christmas gift

  • Creative Use of a Button

    rustic buttonOne of the things my creative mind loves doing the most is finding multiple uses for simple, ordinary things. It is my industrious character trait coupled with creativity and, of course, frugality at work! And, what could be more basic than a button?

    I dare say few things are more rudimentary than a button. :) Think about it, we've been making buttons to clasp things closed for a very long time, way before we learned to make them in a factory. Wood sticks and loops of twine is just one example!

    I think we can take this inexpensive little thing called a button and make some really charming Christmas items. Here are just a few examples:

     

    button card

    Now isn't that just about the cutest card you've ever seen? It has that minimalist look too that is so popular, and what you see ends up being way more than the sum of its parts.

     

    button cookies

    How about button cookies? These are simple sugar or butter cookies, too! After you roll out your dough and cut your circle, take a cookie cutter just a little smaller and press lightly for the groove. Then poke 2 holes in the center with a skewer. I think these would be adorable as a table favor at a ladies Christmas party, or a very creative way to bundle up plain sugar cookies for a cookie exchange.

     

    button ornament

    I LOVE this idea. It involves a package of colored buttons in various shades, some thin wire and ribbon. These can be ornaments for the tree or even gift tags! This is a tag that your sewing friend will definitely not throw away, and will forever think of you as their most creative friend.

    While going to the spendy department store for their annual Christmas ornament is a tradition for many, I simply love the idea of crafting one of our own annual ornaments from the staples of life.

     

    Photo credit:  Wooden stick, card, cookies, ornament/gift tag

     

     

  • 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

  • Christmas in July | Half Christmas!

    Are you creative? A lot of people have a certain idea about what it means to be a creative person, but what I've discovered is that everyone has a creative side to them. In fact, I find that some of the most practical, pragmatic people I know are incredibly creative and definitely resourceful.

    Christmas-In-July homemade soapSuch is the case today with a little Christmas-in-July project I found, brought to you by a self-declared practical girl. This little thing we're going to make is, really, suitable for any time of year, but fits in perfectly with our theme. It's a gift that you can give today, at Half Christmas, or you can make it today and save to give it on December 25! There are a lot of projects that we feature here on the blog that aren't like that, they will get stale or moldy or they're so delicate they might get knocked over. Not this one. And, it's white! With a little ingenuity with the packaging, we can make this project a lovely gift for now or later.

    I bring you home-made soap. Yes, I'm talking about making your own laundry soap! It's not as hard as you might think, and the people I know who make their own say it is pennies a load. To gather the supplies you will likely not spend more than you would were you to go and buy your favorite ready-made laundry soap, and this one will give you many times over the number of loads. I call that a win-win. And, it saves money to spend on more exciting and fun things!

    Three simple ingredients. A little bit of time. And, you've got yourself the kind of gift that is not just good for Christmas but for absolutely any time of the year when you want to just bless someone. It's a beautiful thing.

    You can find the instructions here. Merry Christmas in July ~ now and later!

    Photo credit:  foodstoragemoms.com

     

     

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Handcrafted Gifts

    coffee cozieWe are continuing our month-long "Old Fashioned" series, and this week our focus is on how to spend less money. In a culture that wants for more and more of everything, it has become old fashioned to spend less, to simplify. It sounds strange that something as simple as spending less money is considered out of style, but there is change in the wind. A growing movement of people of all ages are talking (and doing) all about how to simplify life and ultimately, to do just that....spend less.

    Last time I talked about budgeting and how sticking to one doesn't mean you have to live a sparse life. If you missed that post, you can find it here. Today I want to tell you {again!} about one of my favorite topics, and that is handcrafted gifts!

    It has been said that a homemade gift is a gift from the heart. It is often a sacrifice of time, and one of the things I love most about making gifts is that while I'm doing it I spend lots of time reminiscing about the person and our history together.

    I absolutely adore the whole idea of  simple, hand made Christmas gifts, decorations and of course food. Such gifts of time are considered to be uncommonly good in today's consumer culture, and maybe that's part of what is bringing this old fashioned practice back to life.

    In fact, the best sellers on our website come from the lovely Bucilla line of kits that provide all the materials to make stockings, decorations, tree skirts and more! Best of all, many of them have that traditional, old fashioned feel to them. And from what our customers tell us, these items are often treasured for years and years, creating those wonderful fuzzy feelings and some really great memories.

    This blog has been filled with tons of ideas and instructions for some of the most unique and simple gifts around. I encourage you to take a peek back and see! Shopping at the store will always have its place, and I don't think we should ever feel guilty about opting for a store-bought gift. But, including a few handcrafted gifts each season is such a touching thing to do. I know that some of the most meaning gifts I have ever received have been hand-made!

