2016 Christmas Tour of San Francisco

This year I will be traveling quite a lot in December, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to visit my favorite Christmas places such as the Fairmont hotel’s gingerbread house.

Luckily for you, I put together a map of all the good places to visit so you can take the tour with your friends.

https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7895397,-122.4082733,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!6m1!1s1OTEwq524qxPyQ51hYHvEO17id0E 

Here’s a photo of the map, please click on the above link to get the real interactive thing.

map of san francisco streets

Walking tour of San Francisco at Christmas time

 

The Palace Hotel doesn’t always do the gingerbread village but they do have a Ghirardelli attached so you can end your walk with some creamy hot chocolate.

Let me know if you enjoy the map, and if you have any cool spots to add!

Christmas Quilt

I finally started creating blocks for my Xmas quilt! I’m making my own patterns but taking inspiration off of Pinterest and Instagram, so I’m not completely working from scratch.

I started with a gingerbread man, but my attempt yielded a skinny, lanky cookie which is not what I’m looking for.

 

Then I tried making the gingerbread man fatter, but I think I went overboard on his legs!

 

I might redo just the legs because I like the rest of the block, but for now I moved on to the next block which is a snowman. He turned out perfectly!

 

I’m pretty happy with the quilt so far, and I have plans to create a snow globe, a wreath, warm mittens, a cup of cocoa, and a candle. I’m not sure about the rest of the blocks, maybe I’ll do an appliqué reindeer, and a pieced together candy cane, and maybe create a border of twinkly lights.

I’m excited for this quilt! I hope I’ll finish putting it all together so that I can bring it with me on our Xmas trip this year. I might use flannel for the quilt back so that it’s extra snuggly. 

Knitting hats

I recently took a hat knitting class at my local yarn shop, Imagiknit. I’ve crocheted hats before, but never knit anything more complicated than a scarf.

When I first looked into knitting a hat, I thought it would be so complicated and difficult but my first hat only took a few hours and although there were some errors (like a dropped stitch and me not following the pattern correctly), it wasn’t that terrible!

First hat, too big and not super great

Once I finished the first one, I edited my pattern (just a few notes written on a worksheet by my instructor Ray) to make the second hat a bit smaller and was careful about not dropping any stitches along the way. The second hat turned out great and took under an hour to finish!

Second hat, fits my head and looks better

I mean it’s nothing fancy, but I like it and can wear it out in public at least! The pattern is similar to this one on Ravelry. I did about an inch of ribbing, about 3 inches of knitting, then started my rounds with *knit 8, k2tog. The yarn is chunky and I used size 10 needles so that’s why it went so quickly.

I plan to make hats for all of my family members for Xmas this year, using some really warm, thick wool since they all live on the East Coast where it snows. Maybe I’ll even make pom-poms for the tops!

My next goal is to learn how to knit socks. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to squeeze in another class since we’ve got friends visiting and holiday trips coming up, so maybe that will be a New Year’s resolution!

 

Teal pumpkins

Have you heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project? 


You put a teal painted pumpkin on your front porch if you’re offering non-food treats for trick-or-treaters. 

That way kids with food allergies can participate in trick-or-treating and have a fun Halloween without feeling like they’re different.

Last year I put out one bucket of candy and one bucket of stickers and temporary tattoos, along with our teal pumpkin. This year I’ve got spider rings and glow in the dark vampire fangs to hand out.

This project is really easy to participate in, and can help all kids have a good holiday. If you’re interested in learning more, head to: https://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project 

Halloweekends!

You know how there are advent calendars and lists of things to do in the days leading up to Christmas? I love those things because they make the holiday last all month long and get me in the spirit of the season!

But why stop at Christmas? Why not have a list of things to do to get you into the Halloween spirit?

I feel like I don’t really have a ton of free time during the work week, but my weekends are another story! So here is my list of things to do on your Halloweekends!

Also, I’m aware that I already missed the first two weekends this month, but I plan to do this every year so I’m not too worried about it.

