Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10 -- Tips for mailing Christmas packages

(Astute readers will recognize this as a repost from my Christmas blog last year.  I share it again this year without apology, hoping it will be truly helpful to someone.)

  I'm not by any means an expert on this, but I have learned a few things over a dozen years of mailing packages to loved ones in a distant time zone.  When I mentioned doing click and print labels and scheduling carrier pickups of priority mail packages here on my blog last year,  one of my readers told me she had learned something new.  She had been standing in long lines!  That made me aware that there are probably other readers who might benefit from my package-mailing tips.

1.  One of the biggest, and the postal service always tells you this, is mail early.  I will never forget the year we spent over $60 to mail a package to Nevada because a) the box was huge; and b) the hour was late.  And yes, I may be posting this a little late for you to mail really early, but do it as soon as you can!

2.  Flat rate priority mail boxes are the very best deal for mailing to distant states because they will ship for one flat rate regardless of how much they weigh.   The boxes come in small, medium (two different shapes of box), and large.  The rates, of course, vary with the size of the box.  I generally find that I can fit quite a bit into one of the medium boxes of either shape.

Photo from USPS.com
3.  Of course, if you are mailing local and your items are relatively light, flat rate will not be a good deal for you.  You will want to have your packages weighed so you don't pay more postage than necessary.  When packing gifts, do pay attention to the size of the box.  A huge box is going to cost more to send than two smaller boxes (which might hold the same amount), as a general rule.

4.  Click'n'Ship means you can pay for and print postage right online.  This is very easy indeed if you are using the flat rate boxes.  Below you see a printed-out label affixed to a box.
Photo from USPS.com
5.  If you have printed your label and affixed it to your box, you can schedule a carrier pickup.  This is great and I have used this service countless times.  If you schedule the pickup to take place during your regular mail delivery, there is no charge for this service.  There are a number of options as to where you will leave the package for pickup -- at or in the mailbox, at the front door, on the porch, and so on. You can schedule a pickup the night before for the next day.  No muss, no fuss -- and most importantly, no standing in line!

6.  If your gifts for your faraway loved ones tend to include books, you can send those via media mail  for a pittance.  You will have to go to a post office for this option, but it is really helpful, as books are heavy.  You will definitely want to mail early if you go this route.  It's been my experience that media mail gets there almost as quickly as parcel post, but it doesn't always work out that way, so plan ahead if you choose to do this.

7.  Finally, if you find that you do need to do your mailing of packages at a post office, consider using a different post office to do so.  My local post office is downtown, less than 5 minutes away, but there are parking issues and nearly always a lengthy line at this time of year.  Rather than waste time and energy, I use the post office in the next town.  It's only 10 minutes away, parking is ample and easy, and I have never waited in a line there regardless of the time of year.

Just a few simple tips.  I am sure there is much more that could be said on this subject, but I trust that these hints are helpful to someone!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

December 9 -- Whipped Shortbread cookies

 
Photo from Taste of Home

 Although this recipe appears a number of times on both of my blogs, I'm sharing it again for those readers who may have missed it.  This is a cookie not to be missed, believe me!   Whipped Shortbread has been one of our very favorite Christmas cookies for years and years. The cookies require very few ingredients and are super easy to make.  I also like that they take 20-22 minutes to bake, as something meaningful may be accomplished in that amount of time, while they're in the oven.

WHIPPED SHORTBREAD

3 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted if very lumpy
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
Colored candy sprinkles and/or halved candied cherries and/or red and green colored sugar

Using a heavy-duty mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, beating constantly until well blended. 


Roll dough into 1-inch balls (dust hands with additional cornstarch if necessary); dip balls in either colored candy sprinkles or colored sugar. Place balls, decorated side up, on ungreased cookie sheets. Press each ball lightly with a fork. 

(If you wish to decorate cookies with cherries, do this: Do not dip balls in colored sprinkles or sugar. Instead, place plain balls on cookie sheet and press lightly with fork. Then top each cookie with a cherry half.) 

You may wish to do an assortment and trim some cookies with candy sprinkles, some with colored sugar, and some with cherries. Bake cookies at 300º for 20 to 22 minutes, or until cookies are set but not browned.

Yield: 16 dozen cookies

This is a very big recipe, but it is very easily divided in half (or even in thirds) if you wish to make a smaller batch. It is so easy, but produces many beautiful cookies quite quickly.  The photo below shows them as I most often bake them, with red and green sugar.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

December 8 -- Velvet ribbon window garlands



Here's an easy idea to trim that hard-to-decorate area -- make these ribbon garlands to drape across your window tops.

