Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's in that Package?

"The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution."
-Stephen Sondheim

Let's play guess what's in that package... 
[BTW... if you happen to know the recipient in person, you're sworn to secrecy!!]

Inspired by this awesome Box of Teacher Goodies from the super creative eighteen25 blog, I couldn't wait to adapt the idea for my own Christmas gifts.

After watching my sister and brother-in-law huddle around a crossword puzzle book while on vacation this summer, I decided to whip up a "Crossword Kit" for Jordan, full of lots of goodies that would come in handy while working puzzles.

 Here is what's inside:
  • Pages of a crossword puzzle book rolled up and tied with string
  • Needs no explanation : golf pencils
  • Keep it sharp : pencil sharpener
  • For those occasional mistakes : pink pearl eraser
  • When you're feeling confident : pocket pens
  • Mark your page : decoupaged magnetic bookmarks
  • Relieve the stress : brain-shaped stress ball
  • Nourish your mind : black and white M&Ms
  • Boost your brainpower : mini Rubik's cube
  • Finished the puzzle... give yourself a hand : plastic clapper toy
You could also pair this with a great puzzle book, an electronic crossword game, a daily crossword calender, a crossword puzzle dictionary, the movie Wordplay, a set of mystery novels about crosswords, or the World's Largest Crossword puzzle. You'll just have to guess which one I chose...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Signed, sealed, and delivered...

"Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas."
-Dale Evans

Well, maybe not delivered yet... but they're on their way.

I took advantage of a freebie deal from VistaPrint and printed our photo and Christmas message as a small postcard with envelopes. I'm pretty tickled with them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not our Christmas card...

"Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly."
-Rose Franken

In honor of our Christmas cards being dropped in the mailbox today, here are some of the photos we rejected for this year's card...

Can't imagine why!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Felt letters how-to...

"Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket."
-Charles Simic

My youngest nephew turns two next week. With his birthday so close to Christmas, I knew I wanted to make something special for him.

At first I was inspired by the many different ABC projects that I saw on Pinterest:

Then I remembered I'm a commitment-phobe, and I could never commit to 26 individual letters. But, what about numbers? There's only ten of them!

Look how cute they turned out!

If you want to make a set of your own, you will need:
  • Plenty of felt : I bought one mini-sheet of each color.
  • Plenty of thick embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Stuffing : I actually used quilt batting because I could cut it into strips.
  1. Print outlines of the big numbers on cardstock; I fit four to a page.
  2. Trace each number on the felt with a sharpie.
  3. Stack/fold your felt and cut two of each numbers.
  4. Use the blanket stitch to sew around the exterior of each number. I had to reacquaint myself via a tutorial at Futuregirl Craft Blog.
  5. Use a pencil/pen/chopstick/etc. to stuff the numbers as you go. Stitch up the final hole.
  6. Throw the number to the side, and start the next one. Thank goodness that you have only 10 to do!
Find a small totebag or make a little drawstring bag to hold all of the numbers. And, of course don't forget to attach the cute tag!

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    What's under my tree...

    "You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving."
    -Author Unknown

    Take a guess... what do you think is inside? 
    Only one of my favorite gifts that I'm giving this year. One that I've been working on for a couple of months.

    Remember when my nephews came to stay with me for a week this summer? Here, here, here, here, here, and here.

    Needless to say, I took a lot of photos of all the fun things we did... with hopes of turning it into a photobook for them.

    And, then a couple of weeks ago, I took advantage of a free 8x8" photobook offer from Smilebooks--you can get one for yourself here!-- and all I had to pay for was shipping!

    I hope the boys will always look back on our week together with fond memories!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Holiday (in)sanity...

    "Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts."
    -Lenora Mattingly Weber

    The #1 thing that keeps me sane throughout the Christmas season... the Better Christmas List app on my iPhone. 

    I've used it for three years straight, and I love it. I'm a total believer in picking up gifts throughout the year. (Come December, I'm always thrilled to discover that I can avoid the crowds at the mall and still stick to my budget.) But once a gift is hidden away in my secret gift stash, it's easy to forget that it's there. However, with a quick tap of my fingers, this app keeps track of my ever-growing gift list.

