Poinsettia Check – Aluminum Can Craft?

Grans poinsettiaOn the seventh of each month last year, Jeremy would do a poinsettia check.  He had planned to save his from Christmas 2011 and, with love and tenderness, revive them to bloom the following Christmas. He abandoned his project September 8, when it was clear there was no chance to save them.  I was visiting Roger’s mother earlier this month, and her poinsettia (with little personal attention) appears to be thriving.  That made me think of writing a post combining recyclables + poinsettias = something fabulous for next year.

I went to the website where I got the great idea to make recycled soda can angels, and Johnnie, the crafter behind the website, “Saved By Love Creations” has already blazed the poinsettia soda can trail.  In addition, she mounted her tin poinsettias on a stove ring, making it completely recycled. Johnnie’s website gives step by step instructions for the poinsettia wreath, with additional pictures of the Martha Stewart fall leaf wreath made from soda cans.  I can do this!pinterest recycle can wreath

clothespin poinsettiaI found another, less inspiring clothespin poinsettia, which I can make easily because I have plenty of those clothespins in my laundry, but I would have to do some re-configuring because they are a little too big to make a proper ornament. Still, this clothespin version would be successful when crafting with a child.


Podcast #53- 259 Days to Go!

angels1Podcast #53- Click here to listen to this week’s podcast- Recycled Angels and Famous Santas!

Natalie and Jeremy are back!  It’s been over a month since we last did a recording.  Far too long!  We have both decided that the new method of posting and recording isn’t really working for us.  We don’t do well with the every few days and every couple of weeks Christmas fun.  We need the daily Christmas joy and excitement to keep the spirit alive.  This week’s podcast starts with something to DO: make angels out of recycled soda cans.  Natalie found the plans and we tried them out today.  Hear how we did it and listen to our  opinions of the craft.  Next we get to things we need to PLAN: like our very own Festival of Trees.  Listen in to see how we are planning to bring this activity to our own place of work.  We challenge you to plan a way now to increase the joy of Christmas with others this year.  Finally we close out our recording with something to KNOW: your introduction to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.  Wet your appetite for interesting Santa tidbits.  Find out why Mickey Rooney was inducted into the Hall in 2012.  We will be posting more on this topic in the coming days but this is a good start.  Merry Christmas!


Uh oh! Back to Lowe’s in December

It’s the 7th and that means it’s time to check in on the progress of my 2011 poinsettias.  It’s August and the guidelines for care tell me that my stems should have new growth and lots of leaves. I need to cut back the new growth to 3-4 leaves.  Once trimmed it is time to bring the pots back inside and place them in a sunny window.  The growth will continue with good watering and fertilizing through September.  Here’s the trouble, my plants are not growing anything new and there are no leaves to cut back.  I’m not sure where I went wrong.  Maybe it was too dry?  Maybe it was too much water before moving outside?  Both concerned me.  I’m going to give it until the end of September before pulling the plug.  I hope your plants are doing much better and looking flush and green.  Here’s the good news, come Black Friday I’ll have my choice of 99 cent plants from both Lowe’s and Home Depot I predict.  Then the plan will be to immediately repot those babies so I can see them through to 2013!


Flower Check!

Well, it’s the 7th of the month again and you know what that means.  Time to check in on those 2011 Poinsettias.  The road to saving those flowers from last year to add to Christmas 2012 has been an interesting test of will.  I am back to the thinking that it is certainly just easier to by new ones on Black Friday at Lowe’s for 99 cents.  Those 2011 plants are remaining outside in the warm summer air (that’s a HUGE understatement lately) and be kept moist (a challenge when it’s 140 degrees out).  Early July is the next step to cut back the plants.  The guide instructs to cut all stems back an inch or two.  This will encourage the stout growth that will create a bushier plant come December.  Honestly my plants now look like a collections of stems with very few leaves.  My guide tells me this is to be expected and that I should see some bountiful growth from now to mid-August, when we move them back indoors and eventually back to many hours of total darkness. Hope springs eternal that this will be the best looking Poinsettia plants I’ve ever owned by December.  We shall all see!


How are those flowers?

Time to check in on the poinsettia plants.  Those 2011 plants are coming along.  We are six months into this experiment.  I have to admit that in May I was losing hope on these things making it to Christmas 2o12.  In May it was time to cut the plants back way back and to repot them.  After that it was time to water regularly and bring back to the sun.  In June the care plan directs you to wait until you start to see new growth and then move the plants outside to warm and sunny locations.  After a few weeks you are supposed to cut back each sprout by about an inch.  This is to allow the plant to gain some width and not grow tall and spindly.  My challenge has been the move to outside.  We have had an oddly cool start to June and I have not moved the plants to the porch yet.  This next week is supposed to be a return to seasonal temps in the 80s.  Hopefully my 5 pots will make the move to their summer location soon.  I am really excited to see where they go from this point.  Let’s all hope for full and beautiful plants this winter.


