Tag Archives: handmade gifts

Sew Busy: Embroidered Tote Bags

Sometimes when I start on a craft project, I have a hard time stopping. Pacing is not really my thing. A few weeks ago, Big Sis came down for a weekend and I dragged out a handful of embroidery ideas I’d found on Pinterest, along with a few fabrics to pair them to. Once we gathered the supplies to pull it all together, I became obsessed. Like nine bags in a week obsessed. Intervention, anyone?

Now I’m not crazy. There is a story behind my stitching. These lined shopping totes are intended for our annual Hoegarden Weekend, that magical time when the females in our family gather to shop, antique, play board games, cook, snack and break out the croquet mallets. Here’s a peek at what I’ve been up to, and who’s already claimed what.

The “How I Roll” Camper Bag
Camper Bag

Camper Bag close-up

Sister #3 has already laid claim to this one, sight unseen. She has a thing for campers and as soon as she heard it was in the works, she called dibs. I love the colors – so whimsical and fun.

The “Runs With Scissors” Bag
Runs With Scissors Bag

Runs With Scissors Bag Detail

I made this one with Mom in mind. As a life-long quilter and seamstress, it suits her to a T. She has spent a lifetime teaching the five of us every type of craft – from knitting to sewing to embroidery to, well you name it. Red is her color, and this fun bag will be perfect for transporting supplies back & forth to her Cozy Quilters meetings each Wednesday. Hope she likes it!

The “Make A Wish” Dandelion Bag
Dandelion Bag

Dandelion Bag close-up

This one is mine. I love the color & patterns in the print, but most of all I love the simplicity of it. I’m not letting this one go, no matter how hard they wish.

The “Nerdy Hooter” Tote
Owl Bag

Owl Close-Up

I didn’t name this one, my daughter did when she laid claim to this bag. She fell in love with this cute, sassy owl. The bag is lined in a cute owl print, as well. As a first grade teacher, her class will love it. And it’s large, which makes it perfect for bringing her work home each night.

The “Sleep Under the Stars” Bag
Camping Under the Stars Bag

Camping Under the Stars close-up

I made this one with our Baby Sister in mind. She’s always loved camping, and with her son in Boy Scouts, they get the chance to practice their camping skills often. I especially love the animal print. Check out their cute chevron tails! If The Baby wants this one, she’d better mark her territory quickly.

The “French Knot Flowers” Bag
French Knot Flowers Bag

French Knot Flowers Detail

So…many…knots! But I love how the flowers turned out. I like to think of them as firework flowers. As a button enthusiast, this one makes me happy. The bright colors of the bag and lining are so cheerful.

The “Bee Happy” Bag
Bee Happy Bag

Bee Happy Detail

Speaking of happy…this cute bee was one of the first bags I tackled. To make the wings stand out, I painted a thin layer of iridescent opal fabric paint before stitching on the details. Extra layers of thread on the bee body make it slightly 3-dimensional and the colorful floral print seemed a natural choice.

The “Don’t Bug Me” Bag
Chevron Bug Bag

Chevron Bug Bag close-up

Bees don’t have all the fun. This little chevron cutie is paired with a vine & flower print and was inspired by the tiny bugs in the print. The eyes are vintage gemstone buttons scored at an estate sale this summer. Too cute.

The “Let’s Get Swept Away” Bag
Swept Away Bag

Swept Away Close-Up

And last, but certainly not least, this adorable ‘swept away’ bag was made with my niece (K) in mind. Big Sis thought her baby would love it. There’s so much promise in the design, and so many opportunities in life to get swept up in. It’s not just a bag, it’s a motto. No pressure, K. You can choose another bag if it speaks to you (even though she’s blonde & adorable like you).

Swept Away Detail

I got totally swept up in this project, and I’m not quite done yet. Big Sis is working on her own embroidered front panel featuring a vintage bicycle, and once she’s done she’ll send it back so I can finish it to match the others. There are also plans to make small bags for our two littlest girls (both 5 years old). Four generations of crafty females in our family make me so proud to be a part of it.

