Nothing Spreads Holiday Blessings like Two-Day Shipping.

Stole this idea from Anne Le of YouTube.

Miss Nine stole this idea from Anne Le of YouTube. Link to her video plus directions for other projects I mention will follow my brief diatribe.

Posted by Beret.

True gifts come from the heart and the hand, not the store. What a blessing that my kids have internalized such an important message.

Now. Could we just buy their teachers some gift cards and be done with it?

No, ma’am. My kids have watched unlimited DIY videos in order to prepare a Christmas cornucopia for all of their loved ones: fudge, lavender sachets, hot cocoa candles, soap, butter mints, rejuvenating foot scrub, and pop-up greeting cards made out of last year’s holiday card crop. I wish I were exaggerating.

Our house looks like Santa’s workshop crossed with a tsunami.

“This is fun, right?” the spouse asked me last night as he stirred condensed milk into melted chocolate with one hand, and lined pans in foil with the other. I was melting crayons with Crisco and trying mold to soy wax into faux marshmallows. Sure. Fun in a boot camp sort of way.

“Chop, chop, people!” I yelled. “Santa’s elves go off duty at 9 pm!” Not likely. The last time we got the lights out by nine was back in decorative gourd season.

Work? Email? Christmas cards? Maybe next year.

Homework? Practicing? Who has time for that when we are busy helping our children be thoughtful? Meanwhile, our ornaments are still in boxes at the foot of the tree. We’ll be lucky to have 36 hours with the decorations up.

There have been so many store runs and late nights for the kids’ handmade extravaganza that I have had neither the time nor the energy left to figure out my own gifting plan.

Ho, ho, ho.

Amazon it is.

In the event that you are curious about any of our projects…

They are all super easy.

Click here for Anne Le’s YouTube tutorial on hot cocoa candles. Only notes to add: mugs were $1 each at Michael’s. We used Crisco for the cocoa part—one giant tub of it made six candles. Only used half of a one-pound box of soy wax for the whipped cream and marshmallows on top. Also, we used skewers to keep our floppy wicks standing while we poured in melted Crisco.

spa jars

Miss Eleven wanted to make her friends what she called “Spa in a Jar:” foot scrub, soap, lavender eye bag, and fudge. She made butter mints, too, but those are much more complicated.

Foot scrub: two parts Epsom salts to one part olive oil. We put the concoction into empty film canisters. Add a few drops of essential oil if you like. Lavender and peppermint are both nice. Maybe not together, though. Miss Eleven’s hot tip for extra soft feet: use the foot scrub at night, before bed. Then put on warm socks and go to sleep.

Soap: melt glycerin or cocoa butter (you can find at craft stores) in a microwave-safe container. Add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil, or some other oil, if you like. Grease a plastic container with petroleum jelly and pour in the melted concoction. Allow to set about 20-30 minutes. Pop out and enjoy! Miss Eleven sprinkled dried spearmint on top before the glycerin set. Hers was shaped like a flower because we had a mold. You could also use silicon baking cups or ice trays to make different shapes. Don’t forget the petroleum jelly so that you can remove the soap easily.

Lavender sachets/eye bags: Proceed as if you were making a pillow for a guinea pig. Cut out two small rectangles of cotton fabric (ours were about 3 inches by 6 inches) and sew right sides together on three sides.  Turn right side out. Fill mostly with raw rice and add a tablespoon or two of dried lavender. Sew the top shut. For extra warm and fragrant relaxation, pop the bag in the microwave for a few seconds before using. Obviously, test the temperature of the bag before melting your eyeballs.

Fudge for Dummies: You can work really hard on fudge–wielding a candy thermometer and corn syrup and whatnot–or you can melt 18 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate with a can of condensed milk and a teaspoon or two of vanilla. Spread the mixture into a foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Not kidding. Prefer your fudge to be less dense? Add a cup of mini marshmallows while you are melting the chocolate. Add nuts, if you like. Need some fancy sprinkles? Take a hammer to candy canes to sprinkle on top.

Speaking of which…have a holiday party you forgot about? Dump a cake mix in the oven. Cool. Top with delicious ganache (melt chocolate chips in the microwave and gradually add room temperature cream until it’s spreading or drizzling consistency. Hammer candy canes and sprinkle on top. Or skip the ganache altogether by sprinkling powdered sugar through a sieve onto the top of the cake and then plopping raspberries here and there.

Or bring wine. That’s always festive–except at school functions, when it is frowned upon. You probably knew that.

Need a last minute card? Special bonus!

Pop-up cards: Fold a piece of paper in half.

Cut two slits into the fold, equidistant from the edges.

The cuts are ON THE FOLD.

The cuts are ON THE FOLD.

