Sutherland’s Sunday Summary (except on a Tuesday)

Spring in Northern California…wow. From February to the end of May is northern California’s show-off time. It’s a gorgeously long season of magnificent blooms and growth. After a few months of rain, everything catapults to life.

This was just a walk around the block…

Clearly this house has mastered the art of rose bushes. The whole front yard is lined in various roses. As delicate as a rose bouquet is, a rose bush loves the heat and drought and sandy soil of California!

Isn’t the above tree so cool? I’d love to know its story.

The tree below is a crepe myrtle. The bark is SO smooth. I love these trees even when they’re not blooming.

And hey… why not grow artichokes in your front yard! Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

It’s hard to give an update on our lives without (endlessly) talking about our garden. After a few seasons of trial and error, we’ve hit on some successes.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I am used to the growing season being, basically, June to September. But here, you need to plant things MUCH earlier. We (…and by we I mean Scott…) had everything planted by March. The young plants and seeds grew for a couple of months to get good and established and now we’ve covered the raised garden beds with a breezy black shade tarp to protect them from the brutal afternoon sun.

We are at the take-the-peas-and-collard-greens-to-work stage. We’re taking stuff to neighbors because we can’t keep up.

And now our first tomato has appeared. Scott ROCKED tomato-growing last year so I’m curious to see how they do in a different spot. So far they are TALL and filling up with blooms. Salsa is just around the corner. We…again, Scott… blanched a bunch last year and froze it for sauces.

How much stir fry is too much stir fry?? We haven’t reached our limit yet. Pork one night, chicken another. So yummy! And such a sense of pride that it was grown right in our backyard.

There isn’t much healthier food than collard greens. So many nutrients! (Which are only slightly hindered by the bacon and broth mixture.) I read an important statement about cooking collard greens: ‘There is no such thing as cooking collard greens too long.’ They simmer on our stove all day and are a home-run every time.

I’ve been so happy with my lavender experiment this year. Seeing all the bees buzzing around makes me doubly delighted. Tilly tries to catch the bees while they’re working. She’s going to get a muzzle full someday.

Our independent, graying old six-year-old cat, Haddie, is a real trooper with overly playful Tilly. But sometimes, a girl just has to take a break. Her favorite spot is against this graying old fence.

Tilly firmly believes she is a toy poodle lapdog. I wonder if toy poodle lapdogs have to keep their back legs on the ground for stability??

Random things:

One of our neighbors gave out May Day baskets, which was just so cute. I haven’t met them yet but I have to wonder if they’ve seen me working in the yard and made the decision to get a large print word search. -ha! (Speaking of old and graying!)

The news about Bill and Melinda Gates was upsetting. They’ve appeared to be such a successful couple who work together and feed off each others’ ideas. I read Melinda’s memoir last year which always makes me feel invested in the author’s life. They’ve done so much good in the world, I hope that can continue.

Speaking of doing good, I am still enjoying everything put out by The Bitter Southerner. They highlight the new south. The progressive stories happening in our beautiful southern states. Better South | Better World

Scott gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and card for Mother’s Day. I particularly liked his character explanations.

A long zoom call with my daughter, Hannah…

…a long phone call with my son, Baird (we never quite get them under 3 hours) -ha! He even had the good sense to marry the world’s greatest daughter-in-law (who managed to be the first to send me a Mother’s Day text.)

They made motherhood easy for me. Their continued support and love is invaluable to me. They’re good people.

I’ve already had to start manipulating the shades… open in the morning for the plants and then closed in the afternoon to ward off the blazing sun. We are taking a trip to Kansas City in early June. It will be nice to be back in temperate heat for a little while.

I grew this ruffled philodendron selloum from a single leaf cutting a couple of years ago. We brought it to California with us and, well, she likes the weather! She’s huge!

Speaking of temperature (and then I promise I’ll close this long post), I am crocheting a Temperature Blanket. I’m not sure why I decided a king-sized pattern was the right way to go, but here we are.

While the colors aren’t usually my thing, I am enjoying the challenge of it. Each row represents the high temperature that day. These colors (starting on January 1, 2021) represent the 50s, 60s and 70s. I’m very ready to move on to the next group of colors (80s, 90s and above 100) but I’m not ready to experience them in real life. There’s nothing like a king size blanket of yarn to work on in 99-degree temperature!

