Nov 10, 2011

Handmade Holidays...Homemade Madness...

Hello! Hello!

Is it windy? Are the leaves falling? Are hints of the holidays just around the corner? 

I decided to take some time off, well, some time off to do some stuff. Most wouldn't call that time off, they would call that "time doing some stuff," but I call it time off to finally do some stuff. Stuff like getting my office in order, finishing up some computer work, resting, reading some articles, taking a photo class...some cooking... and getting ready for the holidays! I haven't taken time to actually get ready for the holidays in years. I always throw it all together the days prior because I just work up to the last minute.

This is my living room in the photo. This is how neglected it is lately. No, not really...hahahaha. But it is a photo I took, and yes, styled, for a shoot. Yes, styling can entail trash and waiting for just the right light to hit (if you use only natural light, that is). 

But I share it only because it reminds me of how I usually feel AFTER the holidays are over: A mess, worn out, and pooped. I am determined not to end up feeling this way this year and I hope that for you too. So, I figured, I would share with you some of the few items I made last year for some of my friends, as I can't show you what I am attempting to make this year, yet. 
And maybe by showing a few simple things I made last year, even thought it is before Thanksgiving, it will give you some very simple ideas that may get you through the holidays with some ease. And maybe when the new year won't feel how this photo looks when it is all over.  :-)

Below are some of the crafty gifts I made for friends last year. Just remember I had a post not long ago that said, "Artsy does not mean crafty." 

This little tree in a silver creamer was actually a gift to me from my friend, Renee. Isn't is adorable? I just love it! It is made so simply. I added the watch faces and then took some photos of it and then took the photos and made some cards from it. And then I took a photo and framed it for Renee for her home. See below:

This little farmhouse frame was used to frame the photo of Renee's tree and then on the back I put a little photo and note for her. So instead of just taking one of my own photos and framing it I took a photo of something she made for me.

Below is are little sour cream pound cakes that I made and handed out to family and friends with the recipe on a card that was on the bottom. The cake is really good and I love wrapping it in such simple paper. The recipe is at the end of the post. This pound cake is everyone's favorite.

This photo I gave to my seamstress, Maureen. She is a wizard with scissors and I wanted something personal for her. 

And these scissor photos were given to a friend that just completed her super cool craft room where we girls gather and do fun projects. What a better way to celebrate a project room than with a creative project from a friend that loves you?

I was shopping with some fun girlfriends (Debbie and Renee) at an out of town flea-market where we spent the night, had tons of laughter and non-stop talking, and eating pie. While shopping I came across antique lap trays. All in mahogany. I bought them all and then painted them, aged them and painted the names of my girlfriends on them. I saved one tray for a friend's husband, Terry. It was so cute, because Terry loves to use his bed as his office desk, which drives my girlfriend crazy, since I designed custom bedding for her. So I decided to paint a lap tray for his laptop and coordinate it with her bedding. I left it on their doorstop, and he was so surprised and it turns out he loved it and uses it all the time. He says the little lip on it keeps his laptop from getting too hot and keeps his lap cool too. That made me happy he liked it so much. Who knew?

I made a batch of caramels as well. One year, I wrapped the caramels and placed them in little chinese take-out boxes and then wrote little "Chinese" proverbs on the scrolls and inserted them in the boxes. I never took photos of those...must have been yet another year where I made my gifts only days prior to the holidays. I will make caramels this year and take photos and give you the recipe - early enough so you can make them too! It is time consuming, but worth it.

Here is Elizabeth's Sour Cream Pound Cake...I have had this recipe for 28 years...I still read the recipe off the original paper I wrote it on...over the years I made some changes as I made this recipe countless times and adjusted it. Over time, friends just started to call it "Elizabeth's Sour Cream Pound Cake," although I don't know where the original recipe came from. I think I have it memorized, plus my additions, after all this time...

Here is the recipe with a few more instructions and my own additions and tips over the years:

"Elizabeth's" Sour Cream Pound Cake

Oven 350 degrees
Bake 45 minutes

3 Cups of flour
3 Cups of Sugar
6 Eggs
8 oz Sour Cream plus 1/4 cup
2 Sticks of Butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs rum flavoring
1 Tbs almond flavoring

In electric mixer (if you have one it is easier) cream butter and sugar.
Add 3 eggs 1 at a time
Add 1/2 of the flour and mix in
Add rest of eggs 1 at a time
Add in the rest of the flour and mix
Add in the other ingredients and mix


Have sticks of butter at semi-room temp. Not too soft and not too hard.

