Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Toast

Last year we let Thing One stay up 'til 10 on New Year's Eve. We watched the ball drop in NY and made an apple cider toast. Then we said it was time for bed. Thing One teared up and said "You promised I could stay up for a New Year's toast!" We tried to explain that raising our glasses together was the toast, but Thing One insisted that we had not made any toast. Then I realized that he thought we were going to eat a piece of toast. It was very late for a very little Thing, so to stop the tears we did this


I made him some New Year's toast, and we got the New Year off to a good start. : ) I think that we will be making this a tradition. This year I think I will add some jam to make it look like sparkling cranberry juice.


Wishing you all a wonderful New Year! I'm off to work on my resolutions. What are you resolving to do in 2013?


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy-tizers

Anyone going to a New Year's party next week? Or maybe watching a football game? Here's a fun appetizer that I've made a few times this year. They've gotten rave reviews and they come together pretty quickly. I saw the idea from Once Upon a Plate, on Pinterest of course. You can probably tell what to do just by looking at them, so I'll spare you the how-to.


In no time you can have a happy army of Penguins. Ready to party! I served them on a plate with some fresh finely-grated parmesan to look like they were out in the snow. A cheese ball igloo would also be a fun touch : )


Bon App├ętit!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Weary World Rejoices!

I saw this phrase (from O Holy Night) on a canvas on Pinterest and knew I wanted to make something similar. For mine I mod podged newspaper to the canvas and then cut red vinyl letters on my Silhouette, stuck them on and mod podged some more. I love it. It is the reminder that I needed this year and has become my Christmas theme. 


My husband and I were just talking about why there are so many movies where someone has to "save Christmas." Why is Christmas always in danger of being lost? Toys, elves, golden retrievers all become heros when they save Christmas, ensuring that everyone gets their toys from Santa. Oh, made-for-TV movies you are so close, and yet so far. Christmas is about saving something from being lost forever, but it's not Santa, it's us. I really like the old cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, for the fact that no one saves Christmas, it saves him.

"The Grinch with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?" "It came without ribbons, it came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!" And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas....perhaps...means a little bit more!"

I have to admit, at the beginning of the season, I was feeling rather grinchy; resenting the commercialism, the stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff. But for some reason this Christmas has turned out to mean more to me than ever. Maybe it's because of Sandy Hook, I'm not sure. Light looks the brightest in the deepest of darkness, and it's a weary world that seeks something to rejoice in.


"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death 
a light has dawned...For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be calledWonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

-Isaiah 9:2,6

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends this week. And I hope more than anything that you are filled with the thrill of hope, because that is why a little baby came to earth in the humblest of ways; to rescue us and give us hope. 

You are loved. 
Merry Christmas!


O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.


A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

...

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 


Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Toddler Snow Globe Ornaments

I like to have Thing One make something that he can give to his Aunts and Uncles. Last year we made these snow globe ornaments and they turned out super cute. This is a great craft for even really little kids. Here's what we did: 
I cut out a bunch of paper circles about 3" in diameter.  I used scrapbook paper that was Christmassy on one side and white on the other. Then I let Thing One color whatever he wanted on each one. Last year he couldn't really draw what he wanted, so he would draw something and I would turn it into a Christmassy thing. For example the reindeer was just a brown shape, I added an eye and red nose and legs. The penguin was just a pentagon, I added eyes and a beak. He liked to see what we could turn each drawing into, and I felt like they were still mostly his work. I also added the year to remember when we made them. 


Next, I sandwiched the picture between some clear plastic vinyl. You can find this at Hobby Lobby or wherever with the fabrics. It comes in different thicknesses, try to get a thinner one.


You want to create some space for the snow to fly around so we slipped a piece of egg carton between the top vinyl and the picture.


Then I covered the whole thing with tissue paper (to keep it from sticking) and sewed around the circle leaving the bottom 2" open,


so it looked like this.


We tore off the tissue paper, took out the egg carton and trimmed around the edge, leaving extra where it was open.


Then we sprinkled in some blue glitter and some tiny styrofoam snow balls.


Next, we cut out a felt base for the snow globe and sewed it to the bottom, sewing around all sides of the felt, to be sure to seal in the snow.


Finally we hole punched the top and added a ribbon for hanging. Ta da! Unbreakable snow globe; keepsake art.


