homemade christmas - aunt bonnie's photo display.

This is the last of the homemade Christmas gifts I'll be posting.

I bought a wooden home display thing (for lack of a better description) at a thrift store for $1, knowing that I could find something creative to do with it. I don't have a before picture, but it looked something like this, only smaller:

(Source: holiday_jenny via ohdeedoh)

I had seen a few scrapbooked printer tray projects, so those were my inspiration.

(Source: Me & My Scraps)

My aunt's favorite color is blue, and I knew I already had a lot of cute Christmas scrapbook papers in that color, so I just went through my craft stash, grabbed anything and everything that I thought might work, and laid it all out. Then I just started playing around with different layouts.

I copied the photos of my cousins and their families from Facebook, and everything else was put together with bits of pieces of things I already had. It wasn't difficult, but I think my favorite part was forcing myself to be creative with what I had on hand.

homemade christmas - kelli's picture window.

Kelli's Christmas gift was inspired by this picture window project from House of Smiths:

(Source: House of Smiths)

I LOVE this, and I knew that I could use one of the old windows stored in my attic to create a similar look. I decided to make one for Kelli, because I thought it would be a great way to include photos from our trip to Africa.

I started by painting both sides of the window white. I had a piece of thin plywood from Home Depot cut to the same dimensions as the window (using the same piece as I originally used for Jacob's chalkboard to save some money), and covered it with paintable beadboard wallpaper (like this). I painted the wallpaper with a coat of light blue (it looks darker in the photos than in person), and kept the paint pretty light, so the grooves of the wallpaper would be more pronounced.

Because one side of the window was thicker than the other three sides, I needed to beef up the beadboard/plywood a bit on those sides so everything would lay flat. Luckily, I found a piece of trim that was the perfect dimension. I cut it down, painted it white, and attached it to three sides using my nail gun.

Finally I attached hinges to one side, then glued clothespins (painted white) to the beadboard/plywood in just the right places so the photos would be centered in the window panes.

When the window is open, it looks a little rough, but you can't tell when everything is closed.

Once I put the photos in, I found that some of them tended to fall out of the clothespins, so I added some pieces of foam to the backs of the photos to beef them up a bit.

homemade christmas - mom's photo holder.

This is one project that went through a very different iterations, and several coats of paint, before I finally decided what I wanted to do with it

The cabinet is a thrift store find from a few months ago - you can't quite tell in the photo, but it was pretty beat up. I just took everything apart, spray-painted the entire thing (first green, then white, then finally black), and put it back together.

I was going to use small frames from the dollar store on the shelves, but after seeing this photo block idea from Shanty to Chic, I changed my plan.

I cut the blocks out of scrap pieces of 1x12s from the closet shelves project. I spray-painted each a creamy white, sanded down the edges, and added stain. I added the photos using spray adhesive, and added the words to the Family sign using this method.

All the photos are old pictures of me and my siblings. I scanned them and tried to clean them up, but they're still pretty worn - but I think that adds to the charm.

homemade christmas - katie's candle holder.

This was somewhat of a last-minute idea, but I love the way it turned out. Like a lot of my other Christmas gifts, I was in the middle of a lot of them at the same time, so I really didn't take time to take before or in-process photos.

Inspiration for this project came from these Harvest Blocks from Just Between Friends.

I used a leftover 4x4 from Victor's workshop (its wonderful having a friend who gives you his scrap pieces of wood). Most 4x4s are for outside use and salt-treated, but once they're stained, you really can't tell. All but one of the sides had some leftover glue, so I (mostly) sanded that down (I got a little lazy on the back side and bottom that I knew wouldn't be displayed).

I marked evenly spaced holes in the top and drilled them using a spade bit. I just eyeballed the correct depth for each one, stopping to measure as I went. Some went more easily than others.

Then, I stained the entire thing (except the bottom, again, getting a little lazy). Once the stain was dry, I added the quote I wanted (using the method described here). I absolutely love this - and I'm definitely thinking I'm going to make another for me!

I added a coat of spray polyurethane once the entire thing was dry.

Here's the final product on Katie's table:

Linking to:

homemade christmas - katie's photo holder.

This project is really, really simple and very easy to put together. It was inspired by this photo display from Shanty to Chic (they have so many wonderful ideas!) and made up of random pieces of wood I found at Michaels.

I didn't find a lot of options for pieces at Michaels (I'm sure I could have found more at a hardware store). I cut the candle holder down my miter saw - and got really lucky, because there was a screw in the bottom piece that ended just before the place where I cut it).

