IDEA 93
EMBRACE MYSTERY

Feb
2017

Feb_Paper_hearts_1_H

It’s hard to disguise a heart shaped box of chocolates. But chances are, your Valentine has never received quite such a mysterious looking gift as this. And what romance couldn’t use a little extra mystery now and then?

Here is a simple but chic idea to customize that heart-shaped box of chocolates for your very special ones on Valentine’s Day. The beauty is, the quicker, and somewhat sloppier your wrapping, the better. No need for ‘hospital corners‘ here.

I started with heart shaped boxes of chocolates of various sizes, depending on the sizes of each of my Valentines. (My husband got the ginormous one, while the kids got minis).

Using plain brown paper from my roll,

Feb_Paper_hearts_roll

I tore off a large sheet, (measure as if you are gift wrapping), surrounded the box, and taped it in back.

Now, instead of neat square corners, I just crunched the paper around the shape. I did clip at the top center of the heart, and cut a “v” out at the bottom point. But only so as not to have too big a lump of crunched paper.

Next, I took a roll of ribbon (I had a variety of 1/4 satin to 3/4 inch grosgrain in hot pink and red) and began winding it haphazardly to try to catch all sides from unraveling. I tied the ribbon in front with a bow. For fun, I added small ribbon rosebuds (you can purchase from the fabric store or Michael’s) and sewed them to different places using a continuous matching thread.

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Now, all you need to do is come up with a clever valentine pun. Like: “Valentine, you’ve got me tied up in knots.” Or “Be Mine. No strings attached!” or maybe just simply:

Feb_Paper_hearts_CU

xo

IDEA 92
START THE YEAR OFF YOUR WAY

Jan
2017

New_Years_Ornament

Do you find yourself having misgivings about the New Year’s holiday?

Has the prudent-you always felt a little uncomfortable sharing the roads with who knows how many party-hearty individuals?

Has the traditional-you felt the holiday tree and decorations needed to stay up through New Year’s Eve, especially when entertaining, but even when you weren’t?

Will the career-girl-you be back to work the day after New Year’s Day, meaning the opportunity to take down the tree will be pushed to the nearest weekend opening, which could easily be the end of January—if not February?

Does the lazy, cozy, introverted-you just not relish the thought of a big party? (Either to throw, or attend)?

Well, here’s a thought for next year (or tonight):

Light a fire in the fireplace (if you have one).

Put on music.

Open a bottle of red wine.

Grill filet mignon on the grill (yes, in the snow).

And “Take down Christmas”.

Now, instead of hastily gathering everything up to stash away, or worse, just feeling let down that the season has ended, take your time. The decoration boxes will be a little more organized, and you won’t have to worry about getting to it once back at work, (or whatever makes up your busy life).

I highly recommend you try it, if not now, next New Year’s Eve. It will make the chore different, like a tradition. And it will be lovely to wake up on the first day of the new year to a clean, vacuumed house with everything tucked back in their boxes, and your still beautiful tree stuck in a snow-bank in the back yard for the birds to enjoy till spring. Now, that’s a BellaPamella idea if I ever heard one.

New_Years_Tree

IDEA 91
MAKE A DAY-OFF TRADITION

Dec
2016

DAY_OFF TRADITION_boxed

Do you ever experience an after-the-holiday lull? Not exactly down (or maybe a little down), more like, “Now what?”

Sometimes a day off is well spent noshing pudding while binge-re-watching your favorite Netflix series. But if that activity doesn’t feed your soul (or if you can’t get away with it in your particular household) why not have a holiday day-off tradition? This could be a Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New year’s eve or New Year’s Day event. It can be on your own, or with family or friends. But the secret is to make it the thing you do, every year (unless you don’t feel like it, which is allowed because it’s YOUR tradition).

Mine doesn’t always occur on the same day, this year it was Christmas Eve, but for the last several years it’s been making decorated gingerbread animal cookies.

Over the years these have shown up on the BellaPamella Facebook page. And I think that’s how I discovered it has become a tradition.

We always use the same recipe from an old Williams Sonoma cookbook. You can find a similar one on line. But really any one would do.

The story is easily told in pictures. And I would just add that buying or finding some small boxes to allow any guests to take a few cookies home with them is truly the icing on the cookie. So to speak.

We find this activity to be calming as well as creative, something that really works in our house. Have a wonderful holiday season and remember, when in doubt, bake something!

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IDEA 89
TAG THE TREES

Oct
2016

Tree_Tags_Branch_1

Up in northern Michigan, the farm my dad grew up on sports some ancient apple orchards. The trees still produce, and the varieties are heirloom, if there ever were some. There’s not just the Jonathans, Macintosh and Golden Delicious, but Wealthy, Wagener, King and Alexander. Even now I can’t remember all the names, which is why this fall we made the rounds with my dad and we tagged the trees.

And it occurred to me, the project was so satisfying (and educational), why shouldn’t everyone do this with their own trees?

