Friday, December 12

Sun & Snowflake

Look! With some new origami paper and six sheets of printer paper, I now have some Christmas decorations at last: a sun adorning the tree, and a gigantic 3d snowflake.

Thursday, December 11

Christmas Decorations, Links and Ideas

Christmas decorating! Since I moved to Vancouver three years ago, every year I planned to decorate for Christmas, and every year I didn't. We do usually visit my family in New York for the holidays, but I want to bring the winter festival home, too. This year, I think it might actually happen.

Our primary challenge is that we have very little storage space in this apartment, so I don't want to use large ball-shaped ornaments, which take up extra space. I have a preference for flat or nearly flat ornaments, which will be easier to store. Recently when I was feeling frustrated over these limitations, a friend brilliantly suggested that I buy some nice basic ornaments and then give them to thrift shops when the season is over. I may yet do that, but in the meantime, I have other plans as well. I thought I'd list them all in one blog post, for anyone else's benefit, and also so that I can keep my plans straight...

For the outdoors, solar Christmas lights look pretty much the same as any other string of LED lights, but they run by solar power. Not only is this environmentally friendly and thrifty, it also means that we won't have to run an extension cord out to the porch, thus not having to leave the porch door slightly open all the time. I'd love to have some mini-lights or cafe lights indoors as well... basically a string of lights that is not LED, and provides softer light.

Since live cut trees aren't allowed in our building, we bought a small potted Norfolk Island Pine. There's actually three trees in this one pot, I'm pretty sure, to make it look fuller. Here it is in its current naked splendor, in a picture taken today with the first snow of the year in the background.

In addition to the tree, I'd really like to hang ornaments and bells on ribbon strung up about the apartment, as in this inspiring picture to the left. There's also a great idea for creating a sort of mantelpiece from which to hang stockings, by painting a large stick and hanging it with ribbon.

Solid glass raindrop and berry ornaments are small, and they're on sale too. I love these, but like the solar lights, because they don't deliver to Canada, we won't get them until after we return from our trip.

Now on to handmade ornaments. According to this interesting post on the history of Christmas ornaments, many of the earliest ornaments were food:

In the early 1800’s fruit (particularly apples) and nuts were the first Christmas ornaments used to decorate Christmas trees. Soon to follow Christmas ornaments of foil and paper streamers cut and made from the hands of family and friends were added. Among German families (who popularized the Christmas tree) they made Christmas ornaments out of gingerbread and other hard home-made cookies baked in the shape of fruit, stars, bells, angels and hearts. In other countries such as America, their first lot of Christmas ornament additions were long strands of cranberries or popcorn to circle their trees!

I would love to wrap the tree with a string of cranberries, though I haven't seen cranberries for sale yet. There's a holiday farmer's market happening this weekend, and I'm hoping to buy cranberries and wreaths there. Body + Soul magazine also had a great article on holiday decorating, including ideas on making ornaments out of fragrant spices and oranges. For that matter, cloves could probably be used too, with similar techniques used in this tutorial on making clove necklaces.

Sewing and embroidery are the easiest to improvise. However I'm currently waiting for a delivery of kapok stuffing. Until it arrives, sewn ornament plans (such as these felt star ornaments) are on hold. (I've also been dreaming of a bird hung in a wreath for awhile.)

Many of my favorite handmade ornaments posted on the internet are made of paper. I'm really excited about making kusudama flowers or balls...

...3D snowflakes and intricate snowflakes...

...origami wreaths...

...and geodesic ornaments...

Those are my plans for now. We'll see!

Wednesday, December 10

High-ish Calorie Smoothie

Do you have the same breakfast, day after day? I usually do. For most of this past year, it was steel cut oatmeal with berries and nuts. After that, I needed something lighter... and drinkable... a smoothie! Since then it's been all smoothies, all the time.

First I had to buy a new blender--our (very) old one didn't blend well, and was starting to smell peculiar no matter how well you washed it. We got the "Braun MX2050 PowerMax Blender", which was top rated by both Consumer Reports and Cooks Illustrated... I figured that had to be a good sign. For some reason it isn't actually available on Amazon... I got it from Pickering Appliance, the only Canadian seller I could find. I haven't really challenged this blender, so I don't feel I can give a meaningful review, but I'm certainly very happy with it so far.

Smoothies are great for losing weight, but I'm actually supposed to be gaining weight. So I thought for awhile about how to make the smoothie higher calorie. My conclusion: add more banana, nuts or seeds, and oil. I haven't gotten around to the oil yet; this is my basic smoothie, which makes exactly one full glass, and truly needs no sweetener:

4 spoonfuls of plain yogurt
1 splash of water or coconut juice
1 banana (or 2)
1 smattering of pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds... using more makes this taste a bit like nut candy or halva)
1 smattering of frozen blueberries
1 smattering of cereal flakes, optional, only if preparing the night before so it soaks overnight (ie crushed grains, not boxed cereal)
1 chunk of peeled ginger, optional, especially if your tummy has been off


And then, with a quick rinse of the blender, it's all clean and ready for the next smoothie.

I know that a lot of people are more interested in lower calorie smoothies, so what then? Definitely keep it to one banana only, and a relatively small amount of nuts or seeds. Also I'd check out veggie smoothies, inspired by "Eat To Live," something I might try for my husband after the holidays.

Saturday, December 6

Deep & Throaty?

Today's blend: black pepper, yuzu absolute, grapefruit, and patchouli. I was thinking to myself, searching through the essential oils, that I wanted something "deep and throaty". The black pepper and patchouli fulfill that, and the citrus oils keep it balanced (and, as always, uplifting and fun).

I'm loving the warm, autumnal, wintery feeling of our home this evening. We've been pretty busy this past week, and I've been feeling overwhelmed by all the details... this weekend we took a break, and I'm now I'm feeling really good about all that we've accomplished.

I had more in mind, but then I had to pop out to the store for some pasta, and had some conversations, and some of this new belgian beer... so now my mind is elsewhere. More coming up, though!

Monday, December 1

Enlivening Pair

This is becoming my standard "happiness" blend: lemon, grapefruit, rose. Spice oils are great additions to this blend, especially black pepper.

Today I'm rather zonked (surprisingly), so I tried something lively and unusual: frankincense, grapefruit, and rosemary. Grapefruit and rosemary together are an excellent enlivening pair, and the frankincense adds a deeper touch.