December 26, 2009

Thanks For Gifts

The gift giving is over and the thank you note writing begins. Growing up, my sister and I used to keep a list of family and friends who had given us Christmas gifts. We would split the list right after the holidays and write thank you notes on behalf of each other in our breakfast room. Jenny hated this chore so I usually ended up writing most of the notes, but it started a good habit in both of us. I remember mom always telling us to "Write bigger girls... it looks nicer and you won't have to write as much!" As a kindergarten teacher, my mother always wrote big and it's something I have to remind myself to do from now and again. Aside from "writing bigger", here are some useful tips I learned over years of crafting hundreds of social thank you notes.

-A thank you note can be as short as 3 sentences. Use folded stationery 3" by 5" (this size was made for notes). No need to fill an entire 4" by 6" correspondence card (that size is for correspondence, hence the name).

-Reference the present."Thank you for the pretty earrings."

-Mention something specific about the present you received (remarks about its craftsmanship, reasons why you like it etc.) "The cashmere gloves are very soft and sure to keep me warm this winter."

-Express enthusiasm even if you don't particularly like the present. You can express genuine enthusiasm over the thoughtfulness of the gift. "I cannot wait to use the fondue pot. It will be fun to use when friends come over!"

-Be yourself. There is no need to be formal if that isn't typically you. Use words and expressions that you would normally use in conversation. "The cookbook is amazing. I am using it already." rather than "What a marvelous cookbook." (Most of us don't talk like that, haha!)

-The closing sentence can restate thanks, mention warm wishes or reference the next time you will see the person. It doesn't have to relate to the gift . "I look forward to seeing you at the Winter Ball in January."

-You can sign off with something like "Love", "Fondly", "Sincerely", etc.

- I always read my note aloud back to myself just to make sure it sounds complete.

WHAT IF... receive money? Focus on the generosity of the gift and say how you will use the money. "Thank you for the generous check. I am going to put it towards a couch for my new apartment." cannot identify the gift? Do your best (this is tough) and focus your note on the thoughtfulness of the gift. receive a single gift from more than one person? Unless it's from a married couple or a family, write each individual a separate note. realize that you forgot to send a thank you note and weeks or even months have passed? Don't assume the gift giver forgot, because she didn't! Send a note of thanks even if it's very late. Write about how much you have been enjoying using the gift and do not mention excuses for why it's late. "Every time I buy fresh flowers I use that pretty rose bowl that you gave to me last fall. It always reminds me of your beautiful taste."

If your thank you note can be used over and over again then it isn't specific enough. Your goal is to convey genuine gratitude for a specific present. If you have a large list to get through like after a shower or wedding, tackle a few each night. Lastly, remember to "write big!"

-This post is dedicated to my mom, the most thoughtful woman alive.


December 19, 2009

Creamy Hot Cocoa

Snowflakes are falling in New York City and I'm having a craving for hot cocoa. I just tried this recipe and it's very creamy and very delicious!

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

Combine the cocoa, sugar and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Add the boiling water and keep stirring for about 2 minutes (stirring prevents it from scorching). Add in 3 1/2 cups of milk while stirring. Heat but do not let mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Divide between 4 mugs. Add half-and-half to the mugs of cocoa to cool them down to drinking temperature. What a perfect treat for a snow day!


December 17, 2009

Family Christmas Cards

My roommate Kate is responsible for this little rule: When signing a card from a family, the order should go: mother's name, father's name and then the names of children in birth order. You can always just sign from the whole family too!

Pictured below are some Christmas cards I made this year, enjoy!


Glitter It Up!

Glitter looks beautiful on holiday cards, however it can also make a huge mess. I discovered this amazing product last year when I visited Paper Source in Boston. The ladies at the store introduced me to Ranger's Glitter Glue! It quickly became the answer to all of my glitter woes. After the product is applied to a paper surface, it dries quickly and holds the glitter in place. Its fine tip makes application super easy.

