Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Monster Book

Harry Potter Monster Book
Every Harry Potter fan dreams of living in his magical world. You have read the books and seen the movies, but to experience it in the real world, you’ll need to make the trip to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If travel isn’t on your agenda, perhaps you could bring a piece of Harry’s world into your own. You can’t be a wizard without a few enchanted books. Who could forget the ferocious monster book? Ever wondered if you could make one?

Unfinished Wood Book Box
The moon and the stars must have aligned to make your wish come true with the discovery of this wooden book box, available through Michaels for $5.99. It’s the perfect size and thickness, and offers a strong foundation for building a monster book. As a bonus, there’s a secret compartment inside for storing your favorite spells (recipes), magic charms (office supplies), or wizardly collectibles.

How to Make a Monster Book Fit for a Wizard:

Supplies:
Wooden Book Box (9.75″ x 7.5″ x 2.88″)
Black Paint – brush on Acrylic or spray paint
Sharpie Metallic gold marker – medium point
Vampire Teeth
Faux fur
4) Packing peanuts
4) Glass marbles – orange
1) Bottle fabric paint – black
1) Bottle fabric paint – white
1) Leather or vinyl belt
Glue gun
Scissors
Paintbrush

Book Painted Black
Paint the box black, inside and out. This dark color will make a great contrasting background for the gold paint applied in the next step.

Gilded Pages
To create the appearance of gilded pages, draw horizontal lines along all three sides of the book, using a Sharpie metallic gold pen. Don’t worry about crooked lines. Pages in old books become crinkled and curled. Imperfect lines will provide an aged look.

Attach Teeth
The next step is attaching teeth. Center the mouth as shown. The large fangs are from Fire Mountain Gems, and the smaller teeth are actually clear quartz crystal chips, painted to match. To simplify this step, purchase vampire teeth at a Halloween store or Amazon.

Fur Cover
Faux fur from JoAnn Arts & Crafts is the perfect color and texture for this monster. Cut the piece large enough to allow a hem on all four sides. Be sure the fur will not interfere with the operation of the hinges. Please note: the raw edges of fur shed like crazy. Once they are hemmed and attached to the book the shedding stops. (Yeah!)

Trim & Hem Fur
The sides could be hand sewn, but these hems were made with a glue gun.

Packing Peanuts as Eye Sockets
I decided this monster would have four eyes. To make the eye sockets, use four packing peanuts. Each peanut is pinched in half and glued to hold its shape. Glue the four together end to end as shown.

Painted Packing Peanuts
Paint the foam with black fabric paint. Use a toothpick to keep the paint off your fingers.

Marble Eyes
I found four orange glass marbles with red streaks resembling bloodshot eyes. Each was glued into the sockets, and outlined with white fabric paint. A white dot was added to each marble to give it that creepy glint in the eye appearance.

Attach Eyes & Fur
Attach the eyes to the fur, and then secure the fur on top of the box.

Finished Monster Book
Last step: Wrap an old leather belt around the book to keep your monster under control.

Congratulations! You’re now the proud parent of your very own Monster Book. Be sure to keep it on a short leash because we all know how much it loves to shred – shoes, feet, paper – anything within reach. For decades, kids have been telling their teachers, “The dog ate my homework!” With a monster book as a pet, this excuse might actually be believed!

Do you have a favorite Harry Potter creature? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. Until next time…

Happy Crafting!

Crowning Glory – Create Beautiful Floral Crowns

Party Animal
Raise your hand if you wore a crown as a kid on your birthday. Come on, you know you did! It was fun being a prince or princess for the day. From the moment I awoke on that special day until I climbed into bed that night, the crown was on my head. I know it was only plastic or cardboard with glitter, but to me it was precious metal and gemstones. Ah to be a kid again!

You’ll be happy to hear that crowns are making a comeback – for adults. Instead of visiting a party store, you can make your own headbands and crowns with fresh-cut flowers and silk foliage. For a unique approach, accessorize with beads and shells.

Red Roses
Bold red roses and a frilly red dress are sure to be noticed at any occasion. To make one, you’ll need floral wire and tape, wire cutters, and enough fresh-cut blooms to conceal the wire. Make sure the roses have long enough stems to attach to the wire. You can trim them later when the crown is complete. And while it’s probably obvious when working with roses, don’t forget to remove all the thorns.

