'Twas The Night Before Christmas

At my house, Christmas day is Christmas Eve. We're a blended family and so our children from my husband's first marriage spend the night (on Christmas Eve eve) and in the morning ~ which was today ~ there's about 12 minutes of wrapping paper carnage as all 5 of our kids open gifts. It's been a relaxing day as the kids have played with their gifts and Michael and I have rested, finally, after a crazy three days of last minute crunch time (which I vow NOT to do next year) of shopping, creating and preparing for today.

What with January right around the corner, I was online today looking at many of the craft blogs I follow to get ideas for the months ahead in the new year but pretty much everything is still holiday-themed so I guess I'll have to wait a bit. One of my close friends and I have decided to get together a couple of times per month all year starting next month to make gifts for next Christmas. We both want to be prepared and would love to have a Christmas where every gift we give is one that we've made. Kind of like these trees pictured above.

I was inspired by the cuh-YEW-tist Christmas trees made using crepe paper over at Creative Chaos and remembered that I had a few rolls of the delicate crinkly stuff in the back of a cabinet - red, green and white....perfect holiday colors - and knew I had to try some for myself. PLUS, I had the added bonus of staying within my budget which was, namely, NO budget to spend on holiday decor.

First, Karin over at Creative Chaos made this beauty:

And she took her inspiration from Cindy over at JunqueArt who made this sweet tree...

Both sites have great tutorials and since I didn't really put one together just refer to them if you want to make 1...or 10; which is completely do-able because once I made one I ended up making 7 of them! Seriously, once you get going it's hard to stop. They're fun!

A few things of note from my experience with making these. If you go with making a ruffle with the crepe paper using your sewing machine, keep in mind that crepe is ├╝ber delicate and tears easily so pulling it along the thread to ruffle it up takes a light touch. It's probably better to take a needle and thread and do a big running stitch along the edge (aha! note to self for next time).

I didn't have any cones so I made them myself with copy paper and then just trimmed the base to get the height I wanted. I secured them mostly with tape and sometimes with a staple or two. 12x12 scrapbook paper is stronger and makes a firmer cone.

With the ruffled tree, I made strips of the ruffle and then used a hot glue gun to attach them to the cone starting at the base and working my way up (I'm assuming I don't need to tell you that glue guns are HOT, hence the name). Also, wire ribbon is totally easy to make ruffles with (because the wire acts as the thread to pull) which I did for one of the trees.

First I made the ruffled tree. I inked the edges and hot glued on silver beads that I had. Then I made the pleated tree using Cindy's directions and embellished it with silver ink and teal glitter,

I made two more; one using wired ribbon that I ruffled and one using crepe paper that I cut into strips and then sewed on the machine three strips at a time. I hot glued them on and then cut them into various lengths to make it look "leafy".

After that, I wanted to use paper from my old dictionary so I tore out pages and cut them into strips which I sewed together on the machine along with some ribbon that I had on hand.

With the strips, I made another ruffled tree and another pleated tree then just tore up strips and decoupaged another. I embellished with yarn, paper roses and lots and lots of glitter!

These, I gave to my cousin (hi Roshi!) along with a homemade body scrub and a big bag of chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies - she loved it all!

So....my last post of the year for holiday gifts to make and give. Now, on to new creative endeavors for 2011!

Merry Christmas!!!


It's All About The Kids!

I love making Christmas ornaments featuring my kids in some way....a hand print, a picture, their artwork.......they themselves give off so much joy and excitement during this time of year and, for me, doing this is a way to hold onto that preciousness. I've made ornaments my sister-in-law and given them to her as a gift for the past several years and she loves it!

There were lots of great ideas this year that I came across on One Pretty Thing ~ one of my favorite sites ~ so finding inspiration was easy.

As is usual for me, I started out with one idea and ended up changing it about 5 times! I knew that I wanted to use pictures of the boys which I Christmased-up over at Picnik (love!), printed out onto iron-on transfer paper and then affixed to some unbleached muslin. I'd actually knitted three squares in different colors intending to stitch the pictures onto them and then make little ornaments from those, but after I did one I changed my mind; it's cute and I kept it but wasn't in love with it, you know. Since there wasn't going to be the originally intended commonality amongst them now, I ended up making them all different.

Daniel's (original idea)...



Jack's is probably my favorite. I stitched his photo and different kinds of ribbon to two layers of quilt batting (Warm & Natural, my favorite). I got the idea from this post by Annalea Hart (i know, i know....someone with my same first name who also happens to craft!!!) over at Our Hartbeat who made these wonderful pillows...

I ended up doing something similar with Jack's ornament - super cute!

