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Glitter and Tartan Wrapping Paper

24 Dec

The best advice I can give on glitter and tartan wrapping paper? Do not try this at home.

After spying the prettiest glitter wrapping paper at the end of the Christmas season last year, I promptly decided that next year I’d wrap all of my presents in silver glitter and Christmas plaid. Three rolls of paper, and 50 yards of wired ribbon later, I’m swearing to you that I will never do it again.

Gifts with Glitter and Tartan

Sure, it looks fabulous, and yes I do love it, but here is what the shining silver rolls don’t tell you while you are swooning in the store: tape doesn’t work on it. Yes ma’am, you read that right. I wrapped all of my Christmas presents this year without any adhesive. After, of course, trying and failing with all but duct tape.

Anthropologie Stockings

It does warn that you might end up glittery, but when it is still on the roll, you cannot fathom the table or the rug that look as if Tinkerbell has stomped and flown all over it. I imagine I will be finding excessive silver glitter in all of our Christmas decor for years to come. I also predict that all recipients of our Christmas gifts will like their presents a little less when the realize the mess we’ve left them with.

My fingers after simply picking up the above present to photograph it:

Hands and Glitter

I repeat, do not try this at home.

Merry Christmas,

Dominique

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Snow Globe Cake

22 Dec

This year, Anthony and I hosted our first annual Christmas party. After all was said and done he told me, “We need to throw more parties. It makes your soul happy.” I guess it was pretty obvious to him that I loved every bit of “work” that went into it.

The centerpiece was an easier-than-it-appears snow globe cake. Christmas Snow Globe Cake

I never take shortcuts on frosting because nothing can beat a homemade buttercream, especially when it is Nutella buttercream. Everything else, I totally cheated on. Boxed cake. Premade fondant. Store-bought gingerbread house kit.

Snow Globe Christmas Cake

The depth of the gingerbread house had to be cut to size so the house would fit under the dome. I sawed through the gingerbread with a bread knife and realized later it probably would have been easier if I had worked with a wet blade.

Snow_globe_Christmas_Cake

I entered photos of the cake in a contest at work. Cross your fingers for me, there is $100 on the line!

Snowglobe Cake Red Christmas

Tell me about some of the best Christmas parties you’ve ever been to in the comments.

Thanks for reading,

♥ Dominique

My Christmas Ornament Obsession

16 Dec

Originally featured on Styled by Ryn.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood was getting a new Christmas ornament from my stocking each year. For years now I have been collecting European blown glass ornaments, and my mom continues the tradition of adding to my collection each year.

If you don’t know where to look, finding high quality, European glass ornaments can be a wild goose chase, but there are certain stores you can go to year after year, and certain brands that make stunning ornaments. I’m here to share my secrets!

2014 Christmas Tree

Brands to look for:

• Christopher Radko- Christopher Radko is really the brand that popularized intricate blown glass ornaments in America and can be found at department stores and boutiques alike. These ornaments tend to retain their value for years to come and are quite popular on secondary markets, like Ebay.

Popcorn Maker Ornament

Texas Ornament Cotton Candy Ornament

• Eric Cortina- Eric Cortina makes some of my favorite quirky and whimsical ornaments such as my French bulldog wearing a top hat, bowtie and a spectacle, and my clip-on of Santa’s boots sticking out of the Chimney.

Santa Chimney Ornament French Bulldog Ornament Button Ball Ornament Paris Hot Air Balloon Ornament Crown Tree Topper

• Inge Glas- Inge Glas is one of the oldest German-based glass blowers. These little treasures are usually more reasonably priced than other brands.

• Landmark Creations- Landmark Creations is best known for their ornaments of, well, landmarks.

• Michael Storings- Made by Landmark Creations, Michael Storings hand paints bulbs, typically of different scenes in New York City.

•De Carlini- If you prefer the Italian style blown glass ornaments, with a very distinctive look, De Carlini is a great go-to.

• John Huras- Read this guys story; it is really neat. Accustomed to the gorgeous and traditional trees of Poland, he originally started making ornaments for orphanages whose trees he wished could bring more cheer to the children.

John Huras Russian Santa Ornament

• Jay Strongwater- These last two brands are both on my wishlist, not on my tree. They are extremely pricey, but every ornament I have seen by these two artisans are stunning.
Patricia Breen- As mentioned above, the detail on Patricia Breen’s traditional designs are breathtaking.

Where to shop:
• Bergdorf Goodman- Bergdorf Goodman has many exclusive ornaments with at least five themed trees each year. They will ship internationally, but if you’re in New York City for the Christmas season, I highly advise a stop on their 7th floor where their Christmas room is set up.

