Archive | Crafts RSS feed for this section

Thrifty Living: How To Make A Terrarium Ornament

30 Jan

As you may remember, some friends and I decided to make this year a Handmade Christmas. What gifts I gave were either thrifted or handmade.  While browsing my local craft store for Halloween decorations in September I found a bin filled with these empty plastic ornaments and immediately I knew I’d be turning them into terrariums come December.

If you’ve never made a terrarium before I have a beginner’s tutorial as well as an assortment of terrarium inspiration and information. Terrarium ornaments are simple to make and it was fun to give my friends the gift of something green and growing during the cold winter months. The medium-sized ornaments were a $1.50 at my local craft store, which meant that even I could afford a bunch to give as presents.

Materials:

  • garden soil, preferably damp, hold the gravel
  • plastic ornaments from a craft store, medium-sized
  • paint brush or chopstick
  • tweezers
  • weeds, moss, or other small plants
  • a funnel (or a piece of paper cut to size and rolled to make a funnel)
  • a small shovel

If making tags like mine you’ll also need:

  • decorative paper
  • glue or rubber cement
  • scissors
  • pencil

Instructions:

1. Take your soil and mix in drops of water (or use a spray bottle) until you have damp–but not soggy–soil.  Soil with good drainage works well, so look for the kind that has bits of Styrofoam mixed in or that is specially made for succulents and cactus. Valley soil is perfect because it’s so sandy, but you probably don’t live near me, so look into your local soil first to see if you can use it straight from the ground like I did.

2. Remove the wire topping of your ornament and fill the it a third of the way full of soil using your trowel and funnel. Make sure any rocks or gravel pieces aren’t going in. While they are useful for drainage they also add weight, which we don’t want.

3. Gently pluck some weeds from the ground (or from the fancy container you purchased your plants in) leaving the roots intact. Gently use your tweezers and the stick end of your paintbrush or chopstick to poke your plant through the hole and arrange so the root side is in the dirt. This is the trickiest part, but also why weeds are a good choice: they are used to growing in challenging circumstances and bouncing back even after they’ve been shoved in a jar.

4. Add a few (very few) more drops of water, replace the top, and there you have it–and awesome handmade terrarium ornament that took you all of fifteen minutes to make.

Let’s say you are giving these as a present and want to make a gift tag like I did. No problem, it’s easy! I used the tags that were already attached to the ornaments because they were simple and sturdy.

1. Leaving the tag on the ornament, trace its shape onto a decorative piece of paper using a very sharp pencil. Include a mark for the center hole.

2. Cut out and use that tracing to make two tags for each ornament you are making.  Cut them out.

3. In each tag, cut a slit and a hole for the plastic ring to go through. This is difficult for me to explain, so if you need a visual, click here.

4. Glue the decorative paper to each side of the tag. I used rubber cement and then set a book on top of each tag to prevent warping.

5. Finally, add the person’s name or a holiday message with a pen. A really good idea would be to include simple care instructions on one side of the tag as terrarium maintenance isn’t exactly a common skill. I did not do this because I only just thought of it, but I wish I would have.

I tried making these with both the larger ornaments and the medium-sized ones and it turns out that the medium-sized ones are far better. I wanted the large ones to work because they could hold more plants and maybe even some plastic toys, but the thin wire ornament tops wouldn’t support all that weight and the whole thing kept falling apart. Not a good sign. The medium size worked perfectly.

You can decorate these with plastic toys as long as they are small, lightweight, and will fit through the opening. You can adjust them with your tweezers and paintbrush once they are in. Ribbon would be a lovely way to accentuate and hang these ornaments, too, if you don’t like the look of the plastic ring or the tag. The fact that these ornaments are so simple is what lends them great potential and versatility.

