Paper Crafting

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is searching out new, fun gifts to give to family and friends. It just feels like the perfect time to put all the creative desires one can find into gift making, and most days are stuffed with paper, glue, glitter and fun. I remember being in college and discovering Martha Stewart on one of her Holiday Specials on TV. I truly thought that she had the greatest life ever. I mean being paid to come up with cool crafts, recipes and tips to make the holidays just a bit brighter, could it get any better?

Having said that, I like to make gifts from things that we mostly already have. Crafting is not always a cheap pursuit, so once I have enjoyed making the list of things I know we want to try, I have to make sure that we actually have the materials needed to create them.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes and projects that use things that are generally right around the house, and are quick, easy and pretty inexpensive to make.

As a mother of two kiddos with Celiac disease, and a member of our local Celiac/Spruce association, I like to find quick and easy gifts to exchange that are tasty and still full of holiday cheer. I was very excited this year to discover this great recipe for mini pies that can be baked directly in the jar. First, I have what feels like 3 million mason jars, and using them up and giving them away seems like a great plan (especially in the eyes of my husband), and who can resist individual pies that can be made ahead, frozen, and popped into the oven any time you crave? Certainly not I.

For this holiday, I chose to make frozen gluten free/soy free crumb apple pies (I left out pie crust for a crumb base to make things even easier) using cubed apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, brown rice flour, freshly grated nutmeg, and butter. When I say that these were made, jarred and put into the freezer in under 20 minutes, I am not joking. The topping was made from 2T of GF oats, 1/4 c brown rice flour, 1/4 c brown sugar, 2T cold cubed butter, and a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon (I used two forks to cut the ingredients in together).

I did modify the recipe in just one way, I used a slightly larger jar, and layered the crumb topping in between the apples and butter. I just figured that I couldn’t go wrong with a bit of extra crumb topping throughout.

The result is pie. In a jar. Piping hot. Yeah, it is good. Really good. So good in fact that I decided to make up an entire tray of these to freeze for when the wee one finally arrives. I figured that any late night nursing would be made much better by one of these yummy treats.

Once the jars are frozen, you can top with fabric, a standard mason jar lid or any other decorative trim you can find and pack them up real pretty for whoever is lucky enough to receive them.

Speaking of gluten free gifting, one thing that may sound really boring, but is always a hit, is making homemade gluten free bread crumbs for a hostess gift or food basket. For some odd reason, even with all of the advancements in gluten free food available today, store bought gf bread crumbs are truly atrocious. They taste like paste, or something worse, and it ruins every meal I ever try and make. One day the light bulb went off that if I liked making homemade bread, then that same bread should be good to make my own bread crumbs with.

Simply leave your bread out on the counter for 24 hours, and pulse in a food processor or blender with dried basil, oregano and parsley. Store in an air tight container, or freeze if you will be using it over a long period of time. I guarantee you that a jar of gluten free bread crumbs will make everyone smile.

I have to admit that over the course of the last year, I have really come to value creativity that can be found in a toilet paper roll. My husband asks little questions (smart man) about what the 25+ tp rolls are doing in a pretty basket under the sink, for he knows that if he asks, he may find himself in a lengthy discussion of just all the crafts that can be made from a single roll.

So what can you make with an empty tp roll, a piece of wax paper, left over scrap book paper and some Hershey kisses? A pretty candy roll filled with yumminess.

Cut your paper to the exact width of the toilet paper roll.

Using Modge Podge or standard glue, glue the roll to the paper. Make a straight cut across the paper, and seal the edges with a bit more glue.

Your paper tube is now ready to fill.

Using a sheet of clear wax paper, roll it over your candy roll and tie on one end. The less wax paper you use, the more vibrant your paper will be underneath. I liked the look of natural twine, but colored ribbon would be beautiful as well at each end.

Fill your candy roll with whatever treats you have on hand (this truly works with everything from bite sized cookies, to gum drops, to Sundrops).

Tie the other end and add in a gift tag, write the recipients name on the front, or simply leave as is and enjoy.

I recently discovered the joys of a paper shape cutter, and I am starting to wonder how I ever lived without them.  Jacob requested a Christmas sketch book yesterday, and after cutting these little circles out for a different project, I had a few left over to use for him.

A few paper circles, glue, a blank red journal I found in my office, and a sharpie gave us a holiday ornament journal for many a fun sketches. All in all it took about 10 minutes, and the smile I got from it was worth every quick second.

A few easy, fun and inexpensive last minute crafts always put me in a good mood, keep the days busy, and the little ones occupied. Hope you all enjoy.

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A Light in The Chaos

December 13, 2010

As a child, I remember what it was like to see the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I loved it, I lived for it, and it made every moment seem more alive.

Today, as a mama myself, it makes me tired. Very, very tired. The hustle and bustle mean I have to find a parking space so far away that I actually get my daily exercise just walking to the market, and the good cheer that I remember so fondly seems to have given way to some pretty creative swearing on the parts of those fighting to get the last digital photo frame or singing Elmo. It makes me wonder, are children simply and blissfully immune to the craziness of the holidays, or have times just changed? If a John Hughes movie is any indication, the former is more likely the case.

I grew up in a Catholic household, and as the first light of advent was lit, my mother always presented me with a small advent calendar that would magically seem to reveal the nativity scene as the days went by and each “door” was opened. Years later, my mother presented my family with an advent box when Jacob was first born. It was nothing that I had ever seen or thought of before, and the simplicity of the advent calendars of my youth gave way to a complicated conundrum for my husband and I.

The marking of the days towards Christmas morning has become increasingly more difficult, as those drawers needed to be filled and I became tense by the idea of my children expecting something special each time their eyes were to open.

As is always the case in this beautiful blog world of ours, I am certainly not alone in these feelings, and over the past 5 or 6 days I have read some wonderful posts that have helped me to come back to the true meaning of the holiday, and have given me the confidence that I need to change the way that we use a beautiful family treasure.

Gone are the small treats in the drawers of that box, and in their place a simple card with an activity for the day. It was Grace’s beautiful post that solidified for me what I felt drawn towards this time of year: simple time with my family. I loved reading Grace’s words, and seeing how carefully she had put together her advent time for her family.

Since last Monday we have spent time each day crafting, creating, strolling through the gardens, riding through the neighborhoods looking at lights, singing carols, or watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas. There was some resistance by my little ones, as their hearts were set on the tradition of the past, but they have given in beautifully, and now they are excited to know what they will make, see or do as a family.

A favorite of last week was a natural candle holder made from the bottom of our Christmas tree, cut just minutes before it was placed in our home. Pine cones from the back yard, cranberries left over from the bread just made, and a few sprigs of fresh ever green and the holder was complete. Warm glue kept everything together, and a bit of spray adhesive and some kosher salt made the snow appear. The only direction that we had was to make a candle holder, the rest was up to us to create. It was a small treasure, and one that might be hard to find amongst the rest of the directions, but each of us passes it with a bit of pride.

The glow of a paper lantern, the joy in creating something with such ease. When I read Anna’s post last week, I was struck by how simple and fun these were to make, and they immediately went into the box as the next day’s activity. The boys needed little instruction or help with these, and they were so excited for night to fall to see how they glowed.

As the days grow shorter, and the chaos outside gets stronger, I find myself drawn back inside to the warmth of my home and the fun of my family. A simple treat at the end of an evening, a quick craft to start the day, and a lot of love and snuggling in-between keeps my mind on the reason for this season of joy, love and peace.

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