Monday, December 31, 2012

Pillow fight shields

Julia's sparkly purple shield
I just made seven of these shields for Christmas presents for grandchildren.  These seven kids -- ages one through eight -- already have superhero capes and most of them have foam swords.  When I saw these pillow fight shields on Tip Junkie or Pinterest, I forget which, I just knew the kids would love them.  Their moms agreed, so that was their major Christmas present from us.


It wasn't really clear how to make or attach the handles to the backs of the shields, so  I went looking a little bit more and found this tutorial which was much more clear as to how to make handles for shields.  They are made of elastic attached to felt squares.  Nice and sturdy.

Maybe a little one in your life would like a pillow fight shield for next Christmas ... or maybe a birthday!  They certainly are a hit with our grandkids!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bracelet purses -- a fun gift for little girls!

Julia investigating the contents of her purse
This Christmas I made two of these adorable little purses for my granddaughters (ages 4 and 6).  Here is the tutorial and pattern:  Bracelet Purse.  These were incredibly easy and fun to make and could be done with fat quarters or scraps.  I was very surprised at how quickly they went together.

 I bought 2 packs of plastic bangle bracelets at the dollar store so I would have two of each color bangle to use for the purse handles.  Each set came with two rings also.  I put the rings in tiny zip-top bags and put them inside the purses along with bubble bath, lip balm, a small box of crayons, etc.

In retrospect I guess the pattern actually called for thin metal bangle bracelets, or possibly plastic that looks like metal.  Because I used these thicker plastic ones, I found it easier to attach the handles by hand rather than machine.  But I still do like the look of these plastic ones.

Julia's purse -- a closeup.  Hers had a sparkly purple lining.
Emily's purse
This shows the lining of Emily's purse.  This little girl loves color!
So if there's a little girl on your gift-giving list, she might just love one of these!

Friday, December 28, 2012

A few minutes with my Christmas notebook

Several times during the past few days I have brewed a cup of Candy Cane Lane tea and spent a few minutes with my Christmas notebook.  (If you'd like to know more about this notebook and how I use it, click on "Christmas notebook" in the word cloud of labels in the sidebar for more posts about it.)

One thing I always like to do is to take a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper (always on clearance, at least at Walmart, this time of year) and list down everything that I gave for Christmas gifts this year.  Yes, I already made a list, but things changed, of course.  I couldn't find a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I started the list in January 2012 and by the time Christmas came around, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book or whatever, I make a nice, neat list.  Then I tuck it in the "Christmas Past" section at the back of my notebook.

And I start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things stay the same, pretty much.  For instance, we always give my mother-in-law a tub of bran muffin batter, a jar of hot chocolate mix (both homemade) and a bag or box of clementines.  So that is already on 2013's Christmas list next to her name.

I look over my crafting time lines and add in new projects I want to start and note whether I need to buy materials for them.

I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, etc.

It's a great feeling to start with next year's Christmas planning.  So brew yourself a cup of holiday tea and get started!  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hope you had a very merry Christmas!

 Mr. T and I hope that each and every one of our friends has had a truly blessed Christmas day.  We certainly did -- we were blessed to spend time with family and even to see (via Skype) our faraway grandchildren opening our gifts! In the midst of all the festivity, may we never lose sight of the true meaning of this wonderful season.  May each of you have a happy and healthy 2013 in which you grow increasingly closer to our Lord!

Monday, December 24, 2012

So pretty -- Christmas chalkboard printables!

One of the Christmas Chalkboard Printables from Nest of Posies
 These free Christmas Chalkboard Printables are some of the prettiest Christmas art that I have seen in awhile.  I am in awe of people who can create this sort of thing. 

So if there's still a corner of an entryway or somewhere else in your home that could use a decorative touch, print out and frame one of these.  It will be a difficult choice to decide which one -- they are all lovely.  I downloaded three!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Drizzled Peppermint Cookies

(Photo by Taste of Home)
Here is a fun and easy recipe you can make with only 3 ingredients and just a little bit of time.  Mr. T made these on Friday and they turned out so festive looking!  Here's the link:  Drizzled Peppermint Cookies

He ended up with both white chocolate and crushed candy canes left over.  The logical solution was to stir the candy into the melted chocolate and spread it on a parchment lined pan.  Voila!  Peppermint Bark, and so, two treats for the effort and price of one.  These both make great gifts from the Christmas kitchen!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Free Gooseberry Patch Christmas tags to download!

