christmas gift

  • 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

  • Tea Cup Candles

    tea cupI was shopping at Pier 1 the other day and couldn't get over how just walking close to the area where the candles are displayed gave me a strong whiff of those fabulous scents! I think they had an entire wall dedicated to candles, it's one of those home items that have been popular for a very long time. Today's craft idea takes advantage of the universal love of candles and combines it with a charming holder: the tea cup.

    This tea cup belonged to my mother, and when I saw it I instantly fell in love with it. It is so very delicate, the rim so thin, and it's yellow. Yellow is my favorite color, plus there are daisies! I carried a bouquet of daisies at my wedding! I was thrilled when she passed this cup and a matching saucer down to me.

    For today's gift idea, you don't need to use a family heirloom tho! Thrift stores have bunches of these fancy, sweet tea cups, usually without the saucer and that suits our project today just fine. They are almost always just a buck or two also, so super affordable. Even if you aren't making these lovely candles, pick up a bunch of those for an eclectic tea party for your girlfriends. :)

    For the candles, here's what you'll need to have on hand:

    • double boiler pan
    • partially burnt candles
    • candle (0r candy) thermometer
    • tongs
    • new wicking
    • teacups
    • wick sustainers
    • wooden skewers

    teacup candle1.  In a double boiler pan, melt down old candles. Clip your thermometer to the upper pot where the wax is, and keep the temp around 185 degrees. As the candles melt, use your tongs to remove the old wicks.

    2.  Cut a piece of wicking that measures the height of the cup plus 2". Attach one end to a wick sustainer and tie the other around a wooden skewer as shown in the photo to the right. Dip the wicking and sustainer into melted wax just to coat them, then adhere the sustainer to the bottom of the cup.

    3.  Pour in the melted wax to within 1/2" from the top of the cup. Allow to set for about an hour. Then, using another wooden skewer, prick a circle of holes around the wick. Pour in more melted wax to within 1/4" from the rim. Cut wick.

    These adorable, sweet gifts are perfect for girlfriends, daughters, grand-daughters and moms.....basically any female will love them, especially since you made them yourself.

     

    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

     

  • Frosty the Snowman Treats | Easy and Fun!

    FrostyYou know how it is at Christmas time. We spend loads of time shopping for our littles, wanting them to have the latest and greatest cool toy. With overflowing love in our hearts, we usually spend way too much money, and we know we're spending way too much money but we do it anyway. Then Christmas morning comes, and what happens? They are simply fascinated with the box!

    It's true, kids can entertain themselves for hours with a cardboard box, and this tells us something about how they see the world.....simply! Let's transfer that information into the Christmas treats we make for them, too. I can remember spending countless hours making adorable sugar cookies, icing them, decorating them, and I'm definitely not saying this tradition should be abandoned. But, I present to you today a very simple and yet classic treat that the kids are going to love.

    I found this idea, dubbed as Frosty the S'more-Man (isn't that clever?!), at a very fun and crafty website. These make perfect little packages for all the littles in your world . . . classmates gift, neighborhood friends, and any other place that your littles gather in their little worlds! Here's what you'll need to do these up right, and you're going to be surprised at how simple and affordable it is. You know, kinda like the cardboard box every kid loves to love.

    For each little package you'll need:

    • 2 graham cracker squares
    • 1 mini Hershey bar
    • 1 snowman peep
    • 1 - 4" x 6" cello bag (available at Michaels)
    • 1 free printable bag topper (available here)
    • stapler

    Load up the goodies in the bag, print your topper, fold it in half around the top of the bag and staple. I told you it was easy!

    Happy S'more-Man making!

     

    Photo courtesy

     

     

     

  • Dog Days of Summer

    Here in Minnesota we cram as much as we can into our summer months, such as our summers are. During the March blizzards and the April snow storms, threats are issued to the first person to complain about how hot it is once summer arrives. We love love love those hot summer day even if some of us voice less than positive opinions about them!

    I don't know how these hot, sultry days became known as "dog days", but since we're on the topic of dogs, it's the perfect time to think about DIY gifts for our furry friends. Nice segue, eh? :) Here's a few ideas:

    My step daughter, Monica has a Newfie name Sirius. Sirius weighs in now at around 140# and gets very very hot in the summer months. So to help, Monica fills a bucket with water, puts it in the freezer, and then gives the resulting ginormous ice cube to Sirius to play with. If there is a doggy heaven, Mr. Sirius is clearly in it whilst demolishing that hunk of ice. It's very adorable. He's about 6 months old in this picture.

    Recycle old t-shirts that are stained or too worn to wear into this easy fetch-or-chew toy. Using two t-shirts, cut 2 or 3 inch wide slits along the bottom edge of both. Then tear the fabric, and you've got perfect sized clothe strips. Gather the strips in a bundle, and tie off one end into a knot.  Separate the  strips into 3 sections and braid. Tie off the end and trim any excess strips. So easy.

     

    And last, a toy for the dog who loves that crunchy sound! Use a large (empty) water bottle for a large dog and a smaller one for a small dog. Find a sock that is large enough to hold the water bottle, and put the bottle inside of it. Tie a knot in the end. Man's best friend will drive you nuts with the noise, but will also likely stay out of trouble too!

     

    Happy dog days of summer to you!

     

    Photo courtesy: Basset Hound, Braided toy, Crunchy toy

  • The Gift of Time

    It's Friday morning, the very last day of the work week, the day many have been looking forward to since Monday. We drag ourselves out of bed, stumble to the coffee pot and go through our morning rituals. Thank God it's Friday!

    This morning, in a most uncharacteristic manner, I bounded out of bed at 5am. Why, you ask? I had a coffee date with a good friend to get to! These java sipping events are one of the great pleasures of my life; they are the times when we talk about our lives, what's important to us, what's happening within our families, etc. It's also a place where dreams can and do spring up and are spoken out loud, sometimes for the first time.  My date this morning was with a good friend who has walked with me through it all . . . the happy, glorious days, the painful, unsettling and uncertain ones and everything in between.  Who wouldn't get out of bed early for that!

    The gift of time. There is nothing like it. You can't go to the store and buy more when you run out, you can't ever take it back once given. It is not a renewable resource; how many times have we said in frustration "that's an hour I'll never get back"?

    Giving time is a pretty special thing. I read a story this morning about a family who planned a birthday party for their 90 year old father/grandfather/uncle. It took an enormous amount of time emailing family members,  arranging and paying  for travel, setting up accommodations to host the family, preparing food,  packing and traveling.

    When the day for this grand event finally arrived, the 90 year old guest of honor had  a dozen or so family members on the edge of their seats, telling the stories of his life! Celebrating it all! Talk about memories! Small memento gifts were given, like a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne, but the best gift of all he received that day was, without a doubt, their time.

    Next time I are tempted to run out to the store to purchase a gift, I'm going to stop and remember this story and the coffee chats that mean so much.  Maybe save a little gas and money, and pick up the phone instead.

    You with me?

    Photo credit

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