Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Candy Platter for my Mother-in-Law

I met my husband in August of 2004, and have been going to his family's home for Christmas nearly every year since then.  As soon as we walk in the door, we inevitably find ourselves in the kitchen, where my Mother-in-Law gestures to a giant platter of homemade caramels, peanut clusters, and other goodies, and says "I made too much candy this year."  Every year for 14 Christmases she's said this, and yet every year she makes the same boatload of candy!  While she gives much of it away to family in town, there's always still a ton of it left when we arrive, and more shows up when her sisters drop off the candy THEY made to share.  After the 5th or 6th year that she said she'd made too much, I started teasing her that she *always* says that, and still always makes a ton of candy.  She just shrugs and says, "Well, yeah..."  So for this year I made a special Christmas candy platter just for her. 



The plate I started with is a plain white Corelle platter that I picked up at Macy's, about 12" wide x 10" tall.  I think the hardest part of the whole project may have been just finding a plain platter without designs, or bumps, or flourishes anywhere.  I had tried all over town, and even amazon, before bumping into this one while Christmas shopping for other people.  I used a dark red vinyl and a green glitter vinyl, and cut all the pieces on my Silhouette.  I used a tutorial on the Silhouette School Blog to do the lettering for a curved surface, but the ovals created in the software were a bit pointy, whereas my platter was more of a rounded rectangle, meaning that the text was too tightly curved to be applied exactly as cut.  I ended up marking the center points, then cutting & applying the words individually, just eyeballing it to keep it straight.  One word is slightly crooked, but all in all I'm thrilled with how cute it turned out.  I gave it to her on Christmas Eve, so she'd be able to have it out on Christmas day when the rest of the family was over. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Harry Potter Potions Ingredients

As I mentioned the other day, one of my projects for the Harry Potter Holiday Swap wasn't a Christmas ornament.  Emma doesn't decorate much for Christmas, she requested something for her Cabinet of Curiosities.  I remembered I had some glass bottles in my stash that were just begging to be turned into potion ingredient bottles.


The Runespoor bottle was clear originally.  It was dyed on the inside with alcohol inks. I was trying for a cool marbled effect that I saw in a tutorial, but it didn't work the way she said it would.  I like the overall effect it created anyways.   I had previously used ugly lumpy brown potato shaped freshwater pearls as doxy eggs in a long ago potions cabinet, and remembered that I had several strings of pearls that have holes wayyyyy too tiny to string onto anything I have in my stash.  At first I just added the white ones, but I wanted there to be more visual interest in the bottle, so I dug around till I found some royal blue, magenta, pink, and even silver pearls too.  I've decided that since no one really knows what Runespoor Eggs look like, that perhaps they are different colors depending on the age of the Runespoor that laid them, or the time of year or day they were collected.

The gillyweed was a bit of leaf trim that I just hit the edges of with a darker green marker to give it some added definition.  The text was cut out on my Silhouette Cameo, and the rest of the decorations came from my stash.  Some black tipped brown flowers, a wooden dragon charm that I colored with some Tim Holtz distress crayons, ragged black cheese cloth leftover from a Halloween wreath, number charms I had in my jewelry stash, a Swarovski crystal ring, twine, mermaid charm, skull bead, glass Hamsa charm, etc.  I love digging through all my really random bits and bobs to find things to decorate the bottles with, and hope to do some more in future.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Harry Potter Paper Bunting & Ornaments


Another year, another round of the Harry Potter Holiday Swap!  This year I had 3 partners, and created a wider mix of items than I have in previous years, including a banner, wooden ornaments, glitter ornaments, and potions bottles.  I'm going to post the holiday themed items here, and the potions bottles tomorrow.

My friend Edel requested some sort of banner or garland, so I created one out of book pages from an old copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  The 3 part design was bought from the Silhouette store online, and the paper pieces were all cut on my Silhouette, before being assembled with twine & sparkle yarn, as well as some large hole glass beads between each snowflake.  There are 20 snowflakes all together on the strand, and I included a few extra of the cut pages and backing, without the light blue snowflake on them.  Each snowflake & frame is about 4" across, and the whole thing is a few yards long. 

I knew I wanted to make an Amortentia ornament for Kira, but was nervous about doing a new technique and possibly messing up her ornament, so I did a practice Felix Felicias one first.  I created these from a tutorial online that utilized alcohol inks, which I happened to have on hand.  The words were cut out on my Silhouette Cameo, and the tops were decorated with a chain maile collar of rings, and charms in corresponding colors, with shamrocks and celtic knots for the liquid luck potion, and hearts for the Amortentia love potion.


The last set of ornaments almost didn't happen.  I bought the wooden blanks on clearance after Christmas last year at Joann's.  They are laser cut wood ornament that come flat, and have slots to slide them together to create the 3-D hearts.  Being a Harry Potter nut, the first thing I thought when I saw the stags standing above hearts was 'OMG, look at the Patronus ornaments!' 


So I picked them up for less than $1 each, and put them away in my wood crafting stash to await this year's holiday crafting.  ...And completely forgot about them.  I bumped into them by accident when I went to pull out popsicle sticks to use in a recent candle making adventure, and knew I had to put them together. 


