Stocking Stuffers for the men on your list

There have been years when I got so stressed over the stockings. I wanted them to have fun, cute little surprises, unexpected delights in miniature.
When kids are little, this is pretty easy.  But as they get older, no surprise, it gets harder#more expensive.  And when they are male, it’s even more difficult.
But over the years I have come up with a formula that seems to work.  It’s a mixture of the tried and true with the unexpected.

Certain items are always included.   Candy is a no-brainer.  It can be a favorite type, like Twizzlers or gummie bears, or one of the Christmas specialties you see everywhere.  Or you can splurge on some special  dark chocolate bars.  I notice a lot of these are on sale now.  But any little treat works:  peppermints, chips, cookies.  It’s basically something to eat while we open presents.  Maybe granola bars should be included.

Because I love to read, I always add a book.  Sports, history, a great novel, a thriller,  the options are endless.  He might like this one if he’s a sports enthusiast.  

Useful items go  in as well. The men in my family usually need their sock supply replenished.  Dress socks and athletic socks are always appreciated. Also, we love office supplies, so, little notebooks, post-its, pens are great. 
This pen is nicer than your average ballpoint, but still not expensive.

 I usually give this notebook to my husband.  You can find them everywhere:  Target, Staples, Barnes and Noble.  

And while you are at one of those places grab a pack of plain Thank You notes, something simple and masculine. He’s going to need them after Christmas and now there will be no excuses.  For the younger men here are a few tips on writing the perfect note.

These days there seem to be a lot more options for men’s grooming supplies.  I like to give them an upgrade on shaving cream or after shave.  I like this one.

If your guys are like mine, they will stick with their same old brand and never try anything new.  Putting a new product in their stocking is one way to jazz up the old routine.

  I overheard some young people discussing this little pocket you attach to your phone to carry credit cards or a license and maybe a bill or two.
This one got good reviews.

I hope this helps and you won’t have to go wander around the drugstore looking for just any old thing to put in the stocking.  But, hey, some people like getting new toothbrushes.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year!

Ginger Cookies, My Holiday Tradition

I make these Ginger Cookies every year.  My family prefers other cookies that I make but these are my favorite.  I started making them the first year Tom and I were married and, have done so ever since.  There’s something about the simplicity of these cookies, along with the smell of ginger that says Christmas to me.

Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup shortening                        1 Tablespoon soda
1 egg                                           1 teaspoon ginger
2 cups flour                                   1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses

Mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate for two hours.  Roll into small balls, roll in granulated sugar.  Place on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes.  As soon as top begins to split, remove from oven and cool.

After cooling these cookies are soft and moist.  Also, they are not too sweet or rich, which makes them perfect for that afternoon snack.  

They also freeze well, coming out just as soft and moist as when they were fresh baked.

I guess you could say that these cookies are a tradition that I do just for me.  Somehow I don’t really get in the spirit until I have made them.
Do you have any small little traditions you do for yourself?

Christmas House Tour

I noticed a lot of simplicity on the Christmas House Tours I visited this year.
That is certainly what I went for in my decorating.  But, why does simplicity mean I had to buy more decorations?  I’m not sure of the answer, but that’s what happened.
I made my stockings from white damask fabric I had on hand.

After years of trying to use real greens I gave up.  They die and turn brown and make a mess.  There are such good fakes now too. Here,  I used a garland that I “arranged” in an ironstone bowl.

This space on the wall was crying out for something seasonal (not the beach scene that was there).  I found this printable and within 2 minutes I had a fun
pop of color for the spot.

This vintage postcard always gets me in the spirit somehow.  I love the old pinks and blue-green colors.
The mantel needed a little something so I added some more (fake) greens on the sides.  There’s a fine line between bare and simple.

That’s it for now.  I am still decorating and will be right up to Christmas Day.

Wrapping the Presents

It’s that time of year!  Time to turn the sewing/craft room into the wrapping center. 
But before any wrapping could take place, I had to clear out six months of project remains: fabric scraps, pins, sponge brushes soaking in cups.

My craft room is a room that came to be during our renovation.  It has no egress window, no closet.  It’s kind of a cell.  I love it.
I have a place for all of my tools, my supplies, and my sewing machine can stay up all the time.  It is still a work in progress as far as decor goes.
But for now, it’s where I set up my wrapping station.  All supplies are in one place.


