Recycled Wrapping Paper Garland Christmas Tree Backdrop

My friend Liz is always busting my chops about my crafty adventures taking up waaaay too much of my time and requiring waaaay too much effort on my part.

Alright, you got me this time Liz.

I admit it: this little gem took waaaay too much of my time!  But I sort of love it anyway.

Paper Garland Christmas Tree Backdrop

I find I’m rather obsessed with having a Christmas tree backdrop after the pinwheels of last year.  The pinwheels hung around all the way through Oscar Party but they started to fall apart as the year wore on.  It seemed like too much effort to disassemble them and after weeks of nursing it along to stay on the wall, I didn’t feel like another repair.  So I took them down and put them in my guest room and closed the door so I wouldn’t have to think about it.

Time passed.

I forgot they were in there.

And then I finally had to make my guest room livable again.  Crap.  You would not believe what was in there when I opened the door.  A massive pinwheel wall hanging.  Dang it.

I still didn’t want to repair it.  And it seemed wrong to throw it away.  So I had to recycle.

So I started cutting circles.  LOTS of circles from the pinwheels.  I cut 1200 circles OK?  Yes, it took a long time.  But I had some bootleged season 3 Downton Abbey to watch while I was doing it so time passed quickly.

I then glued two circles together with fishing line between.  Repeat about 30 times and you have a garland.  Repeat a bunch of times and you can fill the space behind the tree.  That took a while too.

Paper Garland Christmas Tree Backdrop But I don’t regret it.

Paper Garland Christmas Tree Backdrop

I love the sparkle the back wall kicks off when the Christmas tree is shining on it.  And it has to hold up better than the pinwheels, right?



Lily’s Danish Almond Cookies

It is well known family lore that my Mother’s recipes can be somewhat difficult to follow.  There’s the classic at the bottom of the recipe, “oh and add ____” an ingredient which does not appear in the ingredient listing an is not mentioned until the very last step of the recipe, but it is KEY to a successful turnout.  There’s also the measurement standards she uses such a “one package of nuts” and one “cube of butter” and “add some extra flour”.   No mention of what size package of nuts or the fact that a cube of butter = 1 stick of butter or that “some” flour can be over half a cup….

But I gotta tell you, it makes for really fun recipe reading.  Where else do you get instructions like “Stir over heat until a full rolling boil.  You pretty much have to have a book to read since it needs constant stirring.  I also bring a chair over to rest one leg on it like in a saloon.”  Now, I’ve never made fudge in a saloon, but if I did, I would read a book while waiting for the sugar mixture to boil.

So this week when Heather wrote to try to decipher one of my Mom’s classics, I actually had to look up the recipe.  I figure I should put it on the blog so it will be easier for us to find in the future.  We had these Danish Almond Cookies every year when I was growing up and they are still a staple in my house at Christmas.
Lily's Danish Almond Cookies small


  • 1 C Butter
  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 2 C Flour
  • 1 C Ground Almonds
  • 1/2 t Almond Extract

Cream the butter and sugar together.  Mix in remaining ingredients.  Separate into two sections and roll each into a log shape.  Wrap with waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hours or freeze for 20 minutes.

Slice and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  These cookies don’t expand when you cook them so you can really cram a lot on one cookie sheet.  This recipe doubles well.  In fact, I almost always double it because they are so small and delicious, it’s easy to mainline about 10 before you realize what’s happened.

One year I had little helpers for the sprinkles and while distracted with some dinner prep, I turned around to find….

Sprinkle Cookies with Colored Sugar That there had been some very generous sprinkling.Whoops.  Too many sprinkles.

Generous sprinkling or the regular amount, they are delicious.


Austin Christmas Bucket List

This weekend I had Jack and Caroline over and I was trying to think up some fun Austin things to do with them.  We’ve pretty much run through most of my go-tos with all of our other Auntie Martta fun days so I decided we should try to do something Christmas-y.

It turns out there are tons of fun things to do in this town during Christmas that are totally, uniquely Austin.  So here’s the list I came up with… we didn’t hit them all this year, but we sure did make a dent!

