Browsing articles in "Crafts & Projects"
Jan 13, 2012

Knit-Off, 2012!

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So, on top of blogging, working, homemaking and couponing (more on that later!), I have compiled a quick list of some gorgeous knitted projects I want to accomplish this year.  I decided to pick six, and hopefully I will get them all completed in the first six months.  After that, I’ll pick another six and see if I can get them done as well.  Here’s my list!

Two Christmas stockings — one for me and one for Michael.  I did one for Naomi in 2010 and I would really like to make one in greens for Michael and one in a pretty multi-colored yarn.  This one is pretty high on my list of knits, because I want them done before Christmas.

I have wanted to make this adorable sleep sack forever, so as soon as my stockings are done, this is going on the needles!

A beautiful, mindless knit — a chunky minimal scarf that will definitely keep someone warm and toasty!

A cute and functional knitted scarflet — great for Michael, who likes to sleep with a scarf wrapped around his neck when he feels a flu bug coming on.

I normally am not a big fan of knitted purses, but this one is just too cute, and would be perfect for Naomi.  I think I’ll add a handle, though.

And, just to blow your mind, here’s a project I am totally NOT taking on this year — the knitted baby sling!  This sounds like a genius invention but trust me — waaaaaay too complicated for my beginner’s knitter brain!

What’s on your sticks this year?  Got any big projects?  Let me know!

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Dec 12, 2011

Playing with Baby Jesus

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As Christians, my family and I celebrate December 25th as the recognized date of the birth of Jesus Christ. We look forward to teaching Naomi about Jesus, about who He is, and what He sacrificed for us. We strive to create in her a soul and heart for Jesus. And this, the time of His birth, is especially important to us.

When Michael and I were on our honeymoon in Texas and Louisiana, we found ourselves in New Orleans, in the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, in the French Quarter. The church was gorgeous and deliciously rich in history, but what I brought home with me was a small parcel from the gift shop. I found a sweet little nine piece nativity set of chubby little figurines. The full set included Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the three wise men, an angel, a shepherd (or Sheppard!), a camel and a sheep. It was absolutely adorable, smooth to the touch, a charming celebration of Jesus and His story.

Unfortunately my set does not appear to be available anymore from the original retailer, but I did find it on eBay if anyone is interested.

At the time I purchased it just because it was adorable. But this year, when I unpacked it, I realized the inherent blessing and opportunity in this set. We arranged it on a low shelf in our livingroom, with complete access for Naomi to play with it.

Many times at Christmas, the nativity set is something we set up but repremand our children from playing with.  I can remember an elderly family member scolding me because I tried to take the camel out of his resting place beside the wise men in her set.  But why? Jesus came for not just the stuffy grown-ups, but especially for the carefree children.  Heck, He even says so Himself!

but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 19:14

It’s time to relax and let the nativity set become a treasured part of your holiday, instead of a tantelizing decoration that your kids come to resent.  Explore your nativity set!   Have fun with it.  There are so many ways to bring it to life!

The Christmas nativity set is a great opportunity for you to share the story of the birth of Jesus with your children.  Perhaps you already have a great version of the Christmas story in your children’s bookshelf.  When you set up your nativity set, break out the book as well.  Read the story as you set it up, being sure to put each character in it’s place as they appear in the story.  If you don’t have  a story, here is a classic version I enjoyed as a child.

If your child is just getting to the age of reading, a Bible for Christmas is a great gift.  You could wait til Christmas Eve to set up the nativity set, and when you do, present your child with a gorgeous children’s Bible.  Help your child read the story of Jesus and convey how much Jesus loves you and your child.  We received The Young Reader’s Bible as a gift for Naomi at her baptism and it has been a treasured item.  We love it’s beautiful colors and simple storytelling.  We use it whenever we read her a Bible story.

Melissa & Doug Nativity Set

Just because the story of Jesus birth takes place in Bethlehem doesn’t mean it stays there.  There’s lots of potential storytelling to be made with these figurines.  So why hide them in a box year round?  Why not use them for Bible storytelling!  The figure of Joseph can easily become Paul, King David, Solomon, or Timothy.  Mary could be Sarai, Deborah, Ruth, or the Proverbs 31 woman.  Baby Jesus could be Samuel hearing voices as a child, or little Moses in a reed basket.  You can use them to tell all kinds of Bible stories.

