Gadgetless Gal. Except…

After years of buying gadgets, I have become a pretty much gadget-less gal. Another way to read that is: I have stored so many gadgets on shelves over the years that I have learned to do without them wherever possible.

Is this sounding somewhat sexual? Let me clear it up.

Raise your hand if you’ve made a yarn pom-pom in your lifetime. Yep – me too. You wrap and wrap and wrap yarn around a book, or a piece of hard plastic, etc. When I originally picked this red and white pom pom garland to do as one of my holiday craft projects, that was my intention – go old school. But thennnnnn…..then I got curious about this pom pom maker I kept seeing here and there. I took the plunge and ordered it and BOY!, do I love these little pieces of magic.

It is somewhat difficult to explain how to use them but the directions on the packaging is very clear and understandable. I don’t know what genius came up with this concept, but I’d like to meet her someday.

I used these Bernat skeins of yarn in White and Wine. For this project, I think the thicker the yarn the better. This size worked perfectly for me.

I used the second to largest size gadget. Now. Anyone who has ever made a pom pom knows that you must check your ADHD at the door. This pom pom maker made it very easy to form these luscious balls of goodness but you do have to do a little bit of trimming at the end. I’m pretty perfectionistic and was completely happy with the result. But just like a hair stylist, you could trim and trim and trim all day if you want. There has to be a time when you decide enough is good enough.

I left their tails on until I decided how I was going to attach them together. In the end, I didn’t need them and cut them off.

Using a yarn needle and a length of the red yarn, I stuck it through each pom pom and adjusted them in between to the width I wanted.

Using small plastic Command Strips hooks on each side of the fireplace (which we never use), I wrapped the ends and boom – a cute red and white pom pom garland.

(The sun was intense the day I took these pictures so the glare is intense – yikes.)

My daughter is so lucky she is 29 years old or I would be adding these pom poms to every outfit she owned. I’m sure I’ll use this pom pom maker for numerous holidays and occasions. Who can resist a fancy cute pom pom?!

Holiday Craft no. 4 of 20 for the #2020s20HolidayCrafts project I totally made up for my own sanity. (wink wink)

Go get one of these pom pom makers!

Meet Me at the Front Door

The anticipation had been building for six hours. We’d sung The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and my personal favorite, Sweet Violets. We’d found things out our car windows that started with an A, anthill. Then a B, bird! Always cheating our way through those pesky letters like Q or X. Our sandwiches had warmed to that perfect car temperature and the cheese slices with apple were beginning to form that delicious oily condensation cheese gets when warmed in the highway-bound backseat. Tolls had been paid and we finally got to open the car package Mom always made for us weeks before a car trip: the newest Seventeen magazine, some word searches, a new deck of Old Maid and a few sweet treats (Bit-O-Honey paper stuck in the corners) promised just to ourselves, no sharing required.

But by Wichita our spirits were starting to wane. Have you traveled across Kansas and Oklahoma with two daughters who believe STRONGLY in the infamous imaginary middle line that forms down the backseat? There are only so many white horses to ‘Snitch!’ before antsyness starts to settle in.

And yet, as we spotted the identifying red dirt of Oklahoma, our eagerness was stirred up anew. We were getting close! We drove through Bethany, listening impatiently as Dad exasperated, “I always miss that turn. We need to turn around and go back.” AAACK!, we sigh. We were so close we could taste it. The car would make the u-turn on one of those perfectly-curbed streets lined with brick-built houses, the wholly unique look of an Oklahoma neighborhood.

The excitement was overwhelming! Edged up on our seats, nervously looking through the front window, ready to see that beautiful white-washed brick home that held all our favorite people. They were all there, waiting for us.

Before cell phones could announce our estimated arrival time, Dad would stop somewhere once we got into town, and Mom used a pay phone to call her older sister, Mary, to say we were just a few minutes away. “Yes, yes”, Aunt Mary assured Mom, “Evelyn got in this morning and Peggy and the boys just got in about an hour ago.” “We’re all here, just waiting for you!”

Pulling up in front of that car-filled driveway held so much excitement I didn’t think I could stand another second of it. I couldn’t wait to see all those cousins. Older cousins who could do no wrong. Aunts and uncles and above all, grandparents.

No chance to knock on the front door before it was slung open to crowds of people standing in the entryway. One by one we fell into hugs and faces that lit up the whole house. The front of the pack would fade back while a new crew would take their place. Soon Pop Pop would appear, arms outstretched, asking for some sugar. It was a few minutes of whole and unadulterated acceptance. No words were fully understood as everyone talked over each other but warmth and love permeated each embrace.