Casual Crown
By simply gluing silk leaves and flowers to braided twine, you can create a laid back, casual look, perfect for a summer barbecue with friends.

Ivy & Berries Crown
English ivy and red berries lend a wintry vibe to this crown. If time is limited, choose silk garlands, which can be cut to size and secured with green florist’s tape. Be sure to hide the ends with leaves or flowers.

Rosebud Crown
Lavender rosebuds beautifully coordinate with this model’s makeup.

Green Leaves
Wearing matching green leafy crowns is an adorable way for a bride and groom to start their new life together.

Shells & Nuts
A readymade strand of woven seashells and nuts is a nice alternative to flowers in this attractive crown.

Blue Flowers
Lush blooms in vibrant blue celebrate the joys of springtime.

Hyacinths Crown
Hyacinths and daffodils are a great combination with a heavenly scent.

Wild Flowers Crown
Nothing says summertime like wildflowers in the sun.

Dried Flowers Crown
This headpiece can be worn again and again thanks to the use of dried flowers.

Daisies & Cornflowers Crown
If you are on a gluten free diet, this is not the crown for you. Yellow, blue and red flowers form a delicate balance with the wispy texture of wheat in this sweet bountiful style.

Seashell Crown
A seashell necklace can become the perfect accessory for accentuating this pretty pinned up hairdo. Simply double the strand and drape it over the top. What could be easier than that?

Hibiscus Crown
Contrasting hibiscus flowers, in red and white, beautifully frame this young woman’s face. You could easily create the same look by attaching silk tropical flowers to a purchased headband.

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, a special anniversary, getting married, or having a fabulous time on a tropical vacation, why not don a crown? They’re not just for royalty. Think of all the things you do for friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances each and every day, all year long. Wear the crown. You’ve earned it!

Happy Crafting!

From the Heart – Jeweled Box

Finished Box
Treasure chest? Jewelry box? What could it be? There’s something so exciting about starting a new project. Sometimes you start out with one thing in mind, which slowly transforms into a beautiful butterfly. Originally. I intended to paint geometric designs all over this box. A roll of rhinestone ribbon became my inspiration, which revealed my hidden need for a lot of bling. Who knew? Where will your inspiration take you?

How to Decorate a Wooden Box:

Plain Wooden Box with Heart Shaped Window
Plain Wooden Box
When selecting a box for your project, look it over carefully for damage. Check for splinters or dents, and test the functionality of the latch and hinges. I often find smudges of glue on the glass/acrylic. If necessary, compare several boxes side by side at the store.

Wooden Box with Open Lid
Plain Box - Open
This box, available through AC Moore, is wood inside and out.

Painted Lid
Painted Lid
I liked the look of the natural wood and kept most of it as-is, with the exception of the flat top, which was brushed with white acrylic paint to create a high contrast background.

Project Supplies:
Beads &; Paints
You will need a bag of loose rhinestones and fabric paints in turquoise, black and brown.

Additional Project Supplies:
Marbles & Rhinestone Ribbon
You will also need a bag of turquoise flat glass marbles, a roll of 1/2” turquoise rhinestone ribbon, Elmer’s glue and a glue gun. The rhinestone ribbon and marbles are available at dollar stores.

Outline the Heart with Rhinestones
Beaded Heart
Apply a large dot of fabric paint at the edge of the heart. Use tweezers to push a rhinestone down into the wet paint. Alternate the fabric paint colors to create your pattern. Repeat the process until the outline is complete. Just as reminder: the rhinestones are clear. It’s the paint that determines the color.

Apply Rhinestone Ribbon
Apply Rhinestone Ribbon
Rhinestone ribbon is glued in horizontal bands across the top of the box. Use Elmer’s glue because it will allow you to reposition as needed. Use scissors to cut the ribbon to fit. At the end, fill in any blank spaces by cutting rhinestones from the ribbon and hand placing them with tweezers and Elmer’s glue.

Completed Beading on Lid
Completed Lid
As you work around the center heart, you may need to pry off individual beads to make the ribbon fit. They say hindsight is 20/20. If I had to do this over, I would probably apply the ribbon first and then outline the heart.

Apply Flat Glass Marbles
Apply Flat Marbles
A glue gun will make this step quick and easy. Apply marbles on all sides. Ensure the marble placement will not interfere with the opening and closing of the lid. I found are marble that had broken in half, and placed it under the latch to complete the pattern, which you can see in the next photo.

