Let the garden inspire your holiday decorating: Display ornaments under a garden cloche -- a bell-shaped glass cover that functions as a miniature greenhouse for outdoor plants (you can buy them at garden-supply stores). Filled with sparkly trimmings, each one will add radiance to any tabletop.
To fill, turn a cloche upside down and balance it inside a teacup. Place ornaments, then invert a plate over the open end. Carefully turn cloche and plate right side up, and display.
With a few bags of cotton balls, you can blanket a tree with the softest snow.
Thread a needle with 15 inches of fishing line and sew through two or three cotton balls, leaving gaps between (dab white glue next to each so it won't slide); make loop for hanging. Use a sieve to add a dusting of cornstarch over the branches; cut batting for a skirt.
Unlike Narnia, where it's always winter and Christmas never comes, this land of ice and snow welcomes festivities (soundtrack: Louis Armstrong's "Cool Yule"). A combination of vintage and contemporary vessels holds white spider mums as well as seeded eucalyptus (available at florists) and blue Atlas cedar branches lightly frosted with silver floral spray paint. For a change of scene, line up containers across a mantel, along a windowsill, or down the middle of a table.
Create an idealized winter wonderland indoors using snowflake-like bouquet holders and a string of holiday lights.
To make one of these garlands, slide a store-bought paper bouquet holder over each bulb. Hang the "snowflakes" inside a doorway or a window, and then plug in the lights.
It's the kids who will be doing the nibbling when these sweet mice are around. A combination of two Christmas icons -- mice and candy canes -- these tiny fabric creatures, with their red-and-white-striped tails, make fitting favors at a holiday dinner or delightful gifts for children to give to friends and relatives.
Dress up the dinner table with napkin holders made from felt holly leaves and a jingle bell.
To make, photocopy our template, and cut out. Trace onto felt; cut out shape. Fold each leaf in half lengthwise, then steam with an iron to create creases. Thread a jingle bell onto the middle of decorative cording. Tie cord around base of leaves, positioning leaves at bell; knot. Tie cord behind folded napkin.
Who doesn't love tinsel? Here's another way to use it: Twist wired tinsel (available at specialty craft stores) into six-pointed stars. Cut three pieces of tinsel, two of equal length and one a little longer. Twist equal pieces together at centers, and wrap third piece onto the two twisted pieces, forming a star. Bend end of longer piece into a hook, and attach the star from the ribbon on a gift or hang as an ornament on a tree.
Kids can make handmade envelopes from magazine pages or leftover wrapping paper.
Unfold a regular envelope to use as a template. Choose patterned paper larger than the envelope (or stick mismatched pieces together with glue). Trace the envelope onto the paper, cut out along lines, fold (using the envelope as a guide), and secure with glue stick. If mailing, add a label.
With a festive, no-sew apron, kids can cook without the mess on their clothing this winter.
Have young crafters attach designs made of washable felt and rickrack to kid-size canvas aprons with fabric glue. An ornament doubles as a pocket (glue bottom and sides), the perfect place to stash a cookie for on-the-job nibbling.
What could be sweeter or more simple? Cut out 3-inch ovals from colorful card stock. Using a hole punch, make a hole at each end, and then neatly write your guests' names on the ovals with black ink. Thread ribbon scraps, each about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, through the backs of the place cards. Notch the ribbon ends, and set a card at each place setting.
Forget ribbon: This decorative tape gets the job done just fine. Made in Japan using traditional washi paper, the 50-foot rolls come in two widths and 125 cheerful colors and graphic patterns that transform any solid wrapping paper into something special. The tape is sold individually or in themed sets that make combining colors and patterns a cinch.
You might expect to find a decoration like this at Jack Frost's holiday bash, but any kid can make this frosty frill -- all you need is tissue paper.
Fold one sheet in half lengthwise, then make five-inch wide accordion folds. Along one short end, draw drippy icicles. Cut out. If you need more pieces, cut a fresh straight edge, then draw and cut out more icicles. Layer white tissue over blue, and attach with double-sided tape.
Made from recycled holiday cards and construction paper, and filled with treats, a cone-shaped package will impress loved ones.
To create, draw an arc onto a corner of construction paper or card using a compass opened up as wide as it can go. Using a pair of pinking shears, cut inside the line. Roll the paper into a cone and staple; reinforce with tape along the inside seam.
To decorate a plain paper cone, draw an oval (we used a stencil from an art-supply store) around a chosen image from a greeting card, and cut just inside the line with pinking shears. Glue the cutout to the front of the cone. Punch a hole on both sides of the cone, thread a ribbon through, and knot the ends.
Use inexpensive aluminum cutters to turn out ornaments faster than you can bake a batch of cookies.
Choose patterned papers or color-photocopy pictures onto card stock. Trace cutter on top; cut out. Dab white craft glue along cutter's edge. Press paper in place; let dry. Thread narrow ribbon through needle; poke between paper and cutter, and wrap ribbon around top of cutter. Slip a bead over ribbon's ends; knot.
Give old greeting cards more hang time by making a garland of disks cut from them.
Use a circle punch (you can also trace a round object and cut out) to cut disks from cards. Attach circles to heavy thread with stickers; to make sure they're secure, rub with a craft stick.
