Archives for December 2010

Goodbye my furry friend

We came home from our Christmas vacation to find my beloved Cheetara had died. She was a purebred and I feared she had kidney problems for a long time, but the vet said she was OK. I never felt great about that, but we weren’t in the position to deal with kitty dialysis, so I tried to hope for the best. She just ran out of best.

Baby Cheetara
We got Cheetara and her sister Jem when we were in New Hampshire. I was sick and lonely and she became my best companion.

Baby clothes
Absorbing my baby love during those long years of infertility,

Nursing me through those long years of illness

Jungle kitty
Keeping me company in the garden

Belly fuzz
And always being generous with her fuzzy, cuddly self.

She was the most affectionate cat I’ve ever seen

Sleeping under the tree
And gave me more than I could ever return to her.

I will miss her terribly.


Merry Christmas and Happy Vacation


My little family have been such a couple of troopers as I’ve spun off in my Christmas frenzy. Atti has gotten used to too much Sesame Street, Bear has gotten used to handling most of the cooking and cleaning, and both of them would like me to take my head out of the projects long enough to actually spend some family time together.

After years of going along with extended family traditions, I’ve put my foot down since Atti was born. Now I want to establish our own traditions, which include Santa coming to our house and Atti waking up in his own bed Christmas morning. So we’ll have a big dinner tonight, wake up and open presents, have a nice breakfast, and then hit the road to drive down to Grandma’s house. We’ll be staying with them for nearly a week, and I’ve promised that there will be no working while on vacation.

So I’ll be taking some time away from these pages until I get back to town at the end of next week, and I hope to have nothing to show from my time away besides lots of games and snuggles and quality time.

I hope all of you have a joyous Christmas surrounded by the people you love. Thanks for spending this time with me.


On the 12th day of Christmas

My true love gave to me….

12 lords a leaping
Twelve lords a leapin’

11 ladies dancing
Eleven ladies dancing

10 pipers piping
Ten pipers piping

9 drummers drumming
Nine drummers drumming

8 maids a milking
Eight maids a milkin’

7 swans a swimming
Seven swans a swimmin’

6 geese a laying
Six geese a layin’

5 golden rings
Five golden rings

4 calling birds
Four calling birds

3 French hens
Three french hens

2 turtle doves
Two turtle doves

A Partridge in a pear tree
and a partridge in a pear tree

It took me nearly three years, but they’re finally done. I love them so much I’m toying with the idea of starting them all over again.


Homemade Pirate Chest for your little landlubbers

Toy Pirate Chest

Toy Pirate Chest

Any little pirate loving kid will lose their mind for this toy pirate chest. And you’ll be the coolest mom/dad/aunt/grandpa/friend ever.
Pirate Chest

My newly 4 year old nephew Kai is obsessed with pirates right now, and also has a December birthday. Having a December birthday myself, I know how often you get shuttled to the side with promises to make it up that never materialize. So when we go down to see family on Christmas day I wanted to have two presents for him. One for Christmas, and a special one for his special birthday.

But it also had to be cheap because Christmas is expensive.

Pirate Chest Step 1
This trunk started life as one of those cheap styrofoam coolers you can find at the grocery store or in a well stocked dollar store. We got some spray paint and painted it brown, but there’s a bit of a trick to it. Spray paints will melt styrofoam, so you need to do thin coats from far away and be patient with it. Unless there’s a section you actually want to melt, like the part of this cooler that had the manufacturer’s name on it. I gave that area a good hard blast with the spray paint and now it’s no longer legible.

Pirate Chest Step 2
The chest needed a hinge, but the cooler wasn’t made to accommodate one. I took three pieces of thick grosgrain ribbon and hot glued them in place to make a hinge that was flexible enough to account for the oddly shaped lid, then covered all my mess up with a fun fabric lining.

Pirate Chest Step 3
The clasps are what make this look like a pirate chest instead of a painted hunk of styrofoam. To attach them I took the screws included in the kit, covered the ends with hot glue, and shoved them through the clasp and into the styrofoam. The heat of the glue will melt the styrofoam enough as you go to act as a screwdriver at the same time.

Pirate Chest Step 4
Gold ribbon mimics the leather straps found on old luggage, and once again hides the evidence that this is a cheap piece of junk. Make sure you wrap the ends neatly so the lid can still come on and off easily.

Pirate Chest Step 5
I looked and looked for those metal corner pieces that come on old luggage but couldn’t find anything even close. So I just painted them on. You could keep going with this idea and paint on a lock or other metal embellishments.

