Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the Swenson Family!

We hope your Christmas is {Calm}*ish, and that you find those MERRY & BRIGHT moments to cherish!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

A quick easy project that can go holiday or everyday…

I made this fun project a few years ago.

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I wanted something sort of manly for my husband’s office, but something that also reflected the girl in me.

Hence, sparkle for me/deer for him.

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I started by buying 9 black frames, some sparkle scrapbook paper, and a deer punch.(I got the punch after Christmas on clearance.)

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You could also use a cricut or silhouette if you are lucky enough to have one of those. :(

I punched 9 deer out of sparkle paper, and put them in the center of the black sparkle paper that was cut to the size of the frames.

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I cleaned the glass, and added the cute little print I just made.

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Then I hung them close together in a 3x3 formation. 

By doing this, it made it look like one big accent for the wall instead of 9 separate accents.

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I have loved the way this looks in Jonathan’s office.

I also think this could look Awesome for a holiday project.

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I hope this inspires you to make and create this holiday season.

I shared the link to this talk earlier on this month, and I just know you would love this short clip all about being creative.

It puts into perspective what being creative really means, what it takes to be creative, and that any one can do it!

Monday, December 14, 2015

That's what January 2nd is for!!

{So.. I had planned for this post to go up on Wednesday, but it's going up today, because my whole computer is on the fritz.  I want to get this up before I loose all this work.  I am taking my computer in to be fixed tomorrow.  I am typing this in blogger which I never do.  I always use a program called Live Writer which is not working, and I use a host for my photos; so lets just hope they look sharp and crisp.  If they don't you know why?  Oh, Computer, computer; you makin me mad.  Anyways... here is Wednesday's post today.  I also posted about these adorable Christmas sacks today.  Check that out here; if you missed it.}

The ten pound effect/That's what January is for:

I always say that I won’t gain weight over the holidays, but…

we have this silly tradition of making treats together.

Our kids look forward to it every year.

We spend a few evenings making several delicious treats.

Then we spend an evening packaging them all up.

…And then we spend an evening delivering them to family and friends.

Sometimes we even package them up and mail them to family and friends that are far away.

Yes!! this may seem like a lot of work.  It is!!
…But, it is the kind of work I want to do.
It’s teaching my kids so many valuable lessons.  They are learning to cook.  They are learning to clean up.

They are learning to organize.  They are learning to give. 

They have an opportunity to give to others.  The best part is that they are learning that homemade gifts can mean so much.  We don’t always have to give what we buy at a store.

…and we are spending time together, having fun while we do it.

This year, we put together 97 boxes of candy.  This is our most yet!

I thought it would be fun to share some of the different candies that we make and a link to the recipe; just in case your family would like to try to make one of these.
…and because I wish I could bring treats to all of you; this is my way of sharing them.
These are all kid friendly recipes, and I assure that my kids had a hand in making all of them.
Our family favorite is a recipe that I make every year.  They are called
Christmas Caramels 

I have been making them every year.  This year Stella made them.  She is 11, and she handled the whole process.  She was even able to determine when it got to the soft ball stage.

This is our recipe:
1 C. butter
2 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
1 C. light corn syrup
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
Combine ingredients into a heavy sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon.  Keep at a rolling boil and cook till soft ball forms in a cold bowl of water(this takes between 10-15 minutes of rolling boil.) It will begin to get thick.  When it does, spoon a small amount into your bowl of really cold water.  Touch with your hand and see if you can roll it into a soft ball.  If it becomes really hard, you have let it boil to long, so check it consistently.  Once it hits soft ball, pour it into buttered 9x13 pan.  Cool, and then cut.  Makes about 75 pieces.

We also tried a new recipe that we added our caramel recipe too:

Christmas Turtles

We followed this recipe and idea, but used our own family caramel recipe; taking it to soft ball stage again.

The little kids had the job of laying out the pecans, while Stella made the caramel.

Another family fav, is molded mints:

Molded Christmas Mints

I got this recipe from my friend Krysta.

It’s super simple.  Melt a whole bar of almond bark.  You can do this in a double broiler, or slowly in the microwave.  Once it’s melted, add food coloring of choice, and a peppermint flavoring.  I buy mine at our local cooking store.  It’s not the regular peppermint that you buy at the grocery store.  It has more of a butter mint taste.  Then you will need some Christmas molds. I also bought these at the local cooking store.

Lay out your molds and spoon the chocolate into the mold.  Then place the molds in the freezer.  Once they have hardened, pop them out. The kids are big helpers when I am making these.  They love to pop them out, and help me rotate them through the freezer. When we make these, we like to make 2 colors.

