Blogmas Day 15: Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette Giveaway

blogmasbannerHello there readers, and happy 15th day of Blogmas!!! I got a bit behind on my daily blogging these last few days, but now that I’m finally all caught up, I wanted to surprise my lovely followers with the blog-equivalent of a Christmas present: a Christmas giveaway!!!

The Giveaway: IMG_0150One (1) Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Eyeshadow Palette.

This giveaway will be open internationally until Christmas Eve, December 24th, at 11:59pm PST. Names will be entered into an online random name generator to ensure a winner is selected fairly, and then I will announce the winner on this blog, and contact them either via email or through their blog’s contact page and ask them to get in touch.

How to Enter: 

  1. Like this blog post
  2. Follow my blog if you aren’t already
  3. Comment on this post when you are finished
  4. Additional entry: Follow me on Twitter (completely optional!!!)
  5. Additional entry: Follow me on Instagram (also completely optional!!!)

And that’s it!!!

*Please make sure that you comment on this post after to ensure you are entered*
With up to three entries permitted per person, I hope lots of you will enter this giveaway. And feel free to reblog this giveaway so others can see it and enter as well.

Good luck all!!!
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Blogmas Day 14: Wrapping Presents and Getting Ready To Mail Them Off

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Good afternoon everyone!!!

I am fortunate to have most of my family living close by, but my aunt, uncle, and cousins are among the few family members that live outside of our little city. This means that every year during the second week of December, we ship off a giant parcel of presents to the family that lives farther away. I love this, because it means I can get a head start on my wrapping, and try out some new decorating ideas. This year, I tried out a bunch of different ribbons and bows, and used different paper to wrap each person’s presents. My cat, Valentine, even helped me wrap . . . sort of . . . I mean, she sat in the middle of the table, walked all over the rolled out paper, managed to get some tape stuck in her fur, and left little teeth marks in a once-perfect red Christmas bow, so I guess that counts as providing company.

The little fur person "helping" with wrapping presents
The little fur person “helping” with wrapping presents

Are you mailing off any presents this Christmas???

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Blogmas Day 13: Stocking Stuffers for Under $25

Hello there everyone!!!

With presents to buy for friends, family, and secret santas, the pool of ideas can sometimes dry up. I mean, there are only so many gift cards a person’s wallet can take, plus it’s nice to give something a little more personal. So today I thought I would share some of my stocking stuffer ideas with you, all for under $25!!!

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Blogmas Day 12: How To Knit a Toque for Christmas

IMG_0119Hello all!!!

I recently finished knitting another toque for a friend’s Christmas present. This time of year, stress abounds with final exams approaching and, as a result, I start madly knitting. There is something really cathartic about knitting for me; it is so methodical, and I love that I can see something coming together from nothing.

Shopping for presents is nice, but I always like to give someone something handmade; I think it gives it an extra personal touch, especially if you know it’s something the recipient will like and will use a lot. In the past, I have gifted knitted dishcloths, scarves, and mittens. This year, I appear to have gravitated towards toques. I don’t use any specific pattern for them; I just wing it and hope they turn out looking neat.

In case you are stumped for a gift for someone, a knitted garment would be a lovely idea, and this toque is fairly simple to make, so read on if you’d like to learn how!!!

Step 1-Pick your wool and needles: I know a lot of people who prefer to knit toques with thicker wool and larger needles, but I myself prefer thinner wool and smaller needles to have closer, tighter stitches. Most toque patterns will specify specific types of wool and needles but, frankly, I would recommend just experimenting by knitting a small square to see how the stitches will look before you begin your project. For this toque, I used five 2mm needles and Cancade Yarns Eco + Peruvian Highland wool.

Step 2-Cast on stitches: Feel free to consult toque patterns for exact cast-on numbers, but I find that 80 stitches (20 on each of four needles) is fairly equivalent to a size small, 100 stitches for a medium (25 on each of four needles), and 120 stitches for a large (30 on each of four needles). When in doubt, just awkwardly walk up to someone and wrap a measuring tape around their head. Sure it might weird them out and arouse their suspicion that a toque might be in the works for them. but both of those are better than knitting the whole thing and finding that it doesn’t fit. Make sure to leave a bit of a wool tail when you cast on the first stitch so you can use it as a marker for the beginning of the round, i.e. one complete circle of stitches in the toque.

Step 3-Knit the brim: There are several different styles of hat brim, but I really like the look of the ribbed brim. This is created by alternating between knit and purl stitches. The brim of the toque I made was done with a knit one, purl one alternation, but knit two, purl two, and knit three, purl one also create really neat looking brims.