Books! The perfect gift for almost anyone.

I love books!  I have hundreds and love to give them as gifts, especially at Christmas.  My nieces and nephew are all under 4 years old but they know that Uncle J brings books!  Christmas is such a nice book giving time.  You can give Christmas books or other books.  Activity books, story books, sticker books, primers, or just a classic picture book.  Sports books, biographies, novels, how-to, and travel might fit the bill for older readers.  The challenge with books is finding them.  Of course you can find just about any book on-line, but you have to know what you’re looking for.  Roaming through a book store provides that chance of discovering the hidden and unexpected find.  The book you didn’t know was written that is perfect for someone.   With fewer and fewer traditional book stores, the shopper must find new ways to discover books.  Try finding that local book sale.  I stumbled upon one last weekend at the Washington County Library in Smithsburg, MD.  Most libraries, in addition to providing so many other amazing programs, regularly host used book sales.  Churches and schools do the same.  These are great opportunities to discover a new book.  Roaming the tables with books spread all over is just a great was to spend an early afternoon.  Books smell good too!

Giving books is a great tradition but the cost could be prohibitive.  New books are so expensive and I like to give more than one book as a gift.  A pair of books seems so much better!  To make your gifting dollar go further look for those used books.  In addition to the book sales you can get many great finds at your local garage or yard sales.  The most you might pay for a book there is maybe a dollar.   Remember at most yard sales the goal of the seller is to just get rid of stuff.  Find 5 or 6 books you want and make an offer- I bet they’ll take it.  The other great benefit of giving used books is you can read them all before giving them, so shop early and read up.  Tomorrow Natalie and I are off on a yard sale quest to find Christmas treasures and bargains. I have books on my list and hope to find a few classic holiday titles for my nieces and nephew.  We’ll be sharing our results on Monday’s podcast so be sure to check it out!


Recycling gift wrap

My nephew experienced his First Communion today, and we were invited to the celebration.  I spent part of the afternoon digging out paper, ribbon, and tape to wrap his gift.  I started thinking about my (and most Americans) wasteful wrapping habits. I love to wrap Christmas presents, and I go out of my way to make the packages fancy with paper, bows, ribbon and more.

Our unwrapping traditions used to include my mother’s painstaking removal of tape and slow peeling back of the paper so that the sheet could be ironed and re-used.  I don’t remember when that behavior, which I remember teasing her about at the time, evolved into throwing the paper away.  Probably the increasing numbers of grandchildren had some influence, but now I’m re-thinking that earlier careful behavior.

According to Earth.911, half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans use and discard are packaging, wrapping and decorating goods. Also, wrapping paper and shopping bags alone account for about 4 million tons of trash annually in the U.S.  During the holiday season, the amount of trash increases 25%.

Gift wrap was first invented in the early 1900’s and distributed by Hallmark. (Here’s a link to the history for more reading on the subject.) The paper was made possible by the invention of the  flexography process which combined very fluid inks with rubber plates wrapped around the print cylinder to make a printing process ideally suited to coarse or stiff papers that were durable enough for wrapping. Also, Victorians began using decorated paper for cards, wallpaper and more.

I love the rolls of paper more than gift bags (which didn’t become popular until the 1980’s) The easy answer for saving on paper waste is to wrap the gifts in something else, a basket, a jar, a bowl, something clever.  I know that one year, my sister-in-law wrapped all of her gifts in burlap bags tied with red ribbon.  I saved that oversized bag for years, waiting for the exact gift to fill it.

Wrapping paper is not easily recycled.  I fold mine neatly and put it in bags every year, but now I’m wondering if it does get recycled when it leaves my curb. According to Recycle Now, the paper is often dyed and coated or has non-paper additives, like gold and silver glitter.  If it is thin, it may not have good quality fibers for recycling.  Also, there’s the problem of tape leftover from the gift wrapping.

My mom has been wrapping various boxes and their lids with good-quality paper and then re-using these boxes year after year. The paper is never torn off.  Some people even record inside the lid who received the box and what gift was in it as a way of making a game out of re-using the same box.

The answer is not easy.  I’m going to look further into opportunities to recycle wrapping paper and try to buy only paper that has been recycled or can be recycled.  Any other suggestions?