Glitter glue comes in every color you can imagine. My personal favorite color to work with is stardust. It adds a clear sparkle to my cards. You can use glitter glue on a variety of craft items. Best of all, it is the same price as regular glitter so you aren't paying extra for the convenience. How nice!


December 15, 2009

It's All In The Envelope

This post is proof that it's all in the envelope! How much fun is it to find a greeting card envelope in a pile of junk mail? I always save my cards to open last! Your envelopes can stand out even more with a little creativity using some of these ideas.

-Use gold or silver paint pens to write the address and return address
-Create clean and easy polka dots, snowflakes or swirls using glitter glue
-Apply stickers and embellishments and attach well
-Write the return address in a unique way (along vertical edge of the envelope or in a circle on the back of the envelope)
- Purchase post office stamps for the holiday season
- Write words or sentiments along the edge or on the back of the envelope
- Create a design by hand for the address to be placed inside (bookplate, antique sign etc.)
- Use a small, simple rubber stamp to decorate the envelope with ink impressions
- Wrap your envelope in a bow with ribbon or draw on a bow with markers

These ideas also come in handy when you are giving a gift card as a present and want to spice up the envelope.

December 11, 2009

Edible Appetizer Centerpiece

This idea is courtesy of my friend Julie. She found this idea online, created it herself, and it was the hit of the party. It's an edible Christmas tree centerpiece made from broccoli, a foam craft cone and other raw veggies. It serves as a classic appetizer staple and a festive work of art!

Here's what you'll need:
-4 lettuce leaves
-8 cups broccoli, & broccoflower heads blanched
-1 cup petite carrots
-4-8 cups mixed vegetables, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, mixed olives, peppers
-Foam cone found at any craftstore (at least 8 inches tall)
-Dip of choice

Here's what to do:
-Place foam on platter.
-Secure lettuce with toothpicks to cover foam.
-Starting with the largest broccoli and broccoflower heads. Place on foam starting at the base and work your way up securing with toothpicks.
-Push 1/2 the carrots randomly into the foam.
-Cut a handful of the veggies into small pieces and fill in the empty spots and brighten up the tree. Using toothpicks only if needed.
-Place the rest of the veggies around the base of the tree.
-Top the tree with a vegetable slice that has been cut into the shape of a star.
-Serve with a dip of choice.

Set your broccoli tree in the center of the other appetizer platters at your party. This festive centerpiece is sure to be a fantastic conversation piece!

December 10, 2009

Cookie Cutters and More...

Nope, not a baking post! But this post is still sweet (no pun intended). One of my dear friends Christine, AKA "Martha", threw a fabulous little holiday get together last weekend and luckily her cute ideas were documented. Check out some of these ideas! Thanks Martha, oops! I mean Christine:)


December 6, 2009

Christmas Party Ideas

Oh, it's just my favorite time of year. My planner is jammed packed with holiday get togethers. What a great time to catch up with friends and see everyone you care about just before Christmas! I have attended some fabulous gatherings already this season and I thought I'd share a list of some holiday party themes I've collected and a couple of my own ideas too!

1) Send a paper invitation if you can! Your party will be off to a great start and it will stand out. A little extra time and effort makes a big statement.

2) "White Elephant Party" Contemporary verson of a Secret Santa. The rules of the gift exchange are a follows: Each guest brings a gift valued at a set amount. Upon arrival each guest picks a number out of a hat between 1 and the number of people who attended. #1 picks a gift and shows the group what she got. #2 can either steal one of the opened gifts or pick one of the unwrapped gifts in the pile. The game continues on until each guest has a gift in hand. There are a few side rules, you can't take your own gift home, you can't steal back your gift if your gift is stolen from you. Each gift can only be stolen twice and then it stays with the lucky recipient.

3) "The Cookie Exchange" SUCH a cute idea. Here are the rules: The host lets each guest know how many bakers will be attending. Each guest then chooses a cookie flavor and okays it with the host and gives the host the recipe (this ensures variety) Then each guest bakes from scratch a half a dozen cookies for each party attendee and wraps each set up nicely in cute holiday packaging. Upon arrival at the party, the host will display all of the beautifully packaged treats. The cookie exchange then takes place. Each baker stands up and hands out her cookie pack and shares what flavor cookie is inside. After the party each guest will have the recipes emailed to her by the host so guests can bake the cookies at home after sampling them! It's so cute, even non bakers will enjoy!

