Archived Ideas for ‘Holiday’

IDEA 66
GO FOR THE WIN-WIN

Nov
2013

Holiday_Dillybeans

Those of us with gardens are plagued by at least one fact: If we have enough of something, we more than likely have WAY too much of it.

Each year our family finds ourselves up to our eyeballs in SOMETHING. This year it was green beans. My husband planted a dandy crop of beans to climb his chicken-wire fence and form a natural shade wall to our patio. Once the beans appeared, it was lovely to snap off a few and munch while doing yard duty. But somewhere along the way, we realized we were LOUSY with green beans.

Greenbean_Haul

Keeping up with the harvest was no small feat. But worse was concocting ways to eat them all. I brought a few bag-loads to work and it was satisfying to watch them disappear. But the beans kept coming. And that’s how he (ingenious husband) came up with the idea to make Dilly Beans.

I can take absolutely no credit. He bought numerous flats of canning jars and we had everything but the vinegar. Using a few other things he either grew or got from the CSA, he put these together, lovely in their simple and organic manifestation of red and green. The recipe he used was from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. But if you don’t have the book, the recipe is very much like this one.

Dillybeans_2

The addition of red bell pepper slices to the lovely green prompted my declaration that they were now holiday gifts. And, of course, he made multiples of the recipe. Add some red or green grosgrain ribbon bows and if you’re feeling snappy, tie on a little card.

Dillybeans_ribbonDillybeans_red_ribbon

If you didn’t happen to grow green beans this year, you now have time to plan, plant, harvest and can for NEXT holiday season. But no need to wait. Just get your beans from the grocer. Then, spend one afternoon canning beans and you can wrap up a dozen of the same pretty packages. Just think. You could have your holiday shopping done in one weekend. Now that’s a BellaPamella idea if I’ve ever heard one!

Holidays can't happen

By the way, care to look stunning as you create your holiday gifts? How about buying yourself a gift of a BellaPamella apron here?!

IDEA 58
GINGERBREAD THERAPY

Dec
2012

Gingerbread_Animals_CU

Sometimes, during the holiday season, it’s all we can do to get the dang tree into the house. As the Big Day draws near, we start eliminating things from our To-Do list, aware of the fact that we just can’t get it all done. Then, other years, we look around and realize we’re pretty much ready, with days to spare. And somehow in our emotionally-charged state we can feel let down, wondering, what’s everyone else up to?

Gingerbread_Camel

It’s times like this we need to take charge. We need to buy some molasses (because that’s usually the only ingredient we don’t already have) and make some gingerbread cookie dough. Why? Because we can.

Gingerbread_Tiger

If you don’t have a bucket full of various cookie cutters, it’s time to start collecting!

Gingerbread_Donkey

I love to bring out the animals, as well as my perennial favorite, the pear.

Pear-shaped_Gingerbread_cookies

Cooking the cookies will fill the house with an awesome aroma. And decorating can be done very simply: with white icing (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 4 or 5 teaspoons milk) and the occasional cinnamon red candy. Snip off the corner of a plastic bag and squeeze the icing out in a thin line or dots.

Gingerbread_Rhino

If you have a kid around they may come up with something more complicated, like this incredible, tiny gingerbread house made by my daughter.

Gingerbread_House_1Gingerbread_House

No matter what you do you should feel creative, and practical, since you can eat all mistakes and be amazed that they taste just as good as the masterpieces.

Gingerbread_Plate

Have a lovely, simple, happy, wonderful-smelling holiday this year!

IDEA 57
EASE THE TRANSITION

Nov
2012

Door_Pear_Wreath_CU

Those who shop Nordstrom’s may be aware of their policy not to “deck the halls” until the day after Thanksgiving. Shoppers who grow weary of tinsel and lights weeks before Christmas find Nordstrom’s policy a breath of fresh air. I hold a similar view. The day after Thanksgiving, all bets are off. But until that time I like to give each holiday it’s day in the sun.

The only problem is that it can be confusing (or wasteful, or just a lot of work) to treat Thanksgiving completely separate from the festivities to come. Case in point, the well-meaning homeowner (below) I spied this morning.

Two_wreaths

Some might remember my blog entry a couple years ago on how to take a simple decoration and transition it from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. This year’s idea is even simpler. Because after all, celebration makes the world go round, but in my book, simplicity keeps it sane.