The crowd would instinctively part ways as Mom Mom came into the living room from the kitchen wearing a full smile and wisps of flour dusting her long, manicured fingers. Aunt Mary was behind her as she was assisting the cooking process by taking their completed masterpieces out to the cold garage and placing them in large trash cans dedicated specifically for the purpose of holding our feast until the anticipatory air was filled with ‘Pass me the green beans, please’, quickly followed by an update on disparate lives spread out all over the mid, southern and eastern states.

Thanksgiving weekend was alive and energetic and filled with an unparalleled feeling of completeness as lives who shared a genetic code and who lived so separately all over the country began to slowly fit our edges back together into the puzzle that was Family.

And so I say to you this challenging year, let’s hang on tightly to each other, even if virtually. Let’s celebrate as an act of rebellion in our individual homes. A slower holiday season is precisely what we need, in spite of its surface disappointments. And then, once we’ve separated and bumped elbows and Zoom called our way through the next year, let’s rise up next year, full of grins and flour-tinged aprons. Slaps on the back and long-overdue hugs of love.

I will look forward to your beautiful faces and laughing spirits all year. 2020: quiet and separate. 2021: doors thrown open, crowded cousins, familiar faces and strong handshakes.

This year, cautious safety and health. But next year, with warmth and wide smiles, let’s make up for lost time. We’ve got stories to tell and hugs to share. Not this year, right? But next year – meet me at the front door.

You get some sprinkles! And you get some sprinkles! And YOU get some sprinkles!

Craft number three and I think it might be my favorite one.

It all started with this set of pens I bought a few months ago. I adore this color scheme (craft room 2021 goal.) As someone who has a pretty neutral palette for the rest of my house, the flip side of my brain loves bright colors with a stark white background. So I took my pens to Michael’s with me as I was picking out my 2020’s 20 Holiday Crafts projects.

There are two projects here: ornaments with sprinkles and drip paint ornaments.

EEP! I love them both so much.

Here’s how I did them.

For the sprinkles: For assistance, cut the tops off a few water bottles so your clear glass ornament can rest inside (holiday stuff is 50% off right now so go grab a few containers of these.)

Carefully take the metal top off the ornaments. Using clear varnish of any kind, pour a few tablespoons inside your ornament. I used a piping bag but it would’ve been much easier had I had a funnel (which you can’t use for food afterwards, obviously.)

Roll the ornament around until the varnish is coating the whole inside of the ornament.

Then turn the ornament upside down on the water bottle. You could also use Dixie cups or something similar.

It’s important you make yourself wait 30 minutes. The varnish needs to dry somewhat but still have a sticky texture.

Using a different funnel, start filling the bottom of your ornament with sprinkles (below I will go through my trial and errors with different kinds.)

Keep adding sprinkles until you can move them all around the inside of the ornament. If the varnish is still too wet, the sprinkle’s colored coating will ‘melt off’ and it won’t stick to the ornament. I waited 30 minutes each time and it always worked. So there’s no pressure, take your time.

Replace the metal top of the ornament and voila! – you’re done!

I’m not saying this is a ‘neat and tidy’ craft. Our dog, Tilly, might be eating sprinkles off the floor for the next few months.

The drip paint ornament was a lot of fun. It goes against everything I’ve ever known about painting. Mixing paint colors together while still wet makes one big muddy mess of a color. But the flip side of the paint looks so pretty!

I again used some water bottles with the top cut off. Take the metal top off your ornament. I found it very helpful to keep my paint bottles well-shaken and turned upside down. The paint needs to be ready to squirt out when you need it.

And that’s all you do. Squirt one color, then turn the ornament and squirt out a little of the next color, etc.

As your ornament fills up, turn it around to find uncovered areas and squeeze a little more paint into those places.

You’ll go through a lot of excess paint. The paint overlaps and that’s completely okay.

Once the sides are covered then turn your ornament upside down to let it dry. I found the best way to let them dry is to leave them upside down overnight.

The color combinations for both projects are vast. Go with traditional red and white. Or maybe gold. The vibrancy of the drip paint inside the clear glass is magnified and beautiful. I plan on making more of these very soon.

Here are some thoughts on the various sprinkles I used…

The small dot confetti is the absolute best coverage, no doubt about it. In the below ornament I started with some star sprinkles but they are heavier and don’t fully cover the inside so I also poured in some small dots to fill in the gaps. I like the result, but it was a little anxiety-producing at first. -ha

Then I mixed some sprinkles together to see how they’d do (did I mention I really like sprinkles and have a variety of them at home!)

The type of sprinkles that did not work well at all are the ‘pearlized’ sprinkles. The texture doesn’t adhere as well as the other sprinkles. I was disappointed, thinking some white and clear would look magical too. Had these not been pearlized it would be a nice snowy look.

