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christmas gifts

  • Witch's Brew Halloween Wreath

    One of the things I love the most about Halloween is that it's a holiday for everyone. The littles get all dressed up, the bigs pull pranks, and even adults get a charge out of finding THE best costume for the annual neighborhood party. Somehow when we dress up in a disguise, we lose our inhibitions and end up having a blast. What's not to love about that?

    halloween wreathMerry Stockings, while primarily a Christmas stocking and decoration website, has got the most adorable Witch's Brew Bucilla Wreath kit for Halloween. The picture to the left here was actually sent in by a customer who purchased the kit and created the wreath! She did a fantastic job, don't you think? If you agree, head on over to Facebook and tell her so! You can find the post about D. Copeland on our fan page.

    It's always fun to add a few new decorations to our holiday collections, and this one is really fun. It's one of Bucilla's felt applique wreath kits, and just like the other kits they make, comes complete with everything you'll need to complete it. Hang it in a window or on the door where the trick or treaters will come 'a knockin', it's sure to be a hit!

    The wreath measures out to 17"  x 17" when finished, and the price is only $27.99, 20% off list price! You can grab yours on the Merry Stockings website right now. :)

    This will make a perfect early Christmas gift for that person in your life that really loves Halloween.

  • Make Your Own Christmas Gift Tags

    presentI know I've told you all this before, about how my mother considered the wrapping of a gift to actually be a part OF the gift? I have more-or-less adopted her point of view on this, and am always on the look-out for unique ways to dress up my gifts.

    What if we could make a gift tag that would fit the unique criteria, but also double as an ornament? Would you be interested in it? What if it was, in true Merry Stockings blog style, simple and affordable to make? Yeah, I thought so.....and what could be simpler, and even a bit primitive, than corn starch and baking soda ingredients? I dare say nothing.

    I have seen these types of tags/ornaments before, but what always disappointed me was how they would turn out yellow-ish when done. You could always paint them, but somehow a pure white outcome was always what I was looking for.

    gift tags

    So, I discovered a way to make these homespun gift tags so that they would indeed come out as white as the snow.

    The trick? Air dry them!!  Who knew?! For a speedier result, you can always bake them, but by air drying you retain almost a sparkly, shimmery look! I like that for Christmas especially! To enhance that you can add a little white glitter to the dough, but the effect is really quite lovely without it.

    You can get all the step-by-step instructions on how to make these gift tags/ornaments here. I think this'll be really fun!

    Photo credit:  gift, tags

  • The Au Naturel Wreath!

    I really am a sucker for all things naturel....reduce something fancy and elaborate down to the least common denominator, down to its simplest form and that's my happy place. Sounds weird I know, but there is something about that non-embellished look that resonates. Today's featured wreath is one of those happy moments for me.....it's a bay leaf and pomegranate garland!

    bayleafpomwreathNow you might never guess that this is from real materials, you know the kind you buy at the grocery store instead of the craft store. Don't get me wrong, I love me some craft store shoppin' any day, but would you ever in your wildest dreams imagine you could make a lovely garland like this from the lowly bay leaf?

    When I first saw this I wondered about the weight of those pomegranates. You too? They are real pomegranates, but they are dried and are light as a feather! Think of the difference between a hard boiled egg and one of those colored easter eggs with the insides blown out of a tiny hole. I really really love this unique garland for any place you wanna drape something. And, even tho it's green and red, I still think it is most definitely a year round decoration.

    Curious how to make it? I was too....so you can find complete instructions here. The best part is that, while you can buy  pomegranates that are dried and preserved, it is very very very simple to dry them yourself. Don't believe me? Check it out here. If you do decide to dry your own, just get started early as it does take those beautiful poms 2-3 weeks to dry.

    Bay leaves and pomegranates. I think I'm in heaven.

    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

  • 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

  • DIY Sugar Cubes

    diy sugar cubes

     

    We were talking yesterday about fancy teacups, and so today I thought I'd jump off that topic and delve a little deeper into the cup. Yesterday we made really easy candles in our sweet little cups from the thrift store, but today we're actually thinking about and planning for a tea party!

    Plain ol' sugar just won't do with such precious cups, so we're going to get creative and make our own cute sugar cubes. Can you even believe how adorable these are?! And, as always, easy. I do easy well. :)

     

    Here's what you'll need to gather (and it's not much!):

    • granulated white and/or brown sugar
    • water
    • bowl
    • teaspoon
    • candy molds

    Step 1:  Pour about 1/2 cup of sugar into a bowl. Using a teaspoon, pour smal amounts of water on the sugar, little by little mixing until you have a paste-like consistency. Make sure the sugar doesn't melt!

    Step 2:  Fill the candy molds about halfway full with the sugary paste, pressing firmly into the mold. Let it dry overnight and carefully remove the adorable lumps.

    Step 3:  Pick up little cellophane bags at the craft store and tie closed with a ribbon to give as a Christmas gift.

     

    Recipe adapted

  • Cookie Dough Truffles

    Cookie DOugh Truffles from Baked PerfectionTruffles are a Christmas treat that nearly everyone enjoys receiving. I remember giving a box to my step daughter's boyfriend, and even though he'd already received a box or two of a different variety, he still was eager to dig in. Now, when you combine that quintessential food gift with the irresistible cookie dough flavor, you know you for sure have a winner.

    The Cookie Dough Truffle. It's simple. It's classic. It's memorable. And, for the littles in your life as well as the bigs, they are as sweet to look at as they are to bite into.

    ♥ ♥ ♥

     

    Here are the ingredients you'll need:

    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • sprinkle of cinnamon
    • 1 stick butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cups mini chocolate chips
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons water
    • Assorted candy melts
    1. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients.
    3. In a larger bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients.
    4. Slowly add the ingredients in the medium bowl to the larger bowl and beat until smooth.
    5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
    6. Roll the dough into small balls and place on the cookie sheet.
    7. Refrigerate for a couple hours, or if you're in a hurry, put 'em in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
    8. Melt the candy melts according to the directions on your package.
    9. Dip the balls into the melted candy and let them set until hardened.
    10. To decorate, pour the melted candy into a ziplock bag, seal, and snip off one of the bottom corners.
    11. Drizzle!

    Makes about 20, double if you need to, or if you just want to!

    Merry Baking!

    Photo courtesy

    Recipe source

  • 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

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