Happy Christmas crafting. Thanks for reading!
-Haley 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Joy to the World? & Marshmallow Snowmen

Days like Friday make me so grateful for everyday that I can spend time with my sweet kids. It's difficult to put the joy of Christmas next to such sadness, and hard to know how to grieve and celebrate at the same time, especially since we have tried to shield Thing One from any knowledge of the event. I feel for any of you who had to have that conversation with your kids. So what to do? Pray. Grieve. Make the most of every day we are given, knowing that not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Right now at this stage in my kids' lives, "the most of everyday" means time spent together making good memories and trying to give to others. 

The rest of my posts this year will just be a few fun things to do with you kids. Spending time making happy memories together, and not getting wrapped up in busy holiday stuff is my goal every year, especially since having kids. So today how about some puffy white snowmen? These make a great neighbor gift. And, by the way they are gluten free, so if you are wondering what to make for those friends, here you go!



Marshmallow Snowmen

Ingredients:

Jumbo marshmallows
Regular marshmallows
White frosting
M&M's and M&M minis
Mini Chocolate chips
White Almond bark
Chocolate Almond bark (or regular chocolate chips)
Orange food coloring gel




First melt the chocolate almond bark (or regular chocolate chips). Dip one side of the regular size marshmallows in the chocolate and put them on a foil lined baking sheet to harden. Once they are hard they should look like a little hat. 



Then using the white frosting stick the mini chocolate chips on for eyes. Then melt a little bit of the white almond bark and color it orange. Spoon it into a little sandwich bag and snip the very tip. Use the bag to pipe carrot noses unto the snowman heads. If you'd like, use frosting to attach a single chocolate jimmy for the mouth. For the bodies, use the white frosting to "glue" two regular M&M's on for buttons. Let both pieces harden and set for a little while, then use the frosting to glue the head to the body.


 Then you should have a little snowman army. You might have to let them set up on their backs, I had some trouble with heads sliding off, but once the frosting firms up they stand just fine.


Store in an airtight container so the marshmallows don't get stale.


If you or your kids are wanting a more simplified project, try just doing snowman heads. Use the jumbo marshmallows, regular chocolate chips for eyes, and mini chocolate chips for the mouth.


Pair with a couple of chocolate dipped spoons and some hot cocoa and you are neighbor gift ready!


Thanks for reading. Take care friends, and enjoy every minute of this special season with your families. This has been a difficult year especially in Colorado. The fires, the theater shooting, sweet Jessica Ridgeway, and now we grieve with Connecticut. Here's a song I've been singing in my head a lot lately. There's certainly a lot of darkness and stormy times here and it is easy to feel we are being overwhelmed with evil. I find myself longing for home, but until then:

                    The Solid Rock



My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain: 
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
                                   —Edward Mote (1797-1874)





Thursday, December 6, 2012

Handmade Christmas Roundup

To wrap up our Handmade Gifts series I thought I would share a round up of handmade ideas I've posted this year. I hope that you've found something that inspired you over the last three weeks, or the last year for that matter. I really enjoy giving gifts and I also enjoy making things by hand. There's something wonderful about creating something. It always makes me happy to have a physical representation of my time. Ready for a big list? Here's 34 gift ideas to make and make a difference. 


(clockwise from top left)
Crocheted Scarves
Sugar Scrub
Pin Cushion Flower Pot
Ruffle Crocheted Scarf Pattern 
Microwavable Heat Pack
Mini Clothespin Wine Charms
Breakfast Bar
Spice Rub for Favorite Meats
Napkin Rings
Tied Scarf
Hand Warmers
Herb Soaps


Kids Aprons - (new free pattern to upload)
Owl Finger Puppets - (new free pattern to upload)
Kids BBQ Set (apron, felt food, play grill)
Cardboard Coffee Shop (not pictured) : )


Here's some great places to shop. These are all from previous posts, but I've linked them here directly to the charity (rather than the post). Your purchase could change a life!

Mercy House Kenya - handmade jewelry and art

Craft Hope Book - full of crafts and patterns you can use to make items to donate to specific charities 

Compassion International - sponsor a child, purchase from their catalog, or buy a subscription to this awesome kids magazine helping you kids understand cultures and recognize needs around the world.

Kisses from Katie - buy the book, or donate to the amazing work going on in Uganda.

Empty Bowls -how about a gift card to a pottery painting shop that supports Empty Bowls?

Samaritans Purse - shop their catalog to help support families in poverty, those affected by natural disasters, sick kids, rural clinics, farming programs, and much more.