What was the last craft project you got swept up in? -jeanne

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DIY: Girly Decorative Pillowcases

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Collection Collage

Feeling crafty? I am! Our OKMH gang is getting together for a weekend in just 10 days, and I’m beyond excited. All seven of us under the same roof for the first time ever? It’s going to be epic! As a special treat, I made pillowcases for the girls – bright, colorful, girly pillowcases. What’s a girlfriends weekend for, after all, if not pampering, shopping, cocktails and flashy floral prints?

This is my simple DIY tutorial for decorative pillowcases.

For one queen-size pillowcase, you will need:
one yard of cotton quilting fabric (42″ wide x 36″ long)
one 6″ x 44″ piece of a coordinating solid
one 44″ piece of 1/2″ grosgrain ribbon
thread to match
felt & embroidery floss, to make a monogram (optional)
one tiny color-coordinated button (also optional)

Start by washing and ironing your yard of quilting fabric and the coordinating solid, then trim off any scraggly threads along the unfinished edges.

DIY Pillowcase - Loose Threads

Fold the yard of quilting fabric in half lengthwise with the good sides facing each other. Because quilting fabrics come from the factory with finished edges, this means your longer sides will already be ‘finished’ and only the top & bottom of the pillowcase will need to be edged to keep it from unraveling.

DIY Pillowcase - Factory Finished Edges

Pin the long side of your pillowcase and stitch it twice, so it’s extra sturdy. CAUTION: some fabrics have white edges and print along the finished edges. Be sure to stitch inside that line so this doesn’t show on your finished pillowcase. I’ll show you what I mean.

DIY Pillowcase - Double Stitched Edges

Here’s a simple trick for stitching the bottom of the pillowcase. Because the edges are ‘raw’ they can unravel when washed. I like to use bias tape to cover the raw edge. It helps create really sharp edges when the case is turned right-side out. Place your bias tape halfway beneath your unfinished edge, leaving at least 1/2″ of excess tape on each end. Fold the edges in so they’re flush with the edge of the fabric, then bend the bias tape in half to cover the entire edge and pin it into place. Double stitch all the way across to secure the tape. When done, trim off your thread tails and turn the case right sides out. Use a ruler to push your corners into a perfect right angle, and press your pillowcase.

DIY Pillowcase - Bias Tape Collage

Now we’re ready to tackle the opening and decorative trim. For the opening of the pillowcase, I turn the raw edge under 1/2″ and press, then turn under 1/2″ again and pin it in place. Again, double stitch for a more professional finish.

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Hem Collage

If you’re making a simple pillowcase, you can stop here. But if want to embellish, a simple ruffle with ribbon trim is a great way to go about it.

DIY Pillowcase - Ribbon Collage

1. Fold your solid trim fabric in half lengthwise and lay it on your finished case. I like to place the folded edge about 1″ from the finished opening of the case.

2. Lay out the ribbon, aligning it so that it just overlaps the cut edge. Pin the ribbon and ruffle into place so that the two edges meet at the side seam.

3. Stitch it all into place. I like use a ribbon with decorative stitching, and sew just along both sides of that stitching.

4. To join the two ends, fold one edge of the ruffle fabric in about 1/2″ and press it flat. Tuck the unfinished edge inside to hide it. Fold one end of the ribbon under 1/4″ or so and pin it to cover the other end of the ribbon. To finish, stitch across the folded edge of the trim to close it.

5. One last flourish – monogramming.

Do you have to monogram your pillowcases? No, but it does add a nice finishing touch and it’s easier than you think. Using your computer, open a Word document. Type in the initial you need and change the font until you find one you like. Play with the font size so that the finished letter fits easily on your solid border. Then hit ‘print’ and grab your paper off the printer. Roughly cut out a square around your letter and pin that square onto a piece of felt. Using sharp scissors, cut out the letter. When done, pin it to your solid ruffle and sew it on with your machine OR by using a simple stitch and a contrasting embroidery floss. (This one is machine-stitched. The others below are hand-stitched.)

