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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Tree - With a Christmas Dove Tutorial

So as a family, we've never had a Christmas tree. Honesty, it always seemed like a hassle and an extra expense. I loved looking at other people's trees and my kids weren't old enough to care - so I didn't either.
But this year, I found myself wanting a tree of our own. However, without a tree budget, I didn't see a way we could afford it. But I reserved $20 and found a used, artificial tree on The seller gave me a deal on a 6 foot, fairly low quality, pre-lit tree. I was pleased as punch to get it too.
Anyway, once I got it set up - I realized it would need some ornaments.
I made popcorn garland by sewing hundreds of pieces of plain popped popcorn together - a rather tedious job that I won't soon sign up for again.
Then I found a tutorial online that gave instructions for making little doves out of pages from an old book. That seemed free enough for me.
The tutorial was great - but the birds required a bit more of a time investment than I had and some supplies I didn't want to buy. So I simplified the project and have included my instructions here.

First, I cut a basic bird profile shape out of card stock. I made it about 6 inches long, from beak to tail. I made a separate wing cut out - a teardrop shape. I then traced my bird & wing onto a stack of 3 book pages. (In the photo, there are two birds and two wings traced onto the stack of pages).

Next, I cut out the bird & wing shapes and laid the wing shapes onto the bird. I stapled all the pieces - except one of the wing shapes together. Then, I glued the remaining wing onto the others, to conceal the staple. 

Then I used a pencil and rolled the edges of the wing and tail around it - to make it look like ruffled feathers. I sewed a string into the top of the bird's body so I could hang it and glued a very small twig to the bottom of the bird that resembled bird feet.

Here's my finished tree. I added some construction paper flowers for a little pop of color. Check out this  tutorial from Under the Table and Dreaming. Her bird tutorial is very nice and is what inspired mine. If you decide to make a Christmas dove too, post a link or photos into my comments section. I'd really love to see what you made. :)  Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Little Monster Project

So this month, I have a slew of kids' birthdays to celebrate. Also, Christmas is coming up - and I loathe the idea of spending the money my husband works so hard for on worthless, plastic toys that my kids will adore for a day and a half - before they're added to an overflowing bin of forgotten toys.

I decided to try and make some little gifts for the kids having birthdays this month. So I googled some homemade toy ideas online. I found some great ideas - but none that really stood out. Then I came across a site selling little homemade monsters. They looked easy to make - so it inspired me to create a monster of my own to give this year.

This turned out to be one of the cutest and easiest homemade gifts I've ever made. Start to finish - my first one took about an hour. I hand sewed all of it. I used my machine for the bulk of the work on the second one and it took much less time.

Here's a little photo tutorial of how I did it - and instructions for making your own.

First - look around the house for fabric. Of course you can buy new, but that sorta defeats the purpose of frugal, homemade gifts...  I used a T-shirt I had bought for myself from a thrift store. It was a thick, good quality shirt that just never seemed to look right on me. I also found some left over fabric from some pillows I had made a couple years ago. Those, and some other fabric scraps I had were enough for the entire project.

1. Cut out a monster. I made mine slightly smaller than a standard bed pillow. I gave him very easy little arms, legs and ears - keeping in mind I wanted a project I could finish quickly.
Then I made his eyes, mouth and tooth out of one of my kids outgrown shirts and some other scraps. I sewed everything in place by hand.

2. Next, I traced the monster face onto the other piece of fabric I had and cut it out. The boy I was making the gift for is turning one, so I also cut out a circle and a #1 to sew to the back. For the number, I used another piece of my kids old shirt. Pretty simple.

3. Finally, I hand sewed the pieces together, inside out - and left a few inches open for stuffing. Turned that monster inside out and stuffed him - then stitched the opening together to finish.

They're great little gifts for babies and young children. I'll be making them all month for the rest of the kids' birthdays on my calendar. My own kids have also put in their monster requests for Christmas.

Here's a link to the lady who makes (much nicer) monsters for sale: 

Do you have any cool homemade gift ideas this year? Leave a comment and share some inspiration.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tangled Ashes - Book Review


Well Written Historical Fiction
By Amanda Wynant
The Answer Staff Writer

Book: Tangled Ashes
By: Michele Phoenix
Price: $12.99

Lamorlaye, France - 1940: Meunier Manor, an elegant castle, is taken over by Nazi officials as they occupy the city. The Nazis make the castle their headquarters and the place where they'll institute their Labensborn program - a project Heinrich Himmler set up to promote the growth of the Aryan race by encouraging Nordic women and German Soldiers to conceive a child dedicated to Hitler and the Third Reich.

French teenage girls, Marie and Elise are forced into work for the Nazis at the castle, to help supplement their families' income. The girls have no knowledge of the Labensborn program at first, but soon discover the horrible plans of the Nazis as they turn the winsome castle into a maternity home. The young Frenchwomen must make brave decisions of loyalty and courage as they try to do what's right.

Fast forward 70 years. The Meunier castle is still standing, but in need of drastic renovations to restore it to it's original beauty. The castle is purchased by a wealthy businessman who has hopes of making it a fine hotel. Marshall Becker, an expert in historical renovations, flies from his home in the U.S. to Lamorlaye to begin the intricate and specialized task of rebuilding the castle and transforming it into what his client has requested. 
He opts to stay on the property while he renovates. During his time at the manor, Becker finds that many of the people associated with the grand building are hiding dark secrets of their own. Strange things happen in the midnight hours to lead Becker into further search for the mysteries of Meunier Manor - and attempt to face the demons in his own life.

Michele Phoenix is an amazing writer. She has a fantastic ability to take a story from the 1940's and one from today and seamlessly marry them into a narrative that's both extremely engaging and quite easy to read. Her storytelling is stellar and the reader is captivated by the end of the book's first paragraph.

With 384 pages, Tangled Ashes is a work of historical fiction that weaves the love of Christ into the story, without an overt, preachy tone. Phoenix writes in an educated and easily understood way that's sure to peak the interest of any mystery loving reader. Once the book is opened, it's hard to put down. 

Tangled Ashes is recommended for any adult reader looking for a novel this fall. The characters are lovely - easy to relate with and well created. The story itself is part historical record (Meunier Manor actually exists in Lamorlaye, France), and part fiction. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or through

Merry Christmas!

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