It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. -- Charles Dickens
Every Christmas my Aunt Diane sends me a book, which I then promptly consume along with copious amounts of cookies and tea between now and the new year. For the sake of variety, this year she sent an Amazon gift card.
Too many choices can be overwhelming. I've narrowed my selection to a classic title I've not read. Scrolling through the eye candy of the new Penguin Classics Clothbound editions, I was completely taken by this cover. Not only does it feature a repeat of scarves mid-knit, but this is the only Dickens I've not read and one which Mom frequently quoted. Fate! A must purchase!
Of course, one can't stop with just one book. I've read this classic several times over, but the new cover is too sweet.
The paperback version is equally delicious. I may have to get this edition if only to read the introduction by Jane Smiley, another favorite author.
Last summer I wrote about the Penguin Thread series, but here is another gorgeous cover. I wish the whole book was as sumptuously illustrated.
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." -- Norman Vincent Peale
This is a quick easy project for children of all ages!
You will need: 12" x 6" x 1" Smoothfoam™ rectangle 1 sheet each of emerald green and turquoise blue tissue paper 1 1/4 yards of emerald green grosgrain ribbon 18" piece of 20 gauge wire in silver 8mm sequins in assorted colors sequin pins small seed beads size 11/0 or 10/0 in assorted colors, including white or silver 1/2" snowflake punch 1 sheet 6x6" white glitter paper Modge Podge® Matte white glue sponge brush ruler pencil scissors awl / large tapestry needle / skewer 9"x12" light blue craft felt
1. Sketch out the tree. Measure the center of the top of your Smoothfoam™ rectangle. Mark it with your pencil. Line up your ruler between this mark and the bottom right corner. Draw a line. Repeat from the bottom left corner.
2. Collage the tree and sky. Cut each color of tissue paper in half. You will only need one half of each, so save the rest for another project. Cut the tissue paper into small rectangles. Spread a small amount of Modge Podge® Matte onto the tree shape with your sponge brush. Press green tissue paper into place. Repeat until entire tree is covered. Smooth out any wrinkles with the sponge brush. Allow the green to dry before preceding in the same manner with the blue tissue paper for the sky. Allow the blue to overlap along the sides. Give a final coat of Modge Podge across the entire surface and allow to dry.
3. Trim the tree. Pick up a bead and then a sequin with one of the pins and push into tree. Continue in this manner until the tree is "decorated."
4. Add snowflakes. Punch 10-14 snowflakes out of the glitter paper. Pick up a white bead with the pin. Position the snowflake and press the pin through the center. Push the pin until the bead and snowflake are firmly attached.
5. Add the bow. Cut the edge of the ribbon on an angle. Spread a thin amount of white glue along the edge of the rectangle. Press the ribbon into place. Trim excess ribbon, cutting the edge again on an angle to prevent any possible fraying. Cut 2" off the remainder. Form the remainder into a loop and glue the edges together. Take the 2" section and wrap it over the center of the loop and glue the edges together. Glue to the center top of the rectangle. Use a few pins to hold it in place while the glue sets and dries. Remove pins.
6. Cover the back with felt. Measure and cut a 6" x 12" piece of felt. Spread a thin amount of glue along the back. Press felt into place.
7. Add the wire hanger. Wrap the wire around the pencil. Remove the pencil and spread out the "spring." Punch holes on each side of the top a 1/2" in from the edge. Push wire tips into the holes until they are snug.
Hang your decoration on the wall, a door or set it on a table.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." -- Pablo Picasso
Can you imagine a more magical place than a garden filled with sunflowers that reach the sky? Every where you look there is a new to explore.
This fall I've been teaching a children's drawing and painting workshop at the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse. We are ready to begin our culminating mural that will educate visitors to the wonders of this place. We've studied how leaves come in different shapes and sizes, wondered at the patterns of a butterfly wing and have been awed by a seed sprouting.
The joy in teaching comes from watching their excitement as they discover how to use watercolor pencils or see tiny hairs on the surface of a stem. They are becoming keen observers of their environement and want to share what they are learning. The mural will be unveiled in February, a perfect time to look forward to spring.
"This project is supported by a Neighborhood Arts Program grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events."
"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." -- Peg Bracken
My most treasured ornaments are not ones store bought, but those made by family and friends. Pass along the tradition and make a few for yourself and others! These two "icicles" are easy peasie. Big and bold, they will be add a colorful dash to your Christmas tree.