DIY Pillowcase - Finished & Rolled

I took this one a step further with an iron-on flower and a small felt butterfly because this one is for the young daughter of a friend. I hope she’ll love her butterfly with pearls. For the ladies, I embroidered the monograms and finished them with a cute little button in a contrasting color.

When done, I folded the pillowcases and tied them shut with a coordinating ribbon. Here’s a look at some of the finished pillowcases for our first One Kitchen Many Hearts weekend. I just love how they turned out.

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Cases Collage

There’s so much joy in a handmade gift, and I admit I had a ball making these! Even better, the ladies will all have a keepsake from our first weekend together. Now I just need them to hurry up and get here. Not that we’re watching the clock or anything (we’re all totally watching the clock), but SHAKE A LEG, LADIES! We need to get this party started!

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Photo Tutorial: How to Make Felt Mice and The One That Got Away

Felt Mouse Tutorial - 1Header with Text

You asked for it; you got it. Following my post on the felt mouse invasion we launched upon my sister’s new home in the country, some of you requested a step-by-step tutorial on how to make them. Here’s my attempt. If you have any questions at the end of this, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to clarify.

To start, print my mouse pattern on an 8.5″ x 11″ standard sheet of paper.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Printed Pattern

There are two patterns on the page – one for a large mouse and one for a small. Cut the page in half, and then you can decide if you’d like to make a large or small meeska buddy. For this tutorial, I’m using the large.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pattern Cut in Half

Carefully cut out the pattern pieces. I like to cut just outside the line since it will be trimmed off as I cut the felt. I’m a visual person & this helps me somehow.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Cut Out Pattern Pieces

Next, you will need:
1 felt square in the color of your choice for the body
1 felt square (or piece of one) in a contrasting color for ears
embroidery thread (also called floss) that matches the body color
quilt batting or cotton balls for stuffing
an embroidery needle with a sharp point
black beads or buttons for eyes (2 per mouse)
small black pompom for nose (1 per mouse)
black embroidery thread for whiskers
sharp scissors & clear craft glue

I decided on a pale grey felt for this tutorial because it photographs well. For the ears, I chose black to show off the stitching. So, let’s get started.

First, fold your body felt so that it’s wide enough to fit the main pattern piece.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Place Body Pattern on Fold

The long straight edge on the left should lay directly on the edge of the fold. You can pin the pattern pieces down if it helps, or simple hold tight and cut along the arched edge of the pattern. Sharp scissors are a must for me.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Body Cut on Fold

At this point, I like to go ahead and cut out all the pieces. I’m a process girl – cut all the pieces, stitch all the pieces, connect all the pieces.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pattern Pieces Cut Out

If you’re not a certified anal retentive like me, you can cut & work one piece at a time. It’s really a matter of whatever you’re comfortable with. Once you’re ready to sew, the first step is to pick a thread color that matches the body.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Pick a Thread That Matches the Body Color

I chose this nice grey shade; it’s a great match. Did you notice the spool? It’s actually a foam wine cork. Can we sidetrack for a minute? I want to show you how I reorganized my embroidery thread. I was inspired by a bag of horribly tangled embroidery thread and some heavy cursing (don’t ask).

