Monday, December 22, 2008

Here we go a-Wassailing

Here we go a-wassailing among the leaves so green
Here we come a-caroling, so fair to be seen
Love and joy come to you
And to you your wassail too
And god bless you and send you a happy new year
And god send you a happy new year.

I'll do a later post on lines in Christmas songs that make you go "whaaa?" But if you don't know what wassail is, you're missing out. From very ancient times the Saxons used the toast, "Waes hael!" (good health!). In later times carolers and merrymakers carried a large bowl of the stuff from door to door to share and spread good cheer. People also blessed their fruit trees with it, believing it would help them produce better in the coming year, hanging toast soaked in it for the robins, who were believed to represent the good spirits of the tree.

As a result, the above is by no means the only wassail song for this time of year, but it is the best known. If you don't know what it sounds like the midi can be found HERE.

So what is the stuff? Well, it's been different over the years. If you get yourself a bottle of Chaucer's mead it usually comes with a packet of mulling spices. That would indeed work for wassail (and is soooooo good....). But I will bestow upon you the recipe that has graced every Christmas party since I discovered it for my chilly outdoor November Renaissance wedding:


1 gallon of cider (not the clear apple juicy stuff, good hearty cider)
3 tb. light corn syrup (honey works too)
a sugar-cinnamon mixture
3 Granny Smith apples
1-2 lemons
whole cinnamon sticks

Put the cider in your crock pot. Heat the corn syrup in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Cover it (trust me on this... you don't want to be cleaning corn syrup off the top of your microwave). Slice your apples, on the thick side. They look better if you do horizontal cuts so you can see the little stars in the core. Remove the seeds though. Dip the apples in the corn syrup, then coat with cinnamon sugar. Put in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until they're soft. Add to the pot. Slice your lemon (again, not too thin) and stud each little section with a cinnamon clove. Drop in the pot, with 4 or 5 whole cinnamon sticks. Let it brew for a few hours before your event. I have heard of a little pineapple juice or cranberry juice being added, and I don't think it would hurt it a bit.

This makes nonalcoholic wassail, to which you can then add some mead, or spiced rum, or whatever alcohol takes your fancy, if you like. It's really awesome with nothing at all added, though. This way you can serve some to the kids, too. In fact, when I showed up to the middle school Renaissance club party this year all I heard was, "Where's the wassail!" since I failed to bring it. It does indeed seem to make people happy (even without the alcohol!). My friend Mike takes us round the neighborhood caroling every year at his Christmas party, and while we don't bring the wassail bowl to share, it sure does taste fantastic coming in partially frozen afterwards.

Waes hael!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I love Christmas tree ornaments. I add a few every year, preferably handmade. This year I bought a snowy white lacquered egg with a wintry scene inside and glittered snow dripping from the edges of the opening... I love it and I wish the fabulously talented artist was on Etsy so I could share, but I got it at a craft show. Still, there's plenty of ornamental talent for your perusal. Start a new tradition... add a handmade ornament to your tree this year.

Polymer Clay Filigree Ornament by Starless

There are more of these stunning creations in Starless's shop, including a snowflake and a seahorse one, all of which are jaw-dropping gorgeous.

Iridescent Beaded Ornament Cover by June Moon Beads

I really wanted to do something like this this year but never got around to it. Guess I didn't need to... these are gorgeous. She has several others in her shop to match your tree's color scheme.

Handpainted Large Teardrop Mouthblown Ornament Set by GretaGEM

It was nearly impossible to choose one set of GretaGEM's ornaments to feature. You really must go look at her shop. Every one is a jewel... and she's done 3000 hand painted ornaments this year alone! (Not to mention, I was stunned that the prices on these beauties is so reasonable... you pay more at Hobby Lobby or Michael's for something made in China!)

Icy Elegance Quilled Snowflake by Forever Filigree

These are so pretty... put it on your tree, or add them to a wrapped present for a stunning presentation. Like real snowflakes, it seems like no two of these are alike, and everyone is uniquely beautiful.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Gift Game/Pass the Parcel [Carnival]

This carnival asked for a holiday tradition. Since my family has always loved games, one of my favorite traditions (we have lots of normal/sappy ones too) is called The Gift Game.

This tradition is incredibly fun, if you have enough people for your holiday celebration. Every Christmas Eve my family gathers for a late dinner, laughter, sometimes other games, but always The Gift Game. Then, at the stroke of midnight, one of the kids gets to be Santa and passes out the gifts from under the tree.

Here's how the Gift Game works. (Also great for holiday parties instead of Secret Santa!)

Ask each person to bring at least two gifts worth under $5 or $10. (based on your family's or guests' general budget). These can be dollar store finds, things they made, things they don't need anymore, trinkets, gags, toys, candy, whatever. There's no minimum on price; it can be a bag of holiday M&Ms. It should include items for everyone of age to participate -- things for kids, things guys would appreciate, things women would appreciate. Every item should be wrapped -- the more interesting the wrapping, the better!

