Merry Monday everyone! Christmas is coming quicker than I can handle, so while I shop online today, I’m also going to whip up a few homemade Christmas gifts that everyone on my list will enjoy. I love giving and receiving edible gifts. Knowing the treats were made with love and care in someone’s kitchen makes them extra enjoyable. If you still don’t have a present for me, here are a few suggestions 😉
Happy Thanksgiving stateside friends! No matter where you’re reading from, these delicious wintery drinks will be cause for celebration. Gather your friends and family (or your cat) and start mixin’.
I just watched a video of people unwrapping puppies and I’ve never been more grateful for family photographers. We all want to capture the cheer and joy during holidays and gatherings so here are a few tips for photographing this year’s festivities. First off, it really doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with a phone, point and shoot or a DSLR, these tips will work for you. Second, have fun while photographing, try to capture candid moments and remember to put down your camera for a few hours and really enjoy the moment as it is unfolding. Happy Holidays!
- Check it! The camera’s default setting is Auto White Balance, but that may not be the best option for the scene at hand. Change the white balance to Incandescent or Fluorescent to see which setting works best for your home and lights. If that sounded like Chinese to you, check out this Photography 101 post.
Point of Focus
- Pick one. There is SO much going on at the holidays that you might see cookies, presents, lights and decorations all in one scene. Decide what the point of focus is for your photo and zone in on that. If it’s a little boy unwrapping a present, the photo is about his expression not the christmas tree behind him so frame the boy, not the entire living room. Think about what you want to stand out about the photo and choose an angle that will highlight the subject not distract from it.
Shooting on Burst Mode
- Anytime you’re shooting action like unwrapping presents, a New Year’s toast, someone blowing out candles, shoot on burst mode. It might also be called continuous mode and depending on your camera and settings it will take anywhere from a couple to a dozen shots each second. Shooting on burst mode is the perfect way to capture every expression especially in candid situations.
Out-of-focus Christmas Lights
- Lots of folks are always asking me how to achieve a bokeh effect with Christmas lights – good news, it is super easy! Simply choose a low aperture a.k.a. fstop number and that will effectively blur whatever you are not focusing on, in this case it’s the lights. An example? If I’m photographing my nephew in front of our Christmas tree, I want the tree to be visible so I can set the scene, yet he is the main focus of the photograph so I would set my aperture to f2.8 and focus on his sweet little face. The tree behind him would be out of focus and therefore the lights would attain the bokeh effect. In the photos above, all three photos are of the same scene, but the light circles grow bigger as they become more out of focus. I simply pointed my camera at a Christmas tree and turned my focusing ring just out of focus, a little out of focus and majorly out of focus.
Photographing Outdoor Lights and Decorations
- There are a few things that are relatively difficult to photograph. Outdoor Christmas lights are one of them. You basically have a really bright object (the lights) against a really dark object (the house and sky), which makes a tricky situation to expose properly. I feel like we have all been here before. You see an amazingly gorgeous sunset and you think, ‘family photo opp!’ only to be completely disappointed by the results. You either end up silhouetted against the sun or you use the flash and hate the unnatural outcome. It’s the same type of deal, dark and light competing for a proper exposure.
- Head outside during twilight when the sky is nice and blue – right after sunset, but before it gets dark. You have a small window of time for these shots, only about twenty minutes. Set up your camera and tripod. Choose a low ISO number like 400. Also choose a slow shutter speed somewhere around 1/25 of a second or slower. Set your aperture according to your light meter and then experiment from there. I usually set up the shot, ISO and shutter speed and then take a dozen shots adjusting my aperture by one stop (click) each time. Then I’ll scroll through the shots, decide which I like the best and set the aperture accordingly. This time I’ll play with the shutter speed a little bit by adjusting it a tiny bit faster or a tiny bit slower. That way you get a good variety of exposures.
