Home Craft Idea: Welcome Sign

For a homey craft, here’s an idea I’ve been percolating on for a week or two until I came up with the right solution for our own, personal look:  I took a white wooden welcome sign that I’d purchased on sale; it was originally decorated with Easter-themed wooden flowers and dangles of eggs and birds, so I removed all the extra bits except the five small loop head screws.  If you can’t find such a sign, you could make one with cardboard, hardening it with a couple layers of paper machè before painting it your base colour and attaching the screws.

The sign, I covered by paper machèing it with the inside of a few security envelopes (the kinds you get bank statements and bills in).  Most of the paper beads are also made from the same envelopes.  [If you want to find an addictive craft, paper beads will do it!]  I laid the sign upside down on the outside of the opened envelope and traced the letters, cutting out the paper before glueing it on.  The design can be seamlessly augmented with the security motif, as the sign is longer than the length of an opened envelope laid flat… my seam is overlapping onto the “e” after the “w”, and you can’t see it.

For the dangles, I made the security paper beads, and one bead is made from a magazine picture of the sun; I strung them onto nylon thread (“fishing thread”), and used silver beads, cap-beads, crimp beads, and silver charms at the ends.  I then strung a length of black satin ribbon to hang the sign on our door, making sure the length allowed for viewing through the peephole.  I secured the ends of the ribbon to itself with crimp bead covers (also crimp beads, but a “C” shape to clamp around crimp beads).

[If you’re interested, I got all of the jewellery findings and beads online, at Aliexpress.com.]

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Kitchen Craft Idea: Tea Caddy & DIY Mod Podge

Until recently, our tea corner was looking fairly, shall we say, “lived-in”.  I’d wanted to neaten it up for awhile, but hadn’t found the right solution.  Then the idea came that, if I couldn’t find anything in the shops, it was time to make it myself.

If you’ve never done paper maché before, it can look a bit daunting; but it’s all about steps:  First you get an idea of what you need, and begin building up the “armature” – the skeleton of what you want as an end-product.  That can change as you go; you can add on in basically any phase you want.  The armature, in this case, was made of boxes and masking tape:  I took square and rectangular tissue boxes; the square, I cut in half across the middle, cutting top from bottom.  I slipped a piece of cardboard into the top’s hole to make a solid base. The rectangular boxes, I cut down to be a bit shorter – these are the side drawers.

I’ve learned to get crisp edges on box projects by pre-cutting the papers I use to the width, length or height of the piece to cover with Mod-Podge & paper.  I used a book I’ll never read, but find that paperback pages are a good thickness, and don’t get my fingers as black as working with newspaper does.  Afer they were dry, I painted them; the drawers are white, the caddy, black.

If you’re interested in getting the metal drawer pulls, I found them at Aliexpress – a great source for craft items, especially for those of us in Europe (which tends to have very little choice of craft items)!  If you type in “Plum handle metal antique vintage”, they’ll pop up.

Below are a few photos to inspire you; I didn’t photograph every stage; if you want to learn more about what you can do with paper maché, just click here to go to my Pinterest board for crafts using paper & cardboard.  I made the “Life is like a cup of tea” image from a few different images; the label was also made from a banner I found on Pinterest; these kinds of things can be found on my Vintage board.

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I lined each drawer with a different pattern of scrap material; you could use paper – it’s up to you, but I think the cloth will be more durable.  I painted it with a layer of homemade Mod Podge, so here is the recipe for that:

DIY Mod Podge

You’ll need:

  • Glass Jar or container
  • Any kind of generic household glue
  • Water
  • Acrylic gloss/glaze paint if you want a glossy finish

Into the container, pour 3 parts glue and 1-2 parts water, depending on how thick you want it.  Add the glaze if you want; depending on how much glue and water you use, you’ll need to adjust how much gloss you add, but I would guesstimate 1 part gloss.

If you’re not yet familiar with Mod Podge, it can be used in so many ways!  I go through quite a lot of it, so I made up a large batch every 6 weeks or so.  I use it both to glue and seal paper maché projects.

 

115 Ideas for Advent Calendar- and Stocking-Stuffers

Tischibo Advent Calender

Tischibo Advent Calendar

Christmas season is approaching, and here in Switzerland Advent calendars are traditional.  They can be made of anything from a cheap cardboard with fold-out “windows” and nothing but an image hidden, to miniature stockings stuffed to the gills for each day.  Our calendar is made of small cloth bags, similar to the ones pictured.

Sometimes it’s hard to find good ideas for gifts – small things for people who’ve got everything they really need, yet fun and practical.  Below is my personal list from which to draw on each year, and I hope it inspires you too!

