Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas from the Hearth


      Finding the right gift to give for the right person may seem difficult at times, but here is an idea that you may have not thought of and it is easy to make.  Christmas from the hearth is about giving a gift to someone for their fireplace that will take it from cozy to the focal point during the holiday season.  Using branches, twigs, herbs, and pine cones with a little bit of creativity can create wonderful fire starters that add a visual effect, serves a purpose , and infuses wonderful scents throughout your home.  Gather together kindling of various shapes and sizes.  Old bark that has fallen off of stored fire wood ignites a fire pretty quickly.  It also can be used to make attractive mulch, but that is another story.  Pine cones are a must.  Twigs can be cut into uniform pieces and bundled with ribbon will be an attractive addition to your basket. Be sure to soak them in fragrance oils before wrapping them.   I used red ribbon here to secure it with, but raffia would probably a better choice.

 White birch logs bundle together also add a dramatic effect and can be found on Etsy for about a mere $ 20.00.  You can also find them at Amazon in varies sizes and amounts.  Their wood products under a Dry Kiln process that sterilizes, wicks out moisture, prevent mold and mildew, and ensures no bugs.  This process also preserves the integrity of the bark.  Not only that but the cut ends are sanded and smooth for a clean look.  The recipient of this gift may opt to use it in other decorations.  It will give your basket a nice clean look.  This light colored wood will give a nice pop of contrast to your basket.  I just love making these for my family.  You can substitute other logs if you can't find these.  Most retailers and even some convenient stores always have a small bundle of firewood that you can pick up for a few bucks.

     Next you will want to gather up pine cones.  These you can find anywhere especially this time of the year.  Make sure that you get the biggest ones with little or no damage to them.  Like the twigs you will want to bring them in and clean them in a bucket of water to remove debris and insects.  You can then lay them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil to catch the sap at 200° for 30 minutes to dry.  As they dry they will open their petals.  This is where the fun really begins.  You can mix up different chemicals in water and soak the pine cones in for 8 hours and let them dry again.  This will cause them to burn in different colors.  Here is the recipes listed below.

Flickr/Martin Cathrae

  • Yellow - 1 cup of table salt to 1/2 gallon of hot water
  • Yellow/green - 1 cup of Borax to 1/2 gallon of hot water
  • White - 1 cup of Epsom's Salt to 1/2 gallon of hot water
  • Green - 1 cup of Boric Acid to 1/2 gallon of hot water
  • Red - 1 cup of Strontium Chloride to 1/2 gallon of hot water

   The latter one can be found in pet stores in the aquarium isle.  It is important to completely submerge your pine cones in the solution for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.  After removing, place pine cones on a newspaper to dry for at least 3 days.  This is what makes the gift so special.  Separate each set of colored pine cones and wrap them in cellophane  with the same color ribbon the the flame will display.  You can expect this effect.  Another idea is to buy some paraffin wax, candle coloring and candle fragrance and mix  melt in an old tin can in a double broiler.  Colors perfect for this basket would be blue and white.  When the wax melts using tongs dip the pine cones in the colorants and lay out to dry.

     Other items that you will want to include in your basket can be found at your local florist.  Fragrant pieces such as lavender and rosemary stem can be bundled together.  Bay leaves , lemongrass, mint, dried sage, and rosemary are just some examples that you can add in your basket.  These spread a wonderful scent throughout the house.  Dried apple and orange slices can give off a sweet scent and they burn very well in the fireplace.  Save lemon and orange peels to make a small potpourri and best of all tie a bundle of cinnamon sticks together for an extra special aroma.

     When you have complete these steps find a large wicker  basket to display your gift.  Don't forget to add a big box of wooden matches or a grill lighter.  If this gift is for a couple you might want to toss in a bottle of fine wine and a couple of wine glasses.  It is for a family a nice decorate jar of coco and marshmallows will add the finishing touch.  Wrap the finish product up in a large piece of clear cellophane and put a large ribbon around it keeping with your theme.  This is an inexpensive gift that can have a million dollar look if done right.  If you make one can you leave a comment or pic below so we can see what your imagination brings to light.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Tech Savvy Gifts


     Everyone wants an Echo.  I know I would love to have one.  If you don't know what is does let me give you a rundown of all its features.  An Echo is a hands free voice controlled device that can fill your room with immersive 360° omni-directional audio from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and more.  An Echo can also answer your questions and read you audio books. You need info, Echo will be more than happy to share the news, traffic, weather reports, sports scores, schedules, as well as information on local businesses using the Alexa Voice Service.  Furthermore, it can control lights, switches and thermostats with compatible WeMo, Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and Ecobee smart home devices.  Echo has many skills and can handle Uber, Dominos, and many other places that you would call for services.

