Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Ornaments Are Here

With Thanksgiving over, it's time to get the decorations out and start putting up your trees (although I suspect many of you already have!) If your tree is looking a little bare or you just like to add something new each year as a family tradition, stop by and see our new Christmas ornaments added to the shop.

All of these ornaments are bisque fired (the first firing) and then hand painted with oil enamel. We do have two more sets that will work their way into the shop early this week that will be bisque fired and glazed (the second firing) just like the other pottery in our inventory.

Merry Christmas and Happy Decorating!

Crystalline Glazing

Mom learned a new crystalline glazing technique earlier this year and produced some very unique pieces. The process involves a special glazing, firing, and cooling process that allow crystals to grow and burst on the surface of the pottery. They are made using porcelain clay and can be used functionally in the same ways as our other pottery. I just recently added two to the shop and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Just Added

I had a little time to add a few new items to the shop last night. My mom is in town for Thanksgiving and came with several boxes of new items. Keep checking back over the next few days to see the new jewelry, ornaments, and bowls, but for anyone already back from their Black Friday shopping, here is a new luminary or votive candle holder and a drop dead gorgeous oval platter just added last night. I love this, I can talk about how beautiful everything is because she's creating it. It's not like tooting my own horn at all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Handmade Christmas: Baking Part 2

For some people, it's not Christmas without cookies. The last recipe I shared was a quick and easy bread recipe, but here is a favorite cookie recipe of mine. It's easy, too, no waiting on your butter to soften and accidentally melting it in the microwave trying to hurry it up. It uses shortening instead. This also keeps the cookies quite moist!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Blend shortening and sugars. Adds eggs and water, then vanilla. Sift flour, salt, and soda together, then add to wet ingredients. Add oatmeal and chocolate chips. You can mix it all by hand or use a hand held blender or stand mixer. Your choice.

Drop onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes, although our oven can take up to 16 minutes. All ovens will vary. Should make 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size (and how much cookie dough you like to eat while making these!)

And I promise to provide a few ideas for packaging, but I haven't had time to take any pictures of what I use, yet.

And I got a great tip from a friend on a gift for the guys...sometimes the hardest to buy for. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Handmade Christmas: Children's Art

I can not take credit for the following ideas, but I'm happy to share nonetheless. While we don't have children, we know many people who do, so hopefully these ideas will jump start your creativity and if they're old enough, even get your children involved in making gifts with you.

Children's artwork and projects can make wonderful gifts for family, especially the grandparents and aunts and uncles. We all know that grandparents love everything about their grandkids (even at 27, I know this goes well beyond childhood, but we'll stick with the childhood theme for now.)

This first idea is from my cousins (hi Erick and Jenny!). The other day I received a note in the mail and opened it to find a colored drawing that their daughter, Elise, made for me. She's 3, so obviously Jenny helped with writing the note to me, but Elise signed her own name. (Thank you Elise for my artwork!) The note mentioned how much fun we had at the beach this summer and was such an adorable surprise to receive in the mail. As it turns out, Elise colored pictures for much of the family and Jenny was sweet enough to mail them to all of us. I think this could be a wonderful idea for Christmas as well. Whether your children are 3 or 13, you could put together a scrapbook of artwork, make a collage, frame a special drawing, or simply send it along with the family Christmas card. The kids can help pick which pieces to send and it's a great way to share the 100s (so I'm told) of things they bring home from preschool and elementary school.

If your children are not of preschool age yet, I have another idea. I saw this one on a blog I read and have to pass it on. This mother is quite the artist. She creates drawings and other designs using her daughter's hand and footprints. It's an artistic way to capture a moment in time. Her hands and feet will never be this little again and the design options are limitless. These are specifically for Halloween and the fall, but you could easily use the idea for Christmas.

Here she used footprints to make ghosts on a pumpkin with the saying "Trick or Treat. Smell My Feet." And pilgrims and wheat stalks for fall and Thanksgiving decor.

