Sunday, December 16, 2012

advent calendar: the result

A couple of weeks ago we did an advent calendar inspiration round up. You can find it here.

These were my goals for the advent calendar:

               One unwrapped box for each day; inside each you find:
                          an activity (printed on the inside of the box)
                          a small treat (Maybe a peanut M&M?)
                          a figure for the nativity scene.

    What I actually did:

One unwrapped box for each day, arranged in a random (but horizontally and vertically straight) manner.

I used boxes that I had on hand (free from my Mother-in-law! Thank you!) A 1/4 inch MDF board cut to size by the friendly guys at Home Depot. Paper left over from our wedding invitations, and green paint left over from another project.

Inside each box you will find: 3 peanut butter M&Ms (one for each person in the family) and a figure for the nativity scene. I am going to save the activities for next year when the boy has a better understanding of things.

I went with the Playmobil Nativity. I loved Playmobil as a little girl, but we did not have many of them. They still seem like fancy toys to me because they sold them at Grand Rabbit's the fancy toy store near my childhood home in Louisville, CO. I loved to go there and drool over the toys.

We are a little late beginning the advent count down, so we are opening 2-3 boxes each day to try to catch up. It took about half a day to condition the boy to salivate when you say the word "box." Apparently an advent calendar with an M&M in it is a veritable Pavlov's bell.

Since the boy is still pretty young and the pieces are rather small we play with the nativity scene together. In between it is stored on the mantle. This may be partly because I don't want to loose pieces to the nativity scene, well, actually that is the whole reason.

Hung up on the wall. 

Feeding the donkey.

I did not hang it up high enough. Well, live and learn!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

felted wool teether

I would say that lately I have been experimenting with felting wool, but as the photos show...I was experimenting with felting wool when there were leaves on the trees. March, to be specific. I don't know if that qualifies as lately.

I purchased a host of colors of wool roving on Etsy from a woman in Estonia. The wool smells delicious. Good enough to eat; it is a teether after all. Is that wrong to think that wool smells tasty? I know that wool on the hoof does not smell great, but this wool has been washed, brushed, and dyed using natural dyes.


Felting is the low down:

Start with wool roving.


Pull off a small bunch.


Submerse it in warm/hot soapy water and roll it between your palms.


Roll it until all the ends have tied themselves into the ball.


Rinse the soap out.


Set the ball out to dry.

Is anybody else hearing Monica from Friends saying "check" after each item?

                 Rachel: Who are you saying "check" too?

                Monica: Myself. Y'know, for remembering to pack a thing. 
                               Yeah, you do a good thing, you get a check! 
                               My mom does it, I never realized it was weird.

According to Wikipedia (shudder...I know, not a reliable source), the heat and moisture used in wet felting causes the scales in the wool fibers to hook together. The comparison of different fibers below shows why cotton does not felt.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

round up at the advent corral

 Advent. The countdown to Christmas. Anticipating present day. Contemplating Christ's birth.

When I was a little girl we had a paper pop-out advent calendar similar to the one below. I would look forward to opening each little door every day to see a part of the Christmas story hiding behind it.

I have not thought about advent calendars very much since I was ten or twelve, but things are changing now. My babe is almost a year and a half. The anticipation of Christmas is still lost on him, but if I start to make an advent calendar now he has a better chance of getting to enjoy it before he turns eight. Sometimes decisions are hard to make. Sometimes I procrastinate...just a little bit. Please tell me that I am not the only one!

Elizabeth and I have been looking for advent calendar inspiration. The challenge is not in finding inspiration but rather narrowing down the contenders to a manageable number. (Thank you Pinterest!)

Here are some of our favorites:

                                                               Sources: Left - Jessica from Cutesy Crafts; Right - Kenna's Etsy shop, Kenna's Felt Forest.

I love the advent calendars that incorporate the story of Christ's birth. So many times I believe that the real meaning gets easily lost in the shuffle of present wrapping and cookie decoration. These two calendars above would be a sweet reminder of the real reason for our celebration. I love the little sheep in the calendar from Jessica (above left) at Cutesy Crafts, and the detail in the figures in Kenna's nativity advent (above right) is fantastic! (This advent calendar is for sale on Etsy.)

Another trend that I see in advent calendars is little boxes or packages that you can put small presents or treats in. As a big fan of candy and presents, I really like this idea. The two examples above are both elegant but they accomplish that by two different routes. The wooden shelf and round tags on Anthology's advent calendar give it a rustic feel. I particularly like the nostalgic tags; my mom had a small box of them in her desk drawer and I remember playing with them. They seemed like money to a little girl. In contrast to the color and texture, the advent calendar from SHIM&SONS is elegant in it's simplicity and uniformity. The rows of tidy little boxes appeal to my sense of order in a very big way.

Sources: Martha Stewart's card calendar; Leigh from It's All Small Stuff's advent book; A simple Nest's tree advent; Danyelle from Dandee Designs' advent wreath

There are many "traditional" Christmas activities. Some of these things that always bring the holidays to mind for me are hot cocoa, reading by the fire, looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, and Christmas caroling. Some advent calendars have a small activity for each day that incorporates fun seasonal activities to do as a family. I love the stylized trees in the advent calendar from A Simple Nest. She used paint chips to make those adorable trees. You could include the kids in making both the tree advent calendar and the book advent calendar from Leigh at It's All Small Stuff. The simplicity of the advent wreath from Danyelle at Dandee Designs as well as Martha Stewart's card advent calendar will be a nice contrast in a room of twinkly lights and shining ornaments.

