It has become a holiday tradition for my friend and I to spend a weekend making chocolates for family and friends, but we were lacking the needed inspiration this year so decided to take a break. I couldn’t quite let it go completely so decided to have some friends over for an evening of hot cocoa and cider and it was so much fun!

Jess (of chocolate making fame) happened to be down to visit a couple days before the party so I roped her into helping me try homemade marshmallows. We had a Smitten recipe so I was confident, and it was justified. They came out perfectly and were the hit of the night.

marshmallows

The night of the party I had a ton of fun prepping toppings and putting them into little bowls. Then I heated up some almond milk and melted a serious amount of bittersweet chocolate.

melting chocolate

Adding melted chocolate to hot milk never quite works out the way I want. I stir forever and it still doesn’t quite come together. So I risked a pot full to the brim and used the magic stick (stick blender, that is) and tada! hot chocolate perfection! It was silky smooth and delicious. Incredibly rich, but delicious. I paired that with a second pot of hot cider.

One of the easiest parties I’ve pulled together and it was a perfect, mellow evening in the midst of holiday craziness.

the spread

Toppings included some absolutely incredible pumpkin spice liqueur (that appeared after the photo) that made hot cider magic, maple bourbon, Bailey’s, marshmallows, peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, orange zest, chocolate shavings, salted caramel, sea salt (the most popular topping) and my personal favorite: star anise. The great thing is that most of the toppings worked with either the hot chocolate or the hot cider.

toppings

We kept the servings small so everyone could try a few versions, then enjoyed a night of yummy drinks and good conversation.

There hasn’t been a lot of sewing in my world this past year. But I did manage one crafty weekend to whip up a couple holiday gifts for two of my favorite kiddos.

First up a stocking upgrade by request. A friend had a stocking for his daughter that was missing one very important thing – her name! Now this is a girl after my own heart when sparkle is concerned so I knew where to start – red glittery felt. Then came the hard part – finding the right letters. After an intensive internet search, I found a font that reminded me of the curly elf shoes – perfect for a stocking. Printing, cutting, tracing and more cutting and the result was a super cute (as my nephew would say) Christmas stocking.

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Somehow that project reminded me that my youngest nephew is missing something his older brother has – his own superhero cape. Since I went overboard the first time, I still had plenty of fabric on hand (I think this is the fourth cape from the original purchase – and finally used up almost all the cape fabric). I had to go back and check photos to make sure the color combo was different and a few hours later, a super hero cape for Christmas.

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Branches, pom-poms and a glue gun – that combo was my holiday obsession this year. A little pinterest inspiration turned into a serious pinterest win and lots of fun crafting times!

It all started with two friends willing to humor my excitement over the idea of pom-poms on branchesđŸ™‚ I drug (literally) a pile of branches home after a wind storm, then it was off to buy pom-poms. Sparkly was not the plan, but it ended up a happy accident when that was our only option. Then an evening of wine, friends and a baby that just had to be part of the action.

sticks and pom-poms

This is my kind of craft – quick, fun and not a lot of patience and no measuringđŸ˜‰

Here’s the finished product from round one:

sparkly!

Then it was time for round two. Since the first one was so tall, I needed something else for my hot chocolate party centerpiece. Back to the store for white poms and no luck – more sparkly, just slightly smaller. So I picked out the white & silver ones for round two. This one did take a little more time and patience, since I involved by other crafting favorite – glitter & glue! I added spots of “sparkly snow” to the branches and then added poms. And on this one I learned patience has it’s place when working with hot glue – ouch!

winter sparkle

Round three happened because my friend braved the craft stores for me and found… all white poms! Teeny tiny ones, and some slightly less tiny. I made calendars for friends and family this year and was inspired to keep going with the branch and pom-pom theme to wrap them. First up, wrapping the calendars in kraft paper and baker’s twine. And then… more hot glue and poms. I have to admit these teeny tiny poms had me gun shy after the previous mishap. But putting the glue on the branch instead of the pom kept my fingers out of danger (just one very close call).

ready...

The finished product…

a moment of zen

Wrapping presents is one of my all time favorite things, but I do think this was my best work. Little moments of holiday zen.

The sightly larger white poms were perfect for the rest of the gifts.

more

I did mix it up for my nephews wrappings. All in all a very satisfying year of the holiday pom-poms!

best wrapping yet!

I came back to sewing with a vengeance last weekend, taking on my largest (literally) project yet. I had been wanting to cover foam for a bench cushion on my front porch for years, but was too intimidated. Yet, when a friend asked me to re-cover his garden swing I found myself saying Sure.

Not only was this a huge project, but it’s a treasured family heirloom – the swing has been enjoyed by the family since his great-grandparents! Taking a closer look at the pieces I knew I could make it happen, but the shear scale was intimidating. Almost 10 yards of fabric, 5 yards of velcro and over 250 yards of thread went into this project.

I set-up a sewing station, ironing station and two cutting stations (turns out my new porch makes a great cutting table – complete with scissor guide). I’ve never measured and sketched so much in my life. When it was time to do the cover I knew cutting that fabric in the wrong direction meant heading out to buy four more yards of fabric. But, measuring, re-measuring, and measuring again was worth it. I was most proud of letting that set the tone for the entire project. I quickly realized it was going to take longer than anticipated so I cleared my schedule and took my time.

Taking a lesson from baking I knew the only way to end up with a finished product I was proud of and put some good energy into this cozy hang-out spot, I needed to slow down, take my time and enjoy the process. And I did. Not only am I incredibly proud of how well it turned out, but I am proud of the process as well. And… this means when I finally have furniture made for my porch, I can make the cushions!

The Before

The Before

Getting ready... Ironing station placed strategically to watch Wimbledon and the World Cup

Getting ready… Ironing station placed strategically to watch Wimbledon and the World Cup

The new cushion.  Six feet of squishy foam to replace the not so comfy old seat.

The new seat cushion.
Six feet of squishy foam to replace the not so comfy old seat.
What do you see in the fabric? So far we have: mountain bike tires, wagon wheels, flowers, citrus fruit, suns, and sea urchin.

I do love making pillows!

I do love making pillows!

Covering the back we discovered the old layers of fabric. Instead of removing them we added the new one to the mix. It's an honor to be part of this generation's layer of history.

Covering the back we discovered the old layers of fabric. Instead of removing them we added the new one to the mix. It’s an honor to help add this generation’s layer of history.

The After

The After

Cozy enough that it passed the laying down test and graduated from porch swing to swinging couch.

Cozy enough that it passed the laying down test and graduated from garden swing to swinging couch.