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DIY, Everyday, StudioLab

Making Ice Ornaments

January 29, 2014


Winters in Wisconsin are cold, but this year feels almost unbearably frigid (thanks, Polar Vortex).

Staying cooped up in the house because of the temperatures has begun to make us a bit stir crazy.


Luckily, we’ve been keeping busy with simple winter crafts.

One of our favorites this year is simple ice ornaments.


We assembled them in our kitchen, then placed the mold outside to freeze (since it’s colder outside than in our freezer).

Within a few hours, we have a solid ice ornament to hang in the front yard.

Even in winter, we can still connect with the natural world outside.

We chose food items for our ornaments that the squirrels and birds would enjoy: nuts, orange and lemon slices, seeds, etc


Here’s what you’ll need to make your own ice ornaments:

-a mold of some sort. We used a thrifted bundt pan. It’s small, which is perfect for this project.

-items to add to the ornament (we used oranges, lemons, and nuts. Herbs and evergreens would also be beautiful)

-water (about 2 cups)

-kitchen twine

Assemble the ornaments on a flat work surface (like the kitchen floor). Set outside (or in the freezer) for several hours; until it has frozen solid. Hang on a tree branch, preferably near a window, and enjoy the beauty.


Once the sun melts the ice, the contents will fall to the ground; feeding your neighborhood birds and squirrels. They’ll thank you.

photo 1





Crafty, Everyday

How Our Family Celebrates Advent

December 12, 2013


*The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

Advent began on Dec 1st this year (the 4th Sunday before Christmas). This will be our first year celebrating Advent. What I love about the concept of Advent is that we are able to celebrate Christmas throughout the entire month of Decemeber; instead of only on the 25th.

While most families use a traditional Advent calendar with the 25 little doors or boxes to open (that are usually filled with goodies), we are doing a Waldorf-style approach to Advent. It’s simpler, requires less “junk”, and is just plain beautiful.


Mountain Man constructed a beautiful Hickory candleholder ring that will hold 4 candles (although there are room for 8 candles). Each Sunday, a new candle will be added and lit.

Following the Waldorf tradition, the first week of Advent represents the mineral kingdom (shells, stones, crystals, etc), the second week represents the plant kingdom, the third week represents the animal kingdom, and the last week represents humankind.

I plan on tying Advent and Christmas together even more next year by having “Advent fairies” deliver small figures and decorations to use in our (currently non-existent) nativity scene. I am always fawning over the gorgeous wooden Ostheimer nativities or other hand carved nativities, but cannot justify spending over $300. I also don’t have enough time to make the entire nativity collection.


I think next year the “advent fairies” will be delivering an amethyst crystal the first week, some succulents the second week, a hand carved donkey the third week, and Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus the last week.

The following year we might add some gemstones, some evergreens, a carved sheep, and an angel.

In a matter of a few years we’ll have a complete wooden nativity set (either handmade or bought) that will be a true heirloom piece.

Aside from the Advent Ring and Nativity figures, we plan on taking each week of advent to focus on that week’s “light”.

Here are some examples of ways we might incorporate each “light” into our weeks:

Light of Minerals: craft with seashells, play with geodes, agates and gemstones on the light table, etc

Light of Plants: set up and decorate the tree, make orange and clove pomanders, start an indoor herb garden, make a wreath, etc

Light of Animals: tend to the dog (bath, wash his bowls, trim his nails, etc), deliver items to local humane society or farm sanctuary, fill the bird feeders, etc

Light of Humans: adopt a child, family, or solider for the holidays, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate goods to a food pantry, mail Christmas cards to family and friends, make food baskets or cookie trays to deliver to our neighbors, etc

Now that JBird is actually old enough to be an active participant in the holiday season, finding and adding new traditions is so exciting!

 *verse taken from The Waldorf School of South West London



Crafty, DIY, Everyday, Photos

A Waldorf-Inspired Handmade Birthday

October 18, 2013

handmade birthday

Sometimes, I’m a total crazy person. Ok…most of the time.

For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I HAD to make all of JBird’s birthday gifts.


So I did.

A very happy handmade birthday was had.

handmade birthday

A lot of time. A lot of patience. A lot of love. That is what went into these gifts.

handmade birthday

Having absolutely no idea what I was doing, I’m pretty pleased at how they turned out.