4) "The Tacky Christmas Party" This one is fun for those with creativity and personality. It is similar to a tacky Christmas sweater party where each guest wears the most hideous Christmas sweater they own, BUT it takes it to the next extreme. You can wear glowing buttons, dress in costume, bring tacky cups for drinking, wear tacky hats and jewelry. Let's face it, sometimes it too hot inside to wear a tacky sweater!

5) "Around the World Christmas Party" Each guest brings a holiday dish representative of their culture. Bring a dish no one is already familiar with. The host should collect the recipes via email beforehand and send out the recipes after the party.

6) "White Christmas Party" Deck the halls (and yourself) white. Decorations include white lights, snow, snowflakes, snowmen, snow globes, white candles, white fur, sleds, white food, egg nog, white russians, white hot chocolate. This party is so fun and leaves a lot of room to be creative!

7) "Gingerbread Cookie Party" Everyone LOVES gingerbread, but hates to make it because there are over a dozen ingredients in the dough. At this party the host pre-makes tons of gingerbread dough and invites the girls over to roll up their sleeves, roll out the dough and cut out and decorate the cookies themselves. While the cookies are baking, ladies can mingle and snack and after the cookies are baking the host has prepared royale icing so ladies can further embellish the cookies. Each guest leaves with yummy cookies in hand. Such a fun and interactive afternoon gathering!

8) "Tree Trimming" Awh my school growing up did a tree trim every year right before school let out and it brings me the fondest memories as will your own tradition. This party is great for newlyweds so they can jumpstart their ornament collection. The host or hosts get a big fat Christmas tree and invite friends and family over to trim the tree. The host provides the beverage and food and the guests will each provide an ornament that will be reminscent of them for years to come!

9) If you are the guest, please RSVP. It is French for "respond please" so the host is asking you to do so. The host thought of you when choosing to invite you so please take a moment and return the favor:)

10) Send a thank you note. A thank you via mail conveys a most genuine sentiment. A phone call will do as well.


November 27, 2009

Monogramming... My Fav

I often get asked about this, probably because I monogram everything (my mother always did it for us when we were little), so I figured I'd put my advice in writing so others can read too!

Monogramming is a sign of personal identity. My motto has always been everything looks better monogrammed! It makes most clothing, household items and gifts seem more put together. Women appear poised when sporting a monogram and men convey that they are traditional and classic. Monogramming will never go out of style in the preppy world! Here are the rules, although they may seem obvious:

1) The woman's monogram is typically in a cursive circle with the left inital being the first letter of her first name, the middle initial (slightly larger font) being the first letter of her last name, and the right initial being the first letter of her middle name. Since the 1900s monograms have become more modern so many types of non cursive fonts are now used for women.

2) Male monograms are usually always in basic arial font with all of the initials being the same size in the order of (first name, middle name, last name)

3) If a woman chooses a male style monogram where the font size is the same the same rules apply to her (first name, middle name, last name) However most female monograms have a larger font for the middle letter. If that is the case the rule is (first name, last name, middle name). Men also do this now too.

4) Couple monograms: Ladies first! The couple monogram goes (womans first name initial, last name initial, man's first name initial) The couple monogram should have the last name initial in a larger font. This is helpful for bridal gifts and a lot of people mess this up!

Some wonderful non traditional items to monogram include, soaps, candles, blankets, slippers, walls, glassware, car doors, upholstered seating and more! Monogrammed items make fabulous hostess gifts so think ahead when you are heading to a party or lodging at someone's home. My favorite monogram site is The Pink Monogram. Monica's items are reasonable and darling!


November 14, 2009

Cinnamon Spice Ornaments

Start making some homemade ornaments now! This terrific recipe is easy and fun and the holiday scent will last for years to come.


