Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bookmarks from old Christmas cards

Here's a fun and easy craft project to make use of those beautiful Christmas cards you just can't bear to throw away. I learned to make these bookmarks a long time ago -- probably a good 30 years ago -- and had forgotten all about them until I found these four in a box at my parents' house. I believe I'd given these as little gifts to my parents and two siblings, but there they were, stashed away in a box, unused. I was happy to be reminded of this idea!

These two old bookmarks were made with landscape-type scenes from Christmas cards.

One of these is made with a pretty photo of a lantern from an old Christmas card. The other is a depiction of the three wise men. You can see that bookmarks can be made from cards that have either a horizontal (like the first two) or a vertical design (like these).

To make these bookmarks, you first cut rectangles from old Christmas cards, the approximate size you'd like the bookmark to be, rounding the corners a bit. (The end product will, of course, be a bit larger because of the crochet stitches surrounding it. The ones I made were about 4 and three-quarters inches long and about 2 and one-quarter inches wide.) I made mine a double thickness by cutting a matching rectangle from the blank back of the card -- plain white card stock or a color would work too. If the card stock the Christmas card is made from is really sturdy, one would not need the second rectangle.

Then, holding both rectangles together, you punch holes with a small paper punch -- those in the photo are about an eighth of an inch -- at intervals all around the bookmark. I punched holes at quarter-inch intervals.

Again, holding both rectangles together, simply use crochet cotton and a small hook to single-crochet around the bookmark, starting at the center top of the bookmark and putting 3 stitches in each punched hole. I think that when I try this again I will put an extra stitch in each corner. When you get back to the beginning, join the last single crochet to the first one with a slip stitch at the point where you started, but do not fasten off. Instead, chain enough stitches to make the size loop that you want -- it looks as if I chained 20 or 22 stitches -- and then join with a slip stitch at the starting point to form a loop. Make a tassel with crochet thread and add to the loop.

There are a few changes I would try if I were making these today. I would try using red, green, or another color of crochet cotton instead of just white (I'm sure that's all I had back then). I also have a sport weight of variegated Christmas yarn with a glint of gold that would be very pretty for this. Also, there are so many neat charms and embellishments available now. I think I'd try adding a charm to the loop at the top instead of a tassel.

(It probably goes without saying that I would not cut up lovely old vintage cards for these. I have scanned all of my old cards -- so if I wanted to use vintage card designs for these bookmarks, I would print my scanned images out on card stock and use those to make the bookmarks.)

I'm inspired now! As soon as my crafting of Christmas gifts is complete (there are still some family members we've not yet exchanged with), I'm going to try making a few of these with last year's cards. Hope others have fun with this idea!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About the heart on that rag garland...

Just another thought I wanted to add. Several people have asked me about the red felt heart that I have hung from the center of this garland. As I mentioned in the post, I bought this a number of years ago at Cracker Barrel, after Christmas. I didn't buy it specifically to go with this garland (although it does go perfectly!) but rather, I bought it because I thought it would be easy and fun to make these ornaments. I just added it to the garland on a whim one year and liked how it looked. For those who would like to try making their own holly heart ornaments, here's how they appear to be made.

Basically, it's 2 red felt hearts either fused together, or possibly made with the adhesive-backed felt and the two just pressed together. They are blanket-stitched around the edge in green. Green felt holly leaves (which appear to be double thickness as well) are machine-stitched in place. In the center of the three holly leaves, there are 3 red pompoms for holly berries. A thin red cord has been threaded through the top of the heart and knotted for a hanger. Red crochet thread would work as well.

Maybe this will be the year I make some of these! I'm determined this year to work on Christmas things all year long. I seem to say that every year, but I really, really hope to do so in 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

In my real Christmas kitchen...

I've just posted this over on my other blog, but I know that not everyone who visits here reads my other blog, "Across My Kitchen Table." So I thought I would share it here as well, for a peek into my real (as opposed to virtual) Christmas kitchen. Welcome!

This little display on my kitchen island (really an old formica-topped desk built by my dad) sums up so much of what I feel about a Christmas kitchen. The Christmas bandanna underneath it all is one I bought many years ago with just such a use in mind. The little "oil" lamp is from a dollar store and the Merry Christmas ribbon some I bought at Walmart a few years back. The two Gooseberry Patch books, Christmas Pantry and Comfort & Joy, fit perfectly in my kitchen this time of year. The pantry is stocked with plenty of cookies, fudge, and apricot fruitcake, and the makings for many other food gifts. And I find my kitchen at Christmas time to be truly a place of comfort and joy.

