Archived Ideas for ‘Holiday’

IDEA 100: EXTEND THE INVITE

Nov
2018

Now that I’m home for the holidays, it seems more important than ever to gather the biggest bunch of loved ones to the Thanksgiving table. I know it’s not essential to actually get everyone at the same table, but this little trick could be just the thing if that’s what you’re after.

With the help of a single 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood, our dining table became big enough to seat 12!

All we did was round the corners so as to avoid hip-pokes, and attached blocking, one on each side, just outside the tabletop underneath. This makes the top quite stable, and keeps the board from moving anywhere. Don’t actually attach anything to the table.

Put a large tablecloth over the whole thing and no one will ever know the difference.

I find you can comfortably seat four on each side and two on each end. And more than that if you have benches and small children.

It’s so fun to have a big generous table. You may decide just to keep it that way all year! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And may you have as many at your table as you wish!

IDEA 93: EMBRACE MYSTERY

Feb
2017

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It’s hard to disguise a heart shaped box of chocolates. But chances are, your Valentine has never received quite such a mysterious looking gift as this. And what romance couldn’t use a little extra mystery now and then?

Here is a simple but chic idea to customize that heart-shaped box of chocolates for your very special ones on Valentine’s Day. The beauty is, the quicker, and somewhat sloppier your wrapping, the better. No need for ‘hospital corners‘ here.

I started with heart shaped boxes of chocolates of various sizes, depending on the sizes of each of my Valentines. (My husband got the ginormous one, while the kids got minis).

Using plain brown paper from my roll,

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I tore off a large sheet, (measure as if you are gift wrapping), surrounded the box, and taped it in back.

Now, instead of neat square corners, I just crunched the paper around the shape. I did clip at the top center of the heart, and cut a “v” out at the bottom point. But only so as not to have too big a lump of crunched paper.

Next, I took a roll of ribbon (I had a variety of 1/4 satin to 3/4 inch grosgrain in hot pink and red) and began winding it haphazardly to try to catch all sides from unraveling. I tied the ribbon in front with a bow. For fun, I added small ribbon rosebuds (you can purchase from the fabric store or Michael’s) and sewed them to different places using a continuous matching thread.

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Now, all you need to do is come up with a clever valentine pun. Like: “Valentine, you’ve got me tied up in knots.” Or “Be Mine. No strings attached!” or maybe just simply:

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xo

IDEA 92: START THE YEAR OFF YOUR WAY

Jan
2017

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Do you find yourself having misgivings about the New Year’s holiday?

Has the prudent-you always felt a little uncomfortable sharing the roads with who knows how many party-hearty individuals?

Has the traditional-you felt the holiday tree and decorations needed to stay up through New Year’s Eve, especially when entertaining, but even when you weren’t?

Will the career-girl-you be back to work the day after New Year’s Day, meaning the opportunity to take down the tree will be pushed to the nearest weekend opening, which could easily be the end of January—if not February?

Does the lazy, cozy, introverted-you just not relish the thought of a big party? (Either to throw, or attend)?

Well, here’s a thought for next year (or tonight):

Light a fire in the fireplace (if you have one).

Put on music.

Open a bottle of red wine.

Grill filet mignon on the grill (yes, in the snow).

And “Take down Christmas”.

Now, instead of hastily gathering everything up to stash away, or worse, just feeling let down that the season has ended, take your time. The decoration boxes will be a little more organized, and you won’t have to worry about getting to it once back at work, (or whatever makes up your busy life).

I highly recommend you try it, if not now, next New Year’s Eve. It will make the chore different, like a tradition. And it will be lovely to wake up on the first day of the new year to a clean, vacuumed house with everything tucked back in their boxes, and your still beautiful tree stuck in a snow-bank in the back yard for the birds to enjoy till spring. Now, that’s a BellaPamella idea if I ever heard one.

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IDEA 91: MAKE A DAY-OFF TRADITION

Dec
2016

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Do you ever experience an after-the-holiday lull? Not exactly down (or maybe a little down), more like, “Now what?”

Sometimes a day off is well spent noshing pudding while binge-re-watching your favorite Netflix series. But if that activity doesn’t feed your soul (or if you can’t get away with it in your particular household) why not have a holiday day-off tradition? This could be a Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New year’s eve or New Year’s Day event. It can be on your own, or with family or friends. But the secret is to make it the thing you do, every year (unless you don’t feel like it, which is allowed because it’s YOUR tradition).

Mine doesn’t always occur on the same day, this year it was Christmas Eve, but for the last several years it’s been making decorated gingerbread animal cookies.

Over the years these have shown up on the BellaPamella Facebook page. And I think that’s how I discovered it has become a tradition.

