Homemade Christmas: Fabric Game

Here's a DIY tic-tac-toe game out of fabric and felt!  This was a little gift for the nephew and niece.  I don't have a great tutorial, but here's a winging-it version:

1 30"x30" square of blue felt
4 2"x30" strips of white felt
1 20"x20" square of red felt
1 20"x20" of brown felt
1 yard of fabric
2 6"x6" squares of cardboard
Thread, scissors, and sewing machine

For the tic-tac-toe board:
-Lay the blue felt on the fabric and trim back fabric to 2 inches all around.
-Lay the white strips on top in a tic-tac-toe board fashion, and sew through all layers (white, blue, fabric).
-Iron the fabric down 1/2" all around.  Fold it up over the edges of the blue square, and zig-zag stitch it all around to finish the edges.

For the letters:
-Cut an "x" and an "o" from the 6-inch squares of cardboard.  Trace around the letters to make 5 x's on the brown felt and 5 o's onto the red felt.
-Layer the felt on the leftover fabric.  Sew around the traced letters through all layers, then cut out the letters.


Homemade Christmas: Embroidered Keepsakes

I don't know how I came across this idea of embroidering handprints.  Pinterest probably.

But I'm a little obsessed with handprints, because when they belong to MY kids, they're the most perfect things in the world.  And did you know that when you have kids, gifts for the grandparents become so easy?

I have never embroidered anything before in my life, and it's really a stretch for me to do some sewing by hand because (I thought) it would just take so long.  But it turns out that I really loved having something to do in the evenings and in the times when I couldn't quite sit at the sewing machine.  And outlining handprints is a pretty quick project actually!

As all good projects do, this one began with a quick trip to Michaels (for thread) and a Google search for "basic embroidery stitches" (here's the site I ended up referencing).  I used an embroidery hoop I had at home, and some white fabric from my stash.

I ran into a small issue when it came to framing, because the block of fabric I had cut was less than 8"x10", but the hands were too big to fit nicely in a 5"x7" mat or frame.  I posted a request on facebook for DIY framing help (got some good ideas, including custom cutting mats out of fabric or scrapbook paper, or looking for odd-sized frames at Ikea).  I ended up being able to take advantage of a friend's mat-cutting setup and have a custom mat created just for these handprints!  If I decide to do something like this in the future, I will have a frame in mind BEFORE cutting my fabric and embroidering.

Here's the finished product:

I've got to admit that I'm really excited about this project, and so pleased with how this came out.  I'd love to know what embroidery projects you've done or have in the pipeline!


Homemade Christmas: DIY Pure Vanilla Extract

I read a post about homemade vanilla extract from The Traveler's Lunchbox in the summer, in a brief moment of thinking about Christmas gifts.  I remembered then that a friend of mine had hosted a make-your-own-vanilla party a few years ago (that I wasn't able to go to but reaped the benefits of) ... and I just knew I had the makings of a fun Christmas gift.

Ya'll - it was so easy!  Jar ... vanilla beans (I found the best price on ebay) ... vodka.  That was it.  The only hangup was that I had to start it months before I was ready to gift it.  But it literally sat in a quart-sized Mason jar on my shelf, untouched (except for the occasional shake) for months!  That, my friends, is an ideal project from a DIY perspective.

I ordered these little 2-ounce Boston round amber bottles from Amazon.  The vanilla beans came from ebay (I started with 1/4 pound of beans to one bottle of vodka).

These make fun and easy little stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, and neighbor gifts as well!


"Homemade" Christmas: Stuff We Already Had

Is this weird?

I got a cleaning bug in November, and started sorting through some books and games we had stashed around the house.  I found these treasures and immediately thought ... Christmas presents!

I guess I'm taking advantage of my little ones' lack of long-term memories.  Ha!  Am I the only one?  Come on, friends ... will you dare to admit you've done this before?

Since we love camping as a family, the Curious George book will be a fun new story to read!  (If you were the one who originally gave that to us, I'm sorry that I don't remember.  I will be happy to give you credit this second time around if you'd like)

I picked up the Memory game from a church rummage sale for a quarter.  My first thought for it was a craft project (it's funky and vintage) but obviously didn't get to work on it right away.  Nothing like a classic family game for these long winter nights!


Homemade Christmas: Baby Doll Carrier

Here's one of our main gifts for Big Sister - a baby doll carrier for her favorite little fuzzy kiddos.

We got the idea at one of her friend's birthday parties - we thought it was so cool and knew right away that it would be the perfect gift for our big helper!

We have an Ergo baby carrier, so I used that as a rough guide for this carrier.  There are some good tutorials out there (since it's pretty likely my vague descriptions aren't extremely helpful).  Here's a free one like a Baby Bjorn, and a reasonably priced one on Etsy from 3BeansStudio like an Ergo (it's even padded!  Nice touch).

