New Year’s Eve

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Like many, many other bloggers are doing at the moment, I am going to try and sum up my year so far.

First of all, who feels like 2013 never happened?  I feel like we jumped right from 2012 to 2014.

This has been an incredibly short year.  It’s really just whizzed by for me.  When I look back and think about it, I don’t really know if I’m satisfied.

One of my friends was going to go on vacation to Mexico, but then the night before departure, she discovered her passport had expired.  But, not to fear, because they managed to get tickets to Hawaii the next day at half price.  Wow.

Here in the Forever Sunny California, we are having lovely weather, though very chilly in CA terms.  It’s only 54 degrees Fahrenheit!  Do you realize how cold that is?  The penguins might as well move here!  Everyone has to actually wear jackets, it’s that cold!  And there is actually wind!  Yesterday, we got winds strong enough to blow trash all over the highway.  I guess you never know how much trash is in your town until the wind blows it into your windshield.  As Bay Area residents a decent distance from the actual bay itself, we do not get winds.  Or cold temperatures.  This is outrageous!  What is happening to the world!

However… due to the fact that we got some actual rain a few weeks ago, every plant around here is absolutely convinced that it’s spring.

This camellia thinks it's spring.
This camellia thinks it’s spring.
This vegetable patch is glad it's springtime.
This vegetable patch is glad it’s springtime.
The budding hopes of spring sunshine.
The budding hopes of spring sunshine.
Spring chrysanthemums.
Spring chrysanthemums.
A lovely hydrangea welcomes spring.
A lovely hydrangea welcomes spring.
This rose stretches in the warm spring air.
This rose unfurls in the warm spring air.
This azalea is so glad winter didn't come this year.
This azalea is so glad winter didn’t come this year.  As usual.
This pea plant thrives in lovely sunshine.
This pea plant thrives in lovely sunshine.
Strawberries are a little mad at the short notice.
Strawberries are a little mad at the short notice.
But they're still prepared with flowers...
But they’re still prepared with flowers…
And lots of soon-to-be fruit!
And lots of soon-to-be fruit!
This lantana is sure glad that decided to go on vacation!
This lantana is sure glad that winter decided to go on vaca!
This rose is cranky.  It didn't get a good winter's sleep.
This rose is cranky. It didn’t get a good winter’s sleep.
However, this patch of alyssum is just bursting with anticipation!
However, this patch of alyssum is just bursting with joy!
And just look at that adorable lobelia!
And just look at that adorable lobelia!
This elegant calla-lily smiles in the face of spring.
This elegant calla-lily smiles in the face of spring.
A whole family of spring roses!
A whole family of spring roses!
This poinsettia just wants to die.
This poinsettia just wants to die.
Jealous yet?
Jealous yet?

So the point is, we’re experiencing spring here.  It’s as lovely as lovely gets right now, and I have a lot of big hopes for next year… the backpack I’m making for my baby sister is coming along slowly but surely, my riboflavin deficient chicken, Penny, is back with the rest of the flock, and I’m finally figuring out how not to die while trying to finish all of my homework.  And have you seen the Google Doodle today?  It’s enough to make anyone optimistic!  I think it sums up the hot topics this year pretty well…

Any of you on vacation?  I’m jealous.  But tell me all about it, anyway!

I do not plan on making any New Year’s resolutions.  I break all of them by January the second.

Cheers to the year that has passed and the year full of hopes ahead!

Wow, that was an awkward sentence.

The point is, Happy New Year!

-Coco

Christmas Spirit: Wreath Tutorial WITHOUT Wreath Form

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When I come across a good Christmas wreath tutorial, I always get really excited.  Wreaths are just awesome, and there’s not denying it.  However… most of them require a wreath form.  And that’s seriously annoying for me.  I don’t want to have to rush to the crafts store and buy one of those things for up to 7 dollars if I want a nicer-looking one.  Plus, once I’m in the crafts store, I’m not coming out with less than half the store’s supplies in my bags.  (Please tell me you can relate.  Even if you can’t, say so anyway.)

