November Means the Holidays Are Here! And New Christmassy Things in the Shop.

The beginning of November is always the most exciting time for me because it means pulling out my Christmas decor and spicing things up for the holidays. I LOVE the holiday season, and I love making everything in my house festive and cheerful. This November is even more special for me because in a few short weeks my wee babe should be making his appearance in our lives, and I can’t wait to bring him home to a beautifully decorated house.

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This year I’ve got a whole new collection of Christmassy items in the shop. Christmas decor and ornaments are probably my favorite things ever to make. Christmas is such a happy time of year, and I love the possibility of helping people achieve that with handmade decor!

For this season, I have created a new line of book-inspired Christmas ornaments, because books are ❤ and deserve a special spot on your tree. Right now, I’ve got a number of titles including Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Macbeth by William Shakespeare, among many others. I will keep adding more as I make them, and I’m thinking about giving them a permanent, year-round spot in the shop. These ornaments compliment my classic book cover tapestries.

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I’m also really excited to be offering fully customizable Christmas stockings, complete with a pocket displaying a hand-painted shelf of your favorite books. Obviously, books are a big part of my life and I love including them in my Christmas festivities. I made a stocking for my husband, one for myself, and one for the baby – who doesn’t have a name yet, so I’ll be adding on his name after he’s born!

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I hope the beginning of your holiday season is amazing, and please consider shopping small this Christmas! Etsy is a great resource for any number of handmade goods, and supporting small businesses is what makes our world go round. Remember to order your handmade decor and gifts far in advanced so they ship to you in time!

Continuing the Tradition: A Christmas Gingerbread House

I think my favorite holiday tradition growing up was making gingerbread houses. When it came to gingerbread houses, my mom went all out – and when I say all out I mean all out. She made them completely from scratch, from the walls to the icing, and most years she not only made one house but a village. The one for our house was always an elaborate mansion, while the houses meant for the neighbors or friends were smaller cabins. And she also always made one specially for my brother, sister, and me to decorate.

The few days a year we spent constructing and decorating gingerbread houses were always the most exciting for me. We got to see the creation of something from start to finish: dough to building pieces to a beautiful, fully decorated house. I cling to those memories, and am determined to make it a lasting tradition in my home as well.

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If you’ve never made a gingerbread house, let me tell you this: it is a lot of work. Going at it alone makes me really appreciate my mom, because not only would she make a bunch at a time, but they always looked perfect. I haven’t yet mastered that quality of perfection in my houses, but perhaps as the years go on I’ll get as good as she is.

This year I decided to make a gingerbread forest cabin, inspired by the quaint dwellings in the woods of the Bighorn Mountains. As you can see, I don’t like to leave a lot undecorated, but believe me, the gingerbread is under there. Doesn’t it just make for the perfect winter centerpiece?! 🙂

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The stone-like siding is made from saltines, the roof from wheat chex, and the snow from pounds of royal icing. I like going overboard on the snow. One year I made a gingerbread beach house and it just wasn’t the same without a snowy roof.

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The windows are made with melted sugar. Simply place about a cup or so of sugar in a pot, and on medium, heat the sugar until it is melted and thin. It is very easy to burn, so be careful. To add some flare to your windows, add a drop or two of food coloring.

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The gingerbread recipe I used is from The Weekend Crafter Cookbook, Making Gingerbread Houses. I like this recipe  because it uses butter instead of shortening and it is delicious enough to snack on while assembling your house (if you have extra, of course!).

My house takes one batch of this dough.

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GINGERBREAD DOUGH

cream until light and fluffy:
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
add and blend on low speed:
3/4 cup molasses
sift, add, and blend until all the flour is absorbed:
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp groung ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
add and blend:
3/4 cup cold water

After dough has been mixed, separate it into two balls and cover completely with saran wrap. Store in fridge for a minimum of three hours and a maximum of three days.

When you are ready to bake your gingerbread house, roll it out onto a floured surface. I always put parchment paper beneath my dough so that it is easy to move to the baking sheet after my shapes have been cut out. Bake the gingerbread in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until the dough is deep brown but not black (about 20 minutes). Place your pattern pieces on top of the baked cookie to make sure they are still the right shape and size as your pattern. If they are not, trim the edges, being careful not to burn yourself. After your pieces have cooled on the baking sheet for a few minutes, carefully transfer them to a cookie drying rack. Let them cool and harden completely, about 25 minutes. If they still seem soft after this, put them back into the oven for a few minutes. You want your pieces to be completely dry and crisp, as they are building materials, not cookies for eating.

