Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I HEART{ART}: Inspiration: PUP!

I painted this years ago when our Liberty Dog was just a pup. She's an old gal now, with gray whiskers. Back when she was a pup, there were no kiddos running through our home, just a hyper black labrador. It's fun to bring this painting out at Christmas; it is very playful, and my kids love it.

"Christmas Pup" Acrylic on canvas by Tina C. Wells

December 19, 2012


Creative Wrap

A few days left until Christmas and still so very much to do. You haven’t wrapped all of your gifts either? That makes me feel better. I have a few creative wrappings for you that are easy and fun. 

I put together a gift basket, and tied it up with cellophane. I was transported to another place in time as I remembered growing up next door to a family that had 3 girls, two were the ages and grades of my sister and me. We were great friends and had worn a path between the shrubs that divided our houses. For a brief time, their mom ran a small business called “Wrap it Up!”  She put together these wonderful baskets, chalked full of good stuff, tied up with cellophane, and ribbons turned into fantastic bows. I remember gazing at her organized work station, with spools of colorful ribbons, and rolls of cellophane, hung neatly on horizontal rods to efficiently wrap up her baskets. I wish they still lived next door to my parents...I would have run over and asked for Mrs. P’s advise. I miss them all, especially my friend Wendy, who lives far away now. We truly grew up together...a beautiful thing.

Before I run off into the deep forest of memory lane, I will show you a few fun wrapping ideas:

The Artist Wrap:

I quickly splattered white butcher paper with red and green craft paint, but a solid color works well too. Two colors of raffia were used to tie on an inexpensive paint brush ($1). The tag is a paint chip with a hole punched in the corner. Viola!

The Traveler/Adventurer Wrap:

Here, an old map makes a fun package. Red raffia ties on a magnifying glass. The patch was something I found at a funny vintage store in Michigan, but any tag will do.

The Bakers Wrap:

Use a dish towel, or cloth napkin to package your gift. Here, a loaf of my Swedish coffee bread is tied up with dish towel in a Scandinavian print...finished off with a cute little spatula. Use safety pins to secure the wrap.

A Gift for Grandma:

I had Genevieve paint a picture on butcher paper. Tied up with multi-colored yarn and a handprint tag...a grandparent’s delight.

Turn on some fun holiday tunes, and Wrap it Up!

Friday, December 14, 2012


RECIPES: Chipotle Goat Cheese Appetizer

Are you bringing an appetizer to the Christmas party you were invited to this Saturday? Want to try something new? I saw this on a menu at Sol in Newport Beach, and had to try to replicate. It is creamy-salty-spicy-sweet! I brought it to a party last weekend and it was a hit. The best part...EASY!


Goat Cheese
Salted peanuts
Chipotle sauce (I used Fresh and Easy brand)
Tortilla chips (I used sweet potato chips, also good)

Roll the goat cheese in the peanuts, pressing them into the cheese. Douse with chipotle sauce just before serving, and top with chopped, fresh cilantro. Serve with chips. Great with Margaritas!
Feliz Navidad!
FEATURE: Sara's Aprons

My friend Sara Lighthall is a creative whiz with a sewing machine. She has a design degree from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and uses her gifts and training to create amazing things. She has an Etsy store where she sells wonderful custom aprons. The buyer requests the colors, and Sara finds the fabrics and makes each apron one of a kind.  Each apron is $45- plus shipping.

Check out her Etsy store by clicking here:     

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12 (love that!)
SIMPLY CREATIVE: Advent Calendar

Fun Advent Calendar Ideas

Is it possible that there are only 12 days left until Christmas? Don’t least that’s what I keep telling myself.  I’m going to take a deep breath, drink an extra cup of coffee, sit for 5 minutes in front of the sparkly Christmas tree, think of the things I am grateful for...and then plot my day, strategically. I think I may need even more coffee.

I want to share my advent calendar with you. Advent is a season of anticipation. We anticipate the beautiful celebration of Christmas, the birth of Christ. Some advent calendars are pre-loaded with chocolates. The one I grew up with was a cute Scandinavian fabric calendar with 24 small pockets to hold little treats. As a little girl, I loved waking up to find what mom put in the pocket. I wanted to carry on the tradition with my kids, and got it in my head that I could and should make my own Advent calendar. How hard could it be, right? Well, it could be hard, long, and laborious, and indeed it was. I now call it the heirloom advent calendar, and I am expecting my children to pass it on for generations as the Christmas calendar that Great-Great Grandma Tina made. Just kidding (sort of). It is cute, and I am glad I made it, but it was a very time consuming project that I should have started in June. But I am getting side tracked because what I really want to share with you are ideas for the daily treats. The basics are a quarter, a piece of chocolate, gum, a candy cane, a small dollar bin item, etc. This works fine for my 2 year old, but slightly redundant for my 9 year old. And, there are 24 pockets...and I don’t want 24 more junk items in my house! This year I came up with experiential ideas. They are things we can do in this fun season, or a little break from the rules. It also helps me to slow down and do something fun with my kids, instead of frantically crossing off things on my TO DO list. I will share 12 with you, as we have 12 days left.