Ideas for Advent Calendar Accoutrements:

  • Add a DAIM chocolate, or some kind of small treat, to the advent calendar’s daily contents.
  • Add a coupon for activities to be done together (see ideas below).

 

Stocking & Advent Calendar Stuffers

Coupons, Gift Cards

  1. Gift card
  2. Gift card for a home pedicure
  3. Coffee shop gift card
  4. Coupon to “watch a Christmas movie” attached to a bag of microwavable popcorn
  5. Time / activity coupons
  6. Coupon for a Christmas picnic
  7. Coupon to go bowling, play miniature golf, etc.
  8. Car wash gift card
  9. Couple time coupon
  10. An activity ticket book – activities to do together
  11. A lipstick kiss:  It costs nothing to give a lipstick kiss to the man you adore.  Find a nice piece of paper and add a cute message, too.
  12. Love letter
  13. Game night – his choice
  14. Coupon for a home-massage or pedicure

Crafts, DIY

  1. Embroidery thread for friendship bracelets
  2. Fancy scissors
  3. Scrapbook paper (rolled up in a paper towel tube)
  4. Scrapbooking ribbons, tags, embellishments, etc
  5. Package of decorative buttons (for crafting)
  6. Knitting needles or crochet hooks
  7. Crochet or knitting pattern book
  8. Beads and elastic
  9. Stickers
  10. Rubber craft stamps
  11. Drill bits
  12. Tool keyring
  13. A jar of essential oils
  14. Tape measure
  15. Nails & screws
  16. 3M hooks

Electronics

  1. Disposable camera for silly photos
  2. Ear buds
  3. Book light
  4. Calculator
  5. USB stick or memory card
  6. ITunes gift card
  7. Cell phone cover
  8. Camera memory card
  9. Car charger for cell phone
  10. Mini torch (flashlight)

Foods

  1. Holiday baking
  2. Beef jerky
  3. Gourmet coffee
  4. Specialty tea
  5. Cookie cutters
  6. Mini bar sized alcohol
  7. Festive nuts
  8. Favorite candy bar
  9. Snack packages (cheese crackers, cookies, etc)
  10. Gum
  11. Hot chocolate packets

Just For Fun

  1. Small plastic toy figures
  2. Fun foam keychains
  3. Pocket Farkle
  4. “Pass the Pigs” game
  5. Dice with cards for individual dice games
  6. Playing cards with rule book for new games
  7. Party popper
  8. Mini Rubik’s cube
  9. Wooden puzzle
  10. Mistletoe – hint, hint
  11. Small bouncy ball
  12. Temporary tattoos
  13. Trading cards
  14. Glow sticks

Practical

  1. Kitchen magnet
  2. Earrings or jewelry
  3. Votive candles
  4. Keychain or keyring
  5. Beaded bookmark
  6. Wallet
  7. Small framed photo
  8. A Christmas ornament
  9. Seed packets
  10. Sport paraphernalia: golf tees, golf balls, fishing hooks, sport-related keychains or pens, etc.
  11. Mini flashlight
  12. Money in a creative way: origami, treasure hunt, coin hunt, etc.
  13. Slipper socks

Stationery

  1. Pencil sharpener
  2. Erasers
  3. A bookmark
  4. Stamps for mailing cards
  5. Mini notepad
  6. Hand written note
  7. Joke or a seasonal quote
  8. Make holiday cards
  9. Stretchy book covers
  10. Diary or pocket calendar
  11. Diary with invisible ink pen
  12. Funky pens
  13. Gel pens and black paper
  14. Box of dollar store note cards
  15. Erasers
  16. Mini office set (tape, stapler, etc.)
  17. Sudoku book

Toiletries

  1. Barrettes / pony tail holders
  2. Comb
  3. New toothbrush
  4. Makeup
  5. Lip balm
  6. Perfume
  7. Nail polish in funky colors
  8. Manicure set
  9. Pedicure egg or pumice stone
  10. Scented hand lotion
  11. Scented hand sanitizer or soap
  12. Facial masque
  13. Fancy hand soaps
  14. Hair accessories
  15. Deodorant
  16. Toothbrush
  17. Dental floss
  18. Underwear
  19. New tie
  20. Tester sized perfume bottles

Elvish Lembas Bread

In honour of Lammas Day, I’d like to share a recipe for Lembas Bread, the Elvish bread from Lord of the Rings.  This recipe is floating around all over the internet, so unfortunately I don’t know who the originator is to give them proper credit.  This type of bread is similar to Hardtack, which has a long history of being used as part of a pilgrim’s travelling provisions; sailors survived on it during long sea voyages when fresh bread had long gone the way of the “bargemen” (weevils), and pioneers travelling west through America took it along in their provisions for the journey.

