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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Some freebies I found...

From The Silhouette Online Store, The Noel Banner
Merry Christmas
I am not sure how long these will be free, so grab them while you can.

PSST! This is not a freebie but it is a great price. Amazon has the Silhouette Replacement blades at half price! This is an awesome deal and you may want to pick up a few soon!
This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission if you buy through my links at no additional cost to you. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Another free gift tag

I have another free gift tag for you. I wasn't quite happy with the striped one from yesterday so I modified it slightly.
If you would like to try this second tag (also designed to be cut out with a 1 3/4" punch), you can download it here for the next week. 
Of course, the ones I used were personalized, but the assembly process is the same. After punching out the circles, I punched a small hole in the upper area for the thread and used about 6" of Red Heart Gold crochet thread to finish off the tag. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Homemade Vanilla.. (and free labels)

If you have never tried homemade vanilla extract, you don't know what you are missing. If well-made (more on that later) it is fabulously better than any store bought (especially the imitation of course!) I made vanilla extract last year for the first time and perfected my technique. I made about 32 oz. this year for gift-giving to my co-workers and friends.

The most important things to know about making vanilla is the concentration (ratio of beans to alcohol) and the time needed for extraction. I used the information from here for the recipe.  It is important to remember that it cannot be called "extract" (by FDA designation) unless there is at least 0.8 oz of vanilla per cup of alcohol (you must use alcohol in order to extract the favor from the bean. But remember that the alcohol bakes off leaving just the flavor behind). I used 1 ounce of beans per cup of vodka, which is slightly more than the required amount.  I aged it for more than 6 months to extract all the vanilla flavor before decanting into bottles.
The very best instructions and information for making vanilla is found on the Vanilla Review blog, so be sure to check it out. I purchased my vanilla beans from Vanilla Products off ebay, just be sure to get Grade B (extract) beans. I tried Grade A, and they did not extract as well. The beans were soft, supple, with a wonderful fragrance, and easy to cut.
You might recognize these bottles, I ...ahem... "recycled" them from Cracker Barrel (they originally had syrup in them). Ask nicely and leave your waitress a generous tip! I ran them through the dishwasher, removed the labels (Goo Gone is your friend here) and then ran them through the dishwasher again.

I also purchased these 2 oz. Boston Round bottles from Amazon but had to use the CB bottles when I ran out of the purchased ones. They are slightly bigger than the CB bottle (2 oz instead of 1.5 oz), and need no prep before use (although I did run them through the dishwasher as well).
On to the labels. I designed these in Make-The-Cut and designed a non-personalized version for you as well. Even if you do not own a cutting machine, MTC is the easiest and most intuitive program for this kind of designing. Way, way easier than Adobe Illustrator. I cannot recommend it any higher. I am an affiliate so check out my link (see sidebar) if you want to try it. You can download it and try it for free to see how it works (It is fully functional other than it cuts a diagonal line though the cuts until your purchase it. You also cannot save to the different formats).
Here's a screen shot of the labels I designed for you. In case you don't have a cuttting machine, they are designed to be used with the Fiskars X-large Oval Punch.
In order to protect the label from dripping vanilla, I covered it with a glossy clear covering (The Duck brand that I found was clear and glossy. Clear Contact paper is matte and frosted, it will work but is not as professional looking).  The covering made them a bit thicker but I was able to punch them out without too much pressure.   I used my ATG gun to attach these to the bottles but any permanent adhesive will work.
You can see the clear covering in this photo. And you can download the non-personalized labels here for the next few days.
I also designed (in MTC again) a round gift tag. I have a non-personalized version for your use as well if you would like to download it (free until the end of the year)!  I drew in the holly and berries on mine but added a printed one for you. I found the holly image (free) here. I traced it in MTC to get solid colors.
Punch holes for the cord (I used a Fiskars hand punch that makes two holes but I can't find a link to it), attach with elastic cord...
or baker's twine (which is easier than the elastic cord).
Place in plastic bags (I used these and they fit perfectly) and tie with a festive yarn.        
  And you are all ready for gifting! 

