The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 12

When it comes to "sweets" part of your Christmas tea, this is the time to pick some of your favourite little tidbits!  Choose 3 or 4 different sweets.  Here are some ideas of tasty little morsels to include...
Tiny lemon tarts
Champagne truffles *
Shortbread cookies
Mincemeat tarts
Sugar Cookies *
Date Nut Bars *
Poppy-seed Bread *

*download the recipes here

A Few Words about Tea
*Always "warm the pot" before making tea!  Pour in hot water, let it sit for a few minutes, then empty.  Add the tea and hot water and let it steep before serving.

*Tea leaves are very delicate and absorb moisture quite easily.  Always store your tea in an airtight container.

*One of my favourite little wintertime treats is to store my leftover "Christmas tea" sugar cubes in a little plastic bag filled with cinammon.  The sugar cubes will absorb the spicy flavour.

As you fill the stockings on the mantle this year, think of this "Victorian" rule of thumb for filling Christmas stockings: "something to eat, something to read, something to play with and something they need".

Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas... see you in the New Year!


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 11

Today, we'll chat about the second S in an afternoon tea menu - Sandwiches.

I adore tea sandwiches!
They are so yummy and given my "druthers" I'd eat them every day of the year. There is just something so "civilized" about afternoon tea sandwiches. LOL

Last week, when I was out for Christmas tea with my Victorian Fashion Group at a lovely tea room here in Victoria, one of the women in our group talked about how, during the 50's and 60's, her mom made dainty little "pinwheel" sandwiches just like we all had on our plates for church teas and special occasions.  I remember my Mom doing that too and she always made them for me and my little guests when I had my birthday tea!

Pinwheels are pretty easy to make... here's a short UTube Video you can watch.  Instead of using bread, he uses a tortilla wrap but you can use slices of bread... just cut off the crusts!

You often hear tea sandwiches referred to as "finger sandwiches".   Whatever!!  They are meant to be small, crust-less, dainty bites and are made with a large variety of fillings:

Egg salad (hard cooked eggs with mayo)
Cucumber  (finely sliced "English" cucumber and cream cheese)
Almond Chicken (chopped, cooked chicken, slivered almonds and mayo)
Watercress (white or rye bread filled with watercress leaves)
Cream Cheese, Celery and Walnut Sandwiches (chop celery heart very fine)
Ginger Tea Spread (cream cheese mixed with ginger marmalade and a pinch of paprika on brown bread)
Pickled Spread (bologna ground up mixed with ground dill pickle and mayo)
Smoked Salmon with watercress and mayo
Tomato slices sprinkled with basil on rye bread with mayo
Cream cheese pinwheels with dill pickle slices or asparagus spears for centers
Salmon salad (red canned salmon mixed with mayo and green onion)

For your tea menu, choose three or four different fillings for your dainties.  Vary your breads between white, brown, pumpernickel, even crisp bread and cut them up differently.  Allow about 3-5  little sandwiches per guest depending on their size. In the summertime, you could even add a flower to the plate.  It's all about creating a "pretty" presentation on a china plate!

What's poured first into a china teacup?  The tea or the cream?

Well we all know to keep our elbows off the table and our napkins on our laps but do you know if it's the tea or the cream that goes into the teacup first?  Actually it really doesn't matter.  Some say if you put the cream in first, the hot tea may scald it.  Others say that if you put the tea in and then the cream, it will cool the tea off!  Sugar, on the hand, should be added once the tea is poured and is offered by the hostess to her guest.  If you are the hostess, be sure to ask your guests, "One lump or two?"


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 10

Menu Suggestions for a Christmas Tea Party

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."  Henry James - Portrait of a Lady

In designing a menu for "afternoon tea" in Victoria, B.C. (the most British of all Canadian cities and some say we are even more British than the British LOL) we keep these three "S's" in mind when looking for recipes:

First a Savoury, then a Sandwich followed by a Sweet.

So let's start with the first S today!  What qualifies as a Savoury?  Something salty or spicy. Soup. Scones.   The whole idea of eating a savoury first is to wake up your taste buds.  Include two or three "savoury treats" in your menu plan.  Here are five treat suggestions to choose from:

Savoury Cheesecake Bites (similar to quiche)
Cheese Savoury on Crackers
Butternut Squash Curry Soup
Bite size quiches (you can purchase these in the frozen food section at your local grocery store)
Herb Scones with Lemon Curd and Mock Devonshire Cream

I have also included my Apple Cream Cheese Scones recipe (my Christmas morning specialty. which can be included in the "sandwich" category for afternoon tea)

You can download all the recipes in a zip file here.