Echo Dot

     Echo Dot is the next generation in this exciting technology that combines most all the same features with half the size and price.  It is just 39.99 on Amazon today.  It's cute, it's compact, it is amazing.  Mom would enjoy one for Christmas as well. Hint, Hint!!!

iPad Pro

     What gets better than this.  The iPad Pro 9.7-inch 128 GB Wi-Fi in Rose Gold or whatever color you like to own.  It has a 9.7 inch retina display with 2048 x 1536 resolution with wide color and true tone display.  12MP  iSight camera with flash and panorama up to 63 MP.  It also has 4 speaker audio and up to 10 hours battery life.  It supports the Apple Smart keyboard and Apple pencil.  If you get this or already own an iPad by all means download the Chronicle app for paying bills.  It is an amazing time savor.

Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless Earbuds

     These babies are an essential item for your workout bag this year.  They deliver only the sound that Beats products are known for in a portable wireless medium.  They also come in a range of colors to match your yoga or jogging gear.  Don't settle for the rest when you can own the best.

These are my top picks but go find yours.  If you want to save some serious money check out refurbished products wherever you may shop.  You get a warranty and the products have been thoroughly inspected and look brand new.  Don't pay top dollar when you don't have to.

Amazon Unveils It's Most Popular Toys for 2016

    It's that time to make those Christmas purchases before the best and most sought after gifts are sold out.  On the Today Show Amazon rolled out its top picks for 2016.  These toys will brighten up the hardest to please faces if you are clueless on what to buy this year.  Like the Today Show I too am an Amazon affiliate, and will receive a small amount of these purchase.  These toys can also be found at most local retailers.  Here it goes so get your pen and paper ready to make your list.

Hatchimals Draggels

Hatchimals come in many different colors and the come alive inside of there egg.  You can hear their heartbeat and interact with them while the are growing inside the egg.  You will know when they are ready to hatch because there rainbow eyes will be glowing inside the membrane.  Touch and cuddle your egg and they will peck their way right out of the shell.  Which one will you get, well that's a surprise.  Now it's time to raise your little friend and teach it to walk and dance, and talk and sing.  This is a gift that keeps evolving as you do.

Hot Wheels A.I. Intelligent Race System Starter Kit

This is one toy that the kids and probably the parents will love.  These cars are designed to move fast and because of the enhanced artificial intelligence incorporated into this technology they stay on the track.  With speeds clocking in to up to 180 miles per hour you would almost think your watching Nascar.  You can also program the two controllers for three race modes and skill levels.  This system comes with over 16 feet of track and over 40 layouts to keep you on top of your game.  This is a must have for the kids and adults alike.  This set includes 2 high performance smart cars and 2 smart controllers.

Barbie Dream House

Never had a dollhouse like this one when I was growing up.  My how things have changed.  This dollhouse takes reality one step closer and sets the imagination on fire.  This dollhouse has 3 stories and 7 rooms including a garage.  Smart technology is built into the furniture to give realistic experiences.  For instance, the stove lights up and makes a sizzling sound when in use.  Flip open the flat screen and insert a smart phone and Barbie and her friends can watch TV.  If she had rather be outdoors enjoying warmer weather there is a pool included that she can relax in and enjoy an afternoon swim.  She also has an atrium to sit in and watch the sunset.  Lets not forget her pet cause you guessed it, there is a place included for her furry friend.  Your child can watch the fish swim and the water bubble in the aquarium.  Not only that, but the lights and fan works and you can even hear the toilet flushing when Barbie has to go.  Last but not least, the house comes with a garage and working elevator-well that's on a slider.  What's not to love about this adorable house and I bet you will catch mom enjoying it too.

Fisher-Price Power Wheels Chrome Dune Racer

What will they think of next.  This Chrome Dune Racer offer monster traction that will defeat any terrain wet or dry, bumpy or smooth to deliver a riding experience like no other.  Not only will your child get to experience the thrill of driving, but they can also bring a friend along to join in the fun.  The vehicle has power-lock brakes, bucket seats, metal sidebars, 12 volt battery, charger, and a storage compartment under the hood.  It also features 2 speeds and will get up to 5 mph for the more experienced drivers.  Beginners, no problem because there is a parent controlled lock out feature until they are ready for a faster experience.  This will come in handy when it is their time to drive later in life.
     So many new and exciting toys are available this Christmas that choosing the right ones will be difficult.  While your out making your selection let's not forget about the less fortunate among us this holiday season. Find a charity that you trust and donate a toy for a child in need.  Merry Christmas and God bless.

Other toys that made the list:
You can click on picture to take you to the site if you want to purchase any of these toys displayed.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Wreaths and Decorations Ideas

     Some of the best memories you can have at Christmas is making your home look festive and warm.  I would like to share with you some of the best ideas that I have come across over the years for decorating at Christmas time.  The Christmas Wreath is the staple decor of the holiday.  It is the first thing most people see as they pass by your home or stop in for a visit.  I made this wreath many years ago and I received many compliments on it.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  All you need is fresh cranberries, tooth picks, red spray paint, green felt, and some red ribbons to tie a bow on or suspend from the door.  The finished product will look like this.

