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Traditional First Birthday

My son turned one yesterday. While, I was pretty choked up about the whole thing, I actually was calm the day of the event. We had a few friends and family joining us to celebrate for the second time. To mark the historic occasion, and because I was feeling nostalgic, Granny and I decorated her house with old school balloons, bows, party hats, and confetti.

I have to admit that other than a few Sesame Street items, most of the decorations were items we just re-purposed. We used party hats over baby food jars to weigh down the balloon centerpieces with lines of bows, noise makers, and curled ribbons we had on hand from other parties.

McClain really enjoyed his personal cake that Granny made.

Granny made this bib 29 years ago for me to wear my first birthday.

However, I can’t say he was a huge fan of his party hat.

We had to make sure his best friend Hippity made it to the party.

All in all it was good day to turn 1!

Happy First Birthday.

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Christmas Snow/Flocking From Soap

To go with the window frosting, I wanted to flock my evergreen wreath and Christmas tree. Yeah, flocking is not cheap. While discovering this fact, I came across website after website that gave recipes for making fake snow from Ivory Soap Flakes. Which, would make an awesome Christmas craft, if they hadn’t discontinued Ivory Soap Flakes back in 1978! How the hell do these recipes make it to the internet? Perhaps some old lady has a bomb shelter full of Ivory Soap Flakes that she pulls out each year to whip up some faux snow? Then she blogs about it… and everyone just copies the blog without actually trying it out. So, if you have a huge stock pile of Ivory Soap Flakes AND liquid starch here is the original recipe:

  • 2 cups Ivory Soap Flakes
  • 2/3 cup liquid starch
  • 4 tbsp hot water
  • glitter and 2 drops of blue food coloring

Unless you live in 1950 it’s going to be a lot of hassle to get your hands on at least two of the three ingredients, so, here is my DIY, modified recipe for Christmas tree flocking. Makes enough for a wreath and a bunch of pine cones with left overs:

  • 1 bar plain Ivory Soap* (grated) Get as close to one bar as you can without grating your fingertips
  • 1/2 cupish heavy spray starch (sprayed from the can) or Powdered Starch* mixed according to the instructions
  • 3 tbsp warm water from the tap (the hotter the better)
  • glitter and/or blue food coloring

Step 1

Grate the soap. My mother (Granny) had magically seen the elusive Ivory Soap Flakes in person, so, I went to her house to consult. We gathered her 15 or so graters (They have a bit of a kitchen equipment obsession. Though as hobbies go this is a tasty one Patrick and I take advantage of) and tried them out. We finally decided on one size that made little curls of soap. You definitely want to err on the side of too big, if they are too fine then they just dissolve.

Already snow-like

Step 2

Spray your starch into a measuring device. I wasn’t very particular and I got tired of spraying it, so, I ended up with slightly more than 1/2 cup. DON’T turn the can upside down! The propellant will shoot out without any starch. Though, most people probably already knew not to do this. Sorry there isn’t a picture of me spraying starch. If you need help with this step… Please email Patrick, I want to read his response.

Step 3

The old recipe had you put the contents in a mixing bowl and add glitter and food coloring. I wouldn’t bother; neither of them made a difference. Just throw the starch and soap in a mixing bowl and start whipping it with electric beaters? Mixer? Whatever the hell you call the things you use to make cake batter with.

Glitter- not nearly as awesome as expected

Step 4

Add the warm water and whip on high till it really stiffens and foams up. It will look and have the consistency of whipped cream with lumps.

Step 5

Plop on branches and let dry overnight and/or if you want a lightly flocked look put some in your hands and just stroke the branches. Try not to giggle at “stroke”. The first time I did this (yes I tried this a couple of times before actually putting it on my wreath) I didn’t A) whip it enough and B) wasn’t sure what the hell it would look like when dry. Dig to the bottom of the bowl and get some of the chunks mixed in with the foam. Put more than you think you need because some of the foam disappears as it dries. However, it does a good job of mimicking thick, wet snow and clings very well to the branches.