And here she used handprints to make a wreath.

And one last idea from Etsy...custom silhouettes of your children. There are several shops if you search "custom silhouette" but this one stood out because she has a one week turnaround once she receives your pictures and oh, she's in Greenville too! A lot of the shops use stock images similar to clip art for the silhouettes, but this artist does it from your personal images. Read all the info on her listing for the details, but her shop can be found here and the custom silhouette item listing here.

And if your creativity is escaping you for the moment, framed photographs of the kiddos are always a much appreciated gift. If you're interested in using a photo of your family or your child on a custom Christmas card this year, don't forget Fostering Creativity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Handmade Christmas: Fostering Creativity

This small business is the perfect fit for so many of your holiday necessities- from gift giving to decorating and those little extras that make a gift feel special. Amy has a natural gift for decorating and an artist's eye for design. Her website will give you more details on her products and pricing, but here is an overview of some of my favorites. (For the rest of the links I provide in this post, just scroll down through her announcements to see the photos and descriptions.)

This was the original intent of her small business, but it's hard to put all that creativity into just one venue. She has since added so much more, but her stationery is where it all began. She offers a variety of styles of personalized stationery sold in packs of 10 or 12. Prices start at just $14 for unique personalized designs. These make excellent gifts for teachers, friends, co-workers, neighbors, you name it. Some of my favorite styles are:

Chocolate Cherry

She also offers traditional monogrammed designs, as well as some preppy pink and green designs. They come beautifully gift wrapped and ready for giving. I've already ordered 3 sets!

Christmas Cards and Invitations
In addition to stationery and notecard sets, Amy also designs custom invitations and this time of year, Christmas cards. She has some great designs that just need that perfect family picture to complete. Unlike some of those big name websites, you can order exactly the amount you need. She offers several styles of flat printed cards... well as custom folded cards. Contact Amy for more pricing info on these.

Custom Floral Arrangements
Silk floral arrangments make great gifts for the "hard to buy for" women on your list. You can supply your own stems and containers or just choose a color palette or theme and let Amy take creative control. Either way, the end result will be an instant conversation piece in the house. Prices start around $25.

Don't forget her Christmas arrangements and decor items. She just recently did a home show, but lucky you, she has a few items left from the show. Check them out here.


These are too cool for words. Perfect for birthday parties or any holiday, order one of these banners to hang above your mantle or on any wall. I'm still looking for a reason to order one!Placecards
Finish the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table with beautiful placecards. From simple printed cards to colorful and artistic designs, only $.50 - $1.00 each.


And don't forget, she makes custom bows for tree toppers, wreaths, windows, mantles, and will even make sets of smaller bows for all those baked goods I know you're making and packaging. A bow this size is about $15, but you can go as large as you need for tree toppers, etc.

Home Show

For those of you in the Winston area, Allison Oaks Vineyard asked Amy to set up a table at a Holiday Open House and Market in Yadkinville on Saturday, December 6th from 10am until 6pm. It will be in their Tasting Room. Go see her beautiful creations in person. More details here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Handmade Christmas: Baking

One of my favorite ways to give handmade gifts is with food. Those who know me understand why. Baked goods are so warm and comforting and for me, it is a gift from the heart. I know that preparing baked goods can be quite time consuming and can take all the fun out of the gift giving, so I thought I would share some recipes that are quick and easy, as well as some tips on packaging and presentation. As my mother taught me, presentation is everything. You eat with your eyes first. And a beautifully packaged item will complete the gift. I'll save that for another post.

Why Quick Breads?

