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.

IMG_4507

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.

IMG_4043 IMG_4416 IMG_4497

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!

IMG_4519 IMG_4201 IMG_4207 IMG_4208

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!

Homemade Marshmallows

DSCN9243

Part of my Christmas gifting this year included jars of homemade hot cocoa mix and homemade marshmallows. When I mentioned that the marshmallows were homemade, I received a plethora of astonished looks and surprised murmurs.

DSCN9256

Everyone was so impressed with me that I didn’t really want to say how easy they were to make. But I guess the truth needs to come out sometime – really, they’re so much easier than they look.

DSCN9264

The biggest thing about homemade marshmallows is that you’ve got to be patient. At first, you’ll think you did something wrong because the mixture is sooooo runny you think it couldn’t possibly turn into the fluffy, lovable texture we all know so well. It takes about 18 minutes in a stand mixer for the mixture to actually start resembling marshmallow. Even after that it is incredibly sticky, and you’ll doubt yourself, but don’t worry – it will dry out and be delicious!

DSCN9268

These marshmallows are so much better than the store bought kind, and are simply delectable in a cup of steaming coffee or chocolatey hot cocoa. I adapted this wonderful recipe from Ideals: Candy Cookbook; try it so you can impress everyone around you as well! 🙂

DSCN9238

Homemade Marshmallows

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup hot water
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp unflavored gelatin
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 vanilla pod seeds (scraped)
Powdered sugar

METHOD:

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, soak gelatin in 1/2 cup water.

2. In a saucepan combine sugar, hot water, and corn syrup. Cover and bring to a rolling boil; uncover and cook to 240 degrees (use a candy thermometer for accuracy).

3. Slowly pour sugar mixture into gelatin mixture, beating constantly. When mixture begins to thicken (about 5 minutes) add vanilla and scraped vanilla seeds.

4. Continue to beat until marshmallows stick to beaters (10 to 15 minutes). Pour into a greased 12″ by 8″ (smaller or bigger depending on how thick you’d like your marshmallows to be). Let dry on the counter for an hour or so.

5. For star cutouts: Lay a large piece of parchment paper on a table and dust it with powdered sugar. Carefully turn marshmallow onto the parchment paper. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Dust a clean star-shaped cookie cutter with powdered sugar and press firmly into the marshmallow. The marshmallow cutout will stick in the cookie cutter; gently press it out. Dip marshmallow cutout in powdered sugar, making sure all sides are completely covered (this prevents stickiness).

6. Store marshmallows in a dry, sealed container. They should keep for about two weeks. 🙂

Rustic Christmas Gift Wrapping

 

DSCN9409

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret – I hate wrapping paper. Wading through piles of it to find a decent pattern, calculating the amount you will need for the gifts you’ve got to wrap, buying it at what seems like an incredibly inflated price for something that is just going to be tossed into the fire at the end of the night anyway. I sort of let myself forget about wrapping paper this year, conveniently passing by that aisle with blinders on. I’ve got a much cheaper and, in my opinion, prettier method for gift wrapping anyway.

Craft paper is everywhere. I order a lot of supplies online, so there is pretty much a constant flow of the stuff into my house, and I hate to throw away a perfectly useful material. This year, I decided to theme my gifts to match my tree – rustic – so I finally got the chance to use up some of that craft paper. The fresh pine fronds are a nice touch because my tree is fake. I like having at least a little bit of the real stuff around.  😉

DSCN9391

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • craft paper
  • washi tape
  • twine
  • fresh pine fronds
  • scissors

DSCN9392

First, fold your paper over your package neatly. The flaps will be the front of the gift. Another nice thing about this method is that very little tape is needed to hold it together.

DSCN9393 DSCN9396

Next, use the washi tape to tape down the flaps. I made the letter G (for Grant), which also eliminates the need for a gift tag. One less step is always nice!

DSCN9398

Tie your twine around the parcel tightly, and place the fresh pine branch over the twine.

