Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Handmade Invitations

Our youngest has a birthday in about a week.  If you'll think with me, this is very soon after Christmas!  I try my best to plan ahead, be on top of this, and put everything into her special day...then reality happens, and well, it's Christmas!  I have a couple tricks to pull this birthday party thing off, one of which is actually setting the date and time for the party, and then letting our friends and family know this information, and that they may receive an invitation soon.  Hopefully.
Tonight I finished up the envelopes, so mailing everything tomorrow will not be a problem.  I love handmade invitations.  Yes, pre-made from the stationary store can be fabulous, but there's something about choosing the font and formatting, and printing, and then deciding on that perfect envelope...I just love it all.
I decided on plain dark pink paper for the invitation itself, and then I found this darling paper at my favorite paper store, The Paper Crown, and decided it had to be the envelope...
 I looked through my box of stationary and found an envelope the invitation would fit in, then I carefully opened it all the way up to a flat piece of paper...

 traced around it and cut it out,

then  I carefully folded in the flaps and glued the edges down, 

and woohoo!  Don't you wish one of these darlings was arriving in your mailbox?!?!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Past Few Days

For us, as I'm sure for you, the past few days have been a flurry of activity!  We have been going nonstop!  Feast preparations, Christmas pageants, hosting, giving and receiving gifts (and the last minute touches on those gifts!), and seeing family we haven't seen, in some cases, since last Christmas.  Here's a glimpse:

Okay, so my dad is  really obsessed with these specific door mats, which have always been a part of his house.  To be honest, they have always been around, so I never really thought much about them.  Apparently though, they have become increasingly harder and harder to find to replace when needed, and apparently one cannot really live without them.  So, I purchased a fresh mat for my dad (which caused him to dance a little jig when he opened it), and I thought that probably my husband's dad and grandpa should finally experience true life as men, with this get-rid-of-the-mud-on-your-shoes door mat.  I was glad that they came in three separate boxes when FedEx delivered them, but I didn't really get excited about the idea of wrapping those huge boxes...so I invited my kids to paint them.  They willingly and happily obliged.  :)

See one leaning there on the fireplace?  Came out pretty cute, don't you think?!?

Preparing Christmas Eve dinner.

All three of my children chose to be angels in the pageant.

Christmas morning!!!!  (the bicycles from Santa were moved out of the way...)

Feasting with family on Christmas day.  And all day today....

Merry Christmas!  More DIY things to come - there's still 10 days left of Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I have been looking forward to this day for a LONG time!!!  The alarm clock will not go off tomorrow, and although there is a bit of busyness with grocery shopping and lunch dates, etc. these things are just not the same when we are on break.  Plus, due to an appointment in the afternoon, I almost have a guaranteed visit alone to my favorite paper store, and who could ask for anything more, really?!?
Over at simplemittens, my sister-in-law is lamenting the fact that she can't share all her handmade Christmas gifts, since the people who will receive them read her blog!  The same is true here, so let's just say that I spent all of yesterday afternoon sewing, all evening knitting, and there will be more of that today!
Today I helped with my oldest daughter's class Christmas party, where we made these darling hangings, and I forgot to take any pictures!!!
Well, here's some other things we've been doing...
 More gingerbread houses...

 Party favors for our staff Christmas party...

 What d'ya think of this fabulous cake stand I got my dad to make for me?!?!

A weeks worth of baking for our "coffee and dessert" party!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


So much to do!  Amidst cookie baking, school program attending, feast preparations, and last minute shopping...

I have managed to check a few more things off my handmade Christmas list, and I even made dinner tonight!  My husband is under a tremendous amount of stress right now, so I made sure that there was an actual meat on the table (a far cry from the hot dogs we threw on in a frenzy last night!), and a veggie, and even a homemade bread!  I complained that the warming drawer hadn't kept the chicken as warm as I had hoped, and my five year old son said "I think it's great - you did a great job, Mom!"  That's a hint that a meal like this is too scarce these days...  
Here's my handmade composition cover.  One down, three to go...

See this fabulous link for the instructions!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cards!

I love to get pictures of our friends in the mail at Christmas time!  I also love to make my own...anything I can!  This year we are actually sending Christmas greetings in three different "formats," which is part due to my blog-searching for free offers from companies like SeeHere and MyPublisher, and partly due to the fact that I just love to make things with paper.  So, today after I baked cookies, two cakes, and a cheesecake all to put in the freezer in preparation for our big party this coming Saturday (more on that this weekend!), I sat down to see if I could get what has been brewing in my head, to actually look good on paper.
My thought was to cut out Jesus in a manger, and put a pretty piece of paper behind it to show through.  I even went to my favorite paper store and purchased a darling little Christmas flower print, but things evolved a bit differently...

