Christmas gift ideas

  • Wreaths ~ Not Just for Christmas

    One of the wreaths that was pictured in yesterday's post reminded me {again} that wreaths, well, they aren't just for Christmas. I know I know, this is how most people think about them, but think about it, haven't you seen dried flower wreaths that are just lovely also? And, since it is summer here in the U.S., I'd like to talk today about wreaths that can decorate our homes any month of the year. Some are even functional!

    wreath 10Like this one ~ this wreath is made using both fresh and dried herbs! Hang this in your kitchen so it's at your fingertips while you're cooking. The fresh herbs are rosemary and bay leaf, and the dried herbs are oregano (that has flowered) and sage.

    While they are still fresh and supple, snip off what you need and chop as you normally would. Once they are all dried and crumbly, just pinch off what you need and put em in a small mesh bag. Throw it in that pot of soup or atop the pot roast....mmmmm!

    Even if you don't cook with herbs much, the aroma is fantastic! Make one up to take as a gift to a dinner party instead of a bottle of wine. Anyone can pick up a bottle of wine, but a handmade herb wreath? That is a very special gift! You can find instructions here.

    wine cork wreathAnd speaking of wine, how about this creative use for all those corks that are just too cool to throw away? This one, clearly is for the Christmas season, but with just a little bit of tweaking it could totally be a year-round decoration.

    Do you have friends with which you often enjoy hors d'oeuvre and a glass of wine? This too would make a lovely gift for Christmas. What a memorable way to honor a friendship!

    So, the idea of a wreath belonging only to the Christmas holiday is outdated. I just love these fresh and creative ideas. There was another wreath I saw that was made completely out of balls of yarn! No matter the colors, what a perfect gift for the knitter and crocheting friend who is always so hard to buy for!

    Dreaming of different wreaths,

    Cheryl

    Photo credit

  • Bird Houses

    bird in winter

    I have a group of bird photos like this that cycle through on my computer for my screen saver, and they are just stunning. But, as attractive as they are to look at, winter is a really tough time for these tiny creatures. Many manage to survive, thanks to birders everywhere who provide food and shelter. Many don't make it. We've been doing a series of posts recently about this, and coming up with ways to help these little guys.

    We've already covered different ways to feed the birds here and here, and yesterday we covered some simple and natural shelters that most anyone can do. Today I want to show you how simple it is for all you handy, crafty people to build your own!

    B1159C127.tif

    This bird shelter is made from a single pine board and requires only a few simple tools to create. The best part about making your own bird feeder is that you will save all kinds of crazy money that you can then spend on feed! It's a great way to stretch a dollar, and besides, it's very satisfying to look out your window and see what you've created with your own hands. You can get the instructions here for this little project.

    2 dollar bird houseHere is another bird shelter that is easy to create. This one is made from just about any 1 x 6 natural, unstained wood stock. That means you could make great use of the scrap wood laying around the shop or garage. You could make several of these and either provide them to your neighbors or sell 'em for a couple bucks. Who knows, maybe this will spark a nice winter project for years to come. :)

    There are also many places online that sell kits. Just google it. Just a few places to get you started are Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot.  I think something like this would make a fantastic Christmas gift for your birder friend!

    If you aren't really into making your own, there are plenty of really nice shelters available for sale at garden centers and other shops. Bottom line is that no matter how you come upon a bird shelter to place in your yard, you are doing a world of good.

    Merry birding!

    Photo courtesies: Bird

  • Sparkly DIY Ornaments

    diy broken cd ornaments 2All that sparkles and shines, 'tis the season! It's no secret that the Christmas season is short this year due to a later than typical Thanksgiving, so we need all the quick and brilliant ideas we can find. We have been out of town and working lots of hours and welcoming a new grand baby into the family, so believe it or not we don't even have our Christmas tree up yet! I canNOT believe that myself, but alas it is true. So, I'm especially looking for creative and easy ideas to make beautiful things for my family and friends.