Austin Christmas Bucket List

So what do you think?  Did I miss anything??


Christmas Bucket List

Yes, it’s 83 degrees and sunny here today, but that doesn’t mean I’m not transforming the place into a winter wonderland on the inside!  I’ve been putting up the decorations, getting ready for next weekend’s Gingerbread House Party and thinking Christmas thoughts.  So I thought I’d put together a Christmas bucket list – I gotta have a plan for the season!

Christmas Bucket List


DIY Gold Mercury Glass

Man, you could not turn around this past Christmas season without seeing mercury glass – from those darling owls at West End to ornaments at Target, it was just everywhere.  But it wasn’t a sparkly silver Christmas for me, this year it was all about gold and red.  So how to make gold mercury glass?

I scoured blogland and read up on my Martha to find knocking off mercury glass should be pretty easy.  So I dug into my supply of glass vases and gold paint and I was ready to go.  It’s pretty straightforward really, just pick up a newspaper, tape, a spray water bottle, paint and glass containers and you’re ready to make gold mercury glass too.  You can see I’ve got a few chunky dowels here too – those are for drying the vase upside down.  After a few vases, I just skipped that step – it dries fine right side up or upside down assuming you don’t have too much water in there.

Step one: Mask off the outside of your vase – you’ll be working on the inside only. Grab a spray bottle and load it up with water.  Gently mist into the vase.  I found if the vase is really tall that it helps to start spraying at the bottom and work my way up. You’ll have to experiment with how far away to hold the sprayer – too close and your water will glob up and run in streaks, too far and you’ll end up getting the newspaper really wet.If you spray in too much water, just wipe it out and start again.  You’re going for spots, not runs of water.  Here’s what mine looks like.  Once you’ve gotten your desired level of misting, you’re ready for step two.  Pick your paint and get ready to start layering.  I experimented with quite a few different paint options: shiny gold, satin gold, and mirror paint.  I found the effect that I liked the best was having shiny gold first.  Remember, what you put on first is the color on the outside and will be the most prominent.

Spray very light coats of paint.  Just bursts of color really – you can always add more!  The look I was going for had a bit of that transparent quality and the only way to achieve that is to put less paint on the vase.

Ok, walk away and let it dry.

This is where Martha’s tutorial stops, she says ‘you’re done!’, but I wasn’t feeling it – I wanted more depth and texture.  Other blogs recommend an acid etch at this point.  Having no desire to break out the thick gloves, I looked for alternatives.

A few blogs recommend a faux acid etch with white vinegar.  This turned out to be a total waste of time – I had vinegar all over that sucka and nothing.  But I had a break through when I went to wash the vinegar off.  Yes, my little green scrubby sponge and some hot water etched that paint right off! You can go really crazy here and practically scrub off all the paint – the hotter the water, the easier it is to remove.  If you aren’t careful, the paint will come off in giant sheets (also more likely if you’ve put on a thicker coat of paint).  It’s an interesting look, but eventually, I decided a light scrub was my favorite.  In just a few seconds, I had the etched look I was after.

Now for a second coat of paint.  Again, I masked off and sprayed with water and then tried all three of my paint options.  The shiny gold was my favorite again.  Here’s the breakdown  of my paint combinations.

Go with the one you like the best or play around with tons of other options.  With a candle inside, I think it gives off the perfect gold mercury glass glow.

These vases are perfect for the holidays and of course Oscar Party!  And it’s March now, and they are still on my buffet, so it looks like they will be staying out for a while. 

Enjoy making your own mercury glass!


Wrapping Paper Pinwheels

I don’t know what came over me, but this year I decided to be a radical.

What can I say?  It’s Time’s year of the protester and I protested my normal Christmas tree set up.  (hey, just because I’m not sleeping in a park for months doesn’t mean I can’t fight The Man too.  Of course in this case, The Man is also me which makes it fighting The Woman and I’m fighting myself…..whatever this is getting too complicated).

Should you decide to move your already assembled and mostly decorated Christmas tree six feet to the right over carpet, I recommend getting a buddy to help with positioning and I especially recommend not doing it AFTER you have wine.