Another kind of advent calendar is a simple countdown. You start with 25 objects (elves or trees or something completely different) and take one away each day until you arrive. This could be especially useful for children that are anticipating Christmas and want to know how many "sleeps" they have until that morning dawns. Both the elves from Nadine Reeves (in an article on Canadian Living) and the little trees from Pink Suede Shoes are are projects that you could do with children. I rather like the idea of making an advent countdown that includes both elves and trees, though you might need to make the trees a little bigger.

I think it is important for an advent calendar to "re-set" easily from year to year so that it does not take too much planning to put together after it is initially made.

Here is my idea:
               One non-wrapped box for each day (a la SHIM&SONS).
               Inside each you find
                          an activity (printed on the inside of the box)
                          a small treat (Maybe a peanut M&M?)
                          a figure for the nativity scene.

I am torn between making felt figures or just buying the Playmobil nativity and dividing up the pieces into the boxes. The greedy sleeper in me is voting for Playmobil, while the crafter lobbies for felt. It is an ongoing battle. You understand, right?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wall Art: Dandelion

I enjoy making art with what I have on hand.  Christina and I have both agreed that we tend to be the most creative when we set limits when crafting, whether it is money or time.

I wanted something unique to hang on my wall and I already had an empty frame/shadowbox.  Burlap has awesome texture, but I honestly don't remember why I decided to try painting on it.  

This is not a perfect piece of art by any means, but every time I look at it it makes me happy, and (wistful?).  I saw this dandelion design on a quilt over at V and Co.  and fell in love with it, seriously when I start quilting I really really really want to make this one.  

My artwork was a lot faster than quilting and because it was practically free I won't feel bad when I someday get sick of it and throw it away (I just almost erased "throw it away" because living in the pacific northwest you are bred to reduce reuse recycle! :)  

Here is my little tutorial on how to paint quickly and easily without a brush!  Enjoy!

Looking back I am not sure that this project was worth the full-on tutorial, but it was good practice.  Taking decent pictures is HARD and using picture editing programs can really take hours.  My appreciation for quality blogs goes up every time I got through this process.

Happy Tuesday!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In love with fall: jute pumpkin

This morning I was blessed with a few quiet minutes to brew tea. Delicious smells wafted through the kitchen (I was roasting sweet potatoes). Topping it off was a beautiful view out my kitchen window; a misty fall morning and my sweet little tree with fire red leaves. I am not alone in loving fall, but boy do I love it! The weather, the scenery, the smells...

I don't do a lot of seasonal decorating, but I did create something recently that I liked and wanted to share.

This is a CHEAP craft which is awesome if you ask me.

Here are the ingredients :)

Carvable Foam Pumpkin $1 from Dollar Tree

Elmer's spray adhesive

3-ply Jute

If your smart (unlike me) and don't want to feel like a troll with hairy fingers at the end of the project, I suggest wearing gloves :)

I suggest following the safety precautions on the spray adhesive and doing this project in a ventilated area. Protect your work-surface with something you can throw away (newspaper, cardboard...) and don't wear nice clothes.

I started by spraying the stem of the pumpkin with the adhesive and then wrapped the jute around. Little by little I sprayed and wrapped, until Voila it was done. I should say it took me close to a half hour, but I really liked it!

I added a few burlap rosettes, made by a lovely lady in my MOPS group.

Enjoy this season. 

I am often tempted to let my mind be overwhelmed by what I don't have or what is going wrong. This morning I was reminded to take deep breaths of the crisp air, drink tea, and give thanks for all of the blessings in my life.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

flowers in her hair

The biggest problem with crafting in the evening hours while the babe sleeps is that you tend to finish projects when there is little natural daylight to be had. That is my sad excuse for the two month delay in taking these photos. All excuses aside, flowers are always lovely in your hair, both when the sun is high in the sky and when the twinkles in your eyes are only lit by the glow of a campfire.

This particular project is perfect for when you need a quick accessory or a speedy outlet for your creative juices.

Materials needed:

hot glue gun
spare glue sticks
alligator two-prong metal hair clips
felt or 1 cm ribbon
cardboard cereal box
silk flowers or other decorations

1: Place the hair clips around the cardboard to protect the bottom from the hot glue.

2: Trim a piece of felt (or ribbon) to the width of the hair clip and glue it to the top of the hair clip. Start with the end of the clip (where you grip it) wrapping the felt around the edge.

3. Trim the excess felt off.

4. Arrange your decorations, being sure to angle the flower so that it will point the right direction when it is in your hair.

5. Glue your decorations to the felt-covered side of the hair clip.

6. Let cool, peel the cardboard off, and add to your hair.

Between all the laundry, fabric store drooling, grocery shopping, and Pinterest pinning that we spend our time doing, sometimes we need to stop planning a future project and just do something today. If you find yourself in that boat, let this be your project!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beautiful Things

Hiking with my family doesn't happen often enough.  This last weekend we drove out of town and went exploring a new area.  The hike was challenging although it was only 1 and 1/2 miles up to the top.  We are out of  However, the area we hiked was so stunningly gorgeous it felt more than worth it. 

As you know by now this is a craft blog, and lately I've been really struck with the question, why do I do this?  Why am I compelled to create things?  There are quite a few reasons I can come up with, and I don't want to scare anyone off by sounding a little philosophical here, but I truly believe that the joy I get from creating is a gift from my creator.

The one who created this  

And this

 And this

I am thankful for the gift of creating and even more thankful for the beautiful things in my life that put my creations to shame.  And I am most thankful for the beautiful thing that is being made of my life when what is often in my heart is so, not, beautiful.  

This song has been running through my head today and you will not be sorry if you listen to it :)