Christmas in February

Hello! Remember all those wonderful things I promised for December? Well… Life got in the way, as it tends to do. Happy Almost March! Here’s a belated Christmas post:

Every year for Christmas, I get together with a group of friends from college for dinner or some similar event. We usually have some debate over whether we’re going to have a white elephant gift exchange, which is one of my personal pet peeves (ever since I received a half-empty box of tissues during an exchange in my sorority). We nixed the idea this year, thank goodness, so I decided to do something fun and crafty which I’d never tried before: homemade hot cocoa mix. In jars! Oh, it’s just so Martha.

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There’s something so wonderfully rustic about glass jars, and I couldn’t wait to decorate these. I had purchased some fantastic Christmas-themed stamps from The Greeting Farm that I was dying to use on something, and I found that a healthy dose of Martha Stewart fine glitter and some snowy white flocking gave them that extra holiday magic. The stamps were cut out using my indispensable Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Craft Knife, and put on the front side of tags that had the instructions for making the hot cocoa on the back.

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I use Copic markers to color my stamped images, and on these sweet stamps I also added some white flocking on her dress and shawl, and some tiny red rhinestones in the holly in her hair, as well as one as a clasp on her shawl. These are close friends, so I don’t mind putting in the time and extra embellishments to make sure they have something special to take home. The stamps would have been cute simply colored, I just love the “ooh” factor when things sparkle.

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I went absolutely insane with the glitter on the Santa stamps! Her entire hat and dress are solid glitter (colored red underneath just in case I missed a spot), and she has white flocking on every bit of white you see. That’s a tricky process: not getting glitter in the flocking, or flocking in the glitter, especially when you’re not patient enough to wait for either to dry. I seemed to have more success flocking first, then glittering… in the opposite order, the flocking seemed to stick to the rougher texture of the glitter, and it’s hard to remove without brushing off large quantities of glitter.

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Dark Chocolate Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix

Ingredients

4 cups powdered milk

1 1/3 cups nestle cocoa powder

2/3 cup hershey special dark cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1 tsp salt

11 candy canes

1/2 bag Hershey special dark chocolate chips


Directions

Use food processor to grind candy canes into powder

Add in rest of ingredients, blend

Mix in chips by hand

Split into jars

Crush one candy cane for each jar (put in ziplock bag, smash with side of mallet), add 5 chocolate chips for decor on top

 

Mix 3 tbsps mix with 1 cup hot water


The cocoa mix recipe started, like most things, with a basic recipe which I blatantly ignored, added to, re-mixed, tested, and changed again. By the time we settled on a peppermint hot cocoa (which tastes deliciously like creamy peppermint bark), the kitchen was covered in a fine layer of cocoa powder, and we had to go back to the grocery store for more candy canes. In purchasing a few too many ingredients, we ended up with extras, so my team at work also benefited from cute, smaller versions of the cocoa jars:

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All in all, a little bit messy, but an absolutely adorable handmade gift when you’re “not exchanging gifts” – because food definitely doesn’t count!

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Boo Bags!

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Welcome back to Tanoshii Crafts! I spent most of my day today preparing these Boo Bags for my next-door neighbors. I got the idea from Lead Fiskateer Angela Daniels, in the first episode of her new video series, The Guilty Crafter. Check it out, the video is too cute, and she’s bound to share lots of brilliant crafting ideas in future episodes as well. Essentially, a Boo Bag is a secret treat you leave on your neighbors’ doorsteps. Once a neighbor has been “Boo’d”, it’s their turn to surprise other neighbors – it’s a great way to encourage a friendly neighborhood, and everyone gets to enjoy the holiday a little early.

I live on a busy street in a rural area, so even though both my next-door neighbors have kids, we don’t get to see them or other Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween. They go to other neighborhoods where the houses are closer together and the streets are well-lit with less traffic. It seemed perfect to start the Boo Bag tradition with these neighbors, and I shopped specifically with the girls in mind.

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The first thing a Boo Bag needs is, obviously, a bag. You can use grocery bags, or any other type of bag you have laying around – we haven’t had paper grocery bags in ages, but I found these great brown paper gift bags at the dollar store. The dollar store was a great resource today, because it’s currently full of Halloween stuff! I found these giant foam shapes and the Halloween-colored foam letter stickers there as well, along with some things to include in the bag for the neighbors. Since I don’t really have a reason to do many Halloween-related crafts or scrapbook pages, I was grateful to not have to spend a lot of money on these supplies. If you choose materials similar to mine, be careful about what adhesive you use for the foam shapes. I dislike glue, and try to do everything with Glue Dots and tape rollers, but nothing was sticking to this foam! I eventually got some medium Glue Dots to do the trick, but it was a challenge. If you don’t have an aversion to glue, that might have been the easiest way to stick these.