I glued everything together using liquid nails, the spray-painted the entire thing. It took me a few days to complete, because I waited for plenty of time for the glue to set or the paint to dry and cure before completing the next step. But since each step only took a few minutes, this might just have been the easiest project I made this Christmas.

homemade christmas - vince's flag.

Have you ever had a project in your head turn out exactly the way you wanted it to in real life? That's what this project was for me.

Its not always easy to find gifts idea for my brother-in-law Vince, but when I saw these two projects, I thought I might have found the perfect idea.

(Sources: Left - Under The Table And Dreaming, Right - Ana White)

I decided to make a large flag, designed to be displayed outside, but instead of using one solid piece of wood, I wanted to use separate pieces for the Union (the "correct" name for the blue area) and each stripe. I considered a lot of different options for paint and distressing, but when I found out that I could buy sample pots of colored deck stain, I decided that would be the easiest way to get the look that I wanted.

It took a while to figure out all the right dimensions. Everything except the stars are to scale (there's my perfectionist streak), and truthfully, the stars would have been if I could have figured out a way to do it that wouldn't have taken forever to finish.

I planned to use 1x2s for each stripe, but since 1x2s are usually really rough and tough to find straight, my friend Victor suggested using 1x4s and ripping them down to size (and offered to rip them for me, which was a huge help!). He also cut scraps of wood from his own shop to the right size for the Union, and cut down the plywood I bought for the back to the right size.

(Excuse the mess - as usual, I had several different projects going at one time.)

I assembled the pieces to make the Union, stained everything the right color (the white stripes needed two coats), then added the stars. I raided a small star cookie cutter from my Christmas stash to use as a stencil (I got the idea from Stephanie Lynn's project), then ended up using it as a kind of stamp - I dipped it in the white stain, marked the Union, then painted the inside with a small brush. Its rough and not at all perfect, but that's kind of the idea. :-)

Everything is glued together using power adhesive. I bought some small nails thinking I might want to add them just for looks at the end, but I decided I like it just the way it is. I didn't add any hardware to the back for hanging, because I wasn't sure how Vince would want to use it.

homemade inspiration.

I've been working all month on Christmas gifts, but I haven't been able to post photos of them until I give them away in a few days. I've scheduled a few posts for after Christmas, but in the meantime, here are a few of the ideas I've been saving for the future.

(Sources, clockwise from top left: The Lettered Cottage, Under The Table And Dreaming,

Top left: This mirror would be a great, inexpensive way to fill up a large wall space.

Top center: How great is this sweater vase? Its made from a glass hurricane from the dollar store and the sleeve of an old sweater.

Top right: Another great photo display idea - from stained beadboard, a photo, foam board, and netting (I think ribbon would look great, too). I have a ton of leftover beadboard wallpaper from a Christmas gift I made - I wonder how that would take a stain?

Bottom right: I liked this wreath card holder so much I made one for me. I already had the scrapbook paper and clothespins on hand, so the only thing I bought was an embroidery hoop for less than $1.

Bottom center: Shanty2Chic always has the greatest photo display ideas! This one is made from a piece of a 2x8, wood finials, and a small clothespin.

Bottom left: I love these Nativity blocks, and I think, with paint pens, that it wouldn't be too hard to make a set. This might be a Christmas gift for next year.

the night before christmas.

Empty manger, perfect stranger
About to be born
Into darkness, sadness, desperate madness
Creation so torn

We were so lost on earth
No peace, no worth, no way to escape
In fear, no faith, no hope, no grace, and no light
But that was the night before Christmas

And the world didn't know redemption was sweet and so strong
And the world didn't know salvation was writing a song
The night before Christmas

~ Brandon Heath, The Night Before Christmas

"Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

on simplifying.

Do you ever have those moments where you realize that whatever refrain is playing in your head, whatever logic you've come up with and have been operating under, is utterly ridiculous? Please, tell me I'm not the only one who is suddenly slapped upside the head with how foolish my thought processes are.

Case in point: this year, I vowed that my Christmas celebration would be simpler. I'd participate in the Advent Conspiracy by spending less and giving more. I'd focus on the true meaning of Christmas the entire month long. I promised myself I would celebrate each moment, and most of all, not let the preparations for the celebrations cause me to feel anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed out.

All of that is well and good, until I realized that I thought I could accomplish all of that, without actually changing anything. I was acting as though I could get a simpler Christmas without giving anything up, until suddenly "simplify Christmas" was just one more entry on my to-do list. Instead of releasing stress, this self-made vow of mine was just adding more.

I was making things harder at the same time I was vowing to make things simpler. See what I mean? Ridiculous.

So, I'm making a mental stop-doing list. I'm intentionally letting go of certain expectations and obligations in order to make room for the things that really are important, the things that pull my focus away from celebrating Jesus.

