monday melodies: a christmas mix for YOU!

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Seriously, how much do you want to swap circumstances with the woman pictured above? Trade the computer and office for a pool float and crystal-blue water, bobbing with ornaments? Where do I sign up? Alas, I’m at work today, wrapping up loose ends and getting ahead before a gloriously long, nine-day (!!!) break. In case you, too, are spending today in front of a screen, below is a mix o’ music I put together for your ears only. It’s eclectic as all get out, but I hope listening to it makes your work day feel a little bit (79 minutes, to be precise) shorter. If you like what you hear, I shared a holiday mix here a couple years ago, in case you want to give that one a listen too.

Christmas break, here we come!

xoxo,

Meghan

Photo c/o: Honey Ryder

holiday how-to: DIY mulling spice kits

mulling spice kit // high plains thrifterThere’s nothing more gratifying than giving a homemade gift. I know it sounds cheesy, but the heartfelt aspect of making and giving just can’t be matched buying store-bought presents. In order to save money, time and sanity during this busy holiday season, I’ve learned (the hard way, some years) how important it is to find ideas that can be made ahead, multiplied and don’t require a ton of expensive specialty supplies. Which is why I’m so stoked about these cute mulling spice kits I made for the craft swap.

mulling spice group // high plains thrifter

It’s seriously the easiest gift to make! Start by finding a mulling spice recipe you like (or make up your own, as I did!), and then figure out how to scale it to suit your gifting needs. (I needed to make about 40-50 gifts, so I sought out a big-batch recipe and followed those proportions.) The combination I came up with melded a couple recipes and included star anise, dried orange and lemon peels, broken cinnamon sticks, whole allspice berries, cloves, cardamom pods and some chopped crystallized ginger. Once you shop for your spices and get your orange or lemon peels dried, dump it all into a bowl, stir it up and take a big whiff.

Mulling Spice Mix // high plains thrifterAfter that, I divvied the yummy-smelling spice mixture up by the heaping 1/4-cup full into  muslin sachets. I found the sachets at my co-op for 15 cents a pop, but you can also get them in bulk here. Then I popped each sachet into a 3 x 3-inch white paper box found (on sale!) at The Container Store. Each box got topped with a sticker featuring directions on how to use the spices, a cute template I found here on 30 Pounds of Apples. (I had no idea craft-paper sticker paper was a thing!)

mulling spice kit // high plains thrifter

Then came my favorite part…making them cute! At first I thought about painting each box, an idea my boyfriend deemed “too much.” (He was, as usual, 100-percent right!) I decided instead to put my bags of thrifted pompoms to use and threaded them with a yarn needed onto leftover yarn. I go nuts if I have to do the same thing over and over and over, so I was happy to decorate each of these in a unique way. I think they turned out darling! Start to finish, including printing the labels, assembling the boxes, making the spice mix and decorating, it took about three episodes of McMillian & Wife (so about three-and-a-half hours). Not too shabby when you consider I now have 40+ gifts ready to go! Combined with my homemade Apple-Cinnamon Jameson, I have just about everyone on my list covered. (Just in the nick of time!)

finished kitsAre you finishing up your handmade holiday projects this weekend or am I the only one who waited ’til the last minute? Either way, I hope your pre-Christmas weekend is absolutely fabulous!

xo,

Meghan

heads up: christmas clearance sales

tumblr_mxpxt2I0Nn1s011meo1_500Ready for a quick game of good-news, bad-news? The bad news: Christmas is officially one week away and I still haven’t finished decorating. (Oops!) The good news? Almost all of our local thrift stores are having massive Christmas clearance sales this week! So whether you’re on the hunt for more cookie tins, hostess presents, gift-wrapping supplies or that perfect finishing touch to your holiday decorating scheme, here are the places to hit for a heck of a deal.

Thrift stores offering 75% savings on all Christmas merchandise:
Bethesda Thrift Shop,now through December 23rd.
New to You Thriftique, now through December 21st.

Thrift stores offering 50% savings on all Christmas merchandise:
ARC’s Value Village Stores
Unique, today through Thursday, December 26th.
Bibles for Missions Thrift Center, now through December 21st.
Savers, now through Thursday, December 26th. (Excludes red tags!)
Salvation Army Thrift Stores, now through December 24th.
Hidden Treasures Thrift Store, now through December 21st.

Thrift stores offering 25% savings on all Christmas merchandise:
Steeple People Thrift Store, including all items in their sweet new holiday expansion!

Happy (holiday) shopping!!

xo,

Meghan

Photo c/o: La Dulzura

craft-swap conundrum

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You guys, I’m in the midst of a Christmas crisis! My dear friend Rae’s Handmade Holiday Swap is four days away, and in typical “don’t worry about it Meghan, you’ve got plenty of time” fashion, I’ve put off picking what to make! I’ve been noodling on it all week though, combing my craft and cook book collection, earmarking posts on my favorite blogs and even braving the ever-overwhelming Pinterest. Swap rules stipulate that gifts need to be shelf-stable and relatively small, but other than that, anything goes. (Last year, for reference, I swapped this yummy pineapple jam.) I think I’ve narrowed it down (a little), thank heavens, and here are a few of the ideas that are in the running.

