12 Days of Christmas 2011 Roundup

Well, folks, my 12 Days of Christmas series of posts is complete for another year! Again, I had a blast writing them and I'm shocked I made it through in time. Another big thank you to all of my guest posters — I couldn't have done it without you. In case you missed any along the way, here they all are in one convenient list.

Things on My Wish List

Things for Himself

Hamilton Happenings for the Holidays

 Gifts for Kids

 Ornate Ornaments

 Fresh Christmas Tracks

 Pyrex Party Pieces

 Hopsy Holiday Brews

 Ways to Shine-up your Holiday Look

 Quick Christmas Crafts

 Tasty Treats

 Gift, One Winner

I hope everyone has a very merry holiday with their families and loved ones, full of relaxation, laughter, full bellies and fuzzy heads. Thank you for another fantastic year. I'll meet you back here in 2012.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

E xo

One Gift, One Winner

I know gift certificates can be impersonal gifts, but I can't exactly send you all an apron — I'd be sewing until next Christmas! So, as a thank you to all the lovely customers who bought handmade Dear Edna items this holiday, to all the readers who stuck it through all 12 of my 12 Days of Christmas posts, and to everyone who supported me and my business, morally or otherwsie, over the last year.... I'm giving each of you a chance to win a $50 gift certificate! That's one reversible apron, one men's apron + shipping, two personalized totes, one tote and one cosie... the list goes on. Haha!

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment below. Plus, if you mention Dear Edna and this giveaway on twitter or facebook, you will get another entry for each. The contest is open to everyone, in all locations; family and friends, don't be shy, this contest is a thank you for your love and encouragement too! The contest ends on December 31st at midnight and the winner will be announced here. If I do not hear back from the winner within 48 hours of the announcement, I will redraw.

Good luck!

2 Tasty Treats

I like to go to town in the baking department at Christmas. I think that's something I've picked up from my mother, but let's save that for therapy, shall we? This year I decided (at Mike's insistence), to limit myself to baking only four items and two new recipes. The good news: I finished all of my baking in one evening. The bad news: one of the new recipes was a bit of a disaster...

Salted Caramel Shortbread
I followed the recipe in the Feb/March issue of Readymade Magazine, but boy do I wish I had looked online first, as there are some major problems with the recipe. First of all, the shortbread dough would not hold together. I added butter to remedy the situation on the fly, but the end result was still pretty crumbly. Another problem, the caramel turned out much too runny. I boiled it a little longer than the 5 minutes recommended and hoped it would thicken when chilled, but it didn't. Caramel ooze everywhere! They were pretty difficult to cut into bars, for this reason. I only got one or two nice squares out of it. The rest looked like a natural disaster hit my pan. Finally, this recipe is super time-consuming: I baked at least 4 dozen other cookies in the time that I was making these 12 bars! All that being said, I agree with the many comments on the site that these are really "tasty little messes," so I think I'll give them another chance, with adjustments (included below).

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup less 1 heaping T icing sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

Salted Caramel
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp crushed sea salt

Chocolate Topping
7 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Either mix the shortbread ingredients together in a food processor or do it the traditional way by sifting the flour, cornstarch, and icing sugar into a large bowl, adding the cubed butter, and using clean fingertips to rub together until a dough forms. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap; put dough in the fridge to rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare a 9-inch-square pan, lining the base and sides with a single piece of foil or parchment paper. Use the back of a spoon to flatten rested dough into pan.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prick the top of the dough all over with a fork and bake for about 40–45 minutes, until light brown and starting to come away from the edges of the pan. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 1 hour before you make the caramel.

To make the caramel, put the sugar and cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan set over low heat. Heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon as it comes to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the butter and stir. Bring the caramel back to a boil and let it bubble gently for 10 minutes or until it thickens, stirring occasionally. Take the caramel off the heat, add the salt, and stir vigorously to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed in. Then, working quickly, pour the caramel on top of the cooled shortbread. Put the pan in the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool and set.

Once the caramel has set, melt the chocolate following the instructions for tempering. Pour the melted chocolate on top of the caramel and spread it evenly with a rubber spatula. Allow the chocolate to set before lifting the shortbread out of the pan (using the foil or baking parchment) and cutting into squares with a hot knife. The squares will keep stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Creams
My second new recipe came from the book Marie Claire: Zesty and was much more forgiving than the above, thank goodness. Be forewarned, however, hey are very very rich, so you may want to dust them with icing sugar rather than the cocoa powder, as the recipe suggests, and I don't think they really need to be sandwiched. But what's done is done and they look cute. So grab a glass of milk and choke those suckers down, ok?

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
heaping 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Chocolate Cream
2/3 cup chopped chocolate (I ran out of chocolate and used chocolate chips)
2 tbsp light whipping cream
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined, then fold through the dry ingredients. Refrigerate the mixture for 20 minutes or until just firm.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll into one-inch balls and place onto cookies sheets. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until firm. Cool slightly on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
To make the chocolate cream, heat the chocolate and cream in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stick the bases of the cookies together with the chocolate cream and lightly dust with cocoa or icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 40 cookies (20 sandwiches).

