Saturday, December 1, 2012

How To: Yule Nissen Ornaments

Now that December is here, Christmas decorating can begin in earnest.  Our Christmas tree is always decorated in a traditional Nordic style, with glossy red apple ornaments, straw stars and pinecones, and little red Yule Nissen (Christmas elves).   Another name for these friendly folks is Tomten.  One of our favorite books to read at this time of year is a classic Astrid Lindgren tale called The Tomten and the Fox.  We love it.  We have little Tomten and Nissen all around our house, and decided recently to make some more ourselves to add to the tree and give away as gifts.
What you need:
·         small pinecones--we picked ours this summer on a trip to the ranch
·         wooden beads
·         jute string or yarn--for hair
·         paint, permanent markers or fingernail polish to decorate the eyes
·         felt fabric squares
·         tiny jingle bells
·         scissors
·         glue gun
·         needle & thread

To start, paint a face on your wooden bead.  I used blue nail polish and strung a whole line of beads on a shish kabob skewer to make it easier to hold and dry them.  Next cut your felt fabric into circles, then into quarter circles.  Take one quarter circle and sew the two straight edges together, creating a little cone shape.

Sew tiny jingle bells to the tips to make teeny tiny hats.

Use a hot glue gun to attach a wooden bead face to the stem end of your pinecone. 

Glue hair to the top of the wooden bead face using the hot glue gun.  We tried lots of different styles: braids, long and straight, short and fuzzy.  If you’re using jute twine, you can get a more hair-like effect by unraveling the strands in the twine.  This whole step can actually be done either before or after the face bead gets attached to the pinecone…whichever works best for you. 

Cut long strips of felt fabric and glue them around the “neck” of your nisse as a scarf.  This also, conveniently, covers up any unattractive glue globs that might have developed when you attached the head.
Last, glue a hat on top of your nisse’s head and attach a string for hanging.  If you’ve done this project with kids, I also recommend finding a place where they can attach their name and the date they made the ornament.  I still have Christmas creations that go up on our tree that I made when I was in kindergarten.  It’s great to make memories.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Shrunken Heads

Shrunken heads will add that extra little something to any Halloween gathering.  A friend took inspiration from Allison DiNatale's idea and did this fun, kid-friendly project for a recent party.

Start with Granny Smith apples, lemon juice & salt.  Peel the apples and cut them in half, removing seeds.  Carve eyes, nose and mouth on the rounded side of each apple, then float in a liquid mixture of 2 cups lemon juice and 2 tablespoons salt.  This keeps the apples from turning brown. 

You might end up with some prune-y fingers that look a little like shrunken parts yourself.

Place the apple faces on a baking sheet in a low heat oven (250 degrees) for 90 minutes, or so.  This dries them out, without burning.

Press some cloves into the "eye sockets" to give them a little extra expressiveness.

And float them in your favorite cider brew to add extra flavor and flair to your Halloween party.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Urban Unveiled 2012

This week we were fortunate to participate, once again, in the Urban Unveiled wedding show at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.  I spent a long time getting our display ready and am so pleased with how it turned out that I have to share it with you all.  

We were debuting some new products for our custom favor line.  We have whimsical new packaging for our natural lips balms that we're calling "Seattle Sundries' Butterfly Kisses".  I think you can see why.  The fun thing about them is that they are totally customizable: flavor, color, paper style, etc. They are favors that do double duty as decorations.  We also have new little custom favor boxes that hold three small guest soaps...which also can be totally personalized for any event.

We displayed some examples of retro groomsman gift sets that would be perfect for the gentlemen in any wedding party.

See that neat old box in front?  I found that on a visit home to the ranch a few years ago.  It was stuffed with miscellaneous little items, including the ones you see below.  These are the matchbooks, foil paper cutouts, and white swans that were favors for the celebration of my great-grandparents 50th wedding anniversary.  They were married 100 years ago, last month. For real.  I kept the box closed during the show, but the few people who were curious enough to lift the lid got to hear the story of Gunda and Louis' nuptials.

We also had our bath soaps in custom tins on display for folks to sniff and feel.

These were some lovely little clutch purses that I made to show how unique bridesmaid gift sets can be made using our skincare products.  See how the inside fabric on the clutches matches the table skirt?  These were fun to make.  You should try it!

Happily, our space was right next to the charming lady who owns Fiore Blossoms.

Of course, Luly Yang was there.

And the dapper gentlemen from True Colors Events...

There were so many beautiful things to see that I couldn't possibly show them all, but I think this might have been my favorite floral arrangement in the whole place.

The most admired and eye-catching part of our display were the cherry blossom branches that we hung the Butterfly Kisses from.  They were battery operated LED lights that were so easy to arrange and were just perfect for the butterflies.  I highly recommend them for any such displays you make in the future.

Once the sun went down, the lights were dimmed and the candles were lit, it made a most lovely sight.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Body & Soul

Music is very important in my life.  I have always been surrounded by it, played it, belonged to bands that performed it, and basically let it soak in and wash over me on a regular basis.  My life is better because of music.  I was fortunate to begin my musical life when I was young, as I wish all people could.  