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The other essential part to the Boo Bag is the sign for the door that lets other neighbors know who has been Boo’d and who hasn’t. I picked up this beautiful fall-themed paper stack by DCWV last week, called Simply Autumn. It’s not strictly Halloween, so I’ll be able to use the papers for other projects, but they were perfect for this one! I decided to go with a tag for my door-hangers, and I found a good tag shape in our newest Cricut cartridge, Art Philosophy by Close to My Heart. My mom got this one from a consultant at the Scrapbook Expo in Illinois, and it was a big splurge, but completely worth it; especially since it came with an assortment of stamp sets that I’ve been using on everything lately. One tip I can give you when cutting patterned paper in a Cricut – be sure to pay attention to how your pattern relates to your shape, especially when it’s a directional pattern like the stripes above. The Cricut cuts right-to-left, and the top of your shape ends up on the right side. I knew I wanted these to be vertical stripes on my tag, so you can see that I lined them up accordingly on my cutting mat.

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Never let a scrap go to waste! Anything that has been used and is no longer a 12×12 piece of paper suitable for a page in a scrapbook gets sorted into a folder – one each for solid colors, patterned colors, solid neutrals and patterned neutrals. The same drawer that holds these folders also has a bag full of useable shapes (ones that weren’t used in other projects, die-cut negatives that would still make interesting accents, or those accidental shapes that often come from misinterpreting what the Cricut is going to do – something that happens every time I use it, no matter how many calculations I make!), and a bag full of tiny scraps that eventually get utilized for thumb punches.

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The next step was the fun part: decorating the tags. The Simply Autumn paper pack has a couple of pages that are good for embellishments and borders. I cut off a section of a border, and used my Fiskars fingertip swivel craft knife to cut out the scalloped border – it’s my favorite tool for cutting rounded edges, stamps, or really anything that isn’t a straight line. You might have noticed that I cut a green tag and a striped tag earlier; I did this so that I would have perfectly matching layers on one of the tags. The stripe was cut to cover a little more than a third of the tag, and then I used this great Halloween border punch from Martha Stewart, called “Drippy Goo”. The name alone was enough to make me want it, but it really had an awesome effect on these stripes. This Halloween-themed stamp set is by Close to My Heart, and it was one of the sets that came with the Art Philosophy Cricut cartridge I mentioned earlier. Cute as it is, I had no idea I was actually going to get to use it so soon, but it was really the perfect finishing touch on my tags.

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I meant to laminate both tags to add a bit of necessary weather-proofing (in Chicago, you never know if it’s going to snow before Halloween, and I’m pretty sure these won’t hold up to rain, either), but I forgot to do so before I put the letter stickers on. Oops! I’ll just have to hope for sunshine until November, because those stickers are stuck.

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Since Boo Bags are new in my neighborhood, I needed to include an explanation and some instructions. I decided to put this information on the door-hangers, but I’m not very fond of my handwriting and I was afraid to mess up these adorable tags I’d just spent all evening making, so I typed it up on the computer. As you might have noticed in earlier entries, Google image searches are one of my favorite resources, and this was no exception. Some creative image combinations and a fun font gave this a lot more personality than a plain text page, and it’s a whole lot better than my handwriting would have been. This was incredibly easy to make, but if you like mine and use a Mac, you can download the Pages ’09 document here. I’ll get a more universal format up soon; check back here in a day or two if you’re looking for a PDF.

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With all the decorative elements completed, the last step was to fill the Boo Bags. I mentioned earlier that the neighbors I’m delivering these to each have two daughters; with that in mind I included fun Trick-or-Treat bags that I found at the grocery store, some glow sticks for better visibility on Halloween, pumpkin-adorned bendy straws, and some big gourmet sugar cookies. The total amount spent on each child actually comes to about $2.50, since I found everything at either the dollar store or the supermarket, so it didn’t cost a lot to put together a fun surprise for my neighbors. I’ll be delivering these tomorrow night, and I’m really pleased with the way they turned out. Hopefully “Booing” the neighbors catches on around here! If this looks like fun to you, maybe it’s time to start a tradition in your neighborhood, too. Grab a bag and start decorating! Keep an eye on this blog for future updates, and if you want to be notified of new posts, feel free to sign up via email using the link on the right side of the page. Ja ne! (See you later!)

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