I’m a terrible gift giver. When I find something in a store that I think someone would love, I have to buy two - one for me and one for them. This year I have promised my bank and myself that I will not do that. That means staying out of the stores, tossing the catalogs that congest my mailbox and being creative.
There are a thousand ways to say Happy Holidays, and you, like most of us have probably wanted to say it in a unique manner or to give a gift that no one else could give. I know that feeling, and sometimes as early as July or August, I sit around and doodle or dream, or otherwise create ideas in my head that might make someone’s holiday just a little sweeter.
It’s true you know, that what you give is not as important as the thought and the effort behind it all. I tend to make my Christmas cards every year because I want to do something just for the people on my list. Some know that I do that, others don’t. It really doesn’t matter whether they recognize the effort or not. I know, and that is a gift I give myself.
Say happy holidays however you choose! Decide what you want to do and then go for it with gusto. The ideas that follow aren’t necessarily new or terribly inventive, but they are what I like to call 'can do' things that don’t require a lot of time or money. They’re easy and fun, and there’s even a project that the kids can work on.
Here are my doodles and dreams - I hope they can help you make your holidays just a little brighter and your work a little lighter.All the Season’s Best,
TOPIARY TREESTopiaries can be purchased in craft stores ready-made, but it’s a simple project to do from scratch, and it’s significantly cheaper not to mention hand-made by you!
The sizes below should be a general guide, as they will produce a medium sized tree. You can enlarge or reduce them according to your own decorating plans.
- Clay pot - 10 inch
- Dowel rod - 3/8 inch in diameter - 10 inches long
- Plaster of Paris
- Styrofoam ball - 4, 5 or 6 inch
- Craft Paint - your choice of color
- Silk Ivy
- Silk Ribbon to coordinate with your paint
- Beads - if desired
Mix plaster of Paris and pour into the bottom of a 10-inch clay pot. Insert dowel rod into the center and allow the plaster to harden. Insert the top of the dowel rod into the Styrofoam ball. Using your favorite craft paint or spray paint, cover both the clay pot and the dowel rod. When dry, attach silk ivy to the Styrofoam ball with glue. Add decorative ribbon to both the pot and the ball of the topiary, as well as any beads or other small ornaments you may wish to use.
Another idea: The topiary tree may be topped with gold or silver leaf, using leaf sizing on the ball. Just allow it to rest and become tacky before adding the leaf paper. Then burnish with a brush. Add your foliage last after the metallic paper has had time to dry.
Topiaries make great table, sideboard or mantle decorations, and are also an appreciated gift.
PINE CONE TREES
- Styrofoam Tree forms
- Cardboard or foam core board
- Tiny pinecones
- Hot glue (low-temperature is best)
- Gold and Silver Spray Paint (optional)
- Seasonal Bow (optional)
Styrofoam tree forms are available in your local craft store and come in various heights and sizes. If you are not fortunate enough to have tiny pinecones in your yard, they are available through craft stores as well. Using either cardboard or foam core, cut out a circle ¼ inch larger than the base of the tree form. Glue this to the bottom of the form creating a tree base.Using the low temperature glue, attach each pinecone, one at a time while working in a circular motion from the bottom to the top. Once you have attached all the pinecones the trees are ready to be painted. Depending on your seasonal décor, you may wish to leave them natural. If so, fill in any gaps with raffia, and add a raffia bow for a completed look. These tiny trees are lovely and elegant when painted in either gold or silver metallic.
The smaller trees look best when clustered in odd numbers; the larger trees can be used in pairs or as a stand-alone for a Holiday Centerpiece.
PAINTED WRAPPING PAPER
- Brown mailing paper (or paper grocery bags flattened)
- Craft and/or spray paint
Cut paper slightly larger than the package size. Crumple paper tightly and then unfold. Using your hands, press the paper open. In a well-ventilated area, hold the paper at arm’s length and apply spray paint. Allow paper to dry thoroughly.
You may find that spraying the paint at an angle gives a subtler look. Other options include crumpling the paper, painting two colors (lightest color first) and then wiping off part of the top color to reveal the paler background. This technique gives the illusion of a leather texture.
For your own distinctive look, crumpled paper can be sponge painted, stamped or stenciled using your favorite colors.
NOTE: This is a great way to recycle those brown bags from your local food store. But, if you use grocery bags for this project, be sure to use the inside of the bag for painting. Any grocery store advertising that may appear on the bag will then be on the under-side of your finished wrapping paper.
By stacking the two inverted saucers together, you achieve the perfect oven for preparing two heads of garlic. The baked garlic is terrific when served with piping hot bread, and is not only low fat; it’s good for the system! This is also an excellent addition to mashed potatoes, and everyone loves garlic-mashed potatoes!
- 2 Clay saucers (10 inch diameter)
- Fresh Garlic
- Roasted Garlic Recipe (on a personalized recipe card)
- 1 wooden knob (or 2 two-inch tiles)
- E6000 glue (not hot glue)
- Plate/Dish Paint
- Decorative Ribbon
Attach the wooden knob in the center of the 'bottom side' of the saucer (what WOULD be the bottom if you were using it for its intended purpose underneath a clay pot) with the E6000 glue. This will serve as the handle for the garlic roaster. If you prefer to use the two-inch tiles, stack them at opposite angles to form a handle, gluing one atop the other in the center of the saucer.
After the glue has set, you may wish to paint or stencil something decorative on the exterior of the roaster, or you may just want to paint one of the two pieces. Be sure to 'sign' your name on the bottom of the roaster - after all, you created it!