We always use the same recipe from an old Williams Sonoma cookbook. You can find a similar one on line. But really any one would do.

The story is easily told in pictures. And I would just add that buying or finding some small boxes to allow any guests to take a few cookies home with them is truly the icing on the cookie. So to speak.

We find this activity to be calming as well as creative, something that really works in our house. Have a wonderful holiday season and remember, when in doubt, bake something!

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IDEA 81: COMBINE THE POSIES WITH THE SWEETS

Feb
2016

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I just had to make this the February tutorial because, what‘s better than sweets AND flowers to celebrate Valentines Day? Whether you make these for someone else or yourself, you’ll feel the love.

Sometimes a food recipe photo or tutorial is super-pretty and looks so easy. But when you try to make it, the result is much more difficult, and less attractive than in the picture. Well, this one is different! It really is that easy, and these turn out as cute as they say.

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You may have seen this fun link for “Apple Roses” .

I wondered if it was really as simple and wonderful as it looked so I tried it. And, contrary to what I was expecting, they turned out every bit as beautiful and delicious as the picture.

I used peach preserves instead of apricot, just because of personal preference, but I bet you could substitute any marmalade or preserve you like. And I prefer to do a double recipe so you use exactly one package of puff pastry. Besides, six roses just isn’t enough! So, here would be your ingredient list for 12 roses:

4 apples (any kind you like but the red skin color makes pretty roses)

1 lemon

6 tablespoons preserves (I used peach)

4 tablespoons water

I package puff pastry containing two sheets

Cinnamon

Powdered sugar for a sprinkle at the end, if you like

Follow the fun tutorial and see what you think. I then packaged mine in a simple pastry box tied with a narrow grosgrain ribbon. The ultimate in taste for any deserving Valentine.

Including yourself, of course.

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IDEA 76: MAKE A CHERISHED HAND-ME-DOWN

Apr
2015

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What is it about our off-spring’s little hand and footprints that look to us like one of nature’s most beautiful design motifs?

When my firstborn came back from the hospital nursery with inky feet, I was thrilled to see that the nurses had captured the one-day-old feet on a beautiful document, and I requested they put another set right onto the page of his baby book.

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When my baby daughter got to day-care, I received a “corsage” made by one of the teachers. It was for Mother’s Day, and was made using my daughter’s tiny handprint in pink paint, cut out, laminated with a pin back, and festooned with small pink ribbons. I wore that corsage on Mother’s Day for years.

That’s why, when my colleague Jen told me about her handprint project, I knew I had to share it. It’s just SUCH a BellaPamella idea!!

With each child’s first birthday, she purchased a white tablecloth. The birthday kid was allowed to put a painty set of his/her handprints on the cloth, which was then labeled with their age (1). As the birthdays commenced, the handprints collected. Each cloth is different, reflecting the “design sensibility” of each child.

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The original idea was to bring out the special tablecloth to decorate the birthday party table. But, very quickly, Jen realized this keepsake was way too precious to expose it to spilled Kool-Aid and ice cream.

So, it still comes out. It gets it’s annual set of prints, and becomes a wall hanging or other decorative drape for the duration of the celebration. Then it’s safely stowed, away from flinging food, until the next year. And one day, it just may provide a favorite story for her grand kids.

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IDEA 74: MAKE A HOLIDAY KITCHEN TREE

Dec
2014

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Many years ago, at a kitchen shop, I was enticed by a silver-plated Christmas ornament in the shape of a miniature colander. It was at that very moment I decided to give my beloved kitchen a Christmas tree of its own.

Of course, there isn’t a lot of extra room in my kitchen, so I bought the smallest tree I could find, about 2 ½ feet high.

Over the years I have collected special kitchen themed ornaments for this tree, which has now become an annual tradition, brought home along with the regular sized family Christmas tree.

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I’ve got a tiny old fashioned egg beater, a whisk, rolling pin, fry pan, cheese shredder, kettle, a mini spoon, knife and fork, a tiny blender and myriad plates, cups and teapots.

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To make your own kitchen tree, you’ll need a small tree stand with a water reservoir. The one I use is much bigger than it needs to be, but it was one we had around so I use it. Look for a nicely shaped “table top” tree. They are much less expensive than a full sized one, although I usually have to shop around a couple places to find them.

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I like to start by winding a beautiful ribbon on the tree. I don’t use any lights. But you could if you want to.

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My wide ribbon has wire in the edges. This makes it very easy to just sort of unwind the ribbon down the tree. It naturally wants to curve that way.

Then I insert several “fruit picks”. I keep these with my ornaments and just stick them right into the tree.

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You don’t need everything right away. In fact, it’s more fun to add a new ornament to your kitchen tree each year.

