Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 19 - Simplify Handmade Gifts

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Ask any wife and mother what she needs most during the holiday season, and she'll tell you, "More time!"

Yet this same busy lady will fill her Christmas gift list with elaborate hand-crafted gifts, requiring substantial outlays of cash, time and skill.

Result? She careens into mid-December either (1) working nightly until 1 a.m. to finish the lot or (2) substituting last minute purchases for the unfinished gifts.

How to take charge of out-of-control crafting? Apply the Rule of Four!

To Do Today

Apply the "Rule of Four" to simplify handmade gifts

Thinking of adding hand-made gifts to your gift list? Here's a little test: the Rule of Four. Go to the closet or cabinet where you store craft items. How many UFOs (Un-Finished Objects) can you find? How old are they?

Did you find four or more UFOs? Were any of your UFOs more than four years old? That's a big, big reality check, and should tell you to scale back on the crafts this year.

Tempting as it is to lavish time and love on our families, we need to be realistic. If you do craft projects for pleasure, and if you usually finish them, by all means, craft your little heart out.

For the other 99% of us? Think hard before you fall for the siren song of a hand-crafted gift! Be realistic about your time, skill and ability to finish. After all, wouldn't it be wonderful to release yourself from the crafts stranglehold? You can do it ... and get ready for Christmas!

Begin working on handmade gifts

List all Gifts to Make--then step back and evaluate.

Be stern! Make your list and cut it in half--there's less time than you think. List needed materials and add them to the Master Shopping List.

Begin working on "to make" gifts this week. You must make one-fourth of your gifts each week.

No More UFOs! Get-Em-Done Strategies for Homemade Gifts

Hoping for a handmade holiday this year? Keep tabs on time and energy with more tips to organize handmade gifts and crafts:

Scanning a list of handmade craft gifts is something like reading a cookbook: it makes you hungry!

Whether you wander the crafts store, settle in at the library's craft bookshelf, or flip through holiday magazines, visions of bright and beautiful gifts follow one after the other. Will this be the year you give hand-crafted gifts ... to everyone?

Give in to the impulse to overload on holiday crafts projects, and you're likely to find yourself drowning in UFOs: Un-Finished Objects.

Try these ideas to keep your holiday crafting within bounds--and budget and timeframe, too.

Apply the Rule of Four
This simple strategy will cut to the crafting chase ... and ground you in the midst of crafting-magazine intoxication.

Go to the location where you store unfinished crafts projects. Count the number of UFOs: Un-Finished Objects. Are there more than four, or is any unfinished work over four years old?

If so, apply the Rule of Four. No new crafts this year--finish the pending projects before you buy one more hank of floss or sack of sequins!

Think theme
Lovely as it is to be a crafting grasshopper, pick a single crafting theme when you plan each season's holiday gifts.

Will this be the year for knitted scarves? If so, make them in multiples. The project will go faster with practice, unused yarn from one project can be repurposed to the next, and you'll only need to invest in a single set of tools.

Schedule regular crafting time

The quickest way to create a UFO (Un-Finished Object)? Forget to add crafting time to each week's activities.

Sure, the glow of creativity burns bright in the crafts store, but that light will go out for your project unless you set aside time to tend it. Without a scheduled time to work on handmade gifts, it's too easy to sweep them aside in the bustle of daily life.

Work daily or weekly crafting time into your schedule to see crafted gifts through to completion.

Go with the flow
Many crafts lend themselves well to small bits of time--so where you can, pack the crafts bag and take the current project along with you.

Knitting, needlework and even scrapbook doodling or journaling can be done while waiting for appointments or supervising children's play in the park.

Track progress with a "Gifts To Make" list
The simplest way to keep track of gifts-in-progress? Make and keep a Gifts To Make inventory list. Reviewed weekly, it'll remind you of planned homemade gifts. Get crafting!

Today's Recipe

praline recipe

My grandmother, Mim Miller, was a flat-out wonderful Southern cook. These chewy Texas pralines show why!

A frugal holiday treat, they used little more than a sack of sugar and pecans from the tree--but the distinctive taste makes holiday memories.

Updated with easy microwave instructions:

Mim's Texas Pralines

Creamy and delicious. this Texas treat dates from the days when Christmas memories had to be made with little more than some nuts from the backyard trees.

Traditionally sent to our family by my grandmother, Mim Miller, these pecan patties spell "Christmas" to me!

Includes both conventional and microwave directions.

1 cupbrown sugar, packed
1 cupsugar, granulated
1⁄2 cupmilk
2 teaspoonsvanilla extract
2 tablespoonsbutter, unsalted
1 cuppecan halves
Conventional directions: Combine milk and sugars in a large saucepan. Boil to the thread stage.

Add butter, vanilla and pecans, and cook over medium heat to the soft ball stage.

Remove pan from heat. Beat candy immediately until it thickens. Quickly drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Microwave directions: Combine milk and sugars in a 2-quart batter bowl; microwave on High for 7:00 minutes, until mixture begins to bubble. Add butter, vanilla and pecans.

Microwave on High six to seven minutes, until mixture reaches 232-degrees to 240-degrees--the soft ball stage.

Remove from microwave, and beat candy immediately until it thickens. Quickly drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper.

To use microwave thermometer to test temperature, crumple a 15" piece of Stretch-Tite or plastic wrap into a long ribbon.

Center the ribbon over the batter bowl, pressing both ends on the outside of the bowl. Stick the microwave thermometer through the center of the plastic wrap strip--it will stand straight up in the center of the candy.

Check the thermometer every 45 seconds to 1 minute.


NOTES : For a quick holiday treat, try making pralines in the microwave--Cynthia's update to this classic recipe. Both conventional and microwave directions are included.

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