This project was extra thrifty since I had all the materials on hand except the ornaments. If you try this, please let me know! I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

Advertisements

Fifty Thrifty Fun Things: Color on the Table

20 Jan

It sounds like a strange thing to say, but one of the best compliments I’ve ever received was from Anthony and it was about the thrifty and creative ways I’ve found to cheaply entertain Isobel. And it’s true: I pride myself on my ability to entertain her for minutes on end (precious, precious minutes!!–that sometimes add up to hours!) so I can do the dishes, drink a cup of coffee, or take a blissful dump in peace.

Many of you reading at home are parents, or perhaps spend some portion of your time with a young child. I’m willing to bet that readers here probably don’t have endless supplies of cash to spend entertaining your little ones, so this year I’m going to share at least 50 simple, accessible, and–most importantly–cheap ways to entertain your kids. Some of these ideas might give you a few blessed hours to yourself, and some of these activities you can revisit over and over again. If you’d like to share your best ideas for thriftily entertaining kids, I’d love to hear them.

50 thrifty idea, number one: cover your table with butcher paper, hand your kid a bucket of crayons and maybe some stickers and let them have at it.

The paper we used is actually packing material that came inside a package my mother ordered at Christmastime. She knows I collect paper like this to use for shipping items from my Etsy shop. That’s why it’s so crinkled. This time I spread  it on the table for Isobel to use instead of adding it to my shipping cupboard. It might end up there eventually, though.

The paper itself is like a very thin paper lunch sack. I like the way crayon and stickers look against the tan brown color. They really pop. I like it better than white paper, but it’d do just as good a job.

This activity bought me an hour. It probably would have given me longer but we had errands to run so I had to stop her.

When it was time to clean up I just rolled the paper up. It still has plenty of life left in it. I can rotate the side if she wants a clean slate to color on, or I can make it new buy letting her put stickers or water colors over the used areas. I just introduced her to the magic of stamps, so I’m sure this will be covered in ink pad markings and fingerprints before too long.

This is also great to save and pull out when she gets into Epic Coloring Mode. She can get so enthusiastic about coloring that she ends up going off the paper with her artistic zeal and then I have to scrub crayon off the table for the fifteenth billion time. She can color on top of this paper and I don’t have to tell her to slow her coloring roll.

Since the paper was repurposed and we already owned the crayons, this activity was free.

My sanity and a happy toddler? Priceless.

Crafty: The Heart-Shaped Box

17 Jan

I am so excited to finally share this project with you. I really didn’t do much in the way of handmade gifts for Isobel this year. Focusing on thrifting, hosting Christmas, and just being with my family took up most of my time so I thought I really wouldn’t bother with handmade gifts for Isobel. She is just swimming in toys and things she carries around to play with that aren’t toys, and I knew she’d be getting piles of stuff for Christmas, so it was easy to justify not making her a bunch of gifts. And I’ve already explained my theory of thrifted gifts and why I’m an asshole anyway. But, when the Pixie and I stopped by the craft store a week before Christmas to pick up supplies for the gift I was making my friends, I couldn’t pass up this sweet little paper heart box for 99 cents.

Using craft paint I already had, I used time when Isobel was with Grandma to paint layer after layer of pink paint on the brown paper surface. I decided to paint the inside of the box red to make it stand out more, which I don’t regret but made the whole thing more complicated because each mistake meant waiting for paint to dry to apply another layer to fix the errant blotches.

The craft store also had these fantastic jewels for three bucks, and I can’t think of a more perfect treasure to fit inside. Isobel adores her heart box, and I’m so glad I took the time to make it. Total cost of the project was less than five bucks. Although I made this as part of Handmade Christmas, wouldn’t this be the perfect Valentine gift, or even project, if your little one was school-aged? It could be filled with chocolate and covered with doilies or modge-podge.

Guest Post – DIY Projects for the New Year by Kelly of Let’s Die Friends

3 Jan

Today I’m featuring a guest post from the awesomely talented and completely adorable Kelly of the blog Let’s Die Friends. Twitter pals know her as the fun-loving Mama of a nommable two year old who loves food, thrifting, and good design. I admire her deeply for her silly sense of humor, her wickedly keen taste, and because one time she dress up as a Centaur for Halloween. If she seems familiar it might be because her Etsy shop is one of my favorites. I’m working on special surprise for next week, so today Kelly is filling in and bringing you a round up of thrifty and fun DIY projects to try from around the internet. Take it away, Kelly!

