Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Host a Cookie Swap

Every year I host a cookie swap with neighbors, family and friends the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is a great time to do it, before all the Christmas activities start and before family has to make their way back home.  Since this is my fifth cookie swap in this neighborhood, and my tenth one overall, I thought I would share with you how I get this thing going!

Choose a date.

For me, this Sunday after Thanksgiving is perfect. It might not be perfect for you, so choose one that suits you and your needs.

Choose your attendees.

You don't want a huge swap for the first time.  We limit ours to 12 and bake a dozen cookies for each participant. That's 12 dozen cookies!  Whew!  Sometimes we choose to bake just 6 cookies for each participant.  You get to decide!

Choose the type of event you want to have.

For example, I feed my participants a light dinner of soup and salad.  We visit and then swap cookies.  You don't have to do it like this, but I love having the opportunity to feed my friends.

Send out your invite. 

Call on the phone, send a physical invite, email or set up a Facebook event page.  However you do it, be sure to be clear on the expectations.

Choose your decorating theme.

I love to do a different theme every year and this is when I rely on the good folks at Oriental Trading. I can go into the website and see what's new or cute or pretty.  I get my decorations, paper products, and my participant gift all from Oriental Trading.  They make it so easy and I am always impressed with how awesome the service is!  I love their cookie box choices and so will you!

Choose your food.

Choose your soup, salad and the cookie you are going to exchange!  I bake mine the Friday after Thanksgiving, and shop for my salad and soup in the morning of the exchange.  I cook around noon and the exchange starts at 3:00.  We eat around 4:00 and exchange shortly after.

After the exchange.

I send a quick thank you via the same way I invited, through a phone call, email or Facebook invite. I am always sure to upload a few pictures of the cookies.  We all have a such a great time and the best part, we walk away with 11 dozen of different cookies! Woo hoo!  I use these cookies to mix and match up all kinds of gifts, for teachers, the mail lady, whomever I need to take a small treat.

If you have hosted a swap before, I would LOVE to hear how you do it!  I am always looking for ways to improve the swap, so be sure and share your experiences with me!  Look for my cookie recipe later this week!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Graceful Touches: Creating Christmas Charm

It's Thanksgiving Eve here in the United States and I am so looking forward to spending some time with my family on Thanksgiving. We will be traveling all of Thursday and home again on Friday.  Most of Friday and Saturday will be spent in decorating for Christmas.

You might remember that I said that my family is cutting back on the holiday decor as we will be spending Christmas Day in Mexico.  I love decorating for the holidays, so I am really making an effort about choosing just the right item for each room to give it the charm of the holiday.  I am calling these special decorations Graceful Touches.

My living room, kitchen and dining room will get their traditional treatment. We spend most of our time in these rooms and they will be decorated as usual.  The rooms that will get Graceful Touches will be the master bedroom, the guest bedroom, my study, and the den.  I have been thinking carefully about what touches I will be using in each room.

The criteria I am using is based around family tradition. We are 40 years deep into our Christmas traditions and if some things were packed away, it just wouldn't seem like Christmas!  Those items will get first priority to be a Graceful Touch in one of the rooms.

Current Graceful Touch items:

1. Ceramic Christmas tree made by my mother
2. Ceramic Santa and Mrs. Claus made by my mother
3. German Santa purchased this year
4. Margarita Santa purchased this year
5. Wooden Slat Christmas Tree
6. A skating Santa made by my mother-in-law
7. Gold gilted mirror

What are your Graceful Touches?  Things that make your Christmas extra special?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Coastal Ornament Tutorial and Ornament Exchange!

Welcome to the 2017 Ornament Exchange & Blog Hop! This year, there are 47 amazing bloggers participating in the exchange. The rules of the challenge were simple: be partnered with a fellow blogger, create a handmade ornament for $15 or under, create a tutorial, and ship the ornament off to a new home!

My partner this year was Pamela Smith. She blogs at Home on the Corner. It is a delightful blog full of great ideas for your home.  Pamela's Christmas tree has a beachy theme, with coastal colors of white, turquoise, blues and greens. I knew I wanted to make her something with seashells, and then I saw it!
"Friends are like the seashells we gather along the way."

I knew I had to find a way to incorporate that beautiful quote into an ornament. I have a friend who cuts vinyl and then we were off and running!

