gift ideas

  • 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

     

     

  • Celebrating Kansas Day

    kansas day

    Today is January 29 and most places in the US are experiencing the Polar Vortex that has descended on us in a most unwelcome way. But today is far more than that, yes. It just so happens to be the same day that the state of Kansas became the 34th state of the Union in 1861! A little history lesson here on the Christmas blog today, hehee. But, there is a party involved I understand.

    According to wikipedia, the people of Kansas have been celebrating this momentous day ever since 1877! It took them 16 years to find a way to commemorate the day, but once they did they never let go. That is a LONG time, like 137 years long. Have you heard of this holiday? I hadn't until just the other day, and it made me start thinking about Dorothy and those ruby red slippers of hers. What, you don't instantly think of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz when you think about Kansas? Okay, well here's another question for you. Do you know any little girls that would like to have a pair of those ruby red slippers? Maybe for Christmas? ;)

    slippersThe ruby red slippers could be used, obviously, as slippers, or for dress up, or they could sit on the shelf next to favorite dolls and simply represent the dream world of a little girl. They could be mounted in a shadow box and hung on the wall, never to be worn but always there as a reminder of the importance of dreaming. Whatever lesson you wish to convey, these adorable shoes would really please I think, don't you think so?

    I found several places online that give tutorials on how to make these metaphorical shoes, but I'm not sure we really need super detailed instructions for this project because it really is pretty simple. Here's all you have to do"

    1.  Just start with a pair of ballet shoes, and spray paint them red, two coats.

    2.  Allow to dry thoroughly, 48 hours should do it.

    3.  Lay out red sequins, and using a glue gun, attach the sequins to the shoes. (warning, this will take awhile)

    4.  Again, allow to dry. Once dry, shake them to see if any of the sequins fall off. If they do reapply.

    And, that's it. A really nice gift would be to give the book The Wizard of Oz along with the ruby red slippers. Any little girl would love these....and some big girls I know would too.

    Kansas, shoes

  • 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 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

  • 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

     

     

     

  • Helping Others Help Themselves

    stormWe had a rip roaring storm blow through last night, complete with 50-60 mph gusts and golf ball sized hail. It was over in a matter of minutes, and wasn't as severe as others have been. However, for people who have ever lived through a tornado or hurricane level straight line winds, any event like this is scary.

    Best to be prepared, no? It may not be on the top of everyone's I-gotta-have-this-for-Christmas-or-I'll-die list, but you can be sure that adults who HAVE survived these horrible storms will be so grateful. There are lots of resources online for putting together emergency kits, many of them selling you something. I have compiled a list of items to stock up on, and if you are building your own emergency kit, it's the perfect opportunity to buy double or triple quantities to give to loved ones.

    • Water - the recommended quantity is one gallon per person per day, 3 days minimum. Nursing moms and those who are sick may need more. Purchase bottled water, and store in a dry, cool place without opening.
    • Food - canned foods with high water content, dry cereal, salt free crackers and dry mixes . . . things that don't require refrigeration. Include a manual can opener too. :)
    • Mess kit, complete with paper plates, cup and towels and plastic utensils.
    • Battery powered or hand-crank weather radio. I picked up one of the hand cranked types for my husband a couple years ago and they work well. Most come with a battery option, so keep plenty of batteries stocked with it.
    • Flashlight AND extra batteries! Enough said.
    • Emergency candles and matches, stored in a water proof container.
    • First aid kit - doesn't have to be huge, but a basic one with sterile dressings, cleaning agent, antibacterial ointment, and latex gloves. A first aid reference manual is a great idea too.
    • Whistle - if there is a rescue team trying to get to you, this will be such a great help.
    • Extra cell phone battery and non electric charging devices.
    • Pet food and water.
    • Blanket for each person.

    This list is clearly not exhaustive, but any of these items would be a great way to say "I love you", don't you think? Last night's storm reminded me that I want to get some of these things for my 20-something kids. I know they're invincible, but I can't help myself. ;)

     

    Photo courtesy

     

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