Holiday Gifts

So Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Are you in need of a last minute host gift? Perhaps you want to show your appreciation to your neighbors, friends, or in laws? Here are a few ideas for some festive personalized treats.

The Classic Host Gift: Wine

For many events (especially large dinners) wine is typically a go-to gift for a host, Thanksgiving is no exception. But what kind of wine is best and how can you add your own personal touch?

Both white and red wines can work with Thanksgiving day feasts.

Whites

While chardonnay is typically a reliable standby ,its intese flavor may not be the best for such an overwhelming amount of flavors. Instead consider a lighter fruity choice. The most popular of these include Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Reds

Yes, red wine is typically served with dark meat, but lighter reds are just right! Stay away from tart choices like Cabernet. Instead try Pinot Noir, Zinfadel, or Syrah.

Or…

You could marry the two and choose a nice, pink Rose! Its light, crisp flavor may be a nice compliment for a hearty meal.

Personalization:

There are a variety of ways to personalize wine bottles. You can use printable holiday labels like this or this. Or you can customize your own label here. These sites let you choose whether you would like to print free from your home wine labels or tags to drape around the bottle’s neck.

Another way to add your own personal flare is to use a wine bag or box and customize it. You can add photographs, gift tags, and more!

NOT 21? NOT A PROBLEM!

Pumpkin Nutella Bread

This festive holiday treat is both scrumptious and easy to make.

ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract
8 tablespoons Nutella (2 tablespoons per mini loaf)

directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Using non-stick spray, coat a layer onto your bread pans. If you do not have spray, canola oil and a paper towel will do the trick.
  2. In a bowl, blend together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together completely.
  3. In a separate larger bowl, combine sugar, canola oil, water, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and hazelnut. Make sure the mixture is a smooth consistency.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture and continue to stir.
  5. When the ingredients are well combined, pour the batter into your pans. Add a spoonful of Nutella to the top of each pan. Swirl the butter into the mixture.
  6. Place the loafs into the oven. The bake time will vary based on the size of your pan. I used four medium sized pans and baked for 40-45 minutes. If you are using smaller trays you may be safer at 20-25, or if you are using one large pan it may take up to 60-65 minutes.
  7. You will know your bread is done when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. When done, allow the bread to cool for 15 minutes before attempting to remove from the pans. Allow it to cool completely before slicing.

And there you have it! Yummy, simple treats!

Pumpkin Candle Votives

Have leftover pumpkins that you feel guilty throwing away? Here is a waste-free way to use them!

Materials

  • Pumpkins (smaller sizes tend to work best)
  • Knife
  • Tea light or votive candle
  • Lighter or matches

Directions

  1. Take a damp cloth, wipe down the top of your pumpkin stem to remove excess dirt or blemishes.
  2. Using your candle as a guide, dot around the border of your candle with a knife.
  3. Take the knife and cut your circle connecting the dots. Be sure to only carve as deep as your candle need be. You dont want it sinking to bottom or falling through completely.
  4. Insert your candle, you may have to clean up the edges in order for it to fit better.
  5. Once in place, melt the wax on the edges to conform to the pumpkin’s shape.

You now have a fun, festive candle! This project is very quick and extreamely easy!

And there you have it!

A complete list of thoughtful, simple ideas that anyone would appreciate receiving!

Have fun and enjoy your holiday festivities!

Wall Garden

Sick of living in a room with monotonous white walls? Ever wish you could add a touch of color to a room without having to use paint? Well the answer is here.

Tapestries have been an implement element of decor since the 3rd century B.C. They not only add color and texture to a room, but they can also be quite expressive. The types and styles have a variety of ranges, from elaborate depictions of famous artwork such as this piece recreating”The Birth of Venus” or the more simplistic designs like this elegant floral design.

Recently, tapestries have been trending in design and decor stores (such as Urban Outfitters, World Market, and Pottery Barn) and can be found in younger, hipper spaces. They are popular among college students and young adults alike.

Cal Poly freshman Rebecca Taylor explained what drew her to purchasing one. “I like how it makes it feel more homey,” Taylor said. “It completely changes the mood of the room.”

But many of these shops charge upwards of $50.

“I was looking to get one, but when I saw how expensive they were I decided against it,” stated Brianna White, a Cuesta student.

Here we will be showing how you can make it yourself for under $20.

HOW TO!

The tapestry we will be making here will look as if a garden is growing out of your wall!

You will need:

  • White sheer fabric ( your choice of yardage, I got about 3.5 yards and it cost about $15)
  • Needle, pins and thread
  • Fabric flowers of choice ( I used red roses from the dollar store, 2 bunches of 6 flowers)
  • White Christmas lights (optional)
  • Push pins

Directions:

  1. Iron out your fabric so as to eliminate wrinkles. From her cut the buds off of your flower arrangement. Be sure to save the leaves for this adds to the effect. 
  2. Position the fabric flowers to your desired position. Be sure to change it up so it does not look too orchestrated. Have some facing upward, outward, down, and sideways. Maybe cluster some and have others solo.
  3. Once positioned, sew the flowers and leaves to the fabric. They do not need to be sewn completely around, just tacked on in one spot enough to hold the position.
  4. When finished, take a step back. Decide at this point if Christmas lights are something you would choose to incorporate.
  5. Begin hanging! Using push pins, pull the fabric tight and put a pin in each of the four corners. Add more around the border for security as necessary.

