Archive of 'Holidays'

Monday, February 4th, 2013

How to Throw a Valentine’s Day Tea Party for Grown-Up Little Girls

It’s easy to have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. For a holiday that is purportedly all about love, it sure puts a lot of pressure on you: pressure to feel bad if you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, pressure to come up with some great gift or date idea if you do, pressure to eat sugar.

But despite it all, I am unashamed to say that I love Valentine’s Day. I have found my forever Valentine (plus a Valentine doggy for good measure), but truth be told romance is not even what I love about Valentine’s Day. What I love about it is exactly what I’ve loved about it since I was a little girl, and it can pretty much be summed up in three words: Pink, White, & Red.


And you thought loving Christmas for shopping was shallow… I love Valentine’s Day for it’s decor! But it’s true. I can’t help it. Something about the heart-shaped cookies, paper cutouts, and gorgeous tone-on-tone color scheme speaks to me every single year. What other holiday is so singular in its aesthetic focus?

Last year, I decided that I wanted to revisit the Valentine’s Day get-togethers I loved as a child, and I decided to host a grown-up girls’ Valentine’s tea party at my home. Because we lived, then, in a teeny-tiny house and were (okay, still are) operating on a teeny-tiny budget, I had to get creative with my space-planning, decor, and menu.


I set up the main gathering space in our little living room (also our library, as you can see). A white tablecloth instantly elevated our round coffee table, and inexpensive fabric and paper decorations helped fill the space with that pink, white, and red I love so much. (It didn’t hurt that we had a red couch, either.)

2012-02-12 14.07.58

I followed this YouTube tutorial to make the tissue paper flowers that hung above the mantle and dangled from the ceiling around the coffee table.

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The most expensive part of the decor was probably fresh flowers; but they make such a difference. These tulips in Ball-jars on the windowsill and the bunch of roses in a white pitcher on the table were some of my favorite decorations.

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A friend lent me the pink damask fabric that I used on the couch cushions and the gorgeous pink square serving plates (pictured above, with sugar cookies on them). Having generous friends is a great way to help your budget, too!


  • Tea, of course, both black and Rooibos.
  • Sparkling Pomegranate Juice and Sparkling Blood Orange Juice.
  • Frosted Heart Sugar Cookies. I used this gluten-free recipe, and they were AMAZING. Honestly, non gluten-free friends were telling me that they were some of the best sugar cookies they had ever had.
  • Chocolate-covered Strawberries. (Out of season, I know, but for some reason I always want to make chocolate-covered strawberries this time of year.)
  • Brie & Pomegranate Bites. The same friend who lent me the serving dishes suggested this hors d’oeuvre to me, and they were so delicious–the perfect proteinous/salty counterpoint to all the sweets. (Need help with that pomegranate? I’ll tell you a secret, though; for this occasion, I bought the seeds pre-extracted.)


After tea and refreshments, we cleared the table and broke out paper, scissors, glue, and stickers and made Valentine’s cards. How fun is that? It took me straight back to being nine years old.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon, it was incredibly fun to plan and execute. But… it was also a lot of work! So I’m not hosting a tea this year, but I’m sure I’ll find some way to bring the pink, white, and red into my life.

Oh, and quality time with my Valentine(s). I guess that would be good too. ;)


Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

DIY: Simple White Ornaments from Baking Soda & Cornstarch

I had high hopes for a homemade Christmas this year, but in the end I largely ended up buying gifts instead. I don’t feel too bad about it; I liked the gifts I bought, and it’s what my time ended up allowing for.

But I did get one little project done, and that was making these simple white ornaments from a clay of baking soda and cornstarch. Who knew that such humble (and cheap!) household ingredients could become such an elegant decoration?


Well, apparently the author of The Woodside Kitchen knew, because that’s where I found this excellent recipe. Please click over to her blog for a more thorough explanation, but I will give my own description of the process here.

Making these ornaments is about as simple as could be: Put 1/2 cup cornstarch1 cup baking soda, and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan and stir continuously over medium-low heat until a magical transformation starts taking place. Instead of being runny and watery, as the mixture heats it will become more doughy, or clay-like. When it reaches this point, remove from heat and put the clay in a bowl to let it cool.

It should look something like this:


After it’s cool (but not too long after! I learned the hard way that if you let this dough set out it will become dry and brittle. You have to strike while the iron is hot, or, in this case, damp.), knead the clay well on parchment paper. Then roll it out (on parchment paper or a cornstarch covered surface) and cut it using your festive cookie cutters of choice.


At this point you’ll have smooth, flat shapes ready to bake as decorations. But you may want to do two things now: first, you probably want to poke a hole for the string if you’re planning to use these as ornaments. You could use a pencil, a chopstick, or a small straw to do this.

Second, if you’re like me, you may want to stamp the ornaments. I happened to have this round snowflake stamp that I got for a dollar at Michael’s, so I decided to see how it would look if I textured the surface of the ornaments with it. I was pleased.

The recipe I followed said to bake these on a cookie sheet at 175 degrees for about an hour (turning the ornaments over halfway through), but I may suggest cooking them a little longer. The ornaments were still slightly pliable after I cooked them for the recommended time, but I set them in front of my dehumidifier for a day and they were right as rain.


Voila! Simple white ornaments. I used some thin white twine for the string, but you could get a different look by using shiny ribbon or brown packing twine. I also think it would be fun to experiment with painting the ornaments and possibly glazing them… she has some suggestions along those lines here too.

Enjoy! This is really such a fun craft. Oh, and your mileage may vary, but for me this recipe made about 13 ornaments.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Drawing a Calendar – My New Year Ritual

I sat down this morning to balance and budget and found that one of my main tools, my home-made calendar, had lost its usefulness yesterday at midnight.

My almighty desk calendar, keeper of bills and birthdays, is simply a big pad of white drawing paper. So I ripped off the page for December 2012, and using a pencil and a ruler I ticked off one and a half inch boxes on twelve pages for January through December 2013–seven across, five down (except for the odd month that has six) on each page–and then drew in the names and dates.

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This process took no small amount of time, and I admit I asked myself why, exactly, I was doing this rather than buying a pre-made desk calendar. My pert answer was that I oughtn’t spend money where it wasn’t necessary, but even as I had that thought I knew it was more than that.

In the same way that I always found writing out my own vocabulary flashcards more helpful than buying them pre-written, the very act of drawing pen and pencil across paper helps me reinforce the width and breadth of the coming days. Not so wide, not so broad, but just so–ready to be lived through, quick to disappear, very definitely themselves.

My holidays were wonderful–with my husband, with a dog, with a nephew, with my parents and brother and sister-in-law… besides the fact that there is more family I wish we could have been with, I could not ask for a more perfect Christmas.

But Christmas is passed, now, and though I’ll keep one eye on it for a bit longer, it’s time to train my other on the horizon–to reorient myself toward what’s behind and what’s ahead, and decide what to do with that precious slice of time in between.

Everyone has their own way of accomplishing this. Today, this was mine. Here’s hoping the new year brings you deep joy and fulfillment, however you choose to greet it.

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours

Greco Christmas Card 2012

I’ll be taking a little time off from the blog for the holiday. Blessings, Love, Grace, and Peace to you and yours in the coming days.

(Thank you to my friend Chelsea for taking this family photo for us. :))

Friday, December 21st, 2012

‘Twas the Friday Before Christmas…

… and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even… the pup.


So naturally, I had to put a Santa hat on his head.


You’re welcome! Merry Christmas from the saddest Santa. ;)