Humble Keepsakes and Customs

December 17, 2012

“It comes every year and will go on forever.  And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs.  Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart.”
— Marjorie Holmes

Handmade paper ornament

Handmade paper ornament

“To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”
— E. B. White

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more.”
— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The largest part of my Christmas doesn’t come from a store.  My keepsakes are handmade, for the most part.  And yes, they are humble, like this paper cut Scandinavian horse ornament I made this year from instructions I found in Mollie Makes Christmas:  Living and Loving a Handmade Holiday.

Or my traditional holiday wreath, made from rosemary sprigs from my garden.  For me, simple is best.

Homemade rosemary wreath

Homemade rosemary wreath

“Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling gently on a winter’s night.”
–Linda A. Copp

Paper Star Snowflake

Paper Star Snowflake

Several years ago one of the gift wrappers at the University Bookstore in Seattle was making these holiday snowflakes (or they could be stars, I guess).  She gave me a photocopied set of instructions, original source unknown.  I’ve been meaning to make some of these snowflakes for holiday decorations, but until now, I never got around to it.

My finished snowflake hangs in my kitchen window, a lacy wonder that lets in the light.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own paper snowflake/star:

Fold each square in half to make a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.

Fold each square in half to make a triangle. Then fold in half again. And again.

You need six square of paper.  I used 5 x 5-inch squares.  Fold each square in half along the diagonal, making a triangle.  Then fold in half again.  And again.


Cut slits into each triangle.

Now, keeping the little triangles folded, cut four parallel slits on the solid side.  Cut almost all the way across.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open the paper squares and press flat.

Open each piece of paper back into a square and flatten with your fingers.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Cutting some of the inner square just to free two corners.

Next you will bring two opposite points of the inner squares together in a sequence.  In order to do this, you will first have to cut the corners free along one long diagonal fold line.  (Leave the other points/corners so that they are not cut all the way through.)

Starting with the smalled inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two points together and tape.

Starting with the smallest inner square, fold two opposite points together and tape into a cylindrical shape.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

Turn the square over, and bring the points of the next larger square together.

1. Turn the square over.  2.  Bring the opposite points of the next larger square together and tape.  Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all of the opposing points have been taped in the center.

You've finished square one!

You’ve finished square one!

Your square should now look like this.  You need five more.  Start folding and taping!

Staple three sections together at a point.

Staple three sections together at a point.

Once you have completed all six sections of the snowflake, take three and match up at a point.  Staple at this point.  Repeat with the other three sections.

Finished paper snowflake

Finished paper snowflake

That’s it!  Your paper snowflake/star is complete.

Hanging snowflake

Hanging snowflake

DIY Gift: Homemade Granola

December 17, 2011

Gift jar of homemade granola

In keeping with my “Simple Christmas” theme, this year I made homemade granola for holiday gift giving.  Lately I’ve been enjoying fresh apples, cut into chunks, topped with Greek yogurt and a generous spread of granola.  The crunchiness is quite satisfying.

 I found my granola recipe in Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl.  Here’s the recipe:
Tawny Granola
2 c rolled oats
1/2 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 c sliced almonds
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c agave syrup or honey
2 Tbsp apple juice
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 chopped, dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, cherries, etc.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and oil a rimmed cookie sheet.
Combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds and coconut.  In a separate large bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients and the spices.  Combine the dry ingredients with the wet.  Spread mixture out evenly on the cookie sheet.  Bake for around 40 minutes, keeping an eye on the granola.  When it starts to brown, turn the mixture over with a spatula to make sure it toasts evenly.
When it is nicely brown, remove from the oven and cool.  Then add the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

Oatmeal, coconut, almonds and pumpkin seeds

Mix up the granola ingredients in a large bowl

Spread the granola on the baking sheet

The granola makes a crunchy topping on yogurt and apples

Handmade Money Plant Wreath

February 11, 2011

Simple wreath of seed pods from money plants

The book Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand is one of the most gorgeous over-sized books that passed through my hands recently.  I loved the colorful photography and whimsical creations made of found materials in nature.  And I was inspired to make my own simple wreath of money plant seed pods after seeing one in the book.

Fairie-ality Style book by David Ellwand

Sample page from Ellwand's book

Page showing wreath made of the pods of a money plant


Seed pods from Lunaria annua, money plant

I love the translucent pearly pods.

Detail of wreath hanging in my kitchen window

Woven paper heart

I remember making these woven paper hearts years ago, and I found the instructions here:  I made half a dozen hearts so that I could string them together and hang them in my kitchen window.  They are constructed in such a way that each heart forms a pocket, so instead of stringing them, you could use them as little heart baskets.

Paper pieces for six woven hearts

Weaving the first row

Four rows woven, one to go

Strings of hearts and snowflakes in my kitchen window

I made another hanging heart ornament by adapting the instructions for my star ornament (see and cutting heart-shaped pieces instead.  This was a project originally inspired by a tutorial on the Craftynest blog (

Hanging heart ornament

Slender Rosemary Heart

February 1, 2011

Slender heart wreath of fresh rosemary

It’s not too early to be thinking about Valentine’s Day, is it?