You'll need a pair of dice and a timer of some sort, preferably one that makes a noise when time is up.

Here's how the game works. You put the presents in a pile in the middle of the table and hand the dice to one person. A roll of 7 or 11, and the person can take a present. They then pass the dice to the next person. Keep it moving quickly. Once all of the presents have been distributed, set the timer for 7 minutes (if you have a huge group make it more time, or a smallish one, a little less... I also recommend 2 pairs of dice for more than 10 people). Once the timer is set, start the dice going around again, only this time on a roll of 7 or 11 the person can STEAL a present from one of the other people. When the timer goes off, whatever you have is yours.

Although the spirit of Christmas usually prevails after all the stealing, and people end up giving the presents to people who would like them.

One year I had two sewn-shut mini stockings, one with a rock and a $5 and a note that said the person was "nice", and the other with a piece of coal that said they'd been "naughty." :)


Another game I've instituted at holiday parties recently is called Pass the Parcel and is actually a game that dates back to medieval times. Again, buy an assortment of cheap/small gifts. You then wrap a parcel in layers. Each layer is a square of scrap fabric (thrift store time!) tied securely with a ribbon, and has either a gift, or a "forfeit." A forfeit is a slip of paper with some silly task written on it that the person must do (think truth or dare), such as sing a silly song, impersonate an animal, take this candy ring and propose to the person of your choice, take this pencil and have the person next to you draw a mustache on you. Be creative, but not cruel.

Here's how the game works. Have someone controlling the music, preferably some festive and fast holiday music. The guests stand in a circle and when the music starts begin passing the parcel. When the music stops, the person holding the parcel opens a layer. If it's a gift, it's theirs. If it's a forfeit, they have to do the assigned embarrassing task.

If you have mixed adults and kids at your party run separate Parcel games for them, and if you have a lot of guests have 2 parcels (but don't let them open them at the same time, do one at a time).

Every time we've done this (I've instituted it at our middle school Renaissance club's Christmas party) it's been a blast. Try it this year :)

May your Christmas be full of laughter!

Monday, December 8, 2008

December Specials & Free Stuff

For the month of December you'll get a free gift from my shop with any purchase over $5. These will tend to be earrings or rings, so if you have unusually sized fingers or earring preferences (i.e. nickel sensitivity) let me know when you buy.

Also for the month, gift boxing and wrapping is free! Please send me a convo or email when you order to request gift wrapping if your item is a gift. One less stress this holiday season! I've been told I do very nice gift wrapping, by the way. It's kind of an obsession of mine. I may post a picture if I get to wrap the stuff that's hiding in my closet today.

Don't forget I do custom items, so you can visit to create the perfect present, or request a gift certificate in any amount so your recipient can design their own jewelry.

Happy holidays from my household to yours!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snowflower [Carnival]

Snow Crocuses Photo by SimplySaren


naked branches scratch the leaden sky that bears down upon
necks bent against winter's bite
and people rush in, stamping, shivering, unraveling
scarves and chills
in the welcome warmth that is home.
the long months of digging out from beneath the oppressive snow
grow tedious after the cheer of the holidays is passed
and the white
you wished for (when will it END?)
has become tarnished, traffic painting it
carbon monoxide black.
Just when you thought the tip of your nose would never thaw,
the sky clears
the white gives way to muck that's almost worse than the snow that still lingers in places
and blessed March
brings purplewhiteyellow messengers of hope
daring to push delicate petals through the crystals and muck
and for the first time since the fluffy flakes first limned the trees in white
and took your frosted breath away
you remember to

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We'll Miss You Sara :(

Up until now I have been very happy with the organization that is Etsy, and really hardly any complaints at all. Sadly, that changed this weekend.

I found out that Etsy (for reasons they are unwilling to disclose) is terminating the position of Sara (sarawearsskirts) who has been Teams liaison. It occurs to me that Sara is the reason my opinion of Etsy personnel is so high. In the months since I've joined and shortly thereafter started Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild she has been the "face" of Etsy for me. A real person I can contact when I need something Teams-related (which is usually what I need), super helpful and friendly, and professional.

So needless to say I was disturbed when I heard that not only are they letting her go, but they're eliminating her job as liason. Now, Teams leaders cannot go in and edit their team page -- that's one thing Sara did -- so my first question is, who's going to edit the pages (personally I think Teams leaders should have been able to do this themselves a long time ago).

Most disturbingly, no teams leaders were notified of this, it was discovered backhandedly via Sara's blog and then Etsy forum thread. Why the secretiveness and lack of communication?