And there you have it! 5 easy steps

Serving it Up

From toddlers to the elderly, decorating and personalizing ceramics is a relaxing way to demonstrate creativity. Plus, the product is a handmade piece that can be used or given as a gift.

There are myriad ceramic shops located throughout the country that allow patrons to come in and paint items of their choice. This includes figurines, dishes, vases and various other knick knacks. Heather Gelfound of Paint Pals in Simi Valley explained the attraction to this particular art form. “It’s versatile because a ceramic can be painted any way that a person desires. It can be baked in an oven for a smooth finish or it can be glossed with a spray,” Gelfound said.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Rachelle Beaudoin said she would use this as an idea for a gift. “Hand made gifts are special because you know a lot of time and effort went into it,” Beaudoin said. ” And i think that’s more important than how much money it cost.”

Gina Allen of Firefly Ceramics stated, ” There are a variety of age groups and experience levels. Some take it more seriously than others, but it’s a lot of fun no matter what.” She elaborated by saying that the studio hosts everything from children’s birthday parties, to baby showers and more.

However, these shops tend to be a bit pricey. They can vary from $5-45 depending on what is being made and the establishment. It can be made for under $5, and here is how!

What you will need:

  • A plate or cup ( I got my plates for $1 each at Ross)
  • Pencil
  • Permanent  marker (any color you choose)
  • Oven

Directions:

  1. Wash your plate or cup well and be sure to remove price tags and dust.
  2. Find your decorative inspiration. This can be song lyrics, quotes, book segments, or stencils!
  3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In pencil, layout your design in order to assure there is space.

4. Go over your pencil design with the permanent marker. (TIP: If you find you are unhappy with the way it looks or if you make a mistake, a sponge and dish soap will do the trick)

5. When you are happy with your look, put your item in the oven for 30 minutes.

6.When it is done, carefully remove it from the oven. It will be very hot so use hot pads or oven mits for safety.

And there you have it! The design is set into your piece and will remain wash after wash!

    

Aut-YUM Treats

What celebrates the commencement of fall, cuddly weather better than baking and sweet treats?

Here are a few Fall recipes you don’t want to miss:

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • Apple cinnamon muffin mix (carried seasonally at chain grocery stores)
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons oil ( canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • A dash of powdered sugar
  • Candy corn (optional)

You will also need an oven, oven mitts, mixing bowl, and cupcake pan with paper cups.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Empty the mix into the bowl and add milk, egg, and oil. Mix well until smooth.
  2. Spoon out the batter into your cupcake tray, filling the cups about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top for flavor.
  3. Bake for 16-18 minutes. You can test the cake by inserting a toothpick through the center. If it is thoroughly baked, the toothpick should come out clean.
  4. While your cupcakes are in the oven, begin making your icing. Mix together the butter and cream cheese. It may help to put these in the microwave for about 10 seconds to allow them to blend easier. Add powdered sugar to sweeten to your liking.
  5. Once the cupcakes have cooled, begin to frost. Embellish with sprinkles or your favorite seasonal candy. Candy corn is a great choice for the fall!

Homemade Candy Apples

Ingredients:

  • Apples
  • Candy sticks (optional)
  • Chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips
  • Candy corn, sprinkles, brown sugar, etc

You will also need a microwave or a stove and pan.

  1. Wash the apples. Make sure to remove any stickers and dry them thoroughly.
  2. Melt your chocolate. Using a microwaveable safe bowl, poor your chips of choice in. Microwave for 1 minute on High. Remove and stir. Repeat the process until the chocolate is of a smooth, milky consistency. I recommend microwaving as it is harder to burn the chocolate with this technique.
  3. Dip the apples in the chocolate. Use a fork or a spoon if necessary to evenly coat the entire fruit. This step may get a bit messy.
  4. Decorate with any choice of sprinkles, candy, or simply brown sugar.
  5. Put the decorated treats in the freezer to set the chocolate and the decor.
  6. And enjoy!

For more fun holiday treats check out Family Fun or Food Network
Enjoy the cuddly weather and happy baking!

Tip of the Hat

There are a variety of upcoming artists that have caught my eye and deserve recognition.

MUSIC

  1. 1. Bill Fay! He is a singer/songwriter who actually produced his first album in 1970. Now over 40 years later, he has another album entitled Life is People. It is definitely worth checking out! You can buy it on iTunes

2. Ezra Furman! He has a very Bob Dylan/Neil Young sound, partly because he incorporates the harmonica in many of songs. He is bringing a touch of folk rock to this generation. You can even download half the album free from his website or buy it from iTunes.

3. Tennis! They are a husband and wife band. They have a very early ’60s sound. Their music is catchy and the lyrics tell a story. Their videos are also shot with a very retro feel. You can find them on  iTunes or sample some songs on their Myspace page. 

FASHION

  • LeatherworkByLars is an Etsy shop that makes handmade leather purses. They can be personalized and customized how you would like. Who would want a Fendi or Coach purse when you could have a one of a kind authentic bag? I actually have one myself, and I get compliments on it everywhere I go. I get stopped in stores and on the street with ladies asking where they could get one. Plus, it is extremely well made. Definitely one of the best purchases I have made in a while!

Or if purses are not something that is of use to you, the shop also has handmade knives and sheaths.

There is a little something for everyone!

I tip my hat to you, for putting yourself out there and exploring your creativity!