Fast Handmade Gifts

Need a last-minute homemade gift?

I’m sure many have their shopping finished, but some of us aren’t that perfect, okay? I’m always amazed at my sister-in-law Melissa, who smartly begins shopping months early. The rest of us are just avoiding the mall this week.

So here are things that you can make in just a few hours.


A cloud. You didn’t know you could make a cloud, did you? Well you can. I made this one for my niece’s birthday in August. I rolled up pieces of paper and loosely stitched them together to make the shape and then covered them with quilt batting. It is hung with fishing wire and “raindrops” dangle from the bottom.


Decoupaged frames. I made these using a torn-up map, a cheap wooden frame, and Mod Podge (for the glue as well as the sealant).


This one I made using pages of a spare copy of Pride and Prejudice.


In this one I used the same sacrificed book, but I soaked the pages in coffee and burnt some of the edges to make it look antiqued.

If you know how to crochet, there are lots of things you can do. I personally prefer knitting but find many crochet products faster and easier.


This potholder was the very first thing I ever crocheted. I watched a few YouTube videos and started on this right away. So even if you don’t know how to crochet, there’s time for you to learn. This one is just a granny square with chain-stitched border and a solid back.


I also made all of these headbands the day I learned to crochet!
Ravelry link
The pattern–free


This potholder/trivet/hot pad is so beautiful and took only a few hours for me to make. The red color reminds me of a poinsettia–perfect for the holiday.
I would love to make another one with inverted colors–the set would make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves cooking! I could imagine my mom and grandmother having a few of these in their kitchens.


I had so much fun making the first trivet (the pattern is really cool!) that i immediately had to try it in a different color.  And I use these both all the time.
Ravelry link
The pattern-free


This owl hat also took only a day to make. Though that’s pushing it–you might want to schedule this one so you’ll have two days to work on it. But it’s worth it–who wouldn’t love an owl hat??


This is what the hat looks like with a normal outfit (sorry about the top being cut off!). Yes, I got some stares that day. Except at Hobby Lobby, where everyone understood.
Ravelry link
The pattern–$4.99
Or you can buy the pattern at the Ravelry link above (then you can download it instantly rather than wait for the Etsy seller to email it to you)


A painting. Trust me–a simple, beautiful painting does not require an extraordinary amount of artistry. I like to say I am one of the least artistic people alive but somehow managed to make four paintings this year I’m very proud of.  They’re not going to be in a museum, but they’re good enough to be hung on my walls. A simple painting on a white canvas can be really beautiful, or you can try for something a bit more abstract.


This is the very first thing I painted. I was ecstatic with the way it came out and proud of myself for trying something completely new.

The wonderful thing about crafting is the allowance for mistakes. You don’t need to be scared of making an imperfect product–just roll up your sleeves and try. Everything I’ve made has mistakes, and that’s what gives it character. I love receiving handmade gifts–knowing that someone took the time and thought to physically work on create something for me is unparalleled.


Here’s something that takes less handiwork–homemade spice blends. I sent these to my dad for Christmas last year (in extra large bottles because he cooks so much), and he is still using them. I found the recipes on various websites, mainly Allrecipes.com
I haven’t tried all the spices, but here is one I would absolutely recommend: Taco Seasoning. Even if you don’t plan on giving these gifts, you need to throw out your store-bought taco seasoning and switch over to this ASAP.

If you enjoy cooking, you might try giving your hard-to-shop-for uncle an assortment of holiday food. You can buy all kinds of cute packaging–I know Hobby Lobby has little boxes made just for that purpose. I would recommend Puppy Chow, Peppermint Bark, and Oreo Truffles

Oven Hot Dogs

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I love hot dogs. I mean, I really love hot dogs. I think that’s probably because of oven hot dogs.

oven hot dogs

I know, they sound crazy. And you have to eat them with a fork and knife.  But I promise oven hot dogs are absolutely delicious. My dad made these for us, and I think his mom started the trend when he was a kid. And they aren’t only delicious out of nostalgia–my husband loves them, and my brother told me his wife requests oven hot dogs every time they’re lost for what to eat.

Because this is a family recipe, I took step-by-step photos. Hopefully my dad will comment telling me what I did wrong because mine still never taste as good as his! It’s funny how that always happens, right?

oven hot dogs
Here’s what you need: hot dogs, hot dog buns, mayonnaise, mustard, sweet relish, chili, cheese, and diced onions.

oven hot dogs
Cover the inside of the buns with mayonnaise. Lots of mayonnaise!

oven hot dogs
Add the hot dogs and squish them together in a baking dish. Normally there would be one more, but, um… I ate it before it made it to the pan…
A 9×13″ pan is perfect for eight hot dogs! We like ‘em really packed in there.

oven hot dogs
Add a bit of mustard if that’s your thing.

oven hot dogs
Now add sweet relish! But I think I messed up–I think the sweet relish is better when put at the bottom of the bun with the mayonnaise.
Edit: My sister, who claims to have “perfected the OHDs,” says I didn’t use enough relish! And, actually, I didn’t–but that was all I had left in the jar.
Edit 2: A few comments have complained that the relish was overwhelming, so proceed with caution! I love sweet relish, but if you don’t you might want to use less or switch to dill.

oven hot dogs
Top with chili! Just cold chili straight from the can.
I really dislike beans and have tried chili without beans, but that just doesnt’ taste right for oven hot dogs.
Second edit: Victoria again said that I need more chili and need to be messier. The hot dogs should barely be able to handle all the stuff you put on top and should be falling apart when they come out of the oven! My perfectionist tendencies get in the way of that, so please get a bit crazier.

oven hot dogs
Top with grated cheddar.

oven hot dogs
Dice your onions. My dad always made a few without onions for kids, but when he finally convinced me to try them with onions I realized that’s the way to go.

oven hot dogs
Throw on the onions

oven hot dogs
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

oven hot dogs
And now you’re done! The top with be crispy, which is why you need a fork and knife. Delicious.