3 Quick Christmas Crafts

Crafting is an addiction and the internet is our pusher. There are so many festive tutorials and inspiring projects out there, I can imagine myself happily hibernating and crafting my life away for the duration of the winter. Alas, like most people, I have a full-time job and a part-time job and shopping and baking and cleaning to do during the holidays, so I typically push my crafty cravings aside. But not this year! This year I found three easy projects and I made the time to try them. I love how they turned out and since I had all of the supplies already on hand, each took less than an hour to make! I hope you can make a little time yourself to try at least one of these out. Let me know if you do! xo

All three of these adorable crochet ornaments/gift toppers can be found on The Royal Sisters blog with really easy-to-follow instructions that this beginner certainly appreciated after stumbling through this not-so-easy pattern. Each one starts the same way and uses the same basic stitches to get the various shapes, so you catch on pretty quick. I got these down to 15 minutes a piece. Let's race!

The inspiration for this little fella came from this cross-stitch pattern by andwabisabi . I purchased the pattern, and fully intend on cross-stitching it, but I wanted something smaller and quicker and have been thinking about making stitched brooches for quite awhile. Plus, I don't have a Christmasy brooch - crazy, I know! After I shrunk down the pattern and transferred it to fabric,  I quickly realized it was much too tiny to cross-stitch, so I tried simply embroidering it with little satin stitches. This was my first time embroidering without cross-stitch, and I think he looks pretty good.

To finish it, I traced the brooch shape onto cardboard, trimmed the fabric so it was about a quarter-inch longer than the cardboard and cut out an oval piece of quilt batting to place in between the fabric and cardboard. On the back, hand-stitch along the edges of the fabric, pull tight and tie off. Then secure both the fabric and pinback to the frame with hot glue. I bought this gorgeous wooden frame from artbase in the Fall, but I'm sure it would be lovely without the frame too.

This pretty ornament idea came from a book I scored at the Hamilton Public Library book sale in the summer for a dollar, Gifts from your Scrap Basket. I gave myself a pat on the back for thinking of Christmas in the middle of the summer and another pat for the sale. If you want to go for a hat trick of back pats, try using all recycled materials, like I did: fabric scraps, cardboard headed for the blue bin and old ribbon. I dare you!

To make, cut out two leaf-shape patterns (8cm x 14cm and 6cm x 12cm) and proceed to cut 6 pieces of the larger shape out of fabric and 6 pieces of the smaller shape out of cardboard. Glue the fabric to the cardboard — when you get to the tips, fold down the fabric over the point first and then the sides. Using an exacto knife and ruler, slice along the center of each piece, being careful not to cut all the way through, and fold. With wrong sides facing, hand-stitch along the edges. Keep doing this for all the pieces. Attach a loop to the top and any fancy adornments you'd like to the bottom before sealing it up. Don't worry if the ends seem kind of open, just keep stitching and pulling tight and they'll close up.

{Guest Post} 4 Ways to Shine-up your Holiday Look

When I was drowning in a sea of fabric, bandaging sliced fingers, and running myself ragged to meet my holiday deadlines, a very kind and generous lady volunteered to be my sewing slave. As tempting as that offer was at the time, this woman also happens to be somewhat of a fashion and blogging superstar, so I traded it in for a blog post. And here we have it! Please give a warm welcome to Jentine of My Edit! Thanks, Jenine! xo

When you wear something shiny in December, people call you "festive"; when you wear something shiny the other 11 months, people call you "tacky". Mostly I'm tacky, I guess, but in December I just fit in. Here's a guide of how to add some shine to your holiday from a little touch of sparkle to over-the-top. I recommend over-the-top shine.

1. If you want to take it easy in the shine department, stick to a eye-catching necklace. This allows you to share the spotlight with the mini quiche that you handcrafted. Is handcrafted a word you use when describing mini quiche? I've never made them.

2. A vintage sequin clutch is a good way to convey some holiday shine. The key is to find one that is just big enough for a little flask. I love my family very much but for some reason they think that one bottle of wine is enough for a whole evening. Someone tell my mom... it's not enough.

3. A sequin top is an easy find at the thrift store. The person who owned the top before you probably wore it over the holiday season or they wore it in the 80s. From what I understand, it was a sequin party every day in the 80s and I want to be part of the social movement that brings that back. Please join me...

4. When you wear sequins from navel to toe, you've probably crossed past dressing "festively". I wore this to Matt's company party this year. It was a little crazy but a lot of fun to wear; though it hardly left room for any mini quiche... handcrafted or otherwise.


5 Hopsy Holiday Brews

What's a holiday without a festive adult beverage... or five? Last year I wrote about three of my favourite wines, but this year I thought I'd venture into the world of beer, a drink I enjoy quite often, yet rarely talk about for some reason. Some breweries release special edition holiday/winter brews this time of year, which makes it a perfect topic for the 12 Days of Christmas and an even better excuse to indulge in a taste test with my favourite beer-drinking companion.

