Making Stuff

Oil cleansing method

Have you been hearing about cleaning your face with oil yet? If not, you will soon. The Oil Cleansing Method is all the rage. If you’re new to the concept of cleaning your skin with oil this will sound like the most ludicrous, bizarre notion EVER. Because who puts oil on her face? Who??? Lots of people! Me, for one.  I am incredibly picky and vigilant about skincare. So when I say that my skin has never looked better since I started washing with oil, you’d better believe that it’s good stuff. We’re talking luminous angel skin.

You know your skin produces oil all the time, right? Oil isn’t bad. Oil is what keeps your skin looking dewy and fresh. But if the oil production goes into overdrive it can cause problems. It can combine with bacteria and dirt and cause zits and blackheads. But without oil you will start to look like a raisin. No girl wants to look like a raisin!

All the commercials and ads have convinced us that we must use cleansers to get rid of the oil! That only when all oil is gone will we have good skin. So we buy all these cleansers thinking that we must get our skin clean CLEAN CLEAN. But then our skin gets dried out. Skin doesn’t like to be dry, so it sends a signal that we must produce even more oil. So our face becomes oilier. And more oil attracts more grime.

Then we start throwing moisturizers in there because our skin is so dry after we wash it to death; moisturizers full of chemicals and all sorts of nasty things and pretty soon our faces are not happy. Our skin is a big fat mess. We need to find a happy medium.

That’s where oil comes in: oil actually cleans oil. Without getting too science-y, like dissolves like. We need nice, nourishing oils to get rid of the gross, dirty oils on our faces and to do it without stripping our skin bare.

I know you are feeling mighty skeptical right now but believe me when I tell you that washing with oil will make your skin look phenomenal. It will feel so lovely and healthy you won’t even be able to deal with it. I get compliments on my skin every single day. Not kidding. This is one of the big reasons why.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Get some washcloths. I like grey ones because I don’t want to have to worry about stains from my eye makeup.  I bought a big stack of them at Target for just a few dollars. You’ll only use them a couple of times before they need to be washed in very hot water. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Get some hot water. Let your faucet run til it’s nice and steamy or heat some up in the microwave. You want it hot but not hot enough to hurt you.

Make up your oil mixture.* You can’t just use any oil, silly! The number one important oil is going to be castor oil. (When I make soap from scratch I always use castor oil because it makes nice big bubbles.) Castor oil has extra-great oil-removing properties and gets the yucky stuff from your pores. You’ll also need a companion oil. There are dozens of different kinds of oils: if you have oily skin jojoba, sunflower, and sweet almond are your best bets. Regular skin does well with grapeseed or Apricot Kernel Oil. Dry skin like mine prefers avocado or Extra-virgin Olive Oil (I’ve heard a lot of complaints about olive oil causing skin issues but I haven’t had any problems personally. If you have dry skin, try avocado oil first.) Tamanu oil is especially good if you’re prone to acne. It’s a spendy oil but is supposed to be fantastic.

Only mix a small amount at a time. You might need to play around to find the right blend for your skin.

Get a little bottle; one of those travel sized bottles is perfect. Make sure it’s totally clean. A bunch of conditioner residue is not going to help. Depending on your skin type you’ll mix your oils up in various ratios depending on your skin type.

If your skin is oily, mix 2 parts castor oil with 1 part companion oil. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil for 1 Tablespoon of almond oil.

If your skin is regular, mix castor oil and your companion oil in equal parts. For example: 2 Tablespoons of castor oil and 2 Tablespoons of apricot kernel oil.

If your skin is dry, mix 1 part castor oil to 2 parts carrier oil. For example: 1 Tablespoon castor oil to 2 Tablespoons avocado oil.

This is how to wash your face using oils: The first part will be the weirdest. You will take some of your oil mixture (about a quarter-sized amount) and rub it all over your dry face. No need to get your face wet first because we aren’t using soap. Just massage the oil all over your face for a minute or two. Make sure to rub your eyelashes because it will get rid of any trace of eye makeup in a snap. (Eye makeup remover is ancient history!)