    This ornament is one of those brilliant ideas. So much of our music listening now is from iTunes or Spotify and Pandora, all fabulous options. Truth be told, some of the CD's we own are, well, just taking up space. Here's an ingenious way to recycle them and create a wonderfully, sparkly and shiny tree ornament.

    It's super simple to do ~ just take a white styrofoam ball or a plain glass ornament OR even a less-than-perfect ball that is showing it's age. Grab those CD's that you don't need anymore, and break them up with some scissors. Then, just super glue the boken pieces on mosaic-style!

    While that idea is definitely fantastic, I like to take things up a notch and make a really big one. It would resemble a disco ball but be 100 times better. Just find a ball that is as big as you like and follow the same instructions. These would be gorgeous hanging in the window, above doorways, suspended in a line above the dining room table, or yes, hanging on the tree. They would also make a lovely hostess gift!

    It's green. It's really pretty. And, of course it's easy.

    Photo courtesy

     

  • Make Candy in the Crock Pot!

    make candy in the crockpotWhenever I think about making candy, I get an instant headache. Seriously! I think about the candy thermometer and getting the temp just right, and have listened enough times to Martha Stewart talk about making candy to know that it is a real art. But, not today's recipe. It will still taste like you spent all that time and energy over the steaming pot, but instead you'll be letting your crockpot do all the work.

    I really love this idea, and not just for Christmas....oh yeah, Valentine's Day too, birthday's, anytime a box of candy is in order. The original recipe only calls for peanuts as an addition to all the chocolate goodness, but I'm imagining other types of nuts and coconut flakes inside and a gorgeous drizzling of caramel sauce on top! But, let's get to the standard recipe first:

    • 2# Salted Dry Roasted Peanuts
    • 12 oz bag milk chocolate morsels
    • 4 oz package Bakers German Sweet Chocolate
    • 24 ox package Almond Bark
    1. Throw all the goodies in the crock pot, and cook for 3 hours on low.
    2. Stir and spoon into paper cupcake liners and let cool.
    3. That's it. Seriously!

    Should you desire to embellish these sweet treats, I highly recommend using just 1# of the peanuts and adding in 1# of pecans, sweetened flaked coconut and topping with a drizzle of caramel sauce. You'll have your very own, easily made, highly impressive, are you ready.........Turtles!

    Merry Candy Making!

     

    Photo courtesy and recipe adapted from:  www.facebook.com/vbrearley

     

  • DIY Snowy Ball Ornaments

    snowy ballNobody here in the upper Midwest has spoken the "S" word yet, but we all know that these beautiful autumn days are numbered. Despite our best attempts to bribe the gods, winter will come, the snow "S" will fly and we will do what we hearty Minnesotans do in these situations: embrace it complain. I moved here from Washington state 10 years ago, and have never stopped being amazed at how long a Minnesotan can discuss the weather when they don't like it, lol. So it is with great hesitation that I show you this very doable, fun DIY project today. But, never mind the naysayers, here we go!

    This project has been posted on Pinterest from several different people, but I think the idea may have originated with the ever lovely Martha Stewart. I love the look of these, they look so lacey and sparkly, and the fact that it uses common crafting supplies is a big bonus in my book.

    So, let's get started. The gist of this project is that the snowy ball is made out of string that is wrapped around a small water balloon and then dipped in watered down glue. A wise suggestion would be to make just a couple of these to see how it goes before delving into the 100 that you will undoubtedly want once you see them. Okay, slight exaggeration, but maybe not. I love the idea of giving these as gifts to coworkers, extended family, girlfriends, etc. It is a small, thoughtful and very creative gift that anyone would love to receive. That said, there's also nothing wrong with  making these for ourselves, right?