Tomorrow:  Sandwiches ... including those lovely little cucumber ones!

Enjoy!  Sharon

The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 9

Focus on the true meaning of the season - celebrate with a Friendship Tea or Punch Party

Christmas is a season of giving. Instead of spending a lot of money on gifts this year, why not focus on the true meaning of the season with a Christmas Tea or Punch Party for your friends!  You could make it a themed "costume party" Dickens style and ask your guests to come dressed appropriately... bonnets and caps, gingham dresses, fancy dresses for women and long scarves, top hats and round spectacles for men... or just a simple afternoon of merriment with your closest gal friends wearing the fascinators you made following yesterday's blog post.

Over the years, I have held numerous Christmas teas for my friends!  What fun they are... planning and participating in. Sometimes they were before Christmas but most often I scheduled them between Christmas and New Year's.  Remember, you can have an "afternoon tea" held during the day or "high tea" (which is at supper or dinnertime) so it could be an "after work" party.

Most of my teas had a "theme" of some sort and were held at home.  Some years, they were "potluck" (I supplied a list of things they could choose from to bring) and other years I supplied most of the "goodies" and my friends brought the wine, made the punch or brought Christmas cookies.

One year, we read passages aloud from our favourite girl books like Jane Austen's Emma.  At another tea, we took turns reading each other's tea leaves (NOW that was a laughter filled afternoon).  One year, we decorated a Gingerbread House and gave it to a local after school program.  Another year, we read (or told) our favourite Christmas stories.

Of course, every party needs invitations so once you have your "theme", take a few moments to write out the particulars on a piece of paper... i.e.  time, date, place, how to RSVP and, if need be, get the link to yahoo maps or map quest.

Here are some places you can go to create and send invitations to your friends online.  Some of the online "party planning" sites will require you to sign up for an account with them in order to use their service.

Drop by over the next few days for some menu ideas and easy recipes for your tea party.


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 8

Make a "Duchess of Cambridge" Fascinator

Imagine having a Christmas afternoon tea party with some friends.  Well, the first thing you'll need are your own fascinators!  It's a fun and easy project... and you can find the instructions here.

Have fun... Sharon

The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 7

5 Quick Gifts You Can Make for Less than $5.00

Raid your fabric stash or head to the nearest before Christmas sale at your favourite fabric store to sew up a storm with these easy, quick projects that use a yard of material or less.

Quick and easy, this table runner measures 10" x 24"
Make it for yourself, a friend or relative with this pattern!
Make a set of placemats to match your runner. Here's  the pattern

Make a set of padded hangars to spruce up any closet using these instructions!

Sew some book covers for a journal, favourite book or photo album!

Make some boxer shorts.  Pattern does not come with hunky guy :)  But if you make some for a girlfriend, you could always tuck his photo (pasted on cardboard) in the package! LOL

Have fun...


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 6

Let's get thrifty!

Some of the most popular and visited posts on this blog are the thrifty art tips I put together awhile back (with a little help from my online friends!).

These pages are visited often by long standing blog friends who know about them, but I suspect many newcomers to the blog might not be aware of them!  There are just loads of wonderful tips for recycling different materials you can find around your house, in your neighbours recycling bin (LOL) or in your junk drawer along with some great ideas for storage.

Now the links to all these posts are accessible to everyone who visits.  Look, over there on the right hand side, under the "Recently Viewed Posts" box.  There  is a whole tip list of great stuff for you to discover!


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 5

Time for some penny pinching gift ideas...

Last year at Christmas, I posted 40 Penny Pinching gift ideas for Christmas.  For today's offering, I thought I would point you in the direction of those postings.  Please note that because of my hard drive crash last week, some of the "goodies" I offered to send you in these posts are not available.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Happy Crafting,

The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 4

HO! HO! HO!  Time for some trashy holiday humour...

Some days, especially during the holidays, we all need a good laugh!  After a Saturday of fighting traffic at the mall, waiting in line FOREVER to pay for purchases and with our wallets feeling decidedly lighter, it just feels so good to just sit back, relax and have a good belly laugh.  Here's a fun "tongue in cheek" Christmas laugh... Jeff Foxworthy style ... the movie in my head just runs wild imagining Foxworthy's voice telling it... even though it is not one of his routines! 

If this isn't your type of humour... please skip today's offering and come back tomorrow!  It is not meant to offend in any way.

Billy Gene Bob's Trailer Park
Christmas Tour of Homes

"We're so happy you could join us for our very first Billy Gene Bob's Trailer Park Christmas Tour of Homes. We've long felt that everyone, not just those with search warrants, should enjoy our holiday decorations. And remember: All proceeds of the tour goes into the trailer park Yuletide Bail Fund.