Oven Hot Dogs
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
1 can of chili
1/2 an onion, diced
cheddar cheese
mayonnaise
mustard
sweet relish

Line inside of hot dog buns with mayonnaise and sweet relish. Evenly add mustard. Fill with hot dogs and squish into a 13×9″ baking pan.

Top hot dogs with chili, cheese, and diced onion. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.

Carefully remove from the pan with a spatula–I dropped one on the floor the other day :(

Christmas Decorations and The Nutcracker

We haven’t done much to prepare for the holidays this year. Our little five-foot tree would look silly in the big new house, so we decided the best course of action would be to wait until after Christmas and buy the decorations we want on sale!

But I needed to do something to celebrate my classes ending last Thursday (though I still have exams all this week), so I decided to decorate a little bit!


I covered our banisters in tinsel and affixed these glittery bows to the end.


I also made this wreath! I’m so happy with the way it came out–all the pieces were bought at Hobby Lobby and glued to the plain wreath. It’s very sparkly in person!


My cat always wants to go outside.

It’s not much, but the house definitely feels a bit livelier now. Though my seven year-old neighbor Alejandro still said we need to put lights outside (but we don’t have a ladder!)


Kitty really enjoys the small pieces of tinsel that fell off.

On the topic of holidays, Joseph and I saw The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall here in Fort Worth last night. Joseph surprised me with the tickets for our third anniversary (which is tomorrow!). We had a great time; I know I’m very lucky to have a husband who enjoys ballets with me ;)


So, this is what we looked like. I’m sorry for the horrible image quality! By the time we got dressed it was too dark out for the pictures I wanted.


I bought the dress three years ago, and this is the first chance I’ve gotten to wear it. It’s from Isaac Mizrahi’s line with Target. I miss that collection so much! He is the only designer who has ever understood what I want in clothes. I have three of his dresses, and they all fit me perfectly (which is rare) with a beautiful 1950s silhouette.  Unfortunately, even the more casual dresses aren’t the type that can be worn every day.


You might have noticed my bandaged elbow.  I’m not sure how, but I managed to cut myself badly on my shower door handle about a week ago, and the recovery is going very slowly and painfully.  Yes, on my shower door handle–I’m apparently much clumsier than I thought.


I bought these glittery shoes on Saturday to wear to performance. I figured if anything provides an opportunity to be a bit whimsical, it’s The Nutcracker.
These are the tallest heels I’ve ever worn, and I have to admit I had a bit of a rough time walking in them. But I fell in love and am searching for another chance to wear them (maybe on Christmas?).

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This is the first time I’ve tried making Italian food since moving back to Texas in July. I’d been putting it off, probably because I’m scared it won’t taste the same and I’ll forget all those tastes I grew so used to over the last three and a half years. Better to keep things in your memory than taint that memory all together, right?

But I just really needed Carbonara. I always think of Carbonara as the “breakfast pasta” just because of the eggs and bacon. It is a pretty silly association since the creamy egg sauce is more delicious than breakfast could ever hope to be (sorry, breakfast–you’re not my favorite meal).

This Epicurious recipe did not disappoint! I would make one change to the recipe–garlic. It needs garlic, but besides that the sauce tasted perfect! You should note that this recipe contains raw eggs, however.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Epicurious

5 oz guanciale, pancetta, or bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
garlic, minced (I would probably add two to four cloves, but I like a lot of garlic)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 lb spaghetti
3 large eggs
1 ½ oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (3/4 cup)
¾ oz Pecorino Romano, finely grated (1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

Cut guanciale, pancetta, or bacon into 1/3-inch dice, then cook in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until fat begins to render, 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic in the last few minutes of onion cooking (you don’t want it to burn). Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano , Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl.

Drain spaghetti in a colander and add to onion mixture, then toss with tongs over moderate heat until coated. Remove from heat and add egg mixture, tossing to combine.

Top with additional graded parmesan and serve immediately.


Don’t forget the extra parmesan!

Puppy Chow (for humans)

Puppy Chow:

Not to be confused with this:

I look forward to Puppy Chow all year round; it really is one of my favorite parts of the holidays!

I remember making this with my parents and/or my brother a lot. It was even packaged in cute little bags and handed out to my elementary school teachers a a few times. It apparently didn’t hold such significance in Joseph’s childhood, as he still seems disgusted every time I call it “Puppy Chow.”


This is all you need! Super easy.

Puppy Chow
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips
½ teaspoon vanilla
9 cups Chex cereal
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Combine peanut butter, butter and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for one minute then stir to blend all ingredients thoroughly. Add vanilla. Stir well.

Place the cereal in a large bowl. Pour the peanut butter-chocolate mixture over the cereal and toss evenly, making sure all the cereal gets a good covering.

Coat with powdered sugar, sprinkling evenly over the cereal and tossing as you sprinkle to cover each piece well.

Alternatively, place cereal mixture in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Pour in powdered sugar, zip bag, and shake until covered. Done!

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