    While I'm pretty sure that this app has some functions that I still haven't utilized the fullest, I love the fact that I can
    • Archive the data from each year, so that I can see what gifts I gave last year and prevent any repeats.
    • Attach a photo of the gift after I buy it, so that I can match something else to it later, and I don't have to dig in the secret stash to remember exactly what it is.
    • Organize the list both by recipient and by what step I'm on (need to purchase, bought, wrapped, or delivered)-- the latter comes in handy especially during the month of December when I'm trying to pull it all together.
    • Add notes about each gift, so that I can compare prices and/or continue brainstorming.
    • Keep track of my budget, although I have to admit, I'm not very good at setting initial budget limits, so I always set them so that I'm way under-budget!
    • Match each recipient with their address and other contact info through my phonebook, so that I don't get stuck at the post office without my address book.
    • Be confident that I always have the list with me, so I don't have to keep up with a physical notebook (I'm always leaving those at home or even in the car anyway)!

    The gift wrapping awards...

    "Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine; Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign." 
    -Christina Rossetti

    I package up each gift with wrapping paper, ribbon, and a whole bunch of love. I hope the people on my Christmas list feel that love as they untie the bow and pull off the paper. 

    I have to admit though, some gifts are easier to wrap than others. Here are the winners of the 2011 Gift Wrapping Superlatives:

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Tied up with bows...

    "A joy that is shared is a joy made double."
    -John Roy

    I also have picked up a great ribbon-tying strategy that lets the gift box sit evenly on the table, although I can't seem to remember where I first saw it. (Previously I used a criss-cross ribbon method that left a twist on the bottom of the package that just didn't look as crisp as I desired.) I've since converted 100%.

    Here's how:
    1. Cross. Run ribbon under the back of the package. Bring the two ends up, so that one end is be significantly longer than the other-- in my example, the length of ribbon on the right side is about three longer than the left. Cross the ribbon end over the front of the package, so they run parallel to one another... the longer end should be on above the shorted end.
    2. Twist. Twist the ends of ribbon around each other, so that the longer ribbon (from the top) is now pointing down, the shorter ribbon (from the bottom) is now pointing up, and the intersection point is in the middle of the package.
    3. Wrap. Bring the longer ribbon around the back of the package and around to the front.
    4. Knot. Back at the original intersection point, tie a double knot between the two ends.
    5. Bow. Tie a pretty bow at the intersection point. Trim the ends so that they are equal in length.
      It takes a little practice, but your presents will look so polished!!

      Sunday, December 11, 2011

      All wrapped up...

      "As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is."
      -Eric Sevareid

      With the exception of a few handmade gifts that I need to finish, I have all of our Christmas presents bought and wrapped. I'm no expert gift wrapper by all means, but I have picked up a few tips over the last couple of years that make all of the difference for me.

      First off, wrapping paper quality is key. There is nothing more frustrating than that cheap drugstore giftwrap that tears in a million and one directions except for the way you want it to. I've tried many alternatives over the years, including brown kraft paper and matte paper, but I think I landed on my favorite.

      Last year during a half-off sale, I purchased two rolls of glossy-finish paper from Hobby Lobby (Brother Sister Design Studios). Not only are they fun coordinating patterns, but they even have a grid pattern printed on the reverse to help you cut in straight lines. They're surprisingly thick, allowing my scissors to glide right through. And, you can't even see through the white paper! I think I'm in love.

      Next, tags. I always like to find a clever way to address the presents for the recipients. Sometimes that means making my own tags, sometimes that means finding cute printables online, and once in awhile, it means printing customized tags for each person!  

      Some quick tag inspiration for you: Printable Gift Tag Roundup from Creature Comforts, Circle Snowflake Tags from Winnie0917, Printable Gift Tags from Skip To My Lou, and Fun with Fonts from Bugs and Fishes

      Last, ribbons. On a tip from Jordan Ferney on Oh Happy Day years ago, I purchased several rolls of 7/8" single face satin ribbon from PaperMart. She raves about this ribbon, and I agree. It's gorgeous! Unfortunately after several years with the same stash, I need to remember to order more before next year's holiday season.

      Tutorial on my awesome ribbon tying method coming up next!!

      Thursday, December 08, 2011

      A few Christmas scenes...

      "It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air."
      -W.T. Ellis

      This week I've put up a couple of holiday decorations and started wrapping some presents. There's no room in our little apartment to set out (or store) all of our decorations, but I couldn't resist a little bit of red and green.

      Love the little holiday tree that I printed from HP (found via Design Crush!). In typical Jana fashion, this simple project turned into quite the labor of love. I had to visit three stores to get printer ink (as soon as I had installed the new yellow ink, it informed me that I was also out of black!), and then I didn't read the instructions and went crazy with the paper cutter to remove the margins before I realized that the puzzle pieces wouldn't match up. Thankfully I had a fabric garland on hand, and as I trimmed the tree, I was able to disguise the mismatching.

      The perfect corner for our presents to sit. That is, until I finally get around the post office to send many of them on their way.

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