Good luck and let us know if you found any of these tips useful by posting your pics to IG and tagging us 🙂
In October, we revisited our adventures in Thailand. We thought we should give you a glimpse of what we were up to a few Decembers past. In 2010 Katie and I went to visit Calder, her fiancé (they’re married now), who was living and working in Germany. Our trip was amazing and I think it had to do with a few key factors: Katie, C and I all get along really well, C is fluent in German (hellllllo helpful!) and we kept the trip spontaneous and largely unplanned. Mix great buddies with little stress and lots of snow and you have a Christmas adventure that will never be forgotten. Oh and breakfast! Almost every hotel offered a complimentary breakfast, which consisted of a big deli platter with lots of yummy meats, cheeses and the best baked bread. You are also offered eggs, cereal, yogurts and fruit. We started each day with coffees and cheese, please tell me how we could have possibly had a bad time? I actually had such a blast that I completely forgot to e-mail a final paper to a professor during the trip! Yep, I wrote a ten page research paper and forgot to turn it in that’s how awesome our Christmas trip to Germany was.
Now when I think of Christmas traditions, I actually think of the German Christkindlmarkt. I feel like visiting the markets is the most historic lens I’ve ever looked through when it comes to the holiday season. The markets are held in the center of villages, towns and cities. The backdrop and surroundings of each market is historic and stunning in itself. Every Christkindlmarkt has a variety of gifts and holiday goodies. The markets are a glimpse of the past; you won’t find tacky Christmas commercialization here. Over the course of a week, we visited five markets ranging from enormous to quaint. Each market had crib figurines, ornaments, toys, wood carvings, decorations, candles, furs and a variety of other crafts and goods. The markets also had the most amazing food. It kicked any American fair food’s behind. We usually ate some type of bratwurst and sauerkraut on a fresh, crusty roll. We kept warm by sipping glühwein and sampling dozens of treats throughout the day. Each city’s market had a slightly different vibe and while I loved visiting every one, Esslingen’s medieval market may have been my favorite. Read on to see why…
Hey! We’re popping in this weekend to share another super simple Christmas craft (this is for the folks that have finished their shopping – if you’re rushing around the mall today, don’t even bother to read this post). You’ve probably seen some version of cinnamon ornaments popping up on your Pinterest page? Or even made them as a kid? They are super easy, relatively fast, and a fairly kid-friendly project.
So, why are we sharing yet another cinnamon ornament post? Because as I was prepping mine for the tree, I realized that they would also make a really cute garland! The key here is to make a batch with shapes that are close in size, then your garland will hang nicely and you won’t have really heavy and big ones weighing it down in different areas.
You can use your favorite recipe, but I like the ones that have a little bit of kids’ glue in them.
- 1 cup ground cinnamon
- 1/4-1/3 cup applesauce
- 2 Tbsp white glue
- Mix all ingredients together, adding more or less applesauce depending upon how dry your mixture is. You want it to form a nice ball that sticks together, but still feels slightly dry.
- Cover the mixture and let it sit for one hour.
- Break your ball into three or four sections for rolling. Roll out one section at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. If the dough seems too dry when rolling, you can always spray it with a bit of water.
- Cut out your shapes and add a hole for hanging. I used a wooden skewer to make my holes, and I think they were *just* barely big enough. Since there will be some shrinkage as the ornaments dry, you want to err on the side of a larger rather than smaller hole.
- Place your ornaments in a 200F oven for two hours to dry, turning them halfway through. If your dough was on the dryer side or you live in a dry climate, you may want to check on your ornaments after an hour and a half.
- Once cool, using baker’s twine or another string for hanging.
- To make the garland, I brought the twine up either side of the ornament and tied a knot at the top, this allowed the ornaments to hang parallel to the string rather than perpendicular.
I ended up making two pieces of garland. The little three-piece one hangs just inside our door on a wall that was just an empty space, so you see it and the tree as you enter the house, creating a nice little Christmas scene when you enter! The longer one hangs on the empty wall going up our staircase, but because the staircase is open, we still get to see it from the living room, which I love.
There you have it, a super simple twist on an old Christmas craft, and one that you can use to decorate a small space that could use a touch of cheer! xo
Ok, maybe three’s a stretch, but we’re all a bit crazy at this time of year. This is the first year we’re celebrating Christmas morning as our own little family of three, and we didn’t have stockings. Knowing that, my original plan was to do something fun and easy. Maybe buy a couple pair of festive knee high socks or some cozy looking wool men’s socks and use those for this year. But a month or so ago I ran across some bulky yarn, decided it was perfect for stockings and worth just testing the waters.