Pirate Chest Booty
I have to give credit where it is due, this was totally Bear’s idea, nearly from beginning to end. We had the styrofoam cooler kicking around in the garage and he was the one who brought it to me and said, “With a little paint, this could look like a pirate chest!” He is living proof of what I always say – Creativity is a muscle. He just proved he’s a weightlifting champ.


Tree skirts for the Christmas forest

12 Days of Christmas tree skirt
Tree skirts always stump me. I’m not great *ahem* understatement *ahem* at sewing curves, and there’s a whole lot of curve to fill up with some kind of decoration. Plus, my first attempt at a tree skirt has been rather troublesome, so I’ve put off tackling more for years. This year, I was determined to cross them off my to do list once and for all.

12 Days of Christmas tree skirt
I pulled out my trusty machine applique technique and went to town. I really like how I can give this tree a title, because this is the hardest one to put together at a first glance.

12 Days of Christmas tree amd kitties
The kitties came over and gave their approval.

Woodland tree skirt
Then I still had last year’s Woodland tree to finish, so while the sewing machine was still warm I kept the applique trend going, this time with a blanket stitch around wool animal shapes. I had intended to use these animal shapes as ornaments for a project idea that didn’t pan out, so now they have new life as the animals celebrating their forest Christmas.

Woodland tree and kitties
The kitties seem to be keeping some distance from this one. They must recognize that they’re not forest creatures and aren’t invited to the party.

I may not love sewing them, but I sure love having them done. Each tree looks finished now, and all the unsightly plastic tree stands are hidden from view. I may need to invent a tree skirt skirt, though, because I anticipate each of these to be covered in cat hair by the time I get back downstairs.


The Unveiling…

It’s been a mad sprint to the end and I just finished sewing the tree skirt about 2 minutes ago, but it’s done.

Christmas Sweets Tree

Christmas Sweets Tree

Christmas Sweets Tree

Christmas Sweets Tree

Christmas Sweets Tree
When you use as many trees as I do, and you’re not independently wealthy, you can’t go for the super fancy fake trees that look better than the real thing. This white beauty came from Wal-Mart, and if you saw it before it was decorated you would be able to tell. My big secret for decorating a tree is to just pack it stiff with ornaments. I’ve written about it before, but I decorate a tree in layers. This tree was so thin that I really needed something to cover up the pole and the wire branches, so I took plain red and silver ornaments and hung then all the way inside. This has the added benefit of reflecting the lights from the inside out so the whole tree looks like it’s glowing.

Sweets Tree Skirt
I always put the tree skirts off for ages, but I wanted to do better this time. This tree has so much color and so much contrast that I wanted to keep it as simple as possible to not steal all the attention, so I figured out how to make this peppermint strip bias binding. I took the white fabric on the top and the red fabric I used for the underneath and cut 3″ strips on the grain. I sewed the strips altogether and then cut that sewn together cloth on the bias. That gives it that cute slant that makes it look like peppermint instead of gingham.

Thanks for following along, I hope you all found something to inspire you. Now that the tree is done I can turn my attention to some other last minute projects I’ve been putting off, including a last minute gift for an adorable 4 year old nephew. No rest for the weary!


Wire Candy Canes

Wire Candy Canes
In my brainstorming about candy canes, I of course came across the traditional idea of the pipe cleaner ornament. A staple of Christmas tree for years, I wanted to come up with something a little bit different, perhaps even a little less…fuzzy.

Wire Candy Cane, Step 1
So I wandered through the craft store and waited for creativity to hit me over the head. In the floral aisle I came across this raffia covered wire and thought it could be just the thing to evoke the simplicity and tradition of a pipe cleaner candy cane but done in a slightly more grown up version.

Wire Candy Cane, Step 2
I painted half of the wires white and half of them red. Make sure you get a really thorough coat because when you twist the wires together some of the raffia will unravel and reveal the underlying layers of brown.

Wire Candy Cane, Step 3
Twist a white and a red wire together. After a few trials and errors, I found the easiest way to do this to be to match up the middles and twist toward the ends.

Wire Candy Cane
The wires that I bought were long enough to make two candy canes, so I used wire cutters to cut them in half, and then bent one end to make the crook.

Wire Candy Cane
On my white tree they blend in enough to just give a pop of color in those few little bare spots. I think these are also easy enough, and cheap enough to be a really cute package decoration, or tied in the middle of a bow on a gift basket.