     I got this idea from a show I watched on Martha Stewart and was able to locate the video.  She has many tutorials for all types and styles of wreaths, but this one I have made myself and it is absolutely amazing and very easy to do.  You need to give yourself a few hours to complete this project because it is very time consuming.

     Another idea I would like to share with you I got from Walt Disney World video tape that I ordered many years ago.  This is funny to do with children because they absolutely love to help decorate.  My nieces and nephews actually ate the finished project which I thought was way to sweet for the average adult to handle, but they loved it.  What you will need is some pointed ice cream or waffle cones, icing, and green food coloring.  This only takes a few minutes of your time, but can make memories that last a lifetime.  This is the finished product and how it should look.
     Be sure to add some sprinkles to your trees to give them that authentic decorated look. You can really creative with these trees by add gummy bears, berries, and even smarties candies make them look cute. For the topper place a little cranberry on top and the children will love it.  You can also set these around a gingerbread house to really ring the Christmas spirit to your holiday.  This is a relatively inexpensive idea that will have a huge impact.  Top your village off with Christmas village pieces if you. have any stored away from past Christmas'.

     Another fabulous idea is to freeze letters in ice block and push in the snow to spell words.  I don't have a picture of this, but I can show you something similar so you get the idea.  First you want to take a large casserole pan and place water in it.  After it begins to freeze you want to center sticks in the middle of pan to form a letter.  For example, may  the letter N for Noel.  Cover with more water an let set until frozen solid.  Next repeat this process for the letter O.  Do this until you spell NOEL.  You can use sticks or peppermint or whatever you can think of to make these letters.  To loosen your blocks from pan let thaw a little or run warm water over the bottom of the pan. When you have a hard freeze with snow. You can go press these upright into the snow outside where your neighbors can see them.  The example I have here is one of a sun catcher made using the same technique.

     I think you get the idea now and hopefully you are inspired to create these projects or come up with your own ideas.  Christmas only comes once a year and memories are forever.  I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Credits and resources:
Martha Stewart.com
Mommie Poppins Blog

Friday, November 25, 2016

Beautiful Christmas Ornaments in Blue and White

     Every year it seems we pick a theme to decorate our beautiful tree that reflects our sense of style.   The pastel color of the season invokes a since of freshness and purity.  Bringing that feeling into your home takes a bit of creativity.  Blues and whites can move this sensation from the outdoors inside with many unique and versatile options.  Here's some ideas that may get you inspired.

This set contains many different shapes and sizes to give you some idea of a blue and white Christmas ornament design.  This may be a little busy for some people, but there are many different ways to show your style.

I love these porcelain ornaments in that they can be placed with more contemporary pieces to evoke feelings of Christmas's past.  Pair these ideas with some soft white lights and a white garland for a crisp winter scene next to a warm glow of a fire on a cold winters night.  I can almost here the pitter-patter of reindeer hoofs atop the roof now.

For a little history on the integration of ornaments as decorations you can go to Reindeer Dreams Christmas Blog.
To see other beautifully decorated Christmas trees like this one go to House Beautiful

Hope you enjoyed this article and you have given some thought as to how you will decorate your tree this Christmas.  Life is short, make it memorable.

Credits :
Reindeer Dreams Christmas Blog
House Beautiful

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Windows to The Soul - Beautiful Eyes

 Lining your eyes shouldn't be that big of a deal, right?  There is an art to getting that perfect look depending on what you wish to accomplish.  First things first, so let's start with the basics.  If you want a beautiful look, you will first have to be able to draw a straight line.  Before you begin, start out by dusting your lid with a little translucent powder.  This will absorb any oils that maybe laying on the skin's surface and it will also hide any visible veins.  Next, you should warm the tip of the pencil by rolling it between your fingertips.  This will make it more pliable and easier to adhere to the lid. Then you want to grab the outer corner of your eye taut to give you more control over the application process.  Do not pull to forcefully though because this will encourage premature wrinkling of the skin.  With the pencil start at the inner corner working your way outward with a thin line.  Make sure that there is no visible gaps between the line and the lashes.  If your eyes are close set, then only outline the outer corners.  If you want to make your eyes look bigger, then extend the eyeliner a little past the corner of your eyes.  Using a small makeup brush apply matching eyeshadow over top of the lining to seal it.  Soften with a cotton swab if it is too dark.  Pencils work well if your like me, from the maturing generation.  Liquid tend to show on the surface of the ridges of the skin showing your age.  Yes, eyeliner pencils are still around to serve the best of the rest of us.

     The younger generation has many new options to chose from when it comes to framing the eyes.  There are many new liquid eyeliners and gel eyeliners on the market today to chose from than when I was in my twenties.  Furthermore, the style in which the eyes are lined can change depending upon your mood.  Here is some examples of the newer styles that are bound to get you noticed.
I would go with gels and liquids to produce these looks.  Applying makeup to get these looks is an art that with the right amount of practice can be attained.  Many YouTube videos are available to help you accomplish these and many more interesting looks.  Hope you enjoyed my article and feel free to leave a comment below.