***************

Thrifty DIY Projects for the New Year

Greetings! I am delighted that Miss Carrie Anne asked me to post on her blog. I love her thrift store scores, DIYs, and overall thriftiness. I put all my fresh herbs in water now thanks to her. True story. So in keeping with her DIY spirit, and since it’s the beginning of a new year, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite projects that I am excited to try this year!

This fringe garland from Sunshine and Carousels  is a great idea if you have a lot of fabric remnants laying around. I can think of a ton of uses for this:

  • Party decorations (stay within the colors of your party)
  • Holiday decorations (Red, white & blue for 4th of July. Hot pink, light pink, and silver for Valentines Day. Not just Christmas!)
  • In place of a headboard on the wall behind your bed
  • Kid’s room
  • You can buy waterproofing spray that turns any fabric into an outdoor fabric and make cute patio garlands. (I think I will do this one!)
  • If the vintage look isn’t your thing, you could use newer fabrics or solid colors.
  • Any place you would put a large framed picture, mirror, or artwork.

Here is a tutorial from Ivey Handcrafted on how to make pom pom flowers. Maybe these will finally be flowers my cat won’t eat and puke up later! But the furry idiot did eat and puke up our fake white Christmas tree, so maybe not. These certainly have that “crafty” look to them, but this project could be as subtle or as crazy as you want. Use all yellow for a “billy button” look. All white or cream would be pretty. Do they make metallic gold yarn? Because hellooo. I plan on filling a vase in my daughter’s play area, so I am going to use every color of yarn I own!

I love this idea from Griottes for a small party! Small. Because you’d need a lot of time to make enough for a large party. Perhaps a dinner party with friends? I don’t know about painting or adding washi tape to the parts that go in peoples’ mouths, though.

Okay, I might not actually try this project, because it would require having a place to put it. But it’s too cute to not share, and maybe you do have a place for it! All you need is a large canvas and some fabric. The way it’s used in this photo, behind the seating area, it’s like pretending you have wallpaper, without the commitment. Brilliant. This would also be a great alternative to fill a large area above a fireplace. If you have a lot of different colors going on in your room and you need a way to bring it all together, find a fabric that has all the colors in it. I suppose it doesn’t even have to be that huge. You could do an 18×24 canvas, or a series of small canvases.

This doily table runner from Ashley Ann looks ridiculously easy. The hardest part would be remembering to look for doilies while you’re out shopping. I like this for any tabletop situation, not just a dining table. You could dye the doilies different colors, or keep them white. It would be neat to make a few of these, and then when Christmas comes back around, hang them vertically for a snowflake decoration.

I suppose it would be very ambitious of me to keep going, since I’m supposed to try all these! This is a good start. Aren’t we lucky to have endless amounts of inspiration via the internet? I hope you enjoyed my list and are inspired to try some of your own creative projects this year! To see what I’m up to, visit my blog Let’s Die Friends or find me on Pinterest.

Snapshot

21 Dec

Here’s what I’m up to:

– Woohoo! I am late again this week. Go team.

– My friend Kristi made gingerbread chickens instead of gingerbread men and now I’m obsessed with the idea of making non-traditional gingerbread creatures.

– Have you seen Erin’s creative way her family counts down to Christmas? I couldn’t find a photo to link to, but she writes the count down on a chalk board in her family’s kitchen. It’s so adorable, it might be my favorite advent calendar idea yet. I found several chalkboards while thrifting. I’m going to give this a try next year.

Marie showed off a photo of her Hipster Analog PDA. Is it weird that I love seeing the handwritten way people keep track of things? When I still worked at the library I made my own datebook using a notebook and a due date stamp. Now I use a shared google calendar with my husband but I can’t leave the pen and paper world behind: I have a binder that contains all my ideas, my to do lists, important papers I need to have handy, and my menu plan for the week. I’ll show you sometime if you’re interested.