Love the ribbon (I definitely want to incorporate this again into some future craft project) and I know my s-i-l will love adding all three Christmas ornaments to her growing collection!

Happy Christmas!!!


Upscaled Ornaments

I don't know about you but I find myself extremely short on funds this holiday season and when it came to decorating my tree, I had to work with what I had but I didn't want to use the same ornaments I've been using for the last 6+ years. What's a girl to do?

Repurpose of course!!! I had some of those glass balls hanging around that I think most of us have; you know, stragglers that have never matched your theme but you just didn't feel right about throwing out. Since I was going with a sort of shabby-mercury glass-silver theme, I decided to play with what embellishments I had on hand.

My biggest and best has been an old out-dated dictionary. I've used it for several projects lately (posts on those upcoming) and am loving it!

I tore out several pages and then tore them into pieces, got out my trusty jar of Mod Podge (gloss luster) and got to work.

Be prepared to get glue everywhere not to mention carpal tunnel in your thumb! I didn't decoupage the ornaments all the way to the top because I new that I wanted to put silver glitter there. After I got all the pieces I on the bulb, I smoothed it out all over and then sprinkled it with clear glitter. Then I inverted them onto the handles of several wooden spoons (hey - I did say that I used what I had on hand) and set them to dry completely.

Once they were dry to the touch, I painted some more Mod Podge on the top and sprinkled them with silver glitter. I put the little pronged holders back on and put them back in their boxes to dry. Love them!

They turned out to be just what I wanted and they look so pretty on our tree! Made these and gave them to myself! It is Christmas, after all....

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Starbucks Love

If you know me then you know that I'm a Starbucks junkie so I was super excited to see this craft come up over on the Echos of Laughter blog and I had to try it. I'm not going to put up a tutorial for this because if you've ever scrapbooked you can totally do this and besides, there's a bit of a tutorial over on the E.O.L. blog. I'll just give you a pictorial of what I did. The only difference is that I used a vente cup (large) instead of a tall (small) and I didn't add photos as I decided to turn mine into a little book of holiday cookie recipes. Really, you could put whatever you wanted in it ~ breaking down a Christmas poem or story on each page would be cute too ~ but what better to go with a cup of coffee or tea then a delicious cookie!

This would make a great gift along with a Starbucks gift card or any one from any coffee house or the favorite of the gift recipient as you could do this with a cup from Pete's, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, It's A Grind, etc.

This would be a terrific holiday gift for your child's teacher!


Orange Studded Cranberry Chutney

Let's face it, one of the best parts of the holidays is the food. Treasured recipes are pulled out and dishes that only get served once a year begin to grace our tables deepen memories. It's like that in my family and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, my mom and I are already planning the menu and making sure it includes many of our favorites. One of those is my Cranberry Chutney.

I can't exactly remember when I started making it but I think the idea of something different began when I heard that vacuum pack slurrrrrp of canned cranberries (you know what I'm talking about) for about the 20th time and decided then and there that something tastier was in order for next year.

This chutney is SO pretty (much more so than the can-shaped store bought kind) and SO good you'll want to make it every year when cranberries are in season. And...it makes the perfect hostess gift! So does the Banana Chutney which I posted about earlier.

Orange Studded Cranberry Chutney
(adapted from The Herbal Pantry, by Emelie Tolley & Christ Mead)

6 cups cranberries (two bags from the market. a bit of overage here which is fine)
1.5 cups unrefined sugar
1 orange, unpeeled, chopped and seeded
1 cup orange juice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
2 vanilla bean pods, split

Place all the ingredients except 2 tablespoons of the sage in a non-aluminum pan and cook over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat and boil until the berries pop and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoons of sage. Remove vanilla beans and ladle chutney into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly. This chutney can be refrigerated for up to 6 months. To store for up to one year, process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place.

If you're not familiar with canning, head to your local library or bookstore - there are great how-to books out there and, of course, the internet is filled with easy to follow instructions.

This chutney gets better after it sits for a week or two which is why I made mine now for Thanksgiving. And I love love love it on a turkey and stuffing sandwich with lots of mayonnaise and coarse salt. YUM! Annnnnd....it's scrumptious as a topping for cheesecake! Promise!

Make it. Give it. And be sure to keep some for yourself!


Banana Chutney Brilliance

Sometimes, there's no other way to describe a food accept to use the word "Brilliant!" That's what this chutney is...pure brilliance in a jar. It completely hits your tongue running and sends it's warm curry and piquant vinegar flavors all through your mouth and up into the nose.

I know, bananas in a chutney seems an oddity but they so work and their smooth texture really adds to the overall consistency.