The Completed Bejeweled Box
Completed Bejeweled Box
Large turquoise hearts are glued in each of the four lid corners. These hearts are actually jewelry pendants. A black onyx bead has been glued to each heart to cover the hole on top.

I’m considering lining the inside of the box with felt or velvet. It all depends upon how it will be used, and frankly I haven’t decided yet. What would you do? Please make suggestions in the comments section. I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Happy Crafting!

Catching Some Rays

Stained Glass Rose Window
Have you ever admired the beauty of sunlight filtering through stained glass windows? The kaleidoscope effects are stunning. Given its otherworldly effects, it is not surprising to find stained glass in churches, royal palaces, and many grand architectural structures all over the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a similar experience at home?

Stained Glass Entry
Stained Glass Window Entry
If you are in the market for a new front door, there are many glass pattern options for the doors, sidelights, and transom windows. Because it is labor intensive, stained glass is significantly more expensive.

Glass Painting
Glass Painting
If you happen to be an artist, you could paint your own design on a sheet of glass, with special pigments called stains, which must be fired in a kiln to complete the process. Next it will need a frame to be used as a wall hanging, or metal hardware for hanging it in front of an existing window. It can also be installed in a window frame with a protective layer of glass on the exterior side to protect it from wind and weather.

If you love the look of stained glass, but lack the time and artistic ability, or have budgetary constraints, you still have a few options.

Decorative Window Film
Decorative Window Film
Window films are available through many sources including home improvement stores. As you can see, the film provides the color and patterns of genuine stained glass without the expense. Film also provides privacy, and blocks unsightly views.   Be sure to follow the installation instructions carefully. The most important step is ensuring the glass is free of all dust, dirt and debris. There must be a perfectly smooth surface for the film to adhere properly. Failure to follow these instructions could result in air pockets, bubbles and delaminating (peeling film).

Decorative Window Film
Decorative Window Film
There are two types of window films, which differ by installation. The first adheres to the glass via static cling and the second uses adhesive. The films shown in these two photos are the static cling type. Personally, I prefer static cling film, instead of adhesive, because it’s easy to install and more importantly can be easily removed. The films come in a wide variety of styles, including the more traditional “stained glass” and some very contemporary geometric patterns.

Sunburst Stained Glass Suncatcher
Sunburst Stained Glass Suncatcher
Genuine stained glass requires specialized skills. Due to precise cutting required, sharp glass and metal edges and joint soldering, this process is not suitable for children. There’s an inexpensive alternative, which is an easy, family-friendly project.

How to Make Colorful Acrylic Suncatchers:

Unpainted Suncatchers
Unpainted Suncatchers
These suncatchers look like glass, but are actually clear acrylic with raised black ridges, which create compartments for holding individual stain colors. One big advantage is that the acrylic is not fragile, like glass, so if you accidentally drop one, no harm is done.

Suncatcher Stain Kit
Suncatcher Stain
Some stores sell the stains separately, while others offer kits, which include a suncatcher(s), several stain colors and a paintbrush applicator. When the stains have dried, the surface hardens and the vibrant colors are translucent, just like stained glass.

Suncatcher Stain Application Process
Progress Detail
Using the provided paintbrush, stains are applied one drop at a time. No blending, no special brush strokes and no extra supplies are required. It’s that easy! There are no other steps. Simply let them dry and they’re ready to hang. Below are examples of completed acrylic suncatchers.

Butterfly & Hot Air Balloon Suncatchers
Butterfly & Hot Air Balloon Suncatchers

Balloon Bouquet & Cat Suncatchers
Balloon Bouquet & Cat Suncatchers

Dog & Bluebird Suncatchers
Dog & Bluebird Suncatchers

Tropical Fish & Cardinal Suncatchers
Tropical Fish & Cardinal Suncatchers

Mirror with Applied Suncatchers
Mirror with Applied Suncatchers
Suncatchers can be hung upon windows or mirrors using suction cups on the glass, or hung with ribbons looped over window locks. I purchased two divided mirrors and screwed them together to create the eight-panel wall hanging shown in the photo above. The suncatchers were glued in the center of each square. The mirror allows natural and artificial light to reflect through the suncatchers. Because it resembles a window, I placed it above my stove to give me something pretty to look at while I’m cooking. It can also be hung in an interior room that needs a boost of color along with a “view.”

