12.31.2008

Christmas Card Note Pads Tutorial


Whimsy Love demonstrated how to make a paint chip notepad some time ago and I have had fun with this project several times since. I am addicted to lists due to "mommy brain" and need to write everything down or I will forget, so I keep small notebooks in my purse, in my car, in the junk drawer...
Here is a similar project that involves my favorite subject - recycling!!! Let's reuse and re purpose those holiday cards and the mounds of homework sheets that come home in our kids' folders daily.

Supplies:
Old Christmas Cards (or how about those junk mail postcards?)
Homework pages that are blank on one side
Stapler
Scissors or paper cutter
Ruler

Cut out the portion of the card you'd like to showcase then fold the inside cover up about 1/2 inch. You will then need to trim some of the "cover" accordingly, so that it will tuck neatly into the fold.

Cut your homework papers about 1/4 inches smaller than the cover in width and length. Here, the measurement is 3 1/2 x 4 inches. 20 papers per cover is about right.

Insert the papers into the cover and staple near the bottom of the fold.


Tuck the cover into the fold (trim as necessary to let it lay flat) and you're finished! Recycle, Re purpose, Reuse...

12.30.2008

Christmas...the recap

It was a beautiful holiday and I have many photos to remember Christmas 2008. I will include some of my favorites here... Let's begin at the beginning...

Reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, I love this golden, blurry photo

Preparing the cookies and hot chocolate for Santa

The calm before the storm, Santa has indeed come!

For three small boys, they are surprisingly strong and bowled me over when I tried to delay them coming down the steps Christmas morning. Did I mention that it is 5:30 am?

The rest of the morning was like this, a whirlwind!


After Christmas, we began our travels to visit all of the grandparents. We just returned yesterday and have one more trip to make on New Year's Day and then our travel obligations are done for this holiday!

I have a plan to recycle your Christmas cards (I dreamt about it last night...do I need therapy?) I will include a tutorial tomorrow. Until then...

12.24.2008

'Twas The Night Before Christmas, Mom Style

This came to me by email from a friend, and I think it's so appropriate for today.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas...Mom Style

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the abode
Only one creature was stirring & she was cleaning the commode.
The children were finally sleeping, all snug in their beds,
while visions of X-Box & Barbie flipped through their heads.

Yes, and dad was snoring in front of the TV,
with a half constructed bicycle propped on his knee.
So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
which made her sigh, "Now what is the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs, and saw the old man.
He was covered with ashes & soot, which fell with a shrug,
"Oh great," muttered the mom, "Now I have to clean the rug."

"Ho Ho Ho!" cried Santa, I'm glad you're awake."
"your gift was especially difficult to make."
"Thanks, Santa, but all I want is time alone."
"Exactly!" he chuckled, "So, I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" she muttered, "What good is that?"

"Run along, Santa, I've no time for chit chat."
Then out walked the clone - The mother's twin,
Same hair, same eyes, same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy, watch TV and rest.
"Fantastic!" the mom cheered. "My dream has come true!"
"I'll shop, I'll read, I'll sleep a20night through!"

From the room a bove, the youngest did fret.
"Mommy?! Come quickly, I'm scared and I'm wet."
The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."
"Hey," the mom smiled, "She sure knows her part."

The clone changed the child and hummed her a tune,
as she bundled the small one in a blanket cocoon.
"You're the best mommy ever. I really love you."
The clone smiled and sighed, "And I love you too."

The mom frowned and said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal.
That's my child's LOVE she is going to steal."
Smiling wisely, Santa said: "To me it is clear,
Only one loving mother is needed here."

The mom kissed her child and tucked her in bed.
"Thank You, Santa, for clearing my head.
Sometimes I forget, it won't be very long,
before they'll be too old for my cradle and song."

The clock on the mantle began to chime.
Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."

With the clone by his side, Santa said: "Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, dear Mom, you'll be all right."


Sometimes we need reminding of what life is all about.
Especially at times when the Holiday season shouts,
and all we do is clean, bake, and procure.
You get the picture -- I'm sure.

So stop for a moment and hug that little one so dear,
whether he/she is 2 or 22, or even older this year.
For they are the gift that God gave us from Heaven above,
and what a special gift to be treasured, with endless LOVE!

May The Real Meaning Of Christmas Be With You All Year

There are no miracles for those that have no faith in them...

Have faith in the Miracle of Christmas !!!
God Bless Us, Everyone!

(now, get off the computer and go hug your family! I will be here after the holiday, you're not going to miss a thing!)

12.23.2008

Party Cracker Place Cards


I've made party "crackers" to use as place cards for this Christmas' dinner. I filled them with candy and toys for the kids and will mark every one's seat. Though they don't actually "crack", I'm sure my kids won't notice. They look festive for any party and I might pull this idea out again for New Years.

