Sunday, December 29, 2019

golden clay star garland

I pictured it in my mind. Strung along our tree, maybe hung above our barnwood gas fireplace or on my garland branches by the dining area. The stars would be gold and provide a bit of shine to our white walls. I knew I could make it, but I didn't have everything I needed. I searched several stores for miniature cookie cutters in a basic star shaped. I finally found a set at Michaels that were just right.
I used a white clay recipe found all over the internet consisting of corn starch, baking soda and water cooked over the stove top until a dough forms. 
The precise recipe that I use for one batch that can be easily doubled is: 
* 1 cup baking soda
* 1/2 cup of corn starch
* 3/4 cup of water.
After cooling, I pulled it out of the pot onto my counter covered with cornstarch to prevent it sticking as I rolled it to my desired thickness.

Unlike most roll-out cookie dough, the clay scraps can be rolled over and over until you use it all up.

And then using a round toothpick or skewer stick, I poked a hole in the damp clay where I want to thread my cord. Now the stars go in a low heat oven and bake until they are hard.

Out of the oven to cool off and I made sure the poked holes are still open. Then each one got a light sanding with sand paper to smooth out the edges. Once they are cooled and sanded, I took them to my garage and spray painted them all on one side. After they completely dried, I flipped them and painted the other side and the edges.  I looked for missed spots and spray painted any white areas.

I took my hemp cord, put some tape over the end to prevent it from fraying and tied a knot on one end and added my first star. I quickly realized I don't want them to move on the garland and risk crashing into each other and chipping paint. So I decided to tie another knot directly after the first star is on. Now each star will be secure on the garland kept in place between two knots. I got a ruler and measured about 4 inches and then tied another knot before loading another star onto my garland. Then I knotted that one into place and measured another 4 inches before tying another knot. I continued tying knots and adding stars until I thought it was long enough. I didn't measure the garland because I didn't need it to be an exact length. I tied off the last knot and cut my hemp cord.

It's a golden starry line-up, ready to shine wherever I place it. Some of the stars are thick and some are thin. Some have marks and dings and funny curved parts. It's okay, this didn't come from a factory, it came from my hands.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas and winter crafting

Today I'm sharing some Christmas and winter craft ideas I've been working on during this holiday season. I kind of see my style of crafting as similar to the idea of 'Loose Parts Play' for children. In this style of parenting and education, the adult sets out various types of materials and open-ended items and allows the children to arrange and play with them as they see fit. I did this with my children without knowing it was a real thing.
I like to think of my crafting style as 'Loose Parts Crafting'. I often buy crafting items without any idea of what I will do with them. But when I start pulling out my materials and start playing with various things, I get ideas of what to make. I'm sure you do the same.
I also craft items that can later be pulled apart and reused in another project. So while the hot glue gun and I do a lot of great work together, I also like glue dots and regular tape to create temporary crafts that I can take apart whenever I like. I have put together several ideas using materials I have found at the dollar store and local craft stores. I don't have easy access to nature items right now, but a good forage outside and you will find plenty of crafting materials.

I bought these pine cone and branch wood cutouts last year in my travels, but tucked them away without a plan for how to use them. This December as I was decluttering my desk compartments, I found them tucked in a small drawer. Still unsure of what I could do with them, I added them to the growing pile of crafting materials I was looking at. In the end, I turned them into temporary ornaments to hang on my garland trimming our back porch door. I simply threaded jute through openings in both wood cuts, then threaded a large wood bead and tied a knot above the bead. For the branch, I added red pom-poms with glue dots so that they could easily be removed if needed. Otherwise I would use my hot glue gun to fasten any decor to the woodcuts. 

It's very basic decor and I only put them on the sides of my garland since we open and close our curtains every morning and evening and I did not want my ornaments to get caught in the curtains.

The following set of photos is not a tutorial, but a showcasing of different types of materials combined in multiple ways to create a variety of items for ornaments or decor. I used a bit of hot glue and glue dots, but some of these arrangements are just placed together and can easily be moved.
All the moss seen is synthetic craft moss, available in various colors and types wherever craft items are sold.  The walnut shells are real, saved from a bag of baking walnuts. The birch rounds are also from a craft store, but you can also use real tree parts if you have access to them. The wool felt balls were attached to the hemp cord with glue dots making it easy to remove them and use them as ornament balls in the little tree. The tree and deer wood cutouts were purchased last year and finally put to good use. None of this is difficult to assemble and all of it is inexpensive to find.

