Tidings of Joy

Art

Combining my love of nutcrackers and their representation of good luck, I thought it only fitting that my last embroidery of 2017 be a nutcracker.

I’ll admit – I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to get this guy done in time for Christmas day! BUT that being said, I love how he’s looking thus far.

Just a little over a month ago he was nothing but a sketch…

Nutcrackers are also said to be messengers of good luck and good will, so from my family to yours, I’m sharing this nutcracker to wish you the merriest of holidays. May your heart and home be full of peace and love this Christmas day!

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 12.02.39 PM.png

P.S. Only 2 days until Christmas!

Advertisements

Christmas Checklist: Finding Your Holiday Spirit

Festivity, Inspiration

It’s that time of year again! The most wonderful time of the year as a matter of fact, and everyone is abuzz with excitement and anticipation as Christmas day looms closer.

Though our culture tends to associate this season with gift-giving, most of us know that there is so much more to this holiday and that it is the traditions that make it special. While the Christmas season technically kicked off two weeks ago, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the activities and traditions that make this the most wonderful time of the year.

But perhaps you’re still in need of a little holiday spirit? Not a problem. Check out my Christmas to-do list for inspiration:

  1. Decorate the house and transform your home into a holiday wonderland.

2. Trim the tree, because it wouldn’t be Christmas without a grand and shining tree sparkling through your window.

🌲❄️☃️

A post shared by Emilee Smith (@emileejaysmith) on

3. Make a festive wreath to hang on your front door.

4. Bake an abundance of Christmas cookies (because calories don’t count on the holidays).

cookies

5. Watch a Christmas classic, such as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

IMG_0825

6. Check out a Christmas show or performance, such as the “Nutcracker Ballet.”

the mouse king

7. Attend a Christmas-craft class or do one on your own!

8. Read a winter or holiday-themed book.

51w5hcx1vml-_sx258_bo1204203200_

9. Sit back and enjoy the snow.

snowflakecircle-01

10. Spend time with the ones you love most.

img_0783

It’s the little things in life that we remember, and the little things that count most. Be sure to make this holiday season count!

P.S. Only 18 days until Christmas!

christmaspuppy

Drawing Thanksgiving Dinner

Art

Happy Thanksgiving! Tomorrow marks the unofficial end of the fall season and the kickoff to Christmas. As per my usual style, I find myself once again treating food as a drawing subject as opposed to a meal.

Unlike the egg and ice cream drawings I shared this summer, today’s artwork is of the healthier variety: butternut squash. After having grown this vegetable in my garden this year, I was inspired to represent it in colored pencil.

The subtle but vastly different colors of the squash made it simultaneously a challenge and a delight to render, resulting in a simple but happy fall piece.

Squash best.jpg

P.S. You may remember my most recent Thanksgiving recipe posts (home made applesauce and pumpkin roll), but be sure to also check out my butternut squash recipe from earlier this season. Made in the slow cooker, this simply-made vegetable is a Thanksgiving staple.

Happy Holidays!

More Christmas Cookies!

Food

This past week I posted about sugar cookies and my experience making them for the first time. Today I’m going to supply you with a few other recipes, all of which are Christmas classics.

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Most of us are familiar with these cookies and have made them a Christmas tradition over the years. In fact, growing up, I only ever received these cookies during the holiday season. I have since continued this tradition, only making them for Christmas. While I use the classic Kiss in the center, other people use peanut m&ms or mini peanut butter cups.FullSizeRender-4
  2. Gingersnaps. Although I call them gingersnaps, these cookies are more of a “molasses cookie.” They are extremely soft and stay fresh longer than most of their cookie brethren. (This is probably due to the massive amounts of butter in them). I have made these cookies for several different school events, both in undergrad and grad school, and they have always been a hit. You may think gingersnaps are unexciting…You would be wrong.
  3. Chocolate Peppermint Cookies. I found this recipe on another blog and I am so glad that I did. These may just be my new favorite cookies of all time. Rich and decadent with a soft texture, this recipe is to die for. If you only make one cookie recipe this holiday season, it should be this one.

12357743_513000768881735_442207793_n

Whether you are keeping them all to yourself or giving them away, cookies are a classic Christmas tradition. After all, you don’t want Santa to find an empty plate under your tree.

Only 4 days until Christmas, which means happy baking everybody!

cookies

Sketches from the Nutcracker

Art, Holiday

For whatever reason, I am fascinated with nutcrackers. They are one of my favorite Christmas themes and I have acquired several in the past year (the beginning of what I hope will one day be a large collection). Naturally, I also love the “Nutcracker Ballet.” It is a story that I loved as a child and continue to adore to this day.

Inspired by this time of year and this play, I recently drew some Nutcracker-themed sketches. So, in light of the holidays, I thought I would share these sketches with you and some insight on their creation.

The first sketch is my own personal rendition of the Mouse King. When I began this drawing I was not intending for it to be this well-known character, I simply wanted to draw a rodent. However, bored with my simple rodent I decided to give him a crown and scepter, making him my own (perhaps friendlier) version of this famous mouse villain.

the mouse king

This drawing was done with an average, every-day pen on glossy sketchbook paper and probably only took about 15 minutes. These things considered, I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

The next drawing is of a nutcracker. After googling different kinds of nutcrackers, I started to piece this one together, drawing imagery from multiple sources and making the nutcracker my own. While he is drawn using ink and a nib pen, he is colored in using colored pencil.

the nutcracker

He is definitely very flat and cartoon-y, and posed as a nice break from creating realistic drawings. He is also (obviously) unfinished. But then again, most sketches are “unfinished work.” If I had had the time, I w0uld have loved to have made more of them and turned them into Christmas cards.

