Friday, December 29, 2006

Make Your Own Envelopes

Though I rarely actually read the articles, I love magazines. It's the ads and photos that I devour. Those slick, glossy pages of color get me ripping up my mags and clipping my favorite bits to be treasured and shared, pasted to bill envelopes or postcards mailings. Here's a simple project to make your own envelopes. You can make cards from cardstock or just fill your envelope with tiny paper bits- photos, a funny comic, the ticket stub from the last great movie you saw...
Gather Supplies:
1. Paper
I use magazines but fancy cardstock, wrapping paper, maps, scrapbooking paper, newsprint and more are all options.
2. Scissors
Dollar Tree has super sharp scissors that last forever and you won't cry when they get lost.
3. Glue stick
Elmer's classic glue stick is the best. It tends to not pucker the paper.
4. Envelope Template
Carefully open an envelope you like the shape of or download one of Ruth Anns.
5. Ball Point Pen
A stylus is best for fine papers and cardstock but you need a pen to see the line on magazines.
Trace your template onto magazine pages, after tearing from mag, and cut out.

Be sure you flip your cut-out envelope over before folding and gluing so your favorite side ends up on the outside.
Fold the side flaps A & B in first, using your nail to make a sharp fold.
Run glue stick on top of flaps A & B and fold large, bottom flap C up, pressing to seal to side flaps.
Fill with love notes. When you're ready to seal, fold the smaller remaining flap down and seal with glue, a sticker, or use a return address label. Use another white lable on the front to address. Have a question or have a suggestion on this tutorial? Email me. missamyo at

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Harold the Vintage Suitcase

Meet Harold. He showed up one day and has decided to stay for the long term. I think he will hold winter jackets and sweaters. Then again my stationary collection is growing faster that I can write and Harold is terribly roomy...
Hard-case vintage suitcases are fun to paint with acrylics and can be sealed to prevent scratching. I have seen tables made of them as well. But for now, I'm going to love Harold just the way he is and fill him full of pretty papers galore!
Meet Connie. She came to me thanks to Freecycle, a localized email list where stuff is given and received with no expectation of getting anything in return. After traveling the world, she became a dress-up trunk, holding fabulous dresses, glittery scarves, and heels far too big for their owner. Having outgrown her need for a dress-up up trunk, her owner wanted to find her a happy home instead of dumping her. She has kindly come my way. Connie is now my sweater case. Who needs a dresser when you have a handy dandy boyfriend to build you shelves and Freecycle as a resource for the perfect place for too many sweaters! See what is waiting to come your way or send something unwanted out to the world at

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two Decades: Photography by Liam

A few pictures by my youngest son, Liam (AKA William), age 10. Photography and words by Liam.

I took a picture through the lens of my old Instamatic camera with our new digital camera.

I tried to make this gnome look like a 50's gardening ad.

This is the camera I took a picture through the lens posted at the top. It is an Instamatic X-45 vintage camera. I also have in my vintage camera collection a collapsible Poloroid SX-45 Land Camera and a 60's Bentley Super 8 movie camera.

I simply pressed the lens button to see what I could get of the sprinkles. And what it turned out to be, in my opinion, was a crowd of people at a park or in a parking lot!

By: Liam A.B.
The fabulous gnome hiding in the candy canes can be found at Full Circle in downtown San Luis Obispo, CA.

Send a Postcard Today: PostcardX

Maggie called with plans for Christmas card craftin'. She called the right girl- head cold be darned- I'm always up for some mail art. Maggie brought tasty treats of croissant and coffee cake, I provided the coffee (cream, no sugar) and one large dining room table. We each had supplies galore to share. We each opened our present from each other early.
Letters, postcards, hang-tags, anything that will stand still long enough, will eventually be decorated by me, written on and mailed away. Sometimes to perfect strangers.
Growing up without family nearby didn't stop me from knowing them or feeling close because I was the excited recipient of fantastic letters from my Uncle Bill, Grandad and great-aunts. We may of seen each other only a couple of times a year but I knew and know them well through their penmanship (Auntie's beautiful swoops and curls, Aunt Iris' neat script, Bill's tiny, messy print, Grandad's yellow legal paper...), stories about their every day life, and feeling loved by the small effort of a hand written letter.
I love writing letters and thinking of someone opening their mail box to a bright red envelope amongst the small, white reminder notices. Or, even better, a handmade envelope from an old map found at the thrift shop. Hence my love for Postcardx. Simply put, postcardx is a listing of people who like to send and receive real mail. Send a postcard with no return address just for fun. Search by hobby to find a penpal. List yourself and see what pops up in your mailbox.

Craigslist: Buy, Sell, Find for Free

I love Craigslist. Catch phrases on t-shirts aren't my thing but I would wear an 'I love CL' tee.
Free moving boxes from the "Free" category were given to me and then passed on again through CL. After combining households, some furniture was voted off of the island. My couch was one of them:

She found a new home and we found a new couch- all on Craigslist.

