I’m taking a break from my “Perpetual Twilight” series to talk about something happy and awesome: Christmas crafts!  I don’t know if it was the Downgrade that was squeezing my budget, my new friendships with local moms who are always doing the cutest, most wonderful family crafts, or just my own incredible need to do something creative (yet feel productive at the same time. Blogging?  Super creative.  Not exactly recognizable as a productive activity, however), but I went a little nuts with the homemade this year.  Here are some of the Christmas Crafts we have undertaken in the Honest House.

This is going to be a picture-heavy post, and, sadly, the quality won’t be all that great because most of these shots were taken with my phone. I’m not one of those great DIY bloggers who take professional-grade pictures of their work.  But who cares? ‘Tis the season to turn the brown spot on the tree into the corner, and admire the green foliage before us!

Christmas monogrammed pillows.

NOEL!

NOEL!

Honest Girl and Honest Baby have 10 “cousins” (most of whom are only the relatives of our choosing), and every Christmas, I usually get them all a little something. I am not the fun gift-giving Aunt. I usually get everybody a book and an article of clothing—pjs or a tee.  Snore. Yawn.  I mean, those were the gifts that I loved getting as a child, but I had a rock collection and read Crime and Punishment in the sixth grade, so what the hell do I know.

K & O are sister and brother. L & E are sisters. J & G are brothers.

K & O are sister and brother. L & E are sisters. J & G are brothers. I tried to coordinate patterns and colors according to family.

M & N are sister and brother. O & J are only children.

M & N are sister and brother. O & J are only children.

But this year, I decided to try and make something for all of the kids.  Again, nothing super exciting, but something that they could call all their own.  I know that Honest Girl is at that age where she likes to identify every item in the house according to who “owns” it (“Mommy’s pants.”  “Daddy’s nose.”  “Baby’s blanket.” “Girl’s shirt.” “Girl’s light.” “Girl’s cookie.” “Girl’s tree.” “Girl’s remote?”—She really tries hard to convince us that everything in the house is hers).  How cool would it be if I could manage to make something that could be displayed in a family room or sitting room (a “grown-up” space), but that was identifiable as belonging solely to the kids?  I decided to try two new things for these pillows: making quilt blocks, and fabric painting.  I used a stencil with a sponge brush, some matte charcoal grey fabric paint, and created 20×20” pillows with a simple log cabin quilted top.  I used some heavy cotton fabric so that they would be completely washable and super-durable.  Because kids.  The results aren’t perfect by any means, but I’m pretty proud of them!  Inspiration and basic pattern instructions found here: http://thehappyhousie.com/?p=2027.  Like her, I used Ikea pillow forms. Unlike her, I found the Ikea forms not exactly true to size. They were closer to 18×18″.  Still a sizable pillow, but it caused me a headache for the first couple of tries! Apparently Ikea is great for storage solutions for a 600 square foot apartment. Not so great with measuring. Who knew?

I wound up spending about $10 per pillow on these. Not a huge savings (I usually try to spend only about $15 per child for Christmas presents), but I like these better. I really tried to personalize every one.

I spent a long time selecting fabrics that I thought reflected the personality of the children. K is a classic beauty. J loves superheroes. O is girly, and a little anal retentive. She'd respond to the precision of a nice, geometric chevron.

I spent a long time selecting fabrics that I thought reflected the personality of the children. K is a classic beauty. J loves superheroes. O is girly, and a little anal retentive. She’d respond to the precision of a nice, geometric chevron.

<Sidebar>Honest Dad is a crafting Fascist.  He’s a Craftscist.  He thinks that my stenciling is messy and unimpressive. I’d say it’s a “two-foot” job.  From two feet away, they look really good.  If I had used quilting cotton (finer and thinner woven cotton) they would have probably looked better, been smoother, etc. But I wanted to use a nicer, thicker fabric than that, because of this, you can see the way that the fabric paint really shows the texture of the fabric’s weave. But they’re for the under-ten crowd, so I’m not too worried about judgment and anal retentive nit-picking.  I say that the Craftscist is just too much of a stressed out perfectionist to see the beauty in my work. Relax, baby. It’s just fabric.</Sidebar>

See? About a two-foot job.

See? About a two-foot job.

Christmas dough ornaments. Oh, I had such plans for these. I remember my parents’ salt dough ornaments that they pulled out every year.  They made them in the winter of 1970, during their first Christmas as a married couple.  They were too poor to buy ornaments, so they made all of them instead.  Only a few remain from that first batch, but my mother puts them on the tree every year.  And here I was, with my own daughters, starting our family traditions. We would bake them, Honest Girl would decorate them.  Honest Baby’s chubby hand print would adorn them. I’d sign them “Christmas, 2013” on the back, and years from now, I’d pull them out and show them to my gorgeous, grown daughters.

I found the recipe online, and followed a commenter who suggested adding a half teaspoon of cinnamon to the batch to give it a nice smell (which is really noticeable after it sits packed away in boxes with the other ornaments for a whole year).  I mixed the dough, got Honest Girl to help me knead and work it.  She played with the flour while I rolled it out to a lovely, smooth consistency. Smiles all around.  Fun family times.