First, I borrowed my mom's Christmas clip art, and found a good manger.  I held it behind my card stock and up to the window to trace it (it would have been easier to use my mom's fabulous light box, but I wasn't at her house today...), and then I cut out around the trace with an Exacto knife.  I didn't realize that it would pop up like this, which isn't what I had had in mind, but kind of fun nevertheless.
Then I cut that first card in half, so that I could just use it as a guide for my cutting, instead of tracing each one first and having to erase pencil lines.  I slipped the next card behind the cut one, and cut around the design.  This time I wasn't pushing quite as hard, and not all the lines met, so the manger stayed in place.  I could have broken through every piece, but I decided that I kind of liked the way the cut lines looked, as is.  Aware that the manger had the potential of looking a little like an animal without explanation (even though I know people should have the context...), I added Luke 2:11.
The lighting isn't the best here, but this is the finished card.  Inside is the simple greeting "Merry Christmas."  Don't worry, I'll find another use for that Christmas paper I purchased!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday Afternoons...

The girls and I headed to the museum for a little drop-in art, but we arrived about 15 minutes early.  No worries, I wanted to show my oldest an exhibit Little Miss and I had already seen.  To our surprise, the artist was there!  He was chatting with people, and helping children add their touch to a giant painting there, and selling his art!  Yes, I might have made a purchase...
Little Miss is pointing to her spot on the painting.  She'll be famous one day, and even if not, she sure felt special in the moment!
We headed downstairs to make party hats!  New Years Eve here we come!!!

The rest of the afternoon my oldest and I spent mixing cookie dough and cake batter.  One cake in the freezer, 6 more desserts to go....

Busy Weekend!!!

At the beginning of December, I filled in the calendar and then showed my husband.  There was one weekend "open," with nothing expected of us...  No parties to host or attend, no rehearsals, etc.  Well, that weekend filled itself up just beautifully!  Friday worked itself out to be errand day for me to finish up Christmas whatnot, followed by dinner at our house with my husband's parents (they brought pizza)!  Saturday we ended up hosting grandparents, a cousin in from out of town and his family, and my husband's parents again (they say they aren't tired of us yet!), and then it was two directions for girls and boys - a college basketball game, and time at the museum.  We ended the day having dinner with grandparents, followed by dessert with friends.  At the end of the day, my husband said "I feel like we did all the right things today - everything we were supposed to do."  I agree.  It was delightful.

I love brunch.  It's such a fun meal, to pull out all the big breakfast recipes, use the special juice glasses, and when does it ever actually happen that there's not some special guest there to share it with you?
Here's one dish I made - baked pear vanilla french toast.  My friend in Colorado made this for us when we visited this summer, so I emailed her for the recipe.  She sent me to this fun blog.  It's a great do-ahead recipe!  
A great morning of catching up, meeting new babies, playing checkers...

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Most of our gifts are under the tree, but we're still working on a few...  Here's something to think about:  the other day I was making a purchase at Gap, and I asked for a box.  The manager told me that in an effort to be green (or save money!), Gap wasn't giving boxes this year.  We conversed about what would happen if all companies stopped giving boxes, if in fact there were no more boxes?!?  And paper!  No more wrapping paper?  I'm all about re-useable canvas bags, but what would Christmas morning be without wrapping paper!?!?!?
We made some of these ornaments from here, and used them as package toppers!  They are super easy, but be warned that they do take some time!  I have been making them at night while my husband reads to our family.
Inspired by the window displays at Gap (even if they did rain on my wrapping paper parade!), I grabbed some leftover yarn and made these cute pom pom toppers for some of the packages.  I have been making pom poms since my days in Camp Fire - we used them as tassels on friendship sticks at camp...
No need for a gadget - just wrap the yarn around your fingers until you reach a thickness you think will probably be a full enough pom pom,
tie the bundle around the center with a knot (I just tied mine right to my package), 
and cut through the yarn on both sides.  All you will need to do is fluff it a little and trim any pieces that might be a little longer.  Too fun!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

nothing to do with Christmas...

Today had nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas.  I have a list of things needing to be finished, but instead today found me rocking, reading to, unpeeling clementines for, and watching Kipper with little Miss who has a fever.  That was just fine with me, for when is a child more precious, really?  I also started a project I've been wanting to do for our nursery, which I found here.  I, of course did not take the time to re-find this tutorial before I started, I just tried to remember the best I could.  That could have been good and bad...

for instance, had I looked again at the tutorial, I would have seen that I cut my strips of t-shirt bigger than I needed to.
I also ended up just gathering the strip after I sewed it with the machine, by taking the top two pieces of thread and pulling them.  I tried to sew the shirt while holding the thread tight, hoping for natural gathering to occur...when it did not, I figured that was just my luck with machines and t-shirts, for it wasn't too long ago that I tried shirring, and well, that didn't work either.  Anyway, now I realize that maybe it was because I used a double layer of shirt, instead of a single!
Oh well, this worked, it just took a bit more effort.  And time.  And now my fingers are really sore.
I finally started just sewing big stitches with a needle by hand, since the gathering was taking so long, which also worked for the couple I had left.  You can't tell the difference once they are glued in.  
I pinned a long piece of ribbon to the styrofoam ball, long enough so it will work at whatever length I end up needing...
and glued the flowers all around the ball!  I promise to show them all hanging in the nursery when it's finished!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Feast Day of Saint Nicholas!