Quick breads are a type of bread, typically sweet, that are made using a liquid form of fat, like oil or melted butter. They don't require yeast, rising time, kneading, or even creaming butter and sugar like cookie recipes. They can be made into loaves or muffins and are the perfect recipe for gift giving. Cookies are fun, but oh so tedious sometimes. Whip up a batch of quick bread and you'll have several gifts done in no time. And even better, once cooled, the bread can be wrapped in plastic or zip top bags and frozen for up to 2 months. Spend an afternoon baking before the holidays season gets rushed and crazy, and you'll have it done before you have time to panic. If anyone has received baked goods from me for the past two Christmases, they were all frozen at one point. Trust me, if they're wrapped well, it makes no difference and it will keep you from pulling your hair out at the last minute. Now that you know all my secrets, here's a great recipe for my favorite bread. Don't let the zucchini scare you, it's sweet and delicious. Trust me, just try it.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 TBS vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (approx. 2 med. zucchinis)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pecan, toasted and finely chopped

Mix all ingredients in the order given. If you have a food processor, you can save time by grating the zucchini using the shredding disk attachment or just do it by hand on a box grater. It's only two zucchinis. For the pecans, unless you have an allergy, don't leave these out. They are toasted and finely chopped (again in a food processor or chopper if you have one). You could substitute walnuts, though. They are so finely chopped and hardly distinguishable in the finished bread, but give so much flavor and moisture. It's a texture thing, trust me. I'm a professional : )

Spray your pans with a liberal amount of nonstick spray. You will need it. This recipe makes 2 regular loaves or 4 mini loaves. It will also make 18-24 muffins depending on the size you use. Just remember to fill only about 2/3 full. It will rise.

Bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes for large loaves, 40-45 for mini loaves, and 20-25 minutes for muffins. Check the bread 5 minutes before the earliest time, just because all ovens are different. You just want a toothpick inserted in the middle to come out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and use a nonstick spatula to help remove from pans. Let cool on paper towels until they reach room temperature before freezing.

Happy baking!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Handmade Christmas: Stone Lotus Pottery

Without further ado, my first post on A Handmade Christmas is about our new artistic endeavor, Stone Lotus Pottery. My mom and I launched our Etsy shop in October and are jumping head first into the Christmas season.

In the shop, you'll find gifts for many people on your list. Stop by and see our beautiful and unique jewelry items, bowls, vases, votives, plates, and coasters. Don't forget your moms, daughters, granddaughters, aunts, nieces, and grandkids. Also, keep in mind co-workers and bosses, your hair stylist, manicurist, or other professionals you visit often, and of course, your friends.

Unique jewelry items for those with the most discriminating taste. Prices range from $14 to $24 for various earrings and necklaces.

We also have a large selection of bowls and vases. Prices range from $11 to $20, something to fit every need. Small bowls are perfect for jewelry, potpourri, and candles. Larger bowls can hold fruit, side dishes, or whatever your imagination creates. Use them as a base for floral arrangements. They make great hostess gifts as well!

Feel free to bookmark our shop and check back often. We'll have new items added throughout the season. Look for more coaster sets, Christmas ornaments, and more jewelry.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Handmade Christmas

Photo courtesy of Christmas at Biltmore

There is something special about giving handmade gifts at Christmas. So much of the Christmas holiday is commercialized to the point of forgetting the reason we're celebrating in the first place. Handmade gifts are personal and thoughtful. You put so much of yourself into something handmade, whether you make it yourself or take the time find that something special. It embodies the true spirit of giving. My personal goal this year is to give all handmade gifts (some handmade by me and some by others....I'm good, but not that good).

For the crafty among us, you probably have plenty of ideas for gift giving this year - delectable baked goods, sweet treats, personal Christmas cards and letters, handmade ornaments, jewelry, stationary....All are wonderful ways to remember the special people in our lives.

For those less crafty, fret not. I'm planning on featuring some of my favorite handmade finds to help you with your shopping. Some from Etsy, some friends, and some recipes....all because I love you.

Stay tuned....good stuff to come, I promise.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Home Decor

New home decor items just added to the shop. Bowls, the long awaited deviled egg dish, and coasters. More coasters are coming...check back at Thanksgiving if you miss out on these.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I'm Loving...

...this new bowl. We added three new ones to the shop including this one. Check them out. New jewelry coming later this weekend. Get out your shopping lists, it's November!