Saturday, December 31, 2011

See you on the other side

As I say goodbye to 2011 doing a little mental summary of the 12 months that whizzed by (as they always do) I can only say that it's been a good year. No I didn't win the lottery and my problems didn't magically solve themselves...
I have no great desires for 2012. I place no particular meaning on the celebration of new year. For me it isn't the chance to start over.
My hopes for 2012?
Pretty boring stuff, really. I hope:
  1. The price of coffee doesn't go up ;-P
  2. To be able to afford new light switches for our apartment.
  3. Finish some sewing projects, I've had around since October.
  4. To read more books then I did in 2011.
As for resolutions, I haven't made any. There's been a last minute change of plans for tonight. Instead of spending it alone at home, we're going to my cousin's house for a very casual gathering.

Thank you all for reading my blog, for commenting. For your kindness and encouragement. I feel so privileged and grateful.

Happy 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ljubljana in December

Ljubljana castle
The traditional meet and greet before the end of another year customarily takes place in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Most of the time this means a visit to Ljubljana, see the decorations, have a cup of mulled wine and take a quick look around Christmas fair, maybe even buy a trinket or two.

Cobblers' bridge
Yesterday I met a friend at noon on  The Cobbler's bridge for a cup of coffee/tea at the Tea House. Since today was less foggy than a few weeks ago I took this opportunity to take some pictures.

River Ljubljanica

Prešeren's square with The Franciscan Church
And then I did something I haven't done in 18 years: I visited The Franciscan Church and saw the nativity scene the monks place behind the main altar every year.

Christmas ornaments with the statue of Prešeren in the background
Their nativity scene is one of the top three most revered and acknowledged ones in Slovenia and many come from all parts of the country to see it every year.

Prešeren's square and The Three bridges
Most come for the mulled wine and Christmas fair...

Nativity scene in The Franciscan Church
I skipped the fair and the wine. I have no need for either.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011/ The aftermath

Christmas weekend at my parents' house is a quiet affair marked by the calm and reassuring sequence of events that we've been repeating year after year. Some traditions have been with us longer, even passed on from previous generations.

Like the fact that we decorate the tree just hours before Christmas dinner, the nativity is placed under or next to the tree on moss my parents picked in the woods several weeks before. The presents have all been put under the tree for the briefest time before we took them back and unwrapped them.

On the menu: fondue. A tradition we've had going for 16 or 17 years. I've lost count. But definitely not a traditional Slovene Christmas dinner. This is also the third year in a row we've unanimously skipped fancy clothes and opted for our weekend casual outfits.

Presents are opened after dinner and before dessert. Since I'm the youngest the task of distributing them falls on me. I've delegated this duty to Mr C years ago.

Our Christmas celebration is a mix of old and new. Traditional and unconventional. And as blasphemous as it may be for some we even played cards. Like we do every time Mr C and me stay with my parents over the weekend. Sinful or not, I prefer it to watching TV.

How did you spend your Christmas?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas 2011/ 'Twas the night before Christmas...

Well the apartment's decorated, the gifts are wrapped and nutella is in the refrigerator...

I wish you all a happy, peaceful Christmas weekend!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas 2011/ (No) baking

For the past eight years I've always baked cookies for Christmas. Without fail homemade cookies, chocolate covered nuts and truffles were always part of the holiday season. It comes as no surprise really that the one year I decide to blog about quintessential Christmas at our house, everything is anything but traditional.

melting chocolate

For those who missed it my decorations this year can be seen here and here. And I blogged about gift wrapping here.

roasting hazelnuts

Due to time constraints cookies are out of the question but I still wanted to bake something. I stumbled upon this home made nutella recipe by David Lebovitz while frantically searching the net to find some fuss free recipes.

milk and honey

Homemade nutella is so easy to make. I followed the recipe to the letter. To simplify things further I bought ground hazelnuts to save myself the trouble of grinding them in the blender. And it totally worked.

pouring it together

After pouring the ingredients together the mixture will look quite frothy and very liquidy as Mr. Lebovitz predicted. The trick is to pour smaller amounts into the blender and blend it furiously for a couple of minutes at high speed.

frothy liquid

It comes out looking smooth and puddingy and oh so delicious!

creamy Nutella

And a final word of warning: discouraged by the promise of only two small jars, I doubled the ingredients for a double batch...Mr. Lebovitz lied. I now have three small and three medium jars full of Nutella.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011/ Wrapping presents

I'm finally done with all of my gift wrapping.