The center rectangular panel is 9"x12" finished.  Each of the straps is 1" wide, finished.  I appliqued the dark blue rectangle on the center panel and the ribbon on the straps.

I purchased the buckles and strap adjusters from a craft store in the notions section.  A lot of baby doll carriers I saw online used ties or velcro, but our girl is so into buckling things and adjusting things that we just had to go with the big-kid version for her.  I like the idea of velcro because it is easier for self-play, but she's getting old enough that buckles are a part of the experience that she would definitely want.

I am so excited to give this to Big Sis!  I will post some pictures once she has a chance to use it.


Homemade Christmas: Stockings

One thing I love about gift-giving is creativity.  The Mister and I really like to make gifts when possible, and so I'm going to share a few homemade Christmas ideas we've cooked up this year.  It gets a little tricky, though ... I think that some of the people who might receive these gifts may actually read this blog, so I'll only share the things I've made for Big Sis and Little Lady before Christmas.  You'll get to see the bigger handmade projects post-Big Day.

Homemade Christmas Stockings
For starters ... here are a couple of simple, homemade fabric stockings.  The one on the left I made in 2010, just before Big Sis was born.  I didn't get around to making Little Lady one last year (she was only a month old, after all).  But I used the same pattern that I had from before that I found stashed away in my sewing box.

For that reason, I can't remember exactly where the pattern came from!  It's basically two identical "socks" sewn separately, then one of them (kept inside out) is inserted into the other (turned right side out).  I followed a pattern similar to this one, though I did not use any batting, and the lining and cuff fabric are the same.


Chocolate Cutout Cookies

slightly adapted from allrecipes.com

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. cocoa
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in egg and egg yolk.  Stir in sifted ingredients to form a soft dough.  Divide into two parts, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out dough to 1/4" thickness and cut in desired shapes.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool for 3-4 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a rack to cool.

Confession: I was afraid of making my own roll-cut-and-bake cookies until I tried these.  It's probably because previous experiences yielded a dough that was too sticky to transfer from counter to cookie sheet.  I always ended up with shamefully indecipherable shapes.  But no more!  This dough is just right.  AND it's chocolate to boot, which makes these cookies a real gem.

I have two events in the next week that call for a plate of cookies.  My most recent batch made 6 dozen little cutouts (2" stars and 2" cookies) so you better believe that this will be my contribution.  I keep thinking that I should adorn them somehow ... dip them in white chocolate, add sprinkles, make them into sandwich cookies (now there's an idea) ... but honestly they don't last too long out of the oven for me to play around with.  But, they don't really need much extra.  I think they're perfect.


What I Want For My Birthday (A Shameless Request)

Friends, I will just go ahead and say it.  December is my birth month.  And this year it's a big one ...  Thirty!  30.  3-0.  Three decades of life.  I'm getting excited already.

I know what I want for my birthday.  Do you mind if I go ahead and ask?  I know, once you get past about 16 you can't really say what you want for your birthday ... people who might get you gifts are just supposed to know.

But I'm going to break the norm here.  For my 30th birthday, I want you to give me a handwritten recipe.

Just one.

But written down.  By hand.  On some kind of paper.  My little recipe box (above) holds index cards, so that's a great size.  But really, any kind of paper will do.  Just paper, and pen, and your recipe.

See, I've been contemplating some kind of food project for 2014 ... I've had so much fun with the "Year of Food" in 2013 that I realized it's nice to have some overarching theme/goal/purpose in trying new recipes and cooking new things.  On Thanksgiving Day I was moving some things around in the kitchen and the little recipe box fell off a top shelf.  Cards went flying all over.  I picked them up and realized I had never looked in that recipe box that had been my grandmother's.  I don't even know how I ended up with her recipe box (according to my dad she wasn't really much of a cook anyway, bless her soul), but there are just some really cool notes in there.

Like the page from a daily diary ... Friday May 2: blue cheese, cheese roll sharp, pecans ... what the heck will that be, I wonder?  I'm thinking some kind of appetizer cheese ball, but she didn't bother to title it so maybe it's self explanatory.  If you come over on May 2, 2014, we will be eating this, whatever it is.

That story is all to say that my Food Goal for 2014 will be cooking from Handwritten Recipes.  I've got that box of my grandmother's to go through, but I'd love to add a recipe or two from you folks, if you've got a second to jot something down and send it my way.  It doesn't need to be fancy (my wise-guy brother already called the "pour cereal in a bowl and add milk; eat with spoon" recipe).

So there you have it.

For my thirtieth birthday, I want handwriting on paper.  I'm pretty easy to please.