The "ribbon candy" is really ornaments, made by my daughter Joanna last year. I love the way she packaged them to look like real candy -- and I enjoy them as much (or more) as part of a display like this as I would hanging them on the Christmas tree. The cookie cutters are some of my favorites, and the oversized teacup is from the Mitford snowmen collection. (I found it in a consignment shop a few years ago.) The little rolling pin recipe holder with the candy cane handles was a gift from my granddaughters, and the recipe is a favorite from my dear friend Marilyn. I found the package of vintage light bulbs when we began cleaning the attic this spring, and saved them for just such a use as this.

May your Christmas kitchen be a place like this... filled with sweet old memories and new ones being made... a place where you and your family find joy and where others find comfort too... a place from which your light shines forth to encourage friends and neighbors at this blessed season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another favorite Christmas card!

Here is another very favorite card of mine. It was sent to us by our daughter and husband one year. It's so neat because her memories of winters past definitely did include building snowmen, skating fast, and sipping plenty of hot chocolate after both activities!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rag Garlands

Last night I put up the rag garlands over my kitchen window and corner cupboard. It occurred to me that others might like to make some of these, so I searched here in my Christmas kitchen to see if I had ever posted directions. Apparently not! So I thought I would take a minute and put them up here now. I made these many years ago, and they are still in great shape. Here's what to do:

For a base, use either jute twine or heavy rug yarn. Mine are made on dark green rug yarn and I like that better because the color just blends in with the rag strips and even if they shift a bit it doesn't look as if there are any bare spots. Make the length of the yarn or jute as long as you want your garland to be. 4 to 6 feet is a good length, but do measure if you want to put your garland in a specific spot. Just hang the yarn up there, let it drape down as it will when the garland is hanging, and cut the base material to length accordingly.

For your rag strips, you may use homespun or Christmas prints or anything else you like. You need more than one color or design. A combination of 3 is ideal. It will take approximately 2 yards of fabric for a 4 to 6 foot garland. My kitchen ones have a green/white plaid, a green Christmas print and a red pin dot. Cut or tear the fabric into strips 4 inches long by 2 inches wide. I tore mine and like the look, but the cut ones will fray over time and working with them, too.

Now just tie the strips onto your yarn or jute, alternating colors of fabric. This is a very relaxing project to work on in the evening because it takes very little thought or work. I have also worked on these while waiting at the doctor, dentist, or waiting for someone at the airport.

(I've read about the idea of tying one of these garlands to a string of lights or even tying the fabric strips directly onto a string of lights to make a lighted rag garland, and have always thought it a neat idea, but must note that I don't know for sure how safe this is and have never tried making one of these. Maybe this will be the year.

The photo shows the garland over my kitchen sink window. From the center point I have hung a nifty heart ornament purchased at Cracker Barrel after Christmas a few years ago.

Have fun with this idea!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A red Vermont farmhouse

Here is another beautiful Christmas card featuring a painting by Fred Swan. I just admire and appreciate his work so much. Hope others enjoy this as much as I have. Notice the sled in the doorway to the shed!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Another favorite...

Today I thought I would share another of my favorite Christmas cards. This one features a painting by Vermont artist Fred Swan. The painting is called "Walking to Town" and I just love it. It's one of those paintings one could just get lost in. You can almost feel the cold New England air and feel the falling snow. Happily, "Walking to Town" has also been made into a counted cross-stitch kit, and I own the kit! One of these winters, I'll get the stitching done and keep "Walking to Town" on my wall all year round.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A favorite Christmas card from years gone by

So much for my intention of posting here every day in December! Obviously, it's not happening! My life is much too busy right now. As for Christmas preparations, I've made some fudge, baked some cookies, and done quite a bit of decorating. Plenty more to do, however!

For today, I just want to share one of my favorite Christmas card images. This is a card I've had for years. I bought a package of them years ago and this is the last one. I scanned it so that I wouldn't lose it. I just love this illustration, by artist Kathy Lawrence. It reminds me of my own children at these ages, and one of the little boys looks a great deal like my nephew Chad as a young boy. Hope all of you will find this card as delightful as I do!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

And another favorite...