Meet the 2017 Ornament Exchange Hosts

Shirley · Intelligent Domesticatons Michelle · Our Crafty Mom
Beverly · Across the Blvd. Christene · Key to Inspiration Pili ⋅ My Sweet Things
Trisha · Rosewood and Grace Jeanie · Create and Babble Katrin ⋅ Kreativ K
Pamela · Home On The Corner Lorelai Life with Lorelai Cindy ⋅ DIY Beautify
Debbie ⋅ Tweak and Style Stephanie ⋅ Swoodson Says Chelc ⋅ Inside the Fox Den
Vicki and Jenn ⋅ 2 Bees in a Pod Joanne ⋅ Our Unschooling Journey
Tylynn ⋅ Bitterroot DIY Sam ⋅ Raggedity Bits Mary ⋅ The Boondocks Blog
Samantha ⋅ Little Bits of Home Hope ⋅ Hopes Crafty Niche Anne ⋅ Orange Bettie

To make this adorable ornament yourself, here's what I did.

1.  I purchased an empty, clear, ball ornament.  I removed the top and washed it with hot, soapy water and let it dry, upside down, on a towel.

2 . I ordered the quote from a friend who cuts vinyl.  However, a person who does handwriting could easily use a permanent marker and write this quote on the ornament. My friend placed the letters on the ornament for me.

4.  I mixed sand with a little glitter and poured it into the ornament by forming a paper cone and pouring the sand into the open ornament.  Then I added seashells I had gathered into the ornament.  I fastened the top back on.

5.  I next created a little tag and then hot glued some twine around the top. I tied the tag on with some extra twine.

There you go!  Isn't this the cutest?

The best part, though, is making new blogging friends along the way. Pam and I share a lot of common interests and I truly love her blog!  Go and check her ornament that she made for me, here.

FIND ALL 47 HANDMADE ORNAMENT TUTORIALS BELOW AND SHARE YOURS TOO! Use Hashtag #2017OrnamentExchange so we can see your creations on social media.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Christmas Bucket List

I love having a cheery bucket list front and center on my refrigerator during the Christmas season. There are always concerts and events to go to, but there are also just fun things that I want to do because it is the SeAsOn to do them!  So together with my friend Evelyn from Nemcsok Farms, we created this adorable bucket list just for you!

These aren't in any particular order, but I love the idea of starting the food bank donation the first of December with a goal to deliver it by December 20, in time for holiday cooking.  I purchase my poinsettia plants from someone doing a fundraiser (usually a high school club) so that my money helps others, and my cards to soldiers happens when I go to my November Daughters of the American Revolution meeting.  We address and write cards during that meeting.  I bet you are like that, too, and have things that you do already!  I like to add those to my list so I can cross them off!

Feel free to pin the list to pinterest and share it with your friends and neighbors.  There is no copyright and I want you to feel like you have permission.  

Did I leave something off that I need to include?  Let me know in the comments, so next year's list can be even better.   Thank you!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Christmas Wreath

Before anyone sets foot inside your house, the Christmas wreath makes an impression on your guests.  The wreath is the message that gets sent to passersby as they drive, walk, bike, scoot or stroll past your home.  What message do you want to send?  For me, I want all who come by to feel the joy of Christmas and smile.

1.  Traditional Elegance-Christmas wreaths of mixed evergreens tied with red and green ribbon speak of timeless tradition. Does this sound like you? I love seeing the traditional colors of Christmas on any door!

Found here:
2.  Seaside Charm-The Christmas wreath that says "my heart is at the beach" is so much fun and very popular these days. Any decor can accommodate the seashell wreath, as they used them in Victorian days, too.

photo via
3.  Glitz and Glamour-Are sparkles, silver, and gold your favorite holiday accents? Then add it to your front door to give your whole house a Christmas sparkle.

found here:
4.  Natural Elements-Pine cones, nuts, birds' nests, feathers, if these are the things that speak to you, incorporate them into a wreath you will love.  The woodsy look and feel is so inviting. For a bit of fun, add some star anise and stick cinnamon for a welcoming aroma.

Found here:
5.  Whimsical-Are you a fan of the unexpected? A whimsical wreath, one that makes you smile every time you see it might be just what you need on your door.  This wreath is hard to find, but when you do, you know it immediately!

6.  Country Farmhouse-This welcoming wreath can be full of fun items, from rustic farm tools, hand-lettered signs, burlap and dried foliage. Many times the base is an evergreen wreath, but a simple circle of grapevine might also be found.

Found here:
7.  Retro-This wreath usually uses retro items as a feature, such as Star Brite ornaments, retro toys, retro light bulbs and creates a wreath full of nostalgia for old times.

Old fashioned buttons and toys make this traditional wreath retro!
Did you find your wreath style here? Which one is for you?  Leave me a comment which one it is!  If I didn't address your style, let me know! I can add to this post in an instant.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Spa Day Gifts #homemadechristmas

Treat your friends and neighbors to a spa treatment for this Christmas!  This whole gift was a total of $10, including the tray.  I included the oils, the carrier oils, the honey and the shampoo and conditioner in the portions that I used, not what the products in total cost me.

