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.

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