Of course most people don’t have an apple orchard in the family. But there really isn’t any reason you can’t identify and mark the trees you do have. Here’s what I did:

I bought aluminum tree tags online for the rich price of 100 for about ten bucks.

Tree_Tags_Blanks

You can write on these with a Sharpie if you like, but, not wanting to make things too easy on myself, I opted to purchase a set of “punches”. You can purchase the whole alphabet for about a dollar and a half per letter. My letters were about 1/4″ tall. There are lots of sets available. Just put “Letter Punch Set” in the search.

Tree_Tags_Letter_Punches_1

I bought aluminum wire and it came with a wire clipper in the package, which came in very handy.

Tree_Tags_Wire

And we cut long pieces, making sure to allow lots of room around the branches. We hung our tags much like a loose bangle bracelet, so as not to disturb the tree’s growth.

Tree_Tags_Branch_2

I learned a lot about our apple trees, but probably just as important, now our lovely trees sport shiny bangles that don’t just identify the fruit. Seeing the tags jiggle in the wind makes me smile as they betray the love with which these trees are cared for. It may not change the world, but it’s a very BellaPamella thing to do!

Tree_Tags_King

By the way, Happy Birthday, Dad. And thank you for sharing your knowledge, and your trees!

Tree_Tags_Dad

IDEA 88
SCARF SKIRT

Sep
2016

Scarf_Skirt_Model_2

This may just be the best use of clearance merch ever! Last spring I picked up these sweet scarves at Target at a deep discount, for $5.98 each. I loved the fringe and thought they would make a super cute skirt. But it took me until I felt a slight chill on the wind to decide it was time to give it a try.

Materials were pretty simple: two identical men’s scarves (these were about 12″ x 46″ without the fringe), a 7″ skirt zipper, thread, scissors or a rotary cutter, pinking shears or a pinking rotary cutter and a sewing machine.

Scarf_Skirt_Materials

I decided if I pinked the top edge I wouldn’t have to make a waistband. So I measured on my body where I wanted the skirt to fall and cut four identical pieces from the ends of the scarves (so all pieces had a fringe). My pieces were 15 1/2 ” from the cut to the top of the fringe. I cut mine with a ruler and a ruffled rotary cutter to create a straight pinked edge.

Scarf_Skirt_pinked_cut

Next step was to install the zipper in the middle of two of the scarf pieces.

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Once I had the zipper installed I went ahead and machine basted the other three vertical seams. I was essentially making a tube with a fringe at the bottom.

Then, with the whole thing inside-out, I tried it on. If you’ve gotten this far, you can now see how your body is not actually a perfect cylinder. And at this point you may need a helper, although I did manage on my own. Start to pull out and pin the excess fabric so the shape begins to fit your curves. You’ll take the most from the side seams, so start there, pinning the most excess on those sides. You want to take enough from the sides to create more of a skirt shape, but not so it’s tight yet. Then you want to pin in four darts, one on each side in the front and one on each side in the back. Your helper needs to make sure the darts are an even distance from the zipper in the back, and from the center seam in the front. In my case, I used the different colored stripes in the plaid to guide me.

This should get the whole thing fitting you just like a glove. Carefully unzip it and get it off without sticking yourself with all those pins!

Scarf_Skirt_Pin

Sew everything you pinned.

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Once everything is sewn, it’s not a bad idea to try the whole thing on, still inside-out, and check it for fit. If all’s well, trim the seams to an even amount outside your stitching.

Scarf_Skirt_Trim

Get all the pesky threads trimmed, and press the seams open and the darts pointing away from the center. And that’s it!

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Now I’m looking  forward to brisk winds and boot days, and only you and I will know the secret behind my super swingy, $11.96 fringe skirt!





IDEA 87
MAKE IT EASY

Aug
2016

Tea_Cake

The idea for this cake came from a decorating disaster. But it came out so beautifully I just had to share. And the solution couldn’t be easier.

I had made a very tiny cake, the cake pans were just five inches in diameter. And the plan was to create a small pillow cake with quilted fondant. But the cake just hadn’t cooled enough and so, as happens when you try to rush, the frosting began to melt and crawl.

I just hate presenting a disaster cake, (even though we all know it tastes just as good). So I put the project in the fridge and ruminated on the problem, when the solution came to me.

I still had fondant, so I simply rolled out a sheet and draped it over the frosted cake, like a perfect little fondant tablecloth! Then it was just a matter of adding a tiny tea set to the top.

You don’t have to make a disaster cake to try this one. In fact you really don’t even have to make the cake. This idea could be added to a small store bought cake. I think it would be perfect for a child’s tea party. Or better yet, a perfectly sweet wedding anniversary!

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IDEA 86
DARE TO COMMUNICATE

Jul
2016

July_Note

You never know where the next inspiration is going to come from.

Recently, I was traveling and stayed at one of those chain motels with the free breakfast included (what’s not to love about that?) So, I was already happy about getting a free banana, when I saw that someone had hand-written a note of well wishes on every one. Generally, the notes were all a variation of “Have a great day”, I chose “Soar with the eagles”, which inexplicably lifted the next couple hundred miles of my road trip.

