Sunday, November 30, 2014

DIY Vintage Postcard Christmas Garland

Anybody that's been to our house knows that I love garlands and the Christmas season is just another excuse for me to make and display more! Our POSTCARD CHRISTMAS GARLANDS are some of the quickest and easiest to make, plus they add a lot of character to the room. We have two postcard garlands in our hangs across a wide doorway and the other under a mantel...both are made a little differently. 

The first VINTAGE POSTCARD GARLAND is one that I made new this year. I found a huge collection of postcards at a local antique store a couple weeks ago and knew that I had to do something with them. I carefully went through the postcards, all from the early 1900s, and picked out some of my favorites...some I chose because of the bright and colorful picture on the front and others because of the endearing (or humorous) message written on the back. 

Since these postcards were old I didn't want to damage them in any way, so I decided to clip them to a vintage-looking string with mini-clothespins. It was that easy. You can add an old ornament or a prism, as we did, in the middle as well. I just love ours!

The second POSTCARD GARLAND is one that I made a few years ago out of new, but old looking postcards. Have you ever read any of the "Flower Fairy" books by Cicely Mary Barker? The illustrations are just beautiful! 

I once found these postcards with the "Flower Fairies" depicted on them and knew it'd be perfect for a garland. No, these fairies aren't necessarily Christmassy, but I like things a little different, a little unpredictable. This garland celebrates all things magical about the Christmas season. To make this garland, I punched holes in the tops of the postcards and strung them up. On the ends I tied a few strips of fabric, just some scraps out of my scrap pile. And that's it! Simple, but definitely cute and fun! 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Tree Decorating

I always feel like our Christmas tree is a miniature version of the one I grew up with...I'm sure as our ornament collection grows over the years, so will our tree. Many of our ornaments are ones that hung on my family's tree when I was a kid and hold such special memories to me. Isn't that one of the best, yet bittersweet parts of Christmas...all those memories? The exciting thing is that now we have the chance to make memories with our own children...some new and some borrowed from our own childhoods. I feel like our Christmas tree is just that!

Popcorn Garland
My parents' Christmas tree still dons the garland my brothers, sisters and I made when we were kids some 20-30 years ago. If you make it right and store it well, it will obviously last a very long time. 

One of the most important tips is using plain popcorn, popped in a hot air popcorn machine. Also, if you plan ahead and have the time, letting your popcorn sit overnight and become slightly stale helps in stringing won't break as easily. To string the popcorn just use a piece of thread (or dental floss) and a sewing needle. You don't have to make one super long string at once, make 4 or 5 foot long ones and tie them together. 

When storing the popcorn, first start by adding a bright ribbon to both ends of your garland. That will make finding the end easier next year. Find a medium-large container and coil it around inside the container, much like you do a garden hose. We use a plastic tupperware-like container, but a large popcorn tin works very well too. 

Tree Skirt
If you're like me and like a homey, vintage looking tree skirt you don't have to look far. I bought this cheap Christmas blanket one year at a thrift store and we wrap and fold it around the bottom of our tree. I do wish it was actually a quilt and not a look-alike-quilt, but nobody would ever know the difference and it achieves the look I'm going for. You could do the same with a table cloth or any large piece of fabric. 

Tree Topper
Don't be afraid to use a non-traditional tree topper. I love decorating for Christmas, but even more I love adding magical little twists to our decorations...keeping things unpredictable and slightly quirky. I found this glittery butterfly clip at a local floral shop years ago and attached some florist wire to the back to help secure it to the tree. So much fun! 

Happy decorating everyone! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No-Bake Acorn Treats

I've been making these ACORN TREATS for Thanksgiving for a few years now. I wish I remembered the source where I originally saw them to give the right person credit...somewhere on this big internet universe! I usually pack my ACORN TREATS into little jars and give them away to family and friends on Thanksgiving day. They are so simple to make and everyone always gobbles them up immediately...I think I'd be in trouble if I came to Thanksgiving dinner without them anymore! 

-Hershey Kisses (dark and original)
-Nutter Butter Bites
-mini chocolate chips
-chocolate frosting (in a pouch or in a can)

First, to make things go quicker, prepare your work station by taking the Kisses out of their wrappers, putting the mini-chocolate chips in a lil bowl and spreading out some Nutter Butter Bites nearby.

