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.”

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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.

Snowflake Bentley would have loved January 21, 2015

1999_Snowflake_BentleyAlthough he isn’t strictly Christmas, I bet Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), the first man to ever photograph a snowflake, would have loved the wet snowfall yesterday. The snowflakes were huge, ideal conditions for studying the hexagonal ice crystals.

I stumbled across a short documentary about him when I was looking for more paper snowflake crafts.  His obsession with capturing the snowflakes on his Vermont farm required a unique rig of a microscope attached to one of the first cameras.  This type of photography is called “photomicrography.” In his lifetime, he took photos of over 5,000 snowflakes, one at a time–in a place where there snowfall averages 120 inches a year, I guess he really loved snow.  As the flakes fell from the sky, he caught them on a black velvet-covered tray.  Then, he pushed them into position with a chicken feather so he could photograph each one.

(I’ve got plenty of chicken feathers but none of the obsessive patience it must have taken to do this!)

The Jericho Historical Society was established in 1972 to preserve Bentley’s life and legacy, and this year they celebrated the 150th anniversary of Wilson Bentley’s birthday.  In conjunction with the historical society, there are authorized snowflake gifts for purchase.

One way to learn more about this remarkable man is to read about him.In 1998, Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrator Mary Azarian published Snowflake Bentley, based on the true story of his life.  Azarian won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations.

I would like to buy a copy of this book for my grandson.  We love “spiriments,” and I can imagine he and I would be out in the cold trying to gather snowflakes to photograph. The photos would make beautiful Christmas cards or winter thank you notes.  Watch out. . .I’m cooking up a great idea. . . and from the weather report, it looks like we might have our photo opportunity this weekend.  Fingers crossed!

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January Crafting: Curly paper snowflakes

January is a big let-down for Christmas addicts, like me. In an early 2012 podcast,  Jeremy advocated that we ease out of Christmas with a month of snowmen and snowflakes, still appropriate for winter, but neutral on the Christmas scale.  In this spirit, I decided to explore some snowflake crafts.

Curly SnowflakeLast winter, my mother-in-law gave me a beautiful white curly paper snowflake.  I studied it and couldn’t imagine how it was made.  She said, “Oh, they’re easy, I’ll show you sometime.”  When the holiday season ended, I put it in the attic and forgot about it.

“Sometimes” don’t always happen, and a year later, when I arrived for a visit with paper, scissors, and tape and entreated her to demonstrate, she shook her head, “I don’t know how to make those!”  She smiled the knowing smile of someone who is sure I’m a little crazy.

I resorted to YouTube and found plenty of tutorials for the twisted paper snowflake.  They are so much easier than I imagined!  This tutorial is my favorite because the finished product isn’t the typical giant, 16-inch white snowflake.  I found that they can be made just as easily with 2- and 3-inch squares.

Today, I met with my friend, Donna, for coffee and crafting, and we set to work on 6-inch snowflakes made from craft paper.  We were delighted with our nearly instant results.  She said she would try to make them in bright spring colors and create a paper bouquet for a friend.

At my doctor’s office they decorated the entire ceiling in red curly snowflakes, hanging evenly spaced every ceiling tile–beautiful.

I’m going to try a few more made out of recycled Christmas cards (my favorite crafting material.)

Children could easily handle the larger snowflake.  The smaller version takes more small motor skills.  Have fun making a blizzard of these!

 

The Snow Moon and the science of snowflakes

Last night, Roger and I were walking the dogs around 5 p.m., when the most beautiful full moon rose over the treetops.  I learned that the Native Americans call this the Snow Moon because the month of February traditionally has the most snow in North America.  The alternate names are the Hunger Moon (sad) and the Opening Buds Moon (looking forward to Spring).

And then, as if commanded by the moon, it did  snow today!  In the Frederick area, it was a wet snow that didn’t freeze on the roads, but it made a thick coat on the branches, frosting everything in white.  Since Jeremy and I have been talking snow (because snow and Christmas are the perfect combination), I can also report that I have gone beyond arts and crafts snow to study their scientific formations.  I am including an interesting chart that explains in graph form what kind of snowflakes form at what temperature combined with moisture in the air.  While this may be obvious to most, maybe I missed that unit in 5th grade because, when I watched the large flakes falling today, noting that they were NOT a big as Saturday’s flakes, I understood a little better the science behind their shapes.

Kenneth Librecht, at Caltech, has authored a terrific site, A Snow Crystal Primer,  that explains, in layman’s terms, how snow crystals form and other details about snow.  On his site, there are links to beautify photography books which would make great coffee table books for the winter/Christmas season.

(Note:  Although the full moon in December 2011 was early in the month, next year, it will be on December 28, close to Christmas Day.  The December full moon is called the Cold Moon—not nearly as exciting in the Christmas season.)