Felt Mouse Tutorial - My Organized Thread Box

After untangling all my embroidery thread, I grabbed my jar of foam corks and a sharp paring knife. First, I cut a slit in the top of each cork; then I cut out a shallow “V” notch at the top of the slit.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Corked Embroidery Thread

Using a strip of blue painter’s tape, I secured one end to the side of the cork. I then wrapped then entire skein of embroidery thread around the cork, leaving approximately 1 1/2 to 2″ as a ‘tail’ to tuck into the slit on top. The ‘V’ helps you find the slit in the top of the cork (because corks tend to self-heal when cut) and the deep slit holds the thread firmly in place. Once all your thread is corked, they can be easily stored in a metal tin or plastic tub with a lid. I used this metal tin because it was big enough to lay all the corks flat, which made it easier to see which colors I have. It also gave me enough room to store a pin cushion, extra packages of needles, a pair of scissors and a small embroidery hoop. I love it.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - My Embroidery Box

Now back to the mice! I like to use an embroidery needle with a nice deep hole because I’m turning 50 in March and it would take me all day to thread a smaller needle – even with reading glasses. Here’s a snap of what I’m talking about, in case you decide to pick some up at your local craft store.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Embroidery Needle With Deep Eye

That deep, wide hole makes it easy to thread embroidery thread through the eye of the needle. It’s especially handy if you’re using all 6 strands at once. Did I just lose the beginners? Let me clarify. Embroidery thread is made up of 6 strands of thread twisted together. If you want bold stitching, you use all 6 threads. If not, you can separate out threads to use as many as you like. For stitching up these mice, I used 3 threads (except for the whiskers, when I used all 6). It helps to cut the length of thread you want to use BEFORE trying to separate threads. I like to work with a piece about 18″ long most of the time.

So, starting with a needle threaded with 3 strands of your embroidery thread, grab the body felt, fold it in half (just as you did when you cut it) and let’s start at the bottom (or wide) end. I use a straight stitch for this.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Evenly Spaced Stitches are Key

Unless you’re planning to fashion a costume for your mouse, it’s important to keep your stitches evenly spaced. It makes a big difference in how the finished mouse looks. Just take your time. When you reach the tip of the nose, tie a good knot, then run your needle through the felt into the cavity of the body. Cutting the thread inside the mouse hides any loose ends when it’s knotted. I do this to all the pieces to make the finished part neater. When done, it will look like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Body - Stitched on the Curved Side

If you have a bag of quilt batting (fluffy filler) lying around the house, grab it. If not, you can use cotton balls. They’re much cheaper than a bag of quilt batting, and you won’t need many to stuff a mouse. I find that 6-10 cotton balls are usually enough to stuff a large mouse. First, I like to stretch them out and fluff them up a little. It makes for a less lumpy mouse.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuffing - Cotton Ball Stretched Out

Grab a cotton ball ‘strip’ and gently stuff it down into the nose. If it helps, you can close your scissors and use the pointy end to gently push the cotton into the tip of the nose. Then add additional cotton until the mouse is filled.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuff Lightly With Cotton Balls or Batting

When I first started, I overstuffed my mice to the point that they were too firm. I didn’t think much of it until I tried to sew on the other body parts. If your mouse is overstuffed with filler, you’ll have a hard time running your needle through the body to attach other pieces. Plus, I’ve found that a less-stuffed mouse just looks better. When I’m happy with how stuffed my mouse is, I like to form a ring of cotton to put at the very bottom.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Stuffing - Finish with a Cotton Coil

That little cotton ring forms a base so your mouse will sit up properly when he’s done. Now grab your circle you cut for the bottom and let’s put it into place.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Bottom - Placing the Bottom Panel

Grab your needle and thread and stitch the bottom onto the mouse. As usual, if you start your knot inside the body cavity it won’t show when it’s finished.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Bottom - Hide Knot Inside Before Stitching

Watch your stitching so it’s evenly spaced again. This part is going to show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the Bottom

When you’re done, tie a good knot to secure it and trim the loose threads at the end off. If you start and end at the ‘spine’ seam, you won’t have to worry about the knot showing. We’re going to cover it with the tail later.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Parts - Prepped & Ready to Assemble