With an icy tingle on the tongue and a pinwheel of Santa-red and snow-white stripes, peppermints are the coolest holiday sweets -- especially when transformed into edible hanging ornaments.
Lay five or so peppermint candies in a circle to form a wreath; bond sides together with icing. Adorn front with cinnamon candies or mints. Let dry two hours before hanging. Loop twine around ornament; knot.
Transform leftover gift wrap ribbons into a decorative chain that can be used each Christmas.
Staple a piece of ribbon (about 6 inches long), right sides together, 1/4 inch in from the ends. Glue the ends back against the ribbon with a glue stick, then turn right side out. Run another piece of ribbon through this link, and repeat the stapling and gluing process until you run out of ribbon.
Fill the house with holiday cheer by hanging holiday card cutouts from branches in a vase.
Cut recycled holiday cards into small rectangles and punch a hole in one end. For the blank side, invite guests and family to write notes of thanks and hope. Hang on fallen branches displayed in a vase.
Assemble jolly hors d'oeuvres for a holiday party with kids among the guests. Your kids can be little helpers: Use kitchen scissors to cut a pepperoni hat; attach to cracker with a dab of ricotta. Spread on a ricotta beard. Add celery slices for mustache and capers for eyes and nose. Cover bottom of hat with more ricotta for fluffy trim.
Button shapes resemble many seasonal things, as on these simple cards made of folded card stock. Construction paper cut-outs and a snip of ribbon help turn green buttons into a wreath, tiny red ones into holly berries, and white ones into a friendly snowman. (When they're turned vertically, the holes in the snowman's belly button look like buttons themselves.)
Cranberries are a staple of the holiday table, but few of us know them other than as a relish or jelly. Keep these native fruits in view by using them as a flower frog instead of pebbles or marbles; they will hold stems in place for about a week. Use hard cranberries; wash them well before submerging in water.
At bake-sale fund-raisers and office baby showers, brownies are always a fast, delicious fallback offering. And just because you brought them to the PTA open house doesn't mean they're not festive enough for a holiday hostess gift. Personalize -- and pretty up -- your crowd-pleaser by stenciling a big bow on top with powdered sugar.
Print our template onto card stock, and cut out. Bake an 8-by-8-inch pan of brownies, let cool, and turn out upside down onto a platter. Place stencil on top; using a sifter or small strainer, dust with confectioners' sugar; carefully remove stencil.
Scented sugar adds a subtle perfume and flavor to coffee, fruit desserts, and baked goods.
Layer granulated sugar with aromatic edibles like scented geranium leaves, rose petals, orange and lemon peel (first set out for a day to dry), or vanilla beans. Mix small batches, and let them sit for a few days in tightly sealed jars while the scents infuse the sugar. One jar (or a trio) makes an unusual present for whomever you think could use a little sweetness.
Make beautiful, seasonal ornaments that add color to your tree.
Cut four unpeeled oranges into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 175 degrees for 4 hours. To hang, poke a hole near one edge with a needle and thread doubled twine through to make a loop.
Adorn store-bought hats, scarves, and mittens with bells before wrapping them to give as gifts. Here, we sewed small bells in different colors onto the cuff of the hat; a larger bell hangs from braided yarn sewn into the crease on top. Three silver bells sewn onto the backs will help youngsters find their mittens. A scarf trimmed to match makes an ensemble that fairly begs to go ice-skating.
Embellish holiday parcels with mistletoe made from felt leaves.
Photocopy the template and cut out the shape. Using a disappearing-ink pen, trace around it onto green felt (we varied the look by using a few shades of green); cut out the shape. Thread a jingle bell onto a length of cord, and tie the bell to the mistletoe. If you like, add more leaves and bells to the cord before tying it around a gift.
Here's our idea of thinking outside the box: interweaving ribbons to dress up a gift.
The weaving begins with a single ribbon stretched across the top of the package, its loose ends fixed to the bottom with double-sided tape. Continue adding a few more ribbons, parallel to the first. Alternate colors, widths, and textures as you wish, but try to keep your design fairly simple so that it does not become too busy. Next, interweave another set of ribbons perpendicular to the first. Follow the rhythm of over-under-over for one, then under-over-under for its neighbor, and so on.
Tree-shaped napkin rings cut from pretty patterned paper set a seasonal tone that's fitting for both formal and casual tables.
Print the template, photocopy at 200 percent, and cut out. Trace onto patterned paper; draw as many outlines as will fit on a sheet (you'll get 2 rings per 8 1/2-by-11-inch sheet).
Cut shapes from patterned paper with a craft knife or scissors; cut along dotted lines. Bring ends together, and slide slits into each other to form a ring. Roll up fabric napkin, and slide inside holder.
With the help of these candle and flower centerpieces, the whole table will shine.
For each one, use candle wax to attach a small floral frog to the center of a shallow bowl. Push a taper into the floral frog to secure. Pour water into the bowl. Clip amaryllis blooms (or other large flowers) from their stems, and arrange them in the bowl around the candle.
Tiny bulbs create a striking modern display when placed in frosted cylindrical vases.
Wrap ribbon around the bottoms of the vases and affix with double-sided tape. Loosely coil a single strand of lights in each vase, and then send the plug end over the back lip of the vase and run it behind so it's hidden. Use lights that have been tested for safety (look on the label), and always unplug the strand when left unattended.
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