Step 4- Knit the body of the hat: This is the simple and fun part. I often start up a bunch of toques at once, knit the brims, and then leave them so I always have a toque body to knit. The simplest way to knit the body is using a stockinette stitch, which is actually just purl stitches. One side of the stockinette stitch will have small v’s, and this is the purl side, also known as the right side, because it should be facing outwards; the other side will be the knit side, also known as the wrong side, and should be on the inside of the toque. Knit the body of the hat to desired length, but account for about 3 to 3½ inches for the top of the hat. 

Step 5-Setup for top shaping: This is the part where you will shape the top of your toque to give it that dome shape. Starting at the beginning of the round, decrease the stitches on all four needles to the nearest multiple of 8. For the small size, no decreasing will be needed; for the medium, you will need to decrease by four, one stitch on each needle; for the large, no decreasing will be needed.

Step 6-Top shaping: To begin, knit one round of stockinette stitch (remember to keep the purl side facing out). Then, take the number of stitches on each needle, for instance 20, and divide it by two, which is 10. This means the “marker” is at stitch 10. You can put a circle marker on that stitch if it would help you remember, but I typically just write it down so I know which decreasing round I’m on. So, knit up to two stitches before the marker, in this case up to stitch 8, and then knit the next two stitches together, i.e. stitches 9 and 10. Then continue knitting, and knit together the last two stitches on the needle, in this case stitches 19 and 20. Repeat this for each of the four needles. Then knit one round. Continue this decreasing pattern until you are left with 8 stitches, two on each needle.

Step 7-Tying off the toque: With 8 stitches now left on your needles, two on each, cut the wool, making sure to leave a tail of about 10-12cm. Thread this tail onto a seaming needle or bodkin, and pull it through the 8 remaining stitches, sliding them off the needles. Pull the tail snugly to close off the top of the toque. Then weave the tail through the surrounding stitches to secure it.

IMG_0118And presto-changeo: with these 7 steps you will have a hand-knit toque to give to a friend or loved one as a Christmas gift!!!

If you have any trouble following these steps, please comment below and I will do my best to help. Also, if you would find a YouTube tutorial to be useful, let me know. I have been mulling over the idea of starting up a YouTube channel, and I would love to know what kind of videos you would like to see 🙂 🙂

 

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Blogmas Day 11: Festive Floral Arrangements

blogmasbannerSeasonal flowers and plants are a major part of Christmas decorating for many people. By the end of the first week of December, my grandparents typically have holly on every table, a poinsettia in every corner of the living room, and mistletoe strategically placed in doorways.

For the past few years, some family members have also been creating floral arrangements to decorate with, and to give away as presents. It can be really hard to find the perfect gift for someone, but a beautiful festive arrangement is always appreciated. My mother made this one earlier in the week, so I thought I would share it with you in case you are perhaps on the lookout for a unique Christmas present idea, or just hunting around the interwebs for some new decorating techniques.

What are your favourite Christmas flowers???

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Blogmas Day 10: My Favourite Christmas Movies

 I’m sure all of you have had this kind of day at least once: you wake up, have a short lie in, head into the kitchen to fix some breakfast, and just decide that nothing productive can be done on this day. Instead, pyjamas will remain on, and movies will be watched all day with a cat curled up in your lap. This was me yesterday. I don’t know if it was the stormy weather that did it, or that being off school has finally sunk in, but hot chocolate and movies seemed like the only thing to do yesterday. Christmas movies, though. So today, I thought I would share with you some of my favourite Christmas movies!!!

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Frozen

Elf

The Year Without a Santa Claus

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Arthur Christmas

Are any of these on your favourite Christmas movie list??? Have I missed any??? Let me know!!!

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Blogmas Day 9: Chocolate Chip Cookies

blogmasbannerHello there all!!!

The last few days have been kind of crazy with Christmasy goings-on and I haven’t been keeping up with my daily Blogmas posts about them. So today, December 13th, will mark the most posts published on Literary and Lovely in one day to date. I’ll do my best to stagger them a little bit so you aren’t bombarded with the last five days of Christmas action, but be prepared: there are more posts to come today, so keep an eye out for them!!!

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Back on December 9th, I met up with a friend and, spur-of-the-moment, we decided to bake some chocolate chip cookies. His kitchen is incredible, decked out with all the bells and whistles, and I had been dying to give baking in it a whirl, so this was so much fun. His aunt uses Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking recipe for her chocolate chip cookies, and they always get eaten before midnight on the day they are baked, so it seemed like a fool-proof way to go. We did, however, make a few alterations to the recipe, which will be shown between *. . .*

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • ‘½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  •  ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 °F, and grease or line two cookie sheets. *We did not grease the sheets because my friend’s family typically uses PAM, and I can’t eat it. It was definitely a mistake to bake on an unlined baking sheet, but who doesn’t love less-than-perfect cookies that become testers???*

Step 2: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until well-mixed.

Step 3: Whisk together the flour and baking soda.