Anyone can make colorful suncatchers with very little effort, beautiful results, and they make great gifts at a very affordable price.

Happy Crafting!

Want to Make Beaded Earrings?

Assorted Earrings
Making fine jewelry requires years of special training in gemstones, precious metals, and jewelry design. Materials and tools are very expensive, and mistakes can be very costly. The invention of beaded jewelry created beautiful designs in a much more affordable way, and put the jewelry making possibilities into everyone’s hands. If you’ve ever wondered how to make a piece of jewelry, now is your chance.

How to Make Black Onyx & Tigerseye Earrings
Tigerseye Black Onyx Earrings
These 2” long gemstone earrings are fashionable and easy to make.

Required Beads & Findings:
 Earring Supplies
Supplies:
To make this pair of earrings you will need:
2) Silver plated Head Pins – 2” length,
2) 8.5mm Granulated Round Pewter Rondelles,
2) 8mm Tigerseye beads,
2) 10mm Black Onyx beads,
2) Silver plated Round 4mm Spacer beads
2) Silver plated Surgical Steel Fishhook Earwires with ball & coil

(Please note: Head pins are the foundation of these earrings. They are inexpensive and come in big packages. Be sure to have several on hand just in case. Craft stores carry jewelry making supplies, including beads, accents, and tools. If you get hooked on jewelry making and yearn for the ultimate selections, look no further than FireMountainGems.com)

Jewelry Making Tools:

Round Nose Pliers – the smooth, round tips on these pliers make it easy and safe to manipulate wire, pins, and small jewelry metal pieces known as findings. Please don’t use standard pliers, which have teeth that will damage delicate precious metals.

Jewelry Wire Cutters
Jewelry Wire Cutters – a sharp pair of wire cutters makes jewelry making so much easier. Do not use them for other crafts, such as floral arranging, which can damage the blades.

Earring Making Instructions:

Bead Layout
Step 1: Stack the beads in sequence on the head pin as shown. This is the dangle part of the earring.

Grip with Pliers
Step 2: With the round nose pliers in your right hand, grip the wire just above the top silver bead. Be sure the beads are close together with no gaps in between. Hold the pliers in this position for the next step.

Grasp Wire with Fingers
Step 3: Grasp the end of the head pin with your left thumb and index finger, and bend the wire toward you.

Bend Wire
Continue bending the pin over the tip of the pliers until it touches the Black Onyx bead.

Reshaped Wire
The reshaped pin will look like the photo above.

Trim Excess Wire
Step 4: Cut off the excess wire. Leave enough wire to form a small loop above the silver bead. This may take a few tries. Don’t worry if you cut it too short. Simply use a new head pin and repeat the steps.

Shortened Wire
This photo shows the trimmed wire, and beside it is the scrap piece to be thrown away.

Attach Earwire
Step 5: Hook the dangle earring onto the loop on the bottom of the fishhook earwire,

Close the Loop
and close the loop using the round nose pliers.

Finished Earrings
Congratulations! You have successfully made your first pair of earrings.

These skills can be used to create many styles, which at first may appear to be complex, but are actually fairly easy when broken down into basic steps. Let’s take a look at a few examples below.

Blue Earrings
Blue Bead & Pearl Earrings– If you look closely, you’ll notice the same elements we talked about before: head pins, stacked beads, and earwires. The choice of silver earwires and accents with faceted blue crystals and Mother of Pearl creates a cool, summery vibe. This pair of earrings utilizes a different type of earwire known as lever backs, which prevent the earring from falling off – no more lost earrings!

Fossil Earrings
Fossil Earrings – The natural spiral design and intricate details of these fossils make great focal points for these earrings. You can purchase charms and pendants such as these and simply attach earwires to the provided loops on top. How easy is that?

Triangle Earrings
Triangle Earrings – These earrings are a simple progression from the fossil earrings above. The triangles are merely charms. Head pins, which are available in many lengths, are the keys to this design. Attach the three beads on the bottom of each triangle using pliers. The yellow beads are also attached with head pins. Cut the head off a pin, and use the pliers to make a loop above and below the yellow bead and then attach to the triangle on the bottom and to the earwire on the top.