You will need for each: Smoothfoam™ 1" ball Smoothfoam™ 1.5" ball Smoothfoam™ 2" ball Smoothfoam™ 3" ball Mod Podge® Matte sponge brush 1 sheet colored tissue paper scissors hot glue gun hot glue sticks 1" eye pin aluminum foil 8" piece of 1/4" double-faced satin ribbon
For Blue Icicle you will also need: 1/2 snowflake paper punch 1 sheet of glitter paper sequins straight pins
For Red Icicle you will also need: glue dots in assorted sizes fine glitter
1. Hot glue the Smoothfoam™ balls together. Add a dot to the center of the 3" ball and push the 2" ball in place. At the opposite side of the 2" ball, add a dot of hot glue and push the 1.5" ball in place. Repeat procedure with the 1" ball. Allow to cool.
2. Cut tissue paper into squares and rectangles of assorted sizes. They should be no larger than 1" square.
3. Pour some Mod Podge® onto a piece of foil. Cut a sheet of foil and roll up the sides to make a dish for the Mod Podge®. Pour in a small amount of Mod Podge™. Dip your brush into it and paint a thin layer onto the ornament base. Stick a piece of tissue paper to it and push into place with the brush. Keep going until the entire ornament base is covered. You may need a second layer if some areas look thin.
4. Allow ornament base to dry thoroughly. Place the form on a clean sheet of foil and allow to dry.
5. At the top center of the ornament base, push in the eye pin.
For Blue Icicle: Punch out 2 dozen snowflakes. Pick up a sequin with the straight pin and attach a snowflake to the ornament base. Cover the entire ornament, leaving some space between each snowflake.
For Red Icicle: Add glue dots to the surface of the ornament. Apply larger ones toward the top and small ones at the tip. Shake on glitter. Brush off excess.
7. Tie on the ribbon. Thread ribbon through the eye, bring ends even and knot together.
"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses." -- Hanna Rion
Every year there are always a few people on my holiday gift list that prove to be a challenge. You know who I mean, that person who is on a diet, doesn't cook, is allergic to most essential oils and perfumes and has enough holiday ornaments to decorate trees up and down the block. I love to knit and crochet, but I don't have the time this year. So what to do???? Terrariums! They are quick to make and can be personalized with plants and miniatures specific to the recipient. Add a little Santa or gnome for that holiday touch.
You will need: horticultural charcoal gravel, pepples or marbles potting soil fishbowl or glass jar of any size and style plants of your choice (African violets, ferns, ivy, coleuses, small palms, baby tears, moss or lichens) decorative pebbles miniature figurines small hand trowel kitchen gloves scissors newsprint or brown paper
1. Protect your work surface. Cover your table or counter with paper. This will not only protect the surface, but make for easier clean up. While you are at it, protect your hands and put on your gloves.
2. Clean your jar or bowl in hot, sudsy water and air dry. I supported my local charity shop by making container purchases there, but you could just as easily raid your recylcle bin. Mason jars are also a cute touch.
3. Add a one inch layer of gravel for drainage. I used glass pebbles, but you could also use small rocks you've collected or even chips of broken crockery.
4. Add a 1/2 inch layer of horticultural charcoal. The charcoal pulls the impurities out of the soil and improves drainage.
5. Add a 3-4 inch layer of potting soil. Start fresh with a new bag of potting soil. Have fun with it. Make small hills for different viewpoints within your terrarium.
6. Planting time! Arrange your plants in the terrarium until you have a composition you like. Dig holes in the soil with the trowel (or fingers if your trowel is too large). Snip off any dead leaves on the plants and then carefully remove them from their pots. I bought a selection of miniature violets I couldn't resist!
7. Create a scene. Add ferns and a few plastic dinosaurs for a Jurassic look. I wanted something a bit more whimsical and went for a gnome garden. Add a few decorative stones or moss. If using craft moss, water the plants first or the moss may turn yellow.
8. A few growing tips. Terrariums are easy to keep, even the blackest of black thumbs can manage one. Add a card with a few tips. Don't over water. Touch the soil with your finger and if damp, hold off another week with the water. Use filterd water at room temperature. Most water systems contain chlorine. Chlorine dissipates in the air if you leave a full watering out overnight. Trim plants if they grow too big.
9. Deliver in person. Call ahead as this is not a gift that can linger on the front doorstep in cold weather.
A small bag of potting soil, gravel and charcoal is enough supply for 3-4 terrariums, so don't forget to make one for yourself!