Step 4: Add egg, salt, and vanilla to flour mixture, and stir until well-combined and smooth. *We actually added 1 ½ tsps of vanilla because my friend’s family really likes it, but next time I would stick with just the ½ tsp.*

Step 5: Stir in chocolate chips. *We put in the suggested ½ cup but I would definitely put in at least a full cup next time*

Step 6: Dollop the dough in teaspoons onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. *Pretty sure our drops of dough were larger than a teaspoon . . . *

Step 7: Bake for 11 minutes, then let stand briefly before moving them to a rack to cool.

This recipe makes about 45 cookies. *We didn’t make nearly this many cookies with this recipe, mind you, we had a few people snacking on the cookie dough . . . *

What is your favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe???

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Blogmas Day 8: Homemade Nanaimo Bars

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Good morning all!!!

For anyone who might not know, Nanaimo bars are a three layer dessert featuring a crumb-based layer, a butter icing layer, and to top it off, a melted chocolate layer. A super cool fact is that these delicious no-baking-required treats are named after a west coast city very close to my own home: Nanaimo, British Columbia!

Way back in 1986, the Mayor of Nanaimo, Graeme Roberts, started up a contest to find the best Nanaimo Bar recipe. The contest lasted a month, and almost 100 different recipes were submitted, but the winner was Joyce Hardcastle.

Now I don’t know if my family Nanaimo Bar recipe is the same as Joyce Hardcastle’s, and it hasn’t been recognized by any mayor, but it is the most delicious recipe I have come across, and as a Canadian, I have tried lots!!!

Ingredients: 

  1. Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup butter or ¼ cup margarine
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • I egg beaten
  • ½ cup chocolate chips semi-sweet or 5 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup coconut (finely ground)
  • ½ chopped nuts (optional)

2. Middle Layer

  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 2tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 2 tbsp milk (or cream)
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar

3. Third Layer

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp butter or margarine
  • ¼ cup icing sugar

Steps: 

Step 1: To make the bottom layer, mix butter, sugar, egg, and chipits in a heavy saucepan, and stir until mixed. Then add in crumbs, coconut, and nuts, and press into 9” square pan

Step 2: Cream butter, custard, milk, and icing sugar until smooth and spread evenly over crumb layer. Then chill these two layers in the fridge until set.

Step 3: To make the top later, melt butter and chipits over low heat, then allow to cool. Once cooled but still in liquid state, pour over first two chilled layers..

Step 4: Chill the pan in the refrigerator.

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Another special family recipe, handwritten by my grandmother

And voilà: a super-easy no-baking-required dessert!!! I love adding these to dessert platters, especially at family gatherings because they are the perfect size for snacking, and they always get eaten. The pictures above are of the last few that were left at the end of the day I made them. They went that fast!!! I had set aside a few for photos but somehow the “Do not touch-blog material” sign was misread as “Help yourself to these delicious treats.”

If you haven’t made Nanaimo bars before, give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!!!

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Blogmas Days 6 and 7: Christmas Shopping and Present Wrapping

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Good evening readers!!!

It’s that time of the year again when we all hit the shops on the hunt for the perfect gifts for family and friends. Unlike last year when I was frantically rushing around doing all my Christmas shopping on the 23rd and wrapping Christmas Eve night, I am planning ahead this year.

Christmas is a time for giving, and I LOVE giving!!! Thinking of the perfect gift for someone, wrapping it up all pretty, and GIFTing it is one of my favourite things ever. Plus, I am so content when presents are all bought and wrapped and under the tree, ready for unwrapping on Christmas Day.

Yesterday, I took my grandmother out for her first round of Christmas shopping this year, and a Blogmas day 6 post was not published. Instead, it is going up today, combined with day 7, a second round of shopping and some wrapping.

Thus far I have only picked up a few presents, mostly for my mother, but I still have many more to go. The vast majority of my family members have winter birthdays, starting with me in November and ending with my grandmother in January. This means shopping for birthday and Christmas gifts simultaneously. The pros for this are that tons of sales come out this time of year, and there are plenty of gift guides and ideas. The con is that, more often than not, birthday gifts end up being wrapped in Christmas paper.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet??? Do you love giving presents as much as I do???

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Blogmas Day 5: Writing Out Christmas Cards

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Happy fifth day of Blogmas all!!!

One of my favourite things about getting in the Christmas spirit is sending Christmas cards to family and friends. I love going through stationary stores and picking out the cards I am going to use each year, and writing out personal messages to everyone. I know snail mail is going out of style, but there is something really special about mailing actual cards, not just firing off a quick email.

This year, I went with these pale pink cards with gold ornaments on them. I picked them up from Chapters a few weeks ago, but now they’re on sale, so if you’d like some, click here. Each box set comes with 15 cards and envelopes, just enough for everyone in my family, and an extra in case I accidentally mess up on one. Writing in pen looks so much better, but it’s so easy to mess up!!!

So how about you: Do you send out Christmas cards???

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