It’s easy to fall down the knitting hole, but with so many other balls in the air, I didn’t want this project to consume me. So I picked up two skeins of yarn (one red and one white) and wanted to see how long it would take to knit a single stocking and how far the two skeins would go. When I knit that first stocking in a weekend using only those two skeins, it was a no-brainer to knit the other two!
If you have ever knit a sock before, this is a project that you can easily finish in a weekend. If you’ve never knit a sock before, then this project may take you a little bit longer, but knitting big is such a great way to learn some new sock-knitting skills, and I include links to some of my favorite resources in this post. Plus, a common problem for a first time sock knitter is finishing that second sock and/or getting it to match the first; you won’t have that problem here!
Whenever I hear “knit stocking” the one thing I worry about is how dense the stitches are. If you have a loosely knit stocking, then as soon as it’s filled with treats, the stocking will stretch and you’ll get that holey look between the stitches. I wanted to avoid that, and one of the easiest ways to do it is to knit with a bulky yarn on needles that are a few sizes smaller than what you would normally use. That’s exactly what I did here, and it produced a nice dense fabric that doesn’t stretch out of shape too much when filled.
- Cast on. Turkish Cast On
- Increasing. M1L and M1R
- Short Row Heel : basic instructions or a video with a method for eliminating the little holes that are common at the start and finish of the heel. This heel is really easy to make, and the holes are so (soooo) minor, so I don’t want that to deter you. I have my own way of dealing with them by picking up extra stitches and then decreasing them later, but since you’re knitting a simple stocking that won’t be worn, you could easily just use some extra yarn to stitch the hole closed – if you even get them!
- I cord bind off. You will have to use the cable cast on before starting the I cord bind off.
- Yarn : Loops & Threads Cozy Wool in fleece (white) and claret (red)
- Needles : US 10, you will need either one long circular for the magic loop method or a set of double pointed
You will be knitting these stockings from the toe up to the cuff. I’m going to give you a set of generic instructions that can be used to knit any stocking of this size, and then I’ll give you the details for the specific patterns you see in the photographs. I’ll assume that your stitches are split evenly between two needles (i.e. that you’re using the magic loop method).
- Cast-on. use the Turkish method to cast-on 20 stitches (ten on each needle). Fortunately, these instructions show you how to do the Turkish cast-on with exactly that number of stitches, so you can follow it step by step.
- Begin Knitting. When I start a sock, I like to knit one and a half rounds before starting my increase rows (I always think that knitting across the first needle creates a single row for the tip of the toe, and then knitting a complete round creates my first official round – I may be crazy).
- Start the increase rows (this comprises the toe area of the sock). Round 1 (increase round) : k1, M1L, knit to the last stitch on the first half of the stocking, M1R, k1. Repeat over the stitches on the other half of the stocking. Four stitches added. Round 2 : knit all stitches.
- Continue repeating rounds 1 and 2 until you have 44 stitches on your needle.
- Knit the foot. Knit straight for 27 rows.
- Knit the heel. Use the short row method to knit the heel. You will work the heel over the 22 stitches that are on one half of your sock. When making the stockings, I wrapped 7 stitches on each side of the heel, leaving 8 unwrapped in the middle.
- Knit the leg. Once your heel is finished, knit the leg of the stocking for 53 rows.
- Bind off using the i cord method. This is a great technique for binding off the stockings because it creates a strong final row that will not stretch out over time (unlike a ribbed cuff) and as you’ll see, it also seamlessly morphs into a loop for hanging your stocking. The only problem is that you may not be able to really stretch the cuff if you want to sneak an over-sized present in the stocking! The other problem that arises is that the loop for hanging your stocking will be placed where ever you start the i cord bind off. Thus far we have been knitting the stocking in the round starting from one side of the sock; you don’t want your loop on the side, but on the back of the stocking. Before beginning the i cord bind off, knit 11 stitches so that you are now positioned at the center back of the stocking. You will work the i cord bind off over three stitches, just like these instructions (lucky you!). Once you come to the end of the cuff, don’t cast off the three i cord stitches, rather continue knitting an i cord for 21 more rows.