Handmade Holiday Swap Ideas

Top : DIY Hand-Painted Spoons via Ziploc’s Inspired Holiday Series featuring ideas from Jojotastic
Middle: Album Cover Journals; Key FobsChristmas-in-a-Jar Simmer Scents; Embroidery Hoop Ornaments; DIY Leather Hair Ties
Bottom: DIY Stationery Sets; Gingerbread ScrubsMexican Hot Chocolate Mixes (packaged with a little bottle of tequila?); DIY Popcorn Seasoning Sets; Coconut Curry Caramel Corn

Are you guys DIY-ing instead (or in addition, more realistically) than buying this year? I’d love to hear what holiday crafts you’re making and giving! I’ll keep you posted regarding what I go with to make and swap…if I ever make a decision, that is.

Wishing you the most wonderful of weekends!

xo,

Meghan

Top photo: source unknown

christmas gift wrapping with goodwill goods

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

They say presentation is everything, and when it comes to Christmas gift wrapping, that old adage rings especially true. Instead of looking at wrapping presents as a chore, I like to think of it as an extension of the gift-giving ritual…an opportunity to put even a little more love into the gift, in addition to flexing a little creative muscle.

When the holidays start creeping on the horizon, I make a point to look for wrapping supplies during each and every trip to the thrift-store. There’s always an abundance of fun stuff to play with (in both the craft section and holiday aisles), and by shopping second-hand, I know that I’m not only saving money, but that my gift-giving presentations are going to be one-of-a-kind. To bulk up your wrapping stash on a dime, keep your eyes open for…

BASICS

Wrapping paper: I have a soft spot for vintage paper, but most thrift stores will also have brand new rolls in stock. (Also keep on the lookout for old maps or mags, both of which make for great wrapping paper!)

Boxes: Craft-paper, plain or blinged-out, decorative gift boxes, you’ll find it all.

Gift bags: Good to have on hand, always. I like to my eyes open for wine bags, as I’m frequently toting bottles to dinner parties and it feels more special when presented in a bag.

Jars: Perfect for edible treats, reusable jars are a staple in my gift-wrapping routine.

Ribbon: Fabric, metallic, raffia, paper, yarn, vintage…pick up a few different kinds so you can mix, match and layer.

Fabric: My go-to for wrapping odd-sized presents.

EXTRAS

Ornaments: Fabulous present-toppers and can also be a memorable part of the present.

Jingle bells: Cute to look at, easy to attach and oh-so-very festive!

Tinsel garlands: A glittery stand-in for ribbon.

Bows: Big or small, bows add a sweet finishing touch. I look for multi-packs of the twist-tie velvet bows, as they attach to gifts quickly and easily.

Doilies: Any size and any color!

Pom-poms

Gift tags

Rubber stamps

In need of a some visual inspiration? Here are a few ideas for presentations that’ll make your packages stand out under the tree, using materials thrifted at area Goodwill stores!

From cocoa to cookie mix, who can resist a tasty treat packaged up in an adorable jar? The addition of jingle bells, tied on with twine, takes this patterned canning jar from everyday ho-hum to stocking-ready in mere minutes.

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

Layered gifts, like this mix for oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, look lovely in tall jars. A Christmas-light ornament, homemade pom-pom and candy-cane colored washi-tape tagged card add a home-y touch.

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

Goodwill is stocked with many holiday themed jars and tins too. All this baby needed was a curlicued ribbon to make it pop.

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

Brown craft-paper boxes are blank slates when it comes to packaging. I used craft glue to affix red, green and white pom-poms (another craft section find) to the small box on the right, while the larger one got topped with vintage ribbon and a bottle-brush tree, clipped in place with a glittery mini clothespin. So easy!

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

Hate wrapping paper? Switch things up and wrap a few presents in fabric this year! I used a vintage scarf and tinsel garland to doll up the package on the left. (Recipients can choose to wear or display the scarf, depending on their style.) On the right, a bit of scrap fabric, edged with pinking shears, tied shut with vintage ribbon (and more ornaments!) secures this package.

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

When I found some plain, white, flat-packed gift boxes, I knew they had big potential. I embellished the box on the right with gold star stickers, and then followed this tutorial from Mineco for the wrapping, using tinsel-trimmings and yellow gold cellophane, for a suspended confetti kind of look. Fun right?

Gift-Wrapping with Goodwill // high plains thrifter

Bells and whistles aside, sometimes a roll or two of festive wrapping paper is all you need to get the job done. I was so charmed by the vintage cookie and Santa papers, I snatched them up in October! The brown packages are grocery bags turned inside out, finished off with a paper doily, velvet bow and vintage ribbon. Affordable, easy and oh-so-pretty!