I love the way these turned out and will certainly make more this season. I have a tabletop white tree that I think these will go perfectly on. But then again, this bowl full of goodness is making me happy just the way they are.

Please give this one a try. You’ll love the outcome! (and so will your puppy.)

2020’s 20 Holiday Crafts: Sucker for Stars (2/20)

I’m not sure how many of my 2020’s 20 Holiday Crafts will involve stars, but I’m willing to bet there will be more than a couple. I am a sucker for stars at Christmastime.

I made these few projects with a fabulously -scented salt dough. Let me give you the recipe first:

SCENTED SALT DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground clove
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 10 drops orange essential oil (this is optional but it smells HEAVENLY!)

Directions:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients and the essential oil
  2. Slowly add the water until you have a workable piece of dough. Not too wet and sticky. It should be about the consistency of Play-Dough.
  3. Roll out the dough and cut out the desired shape that you want for your ornaments: snowflake, tree, star, etc.
  4. Using a straw (I used one of our stainless steel straws), make a hole in the middle or at the top of the dough shape. Hint: It sounds like a small detail but after making a hole in an ornament, I then blew at the top of the straw to remove the dough from my straw. If you let them build up, they’re difficult to get out. A build-up inside the straw can make the hole punch less exact.
  5. Place the dough shapes on a baking sheet. Essential oils can be difficult to digest sometimes. So if you’d like to keep your oils from getting onto your baking sheet, line with parchment paper so you can discard it later. I used some oooooold baking sheets that we no longer use for cooking.
  6. Bake the shapes at 170 degrees for one hour then flip them over and bake another hour. Depending on the thickness of your shapes, you might want to go another half hour (I did for mine but they are pretty thick.)
  7. Remove them from the oven and let them cool on cooling racks.

I used my shapes for a star wall hanging, using a piece of driftwood I’ve had stashed away…

a dual string star garland…

and some tree ornaments.

Other options: You can stamp a word on the shape before baking it or using a live pine section, impress it into the tree shape. One of my bigger stars could easily be a candle holder which would require making a larger hole in the center before baking. There are many different ways you can use these salt dough shapes.

The ongoing scent of this salt dough is amazing. It fills your house while they’re baking and they hold the scent really well. I can smell them when I walk into a room where they are. The salt is what dries them so you can use them year after year if carefully wrapped and stored.

I used some baker’s twine, jewelry cording and macrame string. You could use ribbon or thread – it’s whatever matches your aesthetic. Another hint: I bought a handful of this black and white baker’s twine at Target last year in their Christmas clearance at 80% off. Look for items that a store has earmarked for ‘Christmas’ but you could use all year long – like I do this twine.

As always, if you try this project please send me a picture. I love seeing your creativity in the process! ENJOY!!

2020’s 20 Holiday Crafts: Modern Wintery Alps (1/20)

In an attempt to entertain myself during the much-slower-than-normal 2020 holidays, I decided to clear out my burgeoning Pinterest boards. Many of the craft ideas have been hanging around for a number of years so why not choose 2020 for some anti-COVID creating.

I’m starting with this set of Swiss Alp mountains. They would be cute on a bookshelf or as a table winterscape. I’m not sure where these will land, but I had fun turning one 4 ft piece of 1×10 pine wood into something modern and wintery. It’s nice when ‘Christmas decorations’ can be spread out to include all of winter. And these Swedish babes fit that bill.

Here’s how we did it…

Scott bought one piece of pine wood and cut out the mountains to 4 different heights: 10.5″, 8.5″, 6.5″ and 4.5″ tall. He set his miter saw at 24 degrees and after cutting both sides of the mountain, the peak ends up at a 48 degree angle. Yeah, yeah…that’s a lot of math. The exact angle isn’t as important as the consistency for each mountain so that they each end up with the same angle but with different heights. All those mountains out of one board!

I then used some Provincial wood stain (that we had on hand) to stain a few of the mountains. You could use any stain color you desire. As I was painting the others I was imagining doing another set of mountains that were all stained with just painted tops. That would look great too.

All you need are those cheap little bottles of paint from your craft store. Again…trying to use a lot of what I already had on hand…I used some black and white wall paint. It was definitely overkill to use gallons of paint – but it’s what I had!

When I have a project that requires multiple layers of paint with drying in between, I cut off a bit of Saran Wrap, fold it in half and just tuck my wet brushes inside. It’s a temporary hold so they don’t dry out.

This is an optional step and, honestly, one I skipped after the first mountain. Drawing out the snowcap seemed like a good idea, but you don’t really stick to the lines anyway so I skipped this step for the rest.

For the dotted mountain I used an old pencil I keep around for this reason. It has a few coats of paint on it already so the tip is even rounder.