And now you’re ready to assemble the other body parts. Try not to notice that some of mine are already finished in the background of that photo. We’ll get to all of those in a minute. For now, let’s start with the ears. Grab one of your ‘outside’ pieces and center the contrasting center piece on top.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Matching Ear Pieces

Feel free to move the inside color around until it’s centered and you’re happy with the way it looks. If it overhangs the outside color at the bottom edge, just trim off the excess felt. Once you’re happy with it, grab your needle and stitch it down. I love to use the body color so it shows up as contrast stitching on the ear. Again, I like to start with my knot on the back side so it doesn’t show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Hiding the Starting Knot

I’m not sure what this stitch is officially called, but I like to run my needle past the next stitch, then come back to make each ‘loop’. Why? Because it allows me to barely run my needle through the depth of the grey felt so my stitches aren’t as noticeable on the back of each ear.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Detail Stitch Shown

If you’re not concerned about the back of the ears, just do a regular stitch to secure it. You’re using embroidery thread in the body color, so it’s not a big deal. Again, I’m anal retentive and I tend to get hung up on little details like that. I apologize. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Ear - Finished Detail Stitch

You don’t need to worry about tying a knot at the end, because we’re going to immediately fold the ear in half at the bottom edge and stitch it closed.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Ear in Half at Bottom Edge

Stitch across the straight edge at the bottom of the ear, just as you did when you sewed the body together, then tie a knot to secure it. All done!

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Ear

Now do the same to the other ear, and we’re ready to stitch them onto the body. I like to start by placing the first ear (facing forward, of course) about 1″ from the tip of the nose, and about 1/3″ to 1/2″ from the seam of the ‘spine’. Then stitch it down (be careful not to go through the mouse and out the other side or you’ll sew your mouse shut); knot it and snip off the end. Like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the First Ear

To make sure I get the second ear in the correct position, I line it up like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - To Place 2nd Ear - Line Up with First

You can pin it into place if that helps. Just make sure you reach inside the mouse body to make sure you’re not pinning or sewing all the way through the other side. Once both ears are attached, you can pry them open and move them up or down a little until you like how they look.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - The Ears Are On

Ready to make a tail? Me, too! Grab your tail piece and make sure you have enough thread in your needle. I hate to start a piece and have to stop and tie knots in the middle. Once I start a piece, I like to go to the end without stopping. I know! I told you I have issues! Don’t be like me. Just grab your tail (heehee)… I mean grab your mouse tail, and fold it in half at the bottom edge. We’re going to sew it up just like we did the body.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Tail in Half & Start Stitching at Base

Do you have a problem with your nails getting brittle and splitting and breaking off in the winter? I do. Drives me crazy. Anywho, stitch up your mouse tail until you get as close to the tip as possible. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Fold Tail in Half & Stitch Edge to Tip

The more narrow that tail gets, the tougher it is to stitch it shut. When it’s done, it should look something like this:

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Tail

Now grab your mouse body, and we’ll attach it at the ‘spine’ seam.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Attaching the Tail

I find it easier to flip him upside down.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Tail - Line Up Tail w Base - Tail Pointing to Head

And now your tail is attached. Here’s the bonus to all that tail stitching – it gives it enough structure to bend and shape the tail any way you want, which gives your mouse more personality. You can thank me later. So now you’re ears and tail are on. Congratulations! You’re almost finished.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Almost There

Let’s move on to arms. I think the arms are what makes these mice so adorable. And versatile. A mouse with arms can do just about anything. More on that later. For now, grab an arm piece and we’ll stitch it up just like we did the tail – starting at the flat end. Stop when you get to the part where the palm flares, and secure with a strong knot. I like to run the thread back down through the arm before I cut it so the knot doesn’t show.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Tuck the Thread Tail Down Into Arm

Here’s where I just get crazy stupid excited. I LOVE making these arms and hands. It adds so much personality to your mouse. And it’s seriously fun. Grab your scissors, and let’s start cutting fingers for your mouse.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Hand - Cutting the First Finger

