Adding Festivity, the Lazy Way: Paper Wreath

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Seeing as we’re in Ottawa and not St. John’s for the majority of the holiday season, the Pie and I rarely trouble ourselves to decorate Elizabeth for Christmas.  But this little thing was so easy, and so quick, and the days here in St. John’s have been so very gray, I needed a little festivity … but I was too lazy to do anything too complicated.

So I have here some rolls of wrapping paper that I picked up from IKEA about seven years ago, and which I rarely use (seeing as I still have a chunk left).  The nice thing is that the wrapping paper, since it came on a roll, has a natural curve to it that I used to my advantage.  I also have a large paper plate with an extremely ugly design on it.  I don’t even know how I came to own these things, but I was cleaning out a cupboard and there they were … You will also need a pair of decent scissors and some tape.  Any kind, really, as you won’t see it.  A ribbon is optimal but also optional.

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First, we need to make a wreath form out of the paper plate.  If you want something bigger (or less ugly), you can make your own ring out of cardboard or whatever is handy.  With the paper plate all I had to do was cut out the middle section.

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Then I cut about a 5″ wide strip from the roll of wrapping paper.  I folded it in half lengthwise, so it was then about 2.5″ thick, and then folded it across itself widthwise a couple times, until I had a small rectangle about 2.5″ x 5″.  Or whatever works for you.  This just makes it easier to cut a bunch of leaves at once. This is where having a nice sharp, strong pair of scissors comes in handy.

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Then I cut a leaf shape out of the rectangle, leaving the bottom a little flattened (for optimal tape-age), and ended up with a handful of little leaves.  I did this twice for each colour of wrapping paper I used, so six times in total. I have no idea how many leaves it was, but it was exactly enough for the size of my project, which was pretty convenient — almost like I had a plan.

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Then I started taping them onto the plate, putting a wee bit of tape at the flattened end of the leaf, and making them kind of flow around the circle.  Don’t worry about making them arrow straight, and try to pick up different colours at random.

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When you put on the next haphazard row, it overlaps the first and hides the tape (this is called imbrication – like the layering of scales or roofing shingles).

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Imbrication … (I learned the word today so it’s rather convenient that I have this project for you)

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When you come full circle (and I don’t mean that metaphorically this time), just fold up the leaves already there and tuck the new ones into the space to fill the gap.

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So that’s the whole thing.

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I had a scrap of blanket binding leftover from the baby blanket I made for the Incredibly Little Hulk way back when, so I tied that on as ribbon.

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Then I added another ribbon to hang it on my door.

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This took me half an hour, from start to finish.  Change the colours of the paper leaves and I’m sure you could apply this wreath to any season (black and orange for Hallowe’en, purple and green for spring …).  Easy peasy, blamo kablam, it’s done!

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Imbricaaaaaaaation: an overlapping of edges as in tiles or scales.
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Uncharted 3 Upcycled Jewelry Cabinet

Last year for Christmas, Rusty gave the Pie the collector’s edition of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception.  That’s a videogame, for those of you who don’t know.

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Anyway, the collector’s edition came in this huge sort of armoire/chest thing, and contained, in addition to the game itself, a 12″ figurine of Drake, the main character, together with a reproduction of his necklace, a thong wrapped around a ring supposedly belonging to the explorer Francis Drake.  It was pretty cool.  And once I saw the chest, I knew that we couldn’t throw it away, because it was so well made it would HAVE to be useful for something.  I lugged it home from Ottawa, as carry-on on the plane.  It made me grumpy at the time.  I like my leg room.

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So I’ve been staring at it for the better part of the last year, trying to figure out what to do with it.  With its magnetically-sealing door and its little flocked drawers, it pretty much cries out to be a case for some form of treasure, possibly a jewelry box.  In the end, that’s what I decided to do with it.

I’m going to make a sweeping assumption about my readership here and say that you probably don’t have a collector’s edition of Uncharted 3 lying around your house, so that you can easily reproduce what I’m about to show you.  If you do, then by all means, go for it.  But if you don’t, let this give you some inspiration to upcycle or recycle some other, pretty box, into something both functional and stylish.  For example, in my closet at my parents’ house I have stashed a wooden packing crate that held the wine my cousin Lindz brought us as a wedding present.  Some day I’m going to turn it into something epic.