I’m having a big crowd for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to doll up the front of the house. I scored a great deal on two pots of spruce tips from the grocery store, complete with “sugared” red berry branches. I love the sweet look, but just not quite this early, so I temporarily removed the red.

I’m kind of a pear freak, and I just happened to have a pear wreath purchased a few years ago from Target.

Pear_wreath_ribbon_CU

A quick trip to the craft store produced a spray of mini pears and some gorgeous taupe, and pear and colored ribbons.

Ribbon_bow_CUSprucetop_Pear_Left

Front_Porch

And, “Voila!” my front porch is ready to welcome my family and guests.

So here’s the funny part. My intention was to doll up Thanksgiving with an updated cornucopia-type theme using pears. But the resulting motif, with the pears, ribbon and wreath, form a fresh holiday look that may just take me through to Christmas!

(And I can always add in the sugared berry branches on Friday).

IDEA 55
COMMUNICATE

Sep
2012

Birthday_invite

Birthday parties with small children in the house can be amazing events. Kid parties are, at best, a fulfilling creative outlet, and at the very least a heartfelt celebration of life. If you have children, you are probably compelled to do something special for each and every birthday.

And then one day you look around and see that all those kids have grown up. And they have different ideas of how one should celebrate a birthday. In a busy family, it’s easy to find that you’ve allowed life to drift away from some of your old traditions. Kids that once had a hard time falling asleep the night before a holiday now may seem not to really care too much about it. And as a mom you do your best to morph, to go with the flow. And that’s really just fine and no one should spend a single second worrying about it.

But even if you don’t feel like the ringleader you once were, guess what. You still are one. And you may be surprised that although a few of the rules have changed, these people are still your family and they really do respect your wises to make things happen.

This was evidenced to me when my middle son was turning 19. Our dinner table, once used to hosting our family of five almost every evening of the week, is now lucky to see three. With the kids’ jobs, school, activities and friends, most nights we are missing one or two. My son turning 19 was not going to be home for dinner on his birthday and I was resigned to lose this last vestige of childhood birthdays, the family birthday dinner. I was busy, and maybe a little bit of me was afraid if I pushed it, I would be disappointed to realize no one really cared. By letting the busy-ness be the culprit, I’d be able to avoid feeling silly, or let down.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how bad letting it go would make me feel. And in poignant contrast to all the emphasis I put on communicating, I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up to my family.

So, I surreptitiously asked around to find a night when everyone would be available. And when I found one, I decided not to leave it up to chance. I created a sign inviting everyone to the birthday dinner on that night, and posted it where I was sure everyone would see it.

Then I made a cake. My daughter made a cake. My other son and his girlfriend made two pies. And we had our party. It wasn’t such a big deal, (although we did have enough desserts for a week). But it was just exactly right.

And here’s the best part. That 19 year old really had a great time. We opened cards and small gifts and stayed at the table long into the night. And I see now that I wouldn’t have been the only one who would have felt a loss if we had decided we had simply outgrown the family birthday dinner.

Birthday_boy

IDEA 51
SWEET JEWELRY BOX

Feb
2012

Valentine_chocolate_box

The beautiful heart shaped boxes that valentine candy comes in have always appealed to me. Years when I didn’t have a Valentine, I would have no qualms about searching for the perfect, small, heart shaped box of chocolates for myself. And over the years I have kept many of the empty boxes. They are simply too beautiful (and in some cases too sentimental) to throw away.

So here’s what I consider a perfectly delicious idea: Turn one or more of those pretty boxes into a jewelry box! If the inside is fitted with a plastic tray like the one shown, it provides perfect little compartments to house pairs of earrings.

Valentine_jewelry_box

You can have just one, or stack two or three in graduating sizes. One for earrings, one for rings, etc. You get the idea. And if you don’t have a heart-shaped box that you’ve saved? What a great excuse to go out right now and buy one!

Charlie_apron

IDEA 49
GO GREEN THIS HOLIDAY

Dec
2011

Brown_wrap_group

Do you ever get just a little bugged by the amount of holiday wrapping that ends up either in the fireplace or the trash? Does it kind of gnaw on you to have to add extra money to your holiday budget to buy gift wrap and ribbons? I’ll admit it. Both those things kind of bother me. So, here’s something I’m doing this year.