1.  Woodsy Mint Bath Oil

3 oz of your favorite carrier oil (almond, grapeseed, coconut or jojoba)
10 drops of peppermint essential oil
20 drops of eucalyptus oil

Measure oil into your desired container.  Shake briefly.  Shake before using.  Pour 1 tablespoon into running warm bath water.  Rinse tub after using.

All my containers were purchased at Amazon. The link is
4 Oz Plastic Cylinder Bottles with Flip Top Pour Spout, Pack of 12

2.  Passion Fruit Shaving Cream

1 c shampoo (Passion Fruit by Suave)
1 c conditioner (Passion Fruit by Suave)
5 T jojoba oil (or any carrier oil)
5 T lotion
1/2 t cream of tartar or xanathan gum

Combine ingredients.  Mix with an immersion blender, mixer or whisk.  Pour into containers.  Use about 1 tablespoon per leg.

3.  Soothing Face Mask

2 t raw honey
1 t aloe vera gel
Add the following essential oils, all or any combination, as long as you have 4 drops
1 drop patchouli
1 drop lavender
1 drop rose
1 drop bergamot

Mix together thoroughly.  This is enough for one mask.  Double the recipe if you want to have more than one mask.  Apply to face, leave on 10-15 minutes.  Remove gently with warm water. Pat dry.

This silver tray is from Dollar Tree!  It is a perfect way to organize the items.  Cover with a cellophane bag and tie on a ribbon.  Merry Christmas!!

As a gift to you, here are the labels I used.  Print on a full page of sticker paper.  Cut out.  Add to jars.  There are three complete sets of labels on one sticker sheet!  The directions can be added to cardstock and included in the package or placed on the back of the bottles.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Simple Yet Effective Christmas Decor

I am undergoing a major transformation for this holiday season.

My family and I are headed to Cabo San Lucas for Christmas.  I made the decision not to do a lot of holiday decorating and concentrate on my trip.  All of my cherished items will be used, but for the most part, we will simplify by having one tree in our living room and simple touches in most rooms.

Head over to Just A Simple Home to see more about simplifying your Christmas.  Additional stress doesn't benefit your body, your heart or your mind.  Let's take away all of that and still have the holiday home you dream of!

Reindeer Art by Average But Inspired
Black and White Christmas Mantel by the Crafted Sparrow
Cozy Christmas Mantel by the Lily Pad Cottage
Christmas Ball Wreath by Nemcsok Farms
Easy Boxwood Wreaths by the Crazy Craft Lady
Striped Paper Straw Wreath by Tatertots and Jello
Hydrangea Christmas Wreath by Simply Designing
Paper Christmas Wreath by Lia Griffith
Christmas Cheer Printable  by 30 Handmade Days

Which is your favorite?  Any tips for all of us who are headed to a more simple Christmas?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Adorable Water Bottle for ANYONE on your List!

I am always looking out for a great idea for those on your list that might be hard to buy for, or for that unique family gift.  I think I have found a wonderful idea for you and that is this Glasstic Water Bottle.  

Why is it called Glasstic?  That is because of its unique design.  The outside is BPA and toxin free plastic.  The inside is a glass bottle.  Why a glass bottle?  I think we can all agree that water tastes best from a glass, right?  This worry free glass bottle is shatterproof, and they back that claim with a lifetime parts guarantee.  The company has been around since 2011, so they must be doing it right!

The best part is that Glasstic can be personalized!  I decided to take the process on a test drive.  I loaded up the site and went through the steps.  In just a few minutes, I had personalized my water bottle with the blog's logo.  Isn't it cute and festive?  The process was easy.  A tip:  Choose your logo or pictures before you go to design for another time saver!

The time from design to in your home was quick as well.  I only had a few days' wait for my bottle to arrive.

There's a convenient handle on top!
A convenient flip top with a lock!

Other perks:

  • You can use your essential oils in Glasstic.
  • It is constructed with a double wall so drinks stay colder.
  • The bottle is easy to clean (you can order a special bottle brush if you'd like
  • The company participates in fundraising!
Gift ideas:  create a family logo and give a bottle to each of the family members.  Use a cricut machine to make numbers to go on the bottle with the birth order of the family members.  For example, my mother-in-law is the oldest now, so she would be number 1.

Put your team logo on it and give to your coaches, water boys and team mates.

Put your company logo on it and give away as a customer incentive.

Visit Glasstic Water Bottle Company for more information and gift ideas!