I Love BG Taxi OrnamentTin Toy Monkey Ornament Penguin Snowscape Ornament French Macaron Ornament (2) Clip-on Carousel Horse Ornament

• Neiman Marcus- Like Bergdorf, its sister company, Neiman Marcus has many exclusive ornaments made just for them each year.Neimans boasts of the widest variety of readily available European ornaments year after year. Be sure to shop in store, as many of their exclusive ornaments are not available online.

Fish Ornament Blown Glass Ornament Mackenzie Childs Ornament Pinocchio Ornament Russian Doll Ornament

• Bloomingdales- Bloomingdales carries more Landmark Creations and Michael Storings ornaments than any other large department store

• The Christmas Store in Fredericksburg- If you’re in central Texas, this is a great little shop for any time you need Christmas fix as it is open year round. They are one of the few retailers in the United States that has an entire room dedicated to Radko ornaments. If you’re out-of-state, give them a call, and they’ll help you hunt down what you’re looking for.

Wisdom on Display Ornament, Signed

• Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland- Flip through their catalog or shop online year-round. Bronner’s is a place of Christmas overload, but narrow your search to European-made ornaments and it is less overwhelming.

• Macy’s (online only)- Macy’s doesn’t carry many European ornaments, but they do carry Christopher Radko online.

• Dillards- Dillards is one of the few department stores that carries Radko in store. Go and check out the quality for yourself!

• Marshalls, TJMaxx, Homegoods- A lot of smaller brand German and Polish ornaments can be found at these chains. I’ve gotten lucky and even found a few Radkos for under $10!

• Tuesday Morning- At Tuesday Morning you can find a few different brands, including Radko’s from last season at up to 75% off!

• World Market- World Market usually has a small selection of ornaments made in Poland. Their quality isn’t superb, but they’ve got some fun additions like hamburger, stand mixer, and digital camera ornaments.

• Pier 1- Pier 1 has a very limited selection of European blown glass ornaments, but you can count on them to have a few each year. This year they have a pretty snazzy dragon I’ve been eyeing.

Non-European ornaments are not always sub-par I have a few treasured ornaments that were made in China. Sometimes you just find an original concept or design that makes up for lesser quality and sometimes the quality and detail are equally lovely. Old World Christmas ornaments are made in China and you can find them in endless shapes so they’re great if you are looking for a very specific ornament. Anthropologie occasionally carries blown glass ornaments that are unique and worthwhile. I also have a few ornaments on my tree that are travel souvenirs made in China, such as a bearskin soldier I bought in London.. Waterford’s blown glass ornaments are typically made in China, but the detail on my Waterford ballerina ornament rivals that on many of my German and Polish made ornaments.

Waterford Ballerina Ornament

If you have glass ornaments that are precious to you, I highly recommend purchasing Sure Grip Clips. You can find them online, but they are pretty pricey. Hobby Lobby carries them for a song in comparison. I replaced all of the clips on my ornaments this year and feel like my collection is much more secure on the tree.

Do you know of any stores or brands available stateside that I’m missing? Do you collect a specific type of ornaments?

Clay Conversation Hearts

31 Jan

I’m sure you remember those chalky conversation hearts you got for Valentine’s day back in elementary school. The sayings were sweet, but the taste was anything but. I made an equally inedible version for February fourteenth.

DIY Conversation Hearts www.gustoandgraceblog.com

I made party picks out of mine, but these little clay hearts can take a thousand different forms. Forgo the toothpicks and you can use them for many Valentine’s projects.

DIY Conversation Hearts #valentines https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/clay-conversation-hearts/

Here are a few other ideas:

  • Put a handful in a small muslin bag to give to your Valentine
  • Poke holes in the sides of the hearts before baking them and add a small length of chain to make decanter tags for your bar cart
  • Make a Valentine’s day necklace
  • Poke a hole near the top-center, add an ornament hook and put them on a Valentine’s tree
  • String them together to make a garland
  • Use them as placecards for a dinner party
  • Make tags for wine glasses

Here’s the how-to:

DIY Conversation Hearts #valentines https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/clay-conversation-hearts/

You’ll need:

  • Polymer clay
  • A rolling pin
  • A small heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • Small alphabet stamps (I used metal stamps I had, but the dollar section at Michaels has small letter rubber stamps)
  • An oven
  • Pastel paints
  • A paintbrush
  • A thin red Sharpie

Directions:

Roll out your clay to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use your cookie cutter to cut as many hearts as you desire. Stamp them with lovey messages. I chose Be Mine, Wink Wink, Love You, Kiss Me, BFF, Me & You, XOXO and URAQT. Bake your hearts at 275°F for approximately 20 minutes. Once they cool, paint them, let dry, and retrace the messages with a red pen.

