· comments  · 12-23-2010 · categories:christmas · links ·
Here is how I made my Christmas tree ornament mobile, it was easier than it looks, promise.
- a 17″ steamer rack from a restaurant supply store
- about 5 feet of lightweight jack chain
- a small carabiner
- 100 basic ornament hooks
- one roll, 500 feet, monofilament jewelry string (not the stretchy sort)
- 200 jewelry crimp beads or tubes
- jewelry crimping tool
- 100 lanyard hooks
- 100 ornaments
Note: In the photo above I show earring wire instead of ornament hooks. I changed that later as I found ornament hooks made it far easier to move ornaments around after they’d been hung. Also, my supplies are based on a 4 foot tall mobile using almost 100 ornaments, you’ll need to adjust amounts if you make one larger or smaller.
Creating the Mobile Frame
Creating the frame for my ornament tree mobile turned out to be fairly simple. I used a lot of hooks to allow for easy adjustment and additions as the mobile was being assembled. I gathered materials from a restaurant supply store, a hardware store and the jewelry section of a craft store.
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· comments  · 12-21-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·
This year we decided to do something a little different with our tree and I created this Christmas tree mobile consisting of ornaments suspended on clear threads.
When I was shopping for ornaments to use found a lot on sale and went a little crazy. I decided it would be worth it to see how three different options would look. I did a variety of silver ornaments that came as a boxed set, green ornaments with three different textures and three sizes of clear glass ornaments that look a bit like bubbles.
Here is the mobile in context of our dining room (please forgive the mid-present wrapping clutter). We have room to put presents below it, and are still able to peek out the windows to see if the neighbor’s cat is visiting our front porch.
The view from below.
The ornaments are hung on regular ornament hooks attached to jewelry monofilament secured with crimp beads.
I’ll put up details of how the mobile was created tomorrow. Instructions on how I made it are right over here.
· comments  · 12-20-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·
· comments  · 12-20-2010 · categories:christmas · links ·
We were sent a few pairs of these Holiday Specs and I got a kick out of them. They are paper like old fashioned 3-D glasses but these create a shaped aura of light around concentrated light sources (street lamps, Christmas tree lights). I put them on and looked out a window and there was a giant reindeer face floating around the light in a lamp down the street. They are cheesy looking, yes, but I bet they would distract kids for a while. I think they would be good in a stocking or maybe tucked into a card.
They come in packs of seven shapes and individually. I found the snowflake, Santa’s face, snowman, Christmas lights, and reindeer.
· comments  · 12-14-2010 · categories:christmas ·
I want to thank Real Simple for including me in this bunch of 14 Creative Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas. I made this easy Warm and Fuzzy Felt Mug Wraps for a little holiday cheer, instructions are over here and below are a few extra photos from the making of. Check out all the ideas, they are fantastic.
· comments  · 12-13-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·
· comments  · 12-7-2010 · categories:christmas · links ·
I came across solar powered LED Christmas lights the other day and decided to make a lit wreath. I’m excited because the sensors in the solar panel turn the lights on when it gets dark outside and turn them off during the day, which means I won’t have to try to remember to turn the lights out every night. (The solar lights work the same as the automatic on/off LED lights used as path markers which I have previously turned into homemade sun jars.) I tucked the solar panel in the middle of the wreath and used the ornaments to disguise it, making it perfect for hanging on a door as there are no wires coming out of the wreath.
This project turned out to be about the same price as a regular pre-lit wreath, but less than most pre-lit solar wreaths I’ve found. The strand of 24 lights was $15 and the artificial wreath and ornaments (on sale) came to $12. I used a cluster of ornaments but a wreath ribbon would work just as well. I used long green twist ties, found in a gardening section, to attach everything. Though, I ended up trimming down the twist ties so a handful of regular length ones nabbed from a grocery store would work just as well.
First I fluffed out the branches of the wreath and found the barest spot. If you have one too make this the bottom of the wreath where we’ll be attaching the solar panel and the decorations.