Jasper& Pearl Earrings
Jasper & Pearl Earrings – Gemstones come in an amazing array of colors and shapes. The accent beads can be mixed and matched in infinite combinations. Experiment by laying out the beads to test your options. The nice thing about earrings is that you can place the beads on a pin and hold them up to your ear to see how they look, with no commitment whatsoever. Don’t like what you see? Try another combo.

Jewelry making is a fun, creative hobby. Best of all you get to wear and share your creations with your family and friends. For more information on beaded jewelry, please read “Designing Beaded Jewelry.”

Happy Crafting!

Let’s Go Sledding!

Sledding Centerpiece
It’s hard to believe the holidays are over, and winter is upon us. Snow can’t be far behind. I have some wonderful memories of sledding as a child, and those escapades are the inspiration for a playful centerpiece. This project is very easy to make, using many items you may already own.

Wooden Sled
Wooden Sled
The most important element in this project is the sled. This one was purchased at AC Moore, and came with the green wreath at the center and red ribbon. The approximate dimensions are: 22” long x 13” wide. Craft stores are having huge clearance sales, making it a real bargain to pick up a sled or any additional items you may need.

Cruising on a Bed of Faux Snow
Sled with Snow
This snow is actually left over Halloween spider webs. Simply lay it out on the table and pull and stretch it into a shape resembling a snow-covered slope.

Snowman Base Form
Snowman Base Form
The main character in this fun sledding scene is a cheerful snowman that started out as a “blank canvas” so to speak, with three foam balls wrapped in white fabric. (AC Moore)

Adding a Few Details
Snowman Details
Sold separately were buttons, and carrot noses. The eyes were painted on, and the smile consists of jewelry maker’s blue metallic seedbeads, glued in place using fabric paint.

Finished Snowman
Finished Snowman
The scarf was crocheted with some leftover navy yarn. Sticks for arms came from the backyard. The black top hat was the finishing touch, with the addition of festive trim on the brim, cut from a floral pick.

Completed Sledding Centerpiece – Front
Completed Sledding Centerpiece - Front
With the snowman in the center of the sled, it’s time to add a few friends to share the ride. Beanie Babies are a great choice in size, color, and whimsy. We chose animals typically found in the snow: a penguin, a reindeer, and a seal. The caroling pig is a family joke, and you can choose whatever characters will bring joy to your family.

Completed Sledding Centerpiece – Back
Completed Sledding Centerpiece - Back
We added a few sprigs of artificial evergreen on the back of the sled to coordinate with the existing wreath. The little guys look so cute with their feet hanging off the back.

Alternate 1 – Sledding Penguin
Penguin Sledding
This centerpiece can be quickly changed by switching out the smaller animals, or by using a different central character, such as a penguin, polar bear or moose.

Alternate 2 – Sledding Moose
Moose Sledding
On those gloomy winter days when there is no snow for playing outdoors, enjoy a little whimsical sledding with a snowman and friends.

Happy Crafting!

Pumpkin – Baking with Seasonal Flavor

Pumpkins
Old Man Winter has us firmly in his grasp. The growing season is over, but there’s still time to stock up on canned pumpkin, before the stores sell out of this seasonal favorite. There’s nothing like the delicious aromas of homemade cookies and pastries, straight from the oven. It may be a long cold winter, but you can warm hearts and bellies with a lot of love and few easy recipes. Below are several pumpkin items to inspire you.

Iced Pumpkin Donuts
Iced Donuts
To save you time and ensure success, the baking section of your local craft store has a large selection of pans, including bundt cake, cupcakes, muffins, jelly roll, etc. One of the more unusual pans is for baking donuts. Since no deep fryer is required, anyone can bake donuts at home, and the same pan can be used to make bagels too.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Bundt Cake
A fluted pan is the secret to the bundt cake. This photo shows the standard version of a bundt cake with icing drizzled over the top. If you really want to impress your guests, prepare an unexpected surprise by adding filling. To do this, pour half the batter into the pan. Spread the filling around the pan, ensuring it does not touch the inner or outer edges of the pan. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake. When the cake is sliced, the unusual profile of the slice will be enhanced by a colorful creamy center.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin bread needs to cool before slicing. By refrigerating the loaf, the bread becomes moist like a cake. Toasted pumpkin bread is delicious with melted peanut butter. Metal pans are fine, but for baking bread I prefer a ceramic loaf pan. I don’t know about you, but the sound of metal scraping makes my skin crawl. Ceramic cleans up easier too.