Here is another favorite ornament, this one handmade. Years ago when my daughters were at a Christian boarding school, their school held a craft fair in the fall. I always loved crafting ornaments for that fair, and this paper twist angel is one I made at that time. Ever since, I've wanted to make more of these because they really are very cute. Maybe this will be the year... who knows?

To the left of this ornament is one depicting a dog in a picnic basket. Someone gave that to my husband one year. To the right is one of my easy handmade Victorian-style ornaments made from cardboard, wrapping paper and trims.

I forgot to mention that we did get some of our decorating stuff out of the attic on Sunday, and I hope to have at least the dining room partially decorated by Thursday when I have friends coming over for tea, mulled cider and Christmas cookies. I have loved the way my fall decorations looked this year, but it's December and time to move on!

A favorite ornament

I'm hoping to post here every day of the Christmas season, but missed December 1, so am going to post twice today.

Here is a favorite ornament of mine which I bought years ago at an after-Christmas sale at Cracker Barrel. It depicts a fluffy-tailed mischievous squirrel hanging onto and peeking through tree branches which spell out the word "Joy". Sometimes this ornament hangs on the tree, other times it hangs in a window or doorway. Wherever I hang it this little squirrel makes me smile!

To the left of the squirrel is an old-looking newer ornament from a set I bought at an after-Christmas sale at Target, I believe. The colors and sheen of this ornament make me think of the old-fashioned ribbon candy my grandmother always had on her candy table at Christmas. To the right of the squirrel is a candy cane ornament made from tri-beads.

Have you begun your Christmas decorating yet? I've put my ribbon board up in the front hallway and filled it with the usual vintage cards, and placed the "December" illustration from a Tasha Tudor calendar in its frame in the hallway, but so far that's all the decorating I've done.

Happy December, everyone!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Advent Countdown project!

Wow, it has been a long time since I have found time to post here. Hopefully I can begin posting on a more regular basis soon. Meanwhile, I did just want to post this photo of a project I did a few years back.
This is an Advent countdown made from directions in Gooseberry Christmas Book 6. An old frame is painted -- I used a coat of white paint over a coat of dark green and then a coat of crackle medium over that. Then one cuts heavy cardboard to fit in the frame and wraps the cardboard with batting and fabric -- I used red flannel. 4 strips of 1.5-inch wide Christmas ribbon are glued vertically over the fabric, evenly spaced, then one glues pockets made from card stock or old Christmas cards to the ribbons. Number tags are then added for the dates from 1 to 24. I made three of these at the time (all somewhat different), one for each of our grown children and their families, and it was one of the most fun projects I ever worked on.

The right sort of ribbon is easily found in Walmart this time of year, and it's fun to choose from the great variety that's available. I made about half of my pockets from old Christmas cards, and the rest from red or green card stock with stickers added.

To fill the pockets, I made strips of paper with fun ideas on them, like "Make paper snowflakes", "Go see a Christmas parade", "Make some fudge", etc. The pockets could also be filled with things like sticks of gum, small candies, stickers, candy canes, even coins or folded dollar bills.

Maybe someone else will have fun with this idea!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gift packaging for homemade laundry soap

Well, it has been many months since I posted here in my Christmas Kitchen. It hasn't been a matter of not wanting to post here, but rather a matter of not being able to find the time. I've been so busy with everyday life that many once-enjoyable "extras" have had to be passed over.

This past weekend, however, I found myself in need of a quick and easy hostess gift. Our hostess lives in a park model RV, so I wasn't sure of what to take. I knew she didn't have a lot of room for extra knickknacks. So I thought that a consumable gift would be in order. I considered a jar mix -- say, for coffeecake or muffins -- but I wasn't sure what she might have for baking pans. Then the light dawned -- I was making up some of my homemade laundry soap that morning, being almost out of it. What a perfect consumable gift that would be! After all, everyone does laundry! So I just doubled the batch and put enough for 6 loads of laundry in a quart size zipping bag, then packaged it in a fun way. What a hit this gift was!

I decided that other people might be interested in this gift idea, too. First, here's the formula for the homemade laundry soap:


1 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated (I use a hand grater and grate the soap onto waxed paper)
1 and 1/2 cups washing soda
1 and 1/2 cups borax

Combine all ingredients in a large glass or metal bowl.