This time of year we all have empty wrapping paper tubes, so lets reuse...

I gathered my supplies, tubes cut into 6 inch lengths, wrapping paper, curling ribbon, scraps of paper, blank labels, candy and trinkets, and confetti.


Use the scrap paper to write little messages, jokes, fortunes...


Place the note into the tube first then, wrap your tube with a piece of paper about 6inches longer than the tube. Tie one end with the ribbon.


Drop your items into the tube then tie the other end closed.


Curl your ribbons and stamp names onto the labels then affix them to the outside of the cracker.

I should mention that I originally bought crackers at Costco last month for this purpose but realized last week that they were actually filled with adult items, like, wine openers, money clips, compasses...Maybe I should have stuck with those, the looks on the kids' faces would have been hilarious! But, like a responsible parent, I returned them and tried to figure out how to make a kid-friendly version.

Now, this seems like a good idea right now - but I'm guessing that this could end with kids beaning each other on the head with tubes, spilling confetti all over the place, and getting all hopped up on sugar before dinner. Fun, huh?

Oh, just for the fun of it click here for a good laugh. I'm telling you, you cannot watch this without a smile plastered on your face the whole time! (Turn up your volume to listen)

12.22.2008

It Looks Like Clark Griswold Threw Up Out Here

We took our annual drive through Hartwood Acres Festival of Lights Display last night. Do you have something like this in your town? It's a yearly event in Pittsburgh to benefit Children's Hospital and Project Bundle Up, and it's a light display set up through an entire park. Imagine Clark Griswold had his way with a three mile stretch...it is tacky and fantastic all at once.

We have a certain drill we follow that begins with the kids begging to take off their seat belts every 10 seconds during the last 5 miles of the drive there. There is lots of threatening to not go if they ask again and lots of crying as the anticipation becomes tension during the last mile that is total gridlock in stop and go traffic.

Once we turn into the park all hell breaks loose and, somehow, these little children can physically remove me from the front seat to take the best viewing spot. I still haven't figured it out, but there is a whirlwind of activity as everyone's seatbest flies off at once and the car rocks back and forth and when I come to I'm sitting in the back on top of someone's booster seat!

Soon, everyone is happy...but not for long. It's time to argue about whether the windows will be up or down (it was 19 degrees outside). Usually, the kids asking for the windows to be up are wearing t-shirts and refuse to put on a coat. I am a kid at heart and think the lights should be viewed with the windows down, so I join in the argument (I am sitting in a booster seat, after all).

There are dinosaurs, teddy bears, reindeer, Harley Santa, and the blinding 12 days of Christmas. There are lighted tunnels that give you a strange sick feeling when you drive through them, volcanos, and Santa's toy shop... We all have our favorite displays and since I held the camera, I captured my own faves for you.

The first thing I love is watching the kids silhouetted against the lights as we drive into the entrance. I like to see the wonder and watch them point and anticipate what is around the corner - that view satisfies the mommy in me and now I can move onto the ooohh's and aaahhh's with everyone else.

I love the blue lights on the mansion that turn it into an ice castle

and the green forest (they also have the white forest, red forest, and blue forest!)

and the super gaudy illuminated nativity, nothing says Jesus like 10,000 watts!

I hope you find some time to participate in your own family traditions this season, I think it really makes the holiday. Go see some lights!
Tomorrow, a tutorial for a fun placecard idea for the holiday table.

12.21.2008

Mommy Radar

I have "mommy radar" like most mothers, but I've noticed since I've had children the radar doesn't stop with only them. I feel compelled to take care of anyone in need, bums on the street, a child that looks lost in a store, the millions of hungry children around the world...

I was watching Secret Millionaire on TV the other night, (a show about fortunate people who help unsuspecting needy and deserving people) and my husband said nothing during the show except "Don't get any ideas, I don't have $100,000". The American Idol charity drive sent me into an hour long cry fest ending in me calling and pledging everything I could. I am a crooked evangelist's dream.

Well, mommy radar has kicked in again and I'm helpless to know what to do. I'm a doer, I fix it and make it better, and until I do I obsess over it. This is the story...

I was looking up song lyrics for a frame a month or so ago and stumbled upon a blog with a college-aged author. She is a talented writer and poet who is very in touch with her feelings. She expresses herself well and writes about her life and thoughts - and all of her poor choices.

She is self destructive and a mess - weren't we all? I read her angst about life, boys, decisions, and I can relate. I'm transported back to another time and place when I felt these things. I read about her behavior and feel compelled to tell her it will be alright. Move forward, make good choices, life will iron itself out and you will be happy and full someday.

