DIY Present Toppers

Sometimes I see things on Pinterest that just stop me in my tracks.  Especially tantalizing are projects that are simple yet beautiful.  So when I saw these little present toppers (original source found here) I just knew that, no matter how busy I was this holiday season, I would be making some of my own.

Now I loved her little animals, but I wasn't able to find any moose or reindeer figurines.  I was, however, able to find some Christmas trees (at Michael's) and I thought those would do quite nicely.

It was really just a matter of hot gluing the trees to some clothespins and then spray painting them silver.

How cute is that?!

As seen on:



Holiday Baking

It's Christmastime and in kitchens everywhere people are baking, baking, baking.

This year I have three types of cookies on my holiday baking list.  They are...

1. Holly Cookies
These are basically glorified Rice Krispie Treats.  I have been making them for years and people love them, especially kids.   I make them by memory at this point but here's a recipe if you're interested.

2.  Fruitcake Cookies
This is my first year making them.  I got the recipe from Jessica at Stay-at-Homeista.  Don't let the name fool you.  These are fabulous.  I love that you can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it like store bought cookie dough to use later.  (That's what you're looking at above.)

3.  Snail Cookies
This is a basic Italian cookie (named for its shape, not the ingredients ;)  Snail cookies will forever remind me of my grandmother, aunt and mother.  Some recipes use anise but my family recipe does not.  I am including it below if you'd like to put them on your Christmas baking list:

3 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 large eggs
1/2 C butter
2 tablespoons vanilla

Mix all together (I use the dough hook attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer.)  Then roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick.  

Cut into strips the size of your forefinger.  Roll strips into a snail shape.  Bake on a well greased cookie sheet (or Silpat) in a 350 degree oven until golden brown.  (9-10 minutes)  Makes 56 cookies.

Make an icing with the juice of one orange and enough powdered sugar to absorb the juice.  Ice the cookies with a pastry brush.  Immediately sprinkle with pastel confettis.

So now that I've given you my list, I'd love to hear yours.  What are you baking this year?


I'm so pleased that my grandmother's Snail Cookies have been featured over on A Southern Mother.  If you're looking for more great holiday cookie recipes,
check out her post HERE for some great ideas!



A Sugarwish

Just when you think all of the great ideas in the world have been taken, someone comes up with a new one.  

Unfortunately, it wasn't me.  

(But it was a friend of mine which is the next best thing.)

And when she posted about it on Facebook I thought to myself, "that's genius!"

And when something is genius, I like to share it with my friends and readers.  So I hopped onto `a casarella's Facebook page and gave her a little shout-out.  

What's the great idea?  

It's called a Sugarwish.  

What's a Sugarwish?  

Well, according to their website:

A Sugarwish starts as a sweet thought or "wish" (which is sent as an e-card).  The e-card guides your gift recipient to [the Sugarwish] website to select their favorite candies.  Their candy is then packaged in [a Sugarwish] signature box, tied with a ribbon, and shipped right to their door. 

Isn't that a great idea?  Don't you know someone who would love to get one of these?  I'm thinking it would make a wonderful teacher appreciation gift or a fun birthday present for a niece or nephew.

And I found out first-hand how wonderful a Sugarwish is when I was granted my own.  Picking the candies from the website is a blast.  I chose two for my daughters (gummy bears and candy "rocks") and two for me (caramels and taffy).

When my wish came (true), I was as impressed with the packaging and presentation as I was with the concept.  My candy came in a beautiful, sturdy box (which has already been reused for a Christmas gift ;) tied with a red ribbon.  I can honestly say I would be proud to give one of these as a gift.

So, if you're looking for a last minute Christmas gift for a teacher or that hard-to-shop-for friend, stop by the site and check it out.  The e-card can be delivered immediately and the candy could even reach them in time for Christmas if they use it promptly.

(This is the point where other, more fiscally savvy bloggers, would tell you that this post was paid for by Sugarwish, blah blah blah.  Except no one paid me.  My Sugarwish was sent as a friendly gesture with no strings attached.  I, in turn, decided to share it with the world because that's what I do here at `a casarella: I share awesome things with you.

You're welcome.)



Holiday Gift Wrapping Party

Ahh the holidays!  That magical season when we take time to stop and appreciate our family and friends.

Except at some point we decided to express our appreciation with gifts.

And with food.

And with fabulous, Pinterest-inspired displays on every horizontal surface in the house.

And suddenly we no longer had any time to appreciate the people we originally wanted to appreciate with all of our shows of appreciation.