DIY Conversation Hearts #valentines https://gustoandgrace.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/clay-conversation-hearts/

If you’re looking for more Valentine’s Day inspiration, take a look at my February Pinterest board.

Thanks for reading,

Dominique 

New York City at Christmastime

3 Jan

The day after Christmas this year, I boarded a plane with my mom and my brother and spent “Christmas” with my sister and brother-in-law for the first year since they moved to New York.  Call us crazy, but we left on New Year’s Eve and I was back in Austin in time to give my husband a New Year’s kiss.

This trip, I didn’t do much in the way of exploration, but instead enjoyed being along for the ride, spending time with my mom and siblings. I snapped only a few photos.

Shake Shack New York CityAustin is set to get a Shake Shack later this year!

Empire State Building

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows 2013 Holidays On Ice NYC www.gustoandgraceblog.comThis year, the theme for the Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows was Holidays On Ice. Each window was thematic to a specific holiday. The holidays featured included Valentine’s Day, Halloween, 4th of July (pictured above), April Fools Day. and Arbor Day. Smaller windows featured Groundhog’s Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve.

If you are wanting to spend a part of the holiday season in New York City, let me suggest Thanksgiving to you. Last year, Anthony and I went at Thanksgiving and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade-watching crowd was far less dense than 5th Avenue after Christmas. The holiday windows were already decorated. Lines for ice skating rinks were not 3 hours long. We even made it to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Heading to New York City? Check out a few of my favorite places.

How was your Christmas? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: A recap with recipe links

26 Dec

I hope you had a merry Christmas. I also hope you followed along with the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies Online Cookie Swap Series. I have put permanent links directly to the recipes below for your reference. Here is a recap of what bloggers baked this holiday season:

Day 1: Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark with Gusto and Grace

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bites www.gustoandgraceblog.com

Day 2: Sugar Cookies with Hello Homebody

Day 3: Russian Tea Cakes with Healthy Isn’t Hard

Day 4: Peppermint Brownie Cookies with Unconventional Adventures

Day 5: Almond Jam Bites with Blaine Arin

Day 6: Pizzelles with The Well-Styled Child

 Pizelles with The Well-Styled Child

Day 7: Peanut Butter Blossoms with Debbie Allen

Day 8: Gluten Free Chocolate Walnut Cookies with Thirty One Ministries

Day 9: Treasure Cookies with Enjoying the Journey

Day 10: Dark Chocolate Persimmon Cookies with Simple Pleasures

Dark Chocolate Persimmon Cookies Recipe

Day 11: Chocolate Espresso Cookies with Styled By Ryn

Day 12: Gluten Free Lebkuchen with Clothes, Crafts and Creativity with Caitlin

Did you try any of these recipes? Plan to try any?

DIY Nutcracker Stocking Holders

17 Dec

I hope you’re following along with the 12 Days of Christmas Cookies, my online cookie swap. We’re halfway today and Lindsay at The Well-Styled Child is making Pizzelles!

When I saw these bare wooden nutcrackers at the craft store in October, an idea struck me. I’d come back for them, closer to Christmastime, and make stocking holders out of them.

Wooden NutcrackersWhat I envisioned was a more modern version of these:

Horchow Nutcracker Stocking HoldersWhen I went back to pick up my nutcrackers, they were out. I waited for a new shipment that never came. I ended up buying a couple of nutcrackers at the dollar store in hopes they’d work for my project. Here is what they looked like before.

Dollar Store Nutcrackers BeforeWith just a little bit of glue holding them in place, their hair and beards were easy to remove. I sanded them down just to rough them up so the paint would stick. I also purchased some basic stocking holders which one can find at places like Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, or Walmart, and sanded them too. Next, I used glue and stuck the nutcrackers to the sanded bases. I chose to give mine a couple of thin coats of silver spray paint, but you can choose whatever color best matches your Christmas decor.

DIY Nutcracker Stocking HoldersAt less than 10% of the cost of the gold nutcracker stocking holders pictured above, nothing would complete the look quite like our knit thrift store stockings!

12 Days of Christmas Cookies: An Online Cookie Swap

10 Dec

This month, I’m hosting an online cookie swap! For the next twelve weekdays, through Christmas, you will find a Christmas cookie recipe on a different blog each day. I don’t want to give away who is baking what, but recipes in the line up include classics like (my favorite) Peanut Butter Blossoms, and new recipes like Chocolate Persimmon Cookies, to look forward to. I hope you’ll follow along a bake up a sweet treat or two this season.