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So what do you put on the treetop? A star shaped cookie cutter, of course.

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IDEA 66: GO FOR THE WIN-WIN

Nov
2013

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Those of us with gardens are plagued by at least one fact: If we have enough of something, we more than likely have WAY too much of it.

Each year our family finds ourselves up to our eyeballs in SOMETHING. This year it was green beans. My husband planted a dandy crop of beans to climb his chicken-wire fence and form a natural shade wall to our patio. Once the beans appeared, it was lovely to snap off a few and munch while doing yard duty. But somewhere along the way, we realized we were LOUSY with green beans.

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Keeping up with the harvest was no small feat. But worse was concocting ways to eat them all. I brought a few bag-loads to work and it was satisfying to watch them disappear. But the beans kept coming. And that’s how he (ingenious husband) came up with the idea to make Dilly Beans.

I can take absolutely no credit. He bought numerous flats of canning jars and we had everything but the vinegar. Using a few other things he either grew or got from the CSA, he put these together, lovely in their simple and organic manifestation of red and green. The recipe he used was from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. But if you don’t have the book, the recipe is very much like this one.

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The addition of red bell pepper slices to the lovely green prompted my declaration that they were now holiday gifts. And, of course, he made multiples of the recipe. Add some red or green grosgrain ribbon bows and if you’re feeling snappy, tie on a little card.

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If you didn’t happen to grow green beans this year, you now have time to plan, plant, harvest and can for NEXT holiday season. But no need to wait. Just get your beans from the grocer. Then, spend one afternoon canning beans and you can wrap up a dozen of the same pretty packages. Just think. You could have your holiday shopping done in one weekend. Now that’s a BellaPamella idea if I’ve ever heard one!

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By the way, care to look stunning as you create your holiday gifts? How about buying yourself a gift of a BellaPamella apron here?!

IDEA 58: GINGERBREAD THERAPY

Dec
2012

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Sometimes, during the holiday season, it’s all we can do to get the dang tree into the house. As the Big Day draws near, we start eliminating things from our To-Do list, aware of the fact that we just can’t get it all done. Then, other years, we look around and realize we’re pretty much ready, with days to spare. And somehow in our emotionally-charged state we can feel let down, wondering, what’s everyone else up to?

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It’s times like this we need to take charge. We need to buy some molasses (because that’s usually the only ingredient we don’t already have) and make some gingerbread cookie dough. Why? Because we can.

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If you don’t have a bucket full of various cookie cutters, it’s time to start collecting!

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I love to bring out the animals, as well as my perennial favorite, the pear.

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Cooking the cookies will fill the house with an awesome aroma. And decorating can be done very simply: with white icing (1 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 4 or 5 teaspoons milk) and the occasional cinnamon red candy. Snip off the corner of a plastic bag and squeeze the icing out in a thin line or dots.

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If you have a kid around they may come up with something more complicated, like this incredible, tiny gingerbread house made by my daughter.

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No matter what you do you should feel creative, and practical, since you can eat all mistakes and be amazed that they taste just as good as the masterpieces.

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Have a lovely, simple, happy, wonderful-smelling holiday this year!

IDEA 57: EASE THE TRANSITION

Nov
2012

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Those who shop Nordstrom’s may be aware of their policy not to “deck the halls” until the day after Thanksgiving. Shoppers who grow weary of tinsel and lights weeks before Christmas find Nordstrom’s policy a breath of fresh air. I hold a similar view. The day after Thanksgiving, all bets are off. But until that time I like to give each holiday it’s day in the sun.

The only problem is that it can be confusing (or wasteful, or just a lot of work) to treat Thanksgiving completely separate from the festivities to come. Case in point, the well-meaning homeowner (below) I spied this morning.

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Some might remember my blog entry a couple years ago on how to take a simple decoration and transition it from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. This year’s idea is even simpler. Because after all, celebration makes the world go round, but in my book, simplicity keeps it sane.

I’m having a big crowd for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to doll up the front of the house. I scored a great deal on two pots of spruce tips from the grocery store, complete with “sugared” red berry branches. I love the sweet look, but just not quite this early, so I temporarily removed the red.

I’m kind of a pear freak, and I just happened to have a pear wreath purchased a few years ago from Target.

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A quick trip to the craft store produced a spray of mini pears and some gorgeous taupe, and pear and colored ribbons.

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And, “Voila!” my front porch is ready to welcome my family and guests.

So here’s the funny part. My intention was to doll up Thanksgiving with an updated cornucopia-type theme using pears. But the resulting motif, with the pears, ribbon and wreath, form a fresh holiday look that may just take me through to Christmas!

(And I can always add in the sugared berry branches on Friday).