Christmas Recycling - Winter Warmth

Posted on December 2, 2015 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

What's Christmas without a fireplace for Santa to come down? Well, I never had one in any of the apartments or houses I've lived in and my studio home is no exception. But, do I worry, do I fret? No--I improvise.

For years, I hauled a small cherry wood and pine mantel around and put it up wherever I happened to be. Now that, too, is gone but I still have an old wrought iron fireplace grate that I bought at the Sally Ann years ago for 5 bucks. It weighs a ton (well, it felt like it) and I had to haul it home on the bus. For some reason I got the funniest looks. Anyway, most of the time now it's a place to store my magazines and maps, but it comes into its own at Christmas when I fill it with strings of Christmas lights. I include those flickering ones as well so that it gives the impression of a fire glowing. With the lights out and a Christmas movie on the screen, it almost feels like the real thing.

No antique fire grate? No problem, use an old tin washtub or a large basket. Or you can stuff a dozen or so large jam jars with battery-powered lights (LED, please!) and group them on a low table (a board over a couple of bricks works, too). Hang a wreath above it and you may even fool ol' Santa. If you're clever with carpentry, you can put up a floating mantel shelf above your 'fireplace' to add to the mystique.

Christmas Recycling - Holiday Hangups

Posted on November 22, 2015 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Continuing on with my recycling Christmas holiday kits, here's an idea inspired by a collection of Shiny Brite glass ornaments that I bought at a church charity shop last year. I liked the fact that the entire package was actually recyclable - the ornaments are glass and each one is wrapped in protective tissue paper and contained within cardboard dividers in the box. Not that I intend to toss these into my recycling bin any time soon! But an idea was born. 

To make the 'ornaments', I photocopied images from vintage colouring books for the ornaments and glued these images to cardboard.

To recreate the look of vintage boxed Christmas ornaments like the ones in my Shiny Brite ornament box, I made cardboard dividers to fit inside each box and placed an ornament or two in each partition. There are loads of instructions online how to make these partition dividers but - you know me - if there are more than 3 steps to the instructions, I lose interest. So I just made mine using spare cardboard by measuring the sides and height of the boxes and cut these out. They fit perfectly.

Before sending these off, I will add some washable felt pens or crayons. I'll leave it to the kids to figure out how to use these ornaments once they are coloured.

Christmas Recycling - Tie One On

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Right now my studio looks like one of Santa's elves went mad and, no, I won't show you - I'm too embarrassed. There are dozens of holiday Christmas projects on every surface waiting for completion. Paper, paper, and more paper is all over the place. That's what happens when you have a brain like mine - ideas keep popping up as I try, very, very hard, to stick to one task at a time.

This year, I'm sending out is paper bowtie kits to some of my little friends. The bowties are already made up, although I do include a template and instruction sheet to make more. The kiddies can use the bowties in any way they want - as gift toppers, gifts, garlands, or even wear them (I glue on an elastic string so they can slip the bowtie on). 


After adding small spools of baker's twine and also a few handmade ribbons, everything will be sent out in boxes that I bought at charity shops or begged from gift stores. Everything is made from recycled materials like magazines, sheet music, or gift wrapping paper. The elastic strings I added to some of the bowties were repurposed from old paper birthday hats and the postal wrapping paper started out as brown paper bags. Cost is minimal. All it takes is a little time.

Christmas Putz Houses 2015

Posted on November 11, 2015 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

What is it about those little Christmas putz houses we all love so much? Much as I'd like to show you oodles of examples and links to templates, I don't have a lot of time right now as I am working hard on my new workshop online location. Luckily I found Russian blogger, Tanya Ukhova, who provides dozens links to little putz houses that you can print out and customize. As I said, the site is in Russian but the links to the houses are in English. I guarantee you'll find something you will love and just have to make.

To get there, click here.

If you don't have time to browse all the links on Tanya's blog, here's the link to that perennial favourite - our Lady Martha's Christmas village (shown above).

If, on the other hand, you'd rather buy than make a few little Christmas buildings, what about these lovely buildings from Etsy seller, Holiday Spirits Decor? Gorgeous or what!