– Another friend named Erin is making a homemade Huckle for her lucky kiddo this Christmas. It is amazing. She is so talented.

– I’m going through the photos on my hard drive (er, hard drives. Let’s be honest, here) and I’m trying to delete the ones I don’t need to make room for future memories. I uploaded more photos from our trip to Cayucos last March for Chris and Jenn’s wedding.

– I recently got a spam comment that was left by “A Puppy.”

– I was having a terrible night until petersagal posted this tweet: Yo Yo Ma on the floor of a bathroom, with a wombat. Then he said, “There. I just justified the existence of Twitter.” Yes you did, good sir! Yes you did.

– While shopping for supplies for Handmade Christmas at Michael’s, we bought some (pink!) pipe cleaners and had some fun. All other games were quickly brought to a halt, however, when she discovered that I could shape them into hearts. Soon she had covered our tree in heart-shaped ornaments. It was so fun.

– My cat Poppy totally clotheslined herself on the Christmas tree garland this morning.

– I’ve realized that ironically it’s Rich People that are best able to pull off Handmade Christmas.  You have to really work to keep your crafts affordable, and they take so much time. Ideally, participants in Handmade Christmas are independently wealthy, so in addition to having all the funds they need at their disposal they can make their butlers help when their fingers get tired.

– I’m still getting more Christmas cards! Thank you so much, friends! But I’m still not returning the favor till after Christmas. Happy New Years cards are for the fashionably late.

– Speaking of cards, I’ve been doing more portrait work in time for the holidays. Earlier this week I shot the best portrait session of my life–a friend wanted to take the most awkward family Christmas photo with her brothers as their gift to their parents. Think matching sweaters, ridiculous headbands, and too-huge identical sets of plaid pajamas. It was epic and I learned it’s difficult to shoot while crying tears of laughter.

Photos:

I like big buns and I cannot lie.

Bring your pink purse with you on your walks.

Wearing your Flair to the grocery store.

Monorail Cat.

Handmade Christmas.

Multitasking.

Little Braid.

I do what I want.

Little Big Guift Guide: Thriftiest Stocking Stuffers

19 Dec

Today is the last installment of a three-part series I’m doing on inexpensive, yet still fun and creative and useful, Christmas gifts. (Thrifty & Thriftier versions here.) The goal is to give items that would be a welcome gift and not just junk that will likely be tossed out at the end of the day. To be included in this gift guide it must be useful, lovely, and budget-friendly.This “Thriftiest” guide is the longest and most packed with ideas, probably because I’m used to having no budget to work with. I’ve had to get creative and I’m happy to share these ideas with you.

Almonds:  my Mom likes to put toasted almonds in our stockings. I think this is a great idea with or without a spiced, coated seasoning. My aunt once gave us all toasted almonds mixed with M&Ms, and in the days following Christmas I put it in a candy dish and visitors to the house fell upon it like they had never seen almonds or M&Ms before. Sometimes, it’ the little things.

Heirlooms: for my birthday my Dad gave me his Brownie camera that had been collecting dust in my parents’ closet for fifty years. I’ve been looking for a Brownie at yard sales and flea markets for forever, not knowing that my Dad had one in perfect condition all this time. It was his first camera, purchased when he was about thirteen. Receiving this gift was so much better than finding it secondhand: he remembers how it works and can help me open it and load the film.

Handmade: my lovely and talented twitter friend, Erica, crocheted a hat for a cousin and embellished it with buttons from her late Grandpa’s shirt. Such a wonderful, powerful gift.

Custom Spice Mixes:  my Dad loves to cook and he often tucks spice blends and rubs in my stocking. An even thriftier (and quite possibly better, in my opinion) option would be to make your own rubs and spice blends and give those instead.