"As we make our first stop, please note the cunning use of old tires to form a Christmas tree on the lawn. Yes, they're usually painted white. But if you'll lift one of the tires you'll see that only one side is white, while the other is red and green. This way, they can be flipped over for a festive holiday decoration.

"You can see as we enter the trailer that they favor traditional decorations. The tree is set in a lard can wrapped in a plastic liquor store sack with a Christmas motif. See how they use lights to frame the velvet painting of Elvis. In keeping with their traditional Christmas theme is the Super Large plastic soft drink cup with Christmas decorations incorporated into the design, a memento of the Christmas when the in-laws dropped charges and the family celebrated by eating out.

"Here at our next home, let's pause to admire the workmanship of the decorations, and the care in arranging them for just the right effect. As you can see, the trailer is decorated in early American Honky-Tonk. Note the beer logo formed by miniature lights. Here we have another unusual Christmas tree, made from hub caps, and lit by the cheery glow of a floodlight.

"As we pass the wreath made from discarded cigarette packs, notice that the theme continues inside the trailer. A small Christmas tree is set on the bar, which is decked with garland and miniature lights. Peanuts in bowls and a jar of pickled pigs feet set in a wreath completes the charming effect.

"At our next trailer, we have a delightful departure from tradition. The car up on blocks in the yard is decorated with lights. If you'll look close, the car has a bumper sticker that says "I brake for reindeer." Here at the base of the steps, we have poinsettia set in a discarded commode. On the door we have a wreath made from a toilet seat, which frames a plastic bas relief of Santa Claus. And if you'll pay close attention to the "Back Off!" welcome mat, you'll see that it's made from a discarded mud flap.

"But once inside, the theme shifts to an old-time Christmas. We're greeted by a cheery fake cardboard fireplace. A delightful touch is the aluminum Christmas tree, complete with spotlight and color wheel - a real treat for children who've never enjoyed an old-time Christmas. A cardboard Santa Claus salvaged from a soft drink display ad is propped in the corner, and the holiday Christmas card holder is full of seasonal delinquent payment notices.

"Um . . . we now come to our next home. A manger scene decorates the front lawn. They have an unusual display near the front of the trailer - a back lit silhouette of three men on camels riding towards a town. A single blue light gives the illusion of a star. The words 'Wise men still seek him' are prominently displayed below. The door is decorated with a wreath of holly, and inside we find a typical Christmas tree, and a family Bible open to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah on the coffee table. You can see the religious theme predominates, with another nativity scene on the end table. I really must apologize. I honestly don't know what they're thinking, bringing religion into Christmas.

"Ah, here's a more cheery home. Notice the life-size deer targets decked in lights. A sign saying "Santa BETTER stop here" is whimsically placed on the lawn beside a mineral lick and shelled corn. Inside you'll notice that the nine mounted deer heads are all wearing Santa hats, and the one on the end has a red ball on its nose. See how all the gifts under the tree are wrapped in camouflage pattern paper and with green and brown ribbons and bows. A tape of dogs barking to the tune of "Jingle Bells," along with the deer-scent potpourri, gives the trailer a nice holiday air.

"You can see by the mud bogging truck as we approach our next home that . . . Oh dear. I thought those blue lights were decorations. And I see the deputies have a barricade across the lower end of the trailer park. I'm sorry, but this concludes our tour of homes. Thank you for coming, and please, give patrol cars the right-of-way as you leave.

Copyright © 1999, 2004 by Kevin J. Cheek.

The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 3

Shop till ya drop...

Hubby caught me "laundering" money one morning a couple of years ago!  Yes, you read that right.  I was laundering dollar bills and when they were dry, giving them a squirt of spray starch and ironing them smooth.  He laughed so hard when he saw me doing this, I thought he would burst an artery.  Upon reflection, I guess to an outsider it looked pretty funny alright.

But it was for an "arty" cause.  Traveling around the internet, I had come across the "art" of money origami.  It's pretty cool what you can create out of an American dollar bill or a Canadian five dollar bill... shirts, bow ties, valentines, gift boxes, dresses, rings, even eyeglasses... just a few of many.  I had to try it!!

Now, one of the first things the instructions say is to have clean, crisp dollar bills! Well hello, I live in Canada and getting a crisp, clean American dollar bill without going over the border to the nearest bank is about next to impossible. I had the dollar bills but they weren't crisp nor were they particularly clean.  So what's a gal to do in the name of art... wash them and iron them of course!