Another thing is that those tutorials are hard!  They always look easy, but when I envision myself actually doing them, I realize, nuh-uh.  And they often require materials that I just don’t have.  I don’t, in fact, have a million yards of burlap just there (though I wish), nor do I have twelve robin figurines.

This is a little wreath which, although it isn’t very fancy or extremely eye-catching, is simple, easy, and perfectly do-able.  Plus, you shouldn’t have to buy anything for it, and even if you do, you should be able to keep it under $10.  A five-year-old could probably help, if you use superglue in place of thread.

And… the reason you don’t need a wreath form is because you will be making one!

You will need:

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Christmas tree trimmings:  You can probably find these discarded at any place that sells live Christmas trees.  They should let you have them.   These are the ugly ends trailing at the bottom of the Christmas tree we bought, which I trimmed off using clippers.

Decorative string or yarn:  Anything that you think is compatible with your evergreens will work.  I used golden wired string.

Others:  Some wide, wired ribbon will look nice, and I used fake glittered berries and jingle bells.  Anything would work, really, like burlap ribbon, real berries, sprigs of lighter evergreens, or those robin figurines I was talking about earlier.

Part 1: Making the Wreath Form

Start with a bunch of evergreen scraps.

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You want most of them to be thin branches, with a few thicker ones in there.  They all have to be able to bend and shape easily.  Gather them together in the shape of a circle, and tie at intervals with any old yarn or string you like.  Twist smaller branches around the sections that aren’t thick enough.

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I will look very ugly at this point, but that’s perfectly fine.  Don’t worry about the random sections trailing off at this point.  Now, take out your string or yarn and tie it around any random point on the wreath.

IMG_6732I know, you can’t really see it at all.  Wrap the string or yarn around the whole thing, binding all of the branches together and reigning in the loose ends.  Knot off the string, and take out the random pieces of yarn you used to tie your branches together earlier.  It should look something like this:

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This is your wreath form!  It looks pretty ragged, but it will do its job well.

Part 2:  Shaping Up and Decorating

The wreath form doesn’t look the best, so you’re going to need to add some more branches to it.  Stick the ends of your new branches into the form, and bind with more of the string you used before.

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Now it’s more full, with a more symmetrical shape, yet a little more wild and less restrained.  You can now begin decorating however you wish!

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I added foam berries by threading some string through them with a needle and thread, then tying the string to a branch in the wreath.  I used black, so it isn’t too noticeable.  I also tied on jingle bells in the same manner.  I used some wide ribbon I got at Costco (yes, Costco!) but it was an old scrap piece, so it didn’t have as much bounce as I would’ve liked.

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I just used an unbent paper clip, secured to the branches on the top, for hanging the wreath.

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Finished product!  While you might want to stick with something more sophisticated for your front door and your mantle, this one could at least go on a bedroom door… or a chicken coop, since they probably won’t mind.

The little thing you see on top of the wreath is the cover of a greeting card.

Well, Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate!  I may post some other gifts I have for friends and family… soon.

-Coco

Christmas Spirit – Sheet Music Egg Ornament

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You may remember that I made egg ornaments before, in this post.  Here is another similar ornament, which might be easier to make if you don’t have rub-ons.

So, let’s get started!

Materials:

-blown egg (you could also use a plastic Easter egg, but that’s no fun)

-sheet music (preferably with small notes, doesn’t have to be “vintage”)

-Mod Podge

-a brush (foam or just a cheap artist’s brush)

-some kind of pretty string

-a toothpick (preferably with ridges)

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1.  Blow an egg.  If you don’t know how to do this, there are a million tutorials on the internet.  I use a thumbtack and a “nasal aspirator,” or as I like to call it, a snot-sucker.  I always have a basket of blown eggs ready to use.

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I chose this one, because I didn’t like the large hole in the bottom, and the sheet music will cover it up later.

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2.  Rip the sheet music into small pieces no bigger than your thumb.

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3.  Apply a coat of Mod Podge to a piece of sheet music, and stick it on your egg in whatever position you like.  Random is good here.  I try to choose “busy” pieces, with lots of interesting notes on them.