Place about 1/3 of the mixture in a blender and blend until it becomes a powder. You will see small particles of the Fels Naptha, but in general you want a fairly uniform, dissolvable powder.

Empty soap powder out of blender into a container (which has a cover) to keep in the laundry room. I use recycled quart yogurt containers to keep my soap powder in.

Repeat with remaining mixture.

(After making the soap powder, wash the grater, bowl, blender container, measuring cups and any other utensils well in hot soapy water. Rinse with boiling water. This is just what I do -- it's not a good idea to ingest borax, so I want to make sure I get every trace of it off my utensils. That's also why I use metal or glass utensils and not plastic -- it seems to me that plastic is capable of absorbing substances.)

Use 1/4 cup soap powder for each load of laundry. I like to run a little warm water into the machine first, then add the powder and make sure it's dissolved before adding the clothes and turning the water temperature to cold.

I have been very, very pleased with the effectiveness and the low cost of this laundry soap powder!


To package the laundry soap as a gift, here's what I did. You could use any amount of the soap you like, but I found that enough for 6 loads of laundry (1 1/2 cups) fit very comfortably in a quart size zipping bag.

I then slipped the plastic bag full of soap powder into a brown paper lunch bag. I folded down the top of the bag a couple of times. Then, I printed out an instruction label like the one at the top of this post -- and feel free to borrow it, if you like. I held it in place at the top of the folded bag and then sewed the bag shut (and the label in place) using my sewing machine threaded with red thread. It looked very unique and my friend was so delighted with the packaging that she put it on display. I hope she eventually will break down and use the soap powder!

So there is a new gift idea for you to think about for this Christmas. With many people trying to be more frugal, it might be a very successful gift. I can see this packaged maybe in (or with) a clothespin bag and maybe a crocheted or knitted dishcloth or two. Have fun with this idea!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Managing a stash of Christmas magazines

If you're like me, you probably have quite a stash of Christmas magazines. I've got Family Circle and Woman's Day Christmas issues going back to the late 1960s -- and, if I count magazines passed on to me by my mother, I have some going back to the early 1950s. And let's not forget all those wonderful Good Housekeepings with the elaborate gingerbread house ideas! I have managed to declutter many, many magazines from my life, but not those Christmas issues. They have too many great recipes and craft and gift ideas. The only problem is that I can seldom remember which issue I saw a particular idea or recipe in.

This year, I discovered the recipes-to-try form at Organized Christmas, as I mentioned in an earlier post. It has helped greatly when I come across a recipe I want to try. But what about all of the craft and gift ideas?

A couple of years ago, I started a sort of system which has worked well for me. In the month or two after Christmas, I go through some of the magazines in my stash. As I find ideas I want to try, I place a sticky note on the front of the magazine. I jot down the title of the craft and note its page number. I keep all of the magazines that I've marked like this on the same set of shelves. This has helped tremendously with finding those great ideas again.

As a bonus, I find that there are so many wonderful ideas in my magazine stash, I'm more easily able to resist the Christmas issues of these magazines when they appear in the grocery store!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A different wreath idea

Remember those cute little boxes made of old Christmas cards? I featured them here on my blog some time ago. They are so easy to make that you can do a whole bunch of them in a jiffy. Well, recently I was looking through an old magazine and saw a wreath that someone had covered with these little boxes. I scanned the photo to show you how it looked.

My guess is that the person who made the wreath (there were no directions, just the photo) started with either a straw or styrofoam wreath form. I think my next step would be to wrap the wreath form with ribbon, then I'd hot-glue the little boxes to the wreath form in layers. I definitely want to try making one of these next year. I'm including the directions for the little boxes right here, since most people probably have easy access to old Christmas cards right now.

Christmas Card Boxes

Most people have probably seen those little boxes made from Christmas cards. These are the easiest directions I have ever found. Most of the instructions I've seen involve a lot of folding and drawing of complicated lines, etc. These are actually easy!

The boxes can obviously be made from any greeting card, not just Christmas ones. These make great little gift boxes or can be used to hold office or craft supplies like paper clips, tacks, push pins, beads, etc. Christmas ones can be hung on the tree or piled beneath a miniature tree.