Following the instructions, I made a little shirt out of one of the bills.  It was cute.  I made another one.  Now I had a matching pair.  So what do you do with two matching dollar bill shirts?  You make earrings to wear on your next shop 'till you drop trip.  Cause, you see, that way if you are short a few bucks, you can just whip your earrings off, unfold the bills and pay the lady!

One of my "shop till you drop" friends got a pair of my innovative earrings in her Christmas card that year and laughed herself silly.  The first time she wore them she kept looking over her shoulder hoping she didn't get mugged!  She didn't.  She's worn them many times since and according to her it still amazes her that people don't clue into the fact that they are made from "real" dollar bills until she tells them.  Most times they either don't recognize them as dollar bills or if they do, they think they are fake!'s the link for the shirt and here's the link  for other wonderful creations.

Now you could make your own shirt out of real dollars or if you can get an image of the back of an American dollar (cause it's the "greenback" that creates the pattern) or the back of an older Canadian five dollar bill (laugh my fellow Canucks... you'll get a "hockey" shirt) you can make some that look "real" but aren't!  The "fake" shirts made from paper could also be "painted" with Modge Podge to strengthen them.    Bet you've got a friend who'd get a big bang out of finding a pair in her Christmas stocking!  OR....

Attach a key ring (like I did with the $5.00 Canadian bill hockey shirt) and voila... instant money chain!

ENTER TO WIN... my "Shop 'till you drop" shirt earrings to wear to all the Christmas sales!! I have two pairs of American greenbacks to give away. They aren't real, but boy won't they be fun to wear on your next trip through the mall?

So just leave a comment on this post before 9 PM tonight in your time zone telling me what you want most for Christmas this year!  I'll pick two names from all of the comments left.  Check in to see if you have won and if you see your name, send me an email before Monday evening at 9 PM with your snail mail address so I can get your earrings into the mail in time for your next shopping trip.   What a deal huh??? Good luck!


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 2

Cleaning your (ART) house before Christmas...

Yesterday morning I discovered (much to my initial consternation and rather ugly spoken words not fit to print)  that the drive on my computer that has all the "good stuff" on it (including most of the stuff I was going to show you over the next week or so) has mysteriously disappeared from my computer.   I haven't got a clue as to what has happened to that drive (I am keeping my fingers crossed that it's not serious) as  computers and me haven't been getting along so well this year... this is the second time this has happened!  So I am just going to do the best I can to keep my promise to you here over the next ten days... although I haven't quite figured out how yet! LOL  But here goes...

This past week, after doing some stamping both on paper and clay,  I discovered I was out of stamp cleaner.  Not being able to find the recipe I had printed a couple of years ago, I knew exactly where to go... this blog's archive.  And yep, there is was.

Now some of you who have been loyal followers over the years will recognize a portion of the contents of this post (I have revised it slightly) and I hope it comes as a handy reminder.  For some of you, this will be new and hopefully you find it useful in your art days ahead! 

Here are some tips today to help you save some money on supplies you can make in order to buy supplies that you can't (GRIN)... and I've thrown in a NEW "recipe" for a hand cleaner for good measure.  This "recipe" works like magic to get your hands squeaky clean once you are all done for the day.  It even removes clay "residue" from your hands after playing with clay, especially liquid clay,  for a day!

Ever painted the walls in your home? If so, you probably have a paint edger, used to paint the edge of walls at the ceiling or the trim, kicking around in your garage with the paint tools. Snatch it from its lonely, almost forgotten spot and put it to work in your art room!

These paint edgers are made from the same material used in much more expensive “stamp scrubbers” you find in stamping stores. The next time you are in the hardware or paint store, purchase a replacement package for the edger. You can then use it to scrub your stamps after your next stamping session.

The recipe I like best (and I have tried a lot of them) is very simple to make. You can find all of the ingredients in your local pharmacy. It’s a good one if you are sensitive to chemicals or have allergies. This one works well on both rubber or clear stamps.

To one cup (8 oz) of distilled water, add 2 tablespoons of glycerin and 1 tsp. of baby wash. You can add some rose water to this mixture (makes it smell nice) but it is optional. Put the mixture in a household spray bottle, spray your dirty stamp, wipe off the excess with an old rag or “seen better days” towel. This will remove most of the ink. Now using your “new” paint edger scrubber, spray some of the liquid on it and give your stamp a good clean.

A few notes about your stamp cleaning brew…
When making this solution, use ONLY distilled water. The chemicals in tap water can harden the rubber on your stamps (makes you wonder what those chemicals might be doing to our bodies huh?) and bottled water still has some traces of minerals that could potentially ruin your stamp over time. In a pinch you could use filtered water but I personally don’t think it would be a good idea long term. You can find distilled water at your local drug store or pharmacy. It is not expensive. You may have to purchase a larger jug of it but you’ll never have to buy another one for a very long time!

