Countdown to Solstice

…and a birthday…and Christmas…and the day we move…

“How many more days ’til ____?” is a question that is getting asked a lot these days.  Answers:  ” 19 days”, “15 days”, “7 days”, and “22 days” (at the time of writing this post).  Sometimes we respond with the more generic “soon honey”.

Because there is so much going on lately, so much to look forward to, to plan for and maybe to have a growing anxiety over, I decided we needed a fun way to count down to some important life events.  I saw this version of an advent calendar at Maya Made and knew I had to make one.

Then I realized we have a move, a birthday, Solstice and Christmas to get ready for and so the family and I made a “toned down” but perfectly lovely version last night in about 30 minutes.

I encourage you to click on the links to the Maya Made version.  If you have the time her version is so lovely.  If you are like me and are strapped for time because you decided to make it RIGHT NOW then do what I did: grab a cork board (that was wedged behind your craft table upstairs gathering dust), and old receiving blanket to cover the cork board (use staple gun to staple to the back), ric rac in whatever colours you have on hand, foam stickers in the shape of snowflakes and snowmen, a marker and paperclips.  Since you had no time to collect toilet paper rolls you’ll need to pull them out of unused toilet paper rolls and your toilet paper for the next month or so will look like this:

And finally, if you are like me you made this project after the 1st of December roll with it and start it on whatever day you made it on (or if you are like Scarlett make it retroactive to the 2nd since you love to draw the number two).  Our calendar doesn’t exactly countdown to Christmas (yet) either…we’ll need to buy more toilet paper rolls or beg for some from family and friends to finish the project.  The most fun will be filling these with delicious treats and then eating them…

Happy countdowning to all!

PS you also need a sewing machine to close the bottom of the toilet paper rolls.  If you don’t have one I’m sure tape or staples would work just fine.

Handmade Gifts: Alphabet magnets

If you are like me, you have drawers (and random bags and totes) full of your children’s art work.  We have more in common if you also find it hard to part with these masterpieces.  Here is one project that will help to use up that stash and it is guilt free (aka not using them to light the wood stove – not that I have EVER done that).

I was inspired to help Scarlett makes these alphabet magnets for Ivy’s solstice gift after reading a number of great blog posts. First Sarah Jane Studios gave inspiration for reusing children’s art (plans to make this for the family christmas gift exchange is already in the works),  then at Not Martha  I found a great how-to-make marble magnets tutorial and last but not least at Tiny Twist Creative the most perfect alphabet magnets!  This is exactly what I love about the blogosphere – tons of great ideas!

What you’ll need:

  • kids art (we used abstract watercolours just like at Tiny Twist Creative)
  • 1 inch magnets (we found ours at the local Home Hardware)
  • Clear garden rocks with a flat bottom (sourced at Michael’s but I have seen some at dollarstores…just not the big ones)
  • silicon glue (we had left over from making homemade snow globes last year)
  • a marker
  • 1 inch circle punch (again, Michael’s)
  • scissors
  • a cookie sheet for placing them on to dry…trust me if you just put them on the table the will all be drawn together and it will mess your not yet dry magnets up!)

Gather you art piece, circle punch and almost 6-year-old helper.  Set him or her to work punching out circles.

If you are less than 6 years old you may have to use your entire body weight to use the punch.  If you are older than six you may not have to do this but you still could if you felt like creating some drama as you work.

Once you have punched out one row use your scissors to cut the punched out circles off so you can start again.  Keep going until you have 26 circles.

Note: this photo does not contain 26 circles.

Next, take your marker and have your helper write the letters on the alphabet on the circles.  It helps if you make them a bit “fancy” for aesthetic appeal.

Now it is time to glue the circles onto the magnets and then the garden rocks onto the circles.  First lay down something to protect your work surface.

Put a small dab of the silicon glue on the magnet and place the circle on top.  Press down.  Next put a small dab onto of the paper circle and press the garden rock into place.  Put it on the cookie sheet to dry.  If you notice the glass rock slip a bit, just move it back into place.

Enjoy and remember to let me know if you make these!

Note: the 1-inch magnets can get kind of expensive so you can make these using smaller ones…the 1-inch magnets will hold up anything though so you might consider the splurge.

That’s a Wrap! Green Wrapping Paper Part II

Remember that Hollow Book I made a few weeks back?  I have to admit I felt a little bit guilty about ruining a perfectly good book.  As I cut out the center of the book I noticed the darling illustrations that appeared every few pages.  I had to do something with them…wrapping paper it is!  Sew unique if you ask me ; ).


Step 1:  Ruin a perfectly good book (accidentally ruined pages will work just as well as those ruined on purpose).

Step 2:  Cut the pages of the book to roughly the same size (if you make a hollow book first, this work is done for you).

Step 3:  Sew the pages together end to end with a straight stitch on your sewing machine. In the picture below you can see that I did some back stitching on either end as you would when you sew fabric.  This is totally unnecessary and I gave it up a few pages in.