Perhaps you have a delicate set that has been a family heirloom or was gifted to you by someone.  I have a beautiful handmade pewter nativity scene I am not willing to let Naomi play with because the scene from the set is glass.  But that’s fine!  This one stays high on a shelf, away from little hands.  If you don’t want your child to play with yours, there are some wonderful alternatives.  You could invest in a new children’s nativity set.  Melissa & Doug make a really nice one that also includes a stable.  There’s also this charming resin playset, and this very interactive wooden nativity set from Constructive Playthings. If you’d rather support an artist or crafter, there are some gorgeous ones on Etsy, like this sweet handmade felt nativity set from Pukaca.

Flowerpot Nativity Scene -- No Foolin'!

If you have some crafting ability yourself, why not make a nativity set?  You could try paper, dough, felt, wooden pegs, boards, knitted, crochetblocks, puzzles, flower pots(!), polymer clay, food, pipe cleaners…  Seriously, if you have something lying around the house, chances are you can make a nativity scene out of it!  

So don’t discourage them from playing with the little figurines.  How much more precious is your child than the little decorations?  It’s a trinket you take out of the box once a year.  It can’t be more important than your child’s heart and joy.  So get down on the floor and play with them as they learn all the important things Jesus has to teach them through a few cute nativity sets and a little imagination.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am compensated for some (but not all) of the purchases made via the referral links in this post. You can read my entire disclosure policy here.


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Dec 7, 2011

Homemade Gifts: T-Shirt Scarf

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I’m a big fan of upcycling, and when I saw this trick on Pinterest, I had to give it a try.  I had been saving my old t-shirts for crafts that Naomi and I could do together. Jersey fabric is so soft, stretchy and fun to play with.  This project is very forgiving, and is also a great way to get rid of an old t-shirt with tiny splattered stains, like grease or paint, because they won’t be so easily noticed on the scarf.  Of course, if you make this for someone else, you might want to use more care than I do.  I did it rather roughly because I wanted to show how easy it is to make.

Take an old t-shirt.  I chose this one because as you can see, it’s got a grease stain, and is not even at the bottom.  But it is a great color and I hated to throw it out.

Cut off just under the sleeves and throw them out.

Next, cut of the hem at the bottom of the t-shirt.  This is used later, so don’t throw it away!

Next, cut small strips off the belly of the shirt off in long strips.  An inch or so wide is fine.  Don’t worry if they’re not exact.  Again, this is a very forgiving project.

Once you’ve cut the strips off the t-shirt, take one strip at a time and put it around your hands as shown above and stretch it out.

This will cause the fabric of the strip to curl in on itself, making it almost tube-like.  (This can also be a great tug-of-war game for little ones to play!)  Do this for each of your strips of t-shirt.

Now you can begin binding the seamed edges.  Gather up all the strips and in one hand, collect together all the seamed ends of the strips in one hand.

You can now stretch them with your hands so they are roughly the same length.  This will make the scarf a wee bit longer but they will all be the same length.

Take your hemmed end of the shirt and cut off the seams at the end.  You’re now left with two strips from the hemmed bottom of the t-shirt.  Using one of the hemmed ends of the shirt, tie a tight knot with one end and begin wrapping it around and around the seams.  Continue until you cannot see anymore seams.

Leave a couple inches of hemmed strip at the end.  Now there are two ways you can finish it off.  You can either take a large sewing needle (I used one I got for weaving the ends of my knitting in place) and use it to string the hemmed edge in through the wound up piece.  It will take some work to do this, but you’ll end up with a nice secure end covering your scarf.  Once that’s done, you’re good to snip off any excess.

Alternatively, you can try this trick: lay your finger over the top of the scarf, just over the length of the bound end.

Keep your finger there and wind around it tightly.  Once you have a few loops around it, slip your finger out gingerly, without pulling the tail of too much.  As you slip your finger out, slide through the tail so that it is looped underneath the loose loops.  Pull it tightly and guide the few loops through and tighten it.

Snip the extra tail off, and repeat on the other end.  That is all it takes to complete!

These look great on their own, doubled up, or with several other scarves.  Lots of variety, too based on whatever color and design you happen to use!  Have fun with it!  Good luck!