But back to matters at hand.  For all its structural integrity, this box is still essentially made out of cardboard, so I have to be very careful in my assemblage and dis-assemblage of it not to mess it up.  And in order to decorate it properly (enough so it looks better than my usual half-assed attempts and I can give it to someone at Christmas), I am going to have to use every ounce of my limited artistic skills and patience.

First I’m going to outline my plan for you and then we can see how well I managed to carry it out.

At first I considered removing the decorative feet and top of the box and flipping it onto its back.  It would make the box easier to store, but it would negate the usefulness of those wee drawers.  So upright it was going to be.

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Then I was going to remove the feet and top anyway, just for cleaner lines, but then it occurred to me that I could use the top to hide evidence of my construction, so I should leave it on.  And if I was going to leave the top on, I should probably leave the feet on.  So the structural appearance of this cabinet would remain the same as it was.

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Now, my plan was to screw some small hooks into the “ceiling” of the cabinet, from which one could hang necklaces.  I would put a dab of hot glue on the screw end when it came out the top, and then hide the evidence by putting the top of the cabinet back on.

For earrings, I would remove this mesh piece of cardboard from the door and replace it with a larger piece of metal wire mesh, carefully glued in place.  I would have to make sure that there was room for the door to close with it in place.

And of course I would paint the whole thing.  I’m thinking a sage green, with lighter green and ivory elements, and perhaps a touch of black (because the flocking inside the drawers is black).  So that’s the plan, as it stands.

And, like my idol Hannibal from the A-Team is wont to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

First, the disassembly.  Using a box knife, I carefully cut off the top of the chest.

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And I did my best to peel off the filigreed game pouch from the inside of the door.  It was a rough job but I wasn’t too concerned, as that would be covered over later with the earring holder.

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I pulled out the drawers as well.

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Now for the messing-about. Part of my plan included putting little hooks inside both drawers to hang bracelets and other smaller things, just to keep them from getting in the way.

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I wasn’t planning on using the adhesive that they came with. I was going to use hot glue. I also cut off the little end bits of plastic left over from when I broke them off their holder.

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Then I painted them. I made them black so they would hide against the flocking inside the drawers.  It took a couple coats of acrylic to fully hide the white.

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I cut down the front of each drawer so that you could see inside more easily.

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Then I started to paint everything. I was working with acrylic on a smooth surface so it took a few coats to make sure everything stuck. I had considered lightly sanding the cardboard before I began but I didn’t want to risk damaging it. So I just used a lot of paint.

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I used Mod Podge to glue a piece of paper over the rough bit on the door. I wasn’t too concerned about the wrinkles. The whole thing would be covered soon anyway.

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Screwing in the hooks for hanging necklaces turned out to be a snap. I just eyeballed where I thought they would go, and that ended up working out just fine.

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Some hefty daubs of hot glue ensured that they wouldn’t come sliding out again.

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This is how they look from the useful side.

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Then I cut a hole in the base of the top of the box, to accommodate the glued parts of the hooks. Then I just glued it in place and there we were.

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Now here’s where I hit my first (and really, my only) real snag. I had thought there would be enough room in the drawers for them to slide in and out even after painting. That, however, was not true. You can see here the damage done to the paint after I shoved a drawer back in and then had to wrestle it out again. Not good.

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But an easy fix, really. First, I glued the hooks in place inside the drawers.

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Then I cut down the front of the drawers even further.

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Then I simply glued them in place inside their spaces, so you couldn’t pull them out anymore, but you could still access everything inside them.

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I had originally wanted some sort of wire mesh for the earring holder on the door, but I couldn’t find any that suited my purposes. I still had plenty of those wooden sticks leftover from my coffee stirrer wall art, however, and they would do just fine.

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I used hot glue to make a little lattice arrangement out of them, which I then painted silver. That nut you see there, which I also painted silver, is going to serve as the handle to open the cabinet.

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With the main structure of the cabinet completed and the initial painting done, it was time to consider the embellishments.

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I wanted to make a nice little border around the door to echo the shape of the box itself, but I wasn’t sure how the acrylic would take to having masking tape stuck to it. So I tested it on the back first, and left it there for a day.