- Finish your stocking. Sew the live stitches of your i cord to the start of the i cord row ~ creating a seamless-looking i cord band with a loop in the back. Weave in all loose ends. Hang your stocking and cross your fingers that it doesn’t get filled with coal!
Santa’s Sock Stocking Detail
- Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the white yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
- Knit the 27 rows of the foot in red.
- Switch to the white yarn and knit the heel.
- Knit 40 rows of the leg in red.
- Switch to the white yarn and knit 11 rows in seed stitch.
- Knit one complete round plus 11 stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking. Finish with the i cord bind off.
Striped Stocking Detail
- Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the red yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
- Begin the stripes. Switch to the white yarn, but don’t cut the end of the red yarn (you can carry both colors up the length of the stocking, drastically reducing the number of loose ends that you’ll have to weave in). Knit five rows in white. Knit five rows in red. Repeat this pattern for 25 rows (ending with five white rows and just before starting a red row). Knit two rows in red.
- The heel area. I like to work the heel in the middle of a stripe so that there aren’t any funny color switches immediately before or after the heel. Continuing to use the red yarn, knit the heel. Once the heel is complete, knit three more rows with the red yarn. When looking from the front/top of the stocking you should see the five red rows of the stripe pattern.
- Knit the leg. You are now at the start of a white stripe. Continue working the five row stripe pattern for 50 more rows.
- You are now at the top of the stocking. Knit 11 more stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking and continue using the red yarn for the i cord bind off.
Snowflake Stocking Detail
- Knit the toe. Use the basic instructions from above, casting on with the white yarn and using it to knit the toe area.
- Knit the 27 rows of the foot in red.
- Switch to the white yarn and knit the heel.
- Knit the 52 rows of the leg in red (not the 53 listed above!).
- Switch to the white yarn. Knit one round plus 11 stitches to position the start of the i cord at the back of the stocking. Work the i cord bind off.
- Finish the stocking by embroidering a snowflake design into the side of your stocking. I make a very simple design using a backstitch. I decided to embroider the snowflake because I wanted it to have six points (like in nature), but it’s hard to find and/or to design a knit snowflake pattern with points rather than eight. As for other embroidered embellishments, the skies the limit! I added a line of running stitch around the toe and heel areas. You could add number of snowflakes, varying their size and shape.
If you knit a stocking, we would love to see it! Leave us a comment below or tag us on instagram @liveseasoned. Happy knitting or happy rushing around buying those last minute presents ~ either way, we hope you have a great weekend!
Hey! I looked at our calendar and realized that we have entered a week of Christmas crafting making on the blog! This isn’t necessarily gift crafting, just more little projects to decorate the tree, your walls, to send off in the mail (technically, I guess that’s giving), and maybe we’ll even have something to eat or drink by the time the week’s complete.
Today I’m talking about the felt ornaments and wreath that were pictured in this post. Both of these ideas came from my Christmas board on Pinterest, but unfortunately the links associated with the pins won’t take you to the original source for attribution. You’ll see that I’ve pinned many different felt ornaments, and I’m thinking that over the next few years I may make quite a few as we become a house with two little boys! Felt ornaments are just so kid-friendly, with a big loop, they are easy for little hands to hang and pull off the tree, and there’s so little investment in terms of both time (the the case of the ones I’ve made) and money, that I don’t mind if little A throws them around a bit while playing. Plus, they look really cute.
For today’s ornaments, I was first inspired by this photo. In addition to the stars, I added a few hearts with white stitching to our collection, inspired by these red felt ornaments. I personalized the stars by using a red blanket stitch around the edges, and I drastically simplified my hearts from the inspiration photo, eliminating the stuffing and choosing simple stitches that would follow the hearts’ edges.
Supplies & Tools
- embroidery floss
- thin jute
- sewing needle
- shape template
- Find or draw your template. For my templates, I did a Google image search for “heart clipart” and “star clipart”. I was able to find images that included hearts and stars of different sizes, so I printed them out and cut out the size that I liked for each.
- Trace your template on the felt and cut out two of the same shape. As you can see from my template, I traced around it with a marker. Having those marker images on your felt isn’t a problem, because you can have the marked sides face inwards.