Snowy Christmas Balls :)

I made a new project from soap flocking! See my Perfect Faux Snowballs for more ideas on how to use this recipe.

Just a few notes

This recipe worked surprisingly well and as Patrick pointed out it was one of my only craft projects that made the kitchen cleaner than when I started. I was pretty dubious when I gooped it on the branches but I went online and looked at pictures of actual snow on wreaths and tried to mimic the layout. I just wish I given it a thicker coat. I also wanted the sparkle of ice crystals in the snow, but the glitter I mixed in didn’t show. I experimented and sprinkled glitter on the snow after I applied it and before it dried. Sprinkling glitter on the flocking worked much better.

It might be fun to tint the snow (retro pink?) but if you just want white then the blue food coloring didn’t make any difference. The only other issue is that up close it still smells like soap. For the wreath (hanging outdoors but under cover) it doesn’t matter, but I am going to try adding some evergreen essential oil before I do the tree. I want the house to smell like Christmas not soap.

I’m going to give the faux snow a thumbs up, and maybe after tinkering I’ll be able to give it two thumbs up. Anyone else have a fake snow/flocking recipe?

Edit: I ended up doing this recipe a couple more times to flock garland etc… The evergreen essential oil got rid of the soap smell and sprinkling crystal glitter over the top gave it the ice crystal sparkle. Finally, using hotter water doesn’t change the consistency at all but it gives you more working time. It starts to set as soon as it gets cool.

*These links are affiliate links. I have not received any compensation to review or use this product. Basically, I recommend it because I use it.

Tutorial on how to create your own flocking at home.  You can use household ingredients to create a biodegradable flocking for your Christmas and winter decorations.
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How To Make An Evergreen Wreath

Nothing beats the “wow” factor of a handmade wreath or garland during the Christmas holidays. Best part it is another EASY Christmas craft. Another plus, it doesn’t cost a lot (Under $5 again).

First assemble your tools and any helpers. (Picture me yelling this a faux German accent, because that’s how it sounds in my head) Affiliate links to follow.

  1. Christmas Helper: Make sure to have other Christmas projects for the helper to do unless you want pine sap on EVERYTHING
  2. Wire Wreath Form*/Frame/Box: If you Google it you’ll find one or they have them at craft stores for less than $5. Let me give you a tip here; go with the smaller form. Whichever size you think looks right, go with the smaller one. Let me repeat: Go Smaller! Once you put the branches on it ends up being twice the size you expected. “Granny” and I have created some big, honking wreaths in the past.
  3. Floral Wire 24 Gauge*: I like a 24 gauge, just make sure it’s thick enough that you can pull it without it breaking but thin enough to wind easily. I like the green florist wire because If I’m not careful (which I’m not usually) it will blend better.
  4. Greenery: Your choice. I like to mix mine. It takes a whole lot less than you would think. I made a door wreath with three around 3ft long branches. Cut the branch ends into 6in pieces before you start. This makes the whole process flow faster. Pine, ivy, boxwood, magnolia leaves, holly, etc. all work.
  5. Cheap/Old Clippers: Once you cut the wire and gummy pine trees they’re pretty much done. I always just use my old garden shears for this project.

Step 1

Take one end of the wire and twist it around the frame to hook it. No fancy girlscout knot needed, just make sure that puppy is gonna stay in place.

Step 2

Take a hand full of greenery and bundle it together lay it at a slight diagonal on the wreath form with the cut ends slightly over where you hooked the wire. Then pull the wire around the frame and bundle a couple of times. This isn’t rocket-surgery (as we say in this house) just wrap the damn wire as many times as you want.

Man, do I need to put on some lotion and file my nails…

Step 3

Take another bundle of greenery and lay it over-lapping the first. Continue wrapping with the wire. DO NOT cut and rehook the wire, it won’t be as tight and it’s a freaking waste of time. If you keep wrapping you can knock this puppy out in less that 15 minutes (especially if it’s 30 degrees out, like it was the evening I was creating this one).

