|Christmas. That wonderful time of year. Who does not like a beautiful home celebrating a holiday of peace and joy? Christmastime is a favorite time of the year for the "crafty" person, who spends days making this and that from, well, this and that. But what about the rest of us. Is it possible to make a lovely home that simply shouts, "We love Christmas?" It is now. The following tips are an easy and fun way to prepare for the holiday:
These simple things are merely ideas to get you going. Remember, keep it simple. Don't try to do everything. And keep the cost down. Your efforts will be appreciated. Remember, Christmas is for children, and after all, aren't we all really children at heart?
- The Holiday Runner: Whether dressing up a table or decorating a mantle, the holiday runner is a must. But the cost is often steep and the designs typically unimaginative. So, by-pass the Christmas section of your big, discount store, and head for the drapery section. The end-cap display is a cornucopia of left over curtains that may just be your ticket to a thrifty, yet lovely holiday table runner. Run, do not walk to anything in white lace. It may be a tablecloth or a couple of mismatched curtains. I usually buy it all. Often I have enough for table, mantle, and fluffy curtains for my smaller windows. The lovely thing about lace is that you can cut away, and never see a frayed edge. Use the extra long, oblong table cloth for two runners, by simply cutting down the center lengthwise. Place the already finished seams towards the room, and place the raw edge towards the back. No one will be the wiser. Underneath you may place red or gold metallic cloth of the same length and width. They also need no hemming. Now, isn't that pretty? And you did it yourself.
- The Centerpiece: One small basket of greenery (real or fake) is an excellent choice when paired with inexpensive, bright red and gold Christmas tree balls. A chunk of florist foam (found in the craft section of your discount store) is perfect to hold either silk or real flowers. Just remember to soak the foam when using real flowers. Carnations are a lovely choice. Mix in some greens, and don't forget the sparkling tree balls. Don't be shy. Pile them on, tucking additional greenery as needed. Another choice could be poinsettias in pots, surrounded with yards of silver or gold garland. Place your favorite candles in between the pots, and place on a mirror or reflective tray.
- Tiny trees: Those one dollar stores are full of tiny trees, as are the larger discount stores. If you have a hot-glue gun, and you know how to use it safely, all the better. You can hot glue small items to the branches of the trees. Anything will do: glossy seashells for the beach lover; tiny plastic fruit or flowers for the garden lover; small sprigs of baby's breath; small wads of polyester batting to give a snowy or Victorian effect. Little white trees are lovely just as they are on a mantle cloth. Weave greenery in and out, and dot with red, gold, or silver balls for a sparkling Christmas theme. Small, decorated trees make an excellent gift that says, "I care."
- The Indoor Wreath: Don't overlook an inexpensive ready-made wreath. Hot glue gold, silver, or blue balls, or any combination of the three, to the greenery, going all around. Then tuck in colorful, dried or silk flowers that say "Christmas" to you. Attach a ready-made bow, off center at the bottom. These wreaths will also make wonderful gifts.
- Small Table Decorations: Leftover lace from your other projects make a good foundation for a tiny village scene. No need to spend a fortune. Simply buy an inexpensive grouping, and place it on the side table runner. Then dot with your left over white batting to create a snowy effect. Your guests, and more importantly, your children will be enchanted.
- The Big Tree: Along with the usual decorations, try making a yummy-scented tree, by including cinnamon bears, stars, and even circles. Make these ahead, and they will scent your Christmases for years to come. It's easy. Mix one 15 1/2 ounce can of applesauce with a bottle of inexpensive powdered cinnamon or nutmeg, purchased at a dollar store. Any spice you love is good, but go easy. A little goes a long way. Pour cinnamon into the applesauce and mix, a little at a time, until you have formed a "dough" ball. Roll the dough out on a non-stick cookie sheet liner. Cut animals out with your favorite cookie cutters. Use a soda straw to make a hole at the top for hanging, and allow to dry for several days. When the cinnamon decorations are fully dry, glue a tiny bow just under the hanging hole, and hang all over the tree with red or gold thread. When guests arrive your whole house will smell like you've been baking all day. Pack carefully away after Christmas, and these heavenly smelling decorations will last for years.
- Gifts From the Kitchen: Nothing says loving like treats from the oven. However, do we really have weeks to cook and bake before the holiday? I certainly don't. But whether for family or friends, I have never had anyone turn away from these quick and easy treats.
- Dipped cookies: Whether homemade or store bought, dipped cookies will steal your guests' hearts. Simply melt two 16 oz. bars of semi-sweet chocolate bars in the microwave for 2 minutes, then stir for one minute, until melted. Then dip your favorite treats. After each dip, lay treats on waxed paper until dry. My family loves dipped pretzels, sandwich cookies, shortbread, mixed nuts, and even strawberries (if available). White chocolate also works well.
- Cheese Balls: In a bowl, bring to room temperature, two 8 oz. pks. of cream cheese; 3 oz. of blue cheese; 12 oz. pk. grated sharp cheddar; 1 to 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (to taste). Mix with wooden spoon, until combined. Roll in ground nuts. This can also be made into several small balls. It is very pretty with crackers on a small plate.
- Hostess Gifts: Say thank you to your friends, for 'being there' with inexpensive gifts at your party. No matter the social income, these gifts warm the heart. No need to be formal. Simply pass the surprise gifts around, or, better yet, put them all in a basket and allow them to choose. Into small purchased stockings or gift bags place a small ornament; a pretty seashell; a small pin; tiny flashlights (I go nuts over these); small note pads; little festive gel pens; candy; the sky is the limit. Children love to help with these, and they love to receive them.
- Candy Trees: What child in us can resist a candy tree? Simply drape candy strings on a 2 and 1/2 foot tree. Hot glue favorite wrapped candies to the end of the branches. Don't forget mini candy canes. This is so pretty and a delight for young and old.
- The Toy Tree: If your party includes children, decorate a small 4 and 1/2 foot tree with small teddy bears; wooden toys; small cars; and rag dolls. Allow the children to choose their own toy, and this will surely please the child in everyone.