Dried Herbs: Along the same line as spice rubs above, the last couple years I’ve been harvesting rosemary from my garden, drying it and sealing it in decorated plastic bags and put that in my family’s stockings.

CDs: I like to include burned cds in my family members’ stockings. The thing to remember with this option is to make it appropriate to their tastes. For my aunt I gave her meditative music she could paint to, for my uncle I gave him acoustic guitar-heavy indie music, and for my parents I gave them the nutcracker suite. Decorating the CD is a must.

Bookmarks & Artwork: If you are lucky enough to have some skill with a pencil or a paintbrush, you can make individual cards or bookmarks for gift-giving. I’m friends with a couple who did this and I still treasure and use them.

Your Own Recording:  aside from giving a mix CD, if you have musical talent you can give a CD of your own songs. A friend of mine is making one for this year and I can’t wait to get it.

Cuttings & Seeds: do you have a plant that everyone admires? I’ve had friends request cuttings of my Jade plants and other succulents for birthdays and holidays. My friend Jake has a ton of marigolds that produce seeds like crazy, and in addition to produce from his garden he gave me a cupful of seeds so that I can grow my own golden ruffled beauties.

Your Talent: Coupons are the standard for the thrifty gift and for a reason: they are awesome. Can you offer to baby sit? Do you give good massages? Skill with photoshop? You could offer to paint someone’s portrait, bring them lunch at work, make them a custom headband, run errands for them, bake them bread. Illustrate your coupon beautifully, and you have a winner.

Photos & Thrifted Frames: Christmas is the time of year my parents traditionally gave photos of us kids to the relatives (usually school or family church portraits). Since I’m handy with a camera, I like to print out some of my favorite shots of the kid and give those. Our thrift stores are always bursting with frames, so for under $2.00 I can give a lovely framed photo.

Oranges: Christmas is the time of year when citrus is in season. On her way into the Valley my aunt stops off at a local grower and buys sacks mandarins so sweet they are like candy. Sometimes they end up in the stockings but more often than not we dump all the mandarins out for Christmas snacking and then divide up the leftovers.

Thrifted Goodness: When I go thrifting I always keep my eyes peeled for things someone on my Christmas list might like. This requires you to have a pretty good feel for another’s taste, and the knowledge that they are cool with receiving vintage items. I never pass off something secondhand as new (though I know people who do). I have no shame in giving something that’s secondhand as long as it is awesome. For example, I gave my friend Stef, who adores both vintage and Yosemite, this ceramic souvenir leaf dish from the 1950s.

Homegrown Harvest: I touched on Jake giving me the fruits of his garden for my birthday, and this extends to stocking stuffers, too. Citrus plants are bountiful this time of year, as are apples and pomegranates. I know Californians like me have an advantage, but some things can be harvested in summer and saved for gift-giving now. Dried chilies, sunflower seeds, small pumpkins make great gifts.

Local Gifts: every area has something special to offer, and if you have relatives coming from out of town they might appreciate something you take for granted. Maybe you leave near the beach and you have seashells. My aunt, who lives near the ocean, gave us all seashells one year. I have a friend who lives in the city who has access to usual foreign grocery store items and I asked him for some packages of ramen. Each area has something special that could translate as something to give.

Kid-Made Crafts: when we give cards we like to let Isobel have at the envelope with a crayon first and people love it. When she’s old enough to make crafts you better believe I’m going to spread the crafty love.

Tea Sampler: If you have a few cartons of fancy tea you can easily put together a tea sampler for several people by including a couple bags from each. I do this just about every year for my family. It’s a great way to try new flavors without being committed to a whole box if you don’t like it.

Well, there you have it. Three posts’ worth of fun, creative, and thrifty ideas for stocking stuffers. If you have your own great ideas to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Guest Post: Pom Pom Tutorial by Emily Bilbery

13 Dec

I am excited to present to you a guest post from the lovely and talented Emily Bilbery of Uffda Designs. Emily is a WAHM who sells her crafts on Etsy while watching and playing with her smooshy-cute daughter Poppy. She’s creative and knows how to have a thrifty good time and today she’s going to show us how to make pom poms. Bonus thrifty tip: lots of times you can find donated yarn at thrift stores when people decide it’s time for a de-stash, so keep your eyes open for thrifty deals.