A needed caution: be sure to use paint that is specifically designed for use on dishes and tableware. These paints are available at your local craft store and become dishwasher safe after baking. Read the labels, and always follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
Assembly is easy - just enclose your fresh garlic along with the recipe then tie with a decorative ribbon or cording!
- 2 whole heads of garlic
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
Using a sharp knife cut off the top one-fourth of each garlic head. Gently score the head around its middle, cutting through a few layers of the papery skin. Pull off any loose skin from the top half of the head, trying not to remove every shred. (This will make it easier to squeeze out the cooked cloves later.) Tightly wrap each head in a piece of aluminum foil and place inside your garlic roaster.
Bake until the garlic is soft when pierced with a knife, 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Using your fingers, squeeze the soft garlic pulp into a small bowl. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 2 tablespoons.
Great on hot bread or in mashed potatoes!
HANDMADE REINDEER TEES(A great project for the kids!)
- Tee shirt (a light color works best)
- Tee shirt form or cardboard
- # 2 Pencil
- Brown fabric paint
- Black fabric paint or Permanent Black Marking Pen
- Red fabric paint or Permanent Red Marking Pen
- Small cellulose sponge (the kind from the grocery store)
- Plaid ribbon
- Gold or Silver Jingle Bell
- Fabric glue or needle and thread
- 2 Clean (preferably kids’) Hands
Insert the shirt form or cardboard and secure with tape or pins to give you a smooth working surface. Next, take the pencil and draw a large circle (this will be the reindeer face) in the center of the shirt’s front, leaving a clean working space at both the top and bottom of the shirt. (It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you’re afraid to free-hand this, just use a dinner plate and outline it with the pencil!) Now paint the inside of the circle with brown fabric paint, and let that dry completely. Add two eyes and a mouth with the black fabric paint or pen. Using the red fabric paint or pen, add a red reindeer nose.
Have the kids spread their fingers and dip both hands into the brown paint. With fingers still opened, have them place their hands slightly above the brown circle to make the reindeer antlers! Clean up the kids while the shirt dries. To make the ears, take the small cellulose sponge and trim off the corners to end up with an oval shape. Dip this into the fabric paint and position it under the antlers, next to the face.
Add a plaid ribbon bow and a bell at the base of the antler face and voila - you’ve got a great handmade gift for parents, grandparents, teachers, aunts and uncles - the list goes on.
Lastly, have the child sign the shirt if he/she is old enough. If not, sign it for them. It will surely be a treasured gift.
- Foam or Styrofoam ball shapes
- Low temperature hot glue or E6000
- Ribbon or cording
- Gold/Silver/Bronze/Copper Leaf
- Leaf sizing
There are several ways to create your own ornaments. Some may prefer to cover the foam ball shapes with fabric and ribbon, some with metallic leaf, or perhaps you’d like to come up with a ‘recipe’ of your own. If you’ve made the topiary trees or the pinecone trees in gold and silver, you may want to continue that look with your ornaments. The basic technique follows.FABRIC:
Cut fabric into circles. Glue fabric to the Styrofoam balls with low-temperature hot glue or for a stronger hold you may use E6000. Tie a ribbon around the diameter of the ball, and then around the circumference of the ball, leaving enough ribbon to hang the ornament from. You may wish to t-pin the connection of the ribbon, or it can be glued into place as well.METALLIC LEAF:
Coat the surface of the ball form with leaf sizing and allow it to rest until it becomes tacky. Attach the leaf paper one sheet at a time, using a small brush to burnish it onto the ball form.
Once the metallic leaf is dry, you may want to use decorative cording to enhance it or as a method for hanging it on the tree. Cording can be added with low-temp hot glue or E6000.
You can achieve a great look by using gold leaf papers, silver leaf papers and overlapping bronze leaf papers. There’s no design to this one - it’s all a free form project.
- Ramekin or other small bowl
- Chocolates for melting - dark, milk chocolate and/or white chocolate
- Plastic food storage bag
- Aluminum foil
Melt the chocolate flavor of your choice in a plastic food storage bag inside a bowl of very hot tap water. While the chocolate is melting, cover the back of your ramekin with aluminum foil.
When chocolate has melted, cut a tiny hole in one corner of the plastic food storage bag and drizzle chocolate in a circular motion over the aluminum foil coated ramekin. Be sure to cover the entire back of the ramekin, paying particular attention to the rim. You may wish to drizzle extra chocolate here for support, as this will be the top rim of your basket.
Allow the chocolate to cool and harden, remove both the foil and chocolate gently from the ramekin. Once you remove the foil, your chocolate basket is ready to fill! Anything you put in here will be special. You might even fill it with some of your own confections! Store in the refrigerator for best results.
They cost a fortune in the stores, and you can do these easily at home. They’re great for stirring into coffees or teas and they make a lovely gift for the special people in your life.
- Plastic spoons
- Dark Chocolate
- White Chocolate
Put the dark chocolate into a food storage bag, seal it and immerse it in very hot tap water to melt. While the chocolate melts, prop the plastic spoons against a cutting board so that the bowl of the spoon is flat.
Cut a tiny hold in one corner of the food storage bag and drizzle the melted dark chocolate over the bowl of the spoon. Wait a few minutes to allow some hardening and coat the back of the spoon with the dark chocolate as well. Allow the dark chocolate to completely harden while melting the white chocolate. Using a side to side motion, drizzle the white chocolate decoratively over the dark chocolate.When the spoons have dried completely they can be individually wrapped or gift boxed. It’s a sweet idea.