I made a set of weather gnomes: handmade birthdayhandmade birthdayhandmade birthdayhandmade birthday
handmade birthday
Daddy Bear made a birthday ring AND calendar ring (birthday ring never made it to photos). I wood burned and polished the pieces (using homemade beeswax polish). I still need to wood burn the months and dates onto wooden blocks; but I ran out of steam. The concept behind the calendar is that it will become a part of our daily rhythm. We’ll come down in the mornings, change the dates, interact with the peg gnomes, and gain a better understanding of how the months change and shift throughout the seasons. Plus, it makes a great centerpiece on our table. :
handmade birthdayhandmade birthday

I saw this sweet oatmeal set on Etsy…so I made it after dinner one night:
handmade birthday
Then, crazy pregnancy brain hormones kicked in and I woke up 2 days before her birthday with an uncontrollable urge to make a hand-stitched, felt, blueberry pie. I have no idea why, but here it is:
handmade birthdayhandmade birthday

I also made some “Autumn Gnomes” (see top) and some “Rainbow Gnomes” (also pictured at top).

I have a few ideas up my sleeve for Christmas, so I’ll be sure to post them once they become a reality too.

*Please disregard the wrinkly sheet in the photos. Ironing is NOT a priority at the moment. Then again, it’s never a priority*



DIY, Green Clean, Wellness

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

July 9, 2013

Hand Sanitizer

I try to avoid anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. They’re loaded with toxic chemicals and frankly I like some bacteria in my life. However, we’ve been frequenting zoos and other “animal petting” places lately. Which means, lots of hand washing. When our go-to all-natural spray hand sanitizer ran out, I didn’t feel like shelling out nearly $4 for a 2 ounce bottle; so I spent about $10 and bought the necessary ingredients to make enough hand sanitizer to last us a few years.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

-1/2 cup of Aloe Vera Gel (food-grade, not the green stuff you find in the sunblock aisle. That “aloe” is full of the toxins that you are trying to avoid by making your own hand sanitizer in the first place. I bought mine from my Frontier Bulk Buying Club but you can easily find it at health food stores or online).

-1/4 cup Witch Hazel

-2 Tbs 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (you can also use vodka…but why waste vodka on washing your hands. Make a martini instead).

-15 drops of essential oil (I used Young Living’s Purification blend. Seemed fitting. Lavender and Tea Tree oil are also popular)

-1 small (4 ounce) spray bottle (or other container…like an empty hand sanitizer bottle. Genius.)

-a Pyrex (or other brand) glass measuring cup (makes pouring into your smaller container a breeze).

In the measuring cup, add 1/2 cup of aloe. Next, add the witch hazel (until the liquid mixture reaches the 3/4 cup line….that’s math). Add the alcohol and essential oils. Stir everything together. Pour into a container of your choosing.

Store where ever you normally store your hand sanitizer (car, desk, purse….where ever!)

Super fast and super easy.

Crafty, DIY, Everyday

Craft It Forward: February

February 19, 2013


I am on month 2 of my year long “Craft It Forward” project.


Front View. Once again…I put a bird on it.

I loved the zippered pouch that I made for my January friend so much, that I decided to make another one! (Here’s the pattern/tutorial that I used…with some personal adjustments).


Back View. Super Cute.

The fabrics are some of my favorites; very retro and very orange (and purple).


Little Purple Pocket

I love the matryoshka (nesting dolls) fabric the most. Seriously, adorable.


I am totally in love with these fabrics

I still love sewing (and my amazing $10 sewing machine…proving to be a great Goodwill find!), and can’t wait to try out some bigger projects soon (sewing has been put on hiatus until we finish putting together the office/studio). I feel like I have a million different projects that I want to start! Totally addicted!


Inside of clutch

I sent out this gift at the end of January and I am thrilled that my February recipient loved their gift!


I love this little doll peeking through the pleat :)

I can’t wait until March!


Crafty, DIY, Everyday

Craft It Forward: January

January 22, 2013



These gorgeous fabrics were given to me this Christmas by a dear friend. They are perfectly “feminine” without being too “girly”. Love!

Around the 1st of the year, I agreed to participate in a “Craft-It-Forward” event on Facebook.

Basically, the first 12 friends that commented on my Facebook wall about the event would receive a handmade gift, from me, each month of 2013.