It was an unfortunate decision on our part to drink many of these (plus a few that didn't make the cut) in a single evening, as holiday brews tend to be extremely rich stouts and porters, and thus had us feeling pretty sick to our stomachs by the fourth pint. This no doubt affected our ratings, so I've listed them in the order they were drank. Also, keep in mind that I am much more of  a summertime blonde and blanche type of girl, so you will notice this reflected in my ratings as well. If you've had a chance to taste any of these beers or have another holiday favourite, I'd love to hear your opinions in the comment below.


1. Great Lakes Winter Ale ~ Ontario, OCB
6.2% alcohol 750mL ~purchased from LCBO
A slightly hoppy, dark copper ale with a spiced tongue and malty finish. We felt it went especially well, if not better, with food.
Erin: 7/10 Mike: 8/10

2.  Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout ~ Ontario, OCB
8% alcohol, 750ML ~purchased from The Brain
A nice, rich berry front with a very dry, dark chocolate finish. One bottle is plenty for two and it goes down even smoother with a delicious cheese platter from The Brain. Bonus points for the awesome bearded label!
Erin: 5/10 Mike: 7/10

3. Ayinger Celebrator  ~ Germany
6.7% alcohol, 350mL ~purchased from The Brain
Aside from my glee over the fact that this beer came with a necklace, we both found it overly malty and oddly reminiscent of prune juice, albeit with orange notes. It starts off unique, but ends up tiresome. Keep in mind this review followed a cheese plate and the rich double chocolate stout...
Erin: 4/10 Mike: 4/10

4. Samuel Adams Winter Lager ~ USA
5.5% alcohol ~purchased on tap from The Ship
This copper-coloured lager is the clear winner, with a nicely balanced malty front, light hops, and distinct flavours of cloves and oranges. Between the two of us and the sweet bartender, it was agreed, "It just tastes like Christmas!"
Erin: 8/10 Mike: 9/10

5. Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale ~ England
5% alcohol, 500mL ~purchased from LCBO
We had high hopes for this one, after falling in love with it a few Christmases ago, but we were disappointed to find it had lost the strong cinnamon and spice notes we had remembered. It is an amber ale with a slightly caramelly malt front, lightly spiced, very mildly hopped, and smooth, but a little bland for a holiday brew.
Erin: 6/10 Mike: 6/10

{Guest Post} 6 Pyrex Party Pieces

Hello again — it’s your friendly neighbourhood redhead back on the Dear Edna beat for another round of her annual 12 Days of Christmas countdown. This year, however, I’m leaving you to your own devices to figure what to wear to your Christmas parties, and instead I’m telling you about holiday Pyrex!

Over the past year or so, I have become completely obsessed with collecting vintage Pyrex pieces (I now have what it known as “Pyrexia”—don’t laugh; OK, laugh), and while my maniacal fandom has centred around hoarding the various patterns of a certain-sized bowl, my subsequent thrifting adventures into the world of vintage dishes have caused me to become completely and utterly delusional. I now buy items, Pyrex or not, that I think can be used at a dinner party. Uhhhh, WHAT dinner party? I have yet to host a single one. Yet I dream…with seasonal themes in mind. This month, it’s all about Christmas table settings with appropriately coloured plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, and serving dishes. It’s a sickness, people. Stay away from kitchen finery. That is, with the exception of these beauties…

This post was written by Carla of the De Facto Redhead blog, where she writes about fashion, books, baking, thrifting, and "any other fun, girly things that women out there like reading about." She is a regular contributor here and you can follow her on facebook and twitter.

7 Fresh Christmas Tracks

I love a golden Christmas standard as much as the next girl and I even appreciate a little cheese (I do own the Kenny Rogers Christmas album, remember?), but there is something to be said about a new original Christmas song done well. Right about now you are probably going a little nutty from hearing the same songs over and over pretty much everywhere you go, so here's a little playlist of festive songs you may not have heard before to refresh your holiday spirit and your love of carols again. You can be sure that I was singing along to all of these while sewing your orders this year. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! :)

A Very Edna Christmas 2011 by Erin McIntosh on Grooveshark

Gotta love that James Brown. Buy my aprons! Come to my craft shows! Edna loves you...

8 Ornate Ornaments

One of my favourite holiday traditions is the one I share with my "Toronto girls". For the seven years we've been friends, we've gathered together for a gift exchange. It started out as small gifts, and we tried a cookie swap once or twice, but for the most part we've given each other Christmas ornaments, and there couldn't be a better gift for this group of Christmas-loving girls. I love shopping for them each year even more than receiving them, and I have to say it feels pretty warm and fuzzy knowing I have a special place on all their Christmas trees!

I always seem to buy my ornament last-minute, but if I were on the ball (har har!), I would have ordered one of these unique beauties from Etsy. Perhaps I should pre-order for next year, ladies?

left to right, top to bottom
1. Reindeer by Raceytay
2. Origami Christmas Decoration by aboutCRAFTS
7. Miniature Bows by cornflowerbluestudio
8. Winter Wonderland by TwigsandBlossoms

Santa's Workshop

I sent off the last of the Dear Edna Christmas orders to be shipped today! Woo! And now I can breathe.