Using sharp scissors, remove little curved triangles to form 4 fingers.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Hands - Trim Triangles Out to form Fingers

Gah! Isn’t that adorable? I just love these little mouse hands.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Arm

When both hands are done, we’re ready to stitch the arms on. I like to attach them both at the same time by pinching them together on the ‘spine’ seam.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Arms - Attaching to Body at the Spine

I really stitch these down well, so I’ll go over it twice before I knot it off. Here’s what I mean when I say arms give these mice such character.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - One Body Down - One Face To Go

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Yo - Can a Mouse Get a Face Here

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Papa Can You See Me

See? They don’t even have faces yet, and they’re starting to come to life. This must be what being an animator feels like. Please say you’re just as crazy about this as I am so I don’t feel like a total craft geek. Please.

Maybe we should just move on to faces. Every mouse needs whiskers. For this, I use all 6 strands of the embroidery thread. Tying a knot about 1″ from the end, I pull the needle through the end of the snout (about 1/4″ from the tip). The knot stops the whiskers from pulling all the way through.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Sewing Whiskers Onto Snout

Once it’s through, cut the second side to the same length as the first (1″). To secure them, I use a toothpick and apply a small dab of clear craft glue at the base of both sides of the whiskers. Tip: just as wax is used by men to keep handlebar mustaches in line, so goes Chapstick for wee little mousetaches – keeps those whiskers separated & stylish.

Next, we’ll place the eyes. If I’m not sure where I want to put them, I grab a few straight pins with the balls on the end. I just keep jabbing the mouse in the head until I like how it looks. If you need to, mark the spot with a pencil.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Testing Eye Placement With Pins

I buy shiny round beads for the eyes and tiny pompoms for noses. (They love me at Hobby Lobby.) Once I sew them down, I hit them with a dab of clear craft glue just to make sure they’re securely attached.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Beady Eyes & PomPom Nose

You’re done! Now you’re free to embellish your mouse any way you see fit. For this one, I created a flower from an antique button. I thought it would be sweet to have her holding a flower, since she’s making new friends here.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Finished Mouse - Hello Cutie

It almost looks like a bridal bouquet. Which is an insight into how my mind works. Now that I’ve seen her and thought ‘bridal bouquet’, there’s a good chance I’ll end up making a wedding dress and veil for her. Because in my mind, more is more; and more is better.

And that brings me to The One That Got Away from Sister #4.

My Big Sister and I started this mouse project separately, but there came a time during the summer when Mom decided to visit and Big Sis decided to join us. At that time, we committed to combining the mouse tribes into one big happy family and finish it together so we could tag them and box them up in one tidy bundle. We made the last few mice together while sipping cocktails and chatting around the living room coffee table.

And that’s where Grandpa FisherMouse came to life. He was the very last mouse I crafted, and I fell so head-over-heels for him, I told the girls I wasn’t sure I could turn loose of him. I mean… could you?

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse - Basket Side

I just love him. He has a fishing net with a few small fish in it. And a fishing pole with one on the hook (and there’s a bobber on the line). He even has a fishing vest with teeny tiny buttons and a trout basket.

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse - Vest Close-Up

This is where that anal retentive attention to detail comes into play. Sometimes I can’t stop myself. He has a little print bandana, a black felt hat, and I even braided a band to go around the hat. He reminds me of the movie ‘A River Runs Through It’ – which may be why I’m obsessed with him. There’s a slight chance it might be tied to my deep and abiding love of Robert Redford, Brad Pitt and the great state of Montana. Maybe-ish. Whatever – he’s mine (my preciousss).

