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Wine Cork Christmas Tree with Beaded Twisted Wire Garland Tutorial

Christmas is a big holiday for my friends over at the Barker Ranch.  Every holiday is celebrated and the house is decorated from floor to ceiling – especially Christmas.   (Or Christmas Hell depending on who you’re talking too)  Every nook and cranny is stuffed with festive décor and it’s a wonder to behold.   I’m not exactly sure how it happens – it’s seems almost magical, even though I’ve been at the start of “Christmas Hell” .

Another well known fact about the Barker Ranch is that they’ve collected quite a few wine corks over the holidays.  Yes, the Barker Ranch heartily supports the California Wine Industry.  It was inevitable that the Wine Cork Christmas Tree was made.

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Wine Cork Tree Tutorial:

You will need:

  • You need cardboard paper cone form – easily found at your local craft store.  Don’t buy the foam kind – foam and hot glue are natural enemies.
  • Glue Gun
  • 15 – 20 hot glue sticks (depending on your glue gun and your glue gun skills)
  • Friends who drink wine… a lot of wine… (Caution: this project requires approximately 90 – 100 corks I do not recommend drinking all the wine in one sitting.)
  • Fine gauge wire (approx. 15 – 20 feet)
  • Decorative Beads that fit the width of the wire.


Start at the bottom of your cone form, gluing each cork and pressing it to the form.  The trick is to butt one cork right up against the other – you don’t want to see any gaps.

When you get to the end of the row – you might find yourself with a gap.  Skip it for now (we’ll come back, I promise) and start the next row – over lapping where two corks meet below.  (If you’re anxious over the missing cork portion – I recommend you open another bottle of wine)

Rinse and Repeat, continuing to the top.

When you’re ready to fill in the gaps – take a cork and eyeball where you will need to cut it.  It needs to fit the size of the gap.  Corks are really easy to cut with a sharp knife.  Place the cork on a cutting board and position your knife.  Press the knife and roll the cork, (with your knife) cutting as you go.  This will make an even cut.  Now you can go back and and glue the smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.  I use the blank corks (with out writing) to fill in the gaps.

At the top of the wine tree, you have a choice.  You can either glue wine corks all the way to the top, but if you also drink Champagne, you can easily drill out the bottom of a Champagne cork to fit over the last bit of cone.

Make the Beaded Twisted Wire Garland.

Even a wine cork tree needs a little holiday bling. (Especially if it graces the Barker Ranch).  I saw a lovely beaded garland at my girlfriends charming shop – Mulberry Row – during her holiday open house.  It was so gorgeous I had to buy it.  It seemed perfect for the wine cork tree I made for the Barker Ranch.  But after being commissioned to make 3 more wine cork tree’s, I realized I had to make my own beaded garland.

Luckily, it’s a snap to make!

Measure a length of the wire by loosely wrapping it around and around your wine cork tree.  Bend the wire to mark your spot. Double the length and cut your wire.

Thread all your beads onto the wire.  Move one bead to the middle position.

Twist the wire around the bottom of the bead to secure it.

Move another bead about an 1 inch or 1 1/2 inches from the first bead.  Twist in the opposite direction that you twisted the first bead.  If you twist in the same direction, the first bead will untwist.  I found it easier to grip the bead and twist it around the wire.

Repeat until you have the wire completed beaded.

I left a long tail which I used to attach to the top of the cone form.  Then I hot glued the corks over it, to secure the wire in place.  After wrapping the beaded garland around the cork tree, I secured the other end by using a staple, pushing it into one of the corks on the end.

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Flourless Tutorial for rolling out Cookie Dough

Every year my girlfriend KP hosts THE best cookie exchange party!  It’s a wonderful event where a group of friends can catch up (sometimes from last year’s exchange party) and have a little bit of mommy/adult time (no kids allowed).  It really puts everyone in the Holiday spirit.  And of course, you come away with a variety of yummy cookies.  I think they were exceptionally great this year.  The past few years (with the exception of last) I’ve made gingerbread snowflake cookies.  Giant snowflakes decorated with white on white frosting and silver dragees and a dusting of sparkling sugar.  They are gorgeous and almost too pretty to eat.   The gingerbread dough recipe is a famous Martha Stewart recipe and it makes THE BEST gingerbread cookies!

This year, I felt it was time to change it up.  I broke out my prized copper reindeer and sleigh cookie cutters.  These over sized cutters make large cookies that make a bigger statement and are more fun to decorate.

But they are tricky to use since they have a solid back.  If the dough sticks to the cutter, you can’t use your finger to nudge the dough out.

I’m going to share with you my method of rolling out dough without dusting the surfaces with flour.  I’ve never seen anyone do it quite the way I’m going to describe (but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one).

The first key tip is your dough should always be chilled before you cut it and before you bake it.  Otherwise it gets sticky and tricky to cut out.  And it gets puffy in the oven and doesn’t hold the shape.  No one likes a fat reindeer – they can’t fly and they certainly can’t pull Santa’s sleigh.