It's been an incredibly busy holiday season this year and I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for shopping handmade this Christmas and for supporting my little business. I couldn't have asked (or sewed) much more. In the middle of the craziness, Mike reminded me of how special it is that I get to be a part of so many people's Christmases all around the world. It's so true and it's what kept me sewing night after night. I felt  like Santa as I trotted to the mailbox everyday with my bag full of prezzies. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Now it's time to sew all my local friends' orders and to enjoying all the things I love so much about the holidays! Speaking of which, let's get back on track with the 12 Days of Christmas programming, shall we?

{Guest Post} 9 Gifts for Kids

Surrounded by friends and family who are expecting or already have a little one (or two) in tow, I knew I needed to add a gift guide for kids this year, but nowhere near the baby game myself, I had the sense to ask for some help in curating it. I immediately thought of Bess, from the English Muffin Blog, and I'm so glad she agreed, because she found some of the most adorable handmade goodies, perfect for kids of all ages! Thanks, Bess!

What a fun little blog assignment this was! Erin approached me about curating a children's gift guide a little while ago, and I jumped at the chance to share my holiday gift picks with all of you. I have to admit that I'm a little new to the world of buying gifts for kids, mostly I work on the other side of things, creating artwork with little ones in mind. However, over this past year we've had some new additions in our extended family, and my husband and I will be welcoming our own little baby early next year. So, needless to say, my Etsy favourites and Pinterest folders have been filling up with gifts for kids that I love.

1. Vintage Handmade Wooden Truck Toy & Blocks by ethanollie, $29 USD
2. Rocket Musicbox by esthex, €29.50
3. Wooden Berries necklaces for girls by Koukku, $20 USD
4. Upper and Lower Case ABC Blocks by cornflowerblue, $27 AUD
5. Bandit Fox by adatine, $33 USD
6. Butterfly Doll by fidoodle, $46 USD
7. DIY Paper Puppet - Bear by Furze Chan, $8 USD
8. Woodland Masks Pack by Mahalo, $56 USD
9. Wooden Toy Camera by twigcreative, $35 USD

10 Hamilton Happenings for the Holidays

Maybe I've always been too busy at this time of year to notice (shame on me), but I was shocked at how many festive events are going on in Hamilton this month! I just may allow myself to be lured away from my sewing machine for some of these. Have fun, stay warm, and shop local!

Santa Shuffle Fun Run and Elf Walk / Dec. 3 / 10am / St. Mary's H.S. / This 5k run has become a tradition with me and my friend Carla ever since we lived in Toronto together. It was the first race I ever ran and it ignited a love of running that took me through several marathons. But this is the first year I've run it so completely unprepared. I haven't had my runners on since September! But, isn't tradition  what the holidays are all about?

Maker's Market Holiday Edition / Dec. 3 / 10-4 / Christ's Church Cathedral / Skip the mall and come out to support our vibrant local art community. From handmade jewelry and art, to delicious baked goods, you are sure to find some unique one-of-a-kind gifts here.

A Kenny & Dolly Christmas / Dec. 8 / Carmens Banquet Centre / Anyone that saw me carrying around my newly purchased Kenny Rogers Christmas album at last month's art crawl can attest, I love me some Kenny. I also love me some Dolly. Unfortunately, that's a lonely island of love, so I doubt I can convince anyone to join me for this tribute so I'll throw on my record instead.

Art Crawl / Dec. 9 / James St. North / A great opportunity to pick up some unique gifts and support some amazing small businesses. I imagine the evening will be full of holiday treats and surprises.

Dundurn Castle / Dec. 9-29 / There are some wonderful events planned for Dundurn Castle this entire holiday season, from baking and craft workshops, to caroling and, of course, seeing the castle all decked out for Christmas. I've been meaning to revisit for awhile now and this unique opportunity just might get me there.

Kitestring Christmas Spectacular / Dec. 16 / Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts / This third annual bash features a holiday pageant accompanied by a candy buffet, a Cake & Loaf cookie and milk bar, a Red Hill Coffee bar, and food from Gorilla Cheese. There's also an after party complete with live music, spiked snow cones, and cupcakes. It sounds like the party of the year and all profits benefit Culture for Kids in the Arts!

Toronto All-Star Big Band / Dec. 17 / 2 pm / Hamilton Place / I had the opportunity to see this big band play a few months ago and was blown away. These kids can really belt out the oldies. When I heard they were playing a holiday show in Hamilton, this carol lover couldn't resist!

Gingerbread Holiday at the Market / Dec. 17 / 10-2 / Hamilton Farmer's Market / Perfect for the kiddies, make traditional gingerbread cookies and a unique holiday ornament with guest cooks Jennifer Haartman and Kelly McKinney. Santa just might drop by for a cookie.

