Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best Meals of 2008 - Clever Karen

Many years ago, I was eating a lovely gourmet meal with friends on New Years Eve, and we started discussing our best meals of the year. This became a yearly tradition with us, and we now share our favorites virtually! Since I have been blogging this year, it was quite easy to look back over the restaurants I have gone to - I was surprised to see how many there were! So here is my list (click on the links if you want to learn more):

Third Place: Spotted Dog Cafe - Everything we had at this restaurant in Springdale, Utah was delicious!

Second Place: Bouchon, Las Vegas - This restaurant was classy and beautiful. The pastries were especially out of this world!

First Place: Brunch at Tribute - The selection of salads, cheeses, and pastries at the buffet was of superb quality. But it was the unique flavors and presentation of my entree and dessert which put this meal at the top of my list.

So what was your best meal of 2008?

I need your vote!!

I am asking help from all of my social networks (so pardon me if you've already heard this).

I spent many hours in December working on a Holiday Tradition project in school. One of our Smilebox slideshows from this project is one of six finalists in a contest to win a digital camera for our school. Could you take a minute and go to the Smilebox blog and leave a vote for "Holiday Traditions with Mrs. Veldman's Class?" Thanks so much!

Smilebox Blog

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snapfish vrs. iPhoto Book Comparison

I took advantage of the Snapfish/Oprah free book offer that was given in late November to create a book for my brother for Christmas. I used pictures from our trip out to the canyons. Here are a few shots of the inside pages:

I thought I'd give a little comparison of the Snapfish book with an iPhoto book I did in February. The 30 page book from Snapfish normally costs about $30 while the iPhoto book is 20 pages for the same price. The iPhoto book is slightly bigger.

Sanpfish had a shiny one piece cover (the black book is from Snapfish). I thought the design that I used looked off center. Another friend who did a Sanpfish book had the photo cropped so that one person was cut off. I know that they have other options for covers, so I wouldn't use that wrap cover again. iPhoto has a dust jacket that wraps around a hard cover. (They also have a paperback option and a spiral binding option.) The cover on the iPhoto book is lovely!

Here is the inside binding. Both are nice - but the iPhoto binding is more polished. It has a blank page before the book starts. The Snapfish book starts right at the first page. (Top book is Snapfish.)

When I compared the photo quality - again both are nice. I thought the color on the Snapfish looked just a tad off. Wnen you look at each page next to each other - the Snapfish pages are more grainy. I'm not sure if you'd notice it if you weren't looking at it in comparison to the iPhoto book. (Top is Snapfish.)

Both offer lots of variety for page designs. I liked the scrapbooky looking background that I used for the Snapfish book - they kind of had a western theme that went well with my pictures. The iPhoto book has pages that I digitally scrapbooked, so you can't really compare the design by looking at it.

So, my opinion - both are great options. If cost were my concern, I'd go with Snapfish. If quality were my main concern, I'd spend the extra money, and go with iPhoto.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hard Rock Cafe - Detroit

Last week before we went to the holiday concert at the Detroit Symphony, we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe in the Compuware Building for dinner. Now, I remember back in the day when there were only a few Hard Rocks in the world, and we waited in a long line to buy a t-shirt and eat in the original restaurant in London. We thought we were quite cool! I've also eaten in the ones in Paris, Washington D.C. and Toronto. This was my first visit to on the one in Detroit. The inside is quite small in comparison to the other ones I've eaten at but is similar in decor with lots of music memorbilia hanging on the walls and the LOUD music. That always makes it a challenge to have a conversation, but is part of the atmosphere. This is not FINE dining, but FUN dining!

I decided to go with the kind of food Hard Rock is famous for - their All American Burgers. I ordered the burger with cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. I don't get burgers that often - but this was a delicious one! And the fries were perfectly crunchy too.

My friends had the pulled pork sandwich and the quesidilla. They enjoyed both - said the quesidilla had a pineapple salsa and a bit of a kick.

