Whether your holidays are spent around a sparkling pine tree or near a fire, filled with presents from loved ones or surrounded by the presence of loved ones, in a white winterland or on a warm and sunny day, we hope you have a wonderful day. Happy holidays, from our family to yours!
What’s the best thing to give anyone and everyone on your list this year? (Assuming, of course, that your Christmas list doesn’t include any of those holiday-hating heathen folk who don’t bother putting up a tree.) Answer: ornaments! They’re small and cute and come in every animal-shape and eye-blinding-color. So, to help you out, Brian and I have rounded up the indisputable top 10 Christmas tree ornaments for holiday gift giving and decorating this year. These are the best of the best, including mostly handmade and truly unique branch baubles with just the right amount of irreverence.
10. Stuffed Shark
Image above: Stuffed Shark Ornament handmade by Broderpress $16.00/ea.
Ah, the fierce and majestic shark. This plush ornament is not for the faint of heart or the bland of tree.
Image above: Clay Popsicle Ornaments handmade by Sugar + Frost $8.05/ea.
What’s more wonderful than a popsicle, I ask you? Well, two popsicles. Also, three popsicles, And four. Should I keep going…?
Image above: Good Fortune Palmistry Hand Wood Ornament made in the USA $10.00/ea.
Whether you’re gifted with a connection to the spiritual world or are just really into this “hand” trend I’m seeing everywhere, you’ll love this laser-engraved birch wood ornament.
7. Monster Friend
Image above: Ceramic Monster Ornament handmade by DragonStarArt $40.00 (only one available!)
Just look at that sweet squiggly smile! This odd fella would add some real interest to any quirky tree.
6. Mini Weavings
Image above: Woven Loom Ornaments handmade by All Roads Design $14.00/ea.
Anthropologie has ALL THE PRETTY THINGS! Case-in-point, these little loom weavings. They’re so tiny! Gimme.
5. Deviled Eggs
Image above: Deviled Eggs Glass Ornament handmade in Poland $13.96/ea.
Did you know that the deviled egg dates as far back as ancient Rome? That means this platter of deviled eggs is probably the classiest ornament you could have.
Don’t question it.
4. Christmas Pickles
Image above: Jar of Pickles Ornament Set hand-blown in Poland $8.00 for 9
If you don’t partake in the Christmas pickle tradition every year, stop reading this blog post and don’t come back until you’ve bought a pickle ornament and committed yourself to this beautiful custom. I’m making it a requirement of all Westervin readers. Seriously, get out of here.
3. Banana Bunch
Image above: Banana Bunch Wood Ornament handmade by Alice Oehr & Rittle $13.00
Brian doesn’t actually enjoy eating bananas, and I just can’t understand that. They’re sweet, have a bright, happy color, and are fun to mush around in your mouth as if you’re a baby monkey learning to eat. And they have an interesting history. Bananas are wonderful, I say, and perfect for any Christmas tree!
2. Fancy Flamingo
Image above: Fancy Flamingo Paper Mache Ornament $19.95
This guy is too fabulous for any old tree, and he knows it. Just look at that cheeky side-eye.
1. Cheerful Cactus
Image above: Plaid & Velvet Cactus Ornament handmade by Dotter Studio $18.00
And finally, topping the list is this one-of-a-kind cactus ornament made with salvaged vintage velvet and plaid wool. Because nothing says, “white Christmas is so last year,” like a desert dwelling succulent.
While for the Westervins, Christmastime is mostly about taking some time off to spend with family and watching our favorite Christmas movies (or at least my favorite Christmas movie), we somehow also find time for presents. So just like Sarah did yesterday, I’ve rounded up some nifty items and wrapped them up in a handy gift guide for you. Don’t feel the need to get me everything on this list — I don’t need #allthepresents. But some of this stuff is really cool, and you may know someone who still needs a gift. Heck, maybe you need a gift. Fair warning though, many of these items are limited in quantity or handmade, so get them while they’re hot!
Image above, clockwise from top left: Tyvek Billfold $24, Snuggle Penguin Card $4.50, Y’all Sweatshirt $50, THICK Paraben- and Sulfate-Free Shampoo $25, Anonymous Ism Socks $28, Coconut Oil Soft Shaving Cream £16.00, Fireplace Sculpture by Layet Johnson $1,800, Natural Avocado Soap $6.50, Wood Handle Umbrella $108, Beard Oil Trio $36
Image above, clockwise from top left: Skillshare Premium Membership $96 (so I can take this logo design class and more), Set of Moscow Mule Mugs $14.95/ea., 12 Tables 2015 Calendar $20, Americana Postcard Set $30 for 46, Set of Julep Cups $26.95/ea., North Carolina Sourwood Honey $22, Dinosaur Drink Stirrers $16.95, Chicken Gourd Ornaments Set $36 for 3, Mint Julep Candle $28, Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold
Image above, clockwise from top left: Copper Pig Cookie Cutter $16.95, Chorizo Rioja Dry Cured Salami $10.95, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey by John Currence, Stand Mixer Flex Edge Beater $22.49, Slap Sauce $6.99, Smoke by Tim Byers, Ginger Canvas Apron $80, Custom Coffee Subscription, Deep Tea Diver Infuser $9.99, Diner Cookie Jar $49.00
Christmas is over and the New Year is here. We are finally back at home, having brought our journey through the center of America to a close. It was a great trip filled with highs and lows and hours and hours in the car. We drove through six states starting from our homebase in Chicago and ending up in Louisiana, with a layover to see friends in Little Rock on the way back. We were able to pack quite a bit into just over a week. So much excitement, from our trip as well as some pre-celebrations in Chicago, that we just have to share some of it with you. Let’s take a quick look back before we move forward with a new year:
With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it certainly seems like pie time out there. Before Sarah and I hunkered down to make our Thanksgiving day apple pie, I wanted to try a classic chess pie. Usually chess pie is a very simple buttermilk pie. This recipe, however, is a bit different. I figured Sarah would appreciate chocolate more than buttermilk, so I found an equally simple recipe for Chocolate Chess Pie. If you are in need of a really simple pie composed of ingredients you may very well have, please get bakin’.
Chocolate Chess Pie
Adapted from Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott
For the crust
1 sleeve chocolate graham crackers
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
For the filling
1 stick butter
1 (1 ounce) square unsweetened chocolate (or 3 tablespoons cocoa powder)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350°.
To make the crust, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs. (I like to put them in a large ziploc and smash them with a rolling pin. It’s very satisfying.) Add sugar and melted butter and mix until well combined. Push into a 9 inch pie pan to form a thin crust on the bottom and sides. (I also like to save a few bites for myself.) Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven, and chill until firm and crunchy, about an hour.
Lower oven temperature to 325°.
To make the filling, heat the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over medium until melted and smooth. Remove from the burner and add the sugar, mixing until well combined. Stir in eggs, vanilla, and salt. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for around 45 minutes, until top is puffed and the center is just set. To be honest, I like mine a little on the gooey side so I start checking around 40 minutes just to be safe (however, my mom likes her chess pie totally set and would prefer around 50 minutes. It’s your call here.). I also covered the edges of the crust with foil about half way through to keep it from burning.
Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 – 30 minutes.
When you come home from your (long) night out, play this song and remember 2009. For better or worse, it’ll only be in your dreams.