Here's what you do:

1. Cut apart a greeting card along the fold, separating the front from the back.

2. Start with the back part of the card. Using a ruler, draw lines from corner to corner on the unprinted side of the card to form an X. The center is where the two lines of the X meet.

3. Fold up each of the four sides of the card to meet the center of the X. Crease the folds well.

4. Open the card back up to reveal the creases you've made. Now, holding the card vertically, carefully cut on the two vertical crease lines at the top and bottom of the card, just to the point where they intersect with the nearest horizontal crease.

5. Fold in the tabs you just created by following step 4. You can now see how this is going to form a box. Tape the tabs inside the box. (You may find that each end of the box -- the part between the tabs -- stands up a bit higher than the rest of the box. If this happens, it is not a problem. You can simply fold the excess down inside, over the tabs, and tape it in place. Or, if you prefer, you can simply trim off the excess card before taping.) You have just made the bottom of the box!

6. Now, repeat steps 2 through 5 with the front part of the card, which will make the top of your box.

7. Obviously, this produces a box top and bottom which are exactly the same size, which sometimes means that the cover doesn't go on too easily. Usually, if you just squeeze the sides of the box gently, the cover will go on just fine.

These directions look far more complicated than the process actually is. I've made loads of these boxes with kids over the years, and it really is easy enough for even a 5-year-old to do. So have fun with these cute little boxes!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Living in a Christmas card...

One snowy night a few years ago, Mr. T and I decided to go for a walk in the falling snow. It was snowing in big, soft, fluffy flakes, and we felt as if we were walking inside a snow globe!

Ever since I was very small, the idea of being able to be little and live inside something -- like a snow globe, or a dollhouse, has fascinated me. One of my earliest memories is of listening to the radio (TVs were rare and expensive back then) and being convinced -- by my own imagination -- that there were little people inside there acting, broadcasting, and singing. Couldn’t I see the lights from their little studio? How hard I tried to peek through the cracks where the light was coming from, to get a glimpse of those little people at work!

In a similar way, I could lose myself in looking at a Christmas card or even a wrapped gift. My grandmother wrapped the most gorgeous Christmas gifts! I would get so entranced with looking at all of the gifts under her tree and imagining what it might be like to live in the scenes depicted on the wrapping paper. I seem to remember being summoned out of the front room where the tree was, as if people were afraid I would be shaking the gifts to see what was in them, or maybe unwrapping them. They couldn’t know I was only looking and imagining!

This year I did something that was so much fun and sort of fulfilled my childhood wish of living in a Christmas card or on gift wrap. I own many, many vintage Christmas cards, as well as newer ones with scenes I would love to live in. I scanned them all into my printer’s imaging gallery, then turned them into a screen saver just for my own use. Now I have these lovely images the size of my computer screen. During the Christmas season, if I was feeling stressed, I would activate the screen saver and just watch it for a few minutes. As one lovely scene faded into the next, I would find myself relaxing. After a few minutes I would feel refreshed and ready to return to my tasks.

Do you have a collection of favorite cards? You might like to try making them into your own personal screen saver for next Christmas.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A simple flannel throw

One year I found some lovely Christmas print flannel on sale. I loved the different little motifs -- snowmen, churches, ornaments, poinsettias and more -- placed within squares. It was some of the nicest print flannel I had ever seen. 

 I hung onto it for a few years, trying to decide what to do with it. A couple of years ago, after Christmas, I made up my mind I was not waiting any longer for the “perfect project” for that flannel. There were 2 yards of it. I held it up and looked at it and decided it would be just enough to make a flannel throw. I bought 2 yards of dark green flannel for the backing. Then I simply sewed the two pieces together with right sides together, leaving an opening to turn the throw. I turned it and slipstitched the opening shut and pressed the throw. 

And that was it. No batting, no tying. I thought tying might be a good idea, but decided to live with the throw for awhile and see if it was really necessary. It turned out not to be, probably because there was no batting to shift around. I’ve washed the throw a few times, and it always comes out of the dryer just fine. 

I’m pleased with my decision to put a solid dark green on the back. That way I can use the throw all year round, and just fold it Christmas side out during the holidays. Do you have a few yards of Christmas material just waiting for a project? You might like to try this. I’m going to make another one this year, I hope!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A couple of great gift ideas

Today I came across a couple of good gift ideas while looking through an old magazine, so thought I would share them. Also, by posting them here, I'll actually be able to find them instead of searching through magazines in vain!