The McQuesten's Childhood Christmas / until Dec. 31 / Whitehern / I have a strange fascination with Whitehern and the family that lived there, so I'm pretty excited to see this historic home decorated as it would have been for Christmas in the 1880s, complete with a whimsical Christmas tree, original toys, and a table set with special-occasion china.

Outdoor Skating Rink Pier 8 / Discovery Drive / weather permitting / Ice skating is one of my absolute favourite winter sports, but for some reason I haven't laced up my skates in years. This is such a perfect spot to do it, with a view of the bay and Williams hot chocolate only a few strides away.

Image by Andrew Joyce

{Guest Post} 11 Things for Himself

Hey, I'm Mikey J... you may recognize me from being mentioned in such blogs as this one, and my part time stint as an Etsy apron model.

Below is my official list of must haves for himself - the modern gentleman - in this year of 2011. If this list, made for purely selfish reasons, helps any of you clueless shoppers out there, you're welcome. 

I apologize in advance for any lack of the exclaimation (!) you may be accustomed to in a Dear Enda blog post.

top to bottom, left to right

1. Paradise by Slow Club: I'm hooked on the song "Two Cousins" (a high pitched number I've been attempting to sing around the house, much to Erin's chagrin), among other tracks from this solid second album. Really, this could just be a list of albums (Wilco, Bon Iver, Cults, etc.), but that's probably not good blogging.

2. Windowfarms: The future is here and it's me growing greens and herbs indoors all winter, while remaining the worst at watering.

3. Leather Belt by robynchristopher: I need a belt - mine is an embarrassment. Also, this buffalo one is a good choice from Amy Kenny, whom Erin got my badass bike grips from for my bday.

4. Canadian Wool Blanket by Old Faithful Shop: Sold out but also available from the source, Macausland's Woollen Mills - I dream of a day when I can lie on the couch and have both my feet and my upper torso covered by woolen warmth at the same time. A thousand curses on you short throw makers. 

5. Felted Moose Slippers by FeltingbyEglut: Erin's been singing the praises of slippers for years and I think I'm ready to join the slippered masses with these moosed-up fellas.

6. Demetri Martin live: last minute entry: I've watched all of the episodes from his show, his special, his Daily Show correspondences and I own his book (albeit unread). My brother and I even did a homage to his sketch pad routine at my mom's wedding 4 years back.  I need this.

7. Soft Core Wool Vest by Outlier: I know, I'm hooked on their gear... it's crack for the bike commuter. It's too pretty to be technical.

8. Letters of Note by Shaun Usher: I've been a regular on this site the last year - perfect material for a book.

9. Merino Socks by pawfelts: Warm feet are always a theme this time of year and merino has to be near the top of my all time favourite wools list. 

10. Rushmore / Criterion Collection: Probably Wes Anderson's best just got the Criterion Blu-ray treatment. All that quirky better pop. Also accepting The Darjeeling Limited.

11. Desk Caddy by PegandAwl: I think this may be the difference between an organized painting nook and my painting nook. Next step: painting something again.

12 Things on My Wish List

Last Saturday marked the first day of Christmas, meaning there is one month until the big day! It's pretty hard to believe with the 13-degree weather we've been having here in southern Ontario, but it's coming whether we're ready or not, so I'm going to do my best to get us in the spirit. It only comes but once a year, after all, or so the carol goes. I had a lot of fun writing the 12 Days of Christmas series here last year, so I'm going to give it another whirl. Get ready for 4 weeks of gift guides, crafts, recipes and a few special guests. 

First up, MY wish list. I was pretty lucky to receive a few of the items on my list last year, so fingers crossed it works again. I hope you spot a few things here for the ladies on your list too!

1. Norwegian mittens by olga2201: I'm always attracted to mittens for some reason, and these would look super cute with my black puffy coat once the temps go unbearably sub-zero. I believe White Elephant carries similar styles (hint hint).

2. Vintage Step Ladder by Hindsvik: The only chair I have in my workspace is a rolly office chair, which means I threaten my life every time I use it to reach the top of my shelves. Unfortunately, this gorgeous vintage step ladder is sold out, but it's a beautiful illustration of my need for a step ladder in general, don't you agree?

3. Marlie leather wallet by leoniesaliba: It's tough to part with my current wallet, but I bought it in Korea about 6 years ago and it's splitting at the seams, so I think I shoud say my goodbyes. Plus, my purses seem to be shrinking, so I need a much more compact version. This will do quite nicely.

4. Ontario Brooch by ME2Designs: Yet another excuse to flaunt my love of my hometown.

5. "Design Sponge at Home" by Grace Bonney: I read the Design Sponge blog every single day. Therefore, not only do I want this book, I deserve this book.

6. Light Pink Infinity Scarf by SoliSellsScarves: Again, this chunky beauty is sold old, but perhaps Soli could be persuaded to knit another for a girl it would suit perfectly? Hmm?

7. Antique Edna Locket by thecuriousbead: I think this one goes without being said. (Thanks, Jane!)

8. Teapots Print by lauraamiss: I have been a fan of Laura Amiss for quite some time now, and still do not own one of her pieces. This one seems made for me and any tea lover on your list.