Years ago, I wanted to make something special to help decorate our living room for Christmas. The problem was that the colors in that room -- gold, green, rust, etc. didn't look all that great with what I could find for trims.

However, I had been given some spools of stiff velvety craft ribbon about 3/4-inch wide. Among the usual reds and Christmas greens there were also some spools of gold and moss green ribbon. I cut pieces of ribbon in those two colors, perhaps 4 inches long,  then formed one into a loop and stapled the ends together. Then I slipped the next piece of ribbon through the loop and stapled its ends... and so on, and so on, exactly as one would do to make a paper chain. I alternated the gold and moss green colors in the chains, and made each chain long enough to drape across the top of a window, with part of the chain hanging down straight at each end. I simply pinned them in place with straight pins. They really dressed up the room while not clashing with its colors.

Of course you can use any type of craft ribbon you like. I would not recommend using ribbon any wider than one inch, however, and I wouldn't use any sort of ribbon that frays easily. But use your imagination when it comes to colors and ribbons. I can picture a garland of red plaid or green plaid ribbon looking very nice indeed, for example.



Or certainly you could use gift wrap or any sort of paper, cut into 3/4-inch by 4-inch strips, to make these chains.

These garlands may be used anywhere you'd like, of course -- mantels, hutches, corner cupboards -- even on the Christmas tree.

Have fun with this idea!

Friday, December 07, 2018

December 7 -- Friday five


How did it get to be Friday again?  This week has passed so quickly!  Although I did get a slightly different perspective on this yesterday, when one of my granddaughters (a high school sophomore) commented that the week seemed so long.  It has been so long -- between snow days and holidays -- since they had an actual five-day week, that it seemed really out of the ordinary! 

On with my Friday five!

1.  The chance to go out for breakfast, Christmas shopping and ice cream with three of our grands.  These kids are such a delight to be with!  Their parents are doing an amazing job.

2.  The opportunity to informally disciple a couple of new-ish believers while regularly sharing a meal together.  Such a blessing.
Gorgeous, meaningful graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
3.  The chance to get out and walk three days this week.  Monday was warm and sunny; yesterday and Wednesday were a bit breezier and colder but we still got in an hour or so of walking.
4.  Being able to go out for breakfast with my husband on Tuesday when he had an unexpected day off from work.  So relaxing.  I may have mentioned once or twice that I pray daily for times of relaxation for us.  His job is high stress and he has heavy responsibilities at church.  I've got a pretty full plate myself, so when God provides a few moments or hours of relaxation it just helps so much!
5.  Strength and wisdom for a very full day yesterday.  If I had looked at December 6 on the calendar last week, it would have been an empty square.  An unexpected dentist appointment then was factored in, and then a hair appointment was rescheduled to that day.  A walk and a trip to Walmart also figured in there, not to mention scanning and listing items for my Etsy shop, preparing an Etsy order, making a menu plan for the week, and more.  But God gave strength and it was a good day.

That's this week's Friday five!

Thursday, December 06, 2018

December 6 -- a small but thoughtful Christmas care package

 
Do you have faraway friends you'd like to remember with a little something at Christmas time? The first year that I did this, the friends I sent this little package to were so surprised and pleased. I wanted to send them just a taste of Christmas in our home, and they said they really felt a part of our Christmas.  Here is what I did:

I lined a small (recycled) box with red and green tissue paper, then filled the box with a few things that would give them a taste of our Christmas. Things like:

* A small foil package of holiday fudge

* A small tin of some favorite Christmas cookies

* A homemade packet of spices for hot cider

* Some handmade sparkly heart ornaments -- the ones with bells sewed on, so our friends would hear a festive jingle as they opened the package

* Shreds of red & green paper (the type sold as filler for gift baskets)

* A few little hemlock cones from our woods  (I bake these first for about a half hour at 325º to kill any insects)

* A sprinkle of metallic Christmas confetti

You could include many different things, keeping the emphasis on "small" and "lightweight". Be imaginative and send your friends something that will really help them to feel they are sharing in your Christmas joy. (I buy things like the confetti and the red & green paper shreds when they are on sale at season's end and just store them until the next Christmas.)

A package like this doesn't cost much at all to send, but it is such a nice surprise for your friends to receive!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

December 5 -- the Wednesday Medley


Wednesday again, and time for the Wednesday Medley hosted by Terri at Your Friend from Florida!   Terri asks the questions and bloggers come up with their own answers.

 Wouldn't you like to join in also?  Just head over to Terri's blog, get the questions, then copy, paste, and answer them on your own blog.  Then you can go back to Terri's and link up!

