Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Homemade Gifts

I had a difficult time coming up with gift ideas this year. A lot of relatives got gift certificates. But for some, I decided to go the homemade route, and I ended up having a lot of fun making these gifts. I wish I'd been inspired earlier so I could make more gifts like this for more of you. But since I didn't, if you like something you see, let me know and I'll make you something for your birthday.

For Kent's brother's family, I decided to dress up a plain glass vase. I like the shape of the vase, which is tall enough to hold some long-stemmed poppies or even branches. I wanted to add color that would make it interesting on its own and add some green to the foliage. I think the bottom half of flower arrangements are too often too boring. The decorations are vinyl that I cut on my Cricut and then reshaped a little by hand with scissors. I suppose this vase could work as an interesting fish bowl, too. Here are the before and afters.

My masterpiece was a tall table lamp I refurbished for my sister. I got the idea from a friend who covered her lamp shade in a cute fabric. I was very excited for you to see the "before" pictures because I found this lamp at DI. But some dead batteries in my camera zapped the files before I could upload them, and they are gone. You'll have to imagine the lamp stand in an outdated shiny bronze with a plain, beige shade. The greatest part was the dusty old Saltine cracker that had fallen into the "cage" part of the stand!

First, I dismantled the stand and spray painted all the pieces gray followed by a spray-on matte finish. I was surprised how easily the paint scratched, so the protective finish was a must. (Tip: the finish is much cheaper in a paint department than in a craft store.)

For the shade, I found some fabulous black fabric at Hobby Lobby, for which I used a coupon and got a great price! I bought 1 1/2 yards, which was way too much. Half a yard would have sufficed because the fabric is stretchy. With woven fabric, you would probably need a yard. I decided to only use ten inches of the black fabric so I would have enough left over to make an evening gown. (I'll post that creation when it comes to life.) To cover the rest of the shade, I selected a gray fabric that matched the stand. (42 cents at Wal-Mart for a ten-inch-wide strip. Woo hoo!)

I tried making a pattern on butcher paper to cut the long curved piece of gray fabric, but the pattern didn't fit. So instead, I drew a pencil line all the way around the lamp shade, five inches from the top rim. Then I ran a bead of hot glue (four-inch lengths at a time), glued down the middle edge of fabric and worked my way around. That method worked quite well, and all I had to do was trim the excess fabric below the glue line and one inch above the rim.

Then I ran glue inside the top rim and tacked down the top of the fabric.

At the seam, I folded the fabric over and held it down with double sided tape. (I didn't want a lumpy line of glue under the seam.)

As you can see, the seam didn't stretch quite right, but I was able to mostly hide that later.

Next I took my ten-inch wide strip of black stretchy fabric and tacked it with hot glue under the gray fabric and to the bottom edge of the shade. The stretch allowed me some wiggle room for imperfections. And the ruffles on the fabric camouflaged where I trimmed it, so I didn't need a neatly folded seam.

Lastly, I wrapped the shade with a silver embellishment that I found with the spools of ribbon at Hobby Lobby. It was dumb luck that I didn't pick something sheer, which would have looked really messy with hot glue. The silver ribbon's texture hid the glue lines and cut edges of fabric, and it was wide enough to cover the imperfect seam in the gray fabric.

I was so pleased with the finished product, and happily surprised at the shimmery effect of the light through the black fabric. My sister loved it! And I loved making it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm pretending that I posted this a few days ago when I found symbolism in being buried in snow on the first official day of winter, which also means the longest night of the year. I wrote the following poem earlier this month, and the solstice snowstorm reminded me that this is a good time to share these thoughts. I snapped the pictures from my yard in the gray of the morning on December 21 while it was snowing.


It comes quietly in the dark of night to blanket the world in clean peace. Underneath its gentle touch, the trees pull life into their centers, and they rest. They had labored since the time of the green bud producing shade and good fruit. Some had remained selfishly sterile. Still others worked to grow thorns, or immature fruit given to worms. The seasons passed for both the strong and the diseased. The long nights and cold of The Fall came. It stripped the life from their branches and eventually, they all gave in to its death.

