Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 15, 2012

African Nativity

Posted by Paulette

 In September I started reading about the experiences of a friend who was spending some time in Madagascar, visiting her son, who has started a non-profit organization there to build houses that the natives can afford. He has also organized a community of artisans into a village store. 
 When I was told that they made nativities, I hopped on over to look at their site, The village store. I was pleased to find that their hand carved nativities were so inexpensive! This beautiful rosewood one piece was only $20. It stands about 6 1/2 inches tall. 
 I've been waiting for a few months to receive it, and when I opened the package, I felt as if I was holding something so precious. 
$20 is a lot of money to the Malagasies. 
Here is the letter from my friend, who spent 3 weeks there:  
"Glad you like it. If I could give to you what you have given to this family of the artisan, I would. It is far more than you could ever possibly imagine. After traveling and spending 3 weeks there, I am changed forever. I have fallen in love with the malagasies for their purest thoughts, desires, and peace even in the turmoil and poverty they live in. Struggles never stop in their lives. Thanks for the support! "

Little sites like this one are not so easy to find, unless you know someone who knows about it. So, I am passing on my good find, in the hopes that maybe some of my readers may want to buy something and help a community. 

Here are some of the other beautiful things they make and sell.
The Village Store

Nativity sets

The Village Store


Hanbags of natural fiber and leather

The Village Store

 Hand woven Banana Leaf Placemats

The Village Store


Hand Embroidered Skirts

The Village Store

Green Opal Necklace and Earrings

There's so much more! Go and see. You won't believe the prices. And all of these are handmade!

   I am not being paid or otherwise compensated for this post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Couch slipcover finished in time for Christmas

Posted by Paulette

When I first bought this couch about 8 years ago at DI, I was in love with it! The fabric was just my style. Recently, not so much. I'm taking a break from the huge cabbage roses and hydrangeas. I'm going for a more neutral palate these days. 
Oh, and then there was the fact that the upholstery is getting thin. I've already recovered the pillows twice and the kids are now starting to pick at it and revealing the stuffing and wood frame underneath. I still like the shape of the couch, just not the shape it in. Slipcovers made from canvas drop cloths are just what the doctor ordered. Durable enough for 5 kids and cheap to make. This one was about $40 worth of drop cloths. And I can take it off and wash it.
"Practically perfect in every way," if I may quote Mary Poppins! 

Now, I can focus on cleaning that dirty floor and decorating more for Christmas. I know. I need to make Christmas presents too. One thing at a time..."sigh!" 

Nativity Revival

Posted by Paulette

There was a lot of damage done to one of our favorite nativities over the years. 

Mary had some chipping of the outer coating and her hand had broken off. The hot glue and skewers fix wasn't holding. The glue had to be peeled away.

Joseph had some more severe problems. The two sides of the molded foam body were separating. He had a huge hole in his head, and much of the foam under body was exposed. 
The baby was remarkably well preserved. He only needed some paint and sealant.
After some thought about how to go about restoring these pieces and making them weather proof, I decided to use Gorilla Glue for the repairs. It's an expanding foam, and with the help of some improvised clamps and armatures, it worked really well.

While working on him, Joseph fell over, and lost his head. I used the Gorilla glue and some long barbeque skewers to reattach his head. The holes were patched later using the drywall compound.

When I was sure that the figures were structurally sound, I was ready to start using the plaster to fill holes and cracks.

To fix Joseph's head, I used a small piece of drywall tape as a patch, and then using my hands, squished on a few layers of the compound, waiting for each layer to dry, before reapplying.


 When the plaster was completely dry, I painted on a coat of flat, outdoor, latex paint.

Then I made a glaze using a darker color of outdoor latex and water. # parts paint to 1 part water. This was brushed on, making sure it got into all of the crevices, and then wiped off using damp paper towels. I worked in small areas to make sure the paint didn't dry too quickly.

 When the glaze was completely dry, each piece got 2 coats of a polyurethane.
I didn't like that they were now glossy, but the protectant was very important since they would be exposed to the elements, and the under layer of drywall compound is water soluble.

David said that he thinks they look better now, than when I first bought them.

As I thought about writing this post I was wondering how someone might take this information and make it useful to them. Remember those tacky plastic nativities I mentioned in the last post? You could paint them to look like an elegant stone version, like mine.
Cool, huh?


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Nativity saved

Posted by Paulette

For our 10th anniversary, I bought David a beautiful outside nativity. I was so excited for him to receive it. I'd not seen one like it before. The outside nativities I'd seen were tacky, or cartoonish. I wanted something elegant. During one of my trips to Walmart, I spied this one. And it was a great price. I snatched it up and brought it home. Needless to say over the four years that it's been used, it's taken some abuse. When I pulled it out this year, I knew it would need some restoration. I'll share the process later. Here it is, fully restored, and better than new.


Cooking up some felt foods

Posted by Paulette

I am always looking for inexpensive clever things to make for Christmas. Felt squares are only $.25 each. This year I cooked up some felt foods for my girls to play with in their kitchen.

 Anyone feel like some salmon with a little salad on the side?

 Pizza is a perennial favorite in our house, and you can change the toppings according to your tastes. Green peppers, pepperonis and mushrooms, to order.