I am using an old kitchen counter as my work surface.  The previous homeowners left behind several counters in the garage, about 4 too many.  Most I got rid of, but this one fit perfectly into this nook.  It’s great for cutting fabrics, painting canvases, framing pictures and wrapping presents.
As you can see, there is a good amount of storage below for my fabric.
I tried my hand at some chalkboard art for the first time.  I found this tutorial very helpful.  I went for the most simple project I could find.

This old toolbox helps me corral all of the necessary supplies and tools needed to make a pretty package.  As I was getting this out today I noticed that I don’t have many gift tags.  Sometimes I use plain old luggage tags from the craft store for this purpose.  They are large enough for a fun message or a few creative doodles to personalize your gift.  That’s also why I like different color pens!

The birthday bag is holding many small Christmas bags for those who prefer to use a bag for their gifts.  I put tissue and paper scraps in the galvanized bucket.

Here is another view of the room.  Can you tell I just hung the pictures on nails that were already in place?  I’m not sure if these pictures will remain so I didn’t want to put more holes in the walls. That sounds like a good project for January.
Being able to leave my sewing machine out, ready to use, is my favorite part of having a craft room. I know I already said that, but really, it’s so convenient!

Do you have a space to set up a wrapping area?

I have an old CD player/boombox that I play Christmas carols on to get me in the spirit.
It’s pretty cozy in here.

I just need to get shopping so I have some presents to wrap!

Christmas Decorating, Simply

This year I am in a simple frame of mind for my Christmas decorating.  I have actually done a little soul-searching about it, asking myself if I’m depressed, not in the mood, what is it?  But it is none of the above.  I am just feeling a more simple, streamlined Christmas this year.
Some years are like that.  
But, that doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy.
I made some stockings.  I had this fabric (if you sew, you always have fabric) and I bought a scarf at a thrift store for the cuff.  Then I traced around an old stocking onto my fabric and pinned the scarf to the top edge.  Then I pinned the right sides together and stitched it.
I made two stockings during one episode of Fresh Air.  Talk about productive. Now I’m thinking I need two for the other end of the mantel.  What do you think?
I found those brass candlesticks at a consignment store for 50% off, which was $11.50 for 3 candlesticks.

I had this blank wall space between the tree and the television.  I knew there would be a multitude of free printables on the web and so I googled around until I found this one, which I really like.  You can find it here.
It was easy to use my Ikea frame, popping out the old (beach) picture and putting this one in.
 So I have made some new items, changed a few things around.  A fair amount of decorating has taken place.  Come back on Friday for a few more pictures.
How far along are you on your Christmas decorating?  I know some people who haven’t bought their tree yet.

Christmas Tree

My (our) Christmas trees have always been family trees, a hodgepodge of homemade decorations, decorations that were given to us and a few pretty ornaments I added along the way.
I would try to tie it all together in various ways:  with trim or buying a quota of  inexpensive ornaments to give it some symmetry.  But really, I didn’t worry about it too much.  
A family tree means you have the homemade ornaments the kids (now 33, 30 and 26) made in preschool and kindegarten with their pictures on them.  A family tree has ornaments that celebrate Dad’s 31 years in the Marine Corps.  Family trees have bulbous ornaments from the teenage years when we tried making ornaments out of dough and then painting them.  Yes, there is some homeliness to the family tree.
Well, this year I broke with tradition.  (I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming.)  I decided to have a pretty tree.

Don’t get me wrong, a pretty tree still has personality.  There are the collected ornaments, a few Marine Corps brass ornaments, some the kids gave us.
But, I went with a color scheme (green balls and gold trim).  Color always gives symmetry and order.
The  homemade ornaments are lovingly tucked away in scrapbooks.  Everyone likes the new tree.  No one has asked where their “picture” ornaments are.
I guess the time was right, might have been right a couple of years ago even.

Christmas trees can be  testaments to family memories.  Changing that is a tricky business.  But it’s important to nod to tradition, while moving on.  Even our Christmas trees cannot stay rooted in the past, looking old and ratty.  We have to put aside the tattered and cherished momentos, adding new memories as we go.

What do you think? Is it hard to put aside the memories from yesteryear and go forward?