In order to avoid having a wire coming out of the wreath I tucked the solar panel right into the wreath itself. The solar panel came with a removable spike, meant to anchor it into the ground, which we won’t need. In order to attach the solar panel to the wreath I created loops using duct tape. They aren’t pretty but they won’t be seen. Then I wired it so that it sits in the bottom of the inside of the wreath, mostly hidden behind branches.
I attached the lights by running the cord around the wreath from behind, making sure each bulb was facing out towards the front, and securing with a bit of twist tie. For a 22″ wreath the strand of lights went around twice so I attached the lights first to the smaller and then to the larger hoop of the wreath frame.
Next I made clusters of ornaments by simply threading them onto the twist ties. (I’ve just typed “twist ties” too many times and it’s turned into one of those meaningless phrases.) I used the same twist ties to arrange them at the bottom of the wreath to disguise the solar panel. String or regular wire would work just as well here.
Here it is on our (terribly boring and beige) front door. The solar panel is mostly hidden but angled upwards and still able to catch sunlight. I’ll get a picture of it lit at night as soon as I can.
· comments  · 12-3-2010 · categories:christmas · craft ·
· comments  · 11-30-2010 · categories:christmas · links ·
Gifted Magazine is an online holiday magazine presented by Creature Comforts and full of really wonderful holiday projects and gift ideas. I’m delighted by it, bring on Christmas.
· comments  · 11-8-2010 · categories:christmas · shopping ·
Wishing you all the happiest of holidays! (Shown above are some of the favorite vintage ornaments on our tree, I especially love the teal one with white and red stripes.)
· comments  · 12-24-2009 · categories:christmas ·
· comments  · 12-23-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·
Earlier I made gingerbread houses meant to perch on the edge of a mug, but I wanted to work on a few more things.
First, since these are meant to be eaten I wanted to cut down on the amount of royal icing. I still used it to assemble the houses, but to get sugar decorations to stick to the roofs I decided to use simple syrup. I heated one part water and one part sugar and let it bubble for a while on the stove just so it would thicken. After it was thoroughly cooled I put a dot on the roof and spread it around using a small brush I keep to use as a mini pastry brush. Then I sprinkled sanding sugar or nonpareils. I let it dry overnight and it worked nicely. It tastes a lot better than a layer of royal icing, and I like the way it allows the gingerbread to peek through.
Second, I added a chimney. I rolled out some gingerbread dough a bit thicker and cut out a square-ish shape, using the house template to get the correct angle.
I think it turned out very cute, though I found that the taller chimneys looked incongruous, so I’ll stick to very short chimneys.
Third I decided to see what whole happen if I moved the door shape, the part that fits over the mug, off to one side to allow more of the house to hang on the outside of the mug. It worked just fine but moving it over made the pieces more delicate and I broke three out of six during assembly, enough to convince me to keep the door where it is.
Last I wanted to see if it would work out using sugar cookie dough. This was from a mix (I know, I know but I had hit my cookie dough-making wall) and spread quite a bit despite a good amount of chilling before baking. I trimmed the doors when the cookies came out of the oven and were still pliable. They still worked out nicely. Now I’m wondering if there would be a way to make one out of shortbread.
· comments  · 12-22-2009 · categories:christmas ·
I made tiny gingerbread houses that are meant to be perched on the edge of a mug of hot chocolate.
I had been thinking about those sugar cubes that hook on the rim of a teacup earlier this month, and I was also thinking about 3-D cookies and how they fit together and figured it would be pretty neat to make cookies that hang on the edge of a mug. I thought I was being so brilliant but it only took a few seconds to discover that a flat cookie on the edge of a mug has already been done. So I started wondering what else I could do. At the time I was making a bunch of gingerbread recipes trying to find one that would hold up for my partridge in a pear tree cookie, so a gingerbread house was on my mind.
I made a few versions to figure out how to make one that wasn’t so top heavy that it would flip off the mug, and how small I could get away with and still fit on both large and small cups. I generally followed the size of my The Mini Gingerbread House Kit (though, those pieces don’t fit together as nicely as I’d have liked).