1)1 jar cinnamon (approx. 4 ounces/1 cup) slightly more or less; start with approximately ½ cup
2)1–2 tablespoons cloves (use the larger amount for a darker ornament, and slightly decrease the cinnamon)
3)1 tablespoon nutmeg (you can include allspice, mace, or ‘pumpkin pie spice’)
4) ½ to ¾ cup applesauce
5) 2 tablespoons white glue (Elmer’s white glue works well)
6) Toothpick to make a hole for hanging
7) Ribbon for hanging (1/8 inch width)

In a medium bowl, combine cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (and other spices). Add spice mixture to applesauce and glue; stir to combine. Work mixture with hands for 2 to 3 minutes, until dough is smooth and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. It resembles pie crust dough. Divide dough into 2 or 3 portions. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit on counter for 1–2 hours. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight but bring to room temperature before you continue.

Roll each portion to 1/4" thickness on a board lightly dusted with cinnamon to prevent sticking. Cut into shapes with small cookie cutters (Smaller size cookie cutters work best). Make a small hole in the top of each ornament for hanging with a toothpick. Place cutouts on wire racks and allow to dry at room temperature (this will take 2-3 days). Daily turning will give you a flatter ornament with less warping. When the ornaments are thoroughly dry, thread holiday ribbon through hole in ornament.
Recipe makes approx. 32 (2-inch) ornaments. Recipe may be halved.


November 10, 2009

Thankgiving Day Activities

The Turkey is in the oven and the family has arrived. Here are some fun activities your family can do on Thanksgiving Day! (Besides watching football on TV!)

-Art and craft project for the kids: Have paper placecards out and instruct the kids to decorate their own placecards for the feast. Have them decorate the adults' placecards too.

-Have a bunch of fun dress up costume pieces out and ask the kids put together a Thankgiving Day skit complete with Pilgrims and Indians. Ask them to perform the skit for the adults during dessert and coffee!

-Buy a Jenja set at the store and write out questions on the wooden blocks. As adults and kids play, they have to answer the questions on the blocks. Write questions like: I am thankful for Grandpop because...

-Start a movie tradition. Pick a family friendly movie, one that your group will never outgrow or get tired of, and feature it every year.

-Touch football game in the backyard!

-Fill some glass jars with small items like candycorn or nuts. Keep track of how many pieces are in each jar and ask each guest estimate the amount sometime during the night. After dinner annouce the winners and hand out small prizes.

-Pumping carving, why not carve another pumpkin?! Set them up outside along the driveway and light them when your family guests are heading toward their cars.


October 18, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkin carving is one of the greatest Halloween traditions. I collected some terrific tips to share this season:

The Pick of the Patch! The best pumpkin for carving is one that is:
-Large in size
-Has a flat surface (shouldn't roll easily)
-Has a sturdy stem (don't handle your pumpkin by the stem, it will weaken it)
-Has a healthy looking bottom. (A punctured pumpkin on the bottom can have funny things growing inside once you open it up.)

These carving tips may seem basic but they are important!
-Work with a clean and dried surface. Carve on the flattest side of the pumpkin.
-When you cut the lid for your pumpkin make sure to angle the knife so the lid doesn't fall in.
-Use a non permanent marker to draw your design. The marker will wash off easily.
-Clean out the inside and scrape the sides down- you are aiming for a one inch thick frame for cutting.
-Use a saw blade knife. When carving you should be sawing not cutting. Work slowly and carefully because if you make a mistake you can't fix it!

Jack-o-lanterns can last one day to several weeks before shriveling. The key is to prevent the pumpkin from drying out. Here are some tricks:
-Soak your pumpkin in a water bath daily. You can even add some unscented bleach to kill off bacteria and mold.
-If a daily pumpkin bath is too much work, simply spray the pumpkin with water daily but dry off the outside with a towel to prevent mold from growing.
-Coat the inside and exposed sawed edges of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly. It will help seal in moisture.

