Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Time is Here!

I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. At the end of the day, my belly was full and my fridge was stocked with more sweet potatoes than any one person could eat. Anyone, that is, except Matthew. Before the leftovers could even be reheated, I had moved on to the real star: Christmas! I know, I know, Thanksgiving is certainly a special day; one to spend with friends and family, to enjoy good food, and to reflect on blessings. But to me, Thanksgiving is just the opening act, the prologue, the stepping stone to my favorite holiday--nay, season--Christmas Time. By Saturday morning, Matt and I were up to our eyeballs in ornaments while Sufjan Stevens provided the hall-decking soundtrack.
When it comes to our Christmas décor, I think we've settled on the word eclectic. It is a somewhat odd mix of kitchy ceramics inherited from grandparents and relics rescued from our childhood homes (all of which we are way too sentimental about to discard), rustic purchases, and the growing collection of my crafts. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but I love it. I get such a warm, happy feeling in our festive family room that I wouldn't trade any of it for a pack of brand-new, shiny store-bought decorations.

I made these sheet music trees last Christmas and still love them! If you would like to make your own, check out this tutorial.


Matthew's grandmother painted these ceramic Santas; the sleeping fella (on the right) we fill with coconut clusters, her favorite candyalways a nice surprise for curious guests! The middle scene previously decorated my childhood bedside stand; everyone gravitates towards it and rearranges the pieces. I feel that incorporating such objects helps to bring back just a tiny bit of that holiday magic we felt as children.

That's it for now! I'll show you some new projects in the weeks to come. I hope you make your home  as cheery as ours this Christmas season!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Make: Reversible Table Runner

I've recently realized how superior table runners are to tablecloths. You get the same pop of color and design as a tablecloth, but we can move it out of the way during meals thereby avoiding spills and stains. In our household, this is a legitimate concern as many once-pretty table linens have bitten the dust.

So the other day, while admiring my store-bought runner I noticed its simple construction. The thought, I bet could I make this! was quickly followed by another, more creative one: Why not make both sides out of cute but different fabrics?? So off I went in search of a fun (but grown-up) holiday fabric and a neutral print that could carry us through post-December winter. I am just so happy with how the runner turned out! So much so that I've decided it will not be displayed at our Christmas Kick-Off Party, because our friends seem to be as bad about spills as we are! This beauty must stay pristine!

An easier version would use bias tape around the edges--I felt like 75% of my time was spent lining up the edges perfectly. Here I wanted a simple design without a border, but in the future I'll probably opt for bias tape.

Materials Needed
2 rectangles of coordinating fabric (mine were 17" x 43")
Sewing Machine

The construction is quite easy and straightforward. Begin by hemming the edges of one fabric piece. Before you hem the other, you want to ensure that the two rectangles will line up nicely. I did this by laying the finished piece on top of the unfinished (right sides out), then marking/pinning everything into place. Sew the whole shebang together around the edges (whatever decorative stitch you prefer). To finish, iron.

Easy, right?!

No-Sew Version: simply iron the rough edges back to create faux hems, then use stitch witchery to fuse the two pieces of fabric together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eat: Roasted Acorn Squash...a Matthew Ritter production

The world is comprised of those who like to cook and those who do not. Of the former, the divide continues further with recipe people and non-recipe people. I fall into the first camp. Matthew falls into the second. I want/need to know exactly how much of exactly what to add exactly when. Matt, on the other hand, is a freewheeling MacGyver in the kitchen. This is the man who added coffee--coffee--to a pot of chili! Grape jelly in stir fry! Soda in barbecue sauce! And do you know what? It works deliciously every time. He is a nice yin to my culinary yang.

All that is to say that this recipe for Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash is a Matthew Ritter original. The dish is a great combination of fancy presentation and comfort food taste. The ready-made bowls present prettily with their scalloped edges and orange flesh. The acorn squash itself has a smooth texture and subtle nutty flavor. Both of these characteristics areamplified by a filling of walnuts and couscous. Then every few bites you get the unexpected yet complementary tart kick of cranberry. A wonderful mix!

On an unrelated note, I would like to add that I have been very busy lately crafting it up like you wouldn't believe. However, all of my recent projects have been Christmas-themed and I'm afraid that it is just too early to start posting it. The retailers of America would disagree. So get ready for a flurry of fun posts in a few weeks!

Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 garlic cloves
2 shallots
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup ginger ale
2/3 cup couscous
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup dried cranberries

Begin by cutting the squash in half horizontally and removing the seeds and stems. Pour a small amount of water into a shallow baking pan, just enough to line the bottom. Then place each squash half (cut-side down) into the pan. Roast for 40-45 minutes at 355°F.

Towards the end of roasting time, you should prepare the stuffing. Heat the olive oil in a medium size saucepan and add your sage, garlic, and shallots. After a few minutes, pour in the water and ginger ale. Once boiling, stir in the couscous and remove the pan from heat. The couscous should absorb all liquid. If not, heat additionally as needed. Lastly, stir in the walnuts and dried cranberries

After the squash are roasted, plate each half and fill with stuffing.


Want another great fall-time recipe? This week I made Pumpkin Spiced French Toast.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Make: All-in-One Planner (free printable!)

In the Ritter house, we like to joke that I am the social gatekeeper. If you want to know when we are free for dinner, what date that appointment is scheduled, or when the parking pass was last paid, you best come to me first. My little datebook is never too far from me. Actually I have two datebooks. Crazy, I know. One is very small and fits in my equally small purse  and the other is large so I can write notes while appreciating alternating pages of fine art prints. But I digress.

Gradually, it became clear that we needed some way for all relevant household parties to know what the coming week had in store, not just me.

I was simultaneously growing tired of drafting several partial-grocery lists on random slips of paper, just to be lost somewhere in the ether. Or worse, I would run out of garlic and make a "mental note" which is the equivalent of deciding I shall never again use garlic.

Plus I needed a convenient (and noticeable) spot to remind myself of things like "call so and so about such and such" or "take salsa to work party Friday!".

I love browsing all of the organizational print-outs, binders, and such on lady-blogs. However, I am not a homeschooling mother of three who needs so much elaborate stuff. Thus I grabbed the bull by the horns and made my own handy dandy planner for my refrigerator. It is streamlined, simple, and small. I laminated it, attached a small dry-erase marker, and then added magnets on the back.

I've been using it for several months and quite like it. So much so, that I figured I might as well share it! Feel free to print it for private use. If you don't have access to a laminator, you can buy laminate pockets at most office supply stores. I hope you find this helpful!