Making Merry

here & now: Nest

Bright, personal and retro: That's how these DIY sister bloggers like their holidays. Come join the creative fray.

By LuAnn Brandsen and Melissa Studach
Craft designs by Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman and Mandi Johnson for A Beautiful Mess

A little chaos doesn't bother Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, the sisters behind the charmingly named craft, decorating and recipe blog A Beautiful Mess. The Springfield, Missouri, natives just prefer creative disorder confined to their kitchen or craft room. “We love making handmade gifts or little treats for family each year,” Emma says. “It requires time, but the benefit is that you create memories.”

No matter the project, the sisters add their signature bold, retro-inspired flair. “We update traditional objects with a new color scheme that feels fresh, while still maintaining that nostalgic appeal we love,” Emma says.

Ornament Garland

String a ribbon with multiple ornaments, knotting the first one securely into place.

Disco Fever

Grooving on disco ball ornaments, Elsie spun these dance-floor favorites into a glittering wreath. Step one: Hot-glue silver tinsel garland strands to cover a straw wreath form (kept in its plastic cover). Step two: Hot-glue 2-inch ornaments (with hanging tops removed) to wreath in a random pattern, adding mini ornaments between.

Wrap It Up

Wait! Before you toss those bits and bobs, reimagine them as the perfect finishing touch for holiday gifts.

  • Orange produce mesh bag = ribbon.
  • Get mad about plaid, weaving ribbons around a gift and securing with tape.
  • Twist artificial florals into a wreath.
  • Tape scraps of paper together on an angle for a mod geometric look that's twice as nice.

Eggnog Martini

Two classic drinks meet in a fun, festive update. To rim martini glasses, pour some honey and brown sugar onto two plates. Lightly dip rim in honey, then sugar. In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine 3 ounces nonalcoholic eggnog, 1 ounce vanilla vodka and ½ ounce amaretto. Give two or three vigorous shakes. Strain into rimmed glasses; garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and/or a cinnamon stick.

Make an impression


  • Stencil sheets
  • Cake pan
  • Permanent marker
  • Craft blade
  • Cutting mat
  • Masking tape
  • Printed templates

How to

Cut a stencil sheet (available at craft stores) to match the top of your cake pan. Tape printed template (go to to download) on top of stencil. Cut template design onto stencil. Place stencil over cake or brownies and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle

In a large pot, stir together 1¾ cups sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil; continue boiling at a steady rate without stirring until mixture reaches 280° to 290°, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla and 2 cups chopped almonds. Stir in ¼ cup almond butter until melted. Using forks to help, spread mixture onto a baking sheet lined with nonstick foil or very well-greased heavy-duty foil. Let cool until firm. Meanwhile, heat ½ cup dark chocolate pieces and 1 teaspoon canola oil in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Carefully invert brittle so flat side faces up. Spread chocolate on top. Sprinkle with coarse or flaky sea salt. Let set before chopping or breaking into pieces. Store in the refrigerator.

Meet the makers

As daughters of an art teacher, Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman can't recall life without something to craft.