a fuzzy wuzzy holiday: felt takes over

feltmenorah
Front door wreaths aren’t the only thing popping up in felt this holiday season. We spotted this lovely felt menorah over at Etsy (via iVillage). This clever design allows kids of all sizes to partake in the lighting of the flames — or rather, the buttoning of the flames! The wool felt is from upcycled sweaters, and is a great new homey tradition. ($60)

feltmistletoe

Another great seasonal tradition is the mistletoe. We love this one from branchhome.com. Each one is unique and comes ready to hang. Though kisses are not included it does come with thanks: Sales of this product help provide an income stream for sheepherders and artisans in the Rajasthan State of India, where it is made. ($26)

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the puppy files: getting our home ready for a puppy

dogtoys2

This is the weekend we go to pick up our new puppy! It seems like we have been thinking about and preparing for its arrival for ages now. I am excited and also nervous. Here are a few of the things we have done to get our home ready for the incoming bundle of energy. Are we ready?

Fenced in our yard. We have a small backyard, that already had border fences along the back and to one side. Luckily our neighbors didn’t mind that we wanted to finished it off on the other side and add a gate to the driveway. I thought the gate would make the yard feel smaller, but it actually does the opposite.

Bought a couple of baby gates. We’re not big believers in hanging on to things we don’t we need, so we mistakenly gave away our baby gates once our kid mastered the stairs in the house. We were able to replace them with a cheap ($15), portable version that we picked up at Babys R Us (rather than at a pet store). This will help us close off the house and keep an eye on the puppy. Hopefully they’ll do the trick!

Got a crate for training. It’s the one thing we’ve heard over and over again: Crate train! I’ve never done this before but I am trusting all I have heard and read that it will work. I love the idea of also using it create a safe place for the puppy to hang out when things in the house get overwhelming (like when we have screaming kids running around — it happens, though not everyday). We picked one that the puppy would grow into that has an adjustable section.

Read a few books. The first thing I read, to get myself psyched up about the dog, was Jill Abramson’s wonderful The Puppy Diaries. First, I am fascinated by the author because she is the new editor and first woman to run to The New York Times. Secondly, it’s an honest, emotional account of ups and downs of puppy-ownership.

Another book I picked up, at the insistence of Pam at EdenValleyDoodles, was Raising Puppies and Kids Together. It offers some great practical advice on how to teach your kids not to abuse or frighten the dog, and how to make sure your dog doesn’t pick up bad habits like biting and jumping. It even has some fun suggestions for games, like hide-n-seek, that I can’t wait to try with Isadora and pup.

Started instituting new “pick up all your toys” rule. If you have ever visited a home with young children, you know how often there are little things scattered about the floor. All those tiny plastic dollhouse pieces are gonna look mighty tempting to a young dog. We got some new sturdy bins from Ikea and organized their contents in big Ziploc bags. We also did a purge. Always healthy!

Began saving all our plastic bags. I know we can buy doggy poop bags (and some are even flushable!) but it doesn’t take long to gather a stash of plastic bags (even if you try your darnedest to always bring your reusable tote with you to the grocery store). I hear the ones that our newspaper comes wrapped in are especially good. Got ‘em!

Bought some things we’ll need: Such as sturdy food and water bowls, a mini Kong toy, rawhides, leash, collar, dog brushes, etc.

Bought some things ’cause they’re cute: Toys (thank you Martha Stewart, again), basket to put them, a jingle bell collar for Christmas morning, a puppy stocking to hang on the mantle with ours, and Poochie Bells, which you hang on your door frame for your dog to ring when he has to go out. (I’ll let you know if they work!)

We haven’t seriously invested in a dog bed yet — just a simple washable one for the crate. There are so many to choose from and they seem so pricey. We’re gonna wait. Also, I haven’t gotten any dog sweaters — though I know it will be cold out and puppy is just getting used to going outside. It’ll have a nice curly fleece coat of its own — will an extra layer be needed?

Dog owners, what am I forgetting? Your advice as always is appreciated and extremely welcome! — Angela M.

Previously on the Puppy Files
After Losing Our Dear Cat, We Ask: Is It Time For a Dog?

Chosing the Perfect Breed

What to Look For In A Breeder

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real life test kitchen: gingerbread men

gingermancookie

I have yet to find any time for holiday baking, but our friend Elizabeth and her daughter Sophie dropped by some yummy and extremely cute gingerbread men the other day. Naturally I coaxed her to share her recipe with us! Here’s her take:

I made it from scratch from a recipe in my favorite baking cookbook: the King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion. This is the first time I’ve made them. Sophie was sick on Monday and couldn’t go to school, but I didn’t want her to miss out on making gingerbread men (which her classmates did that day). So, I turned to my trusty cookbook, and we baked. Sophie loved spreading the flour, rolling the dough, cutting the cookie shapes, and making the eyes and buttons with red-hots. As for tips, I prepared the dough Sunday night and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The recipe gives a range for the baking time — I found it really hard to judge when they were done since the dough is so dark. I baked them on the shorter side, and they were pretty soft. If you prefer crisper cookies, just bake them a bit longer if your first dozen are too soft for your taste.

Hopefully I’ll find some time for baking this weekend, when I’ll be pulling out a few of my old favorites as well. What about you, have you baked any holiday cookies yet? Please tell us! — Angela M.

Click through to the next page for the recipe. (more…)

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our favorite no-fail hostess gifts: part 1

We asked Shelterrific’s amazing contributors to tell us the one hostess gift they always go to during the holidays. Here’s their picks!

Sarah Lyons: Doggie treats
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Holidays can be stressful for our canine friends, with all the hustle and bustle and new people in the house. While I never forgo a bottle of wine for human hosts, for the canines in the home, I love to pick up gourmet doggie treats. As an added bonus, it keeps guests from feeding Fido party food. Always a good thing. — Sarah L.

Sarah Christensen: Slate cheese board
sarahcgift

It may be having the best year ever as far as hostess gifts go, but even mainstream popularity doesn’t dissuade me from reaching for a slate cheese board every night the clock strikes party time. Available in red or black, the natural slate slabs are a chic way to display cheese and other nibbles on the holiday table. Each comes packaged in a cute burlap bag equipped with chalk for labeling by the savviest of hostesses. $28 for the 10” x 14” at Brooklynslate.com.

Mary Sheely: Tea infuser
marygift

I love getting a small tin of tea from Tuscan Tea Room, a local West Seattle shop. They aren’t selling online yet (but plan to), so think local and visit your nearby tea shop for tiny, colorful tins of yummy flavors. (I love Tuscan Tea Room’s creme brulee.) I usually sweeten the deal with a tea infuser as well, so my hostess has no excuse to not try the tea! I like this one by Tovolo a lot (and it comes with a built-in stand).

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want it now: mod gingerbread house

modginger

I am always tempted to make a gingerbread house, but never get around to it. Perhaps I’m not inspired by the traditional Hanzel & Gretal cottage style they all have. Well, it looks like I have found my dream gingerbread house, The Modern Gingerbread House. It’s so cute I don’t want to eat it – I want to live in it! With classic mid-century style it comes with a rock garden and garden. Add a few teal and orange gumdrops on the roof, and you’ve got centerpiece any mod homemaker can be proud of. Get the kit at uncrate.com, $80. — Angela M.

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