Here’s the schedule:

I love salty-sweet goodies, so I will kick it off in the kitchen with Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bark  Bites.

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bites www.gustoandgraceblog.com

You will need:

  • An 8×8 pan
  • Cookie cutter(s), shape(s) of your choice
  • Parchment paper
  • A hammer
  • Aluminum foil
  • Pretzel Thins
  • 1 (11.5 oz)  package of chocolate chips or chocolate flavored bark
  • Sea salt
  • 1 Toffee bar (such as Heath), chopped
  • Christmas sprinkles

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bites www.gustoandgraceblog.com

The Cookies for Santa plate is from West Elm a previous year and the 3D Tree cookie cutter is from Ikea.

First, line your pan with parchment paper and put down one layer of pretzel thins. Melt your chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (for about 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds). Pour the chocolate evenly over your pretzels, spread with a spatula. Tap the pan on the counter to smooth out the chocolate. Top with sea salt, toffee, and sprinkles. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.

When your bark is set, gently press your cookie cutter into the bark, then wrap a hammer in foil and tap your cookie cutter until the pretzels have been cleanly cut.

Salted Chocolate Pretzel Bites www.gustoandgraceblog.com

If you plan on gifting some of your treats, my favorite way to wrap brittle or bark is with a small hammer, as seen here.

Comment below with your favorite Christmas cookie!

O Christmas Trees!

3 Dec

My Christmas trees are trimmed. Admittedly, the rest of my Christmas decor is a little sad. I have spent the last several years focusing on collecting European blown glass ornaments that I have almost entirely neglected purchasing any other holiday decor.

I have three trees this year. The seven and a half foot tree is adorned with my ornament collection.

Christmas Tree with Blown Glas Ornaments

And topped with the best topper ever, a blown glass crown!

Christmas Tree Crown Topper

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments:

Einstein Bear from Neiman Marcus

Einstein Bear Blown Glass Ornament

Bergdorf Goodman Exclusive Tin Toy Monkey

Bergdorf Goodman Exclusive Monkey Tin Toy Blown Glass Ornament

Christopher Radko Wedding Car, which was also my wedding cake topper.

Christopher Radko Wedding Car Blown Glass Ornament

My second tree is a four-foot tree, covered in silver garland, mercury glass P ornaments I used down the aisle at my wedding, silver sprays, and snow globe ornaments I made. It still needs a topper.

Mercury Glass P Christmas Tree

My last tree is a small silver tinsel tree covered in vintage ornaments, with a little fur tree skirt.

Mini Vintage Tinsel Christmas Tree

I would like to collect enough vintage ornaments to make a wreath too.

Vintage Christmas Ornaments

Next year, I might like to cover a tree in bottlebrush animal ornaments. Or, inspired by last year’s trip to the American Museum of Science and History, I might like to try my hand at origami. Growing up, we decked our tree in Hallmark ornaments. How do you trim your tree(s)?

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with feasting, family, and friends.

Image

Thanksgiving Menu 2013

8 Nov

Have you picked out your Thanksgiving menu this year?

In Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations, Martha Stewart (or M. Stew, as my sister calls her) says, “I approach each holiday during the year as a pleasant challenge. I certainly am not of the “do it the same exact way” school of entertaining, …whereby every Thanksgiving is identical to the last and the one before that…. I am an enthusiast for change, for subtly altering the traditional to make it more interesting, more creative, more inventive. I am a firm believer that there are almost infinite choices for a single thing, such as the turkey.”

While I enjoy traditions and having a few of the same things each Thanksgiving, trying new recipes and new food is easily one of my favorite things. I’ve opted to swap some of the traditional Thanksgiving foods for a few festive alternatives.

Rather than mashed potatoes, I’ll be making goat cheese croquettes. Anthony and I had goat cheese tater tots at our rehearsal dinner, and fell in love with croquettes at the tapas bar we went to in Spain on our Honeymoon. Instead of cornbread, my husband has requested savory madelines.

Thanksgiving Menu 2013 www.gustoandgraceblog.com

When putting together the menu, I found it most difficult to control the carbs. Do we really need croissants, rolls, cornbread, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes?

Some of the recipes are hand-written in family recipe collections, and I will make up others  up as I go along, but here are links to recipes for a few of the items I included in my menu.

I’ll also be serving up mulled wine and cider. Desserts are still T.B.D. I am sure (well, not entirely sure) someone in the family will want pie. I am not much of a pie person myself and will probably opt to make a pumpkin cheesecake or a chestnut trifle. Roasting mallows in the cold and making s’mores also sounds perfect.

Look for some Thanksgiving tablescape ideas, from yours truly, on Hello Homebody next week!

What’s on your menu? What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?

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