About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fun Monday -- Handmade Christmas Gifts

Our Fun Monday host for December is Jill over at Life is Not Bubble Wrapped . Her first assignment is to share some ideas that we've used for handmade Christmas gifts. In the days of escorted shopping expeditions, precise gift lists, cash envelopes and gift cards it is an unexpected joy to receive a handmade Christmas gift. It's also a pleasure to make a few simple gifts for friends and family. After seeing Jill's assignment, I thought of a few gifts that were both fun to make and to give.

Cooking: There have been years when I've had a kitchen assembly line going, making many varieties of candies, cookies and scoochey snacks (you know, like Chex mix). Although, by the time the holidays roll around, a lot of us are suffering from cookie fatigue. One year was particularly successful in gifts from the kitchen--the Year of the Bear. Remember when decorating with bears was all the rage? About that time many home cooks were also into making sourdough bread. In my kitchen I kept this starter going for months--feeding it every week with sugar and flour. I also baked a lot of bread in order to use up the starter. My friends were the lucky recipients of the excess. One Christmas I decided to make Bear Bread. Here's what these loaves looked like. Right off the cute meter, wouldn't you say? Popular with young and old.

Sewing: many years ago the sewing machine clicked late in the night with me making homemade gifts. It was an assembly line here as well. Most memorable year was the one where I made all the girls, young and old, red-striped flannel nightgowns. They were the classic styles with lace trimmed yokes and long set-in sleeves. The big push would be to get them made in time to be worn for the unwrapping Christmas gift photos. One funny memory from the flannel nightgown frenzy was that the guy of the house used to plead with me not to make his bedfellow one of these gowns. Said it was like sleeping with a furnace by the time she got all that flannel wrapped around him! :-)

Channeling Martha Stewart: Finally, I'll do a bit of cheating and re-post the directions for making natural evergreen wreath from a few years ago. I set up a long assembly line in the kitchen and before I knew it had about 10 of these lovelies made.

If you'd like to try your hand at making wreaths, it's a simple process:

Wreathmaking supplies: hit your local tree lots and nurseries and see what they offer in the way of greenery for free (trimmings from Christmas trees) or very cheap bundles of a variety of evergreens. Here on my work table I've got hemlock, cedar, white pine and fraser fir--and holly berries for some color. You may also be lucky enough to have some of these plants growing in your own yard. Only other supplies you'll need are garden pruners, paddles of wire, and wreath forms.

Directions: get an assembly line going, especially if you plan to make more than one (I'm going for 10). Step 1 -- make small six inch bundles of greenery. Step 2-- tie one end of the wire to the wreath frame; with your right hand, lay a bundle of greenery on the frame. Step 3 -- take the wire paddle in your left hand and wrap the wire around the greenery bundle several times while holding it in place with your right hand. Step 4 -- Continue placing the greenery bundles on the frame, overlapping to cover the stems of the previous bundle. Just eyeball the wreath as you make your way around the form to be sure that it's balanced--doesn't have to be perfect. Step 5 --add the holly last throughout the wreath so that you don't knock the berries off, using as much or little holly as you like. Step 6 -- tie off the wire securely and leave enough "tail" of wire to twist into a loop for hanging. Or, if you prefer, lay the wreath on a flat surface and nestle some candles in the middle. Finally, I made some simple two loop red bows for these wreaths and my friends could decide whether to use them or not.

This is what my first effort of the evening looked like--a bit wobbly, but quite all right, don't you think? After all, part of the charm of homemade gifts is that they're not perfect.

Finally, I have almost all the supplies gathered for this year's gift making assembly. Just a hint: There's snow, black top hats, carrot noses, scarves, and coal. Won't say any more until they're finished except to thank The Church Lady at Living Life in PA for the idea.


Jill said...

Very cool. I kept sitting here refreshing your page every now and again hoping you'd get your post up. I just found out the orange soda I had a few hours ago had caffeine in it. Uh oh. No wonder I'm still awake. Thanks for posting and we'll see you next week. Love the Bears, by the way!

Jan n Jer said...

Wow Faye, you are very crafty. That bread is so cute and I bet its delish! The night gowns would come in handy right about now...its freezing here. How can you go wrong with a fresh Christmas wreath...simple but beautiful! This year I made pretzel treats(with the help of the grans) I will put them in a cute christmasy bag tied with a pretty ribbon. Last year I made homemade mustard! It is fun to make gifts to give and they do mean so much more then a store bought one!

Sayre said...

I love your little bear bread! So cute!

I'm doing nightshirts for my guys - I've never done it before so it'll be interesting to see how they turn out. I LOVED my granny gowns that my mom gave me when I was younger. Literally wore them until they fell apart. I wonder if I could make myself one now?

The wreath-making is timely. My son actually asked last night if we could make one, since our decorating this year is going to be kind of minimalist. I told him I thought we could, but that we ought to make one rather than buy one.

I don't usually have time to be crafty, but since I don't have much money this year, I have to make some time!!!

The Church Lady said...

I just LOVE the bear bread!!!! No wonder this was a hit! I wonder if the recipe is similar to the friendship bread, where you have to keep kneading and adding ingredients to it every day.

I would so love one of those flannel nightgowns right about now. I am freezing and can't wait to climb into my heated bed!

Sure. You make the wreath thing sound easy. But, I'm not so sure I could do it. I did cut some fresh greens from the edge of our woods this year and made an arrangement, berries and all. It turned out nice!

Good luck with your snowman ornaments. I found all of the supplies at AC Moore & Michaels Craft Store(including the ribbon). Let me know if you have questions.

joangee said...

Gosh your craft skills out my meager efforts to shame. What brilliant ideas. Thanks for sharing.

lisaschaos said...

You are very creative! I love the bear bread! Yum!!!

Debs said...

You're so clever. The only things I've managed to make for christmas was a few basic decorations and nothing remotely as good as yours.

..."E"... Beth Edwards said...

the bear, remind me of honey grahams, too cute. love it!! i love the holidays, homemade treats are too fun. ( :