A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: November 2015

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30 November 2015

The Stack Before Christmas

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While the rush of Christmas is soon coming, I am still in that happy, calm place where winter weather means reading.  LOTS and lots of reading.  I have a small stack I plan to get through by the time Christmas activities demand my full attention, and wanted to share with you my favorites so that you might pick up a copy and read or perhaps find the perfect present for your mom, sister-in-law, friend or nephew.  Pssst...I am giving away a small stack of books at the bottom of the post -- don't miss it!

Here are my five of the season, increasing from top to bottom in my enjoyment (I really like ALL of them though!)  Note that I will be sharing links to these books via my amazon affiliate option, so if you click, I make a small portion back - THANK YOU!  These books were purchased for me as birthday presents, purchased by me because I cannot resist a good book every time I buy diapers on Amazon or via the author/publisher for review.


Life by the Cup starts us out and I have to give credit to my friend and colleague Jennifer Carroll for turning me on to Zhena and her teas. After receiving an email from Jennifer praising both the teas and the book, I immediately bought both.  I was happily surprised by the quality of the tea and have been enjoying reading the book bit by bit before bed for a few weeks. It is split into "tea-sized" chapters, each with a focus on a specific inspiration tea:


Though the message and the tone of the book is inspirational, I was far more intrigued with the "behind the business" glimpses Zhena gave into her company. Whether you need a pick me up or have an entrepreneurial bent, you will probably like this book.  Without fail, you will like Gypsy Rose tea (Red Lavender is a highly recommended #2 and samplers like THIS and THIS might also be a good place to start). Brew without sugar or milk for the purest taste and experience. Crafter sidenote: These tea tins (especially the samplers) make FANTASTIC craft supply holders or upcycled gift containers.


Next on the list is a book that made me do this:


I just cannot help but dog-ear good books.  
I know I shouldn't, but who has that many bookmarks when you need them?  This book also made me do this:


Book in question?  A fun little tome called In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis.  Chock full of personal anecdote and recipes, my favorite parts are the little "jewels" of information that make me underline and dog-ear the poor book to death. If you like food and enjoy domestic pursuits (even if you aren't that great of a cook), you will like this book.

Next on the stack is an impulse buy that I am so very pleased to have made. I saw the Bumper Book of Nature on an instagram post and looked it up on Amazon. $5 later and I was a proud owner of an old-school nature book.  I love it just as much as the kids in part due to the illustrations:



There are sketch-like illustrations in color and B/W, but also full color illustrations that I have some DIY plans for.  
The book itself is larger than expected and a nice, solid hardback.  WELL worth the five bucks.


Another book that i love almost equally with the kids is Hand Lettering for Everyone, a new publication from Christina Vanko (currently $8.77). 


We have been working through the first half of the book as part of our "day off schooling" (Puerto Rican school seems to have a LOT of holidays) 
and the boys are learning both art and history as we move forward.  (Do YOU know what a drop cap is??)


I love art, but I am really not an artist, so tracing and learning has been so fun for me.

This book teaches you to doodle, sketch and letter page after page after page.
Consider that the cost is about what a movie ticket will run you and the return is hours of education and entertainment. 


Another hand-lettering book I am particularly enjoying is The Botanical Hand Lettering Workbook from Bethany Robertson.

The Botanical Hand Lettering Workbook from Bethany Robertson.

This book is also great for beginners and is loaded with information:
The Botanical Hand Lettering Workbook from Bethany Robertson.

Not only does Bethany walk through hand lettering concepts, but she also teaches the reader how to make adorable 
botanical accents for your text. This little flower cluster tutorial below was really interesting for me to play with.
PERFECT for the friend that wants to make her own artwork, greeting cards or online graphics.
The Botanical Hand Lettering Workbook from Bethany Robertson.

Favorite Page:

The Botanical Hand Lettering Workbook from Bethany Robertson.

Finally, and in the grand tradition of a GRAND finale, is Lauren Liess's Habitat.