ROYAL ICING (from Wilton’s website)

4 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp meringue powder
5 tbsp warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy-duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer). Be sure to keep your utensils and bowl clean and grease-free so the icing will reach proper consistency.

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Below is the pattern I made for my gingerbread forest cabin. If you’d like to try it, copy and paste the images into a word document and enlarge them so they each fit an entire sheet of paper. Print. This should be to scale so that your gingerbread house will come out right. When cutting your gingerbread pieces, lay down the cut out pattern piece on top of the rolled gingerbread and cut around the paper with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.

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Easy Christmas Decor Idea: Ornament Bunting

Between making custom gifts, sending out orders, and doing transcription work, I’ve been super busy this week and and therefore a little lax on the blog posts the last few days, so I apologize. Also, I still haven’t gotten my camera cord in the mail (sniff, sniff), so I can’t take pictures of any of my new/current projects. Such as the gingerbread house that is half finished on the table right now! 😉

In spite of this all, I do have a fun and easy idea I want to share with you for Christmas decorating – ornament buntings. I did this a couple weeks ago while decorating my house for the season, and It takes just a few minutes to do and really adds a festive air to any room.

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My tree this year is rustic themed, but I wanted to utilize these gorgeous golden mirror ornaments I got a few years ago. Since they did not match my tree, I decided to string them onto some twine and hang them over a couple doorways in my house. This is an easy way to bring Christmas into every room without going overboard.

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All you need is:

  • some ornaments you are not using on your tree
  • twine
  • ribbon, if there isn’t already ribbon on the ornaments

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Now here’s the easiest DIY on the planet – simply tie the ornament onto the twine in a bow, and space them evenly the length of your doorway! To attach to the doorway I used command strip hooks.

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And there you have it. If that’s not the easiest way to decorate for Christmas I don’t know what is. 🙂

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And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

-Luke 2:13-14

DIY Everlasting Snowflake Ornaments

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Even after a few years in the north, it still seems awkward to have snow before Christmas. Well honestly, having snow at all is a bit awkward, but growing up in Texas I craved snow on Christmas Eve and Day – I wanted nothing to do with snow before or after, but it was just a very Christmassy thing. I think I’ll always be a Texan at heart. (Though the snow is growing on me a little bit.)

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Wyoming has now had its second snow storm and the past few days have been bitterly cold. After a rather mild fall, I have had to succumb to the realization that winter has truly arrived (negative temperatures outside leave no room for error), but this has merely kicked my Christmas decorating into high gear.

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These are all deer tracks…in my backyard.
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I actually startled these two, who started running as soon as they noticed me stomping through the snow.

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Since we have snow outside, it’s always nice to bring a little inside as well. No, not the wet, melty kind, but the kind that simply hang on your tree or wall and look beautiful. I have always LOVED making paper snowflakes – I think they are one of the most simple and beautiful winter DIYs in existence. A few years ago I learned how to make a six-point snowflake (rather than the four or eight-point snowflakes you learn how to make in elementary school) and I have never gone back.

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Of course, paper is not the best material for long-lasting decor. It shreds, disintegrates with a drop of water, and crumples. To truly immortalize my lovely six-point snowflakes, I came up with a fool-proof plan, and now I can hang them on my tree for a chic, rustic look without worrying about them falling apart before the season is over.

Here is how I did it:

You’ll need

  • plain printer paper, cut into a square
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun and sticks
  • shimmer spray (optional but oh-so-pretty)

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First, fold your square paper in half at the corners.

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Now fold this in half at the bottom corners so that you have a right triangle.

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Next, fold your two outer corners in so that they are equally shaped. It should look like this.

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Cut the top off in a diagonal.

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Now begin cutting out your shapes.

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Open it up and you have a lovely snowflake!

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Now for the fun part. Choose a side to be your front and hot glue every inch of paper. This makes the snowflake durable, bendable, and perfect for sticking on your tree, no string required.

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Lastly, spray your beautiful snowflake with shimmer spray after the glue has completely dried.

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It may take a few snowflakes for you to get the hang of the pattern cutting. My first one of the season always looks a little janky, but the more you cut, the more comfortable your hands get. Each snowflake comes out more beautiful than the one before it, I swear. If you want a variety of sizes, simply start with a full sized sheet of printer paper (cut down to a square) and use the leftover paper to make smaller ones. The small ones are more difficult to cut, but are very cute!

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And that’s all it takes. There are really lots of things you can do with these everlasting snowflakes. Last year I made a “quilt” out of them. You could also make them into a bunting or put them in frames and hang them up for a wintery gallery wall.

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