Felt Mouse Tutorial - Grandpa FisherMouse

Sorry, Sister #4. I love ya’ and all, but you’re not getting this one. :)
Maybe I should make him a canoe out of toothpicks & popsicle sticks…

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OKMH: The Secret Santa Project

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) - Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) – Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

As 2012 draws to a close (that seems so unreal) so does our first year of One Kitchen Many Hearts boxes. This little ‘boxes of love’ project has been one of the greatest joys of the year for me. Not necessarily for what I received, but for how much fun I had hand-picking items to send to each beloved friend. I anxiously waited, every other month, to see how those gifts would be received. And when a box of love was a success, it made the whole world seem brighter.

For December, our final exchange of 2012, we decided to draw names Secret Santa style and surprise each other. No teasers. No hints. No “wait until you see what I’m sending you” tweets. Until that box showed up on each porch, there would be no clue as to who was sending to whom. My Secret Santa was Kirsten (my twin separated at birth) from Comfortably Domestic in Michigan. And true to her ‘kindred spirit’ form, she totally nailed it.

Perfect theme. Perfect choices. And SO…. MUCH…. LOOT!

OKMH Dec - A Sleigh full of Gifts

Check out this card. Clearly, she’s on board with my exercise regime.

OKMH Dec - Front of Card

OKMH Dec - Inside the Card

Yup. She gets me. She knows that I pine (whine) over her glorious abundance of snow while we languish in shorts and sip iced drinks well into January. I covet her snow. So she sent me a Winter Wonderland in a box, and it was perfect. Perfect timing, perfect selections… just perfect in every way.

My first squeal came when I discovered the tub of Mayan Hot Cocoa Mix. She posted this recipe on her blog and I swooned, but then she sent me some! AND she even sent a fabulous snowflake mug and a tub of miniature freeze-dried marshmallows. How fun is that? They’re so tiny & cute!

OKMH Dec - Cocoa Marshmallow & A Cup

So of course I immediately made a cup so I could enjoy it while I unpacked the rest of the box. Evidently, I am all about instant gratification when it comes to hot cocoa. Kirsten’s is even more decadent because it has a hint of cayenne pepper in it. Not enough so that you taste it, but just enough that you feel a slight burn in the back of your throat. I love that sweet little burn.

OKMH Dec - First Cup of Cocoa

SO. GOOD. If that wasn’t enough, she included these cute ‘cup’ cookie cutters.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutters

I haven’t made cookies with them yet, but I’m going to. Soon. Until I get around to it, here’s a suggestion of how they would work. Just imagine it’s a chocolate almond shortbread cookie. Or a cranberry orange sugar cookie.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutter

Get a load of the Winter Wonderland goodies she sourced for this baking kit:

OKMH Dec - Holiday Baking Bonanza

It’s a virtual baking blizzard up in here! That snowflake spatula is sturdy, man! Even the stiffest cookie or bread doughs will be conquered with that beast. I love it! And a girl can never, ever have too many cupcake wrappers. There’s just no such thing as ‘enough’ cupcake wrappers.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Baking Cups

And there were sprinkles. Snowflake Sprinkles, y’all!

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Sprinkles

This snowflake cookie cutter is sturdy, too. This ain’t no flimsy aluminum cookie cutter, my friends. This cutter says ‘I could do this all day.’ It laughs at flimsy cookie cutters. At nearly 4″ across, if this made actual snowflakes, they could kill on impact. Can you just imagine giant buttery snowflakes falling from the sky? I can, and I’m catching them in my mug of hot cocoa.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Cutter & Spatula

One cookie, and you’d be stuffed to the gills. I would pretend to be a dainty eater. You’d be all like, “Can I offer you another holiday treat?” And I’d be all like, “No thanks; I just ate a snowflake. I couldn’t eat another bite!”

But I saved the best baking surprise for last. It’s this little unassuming bottle:

OKMH Dec - Nectar of the Gods

It’s unicorn tears. I’m just kidding. It’s actually fiori di sicilia and it’s a baker’s secret weapon. A blend of citrus & vanilla, it brightens everything from ice cream to cookies to bread dough. I cannot WAIT to crack that puppy open! I just have to find the perfect recipe. Something truly worthy. Suggestions?