Spiced Pumpkin Roll with Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Pumpkin Roll
A spiral design is the hallmark of this impressive dessert, but it’s easy to make, and will melt in your mouth. Bake the cake in a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper. After baking, lay the cake face down on a towel. If necessary, trim any ragged edges. Starting with a long side, roll the cake in the towel and cool completely on a wire rack. Unroll and remove the towel, and lay cake flat. Spread the filling over the top within 1/2” of the edges. Suggested fillings include whipped cream, pie filling, and pudding. Carefully roll the cake and place it with the seam side down on a platter. Garnish as desired.

Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin muffins are delicious as is, or shake a little powdered sugar over the top. Sometimes the simplest version is the best.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Cream & Graham Cracker Crust
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a dessert menu staple. The only bad thing about pumpkin cheesecake is that it’s only available from October through January, or February if you’re lucky. Beyond that you’ll have to wait until the next pumpkin season.

Walnut Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Walnut Pumpkin Pie
A pastry bag and fresh whipped cream will dress up any baked goods, but it’s just as easy to use a can of whipped cream. For best results, practice a few floral shapes first before tackling the final product.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie typically has a delicious flaky crust. This baker created a pretty undulating pattern with the crust and garnished the top with a leaf cut from the same pastry crust. There are some really cool baking tools, such as fluted piecrust cutters for edging, and spring-loaded piecrust cutters to create cutouts or appliqués, like the leaf shown in the photo above.

Chocolate Drizzled Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust
Pumpkin Tart
This contemporary pumpkin pie has a chocolate graham cracker bottom crust, and a pumpkin cream cheese filling. For a no-bake version, buy a ready-to-use crust.

Savory Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Soup
Like butternut squash, pumpkin soup gets its savory flavor from rich heavy cream and just the right amount of seasoning from ginger, cinnamon, onion and celery.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes
Do you love pancakes but are bored with the same old taste? Boost the flavor and your taste buds by adding 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin for every 2 cups of batter.

Homemade Pumpkin Pudding
Pumpkin Pudding
Deep-dish pumpkin pudding tastes delicious while still warm from the oven, or chilled and served with fresh whipped cream. If you’ve never had it, the top and edges have a cake-like texture, but the rest is creamy pudding with that awesome pumpkin flavor. If your favorite part of a pumpkin pie is the filling, this pudding will be your new go-to dessert.

Baking is a fun and rewarding activity to be shared with the whole family. Enjoy the process and remember you can always eat your mistakes.

Happy Crafting!

Creative Holiday Gift Wrapping

Whats in the Box?It’s the night before Christmas, and little feet tiptoe toward the tree for a sneak peek at the presents. We may not have done this, but we thought about it a lot. It’s human nature to wonder -What’s inside the box?

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc., you’re going to give gifts to lots of people, and those gifts need to be boxed, bagged, or wrapped in an attractive fashion.

Last Minute Checking All the Details

Colors & PatternsIf your name is Mrs. Claus, you probably don’t need help wrapping gifts.

Santa’s Secret Gift Stash

All Wrapped UpIn fact, Mrs. Claus probably has a gift-giving closet that looks like this one. For the rest of us, there’s still a lot of shopping to be done and presents to be wrapped. Department stores typically offer gift wrap, but it can be pricey. Many retailers have eliminated this service and the gift boxes as well. Shopping malls offer gift wrapping, but the lines can be very long. Fortunately there are lots of solutions to make your gifts look beautiful.

Gift Bags & Boxes

Gift BagsGift bags are probably one of the best inventions of all time. They’re sold just about everywhere, including the food stores, so when you’re running around last minute a gift bag is easily on hand.

Accessorized Cloth Gift Bags

Cloth Gift BagsThese burlap bags are dressed up with the addition of berries and glitzy red ornaments.

Red & White Fabric Gift Bag

Cloth Gift BagThis red and white gift bag has a built-in drawstring.

Fabric Gift Bags with Metallic Polka Dot Patterns

Amazon Gift BagsAmazon provided these festive gift bags, which my family passes back and forth for various occasions all year long. Unfortunately there’s no way of knowing which color you might receive, and some items are wrapped in paper instead of a bag.

Velvet-Lined Metal Box

Metal BoxA metal box is an intriguing way to package a gift.

Collectible Porcelain Box

Porcelain BoxPorcelain boxes come in a variety of shapes and colors for every occasion. These are perfect for jewelry or other small items, and can also be used to conceal a cash gift.