Blogging is more of an adventure than I can handle sometimes. I'll be honest, it's been hard to get up so many posts lately, but I wanted to get them up in time for you to have time to make them for Christmas if you wanted to. I hope this list is helpful and that if you choose to make handmade gifts they will turn out wonderfully! I have a few more Christmasy crafts and treats to share before Christmas, but I may take a little breather for a few days. See you soon! Thanks for reading! 
- Haley

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stocking Stuffers: Good Clean Fun

The handmade soaps are nice for grown ups, but kids don't get much out of a bar of soap...unless it's shaped like an animal or has a toy inside. I didn't mention yesterday, but you actually can put a small plastic dinosaur or something like that in the middle of a bar of glycerine soap. I haven't done it yet, but might this year, because I think my boys would like that. Another thing added to the "to try" list. But today I want to tell you about some more little gifts I have tried. It's pretty easy to make molded soap. It's actually kind of a fun activity to do with kids if you are looking for a project to do together. 


For these soaps I grated a couple bars of Ivory soap with my cheese grater. Then add warm water just a teaspoon at a time until you can get it to all stick together into a thick dough-like substance. If you want to add colors, divide it up into as many colors as you want and add gel food coloring stirring it with a spoon or squishing with your hands until evenly colored. Then you can press the soap into a candy or soap mold. Let the soap dry overnight (or longer) and pop them out carefully. The thicker the mold the longer it will take to set up, but the more sturdy. I broke a lot of mine since I used a shallow candy mold.


If you don't want to spend time grating soap, you can try the microwaved "soap cloud" which looks like a fun activity in and of itself. I saw it here at Our Best Bites. After the soap (Ivory only!) is microwaved, you crumble it and follow the rest of the steps above to turn it into molded soap. You can also use cookie cutters as molds, like Sara did. I will say the you want to be sure to rinse everything you used to make the soap very well before you put it in the dishwasher as you can have a big soap problem in your dishwasher if you put lots of really soapy stuff in there.

To the molded soaps I added some foam shapes for bath tub play. I think it's fun to have the soap match the foam shapes. So I went with jungle animal soap and Safari guy, ship, hut, etc. I had limited colors of foam to use for these, but you can see some of my other bath scene sets here and here.


Although I'm listing these as stocking stuffers, we actually gave these as little gifts for Thing One's friends a couple years ago. I just wanted something fun and simple. So I bagged up the foam set,


added the soap, and stapled a paper label over both bags.


And that's a wrap on good clean fun. 


Thanks for following along, with my handmade gifts series. Check back soon for my round up of handmade gift ideas. Have a great weekend!
- Haley

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stocking Stuffers: Herbed Soap

Last Spring, my sister hosted a soap making party. A group of us got together and melted and mixed to our heart's content. At the end of the night everyone brought home a couple of bars and the rest were sent with a short term missions team from our church to a village we partner with in Afghanistan. They've done this before and I heard that families really love getting these. Confirming that no matter where you live or who you are, and bar of handmade soap is a welcome gift. 


We based some of our soap recipes on this article from Martha Stewart. They talk about using fresh herbs and citrus for bars.


We made mostly glycerine soap. But we also experimented adding in beeswax and cocoa butter (see the little round white one below). You can buy glycerine soap by the bag at craft stores, but it can get pricy ($18 a bag), so wait for a sale or use a coupon. We ended up melting the soap both in the microwave and on the stove to keep up with so many soap makers. If you do this as a party, you may have to use both methods as well.  Once the soap was melted we added scents, food coloring, and herbs like dried mint, dried lavender, dried citrus peel, and dried chamomile.


We used plastic baby food containers to make the little rectangle bars and apple sauce containers for the round ones. My sis bought (at the dollar store) a package of 8-10 mini tupperware that were about two inches wide and came with lids. These were perfect for the guests to bring home their creations.
We also tried making large bars (like a short loaf pan) and then slicing them into average size bars. The slicing worked great, but we had some trouble layering them. We later read that we should have not let the layers cool much in between and been sure to spray the top of each layer with alcohol spritz before adding the next layer. You also spritz the soap with alcohol when you are done to keep it from forming bubbles on top. I know I'm just heaping on the good advice here, but you may want to even pick up a book to help you get started. My sister got this one from Hobby Lobby and it had lots of good tips. We maybe should have read more of them before we started : )


Here's another word to the wise. Use dried herbs not fresh. I don't care what Martha says. See the bars on the left below? They are both citrus mint, but the bottom bar was made with dried mint and the top with fresh. Big difference, right? The soap also lasts longer if you use dried. Recommendations for using fresh herbs (even if they don't discolor like this right away) is that the soap be used up in three months. That may or may not happen and you don't want the recipient to have to toss out your gift because it gets weird.


