Check up on Santa at Christmas in July

Susan, Jeremy and I went on an adventure to the HoCoFairgrounds, and the results were great!  Our chief accomplishment was a “keep forever” photo with Santa and Mrs Claus.  Having attended many Christmas events, I can say that Jeremy and I are sometimes “Santa snobs,” and this team was the real deal.  Unlike the fanfare he receives in November and December, it’s tough hanging out at a summer gig–even with air conditioning–but Santa and his wife were perfectly relaxed and delightfully ready to chat.

In addition, we networked and shopped for several hours.  This including a long-ish conversation with a woman named Glorious!  Her display included sewn items that make great gifts.  The dog mats that Susan and I purchased didn’t make it wrapping paper, though.  We just gave them to ourselves.

Jeremy was a little more serious-minded; he shopped more methodically and came away with several surprises for friends and family.

We talked for a while to local business owner Traci from Blooms by Bennetta.  She makes beautiful flowers from wood.  You have to see them.  I had no idea the kinds of colors and shapes that she can make–they look real and last forever.

We tasted some great horseradish sauces by Moore’s Sauces by Leslie.  Here’s another moment where you think–horseradish sauce?  One of them was combined with Old Bay.  The husband and wife team have the best logo–“She’s hot. He’s Spicy: Taste the Passion!”–and the best relationship.

One of the stalls where we spent a lot of time was “Buy the Sea.”  The mother/daughter team creates beautiful images (many are crabs) with sea glass.

I likedthe Grinch display, too–this  Grinch is by Crafty Crab. We will see  Clair again at Timonium #FOTMD in November.

Overall, the event was not as crowded as expected.  I guess it’s difficult to attract Christmas shoppers in July on a perfectly beautiful weekend, but we had fun.  Shout out to Rachel Hare (@geekcrafter7) for creating the Instagram event that let me use know what was happening!

Podcast #67- 316 Days to Go!

candy cane hearts

Podcast #67- 316 Days to Go!

Click here to listen to our latest podcast- Catching up for 2015!

We try to get back on track this week and collect our thoughts for 2015 podcasting.  Natalie and Jeremy discuss thoughts about holiday bargains, the 2014 Christmas wrap up, and lots and lots of craft ideas!
Snowmen, winter and snow days off from school also feature prominently in our chat leading up to Valentine’s Day 2015.  Listen in for all the details.

No snow? Make your own!

2014-12-10 16.59.31This story begins nearly a year ago when Roger proposed to paint our living room a deep red–the kind that some might associate with brothels or blood.  At first, I was firmly against it, but then, I began to think that a red and white theme could be a tremendous advantage in my Christmasy world.  I agreed, maybe a little too enthusiastically, because he tried to change the plan.

The painter didn’t help because he shook his head when he saw the color.  “I don’t like to paint with red,” he said.  “It’s very difficult.”

2014-12-02 22.27.50

The four-sided snowflake to the far right was contributed by my son, C.J. True to his nature, he said snowflakes did NOT have to conform to the hexagonal shape.

Now, with a long stretch of red wall above a white wainscot, I have a perfect empty palette.  Too empty.  Roger doesn’t want to mess the wall up with pictures.  I had to wait until he went on his annual hunting trip to put my secret plan into effect.  I had seen some popsicle stick snowflakes on Pinterest and envisioned a wall of giant falling snow for the entire winter season.  With red and white tree and house decorations, I would have “House Beautiful.”  Photographers line up at the door.

Popsicle stick snowflakes, purportedly easy enough for a child to make, are little devils.  They are a little more delicate than I expected, and I found myself making some routine repairs throughout. The symmetry was difficult, too.  Cutting and matching them was just a little more exactness than I usually have.  (I could have benefitted from a pencil and a sharp knife to measure and cut more carefully–I am sloppy in that area.)   I spray painted the first two but that was messy.  The last five or six were painted with craft paint and a brush.  Much better. My friend Lauren suggested that I add whimsical large and medium white buttons as the center and linking joints of some.