Soak your washcloth in hot water (don’t burn yourself, for Pete’s sake!), wring it out, tip your head back slightly and lay the washcloth on your face. Leave it here until it starts to cool down. This is going to open up your pores and cut through the grime. Then gently wipe the oil from your face. I usually wipe my face off once, but you can do it again if you feel like it. Make sure to wipe under your eyes to get rid of any mascara, but be gentle!

Apply your moisturizer as soon as you’ve finished. I am still madly in love with my night-time syrum that I make with olive squalane (among other things). Yes, I wash my face with oil then apply more oil! My skin has never looked better. That’s saying a lot considering I’m 42. I also use the oil cleaning method every single solitary night. It truly pays off. Remember that your face is your calling card; treat it well!

Your skin might freak out a little during the first 1-2 weeks. Remember that it’s gotten used to having oil stripped away and has made your oil-producing factory wig out. Let your face have a week or two to settle down and get used to the new regimen. Just stick with it and try to resist using your old cleanser for a while. I think you’re really going to fall in love with your new glowing, velvet-y skin. Give it a try and tell me how you like it!

 

*So where do you get these oils? If you have a natural grocery store, that will probably be your best bet. My local H.E.B. has a big aisle that sells natural/health products and I can get most everything there. Sometimes sunflower seed and avocado oil can be found in the baking aisle by the vegetable oils. Quite often you’ll find castor oil in the pharmacy department near stomach medicine. It is a big-time laxative (I drank a couple of spoonfuls of it once when I was enormously pregnant and trying to get labor started. Hoo-boy was that a crazy night in the bathroom!). If you live in the middle of nowhere or just don’t feel like searching high and low, there are lots of places online that carry oils. My favorite site is Wholesale Supplies Plus. Their prices are usually a lot cheaper than the grocery store and they have free shipping on every item.

This is one of my most popular posts and I like to repost it every year in case you’ve got a houseful of bored (hence, annoying) kids and need to know how to keep them occupied without relying on TVs/vieogames/ipads to babysit them. This is a great way to keep everyone in the house quiet and entertained. It’s really the best thing that’s happened to our summers! We’ve added a few changes to the system as our kids have gotten older. I’ll mention those at the end of the post.

My kids started driving me crazy the day after school got out. There was the constant squabbling, playfighting, and watching each other play video games for hours on end ( I loathe that, but it’s just so peaceful while they do it, that it’s hard to crack down and turn it off). Some people go cold turkey and turn off all screens during the summer, but I think it should still be a fun time of year (especially since we really limit TV and video games during the school year). I just needed to figure out some sort of system.

My friend Amy and I escaped for lunch a few weeks ago. She told me about the system she uses in her house and a giant light bulb went off over my head. I took her idea and ran with it, expanding on it to fit our family’s needs.

This is how it works:

–Our house is divided into six stations (Art, Reading, Computer, Puzzles, Academics, and TV).

–Each station is in a different part of the house (or in separate parts of the same room) so there is very little annoying and teasing of siblings going on.

–Stations last for 45 minutes each (sometimes if we have other plans for the day we’ll only do stations for 20-30 minutes a piece). Then the kids rotate to the next station. Each child goes to all of the six stations every day, Monday through Friday. We usually begin in the late morning after everyone has done their chores. Since we live in Texas which is HOT in the summer, we usually spend the mornings playing outside (after chores!) and don’t waste precious cool time indoors.

–Everyone gets a chance to choose which station they would like to start with. Yes, they will all have a chance at every station, but you know how much siblings like to compete with each other. Currently we are picking popsicle sticks labelled with the kids’ names. I draw one and that child picks where they’d like to begin.

–It’s helpful to have a list of activities available at Academics and art. We have things listed like “work on handwriting”. The kids all tell me they want to improve their handwriting but they forget. Their are workbooks for the littles but the older kids can do it on their own; they just need a reminder. Some of the art things we have are kept in my craft closet and the kids tend to forget about them. Having all the choices on a list makes a good reminder.

Here are the details:

Art (at the kitchen table):
Everyone has a sketch book, so there are minimal amounts of loose paper floating around. All coloring and watercolor go on sketchbook pages. We also have Shrinky Dinks, pipe cleaners, Sculpey clay (for the older kids), Play-Doh (for the younger ones), and brand new sets of watercolors, crayons and markers. I stocked up on the fabulous coloring books that Dover Publishing carries. We also have an assortment of drawing “how-to” books and creativity-building exercises.