- Sew your pieces together. Use three stands of embroidery floss for the embroidery. Holding the two felt pieces together (marked sides in), use your favorite stitch to hand sew the pieces together. I used blanket stitch for all of the stars, but was more creative with the hears, using blanket stitch, back stitch, and a simple combination of long and short running stitches to create the third.
- Add your loop for hanging. I used skinny jute for the hanging loops. You can find this in craft stores, and it’s usually sold in a smaller quantity than the bigger balls of fat jute (you can see the packaging in my supplies photo). The jute will not pull through your felt as easily as the embroidery floss. I found that it was easiest to thread the jute through the eye of my needle, pierce the felt with my needle, and then move the needle in circles to create a larger hole (but one that is still snug) for the jute to fit through.
While we were so excited to put the tree up, after the lights were hung it looked so pretty that we’ve been really lazy about adding more decorations. But a few nights ago we were looking for one more activity for little A before bath time, so I pulled out these ornaments and a few others for him to add to the tree. The pictures aren’t great, but I think you can tell that he was excited to get in on the tree action (clapping after each ornament was hung), and now it’s become a daily activity to remove and rehang a few.
In addition to making their way onto the tree, I used one of the stars in our new wreath. Again, I’m borrowing and modifying this idea from something brilliant I saw online.
- grapevine wreath
- white bottle brush trees
- moss roll (you can see the packaging below)
- hot glue gun & glue
How cute is that wreath? It came together easily with a few supplies from the craft store. The project is relatively self-explanatory : wrap the moss around your wreath, slipping it under a few of the larger vines if possible (this just takes a bit of wiggling). Glue the trees where you would like them. Tie a star ornament from the top of your wreath. Bam!
Once I hung this and the green garland above the door, I realized that we have a lot of brown and green going on out on the front porch. Maybe this year it would have been nice to go with something brighter? But I’m loving the peaceful look every time we walk in the door.
So, that’s my little felt project for the season. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with felt (or even had a little supply of it in my craft room), and I’m excited work with it more in the future. I really enjoyed making these ornaments because they were so easy and mindless to put together, creating a polished result. What does that mean for you? If you want to slow this weekend, but still feel a little bit productive, this is a great meditative project
Happy Monday! How was your weekend? Did you get your tree? We had a disappointing, but funny, experience at a local tree “farm”. In more uplifting news, I was excited to realize that we’re almost done with the Christmas shopping! Unbelievable, right? Of course, there’s still a bit of Christmas crafting to do, but I’m feeling confident that it will get done. As a result, I had time to work on some of the decorations that have been on my list. First up ~ some super simple and quick Christmas trees for our mantel.
As I mentioned in my Elving post a couple of weeks ago, browsing Pinterest provided the inspiration for many of my Christmas decorations this year, including these simple Christmas trees. It started when I found an image from this post. I liked the simplicity of those trees and that they were made using balsa wood (no power tools or hard cutting required). I wasn’t as excited about how they were put together – mainly using glue to hold the pieces together. Having also come across this wooden tree post, I knew there was an easier way to build the same tree. And really, between those two posts, you have all the information you need for this project, but I’m happy to share my process photos below. And again I want to stress how quick these trees were to make – with all of the materials on hand, it took me less than an hour and a half to make the five trees from first cut to last dash of glitter!
Materials & Tools
- balsa wood
- Mod Podge
- Exacto knife
- cutting mat or board
About the wood : You can find balsa wood at many crafts stores, but not all (some Joann’s and some Michael’s carry it, but not all). If you’ve never worked with it, balsa wood is extremely soft and very easy to cut with an exacto or craft knife. It comes is a variety of thicknesses and widths, and there is no strict rules as to what you should buy for this project. I picked up two 36” long and 1/8” thick balsa boards; one was 3” wide and the other was 4” wide.
- Cut two isosceles triangles of the same size. I found that it was easy to do this without using a pen or pencil. Just mark the height of your triangle with a small cut, noting with a poke of your knife where the middle point of the board is width-wise. For example, the tree I’m cutting in the photo above is going to be 5” tall on the 3” wide board. The middle top point of the triangle is at the 31” mark on the ruler above. To cut the sides of the triangle, just place your ruler on the board, so that the ruler’s edge is at a diagonal from one of the bottom triangle points to the top middle point (as I did in the photo above). Make a cut along the ruler, and then follow this same process to cut the other side of the triangle.