If you read the last post, you saw the groovy brown paper roll I keep for oodles of practical purposes. And I just wrapped up a bunch of gifts in that simple paper. I got the boxes from a stash in the attic (three of these are shoe boxes), and used fabric ribbons, also from my stash. I like to use satin or grosgrain ribbon because I re-use them year after year. Yes, really I do. I leave a lot of them cut quite long, and don’t necessarily cut them again. And on Christmas morning the ribbons go in a basket and the brown paper will go in the fireplace. If you’re halfway decent at gift wrapping you could even leave off the tape. But I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.

The other thing I collect is little fake berry bunches from the craft and floral store. These get tucked in the bow and also saved year after year. And both the embellishments and ribbons are always purchased either off-season or after the holiday at drastic discounts. One thing I like about buying off-season is you can pick up less-expected looking ornamentation. Another is that I can find things at my leisure, rather that settling for whatever I can find at the last minute.

Brown_wrap_close

That’s it. Just a quick simple idea from an self-described cheapskate!

IDEA 48
KID ART GIFT WRAP

Dec
2011

Kid_art_giftwrap_3

If you’ve been a BellaPamella fan long enough, you remember the “famous” BellaPamella Kid Art Calendar. (See more here).

Kids churn out such a quantity of beautiful work, I’m always thinking about new ways to use it. This idea is absolutely the perfect thing, especially for gifts to grandparents: Use some of that fabulous art as wrapping paper. Even if your gift is a box of chocolates, how much more fun is it to wrap the box in art made by your kids, and sent from the whole family? It’s not just original and cool, it gives kids a chance to make a contribution.

Kid_art_giftwrap_4

Of course this idea is pretty self explanatory. The hardest part is deciding whether you want to use your favorite ones. But I’ve found kids have a bottomless capacity to crank out pictures, often of the same theme.

Kid_art_giftwrap_2

I keep a collection of ribbons in a bin. There are great sales on rolls of grosgrain or satin ribbon to be found at the craft or fabric store. I buy a few rolls whenever I’m inspired. Then these can be used to tie up your packages. Fabric ribbon is so beautiful. And yes, I do save the ribbons once the packages are open. It seems silly to save the “disposable” kind of ribbon. But save the fabric ribbon, plop it back in your bin for use another time and it not only makes you feel a tad more environmentally friendly, your ribbon bin stays full.

If you find the artwork your kids are producing isn’t big enough, try giving them a large piece of paper to decorate just for this purpose. But don’t tell them it’s for wrapping paper or that could affect their designs. The fun part is that it doesn’t look like regular wrapping paper. At our house a large paper roll is a staple. A big roll of paper from the paper warehouse lasts for years. Sometimes it’s white. Right now the roll holder is filled with brown paper and I use it for everything. Try tearing off a sheet the size of the table and give the kids fat brushes and bright tempera paints and see what you get. You can then cut off as much as you want and wrap lots of gifts.

Sometime maybe I’ll do a whole blog entry on why your house needs a big paper roll dispenser. Years ago I asked for it for my Christmas present from my husband and I can’t think of a gift I use more. Come to think of it, there’s something to put on your wish list this year. Meanwhile, happy wrapping!

paper_roll

IDEA 44
HAVE A MOTHER’S DAY

May
2011

Mother's_Day_reminder

This morning, my carefully designed Mother’s Day Weekend plans began to unravel before my eyes. I was spouseless for a four day weekend (my husband went to spend the weekend with HIS mom). And on a whim I made an eye appointment for Saturday morning to get fitted for contact lenses. (To be accurate, ONE contact lens. I was getting just one, so that I might shed myself of the dreaded “readers”, glasses made very cheaply and sold at drugstores at such a low price you have no motivation to keep track of them).

My daughter had talked me into having two of her teenage friends over for a sleep-over, and I figured I’d bug out for a little “me” time. Plus, she and her friends would be off to a commitment they had made, serving “snack” to children at a local organization. The commitment was part of a semester long project, and the three moms were taking turns driving, buying the snacks, and working with the girls in the kitchen. Although the sleep-over was at our house, it was not my turn to buy/drive/help. Or so I thought.