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Dec 6, 2011

Fun Ways to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day

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God loves a cheerful giver. 
— 2 Corinthians 9:7

If you work to avoid the traditional Santa Claus myths and stories, a great alternative is St. Nicholas.  A generous elderly saint from 350AD, the story of St. Nicholas is the reason we put special trinkets and treats in stocking every year.

Incorporating St. Nicholas Day into your holiday traditions is a great way of celebrating the season.  There are lots of great, simple ways to bring this day’s festivities into your family traditions.

Of course the best way to do this is to share the story of St. Nicholas with your family.  If your younger children ask about Santa Claus, you can tell them the story of where he comes from and what actually happened.  Google him and you’ll find plenty of resources.

You can also look up other saints and holy persons associated with this month and find ways to celebrate their special festivals.  St. Peter, St. John the Apostle, and St. John the Evangelist are all celebrated in December!

Orange No. 1

Photo Credit: Pat David

Another way is to put oranges in your family’s shoes before they head out in the morning!  In the story of St. Nicholas, he accidently tossed a bag of gold into a young lady’s stocking as it hung to dry by the fire.  A bright, beautiful, golden orange in your child’s shoes would definitely be a welcome treat and a bit of a surprise.  Small candies, trinkets, or a small toy are also good options.

If you live in a positive and friendly community, why not take your children door to door and collect food donations and/or clothes for the needy?  St. Nicholas was kind to those who needed his help, and so it might be a good chance for your children to learn the value of giving.


Photo Credit: Katherine

You can also celebrate St. Nick in the kitchen by baking some speculaas, a special spicy cookie associated with the jolly saint.  Here’s a recipe for speculaas that is sure to be a fun treat.

One of the principle qualities of St. Nicholas was that he was a good and generous person.  Discuss with your children the meaning of generosity.  How were St. Nicholas’ acts generous?  What can you do to be more generous?  Is there something your children can do for each other, or a neighbor, that would bless them today?  Perhaps a neighbor needs a shovelled driveway, or a family friend could use a dinner casserole.  Maybe a teacher would enjoy a special cookie or a friend could use help cleaning their room!  Whatever way you can, find ways to be generous to others today.

Pen & Paper 3

Photo Credit: Rich Griffith

In many traditions, children write letters to St. Nicholas, telling him of how good they had been the year before and what they strive to do this year to be good as well.  This is a great opportunity to discuss setting goals for the coming year and making plans to improve behavior.  Maybe encouraging polite language, less bickering, or sharing, is a good plan.  This may make some people uncomfortable, because it is similar to the traditional letter to Santa.  The difference here is that when you write to St. Nicholas, you’re not asking for anything from him (except maybe some prayers on your behalf, if your faith allows that).  This can just be an exercise to help your children (and yourself!) reflect on your behaviour the year before and how you can improve on that in the coming year!

Alternatively, take your child up to his or her room.  Explain to them how richly blessed they are and that there are other children who are not as fortunate as they are, and ask them if there are things that they no longer need or love that they can bless others with.  Then help them package up the excess clothes, toys, books, and other things they no longer need or want, and take it to a local charity organization that either sells or donates the items.  (This is a great way to get your child’s room cleaned out before the holidays!)

Turkey and Dressing

Photo Credit: Lucas Everidge

Cook a large, delicious dinner and celebrate the jolly saint over a hearty meal.  When you all sit down, before eating, discuss ways that you as a family can be generous with one another throughout the meal — lots of compliments, tell funny jokes, offer extra portions, offer to do the cleaning up.  Is there a lonely neighbor or unfortunate friend who can join you?  Invite them over to celebrate with you (and maybe share the gospel as well!).

There is a vast difference between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.  Santa is a representative of the commercialized Christmas, where as St. Nicholas is a representative of Jesus Christ.  Discuss with your older children the differences between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus.  While they both come bearing gifts, the gifts that Santa brings are gifts that children asked of Santa.  St. Nicholas on the other hand, bore gifts he felt others needed, not wanted, based on his own good nature and generosity.  St. Nicholas also brought the message of Jesus Christ to others, where as Santa Claus bears the news of flying reindeer and greed.  The message that each brings is vastly different.

How do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day?  Share your stories with us!


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