Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Stockings

In addition to the cloth paper dolls, which the kids will be opening on Christmas morning, I made them new stockings. Since I had bought my felt for 50% off on Black Friday, I stocked up (maybe $20 worth) for other projects, including these.

This project was relatively fast, not to mention very affordable.I laid out some red felt and folded it over so that it was 2 layers thick. Since I loved the size and shape of my stocking, I traced around it, leaving about 1/2" for the seams. I also measured and traced the white part for the top, also in two layers. Less cutting! I sewed the tops on the red portions, then turned them face to face (as if it were inside out), sewing around the whole stocking. After that was done, I flipped it inside out, folded in the top of the white, and sewed that down for a clean edge. I made hooks by cutting a strip of red felt about 1 1/2" wide, folding it in half, and then sewing it on the inside of the back part of the stocking, right under the top seam. They are decorated with a $1 pack of sparkly foam stickers (which I adhered with hot glue) and a multi-pack of puff paint (also used to decorate the doll clothes).

Here is how they turned out:

I am planning on wrapping these up for them to open on Christmas eve so we can hang them up before bed. I can't wait to see their eyes when the stockings are filled with treats and gum on Christmas morning!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cloth "Paper" Dolls

One of the gifts I am making for the girls this Christmas is cloth "paper" dolls. I love the idea and remember seeing some a few years ago in an online shop, but there aren't many to be found right now. So, why not make them myself? I think they turned out quite cute!

 I made matching sets so they won't get jealous ;). Each set has a doll, 2 dresses, 2 boy hairdo's, 2 girl hairdo's, 1 pair of shoes, 1 hat, and several mix-and-match outfits. 

I still need to add some velcro attachments to the back of the clothing and the front of the dolls, but here is what one looks like dressed:

I'm even making sparkly carrying cases for doll sets. The cases will hold plenty more, so I can make them extra outfits for future gifts.

I think they'll really like them, don't you?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Creating a Frugal and Beautiful Christmas

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I was going to write this post up yesterday, but I spent the evening listening to a group of singers I discovered called Il Divo. Their Christmas album is positively heavenly. Music has a way of touching me, such that I can hardly focus on anything else.

But I digress.

Since we are sticking to a tight budget, we don't spend much on non-essentials, even during the holidays. But that doesn't mean we go without beauty and memorable moments. Here are some of the  gifts and traditions I have run across in the past few years. Some of them I have incorporated already. Some of them I would love to begin at some point in the future.

-One of my high school friends had a wonderful tradition during the advent season. They would turn the lights down in the evening, light the candles (another each day), and read scripture pertaining to the season. Sitting in the candlelight sipping peppermint cocoa is one of my favorite memories.
-Driving to look at Christmas lights. My grandparents did this with us a lot and it became something I looked forward to.
-Make a popcorn string for the tree with a needle and thread. Make sure to save some for eating, too!
-Build a fire in the fireplace (if you have one), turn the lights off (and the tree lights on), and listen to your favorite Christmas music.
-Bake your favorite Christmas goodies and eat them with some hot apple cider.
-Put on your favorite Christmas movie while decorating the tree.
-Read a Christmas-themed story to the kids each night in December.
-Make a simple advent calendar, putting a different activity for each day (use some of the above and add your own).
-Attend a Christmas eve church  service with the  whole family. This has really served to get us in the mindset to be thankful for the gift of Christ.
-Invite someone to spend Christmas with your family that might otherwise end up alone for the holidays.
-My favorite tradition that we do with the kids now is that I spend the time right before bed on Christmas eve blowing up a large package of balloons and cover the living room floor with them. When the kids wake up, it's play time. This is a frugal, yet magical way to bring lots of joy to little ones. They love this!

-Make a fleece blanket or scarf.
-Knit or crochet a simple blanket, scarf, or kitchen rag.
-Sew some flannel pajama pants or pillowcases, both of which are simple patterns, even if you're a beginning sewer.
-Design paper dolls and clothes for a little girl. I'm going a more time-consuming route with these and making girls paper doll sets out of felt so they will last.
-Sew and decorate new stockings.
-Make drink mixes for flavored coffees, hot cocoas, or teas.
-Make candies, cookies, or breads and put them in holiday gift bags/tins.
-Put together simple themed gift baskets (spa, movie, gardening, arts & crafts, etc.) The sky is really the limit here. You can come up with lots of frugal, fun items that anyone would love to receive.
-Give framed family pictures.
-Make ornaments. You can get really creative with things you already have on hand. Or head to the local craft store.
-Make gift certificates for things your loved one would appreciate, such as babysitting, housecleaning, a massage, etc. Let them arrange to cash them in throughout the year.
-Stuff stockings with small, fun items. Examples include candy (homemade or otherwise), trail mix, gum, lotion, nail polish, socks, ornaments, small games, toys, books, puzzles, crayons, gloves, stickers, etc. My grandparents always put an orange in the toe of our stockings, so now we do the same. We loved coming down and opening our stockings on Christmas morning. Everything was wrapped and packaged, even the small packs of gum. So fun!
-On Christmas eve, we give each of the kids a new book and new pair of jammies. They need not even be brand new. Consignment shops, garage sales, and thrift stores can all be a wealth of great items that are more than gift-worthy.

These are just a few ideas. Just do a web search for homemade or frugal Christmas gifts and you'll have more ideas than you know what to do with.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A Salad for your Sweet Tooth

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I remember the first time I tasted a strawberry spinach salad. I thought I had died and gone to salad heaven. Well, at Gleaner's tonight, I happened to pick up some block romano cheese, strawberries, and spinach. I always have a mason jar of slivered almonds on hand, since I buy them in the bulk section at Winco. I decided to make my own dressing from what I had on hand, too. Here's what I came up with. Enjoy!

Superb Strawberry Spinach Salad
4 C. fresh spinach, washed
1 C. sliced strawberries
1/4 C. slivered almonds
2 Tbsp. grated romano cheese

3-4 oz. each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. cooking sherry or sweet wine
1/8-1/4 C. strawberry preserves (I used strawberry peach jam that I made last summer)

Shake dressing. Pour desired amount over salad and toss until coated. Put the leftover dressing in the fridge, since you know you'll want to make it again :).

Monday, December 05, 2011

Catching Up

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It seems like life just goes at full-speed sometimes. It's all we can do to keep up, isn't it?

But in the midst of all the crazy schedules, dishes, laundry, church, friends, cooking, diapers, marriage, and anything else you can think of, I find myself wondering something. Why don't I just take time for me once in a while? Mommy is much more happy and at peace when she takes a spare moment to do something that she loves to do. It doesn't have to be something big. Simply sitting to read my Bible for a few minutes, drawing or painting a picture once in a while, blogging a few times a week, or practicing my instruments. I get to sing on the worship team at church once a month, and I would do it more if they needed me to. Something about taking those times to focus on the One who loves me right where I am at helps me to be a better person. Or, at least desire to be a better person.

So, that's where I'm at. As much as I want to serve my family and friends, I also need to take time to do the things that I love. And you know what, most of the time when I do those things, I inadvertently bless others in the process! In short, expect to hear more from me in the coming days.