Betsey, my beach cruiser, was put on CL for about 24 hours before she found a new owner. Here's my good-bye portrait of Betsey with her new friend & owner.

Have an old filing cabinet in the garage or a bunny that needs a home? Put it on Craigslist!

Need a bunk bed or a 'new-to-you' dining room table? Find it on Craigslist. Looking for a snazzier office space, more interesting job or a ride-share? Now you know where to go.

It's free, easy, and local. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bird Cookies

Janet is a friend I met through my son, Liam. She's a teacher at Sinsheimer Elementary after school program, Sun 'n Fun. The first year we moved to San Luis from Pismo Beach, Sun 'n Fun was full. We juggled work and three different schools around 8:25 am to 2:25pm. Wowie-zowie, what a luxury to have a space at on-site childcare! The second year we got in and were able to meet Janet, a loving teacher who gets 'in the mix' with the kids. Bird Cookies were her wonderful contribution to the Cookie Exchange party and I can't stop thinking about them! Here is a similiar recipe to keep you busy over Winter Break or on a cold winter day.

We've all covered a pine cone in peanut butter, rolled it in birdseed, and hung it on the tree for the birdies to nibble on. If you haven't, stop right now and go get sticky. Then come back and try these treats:

Bird Cookies:
1/2c peanut butter
1/2c flour
1 1/2c birdseed
Mix. Shape in balls. Squash to about 1/2" thick. Poke a hole on top with a straw. Bake at 425 degrees for 30min. Cool. Hang by ribbon or string outside and wait for the birds to come and enjoy!
Note: Wildbirds Unlimited in the Marigold Plaza is a local shop with a large selection of seeds and bird goods.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ten Ways with a Trader Joe's Pizza Dough Ball

We love pre-made pizza dough balls from Trader Joe’s! You could make your dough yourself for about .25, but for .99 Trader Joe's will do it for you. Wheat, herb, and traditional white are available. No Trader Joe’s? Ask your local pizzeria to sell you a few balls.
I prefer to make several individual pizzas and freeze for later use. Pop them straight from the freezer to lunch box and they’ll be ready by lunch time!
1. Set dough out at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Preheat oven to 425.
3. Cut dough into 4 sections and roll or smoosh with heals of hands (my preferred method) each section into a circle.
4. Spoon on chosen sauce. Add toppings and cheese.
5. Bake about 12 minutes. Times will vary by topping and oven so keep an eye on them. Remove when crust is browning and cheese is bubbly.
I poach whole chicken when it’s on sale, de-bone, chop and freeze. Rotisserie chicken, if you prefer, saves time and is always tasty. Trader Joe’s Four Cheese blend is my favorite but mozzarella is always good.

BBQ Chicken:
BBQ Sauce, cooked chicken, 4 cheese blend

Terriyaki Meatball:
BBQ Sauce, chicken terriyaki meatballs (halved), 4 Cheese Blend

Caesar or Ranch dressing, chicken, chopped tomato, bacon, 4 Cheese Blend

Ham ‘n Cheese:
Sweet & Hot Mustard, sliced ham, cheddar

Apple Sweet:
Apple pie filling (spread sparingly), Cheddar

Goat Cheese & Sun Dried Tomato:
Goat cheese, sun dried tomato’s in oil, Parmesan, top with fresh fresh basil as soon as you remove it from oven.
Pepperoni & Sausage
Sausage & Olives Pepperoni Ham & Pineapple Veggie & White Sauce

Breadsticks: Roll into small logs, roll in Parmesan cheese with herbs and bake.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Kitsch Makes Me Think

This December I've gone a little mad with Christmas Kitsch. Those cheery plastic Santa faces and delicate blown glass ornaments make me feel so cozy and cheery I can't help but scoop them up when I find them! Sunset Swap Meet, at one of the last great American drive-in's, UVS Thrift Shop, a handful of garage sales and EOC thrift shop have been my best sources for good old Christmas kitsch. Fabulous holiday findings can be found easily (and for big bucks) on eBay, Target, or you can go out, dig around, and see what comes your way at a local thrift shop- often for a quarter! EOC is one of my favorite stops in the world. Well, Yosemite is also pretty darn great, but EOC is my source for a previously loved copy of The Lovely Bones (.50), funky sweaters to keep me cozy ($3), and even-on a lucky day- your oh-so-covetted boutique originally $200 pair of jeans ($15). Besides the absolute thrill-of-the-hunt, EOC Thrift saves me tons of casholla.
Nancy, the general manager, and her staff will remember your name, that your sister is "expecting" and that your 10 year old had the sniffles last week and, by the way, how is he doing? Every child walks out with a free book and, to top it off, something is always on sale for 25% off!
The community services EOC provides are another five pages altogether.
You can imagine my dismay, nay, near tears, reaction when I heard the shop was closing with an uncertain future as to where or when they may reopen. Many others had the same reaction and sent letters to the Tribune as well as EOC to protest this decision. They've been given one more month to stay open and hope to find a new shop location to rent after the new year. If you know of a place or know someone who knows someone, give Nancy a call at EOC Thrift Shop 545.0823. Stop by and poke around- the whole store is 50% off until Nancy says so!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Paper Snowflakes: Martha Did it First but Maggie and I Did it Better