I got the idea for this simple heart-shaped wreath from the book, Swedish Christmas Traditions: A Smorgasbord of Scandinavian Recipes, Crafts and Other Holiday Delights by Ernst Kirchsteiger. I adapted the instructions he provided for a “Slender Lingon Heart” and used rosemary, the herb of remembrance, instead of lingon sprigs.  I love the simplicity of this project.  Smells heavenly, too.

Finding inspiration in this book of holiday crafts

Paper snowball

I remember making these paper snowballs when I was a kid.  They would make a nice ornament for the Christmas tree. 

One of the secrets to successful papercrafts that even an adult can find pleasing is to make multiples of an item.  Whether the same size or graduated sizes, multiples can be strung into garlands or displayed in other ways.  Repeated patterns make their own visual beauty, I think.

Here are instructions for making paper snowballs:

You will need 20 circles for each snowball.

Trace twenty circles on pretty paper.  I used a page from an old art book.

Cut out the circles

Cut out the circles as carefully as you can.


Fold flaps on each circle so that the remaining flat surface is an equilateral triangle.  (I trace a triangle on each circle so that I can use the pencil markings as a folding guide.)

Glue together

Glue five triangular pieces together into a circle.  Repeat.  These will become the top and bottom of the finished ball.  Now fill in a band around the middle, always creating circles of five pieces, to shape into a sphere.

Finished snowball

Make several more snowballs in varying sizes to make an interesting winter display.

Three snowballs on display in my kitchen window

Another way to use paper snowflakes

It’s been a few years since I’ve taken scissors to white paper to cut out snowflakes.  I love how each snowflake is unique, just like real ones!  This year I went an extra step and sewed the paper snowflakes into garlands.  I made short garlands, each string with three or four snowflakes.  But you could easily sew them into one long garland for a Christmas tree decoration.

Sewing the snowflakes into garlands

I simply sewed each snowflake down an imaginary center line and left about two inches of thread between snowflakes.

Snowflakes sewn together with thread

I tied a bead to the bottom of each of my garlands so that they would hang down nicely.

Five snowflake garlands hanging in my kitchen window

I used the finished garland to make a snowflake “valance” in my kitchen window.

Dreaming of a white Christmas. . .

I'm not the only one thinking of a white Christmas. Here's the Starbucks sign for this holiday season.

Folded paper star ornament

I found the instructions for making these folded paper star ornaments on the December 8th post of the Craftynest blog (  I love how they look and plan to make many more.  Here’s how I made mine:

Cutting out stars from paper

Using the pattern I downloaded from the Craftynest blog, I cut out 10 stars from some pretty red speckled paper I had on hand.

Folding the stars

Then I folded each paper star in half.  (After I folded them, I realized that the Craftynest instructions said to fold in half on the points.  Ooops.  It turned out that my mistake didn’t really matter.)

Sewing the paper stars together

Next I stacked all 10 paper stars together and sewed down the center fold line.

Attaching ribbon

Because my folds were in the gutter rather than point-to-point, I was able to just tie ribbon around my stars, covering the sewing.  (At Craftynest, they sewed the ribbon on.)

Finished star ornament

When you open up the leaves of the star, it makes a beautiful symmetrical ornament.

Detail of finished star

Folded star book (approximately 2 x 2 inches)

Star book folded open and hung as a Christmas tree ornament

Many years ago I ordered one of these tiny star books from Chinaberry Books (, and after looking closely at its construction, I decided I could figure out how to make them myself.  These tiny treasures (about 2 inches square) are made out of folded paper, origami-style, and when opened with their covers back-to-back, look like a five-pointed star.  They make delightful stocking stuffers or Christmas ornaments.  Or you can use them as miniature blank books.

Here is how you make a folded star book:

Folding the inside pages

First, cut five paper squares, 4 x 4 inches.  Then fold each one in half lengthwise and again in half crosswise.  Now each square has four quadrants.  Next fold each square diagonally corner to corner.  (You’ll have just one diagonal fold line on each square of paper.)

Each 4 x 4-inch square now needs to be folded in on itself by reverse-folding along the diagonals to the center.  You’ll end up with a 2 x 2-inch folded square. (Look at the photo and try to replicate the pictures.)

Glue the outside of each 2 x 2-inch square

Joining the five star pages together with glue

The five folded squares will be joined by gluing together, outside square matching outside square.  You’ll want the center points to match up so that you can see that unfolding will make a star.  Don’t glue together into a circle!  Keep the last two outside squares unglued.

This is what the inner pages should look like after gluing

Preparing the covers

Next you make two covers.  Cut heavy paper or cardboard into two 2-1/4 x 2-1/4-inch squares.  Then find some pretty paper for your covers, and glue them to the cardboard.

Attaching ribbon

Brush the inside of each cover with glue.  Then lay a ribbon across the two covers diagonally as pictured.

Gluing the covers to the star pages

Now you are ready to glue the covers to the assembled pages.  The center folded points should line up where the two covers meet so that the finished book can open like a star.

Finished folded star book, closed

You can now tie the finished book closed with the ribbon.

Finished star book opened

Or, you can tie the little book open and hang it up as an ornament.