Art by Gooseberry Patch -- this is one of their free desktop wallpapers!
 If you love the gorgeous Gooseberry Patch art work as much as I do, you will want to head over to their blog and check out the free Gooseberry Patch Christmas tags!  There are two different sets, so you can choose just one or download both.  They will add a glorious touch of Gooseberry Patch to your gift wrapping!  Have fun!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our little fir tree

This year Mr. T had the idea to put a string of colored lights on a straggly little fir tree out by our garage.  Knowing that snow was predicted for Sunday, he made time to string the lights on the tree this past Saturday.

Now the snow has come and the little tree looks so sweet with the lights peeping through the snowy branches.  It looks a bit like something one would see on a Christmas card!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A delightfully generous Christmas giveaway!

I just posted about this on my regular blog, but wanted to share it here as well because I know some of my readers don't visit both of my blogs.  So here are the details:

It's not too late [yet] to get in on this wonderful giveaway over at the Muncks Quiver! They are offering a choice of 14 wonderful gifts, ranging from handmades like hand towels and a peppermint scrub to tea balls and tea to a Christmas CD and a lovely book.  So many gifts to choose from!  The giveaway ends tomorrow, Saturday, December 15, at 12 pm, so head on over to the Muncks Christmas Giveaway and join in the holiday festivity!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Setting the scene

Photo by The Vermont Country Store

The other night I went to a ladies' Christmas fellowship at the home of my pastor and his wife.  Everything was decorated so nicely!  One thing I especially enjoyed was a sweet miniature skating scene they had set up, much like the one pictured above.  They used a mirror as the skating pond and had all manner of figures and bottle brush trees as part of the scene.  It brought back such memories!

When I was a child we often visited relatives at Christmas and these particular folks always set up a similar scene on a small table in their front hallway.  The "ice" was a mirror and somehow they had arranged snowy hills around the ice and there were people, trees, etc. -- maybe little houses, too -- populating the scene.  I think I could have hovered over that table for hours just taking in the details.  Sadly, my parents didn't see it my way and usually dragged me away from it far too quickly.

The photo above reminds me so much of the scene I remember from childhood.  I'm so pleased to see that these wonderful treasures are still being made and sold.

One of my crafting goals for next year is to make some small glittery houses and some bottle brush trees.  For now, it's time to think about getting out my collection of lighted houses and arranging them under the Christmas tree.  They are the next best thing to a little skating scene.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Countdown to Christmas Link Party at Dixie and Dottie!

Yes, the countdown to Christmas is on!  If you're like me, it is counting down way too quickly!  I really am not ready with my gifts, and am finding that the season is passing without my taking the time I want to, to savor and enjoy this blessed time.

Next year I hope things will be different ... I've already found some great ideas for family gifts.  Meanwhile, I haven't had much time to peruse blogs for Christmas inspiration and fun this year.  I had heard about the  Countdown to Christmas link party at Dixie and Dottie, but today is the first time I've had a moment to look at any of the links.  I probably shouldn't be taking time now, but I wanted to share this link with all of you:  Countdown to Christmas.  They have over 200 fun and inspiring links so far, so head on over and get in on the fun!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mr. T's Christmas Kitchen

Whipped Shortbread -- he made these on the weekend.
 Yes, you read that right.  I think we must call it Mr. T's Christmas Kitchen this week!  He had the day off from work due to wet weather and so he continued baking!

Yesterday he had made Eggnog Logs but had not frosted them.  Today he frosted them and sprinkled with nutmeg.  He also baked, filled and glazed Sacher Torte Cookies (double batches of each!) and he made Raspberry Dreams, a favorite coconut topped bar cookie.

