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Hostess Gifts

  • Beautiful Christmas Wreaths

    wreath topFor the last couple of days I've been talking with you about Christmas wreaths....their history and just exactly how you put one of 'em together so it looks great. I was thinking last night about my first wreath and how I really had no idea on how it was supposed to look or what theme I wanted.

    If this is your first time making your own Christmas wreath, I thought maybe offering some ideas of what others have done might help to get the ol' creative ball rolling. So without further ado, settle in for some viewing pleasure. :)\

    wreath 1



    wreath 2



    wreath 8


    wreath 3



    wreath 5


    wreath 4 rosemary


    wreath 6


    wreath 7


    wreath 9


    wreath 10


    See, I told you you couldn't do it wrong. :)

    Next time we'll take a look at some creative wreaths that are made out of materials other than greens. It's going to be very fun, so don't miss it!

    Until then,


    Photo Credit: Title Wreath, Gallery

  • 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

  • Winter Flowers

    nailsToday, in spite of the 7-10 inches more of snow that is accumulating right outside my window, I got my nails painted turquoise. I figure that winter is far from over here, and that I do have some control when it comes to bringing a little spring and summer into my life early. The truth is that it's good to find ways to fight off the winter blues, creative things to do that either remind us that the seasons will definitely still change or that spring and summer will be here before we know it.

    We are starting to think about our garden and what we'll grow this year, and I thought what a great idea it'd be to force some bulbs to bloom even before spring arrives to get us in the mood. I did a little searching on Pinterest, and found some really fun things to share with you today.

    winter flowers in a tea cup

    Look at this adorable idea for Grape Hyacinths! In about 6 weeks, y0u'll have some pretty blooms and spring will have no choice but to chime in. That is how it goes, right? Find some blemish-free bulbs, chill them to mimic winter dormancy, then plant in some soil. Water, then set them in a dark, cool place until some greenery peeks through the soil. Water only when soil is completely dry to keep the roots from rotting.

    There are other bulbs that work well when forced to bloom indoors. Tulips, Paperwhites (which by the way are the perfect Christmas centerpiece!) to name just a few. I think I'm going to run to the garden store this weekend and get this little project going.

    By the way, we don't have to wait until the dead of winter to work on this. These little pots of flowers would make the perfect hostess gift around the holidays, wonderfully bright centerpieces for the Christmas meal, and something to continue growing and blooming after all the decorations are long put away.




  • 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


  • Snowball Candle Holders

    snowball candel holdersI don't know about you, but I'm really drawn to the unique. I like to mix the traditional with the modern and come up with one-of-a-kind furnishings, decorations and gifts. Today's decoration idea starts with simple and humble items, and transforms them into a real thing of beauty. Whenever I see an idea like this, I think about that HGTV cooking show, Chopped, where the chefs are given a basket of ingredients. Their challenge is to take each one and transform it and somehow still come out with not just a meal that makes sense, but one that looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

    These candle holders are just like that. You start with the simple, clear glass votive candle holders from the craft store and end up with a sparkly, even elegant display that will make even a battery powered candle glow with romanticism and warmth. I love that.

    • Votive glass candle holders
    • Mod Podge
    • Epsom Salt (Seriously, I know, right?)
    • Tea Light candles (wax or battery powered)
    1. Paint the mod podge onto the outside of the candle holder and roll in a flat bed of Epsom salt.
    2. After it dries, repeat step one.
    3. Let it dry again, and that's it!

    Look at how they glow!

    snowball candle 1

  • 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:


  • 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?


    • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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