Christmas tree tour

Okay folks, our tree is finally done! Actually, it’s been done for like two days, but it took me this long to get to this post, so there you have it.  I spent $15 total for decorations this year, only bought the styrofoam balls to make my upcycled ornaments, and then the tree itself is a cut tree from home depot, so we obviously bought that, but otherwise, it was either made or already on hand.

You want to see closer? I thought so…

Sorghum grass!  I got a bunch of this from my friend Peggy in the fall. I liked it, but didn’t know what to do with it… She’d cut the whole stalks, so I had 5 foot tall-ish stalks that I wrestled into my car, and then left on my back porch. I was going to weave them into a wreath, but forgot about them, and then they got too dry. Ah well, I said , I’ll think of something to do with them, and then it hit me, they needed to be Christmas tree deco.

So I cut off the heads and stuck them into the tree…

And I cut the blades free from the stalks and used them as garlands as you can see both in the very first picture in this post and again int his other angle here:

Other natural things that I had around and stuck into the tree include:

Dried wildflowers, gone to seed… These you have to gather before their seeds blow off, or in my case, they were still sitting in a vase where they had dried themselves from earlier in the fall… Carefully inserted into the tree, they don’t drop that many of their seeds.

And dried yarrow from an arrangement this summer that I’d stashed to bring out in the fall and never did…

Then there’s the handmade ornaments from this year.

Here’s the Book Ornaments hanging in splendor:

and the little blue ornaments hanging out with the berry garlands (Got these at Michaels a few years back, but they still carry them every year…)

and the fuzzy flower ornament too…

and the skeleton keys from last year… We had an outdoor tree with a root ball, so we couldn’t hang anything breakable. So I scoured ebay for people selling off large lots of skeleton (like 10 or so in one go), and hung them from brightly colored or sparkly ribbons.  Most of them made a come back this year (some had already been re-purposed into other decorations around the house).

And I like my vintage Santa head ornament too… My grandmother passed along this awesome crystal punch bowl and cups a few years ago, and in the wrappings were several vintage Christmas ornaments! Score :-) Thanks, Grandma!

I didn’t have a spot I really wanted to stand my woodland Santa, so I stuck him in the tree (he doesn’t have a base, so he could sort of straddle a branch…)

Sparkly eucalyptus… I got this last year too at some craft store to go on our outdoor tree.  It’s just dried eucalyptus coated with something gold and sparkly… five branches stuck into the tree in various places make a great splash of, well, sparkly :-)

and those of you who craft regularly, or sew, or whatever, know that sometimes you get stuff on clearance because your gut tells you it could be a good idea right? A couple of years ago, I grabbed this remnant of thick cotton fabric for like a dollar a yard or something, and got like 3-4 yards of it… Well, it made a lovely tree skirt this year, simply wrapped around the base of the tree :-) The only problem is, Percy thinks it’s a bed and keeps squishing my lovely accidental on purpose bunches flat… ah well. I say I’d rather have the pets then a perfect house, and sometimes I need reminding of that 😛

And there you have it! Let me know if anything inspired you to put anything weird or different in your tree 😉

Cookies in a Jar: Great for Gifting :-)

I love cookies in a jar! They’re fun ways to share your favorite recipes with folks and make less work for them.  I adapted my favorite Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Hillbilly Housewife, and of course, I tested it it make sure it worked with a different order. I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I make for this blog, people!

So, above you see the cast of characters you’ll need to assemble the jars.  Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups of whole wheat flour (I personally like King Arthur Flour as you can see)
  • 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 quart wide-mouth Mason jar with lid (wide mouth will let you pack the ingredients down with your hand, or at least if you have small to medium size hands… if you’re a dude, get an ice cream scoop and pack it down with the back of it 😉 )

Now, the first time I tried this, it didn’t all fit in the jar, so I re-did it (separating all those ingredients, not fun! okay, so I just baked that jar up and tried again…) and discovered a method that fits it all in.  Basically, you layer it by dividing the flour, sugar and chocolate chips in half and doing them each in two layers instead of one. It fits in the jar this way, and bonus, looks cooler then it did with all ingredients in one layer! I love it when a plan comes together :-)

Here’s the layering order step-by-step:

  1. Measure 1 cup of flour, plus 2 tablespoons of flour.  I used a half-cup scoop and dumped it in because my scoop fits in the jar, you could also make a paper funnel to get the ingredients in the jar. To make a paper funnel, simply loosely roll a sheet of clean paper and set in top of jar.
  2. Measure 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and dump in on top of flour
  3. Measure 3/4 cup of brown sugar and put on top of first two layers.
  4. Pack all three layers tightly. Your first layer of chocolate chips might just about disappear, but that’s okay, you’ll need the space!
  5. Measure 1 cup of flour plus 2 tablespoons of flour and add.
  6. Measure 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda and add to flour (I sort of stirred the baking soda and salt into the second flour layer before adding the final layers)
  7. Measure 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and add
  8. Measure 3/4 cup of brown sugar, packing as you go (this last layer you might want to measure in 3 parts, and pack each 1/4 cup down as you go, but you should still end up with the jar’s band width still empty)

And, voila! Cookies in a jar :-)

Now to finish off my jars, I created labels and instructions for them. The labels are my design, printed out on a single sheet label (Avery Label #8165) and then cut out.  The instructions I printed on card stock and cut with deckle edge scrap booking scissors.

Other materials included a 8×8 inch square of cloth cut with pinking shears, and about 14-16 inches of Jute cord to tie the cloth in place and attach the instructions.

Here’s how that turned out:

To get the instructions on how to make them, click here to download the .pdf of the instruction cards. They’re just what you see in the image above, simply cut them apart, hole punch a corner and tie to your jars.

If you want the labels you see, I’ve designed seven different color schemes, and would be happy to customize them for you.  Click here for more information on how to obtain a customized .pdf of stickers for you to print yourself.

Upcycled Christmas Part 3

And now, for the final ornament in the 2010 Anna Howard Upcycled Ornament Collection, the Fuzzy Flower Ornament!

This is the most time intensive of all of them, require a half-hour to an hour to complete per ornament. As a I result, I’ve made a grand total of one so far, and only aspire to make 3 total if I can squeeze them in.  So in ranking order of difficulty, ornament #2 is the easiest and the fastest requiring less than 10 minutes per ornament (after gathering supplies and getting the hang of it that is, it might take a try or two before it gets that fast), and then ornament #1 is next requiring about 15 minutes of work time, 10-12 minutes to wrap it in paper, then an hour or so of drying time, and another minute or two for the hanger part.

This one is gorgeous, but time consuming 😛 Never-the-less, here it is in all it’s step-by-step glory!

Step 1: (look, numbers! aren’t you proud of me 😉 ) Create a hanger for this ornament as for ornament #1 only this time, you do it first.  Puncture a hole all the way through the styrofoam ball, cut about 12″ of 20 lb jewelry hemp, and thread through a button. Insert both ends through hole in ornament and pull button snug against the bottom of the ornament.  Add a second button, tie a tight knot against the second button, and tie an overhand knot in the ends of the cord.

There are no pictures of this step because I forgot to do this until I finished the ornament.  Don’t do that. Do it first. It’s very hard to find the hole you punctured after you’ve pinned all the little pieces of fabric in place :-P. I do things out of order all the time, but don’t be me. Do as I say, not as I do 😉

Step 2: Cut small circle-esque pieces of fabric about 2-2 1/2 inches across.  Again, they don’t have to be perfect circles, anything close to a circle as long as there are no weird points will work.  To make this super easy, use Gingher scissors! No, that’s not a paid ad, they were 50% off at Joanne’s and I was able to stop drooling and buy a pair (two actually, I got the 8″ dress maker’s shears and the craft scissors, awesome! totally worth the moolah, but so much better at 50% off!!)

You’ll need about 50 circles per fuzzy flower ball (I lost count, sorry…)

This is also from the ruined shirt of husband’s that I used to make the Little Blue Ornament, ornament #2. If you are going to make both, I recommend making 4-6 of #2 first, and then making this one, as you can cut these little circles out of the scraps from cutting the big circles for ornament #2.

Step 3: Fold circle in half then half again.

Step 4: Pin to styrofoam ball with a straight pin through the corner.  Start at the top next to your hanger (not in picture, see above).

Step 5: Rinse and repeat!

Step 6: And just keep repeating.  Hint: as you pin around a row in a circle, pin the next pieces in the spaces between the corners of the previous row, like so:

Step 7: Just keep pinning, just keep pinning… You may want to pin a few closer together at the very end to hide the ends of the pins, but if you fluff up the pieces afterwards, they’ll probably hide them either way.  And if you pin from top to bottom, it won’t really matter anyway.

Supply list for Fuzzy Flower Ornament:

  • Fabric scraps (from shirt or other).
  • 50-60 straight pins per ornament
  • 1 – 2 inch styrofoam ball per ornament.
  • 2 buttons per ornament.
  • 12″ of 20 lb jewelry hemp per ornament.

Up next, a complete tour of my tree! I love my tree :-) Stay tuned.

And for those of you who like to download your instructions, click here for a .pdf of this project.