9. Personalized Recipe Box by exquisiteinks:  This recipe box is extra special with its personalized engraving and hooks on the inside of the lid to hold your recipe while you cook.

10. Deer Stamp by norajane: I need a stamp that says how much I love stamps! Haha! These deer are pretty darn cute, especially for the holidays, but I wouldn't be picky about receiving any of the tiny, detailed rubber stamps from this shop.

11. Wool socks by milleta: My feet seem to lose all blood flow in the winter, so I can always use another pair of thick woolly socks.

12. "Wounded Rhymes"  by Lykke Li. Get me some.

Carrot Cake Cookies

Curious about the cookies in my holiday product shots this year? They may look like some kind of oatmeal chip cookie, but they're actually carrot cake cookies. Genius. And delicious! Stomach-ache because you've eaten six in one day delicious! They seriously taste like you're eating a mini carrot cake, especially when you do them up proper, sandwiched with cream cheese icing. Plus, with oats, carrots and raisins, you could almost pass these off for healthy.

The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's version in Cookies. You can also find the recipe online here. We used fresh carrots we had just pulled up from our garden. A part of me thinks they were extra good on account of our carrots. We didn't have raisins, so we cut up some dates and soaked them in Maltese honey liquor. Because we're fancy like that. We didn't have ground ginger, so we put in a pinch of all spice, but I doubt that made any difference. For the icing, I used delicious cream cheese from the farmer's market (way better than Philadelphia) and also added about a quarter-cup more icing sugar to the icing, because I don't like icing that tastes too cheesy.

Ok. On with the recipe, already!

Carrot Cake Cookies

1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup raisins (or dates)

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In an electric mixer beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine. Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.

4. Bake until browned and crisped, rotating pan halfway through baking to ensure even color, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add butter and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in icing sugar and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

6. Once cooled completely, spread about 2 teaspoons of cream-cheese filling onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Hamilton Happenings

Ever wonder what this happening Hamilton is that I keep going on about? This slick video put out by the Hamilton Economic Development does a great job of conveying many of the reasons I love to live and work here. I'm so proud to call this city my home!

On that note, I'm off now to enjoy it, with visits to the Farmers' Market; Mixed Media, my favourite local art store; and, later, Hamilton Place, to see Chantal Kreviazuk perform with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

E xo

Shop Update: The Holiday Collection 2011

If you've been following me on twitter or facebook, you'll know that I've been gradually releasing holiday items for about a week. It is all available in the shop now, so go check it out!

As you can probably tell, I like things to be practical and versatile, so I made a concerted effort to make sure many of my holiday items wouldn't have to be packed up at the end of December. I'm also trying a few new things with this line, such as wine bags (oooh) and fabric choices (ahhh), so please let me know what you think.

Thirty-nine days!

Holiday Cut-off Dates

Since the Christmas shoppers have started to trickle in this week, I figured I should let you know the holiday cut-off dates for Dear Edna orders. And because I have SO much time on my hands, I cross-stiched it just for you! Don't say I never gave you anything. :)

Of course I welcome orders after these deadlines, but I can't guarantee they will arrive in time to make it under the tree. Local customers are welcome to pick up their purchases right up until December 23rd.

Happy shopping!

Baby Bunny Blanket

This project has been finished for weeks, but I haven't had the chance to show you! For shame. You know that can only mean one thing, though. Busy busy busy. It appears the holiday shopping season has begun, whether I'm ready for it or not. But why not take a break from the busy for a moment and adore some cute fuzzy bunnies, shall we?

All together now... awwwww!

This was my second attempt at a crochet baby blanket and my first attempt with the technique called filet crochet. As usual, it took a few false starts (no one wants a flat-nosed bunny) and the first block was slow, as I also had to learn how to use a charted pattern, but the remaining blocks knitted up quite quickly, if you ignore my 3-month summer hiatus. I'm not sure the photos do it justice, but one of the best features of this blankie was the fern green yarn. The colour was so pretty and gender-netural, I'd use it again in a heartbeat.

I'm really happy with the finished product and I'm pretty sure the baby I gave it to was too, who thanked me in giggles and cuddles. What more could I ask for now, really?

This was a free pattern, so there's no excuse not to give it a whirl. If I could do it, you can. All the details from the yarn to the crochet hook I used can be found on Ravelry, if you're interested.

Shop Update

Good news! The blue houndstooth men's apron is back! I sold out of this fabric during the holidays last year, but luckily came across some more recently. And guess what? This time he brought along a girly friend in hot pink! If you're the matchy matchy type, or know someone who is, they would look amazing as a set. Both are available now in the shop.

I've also been keeping busy sewing up some merry holiday goodies for you. Luckily the fabric was beautiful enough to get me in the spirit, because listening to carols in October felt way too weird. If I stay productive through the weekend, they'll be available next week. For now, here's a little peak at some of my finished products. Look at all that red on my sewing table in the background! Haha! Good thing it's my favourite colour.