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Raspberry Jalapeno Hot Fudge Sauce

    hot fudgeOoh la la, is there anything better atop a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream than homemade hot fudge sauce? My coworker just returned from a 2 week vacation in sunny Florida, and one of the things she brought back for me was a small jar of gourmet hot fudge sauce. My mouth immediately began watering at just the thought of spooning that over ice cream....or strawberries.....or waffles. Let's be honest, it's just plain good over just about anything. :)

    Well, as it turns out, there just might be something that is just a tad better than hot fudge sauce . . . . Raspberry Jalapeno Hot Fudge Sauce! It's the perfect mixture of sweet and spicey, and you don't really have to worry about it being too spicy because the ice cream that you spoon it over will cool it all down just fine! I say that is a complete and total WIN WIN.

    Yes, it's easy, you know by now I won't bring you any ideas here on the Merry Stockings blog that is difficult or terribly time consuming. After all, you have those hand made Bucilla stockings to finish, right? :) There are just a few ingredients for this delectable sauce that is sure to please....and will make a very sweet hostess gift during the holidays or, really, any time of year.

    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 - 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
    • 3 T seedless raspberry jam
    • 3 T freshly chopped jalapeno peppers
    1. Combine all the ingredients in a 2 quart saucepan.
    2. Over medium heat, stir constantly until butter and chocolate chips are completely melted and you have a smooth texture.
    3. Fill your jars, label and store in your refrigerator.

    Most of the time hostess gifts are for the ladies of the house, but this is one hostess gift that perhaps even the host will enjoy.

    Photo courtesy

     

  • Mulling Spices

    mulling spices 2I will never forget the first time I walked into my friends home and the enticing, warm aroma of spiced cider was wafting through the air. I was just a new mom and had never made it, but there it was on her stove bubbling away. And, it smelled so so so good! I vowed that day I would make that often in the fall and winter months, especially when people were coming over. It was like a warm welcome for my nose, and I wanted to offer the same kind of experience for my guests. And besides, how hard could it be? (That phrase is my trademark and has gotten me into more fixes than I share to count, but nonetheless is hardwired into my DNA.)

    The first year I "made" this I went to the grocery store and just asked the guy stocking the shelves where they kept their mulling spices. "Say what," he said, "what kind of spices?" When I explained, he still didn't seem to get it and promptly directed me to the spice aisle.

    I mosied on over to the produce department and asked the guy who was loading up the oranges, and he smiled and showed me right where they were, nice little neat packages of spices all sealed up in little muslin bags. I was tickled that it was so easy.

    Then one year our winter weather came particularly early, and I went looking for these mulling spices a few months ahead of schedule. Nobody had them "yet", and I suddenly realized (uh huh slow on the uptake here) that I could just make these myself. How hard could it be? ;)

    The only ingredients that you really need are cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom, allspice berries and dried orange peel. There are recipes all over the internet, so if you want to be more elaborate just add whatever other spices your heart desires. Have equal quantities for each spice, enough to fill up the small little muslin bags that you can find at the store.  And, if you're going to go to the trouble to make one, you may as well make several at the same time. What lovely hostess gifts these would make around the holidays!

    Crush the cinnamon in a coffee grinder or even with just the back of a heavy iron skillet. Fill your bags, and attach a cute little tag with perhaps some simple instructions on the back. Store them in zip locks backs in your spice drawer for a full season of warm spicey goodness!

    Photo courtesy

  • 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

  • More Upcycling of Jars

    We have a room off of our kitchen that, once upon a time, was actually the butler's station. It has a pass through window into the dining room, and every time we're in there we imagine ourselves buttlering the royal family, lol. Actually, tho, I'm pretty sure the counters in this room with their clutter of jars would have the butler fired on the spot. Gotta do something with those jars.

    So, what to do, what to do. There are all kinds of ideas all over the net for the upcycling of canning jars, but these ideas today wouldn't necessarily require the heavy duty kind. Just any old jar that you've emptied and hung on to, thinking you'd have a use for it, will absolutely do!

    sugar jar 2 This idea uses old candle jars and turns them into fun see-through canisters. Perfect since they have an air-tight lid! If you buy a set of cannisters at a department or kitchen store, you'll likely spend upwards of $40 or more, but these are just pennies to make if you already  have basic crafting supplies in the house. Love that.

    Simply paint a wide strip around the jar, either just going part way or all the way around, whichever you prefer. I like the look of the brush strokes showing, so I'd opt for just half way around. Paint two coats, and after it's dry, hot glue some jute or twine around. And, of course, since it's chalkboard, if you change your mind and want to store beans or rice in the jar, just erase and relabel.

    painted jarAnother project I saw involved painting a jar white, and then wrapping burlap around the top. Or the bottom. If you want an attractive way to store items that aren't that great to look at, this is an excellent idea. If we used the short, squatty jars, you could even store your brillo pad or dish sponge in it at the kitchen sink. Lots of lots of uses for this one. TIP:  Instead of painting the outside of the jars, try putting a bit of paint on the inside and swirling it around. :)

    I found both of these ideas from too-much-time.com, so if you'd like to see more of these ideas, hop on over there.

    And, merry jar upcycling!

     

  • 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

     

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