I roll up a little note and put it in the pocket, sometimes accompanied by a piece of candy: 

  1. Your friend _______ is coming over for a play date after school.
  2. A bag of microwave popcorn with a note attached that says “Christmas movie tonight”
  3. Donut run on the way to school!
  4. 10 extra media minutes
  5. Hot chocolate packet with a note that says “with extra marshmallows!”
  6. A walk or drive to see Christmas lights after dark
  7. Let’s make cookies together after school
  8. Let’s do a craft together
  9. Surprise them with the news that they have been invited to a party, and it’s tonight
  10. A friend is coming over to spend the night
  11. A bottle of nail polish and a note, “Spa night at home with a pedicure”
  12. After school date with mom or dad to a favorite spot

These are the days of wonder. Soak it in.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5, 2012


The Tree of Life is present in most cultures around the world. I particularly like the European folk art depictions with flowers, birds and other creatures. So, I set my brushes in motion and created my own folksy tree of life. The loose, whimsical style made this project fun and enjoyable. 

European Tree of Life, acrylic on canvas by Tina C. Wells

December 5, 2012 Tradition

RECIPE: Coffee Bread (Vetebrod)
Cardamon flavored bread, enjoyed with coffee

Tradition comes in many forms, especially where holidays are concerned. One of our favorite traditions is baking together with my mom, sister, cousins and great aunt. Every year we gather together in early December to make our Scandinavian Coffee Bread . Without getting into the whole family tree, let’s suffice it to say that there is a strong Scandinavian heritage. My Norwegian grandmother (my Dad’s mom), who passed away 14 years ago, was the recipe source. Her version of a recipe was “a spoonful of this, and a sprinkle of that...”  My Swedish grandmother on my mom’s side, carefully watched her, and wrote out a true recipe with standardized measurements. We are all grateful for this, because I am sure we’d never be able to make our beloved bread otherwise. 

The Swedish bread bakers in our aprons

The bread is called “Coffee Bread” not because it is coffee flavored, but because of how lovely it is with coffee (a Swedish staple; “the best earthly drink” as my grandmother would say). The Swedish name for the bread is “Vetebrod”; it is a braided loaf of cardamon flavored bread...lovely indeed. 

I will, of course, give you the not-so-secret family recipe, and warn you that the bread (4 large loaves) takes about 5 hours in total to make. At our celebratory baking party, the time goes by in a flash. There’s the morning coffee break while the dough “rests”, then a luncheon while the dough rises. There’s lots of chatter and laughter, party favors, champagne, and sweet treats. While both of my grandmothers are gone, I enjoy the comaraderie of my family as we carry on the tradition.

Baking our bread has a beautiful, rich history. The smell of the cardamon is the smell of Christmas for me. My children love the bread, as I do, and wait with anticipation for the first slice. And so, the tradition continues...

There was the year I tried to dress up my sister as Santa Lucia with her candle wreath crown, until my sensible cousin intervened, imagining my sister’s golden locks aflame. 
Our very own Santa Lucia- LOL!

The Christmas season is packed full, and the TO DO list is long...but, these are the days I look forward to all year. Connecting with family and friends, creating memories. 

What are your traditions? Do you bake or cook something special at Christmas? Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

Coffee Bread
1+ TBS freshly ground cardamon seed
1 QT whole milk
1/2 C butter
1/4 C crisco
2 tsp salt
2 C sugar
11+ cups flour (buy 5 lb.)
3 pack of active dry yeast
1/2 C very warm water
1 TBS sugar
egg white
cinnamon sugar
VERY large bowl
wooden spoon
4 standard loaf pans

Heat milk in a sauce pan until scalding, not boiling (scum will form on top).
Remove from heat and add cardamon, butter and crisco; after they melt, add 2  cups sugar. Cool.
In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup very warm water (not boiling) with yeast and 1 TBS sugar. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes (it will expand), then add to the above mixture. 
While waiting for the yeast, sift 11 cups of flour. 
Add the liquid to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. 
Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, covered with a cloth. 
(Take a coffee break:)
On a floured pastry cloth, knead for 20 minutes, adding more sifted flour if the dough feels sticky, a little at a time.
Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a cloth; allow to rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Dough should double in size. 
(Have lunch:)
Punch dough. Divide into 4 equal parts. Divide each quarter into three and braid into 4 loaves. Place in standard size loaf pans (spray with cooking spray) and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Brush tops of loaves with egg whites and heavily sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake in a preheated oven of 350 for 30-45 minutes. Bread should be well browned. 
Remove from pans and cool. DO NOT slice bread until completely cooled.
Slice and toast. Serve with butter and cinnamon sugar...and coffee, of course.