Also attached is a template for a Mallorn leaf, which in LOR lore, the elves used to pack the bread for travelling.  To make the leaves, I’d recommend a forest green cloth, or a mesh-fibre table cloth.  I’d also recommend making the bread before cutting out the leaves, so that the latter fit the former.  Adjust leaf joints to the size of squares as you pack them.  Just copy the jpg, adjust the size for printing out your template, then cut it out and have fun!

By the way, if you love reading, and love Elves, check out my 2-part fantasy novel, The Cardinal!  Available in Kindle and Paperback.  Just click on the cover art to link to Amazon.  Enjoy, and be sure to write a great review to let other people know what you loved about the story!

This makes a delicately lemon-flavoured, lightly sweetened scone-type bread.

Lembas Bread in Mallorn LeafLembas Bread

2 ½ C. flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 Tbs. cold butter
1/3 C. sugar
2/3 C. milk
½ tsp. lemon extract

Preheat over to 425°F (220°C). Mix flour, baking powder, & salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into mixture with a pastry cutter or knead in with your fingers until you get a crumbly mixture. Add sugar & mix. Add milk & lemon extract & stir with a fork until dough forms.

Roll the dough out about ½ inch thick. Cut out 3 inch squares & transfer to a cookie sheet. Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife. Bake for about 12 minutes or until set & lightly golden.

Mallorn Leaf

10 Recipes in Pictures

I love to collect recipes and try them out; here are a few I’ve collected that are straightforward!

Bacon & Cheese Bread Ring

Bacon and Cheese Bread Ring

Baked Omelets

Baked Omelets

brownie in a mug

Brownie in a Mug

Cheese Bread

Cheese Bread

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Cherry Chocolate Mice

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Easy Pizza Bread

Easy Pizza Bread

Egg Burger

Egg Burger

Filled Apples

Filled Apples

Fruit Flower Cups

Fruit Flower Cups

 

Swiss Christmas “Samichlaus” Gift Bags

 

Swiss Samichlaus & Schmutzli

A Swiss Santa Claus and Schmutzli, in traditional costume.

Here in Switzerland, Santa has come and gone!  In Zürich alone, the Swiss Santas (“Samichlaus”) will make roughly 1,000 visits this year; within a few days around 6 December each year, just over 30 Santas, 50 Schmutzli and 50 drivers are underway.  Now I’m fairly certain most of my readers are familiar with Santa; but here in Switzerland, his helper is called Schmutzli.  Parents throughout the land book Samichlaus and his assistant, “Schmutzli”, and fill in a form for their children:  Names, ages, their favourite subject in school, and the most important questions:  What have the children improved in since the last visit by Samichlaus, and where do they need to improve?  Making their bed, cleaning their room, being nice to their siblings, or sharing more often?  The Samichlaus und his assistants (often two Schmutzli, who are the “coal” bearers, and often have blackened faces, and carry large baskets with some coal, a besom broom, and room for gifts given back to them by grateful parents!) go to the home at the appointed time, and sit down to speak with each child, reading from a great book they carry with them.  Each child is then given a “Samichlaus” bag, and perhaps a gift sponsored by the parents.

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Thomas Fetz, local Schmutzli. Image Credit: Migrosmagazin

Since 6 December is the official Samichlaus Day, it is customary on that day to give “Samichlaussäckli” (Santa Claus Bags) to friends, family, neighbours and coworkers.  They are great winter gifts to take when visiting friends, and so I thought I would share it here with you, to spread Christmas cheer!

Swiss Samichlaus-Bag:Swiss Samichlaussäck

Peanuts in the shell (whole walnuts are also traditional, but optional)

Mandarin Oranges, apples

Individually wrapped chocolates

Homemade Christmas cookies, wrapped in clear plastic

Options:  Gingerbread men, marzipan fruits, or pralines

 

The traditional bag is made of burlap, though cloth or plastic will work well too.  Fill the bags, and put a note on them if you’re going to leave them at a neighbour’s door, or on a co-worker’s desk.  Enjoy the joy of giving!  And Merry Christmas!

Some bags I prepared for my husband's coworkers; the santa claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.

Some bags I prepared for my husband’s co-workers (mandarin oranges are hiding in there somewhere!); the Santa Claus is a chocolate ornament hanging on our tree.