Also, there has been some major traffic to this post from last year (A 12 Days of Christmas Gift Gift Guide) starting weeks ago, which indicates to me that some of you ladies are hardcore Christmas Pinteresting already! And as much as my last minute self hates to admit it, you're on to something. So I've decided to change tactics this year, and work on projects gradually to avoid all that last minute stress that is the enemy of peace and joy.
Our first project is pinecones. It's great to start the season off with a stockpile of ready to use pinecones. They are perfect for decorating wreaths, making centerpieces, garlands, place settings, and adding that extra touch to a simply wrapped gift. They're classic au naturel or glitzy when spray painted. We also use them to make fire starters to give as gifts to family members who have wood burning stoves or fireplaces.
Since we had a day near 60 degrees earlier in the week I took the kids to the park, gave them each a bag, and told them that the one who gathered the most pinecones would win a prize. I'm brilliant, I know. Within minutes, we had quite a load.
The next day we layered them on cookie sheets covered with foil, and dried them in the oven for about 90 minutes at 250 degrees. This drying step is imperative, because the pinecones have a messy sap that can get everywhere, and they may have tiny bugs living in them. The low heat solves these problems and causes them to open up beautifully.
Once the pinecones have cooled completely, they can be stored in ziplock bags (for years, even) until they are called into holiday action. We went ahead and made a batch of fire starters, since our ball was already rolling. There are "recipes" all over the web, but basically we melt leftover candle remnants (I save them throughout the year) in a double boiler, dip the pinecones into the liquid wax/paraffin, and then dry on wax paper. And voila, an easy, free, practical and stylish gift. The best of all worlds, if you ask me!