First weekend of October:

  • Drink a hot apple cider or a cold hard cider, depending on your preferences and the weather in your area.
  • Decorate your home with Halloween or fall things! For example: mini pumpkins and gourds in a bowl on the table, skull garlands hung across the mantle, purple or orange lights around your windows, and fresh sunflowers or mums.
  • Watch the Nightmare Before Christmas, even if you only watch the first part with the “This is Halloween” song and then turn it off.
  • Start a Halloween craft like this cross-stitch pattern from Subversive Cross stitch
  • Read Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’

 

Fall decor

Second weekend of October:

  • Wear your favorite fall colors all at the same time. I totally wore dark red pants with a yellow sweater and dyed my hair orange, and I got TONS of complements from coworkers and strangers on the street. Two people told me that I looked like the personification of fall and that is SO what I was going for!
  • Bake something with pumpkin, like muffins or mini pies!
  • Watch something scary like one of the Halloween, or Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th movies. Poltergeist seriously scares me because little kids can be creepy as hell. Same with The Ring.
  • Read ‘Bellman and Black’ by Diane Setterfield.
  • Drink a pumpkin spiced beer like Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale

Third weekend of October:

  • Carve a pumpkin! Or if that’s too messy, paint a pumpkin! Or if you don’t have a car and you don’t want to lug a 40 lbs. gourd home from the corner market, paint or carve a couple of mini-pumpkins!
  • If you have pumpkin seeds from carving your pumpkin, roast them in the oven.
  • Wear all black, or black and orange. Bonus points for matching nails and lipstick!
  • If you live in an area that has fall leaves, rake a bunch into a pile and jump into them! Or if you live in an area with hay bales, bring one home and put it on your front porch for people to sit on. Or if, like me, you don’t have access to either of those things, use one of these soy melts that my friend Hayley makes that smell like fall leaves or burn your favorite fall-scented candle. Get that Halloweenie smell!
  • Read your favorite Stephen King book, such as ‘The Mist’
  • Watch a spooky yet cute stop-motion-animation film like Coraline, Frankenweenie or Paranorman.

Fourth weekend of October:

  • It might be Halloween this weekend! Sometimes October has 4 weekends and sometimes it has 5, so I’ll just assume it’s 5. Adjust this blog post accordingly.
  • Have some baked apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast!
  • Build a fire (if you have a fireplace and if it’s cold enough, obviously)
  • Eat fistfuls of Reese’s peanut butter pumpkins
  • Read ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks
  • Watch Hocus Pocus! hocus_pocus

Fifth weekend of October (optional):

  • I’m assuming this weekend is Halloween, so you should totally go all out!
  • Wear your costume all damn day long!
  • Eat only candy and pumpkin pie for every meal!
  • Light your pumpkin’s inner light so that it’s all glowy (unless you’re using a real candle in which case, wait until you can supervise it. Fires are no joke, y’all!)
  • Watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • Read Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Graveyard Book’
  • Scroll through this list of pugs in costumes from like 3 years ago which is still funny!

pumpkin_great.jpg

 

Got anything to add?

Maybe eventually I’ll have 31 days of Halloweenie stuff to do!

DIY linen spray

Cinnamon sticks

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp dried herbs of your choice*
  • 2 Tbsp isopropyl alcohol or witch hazel
  • A coffee filter or sieve, a spray bottle, and a funnel

*I recommend dried sage, cinnamon sticks, or dried lavender. I haven’t used whole cloves yet, but plan to give that a try soon.


Directions:

Start by bringing 1 cup of water to a boil, then add the dried herbs. Cut the heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want it.

Put the coffee filter into the funnel and use the funnel to pour the herby water into the spray bottle, filtering out the chunks.

Add the isopropyl alcohol or witch hazel to the spray bottle. Gently shake to combine. Let cool completely before you use it on your linens or spray it around the room.

I highly recommend spraying your mattress and pillows every time you change the sheets.

Also good to spray the air when you’re in a bad mood and need a little pick me up. Peppermint is especially good for when you’re upset, and cinnamon is great when you want to feel cozy and warm.

Butternut squash turkey chili

Chili is such a perfect fall food and adding butternut squash just makes it even better!

Chunks of squash

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 big butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 or 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 big red onion (or 2 small onions either red or yellow or both), diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cans of cannellini or great northern beans, drained
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Optional 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
img_7867

Spices

 

Directions:

Brown the ground turkey in a big pot with some olive oil and then add all of the veggies and dump in the beans. Add the spices and stir really well to combined. Once everything is well mixed, add the broth. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for at least an hour to let all of the flavors come together. If it cooks down too much, you might need an extra 2 cups of broth.

Really, chili can cook all day long, so just take it off the stove whenever you’re hungry. I let mine simmer on the stove for about 4 hours and it turned out perfect.
Also the measurements for the spices are approximate, as I tend to just throw a bunch into the pot and it all works out in the end. So don’t feel like you need to measure out exactly 1 tsp.

Yummy chili before it cooks down

Halloween party playlist

I love Halloween parties but I can’t listen to the Monster Mash or the Time Warp without cringing, so I put together a Spotify playlist of vaguely Halloween themed music (some of these are really a stretch), perfect for any costume party!

  • Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones
  • Dandy in the Underworld – T.Rex
  • Mr. Crowley – Ozzy Osbourne
  • Living Dead Girl – Rob Zombie
  • Tribute – Tenacious D
  • Halloween – Misfits
  • Pet Semetary – Ramones
  • Halloween – Siouxie and the Banshees
  • Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
  • Bone Machine – Pixies
  • Psycho Killer – The Talking Heads
  • Terror! – The Rakes
  • Little Ghost – The White Stripes
  • Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys
  • (Ghost) Riders in the Sky – Johnny Cash
  • Burn the Witch – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Witchy Woman – The Eagles
  • Superstition – Stevie Wonder
  • Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
  • Ghost Town – The Specials
  • Evil Woman – Electric Light Orchestra
  • Running With The Devil – Van Halen
  • (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  • Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
  • Jump in the Line – Harry Belafonte
  • Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Annie Lennox
  • Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Little Red Riding Hood – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
  • Little Drop of Poison – Tom Waits
  • I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  • Evil (is Going On) – Howlin’ Wolf
  • Zombie – The Cranberries
  • Season of the Witch – Donovan
  • Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) – The Backstreet Boys (watch the music video!)
  • E.T. – Katy Perry
  • Heads Will Roll – The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s
  • Monster – Lady Gaga
  • Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Werewolf Bar Mitzvah – Jeff Richmond (Yes, this is from the show 30Rock!)

I almost didn’t put Thriller on there, but I figured that and Werewolf Bar Mitzvah could go last as an alert that I’d run out of music and need to queue up another playlist. I also thought really hard about removing the Ghostbusters song but ultimately what is Halloween without a little campyness?

And of course, this video is a requirement to get me into the spirit every year!

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-1-07-35-pm

I love this dancing pumpkin so much!

 

Got any Halloween music recommendations?

Homemade apple cider

Autumn is officially here, and that means it’s time for cozy blankets, warm socks and hot spicy beverages! When we lived in Pennsylvania I would buy gallons of apple cider from Brown’s Orchard, but living in San Francisco means that good cider is kind of hard to find.

Luckily I found this recipe from Gimme Some Oven for homemade apple cider, so I can just make my own!

The recipe recommends 12-13 apples of assorted types, so I picked up 5 honey crisps for sweetness, 5 gala (still pretty sweet), 2 macintosh (for tartness) and I had one sour Granny Smith leftover from something else, so I  just threw that into the pot as well.

I washed my apples and oranges in the sink with about a gallon of water and a splash of white vinegar

It turns out, even my biggest stock pot can’t hold 13 apples and two oranges. I filled it to the brim with about 11 apples and a gallon of water, then realized that I had no room to add the spices so I pulled another 3 of the apples out.

Overloaded with apples!

Once the apples cooked down a bit (aka turned into apple mush) I was able to add the others back to the pot so I did eventually get all 13 apples and 2 oranges in there.

Apple mush

Then after 3 hours on the stove, I pulled the apples and oranges and spices out and transferred the cider to a big gallon jug.

 

Jug o’ cider

At this point I tasted the cider and realized that I had forgotten to add the sugar, so I had to funnel that into the jug and then swirl it around. Pro-tip: Taste your cider before you remove it from the big pot!

Sugar added, now it’s perfect!

 

WIP craft-off!

The “to do” pile of projects next to my sewing machine is stacking up, so I think it’s time for me to review my current Works In Progresses and set about finishing some of these off!

First up is my Halloween costume – Holtzmann from the new Ghostbusters movie! I picked up a khaki jumpsuit online and just need to add orange reflective tape and two ghost logo patches to it. Quick, easy, and needs to be finished in the next 4 weeks!

coveralls

You can get these coveralls at gbfans.com

Then there’s the costume I’m making for the Dickens fair at Christmas. I have lots of time for this, but it’s much more complicated than my Halloween costume. I’ve almost finished the skirt, and I’m about halfway done the cape (need to add trim before I attach the collar), but there’s still the bonnet (which seems difficult), and I’ve never worked with any kind of faux fur before (also potentially difficult). At least I have until mid-December for that.

pattern

WIP caroler costume


 

Last in the pile is the red crochet shawl that I started forever ago, that I recently took with me on a short plane ride, and therefore actually made some progress on. The pattern was a free Ravelry download which you can find here.

 

And of course there are tons of ideas and sketches in my notebook just waiting for their turn to become reality. Time to buckle down and get some crafting done! 

What are you currently working on?