Saturday, December 27, 2008

Homemade gift ideas

Yep, it's now after Christmas and I'm posting homemade gift ideas :) I received a bunch from friends and family and gave a bunch so they had to be kept secret. I still have several "New Year's" gifts to give this week -- my way of giving neighbor gifts that I wasn't on the ball enough to give before Christmas. Still, these ideas could be put to use as early as Valentines Day, and that's only a month and a half away ;) You would think it was sooner considering the fact that the stores already have their heart shaped boxes and stuffed bears on display. No joke. Who buys THIS EARLY for vday? Especially stuff like chocolate? Hmm... anyway, here are my favorite homemade gift ideas:

My friend Michelle gave me this awesome notebook. It is one of those black/white covered notebooks you buy for school. Well she totally jazzed it up with some glue and scrapbook paper and I totally love it. I am definetly using this idea next year ...

This is also from my creative friend Michelle. This is OFFICIALLY on my Top Ten of homemade gifts of all time. I don't know how she made it ... computer program or creative text genius? I dunno. But I absolutely love it. I also love that she used the word "sparkly" to describe me. I'm not gonna lie, that made my day. I was hesitant to post this because I want to make one for every sister and friend in my life now :)

This fun and adorable cookbook was made by another creative friend, Jasmine. She is absolutely incredible when it comes to computer/clip-art/printing type gifts. This fun cookbook was in full color with gorgeous photos and fun pictures. I can't wait to use it each holiday season. It also came with a super cute cookie plate which is a fun bonus :)

This is a gift basket I made for my in-laws. It was incredibly simple and inexpensive and hopefully fun and useful for my in-laws. I personally think that parents are THE hardest people in the world to shop for. They have spent a lifetime reading books, decorating their home, etc., so it's impossible to come up with something new or different to give them. This year I decided to simply make a gift basket of our "favorite things." Below you will see the gift tag explaining:

This is the whole wrapped package. Inside the basket was a muffin mix for our favorite muffins, a bottle of martinellis (the only actual purchase necessary aside from the ribbon and basket), some magnets you'll see later, a compilation of our favorite Christmas stories, an updated family photo for their wall along with a picture my toddler drew of them and some of our hand-dipped nuts that we always make. With each item was a tag explaining what it was and why it was one of our favorite things.
These are the magnets I was talking about. I hope my mom doesn't read this becuase I would like tomake her some for mothers day ;) They are flat business card magnets that are sticky so you can easily put a picture on top. I printed mine off my computer and then covered it with packing tape. You can't tell it is packing tape, it just looks laminated :)
This is a cute neighbor treat that I received in a paper craft swap. The tag says: I wanted to get the perfect gift for you, but couldn't decide just what to do! I almost sent you a dozen roses--instead here's a bag of reindeer noses!" Inside the bag were red M&M's and malt balls :) She used a Cricut to cut the reindeer and simple paper folding to create the container.
These super cute boxes were made by my sil Tammy. I love the paper she used and I think that a beautiful homemade box really gives a small treat/gift a special touch.
This is the gift that I gave my husband this year. I know you were all dying to see what I came up with right? Well, I bought a simple bed tray and put a note on promising him bed in breakfast every Saturday in 2009. I thought a gift of service would last longer than anything else I could make and I know that he loves to sleep in on Saturdays so I'm hoping he'll enjoy it. I think this is one gift that would be great for any husband -- and they are hard to make gifts for if you ask me!

These two clay pots stacked on top of each other are actually ......A garlic roaster! My girlfriend Amy wrapped this up with a cute bow and included the garlic and recipe on how to roast the garlic using the two clay pots! I thought this was so unique and a perfect gift for our garlic-eating family.
Here is a snapshot of some more neighbor paper crafts that I made and received as part of my paper craft swap. From left to right:
The cute little package looking treat is actually two Hershey's nuggets wrapped up using paper punches. To the right is a paper sour cream container filled with Hershey kisses. To the right of that is a simple Hershey bar wrapper made out of festive paper. Just below that is the awesome day planner that was made special with a customized scrapbook cover (slipped inside the plastic that housed the original cover). I loved that idea so much that I made them as New Years gifts for a few friends. To the left of that are some adorable York Peppermint patties sandwiched in between two scallop punches with snow men faces and finally, the cute tic tac holder that ties closed like a little book. SO CUTE. Thanks to my mom, sister and Delaina for the fun projects! Btw, if you want more instructions or links for any of these projects just let me know!

