Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yay! Presents!

Michael's Christmas presents included several new ties. We thought it would be cute to show off the ties in action - for the gift givers to see their selections. As it turns out, the majority of the ties were from me (no blog post necessary) but this dapper number was from his sister. It's a diagonal stripe in grays and purples. He chose to wear it with a gray suit white shirt. Barney would be proud (and you should be thinking NPH not a big purple dinosaur with that reference).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sign of the Times

Yes, Christmas is definitely over.

And I'm pretty sure the trees are propped against a huge pile of trash bags covered in snow. Well we think it is trash bags but maybe it is a car. The pile is still there over 10 days later.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Travel Humor Dec 2010

Yes, I was in California when the Christmas blizzard hit NYC. My flight was cancelled and I was delayed getting back home. It all worked out just fine, but I had a pretty screwy flight to make it back to NYC in time for New Year's.

I was flying US Airways and I went from Sacramento to Phoenix, Phoenix to Charlotte, Charlotte to La Guardia. In total it ended up about 17 hours of travel time door to door.

In Phoenix I was able to snap the photos below - clearly there were some good humored gate agents working the counters.

Thanks for the smile US Airways - I needed it that night!

As a side note - I had only carry on bags but they were gate checking bags for free to your final destination in Sacramento. I decided to check my bag and figured I would see it at some point. But just like me, my bag made all three flights and arrived in LGA right on time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Holiay Crafts 2010

Of course I had lofty crafting goals - as I do each holiday season. I always seem to think I am going to work on projects all year, but I don't! I wait and then I can only finish a fraction of my planned projects.

I finished a project I wanted to do last year - gingerbread pancake mix. Basically I took pre-made pancake mix and added in gingerbread spices. We had a few pancake dinner nights to sample the mix along the way.

I also brought back my hot chocolate mix. I made it a few years ago and it has since been requested by a previous recipient. I made a sugar-full and a sugar-free version and I think the sugar-free actually tasted better. I packaged the mixes in plastic bottles that had been repurposed (they were originally juice bottles) and added my own label. I was so excited my little friend M wanted to learn how to make bows this year - she made all of the bows for my bottles (and for the cookie exchange and for many, many packages - I'm sure she isn't so happy she learned to make bows afterall).

Of course there was peanut brittle making and cookie baking. For the cookie exchange I made my 13 dozen ginger crinkles. It was pretty easy as I made the dough when I was in San Diego over Thanksgiving and left it in the freezer all ready rolled in to balls. The day of the cookie exchange I just had to bake the cookies. I topped them with sanding sugar to add some extra crunch to the top and when they were still warm they were lightly brushed with gold dust. The gold added just a slight shimmer - I liked the visual impact from big sugar crystals better.

As usual I packaged my cookies in take-out containers. I put just a few cookies in each box and hand them out at the office. I get to chat with all of my work friends as I personally distribute them the day after the cookie exchange.

Bex and M decorated the boxes for me this year. Bex had super cute stamps they used for the outside of the boxes. I had nothing so the help was greatly appreciated.

I was able to finish one quilt. Previously I've posted pictures of the quilt top. The photos below show the completed quilt.

I have a wonderful quilter in Wyoming who does the quilting for me and attaches the binding to the front of the quilt. She sends it back to me and I hand sew the binding to the back of the quilt.

She did an amazing job with this holiday quilt. Each section has its own design - instead of just one all over pattern. The quilt pattern changes with every border. The interior design was a mix of swirls and stars.

If you look closely in the photo below you can see the different quilt pattern in each border section.

Instead of just using one fabric for the back of the quilt - I pieced together two different fabrics to create bold stripes. The fabric was also flannel and from the same collection as the top fabrics so all of the colors matched perfectly.

I used a stripe that had all of the colors of the quilt as the border. I intended to cut it on the bias so the stripe would be a diagonal and remind you of a candy cane. Cutting the binding on the bias was a new technique so before I cut my binding for this quilt I practiced with the fabric for a different quilt. While I did the first one perfectly - I totally messed up this one! The end result was not a diagonal stripe - but I didn't have any more fabric and it needed to be finished so it stayed a straight stripe (wuh wuh wuhhhh).

The finished product was a really cozy quilt - it was like a big hug. I didn't want to give it up, but it was a perfect gift for my friend in Seattle. I knew it would make her smile and keep her warm during the chilly winter months. (She loved it.)

My embroidery was limited to some gift tags with an initial. They were cute and actually a quick and easy project - most likely this project will make a repeat performance next year!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Other Holiday Windows Dec 2010

Lord and Taylor usually has what I would call old fashioned windows, others might call them traditional. Usually they feature very Victorian scenes giving us a glimpse of Christmas past.

This year they gathered letters from customers; the letters shared a favorite Christmas memory. Certain letters were depicted in the window scenes.

The letters covered everything from a memory of a first Christmas in New York City with a disco ball silver Christmas tree to baking gingerbread with Mom.