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4.  Work your way across the whole surface of the egg…

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And soon it should be all covered.  Leave a space at the top, about the size of one of your sheet music pieces.  Make sure the hole at the top is exposed.

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5.  Insert a section of string into the hole at the top.  For more on this technique, visit my other egg ornament post.

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6.  Poke a hole through a piece of sheet music large enough to cover the remaining section of exposed egg.  Thread the string through the hole, apply Mod Podge to the piece of sheet music, and secure it in place on the egg.  I forgot to take pictures, sorry.

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And… done!  None of these materials should be too hard to acquire, so this project is definitely under $10.  It’s very simple and easy to make.  This ornament is sturdier than the other egg ornaments I posted, because of the layers of paper.   I don’t usually apply another layer of Mod Podge on top, because it smears the notes, but if you like that affect, go ahead.  In fact, you could even try painting coffee over it if you really dig that “vintage” look.

These would make great gifts, and they would look amazing on your own tree, too.

Only 11 days until Christmas!  Whoo!

Happy whatever you celebrate, and get crafting!

-Coco

Linky parties joined:  Clever Chicks Blog Hop #117 (as usual)

Spazzing up Store-Bought Soap: Easy Oatmeal Soap

Now, as you probably all know, I am incredibly cheap.  I’m not even going to mask it with the word “frugal” or “thrifty,” I’m just plain cheap.  I refuse to spend any unnecessary money, even on a cute craft that would make the world love me forever.  I use the cheapest materials possible, and spend the extra hour to make it nice.  Now, you might remember that I made pom pom bookmarks for my friend, and shared it with you in this post.  I mentioned at the end that I also gave her another gift, which was oatmeal soap.  My friend has this incredibly strange obsession with natural ingredients that are “good for your skin.”  It annoys the heck out of the rest of us.  These few months, she has been absolutely crazy over oatmeal.  Whenever we mention anything involving oats or oatmeal, she immediately says, “Oh, oatmeal is really good for you skin!”  And then, “But it is, really.”  Once, when I went over to her house, I caught her chopping oatmeal into fine powder with a kitchen knife.  While we were chatting, that was what she was doing.  Chopping oatmeal into a fine powder.  This friend of mine also has a mom who has an addiction to any and all cooking machines, so of course, she had a food processor, but she said that the oatmeal didn’t do well in the food processor.  To satisfy her insatiable desire for oatmeal on skin, I decided to use some leftover snow grinds from my snowball soaps from this post and make her some oatmeal hand soaps.

IMG_6617First, I loosely chopped some oatmeal, just the normal Old Fashioned Oats from Quaker Oats.  You could probably use any other type, we just happened to have that.

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Then, I ground up some more soap.  You can visit my Snowball Soap post for more on that.

I then mixed the two together.  Do not chop too much oatmeal!  This was the mistake I made.  You shouldn’t have more than a 1:5 ratio of oatmeal to soap.  I didn’t take any pictures, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to mix oatmeal and soap.

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I don’t have any more specifics, but basically, I added some warm water to the soap grinds and shaped it into little disks, like the kind you get at hotels.  I cut up a brown paper lunch bag into circles and folded it around the soap disk.  I added a little label on the disk.  The soaps (there were eight of them) were packaged in a gift box I learned to make from this post on Homemade Gifts Made Easy.

So, this is a nice way to spazz up some cheap-o store-bought soap you have!  Of course, you can also add essential oils (but they might mix badly with the original scent of the soap), dried and crushed herbs, or even enclose a figurine like I did in my Snowball Soaps post.  Now that I think about it, this might make a great Christmas gift!

One that note, happy whatever you celebrate, or if you’re like me, Merry Christmas!  Get gift-making!

-Coco

Birthday Gift: Pom-Pom Bookmarks

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I have another tutorial for you today!  These are part of the birthday gift I gave to one of my friends for her birthday, which was at the end of November.  I decided on this while desperately searching on the internet and coming across this post from The Cottage Market, which led me to this post from Design Mom.  Please check out the originals so I don’t feel guilty for stealing!