There are some creative things you can do with your carved pumpkin. Here are some ideas:
-Use either candles or a battery powered small light bulb for lighting the pumpkin. Flash bumbs can be used to add a startling effect!
-Pin colored cellophane sheets behind the carved design. The light will shrine through the design.
-Add a music device to the inside of the pumpkin to welcome trick-or-treaters.

I hope these tips help you create a beautiful jack-o-lantern this season. Happy Halloween!


October 12, 2009

A Space Of Your Own

Over the weekend my roommate was away and I decided to finish a few small projects around the apartment. I have been wanting to create a small space to do my hobbies. For years I have been living with my dear friend Kate in a two bedroom apartment in Murray Hill. Our furniture is small, our decorations are small and the space is, well small. Usually, I make my crafts on the coffee table, even my bedroom floor, any place where I can spread out. I decided that even in my teeny tiny bedroom, it is imperative that I have a space designated for my hobby.

I took a old vanity table and removed the attached mirror. I hung a wall storage unit above the table for my crafts, complete with a lamp and a little chair for sitting and doing my work. (I can still use it as a vanity when I need to. How wonderful to make a space that serves a double purpose!) The wall storage unit actually looks like a piece of art with all of the colorful craft supplies rather than a storage piece. It will also keep me organized since it is on display all of the time now!

Here are some other space making ideas for common hobbies:
-cozy chair with bright lamp for the knitter, needlepointer or reader.
-small kitchen cart for the baker to keep her baking supplies and workspace separate.
-small craft table for the card maker or scrapbooker.
-easel for the drawer or painter, keep unfolded and ready to go.

Living a happy, stressfree life involves making time for your hobbies. Creating a "space" for your hobby will remind you to do your hobby more often. No matter how little square footage you have, you can always find space for the things you love. Keep your space set up as a reminder to take time out of your day for yourself to do what you love. If your space is ready to go, you are more likely to take time for your craft. You always have time to do what is important to you, it's all about prioritizing!


October 1, 2009

SUCH Ideas For Halloween

Do you ever come up with a great idea and think to yourself How did that just pop into my head? I imagine that other creative folks think the same thing all the time too. The act of coming up with a creative idea is very exciting. I had lunch with my old co-worker Terrence this week and I asked him what his two little baby girls were going to be for Halloween. He wasn't sure so we began to think of ideas...

I've always loved the idea of making my own costume. I don't mean sewing necessarily, just thinking up a unique idea and figuring out a way to make it happen. Sort of like having thoughts in your head and finding the right words to articulate them. So the idea I posed to Terrence was that his family should dress up as s'mores. Haha, yes the ones you eat at campfires! Don't ask me why this idea randomly popped into my head but it did and we began to roll with it. Mom and Dad can dress as graham crackers using brown cardboard sheets over their clothes. One year old Lucia can go as chocolate by wearing a brown sweatsuit and paper cone hat covered in tin foil with a hershey's kiss tag coming out of the top. Baby Ava can go as the marshmellow, all wrapped up in white blankets. How cute!

This morning I was sitting in the cab texting Terrence that he should definitely do the group s'mores costume and that I would be happy to make Lucia's hat. Suddenly, another idea popped into my head. Oh, the excitement is back- I love it! Anyway, my idea was another family costume where everyone dresses up as a type of donut. Dad can be a french crowler, Mom can be a vanilla glazed donut, and baby Lucia and baby Ava can go as munchkins. How cute again!

Well, the purpose of the post is not to give you costume ideas this year, but it is to encourage you to think outside the box this Halloween. Once you have a fun and creative idea, go ahead and make the costume yourself. It doesn't really matter how the costume turns out, it's the idea and creativity behind it that will get all of the attention you are seeking. When you come up with your creative idea you may even get that really excited feeling too!

September 19, 2009

What A Polite Puppy!

On Wednesday my sister and Bill brought home an adorable cockapoo puppy named Winnie! Winnie is bringing joy to our whole family and last night I had the chance to babysit her while her mom and dad went out to dinner in the city. Winnie played all night and when my sister and Bill came to pick her up she was out like a light!