This year's colour scheme: green and turquoise. I though I'd mix it up a bit and steer clear of the traditional forest green and red.

As a rule I stick with a uniform look, but this year I deliberately used as many decorations I could think of to give my lovely readers as many ideas as possible:

polymer clay beads, satin string and organza ribbon

glass mosaic

snowflake made of beads and wire
I even made ribbons out of leftover bits of wrapping paper.

It couldn't be easier, just cut strips out wrapping paper. Create a loop out of each strip using some sellotape. Then stack the loops together and staple them.

Again with the crazy beads:

And finally, this is a jewellery pouch I made specially for an Etsy customer who bought one of my necklaces.

I made it big enough to double as a clutch :-)

Are you done with your gift wrapping?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bits of wisdom

People say travel broadens the mind. Mainly because people like me insist on it in their books. But I have to say I doubt that it is true. On the contrary, I suspect travelling narrows the mind. One becomes so blasé about the wonders of the World...All that ever matters is the people. Not the places.

Dame Celia Westholme, Appointment with Death
NYC August 1998

I suppose I may come off as a a jaded, malcontent cynic for backing this quote on today's bits of wisdom. The thing is, I've grown so tired of people boasting to anyone who will give them five minutes of their time about where they've been and what they've seen.
I'm tired of the social platforms like Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, especially Facebook overrun with photos of every Tom, Dick and Harry:
  1. In front of The Eiffel Tower
  2. In Chinatown NYC
  3. Or the latest it destination: Australia
If I ever have the means, I'll travel to these places for myself alone. And not so that I can have interesting anecdotes up my sleeve for the next cocktail party.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend M, who's finally realizing a lifelong dream to travel over the Atlantic. I wish you many new adventures and unforgettable memories :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas 2011/ Handmade vs. store bought

In all the years I've been sewing, knitting, making jewellery... I've never taken the handmade pledge. And I'm a firm believer in handmade, locally bought meaningful gifts as oppose to cheap, mass produced throw away stuff.
The reason behind my decision has always been that we should encourage people to be conscientious about their spending habits, conscientious about the environment and that whole Think globally, act locally business. But we should never force this decision on anyone and by buying something handmade for someone who doesn't want it and will likely throw it away anyhow is going against the spirit of the handmade movement.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stop and smell the roses...

Life's a bit hectic right now...I had such a great plan to show you some handmade gift ideas this week. Instead you'll have to settle for this fella who knows how to take a load off, relax and enjoy the holidays even if everything didn't get done.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happiness comes in a box: Gift labels

We all know them: the little trinkets that cost next to nothing but they make us incredibly happy. Whether it's because they fulfill a certain purpose in our household or are there simply for their intrinsic beauty.

My Christmas gift labels make me so happy it's beyond words. Each year I had the darnedest time coming up with ways to tag my gifts. Mind you this is before Etsy and similar places existed and bookstores sold gift card at astronomical prices.