I took a quick video showing the differently sized dots. The more paint on your pencil, obviously, the bigger the dot. The longer you hold the pencil down, the bigger the dot…

This was a pretty simple project at a low cost. Always a good thing! The colors and size are completely up to you. I realize it might be a little frustrating for some of you reading this if you don’t have access to a miter saw. If you’re really interested in completing this project, let’s talk. We can cut some wood for you and ship it at a fairly low price, I’m sure. Let’s talk.

I added some faux snow (that’s just a really enjoyable phrase to say!). The faux snow will make an appearance in a different project that’s coming up soon.

So what do you think??? Project 1 of 20 complete. Not sure I’ll get through them all between Thanksgiving week and Christmas week but I plan on having fun while trying!

Thanks for reading this far! If you decide to complete this project, please please please tag me on social media or send me a picture. I want to enjoy it with you!

Now… I need a cup of Swiss hot chocolate. How about you?

Deeply thankful.

Since Scott works next week, we decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner together on Friday. When your family is sitting down to turkey next Thursday we will be in the oh-no-not-turkey-again stage of leftovers.

This was supposed to be a table set for five. Our children were going to be here all at one time and I could imagine the talking and laughing and plates being passed. But then Corona took over and cancelled all our plans. Flights that had been booked for months were re-adjusted to a later (unknown) time in 2021. This was so disappointing at first, but I find myself, today, deeply grateful for cancelled plans. From the time we decided to eliminate plans for Thanksgiving (and Christmas) until now, the COVID rates have skyrocketed. It would worry me far too much to think of my children getting on planes with other holiday travelers and either getting the virus themselves or bringing it to our home. We have all worked so hard for six months to avoid this horrible virus. A vaccine is on the horizon so why not hang on just a bit longer. We can do it. Our decision was one of love for each other and respect for the fight we have been putting up so far to keep COVID at bay.

So instead, it was just me and Scott. We started listening to Christmas music this week and began putting up our trees and holiday decorations. It is, by far, the earliest we have ever done this but this year, I think we are all wanting a change of pace. We need the joy and promise of Christmas.

6, 893 attempts at one little picture. In the end, we are just going to have to settle on the best we can get with a 9-month-old puppy. We didn’t even attempt to include our cat, Haddie, imagining the cat and dog chase down the center of the table.

Scott played all the cooking hits. Lots of carbs and calories, but oh-so-many memories. He worked on the meal (with Tilly’s help, sampling the food) while I worked on the house. Before long things were looking and smelling like the holidays.

We included a family favorite: Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Mom used to make this salad/dessert and we all looked forward to it every year. It is, actually, a big pain to make. Maybe that’s why it’s a once-a-year favorite. It includes my favorite food group: salty and sweet.

Instead of people pouring through our front door, it was a much smaller gathering than expected. But we had fun and enjoyed every minute of our Thanksgiving meal from prep, eating and much-deserved nap to follow.

I’m quite sure the gnomes are enjoying having a puppy in the house this year. There’s no telling what goes on when we go to bed each night. I am sure they are up to no good!

You hope your children have tender and gracious memories of their childhood holidays. But just recently my son brought up the insane reindeer we had (as I am sure many of you did as well) that would CONSTANTLY topple over. It had a bum leg so it teetered off balance at all times. Just looking at it for longer than a mere glance was usually enough to bring it to a pile of wood in the middle of the living room. The expletives he now includes in the reindeer’s descriptions do not bring forth merriment and fondness. -ha!

That rickety reindeer has long been gone but a few years ago I found this smaller version and snatched it up. The funny memories it brings to mind was worth it. This one, luckily, is much smaller and much more balanced!

Last year I was gifted this Willow Tree nativity scene. I had momentarily forgotten about it until I started unpacking the Christmas boxes this year and was pleasantly surprised all over again. I have never been more grateful for a humble baby and His saving grace. I marvel at the resolute dedication of a young teenage mother and a faithful fiance’. So many families have seen death and suffering this year – all around the world. Jesus walks before us. The path may not be easy or end as we desire, but His hand is there to offer comfort. He can lighten the load we bear, whether it be the heaviness of worry or the tragedy of loss. May we be as faithful as the holy trio as well as those who took up the faith and followed the Star.

NOEL. An exclamation of joy at Jesus’ birth. My personal prayer is to loosen the grip on the burden of fear this holiday and concentrate on the joy of a guiding Father. The joy of birth.

We wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving. I understand the disappointment and discouragement attached to plans being cancelled or minimized. It is a difficult year. But it is also a forced-opportunity to spend less time maximizing on the unimportant details and further appreciate the simple blessings of breath and connection and irreplaceable memories.

The deepest love and gratitude, from our house to yours –

g.