When this book first arrives, you can instantly tell that it is a work of love.  Every single detail has been thought out 
down to the lack of book jacket, cover texture and one of my favorite details pictured here on the spine: 

Of course there are lust-worthy rooms and furnishings...case in point THOSE CHAIRS:

...but this book is a bit more than your typical decorating text. Lauren dives deeper into the whys of decorating and writes with a thorough understanding of family and home. Mood, spirit and heart are explored and you leave Lauren's book fresh with new ideas. The difference between her book and most is that those ideas are your own. Liess's magic is that her words teach the amateur to think, a far greater achievement than simply teaching one how to pick the right vase. (...although I will admit her tip on braided jute is one I took immediately to heart and yes, to amazon.)


...and this quote sums up the book more than almost any other:

Family reigns supreme.


So in the spirit of Christmas, YOU are going to get the chance to win a stack of your own, collected from both my fall reading list HERE and the pre-Christmas list above. Included in the stack are these highly recommended books!

The Bee Cottage - Frances SchultzHabitat - Lauren LiessTerrariums - Maria Colletti

Click each title to learn more about the books on Amazon and then make sure to enter to giveaway below!




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Curious? Here is MY Christmas wishlist this year!





05 November 2015

When Tea Becomes Ritual

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

How to Brew Herbal Teas with Amy Renea

I've been really into tea lately. Hot, Cold, Iced, Herbal -- I have been trying them all.  With winter approaching fast, I wanted to share a few of my favorites teas and techniques with you to help keep cozy and warm!

Let's start simply with my favorite basic herbal mint tea.  Mint is so tough, that is typically can grow for you indoors if you are able to give it some light. Peppermint is a classic, but there are plenty of other mints to choose from as well.  I cut off a small handful of mint leaves and combine with 2 cups of boiling water and 1 tsp of lemon juice in a french press. (I was introduced to french presses via my sister and mother-in-law and love their simplicity, particularily when an electric brewer will not work during the zombie apocolypse.  While typically used for coffee, I also use them for tea :)

Press a few times to crush the leaves fully and extract the oils.
This is my "go-to" after dinner tea that brews in the press while I load up the dishwasher and get the kitchen settled. It should brew 10-15 minutes to fully extract the flavor of the mint.

If you can't grow your herbs in winter, you can certainly dry them or buy them dried.  To use dry loose-leaf teas, you will need some sort of containment device for brewing.  Pictured below is just a simple (cheap!) infuser (2 bucks), but they make these mesh tea dippers in all sorts of shapes like robots, pants and even manatees!

How to Brew Herbal Teas with Amy Renea

“I may be out of bed, but I’m in no way equipped to conduct hypothetical conversations before I’ve had a cup of tea.” 



How to Brew Herbal Teas with Amy Renea

Simply fill the infuser with loose leaf tea and brew directly in the mug for a delicious cup.  My favorite loose leaf teas are HibiscusGypsy Rose, and YES, classic Lipton. The ceremony of loose leaf really elevates this classic and quite delicious tea!  It is one that I always add sugar to and my mom's classic standby for sweet tea.
I have also been experimenting with green teas, particularly matcha, in my quest for no calorie "treats".  
While some teas work just as well cold, I tend to prefer matcha steaming hot.

Brewing Matcha Green Tea at A Nest for All Seasons
If you are going to spring for matcha, go organic!  Enzo is a good choice!
One of my favorite aspects of green tea brewing are the accessories (the scoop, whisk and spoon come in a kit for around $12 HERE).  Fairly inexpensive, these bamboo implements make the tea brewing a serious process which helps to focus your thoughts and calm your spirit. (The french press for mint tea and a special mug for the Gypsy teas below accomplish the same routine-based calm.) The process of tea-making does not have to be expensive, but it should be ritualistic or you with the same supplies each time to give it a special place in your daily routine.