* Buy a large teapot and fill it with an assortment of tea bags (I'm thinking the wrapped, labeled tea bags like those made by Bigelow and Twining's, to name a couple). Tuck in a tea ball or some decorative tea bag holders. And maybe a package of scone mix would be a nice accompaniment, or a bag of scones you've baked.

* Buy a new bread board. Place a wrapped loaf of homemade bread on the board and add several jars of jams and jellies. Wrap it all up in cellophane or a basket bag and secure with a large bow.

Both of these wonderful ideas (which I have tweaked somewhat) would actually make terrific gifts any time of year, not just at Christmas. Have fun with these ideas. I intend to make good use of them!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Helps for Christmas planning through the year

Lately I've been trying to put in a little time organizing my Christmas notebook. I'm nowhere near as organized as I want to be in my Christmas planning, but my notebook is in pretty good shape and it has really helped me a lot in recent years. This year, I found a couple of forms particularly helpful and thought I would mention those in case others aren't aware of them.

One form I used a lot this year is called RECIPES TO TRY. I am famous for finding recipes I want to try for the holidays and then... I can't remember where I saw them. This form prevents that dilemma. It has a place to write down the name of the recipe, and a space for the main ingredients of the recipe (I use this space to jot down whatever ingredients the recipe calls for that I wouldn't be likely to have on hand). Then there is a space to put down the location of the recipe -- say, the name of a cookbook or magazine -- and even a space to write what page number it's on. And there's a space for a checkmark to show that you've tried the recipe. I find that there's even room in the margin of the form to jot a word or two as to how I liked the recipe -- "Excellent!" or "Quite good!" or even, occasionally, "OK" or "Not worth the trouble."

Another very helpful form is the GIFT CLOSET INVENTORY. In it, you jot down what gifts you have on hand and who you intend them for, and for what occasion. I currently have gifts stashed away for a couple of birthdays and an anniversary in addition to Christmas, so this is helpful. In my case, I have several different storage spaces for gift items (consolidating them all to one area has been on my mental list for a long time!) so I often jot down exactly where the item is stored as well.

I used the FREEZER INVENTORY a lot for keeping track of food gifts I made ahead and froze. I highly recommend this one too.

Another great form that I haven't gotten around to filling out this year is the HOLIDAY DEBRIEFING form. It helps you identify what worked, what didn't, and what you might like to do differently next year.

Well, these are just a few of the forms I keep in my Christmas notebook. Here's a link in case you aren't aware of where to find these. Have fun getting organized!

Printable forms for holiday planning.

My winter centerpiece

Recently, on Kelli's blog, There is No Place Like Home, she posted pictures and directions for a wonderful winter centerpiece she made. Kelli was inspired by an illustration on a Marjolein Bastin calendar. And I must shamelessly admit that I was inspired by Kelli! It immediately occurred to me that I had almost everything on hand that I would need to make a similar centerpiece.

I love to have a centerpiece on my dining table, and the gingerbread house I'd had there for weeks was looking tired. I felt that the basket Kelli designed, with ivy, apples, pine cones, nuts and berries, was just what I needed to perk up my table. I did have everything on hand... I didn't need to buy anything new.

What I love about this centerpiece is that it could easily be dressed up or down. Kelli's is more dressy than mine, with its sheer red ribbon. One could use most any type of red ribbon -- organdy, satin, velvet, whatever -- or even a metallic gold or a forest green. I think it would look just lovely on an ecru lace runner with a shiny brass candlestick on either side. But I chose to put mine on a homespun place mat, which gives it a much more casual, rustic, woodsy look.

I am so appreciative of Kelli's willingness to share her talent and wonderful ideas with everyone. And I love, love, love my new winter centerpiece!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pop-up snow globes

Last year while Christmas shopping I came across a really unusual gift idea at our local bookstore -- a pop-up snow globe. The snow globe folds flat and fits inside a card and envelope (included) for gift-giving. The base of the snow globe is made of heavy paper and reminds me of the old-fashioned honey-comb type paper ornaments. The actual "globe" is of plastic printed with "falling snow" and the figures inside are heavy paper.  The sections of the globe line up in such a way that when it is open you can easily think you are looking at a snow globe.

