Monday, December 22, 2014

the beautiful bustle

the annual family parties are in full swing now. although the busyness of it all often gets to me (i am so excited for that first slow weekend at home)... i truly wouldn't trade any of it... it is ALL so special... and we are so lucky to have so many loved ones.

these photos are of a new annual tradition based on an old annual tradition... a wreath making party with my mom and my sisters. my mom and her sister gathered every year when we were little and made wreaths and centerpieces... and that is one of the things that always stood out in my memories of the holidays... so happy to carry this one on.

the new babies.
both mamas delivered perfectly without a single complication... we are beyond thankful.
the little white faced one is a girl and her name is holly. the all red one is a little boy and his name is saint nick. they are so sweet. we are all enjoying our little christmas babies so much.

the handmades... our ornaments, some sparkly bean candles (i think i might share a tutorial for these too... so quick and easy for little ones to make), our bottled apple juice, some of our canned albacore, and even a couple stamps. a bunch of packages went out in the mail last friday... there are even a few of my dear blogger friends that will be receiving surprise packages... i had a few addresses that i held onto from the swaps. 
we do have a bit of a crafting flurry planned over the next two days to finish up our family handmades... it will be so fun.

now to go clean up the house, because with all of this coming and going, and "creative flurries"... it looks like we were hit by a holiday tornado.

i wish you a wonderful holiday friends... full to the brim with joy, peace, and the warm hugs of your loved ones.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Beautiful Clay Ornaments to make with Children (or without them) : : a Tutorial

We have been making these ornaments for the last five years, and by "we" I mean my children and I.
The first year the age range was 5,3, and 6 months... and now this year the ages are 10,8,5, and 3... just to show you that even the little ones (with some help) can make these ornaments, and they always turn out beautiful. 
I have been asked how we make these, and what we use, so many times. I always explain the process and products, and for the last few years I have promised a tutorial on this blog.
So... finally... here it is...

: : Beautiful Metallic Clay Ornaments to make with Children : : 

*children not required

What you need to get started:
-A rolling pin
-Some sort of protective surface: a cutting board with wax paper, place mats. We have a couple place mats that we save just for our ornament making.
-Christmas shaped cookie cutters (or any shape really... hearts would be cute)
-A straw
-Something to make texture: We use these rubbing plates, but i really like these ones and these too. In the past we would just use whatever... strings of beads, pinecones, etc, etc... just look around and get creative.
-A paintbrush (one that could get ruined)
-Jacquard pearl-ex pigments : : find them here : : the colors we have are brilliant gold, spring green, red russet, and antique bronze. We have the 3 gram size of each and they have lasted us all five years with plenty left (except the green because it was spilled last year)
-Narrow ribbon or string

Now... lets get started...

1. The clay is very hard when you take it out of the package so you need to knead it until it gets nice and soft. Then you roll it out. I try to keep it around a quarter to a half inch thick. Although, the thickness really doesn't matter much... just not too thin or too thick... I think you'll know.
We use sculpey original oven bake clay (find it here).

2. Then you choose your cookie cutter and cut out your shape

3. Use your straw to punch a hole for your string

4. Create texture on your ornament. I used the rubbing plate above (find our set here) and just pressed it into the clay. You can find some wonderful rubbing plates here and here. Also, you can use anything to create texture on your ornaments. Our first two years we would walk around the house and collect anything we thought would make a great texture (one of our favorites was a string of beads and a prickly toy, for example)... and of course at this point in the process you can start over if you really don't like the way your texture turned out.

note: I let the kids knead the clay, then I usually roll it out, they cut their shape and punch their hole, and choose their own texture and press it into the clay

5. Protect your surface... we have a little place mat dedicated to ornament painting but for this tutorial I used wax paper on my cutting board and it worked very well.

6. "Paint" your ornament. I have a couple rules for this with the kids. They only get to pick two colors (any two colors they blend look beautiful, but when they would use all of them it would start to look a little wonky (in my opinion). also, dip the brush for them... with this pigment... a little goes a long long way.
These are jacquard pearl-ex pigments (find them here).

Above the ornament has the russet red and below the antique bronze was painted over it.

7. Place your ornaments on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven according to the directions on your oven bake clay box. The instructions on my box say to bake them at 275 F (130 C) for 15 minutes per quarter inch of thickness.
All of the ornaments pictured below were made by my little girls....
 ages 8, 5, and 3.

8. After your ornaments are baked and cooled you add a pretty ribbon or string and I always write the name of the child that made the ornament and the year in permanent marker on the back.

As you can see... each one turns out just a bit different... and all of the imperfections just add to their beauty.

I would love to hear your thoughts and will answer any questions right here in the comments.

Happy making friends!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

cows and christmas

do you see that little pink bulge coming out the backside of that black and white cow? we thought she went into labor. she had that little bulge coming out. she was pushing and acting just the way a cow in labor would. all of the other cows gathered around too watch (just like they always do)... but lisa* was a bit concerned.... she said there should be hooves coming out... but it was possible the momma had just not quite got to that point yet. then something very strange happened... pink bulge went back into the cow, she quit laboring, and all went back to normal.

