This year, Alex and I decided, instead of making and buying gifts for the 30ish family members on our list we would create a Christmas album. Crazy, right? We've both been musicians for years, even playing in the same band for a while, so we though, how hard could it be? Well, lets just say it was more time consuming than expected.
I thought I'd share some progress pics of our epic journey in the making of An Ashley&Alex Christmas Album.
I started in September, compiling lots of tabs and deciding which songs would sound the best for this project. At first I planned on featuring 10 songs on the album, then 8 and finally, when time ran short we ended up with 6!
After I picked out my songs I practiced them on guitar until they sounded recording ready! (I'm sure my neighbors really enjoyed all the Christmas tunes from September-December.) In the meantime I tracked down the perfect supplies for beautiful Album packaging!
I found this wonderful stamp at LittleStampStore on Etsy. She didn't carry the size I needed so I custom ordered one big enough for a CD cover. Customer service was awesome and I'll definitely be ordering from her shop again.
I also found these fun vintage-look CD's on Amazon, as well as these cute CD cases.
I also found some cute CD labels stickers and this Etsy shop called PeculiarPrintables which provided the perfect fair isle sweater labels for my CD's.
I think they turned out pretty darn cute!
In the meantime, Alex learned to use Reaper so we could record digitally. He also used his computer nerd powers to figure out how to make the keyboard and the microphone and the guitar and bass guitar speak to the computer. It's all a mystery to me, but I'm sure glad he gets it. (Forgive the messy music room!)
I ended up recording for an hour or two every night in November and December until I got all the tracks sounding the way I wanted them. Alex wanted to contribute more to the actual instrumental portion of the album but with his College courseload and full time work he didn't have the time to be as involved as he'd hoped. He did record a lovely guitar solo on The Christmas Song though.
By early December I was getting frustrated trying to record all the instruments on my own so I recruited our friend Justin for his bass playing skillz.
He did a magical job! You can check out his bass skillz on the tracks White Christmas and Baby Please Come Home. In retrospect I really should've asked for help sooner but I have a desperate need for creative control on projects like this and trouble handing over the reins.
He was kind enough to let us borrow his bass until we finished the album, I think it really classes up the joint.
Our goal was to get the completed albums in the mail by the first weekend in December, which, of course, did not work out. We ended up doing the traditional Holiday scramble and barely getting all 15 packages in the mail by the 21st. We ended up spending our first weekend of Christmas vacation constantly working on the album. No chores were done, no meals were made, it was all work all the time! The night before the albums went out, I literally pulled an all nighter to finish recording the drum and tambourine parts on Baby Please Come Home! But it was totally worth it. On Dec. 20th Alex got all the tracks mastered and the CD's burned and I got them all packaged up and beautiful. Then we popped them in the mail on the 21st and were able to spend the rest of the Holiday week enjoying each others company and eating way too many Christmas cookies.
The reviews for the album have been wonderful. All our friends and family have been very receptive and supportive of our Christmas music! All the positive feedback has made me pretty sure a 2016 Christmas album is on the horizon. This time I'll be getting started in May.
If you'd like to listen to the Album you can find it here.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about the making of a An Ashley&Alex Christmas Album!
Thanks for stopping by!
Are you still scrambling to make everyone a gift before the big day!? I usually am. Don't fret! Here's a list of fantastic crafts that are quick, inexpensive and will surely be appreciated. Most of these will take you about an hour to make and call for limited supplies.
Without further ado, get crafting!!!
1.) Bohemian Chic Hair Pin by McLaughlin Designs. Buttons+Feathers=Fancy hair clip OR brooch!
2.) DIY Handwarmers by Rae Ann Kelly. I've made these many times using Flannel and Fleece fabric, they're always appreciated. Who doesn't want toasty hands on a cold day?
3.) Chalkboard Mason Jar Candle Holders by heart.love.always. Super cute, and I'm sure you could get away with using whatever glass friendly paint you have on hand.
4.) Crocheted Striped Can Cozy by Jessie At Home. I've made dozens of these. You could use glitter yarn or applique a cute felt design on the side if you're feeling extra crafty.
5.) Faceted Clay Tealight Holder by Gathering Beauty. I would use an oven bake clay for this to cut down on drying time.
6.) Fancy Headbands by ABM. Limited sewing skillz needed and the results are adorable.
7.) Knitted Key Cozies by Knit Freedom. This is definitely something everyone needs. Your friends and family will have the coziest keys ever!
8.) Reversible Coffee Cup Sleeves by Crafty Staci. Simple and quick, use holiday themed fabric for bonus points.
9.) Holiday Shrinky Dink Bookmarks by Got to Teach. All you need is permanent markers and Shrinky Dink sheets, oh, and an oven.
10.) Star Trek Combadge Earrings by Tallys Treasury. So nerdy, but absolutely necessary.
I hope you found something fantastic to make for your friends or family, or got inspired to create something completely one of a kind!
I hope you're having a fantastic Holiday Season!
Thanks for reading!
This weekend I had a few of my wonderful friends over to help me decorate my Christmas tree. Saturday afternoon Alex and Jess headed out in the pouring rain to pick out the perfect tree!
After they got it home, Alex got the tree in the tree stand and Jess and I got to work putting ribbon and Icicle ornaments on the tree while we waited for the rest of our guests.
When more of the guest arrived I made a big batch of popcorn and got them all stringing on a lovely garland.
Alex and Jess got to work putting all the ornaments on the tree...