There are quite a few different designs, and at our bookstore they come in packs of 3 for around $5-$6. The ones I got last year had a skating snowman couple in them. This year I didn't see a lot that I really liked, but got a package of Santa flying over the rooftops of a village in his sleigh. It was pretty and old-fashioned looking. They also did have a Nativity one which I did like, but it cost 3 times as much as the others. It was also $5-$6, but there was only one snow globe per package.

When I showed a picture of these on my other blog (and I do apologize for the quality of this photo; I tried several times but never did quite get it right), several people mentioned that they had never seen anything like the pop-up snowglobe. There are many more designs, for various occasions, and you can see them at the link below.  You will need to scroll down to get to the Christmas ones.

Pop-up snow globes

These pop-up snowglobes  are really neat. They are great for sending to people far away and are particularly great for people who don't have a lot of space -- say, in a nursing home, college dorm, or RV. Hope others will have fun with this gift idea!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A few vintage ornaments

I happened to take this photo which has a number of vintage ornaments, quite by accident really. I don't intentionally put them all in one place on the tree, but when I took this photo (for the glass bell ornament) I noticed there were several vintage ornaments in it. So I thought I would share it.

All of these ornaments came from my great-aunt Bessie, and I have mentioned before how she gave them to me in an old brown shoebox. The glass bell can be seen toward the upper right of the photo. Just below it is a cute little elf lady, or maybe she's supposed to be Mrs. Santa. The ornament is just her head and shoulders, on a pipe cleaner so one can wind it around a branch. There is a bearded elf gentleman (or maybe Santa?) that goes with this ornament. Down in the lower left corner of the picture is a reflector meant to slide behind a tree light; and it is, but you can't see the bulb as it is blue also and is one of today's small lights. These reflectors are meant, of course, to go behind the larger bulbs of the 1940s and 1950s. The reflectors are of heavy shiny cardboard and I always use them even though I don't have the right type of lights. And up at the top left of the picture is a sort of melon-shaped pink glass bulb.

Also in the photo you can see, on the left side, a beaded glass icicle made by my granddaughters, and just above it, part of a glittery white star made by painting a star cut from watercolor paper with white glue and sprinkling heavily with glitter. I made a bunch of these one year, mostly star and snowflake shapes. Just to the left of the glass bell, you can just glimpse one of the tin icicles I make from the cutting strips of foil, etc.

Hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of our Christmas tree!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another fun project!

Here's another fun project I found at the Oh! Christmas craft forum. Remember the bits & pieces bows? Well, here is the second project using leftover bits & pieces from Christmas wrapping and crafting. These are called candle collars. You can find the instructions and a link to pictures here:
Candle Collars.

I only had one pillar-type candle on hand -- a small square one -- so I was somewhat limited in what I could use for trims. I used a pretty, wide gold ribbon as the base for the collar. The ends of the ribbon are concealed by a cutout of holly from a Christmas card, and I added a snip of dark red ribbon between the two. The gold ribbon is secured on three sides by shiny gold tacks. The ends of the ribbon are glued to the candle with craft glue, as are the other items.

I wanted to simply use what I had on hand, in the spirit of this project. But I'm going to be keeping my eye out for suitable candles at any clearance sales I may see.

It probably wouldn't be safe to actually burn this candle, as it so short and the collar takes up so much of the space, but I wanted to try this project anyway just for fun. And fun it was! I could get addicted to these bits & pieces projects...

Monday, January 14, 2008

A fun gift for kids

Here's a neat gift idea for kids that could be adapted for almost any age between 3 and 12. I had read in a magazine a brief description of a gift that someone had given to a young relative, and the child's mother commented that this gift was used almost every day after the child received it. The idea is simple enough -- a box of art supplies -- but the "art boxes" were a huge hit with the three grandchildren I made them for. I gave them as Christmas gifts, but they would work for a birthday or any occasion. Here's what I did:

I bought a sturdy plastic box for each child, with a latching cover and a handle. I was aiming for a box that would be large enough to hold a package of construction paper, but these boxes weren't quite that big. So I wrapped a pad of construction paper separately for each child and just gave these along with the boxes. (I believe I have seen the half-size pads of construction paper at Target, and if I'd had time to get to one, that's what I would have used.)