I thought this would be perfect, since my friend is a huge bookworm.  Actually, a lot of my friends are, including me, but this particular friend read psychology volumes when she was five and suspected her doctor of using psychological tricks on her.

Now, the pom-pom making method from Design Mom seemed a little messy and too easy to completely fail for a person like me to make, so I decided to use the method that my mom taught me when I was about seven.  Here’s my version!

You’ll need…

-cardboard, at least twice the size of the circumference you want your pom to be

-scissors that can cut through cardboard and yarn

-a math compass (we’re not sailing here)

-and most importantly, yarn

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1.  Take out your cardboard and your compass.  Draw two concentric circles, with the larger one being the size you want your pom.  This works better if the smaller one isn’t any larger than 3/4″ in diameter, but it isn’t the end of the world if the circle is larger.  Just make sure it’s not any wider than the base of your thumb.  (I know, that’s confusing)

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2.  Cut that one out so there’s a hole in the middle and it looks like a donut.  Then make another one so the first one has an identical twin.  Cardboard donut buddies!

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3.  Put them together so they line up, like this.

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4.  Take out a length of yarn.  It doesn’t really matter how long, it just needs to be able to fit through the center of the cardboard donuts when balled up.  I’d guess, um, three times your arm span to start.  (Is arm span a real term?)

I just pulled some out of my impossible-to-navigate yarn drawer.  I chose pink yarn with pretty standard texture.  It’s firm enough to hold shape, not too thin, and not too thick.

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You do not want fluffy stuff like…

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this.  I guess you could try, but no promises, okay?

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5.  Take your yarn and arrange it in a small bundle that will fit through the hole of the cardboard donuts.  Leave a tail about a foot long.  Tie the end of the yarn to your donuts, making sure it is secured around both donuts.

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6.  Start wrapping the the yarn around the donut, like pictured above.

Keep wrapping…

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and wrapping…

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and wrapping.

Don’t be too particular about how evenly spaced the yarn is.  Just make sure that the inside of the donut is covered pretty evenly.  As long as your yarn is wrapped at semi-decent intervals, you’ll be fine.

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Once you get back to your starting point, just keep wrapping over your first layer!

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When the yarn runs out, just tuck the end behind another strand of yarn,

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pick up another length, and keep going.

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7.  Once you have deemed your donut chubby enough, they should have at least two layers of yarn covering every little millimeter.  I actually don’t think this donut was chubby enough.

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8.  Slide aside some of your yarn to create a gap in your donut, so the cardboard is exposed.

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9.  Keeping a finger in the middle of the donut, start snipping the yarn, sliding your scissors in the space between the two pieces of cardboard.

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It should begin to look like this.  Don’t shift your finger in the middle, or the yarn will become messed up.

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10.  It should look like this when you’re done.

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Cut a length of string,

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and insert it between the two layers of cardboard.

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Take your finger out of the middle, and pull the length of yarn tight.  Tie it once.

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11.  Carefully remove the cardboard pieces, one at a time.  Don’t just cut them off, because you can use them again.  Tie the string around the yarn pieces a few more times, making sure to make it knotted tightly.

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12.  Fluff the yarn up, and give it some light trimming.  It shouldn’t need too much work.  The pom pom I have here is very loose, and I probably should’ve made it tighter.

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Optional steps:  I tied the rest of the string into knots at equal intervals, since I was making a bookmark.

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I also added a little tag, just a normal label that you could get at Office Depot.

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The finished product!  The bookmark is a bit big for this book.  If you haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables series before, march to the library and do so now!  They’re wonderful books.

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I made three of these, pink, yellow, and dark blue-ish teal, in graduating sizes.

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So there they are, made with simple tools that anyone has!  I know, my reading choices are odd.

With Christmas coming up, this would be a good gift for any voracious readers you know!  Or course, it would be a bit mean to only give them a fluff of yarn, so I’ll post the other gift I made my friend soon…

In the meantime, happy whatever you celebrate!

-Coco

P.S.  As I do every Sunday, I linked this up to the Clever Chicks Blog Hop #116 at The Chicken Chick, and I also joined a new linky party at Crafts a la Mode!