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!