  • I'm not participating in the "decorate-your-office/cubicle" contest at work.
  • I'm releasing myself from the self-made promise to give all handmade gifts this year.
  • I'm simplifying the gifts that I am still making.
  • I'm refusing to expect that every gift I give will be perfect, the one thing that each person never knew that they really wanted (yes, I tend to place ridiculous expectations on gifts).
There are some things that I'm still doing - I'm still making gifts, I'm still hosting a (very simplified, very casual) Christmas party. But instead of those things being stressful, they're actually enjoyable. I'm looking forward to Christmas with my family, rather than feeling like its coming too soon. I'm having fun with the things I'm making, hoping that the recipient of the gift will like them, but not worrying that they won't.

"Any weight of Christmas is of this world and all the weightlessness of Christmas is the Grace of the Wood with the flesh wrapped over Deity."

Most importantly, without all of mental clutter that comes with stress, I'm remembering that each part of celebrating this holiday is really just a reminder of Jesus - we give gifts because in sending his son, God gave the first and best gift. We decorate Christmas trees and remember that it was at another tree that Jesus paid the ultimate price to buy us back. We gather with friends and family to celebrate and to encourage one another and to remember that everything good in our lives is because God came to us.

sunday inspiration - christmas music.

This Sunday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Christmas music. There are a lot of different songs in all kinds of different categories that I like (seriously, I should never be allowed to even walk by the Christmas music display at Target), but these are the whole CDs I find myself going back to over and over again.

-- 1 --

Behold The Lamb Of God, Andrew Peterson

Hands down, this is my favorite Christmas CD of all time (I've written about it twice before). Its the whole story of Jesus, from the time of Moses all the way through to Christ's birth. Its unlike any other Christmas CD I've ever heard before, and it never gets old. I can't even pick a favorite song - the only thing is seriously incredible. And the only thing better than listening to the CD is seeing it live in concert - its one of the highlights of Advent for me (there's a great review here).

-- 2 --

Peace On Earth, Casting Crowns

I love Christmas CDs that mix traditional songs with new ones, and this one does a great job of that. My favorite song is "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day." This is one of those songs I've heard so many times, but it wasn't until I heard Mark Hall talk about it that I actually listened to the words and really understood them. It reminds me of a poem by Anne Bradstreet, "Upon The Burning Of Our House," I read for a college lit class.

-- 3 --

Bring Us Peace, Ginny Owens

This is another CD that has a wonderful mix of old and new songs. The very first song, "Christmas All The Time," is about dreaming as a child that Christmas would last all year long - I was hooked from that point.

Oh to celebrate our Savior's birth
By giving to the world from the fullness of our lives
God's good gifts to me taught me how to see
It can be Christmas all the time

-- 4 --

The first half of this CD contains songs from the movie, all of which never fail to make me sing along in the car because they're just fun. The second half is full of secular classics, like "White Christmas" (nobody sings that song like Bing Crosby).

-- 5 --

This is an odd choice, I know, and I don't like the cover - but I love the mix of songs of this two-disc set (notice a theme here?). Tyler Hilton does my absolute favorite rendition of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and Brian Setzer's "The Man With The Bag" and The Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" are just fun songs to sing along to. But my favorite song has to be "I Want An Alien For Christmas" by Fountains of Wayne:

-- 6 (a bonus) --

Christmas, Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips

This is a CD - I just picked it up at the Behold The Lamb Of God concert two days ago, but its rapidly becoming a favorite. Like the others on this list, there's a great mix of old and new songs, and their take on "Baby It's Cold Outside" (with new lyrics) is absolutely hilarious.

thanksgiving centerpiece.

This is the first year I've ever hosted Thanksgiving (normally, I'm the one traveling home, but this year, my parents came to visit me). I thought a little bit about a centerpiece in the days before the big turkey day, but I had so many other projects and things to do that I decided to just wait and see what I could come up with out of things that I already had on hand.

About two hours before everyone arrived, I made this:

The candles are a bit tall to stand up on their own, even tied together in a group, but the pine cones (collected from the yard) help to hold it up. My dad added some duct tape to the bottom of the candles to help keep them upright. By the end of the evening, the centerpiece looked liked this:

(Yes, by this time, the candle flames were getting close to the ribbon. But, as we spent the entire evening chatting around the table, it was never left unattended).

I also filled the long wooden box (I think I need a better name for it) with any candle that was either neutral or fall-colored, and left it on the sideboard.

It was simple, yes - but I love the way it turned out!

looking back.