This is me, singing "Don't Fence Me In" at the school talent show when I was in kindergarten.

My children love it too and are now lucky to be able to make music every day. The Seattle Public Schools  try to provide music opportunities for kids and have a number of great ensembles.  But like most other arts programs in schools across the nation, the music programs are in need of financial support to purchase essential supplies like instruments and sheet music, and to allow students an opportunity to refine and showcase their talents through performance and competition.

For this reason, 30% of all profits from the website sales of my new Body & Soul Soap will go directly to support our neighborhood school's blossoming music program.  

The theme (and name) for this soap was inspired by the Jazz standard that's been performed by so many great musicians over the years.  Billie Holiday's version is the one that I've listened to the most, though there are many other beautiful renditions like the one done by Amy Winehouse and Tony Bennet. It's an elegant and smooth piece of music that I hanker for, especially this time of year, when  the air is crisp and I just want to slip into the sound like a warm bubble bath.

The scent of Body & Soul Soap comes from a complex mixture of essential oils that include the more masculine bay rum oil, as well as the very feminine ylang ylang.  The subtle green color comes from French green clay and the rich lather is complimented by moisturizing shea butter.  It's a really nice soap.  I had fun writing the text for the insert card too.  It reads: This smooth, groovin’ soap was inspired by the soulful sounds of jazz greats like Billie, Louis, Ella & Chet. It’s a fusion of natural ingredients, with a subtle, layered scent. Let it wash over you, because soap cleanses the body like music cleanses the soul. 

When you buy it, you not only get some great soap, but you help spread music to a whole new generation. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Soap Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone for participating and writing some great comments.  I loved reading about the diversity of jobs that people have held. Unfortunately, there can be only one winner (chosen by RNG), and that is...

Joel Seymour!  He said:

The hardest job I had was working on a loading soda trucks. I was in high school, carried a full course load, including some college level courses, and worked 40+ hours a week. The dock was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and always reeked of diesel fumes. It was a local soda company (in NY), and they still used the glass, one quart bottles. It was grueling work, but it definitely forged character."

That sounds like hard work that is very worthy of some nice soap.  Joel, you can email me at asbloom [at] with your choice of soaps and your mailing address and I'll get those sent out to you right away.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Labor Day Soap Giveaway!

It's Labor Day weekend and I have been laboring a lot this week.  You probably have too.  At the very least, you might have been out shopping for back to school items with your children.  That's a total labor of love, in my opinion.  

Because we all work so hard, I've decided to do a little soap giveaway in honor of the Labor Day holiday (thank you Unions!!).  The winner will receive three tins of Seattle Sundries Soap, of his/her choosing.  A winner will be chosen at the end of the day on Labor Day (Monday 9/3).  Spread the word! 

To enter, leave a comment which describes the hardest job you've ever had to do in your life, so far.  

Mine would be the summer job I had where I drove a forklift at Jacklin Seed Co. during the busy grass seed harvest.  My shift was from 3am to 3pm, five days a week.  It was a real character builder.

Also, if you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page...could you, please? That would be awesome.  ;-)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Clothing Swap Extravaganza

Last night some friends (and friends of friends) and I had a clothing swap. Everyone brought items that were in reasonably good condition, but that no longer fit or got any use for one reason or another.  Most ladies came with one or two bags stuffed with stuff.  We put it all into piles of similar items: shoes in one place, shirts in another, and so on.  

There was one room called the "safe room" where people could put anything that was not up for grabs.  This could be the clothes that you wore when you got there, or anything new that you had found and were laying claim to.  

My pictures are not super exciting (sorry), but I was trying not to snap any that included people who were only partially clothed.  This was very difficult, since everyone pretty much walked around in their underwear trying on things for the majority of the evening.  We also had a big vat of sangria and some snacks.  It was really fun.  I highly recommend the concept.

Someone even brought a few dog clothes.  I wish I had snapped a picture of Ernie wearing his new sweater. He was only slightly OK with it, since it was a very hot Seattle evening.  He'll be dapper come Fall though!

I think everyone ended up with some great stuff (I know I did) and all of the unclaimed items will be donated to a women's shelter or for the victims of the Taylor Bridge fire in central Washington.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Seattle's Great Wheel

Yesterday we took a trip down to the waterfront in Seattle and got to ride on the Great Wheel at Pier 57.  The weather could have been better, but it didn't really matter.  It was a really fun, and slightly unsettling ride.  I'm not afraid of heights and wasn't expecting to have any issues with riding in an enclosed gondola, but I did.  It's very tall (200 feet) and dwarfs the other structures at the waterfront.  It's 1/3 the height of the Space Needle (604 feet)...spinning. An even more amazing comparison is with the London Eye ferris wheel, which is more than double the size at 443 feet tall.  Gulp.


The views of downtown are to die for.

It's well worth the time and money to go for a ride.  Whether you live here in Seattle or are visiting from out of town, you should check it out!

Think Before You Speak Poster

Here's a printable 8.5x11 poster that I made of the "THINK before you speak" maxim.  I have to remind my kids of this regularly...myself, too.  Feel free to print one for yourself, or as a not-so-subtle message to someone you know.