These are some of those handy glass magnets I made for my friend Amy. They are made with Rooster paper to match the theme in her kitchen.
I also made this handy-dandy FHE-in-a-jar kit for her family. Inside the jar are 54 slips with an opening song, scripture assignment, and topic for discussion. The tag on top explains how to use the gift and the tag underneath has a quote from the First Presidency about FHe. I got all of the materials from so it was simply a matter of cutting and folding the lessons to fit inside the jar and making my tags. I also made the jar cutesy-and roostery so that it would match her kitchen. I figure it was more likely that the jar would stay out in the open to be readily used if it happened to match the decor :)

This super huge and awesome cookbook was made by my mil. She compiled family recipes and dedicated the project to her mother.
Each recipe is housed in protective sheet covers. I loved this gift -- homemade gifts really truly are MY FAVORITE. I could tell she had put a ton of time and effort in to this project and I can't wait to use it.

That's it for now!!! Whew! I hope you got some fun ideas for homemade gift giving in the new year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

homemade Christmas ideas

I think most people are in the same boat as me: working on a homemade Christmas. With all the craziness in the economy our family is really trying to focus on being frugal this holiday season. It has been really wonderful actually -- aside from the part about coming up with a homemade gift for my husband :( I know, it's only 10 days until Christmas and I am STILL empty handed. It's a long story, but the gift I was so excited about turned out to cost $50 to make -- the same as purchasing it at the store. I don't know about you guys but I thought making something from scratch was supposed to be CHEAPER. I'm trying not to stress about that so if you have ANY ideas for a homemade gift for a man PLEASE let me know.
Anyway, this Christmas I have seen a lot of great homemade decorations and projects that can be made from paper. I love these ideas because paper is inexpensive and a lot of people already have craft paper lying around the house. So here are some cheap but fun paper Christmas projects:
This first picture is from my home. I have these three frames hanging in my kitchen. In the fall they have beautiful photos of pumpkins and leaves, in the spring it is berries and in the summer it is colorful vegetables. I purchase the photos through sites like so they are gorgeous and make for really colorful decorations. Well, this year I didn't want to spend $10 on pictures for my wall :) Unfortunately I have NO skills in still-life/creative photography. Instead I went the cheap route and purchased some cream paper and printed pictures off my computer. The two trees are actually from a font I downloaded on and the reindeer is from google images somewhere. I actually ended up liking the simple look and it was a quick and inexpensive project.

I saw these paper ornaments crafted on How About Orange (I am always stealing her stuff for this blog). I saw that a friend and her spouse had made all of their ornaments for their tree with paper so I thought I would post these cute ornaments. Click on THIS LINK for her detailed tutorial on making them. I think if they were blue and white they would remind me of snowflakes instead of flowers.

Love this idea from Martha. Really, if I had a mantle I would be making these tonight. Luh-Hove them. Wouldn't this look beautiful with that shimmery scrapbook paper they have?? Here's the link. Now go make some.