Hilarity ensues.

Cursing ensues.

We end this scene with minimal tree damage and more wine.

On to the next day.  Ahh doesn’t it look great?  I love the tree in the center of the room.

Hmmm you know, it does seem to highlight a little bit that I’ve lived in my house for 5 years and haven’t actually made the decision to commit to curtains in the living room…..I just got some in the family room like a year ago….

Well curtains are waaay too big of a decision to make with the Christmas season busy-ness upon us, so I had to find another way.  I saw this paper pinwheel backdrop and thought it was genius. 

I know, I have it….I will make a pinwheel backdrop out of wrapping paper.  This way it will coordinate perfectly with not just the tree, but all the presents underneath it too!  The tutorial is super easy and soon I was making pinwheels like mad.

Ali’s tutorial calls for stapling the pinwheels together – I found that it was faster and created a better finished look if I used a glue stick to seal the seams….plus you know how I love a good glue stick.

Ali also used two or three sections of folded fans for each pinwheel.  For pinwheels in the 10″-20″ range, I also used three sections.  For my biggest (30″) and smallest (6″) pinwheels  I only needed two sections.  As I got lazier, I used only two sections for some of the 10″-20″ pinwheels.  It’s a bit of a stretch but it can work.  If you discover that the glue won’t hold, just cheat and put in a paperclip on the backside of the pinwheel to hold the edge until the glue sets. 

The tutorial calls for pinning each wheel to the wall.  Hmmm, I wasn’t a huge fan of a lot of holes in my wall so I rustled around in the garage and found two 8′ lengths of replacement lattice strips.  I created a rough frame of about 3’x4′ with cross braces at the corners. (It was promptly covered in pinwheels so I’ll have to take a picture of the back after I take it down so you have an idea of what it looks like).  This frame is so light I actually hot glued the entire thing together.

On to assembly!  I laid out my pinwheels to make sure I had enough (’cause you know the first two or three times I practiced layouts, I totally did not have enough….back to the folding and gluing grind).

Once I liked what I had, I hot glued the pinwheels to the frame.

To give added dimension and support to some of the larger pinwheels, I glued a paper plate to the back of the pinwheel.  This makes the pinwheel stand out from the others as well as hold it’s shape a bit better. 

The finished piece ended up about 5’x6′ and I struggled to get it hung up behind the Christmas tree.  (Pro Tip: Hang it up BEFORE you put the Christmas tree there…so much easier.)  I briefly considered moving the tree and then I remembered the hilarity and cursing (see above) of my last Christmas tree movement and decided to leave well enough alone.

I stepped back to admire my work.  Ahhh, isn’t she beautiful? 

What the crap???  You can hardly see it!  Damn it!  This tree is ginormous!

Back to making more pinwheels.  Oh, you know I was excited about that.

OK but totally worth it.  And from the front door it looks even better.

I love my pinwheels

They are super festive and coordinate perfectly! 

And if you think I’m not leaving this up for Oscar Party, you are crazy.  This is going to be on the wall for a while….mainly because I haven’t figure out where I’m going to store it in my house….it’s huge!

Happy Folding


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Christmas Dessert Bar Party

‘Tis the season to be busy!

But never too busy to get together with friends.  Restaurant reservations are a drag and I don’t want to be out fighting the crowds, I’d rather be cosy in my own home.  So what’s a lazy girl to do?  Break out the cocktails and cut down on the menu.

I love hosting a dessert bar party, especially at this time of year when everyone is in the mood to eat sweet treats!  I picked a chocolate/peppermint food theme and found there are nearly endless variations of treats… many of which are sooo easy to make.  Here’s my menu:

I picked up an inexpensive roll of red and white striped wrapping paper and created a runner down the center of my kitchen table.  I then stacked cake plates to display each layer of tasty treat:

I printed individual labels with a peppermint boarder for each of the treats:

and done!  One totally fab, almost too beautiful to eat dessert bar.

Don’t forget coordinating striped red and white gift bags so your friends can take some of these goodies home with them! 

The only drawback is the dishes…..but it’s a small price to pay!


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