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” 



Next on the list is the entire line of Gypsy teas (and this is TOTALLY non sponsored you guys, even though it sounds like it :).  I have not found a tea in the line that I did not like and I have tried 10 now. Without fail, you will like Gypsy Rose tea (Red Lavender is a highly recommended #2 and samplers like THIS and THIS might also be a good place to start).  I also really like the chais brewed strong and COLD, not hot.  Try brewing up a cup in the morning and leaving it to chill or an afternoon (zero calorie) treat.  The flavor of the chai in particular really intensifies when cold. Brew without sugar or milk for the purest taste and experience. These tea tins (especially the samplers) make FANTASTIC craft supply holders or upcycled gift containers.

So as winter comes rolling in with her ice buckets and crackling fires, 
consider brewing up a hot bit of tea to keep you company...I know I will be.


How to Brew Herbal Teas with Amy Renea

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it's also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” 


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01 November 2015

Handmade Thanksgiving Placecards or Christmas Cards

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Christmas is still a ways off, but getting cards out will come upon us quicker than we think! It always sneaks up on me at least...every year without fail. If you cannot think about Christmas QUITE yet, these card ideas also make for pretty Thanksgiving place cards or even "Thanks" cards to send a little earlier in the year and with a little more thought than a rushed Christmas card. Today, I want to show you two super simple options: a metal accent card and a fun plant-able card! Let's start with the high impact, low cost metal accents, shall we?

Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards

Supplies - Metal Accent Cards:

Metal Trees - 2 inch
Metal Stars - assorted sizes
Metal Snowflakes - 1 1/2 inch
Hot Glue
Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards

These cards are incredibly simple, but have such a nice weight and texture thanks to the little rusted tin pieces.  The metal accents are inexpensive and look beautiful against the 'Kraft' natural brown cards.  Start by simply hot gluing your shapes onto the cards in whatever design you choose.  Then you get to add some more detail!  For the tree card, I threaded a large craft needle with baker's twine:

Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards

Then, simply wrap a lit of twine around each tree base.  That tiny bit of texture is perfect for these rustic cards!

Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards
For the stars, I simply added in text with a thin-tipped marker.
Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards
For the snowflake card, I used gold marker to repeat "let it snow"! under the metal accents.
Handmade Plantable Christmas Cards

Supplies - Plant-able Stars:

Scrap Paper
Water
Seeds
Blender
Egg White, Honey and small paint brush
Christmas Card with plantable Marigold seeds by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed Ripped Paper
    Let me be honest with you.  This card takes some time and patience and is NOT one you would want to mass produce for lots and lots of family and friends.  (For that, try the metal accent cards above!)  These recycled paper plantable stars are PERFECT for a fun kid's craft or very special card for the gardener in your family.  The supplies are minimal and very cheap!  Start by ripping up some scrap paper and place in a bowl of water.  Blend the "mush" in a blender.  I use a "garden blender" for craft projects, "moss shakes", etc so that I don't dull the blade on my nice blender. You might consider a cheap thrift store blender for projects like this!  If you are using small seeds, add them in now with a SPOON, not your blender.  Once you have pulp, simply pour it onto your star "screen".

Christmas Card with plantable Marigold seeds by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 3

Push the water through the screen and either push straight to the edges, or form star points with your fingers (below).

Christmas Card with plantable Marigold seeds by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 4

Add a layer of egg white and honey to the top of the card if you want to add large seeds to your paper star.  
The egg whites and honey serve as an adhesive.  *****Cards MUST dry at least 24-48 hours!******
Christmas Card with plantable Marigold seeds by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 2
All ingredients are technically edible, but DON'T EAT IT!
Christmas Card with plantable Marigold seeds by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed
I like packaging the little stars in a burlap pouch (just sew up three edges), but a regular envelope works too!
Plantable Star Cards and Metal Accents


If you are going to buy Christmas presents via Amazon, PLEASE consider clicking through my Amazon links below (or throughout the site) to support A Nest for All Seasons financially. I make a small commission on any product you buy at Amazon and the price to you is the same. THANK YOU!




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