Now for the most genious idea of the night. Just kidding. This is my version of a tree garland made of paper links :) We have a tree made up of unique ornaments and mementos -- even the silly pinecone I made in kindergarten. As such, I can get away with a homemade garland to decorate it :) I love the look of ribbon on a tree but this year we decided to involve the kids and use up all of my red and green scraps to make a simple garland. I would post a picture of the tree but, well we don't have one yet. I know, do I sound SO unprepared for Christmas or what?! Hopefully we will fix that by tomorrow ...
Stay tuned, I have several easy crafts that make great neighbor gifts coming SOON.

gingerbread house tutorial

Myy awesome friend Raven sent over another fun idea. Check out her detailed tutorial on making a real homemade gingerbread house:

Gingerbread House Making 101

Welcome to Gingerbread House Making 101! Here's everything you need to know to make a fun gingerbread house this holiday season.
Step 1: Find A Pattern
You are going to need a pattern to cut out the different pieces of your gingerbread house. If you are feeling ambitious, you can make up your own pattern. You could even try to make one that looks like your own home. However, there are also a lot of patterns available online. I used this one as my starting point and made my own modifications. I added a chimney and made the roof a bit longer so it would hang down over the house a little more. I also rounded the top of the door and took that same shape and used it to make a window on the back. If you add this window on the back, I would suggest making it a bit bigger. I didn't on this particular house, but I did on a later version of it and the bigger window is a nice touch. Also, on a later house I decided to cut out a round window right above the front door. This adds some extra interest to the front of the house. Your house can be as simple or as complex as you want. Coming up with your design is half the fun!

Step 2: Cut Out Pattern
Once you've found your pattern, print it (or draw it) according to scale and then cut out your pieces.

Make sure to label each piece with what it is and how many you need to make. For example, on a side piece I would write "Side (2)". To allow for the most flexibility, I cut out the basic shapes and then cut out separate templates for my windows and door.

Step 3: Make Gingerbread Dough

1 C Molasses (I use the mild flavor variety)
1 C Shortening
1 C Sugar
4 C Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Ginger
A dash of Cinnamon

Combine the molasses and shortening and microwave until the shortening is mostly melted. Add the sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Step 4: Roll the Dough Out
If you roll the dough out on foil and cut your pieces on the same foil (making sure to leave enough room in between pieces to allow for some spreading during baking), then all you have to do is slide the foil on to your cookie sheet when you're ready to bake. This is much easier than trying to move the individual pieces. Also, gingerbread rolls easiest when it is warm. So, if your dough isn't rolling well (cracking or not sticking together), try sticking some in a plastic baggie and microwaving it until it is warm.

Step 5: Cut Out Pattern Pieces
Once your dough is rolled out, it's time to take your pattern pieces and cut around them.

Remember to cut out windows and doors. If you want to make shutters for your windows, just take the dough that is removed when you cut out a window and cut it in half vertically. Ta da! Shutters! Make sure you allow enough space around each item when you bake it.

Step 6: Add Candy to Windows
One of my favorite tricks is to add broken up candy to your windows to give it the look of glass.

Have fun with your colors and don't be afraid to experiment. I sometimes like to combine two different colors in my larger windows.

Step 7: Bake Pieces
Bake on foil-covered cookie sheet at 375 for 8-9 minutes or until edges are brown.

Another suggestion is to bake your smaller pieces (chimney, shutters, door) separately from your big pieces. The little pieces won't need as long in the oven and this will prevent them from burning. Let the pieces cool completely.

Step 8: Make Royal Icing
I use royal icing to decorate my houses.

Just combine 3 C powdered sugar, 3 egg whites, and 1.5 tsp cream of tartar. Beat until the icing is getting stiff and isn't runny. I tried using meringue powder instead of the fresh egg whites (that's why it's in the picture), but it just didn't work for me. So, I would suggest sticking to the fresh egg whites.

Step 9: Decorate!
Here's where the real fun begins. You can use whatever you want to decorate your house. Get creative and don't be afraid to experiment! It's hard to go wrong with decorating your house. To pipe my icing, I used some cake decorating supplies (a piping bag, a number 3 tip, and a tip coupler). However, if you don't have these items, you can also just use a plastic baggie. Just snip off a bit of one of the corners of the baggie after you've put some icing in it.
With this house, I tried decorating all the pieces first and then assembling the house. This made the decorating part a lot easier, but it was a little tricky when it came time to assemble the house. In a subsequent house, I decorated certain elements (like drawing on the window panes), assembled the base of the house, finished decorating the base, assembled the roof and chimney, and decorated the roof and chimney. Just do whatever you find easiest.