It occurred to me how simple, yet powerful these little unexpected ball-point moments of inspiration had been, from one stranger to another, placed ingeniously on the part of the fruit that would be stripped off and thrown out anyway.

It suddenly made me nostalgic for the days I used to pack lunches for school. Wouldn’t this be a fun way to remind a child that his lunch was lovingly packed? (Or to pontificate on the importance of potassium–whichever is your whim).

So, in this world of email, text and instant messaging, I dare you to try zagging when others zig. Pick up a ball-point pen and a piece of food and have at it! And while you’re at it, Soar with the eagles!


IDEA 85
MAKE YOUR MARK

Jun
2016

Mark_Lilly

My extended family has been congregating on our family farmland for many summers. And the highlights of the reunions are the beautiful big meals, prepared, served and enjoyed outdoors.

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A handsome open-air structure, made by my brothers and cousins hosts the meals, and several years ago we replaced the mismatched tables and chairs with something sturdy enough to survive the northern Michigan winters.

Mark_tables and benches

My brother made the simplest of designs and all hands helped out to build the iconic tables and benches.

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With all the materials (treated lumber and screws) coming from the lumber yard, the solution is smart, elegant and very cost effective.

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Even better, each kid who put a bench together got to burn his or her name in the bottom, proof that they pitched in and deserve their place as a crucial piece of this family.

Mark_Mad

The otherwise humble tableau is dressed up with our well worn and faded tablecloths.

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And, of course, lots of helpers make amazing food and natural decor.

Mark_wildflowersMark_napkinMark_GrillMark_Menu2Mark_Picnic_food

It’s an annual ritual, that none of us could imagine going without. I say, take a stand. Embrace a tradition. And make your mark.



IDEA 84
BEAUTIFY SOMETHING

May
2016

Bench_before

I love to troll around flea markets looking for that odd old thing that’s just begging for me to buy it and make something out of it. Such was the case when this little boudoir bench caught my eye. It had a raggedy finish and was topped by a flat piece of wood with a garish striped fabric stuck to it. Still, the unusual piece and deeply turned legs grabbed me.

Bench_Detail

I stripped, stained and finished the legs and back. And cut a nice thick piece of foam for the seat. But for the longest time I couldn’t decide what fabric to cover it in. Until one day when I found myself at another flea market. And was standing there holding this beautiful old faded seed sack that said “Bemis Extra Heavy Seamless” on it.

Bench_Top

That made the perfect cover. The result is so sweet, and dare I say, chic? I noticed Restoration Hardware was selling a similar look in their latest catalog.

Restoration_Hdwe

Now the bench lives in my bathroom, at the ready if you’re looking to set down your towel, or need a place to prop the iPad next to the tub. And everyone who comes in there comments on it.

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I just tell them it’s from Restoration Hardware. (Not really, but it so could be).

IDEA 83
ANTICIPATE

Apr
2016

April_Garden_beds

My husband, the gardener of the household, calls April in Minnesota the “cruelest of all months”.

Your natural clock tells you it’s time to plant, but history tells us we are better off waiting, than subjecting a plethora of tiny growing things to a surprise freeze or snow shower.

But that does not keep him (and most Minnesotans who are so inclined) form tidying up the gardens in anticipation of our short but much beloved growing season.

While a cursory glance around the yard doesn’t look like much, his appreciation and care for what is to come has made me much more aware of the coming beauty. The garden that’s been buried in snow all winter is now completely tidied up. It’s all dirt and wood chips, with the exception of two green things: The garlic bed, planted last fall is brimming with new green shoots that apparently were at work all winter under a cozy blanket of snow. And the wood-chip path is being taken over with soft green clover. I asked him why he left the clover when he cleared out everything else. And, while I would think most gardeners would consider this a weed, he appreciates the clover for the soft bed it forms for bare feet. Much preferable to wood-chips on the tootsies.

Elsewhere in the yard, a very young False Indigo has been guarded by a wire form. If he hadn’t lovingly cleared out around it, I may never have noticed. And I would never have known that at this young stage, a False Indigo looks exactly like asparagus poking up into the world.

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Teeny-tiny Forget-Me-Nots are up in force, but so small they’re easy to miss.

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Just outside the vegetable garden, fresh green Stella d’oro daylilies are preparing for the show.

April_Stellas

Before the red Asiatic lilies appear, the foliage makes a pretty green star pattern.

April_Lilies

And it wouldn’t be a Minnesota yard without a host of different hosta varieties peeking up.

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In all the brownness, our bright pink Magnolia tree tries to hold its own.

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And the April rain reveals that all the loving preparation has it’s own beauty.

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In the coming months, the garden will begin bursting with vegetation. The gate will be dripping with a bean vine so prolific, it makes you want to laugh. This place will get so lush and beautiful, coming home every evening will be a celebration.

And, once again, we’ll all be reminded why we put up with Minnesota winters.

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