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Puzzles (on a card table set up in the Mudroom): I bought ten new puzzles of all different skill levels. I also got one of those roll-up puzzle savers so the older kids can work on the same puzzle day after day. We also have Sudoko, crossword, and word-search books of different skill levels. My friend Amy and I will be swapping puzzles after a while to keep things fresh.

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Academics (on the coffee table in the family room):
There is a real variety here since Jasper barely knows his letters and India is taking AP classes. Probably our favorite item is the Flashmaster. It’s a fantastic gizmo that quizzes kids on their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. They can be timed or not timed, and the computer remembers which problems they got wrong. It’s been wonderful since my younger kids have never been required to learn their math facts very well. You can get Flashmaster on Amazon for $50.

We also have a Geography Globe from Oregon Scientific, the Phonics Firefly (perfect for helping the younger kids learn their letters and sounds), and some educational Leap Pad sets.

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In this category we also have workbooks (the great kind sold at Costco that are full of worksheets), handwriting practice sheets and spelling word quizzes. I try to get items that the kids can do on their own so I don’t have to sit there all day. The older kids are working on assignments they were given at school to complete over the summer.

 


Reading
(in the Living Room which is where our bookcases are):
This is read-alone time. Every few days I rotate the supply of kids’ books so they always have something new to look at. Library books stay in here too. The older kids usually have a novel they’re reading. This is a perfect time for teens to work on their summer reading assignments for school.


Computer
(playroom):
The kids can play whatever they want without someone claiming that “she took my turn!”; I don’t really care what it is, whether it’s Webkinz or something educational (Finn has been doing a teach-yourself-German program). This is their entire computer time for the day. This would probably include Nintendo DS time, if you have those at your house.

TV (in the playroom where our only TV is):
This includes video games and DVDs. Whatever takes place on a TV, this is the time to do it. The best part of this system is that you don’t have children sitting around watching their siblings play games (one of my major pet peeves). Occasionally we’ll watch a movie as a family in the evening, but for the most part this is their entire allotment of video games and shows.

You could tailor the stations to suit your family better. If you all play instruments, you could do music time, for example. Or you could do an outdoor station. With our blazing summer temps, though, the kids stay indoors most of the day but we spend evenings playing outside or swimming. This system would work with a smaller family, too. For the last week India and York have been visiting their grandparents in Oregon and we’ve been rotating four kids around the six stations. It’s been fine.

We have been doing Stations for a couple of weeks now and it has been phenomenal! The kids never complain about being bored and they bug each other so much less. My house is actually quiet during the day! It’s a miracle!

Jasper doing summer stations

UPDATE: now that our kids are getting older, we’ve made a few changes. We’ve combined academics with spiritual stuff. The kids all have goal programs that they’ve been working on at church and this is a great time to accomplish the tasks they’ve set for themselves. We’ve also made a reading plan to for the scriptures this summer and having time during a station for this works a lot better than expecting tired kids to read at night.

We are accumulating a lot of instruments around our house, my new harp being the most popular. So now along with puzzles, we have the option to play an instrument during that station. Not all of the kids are interested in this, though, which is why I didn’t just add another station. My children are finally old enough to use the instruments unsupervised. I would never have done this when I had preschoolers. It would have caused way too much trouble.

Back in the early 80′s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.

I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.

I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses.  I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.

I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.

It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.

My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me.  I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.

Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)



Picking strawberries in an annual tradition in our family. It’s one of my favorite things to do not only because it makes me feel like a farmer, but I just flat out love strawberries. There’s a u-pick farm near Austin that we go to every Spring. Well, “near” meaning an hour away in a lackluster town called Marble Falls. We travel to Sweet Berry Farm to pick strawberries first thing in the morning, then head over afterwards to Peete Mesquite, a really excellent hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint (Texas has a jillion of those).

Yes, the boys picked strawberries too. But they don’t like to stick near their mom. Especially when there are pet goats nearby.

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We aim to pick about 14 lbs of berries. I’m an avid jam-maker and this will make between 25-30 jars of jam. That’s enough to last us all year.