We must really love mints, because we also like to make:

Cream Cheese Mints
You can find a link for those here.

This year we tried a new treat:

The kids enjoyed breaking up all the goodies that went in the bark.
Then they enjoyed breaking it into pieces when it had hardened.

When we were done with the Cookie Bark, we used the left over Oreos and made:

Chocolate Dipped Oreos

This is so simple.  You use what’s left of your white chocolate from your almond bark, and dip your leftover Oreos in it.  Then sprinkle on some pretty sprinkles.  This is certainly a kids job.

My kids favorite treat to make are:

This is something that the kids can do completely on their own.  It does require the use of an oven so it would be hard for smaller children when it gets to that step.  Stella is 11, and made these with the kids when I wasn’t home.

We also tried out these yummy:

this year!! Yummy in my tummy!

Isaac even made the cream cheese frosting all on his own.

We normally just make Ginger Snaps, but we tried them with frosting this year.  I thought they were yummo!! The kids are used to the traditional gingersnap and they want me to go back to that next year.  Some traditions just stick, making change hard.

Then we made some:

Christmas Bar Cookies

We just like to use our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but then we spice it up.

The kids love dumping in m&ms, and toffee bits, and chocolate chips, and our secret ingredient?

Carmel bits.  Yep!! they are little bits of Carmel for melting.  We use them when we make Carmel apples.

We love how they taste in the cookies.

A few sugar crystals on the top of the cookies, and they look very festive.

The last and easiest cookie we made were:

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies

Isaac mixed these cookies all on his own.

It’s so simple, he dumped these 3 ingredients into the mixer:

A red velvet cake mix

2 eggs

1/2 cup of oil

Then he mixed that up.

We then scooped out cookie size portions with our cookie scoop.

We baked them at 350 for about 8-10 minutes; just until they crack.

We let them cool some, and then we stuck that peppermint kiss right in the middle.  They are delicious!  These would also be so good with white chocolate chips.

Happy Baking friends.

WARNING: Christmas baking has the ten pound effect.

If you make these recipes, you may put on ten pounds during the holidays!!

Want to know what I say about that?

That’s what January 2nd is for.

Christmas Book Sacks

We have a Christmas tradition of reading one book each night from Dec. 1st until Christmas.

I normally wrap all these book, and then they go under the tree.

photo 1

This year, I decided that I was ending the madness of trying to wrap 24 books before Dec. 1st.

This year, I decided upon a solution.

This solution involved some preparation this year, but will solve my wrapping problems from here on out.

I started by heading to Hobby Lobby and picking up some adorable fabric and ribbon.

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One yard of fabric will make 3 bags; so that meant I needed 8 yards. You could choose one fabric or up to eight different styles.

With this fabric, I decided that I was going to sew up 24 bags that the books could be put in.

I decided to sew on some ribbon, and then tie them up like a little gift to be placed under the tree.

No more wrapping, now I just have to stick them in these bags.

So a few nights before December 1st, Stella and I got to work.


I cut the fabric in thirds, using the fold in the fabric as the bottom of the bag.

I made sure to make bags of all sizes, because books are all sizes.

I made sure that if I cut a small bag on one of the yards of fabric, that I cut a really large piece as well, and then a medium piece.  That still gave me 3 bags from one yard.

On some of the yards, I cut the bags all the same.

Then all that was left to do was to sew a hem along the top.

Then stitch up the sides of the bags, using the fold for the bottom.  This is like the easiest sewing project ever.  I am no good at sewing, and I can totally manage this.  This was also a great opportunity to let Stella have a go at her new-found sewing skills.

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We also cut a cute piece of ribbon or tulle, and we sewed it to the back of the bag.  Then it would be there every year when we were ready to tie up the bag.

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Stella also helped me put all the books down in the bags, and tie them up.

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We tied them up with the cute little ribbon already attached to the back.

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Then I labeled them with these adorable number tags that I found here.

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I attached them to the tied ribbon with some sequin trim and a stapler.

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I am hoping to laminate the tags, but I don’t have a laminator. YET!

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I am hoping Santa puts that under the tree for me this year!!

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I am so excited that I won’t be spending 2 hours every year wrapping books.

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Don’t they look adorable under the tree?

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If you want to start this tradition, I highly suggest making these bags.

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I have had a few questions about this tradition:

Do you buy 24 new books each year?

No, I buy one new book each year, and let that be the first book the kids open.