Finding items to fill the boxes was so much fun! Here's some of what went into them:
* Crayons (I found some nifty rectangular crayons, each one multicolored) for 99¢ at Jo-Ann's)
* Rolls of tape
* Glue sticks
* Assorted stickers
* Origami paper
* Paper punches (I found some crown-shaped ones for the girls, at the dollar store!)
* Small craft kits (flocked coloring cards with markers, 50¢ on clearance at Jo-Ann's)
* Rulers
And much, much more!

I had on hand some craft foam alphabet letters. My hubby helped me glue each child's name to one side of each box, then I added an apostrophe and the words "Art Box" underneath the name with dimensional paint.

These gifts went over so well! The kids loved the idea of having their very own supplies, and I think the parents appreciated the idea that said supplies could be all contained in one place. I will definitely be making more of these when the next youngest grandchildren are ready for them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Too much fun

Here’s a fun new project I’ve been working on. I found the instructions on the Oh Christmas! crafters’ forum. The lady who shared the instructions for this project is going to share several projects which use leftover bits and pieces from Christmas. This one is called “bits and pieces bows” or apparently they are called “junk bows” in some places. Like several others who’ve commented on the forum, I had my doubts that I could make these bows look like anything. But it sounded intriguing, and I do have lots of leftovers Christmas scraps, so I gave it a try. These things are addicting!

This red plaid bow was my first attempt.

This one pairs some vintage-looking ribbons with some more modern adornments, and is the only one I’ve made where the bow has streamers. I thought they needed something, so decided on these “Merry Christmas” embellishments.

This bow is made mostly of actual vintage ribbons and trims, but the cluster of berries is new. It fell off a branch of berries I recently purchased on clearance. I think it adds the perfect touch.

And I think this blue and silver bow may be my favorite. I didn’t care for it at first, but the more things I added, the more I liked how it looks. The snowflake in the center adds a nice touch, I think.

Here’s the link for the instructions for these bows, in case anyone else would like to try their hand at making some.

Bits & Pieces Bows

Have fun!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

My nifty buy at Wal*Mart today...

Today Mr. T had to run into Wal*Mart for brake fluid. I needed a few more gift bags of a certain size and thought it would be nice to get them before I put the Christmas wrappings away. So I buzzed into the Christmas clearance section while he headed for automotive. The Christmas things are 75% off now, so the bags were very inexpensive. I didn’t have time to look at too many things, but I did find these pretty mugs with a vintage-looking holly design on them. With a homemade hot chocolate, tea, or cappuccino mix, these will make a wonderful gift for someone next year... if I can bear to part with them! Oh -- they were 25¢ each!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Gifts from a faraway Christmas kitchen...

From a vintage coffee ad in my collection

I have great hopes of spending time here in the Christmas kitchen much more often in 2008, but we will see how well we do. I know better than to make rash promises -- to myself or anyone else!

For today, I wanted to share some kitchen gifts which came to us from a kitchen far away -- in Nevada, to be specific. Our daughter lives there with her husband and little boy. They are building a house, but home for now is a small and cozy apartment. I have spent time cooking in her kitchen, and it is fun for me to picture her producing these kitchen gifts there.

The first is this lovely shortbread sampler.

She found the idea online and did a wonderful job of making it her own. Many family members received one of these round tins packed with shortbread wedges and a few candies. The shortbread flavors include cranberry clementine, chocolate coconut almond, classic butter, dark chocolate peppermint, and maple/toasted pecan. What an array! In the lid of each tin she has taped a recipe card containing a key to the different flavors. Each kind is marked by a different color ribbon. She said it was a lot of fun coming up with the different flavor variations.

She also made “mini shortbread bites” of each flavor from the shortbread trimmings, and wrapped up small assortments of these for the grandparents. A very nice idea for older folks.

The other “kitchen gifts” Joanna sent were these boxes of “ribbon candy”.

If you look closely, you can see they are actually ornaments made of real ribbon stiffened and shaped to resemble ribbon candy. I’ve seen instructions for these online -- Wrights, I think, is one site that has them -- but I thought it was so clever of her to package the ornaments in real candy boxes. When I first opened the package, I thought it was real candy. Cute!

It’s such fun to make and give kitchen gifts... but every bit as much fun to be on the receiving end of gifts from a faraway kitchen!