I can't reach out to her, she is a stranger, but I look over her like a mother hen. As if I'm watching over myself in another time. I worry and log in each day to be sure she woke up that morning (she is currently trying to stay awake for 72 hours - and I think she is driving a car during this time!) and hope that today's choices will be smarter. I hope that she studies for her finals, I hope she doesn't hurt herself doing something stupid (oh, she does plenty of stupid things), I hope she learns to value herself, and I hope for her to be happy.

This blog-world allows us to make emotional connections with strangers, sometimes without them even realizing it. It lets you peek inside someone's diary to read their inner most thoughts and dreams. It lets you bond in a strange, one-sided relationship that has no roots and no future. You can be a fly on the wall of your own soap opera. As I watch over her, I wish I was her mother and could help make it better. I also realize her mother is probably the last person who would read this journal.

So, I read, I worry, and I retain for the future when I have young adult children trying to find their way in this world. I hope when that time comes "mommy radar" will help me recognize their struggles. I have a few years to come up with a game plan...

12.20.2008

Brown Paper Packages, Tied Up With String...


A few of my favorite things!
Yesterday we worked on a project after the eating and gifting together. We had an outing last week to a shop that had a Christmas tree decorated with "brown paper packages tied up with string" and knew this was the idea for us. While describing the project, Treat Girl described a "gift of love" that hangs on her tree each year, and a collaboration was underway!

Supplies:
Small boxes of various sizes (jewelry boxes, mini cereal boxes, etc...)
Brown kraft paper
Gardening twine
Evergreens from outside
Card stock
Single hole punch

Wrap your gifts and tie with string. Cut a tag from the card stock and write one of the following sayings (or make up one of your own)
"The gift in this box you cannot see, it's filled with love to you from me"
"In this gift is nothing new, it's filled with love from me to you."
or for my husband: "This gift is full of love, memories, and hope for the future."
Punch a hole in the corner of the tag and thread it through the string.
Tuck in some greens and tie.
The gifts can be tucked into the Christmas tree

I made one for each family member and nested them in greens on the table for a centerpiece.


This is a great "green" project - recycle, reuse, reduce!

For more great holiday gift and decor ideas, check out one of my favorite websites: One Pretty Thing

12.19.2008

Christmas Party Recap


The first annual Soul Sisters Christmas Party was a raging success!We've just wrapped up and I couldn't wait to share all the fun and gifts.

Let's begin at the beginning... The girls rolled in around 9:30 and we munched on spinach artichoke quiche, Amish Friendship Bread, fruit, and cookies. Next we popped the champagne and poured some mimosas for the gift exchange.

Here is the run down of how far you can stretch $10 (which was the maximum amount you could spend on supplies for your handmade gifts). We had a contest to see how little you could spend and the winner got an additional prize. The idea is to use what you have around the house and spend as little as possible but still make some great gifts.

Here is my gift for our "foodie" friend marzipan mom (disclaimer: it is pouring rain and looks like night outside, so the photos suck). I used scrap wood from my frames and made a chalkboard she can use to record her shopping list or write the menu for a dinner party. I also used the scraps from a curtain to sew her a "hostess apron" I saw in the Sur la Table catalog. Finally, I stamped some index cards to make personalized recipe cards (thanks to Whimsy love for the idea!) I included chalk and an eraser covered in a brocade paper to match the apron. Grand total: $1 for the chalk/eraser combo from the Dollar Tree.

Next, Marzipan Mom made a gift of a gourd bowl that was sanded and sealed and filled with flannel jammie pants, hand made soap, biscotti and candy. Under $10!


Next, "M" made a gift of a snowman lamp made from a gourd! The gourd was hollowed out and snowflakes were dremmel-ed into the stomach. Then, the whole thing was painted and electrified - under $5!!!



Next, Joy Beadworks created a custom, insulated coffee cup that was embellished with fabric (in my favorite color) and displayed my shop web address! A box of tea and package of cocoa finished it off. Under $10, amazing!


Finally, our own Treat Girl knitted the cutest pair of mittens (that were the exact shade of the recipient's blouse...creepy) with a $1.80 and no potty breaks!


For her frugality, she won the prize I'd made yesterday - a hinged and distressed box to store all of her beads for her Joy Beadworks interchangeable bead rings! (cost $1.00)


Too soon, it was time to move on with our day. Kids needed to be picked up/dropped off, Christmas gifts purchased, and husbands had to be relieved from duty...but we left with hugs, gifts, friendship...and a nice mimosa buzz :)

Merry Christmas!
psst! Tomorrow I will talk about the craft we worked on for this shindig...it's cute!

