Holiday Roundup: Gifts, Crafts, Recipes


Origami Stars

I thought I’d round up a bunch of recommendations and past favorites from this time of year.

Regarding the stars, a few weeks ago I got obsessed with making these. Directions here.

Let’s start out with a few gift recommendations.

Books for Kids:

Here’s my list from last year. Here’s a list of favorite craft books for kids.

This year I’m giving Into the Unknown to two of my nephews. It’s a beautifully illustrated nonfiction book about explorers. More about it here.

Another nephew and son book this year: Boycraft, a British craft book with plenty of blood and guts and monsters, beautifully photographed. It can certainly be given to girls as well. I find a lot of kid craft books are full of purses and headbands and jewelry, and this book fills a void. We checked it out from the library earlier this year, and my son loved it.

I’m a big fan of Ed Emberley’s drawing books and thumbprint art books. Another illustrator with great drawing books is Sachiko Umoto. We have Let’s Draw Cute Animals, and I love it. She has several others, though. Wishing I had all from both authors.

One more drawing book, for preschoolers especially: Hand Art from Klutz. And another recommendation: high quality colored pencils. A few good brands: Prismacolor, Lyra, Caran D’ache. There is a huge difference in these vs. the cheapie kinds.

For the little chef in your life, we’re loving Chop Chop magazine, which has a great balance between fun and nutrition and encouragement to try new things.

If you need more recommendations, try going to your local independent bookstore (and of course actually buying there). Speaking of which, my own books are stocked at Charlotte’s own Park Road books, an excellent bookstore!

Amy Karol at Angry Chicken also has some great recommendations over at her blog.

Crafts of Christmas Past:

Quick wreath from backyard greenery

Simple ribbon wreath

Gift wrapping cloths

Cardboard Christmas trees

Fabric mache ornament

Simple gifts to make (with or without kids)


German-Inspired Almond Meal Cut-Out Cookies

Gluten-Free Almond Meal Cut-Out Cookies

Hope you are keeping warm and cozy. Cheers!

Origami Star




Cloth Gift Wrap

Fabric Gift Wrap

I’d been wanting to do this for ages and finally tried it. There are lots of ways it’s been done—-most notably, of course, Japanese furoshiki. And there’s lots of ways I’d like to try making wrapping cloths, but this time, I just made a simple rolled hem on rectangles of fabric. Directions for “cheater” rolled hemming here. Thank you, Pinterest for that great tutorial via Meg of

The Santa and angel fabrics are thrifted linens (already hemmed) from my favorite thrift shop in Hannover, Germany where we lived the last couple of years. And the new green and red stripey fabric is from Joann’s.

To wrap, I just folded the fabric and held it in place with the ribbon. Easy peasy. They wouldn’t hold up to a toddler’s inspection, but they’ll work fine for us.

Cloth Gift Wrap

Quickie Fabric Mache Ornament

Cloth Mache Ornament

This is one of those last-minute inspirations that happened to work out. I was trimming bits from a Christmas sewing project (to be pictured later) and had all these great strips of cheery prints. It seemed a shame to waste them.

Christmas Mache ornament

I grabbed a balloon, blew it up just a little (you could do a bigger version if you wanted) and tied it off. Then I made a water-and-Elmer’s-glue mixture, dipped the strips, and wrapped them around the balloon, just like papier mache—-only one layer of strips, though. I left a few holes here and there, but if I had to do it again, I’d leave more holes for effect.

This would be a great quick craft to do with older children, though of course you have to be able to stomach glue mess. Not a problem in my case.

Family members who shall remain nameless were skeptical, but in the morning, when the glue was dry and the balloon popped, it DID actually detach from the cloth and leave this little egg-shaped vessel. It could’ve dried a bit more, though. Make sure it’s dried ALL the way for best results.

Fabric Ornament

Then you just make a thread hoop/hanger thingy and presto! change-o! You’re done.

Simplest Christmas Craft Ever

I had to come up with something easy for the kids to do at the school holiday event. This is about as simple as it comes. You can do it using recycled cardboard and without glue. I got the inspiration here (this blog, by artist Patricia Zapata, has all kinds of great recycling crafts as well as other awesome goodies, like printable pdfs). My version uses a simpler shape that can be cut with scissors, so it’s a perfect project for young kids.

You could always add further decoration: sequins, glitter, paper ornaments, yarn. You could also sew a loop through the tip and hang it on your tree. Personally I like the simplicity of the tree without decoration, especially the way the packaging becomes decorative out of context, when you almost don’t know what it is anymore. You can certainly do this with other shapes, too (circles, stars, hearts).  I think a whole forest of trees in different sizes would be awesome. Let me know if you make some. I have included at the bottom a template, just in case you want one. For personal use only, please. But if you can bear it, I recommend letting the kids make their own tree shapes or whatever shapes they like. I found cutting the slit just a little bit further than halfway made for easy assembly.

Our three-year-old has been singing “We Miss You, America” to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”—-completely unaware that these are not the real words.