The last craft in this post is based on mini rattan balls I found and bought without any idea or plan. I ended up using most of them to make clove pomander ornaments.  
I simply stuffed whole cloves into the larger openings of the rattan ball. Then to make sure they could not fall back out, I squirted hot glue into the center of the ball so that the cloves are now stuck together. 
I was going to experiment with other scented items like dried orange peel, cinnamon sticks and star anise, but didn't have them ready at hand. I show three different styles of hanging the clove ball, but there are million more ways you can do it with whatever materials you want to use. They smell lovely.

I hope you have seen something in this post that inspires you to dig into your craft materials and see what unique items you can create. Thanks for reading all the way to the end! 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

enjoying Malcolm Guite

Something I think British poet Malcolm Guite excels at is what Charlotte Mason termed as the Science of Relations, explained here by author Karen Glass. The ability to think about the connections that different things have with each other and see their relationships to one another. And unlike Mr. Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you actually delight in following the connecting thoughts Malcolm Guite's writings and presentations exhibit. 
Despite being unfamiliar with Anglican liturgy and church life, I still enjoy much of what he shares in articles like this one from Poet's Corner. I had the wonderful privilege of attending an evening with Malcolm Guite in my little town back in the summer. My photos are blurry as I was trying to take them discreetly as he performed on stage/
Before he started his presentation, I met Malcolm in the church foyer as I was coming in the door. As no one was speaking to him at the moment, I bravely introduced myself before asking with apology for him to sign my copy of his Advent poems even though it was early August. He was kind and cheerful and very easygoing.
It was a wonderful evening of story and song and laughter. He's very funny and so comfortable on stage that the time with him flew by too quickly. I have not been able to find a recording online from that evening, but you can listen to him read his poems on his website or look for past recordings of him on Youtube.

a Christmas craft for children

We did this Christmas craft with our six and seven year olds at church a couple of weeks ago as part of our Christmas class. We did some singing as usual, then read a picture book together telling of the birth of Christ, enjoyed a homemade sweet treat and worked on this craft.
I prepped everything you see above, so they only had to assemble the pieces using a glue stick. I also stuck the stars together over the hemp cord in advance because I thought that the placement was tricky and important enough to hang correctly as an ornament. And then we gave them a piece of tape and helped them tape the ornament cord to the back so that it hung straight.

All the paper is cardstock and the blanket is wool felt. You might not want the same kind of stickered stars, but I had those on hand and they worked. I left the face blank on my baby, but we encouraged the children to do what they liked. They also followed each other and wrote the name of Jesus on the blanket. Everyone was given a plastic sealable bag to transport their ornament safely home as a hopeful idea. We do not do crafts every week* so this was received with great enthusiasm and effort and I just love being with them each week!

*We do various forms of narration and retellings in our class as per the methods of Charlotte Mason. We generally read the Bible passage/story from our Bible and add our own story-telling methods to convey the lesson. The children then retell the lesson back in a group effort or individually in their narration journals. We help them write words if they need help, but the choice of what to draw or write from the lesson is their own. We keep the journals all year and send them home in June.

Friday, November 01, 2019

traveling window

Two weeks ago, we traveled from our home in eastern Ontario to southern New Brunswick to celebrate the wedding of Shane's youngest brother and spend a week with family and friends. Without traffic or construction delays, it is just over a ten hour road trip. We left on a Saturday morning and followed the recommended route of taking the toll highway around Montreal, crossing two bridges only a few miles apart. (In the past, we have opted to travel south through New York, New England and Maine instead of Quebec.) We encountered no traffic and we were soon out in the Quebec countryside admiring the views and casually ignoring all the signage in the French-only province. Beginning under a blue sky, I snapped pictures through the windows all day as the clouds began to thicken and then open to admit a lovely evening sunset.
During one rest stop, we let Flossie out on her leash to explore and stretch her legs. She is an excellent traveler so far and this is the longest trip she has made to date. Two picnickers kept their eye on us no doubt wondering what kind of people put their cat on a leash.
We followed the Saint Lawrence River north along the Trans-Canada Highway until it was time to turn south into Northern New Brunswick which follows the winding Saint John River south through the province. The rock formations and mountains in both provinces loomed over us until we climbed high enough to look across them. It was a beautiful day of scenic driving
After crossing into Atlantic Standard Time, we safely reached the home of dear friends before dark and enjoyed a delicious charcuterie board filled with sweet and savory snacks before settling the kids to bed.