Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmas Week!

Here's Maggie, our Bearded Collie ... she just celebrated her 12th birthday on November 30! She's just been groomed and ready to have some fun!

Here's our under 6-foot-tall Christmas tree. I always buy our trees from the same family every year. I love to have a small enough tree so that I can reach the top without a ladder! Once it's done up with ornaments, lights and tinsel, it looks very much like a proper Christmas tree!

I made our annual spritz cookies with the cookie press over the weekend. They are almost gone now! It's so much fun to have everybody home for a little while. We broke out the Super Mario Bros. game before Christmas so that we'd actually have time to play! (I am, by the way, absolutely terrible at it!) I'd still love to make the cut-out cookie angels and santas, snowflakes and penguins, but I'm not sure I'll have time. I can't believe Christmas is Friday! If I don't get to write anything before then, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Make Your Own Christmas Crackers!

In the midst of all the turmoil, I still have to focus on finishing this major Christmas project. I thought I'd share it with you while there's still plenty of time for you to try it, if you'd like, for this Christmas.

My parents moved into an assisted-living residence Sept. of 2008. There are so many caregivers there and people who try to help out that I really wanted to give them some small token to say, "thank you." They are not allowed to accept "real" gifts, so the next best thing is something like a party favor. A couple of years ago, while looking for something special to give some old friends, I stumbled upon the "survival kit" sayings. There are so many! And you can make up your own quite easily to suit any occasion. For each little saying there is a corresponding trinket. For instance: A soldier to help you fight your battles (and there's a little plastic army man included) ... you know, that sort of thing.

Well, this year, I decided on the little sayings and trinkets I wanted to include, but I wanted something better than cellophane bags to give out. So, I found the Olde English Crackers website. Not only do they sell everything you might need to make and fill a fabulous cracker (including the all-important cracker snaps!), but they also give you step-by-step instructions! I printed mine out and keep it on the dining room table as I'm assembling. Once you do a couple, though, you don't need the directions anymore.
If you want to make your own, here is how I am doing mine.
First: I decided a long time ago what little sayings and things I wanted to collect.

2009 Survival Kit
A whistle: So you can whistle while you work.
(I found some really cool vintage whistles on eBay that came from old store stock!)
A Happy Face: To remind you to keep smiling.
(Another eBay find ... some tiny, colorful, happy-face beads.)
A Comb: To help straighten out life's little tangles
(Remember when I was collecting vintage gumball-machine prizes? Well, these were in there! Perfect now!)
A Starburst candy: To give you a burst of energy when you need it most.
A Surprise: Because life should be full of good ones.
(Yep! Another eBay find! Unopened Cracker Jack prizes!)
and last, but not least
Glitter: To make life sparkle!

I came up with a few of these, but found the others at this great website: Make Your Own Creative Survival Kit
There are other websites with sayings and ideas, too. While there are a lot of repeats, there are always a couple of new ones you might have overlooked. Just do a google search for Survival Kits and you'll find quite a few!

A traditional English Cracker also includes a paper hat, a joke or riddle ... and a little toy. I also like to include a couple of individually wrapped cookies. Biscoff cookies are ideal.
Once I had all my fillings ready, I put the tiny pieces in a small re-sealable bag. Then the fun begins!
First, start by cutting out wrapping paper as directed by the Olde English Cracker people:

7.5 x 12 inches

I suggest cutting all the pieces you need and have them in a pile before you begin assembling everything. It makes it a lot easier, especially if you have 100 to do like I have!
Next, cut out the end stiffener pieces from card stock. Make them 2.25 x 7 inches.
After this, you're ready to go! Center your cracker tube in the middle of the paper. Put the cracker tube roller ends on.

After you put a dab of glue on the front middle of the paper, roll onto the tube. Then, place the cracker snap behind the rollers.
See that cracker snap? Move it a little closer to the roll, then roll up the paper on the tube, gluing across to secure. The snap is NOT glued! It is just resting in there.
Remove the roller ends. Now, you're ready to put your end stiffener pieces inside. Do one end at a time, rolling the stiffener into a bit of tube, itself, then inserting into each end. Glue in place, being sure to leave that cracker snap free to move about, now inside the stiffener end, not behind it.

Working on one end at a time, crimp the end together with your fingers as there will be a space of wrapping paper between the stiffener end and the tube. You can easily crimp this with your finger and thumb. Tie a length of curling ribbon on securely, drawing it closed as you do so.
Now, before you do the other side, you put all your filling in there!

Here's the filling in a bag:

Here's the open end of the cracker, ready for the filling:

Crimp and tie the other end securely to finish:

And here they are!