I stumbled upon these boxes about 4 years ago in an obscure store somewhere "in the country". I think I bough their entire stock cca. 8 boxes. Each box has a 100 stickers. I think I solved my sticky problem for a long time to come ;-P

Friday, December 9, 2011

The stubborn de-stash

About a month ago I posted my thoughts on creativity in relation to abundance and how I find the abundance of material things to inhibit creativity. As with everything, this isn't universally accurate but it proved to be spot on for me.
For years I have been buying jewellery and sewing related supplies, notions, tools, etc. My stash was expanding exponentially. It got to the point where I couldn't start any project without first buying something new. I've completely stopped buying fabric in August after realizing my supply was fast approaching 3 digit number in meters of fabric. Ouch!
But fabric is easy. I have a folder on my computer with pictures and dimensions of all the fabric in my stash. Beads are tricky. It's so easy to store them. They take very little space and somehow it always seems the amount of beads has doubled without really noticing it.
And then I had one of those moments of clarity when it hit me that I will always find some new fabric or unusual beads or whatever. So I made a decision not only to stop buying new supplies for a while but also to stop looking.
Working in a vacuum without outside sensory input was a bit weird at first but as it turned out it was essential for my creative process. Being constantly surrounded by images of other people's work as well as pining over new beads had completely numbed me.

The other problem I had was hoarding my "special" beads for a project worthy of their beauty. This tiger eye faceted pendant is a typical example. I've been holding on to this one for 5 years now.

I always knew I'd turn it into a necklace but could never find coordinating beads. Two days ago I paired it with the black beads and the helix crystals but didn't have nearly enough for a whole necklace. I was about to go back on my word not to buy new beads before I dug out the bronze seed beads. Turns out they were perfect for this project.

I made earrings using polymer clay beads I made in February. Completely and utterly weird but strangely lovable, I hadn't a clue what the heck to do with them.

And finally, a typical example of my bead tray: lots of blue, lots of ordinary round beads and some silver metal findings. I also have a great love of shell and mother of pearl beads. I was resolved to turn this tray of dull beads into something extraordinary.

It took me five hours and some re-shuffling but I came up with this completely out of the box necklace:

It's definitely eclectic but I don't think it looks awkward or forced.

After three days of intense beading I've learned that my beads are neither plain nor boring. The only thing obstructing my creativity was my perception of my supplies. As always I'm looking into different ways to combine colours and my designs are becoming bolder.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas 2011/ Decorating some more

Continuing Monday's post on decorating the apartment. This is what our kitchen table looked like when I took out all the ornaments:

I completely forgot I bought these three boxes of ornaments last year.

Decorating a small apartment is a great opportunity to get creative. Find the surfaces, nooks and shelves that can hold various bowls, scented candles and festive decorations. I am a big proponent of less is more, so I always select just one area of the room.
Ikea mini tree

Bowls filled with ornaments or decorative plates have become popular in the past couple of years and are always a perfect solution for a small space. I still prefer to hang my ornaments though.
I bought the Ikea mini tree stand featured in the top photo. It's small and sturdy.
The one in the bottom photo is tempting too.

Ikea mini tree

This tree stand fits perfectly on the mini shelf in the kitchen. The lights are battery operated and I've hidden them inside the big Santa ornament.

This basically takes care of the kitchen/living area.

The bedroom chest of drawers is where I put my larger arrangement. Last year I took out our mini tree, this year I opted for something more DIY and pink ;-)
I picked some branches about a week in advance and let them dry in the basement for a couple of days.

Then I bought some acrylic paint and some glitter. The paint wasn't all that expensive and proved to be easy to apply and very saturated. One coat was enough.

Though in a pinch an old bottle of nail polish would do the job too. DIY is all about being creative and thinking outside the box.

If you've ever used glitter spray you know how messy that can get. The following option does take more time, but the glitter doesn't come off afterwards. Take some glitter and mix it with varnish. Mine was some sort of DIY acrylic varnish. Again, clear nail polish is an excellent replacement and I've used it in the past.

Make sure you use a substantial amount of glitter for a good coverage. I used an old ice-cream lid as my mixing palette:

And here are my branches after they've been painted. The one in the 4th one from the left is painted in glitter only.

The finished result. I used sellotape to secure the ornaments.

This takes care of decorations. Next up: gifts and all about gift wrapping.