Then I just wrap books we have been collecting over the years.  I think this is important to use the same books.  That is part of the tradition; reading books that your kids remember and love.

What are some of your favorite Christmas books?

The Christmas Prayer

Christmas Tapestry

God Gave us Christmas

I Believe in Santa Claus

How did you start your tradition?  Did you just go out and buy 24 books?

I was really lucky.  My grandma gave me all her Christmas books, so I had a really good start.  Then I started collecting them all year long at local thrift stores.  Also, like I said, I buy one new book each year.  Jex is 13 so that is 13 NEW books.  We have a huge collection now.

My husbands nurse also did this for us last year, so she gave us 24 books to add to our collection.  She also gave us an ornament to go along with each book as well.  This was so fun last year to open a book and an ornament.  This might be a fun way to kick off your tradition for your family, and then as you read the books for years to come they look for that ornament on the tree?

Traditions are such an important part of a child’s upbringing.

“Family traditions are like spiritual and emotional cement in the foundation of a happy home. They create fond memories, and these memories bond us together as nothing else can.” taken from this article titled, “Traditions worth keeping.”

I hope you find traditions in your own home that can bond you together.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Create: {Adorable Christmas Houses}

I started collecting these adorable putz houses a few years ago.

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I have been seriously obsessed with them.

I found some that I knew would look cute in Stella’s room, but I have struggled to collect enough for Tessa’s.

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There are lots out there to buy online, but I like to buy things at a bargain.  I guess you could say that I had a hard time finding any at a bargain.

I decided to try making my own version.

It was such a fun project, that I thought I would share a quick tutorial with you.

Please do not judge that many of these photos are just the regular iphone pics, but they get the point across; and hopefully will help you create something of your own.

The first part of the project is bleaching and dying your bottle brush trees.  These can be found at Hobby Lobby or Michaels, and you can find a tutorial for that here.


While your trees are drying, you can begin your houses.

I found the houses at Hobby Lobby.  They were really inexpensive. They can be found down the chipboard isle.  There are 3 sizes.

The roofs come off, so you can work on them in two pieces.

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I started by choosing the colors I wanted them to be, and spray painting them.

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I painted all the roofs white, and the houses a color.

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While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled them with fake snow and glitter.

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(well, Stella sprinkled them with snow and glitter)

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I found the bag of snow at Hobby Lobby. 

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Once you add the snow and glitter, then it’s good to spray them with a clear spray paint.  This will hold the glitter and snow in place.

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Once your houses are dry, it’s time to start putting the fun finishing touches on the houses.

I collected all the trinkets at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.  I found them near the Christmas village sections and the mini-tree sections.  There is so much to choose from, so just buy what you love and would want on your houses.

The first step is adding this fake snow paint to the roof of your houses.  This makes your roof look like it has real snow on it.  This can also be found at Hobby Lobby.  The jar looks like this:

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You just use an old paint brush, and dab it on thick.

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The next step is adding your now dry bottle brush trees to the houses.  I did this by pulling the base off.

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Then using a nail I pushed a hole into the base of the house where I wanted the tree, and made a hole for the stem of the tree.

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Make sure to decorate your trees first.

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Then using hot glue on the stem, I shoved the trees in the holes I made.

Once you have your trees secure, then it’s time to decorate your houses.

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I used this cute gold trim for the trees, and for the roof line.

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I added this fun reindeer to the roof.

You can also make wreaths using chenille trim.

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Get creative.

This is left up to your own creativity and devices.  I used other houses for inspiration. 

There is a lot of inspiration here.

I love how they all came together. I loved them so much I made some for my basement family room, and for Tessa’s room.

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Once you get all your trinkets on, add some more snow paint to the base of trees and the bases of houses.

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You could also use velum paper behind the windows if you wanted to fill that part of the house in.  I think I will do that for next year.

I really enjoyed putting some lights on the houses.  I used led lights that are connected with wire.  The only place I have found these is at Walmart.


I found the big star lights at the dollar store.


I have loved walking into all the rooms at night and seeing all the fun, glowing, putz houses.

I especially love seeing the ones that I made.

Often times, I find that creativity comes at a cost.

It’s hard to sit down and work on a project when you know that other things are going to suffer.

My house, my ability to shower and get ready, and just about every daily responsibility certainly fell apart the day that I put this project together, but it was worth it.

It is so important for me to let those creative juices out sometimes; even if I don’t get to shower.

I can put the pieces back together later, and then add my new project to the pretty little pieces of my life.

Take the time to create.

For more on the importance of creativity check out this little gem.

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