DSCN9400 DSCN9401 DSCN9404 DSCN9405

Tie twine around the branch in a tight bow.

DSCN9409

I’m really loving the look of these gifts! Merry Christmas!

DSCN9440 DSCN9459

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Luke 2:15-16

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.

DSCN9277

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?! 🙂

DSCN9314 DSCN9328

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.

DSCN9281DSCN9287

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.

DSCN9289  DSCN9293

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.

DSCN9294

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.

DSCN9324

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.

Document2 copyDocument3 copyDocument43 copy

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.

DSCN8709

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.

DSCN8715

All you need is:

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

DSCN8705

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.

DSCN8702

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Shopping Handmade – A Gift Guide for the Men in Your Life

I think as the years go on it gets harder and harder to come up with creative gifts for the men in my life. Like, I know the things that they enjoy, but sometimes it is hard to translate these things into a gift. I mean, as a woman I would love any number of wall hangings or prints for my wall, to gaze at all day long, but most men don’t seem to share my fervor for decor. Furthermore, I love getting floral dishes for my kitchen, but there is no way I am getting my husband a football plate that I have to look at in the cabinet for the rest of my life (I do do all the cooking, sooooo…). There are lots of things I would just be thrilled getting – bookcase necklaces, vintage sweaters, kitchen towels, etc etc, but boys, simply put, are just so much pickier when it comes to stuff.

Luckily, Etsy has gobs upon gobs of incredible shops and many of them sell handmade and trendy items perfect for the manly man in your life. It can be hard to wade through the not-so-good stuff though, so I have compiled a list of great gift ideas for men especially for you! For the full list, click here. Don’t forget to do your online shopping early to account for shipping times. Enjoy!

gift guide for men copy

  1. For the donut lover. Donuts and Coffee Photography Print by Sugar Lane Photo Shop on Etsy.
  2. For the coffee drinker. Woodland Print Coffee Mug by Free Folding on Etsy.
  3. For the outdoorsman. Gone Hiking Pillow by River Oak Studio on Etsy.
  4. For the beer connoisseur. Drink Local Bottle Opener Plaque by R Christopher Designs on Etsy.
  5. For the uninspired chef. Foodie Dice by Two Tumbleweeds on Etsy.
  6. For the nerdy musician. Sound Wave Engraved Guitar Pick by Newton and the Apple on Etsy.
  7. For the world traveler. World Map T-Shirt by Lazy Little Lucky Girl on Etsy.
  8. For the classic literature aficionado. Heathcliff Cologne by Ravens Court Apothecary on Etsy.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

-Luke 2:1-7

It’s A Wonderful Life

MBDITAW EC010

As far back as I can remember, every Christmas Eve, after opening our gifts and gorging ourselves on a splay of hors d’oeuvres, my family would sit down together and watch the most wonderful Christmas movie ever, It’s A Wonderful Life.

I don’t think I truly started to appreciate this movie until I got to college. It is replete with symbolism and heavy themes, much that goes unnoticed to the child’s eye. When I was a kid, the thing that most struck me about this film was that angels got wings when bells rang and a man named George Bailey got to see what life would be like if he was never born. In fact, I sort of tuned out the beginning portion of the movie, where nothing is happening but character development.

Now this beginning part of the movie is the part I love most. We get to see into the life of a small-town hero, one who is great in the minds of his fellow townspeople but feels like life should have offered him more.

Especially at the age I am at now, George Bailey’s story is super relatable. He was a man with big dreams, but unforeseen circumstances stuck him in his small hometown of Bedford Falls, doing a humdrum job he swore he’d never do. He marries his high school sweetheart and starts a family, never accomplishing those far-reaching dreams of his youth. When his business and reputation is compromised, he contemplates suicide, only to be saved by his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows him how much of an impact he has on the ones he loves and how tragic life might have been if he’d never lived.