Have a great weekend everyone!

E xo

Meet Your Maker: Abigail MaryRose Clark

I seem to have a soft spot for porcelain lately. My last interview was with a porcelain pottery artist and today I have a porcelain jewellery artist. Please welcome Abigail MaryRose Clark of StayGoldMaryRose. Abigail's stunning bracelets, pendants, rings and brooches are all made from reclaimed vintage ceramics such as teacups and plates. She has been creating and selling her work since 2004 and last year began selling her teacup bracelets in Anthropologie stores across the US and UK. As an antique china lover myself, I adore everything that she makes and am always looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next. To top it all off, she's a super sweet girl, lives in an old Victorian schoolhouse near the ocean, and has recently taken to calling me "Poppet"!

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I am Abigail. I am a Northern-born girl living in the South of England, right by the ocean. I have never been able to keep my hands still for more than 10 minutes. I never took Art GCSE [General Certificate of Secondary Education]. :)

WHAT inspires you?
Making/drawing/designing/collecting/documenting is pretty much my life. I am obsessed with the history of British-made objects, especially the heritage of British china and British tailoring/fashion. I love vintage illustration, Ernst Haeckel and James Audubon; colours and shapes in nature; kaleidoscopes and symmetry; old bygone processes and communications such as playing records, sending letters, using typewriters, drawing and painting with pencils/charcoal/ink, taking photographs on 35mm film, polaroids, screen printing/ lino printing; music; books; film. I could go on forever.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
I live in a beautiful old Victorian building that was once a school. My workshop is one of the old red brick outhouses in the courtyard. I have one workshop where I make all of my noisy ceramic mess with my machines and another that I use for designing peacefully, packing, drinking coffee, typing and pondering.

WHEN do you feel most successful? frustrated/insecure?
I feel most successful when I have a collection or a design taken on by a company/shop. I thrive on seeing a range of my jewellery on a website or in a catalogue such as Anthropologie. It's a lovely feeling seeing something that was once an idea in your head or a scribble on a page in your scrap book become a piece of jewellery selling around the world.

I feel most frustrated when I see my designs or my maker friends' designs being reproduced or copied.

WHY do you do what you do?
I think I would go insane if I couldn't make. It is a release. It has become a slight obsession. I have found a way to vent at least some of the images and ideas that constantly swim around in my head. I see objects as having their own life and purpose and if I see it being discarded or thrown away, then something in my head decides to change that. I guess some people call it upcycling.

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day?
I make a lot of mess. Working with china is a messy process. I am blessed to have a great workspace and a lot of friends and contacts who work in the ceramics industry. I don't really have a typical day, as it all depends on the orders I get. I love days when I've finished my orders and can just experiment in the workshop to create new pieces.

FINAL WORDS: Anything else you would like to add? Advice for new artists or entrepreneurs?My advice would be to go with your instinct. If you have an idea, then run with it, even if people aren't so keen on a design/idea. Don't give up on a project, always finish one, even if you come back to it years later. Be as professional as possible and be honest. Don't copy. Be original and you'll do well.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Abigail. I wish you the best of luck going forward, although with such talent and passion, I don't think you'll need it!

If you have any more questions for Abigail, fire away in the comments below. Also, be sure to visit her Etsy shop, blog and facebook page. She actually has a special promotion going on right now for 30% off your next purchase for "liking" her facebook page!

Cue Soundtrack: A Very She & Him Christmas

Does this make you as excited as it does me? Christmas! Ok, I know that word doesn't make everyone as ecstatic as me, quite the opposite most likely. But what about a She & Him Christmas album! Surely the sweet combo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Mard would melt even the scroogiest heart. The album comes out on October 24th, which you can pre-order here, along with a special red vinyl edition and matching red mittens!? I want! I want! I want!

While you've got your wish list out, don't forget the Dear Edna holiday line. Despite how it might seem from what you just read, I usually try not to think about Christmas too early (I need limitations or I'd have my tree up year 'round), but I'm a business now and that means two months before the big day is seriously behind schedule. The countdown is on! I'm hoping to have festive accessories in the shop by November, so this weekend and all next week I'll be Christmas-cramming. Carols will be cranked, eggnog will be spiked and the halls will be decked in little red and green fabric scraps!

If there are any items you'd like to see in the holiday line, I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Fa la la la la la la laaaaaa!

E xo

P.S. If you've been having difficulty commenting on my posts recently, the problem should now be resolved. Thank you for your patience... now comment away!

