Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Minute Gifts - Easy Peasy!

Let's face it. Everyone needs them...last minute gift ideas. At this point, you are shopped out. Totally tapped for ideas. Personally, if I have to brave the masses one more time, I'm going to lose my proverbial marbles.

So I decided to stay at home & finish up my Christmas shopping in my kitchen. Ta-daaaaaa!!!

That is a tin of Hot Chocolate complete with mini-marshmallows. See the recipe here. It makes WAY more than 12 servings, fyi. Just mix the ingredients together, put a few servings in a container & BOOM. Done.

In the past I have used Ziploc bags and put them in nice paper or cardboard boxes that I found at the Dollar Store, Target or any place that carries wrapping supplies. This year I happened to find these cute tins at a local cooking supply store, as well as the cellophane bags. The tags I made quickly on the computer. You could also put instructions inside the tin.The mini marshmallows are in fold-over sandwich bags. However, in a pinch, you can use a nice paper bag with tissue paper in it. Whatever you can do to make it's presentation nice & present-like.

Also, I made truffles. They looked a lot like this:

Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has two great recipes, here and here. I made her Chocolate Truffles, minus the Grand Marnier, & rolled them in confectioner's sugar or coco powder, per the recipe suggestions, or pecan pieces per a commenter's suggestion. It took me a little over an hour! Now I have bags all tied with ribbon & ready to go.

I made similar truffles last year & delivered them to folks in a chinese take out container, but you could also put them in a Glad or Rubbermaid container from your local grocery store & dress it up with a nice ribbon.

More great food ideas on the web on Better Homes & They put out a great supplement called Food Gifts that includes all kinds of ideas such as this Snack Mix.

Also a great non-food idea, and something we do often in our family, is give pictures. Target had lots of great frames on super sale today! It's a nice gift, a reminder of a family get together from earlier in the year.

The most important thing, as we all know & hear each year, is: It is the thought that counts. So, don't stress! Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hello, Goodbye - opening & closing your notes

Happy Monday!

My mom sent me an interesting link a few weeks ago & I thought I should share the topic of it here. She was looking for a new way to close her email correspondence. So, I got thinking about it & decided to do as I do & looked up some alternatives to the "hi, (name)" and "All the best" that are my standard phrases.

Here are some suggestions:

Openings: (slim pickin's here...) Dear (name - let's use Sally), Dear Mr. (or Mrs.) Christopher Jones, Dearest Sally, Darling Sally, My Dear, or My Dear Sally, Hi! or Hey! or Hi, Sally! or Hey, Sally! or Sally, (just the name is ok too)

Closings: (peeeeeelenty to choose from)
More on the formal/business side: Kind regards, Best regards, Best wishes, Many thanks, Respectfully yours, Sincerely.

More on the friend side: Love, Affectionately, Hugs, Kind thoughts, Wishing you the best, Write soon, Be well, Cheers. The last 2 are also good for email.

Emily Post had some interesting comments on the subject. Very proper comments of course, but also a bit 19th century in some cases. Not sure when the last time I worried about the sealing wax on my letter. I do like that she endorses "complimentary closes" such as "Kindest Regards" and "With Kindest Remembrances" instead of more abrupt closings that she finds impersonal, such as just "Sincerely." Agreed, Ms Post!

See anything here that speaks to you? That you might use in the future? What closings/openings are you using now? I'm going to try out "Affectionately" and/or "Hugs," I think. Christmas card writing is on my to-do list for this week!

Until next time! Cheers!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Very First Christmas Card

As I was deciding what holiday cards to send this year, I started did this tradition even start?? So, I did what I do...I googled it! Thought I would share my findings...

Traditionally, Christmas greetings weren't cards, they were letters. Most sources I read seemed to imply that mostly children sent them. But adults must have been in on it too, because cards as we know them today were started in 1843 by Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He was 65 at the time...not a kid.

Having many people to write at the holidays & not enough time to do (hello, can we identify or what?) Cole commissioned John Horsley, a fashionable artist of the time, to paint a card for him. The card was a rectangle & showed 3 scenes. The central picture is of a family toasting an absent friend (said to be the recipient of the card). On the left & right of that are scenes of someone feeding the poor & another representing clothing the naked, whom I would also assume must have been poor. The greeting reads: "A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you." with To: & From: at the top to be filled in. Talk about easy to send!

The next year it caught on in England & the spread to Europe, but it didn't really take hold stateside for another 30 years, thanks to Louis Prang. Now, it's estimated that Americans send 4 billion Christmas cards a year.

Fun fact: Warren Nord & Tut Anderson hold the Guinness Record for the longest exchange of the same Christmas card. 57 years they sent the same card back & forth. That is a loooong time.

So, blog friends, how many people are on your card list this year? Anyone decide not to send cards?? Either way! It warms my hear to see cards start arriving in the mail. I am actually participating in my first ever Christmas card swap with Brooklyn Bride. Super excited!

Later, y'all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Anatomy of a Thank You Note

(New Thank You notes up on my Etsy shop. Red for the holidays!)

'Tis the season, my friends, for parties, gifts & holiday cheer. Guess what follows? Well, yes, the occasional "cheer" hangover, but also, the time to send thank yous to your hosts & gift givers.

These days the best excuse you have to put pen to paper might be a thank you note. Keeping up with friends has become almost entirely electronic, but that just doesn't cut it when it's time to express your gratitude. So, pull out a pen, grab a card & write (yes, actually write!) your thank yous.

But are you feel awkward writing a thank you note? Fear not! Lots of people do, strangely enough. The more you do it, the better you will get at it, the easier it will feel. Plus, there is a simple formula you can follow to guide you. I put this together based on posts from The Morning News &

1. Greeting the recipient:
Dear Chris,

If "dear" is too familiar, no worries. Just say Hi!

2. Express your gratitude:
Thank you so much for _____!

Fill in the blank with the gift or reason you are writing - a vase, watching my kids, having us over, etc. Mention the gift specifically unless it's money. That is a no-no. In that case you could recognize some one's "generosity."

3. Mention something about the gift -
how you like it, where it will go, how it will be used.

The vase matches our living room perfectly.

The point is to let the person know how you like & appreciate the gift beyond just saying the words "thank you." It brings sincerity to your thanks.

4. Add a personal thought:
Really enjoyed getting together for dinner last week. Let's do it again when we get back from vacation.

Nothing major about things going on in your life in this section. Leslie Harpold of the Morning News.Org says it best in her article: Let the giver know how they fit into the fabric of your life.

5. Re-thank them:
Again, I love the vase! Thank you!

6. Sign off:
All the best, Kerry

Many options here: Love, Best, Cheers...whatever you like. Keep it simple.

And BOOM! You have written a quick & meaningful thank you note. It could only be easier if it was a Mad Lib. Write a few drafts on scrap if you like to get warmed up & organize your thoughts. Then move to your note or social stationery & bang it out.

A common question: Does your thank you note need to say thank you on the front? No! You are saying it on the inside in your note. But, it should be appropriate & reflect the meaning you are sending. (Maybe don't send Grandma a thank you note with skulls on it, even if they are super cute.) Don't know why writing notes is important in the first place? You can start with my earlier blog post here.

Sending you all Holiday cheer! Happy Note Writing!
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