It is a nice reminder to see that even if the lives we are leading seem insignificant to us, our love and generosity and spirit can have a massive effect on those around us. The actions that to us may seem commonplace or obvious could be changing the very course of someone’s life. George Bailey is “the richest man in town” not because he has mounds of gold lying around or is wildly famous, but because he has friends and family who love him and respect him more than anything, and that is no little task. He leads an honest, good life, and though from the surface it seems like this goodness is not rewarded, in reality he lives a life to be coveted.

I think at some point all people dream of fame and riches. When I was in high school I thought that by now I would have written a novel that put me in the same league as JK Rowling. But writing is a lot harder in real life than it was in my high school dreams, and I don’t even have a sentence written of that great novel (at least, I don’t think I do). The fact is, our dreams are allowed to change; as we get older, we become more grounded, and while it is hard to let go of those dreams, eventually they will be replaced by others – like being a mom and running a little business and being the picture of a housewife. Maybe someday I will still write that great novel, but right now I am content with the little life I am living, caring for my husband (as best I can), contributing to society with my art, and leaving my plans open for the time we are blessed with children. Maybe I will never be famous, but that’s perfectly all right because fame does not define success – love does.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

– Romans 15:13

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola (with Avocado)

I guess I have an obsession with granola that tastes like cookies. A few weeks ago I made this Gingersnap Granola which was so great I had to try my hand at my second favorite type of cookie – oatmeal raisin.

DSCN8801 DSCN8805

Oatmeal Cookie Granola (with Avocado)

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups old fashion oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 small or 1 large avocado, sliced
2 tbsp raisins
4 pitted dates
3 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp canola oil

METHOD:
1. Preheat oven to 300. Spray a cookie sheet with oil. In a large bowl, combine oats, salt, and cinnamon.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, place avocados slices, raisins, dates, honey, oil, and apple juice. Process until well combined (it is okay if the dates and raisins are still in chunks).
3. Stir together wet and dry ingredients. Spread on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until crunchy.

DSCN8808

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

– Matthew 1:18-25

DIY Rustic Cinnamon Stick Ornaments

DSCN8678

Part two of my tree decorating frenzy included making rustic ornaments made from cinnamon sticks. I’ve got two different tutorials here for you today, each super easy and super cute.

DSCN8644For both tutorials, this is what you’ll need:

  • craft cinnamon sticks
  • twine
  • hot glue gun and sticks
  • masking tape
  • scissors
  • glitter (whichever color will match your tree)
  • mod podge

DSCN8686

First, for the star ornaments. Really the only thing tricky about this one is figuring out which way to lay out the sticks so they don’t look awkward and misshapen as a star. Take five cinnamon sticks and lay them into a star pattern, putting a dab of hot glue on the tips of the sticks where two will meet.

Hopefully my pictures will help you figure it out.

DSCN8654DSCN8655DSCN8657DSCN8658DSCN8662

Voila! Now tie some string around the top of your star for hanging it on the tree.

DSCN8647

The next step is glitter-ifying it. Cover the entire front surface of your star with a thin layer of mod podge. Then, simply sprinkle with glitter. I chose a light, shimmery glitter for these ones – understated but glorious!

DSCN8679DSCN8689

My second rustic ornament tutorial is this glitter tipped bundle of sticks. You need the same materials.

Choose about five or six cinnamon sticks. Place them on top of a piece of twine approximately four or five inches long. Tie the twine tight and finish it off in a bow.

DSCN8666 DSCN8667 DSCN8668 DSCN8669 DSCN8670

Now, place a piece of masking tape around the tip the bundle where you’d like your glitter to be.

DSCN8676DSCN8672

Cover it in mod podge and dip it in the glitter of your choice. I chose gold for this one.  Let dry completely before removing the masking tape.

DSCN8645

DSCN8680

These ornaments could also be made with twigs from your backyard if you’re feeling extra rustic. I happened to have two bags of cinnamon sticks lying around, so that’s what I chose for my tree. It also helps that they smell cinnamony and sweet! This simple tutorial would be a great idea for a family activity if you have kids. 🙂

DSCN8698 DSCN8700