- Following the image above, cut the slits that will be used to fit your triangles together. You want to cut a slit in each triangle that is as wide as the width of your wood (1/8” in my case). One piece will have a slit that runs from the top middle of the triangle halfway down the height of the tree. The other triangle will have a slit that runs from the bottom middle of the triangle halfway up the height of the tree.
- Put your tree together! Placing the triangles perpendicular to each other, slide the piece with the bottom cut down over the piece with the top cut. You’ll produce a free-standing tree that looks like the photo above.
- Decorate your tree! I put a layer of Mod Podge on the upper portion of my trees, and then sprinkled iridescent and gold glitters over the surface. Do what you want: you could leave your trees natural, add glitter, or paint!
- Repeat the process making trees of different heights. From the 3” wide board I made two trees that are 6” high and one that is 5” high. From the 4” board I made two 8” high trees.
I used these trees for simple forest scene on the mantel ~ pairing them with a cute little wooden tree from Michael’s and a couple of old glass trees that were once candy dishes (they have an opening on the bottom, but without their lids, they’re just glass trees). In addition to the trees, I added a few beeswax candles that were leftover from our wedding. You can read about how we made the candles (choosing your wick is key) and cut the green bottles here and here.
It’s so much fun to see the trees sparkle in the candlelight and to see their shadows on the wall. Calder mentioned that they also look like mountain peaks, which I think is really true when they are grouped together creating overlapping shadows!
It’s time guys! You can finally start singing Christmas carols and hanging holiday wreaths! I spent this past week with my dearest friend who is also on the ‘no Christmas cheer until Thanksgiving is here’ train so it wasn’t until Saturday night that I crafted this little advent calendar. It is the sweetest little addition to a bookshelf or mantle. There is nothing more childlike than counting down the days until Christmas, but really, if we didn’t count them they would just fly right by. Advent calendars remind me to crank up the Christmas tunes, send out those glittery cards and craft gifts for my friends and family.
This sweet miniature advent calendar is easy to make and pretty perfect for the wee ones to create. No exacto knives or blowtorches involved here. The fun doesn’t end with the making of this little advent chest either, then you must fill it with tiny treasures and on Christmas eve you have to unscramble the secret picture! Put on a Christmas
record pandora and pour yourself some eggnog mudslides.
- 24 mini match boxes
- Tacky glue
- Paint brushes
- Card stock or construction paper
- Glue 8 matchboxes together vertically. Repeat two times so that you have 3 tall stacks each with 8 matchboxes each. Glue the three stacks together side-by-side like shown.
- Once the chest is securely glued, about 15 minutes, remove all the matches from the boxes and set aside for another project or that horrid moment when your power goes out while you are cooking dinner or washing your hair.
- Paint a holiday design on the chest. I choose to paint a reindeer. Some other ideas are a tree, an ornament, a candy cane, a toy soldier, santa or maybe a kitty wearing a santa hat (I wish I had that kind of skill). Allow the design to dry completely.
- Remove each drawer and randomly number them 1-24. You can use acrylic paint or a marker.
- Attach a small ribbon loop to the bottom of each drawer on the numbered side. Simply squeeze a dab of glue, press one end of the ribbon onto it and then squeeze another dab of glue and press the other end onto it forming a loop. Allow each drawer to dry completely.
- Place the drawers back into the chest. You can place them in order or randomly, either way the painted design on the back should be scrambled.
- Finally, cut a piece of card stock or paper to cover the top and sides of the advent calendar. I cut a strip of red card stock and dabbed a few dots of white paint to make some snowflake inspired swirls.
- Fill the drawers with little candies, notes, event tickets or even jewelry.
- As each day passes, open the drawers and put them in backwards so the painted design side is now facing forward. On Christmas even you’ll be left with a mini puzzle picture to unscramble, good luck!
Think you’ll give this quick Christmas craft a try? I had a bunch of fun creating this advent calendar because it is cheap and disposable. There wasn’t a ton of pressure to paint the perfect reindeer or perfectly align the $1 match boxes, it was merely a little project to jumpstart my holiday crafting sessions and an excuse to eat a few peanut butter M&Ms every day until Christmas. Cheers!