One of the side benefits of going down here during the holidays was the chance to see the Christmas lights at Campus Martius. The Christmas tree is huge and quite stunning - the picture doesn't do it justice!

If you go to the Detroit Hard Rock Cafe, you can park in the Compuware garage for free if you get your parking pass validated. Also, Triple A members get a 10% discount.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And to all....

Just a quick post to wish God's deepest peace and blessings on your Christmas celebrations!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vintage Christmas Angels

My grandmother passed away the first year I was out on my own after college. So many of her old Christmas decorations were given to me to help me decorate my first Christmas tree. I had no idea that they would become my vintage treasures. These old angels almost always have the spot of honor at the top of my tree:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On My Christmas Tree - Vintage Little Books

This year I have decorated my tree with lots of teddy bears and toys. I used my stash of old little books tucked into the branches as decorations:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas - in a word

I've had fun using some scrabble letters that I picked up at the thrift shop to add words to my Christmas decor.

By my old window:

My nativity from Bethlehem:

And one of my all time favorite words!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tinsel and Tin

I have seen several examples of really cute collage ornaments that were made out tiny tin trays. I was especially inspired by these made at Joli Paquet. I had these tin mini quiche pans that I bought many years ago while in France. I don't use them - everything that I ever made in them totally got stuck in them and fell apart when I pried it out. So I decided to put them to a better use. With our snow day on Friday, I had a little free time to play!

I printed out some vintage images that I found on Flickr. The tinsel came from Target's after Christmas sales last year - it had a vintage look to it. I'm not the best at making collages, but I had fun playing around. I used magnets to put the tins up on the fridge. Here are a few closeups:

I used this online Acme label generator to make the words. I dragged each label onto a black background and printed them and then just cut the words out. I uploaded the page to Flickr here - feel free to print it out if you have any use for it in your Christmas projects.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Not so Clever Karen

I've been sewing a few Christmas gifts recently that I will share after the holidays, just in case someone comes peaking here, looking for a preview of presents. But here's a little view of something I've been working on:

Hmmm, something looks a bit off. Do you see it? Here's a closer look:

Something's not quite right with those French lads and lasses frolicking in the fields on this fabric.... Could they be.... ah, standing on their heads?

Ah, yes, didn't you know, a traditional French country custom, to dance on their heads for the holidays?????

Rats. So, I put this little project aside until after the holidays (I guess I"ll keep the upside toile for myself) and headed out to the fabric store feeling not very clever and bought new fabric to redo the project (which I will share later). So much for being clever...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Union Street Saloon - Detroit

Several weeks ago we went to the Union Street Saloon in downtown Detroit before going to the symphony, and I realized that I still haven't written about it. (Hmmm - guess I wasn't overly excited by it, if I wasn't in a hurry to share.) Pardon the pictures - it is so hard to take good food photos in a dark restaurant!

Union Street is a classic bar with old decor with lots of woodwork. It is located a couple blocks north of Orchestra Hall and we had a brisk walk in the rain to get to it. It seems to be quite popular - it was packed on a Friday night. It has a big menu with a variety of offerings. Lots of burgers, salads, but a bit of everything.

I think it is the kind of place where you should order your basic "bar food." A couple of my fellow diners ordered burgers and fish and chips - they seemed to like it.

I ordered the barbecue chicken meal. I chose it because it came with a lot of side dishes - mac and cheese, barbecue beans, peach cobbler - so I thought I could try several things. Way too much food! The chicken was just ok. It tasted like they simply baked the chicken without much seasoning and then plopped the sauce on top when it was done. The skin was rubbery - if I'm going to bother eating chicken with skin on it I expect it to be a bit crispy, else why bother, right? The sides were pretty good - I really liked the mac and cheese. The cobbler was nothing special.

Ah, and the restrooms are pretty grim and in dire need of a remodel. Classic and old is fine for the bar, but a bit scary in a bathroom!

I'd go back again, the menu was big enough that there were other things that I could order, but I'd probably go for a burger next time!