I wish I had read Amy Bellgardt’s blog before I started.  Her tutorial is excellent, and she had some of the same experiences with cutting the little buggers that I did.  I love that she wrote, “And the whole angle thing was irritating me and turning a project with elementary school level crafting materials into a college level course in bad attitude.” Her step by step directions would have saved me a lot of cussing and experimenting.

If you are thinking about trying these, hanging red, blue or green snowflakes against a white wall would work just as well.  Choose the color to match your house decorations.  Even when Christmas is over, the snowflakes can “hang around” through January and February.

DIY Christmas Ball Wreath: Beautiful–and fragile memories

FullSizeRenderHere’s a great January activity if you see an opportunity to purchase some 75% off Christmas balls: make a Christmas ball wreath.

My motivation in December was that I had occasion to go through my grandmother’s Christmas tree decorations, and I discovered some Christmas balls from the 1940’s and 1950’s.  I knew by the box styles and the paint patterns that I was looking at Christmas memories and treasures–probably not worth a lot, but beautiful.  I decided to combine the ones that were not damaged into a Christmas ball wreath to display on a mirror, like the elegant ones I often see in home decorating magazines.

I watched a great tutorial that walked me through the basic steps.  Side note: What I love about this woman’s tutorial is the absolute ordinariness of the toys, couch and general house mess behind her.  The tutorial is easy to follow: materials needed include a styrofoam wreath shape, about 50 balls in assorted sizes (mostly big, some medium and a handful of little ones to fill in the gaps), colors and shapes, and hot glue. You will need between 60 and 90 minutes to do it right–that’s not too much time, but don’t hurry.

One problem with using antiques instead of the recommended dollar store assortment, is that the older ornaments are much more fragile.  I followed the directions and removed the wire tops. Working from the inside circle toward the outside rim, I created a rather large wreath. It became larger and larger as I tackled all of the gaps in between the bigger balls. When I was finished (and my fingers were sufficiently burned from careless application of hot glue), I was delighted with the result.

I held it up to the wall to imagine its lovely future, and when I set it back down, three or four of the old balls spontaneously combusted. What a mess. I like old balls (insert joke here), but the modern ones are just as nice and less problematic.

I modified my plan, and the large wreath is now on my dining room table with a pillar candle in the middle.  It’s really too large for the table, but beautiful just the same.

Total cost to me for the first wreath:  $5 styrofoam wreath and $1 worth of hot glue sticks.

The second wreath was a little less successful.  I found several boxes of assorted balls as I was taking down the tree–stuff that’s been out of use for years.  Inspired, and a little cocky from the first wreath experience, I tackled the second wreath using a wire wreath that I had already.  This was not the perfect plan, and the wreath did not take shape as expected.  I halted about half way through the project, and I’m going to wait until I can get to the craft store for the styrofoam wreath. (What project did I have in mind for the wire wreath?  I cannot remember.)

While I was surfing for a video of a Christmas ball wreath that justified my use of a wire frame (without success),  I came across a video that instructs the crafter how to make a wreath from pages of an old book.  Last year, Jeremy set himself up to make a wreath a month:  The Yule Log 365 Wreath-of-the-Month Club (I made that up just now, but it’s catchy.)  He’s been talking about some very creative ideas for this year, 2015. I accept the challenge, and I’m going to shoot for making one a month–on second thought, maybe we can split the task.  He can do even months, and I’ll do odd.  My focus, though, is going to be on wreaths I can make without going overboard on the expense of the materials.  I’ll be posting my results and the cost of each.

The Yule Log 365 hopes that you are able to save some of your Christmas spirit to carry through the year by launching a similar project or series of projects. Let us know your plans for 2015.



Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus?

Cactus 2Right “on time” our Christmas cactus is blooming, as it has the past three years since our neighbors, Greg and Luci, presented the seasonal gift to us.

Although we profess to be gardeners, I can tell you that I have a long history of killing anything green and growing indoors, except for the standard philodendron.

(And I’ve come VERY close to killing those, too.)

I did a little research, and found that the Christmas cactus is one of the Schlumbergera (say that three times) genus of cacti, growing in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil. There is a second type called a Thanksgiving cacus, that blooms in the fall, and a third, Easter or Whitsun cactus (blooming at Easter).