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It seemed to be okay so I went ahead and masked out the front.

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Then I painted in two parallel lines, one in ivory, one in silver.

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I pulled the tape off before the lines were dry, to make sure that I wouldn’t pull off more paint than I wanted. I went a bit too fast at the end and lost a corner — the hazards of painting on a smooth surface, but nothing a touch-up wouldn’t fix.

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While waiting for the touch-ups to dry, I glued on the door knob.

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Then I stuck in the lattice.

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And also some felt squares to go on the feet.

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When it was all dry, I sprayed it with a couple coats of spray varnish. The stuff I used is designed to go on artists’ canvas, so it was ideal to go over the acrylic and dried really fast.

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And that’s it, it’s done.

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I put some of my own jewelry in it so you can see how it will work. I don’t own any earrings so I hung the lattice with brooches instead.

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Those hooks hold up well.

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Plenty of room in the former drawers.

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And the doorknob holds strong.

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If I didn’t have too much jewelry to fit the thing I’d keep it for myself. I am so pleased with how well it worked out.

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And you can still see the copyright information on the bottom of the box, just so you remember its roots.

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And yes, it has occurred to me that now I have to lug it all the way back to Ottawa, carry-on on the plane and everything.  The price we pay to make our families happy …

For a dramatic juxtaposition of the before and after shots, look no further:

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Chocolate Cherry Cordials

These wee confections are the favourite treat of both my brother Ando and my father-in-law Papa John so finding a recipe on the internet was a small step towards making a really cool home-made Christmas present for the both of them.  Thanks to Veronica at Recipe Rhapsody for the idea.

These are pretty easy but they are quite time-consuming and you have to be vigilant about your chocolate coating.  You can make your cordials more alcoholic by soaking your cherries overnight in kirsch or amaretto or other liqueur but I prefer my chocolates to be teetotallers.

You will need about 2 10oz jars maraschino cherries in syrup (about 30-40 cherries), which you will need to drain (make sure to reserve some of the cherry syrup while you’re at it, a couple tablespoons’ worth just to be on the safe side).  Plop the drained cherries on a paper towel and pat them dry.

In a bowl, cream together 1/4 cup softened butter and 1 cup icing sugar.

Add in 1 tablespoon reserved cherry syrup, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  Stir it until you get a slimy pink goo.

Stir in a further 1 1/4 cups icing sugar.  You will end up with a nice pale pink dough.  If the dough sticks to your fingers too much you can add more icing sugar.  You need it to stick to itself but not to you.

Lay out a sheet of waxed paper and take a pinch (about 1-2 teaspoons) of your pink dough (fondant) in your hand.  Roll it into a ball and then clap your hands together to make a flattened patty.  Plop a cherry in the centre and pinch the dough all around the cherry.

Roll the cherry and fondant between your palms to create a nice sphere and set on the waxed paper.  Repeat with the rest of the fondant and cherries.  I found I had to make extra fondant to do all my cherries, but that’s fine.  Chill your fondant cherries in the freezer (overnight is good) while you melt your chocolate.

Melt 12oz chopped chocolate (dark or milk, it’s your preference) with 2 tablespoons shortening in a double boiler.  The shortening is there to make the melted chocolate smoother and shinier.  Who knew?

Using a fork, dip the cherry balls into the chocolate and set on waxed paper.

You can see here how the fork marks leave some of the fondant exposed.

Dip a spoon in the melted chocolate and use it to repair the holes.  The cherries have to be completely sealed in chocolate or bad things happen.

When the chocolate has hardened, remove from the waxed paper.  You will find that you have to re-seal the bottoms that were touching the waxed paper as well.  Make sure you get all the gaps!

You can store the chocolates in the refrigerator until they are set, but you will want to store them elsewhere so that they can liquefy like they are supposed to (this takes about two weeks).  Once they are ready, feel free to enjoy!

I think next time I would dip the cherries and put them on a wire rack (to avoid that unfortunate puddle at the bottom) and then, when dry, I would just dip them in their entirety again.  I would probably also be less vigilant in patting my cherries dry, as I think they would liquefy better if they had some liquid in them to begin with.