Tag Archives: holiday gifts



This is a big spoiler.  Because my step-sisters were sick at Christmas and I haven’t seen some other family members yet, they haven’t received their gift.  And I know they are reading this so…surprise!

One of the things I love about my family is that we are really very simple people.  It’s the seemingly common things in life that make us the happiest.  We can be just as happy with a thoughtful, inexpensive gift as an expensive present at Christmas. We truly enjoy exchanging homemade gifts, a tradition we unofficially adopted after the kiddos started coming along.  This year cousin Ashley made homemade ranch dressing mix, Andrea made salt caramels, Amy made delicious jams, and so much more.

I wanted my gift this year to be something my siblings could enjoy for a long time and I landed on custom kitchen towels.  Originally, I wanted to imprint something Christmas-y on flour sack towels.  They are so useful and are easy to clean.  But I was having trouble finding a suitable size towel and then one day I stumbled on these lovely, almost vintage looking tea towels, with blue threading.  I just loved the texture and the color.  Not that I’m a cheapskate, but I do have a rather large family, so I was able to buy a big stack of towels for, get this, $10! 

Next I had to decide what I wanted to put on the towel.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  Some of us really get into the whole Santa-thing, while others not-so-much.  “Merry Christmas” was just too obvious and I was worried that a picture of a Christmas tree or holly would get too muddled over time.  The towel had such an Old World feel to it, I wanted an Old World graphic to match.  And that’s how I landed on “Joyeux Noel”, which literally means “Merry Christmas” in French.  I chose an Old English type of font to print the words out onto plain old paper.

Are your ready for the transfer process?  It’s super easy.  I took pictures of the trial run on flour sack towels with a different graphic, so don’t be confused!

towel finished

This is the finished practice-towel.  I have tried several different transfer methods and so far this is my favorite.  I don’t know if it will work with a color print…hmmm… might have to try that some other day.

Citri-Solve Transfer


This is the stuff, CitraSolv.  It’s an all natural cleanser/degreaser, I bought mine at Whole Foods ages ago.  It’s strong stuff so don’t go splashing it around!  And you’ll only need a little bit for this project.


You will also need a graphic, printed with a toner-based printer or copier.  An ink-jet printer will not work hereImportant: you must reverse your image, particularly if there are letters or numbers involved.  If you don’t mind if the project comes out backwards, then it doesn’t matter so much.  As you can see here, I have printed this pretty label out backwards (I think this graphic came from Graphics Fairy).  Cut your graphic out BUT leave about and inch border of paper around so you can tape it down to the towel.

towel burnish  

After you have taped the graphic face down to your towel, with a small paintbrush “paint” a small amount of CitraSolve onto the back of your graphic.  You don’t want it soaking wet with solvent because your image will bleed and get sloppy.  It should look a bit like an oil-stain.  As soon as you’ve applied the CitraSolve, grab a spoon.  Using the back of the spoon you will rub or burnish the back of your graphic into the towel.  Use small, swirly motions and be sure to travel the spoon over the entire graphic.  It takes about 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your graphic.  Be careful, you don’t want the graphic to slide around because it will cause your graphic to transfer unevenly.  This is not always a bad thing, but if you are transferring letters or small details they may not be the most clear.


As soon as you are done burnishing with the spoon you can carefully peel of the paper, your image will be transferred…ta-dah!  But you’re not quite done.  Now, I don’t know if this part is necessary, but someone else told me to do it so… just do it and don’t ask questions!  Place an old rag, dish towel, scrap of fabric, etc. directly underneath your newly transferred image and run over the top of your transfer with a hot iron.  Supposedly, this helps dry up any excess CitraSolve.  I have no idea if it’s true, but it smells good!


Here is my image, fully transferred.  You can see that the small lettering gets a little muddled, mostly due to the texture of the towel but also because of the burnishing.  I don’t mind it, I think it lends to the vintage look.  If I wanted perfect letters I would have to do silk screening, something else I’m dying to learn.

Over time, especially with the use of harsh detergents or bleach, this transfer will fade.  But again, I think that lends to the antiqued feel of it and I like it.


So that’s my last Christmas Project for this year!  I vow to be better prepared next year and get some of this stuff done e
arlier than the night before Christmas.  Who am I kidding, I will procrastinate next year just like always.


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First of all, notice those tags?  Fabulous, if I do say so myself.  The bags and twine came from Garnish, they are also fabulous.

Now on to the real info, our Friday Recipe and the 3rd installment of My Christmas Projects for this year….. homemade granola inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe. Along with Project #4 (you will see that tomorrow) I passed out a little bag of granola.

Ina’s recipe calls for a lot of dried fruit, something I’m not usually a fan of, so I just left it out.  Also, I prefer walnuts over almonds so I made a little substitution.  It’s your kitchen, your food, do it your way.

granola bowl

That is one big batch of granola.  I made a 2nd big batch, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I had to.