Sunday my friend (and pastor) Nick challenged us to spend some time looking back over this past year. The year was almost over, he said, and December would go by very quickly. Before long, we'll start a new year, the time of year when we usually set goals for the coming months. But before we can look forward, we need to look back.

I spent some time thinking about 2010 and all its highs and lows and new experiences. In the end, these are the things I want to remember about this year:
  • This was the year that I started seeing answers to the prayers I've been praying for my family for years.
  • This was the year that I finally felt like I was living in my sweet spot, when my life finally started to feel like the adventure I always wanted it to be.
When you look back over 2010, what will you remember?

the stable floor.

The fullness of time had come!
The Savior would be born!

Joseph and Mary, at the crowded inn,
sought provision of their urgent need,
and what they heard would try
the strongest faith. There was no room -
but a stable lay nearby.

(In that large, mingled crowd could
one have said, “Come, take my room
and I will take the stable floor?”)

As night wore one, the weary travelers
found comfort in their resting place.

And Mary? Was it some clean-swept space
with pad of straw, where she labored through
her deepening night to bring forth
the Savior of a needy, sin-scarred world?

Times have not changed.
Exigencies still come; the crowds still flow.
And there will always be the ones who search
for peace, but make no room for God.
While others choose the hallowed walk
of faith, and will graciously accept earth’s
lowly “stable floors” – if God so wills –
that the Savior may be born anew
in hearts throughout the world.

- Velma D. Collins, The Stable Floor

100 things.

Last week, I mentioned that I was challenging myself to declutter 100 things from my house, by my parents' Thanksgiving visit. Rather than one big purge, I've been adding to the stash consistently a little each day. I didn't think it would be too hard, and it wasn't. In fact, I'm guessing I could easily get rid of twice as much if I wanted - so that might be a goal for another time.

Everything is packed up and in the back of my car, ready to be dropped off at the thrift store this afternoon. Here's the complete list:

3 paintings
2 pairs of shoes
8 bags
2 boxes
2 sets of cards
7 holiday decorations
1 roll of ribbon
1 floor square
1 drying rack
1 easel
1 small filing cabinet
1 miscellaneous wall decoration
1 big lint roller
1 file holder
4 bowls
1 terrarium
1 hanging basket
6 vases
1 basket
1 candle plate
scrap fabric
1 curtain rod
2 plates
11 shirts
7 towels
4 skirts
3 leashes
1 dog collar
6 books
1 scarf
1 wristband
1 pan set
2 pans
2 baking dishes
2 measuring cups
3 sets oven mitts
3 picture frames
1 bucket
1 thermos
1 pillowcase
3 bead cases
Total: 103

ethan's wall art.

My friends Bethany and James adopted their little boy, Ethan, last spring. I knew I wanted to make them something as a gift, but sometimes it takes me a while to come up with an idea I really like.

Then I saw this saying on an art print (I can't remember where), and I knew it was perfect. Bethany used to teach science to middle schoolers (and is the most naturally curious person I know), and James is a math nerd (he actually has a graduate degree in statistics).

This was a pretty easy project - I just used a couple of coats of craft paint for background color, printed the words from my computer, and transferred them to the canvas using black transfer paper and a black sharpie.

making a homemade journal.

I created another journal, this one slightly different than the last one, and this time, I thought I'd write up a quick tutorial on how I made it.

What you'll need:

a board book (I found this one at a thrift store for less than a dollar)
scrapbook paper for the cover and dividers
solid-colored paper for the journal pages
coordinating ribbon
book rings (also called binder rings) (you'll need 2)

How to make it:

1. Take the board book apart.

I just cut each "page" off using scissors, then trim it straight if necessary. You can easily get several make several journals out of one book.

2. Decorate the cover and any dividers with scrapbook paper.

You can make this as simple or as fancy as you like. I like using packs of patterned papers because that way, they come already coordinated, then I use a couple of solid pieces as mats.

You could trace the board book page onto the paper, cut it out, then attach it with Modge Podge, but I find it easier to trim the paper after its already been glued down. Once both sides are dry and trimmed, I touch of the edges where I need to.

I'm a huge fan of quotes, so this journal is full of them. I use Microsoft Publisher for laying out things like this - I can figure out how big I want the quote page to be, create a text box in the size I need, then adjust the font and font size as I see fit.

For this journal, I actually did something a little different. I wanted to attach pieces of ribbon so the book could be tied shut.  For each cover piece, I cut a piece of ribbon, placed it under the quote on the inside page, then wrapped it around to the cover. You'll want the trailing edge of the ribbon to be on the outside edge of the journal (the side that will open). Its kind of hard to explain, so it might not make sense at first - but it comes together in the end!