*for those of you who don't know... lisa and mark are some of my wonderful in-laws. they are matt's step-mom and dad and they own all of this beautiful property (and the cows). they are amazing people and we are very lucky to have them in our lives.

now back to the momma cow...
so... the next day... same thing happened again and we were all baffled. but after a bunch of research, many phone calls to even more experienced cattle people (ranchers?), and a visit from the vet... we discovered that she has a prolapsed vagina (this is the point where every woman winces in pain). the tricky thing is that there are not a lot of options. normally they would stitch her up, but she is about to give birth and really needs to stay open if possible. so we are watching her and as long as it continues to go back in, not come out to far, and she doesn't push on it (oh, that wincing again... ouch!)... then she should be alright. we will have to watch the birth closely too, and after she gets through that... no more babies (for her anyway).

view of the house from the barn.

now, let's talk just a bit about christmas stuff

my nephew is getting his own peg doll family for christmas... and of course it's his family. i love these peg dolls. aren't they just wonderful? and summer sent me a little something special... a book mark that she painted of the farm! i love it so much. she got the view perfect. the king tree, the pasture, the white barn, and the forest behind. i have already put it to use saving my spot in "the snow child." sometimes i feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for this special online community... how wonderful is it that so many of us from all over the country (the world) get to connect and become friends?? isn't it wonderful?

i know i have linked to summer's shop in past posts but i will link again just in case anybody wants to check it out (i have no idea if there is still time to get your own family in time for christmas... but summer is wonderful... just ask her). here is her etsy shop: the knothole tree and here is her blog: summer's play house

that little penguin hat... that is my nephew's favorite hat... his mommy made it for him... summer always gets the important little details... thank you summer!

and our christmas tree...
it is a very special tree this year. my oldest, maiko, cut it down all by himself. he cut it down right before thanksgiving so it is definitely starting to fizzle out (hopefully it makes it to christmas) and finally we fully decorated the little thing. we went through and separated all of their special ornaments into piles. then, with christmas pandora in the background, they decorated our tree while i watched from the kitchen and made dinner. it was magic.

the littlest one found herself a nice little spot under the tree and hung all of her ornaments down there... you may notice in the very last picture... how well decorated the base of our tree is.

oh, this holiday season... it is so wonderful.

wishing you and yours joy and peace in the days and weeks to come friends!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

a little of this and a bit of that

the photo above was taken weeks ago... that splash of orange is gone now. the bones of the trees are all showing, and there is a feeling of winter in the air.

i made a new snowflake stamp to add to my winter collection. the little snowflake stamp is from last year. i learned a lesson with that one over the summer when i let the kids use whatever ink colors they wanted on whatever stamps they wanted. now, if i use the little snowflake over and over the white starts to get a bit of a pink tinge.... hmmm.... lesson learned.

a monkey in my bed

my current reading list... the latest issue of taproot magazine (i have so much love for this magazine... independent, ad free, full of art, craft, food, farm, and family.... love love love), "the snow child" (i haven't actually started it yet but i am so excited to read it after hearing such great reviews from amanda), and "hands free mama" (which i had high hopes for but just can't seem to get into... i LOVE the authors blog.... i cry almost every time i read one of her posts... but alas... her book is just not doing anything for me)

the big kids love trekking out into the woods with matt. they ride their motor bikes, ride their mountain bikes, or work hard building new trails (well, he does most of the work... while they explore a bit of nature).

the christmas calendars arrived and i am so happy with them. this is my seventh or eighth christmas making photo calendars. i made a few for our parents when layla was a baby... and it has developed into a wonderful tradition. now our loved ones get to see our faces every day instead of every other month or so. here are a couple of my favorite pages.

the company that i ordered the calendars from is mixbook, and this is the template i used for ours. it was very easy to use and i love that you can make as many changes to a page as you want... from the amount, size, and shape of photos... to the various decorative page elements, colors, and what they say. i left many of the pages as is, and just changed the photo sizes and layouts a bit... but there were a few that i just didn't like and changed a lot... it felt so great to have that freedom.

the day after thanksgiving the kids went christmas crazy and had me drag out every singe decoration. the house looked like it had been hit by a christmas tornado... but i wouldn't have it any other way. i was pretty surprised when i got out our giant stack of christmas books. i had a list of five more books that i wanted to add to our collection this year, but after i took the photo above i decided i better keep it to two. last year i bought two patricia polacco christmas books and they are wonderful... the only problem is that i can't make it through without sobbing. every few pages i have to stop and take a few deep breaths because i'm so choked up i can't even continue reading. the new ones i decided on for this year are "the night tree" and "christmas day in the morning"... we already got "the night tree" and we love it.

i love watching them get so excited about those little stuffed reindeer. we had the same ones when i was a kid, and i loved them. i knew that i wanted some for my kids because our reindeer were always my favorite christmas "decoration." i also knew that i couldn't ask my mom for hers... she still has lots of grandkid play ahead with those. so, i went on a search (two years ago now)... it's kind of amazing how you can find almost anything on ebay... especially in this sense... where else would i find the same reindeer i had as a kid (they don't make them the same anymore) in excellent condition?? just sayin'... it's pretty great.

i realize this post was ridiculously random and all over the place... but that is kind of how my mind has been feeling lately (crazy, random, and all over the place)... and it has been so long since my last post i had a lot of random things to share. i hope you were able to take away something enjoyable from it and i hope to see you again soon friends. 

happy holidays.
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