If you've never canned anything before, not to worry. There are about a bazillion books out there on how to do it not to mention many websites for the same. I do recommend some kind of canner though; mine uses steam and after I wash everything in hot soapy water, I sterilize my jars in a 250 degree oven (start cold) for 30 minutes and my lids on the stove. There are, of course, alternative ways to sterilize.

Brilliant Banana Chutney
(adapted from The Herbal Pantry, by Emelie Tolley & Christ Mead)

2 cups onion, chopped
1 pound pitted dates, chopped
7 ripe bananas
3 cups unrefined sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup crystallized ginger
1.5 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
2 whole vanilla beans

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer until thick, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Spoon into half-pint jars (I used 12 ounce jars), seal and store in the refrigerator (I processed these in my steam canner for 15 minutes).

A jar of this accompanied by a sweet little spoon would make the perfect holiday gift for anyone who appreciates good food and interesting accompaniments to go with it. I think it would also be an elegant addition to a cheese tray (think white cheddar, brie, and herbed goat) or a generous dollop served alongside a pork tenderloin.

Say "Yum!"


Fat Quarter Fun!

I love when I can take just a little bit of nothing and turn it into something cute and serviceable which is exactly what I did by starting with a couple of fat quarters and a great pattern by We Wilsons which I purchased in their Etsy store for the low price of $7 (totally worth it when you figure in all of the gifts you'll be able to make by using it) and ended up with this cute little purse.

Let me go on the record by saying that I am neither a fancy or very experienced sewer and my machine is uber basic so this is a great pattern for someone who may find themselves in the same boat but who wants to make a quick gift for their daughter, a neighbor or themselves (a girl's gotta have a purse after all).

A fat quarter (a piece of fabric measuring 18" x 22") can be found at just about any fabric/craft/quilting store and even on line. They can range from under $1 to over $6 depending on the fabric or designer. Joanne's often has them on sale for $.99 which is the perfect time to pick up several. Honestly, for $10 you can get enough fabric for five of these little purses which is a bargain in my book.

The tutorial/pattern is very easy to follow. I chose black and white for my outer fabric and hot pink for my liner.

I also didn't have a sliding belt buckle and so cut the handle short and used big black buttons to secure the strap to the D-rings.

And just before I took all these pics, I added some beads to the zipper just to pretty it up further.

What I love about this purse is that once you make it one time and get the gist of it down you could embellish it so many different ways. Have fun and whip up some of these for Christmas gifts. You could get really crazy make a matching coin purse or cel phone holder or key chain...Get the idea?



If you're anything like me and you knit or crochet, you have a respectable yarn stash and a handful (or more) of UFOs floating around in your house somewhere. Admittedly, I have several ~ skeins and UFOs ~ and here's one of them... My first knitted and felted purse.

You probably won't believe me (well....maybe you would) but I've had the purple yarn since I lived in Chicago more than 15 years ago! It's a mohair, silk and wool blend that I bought for a lace wrap that got destroyed by my cat and my dog during one of their epic games of chase when I was about 3/4 of the way through it. Remarkably, they survived...

Anyway, about 3 years ago I decided to try felting and thought I'd make a simple purse using the left over yarn from the wrap so I found this pattern which seemed fairly simple and gave it a whirl. Here's a pic of the inspiration design.

Simple right? I knew I wouldn't have enough of the purple (a blend from Brown Sheep Co. ~ Prairie Silks) so I went through my stash and found a bit more (a lama and wool blend from Cascade) and a bit ribbony frou frou stuff that needed to be used up.

Long story short, it's finally finished! And while a seasoned felter and sewer would have achieved a more polished, I'm pretty satisfied with my first attempt. I would like to try knitting and felting a purse again though I know for sure that I won't use a pattern with handles like these - too easy to get stretched out. In fact, I reinforced these with something called Peltex that I got at Joanne's which still didn't give me the firmness I was looking for but was probably better than my 'Mother of Invention' original idea of using a wooden straight-edged ruler on each side (I lined it after all so no one would have actually seen them).

I found some pretty fabric to line it with which was actually pretty simple (drop in and hem stitch) except that the handles got a bit tricky...

and then used up the fabric flowers I made a few weeks back to embellish the front...

Et voila! I know that I'm all about making things and giving them to other people but I think I'm going to keep this for myself. Mostly because of how parts of it came together and also because the gals I have in mind to give it to wouldn't use it on the grounds of not wanting it to get messed up. So, we'll see...the jury's still out for now. It's roomy though...and soft...and the colors are delicious!

Have you tried your hand at felting?

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