Showing posts with label celebration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label celebration. Show all posts

Enjoying the quiet joys of Easter

'Twas Easter-Sunday. The full-blossomed trees
Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Dear friends,

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you've enjoyed your Sunday. Our family celebrated Easter rather simply this year, with just a small basket of treats for the kiddos and a joyous afternoon mass. For me, Easter means a time of reflection while enjoying some basic pleasures. The feel of the sun on my face. My children's sweet embrace. My husband's warm smile. And then, renewed strength and conviction to start a new week with all its challenges and joys.



My Mexican-inspired take on Martha Stewart pom-pom tissue flowers

In honor of the Cinco de Mayo holiday, I'd like to tell you about a project my kids did after attending a piñata-making workshop with a local artisan. Piñatas, usually filled with candy and small toys, are intended for kids to hit with a stick until the piñatas break open and spill the goodies, but I instead decided to hang two tiny piñatas my kids made as decorations for my home office.

Like many of you, I enjoy crafting with my kids, even more so when the craft is something we can use to decorate our home. The craft then becomes a reminder of fun time spent together, while also adding more character and beauty to our home.

The tiny piñatas, which I'm calling my Mexican-inspired take on the Martha Stewart tissue pom-pom flowers, nicely complement a lantern I bought at Chinatown recently and add a nice pop of color to what is perhaps the blandest corner of my home office.

At this point, I should come clean and confess that this project, which is really quite simple, took us several months to complete. We created the newspaper shell soon after going to the piñata-making workshop in February 2010, decorated the piñata in May 2010 and then I let the piñata sit in my office unhung for a whole year! In a burst of inspiration, I hung them up yesterday. My poor kids didn't remember the little balls were piñatas and instead called them "balloons," but were thrilled that I finally hung up their creations.

Here's how you can make your own tiny piñata:

Step 1: Blow up a balloon. Make a homemade paste using about 1/2 cup of flour mixed with about a cup of water.

Step 2: Using a small, thick paintbrush, begin gluing torn strips of paper onto the balloon.

Step 3: Cover the balloon completely except for a small hole at the top that will help you hang it or that you can use to fill up the piñata later. To make sure you've pasted enough newspaper to the balloon, hold the balloon up to the light to make sure you can't see the balloon. The more layers, the stronger the piñata will be.

Step 4: Wait two days or so for the piñata to dry completely. If you are planning to use this for an actual piñata that will be smashed open by kids, you will want to repeat the process of adding more newspaper strips to make it stronger. Otherwise, pop the balloon while holding a piece of it so you can pull it out through the hole.

Step 5: Begin decorating the newspaper ball with tissue paper or any other decor of your choosing. We used tissue paper we had cut up using a circle punch, but the traditional method is to use strips of tissue as I showed you in this post.

You may wish to add more tissue paper to completely cover the newspaper, though my kids were satisfied with doing just one layer. Here are the finished piñatas, hanging in back of my desk in my home office. (Please disregard the messy desk.)

The most time-consuming part is waiting for the newspaper to dry after you've glued it on, but as you can see, the project is simple enough for kids as young as two and four years old, which is how old my kids were when they made these piñatas. It really made me so happy to do this project with my kids since I remember making my own piñatas as a girl though not for Cinco de Mayo. It may surprise you to know that, for all the hype in the United States every May 5, most people in Mexico don't celebrate the holiday at all. You can read a story about this phenomenon that the Christian Science Monitor published today here.

Nevertheless, I think making piñatas is a great project for kids any time of the year, either for a party or for decoration. The piñata can be as simple as a tiny ball like the one we made or as elaborate as your imagination wants it to be.


Our Christmas decorations: vintage, thrifted + new

Hello friends,

With less than a week to go before Christmas, I hope you haven't yet had your fill of Christmas interior shots. Decking out my home in all sorts of trinkets at this time of the year is something I've always enjoyed. Even when I was single and living alone, I would lug a tree up to my second floor condo, so it's perhaps no surprise to those who know me that I go a little crazy with the Christmas decor now that I have kids.

The one thing that has changed is that I now rely heavily on vintage and thrifted items mixed with my newer items to create a unique look. I've bought dozens of new ornaments for years, but it gives me special pleasure to be able to add some ornaments with a little more character and patina that usually comes with buying vintage and thrifted.

