chal-lenge: noun a calling to account or into question

Follow along as I challenge the tricks, tips, clever craft and decorating ideas and "simple" recipes that we clip, bookmark, and "pin" for trial at a later date.

Are they really worth the effort? Time (and I) will tell!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year!

I haven’t heard many New Year’s resolutions cross my path, either on-line or in person.  Has everyone given up?  Maybe the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was too short and you are still in shock having to produce two magnificent holiday celebrations so close together.  I know I feel it has all been one big blur.  I have to admit that I didn’t even stay awake until midnight this year to assure myself that the world will indeed go on in 2014. 

Every January I like to set goals for the coming year.  It doesn’t hurt to look back at the previous year and evaluate your life: where you’ve been, what you’ve done and your attitude along the way.  I find it’s easier to adjust my path on an annual basis while the memories are still fresh.  Besides, some habits are really hard to break and I have to renew my commitment to keep trying.  Diet and exercise are always at the top of the list.  I’m not sure I’m doing any better with these two but I think about it a lot! I have some crazy fitness goals for 2014 so I’ll really have to step up my game.

My new goal for 2014 (drum roll please) is to perform an act of charitable giving each month throughout the year.  I normally give to the United Way throughout the year, the Salvation Army at the holidays and a smattering of donations to other organizations here and there.  These donations are surely helpful to the recipients but not very personal for me.  There are so many local not-for-profit organizations that are in need of simple supplies and volunteer hours.  We hear their pleas at Christmas and give, but what about the rest of the year?

 In a nutshell, I am pledging to choose an organization each month and make a donation of money, supplies and/or time.  This exercise is sure to be very eye-opening for me and I look forward to the challenge. Putting this goal in writing is my way of making me accountable to me, but please feel free to prod me along if you find me slipping.  Phew, let’s see how I do!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

North Woods Santas

Many years ago, when crafting was still popular, I found the directions for these beautiful North Woods Santas.  They were easy to assemble and my friends and I got together one night and mass produced them to sell at craft shows that season.  Of course I had to keep a set for myself as well.  Every Christmas season I pull them out and adjust their coats and beards and arrange them on a side table for display.  Having packed them away for about 25 years now, they are looking pretty rough. 

A few years ago I decided that they were too shabby and that they wouldn’t be making their annual appearance.  When I had finished decorating that year, my youngest daughter looked around and asked where I had put the Wise Men.  I never thought of them that way but she was right, they are very humble Wise Men and I felt compelled to pull them out of their box for another season.

I don’t know why I was surprised that she had noticed, she was just a baby when I made them and they had been on display each year since.  I tucked that little piece of information into the corner of my mind to be pulled out at a later date.  This year she mentioned the need for more Christmas decorations and I went right to work on her very own set of Wise Men.  Little did I know what a challenge that would be.

The materials for the men are fairly simple:  wool for the coats, fur for the trim, wool roving for the beards, and little decorative items for them to hold.  No big deal.  Off I went to Joann Fabrics (the only fabric store in the area) for materials.  Can you believe they did not have any wool, not to mention any of the other things on my list?  Yikes!

Now what?  You guessed it, off to the thrift store.  I rifled through the skirts and coats and came up with a gray wool skirt and a cream colored cape that I thought I could make work.  I still needed fur and laughed to myself (well maybe out loud, too) when I found a tattered mink stole on the sale rack for $3.  You have to know I grabbed that one up!  I also found a little sweater that had a white rabbit collar.  I took the collar off the sweater and offered it back to the thrift shop.  I really didn’t need it.

My skills are a little rusty and it took me a while to get the men assembled, but I did.  Finding the little decorations was crazy and I made many trips to the craft stores looking without success.  Back to the thrift shops where I found a little basket and some dried grapevines that I used to make my own little wreaths. I was able to salvage other trinkets from past projects to repurpose.  There’s always something extra hanging around. Fortunately my mom still had the wool roving for the beards and she sent that along to me.  There is quite a bit of that left over so stay tuned.