(Although I have provided affiliate links for the supplies, I actually purchased most of my supplies locally at WalMart, Michaels or JoAnns. I did not receive any free supplies. Links are provided for those who cannot find them locally.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Crafting with kids...Floating Christmas ornaments

Ever wonder what to do with those clear glass ornaments you see at the craft store around Christmas? Why not make a dated photo ornament to bring back memories of Christmas past every year! These make great crafts for school age kids around Christmas time.  (Thank you, Sarah, for allowing me to highlight your little cutie in this post.)

What you need:
- plastic or glass ornaments, 2 5/8" *
- clear acetate or a transparency with the design printed on it *
- your photos printed out *
- 1 3/4" punch (I used the EK Success punch)
- red sticky tape or other clear adhesive
- scissors
- glue dots (I used medium but mini would be better. These were used to attach the bow to the glass)
- various ribbons for hanger, bows, embellishment
- clear bag for packaging
- tweezers are very useful
                                            * more info below

The Down-and-Dirty (just the instructions, ma'am):
1. Cut out the design from the transparency, cutting slightly within the black line.
2. Punch out your photo and adhere to the back of the transparency with clear adhesive. There will be a thin line of red beyond the photo to frame it. Adhering the photo to the back of the design makes the ornament two-sided, one side will be the picture; the other, the year. The white from the back of the photo helps to highlight the design in red.
3. Remove the top from the glass ornament. Roll up the transparency - carefully - and place it into the glass ornament. Rolling the transparency with the photo on the outside seems to work better. You may need to use the tweezers or a thin instrument (we used the handle of a plastic spoon) to arrange the insert correctly. Replace the top when you are happy with the appearance.
4. Embellish as desired. I used a bow on the front, and a thin gold ribbon as a hanger. Place into a plastic bag (this decreases the chance of breakage) and tie another ribbon around it. Ta-da, you're done!

*The Nitty Gritty, or all the other info that you may need to know (or maybe not?):
glass ornaments.  I got these at Hobby Lobby for 50% off, so $4 for 12.  Or get these these: clear glass ornamentsIf you can find plastic ornaments, this is even better. Micheal's usually has them early in the season for .99 each (often marked 50% off). I had a few but did not buy enough so I had to get the glass ones instead. We did break one (out of 20, not bad!)
transparency with the design. I will be providing a link to my design at the end of the post. Or you can design your own.
   I designed this one in Make-The-Cut and exported it to a jpg file. I checked on the prices at Staples, and they charge 1.99 for a color transparency or .99 for a black one. You may want to check prices at other office and print centers as there may be a better price elsewhere. I was fortunate in that my school had a laser copier that we used to print out both the transparencies and the photos. Color photo copies at Staples are .49 if you need that as well. They can print from either a copy or from a flash drive.
You can see in this photo (above) that I intentionally made the outer red ring slightly larger than the 1.75" photo so there would be a red border. The clear allowance beyond that allows for imperfect cutting (the kids did their own cutting, even the 5 y.o.) and makes the photos appear to float in the ornament.
     No access to a color laser copier? No problem! You can use any clear acetate and attach the photo directly to it. See the clear acetate window on the box of ornaments? Yuppers, that works too, if you are just attaching a photo. Just don't try to run it through the copier!
I bought these bows at the Dollar Tree last year. We attached them to the ornament with a glue dot.
I also made some bows from red grosgrain ribbon for some of the ornaments.
I used PhotoShop Elements to print out the photos and was able to get 20 per page. But printing out wallet size photos (2" x 3") will also work. Many printers have a setting to allow you to do this, I know that Canon has a printing utility that will allow you to do this.
     And here is what you've been waiting for, the link to the jpg file for the transparency sheet. Enjoy! I would love to see your projects if you make them!

This post may contain affiliate links but all items were purchased by me and all opinions are mine alone!