When decorating, adhere your candy with the royal icing and don't skimp on it. A little extra icing around your candy just looks like snow, so don't hesitate to put plenty on! The possibilities for decoration are endless, so do whatever you think will look the best. You can pipe shingles on the roof like I did or cover the whole roof with red and green starlight mints--the options are limitless! I like to cut gumdrops in half vertically and use them as greenery around the house. Just adhere the cut side of the gum drop to your house. I've also heard of people taking inverted sugar cones and covering them with cut gumdrops to make trees. Just have fun!

Step 10: Assemble the House
As I mentioned before, you can assemble the house before you decorate, in stages as your decorate, or after you decorate. I assembled this house on a 10 inch round cake board. Cake boards are nice and sturdy and provide a simple base for your house. Some people like to bake a large piece of gingerbread and assemble the house on it. If you go that route, make sure this base piece is thick and sturdy and consider adhering it to a piece of sturdy cardboard.
Another of my favorite tricks is putting lights inside the house.

This really enhances the look of the candy windows and creates a nice glow. For this house, I used a strand of battery-operated LED lights. I bought them at the grocery store for $3.99 in the holiday aisle. Make sure to adhere the battery pack to the base (I used tape) and position it so that it will be easy to turn the lights on and off once your house is assembled. I put the switch right by the front door.
To assemble the pieces, I start with the front piece. Decide where you want it and then either pipe icing on the bottom of the piece or on the base itself. It's up to you. Use plenty of icing. This is your cement that will hold it all together. I do the sides next. Pipe icing on the inside of the front piece where the side piece will adhere and then pipe in a straight line back as far as your side piece is long. Place the side piece, making sure it forms a 90 degree angle with the front piece. Hold the two pieces together for a minute to make sure they are adhering. Repeat with the other side. Then, pipe along the back, just beyond the side pieces. Pipe along the inside edges of the back piece where it will meet the side pieces and place the back piece. At this point, adhere your front door (I like to leave it open--looks cosy and allows you access to your battery pack) and any window shutters. Next, it's time to put on your roof. I like to pipe a generous amount of icing along the top edges of the front and back pieces and the sides. Then, just place your roof pieces. Make sure to hold them in place for a minute or so to allow the icing to start to set. Finally, adhere your chimney pieces if you made a chimney. I usually do the front piece of the chimney, then the two side pieces, and then the back piece. You're done! The icing will get nice and hard and you shouldn't have any problems getting the house to stick together.

Although I usually make plenty of mistakes when I make a gingerbread house, all of the fun decorations help cover those up. That's the great thing about gingerbread houses--they almost always turn out looking cute, no matter how you make them!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas decorations (fabric strips light garland and ornament ball wreath)

Here are two home decorating crafts for your viewing enjoyment :) The first is a strand of lights, made by my mom. She simply cut strips of Christmas fabric 1 1/2 inches wide and about 6 1/2 inches long. She then knotted the strips of fabric along the light strand as shown below:

I love this garland and use it every year to line the entrance from my kitchen to my living room. One year I put it on the tree and it looked so pretty when I plugged the lights in :) It is a really simple project -- especially if you already have leftover fabric sitting around your house. I think my mom used about 5 or so different fabrics. You could get so many different effects with this depending on the type of fabric you use.
Next is the ornament ball wreath I made this year. I had made a similar version in years past but it involved a lot of glue and a straw wreath. It was a mess. This year I followed a Martha Stewart tutorial which involved wire and a wire frame wreath. SO MUCH PRETTIER. It does take quite a few balls so I would recommend catching a sale or an after-Christmas deal. I also reccomend using plastic balls so you don't have to worry about them breaking! Mine are glass but I've glued them in place once they are wired on so I'm hoping we won't have any fall and break this year. Also, if one does break, you can always simply wire a new ball into place.
Here is the link for the tutorial.