My head needs to be checked…

Okay. I promise these weekly summaries won’t be this long. But it’s been a bit so I thought I’d catch up on all the (very) random things going on.

Maybe the biggest news is that the fitting rooms in area stores have opened up again. Woohoo!! It’s been a long year of buying stuff, taking it home to try on, then returning what doesn’t work. God bless the customer service industry.

Be safe! And welcome to a slightly less-restrictive summer.

She wore pearls and felt.

These 5” felt trees were meditative to work on. A perfect craft for a chilly winter afternoon.

Scott is becoming a master Cricut user. (It’s a new-to-us tool that I’ll talk more about in the future.) He cut out a bunch of Christmas trees for me. I love using non-traditional Christmas colors. This cool aqua seemed to create just the right cold-weather forest look I wanted. I purchased a few strands of small pearl beads in the jewelry section and was ready to go.

I randomly sewed on the pearl beads. I had to remind myself I wasn’t sewing a button on a coat for a 9-year-old boy; I didn’t need to secure them on for endurance! One good loop through the back would do.

It’s been years, actually, since I’ve used the blanket stitch. But it added just the right rustic finish to these delicate trees. (I like this quick tutorial)

I thought I had polyfill at home but realized at the last moment that I didn’t. Instead, I used some of the snow from one of my first projects and it worked great.

I’m not saying it was a mess-free endeavor, however

The stuffing should be just enough to add a little 3D effect. You can see below the difference between a stuffed one and the flat one. Just a little, you don’t want to overstuff these.

(I even got a little adventurous and added a ‘g’ to the back of one tree and the year ‘’20’ to another.)

You could string these together to make a garland or add individual strings on the top and use them as ornaments. I considered tucking them into the bottom of a grapevine wreath. Or even simply placing them in a bowl. Many options.

But the more I looked at them, (and maybe this was because it was around lunchtime), the more they looked like those icing-covered animal crackers with sprinkles on top. So I gathered them together and put them in an empty cookie jar, hanging one outside with a string, and adding a bit of faux snow to the bottom.

Magical. Meditative. Mid-century.

Knowing myself, I will forget about all these crafts and be pleasantly surprised when I find them in my Christmas boxes next year! (Which always happens when I buy after-Christmas things and they go straight to storage.) -ha!

Textured Decor

There is something cozy about a bowl of yarn. It adds warm texture to your living space.

If you’ve ever made a yarn ball you know it takes a lot of yarn (and a lot of mindless looping.) This is such a simple hack that I’ve used for many years. It’s also a great way to use up the last remaining parts of a skein.

Start with a styrofoam ball. Just to give me an extra hand, I usually hot glue a little patch to get me started.

Fill up all the blank spaces and you’re done. Again, I put a little dollop of glue at the end, place my yarn over it then cut a little tail and tuck it into one of the laps of yarn. The hot glue will keep it in place and not unravel.

Choose some complimentary colors but with varying textures. Use Christmas colors or the colors of your home. These add warmth and dimension to your room, easily and inexpensively.

Craft Fail.

Doggoneit! This wreath. This huge wreath with it’s beautiful ornaments…it was going to be a good project. I saved it for the middle. 22″ x 17″ of Christmas cheer.

However…

I bought a huge tube of ornaments. Then, for good measure, I also bought a smaller tube of ornament balls. But this thing requires six MILLION ornaments! ugh.

So IF you were making this, you simply lay your wreath down and start hot gluing your ornaments on, using the table as your ‘wall back’.

Hopefully this is a popular ornament color that they’ll bring back again next year. COVID and Crafting is difficult sometimes!

I guess I will pack it all away and finish it next year?? Had I known I would be short this much (guesstimating was never my strong suit – but I SERIOUSLY had a LOT of ornaments to work with), I might have worked in other things like pinecombs or yarn balls or something.

Nothing to sweat over now though. That baby is born and I’m going to have to bow to defeat. What a typical 2020 wreath, huh??!