My husband read our family the story of St. Nicholas last night, and of course our children wanted to put their shoes outside the door to see if they would be full of treats when they woke up this morning.  We decided to carry out the tradition in a new way - we have a dear friend who used to be our neighbor, who we decided might like a shoe full of goodies on her porch!  We used some of the cookies made yesterday, and a couple of candy canes leftover from our gingerbread house party, found a shoe which no longer fit, and put together a little Christmas surprise!  After a breakfast of pancake men, the kids made an early morning delivery run on the way to school this morning!  
Our oldest is reading Little House on the Prairie in literature studies right now, and since these molds came out with my Christmas decorations (a gift from my mom a couple years ago), I decided what better way to recognize a feast day such as this?!?!  I'm just like Ma Ingalls on Christmas morning!!!
Do not be fooled - this one is not about to lose his head, he's merely doing a feast day dance!
I know, I know.  St. Nick left his gifts in secret...  Well, I wrote a note telling Miss Patty why in the world there was a boot sitting on her porch with cookies sticking out of it, and who left it there.  Wouldn't you want to know?  Really.
Early morning delivery!!!

First Batch of Christmas Cookies!

(of the season)!!!  Well, sorry to say I'm behind on my post every day until Christmas idea, but this was intended for yesterday...  My two oldest children had their Christmas piano recital last night, and every recital has a cookie reception afterward provided by the parents, so...  once we got them off to school, my youngest and I started the morning making cookies!  I was glad when a friend dropped by later in the day, since these have long been his favorite cookies, so he was able to snatch a couple while they were still fresh!  I think these are called Danish Wedding Cookies, or some such something or other, but we have always called them "dough balls" - they are deliciously rich and soft.  And messy, which only adds to the delight of eating them, especially when dressed in your recital best!  Thankfully, they were for after the stage time!
What recipe isn't delicious that begins with two sticks of butter?!?  To soften the butter, I set the sticks seam side down in the microwave for 12 seconds (but my microwave is very old - this time will vary!), and then turn them over and heat them another 10 seconds.  When we lived in a house with a floor furnace, I used to put the butter on a plate and set it on the furnace to soften, which worked amazingly well.  Until one day when I forgot about the butter, and came downstairs to a house smelling like popcorn, and found about 6 sticks of butter melting down into the furnace!  The smell lasted until we moved.  Ahh, those were the days!

I cream the butter and sugar together a little, and then I just add all the other ingredients, and mix again at the end.  This is not a difficult or complex recipe!  When the dough is finished, it will begin coming away from the sides of the mixing bowl much like bread dough.
We rolled the dough into balls.  And snakes.  And dropped some on the floor while we were at it.  I mean, why not?
The recipe makes about 2 dozen.  I seem to be missing a cookie sheet...  upstairs with Legos on it, no doubt...  Bake these about 10 minutes, until barely done.  They will all still look white, and you will see maybe one or two with the slightest brown color on the top - that is how you know they are done.
After they finish baking, let them set on the tray for a couple of minutes, so they are still warm but not so hot they burn your fingers, and roll them in powdered sugar.  It's a good idea to set your cooling rack on a cookie sheet to catch the sugar mess, but as stated earlier, missing cookie sheet...

Here's the official recipe:  
1 c butter, softened
1/2 c powdered sugar
2 1/4 c white flour
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla

Mix together.  Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Place on cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes.  While still warm, roll in powdered sugar.  Allow to cool completely.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not Left Out!!!

I've been posting about things my oldest daughter has been doing this week, but do not think for a second that my younger too have been out of the loop!  We made picture frames (more on those later this week), and yesterday during the gingerbread house party they went to the art museum with my husband for some drop-in art, which is a fantastic program our city museum does.  Every Saturday from 1-4, you can go do whatever art project their education staff has going for the day.  We have painted Monet's Sunflowers, made our own ink prints for Valentine's greetings, learned how to make hats out of paper, and lots of other things!  Yesterday they were using clay to make snowmen.  Of course, my children and their dad came home with mice and dogs and snakes, along with the snowmen!  

Recipe for this DIY:  send two littlest children with their dad out for the day.  Tell them while they're gone, they should purchase eggs, dog food, and toilet paper, and remind them that they have a membership to the art museum!  :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

3rd Annual Gingerbread House Decorating Party!

I know there has been great anticipation for this post...  The party has come and gone, and we are one more year experienced in the art of slathering icing on a house made of mostly shortening and flour, and sticking sweet pieces of candy on as much surface as possible...