Counting the Days - More Advent Calendars

Posted on November 9, 2015 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Christmas is still some way off but Advent is fast approaching. If you need some inspiration to create your own DIY Advent calendars, here are a few samples that I found online. And you won’t even have to go to the shops (well, maybe for the treats). You can improvise with whatever materials you have in your recycling bin or tucked away in cupboards - mostly cardboard and leftover wrapping paper. I don't normally discard the wrap from my gifts - I just straighten it out the best I can and put it away for reuse.

One for the Cookie Monster!

Okay, no cardboard here - just a sweet gingerbread cookie Advent calendar that the Cookie Monster would love as well as anyone else fond of homemade treats. Big and little kids will love it. Finnish interior designer Susanna Vento created this wonderful cookie Advent calendar for a photo shoot. The photo is no longer up but I’m sure you have your own recipe (and cookie cutters) to create this very edible Christmas calendar.

Brown Bag It!

The folks over at the Creative Bag, a site that sells food packaging, show us how to tranform (leftover) wrapping paper or brown kraft paper into Advent bags. Set them on a tray where kids can get at them or hang them with string from a broken tree branch.

Instructions for these little bags call for a bit of sewing, if you don't have a sewing machine, just use a good glue (double-sided tape or even staples!) to keep it together. To make, click here.


Here's another way to reuse leftover wrapping paper (or you could use the comic pages of your newspaper). Gretchen over at Boxy Colonial, turns her extra wrapping paper into cones to hide her Advent treats. She also provides a couple of vintage wrapping downloads if you prefer. She gets a thumbs-up from me for showing us how to repurpose. For instructions, go here.

A Sophisticated Twist

If you have older kids who loudly protest that they're way too grown-up for such a childish tradition (but still in their hearts would love one, I guarantee it!), why not surprise them with an Advent calendar that's a bit more upscale? 

Another Finnish blogger Riikka Kantinkoski, gives us a modern take with these black and white Advent boxes. Each one can contain a goodie that's just right for the teen in your family. All you need are 24 boxes and number cards. She found her boxes and number cards at Ikea but I found this wonderful Dutch site, Temple Maker, that you will love (and visit whenever you need too) because it enables you to create boxes of any size (within reason) and shape. 

To make boxes with lids, head over to the Template Maker and input the dimensions for your required box and a template will be produced that you can print out. Genius.

You can find number stencils online or at your local craft store. Use cereal or other food product boxes as the base material for both the boxes and numbers.

The Italian Job

If you’re a fan of those little Christmas Putz houses, you’ll love these little architectural gems that make up this Advent calendar. It's an idea from Italian online magazine, Casa Facile. I don’t have the wall space (and time) but if you do, this would be fun to make. Once you’ve made the houses, you can reuse them year after year. 

There is a template at this site for a little paper house with instructions in Italian. For a variety of different shaped houses, head over to Hello Bee, for buildings that are similar to the ones shown above. Again use whatever cardboard you have on hand as the base for the templates.

And on the other hand, if your time is limited, you can use any empty cardboard food boxes and milk or juice cartons you have on hand. Wrap each box in brown kraft paper (use any paper grocery bags you've got on hand or buy a roll of brown paper at the post office). Then you can cut out the windows and add the numbers using stencils. 

So - what are you waiting for? Get building!

Counting the Days - Advent Calendar

Posted on November 3, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Yes, 24 little cars with a rooftop gift for the little guy. Every year I create a special calendar just for him and this year he inadvertently inspired my take on an advent calendar. How? Well, on my last return home, he had stuffed a bunch of his toy cars inside my suitcase without telling me and I only discovered these when I got home. It's his way of ensuring that I make a return visit, bringing back his toys. Clever lad. 

I thought the cars would make a cute countdown to Christmas. Each gift is wrapped in leftover origami paper and tied on with baker's twine (I also added double-sided tape to the bottom of each gift). I didn't add numbers as by the time I had managed to tie each gift to each car, I didn't have the energy to look for small number labels! I may add the numbers when I get back to Edinburgh.

The 'gift' on each car rooftop is a square of salted caramel candy (yummy) made by Robin of Morsel Desserts, right here in Ottawa. I purchased the sweets at Boogie + Birdie on Elgin Street - had to buy an extra bag just for me - it's that good.

Now I have to just find a suitable box and place it in my suitcase for the trip back to Edinburgh.