Glass Jar Adorned with Silver Heart

Glass JarFor the baker in the family, this fluted glass jar and lid will hold your gift now, and will be perfect for holding baking ingredients in the future. It could also be used as cookie jar.

Bath & Body Gift Basket

Gift BasketGift baskets filled with the recipient’s favorites is always a welcome surprise. You can purchase a roll of colored cellophane wrap or use regular plastic wrap to cover the entire basket, and tie a bow on top.

Gift Box Tower

Stacking Printed BoxesSome stores provide colorfully printed boxes, which are suitable for gifts any time of year, and can be stacked and tied with a pretty ribbon.

Gift Boxes – Lids Wrapped Separately

Wrapped LidsWhen using standard wrapping paper, you can always wrap the lid separately. By doing so, the box can be reused for years to come.

Accessorized Gold Box

Floral StemA floral pine cone stem and some ribbon were all that was needed to complete this package.

Matching Gift Tags

Gift TagsDon’t forget to add a gift tag. Some people save the pictures, from last year’s holiday cards, and use them as gift tags on this year’s presents.

Dress up Gift Wrap with Ornaments

Ornaments
Standard green wrapping paper perks up with the addition of bright red ribbon and two adorable ornaments.

Recycled Paper with Greens from the Backyard

Pine Cone GreensFor an all-natural look, recycled paper can be used, with twine instead of ribbon, some evergreen and a pine cone from your backyard.

Fancy Metallic Paper & Coordinating Ribbon

Silver BowA silver bow makes a statement on this aqua and silver wrapped gift.

Fanciful Paper with a Statement Bow

Big BowA glittering gold bow makes the perfect topper for this dancing reindeer package.

Metallic Paper with a Pom Pom Bow

Specialty BowsA 3-dimensional snowflake has sprung to life from this pretty wrapping paper.

Glittering Paper, Ribbon & Bow

BlingFor a glamorous look, combine sparkling red paper, gold studded ribbon, and a shiny gold bow.

Coordinated Paper & Ribbon

Matching Ribbon & PaperThis perfectly coordinated metallic ribbon and paper is suitable for gifts any time of year.

Pretty Paper with Flower-Shaped Bow

Floral Paper & BowSometimes a really great topper steals the show. A bow like this one will be appreciated for sure, with its petal-like layers in full bloom and wisps of green ribbon leaves peeking out beneath. There’s a very interesting pattern of wildlife, holly sprigs, and guitars intertwined among the curvilinear vines.

As they say, it’s the thought that counts. With a few creative choices, gift wrapping can be a pleasure, instead of a chore.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!

Baking for the Holidays

Cookie Cutters & Dough
As the weather turns colder, my thoughts turn to baking. The scent of home baked cookies wafting through the air is sure to be followed by the thumping footfalls of my family as they bound down the stairs in search of something sweet from the oven. I have to admit I love it too and have sampled more than a few of my own creations.

In addition to satisfying your family, baked goods make great gifts for guests, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Below are several ideas for inspiration.

Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
These charming gingerbread cookies are served on an equally adorable pinwheel candy plate. They’re easy to make, or you can buy plain ones and apply your own colorful candy and icing decorations.

Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread Houses
Everyone loves home baked goods. How about baked goods that require no baking at all (at least on your part)? Gingerbread kits come in a number of varieties, such as cookies, houses, and villages, and include all the necessary candies, icing, and yes the baked gingerbread too. The whole family will enjoy building and eating their creations.

Traditional Christmas Cookies
Decorated Christmas Cookies
Decked out in green, red and white icing, these cookies celebrate Christmas in the sweetest possible way.  If you have a long list of people to bake for, get the whole family involved with the decorating to speed up the process in this fun activity.

Assorted Butter Cookies
Gourmet Butter Cookies
Butter cookies are finger licking good. If you are pressed for time, many bakeries offer ready-made cookie platters to share with your friends and family or give as gifts.

Fancy Cookie Cut Outs
Fancy Jelly Filled Cookie
This elegant cookie looks professionally made, but it’s actually quite easy to make yourself. All you need are two cookie cutters – one large round with scalloped edges, and the second in the shape of a swan or any design you prefer. Layer two large cookies on top of each other, with strawberry or raspberry filling, to make this sandwich cookie. The bottom cookie is solid, while the top cookie has a swan cut out in the center. Shake powdered sugar on top for a beautiful bakery finish.