I’ve made a PDF pattern of gingerbread house pieces which you can open or download right here. My only instruction is that you should make sure that the wall pieces are to be sandwiched on the inside of the door pieces, that way the roof fits on properly. I included two door pieces you can choose from, one at 3/8ths inch wide and one at 1/2 inch wide. I found that a 3/8ths inch door, or slot, fits most mugs but the 1/2 can be used for your really big and heavy mugs. I traced the pieces onto this template page at 9:54 in the evening, please forgive the sloppiness but I’m getting tired, let’s just call the untidy lines charming.
I used the Gingerbread Snowflake and the Royal Icing recipes from marthastewart.com.
I rolled it out onto a sheet of tin foil at 1/8th inch thick. I skipped a silicone mat because I use a paring knife for the corner details and didn’t want to accidentally cut down to the layers of glass fibers, and after some trial I found that parchment paper will warp after being chilled and then stuck in an oven which can distort some shapes.
I used a dull sewing pattern roller (like a small pizza cutter) to go around most sides. You can do all of one side than turn the entire sheet of tin foil 90 degrees to do all of the next side, this makes the process go a bit faster. Try to fit all the pieces for each individual house in the same batch, I found my batches browned differently from each other. Lift the excess dough up from the tin foil, not moving your cut out shapes at all, this will help them keep their shape. Then slide the tin foil sheet onto a cookie sheet and put both in the freezer for about 15 minutes, you want the dough really well chilled before baking.
I used a (well cleaned) flat head screwdriver to get in the detail around the doors, then a paring knife to make sure the corners are cut cleanly.
Here are some tips, most of these are in the recipe but I don’t want you to overlook them:
- After making it divide the dough into thirds (I made half a recipe) wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Make the royal icing while it’s chilling, you’ll need it before you make all the gingerbread you are planning on.
- Roll the dough out to 1/8th of an inch. It seems impossibly thin but you be cutting the shapes and pulling the excess dough from around them so your pieces won’t be too disturbed. Feel free to nudge your shapes back into squares before chilling them again.
- Preheat the oven, roll the dough out on tin foil, cut your shapes and lift off the excess dough, slide the tin foil onto your cookie sheet, now put the cookie sheet into the freezer for at least 15 minutes before baking. This will keep the gingerbread from spreading too much.
- Make a single test house with your chosen door width. This sounds like a pita, and it will be, but it will be far less trouble than the frustration of finding none of your finished houses fit on mugs. Knowing now that you need to cut a wider door is worth it.
- I found that dough chilled for only an hour puffed up quite a bit, but didn’t necessarily spread if the cut out shapes were chilled in the freezer. Dough that had been in the fridge overnight, or even the second day (it’ll keep for a few days) puffed up quite a bit less, perhaps because the baking powder had lost it’s mojo by this time?
- If you suspect your intended mugs are thicker and sturdier than usual grab some cardstock or a magazine insert and cut a few different slots — 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch wide, about two inches deep (or tall). The one that slides easily onto the edge of you mug and even has a little wiggle room is the width you want for your door.
- If your gingerbread should spread and the doors look too narrow to you, you can trim them when the gingerbread is just out of the oven before it sets and cools too much. I suggest a paring knife and trimming just a bit from either side of the door.
I decided to only decorate the roofs for now. I might make these again next year and get more detailed with the decorations. I used a variety of sugars and sprinkles. One note, I discovered that candy cane dust will stick together so well that it will not show any piping detail beneath it. I liked the way regular sanding sugar made the roof sparkle a bit, though I couldn’t capture the cuteness in my pictures.
Don’t fill your mug of hot chocolate too full, you don’t want the bottom of your gingerbread house to get soggy.
Can you tell the crushed candy cane one was my favorite?
I would be these would be fantastic made out of sugar cookie or shortbread dough. You could certainly leave them undecorated, or perhaps press sanding sugar into the roof pieces before baking. On the other hand I’m curious to see what one would look like covered in pieces of tiny candies. I’m also planning on making house-shaped marshmallows that will fit on the edge of the mug.
update: I made a few variations including a chimney and a version made out of sugar cookie dough which you might be interested in.
· comments  · 12-18-2009 · categories:christmas · food ·
· comments  · 12-14-2009 · categories:christmas · links ·