I don't seem to have appropriate photos for this post, so I will use mostly images from my vintage Christmas card collection..Here are this week's questions:

 1.     On December 5, 1901, Walt Disney was born.  Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World?  Can you share a favorite Disney memory?
 I have never been to either Disneyland or Disney World.  Although it would be fun, I'm sure, it is not a bucket list activity for me.  For a Disney memory -- I loved the Mickey Mouse Club on TV in the 1950s and seldom missed watching it.
2.     The first roller coaster attraction at Walt Disney World was Space Mountain.  Do you/did you like roller coasters?
 I have never really loved roller coasters,  though I must say I did ride one or more of the old wooden roller coasters in my teenage years and lived to tell about it.
3.     The very first fairy tale that Walt Disney made a cartoon about was Little Red Riding Hood.  Did you enjoy fairy tales when you were a youngster or did they scare you?  Did you have a favorite?
 Hmmm ...  you know, I really can't remember -- but, knowing myself, I imagine they scared me.  Some of them made me sad.  I remember sobbing and sobbing over The Little Match Girl.
4.     In Lady & the Tramp, Tramp’s real name was Butch!  Do you have nicknames for your fur-babies and/or for your children?
 My kids tended to give each other nicknames.  My daughters called their brother Goofy.  He called my one daughter Chefette and my youngest daughter called her Pooky.  The older daughter called her little sister Big Moose for awhile.  (No idea why.)  Of them all, Pooky is the name that has stuck.
 We all, parents and kids alike, called my youngest daughter JoJo -- and that has also stuck, as her nieces and nephews all call her Auntie JoJo.
5.     I can’t let this day go by without respecting George H.W. Bush, as he lays in state in the Rotunda of our Capital today.  He was our 41st President and only the second father to have a son follow him as President of the United States.  President Bush loved his colorful socks.  I bought Joe a pair of George H.W. Bush socks for Christmas one year.  I know Myra has a pair… any other bloggers checking in today who have a pair of the Presidential socks in a drawer at home?  How do you feel about colorful socks?
 Oh, I like colorful socks! I enjoy wearing them and I enjoy seeing others wear them.  (I don't own any presidential socks, however.)  Over the past few years when mismatched socks have been quite acceptable, I've enjoyed seeing the combinations my teenage granddaughters have come up with.



6.     Please tell us something random about your week!
 We've gone out to breakfast twice this week!  Quite unusual!  Once with several of the grandkids to McDonalds' on Saturday, and then this morning when my hubby had the day off unexpectedly.  We went to a favorite cafe, and it was uncrowded and very relaxing.
Notice the little lighted Christmas tree partway down the falls!
And that wraps up the Medley for Wednesday, December 5!

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

December 4 -- Sparkly Heart Ornaments


For today's feature, I thought I would share how to make some very pretty ornaments from simple supplies most crafters might have on hand. Even children who can safely handle a needle and thread could make these!  The photo really doesn't do them justice, but I'm sure you can get the idea.
I have made many of these for gifts and for decorating my own home. I often like to use them on my front-door wreath, but they are also nice for hanging on the tree or anywhere else you like. Some folks I have given them to like to hang these sparkly hearts from the kitchen cupboard doorknobs, to spiff up the kitchen with a holiday air.   (In fact, I thought that was such a good idea that I have sometimes done the same.)
 These pretty, jingly hearts would make nice package tie-ons, too. Years ago, I saw some similar ornaments for sale in a catalog and figured out an easy way to make them. Here's how:
SPARKLY HEART ORNAMENTS

You will need:

Red felt
Polyester fiberfill
Needle and red sewing thread
Gold star sequins
Gold glass seed beads
Red rocaille beads
Small shiny brass jingle bells, optional

For each ornament you wish to make, cut 2 heart shapes -- I trace around a a heart cookie cutter to make them uniform -- out of red felt. Add beads to one heart from each pair as follows: Thread a needle with red thread, then bring the needle up through the back side of the heart to the right side. Thread on a gold star sequin, then either a gold seed bead or a red rocaille bead. Insert the needle back into the star sequin and through to the back side again, so that the thread holds the bead tightly in place. Repeat this process to add as many sequins/beads as desired. (I used about 7 beads/stars on most of my ornaments.)

Now, using small neat stitches, sew the 2 heart shapes together about 1/4 inch from the edges, leaving an opening for stuffing the ornament. Stuff the heart ornament tightly with fiberfill (it won't take very much) and sew up the opening. If desired, sew a jingle bell to the bottom point of each heart. Now use the needle to pull a length of thread through the center top of each heart; knot to form a hanger.

The sparkly beads and sequins on these ornaments catch the light beautifully, and if you use the jingle bells, they add the sound of Christmas as well. Another really nice thing about these ornaments is that you can leave them up right through Valentine's Day!