Take it away, gorgeous!

************************

season’s greetings, darlings! i’m completely honored to be guest-posting here today. little big is one of my all-time favorite blogs, and i’m so very excited to share a bit of crafty goodness with you all. i share carrie anne’s love of all things frugal and i also wanted my craft tutorial to be something that people on any budget and holding any skill level could make. so today i’m going to show you how to make yarn poms, a yarn pom garland and pom-embellished gift wrapping, without any sewing required! you’ll simply need:

* yarn (can be found at dollar stores and thrift shops, as well as craft stores.)

* sharp scissors

* wrapping paper of your choice, if you plan on using your poms to adorn gifts (rolls of plain brown, recycled paper can be found at dollar stores, target & hardware stores. another great option is hemming blocks thrifted/vintage fabric in various sizes to re-use in many years to come! gifts look so lovely wrapped in pretty fabric and tied with ribbon, string or yarn.)

now it’s time to make some poms!

POM POM TUTORIAL

1) first, begin loosely wrapping your yarn around your index and middle fingers, leaving a small gap between…

2) wrap,  wrap, and wrap some more until you have a large bundle of yarn accumulated! use a little more than you think you’ll need, to create nice fluffy poms.

3) next, cut a small length of yarn (around 6 inches) and wrap it under/around the center of your bundle of wrapped yarn, between your fingers.

4) tie in a basic knot.

5) then slip your fingers out, tighten your strings in the center, and double-knot tightly to secure.

6) then, use your scissors to snip through the loops of yarn. work your way around the little donut…

7) and watch it magically transform into a fluffy yarn pom! trim around your pom with scissors until you have a nice uniform puff.

easy-peasy, right?!

if you’d like to make a garland with your poms, here’s a really easy, no-sew method:

POM POM GARLAND TUTORIAL

1) cut a length of yarn that will reach across the area you want to hang it.

2) create poms in your desired colors & quantity to adorn the garland.

3) cut small lengths of yarn (around 6 inches) to match the number of poms you’re using.

4) tie the small length of yarn onto the large one with a basic knot.

5) then tie your yarn pom on through the center, and double-knot tightly to secure.

6) trim off the excess pieces of yarn, and repeat with your remaining poms to create your garland!

7) (optional) if you’re sewing-savvy, you can just grab an embroidery needle, thread it with yarn, and sew right through the centers of your poms to create a garland in no time!

these garlands are so cheerful and can be created to match any decor – try them for various holidays, or to match a child’s room. you could also make a long bunting to adorn a christmas tree! so very festive!

another great way to feature poms is to decorate gifts with them. this year i’m wrapping all of my christmas gifts with plain brown paper, yarn, and yarn poms. there is no limit to the color combinations you could use, or to the number of poms for each gift! they look equally cute with one pom or many. simply wrap your desired amount of yarn around your package, tie into a knot, and use a small length of yarn to double-knot your poms on (just like in the garland instructions above.)

here’s a few additional pom ideas, just for fun:

POM POM IDEAS AND INSPIRATION

* pom-embellished wreath! james at bleubird made the cutest one i’ve ever seen. plain wreaths can be found at dollar stores & craft stores.

* add poms to mittens, slippers or hats! simply thread some yarn onto an embroidery needle, push a generous stitch through the area you want the pom to lie, tightly double-knot the pom into place, and trim off the excess yarn.

* snag an ornament hook onto individual poms to create instant baubles for your christmas tree.

* pom book mark – cut a small rectangle of cardstock, punch a hole in the top, and tie on a pom!