Phew! They are finally finished and delivered to Massachusetts where they proudly stand as a centerpiece on her dining room table.  I love sending a little piece of myself to my daughters.  It’s especially nice at Christmas when we are apart and they can have a little reminder of their childhood home at the holidays.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Festival of Trees - Complete!

So I've tweaked and fussed and rearranged the ornaments on this little tree until I've just about worn them out and I think they are the best they can be.  I've glued everything to the branches so that the decorations don't come off during transport and delivery.  It's been fun but now it's time to let it go.  These are the ornaments that I made myself:


With a little help from the Dollar Store, I added the garland, snowflakes and the topper.  Here it is all ready for delivery.  I hope it does well at the auction!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Festival of Trees Part Two

My work on the silent auction tree continues.  Having determined that this would be a snowman themed tree, I needed to find some snowman ornaments.  I searched Pinterest and leafed through my Christmas craft books for some time before making my selection.  Several years ago I had crafted sets of folk art ornaments made from an instant paper mache and I thought it would be fun to use this idea as a base for my snowmen. Off I went in search of the materials to make these cute little guys. 

The project consisted of gluing together Styrofoam balls and applying the wet slimy gray mixture to the snowman shape.  The paper mache was sticky and I had to keep my hands wet so that I could smooth the stuff at least semi evenly over the shape. But that's the beauty of paper mache and folk art, imperfection just adds to the charm. I used so much water that it took a few days for them to dry out.  Once dry, I gave them a light sanding and added the little noses which took another day to dry.  All the little guys received two coats of white paint, with another day to dry.  When I was done with the white, I painted the eyes, buttons and noses.  More drying time. Do you see where I’m going with this?  So much time spent waiting between each step.  This is why I started the tree so early.  I had a feeling this would happen.

Now that the snowmen were all painted, they looked cute but a little dull.  These guys needed a little glitz.  Out came the mod podge and they all received a coating.  Hmm, still not quite right.  Glitter!  Glitter makes everything sparkle and shine.  The addition of a little silver bling around the necks and they are just right.
Here they are on the tree.  I had hoped to finish decorating the tree this week-end but no such luck. I’ve started working on the next little ornament but you guessed it, it needs to dry. I’m still searching for a little this and that to finish up.  Stay tuned, it can’t possibly be long now!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wise Men

Many years ago, I’m thinking about twenty or so, I was inspired to make a set of wise men for my mom for Christmas. These “men” were a labor of love and I enjoyed every second of their creation. The fabrics were rich and the jewels were shiny and fabulous. I used clay for the first time, fashioning heads and hands. They were magnificent and Mom was thrilled to receive them as a Christmas gift and she displayed them for several holiday seasons.

Fast forward to the year of George, an active beagle puppy. I wasn’t present, but the story is that George ran into the house and headed straight toward the wise men. For some crazy reason he chomped on one of the men’s heads before leaving him for dead. My mom packed them up and handed them over to me for repair. When I opened the box I was horrified by the devastation! I couldn’t even take them out of the box. Up into the dark, creepy crawl space they went. Each year I moved the box farther back into the dark shadows but I couldn’t forget about them.
A few weeks ago I decided to resurrect the men and see what I could do to bring them back to life. They were a bit wrinkled, their beards were a little wild, and the trim on their robes was a little loose but hey, I could work with that. Before long, the robes were pressed and the trims were reattached. After a little hair and beard trim two of the men had been restored to their majestic selves. It was time to tend to the unfortunate third. Off with his head! I worked the new chocolate brown clay in my hands until it became soft and pliable. Before long I had shaped the head and added all the facial details. This guy was really coming to life. I painted his eyes and reassembled all the pieces giving new life to this injured soldier.

Refreshed and reunited, these guys don’t look like they have spent the past six years in a box in my crawl space. They now stand proudly waiting to usher in the holiday season. Merry Christmas my wise men.