I recall being so excited last year when I chanced upon vintage crocheted ornaments at the thrift store, thinking fondly about the person who took the time to crochet around an ornament. You can see one of those crocheted ornaments on our tree in the top photo above of our living room (look closely on the lower right corner).

Our tree and the vintage-inspired Christmas village that I wrote about last year are now mainstays of our holiday decor, but I have fun putting together new vignettes with many of our ornaments. In the tablescape below, I used a Santa that my mom gave me a few years ago, a thrifted Restoration Hardware vase to house a couple of tree branches I salvaged from the ground while getting our Christmas tree, a tiny thrifted birdcage, and a rummage sale find of vintage red books that I bought for 25 cents each.

I don't recall whether I've shown you our chalkboard wall before, but it ended up forming the perfect backdrop for a little vignette I created on a red shelf with Anthropologie ornaments, a thrifted Pyrex glass, and twigs collected during our family nature outings during the summer.

The character ornaments are, of course, for my kids since this wall is in their play kitchen area.

I have a special fondness for miniatures so I was thankful that this wall became an excuse to indulge my inner child. The black chalkboard allows the colorful objects to stand out more and forms a nice focal point.

My mom always has poinsettias at this time of the year so I decided to get one this year to continue the tradition.

Here is where I perhaps start to go a little overboard with the holiday decor because I also add a few Christmas touches in our bedrooms. My son's room gets a toy Santa, who was quite appropriately visited by all the family members in my daughter's dollhouse. The toy dolls had the opportunity to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, while his snowman helper took notes.

My beloved pink vintage ornaments go into my office and my daughter's room.

There is more that I could show you, including our collection of snowglobes, but I fear being labeled the crazy Christmas lady! Like most everyone, I do so enjoy everything about this season and having children is a great opportunity not only to continue old traditions but also to start new ones. We have spent the past week crafting, drinking hot chocolate and practicing our favorite Christmas carols.

What do you have in the works in these last few days before Christmas? Do you prefer to spend time at home indulging in holiday activities, or do you prefer the hustle and bustle of last-minute shopping and holiday carousing? Perhaps a little bit of both? Whatever you're doing, I hope you're enjoying much time with loved ones while enjoying holiday activities that make this season so memorable.



10 Easy Christmas crafts from Marie Claire Idees

One of my favorite activities at this time of the year is looking for crafting ideas throughout my Christmas books and December magazines that I've collected through the years. With two little kids afoot most of the time, I have to be realistic and tend to choose super-easy projects that deliver instant satisfaction.

One magazine I constantly find myself going to for ideas and inspiration is Marie Claire Idees. Today, I was thrilled to discover many of their projects in an online photo gallery. Here are a few of my favorites from their Christmas gallery that I thought I would share since I know many of you love homemade but are pressed for time even if you don't have young kids around. Clicking on the link below the photo will take you to the page online with a more detailed description.

1. This Christmas card advent calendar offers a wonderful way to recycle and display those beautiful cards or gift tags that you just can't bear to throw away.

2. The decorated clothes hanger above is a great alternative to the traditional wreath and looks super easy to make. I know I always have a few ornaments that I'm not sure what to do with after I'm done decorating the tree. Perhaps I'll make two of these using a couple of my kids' smaller wooden hangers to display some of their favorite ornaments in their room.

3. The simple cloth ornaments above can easily be machine or hand sewn, or dare I say it, glued together. I know my kids could spend hours gluing things together, but it's also a simpler way to do this project if you are really pressed for time. A few sprinkles of glitter or beads completes the project, or you could dream up more sophisticated ornamentation.

4. These felt ornaments are a perfect craft for kids. Since my kids are so young, I would first cut out some felt shapes for them and then have them decorate the ornaments with glitter, beads, ribbons and whatever else strikes their fancy.

5. This is another super-easy craft that would be perfect for my two little kids, though the results might not be as professional as these. It's also a great way to recycle those ornaments that just don't fit your decor anymore. Or you could just go to the dollar store for a package of simple ornaments that you or your kids could dress up.

