with a Practical Magic theme...

As is often the case with commissions, it took longer than anticipated, but I'm really happy with the result; the roses and toads on the base, the magickal accoutrements on the seat, and the witches jumping off the of that gorgeous clifftop house above. Here's a little detail...

On the back of the chair, it says "There's a little witch in every woman."

Fun, yes?! I swear, I have the best *job* in the world. ♥

With this one winging its way to the west coast this week, the focus shifts to holiday work - specifically a Harvest Santa, which I hope to offer on a first-come basis on this month's PFATT Marketplace (we'll see if I can get it finished under the wire!)...And of course, the Harvest Santa made me think of a Vineyard Santa too, so that may be coming soon as well...and a seaside Santa, and a...and a...

See what I mean? A cyclone, I tell you. ;)

And in the midst of all this creativity, I'm very briefly back to painting a few (ahem) crafty welcome signs. It's been years since I've painted these in quantity, and I much prefer to work on one piece at a time. But in this economy we do what we must, so John and I will be bringing about 150 of these (varying designs) to the annual Holiday Craft Show at the Fairfax High School, in Fairfax, Virginia on the weekend of November 19th and 20th. I'll be there all day, personalizing signs as people shop. So if you're in the area, do drop by and say hello!

Until then, our little house looks a bit like Santa's workshoop, hehe...

First snowmen, then mailbox/chickadee signs completed, so now it's onto Santa in the Moon...

There's also much to be done on the home front, including Thanksgiving shopping, and getting the house decorated for the holidays. Fortunately, the china cabinet is already decorated. Yep, I'm a little embarrassed to say all the Christmas teapots, plates, books and greenery have been sitting there since last Christmas. Oh well - at least the tree hasn't been up this whole time, hehe.

So stay tuned for lots of goodies coming up, and in the meantime, let's all remember to take the occasional breath to savor the season; a good winter read and cup of tea, snuggling on the sofa to watch an old holiday movie, Yuletide gatherings with friends and family, listening to beautiful music, and shopping locally, and handmade.

Until next time, wishing you all the blessings and *magic* of the upcoming season,

¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`• ~ Carolee

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Tunes

Just popping in to share that the playlist here (scroll down on the right to the purple box) has been updated with some Winter/Yule/Christmas tunes. I'm listening this morning as I put the finishing touches on a couple of commissions. Won't you join me?

♥ Carolee

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Nesting

Despite the small pang of regret I always feel as we bid goodbye to October - and very soon to autumn - there's something very cozy and welcoming about preparing the home and heart for winter. November is a month for nesting, for settling in. The last of the autumn leaves will be raked, the pond plants cut back and put to bed, the outside water connection shut off, and the kitchen countertops rearranged to accommodate the crockpot. Lap duvets, afghans, and my favorite readers wrap are draped over the living room furniture, knitting and embroidery projects sit on the floor by my favorite chair, along side a large stack of books, and the tea cupboard and candle boxes are well stocked.

Art supplies will be purchased in larger quantities this time of year too, as weather can prevent a quick run to the store. The last wood order, and last clock order of the year will be placed, and picked up at the Amish woodworker's shop before the snow flies (OK, most years before the snow flies - I'm considering last week's October snowstorm an aberration).

In the studio, while Halloween and things *magical* are a constant, Christmas and Yule pieces will be added to the schedule, and a few personal projects will begin. Homemade, handmade gifts are perhaps the best part of this November nesting; painting, stitching and cooking mindfully for someone special. ♥

We're very big on handmade around here, on gifts that come from the heart. And while Halloween is a favorite holiday for all it's magic and enchantment, Thanksgiving and Christmas are at least equal favorites for the deep meaning they carry, and the time spent with family - more precious than ever after the health challenges John has faced in recent years.

So the season of nesting begins, and also brings new inspiration for 2012 (more on this next month!). In the meantime, may November help us all to slow down a bit and find enjoyment in the little seasonal tasks that make a house a home.

Until next time, much love,
♥ Carolee

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the "Flight" print (offered a few posts back for the Halloween Blog Party) is Maddyrose. Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned for another giveaway very soon!

♥ Carolee