* pom hair pretty – tie a yarn pom onto a hair elastic, or use hot glue to attach one (or more!) to a hair clip or headband.

happy crafting, and happy holidays! thank you so much again to carrie anne for inviting me to guest post. i hope you guys enjoyed this little tutorial!

cheers!

emily

Thrifty Living: 12 Creative, Thrifty Ways to Wrap Gifts

6 Dec

Here are my favorite creative and thrifty ways to wrap presents for the holidays. Have an idea? Add yours in the comments.

1. Stock up on thrifted tins. I always check out tins while thrifting and stock up for the holidays. For a quarter I can buy a unique way to wrap a gift that can then be reused and repurposed later.

2. Use colorful paper bags and printable gift tags. When I still worked at the library I did a whole lot of gift-giving: coworkers, office staff, friends and student aides all got gifts from me. The cheapest way to wrap these gifts turned out to be colorful paper bags and ribbon from the craft store plus printable gift tags that I made myself. This was the perfect way to distribute baked goods and they looked so cheerful. Free printable gift tags can be found all over the web, but my favorites are found here.

3. Wrap an ugly box collage-style. I bought a lovely necklace for my MIL one year and of course the only box I could find to put it in said something dumb on it. I used a page out of a magazine to cover the top of the box and glued origami paper to the sides and it was transformed. She ended up loving the box as much as the necklace.

4. Try fabric scraps and yarn. One year I ran out of wrapping paper altogether so I raided my fabric stash and found this vintage green cotton fabric I found while thrifting. I was able to secure this fabric with scotch tape even though it was a decently heavy weight.  Wrap as you would normally for wrapping paper, add some yarn, and you’re good to go.

5. Embellish a plain gift bag. I can’t remember if this bag was plain or if it had a logo in the middle, but either way it benefited from some scraps from my collage file.

6. Reuse a pretty jar. I save jars like this throughout the year because I like to give spiced nuts and candy at Christmas. If your jar is pretty enough, only a ribbon is needed, though you can always paint the lid.

7. Use sheet music instead of wrapping paper. I have lots of musician friends so I had the idea to wrap their gifts in sheet music. I happened to have sheet music lying around, so I made copies of it specifically to use for wrapping. Collage paper, doilies, and some pink yarn finished it off.

8. Wrap with tissue paper and add a colorful bow. Many times the tissue paper is lovely enough to use as wrapping. I keep a few spools of colorful ribbon on hand for wrapping. I get it when it goes on clearance at the craft store.

9. Use a small piece of fancy paper for accent. A very creative friend of mine made me a necklace and sent it to me in this lovely packaging. I like how she decorated a plain box by adding a strip of fancy paper around it. I bet the sheet of paper was pricey, but using it sparingly makes it last.

10. Reuse a gift bag. I saved so many gift bags from our baby showers that I finally had to go through our gift bags and get rid of some. I didn’t throw them out, though! I donated them to Goodwill. Speaking of, you can find all sorts of lovely gift bags at good will for cheap.

11. Just add a huge bow. Sometimes one large statement is all you need.

12. Add a creative card. I don’t recommend giving tequila for every occasion, but in this case a lime made the perfect card.

Snapshot

16 Nov


Here’s what I’ve been up to:

– I’ve been looking for a countertop compost bin so I don’t have to keep a bowl with fruit and vegetable remnants in it on the counter. Which I suppose the compost bin would be doing anyway, except most of them are smaller and have lids. Have any recommendations?

– Have you seen crap at my parents’ house? Hilarious! Via Gisela.

– My friend Gen posts about mental illness in the blogosphere and how you can help end the stigma. You vote on Facebook, and if you know me you know I avoid Facebook at all costs, but even I voted. Also, Gen is funny, honest, and she writes about motherhood in a way I admire. Check out the love letter her son wrote her for further proof of her awesomeness.

– I’m trying to come up with Christmas card ideas that will beat last year’s awesome card. You’ve seen last year’s card, right? I honestly don’t know if I can top that.

– Tomorrow I’m starting the ambitious project of reorganizing the storage method for my entire etsy shop. This project is enormous. I have only listed a small percentage of what I actually have on hand for the shop.