Iced Gingerbread Cookies

Iced Gingerbread Cookie

I spent way too much time over the last couple of months thinking about gingerbread. After the houses I naturally thought about making some gingerbread men, but I couldn’t crack a new or interesting way to make them since tutorials exist all over the internet, including this one which might just be untoppable.

I was also still deeply in love with that puffing fabric paint and looking for another excuse to use it. So here’s what I came up with.

Iced Gingerbread Cookie, Step 1

I drew up a pattern for an iced gingerbread cookie and cut the shape out of fun foam, which is fast becoming one of my favorite craft mediums. Make sure you punch a hole for the hanger to go through.

Iced Gingerbread Cookie, Step 2
Draw on your “icing” with the puffy paint. I’ll include my pattern of course, but you could go wild and do anything your heart desires. Or let the kids do what they desire. Just as you would during a cookie decorating marathon.

Iced Gingerbread Cookie, Step 3
Hit the paint with a heat gun. My happy little discovery in this process is that the fun foam melted a bit too. You have to be a little careful – you can end up burning your cookie – but it turned the color from an anemic tan to a beautiful toasted color, and took off some of the smoothness of the foam to look far more like an actual cookie.

Iced Gingerbread Cookie, Step 4
I did a line of icing around the outside too, just to hide those square edges that make it look too fake.

Iced Gingerbread Cookie Pattern
This project ended up being really cheap – I’d guess each ornament ended up costing about 12 cents – so it could be a great thing to put your kids in front of while you’re frantically making Christmas preparations. Christmas multitasking at its finest.

One more ornament tomorrow and then it’s time for reveals!!


Glittered Candy

Glittered Candy
This is really a reprisal of an ornament that I originally made for last year’s whimsical halloween tree. It’s so simple, but effective, and you should all know by know that I’m never going to miss a chance to glitter something.

Glittered Candy, Step 1
This time I used a variety of different sized styrofoam balls, and I started by painting them all in colors that would match the glitter I planned on using. This might seem like an unnecessary step at first blush, but it will make it so that you don’t need to do more than one coat of glitter. That was a lesson I learned the hard way.

Glittered Candy, Step 2
Cover the ball with a layer of white glue, then roll in glitter. Let dry.

Glittered Candy, Step 3
This time I used plain clear cellophane because I found it more effective in showing off the glitter inside. For the large balls I used a rectangle of cellophane measuring 10″ x 11″. For the smaller balls use a rectangle measuring 8″ x 9″. Wrap the rectangle around the glittered ball and twist the ends closed. Tie fishing line around one end, then tie the other end of fishing line around the other end and leave enough slack to create a hanger.

These look best nestled right up next to a light. The light not only reflects off the glitter, but also off of the cellophane. It’s a little sparkle bomb among all the rest of the paper and fabric ornaments.


Ribbon Candy

Ribbon Candy Ornament
This is such a classic ornament that everybody has a version of it. Martha and BHG both put beads in between each fold, I saw a paper version floating around somewhere this year, I think even the long lamented Carol Duvall show featured a version. Mine keeps it as basic as possible.

Ribbon Candy Ornament, Step 1
I think the big secret in this ornament is the ribbon you pick. It needs to be wired, but also look like the candy. I scored this ribbon on a huge drum from Costco this year. You basically just need a ribbon with some stripes running down the whole length.

Cut a 24″ length of ribbon and fold it every 2″, going back and forth like an accordion.

Ribbon Candy Ornament, Step 2
Cut a length of fishing line to 24″ long and thread it through a sharp needle. Thread a bead all the way to the bottom of the fishing line, then bring the needle around and back through the bead. Pull tight. This will be a stopper to hold the fishing line in place and keep it from pulling all the way through.

Ribbon Candy Ornament, Step 3
Poke the needle through the center of your ribbon stack and pull all the way through. You may have to wrestle with it a little, so that’s why it’s good to use a sharp needle that’s as small as you can use on the fishing line.

Ribbon Candy Ornament, Step 4
Fluff out your layers, shaping the folds around your finger to get that nice round ribbon edge.

Ribbon Candy Ornament, Step 5
When you’ve got your ribbon as fluffed out as you want it, tie a knot in the fishing line snuggled right up next to the ribbon. Cut the remaining fishing line in half to get the needle off, then tie another knot to create your hanger.

Ribbon Candy Ornament
It’s a popular one for a reason. Quick, cheap, and so evocative of an old fashioned Christmas.