Sometime during the “Let’s stay up until 3:00 A.M.” night, I learned I would have to drive and do kitchen duty. To make matters worse, one of the girls who was at our house was not part of the service-project and would have to be driven home first. And one of the girls that WAS part of the service-project was NOT at our house and would have to be dropped off at our place, or picked up at hers. The logistics made my head hurt, and it didn’t help that everything was miles apart. And the girls insisted on being so girly — not even feigning the least bit of remorse for messing up my morning. I worked out a plan where we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to get one girl driven home and the rest of us to the center in time to make pancakes, clean up and bolt out of there, everyone accompanying me to my eye appointment.

Of course since we were in a hurry, not all the seats in the mini-van were up, so one kid flipped them open and in the process, punched a hole in a project of mine I had been keeping in the car to be “safe”. As I started out of the neighborhood I was distracted and sulky, already feeling late, although there had been no avoiding it.

Then, my 15 year old daughter turned on the radio and one of their favorite tunes came on. All three girls started singing the tune word for word, and from the corner of my eye I saw my girl bust a move I hadn’t seen before. To the admiration and delight of her two-girlfriend audience, she was chair-dancing in the car seat. It was silly, and out there, and well done. The joy of that moment took me aback. I felt a smile creep across my face and I could sense my stress dissipating. Our car was a rolling, jaunty, joy-ride, and I was happy to be a part of it.

So, what caused my mood to do such a switch-a-roo? It was the thin tube I spied when my daughter lifted her arms. The tube that goes from her stomach to a vile of insulin. A tube that delivers to her those life saving drops, that has become a part of her since she was twelve years old, and our world changed when we found out she had Type One Diabetes.

In a most unexpected way this year, I got my Mother’s Day after all. A beautiful, happy Mother’s Day to you too!

IDEA 41
CELEBRATE THE DAY AFTER

Feb
2011

Flourless_dark_chocolate-cake

Every once in a while it occurs to me that as much as I love a great holiday, I love the day after it’s over even better. Why is this? I think partly because the day after the holiday is over, I take back control. Am I a control freak? Maybe. But that’s beside the point. We all need to feel as if our lives, and in particular our happiness, is within our control.

So, after the big winter holiday I might buy myself the gift I secretly hoped to get, (on sale of course), or snap up some 75%-off decorations. Well, here we are in February, So, the day after Valentines Day, why not make yourself this most decadent flour-less dark chocolate cake?

Flourless_dark_chocolate_cake_cu

Before you judge, keep in mind, dark chocolate is currently considered one of the super foods, due to its high antioxidant content.

But possibly more important, eating chocolate triggers the release of endorphins making you love the whole world just a little more. I found this recipe on line here. And making it will be just as pleasurable as eating it (the smell of dark chocolate infusing the house is worth it, right there).

So let’s move on and take back the day. Preferably, with raspberries!

Apron_chocolate

IDEA 40
LOVE THYSELF

Feb
2011

Tulips_1

I thought I was the first person to recognize that the flight attendant’s recommendation to strap the air hose onto yourself before helping your kids was an obvious analogy for how to approach motherhood. As the flight attendant points out (without actually saying it) you won’t be any good to your kids if you are passed out for lack of oxygen. Maybe I was the FIRST one to see it, but Laura Bennett beat me to the punch as her book (Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday–highly recommended, I might add) opens with that very idea. Never-the-less, it is obviously a good and valid idea.

Being mom carries with it slights and sacrifices so numerous you lose count by lunch time. We know it. We do it every day. But since we knew the job was dangerous when we took it, we feel we have neither recourse, nor justification for complaint.

So, this is that month when we all secretly hope to receive something that reinforces the fact that we are loved and cared about. And if you are one of the lucky ones, and get just exactly the flower, trinket or candy that you crave, in exactly the right setting, congratulations. You truly do deserve it. But if you are one of the many deserving that come up just a little disappointed, let me offer this thought: If it’s expected that on Valentine’s Day someone who loves you gives you flowers (or candy), than it should be required for you to give them to yourself. In fact, if you DON’T give yourself flowers on Valentine’s Day, you are just as guilty as every other loved one who doesn’t.

By the way, I’m aware that the Valentine tradition of giving things is secretly a marketing ploy started by the retailers of the world. So if you are of the mind to ignore it, I say more power to you, sister.

On the other hand, it does make for a pretty good excuse to reward yourself, don’t you think?