Iced Snowman Cookies
Iced Snowman Cookies
Snowmen are seasonal favorites. These individually wrapped cookies would make great party favors for your guests. If you have extra, they’re popular items at the school bake sales. Of course that assumes your family doesn’t finish them off first. (lol)

Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Homemade cookies & candy go hand in hand. This creative assortment tantalizes the taste buds. Should I have a cookie first or dive into the chocolates? There are plenty of candy mold designs suitable for any occasion, and new flavors in candy melts will please the most adventuresome candy aficionados.

Assorted Homemade Breads
Assorted Homemade Breads
Breads are delicious any time of year. With so many recipes and the ease of baking, anyone can make homemade bread in less than an hour. Crafter Tip: Many types of bread need to be fully cooled, and sometimes refrigerated before slicing. To prevent crumbling, be sure to follow the recipe instructions.

Christmas Petits Fours
Christmas Petit Fours
Petits Fours are the perfect marriage of cake and candy. Fondant icing is actually candy used to cover bite size cubes of yellow, sponge or pound cake. While the fondant is still wet, decorations can be applied using piped icing, or a sprinkling of either candy or nuts. As an added burst of flavor, jelly or butter cream can be spread over the cake prior to applying the fondant.

Snowman Cupcakes
Snowman Cupcakes
These snowman and snowlady cupcakes are almost too cute to eat. The bodies are standard size cupcakes, and the heads are mini cupcakes. Coconut is the perfect substitute for snow. Oreos become top hats for the gentlemen, and piped icing details create all the smiling faces and earmuffs for the ladies.

Hanukkah Donuts
Hanukkah Donuts
It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without deep-fried jelly donuts sprinkled with granulated sugar.

Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberries play a large part in many holidays. There’s cranberry sauce as a side item with your meal, cranberry garlands and sprigs as decorative touches, and cranberry muffins and pies.

Whether you bake everything from scratch, or supplement your desserts with store-bought items, the holidays are a time of sharing, especially at mealtime. Enjoying the seasonal flavors with loved ones is something we all have in common. Please read “Holiday Food Presentation” for ideas on displaying your culinary creations.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!

How to Make a Painted Wooden Snowman

Snowman Closeup Photo
Fall hasn’t officially come to a close, and yet we’ve already had record-breaking cold temperatures, and an unexpected snowstorm. Why not build a snowman that will never melt? This is a simple, inexpensive project for the whole family. I made two snowmen to display in my living room windows.

Unfinished Wood
It all starts with unfinished wood snowmen, purchased at AC Moore.

Snowmen Painted White
Spray paint all sides, edges and base with white paint.

Painted Details
With an artist’s paintbrush, add the details (buttons, eyes, and a smile) with black paint.  Instead of painting the details, you could hot glue round and square plastic buttons, and draw the smile with a Sharpie marker.

Hats Scarves & Carrots
Accessorize with hats and scarves. If you enjoy crocheting, you can quickly create this fashionable look with whatever color yarn you have on hand. Bright red is a great seasonal color, and reads well from a distance. If needlework is not your thing, craft stores have snowman building kits and accessories. For the nose, I created the look of a carrot by squeezing a foam, packing peanut into the correct shape, and painting it with bright orange acrylic paint.  Use hot glue to attach carrot nose.

Stick Arms
Making the arms is as easy as collecting a few sticks from your yard, and attaching them to the sides. You could glue them in place. I decided to use self-stick Velcro instead, because I wanted the arms to be removable for easy storage.

White Lights
I’m sure by now you’ve been wondering about those pre-drilled holes around the perimeter. They were made to hold a strand of twenty white lights, also available at AC Moore. Crafter Tip: The lights can only be pushed through from one side of the wood frame. You may need to secure the last light at the bottom with a piece of tape to keep it from pulling out from the weight of the electrical cord.

Lights at night
I turned off the flash on my camera to give you an idea of how these cute little snowmen look when lit at night. When the holidays are over, these snowmen can remain on display throughout the winter to bring a little whimsy to your home’s decor.

As an additional aside, I made these snowmen two-sided. Because they are standing on a windowsill, they can be seen from inside and outside. The lights can only be seen from one side, but seeing that smiling face when I walk by the window makes me smile too.

Happy Crafting!