Having Winnie stay with me inspired me to create some puppy thank you notes. I made these notes as a gift to Jenny and Bill so they can write on behalf of Winnie when a friend watches her or gives her a present. Already little Winnie is learning nice manners. What a polite little puppy!

September 16, 2009

"Dress Up" A Cocktail Party

The New York Junior League Homecoming theme this year is "Flappers and Dappers". Each party hosted by the Astor House Committee has a theme and it is one of the reasons why our parties are consistently a hit! Next time you throw a party, center it around a theme with the opportunity for guests to dress up if they want to. Last night at my committee meeting a bunch of us were discussing our themed accessories. What a fun way to "dress up" a cocktail party!

For those of you ladies in New York who wish to attend NYJL Homecoming on Friday, September 25th, please visit for more information!


September 9, 2009


Sometimes when you are reminded just how precious life is, you begin to appreciate each happy and healthy day even more. Your very worst day is someone else's very best day. Never take life for granted and feel blessed for even the smallest of things in your life. Most importantly, tell those you love how much you love them and how grateful you are to have them in your life.
-This post is dedicated to my loving Grandmom


September 8, 2009

Royal Icing

Over Labor Day weekend I made my sugar cookies again (the recipe I posted in May from Mrs. Fields) This time instead of just adding colored sugar decoration, I added royal icing and they were deeee-licious!! You can use royal icing on cookies, cakes, donuts, just about anything you want and it works wonders if you are trying to make flowers or other intricate confections. Here's the recipe- it's soooo easy!

Whisk together 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice with 2 egg whites. Add in 3 cups confectioners sugar and a dabble of gel food coloring. The proper consistency is when the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface for about 5 seconds before disappearing. To cover the cookie neatly, take the cookie and place a small amount of icing in the middle of the cookie. Using a small knife or spatula, push the icing to the edge of the cookie. If the icing runs off the edge, thicken the icing by adding a little more confectioners sugar. The icing will harden quickly when exposed to air so you must work fast or else cover the icing in an airtight container if you need to take a break. If you are using the icing to pipe flowers or write letters, add a little more confectioners sugar so the consistency is a bit thicker and optimal for piping. Pipe with a fine metal frosting tip and plastic pastry bag that you can throw away in case the icing hardens inside the bag.

If you really want to wow your crowd, sprinkle colored sugar decoration on the surface of the cookies while the royal icing is still drying. Whoa baby, look out!

September 1, 2009

Girls Only!

Last year I joined an NFL survivor pool through a friend of a friend. Basically I paid $100 to enter the pool of 80 and I took my chance each week at picking different winning teams to advance to the next week. I was eliminated by October but I had fun watching and caring about games I wouldn't normally give a hoot about. I had enough of a good time that when I got an email from the pool leader today to sign up again for 2009, I thought: yeah sure, I'll do it again this year! Well... When I went to the website to sign up, I discovered that I could start my own pool. To my ultimate delight, I did just that- set up a "Girls Only NFL Survivor Pool" for me and 20 girlfriends!

Yep that's right! Move over boys, the girls have it under control and we are doing one ourselves this year. The best part of running my own pool is that I can set it up however I wish, survivor style, fantasy football style and so on... I decided to stick with survivor, I mean who do I think I am am trying to run a fantasy pool??Haha! So I set up double elimination to prolong the fun and it's only $20 a girl. I mean no one expects to win the pool- it's all about the excitement along the way anyway!

So that's my great idea for the night: Start a football pool just for the girls this year. Here's the site ladies!


August 29, 2009

She Said "Yes"!

It's that time of year... summer is almost over, vacations are taking place and people are getting engaged. Haha, well at least a bunch of girls I know are! Engagement cards are my favorite cards to make. There is something so fun about creating a card for a girl who is absolutely ecstatic. Just making the cards makes me ecstatic! Here are some pretty engagement cards I created for girls who said "yes" this summer! Congratulations and lots of love to Kelly, Lindsey and Betsy!

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