On the linkedwebsite, someone posted a question about why her Christmas cactus blooms near Thanksgiving, and that’s when I learned there are two types! The cactus needs the shorter days with less light to inspire the blooming period to begin. In my experience, they survive largely on neglect (That’s why we are Master Cactus Gardeners.) and a little water. I read extensively about how they should be watered every 10 days and thrive on humidity, so I guess Roger does a lot more behind-the-scenes care than I knew.

I have linked to a great description of how to propagate the Christmas cactus. I will have to wait until the early spring to do this because the plant should not be actively blooming. Jeremy likes to give “to do” advice, so my “to do” advice will be to look for a good sale on holiday gold or silver pots/buckets in January. Or stock up on gold or silver spray paint.   Also, look for the end-of-holiday Christmas cactus that needs some love.

I’m going to set a reminder on my calendar to try propagating the Christmas cactus in April. That’s going to be an adventure, and it will make a terrific personal gift next year. Maybe I’ll give a “baby” to Greg and Luci!Cactus 1

Podcast #65- 90 Days to Go!

Yarn LightsPodcast #65- 90 Days to Go! Click here to listen to the newest podcast- Knitting ornaments and Trivia too!

Listen in to get the latest updates on the Yule Log’s entries for the 2014 Festival of Trees, some quizzes on Christmas Trivia, and an update on the return of our daily posts.  Natalie and Jeremy talk about some Christmas yard sale finds and deliver more details about their tree designs.  You too can be part of the Festival- volunteer to help with the fun! 

Podcast #64- 104 Days to Go!

Beach-Shell-Christmas-TreePodcast #64- 104 Days to Go!
Click here to listen to the newest podcast- Time to Start Again!

Natalie and Jeremy are getting back to work.  After a long nearly 6 month break, it is time to refocus our Christmas spirit. We are excited to get back to sharing all the joys of the season. Today we took to the mobile studio and recorded while on the go (forgive the poor recording quality- a little studio trouble). We discuss our lack of Christmas in recent months and our renewed energy for the Christmas spirit. We talk about elves and trees and make the announcements about our tree themes for the 2014 Kennedy Krieger Festival of Trees. Give it a listen and let us know what you think about our tree ideas. Looking forward to getting back to our 2014 structure of KNOW, PLAN, and DO in the coming week.  Merry Christmas everyone!!

Podcast #63- 275 Days to Go!

Christmas SPiderPodcast #63- 275 Days to Go! Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Teens & Spiders!

This week Natalie & Jeremy cover a strange range of Christmas topics.  We start with the legend of the Christmas spider (some get rich slow ideas here). We then move to some discussion on our trees, teapots, old ladies, and a plan.  We wrap up with our actual topic for the show- Teen Gift Giving.  How do you shop for those 13-19 year olds in your life?  What are the best gifts?  Is it a mini-fridge?  A book?  A gift card?  Heck- maybe it’s a spider!!


Podcast #61- Island Christmas Call

mele-kalikimakaPodcast #61- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Island Christmas Call.

This week we check in with our friend Siobhan in Hawaii.  Natalie gets all the details on the unique island twists on the Christmas traditions.  Listen as they talk about outrigger Santa, Christmas lights on palm trees, trans-Pacific Christmas trees, and music.  They also introduce an awesome concept, what I think is the best idea so far in 2014!  Keep June 25th open on your calendars my friends- Mele Kalikemaka!


Eddie WouldSpecial audio bonus!  Listen to some more of the conversation to hear about the Wave and to find out where “Eddie would go”.  



Podcast #60- Wreaths and Gnomes?

crayon wreathPodcast #60- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Wreaths and Gnomes?

Tonight Natalie and Jeremy set out to catch up on the 2014 countdown, discuss some recent events, and to review plans for our wreath a month project.  We got to the wreaths eventually but listen in to see how we worked in Fitbit, OCD statistics and numbers, the Disney movie Frozen , and the Travelocity gnome.  It all connects.  Really.  Be ready to make some wreaths with us when you finish listening!