3. Create the journal pages.

This is the most tedious part of the process, but it also doesn't take much brain power once you figure out the dimensions, so I just go it while I watch TV. Depending on the size of your journal, you might be able to find pre-cut pages in the right size. After the pages are cut, I use a three-hole punch so I can make sure everything is spaced exactly the same. This is also where you can make the journal as thick as you want.

4. Punch holes in the covers and dividers.

Once the pages are cut to size with the holes punched in them, I use one sheet as a template for the where the holes need to be placed in the covers and dividers. I use a Martha Stewart screw punch (found here). The pages are thick, so it usually takes a few punches from both sides cover to get the holes punched completely through.

5. Assemble the journal.

Then, just put everything together! I've used ribbon to bind these in the past, but because I was using ribbon to tie the journal shut, I decided to use book rings instead. I bought mine at Office Max, but I would guess that they're available at almost any office supply store. They're not cheap, especially considering that I only needed two, but I'm sure I'll be able to use the rest in other projects.

So, here's the finished result again - I love the way it turned out!

Linking up to:

Handmade Holidays at Just A Girl
Feature Yourself Friday at Fingerprints On The Fridge
Crazy Christmas Crafter at I Heart Naptime with Chocolate Sundaes
Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog

reminders of the undone.

Sometimes it feels like everywhere I look, I see reminders of things that aren't done. There are dishes in the sink, dirty clothes on the floor, clean clothes in the laundry basket AND the dryer, mutant weeds all over the flower beds, and tools and materials for craft projects spread out all over the table.

My usual reaction to something like this is to start writing things down. Do a mind dump and get everything out on paper, starting making to-do lists to plan how I'm going to tackle everything. But the reminders seem to come faster than I can process them - this is the part where I start to get overwhelmed. And not in a good way - this is the kind of overwhelmed where I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn't exist.

With the mind dump and to-do lists not really helping, its time to move on to the next strategy - a grand purge. With a deadline. My hope is that clearing out the physical clutter will not only make it easier to finish the things that I need to, but will help to create the mental space I need to be productive, instead of overwhelmed.

This idea was actually inspired by a post from Young House Love (and a desire to continue to work on clearing out the clutter in my house). Their initial goal was to get rid of 100 things before moving in December. Just a few days later, they posted the results - 222 things gone.

I'm using my parents' Thanksgiving visit as my deadline, giving me just over a week to finish, and I'm keeping a growing list of my refrigerator to help me stay motivated. I'll post my results next week.

simple magnet board.

When I saw the Dare to Do It Yourself party series from Kim at Newly Woodwards, I thought it would be a fun way to challenge myself for the next few weeks, so I planned to participate as I had.

Dare to DIY

The theme for the first week is Thanksgiving. To be honest, I'm actually not a huge fan of Thanksgiving - I don't get excited about turkey or most other traditional side dishes, I'm almost never in my own home for the holiday, and I just don't like the color scheme (I know that is a ridiculous reason to not like a holiday). I'd rather move on to celebrating and preparing for Christmas.

So - I tried to come up with a project that was (1) simple and easy to make, (2) inexpensive and preferably using things I already had on hand, and (3) versatile enough to use for other holidays or even everyday life.

I decided to make a simple magnet board for a narrow stretch of wall in my living room. I've actually been looking for an old shutter or two to hang there for a while, in order to create something like this, but since I couldn't find a shutter, I went with what I had.

I found a scrap piece of plywood in the garage that was the perfect fit, and painted it with two coats of magnetic primer. It should probably have three coats, because it really can't hold up anything even remotely heavy, but it works for now.

I used another scrap piece of wood to create the sign. I wanted to use paints I already had, so I tried to mix red and yellow to get a nice shade of orange. No luck - the mixed paint was bright pink instead - so I mixed a dark brown espresso color with an antique white, and ended up with color that is actually pretty similar to my wall color.

After painting, I added color of letter stickers I already had and placed them somewhat haphazardly (so I didn't have to worry about a straight line). When I was finished, the word looked a little off center, so I added the period to balance it out a bit. Then I drilled holes in the sign and tied it with extra ribbon to hang it.

The last step was to create the magnets themselves. I added magnet strips to a few clothespins and clipped different things I am thankful for. I'm planning to keep adding to it for the next few weeks.

I can think of quite a few ways to use it in the future:
  • As a Christmas advent calendar - just change up the sign (or even use the back of the current one).
  • For baby showers (I throw a lot of those) - just change the sign and clip up photos of the guest of honor, or ask guests to add notes for the new mom
  • As a photo or memento display 
 What do you think? Can you think of other ways I could use my new magnet board?