When I first make the dough, I separate the batch into halves or thirds.  This makes the whole process more manageable.  Each portion of dough is placed on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Flatten it out a little with your hands – then top with another piece of plastic wrap.  Now roll out the dough with your rolling pin – no flour needed!    You will need to frequently lift off the wrap and reposition.  Roll the dough out to a thickness of around ¼”.  I place the dough on one of those flexible plastic cutting boards and place it in a stead spot in your refrigerator.  This way the dough chills flat.  Chill for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled – peel off the top layer of wrap and save it for later.  Place a silpat liner upside down onto the dough (or the right side to the dough for you sewers) and flip.  Now your flexible cutting board is on top, remove that and remove the top layer of plastic.  You may need to give one last roll to smooth any wrinkles or imperfections in your dough.

Cut out your shapes, peeling away the negative space dough.  I pile that excess dough back onto the removed sheet of plastic wrap.  If you’ve done this quickly enough, your cookies can go straight into the oven, but if you’re like me and take your time or get distracted by other things, you may need to chill your dough again.

Take the remaining dough and gently knead it back together and repeat the steps above.   This method yields perfectly shaped cookies and is far less messy!

And guess what!  Martha Stewart agreed!  She asked her viewers to submit their cookies this year and out of hundreds, thousands of people – she chose to show mine on her Friday episode last Dec. 16!  Hearing her describe to her audience the “fine work by Nicki Simpson” made me feel like I won the lottery!  Thank you Martha!!

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Columbia Gorge Inspired Planters

I fell for these modern square shaped and yellow cream colored plant containers as soon as I saw them at a garage sale.  There were twelve available so I had a nice amount to play with.  Mismatched planters and pots look messy so of course I bought every one of them for a total of $20.  They are perfect for succulent plantings or ornamental grasses.

My trip to the Columbia Gorge provided the rest of the inspiration.  The hiking trails along the Columbia Rivers are swathed in vibrant green moss.  The moss covers the ancient basalt walls and trees.  Black river rocks glisten from the crystal clear creeks and streams.  I wanted to recreate that peaceful, lush, oasis at home.  My only challenge is Pepsi – or Bunn Bunn as I call him.

Bunn Bunn has free reign in my back yard – and he’s always curious when I move things around.  I’m sure he feels like you would if you friend came over and rearranged all the furniture in your living room without asking.  Bunn Bunn pretty much eats anything I grow back there.  So I thought I would try planting an ornamental grass which I’m hoping will be Pepsi proof.

Most likely, I’ll have to change my inspiration to another Gorge inspired plant – Lavender.  I know this is bunny proof and I love they way it smells and that it’s drought tolerant.

I planted these with a technique that I got from Inside Urban Green.  I’m not going to recreate what I learned from their website but I’m hoping it works.  I did mine a little differently (no drainage).  For best results check out Inside Urban Green.
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I started by taking cutting down the height of the empty plastic pots that the plants originally came in.  Some were small so I used four of them for one pot, placing them upside down.

Then I filled the container with potting soil and added one plant.
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Next I filled in the edges around the plant with more potting soil and gave it a nice watering.

I tore off pieces of moss and squished it around the plant and the sides of the container.  I added the black round river rocks to hide the gaps  and to add more interest to the planting.

Three finished planters are sitting at my front entrance – far, far away from Bunn Bunn.  One sacrificial planter is bracing itself in the backyard to see if Bunn Bunn is going to eat it or not.
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Graduation Dress – Ditching the Design

Thing 2 was busy with gymnastics and school and since she was apprehensive about the first dress design, I went ahead and finished the sun dress version in the Hawaiian print – coaxing her to try it on at various intervals so I could really customize the fit.

Without being able to see the final version and having absolutely no trust in my skills and taste, Thing 2 picked out another pattern.   Experience has taught me not to fight the process.  After all, when you’re teaching someone to sew, you have to ensure that the project will be successful and that the end result be something she could be proud about.  This time, I didn’t have Thing 2 around to help me (child of divorce and all) so I whipped up the muslin and sewed it up so she could try it on.   It was a unanimous YES!  The simple muslin fabric looked GORGEOUS on her!  Excited with our new beginning I cut out two sets of fabrics from the pattern to got ready to sew.  Graduation is just around the corner so Thing 2 might not get a chance to sew her own graduation dress, but at least the lesson of what you can do will be learned.

Meanwhile, the original dress in the Hawaiian print was turning out darn pretty cute.  The dress begged for a little more pizzazz so I edged the neck and armholes with a thin bias tape that I made from scraps of white fabric and one of my Clover Bias Tape makers.  Mr. Malibu was concerned when he first saw the dress – got to give him props for noticing that the front panels don’t match.  I didn’t put a lot of effort into this dress as I suspect Thing 2 won’t ever wear it.  I was limited with a short amount of fabric and it was more an exercise than completing for garment that would be actually worn.  She doesn’t wear dresses very often.
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Hopefully I’ve alleviated Mr. Malibu’s fears, because he wants a shirt made, with monogrammed cuffs, no less.