12.18.2008

The Greatest Christmas Cookie I've Ever Baked!


Okay, I'm sitting here with a tummy ache as I write this because I am, apparently, unable to control myself. I ate so many of this new cookie that I'm sick!! Now, that may not seem so unusual, but I have this weird quirk (hmmm, imagine...) and I usually can't eat what I make. I don't know why, but I rarely eat what I bake the same day - it never tastes good to me. It's an oddity.

Back in the day, I was a waitress and being around all that food left me skinnier than ever, I couldn't eat after being around so much food!

My husband's great-aunt "Bubs" brought this cookie to Thanksgiving and I have been looking for a recipe ever since. I found one on the chef2chef website, so thank you to them.

So, my sickness is a testament to this cookie. It's flaky and gooey and creamy and yummy all at once. The cups are like little pie crusts, not sweet, with a creamy caramel-y filling. mmmmm..... Soul sisters, no need to bake this one. I picked it for my cookie exchange cookie for tomorrow and I'll include the recipe. Of course, I've made some changes, as I always do, so I will type it as I made it.

Caramel Dream Tassies

1 jar gourmet caramel sauce (no low fat, please!)

1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Ground nuts

Dough:

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. butter, softened
2 c. flour

1 cup chopped cashews


Preparation

In a small bowl, blend butter and shortening, mixing well. Set aside for 20 minutes. In another bowl, blend sugar, 1/4 c. milk, and vanilla. Set aside for 20 minutes. Combine the two bowls into a large bowl. Using a mixer, whip on high until cream. Spoon this frosting on top of caramel layer, sprinkle with ground nuts. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Mix ingredients for dough well. Shape into 48 small balls. Place in tassie pans (miniature cupcake/muffin pans). Press up sides gently (I used a wooden knob-end tool for this, make sure you dip it in flour as the dough is quite sticky!). Make the well quite deep as the pastry will puff when it bakes leaving you less room for gooey caramel.

Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Cool and spoon caramel sauce into each cup. Pipe cream on top and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Makes 4 dozen.

In other news, my ebay charity auction ended with less than stellar results. My frame went for $43 (less than half the value) but it was for a good cause and I'm happy. I think next year I will list it in the height of my business, which would have been 2 weeks ago. Noted.

I will be getting going on my grab bag gift today, I'm so late! I have great ideas...now how to execute??? You'll just have to wait and see...

12.16.2008

Soul Sisters Christmas Party is Around the Corner!

Remember when I told you about the Christmas Party we have planned? Well, it's this week! On Friday morning, my girls are going to gather for some yummy food and and drinks and we will exchange our gifts. Now, remember, everything had to be handmade and the dollar limit was $10. I can hardly wait to see what everyone comes up with!

I am still working on mine after the crazy week I've had getting my orders out, but I think it's going to work out. I can't wait to post photos of the booty!

Helper Munchkin helped me bake yesterday and this is the scene I walked into when I left the room for a minute:


We baked the cutouts and the boys all decorated after dinner. Just put down some paper and let them drizzle,


the cookies come out all marbled and beautiful!


Okay, onward...did you go shopping yet? I have my first Christmas cookie recipe for you:

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 large egg
4 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Mix flour salt and baking powder. In a separate large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, gradually beat in sugar, then egg and poppy seeds, zest and extracts. Gradually mix in dry ingredients. Gather dough into a ball and divide in half. Flatten each half into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

On a floured surface, roll out a dough disk to 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a small glass) to cut out cookies. Arrange on the prepared baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps and re-roll to make more cookies.

Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to turn brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To Make Filling
Beat all the filling ingredients together until light and fluffy. Spread about 2 teaspoons of filling on the bottom of one cookie and press another cookie, bottom side down, onto the filling. Chill until ready to serve. Try to assemble the cookies as near to the time when you will be eating them as possible. Extended time in the refrigerator will make them lose their crispness (but I like them soft...so I leave them out!!)


I cut them with a tiny star cutter (about 1 1/2 inch) then piped in the filling and gently set the second star on top at an angle to show off the filling. So pretty!


Finally, don't forget about my charity auction for one of my 20x20 inch Memory Frames. You can bid here!

Some of My Favorite Holiday Orders

I have been able to paint some of the best frames this holiday season! My customers are so creative with their words and thoughts. I love hearing all of the stories behind the gifts. Thank you all for sharing and making this connection with me.

I wish I could share all of the orders, but here are a few of my favorite projects from Christmas 2008...

















You can contact me at jsneill@zoominternet.net to discuss your own order or you can pop into my Etsy shop to poke around. Merry Christmas to all of you!

 

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