Making these two drawings was both fun and nostalgic, two characteristics true to Christmas. Whether you are drawing or partaking in some sort of Christmas event, it is difficult not to reminisce back on the magic you felt as a child. So whether you or not you find Christmas magic with pens and pencils, I just hope you find it.

I Finally Made Sugar Cookies

Food, Holiday

The semester is over!…Or at least it will be for me after Wednesday night. Only one more presentation and I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas break.

While I am clearly looking forward to this, I am also looking forward to the presentations because I will be bringing cookies to class. Because, ya know, ’tis the season.

While I had considered making tried-and-true recipes, I also thought it would be more fun to try something new. A friend recommended sugar cookies and, fairly confident in my baking abilities, I decided to go for it.

Although some people may think it odd I have never made sugar cookies before, it is honestly because I don’t much care for them. I am, however, in the minority and I know plenty of people adore them. My friend Rebecca does at least because she is the one who asked for them!

As it turns out, homemade sugar cookies are extremely simple. These cookies that I made turned out to be both crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They were also made of ingredients I already had in the house (always a plus). If you are interested, this is the recipe that I used.

The only thing that I did differently from the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vanilla that it called for. (Truly, vanilla extract is one of the most important ingredients in most cookie recipes).

I baked a dozen cookies today as a test batch and will only have to make two dozen for my relatively small class. This  means I will have plenty of dough leftover for Christmas!

Only having to wait a few days (less than a week) to bake it, I am just keeping it in the refrigerator. Cookie dough typically stays fresh in the fridge up to a week. However, if it is going to be longer than a week than I would recommend freezing it to hold the freshness. Freezer bags are a cheap and convenient way of freezing dough.

As it turns out, I don’t hate sugar cookies! In fact, I would highly recommend this recipe to both sugar cookie lovers and skeptics alike. So don’t get stuck in a rut this baking season, try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised!

How to Find Your Christmas Spirit

Crafts, Decorating, Festivity, Holiday

It’s officially the Christmas season! This means the stores are decked out in Santa Clauses, the radio is blasting Christmas carols and the food industry is swamped with mint and gingerbread.

But what if, try as you might, you just aren’t feeling the holidays?

Well then, I have a solution! Below are a list of suggestions; tactics on how to become excited for the most wonderful time of the year.

christmas spirit 1

  1. Decorate. Personally, nothing puts me in the holiday mood more than decorating the house. Christmas lights especially send out serious holiday-mood vibes. I am also a huge fan of nutcrackers and enjoy displaying my collection this time of year.nutcrackers
  2. Attend a holiday production. This year Andy and I will be attending a production of A Christmas Story in Syracuse, NY as his younger brother will be playing Flick in the play. Most communities put on holiday-themed productions and religious ceremonies so be sure to check out what’s going on in your city! (Check out the show schedule if you live in the Syracuse area and are interested in seeing A Christmas Story).
  3. Do a Christmas craft. Tomorrow I will  be going to a wreath-making workshop with my mother and grandmother at the local nature center (more on this later). Check your local papers and Facebook accounts to see what holiday-themed events are happening in your neighborhood! Or perhaps do what I did below and spend time assembling a classy center-piece.christmas placesetting
  4. Read. Whether it is a Christmas craft book or a holiday romance, I find that seasonal books can not only give you that warm,fuzzy feeling but also help you embrace the season. Recommendation: Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog
  5. Watch a Christmas movie. Gather your family and friends and indulge in a Christmas movie. Classics, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch are always a win but some of the modern titles such as Four Christmases, Elf and Fred Claus are both hilarious and delightful. Make some popcorn and enjoy a night in.

It is only the 4th of December, which means you have plenty of time to get in the spirit and have a fun holiday season. It truly is a magical time of year, so be sure to enjoy it while it lasts! (Just don’t go sneaking for presents like our naughty dog).

auggie and stocking

Feel free to comment below with other suggestions on how to create Christmas spirit!

(Photo credit for the last photo goes to Andrew Janitz)

Happy Turkey Day!

Crafts, Decorating, DIY, Festivity, Holiday

Posting once a week every Friday means that my weekly post will be falling after Thanksgiving on (duh-duh-duuuuh) Black Friday! A day when everyone will be out madly shopping as the Christmas season officially commences.

That being said, I thought I would throw an extra post out there this week to give you some ideas on how to have a creative holiday! While we all have Thanksgiving traditions that we live and die by, it is always fun to try new, creative ideas to spice up already established traditions.

Here are a few creative ideas you can add to your food-filled day:

  1. Homemade placemats. If you read my post from last week you know that homemade placemats can make great holiday gifts. They can also personalize your Thanksgiving dinner and table. Check out my post from last week to learn how to recycle textiles into these woven settings.

woven placemat

  1. Homemade place cards.
    Whether you simply stencil letters onto card stock or use different colored paper and ribbons for embellishment, place cards can add a fun and sophisticated look to your Thanksgiving table.
  2. Try a new recipe! This year I will be making something I have never eaten or made: Frozen Pumpkin Pie! Here is a recipe for one version if you also want to give it a go!

 

So no matter how traditional or trendy your Thanksgiving is, I hope that it’s a good one!

(Cover photo found via Google Images)