You know you've been there:  it's Christmastime and you're invited to (another) event.  Sure you want to see people and socialize but you've got things to do.

It's this sense of rush, rush, rush that's prevented me from throwing Christmas parties in the past.

That is until I had an idea:

What if I threw a party where my friends could socialize and get things done all at the same time?  I suspected that I was on to something.

And thus my first (and soon to be annual) holiday gift wrapping party came to pass.

It started with a simple invitation:

Join me for an afternoon of gift wrapping.  
Bring any gifts that need wrapping and a roll of paper to share.  
I will provide tags, ribbons, embellishments and refreshments.   

And I have to tell you:

they came...
they wrapped...
they socialized...

It was truly a huge success.

There were two tables filled with anything one could possibly need for wrapping...

like stamps...

...and stickers & tags...

and paint chips and craft punches and fancy pens...

tape and scissors and ribbon of all kinds...

boxes and tissue...

and lots and lots of gift wrap!

Of course there was also food...

(Because all work and no food makes for a dull party.)

I wanted to make one of these in honor of the occasion but due to time constraints I purchased the ones below....

And these are my grandmother's snail cookies.  Recipe found here.  (No snails were harmed in the making of these cookies.)
When the eating was done, there was more wrapping.

Suddenly this task, which many of my guests said they typically abhor, became a fun, creative and communal venture.

And the proof is in the pudding.  Check out these beautifully wrapped gifts:




Kraft Paper Banner

Preparations are underway here at `a casarella for a holiday soiree.

All shall be revealed next week, but in the meantime, here's a quick craft to help spiffy up the holiday decor.

I used my favorite Dollar Store Kraft Paper to make this festive banner.

Adhesive gift tags attached to triangles of Kraft paper give the banner a fancy touch.  The triangles are taped to the twine with plain old Scotch tape.  The whole project took about ten minutes.  (Which is about all the time I have to spare these days...  ;)



(Antique) Elves on the Shelf

I can practically hear you.

She's gone insane.

Seventeen elves on the shelf?!?

It's hard enough to remember to move one.

Don't worry.

They may look like elves on a shelf.  

They are, in fact, elves sitting on a shelf.  

(Well, really a mantle, but who's keeping track?)

But these little guys didn't come from Target or Barnes & Noble.

Nor were they sent here by Santa to spy on my kids.

These elves came from my mother and father-in-law.

(Who had them on their tree(s) for decades.)

And when they downsized a few years ago, the elves needed a home.

So now they live with us.  

But they never get into mischief.  

(And that's okay with my girls.)

(And very okay with me.)




DIY Elastic Ribbon Hair Ties

Every year, on the day before school lets out for winter break, my daughters like to give out gifts to a handful of their best buddies.  Some years those gifts have been store bought, but last year they were home made.... well, they were home assembled...

A few weeks before Christmas I found a bunch of tiny jars from Pier One at the thrift store. They were sealed in their original packaging, came in sets of four, and cost 99 cents a box.  At less that 25 cents per jar, I bought them all.  After giving them a good cleaning, the girls and I filled them with assorted red and green candies, covered them with red and white striped fabric, and tied them shut with baker's twine.  They were a huge hit and left my girls wanting to do another DIY present this year.  

Inspiration for the 2012 gift hit during a trip to Michael's where I found a roll of elasticized ribbon.   One look and I realized it was the exact same ribbon used in these pricey hair ties.  Now is the moment where I cop to owning said pricey hair ties.  In fact, that's one of mine pictured below.

And I own them because they're great: they're soft, they hold your hair without damaging it, and they come in tons of cute colors.  I just never stopped to think about what a rip-off they are.

But that doesn't matter because now that I know you can get the elasticized fabric at Michael's, I never have to buy one again.  Even better than that, it gave me and the girls a perfect idea for this year's Christmas gift:  DIY elastic hair ties!  

In an effort to personalize ours, we added initial beads.  (We specifically looked for beads with a hole that could accommodate the elastic.)

Then it was just a matter of cutting the elastic into strips (ours were roughly 8" long), threading the bead(s) through, and tying them off.

Kind of hard to tell the difference between the handmade one below and the pricey one above, isn't it?

We made three bands per girl and put them in these cute tulle favor bags.  

After that we added personalized gift cards and the project was complete!  

And here are my daughters modeling the hair ties.  (I have since trimmed the ends on the pink one.)

I recently discovered that there is a named for this type of "ribbon."  
It's called "fold over elastic."  You can buy some by clicking here.

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