Photos by Julia McMahon // LB Jeffries

Photos by: Julia McMahon // LB Jeffries Photography

Have you hit the thrift for wrapping supplies? If you haven’t before, I hope you’re feeling inspired to give it a try now! For more pretty gift-wrapping inspiration, head on over to my Pretty Packaging pin-board, where I save my favorite ideas for Christmas and beyond.

xoxo,

Meghan

A version of this post first appeared on the Goodwill / Easter Seals Minnesota blog.

holiday how-to: quick-fix praline bars

Here’s a typical story from my life: Earlier this month I celebrated my 30th birthday party with a cookie swap at my favorite bar. The party was starting in half-an-hour, and, of course, I hadn’t had time to bake a single cookie. I knew it would be OK for me to skip the swap, but I still wanted to contribute a little something sweet. Into my brain, like a saving grace, popped this recipe…a holiday favorite of my Grandma Mary. The simple ingredients and unfussy proportions make it an easy one to recall by heart, and before I knew it, I was on my way out the door, tin of cookies in hand, with a minute or two to spare.

Before I share her recipe, please know one thing: No one’s going to “ooh” and “ahh” over how these bars look. They’re not showy, they’re simple. But whatever they lack in looks, they make up for (ten-fold) in taste. I figured I’d share the recipe with you this week, in case you too find yourself in a pinch and need to whip up something for a holiday party or potluck at the last minute.

grahambars

Grandma Mary’s Praline Bars

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

24 graham crackers (roughly two packs from an average-size box)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)

HOW TO MAKE

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Arrange graham crackers on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.

3. Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling in a saucepan. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla.

3. Working fast, spread the caramelized sugar on top of the crackers, as evenly as possible.

4. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

5. Bake for 10 or so minutes, or until the caramel starts to bubble. Watch ‘em carefully because they can scorch from just a minute or two of over-baking.

6. Let them cool and then break into squares or pieces.

This recipe doubles like a dream, which you might as well do because they take literally 15 minutes start-to-finish and you will want to gobble them all up as soon as they are cool.

xoxo,

Meghan

seasons greetings

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Disagree all you want, but for me, Christmas mail is the best mail. Lately after work, I’ve found myself going straight to the mailbox too see what’s arrived that day. A pretty card, a letter from family far away, cute baby photos from friends…every night it’s a little dose of happy. Speaking of happy mail, I scanned in a collection of Christmas cards from my mom and had to share them with you. Each is a treasure in its own way, from the staged sing-a-long to the oh-fer-cute garlands.

Are y’all enjoying the onslaught of holiday mail too? Better yet, did you send a holiday card this year? If so, here’s hoping it too is treasured.

xoxo,

Meghan

heads up: christmas clearance sale at Arc’s Value Village

tumblr_meoo1bcdRQ1qlirlwo1_500Starting today, all blue-tagged holiday items at Arc’s Value Village stores are 50% off. This special sale runs all the way through December 22, and includes ornaments, cookie tins, serving ware, linens, candles, trees, wreaths, lights, clothing (anyone have an ugly sweater party coming up?) and more. You can read my original review of the Merry Thriftmas boutiques at Value Village here and find the store nearest you here.

xoxo,

Meghan

Photo source: Vintage Penny Lane

first impression: “merry thriftmas” at ARC’s Value Village

I’m not gonna lie to you guys: I start shopping for Christmas stuff this weekend. I would feel weird about my overabundance of yuletide spirit, but I don’t. Because this weekend I discovered a group of people that are equally (if not MORE) excited about Christmas than me. I happened upon this jolly group at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, aka the opening day of the “Merry Thriftmas” shop at ARC’s Value Village store in Richfield. The entire middle section of the store that had been sectioned off and stocked full of Christmas merchandise, and when I stepped in the door, literally every single aisle was jam-packed with shoppers, many of them pushing overflowing carts! (My kind of people!) Sadly, I wasn’t much in the mood to power through such thick crowds, but I did manage to scope out the set-up so I could report back to y’all here. My findings can be summarized pretty easily though: the “Merry Thriftmas” shop has everything Christmas you could ever wish for.

Snow globes. Check!

Wrapping materials. Check!

Lawn ornaments. Check!

Sweet old ladies checking out the fake evergreen situation. Check!

Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, I quit taking pictures soon after arriving, but here’s a quick overview of what they have: Cookie tins. Christmas cards and party invitations. Holiday records. Festive serving ware. Ornaments for the tree. Twinkle lights. Cookie cutters, molds and presses. Holiday sheet music. Wreath boxes. Glitzy earrings. Bedazzled sweaters. Welcome signs. Table linens. Accent pillows. Tom and Jerry sets. Wreaths. Garlands. Trees. Christmas craft books. Christmas cookbooks. Candles. Pine cone potpourri. Wall hangings. Ribbons. Bows. Wrapping paper. Knick-knacks. Angels. Snowflakes. Reindeers. And Santas. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Santas. If it’s Christmas-related in any way, they probably have it (and it’s likely to be really affordable too).

The “Merry Thriftmas” shops are part of every Value Village location now through December 23rd, and I’m told, will be restocked with new merchandise continually. So go already (if you love Christmas) and get your shop on. ‘Tis (almost) the season, right?

xoxo,

Meghan