Instead, I’ll show you our 2020 glass ornaments we’ve collected so far. I say ‘so far‘, but I think we’re probably done for the year. It will be fun to collect more and more every year until we have a dedicated Christmas tree just for them. As I mentioned before, these are like collecting charms for a charm bracelet. Each ornament has meaning and ‘spoke’ to us.

I ordered the masked Santa online to commemorate 2020. When I opened the package his weird blue eyes freaked me out a bit. Again…how appropriate, right?

EEEEEK.

Crafts are fun and challenging and you do everything you can to overcome the obstacles along the way. But sometimes, you lay the project aside and say, ‘I’m done. For now anyway. Maybe later.’ I’ll be first in the store when the Christmas decorations start coming out in 2021. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find similar colors.

Happy crafting!! (And know when to quit.) 🙂

That Little Sequined Number

Have you ever headed into a project and quickly thought: “Excuse me, ma’am. Have we met?!” This was that project for me. My self-awareness was off kilter the day I chose this particular craft project.

WHAT possessed me to push nine gazillion sequins into a styrofoam ball with nine gazillion pins?! However…I really like it.

What’s really cute of me, is that I bought a six-pack of styrofoam balls to make SIX! *doubles over laughing* I think you can guess how many I made. If you guessed one, you’d be correct. If you guessed 1/4th of one, you probably know me best.

I was surprised to find out that they make pins specifically for sequins. They are a bit shorter than regular pins and they were hanging right next to the sequins in the sewing section of the store.

A couple of hints: separate out the sequins and the pins into bowls. They’re much easier to grab that way. You’d probably benefit from a thimble, which I didn’t want to dig up so I used the tail of my shirt. (Do whatcha gotta do.)

I started at one end and started spiraling outward. I wasn’t overly concerned with the sequins being in a continuous pattern. I don’t really think that’s necessary. Just make sure each sequin overlaps.

As I finished up, I left a small space open where I put a dollop of hot glue. I then put a pin through one sequin and pushed it into my looped, black velvet ribbon and pushed it all into the spot with the hot glue. The ribbon serves as a hanger or is just decorative.

I love the look. It’s very shiny and elegant. I imagined putting a nametag through the push pin and ribbon to set at each place setting. They can hang on a tree or a doorknob or cabinet pull or….on and on.

As I was debating with myself and encouraging myself to keep going (-ha!), I thought about how this would make a good project for a child who was diligent and dedicated. As long as they’re careful and understand overlapping each sequin to cover the white styrofoam, I think they’d feel very confident and proud of the end result. So parents – think about semi-supervising this project and letting your focused kid dig into it.

I included in this place setting a vase of white hydrangea (you know I can’t get enough hydrangea in my life.) I filled a vase with a bag of fresh cranberries then covered them with water. It’s a nice pop of color on a tablescape. They also last quite a long time if you change out the water occasionally, which will turn pinkish-red so it’ll need a refresh. When the hydrangeas are gone, I’ll drop a little votive candle into the top of the cranberries and water.

Hanging separately or with many others grouped together, when the light hits the metal and the sequins on these sequined ornaments, it’s very pretty and magical. Save a few of those sequins for sprinkling around.

I proudly present to you my ONE sequin ball. I didn’t think I’d finish it at times, but am so glad I stuck to it. When the season is over I will be locking it in our fireproof safety deposit box!

*said only partly facetiously*

What do you think? Do you have what it takes? (For the record, what it takes are calloused fingers and upper arm strength!) These would be lovely at a wedding in the chosen colors. This is where you can be a brideszilla, though, and delegate others to do the work!

Are you enjoying the holiday crafting so far?

Buffalo? Check.

Buffalo check print. Gingham print. Plaid. I absolutely love them all. So when I saw this holiday project I was on board immediately. It was easier than I originally thought and, once again, I will try to stretch this project out further than just Christmas by swapping out the ribbon and wreath.

I bought a two pack of 16×20 white canvases and Scott made a frame so I could just slide the finished canvas inside.

I painted the stark white canvas a softer antique white to warm it up a bit.

I bought this wallpaper brush on Amazon. To be honest, this was the most difficult part of the project. I couldn’t find wallpaper brushes anywhere – craft stores or hardware stores. People don’t old-school wallpaper much anymore.