 A cornucopia of vegetables, fruits, donuts, and even a cupcake to tempt your pretend palate. 

 And finally, a hamburger with all the fixings; cheese, pickles, onion and lettuce. I ran out of red felt to make the tomatoes, and then I realized that the girls could use a pepperoni as a substitute.

I spent about $7 for all of the felt used in these foods. I already had the stuffing, thread and beads. 

The girls saw me making these and can't wait to play with them. I've found that Santa's workshop is just too hard to keep a secret in a house of 7 people. 

What are you cooking up for Christmas?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our First Nativity

Posted by Paulette

David and I are coming up on our 14th anniversary. We were married the 22nd of December 1998. Our first Christmas together, he didn't have a job. I did. However after paying expenses, I only had about $50 to spend. I asked Dave if he'd rather have a tree, or a nativity, and he said the latter. I bought this beautiful nativity for him for our first Christmas, and we've had a tradition of me giving him a nativity each year since. Sometimes they're small, and sometimes they're grand, but this particular one will always be the most special.
 I am so glad that he decided upon a nativity instead of a tree. It told me that he had his priorities straight. He's the same man who has given people on the street all the change in his pocket, or a $20 bill. 
Christmas for our family has never been one where we spend loads of money, rather, we try to give mostly handmade gifts. We have many family gatherings where we are reminded of the reason for the season, Jesus Christ. There is so much symbolism to teach our children about our Savior. 
 This year we have spent a lot of our Christmas money helping family and friends. I am not sorry for it. I hope that we can do a good job of teaching our children how to be givers, how to live a charitable life, helping others, and thinking little of themselves, and having gratitude for all that they have. 

             It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Original christmas Nativity

Posted by Paulette

I made this nativity for our family a few years ago. The patterns are original. We didn't have a manger for baby Jesus until I was in the garage this week pulling out the Christmas stuff and spied my miter box. Perfect fit. I just added a little raffia.

These dolls are pretty large. Baby is about 8 inches long. The kids love to play with them, and I don't mind. Although the baby has a tendency to get moved around a lot.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Star Elf Ornament

Posted by Paulette

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is making handmade ornaments. I usually have one design that I make. I whip up a few dozen and use them for package toppers or quickie gifts. This year I was invited to two ornament exchanges. 
The second one required that they be mailed, so I needed something quick, light, and non-fragile. 
I whipped these up in a couple of hours while waiting for a couple of laundry loads to finish. 

I started with a pattern:
   Cut out the star and trace with a pencil onto doubled fabric, right sides together.

 Then sew, leaving open where marked.
 Cut around star, leaving a 1/8th inch seam allowance. Carefully clip inside curves. Turn right sides out.
 Trace face onto freezer paper. You'll need one for each elf you make. Cut out the face. You'll be using this as a stencil. Iron, shiny side down onto the star, with an iron on medium high setting.

Next comes the tricky part. You'll need to paint several layers of the face color on, making sure that the paint dries between each layer. The paint will need to be sort of dry brushed on, so that it doesn't bleed through to the next layer of fabric. I brushed on 6 layers of paint before adding the features. When paint dried, I stuffed each star and sewed the hole closed with a ladder stitch.

 Then comes the fun part,  the face! I used the back of the paint brush to make white, then blue, then black and finally white, for the eyes. The nose is a simple red dot with a smaller white on on top. The cheeks are dry brushed, and the mouth and eyebrows are carefully painted on using a script liner. It could be done with a sharpie. 

Did I say that was the fun part? I was wrong. This really is the fun part. Embellishment!
Don't forget to add a hanger.

This is where a hot glue gun and lots of ribbons and trims come in handy.

You could even paint on little ears and give them beards. It's all up to you!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Cream Cheese Centers

Posted by Paulette

A few years ago my sister come home raving about Starbucks Pumpkin muffins. The best part was the surprise middles. They were cream cheese frosting centers. She asked me if I could duplicate the recipe. I tried and wasn't quite as successful as I would have liked.
 Years later, I've tried again, and have added gluten free to the challenge. Imagine my surprise when I bit into them, and I'm not kidding, closed my eyes and moaned with ecstasy!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice 
Muffins with Cream Cheese Centers 
Makes 15 muffins

Cream Cheese balls:
1-8 oz package cream cheese 
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar + 1/2 cup for dusting

Combine cream cheese and confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl and stir to combine.
In a smaller bowl, place 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar.
Using a spoon, scoop out about 1 1/2 table spoons of the cheese, and roll it between your hands making a ball. Place into the sugar and coat.
Place onto a cookie sheet. Repeat, until all the cheese has been made into balls. Place into the freezer to rest.

Muffin Batter:

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Wisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl and wisk together. 
Pour the wet ingredients into the larger bowl and stir together for about 1 minute.
Prepare a muffin tin by lining it with paper liners or spray with    
 nonstick baking spray.
Spoon batter into pan, filling about half way.
Retrieve cream cheese balls from the freezer and place one into center of each batter. Place remaining batter onto top of cheese balls (about 1 table spoon.)
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Remove muffins to cooling rack and let cool 10 minutes.