Put a little dab of chocolate frosting on one side of the Nutter Butter Bites and push a Hershey Kiss into place. (This is the perfect time for little hands to help!)

Put a teeny, tiny dab of chocolate frosting on the opposite side and push a mini-chocolate chip in place. 

Presto! Too easy, right?

Place them in a little mason jar, tie a string or ribbon around the top and you have a sweet little gift to share! Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

DIY No-Sew Rag Garland

Out of all the garlands I've made over the years, the RAG GARLAND has always been my favorite! It's bright, colorful, super-easy to make and it looks fantastic inside or outside, day and night! 

The RAG GARLAND is fun for the holidays, but can be made and used for any time of the year. I put ours up for Christmas, but I didn't make the color scheme ultra-Christmassy...I love color and can't seem to limit myself to just red and green! The best place to find cheap and funky fabric is at antique stores, thrift stores or flea markets...any leftovers can be used to make lil rag tag skirts or tutus for your little ones. 

Materials needed:
-string of lights

First, cut your fabric into strips about 2 inches wide and about 12 inches long.

Next, tie each fabric strip around the string of lights with a single, basic knot. If the fabric is blank on the underside, just fold the fabric over before knotting it. Repeat until the string of lights is covered. 

This is a garland we made for Steamys, a local coffee shop/book store/gift shop in town. We used vintage fabrics to make it extra funky! It's super long and is for sale...if anyone's interested, just message me!

Happy garland making!!! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sensory Bottles for Baby

I've made sensory bottles for L before, filled with colored water, glue and glitter or colored water and oil, but I don't know why we never made SENSORY BOTTLES FOR BABIES until now. Babies and toddlers both love them! 

The water-filled bottles are fun to look at, but too heavy for WB to really handle safely. Making these SENSORY BOTTLES FOR BABIES was a terrific tactile activity for L, and WB seems to love shaking and playing with the bottles. Not only are they fun to play with around the house and in the car, but sensory bottles make great bath toys too! 

Materials needed:
-small, plastic bottles with lids
-any of the following: pom-poms, feathers, sequins, straws, ribbon, cereal, dyed rice, etc.

Making the bottles is pretty self-explanatory... Remove the label from the bottle. Fill with small, colorful items. Glue the lid shut. 

As always, never leave infants unattended with toys, especially if it includes small items. You can never be too safe! Enjoy!!!

Have you seen our DIY Baby Play Area yet??? These bottles would be a great addition! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Low Fat Nutella-Banana Bread (Gluten Free)

Today I decided to incorporate Nutella into my favorite low fat banana bread recipe that I came up with years ago...and the results were amazing! Chocolatey, gooey Nutella mixed with sweet banana bread and the fat content works out to be only 2.5-3 grams per serving! This recipe made 12 muffins and one large loaf of bread. 

Most people would probably mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then combine, but I usually mix the wet ingredients then add the dry on top...mix the dry together a bit with a fork and then mix deeper, incorporating the wet ingredients. 

5 ripe bananas
1/3 cup applesauce
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour (I use all purpose Gluten Free flour)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 cup water
3/4 cup - 1 cup Nutella

**If you want to "half" the recipe, you can use 2 bananas, 1 egg and 1 eggwhite.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

First, mash the bananas in a large bowl (L's favorite part!). Add the applesauce, eggs and vanilla and mix together. 

On top of the wet ingredients, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. With a fork, mix the dry ingredients a bit. Add water. Mix deeper with a fork, hand-held beater, or electric mixer...beat until all is combined.

Spoon Nutella into an oven-safe bowl and melt in the oven for a few minutes. Carefully remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a fork. Spoon in about 1/3 of the banana bread batter into the bowl with the Nutella and mix gently with the fork. 

For muffins, I like to use silicone muffin cups...been using the same ones for years. No spraying or buttering necessary. Fill each muffin cup about halfway with the banana batter. Then add a spoonful of the Nutella mixture on each muffin. Top each one off with another spoonful of banana batter. Swirl each muffin gently with a toothpick.

Bake for 23-25 min. The "clean knife" testing method doesn't work too well with this recipe because the Nutella will always be a little gooey. I knew ours were done when the tops of each muffin had turned golden brown. 

To bake in a loaf pan, grease first with butter. Again fill about halfway with banana bread batter, then add Nutella mixture and finish off with more banana batter. Swirl with a knife. Bake for 40-50 min.

Yummmm!!! Enjoy!!!