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.