Section off your brush with painters tape like so…

Then cut the other bristles shorter. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t find individual bristles in my bra all day long after this. -ha!

The cut sections don’t need to be exact. The idea is that they need to be short enough to not pick up paint, leaving you with two ‘guides’ for your buffalo print.

Dip the brush in black paint and brush on…

I will not do it as heavy the next time I make a background canvas but there are no rules – you can make it as thick or light as you choose.

My canvas fit tightly so all I had to do is cut a length of ribbon to loop through the wreath, then hang the ends off the back of the canvas which slid right into the frame. The wreath is hanging freely, but securely. It’s not attached in any way to the canvas.

I can simply pop out the canvas and hang different ribbon and wreath to completely change the look. Maybe burlap and a grapevine wreath? Or spring-colored gingham and an Easter egg wreath? Many possibilities.

Step awaaaaaay from the Pom Pom maker……

I can’t help it! I have loved using my new pom pom maker but you guys… there is a possibility I may never make a pom pom ever again in my whole entire life. Whew! This was a bigger job than I originally anticipated.

But I’m so happy with the result. It’s a ‘minimalistic’ winter wreath, that took a maximalist amount of effort. -ha.

Thankfully it is so much quicker to make pom poms now. This wreath took four skeins of white yarn (and 3 movies, 14 podcasts and 38 audio books…give or take… AND potentially a future shoulder surgery from all the yarn wrapping-around action!)

I had a green 14” foam wreath on hand, which was fine, but you should actually use a white wreath form. Of course a smaller wreath would require less yarn balls.

I bought these vintage-looking wire trees at Hobby Lobby (50% off) and then hot glued everything on.

I found it helpful to use two different size yarn balls, using the smaller size to fill gaps. It’s not absolutely necessary (all one size would work fine), but I like the variety.

(I ultimately hung it in our hallway, but wanted a picture by the Christmas tree first.)

This is one of those crafting-while-movie-watching activities. I love the end result – but prepare for some time investment with this one.

Sidenote: for any of you who read the Louise Penny series set in Three Pines, this wreath is my ode to that idyllic village.

Snow, ohhhh…to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

Bing Crosby and the movie White Christmas is a family tradition with us. We used to wait until the first snowfall to watch it but now that we’re living in California, we have to break down and watch it without the wintery snowfall scene outside.

It’s also tradition to text the lyrics to my friend, Jenny, who grosses out over the idea of washing her face, hands and hair with snow. -ha!

So even though we don’t get to enjoy the bucolic look of snow falling outside our windows, we can enjoy some ‘faux snow’ throughout our house.

There are some things I seem to be drawn to in nature. I pick up and pocket a smoothly rounded rock that catches my attention. Or pieces of driftwood, worn over time. Perfectly imperfect pinecombs have been slowly collecting in a box now completely dedicated and labeled for their wonky goodness.

In an earlier craft I made a mountain range so for this craft I made a snowy forest with pinecombs collected over time.

You can buy faux snow at any craft store. I bought some for this project but it ended up not being quite what I wanted. So I made snow with what I had on hand: sawdust and white paint.

Start with some white paint, mixing in sawdust until you have a textured paint substance.

You aren’t going to paint like usual, but rather pat the mixture onto the surface.

If it glops and drips – all the better! That’s what snow does, right?

For an extra somethin-somethin, I hot glued on some dragees – silver covered balls used for decorating cupcakes and cakes. They added a little sparkle and reflect the lights of the nearby Christmas tree.

Since pinecombs are a little wobbly, I hot glued a round wooden ‘base’ to give a few of them the look of a miniature pinecomb Christmas tree.

As a table’s centerpiece or grouped together on top of a shelf, these snowy little pinecombs are sure to get you in the hot chocolate and plaid throw blanket mood.

I added one pinecomb tree that reminds me of the winters we spent in Nebraska. The winds are so strong that sometimes the snow sticks to just one side of the tree, making it very obvious which way is North!

Need a little something else added to your wintry, Christmas decor? These snow-covered pinecomb trees might add just the right amount of Christmas happiness without any wet, melting mess.

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!

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!!