The season of making

I love making presents for people. (And I love getting handmade presents too).

Some of my making so far this year has been peanut butter balls for Matt, blanket shawls for several people (need to make one for myself–I love those shawls), chocolate zucchini breads for my team at work (using homegrown zucchini of course) and a wood sign for a special colleague.

Life lessons wood plaque

I’m not good at making friends at work, but Tania and I really connected. In the new year, she’ll be starting a new job in Toronto. I will miss working with her.

When I was thinking about a going-away gift, I thought back to the conversations we’ve had during our late evenings in the office. Usually, we end up talking about life and what’s really important. I thought about this growth chart that Becky from sketchy styles made. It is full of good lessons for any age.

I scaled it down a wee bit, added checkboxes rather than height markings, changed a couple of items (“drink good wine” seemed appropriate for my friend) and renamed it a to-do list rather than a hero chart (Tania is the queen of to-do lists).

Life lessons wood plaque

I gave the sign to Tania yesterday, and she loved it. She also totally got it. That’s the best part of gift giving: finding the perfect gift that matches up with the people you’re giving to.

Are you making any gifts this year? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given? Have you ever received a special handmade gift?

Linking to: Happy Housie Get Your DIY On: Wall Decor

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Christmas card display

It’s Thanksgiving this week for my American readers, but as she celebrates Sarah in Illinois is already looking ahead to Christmas. Timely, as we’re exactly one month away from Christmas. Yipes! Sarah is back today to share a cute DIY for displaying Christmas cards.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is checking the mail box for Christmas cards. I love sending and receiving cards and putting them on display. However, I have never really had a way to display them that looked nice.

This year I decided to turn to Pinterest to come up with a plan. There were so many cute ideas, but I did not use one specific image as my inspiration. I searched for “Christmas card holder” and used an idea from here and a feature from there, and this is what I came up with:

Christmas card display

I started by making a frame out of simple 1×2. I decided I wanted the inside of my frame to be about 16×20 inches, but that measurement could easily be adjusted to any size.

I cut my 1×2 at a 45 degree angle making sure that the right and left side were exactly the same length and did the same for the top and bottom. That way the frame would be square.

Cutting 1x2s on a mitre saw

The trickiest part of the whole project was nailing the frame together. Because I am stubborn, I didn’t ask for help. But having someone to help hold the pieces would be easier. Using screws would also have been easier, but I didn’t want the screw heads to show.

At this point, I grabbed some stain that we had sitting around and gave it a good coat and wiped off the excess. Many of the inspiration pictures that I was looking at used chicken wire as the background, but I felt the chicken wire was too “country” for my taste so I planned to use hardware cloth.

I found these little bitty clothes pins to use to hang the cards on the wire.

Mini clothespins

They came as bare wood, so I used the same stain as I did for the frame to give them a little interest. I used tin snips to cut the hardware cloth to size and then stapled it to the back of the frame.

Hardware cloth stapled to a wood frame

For the pennants, I had to do some experimenting. I used quarter-inch plywood and cut it in a strip 2.5 inches wide. Then I had to cut it into the pennant shape. But I didn’t know what angle that should be. So I just tried until I liked the way it looked.

I set my miter at 45 degrees, and I didn’t like that angle, so I changed it to 30 degrees. That was better, but I still felt it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The next pre-marked measurement on my saw was 22.5 degrees, so I tried that and thought it looked just right!

Cutting penants on a mitre saw

After I cut several pennants, I used a little drill bit to put holes in the top to string some jute through.

Drilling holes

But before I strung them up I painted with a little craft acrylic paint. All that was left was to hang them at the top of the frame. I did that by tying the string to the back of the frame on the hardware cloth.

My frame is now hung on the wall and ready for the first card to come in the mail!

Christmas card display

What a cute display, Sarah. It’s just country enough, in my opinion. To see what else is inspiring Sarah, follow her on Pinterest.

I hope that Sarah and all my other American readers have a great Thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas

Christmas stockings hung by the fireplace

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be here.

And yes, we actually have a working chimney and a way for St. Nick to enter for the very first time.

A full fireplace post will come in the new year.

For now, I want to say thank you all for reading. Have a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the holidays.

Merry Christmas

Given that it’s the week before Christmas, I’ve decided to keep it light and have turned the blog over to Baxter. In the meantime, I’m still working on the house behind the scenes and will have lots more DIY for you in the new year.

Well, it’s been really nice hanging out with y’all this week. Julia says this is my last post for the year, though, and that I have to wish y’all Merry Christmas.

I’m a little sad to be saying goodbye, but here goes. Merry Christmas everybody.