    SUPPLIES

    • small package of water balloons
    • tacky glue
    • plain white string
    • glitter
    • ornament hooks
    • water
    1. Blow up your balloons so they're about 2" in diameter and tie a knot.
    2. Without cutting a piece of string off the roll, attach the end to the knot on the balloon.
    3. Then randomly wrap the string around your colorful little sphere. Isn't this fun?!
    4. Squeeze some tacky glue into a 4" bowl and add some water so it's pretty runny.
    5. Roll your string-wrapped balloons around in the glue until all the string has been coated.
    6. Sprinkle on glitter to your hearts content.
    7. Attach a twist tie to the end of the balloon and twist the end closed to form a small loop.
    8. Using a small piece of string, hang the twist tie loop on your shower curtain rod.
    9. After 48 hours, pop the balloon using a pair of tweezers, and remove the balloon.
    10. Wrap it up in a pretty box or hang on the tree!

    Project credit

  • Creating What We Love

    Over the past many weeks, I've been sharing with you lots of  creative Christmas ideas. We've gathered stacks of things for our Christmas Notebooks, haven't we?

    You've probably picked up on this by now, but I am such a stickler for simplicity that there isn't a single idea I've shared that is even remotely hard! I don't do hard....do you? I didn't think so. :)

    I like to make my life simple too. But as we know, simple amid our fast-paced western culture doesn't just happen by itself. It must be intentional. Over the last many years I have been moving closer and closer to the "less is more" philosophy, and I'm finding it so satisfying. That doesn't mean I live like a monk, it just means that I choose more carefully what I fill my home with, how I spend my time and money, and who I hang out with. It's all with the goal in mind of creating a good, good life.

    a good life

    So, today's post is just that.....a step back from all of our baking and creating and imagining on behalf of others in order to make sure the lives we are creating for ourselves are exactly what we want and need. And, if we find that they aren't? Decide on just one small step we can take in the next month that will begin inching our way toward that. Then when we give, whether at Christmas or any other time, it will be from a well that is full to overflowing!

    Cheers to creating our best life ever!

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Quick Caramels

    six minute caramels

    It's true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all of you summer, hot weather, sunshine lovers, but the fall season is just about here. The temps at night are getting cooler, and the leaves on the trees are getting ready to begin their stunning metamorphosis. It's really a beautiful time of year, but I know us northern folks always hate to see summer slip by us.

    One of the quintessential fall treats is the taffy apple. I am always tempted when I see them in the produce department at the grocery store, but these delectable treats are quite easy to make yourself and kinda fun too. Today's post brings you a recipe for 6 minute caramels, and since you're already working with all the right ingredients, it's a perfect opportunity to make your your taffy apples, too.

    For the caramels, here's what you're going to need:

    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup karo syrup, light
    • 1/2 cup condensed milk, sweetened
    1. Lightly grease a shallow baking dish or line with parchment paper.
    2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan.
    3. Over medium-high heat, slowly bring to a boil until your candy thermometer reaches 360*, stirring constantly.
    4. Boil for 4-5 minutes, continuing to stir.
    5. Pour into lightly greased dish, stirring as you go.
    6. Let cool, then cut and wrap in wax paper and store in an air-tight container.
    7. Give to your best friend for Christmas. ♥

    If you are making your own caramel dipped apples, you'll just need to cook over medium-high heat for 6 minutes, then dip those apples! Roll in chopped peanuts and try not to drool. So so good.

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Upcycling Canning Jars

    votive candle holderHave you ever walked around Michael's or Blick's or any other craft supply store and had your imagination run wild with ideas?! Before I was really into hand-crafting, I'd visit there with a coworker on lunch break, and just be sort of lost, wondering what on earth a person would do with all these little things. It only took a couple of browsing sessions through Pinterest or decorating magazines, however, to get the creative juices flowing, and now I am hooked!

