Advent Workshop

I love making homemade gifts for the holidays and so I organized an Advent Workshop at our church to make some crafts and get into the holiday spirit.  We actually had 11 crafts and plenty of people attended (75 to be exact)!  Here are some of the great ideas, I got most of these from pinterest but I also had some very craft people help who came up with their own ideas.

Up first we have Christmas finger puppets.
Finger Puppets from coin wrappers
These were a huge hit for the older elementary and tween ages because it takes some time to design the little bits of character for a finger puppet.  It can be as basic as the reindeer or as complicated as Santa.  And everywhere in between.  They came out great:

A great idea for gifts for mom, aunts, or grandmas is a Bird's Nest Necklace.  I got the beads, wire, and necklace chains from Oriental Trading.  Click the links to find what to buy.
Bird's Nest Necklaces
These were also a huge hit, but for the older girls and women of the group.  Larger diameter wire makes the nest look more nesty (haha!), but it was neat to see how different each person's was. 

For younger children, a Christmas nativity is a fairly easy ornament that will travel and store very well.
Nativity Ornament
We had even preschoolers paint their sticks white, orange, blue, and brown, and used some yarn as "hay" for the little manger.

Finding gold pipe cleaner is difficult, but makes this project worth it.  I got mine at Amazon.

We also had the skiing pinecone snowman from pinterest, which was very easy for young children to make.  It didn't hold the interest of older kids because there aren't too many things to do to it, before you are done. 
Skiing Pinecone Snowman
I brought a bunch of different plaid fabrics for the kids to pick their favorite.  They also turned out really great, and show each child's personality.

One of my favorite crafts was an Ornament Wreath, which is pretty popular right now.  The great thing about it is that ANYONE at ANY AGE can make it.  BUT, you need a TON of ornaments.
Ornament Wreath
 Estimate on 60-80 ornaments per wreath.  We made about 16 wreaths with 800-900 ornaments.  AND you do have to hot glue all the little metal clips on the top of each ball so they won't fall off when you string them on the wire.  We broke a few ornaments during construction, but it was a fantastic craft and everyone really enjoyed it.  Here is an action shot:

We also had four other craft stations: Melted Crayon Ornaments, Gingerbread Houses, Fingerprint Reindeer Christmas Cards, Bell Necklaces, and Handpainted Ball Ornaments.
Fingerprint Reindeer and Bell Necklace
Fingerprint Reindeer
Painted Ball Ornaments hanging on a tree
Gingerbread House

Finally, our church's woodworking group came and gave out wooden ornaments made for the children that came to Advent Workshop.

Have you done any of these crafts?  What are your favorite homemade gifts?

Living Room Update

Well, I used two vacation days during Thanksgiving to paint our wooden paneling and it turned out great.  I don't have many in-progress pictures, because I did the work myself and it really isn't very interesting.  I do have before and afters, some lessons learned, and what is next for the room.



These pictures are after just one coat of Bonding Primer.  I used Valspar's Bonding Primer, against all the evidence on Young House Love to the contrary, because the guy at Lowe's said it really would stick to the paneling and not let any stains through.  AND it worked!!


 The color that is darker in the above picture is more realistic to the color, I couldn't get the camera to show the true color very well.  I love it.  The trim is crisp, the doors don't even look a bit like the dark brown from earlier, and I've even switched out the outlets and switches (& covers) to white, which goes with the trim.
Here you can see the tan/taupe color that leads into the kitchen.  Very neutral but off-white enough to bring out the trim color.

Colors are:
Blue - Behr No-VOC Seven Seas in Satin
Tan - Behr No-VOC Wheat Bread in Satin
Trim - Behr No-VOC True White (no tint) in Semi Gloss

Lessons learned:
  • You really have to just keep painting coats of paint until it looks solid.  If you think, "Oh, that will cover it," and it looks splotchy, then you'll hate it in two days.  Do yourself a favor and make the extra two hour time commitment so you love the room for years to come.
  • Paneling may require caulking gaps in the crown molding above.  I'm not worried about it right now, because we can fix it when I paint the ceiling.  Yup, the ceiling has to be painted.
  •  It is very hard to fill in holes in paneling and make them look like they never existed.  I did try though....see below.

I still would like this room to be the family room with the TV.  Remember that we are changing the floor plan of the house, little by little, from this.
 To this:
The room I painted is dark brown in the first footprint.  It is white in the second, and leads straight into the kitchen by way of the huge island.  The kitchen peninsula is still there for now, but it won't be later.  Which is why I would like the room I painted to have the TV...I can see what is going on when I'm in the kitchen or when people are at the island. 

To do's:
  • Test out whether I can stand the TV being attached on the wall that is shared with the master bedroom, or not.  I go to bed earlier than my husband which means I hope I cannot hear the TV when I'm in bed, or else we'll have to figure out another plan.
  • Paint the ceiling white.
  • Hang the new light fixture I got (see below).
  • Hang a new modern floating shelf as a place to catch keys and small tidbits when we walk in the door.  Perhaps also a mail station on the wall would help with the in/out mail.
  • Figure out whether or not I can dye the curtain in this room.  I priced fabric (21 yards worth) in the style I love and it was $375 just for fabric, and then I would be left to sew it myself.  Whew, I really don't like sewing straight lines that much.  I also priced buying pinched pleated drapes and sewing them together to make the length we need, but that was closer to $600.  Too much money.  I'm still hoping dying the fabric would work. 
I did get the light fixture up!  This is the only picture I have of the old one.  It matched the paneling.  Blah!
 The bulbs were always burning out.
 You can also tell that we really need to paint the ceiling.  Smoking definitely went on in this house before.