What's a Mom to do when her boys think they are to old for paper snowflake making? Call another crafty girl for snowflake fun! Maggie, a Rolfer & massage therapist friend, agreed.It had been a while since I'd made these festive beauties so I had to Google the directions. I looked all over but I have to admit, Martha Stewart had the best step by step guide. We followed her folding steps and went to work.I made tomato soup with grilled cheese, complimented by a fabulous grapefruit Maggie had brought to contribute. She sliced it in half, topped each with a dallop of honey, and broiled for a few minutes. Yum!We folded, snipped, and clipped for over an hour. Yielding a pile of perfect paper snowflakes, each one unique. Maggie's came out particularly beautiful. Here's a tiny portrait of my favorite:

How To Throw a Cookie Exchange Party

Seventeen women came together last night with roughly six dozen cookies each. We had appetizers, wine, and egg nog as friends mixed with old neighbors and new faces. After chatting a bit we gathered around the table, piled high with platters of delectable cookies, and filled our empty baskets, Tupperware bins, platters, and cardboard shirt boxes with a smattering of different cookies. Some were headed off directly to an office party and brought pretty platters to take straight away, piled high with dozens of different types of cookies. After making only one or two batches of your most fabulous giftable cookie, you leave with several different types of cookies. Saving hours of effort and cost. Want to have your own Cookie Exchange? Here are the basics:


  • Expect half of those you invite to plan on coming and a few of those to have to cancel. Although this year almost everyone came and filled our home with cookies!
  • Invite early! Give your guests a month's notice as this is a busy time of year. Then send a reminder the week before.
  • Evite has well designed invitations and helps guests easily RSVP.
  • Encourage baking cookies 3 days early. Cookies have a chance to "set-up" and there's no last minute crunch to get them done.
  • Remind them to bring cookies on a platter, ready to be served and to bring an empty container to take their variety home in.


  • I don't ask my guests to bring anything, but if someone genuinely offers to bring their favorite baked Brie or a bottle of wine- I take them up on it!
  • Keep it simple and savory. The sweet smell of cookies will be too much with sweet snacks.
    I held mine from 3pm-5 this year, making light snacks perfect with no need for a full meal.
  • Coffee, wine, mulled cider, lemon & cucumber water, mulled wine, cocktails, egg nog...choose three for ease in keeping stocked as well as fresh/hot/cold.


  • We each introduced ourselves, told the history of our cookie (my grandmothers, found it on the internet, have perfected it over the years, etc), and shared a tid-bit about ourselves. Easy peasy.
  • I encourage the exchange of business cards at all of my parties!
  • You may choose to incorporate a gift exchange. A white elephant gift game is always fun!
  • Or have guests bring canned food to donate.
  • Next year I may invite guests to bring small gifts for a local senior center, if they choose.


  • Have empty platters available for those who may forget.
  • Holiday shirt boxes, pre lined with waxed paper, were handy for those without a take home container.
  • Don't forget a parting gift: a mixed CD of Holiday favorites in a sleeve made of Holiday paper, an ornament displayed in a bowl with a "Thanks for coming!" gift tag, little bags of home-made mulling mix, have guests email their recipe ahead of time and print copies for each guest...
  • Don't forget to take lot's of pictures!

Have a question? Suggestion? Email me missamyo at


Favorite Big, Fat Rolled Sugar Cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes, 1 hour to overnight to chill, 8 min baking
Yield: 60 cookies
1 1/2c butter, softened
2c sugar
4 eggs
1tsp vanilla
5c flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs & vanilla, combining well after each addition. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill at least one hour or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out a managable piece of dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutter or floured drinking glass rim. Place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet (use parchment paper if you have it).
3. Bake 6-8 minutes. Cool completely. Frost if you' d like.

Royal Icing
This is icing dries very hard, perfect for shipping or carrying to a cookie exchange! Can also be used as the mortar on gingerbread houses.
Yield: icing for at least 60 cookies
4 egg whites
4c pre-sifted powdered sugar
1tsp lemon extract (or vanilla)
1. Beat egg whites until frothy in a large bowl on high speed. Gradually add sugar and extract until thickened. Seperate into glass bowls to mix in food coloring. I prefer gel food coloring that retain vivid colors and don't make your icing runny.
Tips: Let each color of icing sit at least an hour to prevent colors from mixing. Use your 40% off coupon at Michael's craft store to invest in a little set of gel food coloring- mix into your pizza dough, cookies, you name it. The kids love it!