Snow Shoveling Reward

The best part of clearing the snow off the driveway is the reward after you are done:

So I snowblowed (is there such a word?) 6 to 7 inches. Already the drive is all covered over and white again. It still seems to be coming down fast and furious. I think it might be a 3 cup of hot chocolate day.

I added some white chocolate raspberry coffee creamer to the hot chocolate and a Hershey kiss to make it extra chocolately! Mmmmmmm!

Stay warm everyone!

Snow Day out my Window

Our last day of school before Christmas was canceled due to the heavy snow that is falling right now. They are predicting a good 6 inches. A wonderful treat to put on the fuzzy socks, turn on the tree lights, light the candles, and look out the window.

The cat might even get some lap time where there isn't a laptop on my lap.

Guess she doesn't like having her picture taken.

Soon I need to go out and start clearing the walks and driveway. My little snowblower doesn't handle large amounts, so I'll need to do 2 installments of snow blowing, I think. Then I hope to wrap some presents and do some fun clever things. But for right now, I will sit in the warmth and just enjoy the view. Ahhhh....

Maybe even an extra blog posting or two. See you later!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 14

Glass Christmas Tree Bead with mixed Christmas colored beads
Snowflake effect via Photobooth

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trader Joe Orange Cardamom Star Cookies

The spice cardamom always reminds me of my grandma. She sometimes would make butter cookies with cardamom seeds in them. As a kid, I thought it was such an unusual taste and I could never quite decide if I liked it or not. But now as an adult I love that flavor, so when I saw these "Orange Cardamom Star Cookies" at Trader Joes I had to check them out.

Of course they come in the cutest tin! Who could resist?? I was disappointed that the lid on the tin doesn't fit tight, so if you aren't careful, the lid will come off and they will all fall out on the floor, so beware. And the size of the tin is deceptive, because when you open it you will discover that the plastic bag of cookies fills only the center of the tin!

But do they taste good?? Yes, they taste addictingly good. The kind of buttery good with that slight cardamom aftertaste. They are so tiny that you quickly can eat one, two, four, or fourteen before you know it. So I do recommend them. Just hold on tight to the lid!

Cluster Map

I just noticed that the map that I have on the blog to track the locations of my visitors did an annual reset. It looks empty now. When I went to check on the stats, it said that in my first year of blogging, Clever Karen has had over 10,000 visitors. Interesting.... at least to the geeky side of me!

Christmas "Candy" Jewelry

I made this necklace and bracelet several years ago. Don't you think it looks like big chunks of Christmas candy?? It is one of my festive favorites!

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Mail

Melissa and Nedra, your earrings are in the mail!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's on Your "To Do" List?

Do you all have a "to do" list that's a mile long? I certainly do, and blogging is down towards the bottom of the list, so this is a quick post. Normally I blog over the weekend and set several things up to auto post during the week. But school has been crazy and I have choir concerts at church every night this weekend and I have packages I have to get ready to get into the mail. So you may not hear much from me for a bit.

At school I have been hosting a project where students from 17 schools around the US and Canada are sharing pictures of their holiday traditions using Smilebox slideshows. Here's a link to the project if you are interested in seeing a bit of what has been occupying my time. Smilebox is a awesome free and easy tool - a great way to share holiday greetings and pictures. Here is one of the projects from our school if you'd like to take a look:

Click to play Snow Play
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Hope you have a productive weekend! More later when I can catch my breath!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wintery Clipboards in Black and White

I've updated my clipboard display for the holidays! I took some of the wintery pictures that I took last year and used iPhoto to change them to black and white. Then I printed them using iPhoto08 with mats on glossy paper. (Here is a tutorial on how to print pictures in iPhoto with mats.) I **LOVE** printing the photos with the mats - so easy and they make any picture look so professional. I've borrow ideas for using photography decorating from the Pottery Barn catalogs that I scour for cute decorating ideas.

I clipped them up with some white berries. I always stock up on these berries at JoAnn fabrics when they go on sale and I use them on everything. They are great to tuck into greenery or the bows on packages - an easy way to make anything look festive!


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