 And here it is with the new bulbs.  The base is plastic, which makes it light, and there is no light leaks from the top, which I love.  It also has a linen type siding, which is hard to see in this picture, but it fits into the nautical idea.  It's a huge improvement from before.

Every year I put together a list of gifts from my daughter (actually this is only the second year we've had to do this, since she was born in 2011) to the rest of the family, and some gifts I make for family members from me.  I try to keep them a secret, but I also like to put on my blog what I made, so you can too.  If you are a family member, don't keep reading!!!!

If you aren't a family, just scroll down.  I'll be posting how my attempts at all these projects turn out, as I work my way through them.

Okay, so if you're still with me.

First up, I'm making framed silhouettes of my daughter.  This tutorial is really great and has a lot of help for those of you with Photoshop, which is how I plan to make mine.

Next, I'm making some embroidered tea towels of my daughter's art.  Since she is so young, I'm planning on having her do a tiny amount of scribbling in all different colors so it will be multicolored abstract (she can't draw anything that you could identify).

I'm also going to weave these knot trivets (a few for me, and a few for others).  I love their nautical feel, and they seem pretty simple.  Here's how.
For my daughter, I'm making a train board just like Young House Love.  I will be making a different scene for the train to go through, and I'll share when I actually make it.
These potholders are also on my list for some relatives that like homemade items.  I love the color they can have.

I am, if I have time, planning on also making this fabric dollhouse for my daughter.

For more relatives, that have a little cooler vibe, I'm going to help my daughter make this ink blot art.  It really will turn out well, just imagine all the color combinations you could use to personalize the gift.

And I'm making this fingerprint ornament for my husband.  How can you get a grown man's thumb imprint without him knowing?  Blindfolded, maybe??

Finally, a tried and true set of picture coasters.  I think they'll turn out very cute in black and white.

UPDATE: Welcome!  If you are here from pinterest, that is great!  Please look around, I do a homemade Christmas post every year.  Also, I would love it if you would let me know how these turn out for you.  The ornaments are really sweet & we plan on making them every year.

In line with the post I made about the homemade passport covers, I also decided that old-fashioned salt dough ornaments would be a really sweet gift for the more old-fashioned relatives. So I made some really cute ones with this pin from pinterest as my inspiration.  Sorry this is after Christmas, but I didn't want to ruin a gift surprise for any family members.

So away I went, googling how to make salt dough ornaments, since I had no idea how. This is the BEST site, with the most thorough instructions and a lot of hints, if your batch doesn't turn out properly (although it isn't hard at all). A fool can mix flour and salt. Seriously.

 Here is the recipe:
 2 cups all-purpose flour
 1 cup salt
 1/2 teaspoon powdered alum
 3/4 cup water

 Mix all ingredients completely with hands.  (If dough is too
 dry, work in 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons water.)  Form shapes as 
 desired.  Mark all details (facial features, clothing and the
 like) on surface of dough with wooden pick or sharp knife 
 before baking.  Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.  Let them cool
 completely before painting.

Some of the best advice from the site I linked above (that I found helpful) is:
  • Complete ornaments one or two at a time (don't assembly line) because the dough will dry out.  In my case I did 2 at a time.  Tedious, but it made for perfect santas!
  • A toothpick can help you get finer detail and clean up any "messy" handprints.  Heck, getting a sleeping baby to do a perfect handprint is nearly impossible, so you can do touchups.
  • A very sharp knife will make the edge very smooth when cutting around the handprint.
  • Work right on the cookie sheet to minimize handling, don't try to do the handprint on the counter and then transfer to bake.
  • Write the name and year on the back of the ornament so you don't forget what year it was (or in my case, write it on the front!).
  • If your edges are still rough after baking, you can use sandpaper to smooth (or even a nail file).  This works like a charm!
  • Embed a piece of craft wire in the shape of a loop (or a snipped paperclip) so you can hang the ornament easily.
The only difference between my ornaments and the inspiration pin is that theirs is ceramic and mine is salt dough. Here's the end result:

To get Millie's handprint properly, I rolled the dough as recommended and placed a small amount of dough on a cookie sheet. Then I brought the cookie sheet into her room when she was dead asleep and pressed her hand into the dough. Then I brought the cookie sheet back out to the kitchen to cut the shape out into the dough and round the edges a little bit. The only thing I wish I had done differently is really spend the time rounding the edges more and pressing them down instead of leaving them the way they were when I cut around her handprint with a knife.

Here are the steps I followed:
1) Mix the dough
2) Roll the dough to a thickness you like (mine was about .25" thick)
3) Make the handprints
4) Cut around the handprints with a knife to separate the ornaments
5) Insert a wire loop, or the end of a paperclip, so you have a way to hang the ornament (I didn't want to try to make a hole in the dough)
6) Bake per recipe
7) Paint ornaments
8) Repaint ornaments if required (I had to for my white to show evenly)
9) Thinly coat the ornaments with Modge podge, both front and back, in order to seal them (I don't want them to crumble AT all).  If the coat doesn't feel like it covered, then use several coats to get a full glossy seal.

Following all the website's instructions helped me get these right the first time. And I sealed with Mod Podge, although I think my first coat was too thick and they are a bit sticky.

When I wrapped them, I made my own small boxes out of cardstock that fit the ornaments properly and then used tissue paper to fill them up so the ornaments would be safe.  I also added a picture on the top of the box that has Millie and her first visit with Santa.

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