I think Etsy is a wonderful place to do business, but if there is no one to step up and take over what Sara has been doing, it will lose a lot of the "homey" feel that makes Etsy so beloved to me. I really hope they're not going for more of a corporate feel. :(

Sadly, there really aren't any non-vague answers from admin, although to their credit, it is the weekend. We'll see what Monday brings. All that was said was that another guy will be working with us and teams will be taking "a slightly different direction" in '09.

Needless to say, Sara, if you chance across this, you will be very much missed. To me, you ARE Etsy and so much of makes it what it is. I wish you all the luck in whatever you choose to do next; whatever it is, they will be very fortunate indeed to have you.

Oh, and here's the thread if you're interested.

And Sara's blog if you know her and would like to tell her she will be missed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Peppermint Twist

Our featured EtsyBlogger inspired an entire feature on the wonders of peppermint and candy canes. Feast your senses.

Christmas Elf Stocking PDF Pattern by LifeBarn

There have GOT to be sugarplums dancing in that head. Hey, it's cold out there, and if you've got a little bald-headed thing you carry around on occasion, it needs one of these! Knit yourself some elfy goodness. Bet you'll never forget baby's first Christmas.

Candy Cane Lampwork Icicle Ornament by RuskinDesigns

I have a kitten. This is sad, because I adore glass ornaments, and in particular handmade glass ornaments. I have several similar to the one above that are clear. I got brave and put them (and the one made out of an egg with a snowy scene inside it) on my tree this year despite the insane 6-lb. furball I live with. Cross your fingers for me, so far he's been more nice than naughty... well, since I removed the tree skirt so he couldn't play hide and pounce with his kitty toys.
But I LOVE this ornament... candy canes and iciciles... it seems like a natural combination now that I think about it, but I've never seen anything like this that I can recall. So cool!

Peppermint Candy Cane Tutu by Hannah's Tutus

Wow I have a baby thing today. I think it's cause my 15-year-old isn't really that into it this year.... sadness. Wish I had a handful of Christmases to look forward to with a little one. But there will be nieces, nephews and grandkids, one of these days!
So if you've got a little girl, here's what you're going to do. You're going to buy one of these A.D.O.R.A.B.LE. tutus, you're going to make an appointment at your local professional photographer, and you're going to make this your Christmas card this year. Everyone you send them to will treasure them forever. And you'll also have something to drag out on prom night to embarrass the heck out of her.

Candy Cane Silver-Cored Lampwork Bead by Elysium Beads

Yeah, I know, more glass. Can't help it... I love glass, and you have to admit it lends itself to candy cane imitation.
These are some of the BEST lampwork beads on Etsy. I spent about half an hour looking at them yesterday, because I intend to try some Viking Knit in anodized niobium and sterling silver with a focal lampwork bead on the necklace at some point in the very near future. So, rest assured, I will be buying from these amazingly talented people. If you're a glass addict like me you owe it to yourself to look at these little works of art.

Peppermint Bark Brownies by Edith and Ethel

I had to put some sort of food in this feature, since, well, peppermint is food, and I said "feast your senses." So I searched Etsy's food section for peppermint and as soon as I saw these... oh man.... I stared. I drooled. Chocolate and peppermint are a match made in heaven. If, on the off chance that you want to buy me a Christmas present.... there ya go. Instant holiday bliss.

Peppermint Stretchy Chainmaille Bracelet by You've Got Maille

It occurs to me that I never do any shameless plugs in these feature bits, so here it is. My holiday item for the year since I somehow haven't had time to do all the other sugarplum ideas dancing in my head. I'll even put a big jingle bell on it for you if you want. :)

December's EtsyBlogger

Limited Edition Candy Cane Soap

Being a peppermint fanatic, I promise I'll be trying that soap. One of the best things about the holidays, is Peppermint.

I used to frequent Etsy's forums. There, I came across a soap maker asking the question: "Have you tried handmade soap? If not, why not?" Couldn't really answer that. Then Naiad kindly sent me a sample bar, and I was... am... hooked.

So I'll ask you the same question. Have you tried handmade soap? If not, why not? It's much gentler on your skin than store soap. The lather is dreamy. The scents are amazing. You'll stand around in the shower longer because it's so great. You'll never go to Bath & Body Works again. I swear to you I have laid in bed in that twilight between awake and asleep, trying to think of a good reason to get out of bed, and there have been a few times that handmade soap has been that reason.

I haven't tried Spotted Cow's soap yet, but like I said, I need that peppermint soap, so... I will be. But if I haven't, why should you?
1) Free sample with every order
2) 8 bars ship for the same flat rate
3) She does gift wrapping and gift baskets
4) On your gift list... who couldn't use soap? She has guy stuff too.
5) Not just soap... spa/bath accessories, bath bombs, kid soap, sugar scrub, crochet bath accessories, soy candles...

Seriously. If you haven't tried handmade soap spring for the 5 bucks, do yourself a favor, go buy. Your holiday stress (that you're not supposed to be having... see post below!) will wash away.

Oh, and check out her blog too!