Baxter in front of the Christmas tree

(Note from Julia: I take no credit for this Christmas scene. This is not our tree, not our stockings, not our fireplace, not our house. Obviously, it is our (solemn) dog. Thanks to my brother- and sister-in-law Greg and Kristine for hosting all of us for a relaxing pre-Christmas get-away. And for taking a cute photo of our favourite guy.)

Forget jewels. I want tools!

I don’t know about anybody else, but the commercials that pop up this time of year talking about how really expensive diamond jewelry is the perfect Christmas gift are a little bit odd to me. Who has that much money to spend on a Christmas present?

But that could just be me. My Christmas list likely looks a little bit different than most women’s. At the top of my list this year is a Kreg Jig.

Kreg Jig

Photo from  www.kregtool.com since I don’t have a jig of my own to photograph… yet

As the reno winds down, I’m realizing I’m going to have to start furnishing some of these beautiful spaces we’ve built.

Thoughts of TV stands and kitchen islands and sofa tables and ottomans and coffee tables and benches lead to web searches and Pinterest and project plans and Ana White and “I can build that!”

So it’s official. If I’m going to be building furniture, I need a Kreg Jig.

Oh, and some extra red Robertson bits (#8) and a new carpenter’s square would also be helpful. Jewelry would not.

Santa, are you listening?

‘Twas a month before Christmas

‘Twas a month before Christmas and all through the house, there was scrubbing and dusting and vacuuming the couch.

(Not a perfect rhyme, I know).

Despite my earlier anxieties about hosting a big Christmas dinner before we were finished with renovations, everything came together–new carpet included–and the house was pretty presentable by the time Matt’s family arrived for the party last Saturday.

My main focus was on just having everything clean, so decor was mostly limited to the tables (and with 17 people for dinner, we needed two tables and lots of extra chairs).

Table set for Christmas dinner

I kept things simple with my go-to cream table cloths, a burlap runner down the middle, khaki napkins, a single candle centrepiece, some greenery, pine cones and our wedding china and crystal

The inspiration for the theme came from Mrs. Limestone’s woodsy place cards. Stefanie’s engravings are beautiful, and the animals were perfect for our rural setting.

I adjusted them slightly for our party, eliminating the tag portion and adding people’s names in George Gibson, a cool handwriting font I found via The Art of Doing Stuff. Then I tucked them into pine cones I picked up from behind the house and slipped them between the cutlery on everyone’s napkins.

Placecard

I love the attitude this porcupine has!

The other adjustment I made was on the back of the cards, where I printed little bits of trivia about each person’s animal.

Trivia place card

It might be a little cheesy, but people did enjoy reading about their animals. Little known fact: the porcupine with the largest quills (nearly a foot long) lives in Africa.

Of course, the decor is only one small part of a successful dinner party. The most important part–the food!–was a hit as well. While I was running around in the freshly fallen snow, gathering tree boughs and searching for similarly-sized pine cones, Matt took charge of our 20 pound turkey.

The best part of this shot is he’s not mugging for the camera. This was his actual facial expression as he was getting intimate with the turkey.

The fruits of Matt’s labour: a perfectly cooked turkey, a pile of dirty dishes, a bowl of stuffing and a sink full of vegetable peelings. (And yes, he did the clean-up as well as the cooking).

Before, during and after at the Christmas party.

According to the camera’s memory card, I spent the party doing things other than taking pictures, so I don’t have much documentation from the rest of the day. By all reports a good time was had by all. To return to where we started:

“We heard them exclaim ‘ere they drove out of sight, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Do you have a Christmas party to attend or host? A major meal to cook? A big cleaning blitz to complete? What’s your go-to decor for a dinner party? Anyone have any interesting porcupine facts or experiences to share?

The 20lb creature in my fridge

While my American readers are celebrating Thanksgiving, we have moved onto Christmas already up here in the north.

Tomorrow we’re hosting Matt’s Mom’s side of the family for an early Christmas dinner, and in between vacuuming up drywall dust and supervising the carpet installers who arrive this morning–giving new meaning to last minute party prep–we’ve added a new animal sighting to our list.

Butterball turkey

Although our Butterball is not exactly a wild animal

Thanks to Matt’s parents for venturing south of the border and braving American grocery shoppers to bring us this turkey. In addition to the obvious Thanksgiving date conflict between Canada and the U.S. I think we may have inadvertently undermined 200 years of peace when my MIL’s friend Marg grabbed the last three turkeys in the store so that we could have the pick of the poultry.

20 pound turkey

Matt’s pick is for the biggest turkey he can find. At 20 pounds, I think this guy fits the bill.

I’ll post a full party wrap-up next week. Until then, I’m setting aside all cultural differences to wish everyone a good weekend and all of my American readers a very happy Thanksgiving.