Crack eggs one at a time in small bowl and THEN add to the mixing bowl  (this avoids any shells getting into the recipe)

When flouring the baking pans, I use lots of flour and tap out ALL flour, especially in the corners

When baking, I just slightly under bake the cakes where the toothpick comes out just slightly wet when poked in the center. Once the cake is cooled, the cake will be extra, extra moist and heavy and will stay moist over the next few days and not dry out.

I wrap in wax paper and then use a large zip lock baggie to store them in if not giving them out right away. This keeps them very moist and heavy.

The batter will be very heavy and you will need to spoon out the batter, it will not pour.

This will make two regular loaf pans or several small loaf pans.

I do not double the batch. I make two batches instead. 

Hope you enjoy the pound cake as much as I have for so many years. You will want to make quite a few....they don't last long. And yes, you may freeze them as well.

I will try to get a batch of caramels made soon and get that out to you. I hope showing you that even a very non-crafty person can make some gifts and with funds being tight, we can still come up with some personal and fun gifts. I think the most fun is the taking some down time and enjoying the process. When I finally found the time to make these regret was that I didn't slow down to enjoy it all because I just ran out of time. But when I got into the projects, I enjoyed it so much...all the more reason I wanted to slow down this season.  

You know how I like to keep it real on my blog, so even in my rush, I took some  very quick behind the scenes photos to show you how the above "pretty photos" weren't so pretty behind the all the rush - hence the rest of the name of this post...Homemade Madness!!

The madness began with making the pound cakes...thinking as they bake...I will just "do everything else."  Remember how I think I can do a week worth's of work in one night? Well, below shows how my thinking is so waaayyy off.... hahaha

I begin with my sour cream pound cakes...while they bake, I will just make all the other things....yeah....right....

I still need to get my photos done of the little tree...and make cards...and make the gift of the photo framed....and then I notice....ahhhhhh!!! The damn cat had made her way into the caramel tray sometime earlier that day and "sampled" it!! I now have to make a new batch...or...maybe just cut that chunk one will know....right??? But I ended up making more because it was a big-ass chunk and I was so mad....and now back to the kitchen.

I am feeling pleased...I got my "sample" tray done and the others are drying...and look! it is still daylight!

I come up with this bright idea of something I saw somewhere that inspired me. But I decided to do "my take" on it. To make some chicken wire trees in my window seat - THREE of them, all lined up and then stuff paper all around them with lights...I thought...that would be so easy!

Several hours later, and one scraggly tree with no paper on it yet and I am pooped and not liking it....

Oh, did I mention all this was taking place on December 23rd? So, I scrap the damn tree idea and decide to go down to Flower Row before they close and go buy all fresh greenery, which I usually do every year, but didn't find time because of my you can see, it is now dark....

I am standing here, as you can see, by the roll of chicken $#@& wire on the right, debating and trying to convince myself that once all the paper is on it and all three are lined up, that it will really be "cool looking" now that I have an European grain sack wrapped around it. Yeah, right, a SACK makes it so much better.....NOT....

I am feeling a little more merrier now (something to do with the bottle of wine, I think) and the smell of pine and greenery. As you can see, it is pitch black out. The pound cakes are baked and smelling good too. As you can see, I haven't given up on the damn tree...NOW, I have tried waxed paper thinking that might work...but NOT.

But then....damn! I realize that I need to get the cards done...and my markers are old and drying up...must get new ones this year. So, now I am in my office...forget the trees....and down to the basement is my one lonely tree and there it still sits, mocking me. 

Sometimes, seeing my crappy pictures, my crappy, messy house, and my crappy attempts of "crafting" makes me laugh NOW.  But at that moment, I was thinking...."Geesh,!!" When in reality, I should just in the moment give myself a break. Because if I were reading this on someone else's blog, I would just laugh and think...OMG...I am just like her...a real spaz! 

Why are we so hard on ourselves to perform...especially when it is just our own selves? I mean, no one was even coming over...I wasn't even entertaining....I wasn't having a dinner or anything...and yet, I was beating myself up for waiting until the last minute. Although, I didn't really "wait," I was working so hard, I just didn't have time. That makes sense to me NOW, but last year, I didn't see it that way...I saw it as not using my time wisely and not "having it together." 

I really hope for you this season that you aren't as mean to yourself as I can be to myself. I hope  if you find yourself saying mean things to yourself, you click on my blog and scroll right past all the pretty photos and go right to my mess and think....I have a Spazzy Cyber Sister...I am not alone!! And give yourself a break.  I know I am giving myself a break this year and I want the same for you too - because I love you.

Big messy hug to you.

from my homemade mad house to your house,

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