– In food news, my mother gave me the rudest butternut squash. I plan to make a cheeky soup. Or chips. Or more dirt candy. (Or should I say, dirty candy?)

– I’ve been stirring shards of bacon and pomegranate seeds into my oatmeal in the morning. I love salty-sweet, and pomegranates and bacon are two of my most favorite things. I’m pretty sure bacon has worn-out its fashionable chicness after years in the limelight, but I’ll never tire of its fatty, salty charms.

– Now that the bounty of my garden is starting to fade, I’m cooking and using everything I can, including drying some of my herbs in the oven, in this case, catnip. I’ll got some questions about this on twitter, so I’ll be posting a tutorial later. In the meantime, I’m going to look up some tutorials for homemade cat toys.

– It’s official–I’m hooking again. Years ago a coworker taught me to crochet (a challenge, as I’m left-handed and she was right-handed). I crocheted lots of scarves and several blankets. I even have a rarely-used Ravelry account. I crocheted constantly until my coworker and friend’s baby passed away. I had just finished her baby blanket and the whole situation was so devastatingly heartbreaking that I just didn’t feel like crocheting after that for a long time. I’d pick up the yarn and start think about what happened and I’d just put it down again.  Now I feel like I can give it another go.

– The other day Isobel was really whining. It was the sort that didn’t even involve words, just a steady stream of uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh for hours on end. Finally, I could take no more, so I said, “Isobel, you need to stop whining. If you need something, please use your words. But no more whining!” Finally, the noises ceased.

A pause, and then, “Mama?”

“Yes, Isobel?”

“Do you want to play whining for a little while?”

Homemade Christmas & Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

7 Nov

Working in the kitchen has been a balm for my anxiety. The chopping, the washing, the sauteing all help divert my scattered, restless thoughts away from anxious tangents. The inherent rhythm of chop chop chop chop has become my mantra. Cooking is my meditation. Dinner is my devotion.

We have so many seeds from the pumpkins we grew that I’m planning to roast them in batches with a different set of seasonings each time. In addition to the three fat pumpkins we harvested from the backyard my friend and gardening-partner-in-crime Jake gave us the pumpkin he grew as well. It’s an embarrassment of pumpkin riches.

After cleaning the flesh from the seeds by soaking them in brine overnight, I doused them heavily in tamari, the milder, more complex Japanese soy sauce. I roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. They came out a bit saltier than I’d like so I’ll need to adjust the amount of soy, but they have a robust, almost smoky flavor.

One of the reasons I’m testing out different spice combinations is because the holidays are right around the corner and I’m looking for gifts I can make cheaply and in batches. This year my friends and I have decided to have an exclusively Handmade Christmas. If it can be found in a thrift store (the only exception), cooked, baked, or otherwise handcrafted, it counts. None of us can afford an extravagant Christmas, and aside from a few stocking stuffers and thrifted goodies I’ve already set aside for Isobel, that goes for family, too.

Going down to one income in this economy is way harder than I thought it’d be. I don’t regret my decision to stay home for a minute, but I do have to admit I had unrealistic expectations about how difficult the financial transition would be. Finally, with two incomes in decent jobs we were making enough money to do more than get by when I quit my job. But I know things won’t always be this way. Anthony is still establishing himself in his career and I’m continuing to make extra money through photography and my Etsy shop. (Speaking of, stop by my shop during the holidays! I always include extra vintage goodies to customers I know personally.)

My friends are all in the same boat, most of them dealing with crushing student debt, lack of employment options, and the dreaded foreclosure. So, in the tradition of making lemons out of lemonade, we’re going the inexpensive route. Handmade can certainly be expensive, but I’m on the lookout for crafts that are inexpensive, easy enough for a novice, and not incredibly time consuming. I have some ideas I’ll share later (once I figure out what I’m going to make), but I’d love to hear any suggestions you have or click on any Pinterest links you want to send my way.