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!

The Benefits of Sewing Your Own Purses

Or maybe this post should just be called “The Benefits of Sewing Your Own Stuff”… Seriously, teaching myself how to sew was probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. Now, I’m no savant (I can’t make high-fashion clothes or anything like that) but the basics have been pretty easy to master and for that I am eternally grateful.

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Custom Bookshelf Purse, $45

Hand-sewn purses are my topic today.

Let me tell you a story. I used to be a purse addict. Back in middle school and high school, I literally could not get enough of purses. Every time I went to Target I came home with a new one, and eventually I realized I had a problem (this epiphany happened in the form of opening my closet to an avalanche of purses no longer in use). Once I went to college and figured I should be spending my money on more important things, my addiction started to wane.

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Peace Love Books Purse, $35

I still love purses, but largely only the ones I make myself. Here’s why: In making my own purses they can be (1). the exact size that I want, (2). the exact look that I want and (3). cheap. It can be hard to find a purse that fits these three key criteria.

My first foray into purse-making was with this cat purse that I still am very fond of, but it eventually outgrew my needs. Currently, I make and sell (on Etsy) my messenger bags, which are perfect for everything I do in life.

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Custom Bookshelf Purse, $45

The reason they’re so handy is that they’re simple, easy to wear, and very spacious. And whenever I get tired of one, I can just whip into my stash and -BAM!- new purse. I love that I have all the creative power.

In my opinion, taking the time to make your own purses (or curtains or tablecloths or whatever else that can be sewn in the home) is much more rewarding than spending money and gas to go to Target. You’ll always better appreciate something you make with your own two hands anyway.

Learning to sew is not difficult. You don’t have to be an artist to do it. All you need is fabric, a sewing machine, and some patience. I never use patterns, but I don’t recommend this if you’ve never sewn before. Go to your fabric store and find a simple pattern of something you’d like to have. Try it out, and eventually you’ll realize how magnificent sewing things for yourself really can be. Don’t say you can’t do it just because you’ve never tried.

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Mountain Purse, $38

Of course, you probably do need to be an artist if you want to paint your purses like I do mine 😉 But I’ll give you a hint: textile medium. Find it at Hobby Lobby.

Have a great Friday and sew something!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Nancy Drew Bookshelf Purse, $38

Homemade Marshmallows

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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! 🙂

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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. 🙂

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!

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  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.

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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

My Favorite Thing to Make: Book Spine Bookmarks

People often ask me what my favorite thing to create is. After pondering it a while (I don’t want to give a rash answer on this one), I think I finally came up with an answer. I love any and all sorts of creative activities, but my favorite thing to make is my book spine bookmarks (which you can find here in my etsy shop).

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I really enjoy making these because they exercise my brain as well as my hand. I majored in English in college, but even before then books were monumental in my life. Every English class I ever took was my favorite – there was just something so exciting about delving into a novel, discovering its secrets, its themes and symbols and essence. Book discussions are what I lived for in school. Now that I am out of school I find myself longing for those days of book discussions and intensive reading, and one thing that helps is painting book spines on bookmarks.

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Painting a book spine bookmark is like my creative version of a book discussion. I decide on (or am commissioned) a book to make, and then I stew over it. What color is this novel? What style? Is it classical or new agey or abstract or fantastical? What are the most important or deep-sitting symbols in the book?

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Some books are easier to make than others, but I love this sort of challenge. When in the middle of one of these bookmarks, I find myself flipping through the pages, looking up quotes, and re-meeting the characters. Pure bliss.

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My favorite books to do so far have been the Harry Potter series, but to avoid being cliche, my runner up is Ethan Frome. This was my favorite book in high school.

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Bookmarks are also a great gift option for people who would much rather have their nose stuck in a book than be out partying – we all know the type! If you have a specific book in mind for a loved one, let me know and I can start a custom order for you. Cheers!

unwrap your unique gift etsy