So nice to have a capable man in the kitchen (he does the dishes, too)! I spent the day doing laundry and working on handcrafted Christmas gifts.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sam's Leaf Garland

I thought I would show this simple project, from a day when my grandkids spent time here back in the fall.  One simply cuts leaf shapes, leaving a little tab or stem at the top of each leaf.  Then yarn is cut to the desired length and the leaves are affixed to the yarn by folding down the tabs and stapling them to the leaf itself, so that the yarn is enclosed by the leaf stem and the leaves may be spaced along the yarn as desired for a pretty garland.

Sam, age 8, made this garland and requested that it be hung from one of our antique truck wheel light fixtures.  Since the colors are red, green, and white I decided to leave the garland up for Christmas.  In this garland the white or cream colored leaves (one is a plaid and one a muted stripe) and the red leaves are made from wallpaper samples.  The green ones are from card stock.  The kids had fun making these and I thought the resulting garlands turned out very nice!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Update on the baking list

Mr. T has been busy in the kitchen.  As the vintage ad above says, he has made cookies galore (and fudge too!).  Here's what he has made for Christmas treats so far:

Whipped Shortbread
Chocolate Spritz
Christmas Tree Spritz
Rocky Road Fudge
Creamsicle Fudge
Heavenly Delight Fudge

And he has many more cookies that he wants to bake!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Glittery paper ornaments

That's a glittery paper snowflake above, just to the right of the little lighted building.  I thought that surely I had shared the link to these pretty ornaments before, but I guess that I haven't, so here it is  now:  Winter White Glitter Ornaments .  I made these probably a dozen years ago and had so much fun doing it.  Basically, you cut shapes like snowflakes, stars, or whatever you like out of watercolor paper.  It needs to be a good heavy paper.  Then you brush one side of each shape with a white glue and water mixture and sprinkle heavily with clear glitter.  When it's dry, you turn it over and do the other side the same way.

I am surprised but pleased that these ornaments have held up so well over time.  I keep them in a zip-top plastic bag inside of a box in the attic, where temperatures are variable and things tend to get damp because of the cold winters.  Yet these ornaments look just as nice now as the day I made them.
Glittery star
And a glittery bell.  Think I used a cookie cutter to trace this one.
These are easy enough for older kids to make, but as I said, I had lots of fun making these myself.  I find working with paper, scissors and glue to be very therapeutic -- a great stress reliever.  And a little glitter never  hurts!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Decorate your computer desktop for Christmas!

A sample of the free desktop wallpapers from Gooseberry Patch.
 For months, I've had a serene painting of Adirondack chairs on a lakeside dock as my computer desktop.  I just seemed to need to be reminded of that quiet place (which strongly resembles our favorite lake up north) every day. 

But this week I succumbed to the lure of a gorgeous free desktop wallpaper from Gooseberry Patch.  They have an entire page of free downloads for all seasons, and add a new one every month or so, so if you, too, would like to have a beautiful Christmas desktop, go here: Gooseberry Patch free desktop downloads and choose one.  The download is simple as can be and the wallpapers are so pretty.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Homemade Granola ~ another nice kitchen gift

Yesterday I was making granola and got to thinking that it would be a nice Christmas gift from the kitchen.  One could package it in jars or tins and then put it in a nice fabric or paper gift bag.  Here is my basic granola recipe (which I keep tweaking):


4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup flaked coconut
2 cups crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or chopped almonds
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
Cinnamon to taste
Nutmeg to taste
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tblsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
Raisins or dried cranberries to taste

Preheat oven to 300º. In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, cereal, seeds, nuts, dry milk and spices.

In another bowl or a large measuring cup, combine the oil, brown sugar, water, and vanilla and mix well. Pour over the dry mixture and stir to combine thoroughly.

Transfer the mixture to a greased 13x9-inch pan and bake at 300º for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven; stir in raisins or cranberries, and let cool before storing. I store granola either in a plastic bag inside a recycled oatmeal canister, or in a large plastic container intended for cereal storage.  It also freezes well in zip-top plastic bags -- one batch will fit in a gallon size bag.