Step 4:  Keep sewing end to end until the strip is long enough to wrap your present.

Step 5:  Now sew your strips together to look like this…a fairy tale paper quilt!

Step 6:  Make sure you’ve made enough of a “quilt” to cover your super awesome gift (ie: Elsa Beskow inspired dinner ware for a friend’s baby from Bella Luna Toys).

Step 7:  If you didn’t think of the size of your gift and just kept happily sewing (like me), no worries, just cut the quilted paper like you would any old wrapping paper.  Then wrap it up!

Step 8: Decorate your freshly upcycled gift.  If you don’t have ribbon, make your own (like I did) by cutting up that old worn-out  yet festively coloured t-shirt into strips…if you’re really adventurous, make a t-shirt strip pom pom for on top.  And if you are adventurous but lazy, don’t bother to cut around your pom pom because it looks fine just the way it is.

Step 9:  Admire your awesome gift as it sits under the tree.  Oh, and send me some pictures if you try this at home or a link to your blog if you share this tutorial.

Stay tuned for the t-shirt pom pom tutorial…

That’s a wrap! Green wrapping paper part I

I love the flurry of activity and all of the planning and making that goes along with the holidays.  With many of our holiday gifts purchased or made already it is time to start wrapping!  I picked up some stamps on sale at Michael’s ($1 each).  We set out some paint we already had on hand and rolled out a roll of craft paper…and we set to work.

The wrapping paper turned out way better than I imagined.  The girls were pretty happy with their work.

pastel forest

Peace on Earth

Ivy was not so into using the stamps per say…the results are still perfectly usable : )

Christmas du jour par Ivy

The beauty of an activity like this is that is it a craft, something practical, an activity you can do together, and it can be green if you use recycled paper to stamp.

Winter Reading: Part I

With the colder weather comes more opportunities to cozy up by the fire with some of our favourite seasonal books.

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King is hands down, our family’s favourite.   This is a hilarious story.  The trickster, Coyote is preparing to host his annual solstice dinner with friends when a girl dressed up as a reindeer knocks at the door to his woodland home.  She introduces the friends to the world of commercial holidays and leads them to the mall where “rough herds of humans rushed by. Their arms filled with brightly wrapped boxes, and murderous looks in their eyes”.  Thomas King’s brilliant poetry reminds us of the simple pleasures of time spent with friends and the beauty of the world in winter as Coyote tries to recall “if goodwill and peace could be purchased for credit or cash at the mall”.

No wait, The Quilt Maker’s Gift is the favourite!

I love this book! The watercolour illustrations are stunning and the story is all about the joy of giving.  This is not a Christmas book but it is a great way to talk about how getting everything we want does not make us happy.  Sharing what we have with others is how we achieve true happiness.  The King who has everything attempts to demand a handmade quilt from a wise woman who lives in the mountains.  Only when he has given away his last possession will she gift him a quilt.  The King finds true happiness in sharing his wealth with others and continues the woman’s tradition of giving to those in need.

Solstice is our main holiday celebration. Wendy Pfeffer’s The Shortest Day is wonderful in its simplicity.  It reviews the past 5000 years of solstice celebrations and traditions around the world.

At the end there is a more in depth explanation of  why the days are shorter and then longer with a bunch of fun activities to try on your own as well.

You’ll notice a trend in any of our book lists and that is that there are many of Elsa Beskow’s books on them. Her books are always full of children finding adventure and using their imaginations.   Ollie’s Ski Trip is about a 6-year-old boy who gets a pair of skis for his birthday.  He sets off into the forest and meets Jack Frost who takes him to King Winter’s Palace. It is full of old world charm and is such a magical story.  When my girls see frost on a window pane they always exclaim “Jack Frost was here!”.

Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson is another wonderful book that explores the early solstice celebrations and traditions.  In this house there is no such thing as too many solstice stories.

What will we do without our trees to tap?  We move in 9 short days and I am already longing for the long winter nights spent outside tending the fire as we boil down the sap to make our delicious maple syrup.  This year we’ll have to make do with reading Sugar Snow and visiting a local sugar shack (or two) for our maple sugar fix.

This list doesn’t even put a dent in our winter reading library.  For some reason winter books out number our spring, summer and fall collections put together.  I’m one of those people who much prefer winter over summer.  There is still no snow here and I find that the girls and I are hungry for the pictures and stories of our favourite season and activities.  I’ll share more of our collection in another post.  Of course we are always looking to add more!  Here are some books on our wish list:

Islands by Anne Smythe

A Candle for Christmas by Jean E. Speare

The Winter Book by Rotraut Susanne Berner

Bella’s Tree by Janet Russell

For now we’ll have to search for them at the library but it is so lovely to have beautiful books of our own on our shelves…What are some of your favourite winter books?