So far, I am crushing it.

Just later winter, I hardly knew how to thread (let alone wind) a bobbin. Now, I’m slowly becoming an amateur seamstress! I still have a long ways to go…but I’m pretty proud of the strides I’ve taken thus far.

Heck, I even managed to sew a zipper without a zipper foot (which was surprisingly easy).

For my first craft project of the year (and first handmade gift for my C-I-F friends), I decided to make a simple zippered clutch.

I’d been eyeing several different patterns and tutorials online, but settled with this one.


Front of Pleated Clutch

I modified it a bit by switching out the gathers for pleats (which I think looks a bit more polished and adorable) and by eliminating the divider/card holder; instead I added a pocket.


Back of Clutch

I am TOTALLY addicted to sewing now. In fact, I already have about 6 more of these zippered pouches in the works (spoiler alert).


Inside: That’s right…I put a bird on it.


I think my absolute favorite thing about this little clutch is the bright green zipper! I ordered a variety of different colored zippers from Etsy…and wish I would’ve ordered about 5 of this specific color (Green Apple). I just love the way it brings everything together (literally!).




Inside view of pocket

I am so pleased with the way it turned out; and I’m even more pleased with how happy it made my friend.

Can’t wait to finish February’s gift!

Crafty, DIY

Homemade Playstands

January 15, 2013


For Christmas, we decided to make JBird a set of playstands to go along with her other various handmade gifts.

What are playstands? They are basically simple wooden shelves, connected with a wooden canopy, that encourage open-ended play. They can be used as a play house, pretend market, reading nook, a fort,
or anything else that might spark a child’s imagination.


I fell in love with them a while back, but the frugal part of me (which is about 90% of who I am) couldn’t justify spending several hundred dollars on a set (although the price is absolutely worth it, since these are heirloom quality pieces).



My husband and I spent months planning these playstands. I wanted our finished product to be as close to my uber-expensive dream playstands. No nails. No screws. No plywood. No stains. No paint. No shellac. 100% natural.

The result: These absolutely gorgeous playstands that were designed, cut, sanded, polished, and assembled by us.


We decided to use oak to construct these beauties. The color is warm and rich (and the price was very reasonable).


They are finished with a homemade beeswax polish.

The playstands look perfect in our living room, and definitely encourage the independent play that I was hoping they would.


Crafty, Everyday

Hello, 2013!

January 7, 2013

It’s a whole new year! Wow!

I love new years. They are always so fresh and full of potential. It’s a total blank slate. I love it.

I feel like I am just bursting at the seams with creative ideas and inspiration lately. I want to take on so many different projects, that I don’t know where to start!

I’ve decided to take part in a personal “craft-it-forward” event, where I will make something homemade for a loved one once a month and then mail it to them! In turn, they will “pay-it-forward” to someone else by either crafting something, or just doing something nice and thoughtful towards another person. What fun, right? The 12 recipients have already been decided, and I will post something about each gift after I ship it off to it’s final destination. I’m also using this opportunity to work on my sewing skills. I’m hoping to have a wide array of sewing skills by the end of this year. This week’s skill set: learning how to sew a zipper! Eek!

My major project for 2013 is going to be our garden. Last year, my feeble attempt at a garden (container garden) failed miserably. After reading some gardening books, I realized that I made mistakes at nearly every turn! I guess that’s how you learn! I am going to order seeds in a few weeks, then start some seedlings indoors soon after. My main resource guides are Square Foot Gardening (by Mel Bartholomew), Modern Homestead (by Renee Wilkinson), and anything by Mother Earth News.

I’m still deciding on the layout of our garden. I’m going to dedicate our shadier front yard for herbs, leafy greens, and some other medicinal plants (like chamomile and calendula). The back garden is probably going to be 4 separate 4′ by 4′ squares; with pollinator-attracting plants (and pest deterring plants) mixed in (and around) the veggies. I’m also hoping to construct a “bee house”; in another effort to draw pollinators to my garden. C’mon bees!!

There’s a part of me that *knows* I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but it’s not my style to take baby steps. Gotta go all in.

I’m also hoping to make 2013 a year of holistic changes for our family. At the end of December, we made the choice to start incorporating medicinal-strength essential oils into our daily lives. We diffuse them into the air to help purify, we add them to our water and tea to help detox, and we use them for every first-aid purpose under the sun (most recently, using them to soothe aching muscles after intense New Year workouts).