For Christmas, it would be pretty to use the dried cranberries and maybe use chopped pistachios for the nuts.  Hope your family enjoys this recipe if you try it!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Pretty papers

I know I've written before about my grandmother's Christmas tree and the wondrous packages piled beneath it.  It wasn't so much wondering what was in the packages, or checking to see which ones were for me.  I just loved seeing how she had wrapped them.  My grandmother  seemed at times to keenly regret her lack of higher education, but she absolutely had the soul of an artist and showed it in so many ways -- in the kitchen and pantry, in her seasonal decorating, and so on.  Christmas was the high point of her artistic talents and of our year.  Her gift-wrapping skills were amazing and I simply loved seeing the papers she had chosen.  I'm drawn to gorgeous gift wrap myself, but I will not pay a lot for it.

Recently I came upon some scraps of Christmas gift wrap I had used in years gone by and had saved for crafting purposes.  I thought I would scan these so others can enjoy them too.
Wish I had more than a scrap of this one!

A pretty skating scene

This incredibly beautiful panoramic scene takes my breath away.  How I wish I could paint a scene like this!
Hope you have enjoyed this look at some vintage wrapping paper from my stash.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Gluten-free Gingersnaps

Below is a favorite little cookbook from my childhood.  Now I have my own copy of it!

Have you started your Christmas baking yet?  This year I am on a hunt for a few good gluten-free Christmas cookie recipes.  Probably lots of other people are involved in that same search.  Yesterday I was thinking about this and remembered my gluten free gingersnap recipe.

Growing up, one of our traditional Christmas cookies was the Betty Crocker recipe for molasses crinkles.  These are basically gingersnaps.  My mother always dipped the balls of dough in red or green sugar at Christmas time.  I always did the same in my own kitchen as my family was growing up.  So for me, gingersnaps qualify as a Christmas cookie.

This past fall when we had a houseful of visiting family, I tried a gluten free gingersnap.  We made these twice -- and the second time, with little kids assisting me, I forgot to add the molasses.  I  can vouch for the fact that they were even good without it, but of course they were softer and more flavorful with the molasses added.  I think I even doubled the recipe the second time.  These are highly recommended!

1/4 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
3 Tblsp. molasses
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 Tblsp. water, if necessary
Sugar, white or colored, for dipping

In a large bowl beat together the butter, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla until blended.

Sift the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and spices into the mixture in the bowl.  Stir these dry ingredients into the butter mixture, adding water if necessary to form a dough that can be shaped into a soft ball.  Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 325º.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls; dip the top of each in sugar.  Place the cookie balls on the prepared baking sheet.  Flatten each cookie slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been greased or dipped in sugar.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool them right on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

The recipe said this makes 16 cookies.  I think I got at least 20-24 cookies from a single batch.

(Recipe adapted slightly from Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus, by Carol Fenster.)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A nice kitchen gift: Hot Chocolate Bark

Photo by Susie QT pies Scraps of Life
I found and saved this recipe last year but never got around to trying it: Hot Chocolate Bark.  Yesterday I needed to think about making a quick dessert to take for today's potluck at church.  I went looking in my "assorted recipes" folder and there it was.  We have pounds of bark on hand which Mr. T bought on a 75% off sale after Christmas last year.  Not sure why they regard this as a Christmas clearance item when they sell it in the baking aisle year round, but who am I to quibble about their reasoning when it gets me 75% off?

I omitted the graham crackers.  I think they would be simply delicious in the bark, but am avoiding wheat so I decided to skip the ingredient.  I used mini marshmallows instead.  The bark received lots of nice compliments from those who tried it.  It would make a very nice gift indeed.  And it's so easy!  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fun Christmas giveaway at Rudy Day News!

Photo by Rudy Day News
If, like me, you enjoy collecting Christmas books and magazines, you will want to get in on this giveaway over at Rudy Day News!   Mary has sorted through her own collection and found some duplicates she would like to give away.  Here's the link:  Christmas book and magazine giveaway.

Mary  is giving away 2 yummy-looking magazines full of Christmas inspiration to one person, and for the second winner she is giving The Farm Chicks' Christmas, as pictured above.  The giveaway is  only good through today, December 1, so hurry on over to Rudy Day News and enter this fun giveaway!