They are colored with Tim Holtz distress crayons, which have the feel of oil pastels, but unlike pastels, they don't smear all over the place.  You can smudge them if you do so on purpose, but on their own they don't smudge.  I colored them lightly with the crayons, then used wet Q-tips to blend the crayons into a watercolor effect.  I actually made 4, but somehow only have pictures of 3.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Soy Wax Candle Extravaganza


Each summer or early autumn I get together with my friend Amber, to do a canning extravaganza, where we spend 2 days canning as many recipes as we can, to put away for Christmas gifts.  My friend is from Kentucky, and is a real life Kentucky Colonel, an honor much like a knighthood, which is bestowed on people each year, for their contributions to the state of KY, and the lives of the people of KY.  Amber received hers for her work bringing theatre to the south central part of the state.  While I was working on planning our recipes for this year's canning adventure, I just happened to bump into an ad for a 'gin & tonic' scented candle, which is clearly something I need in my life.  The seller was asking a fortune for a 16 ounce candle, so I did some digging on the internet to find a candle supply company who carried a Gin & Tonic fragrance oil.  When I did, I discovered that they also had a Kentucky Bourbon scent.  I checked with Amber, who was all for adding something new to our repertoire, then went ahead and ordered the fragrance oil, jars, and 20 pounds of soy wax! 

Half of the Kentucky Bourbon candles, as Amber took hers home.
We ran out of time during our canning marathon in early September, so we put off the candle making until last week.  This is just over HALF of the resulting candles!  I was very careful when I did my math, to figure out exactly how much fragrance oil would be needed for 20 lbs of wax, and exactly how many ounces of jar space we could fill with that.  We planned on a dozen 16 ounce candles with wooden wicks (that crackle like a fire place), and a dozen 10 ounce candles with traditional cotton wicks.  According to my calculations, we should have had just 4 ounces left over, to pour into a spare 4 ounce canning jar.  We actually ended up with enough wax for 8 extra candles, for a grand total of 32!

Half of the Gin & Tonic candles.
The wax, jars, wicks, and fragrance oils came from The Flaming Candle Company.  We used a kitchen scale to measure out our wax, and worked in batches, because the soy wax flakes take up a lot of space in the pan until they melt down to a more manageable volume.  I watched a few youtube tutorials before we started, but it wasn't much more difficult than 'carefully melt, stir, add oils & colorants, stir some more, and pour'.  The most difficult thing is keeping a careful eye on the temperature.  You want to melt the wax, and bring the temperature up to about 180-185 degrees, then add the colorants and fragrance oil, but then allow the mixture to cool to about 140 degrees before pouring it into the jars for the best adhesion.  This was true for the particular brand of wax we used, but if you try creating your own candles be sure to check the specifications for your wax, which may be different!  I created the labels from a template at Avery.com, adding an old botanical drawing of a lime to the Gin & Tonic labels, and some wooden barrels to the KY Bourbon labels.

In case you're wondering what 20 lbs of wax looks like, this was the bag, just after opening it, before measuring any wax out!

Setting up the jars and wicks.  There were some wick holders for sale, that are used to keep the cotton wicks upright and centered in the jars, but this seemed like a silly expense.  While some were metal, others were just popsicle sticks with holes in them. Since I have plenty of popsicle sticks, and lots of tools around the house, we just popped holes in some ourselves, and they worked brilliantly.
Most of them, cooling on my back porch while we worked on the last batch.

While they cooled they looked kinda like monochromatic sand art, but wet.
This was such a simple craft, and much less stressful than our normal canning adventures.  I'm pretty sure it's going to become a staple in our holiday crafting from here on out, but even if Amber didn't want to do it again, I know I'm going to have to try my hand at making some in my favorite scent (McIntosh Apple), and maybe try making some soy wax tarts for my tart warmer.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Decorating My House with Holiday Greenery

My husband and I bought our first house a year and a half ago.  During our first Christmas in our home I focused on decorating the inside with a new tree, and other decor items.  This year I decided to work on the outside.  These are the results; wreath, flower pots on the porch, swags on the bannisters, and an arrangement in the pot on the mailbox.  My mom sent me the wreath, which lights up.  I simply made the bow to match the other items I'd made.

The tropical plants in the pots on the porch have finally died for the season, so I replaced them with branches of faux greenery and sprigs of berries to match the wreath.   Since silk stems don't have roots like real plants, and because it can get windy here, I started by putting some bricks of floral foam in the pots, then ran some wire across to keep it in place.  Then I filled the pots, 1 branch at a time, trying to keep them mirror images of one another.  Made some 6 loop bows and wired those onto the pots too.



I tried to find swags of garland to run around the entire porch railing, but couldn't find enough of any one matching set, so instead I picked up these two swags at Target, and added handmade bows to match.


Here's the whole porch all together.

Finally there's our mailbox.  Every one in the neighborhood is one of these brick postal fortresses.  Each homeowner seems to have done something different to theirs. Some plant flowers around them, some add light up house numbers, one is so covered in ivy you have to brush it aside to get the mail.  The previous owner of our house had a window box installed on the side of hers, and I try to keep it full of plants all year.  Since the mums I planted in September have died, I decided to fill it with greenery to match the porch.  I emptied the planter of dirt, and put in bricks of floral foam, and used wire to hold them in place.  Then I filled it with sprays of evergreen, pinecones, and berries, before adding the final bow.  The whole thing has hidden bits of wire keeping it in place against the winter wind.