Also included in the box – two sweet winter-themed hand towels (who doesn’t love a penguin, seriously) and a snowflake ornament. Ah-door-ah-bull.

OKMH Dec - Cute Ornament & Towels

But wait, there’s more! No OKMH box is complete without something girlie and Kirsten went for mani/pedi fun. As a south coaster, Kirsten knows I’m a slave to humidity. When winter comes and the heaters click on, I begin to shrivel like a lizard. There’s nothing pretty about it, either. So for my dry lizard skin, there is Carmex healing cream. As soon as I put it on, my skin said, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” And there was polish! I love these two sparkly, frosty colors together. So pretty!

OKMH Dec - Hand Care

And for those days when sweet & frosty won’t cut it, she included this wild OPI set as a tribute to my Day of the Dead Mask post from October. So much fun, and they even came with little DOTD stickers for your nails, too!

OKMH Dec - DOTD Nail Polish

These are going in my Tub-O-Polish for girlie nail painting parties like Hoegarden. Or when I want to spice up my toes (even though no one will see them this winter). It’s like wearing racy underwear under a boring business suit. Hypothetically speaking, of course. {giggling}

Always a mom at heart, she included these reuseable snack bags for the grandkids – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. They’re going to love them. I’ve already stuffed them with snacks and juice boxes. No kidding.

OKMH Dec - Reusable Snack Bags

I love that these are washable, and the kids are going to love the cute prints. Lilly Bug is all girl with a pink fetish and Jonah Bear is all about the super heroes. Thanks for thinking of them, Kirsten. So thoughtful.

But I saved my very favorite surprise for last.

Did I mention Kirsten is a knitter? I wish I knew how to knit. We made a deal recently. She’ll teach me to knit if I’ll teach her to sew. We just need a few weeks together. That’s all. Or maybe a month. A month would be much better.

Lucky for me, Kirsten is a gifted knitter and she made something special just for me in the most beautiful shade of blue. Seriously, I died.

OKMH Dec - Hand-Knitted Gloves

Fingerless Victorian-inspired gloves. Fingerless because she knows it never gets cold enough down here to wear a heavy coat. Victorian because we share a love of antiques. Some day we will wear gloves and sip chai tea together as we browse antique shops. It’s a dream of ours, and one I’m determined WILL come true. Some day. Until then, check out the details on these beauties:

OKMH Dec - Glove Details

Not just ruffles, but ruffles with contrasting trim in black. And those buttons. They kill me. I don’t know how she did it. Well, actually there’s a story behind the gloves. If you look at the photo of the inside of the card again, you’ll see that little note on the top left corner about a funny story. It turns out that Kirsten crafted these gloves while they were traveling by car for Thanksgiving. She was so excited to get them done on the drive, she showed them to her husband, who commented “Did you mean to knit two left-handed gloves?” To her surprise, she’d accidentally made two lefts. She had to rip one apart and re-knit it into a right handed glove. She calls that a funny story. I would have cried.

OKMH Dec - gloves & a heart

Those gloves are a symbol of how nothing gets in the way of our devotion to make each box as perfect as possible. I can’t speak for all the ladies, but I believe the preparation and care and love that goes into crafting each OKMH box is the best part of this project. Well, that and hearing how much each box meant to those who received them. And although 2012 is almost behind us, I have a feeling One Kitchen Many Hearts will continue for years to come.

I’m sending a big bear hug to Kirsten, along with a very special thanks for my Winter Wonderland extravaganza. I could not imagine a better holiday surprise. As Kirsten so eloquently puts it, I love these ladies more than cake. And if you’d like to see what everyone else received, drop in on them at the links below. In case you’re curious, I sent my Secret Santa box to Mads. {squee!}

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic

Megan at Country Cleaver

Kat at Tenaciously Yours

Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World

Mads at La Petite Pancake

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