Now the dead leaves of the Fall are covered and forgotten under its whiteness. The snow covers them all in its thick, graceful embrace. It gives them time. Time to heal. Time to collect life and strength within. It clothes them in white that trails to the tips of their branches, and all the trees are again beautiful. Under its influence, the dead limbs break away. Its water dissolves the abandoned leaves and returns them as nourishment for the roots. The trees will use their life of the past to be stronger in the coming spring. Already, beneath the covering of white, their core is resurrecting to new life, ready to burst with joyful fruit. They are redeemed, renewed. The warmth returns and the light of The Son reveals the transformation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Christmas Letter

I have come to accept that I'm just not getting a Christmas letter (email) out. If you've been following my blog, you have a pretty good idea of what our family has been up to anyway.

To show a little Christmas cheer, I'm including this fun Christmas music video (about 3 1/2 minutes). I've always liked a cappella groups. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Secret Agent in Training

I have to announce to the world the cool new thing I did recently. (You'll probably read this, roll your eyes, and then pity me for my pathetically un-cool life. But I'm a mom, so not only can I take it...I expect it.)

Last summer I organized my craft and art supplies in a locking cabinet. As a mom of five young children, there is really no point in organizing anything--especially art supplies--unless there is a way to prevent said children from un-organizing. I have been so happy to have a space that stays neat and clean. Somehow, my kids never found where I kept the key, so they're not as clever as I thought they were; but at least I had a reason to be grateful for their ignorance.

*Tangent* We have one of those bulk bags of chocolate chips from Costco. My children found its hiding place in the laundry room, and they've slowly pilfered a sizable amount of the chips. Yesterday I decided to do something about it. I moved the bag to an open shelf where it's quite easy to see the contents from several angles. I put the bag in the front of the other food, and turned it around so the back of the package is facing out. Tonight when I asked #2 why she left chocolate chips out of the FHE treat, all the kids replied that they couldn't find the chips. Poor dumb children. Lucky me. Okay, back to my story...

A few weeks ago I pulled out my supplies for an etching project. I locked the cabinet and put the key in my pocket, which was my mistake. I figured I didn't need to put it back in hiding until I had returned the supplies. Well, I remember playing with the key every time I put my hand in my pocket...until I fished around for it so I could put the supplies away. I've searched everywhere! I grilled my kids to see if someone somehow stole it. I even cleaned my room!!! It was all to no avail.

Last week I started panicking. (Well, as much as one can panic over art supplies.) For Christmas I had to ship scrapbook pages to my niece in England, and the page protectors were in the cabinet. Sure, I could have just bought more page protectors, but eventually the cabinet would need to be opened for something else anyway. My choices were down to ripping the doors off the cabinet, which would really not be too difficult, or hiring a locksmith. And then I thought, "Why should I pay someone to pick this simple lock? I bet I could do it!"

You can find all sorts of helpful information on the internet! My first Google hit gave me what I wanted to know, and I checked it against the second hit to get a little more confidence. After about ten minutes with a paper clip and push pin, I turned the lock halfway. Then I subbed a tiny screwdriver for the push pin and turned it the rest of the way!

I was overly excited and went so far as to wake Kent from a nap and tell him my victory! He was groggily happy for me. Then I realized something interesting: I'm on my way to becoming a spy! First I started practicing with firearms. Now I'm picking locks. I've even been working on hand-to-hand combat: last week I bested Kent at arm wrestling. (I think he threw the match, but he swears that I tweaked his tricep and won for real.) And I can keep secrets so well that I keep them from myself! I mean, I didn't even know I was a secret agent in training until now that I'm at least halfway through the training. Except, I just announced it to the world, so maybe I need to work on the secret part. Or maybe I should just become a locksmith with a gun permit...minus the gun...but plus the bullets, which I should probably go lock up in my cabinet! See, now I've diverted you attention and pysched you out. (I am so sneaky.)