Step 4

Just keep bundling greenery and wrapping. Yeah, it really is that easy.When you get all the way back to the beginning just tuck the final bundle under the first one, and then tie the wire to the underside. Or if your hands are completely numb and have been stabbed by pine needles a million times, just kind of shove the wire in the back of the wreath. Perhaps, I should add leather gloves to my list of tools.

Not my neatest wreath, but damn it was cold. You bundle in 30 degrees with wind and see how neat your’s turns out.

Viola! Your finished… In theory. A plain evergreen circle can be a clean modern decoration. Especially if you focus on branch lengths being the same, or trim them when completed. However, I have a little bit of country tackiness in my bones so I have to glitz mine up. I’ll show you how to create the faux snow tomorrow, it is another heavily modified 50’s recipe.

If anyone actually makes a wreath with this tutorial please let me know. I would love to see any pictures!

Easy evergreen wreath tutorial.  Anyone can make a wreath for Christmas decoration or even sales at Farmer's Markets and Craft Shows.
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Homemade Window Frosting

Ever seen the spray frosting for windows in a can? Yeah, I’m not sure how white spatter looks at all like ice crystals or even window frost for that matter. I wanted to find a good/cheap alternative to get the icy frost on the front door sidelights for the Christmas tour. After researching and tinkering I found a pretty good recipe:

  • 1 bottle of beer (12 oz) Don’t tell Patrick I sacrificed on of his babies!
  • 6 heaping tablespoons of Epsom salt

Total cost: $4 (will cover a lot of window panes)

Mix the beer and Epsom salt and let it set until mostly dissolved and foam has gone down (around 20-30 minutes).

Then I took an old terry rag an dabbed it on the outside edges of the windows. I put it on the outside because these are the original single pane sidelights so they get condensation at night and the epsom-beer mix has to dry to form the crystals. I just did the edges to give it the lightly frosted look.

From beer to frost (with a lovely reflection of the neighbors)

There are a few notes:

  1. Clean the windows first
  2. Use a deep bowl; the beer-epsom salt mix really foams
  3. Dab it on as thick as you can but avoid drips if your not coating the whole window
  4. After it sets for a minute but BEFORE it dries swipe the rag diagonally to create the long jagged crystals, the round ice flowers seem to form where the liquid was a little thicker
  5. You can put a second layer on but it didn’t really make a difference and in some places made the frost show drip spots instead of crystals
  6. I tried dipping some glass votives in the mix to make frosted glass. While, it does frost them but they didn’t have enough surface area to make the pretty crystal formations. My final decision? Wash them off.

Also, it sticks pretty well so you aren’t going to accidentally scratch it right off, but it came off just fine using my homemade window cleaner. Why not another recipe while were at it? Window Cleaner:

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 1 part water
  • 1 part rubbing alcohol
  • I’ve heard you can add a couple drops of essential oil to change the smell. I don’t mind vinegar so I haven’t tried it before.

I just throw it all in a spray bottle and away I go. Back to the frost: I was very pleased with the authentic ice look. Here’s a closer view so you can see the pretty formations.

So what’s the verdict? Does it look like ice on the windows or did I just waste one of Patrick’s beers?

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Happy Late Halloween

We were a little too busy celebrating Halloween and scraping paint off the mantel to wish you a Happy Halloween. We took the baby viking out for a spin. I couldn’t help but share the infant viking costume I made. It even had a felt axe to go with it:

Pacifiers keep him from pillaging the village. See, here is what happens when he doesn’t have one:

Marauding Baby! Run!

I made his baby viking costume, it was pretty easy just fake fur, felt, and leather string.

The rest of the evening we spent giving out candy to around 200 trick-or-treaters and hanging with our friends who helped pass it all out. Our new street was bumping!

As the evening wore on I thought to tell my friends that are getting ready to have babies, one of the best things about holidays is that you get to relive them all over again through your kids. This Halloween was just perfect for McClain’s first. I hope yours was just as nice!