There were about 3 letters/stories per window and various elements of animation. I don't remember the story for the scene below - but I liked the car!

In the scene pictured below, the story for the top floor of the house was a grown up remembering the year he got a new bike for Christmas. He was so excited that even though it was freezing outside he rode his bike for hours Christmas Day.

The bottom floor of the house featured a story from a woman. Her mom made matching home made dresses for her girls every Christmas and they always took a photo in the dresses. Now, as a mother herself she doesn't sew, but she still dresses her family in matching outfits - including the dog!

Of course I loved the memory of baking gingerbread houses. It makes me want to add that to my list of holiday traditions each year. But the best part of the scene is the small Spode tea set on the table. I love my Christmas Spode and it was out from Thanksgiving to New Year's this season.

With the gingerbread scene the wall moved back and forth. One side was the vintage memory and the other was the current memory - the gingerbread house is pretty fancy in the modern version.

After Lord and Taylor we had to see the sights in Rockefeller Center. Here even with the crowds I was able to get a great picture of Michael by the heralding angels.

And of course a classic picture of the Rockefeller Center tree and the ice skating rink.

It was right after this picture when Michael said, "Let me get your picture in front of the tree." And that is when my camera battery died. I said, "Don't worry, I brought a spare." But it was dead too! I wasn't able to get any more photos along the way. It was really a bummer.

It was at that moment Michael knew the digital camera he purchased for me already was going to be the perfect Christmas present. He made sure I opened it before I left for California. I was able to capture the rest of my holiday with a snappy new Canon camera. I didn't have to charge the battery once and I could zoom and take movies - yay! The recurring complaints about my camera should end - at least for a while anyway.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Macy's Holiday Windows 2010

By far my favorite NYC holiday windows were the beautifully crafted and exquisitely detailed windows at Macy's.

The windows depicted the story behind "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" with scenes all made from paper by paper artists.

Each window was a chapter of the story. The windows had sound and animation. As you moved from window to window the story unfolded in front of your eyes. It was truly magical.

I don't know how the characters were made - but every other element in the window display was made from paper.

In the first scene Virginia was in her bedroom talking to her brother. They were doing paper crafts themselves. I loved the small details, like the pattern on the wallpaper and the paper chain decoration hanging from the ceiling.

Each scene had several elements. With a change in the lighting and the movement of a wall we then got to see Virginia's parents talking at the kitchen table.

The story moved outside in to the town square. The Christmas Tree was made from layers of paper that had been fringed and slightly curled up at the tips. The buildings moved and the windows were back lit - at some points during the scene silhouettes moved through the building windows. People in the windows were decorating trees and walking in the background. And yes, there was one technical flaw - one building front did not pop up. You can see it clearly behind the Christmas Tree in the picture below. Of course with the building not full upright you can see the beautiful clouds - again all made with paper.

Virginia and her friends head to the library to research the existence of Santa Claus. Of course there is a librarian whizzing across the stacks on a ladder to help them find references to Santa all over the world. (The librarian was a little matronly, no?)

The exterior of the library featured none other than the famous NYC library lions. It is hard to tell in the photo, but the lion was also made completely from cut and shaped paper. The craftsmanship was absolutely amazing.

Virginia and her brother help a corner Santa who has given his coat away to someone in need.

By the end they come to realize there is a Santa Claus (he lives inside each and every one of us)!

And it all wrapped up with the Christmas tree lighting.

We had the best night viewing the holiday windows. Michael came home one night and announced it was the night! It wasn't too cold outside and there was a light dry snow falling. I love to see the windows when there is a little bit of snow falling - it just fits the season and makes it a little magical outside, like you are walking in a snow globe.
We started with dinner at Shake Shack and then took the train down to Macy's. From Macy's we walked over to 5th Ave and looked at the Lord and Taylor windows. From there is was just a few blocks up to Rockefeller Center. There we hit up the ice rink, the tree, the Anthropology windows and Saks Fifth Avenue.
The windows at Saks were very whimsical but they broke from tradition and did not tell a story. They featured special designer dresses in beautifully designed and fanciful settings. Saks did make a huge improvement to the show on the outside of the building. They used to have large snowflakes hanging on the outside of the building. Every so often music would play and the snowflakes would light up with the music. This changed to a screen that covered the entire outside of the upper floors of the building. The snowflakes are now projected on the screen and they 'dance' with the music. It was beautiful.
After Saks we kept walking up 5th Ave - past Cartier, Tiffany's, Bendel's, and Bergdorf Goodman. We popped in to the Plaza and warmed up while looking at their decorations and Christmas Tree. We ended our tour at Barney's. Barney's windows are known for being less than traditional - they brought us Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer made from aluminum cans a few years ago. This year it was all about food and chefs. All of the big name chefs were featured. There was a big food fight with Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Flay and Paula Deen in a Snuggie.
As we walked home we made one more stop at Shack Shake so I could try their salted peanut hot chocolate. It was delicious. It tasted like hot chocolate with a scoop of peanut butter melted in to the cup. The perfect end to a really great night.