I am also in the process of purging our kitchen of all things plastic. We have an overflowing “Tupperware” cabinet that rarely gets used, various plastic utensils that are totally shot, and oodles of plastic baggies floating around. Enough is enough. I invested in re-usable cotton produce and grain bags. I bit the bullet, and invested in stainless steel bowls and measuring cups (and spoons), and bought some bamboo utensils to replace the ratty plastic ones. I think my next investment will be in another set of pyrex bowls with lids (to replace our plastic “to go-ware” containers).

Oh, and did I mention that we are actively trying to do away with paper towels (my favorite things in the whole world). I have a drawer FULL of dish rags and towels that hardly get used….so now they are being put to work. I feel like if I can give our kitchen a “green” makeover, then the rest of the house will be a breeze.

I can feel that this year is going to be a great one.

Hey, we all survived the end of the world (silly Mayans)…how could it NOT be a great year!


Crafty, DIY, Photos

Felt Cookie Baking Set

December 21, 2012

The past week of my life has been dedicated to creating this little handmade play cookie set for JBird for Christmas.

In all actuality, I’ve been planning this for months; but finally decided on fabrics, and details last week.

This is probably the most extensive sewing/stitching project that I’ve ever taken on (which isn’t saying much since last winter was the first time since middle school that I’d used a sewing machine).

The Cookie Baking set includes:

-Cookie Dough (Sugar Cookie Dough, and Gingerbread Dough)

-Cut-Out Felt Cookies (6 Hearts and 6 Gingerbread Men)

-2 Cookie Cutters (Heart and Gingerbread Man)

-6 Frosting Toppers

-2 Cloth Sacks (for Sugar and Flour)

-Wooden Rolling Pin

-2 Wooden Scoops

-Aluminum Cookie Sheet

-One Large Drawstring Bag; to hold all the goodies

I decided to make the sugar cookies scented; so I sewed Cinnamon Apple tea bags into the felt cut-outs.

I hand stitched multi-colored seed beads onto each frosting topper; to make it look like sprinkles.

I think my favorite part of this whole set is the drawstring bag I made to hold everything. It turned out absolutely beautiful! I love the lining! I think what’s most remarkable is that it only took me about an hour from start to finish to make. Woot!

The only things I bought for this project were the “baking” tools (rolling pin, cookie cutters, cookie sheet, and wooden scoops), “sprinkle” beads, and the buttons for the flour/sugar sacks. Everything else, I had in my craft stash.

I think I’m most proud of the fact that I didn’t use any patterns or follow any tutorials for this project. It’s all 100% my own creativity (and blood, sweat, and tears).

I can’t wait to start my next crafty project!

Here’s hoping that JBird is one happy little girl on Christmas morning (and if she doesn’t like it there’s always Etsy, right?).

Crafty, DIY

Dried Orange Garland

December 12, 2012



It’s an Orange-Themed Christmas in our house this year!

I saw this garland on Pinterest, and decided to craft it myself!

I think it turned out quite lovely.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

-a big ol’ bag of oranges

-festive ribbon

-tapestry needle

-time…lots and lots of time.

First, slice your oranges about 1/4 inch thick (or just eyeball it like I did). Next, place the orange slices on a parchment lined cookie sheet. **The original post says to lay the orange slices on a tea towel to soak up extra juices…but I forgot that step..and they turned out just fine)**.

Heat your oven to 200° (which takes about 2 minutes…so preheating really isn’t necessary).

Now, bake the slices for about 4 hours; flipping every hour. Like I said…you’re gonna need some time (this is a nice lazy day activity).

Once the oranges are dried to your liking (not crispy, but also no longer juicy), let them cool for an hour or two. You can just let them sit on the counter overnight if you’d like…but I didn’t wait that long.

Thread your needle with your ribbon, and string up your oranges!

Tie little loops on the ends of the ribbon to use for hanging!

**Note: I did make sure the garland was nice and dry before hanging up. I didn’t want to run the risk of my walls becoming discolored. It looked very pretty strung up in our tree for a few days before hanging up**

**I used some little plastic removable hooks to hang our garland up. I think we’ll leave them up all year long so we can have fun, seasonal garlands for every occasion!**