We learned a lot during our first soap making adventure and it was a great group activity. I thought then this would be a great stocking stuffer party: a fun girls night + everyone leaves with lots of gifts to give.


Soap could be wrapped in wax paper and sealed with a Christmas sticker or sticker seal with the recipient's initial, or simply tied with string and maybe a tag with the scent. These soaps are great because again they are one size fits all, so you should be able to cover everyone on your list. There's more stocking ideas to come. See you soon!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stocking Stuffers: Hand Warmers

Handmade stocking stuffers are my favorite, because it's easy to make enough for everyone. I know it's not always true that small things take less time to make, but a lot of times it is true and I think you will find that for all the projects this week. Everything is either a big batch that gets divided up to make lots of small gifts or small projects that are easy to make by the bunch. Today we're making microwaveable and reusable hand warmers. 


Made of fleece, these little guys sew up quick, with no need for finishing edges or turning. Here's a couple I made for my boys. Can you tell we live in Bronco country? You can make them any shape you want, but fairly simple shapes work best. Mine are all about four inches long. Cut out two layers of fleece and sew around the edge, leaving open a small space to slip in a funnel and fill with rice. Fill them pretty full, but not bulging, then stitch closed. 


Fleece doesn't fray, so you don't have to use pinking sheers, but they do add a little texture to a simple shape. For the footballs, be sure to sew the lacing on to the top layer before you sew them together. You probably knew that, but I often forget to do steps in order, is that just me?


For the mittens I sewed a snowflake to the top layer of each one before sewing them together. Instead of cutting out snowflakes by hand (which I would never have had the patience to do), I just used a felt snowflake garland I found and cut apart the flakes. I have used these flakes to decorate several winter projects.


Once I they were finished I tied each pair together with some jute and a tag with warming instructions.


I put 30 seconds on the tag, but microwaves vary, I find most to be more powerful than ours, but on ours I would probably do 45-60 seconds. I suggest testing out a pair once you are finished to see what a good heating time is for your set. Always test the heat before giving to a child. These are small so they don't hold heat forever, about 15- 20 minutes. Long enough to walk around the block or maybe sing some carols around the neighborhood, or watch a parade for a bit.


Fleece comes in every color, so the shape and color options are about endless. I love how fast these come together, making it possible to sew up a set for every stocking hung with care, in no time. Thanks for reading, I'll see you soon with more handmade stocking stuffers!

Stocking Stuffers: Spice Rub for Any Meat

I found this spiced meat rub recipe at Allrecipes.com as part of a pork spare ribs recipe. We made the ribs and I still had some extra rub left over and we tried it on some steak and loved it. That's when I thought this would be a great gift. It's good on pork, steak or even chicken. It's a little spicy and a little sweet and unlike any other I've had. Everyone who received some said they used it all and loved it! So today I'm sharing the recipe so you can make a big batch and give some to everyone on the nice list.




I found baby food jars, which are plentiful here, were the perfect size for this. Especially the medium to large ones. Remove the label, and wash inside and out, removing all the sticky goo. Then spray paint the lids, however you would like. I chose silver and then got some stickers that were on clear plastic . It looked really nice and clean on the lids. If you don't have baby food jars, any small container will work. One-third to one-half a cup is plenty, so try to keep the containers really small. 


Ok now for the recipe:

Spice Rub (adapted from the linked recipe above)



Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Do lots of mixing as you don't want pockets of any particular spice. Once you feel you have an even mixture, divide the rub between jars. This recipe should make about eight medium baby food jars, or six of the larger ones. I just saved what was left over for my own spice cupboard.  : )


Attach tags with recipe instructions:

Rub dry seasoning generously on raw meat to coat and refrigerate for four hours or overnight, then grill or bake. Especially good on pork or steak.


There you have it. A tasty treat for anyone. I really like that this doesn't come out too girly looking. It's hard to come up with manly stocking stuffers, but I think meat is pretty manly so steak rub should definitely qualify.

Stick around for more handmade stocking stuffers this week!
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