It was only after getting the dough all prepared that I realized I didn’t have any cookie cutters.  Any.  At all.  Not a star, not a heart, not a Santa, or a snowman, or even a circle.  And my neighbor—the baker.  That’s right.  She’s a baker.  Like, for reals.—didn’t have any either. Had no idea where they were.  Must’ve gotten lost in the move. Oh! Wait.  Here are some.  They’re a set of cookie cutters for a baby shower.  Here’s a baby carriage, and a onesie, and a teddy bear, and a rocking horse.  Can you use those? I looked down at my dough, rapidly drying out on the board before me.

I guess I have to.

So, we have a bunch of baby shower cookie ornaments.  Undecorated.  Why undecorated?  Because the dough made Honest Girl’s hands feel weird, and she didn’t like how cold the finger paints were, and Mommy kept telling her she couldn’t put the markers in her mouth, and she was exhausted, because the ornaments took about three times as long to bake and solidify as the recipe said they would, and they’re just cookie lies because they look like cookies but you can’t eat them!

Just cookie lies...

Just cookie lies…

She begrudgingly half-colored three cookies, threw another one on the ground and cracked it, then went down for a nap. I didn’t even try to put Honest Baby’s handprint on one.  Besides, it wouldn’t fit on any of them.  I’m going to buy some cookie cutters for next year, and make this happen, dammit.  But for now, those three are sure pretty on my tree.

I love this teddy bear Honest Girl decorated. It almost looks like he's holding a rose!

I love this teddy bear Honest Girl decorated. It almost looks like he’s holding a rose!

“Cannolirolls.”  I adore cannolis.  How could you not?  They’re so decadent, and rich, and heart-cloggingly bad for you.  But they’re a pain in the ass to make.  So I don’t make them.  Instead, a few times a year, Honest Dad and I will buy a couple from the bakery section at the grocery store.  Often, these won’t even make it home, and we usually walk through the door with our guts spilling over our belts, powdered sugar creased into the corners of our smiles.

But they’re expensive that way, and I wanted to make some cannolis this year as a little Christmas treat for Honest Dad (and for Honest Girl.  And for me.  Okay, mostly for me).  I started looking up easy cannoli recipes online, and came across this: http://www.braumeisterswife.com/2013/03/quick-phyllo-dough-cannoli-with-whipped.html.It was genius.  She took tin foil, rolled it into a long tube, coated it with non-stick baking spray (or just butter, y’all), and wrapped her dough around it to make the cannoli tubes.  She baked them as usual, then, while they were still hot, she just slid them off the tin foil and—voila!—cannoli shells!

Only I didn’t have any phyllo dough.  Or ricotta cheese (the traditional cannoli filling).  But I had Pillsbury rolls.  And cream cheese.  And chocolate chips.  Those three ingredients alone have to make something good, right?  I did the exact same procedure, but with the Pillsbury rolls, and made a cream cheese frosting (I tried to make it more cannoli-esque with the addition of nutmeg, as she recommends, though I didn’t use any milk in order to keep my filling as stiff as possible).  I put the frosting into a piping bag, and squirting it into the Pillsbury rolls.  Then, I made a chocolate ganache and drizzled it over the top.  My favorite recipe is from Martha Stewart.  It requires corn syrup, which, for all its faults, is great for a ganache because it ensures that it doesn’t harden.  The chocolate stays a little soft and pliable, so I think it sticks to the top better and doesn’t flake off while you eat it.

They’re not cannolis.  They’re cannoli facsimile.  But, shut the front door, they were good.  Next time, I may sprinkle a little sugar on either side of the Pillsbury roll before wrapping them around the tin foil, just to cut the buttery taste a little more.  Sorry I don’t even have a crappy picture of these.  They were gone too fast!

Stocking bags. The dilemma: no Christmas stockings.  The solution: Make Christmas stockings out of fabric scraps. Further dilemma: I have no idea how to make stockings.

But I know how to make bags.

Honest Dad, Honest Mama, Honest Girl, and Honest Baby's Christmas bags, respectively.

Honest Dad, Honest Mama, Honest Girl, and Honest Baby’s Christmas bags, respectively.

This was a quick solution I concocted while trying to decide how I was going to make sure we all had a least a little Christmas stocking, without spending a bunch of money on nice store-bought ones or devoting a lot of time to their construction. I made these between 1 and 2am last night. Because something was going to get hung by the chimney with care, dammit! And if there’s one thing toddlers love, it’s putting stuff into and taking stuff out of something. Over and over again. Bring on the Christmas bags!

Boom.

A temporary solution, but not an unpleasant one, if I do say so myself.

A temporary solution, but not an unpleasant one, if I do say so myself.

A close-up of Honest Girl's bag. You can see that I used scraps from my pillow project.

A close-up of Honest Girl’s bag. You can see that I used scraps from my pillow project.

Hooray for Crafty Christmas Goodness! I’m a crafty novice, so please bear with me if these are horrible, but they’re way more involved and awesome than anything else I’ve ever attempted before.  So I’m just rolling with it.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  And the happiest of New Years.  I have two healthy, beautiful, stubborn, willful girls, and a doting Craftscist by my side. It’s going to be a good year.

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