Birthday Bow

Monday was Mikey J's birthday and look what I made him — a bow for my beau! Heehee! Doesn't he look dapper? I've noticed him looking at bow ties a lot recently but knew he was wary of dropping the dough for a trend he wasn't too confident about sporting, so I figured I'd give it a go with some of my scraps. I found this free pattern on BurdaStyle that seemed simple enough and, after a few attempts and adjustments, came out with this. I had to revise the pattern a little because I didn't have the sliders required in order to make it adjustable and the pattern seemed small, so I made the pieces a couple inches longer and just sewed them together at the back. It's a couple inches too long now (blerg!), so I may hunt down some of those sliders after all. But all in all I'm pretty proud of the overall look, my new bow-tying skills, and my ability to keep all that sewing a secret. Happy Birthday Mike! xo

Very Important Date

This past weekend was Thanksgiving for those of us that call Canada home. Aside from Christmas, Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday and this year certainly didn't disappoint. For one, the weather was gorgeous: I don't think I can remember a time when I could sit on the patio all day in a skirt and t-shirt on Thanksgiving! Two,  I was lucky enough to be invited to two home-cooked turkey dinners, and they were goooood. My bloated tummy can attest. I contributed a dessert platter this year and decided to try baking a new treat: date squares. Aside from Dads, who universally seem to worship the old-fashioned bars, I've discovered most people are extreme in their love or hate of them. Haters out there, this recipe has the power to convert. I know from personal experience. Give it a try -- they just might surprise you. For the lovers, you're welcome.

Date Squares
Adapted from recipe in Breakfast, Lunch, Tea

Date Filling:
3-4 cups (400 grams) pitted dried dates
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Oatmeal Crust:
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place the dates and water in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and have absorbed most of the water (about 5 - 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature and then puree in your food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Butter an 8 x 11 inch or a 9 x 9 inch pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon. Then add the butter and knead until the mixture is crumbly. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the base of the prepared pan.

Spread the dates evenly over the oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the top of the dates. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once the squares have cooled, cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator at least one hour or until firm enough to cut easily into squares..

Meet Your Maker: Isabelle Abramson

I'm very proud to present our very first pottery artist on the Meet Your Maker series today! Isabelle Abramson was one of the first artists I "hearted" when I first joined Etsy and she's held a permanent place in my favourites ever since. I'm just so completely blown away by the delicate intricacy of her designs. I'm a sucker for lacy things, but lace porcelain? How is that even possible? Well, you're about to find out! I'm so pleased to show you some of Isabelle's stunning work and incredibly honoured she has agreed to share her story here with us. Welcome, Isabelle.

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I was a school nurse before I was an artist. I was able to slowly teach myself to make porcelain pottery through a lot of trial and error. My work tends to be very feminine, detailed, functional porcelain artwork with a lot of time spent on each individual piece.

WHAT inspires you?
I love the detail and craftsmanship that I see in antiques and some vintage furniture. I think that, except for in very high end home decor, a lot of that attention to detail has been lost. The spaces that feel the best for me are really simple, but decorated with a few ornate pieces of art or furniture.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
My studio is tiny (I think only about 200 square feet), so I have to be very conscious of what I fill the space with and how I work. I usually only have one or two pieces in process at any given time so I am totally focused on what I’m working on and then as soon as a piece is finished it goes into the kiln, because there’s not anywhere else to put it. It’s taken a few years to find a way to use the space in a way that is the most efficient, and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process. That being said, I really love my studio. I’m totally used to it and I feel good working there so I think I might feel like I was swimming if I moved to a larger space now. Also, commercial space in Boston is really expensive and the rent in my studio building is based on square footage, so having this tiny studio frees me up to focus on my art and not have to worry about overhead.

WHEN do you feel most successful? When do you feel most frustrated/insecure?
I feel most successful when I’m steadily selling artwork at a pace I can keep up with and making just a little more money than I need to get by. I feel most frustrated when things don’t come out right or break in the kiln. I always learn something when a piece doesn’t work out but if I spent a long time on something it’s definitely a bummer when it doesn’t turn out to be something I can sell.

WHY do you do what you do?
I really enjoy being my own boss. I feel like I’m good at the things that one would need to be good at to run a very small business like this. The balance of alone time where I create intertwined with the social part of selling is a great way to work.

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day?
A lot of my focus in how I work is keeping the website stocked in a way that I feel like I’m providing a good variety of items that look good together as a collection. I can usually only finish one small piece or part of a large piece in a day. I slip cast the body of the piece before I leave the studio. At night when I’m home I look at what’s been selling on the website and what seems like it would fit with the other things I have and I start to think about what the design will be for the piece that I work on the next day. Most of my day is spent sitting at a desk with reading glasses on and an x-acto knife in my hand.

Final words...
It’s a really hard time to be selling something that is fundamentally unnecessary. I would tell anyone starting out not to forget that it is abnormally hard to be doing something creative as a job right now, especially if you rely on outside feedback for encouragement or direction. Focus on making your art better and less on people’s reaction to your art. When it is truly a labor of love it comes through and the people who buy your things with see that. Also, don’t quit your day job if being stressed about money is going to interfere with your creative process.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Isabelle. Your self-taught journey is such an inspiration, and your words of wisdom to new artists and entrepreneurs really hits home. I think you've shown us a side of pottery that many people have never seen before and I hope we'll all spend a little more time appreciating the art form from now on. I know I will!

Please take a moment to visit Isabelle's website and Etsy shop.

All images by Isabelle Abramson.