While the lazier guests spent time relaxing and observing all the hard work.
We watched The Santa Clause and Home Alone and A Muppet Family Christmas. When everyone arrived, a sandwich feast was served! Including chips and dip and cookies and pie!
With lots of vegetarian options (mostly for me). :D
Everyone had at least two sandwiches before the night was over! Piglets.
I baked a half Marion-berry and half Blackberry Pie which got rave reviews.
I also made some Evil Italian Butter Cookies dipped in Chocolate which were gone before the night was over!
After the feast we all settled in for a long game of Apples to Apples.
Joe and Alex were the winners for the evening.
Even Perchik got in on the festive fun!
Unfortunately a lot of the ornaments and lights that I had ordered for the tree did not make it here in time for the festivities. I'll update this post once they've arrived and are happily residing upon my beautiful Christmas tree. In the meantime, this is what my tree looked like by the end of a very fun evening;
UPDATE: FINISHED TREE!
Nights like these always make me feel grateful for having such wonderful friends.
I hope your December is going smoothly and that you're nearly done with your Holiday checklist. Somehow we'll manage to get it all done in time, right?
Thanks for dropping by!
Casserole weather is here!
This is one of my personal favorites, it's as close to meat and potatoes as a Vegetarian can get! It involves tasty Smart Ground Meatless Crumbles, fresh veggies, a simple roux gravy, cheese and seasoned tots=delicious.
First, you'll pop your seasoned tots in the oven to cook while you saute your veggies...
Once they're tender you'll add your Garlic and Veggie Crumbles, all your seasonings and Worcestershire sauce...
Then you'll take your veg off the heat and throw together a quick Roux gravy, mix it into the veggies and crumbles and pour the whole mixture into a casserole dish. You'll top with shredded cheese and your tots and bake it for 15 minutes!
It's super yummy, I promise. I'm lucky if I get leftovers because Alex loves this dish so much! Try it! You'll like it!
Vegetarian Tater Tot Casserole
1/2 Yellow Onion
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Green Bell Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Bag Frozen Tater Tots
12 oz Package Smart Ground Meatless Crumbles
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar
Seasoning Salt (French Fry or Lawry's etc.)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Veggie Broth
Salt and Pepper
Preheat your oven to 350° spread your Tots on a baking sheet, sprinkle with Seasoning Salt and pop them into the oven for about 10-15 minutes while you chop all your veggies and grate your cheese.
Heat Olive Oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium heat, toss in your Onion and Bell Peppers, saute until tender.
When Veggies are almost done, add your Garlic, then add in your Smart Ground Crumbles, Worcestershire, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, salt and pepper. stir to combine, remove from heat.
For the Roux; In a small sauce pot melt your butter over medium heat, whisk in your flour and salt and pepper and let bubble for a minute or two. Slowly pour in the Veggie broth and let it come to a simmer while continuously stirring. Once gravy is desired thickness mix into the skillet full of Veggies and Smart Ground.
Pour your veggie/gravy mixture into a greased 2 quart casserole dish, top with cheese and Tater Tots and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until Tots are crispy and cheese is bubbly.
Voila! Perfect comfort food!
Here's the printable recipe
Give it a shot! It's wonderful!
Thanks for stopping by!
Vegetarian Chicken!? What does that mean?
It means Beyond Meat. My favorite Veggie Chicken! It's made of soy protein and tastes fabulous in soups (as long as you don't cook it too long, it's definitely an add at the last minute ingredient.)
This recipe is simple, delicious and you can throw it together super quickly on a Weekday night.
The cast of characters (I know I call for a red bell pepper, my grocer was out of 'em! What to do!?)
You'll saute your tasty Veggie Chicken, shred it, saute your veggies, toss all the other stuff in the pot and Voila! Soup! You can adjust the spiciness to your liking, I like a super spicy soup so I usually throw in a couple extra dashes of Chili Powder.
Here's the recipe, get cooking!
Beyond Meat Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 Tbsp Canola Oil (Separated)
3 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 Package Beyond Meat Veggie Chicken strips
1 Can Rinsed Cooked Black Beans
*1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1/2 Cup Corn
1/2 De-seeded Jalapeno
1/3 Cup Diced Tomatoes (drained if using canned)
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Paprika
Pinch of Cayenne
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Toasted Tortilla Strips
Saute Beyond Meat Veggie Strips in Canola Oil until lightly browned, let cool and shred with two forks. Set side. Saute Onion, Bell Pepper and Jalapeno in a small soup pot until tender, then add Garlic and Tomato and cook for an additional minute or until fragrant. Add Veggie Broth, Corn, Beans and Spices (and baking soda if using) and bring to a simmer, reduce heat and add Veggie Chicken, optional toppings and serve immediately. (Overcooking the Veggie Chicken will make it too soft!)
*I like to add a 1/4 tsp of baking soda to the soup directly after adding the veggie broth and tomatoes, then let it bubble and cook off for a few minutes to cut the acid from the tomatoes. This will cut down on heartburn if you have a tomato related weakness like I do.
Here's the printable Recipe;
I usually add a heaping spoonful of sour cream and some shredded cheddar with a couple crumbled up tortilla chips on top, it's wonderful!
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Thanks for stopping by!
This is a creative space dedicated to building a happy handmade home! I feature recipes, crafts, DIY's and pictures of my cats! Join me on a journey of exciting wonders. Get inspired! You might even learn something new!