You can find baby wash (a liquid “soap” used to wash a baby’s tender skin) in the baby products aisle. I use Aveeno Baby (no fragrance) made by Johnson and Johnson. It’s the same bottle I purchased when my  granddaughter was a baby (she’s seven now) and came with her mom to visit Gramma and Grampa for the first time. Other brands of creamy baby wash will probably work just as well.

Glycerin is often used commercially in beauty products and better brands of bathing soap. Pharmacies stock it in smaller bottles because the medicinal use is to relieve chapped skin, minor burns or for minor cough and throat irritations. If you don’t find it in the “cough medicine” or “chapped skin” product aisle, ask a clerk. Be prepared to tell them what it is used for… some of them seem to not know what it is!

Why does this recipe use glycerin?
When I first came across this stamp cleaner recipe on the web (I don’t remember now where I first saw it), I was curious as to why glycerin was called for in the recipe. I asked my husband, who, “in his old life” was a chemist and he said “Probably to condition the rubber, keep it from cracking or going hard.” Well we certainly want to prolong the life of our favourite stamps, don’t we? Make the effort to find glycerin.

I could just kick myself in the butt every time I forget to clean my glue or acrylic laden paint brush when I am working on a project! I don’t know how many dried on, glue or acrylic paint encrusted brushes I threw out before I discovered this tip: Soak it in GooBeGone overnight. The glue softens right up and you can then get all the “gunk” out of it.


I keep some HAND liquid soap in a container next to my “brush cleaning sink”. Once I have removed most of the water soluble paint from my brush by swishing it in a container of water, I squirt a little of the liquid soap in the palm of my hand, swish the brush in it, rinse it well under running water and set it aside to dry. With very little effort and mess, my brushes (and hands) are as clean as a whistle when I am done.


4 tbls. Murphy's Oil Soap
1/2 cup Borax
a few drops of essential oil if desired (I like lavender, orange or peppermint)

Put the borax in a tightly lidded jar or container.  Add the oil soap and essential oil and mix together with a fork until it is the consistency of a lovely frosting for a cake!  Keep the lid tightly capped so that it does not dry out.

Well that’s it for today. See you tomorrow. Now go clean your (ART) house… LOL!


The 12 Days of Christmas - Day 1

First up in this showcase of projects I have done over the years is one you might not expect! 

I love antique stores and one year as I was roaming around the wilds of North Carolina, I came across this lovely little shop tucked away in a small town south west of Raleigh.  Well there isn't an antique shop on this planet that I won't visit, so in I went.

As some of you may know, North Carolina once was the "fabric" mecca of the south.  It still is to some extent but not nearly what it once was. As this industry declined and factories closed over the years, old thread spools and bobbins that had been languishing, forgotten,  in the back storerooms began showing up in thrift shops and antique stores.

Well being a sewer and a lover of anything vintage, when I spotted a bunch of them sitting in a large basket on the floor of this little shop, so lost, forgotten and forlorn LOL, I just had to have them.  I scooped up a number of them from the basket and, clutching them tightly to my bosom,  headed for the cash register. 

"Whatcha gonna do with all these here spools ma'am?" asked the sweet little old fellow behind the counter. "They is from the factory that closed here 'bout ten years ago and been sittin' in that basket ever since!"

"Don't know yet." I replied.  "I am a sewer and I just like them.  Maybe I'll put them in my sewing room."

Fast forward a couple of years. 

I needed a small lamp for a little niche area I had created in our living room.  I had scoured every store in town but still hadn't found one that I liked.  Feeling rather frustrated and impatient at not finding what I wanted, I decided to clean up my sewing room. Yep, that's one of my ways that I work frustration and impatience out... I clean!

All those thread spools and bobbins were sitting on a shelf in my sewing room... artfully arranged I might add... and as I picked up one of the large thread spools, it suddenly came to me that I could make a lamp out of these spools and bobbins.  The thread colour on the bobbins was perfect!  A quick trip to the hardware store for the electrical bits.  A side trip to the local lampshade place and my project was underway.  A rummage through my ribbon to tie the bobbins together on the thread spool and  by that evening my new lamp was sitting on my antique sewing machine.  It sits on a little table today, many years later, and I still love it!

Now if I could just get that "inventive" about all the other stuff languishing in my multiple stashes around the house!! LOL

Have you got any ideas about a project one could make using old thread spools?  Please share...