6. Paper art and crafting always appeals to me because of my love for paper goods and vintage ephemera. In the example above, simple white paper is the perfect look for the angel, but you could easily use a different color to fit in with your Christmas decor color scheme.

7. These sweet little trees really drew me in. Again, these are simple to make and a great way to recycle cardboard and paper. These trees could be used to dress up your mantel, as place cards at the dinner table, or as a gift tag in lieu of a bow.

8. These colorful paper flowers could be joined together to make a pretty garland for your mantel or a wreath for indoors.

9. These gift tags, yet another simple craft for kids, could be saved by the recipient as a memento or bookmarker. Or make them a little smaller and use them as tree ornaments.

10. The silver star garland is an easy afternoon project that would serve well as a Christmas or New Year's decoration.

11. (A bonus craft!) I included these beautiful handmade cards in this round-up though I know these kind of cards can take a bit of time to craft but they are so pretty that I couldn't bear to pass them up. Just think how sweet it would be to give one of these handmade cards to someone special like your child's teacher, grandmother, mom or a best friend?

You can find more of these simple craft ideas, as well as more sophisticated projects if you're an advanced crafter, at Marie Claire Idees. I think the magazine recently revamped their web site to include images and ideas archived from 20 years worth of Marie Claire Idees. It's a real treasure trove where I got lost for a couple hours, just enjoying all the handcrafted goodness.

Will you be doing any Christmas crafts this season? Where do you turn to for inspiration to decorate your home for the holidays? Do share.


Ingredients for a perfect holiday weekend

Sun-topped ferris wheels.

My daughter has the right idea.

Except I'd like to do my cruisin' on this smoking 1928 bike (found on Craigslist).

Toss in a couple good reads and some munchies into this "double bike pannier" (sold at CycleStyle in Australia, found via The Design Files).

Or maybe this one. I can't decide!

All geared up, it's time now to head over to one of my favorite places.

Santa Monica Beach in Southern California, in a photo I took on a Veteran's Day weekend when a group of volunteers placed white crosses in the sand to honor those who have died in the Iraqi war. A fitting picture for this weekend.

I hope you have a restful and inspiring weekend.


Handmade party treat bags for kids

Yummy-looking heart crayons ...

... plus tiny dinosaurs ...

... in handmade paper sacks = party treats for the preschooler set.

Now, I know dinosaurs and hearts don't usually go together, but in this case I needed a couple things that would appeal to both girls and boys in my son's preschool class.

First, I asked my four-year-old son whether he would help me make the party sacks. I wasn't sure how we would make them, but it had to be something he could do and I didn't want to use tape (too messy and ugly) or staples (too dangerous for little kids). We settled on pink and lime green rice paper (I had lots left over from my wedding!), which we then "hand-stitched" together using contrasting ribbon.

It took us a few sessions to finish 30 bags, but my son was so enthusiastic about the project that he never complained. He just really loved the idea of giving his school friends something he had made.

Then, it was my turn to do a little project I had been wanting to do for a while.

For months, I have been waiting patiently for just the right occasion to make melted crayons. I'm not sure what the appeal was, but I have always loved crayons, even the smell. I've seen these melted crayons many times in round muffin shapes, but really wanted to make them in this heart-shaped pan I had found for 99 cents at the thrift store.

The hardest part was peeling off the paper wrappers. Sometimes, they would slide right off the crayons, but other times, I found myself struggling, wondering why I ever got myself into such a mess. It did feel good, however, to put to use all the broken bits of crayons I'd been saving.

I decided to stick with two colors for each crayon so that the kids could have two colors on each crayon and, well, because I thought they looked prettier. Think of what happens when you blend too many colors while painting. The colors turn muddy brown. I sure didn't want that to happen to these crayons.

Yum! Don't they look like candy? I guess I can't blame my two-year-old daughter for wanting to eat them. Here's my son handing out the bags during the party at his school:

Each bag had a tiny dinosaur, a crayon and a page of dinosaurs for them to color. I had originally wanted also to include a copy of a dinosaur poem, but couldn't find the book at the last minute.

Yaay! My daughter actually did some coloring with these heart crayons, not just try to put them in her mouth.

She actually began using the crayons right after the party and, since then, often pulls them out just to look at them, as though they are her little treasures.

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