You all know I love and adore Ina, her recipes are amazing.  This was the first time that one of her recipes kinda let me down BUT only because I did not take into consideration that my oven would cook faster than her recipe called for… as in half the time.  Yikes.  Because Ina’s recipe calls for honey and sweetened coconut, those sugars get all caramelized and brown pretty quick.  Faster than I had planned, faster than Ina said they would.  That first batch was just this side of burnt, but had too much great caramel-ly goodness to toss out…

granola baked

…so… I made a 2nd batch of granola from a different recipe, one that uses unsweetened coconut and slightly less cooking time, and combined the finished products.  Here’s the funny part:  I didn’t tell anyone about my little snafu because… well, why would I do that?  A couple days ago my sister texts me, “Your granola was awesome! I want the recipe.”  Alls well that ends well.


Because I believe in quality control, I sprinkled some of my granola over Greek Yogurt (Fage of course) and drizzled a little honey on top.  It was sublime.

I will share the 2nd granola recipe with you next week because, well, you’ll have to stay tuned to find out why!


Homemade Granola by Ina Garten

Don’t forget, I left out all the fruit and be sure to check it after 15 minutes in the oven!  Oh… and if you have parchment or a silplat, use it because all that sticky sweetness will become cemented to the bottom of your sheet pan.
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If quoting movies were a recognized language, my whole family would be considered bi-lingual.  We quote movie lines to each other constantly!  Christmas movies are our all time favorite movies to quote, especially Home Alone I & II.  In fact, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know the line “Merry Christmas you filthy animal…and a Happy New Year!” 

Another ritual in our family is a little tradition we call Cousin Christmas.  My cousin Jill, my sister and I take one evening the week before Christmas to exchange gifts with each other and we always get each other a special ornament.  I had a hard time finding a good ornament this year so instead, I made my own…. inspired by a favorite movie quote… from Home Alone II!


I swear, I’m not doing a paid advertisement for Michaels but I found these little porcelain Christmas trees in their clearance section for less than $1.  I grabbed those up and knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  I printed out the movie line that we have repeated to each other a hundred times, if not more, and the date to commemorate our 2011 Cousin Christmas.  I tried printing it several different ways but finally landed on white lettering on a black background.


I put down a light coat of Mod Podge, pasted the letters down and set them aside to dry.  Then I realized I put some of the words on backwards, had to peel them up, reapply the Mod Podge, and let them dry once again.  I do things like this on a regular basis.


They dried in less than an hour and they were perfect!  Total cost for both ornaments was less than $3 but worth so much more!

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canvas all

I loved this project, transferring a photo onto a canvas but in all the craziness, I didn’t take a final picture of this project so I’ll have to show you an example from one of the tutorials I referred to:



I used a picture of my Grandma when she was a toddler and her father, my Great Grandfather, and transferred it onto an 8x10 canvas using gel medium and water. It is a really easy project, you can read the general directions here, but I will tell you from experience that 1) an inkjet photo will work just as well as a laser jet photo, 2) you can use Mod Podge or some other decoupage medium, you don’t have to use gel medium. 


The process is fairly simple, the hardest part is waiting for it to dry.  First you put down a thin but even layer of gel medium or Mod Podge.


Next you lightly spritz the photo (on regular paper, not photo paper) with water.  You don’t want it soaking, just barely enough water to soften it a bit.


This is the most important step: first lay your picture face down onto the canvas and then carefully scrape the back with a piece of plastic (old Starbucks cards are perfect for this) to make sure that it lays down smoothly and that all the bubbles and excess gel medium are squeezed out the sides.  You must be patient when doing this.  Start from the center and gently scrape out towards the edges.  Wipe up any excess gel medium that squirts out the edges.  Now let it dry.  I think it’s best to let it dry overnight but if it’s a small project sometimes you can hurry it along with a blow dryer.


After it dries completely, your picture will be visible through the paper backing, having been transferred to the canvas.  All you have left to do is spritz again with water, and begin scraping back the paper backing.  This takes some time, I find using my fingernail is the most productive but you can use your plastic card again to help.  The more you scrape, the more distressed your photo will become.  Keep spritzing with water and scraping until all the paper is gone.  After it dries I use some light sandpaper to further rough up the edges and make sure all the bits of paper have come off. 

The final step is to apply a thin layer of matte Mod Podge or other decoupage medium to seal your canvas. 

I made two canvases, the one of my grandmother and also one of Santa.


I used them in our family gift exchange and as I knew would happen, there was little bit of good natured bartering over them, nostalgia being a hot commodity in our family.  My grandma was shocked to see herself on a canvas!  I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished product, but I need to make another one for my sister so I’ll be sure to photograph that one.

All in all, it’s a cheap project.  Michael’s runs deals on their canvases all the time, you just have to keep your eyes open and wait for a sale.  Or use their mobile app to get coupons, there is as new one almost every week.  I always have Mod Podge on hand and printing the photo onto plain paper from my inkjet printer was practically free. Another under $10 project that was a big hit!