Fold that new flap up and crease.

flap fold

 

 

 

Open the paper and pop the flap into a “chair.”

pop out

Cut up last year’s holiday cards. Glue something festive on the popped out piece.

pop up bears

Enjoy!

 

Too Cool for School (Supplies)

From Kojo-designs.com.

From Kojo-designs.com.

posted by Beret

Wait. What? It’s September?

My nine-year-old spent the last couple of days of summer vacation in bed, eyeballs glued to Youtube. I was pretty busy having an aneurysm about how to drop off and pick up my kids on opposite sides of town–simultaneously–so I had no clue what was going on up there. But while I tried unsuccessfully to tame my logistical beasts, she taught herself how to do absolutely everything else.

When she wandered downstairs to ask, “Can I make lip gloss out of Vaseline and crayons?” I just stared. “I don’t know if that will work,” I finally said, and she rolled her eyes. “Of course it works,” she responded. “Also, it’s completely non-toxic.” During the ensuing silence, I realized she meant “may I?” not “can I?” which made me feel a bit better. Perhaps she hasn’t completely eclipsed my knowledge base yet.

In all honesty, I had noticed it was September, but being aware and being prepared are not the same thing at all. So when the 11-year-old started complaining about her boring, clunky binders, it was Miss 9 who had all the answers, not me. “Just paint an ombre in a chevron pattern,” she said. “All you need is some acrylic paint and some tape.”

Voilà:

Miss 11's binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is up for debate among word fiends.

Miss 11’s binder project. Whether this is really an ombre effect, or more of a gradient, is currently up for debate.

Miss 9 discovered the binder project during her Youtube binge. You can find directions for it about 3 minutes into this video. It was fun, easy, and made all the difference in the cruel world of middle school. We started rooting around, looking for other, cool school-related projects.

What follows are a few of the awesome things we discovered.

Metallic magnets for your locker:

From: http://kojo-designs.com/2013/11/diy-metallic-alphabet-magnets/

Soooo cool and so very simple. From kojo-designs.com.

Book covers with special bonus from the indefatiguable Martha Stewart:

Thanks, Martha!

Thanks, Martha! A way to keep the assignment notebook handy.

She's unstoppable!

Book jacket with pockets. Same link as above.

Got comics? or old calendars? or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Got comics? Old calendars? Or outdated maps? Slap some clear contact paper on that and go! Awesome.

Washi tape-covered pencils. Now that Target and Amazon and Walgreen’s are all peddling washi tape…might be time to try it!

Image and idea found on mashable.com. Directions here.

Image and idea found on mashable.com. No-brainer directions here.

Adorable bag for miscellaneous supplies:

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: I'd advise you to just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Awesome lined bag tutorial from The Creative Place. Please note: do yourself a favor and just buy satin cord to serve as the drawstring, unless you like impossible challenges. The rest is easy.

Also, I saw directions to make monster bookmarks that were waaaaaay too complicated. Here’s the super simple way I posted a while back:

The easy way.

The easy way.

They did it the hard way, though I love their accessorizing ideas:

From Tally's Treasury.

From Tally’s Treasury–obvi!

Oh and p.s. If you want to make the crayon lip gloss, click here for directions.

Feel free to post links to other interesting ideas in the comments!

Book-Cycling Part Three: Stationery Sets

posted by Gina

Finals are over, my friends. After a bitter (seemingly endless) battle with American Psychological Association’s 6th Edition, my last paper is in, my last performance performed, and my last all-nighter (seriously, I am way, way too old for those) pulled – at least until next semester.

And now it’s time to scramble about and deal with all the holiday prep I’ve neglected the past two weeks. If you’re in the same boat, I bring to you a delightful (and delightfully easy!) idea for a homemade gift.

The Book Page Envelope!

DSCN1349

These are just fun. And easy! What’s not to love?  Continue reading

Book-Cycling Part Two: Book Wreath

posted by Gina

Before we begin, I’d just like to take this moment to give myself a round of applause for getting this post up on time. It’s finals time round these parts, and I’ve got a good hundred pages of brilliance to turn in.

Thank you. Thank you all.

And now I present – The Book Lover’s Holiday Wreath!

DSCN1310

Continue reading

Cereal Box Night-lights

posted by Gina

Is it true, you ask?  Is it really true that with just a cereal box, a pushpin, and a string of lights I can make something incredibly, incredibly nifty?  Is it true that this nifty thing can serve as a homemade gift, a fender-offer of monsters below the bed, and a task that will keep my child occupied for a fairly long time?  All these things, my friend, are true.

I saw this crafty idea somewhere, and it’s been lurking about in my head as one of those “there’s no way this can possibly look that good” ideas.  But behold:

DSCN0785

IT’S ALL TRUE

I mean, that’s pretty impressive.  And not at all difficult to achieve.  Continue reading