    Today's Christmas gift idea uses the simplest of materials and yet delivers really big. The light that flows out through the cuts in the jar as well as the gems, the way they dance as the tealight candle flickers inside, it is delightful! Here's what you'll need:

    • Pint size canning jars or wide-mouthed vase
    • Hot glued gems (available at the craft store for $2)
    • Tea light candles
    • Glue gun

    Using your glue gun, attached the gems to the outside of the jar, and place a tea light candle inside. If you want to deck it out just a little more, add a ribbon to the threaded area of the jar, but I really love the rustic yet gorgeous appearance of the bare top.

    These make really nice hostess gifts around the holidays or any other time for that matter. Choose gem colors that fit the occasion, and these are just so simple and fun that you could probably do one up quickly before you leave the house. Do you have a friend or two who are really into candles and how the light dances through the candle receptacle? These would make a great gift item.

    I adore ideas like this, and hope you do too!

     

    Photo courtesy

     

  • A Gift That Keeps on Giving

    festive pomandersMy mother told me about a little cooking trick that she used for our evening meal. My father often came home very hungry and tired, and if dinner wasn’t ready or at least filling the kitchen with wonderful aroma’s when he arrived, he would grab the peanut butter and saltines and snack. So, the trick was to chop up an onion, put a little oil in the skillet and sauté the onions. Worked every time to make my father just a bit more patient for dinner!

    We all love to walk into someone’s home, and especially our own, and smell something wonderful….fresh baked cookies, bread coming out of the oven, etc. Today’s craft is just one more aromatic you can add to your repertoire….the Festive Pomander. Here’s what you’ll need to pull this one off:

    • thin-skinned oranges
    • ribbon, ¼” wide in 1 yard strips
    • straight pins
    • scissors
    • large paper clip
    • cloves

    If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know I’m not going to suggest any craft or recipe that is complicated. Well, at least not very often. This craft is like so many others that I share….easy! This one is so easy that it has been used as a craft for grade school children. I think we can do this one with no problem.

    1. Put your orange on top of a strip of ribbon, and pull the ribbon up along the sides.
    2. When you get to the top, cross and turn them, then pull the ribbon back down to form quadrants. Secure the ribbon with straight pins to keep it in place.
    3. Tie the ends of the ribbon in a knot, then a bow, and trim ends to desired length.
    4. Next, take the end of the paper clip and punch small holes into the orange skin about 1/8” apart along both edges of the ribbon, one side at a time.
    5. Working quickly so that the holes don’t close back up, push cloves into the holes. Repeat along all the edges of the ribbon.
    6. Remove the straight pins, and you’re done!

    These make lovely hostess gifts around the holidays, and smell so darn good!

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Better Than Nutella?

    nutellaI remember the first time I tasted Nutella. My step daughter brought it over, and I thought it had a weird name and at the time I wasn't very adventurous with food. I almost didn't try it, can you imagine?! But just one lick, and I was hooked.

    And, apparently I'm not alone, because back in 2007, February 5 was chosen as World Nutella Day! A couple of fans decided that just enjoying it in the privacy of their own homes was simply not enough. They reasoned that any food that has the capacity to create childhood memories that last for a lifetime should have it's own day, no?  Not sponsored by Nutella, these fans stepped up and created a day set aside to celebrate, to get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella. Sounds good to me!

    Imagine what a homemade version of Nutella would do for your awesome factor with  friends and family. You don't have to tell them how easy it was either....they will think you are pure genius when they taste it. Who knows, maybe you could even give Nutella a run for their money.

    You'll need:

    • 1 cup hazelnuts
    • 4 teaspoons coconut oil
    • 6 ounces 65% dark chocolate, melted
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1. Dump your hazelnuts onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and roast in a 350* oven for about 10 minutes.
    2. Let the nuts cool, then wrap them in a dish towel and shake to remove the skins.
    3. Next, put the nuts in your food processor and process until smooth.
    4. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you have a nice smooth butter.
    5. Jar it up, and store in the fridge until you're ready to give it away (unless you eat it first, which is likely to happen so you may as well just make a double batch). It'll keep for a good month if you manage to resist.

    I dare you to try this.

     

    Recipe adaptation

     

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