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The kids are put to good use. Ada’s especially good at hulling strawberries.

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It takes me about a million years to chop everything up and make the jam, but eventually I get these jewels all ready to be put up in the pantry. I don’t do freezer jam for a few reasons: it’s kind of watery and I don’t care for the texture; freezer space is at a premium in my house. I can’t waste the square footage on jam!; the preparedness person in me insists on something self-stable.

 

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These jars are made by a German company called Weck. They’re a little spendier than the ho-hum jars available at the grocery store but look how crazy cute they are! I’ve had these for about eight years and I’ve totally gotten my money’s worth out of them. I do a few Mason jars too, for giving away to friends/teachers. I’m not about to part with my Weck jars! You can get Weck jars from the company website here –which is the cheapest option. (I use the 1/5 litre Deco jars. If you buy Weck jars, they work a little differently than regular canning jars. You’ll need rubber gaskets instead of flat lids and and metal clips instead of screw-on rings.I happen to think Weck jars are superior to Ball or Kerr brands. And not just because they’re European!)

 

I’m wild about polka dots. I love them always, on everything. Polka dot nail art was the first thing I wanted to learn how to do when I started getting more into nail design a couple of years ago. I would read all these nail blogs and wonder how in the world the nail artists could make such perfect and uniform dots. It’s pretty impossible to do with a brush. And then I found the secret: dotting tools. These are plastic sticks, kind of like shortish pencils. On each end is a metal ball. There are different sized balls depending on how big you want your dots to be. They almost always come in a set of five with graduated sizes of tips

All you have to do is put a tiny bit of nail polish or acrylic paint on a palette or plate, then dip the dotting tool into the paint and tap it on your nail. It makes a perfectly round circle instantly. There is no swirling, no trying to match up both sides of the circle to make it look right. Just dip the tool in polish, then touch it to the nail. Really, that’s all there is to it. If it’s not the right size, just wipe it off and try again.

It really couldn’t be easier. It takes a smidge of practice to figure out what size dot you want and how to get consistent results, but honestly an eight-year-old could do this. It’s that simple.

All you have to do is make sure that you apply at least one layer of a topcoat when you’ve finished your dots.

A variation on the dot is an outline of a circle, which is what I’ve done on the pink nails in the photo collage above. It isn’t actually an outline of a circle at all, it just looks that way. I made a large dot, then added a smaller dot in the center of the main background nail polish. It only appears to be an outline; it’s actually a dot sandwich.

So the big question is where to buy your own set of dotting tools. I have some good news and some bad news: The good news is that there are a million sellers on ebay who offer sets of these for $2-3 (shipping included!). The bad news is that they’re mostly in China so it takes about two weeks to get them. That’s where I got mine and have been perfectly happy with them. Just search for “dotting tools” on ebay.

Dotting tools are really wonderful and can be used for all sorts of art projects where small polka dots are needed, not just on nails. I have an odd little hobby of painting teensy peg dolls and dotting tools are perfect for the details.

For such a cheap price, it’s a great idea to have a set of these in your drawer.

 

It’s currently 9 am and I have been up for four hours already. Instead of finishing India’s pioneer skirt way ahead of time like a good girl, I was up hemming it at 5:00 this morning. But I made good time and got the apron done too. I even had time to add pockets. Everything was finished on time and we made it out of the house at the appointed time at 6:45. I really would have liked to sleep in today. I have ward council at 7:30 am tomorrow so no sleeping in for another week. Blech. It’s my own fault, I guess.

Honestly I don’t know why I didn’t make the skirt months ago. Or even a week ago. Why do I always wait until the last second? The same thing happened on Valentine’s Day. I planned the kids valentines and ordered the supplies a whole month in advance. But I waited to make them until the night before. And of course I was so tired that I figured I’d finish them the next morning–forgetting that the kids hand out Valentine’s first thing.

Sometimes doing things early does backfire. I finished a few Valentines and Ada put them in a box on the table (each one had a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Texas is totally cool with homemade food being brought to school. I really like the idea of the kids getting at least one treat that isn’t chock full o’ chemicals.)  Of course Margaret, my dog frenemy, pushed a chair out so she could climb up and ate several cookies.  So sometimes doing things early is not so great. But I should know better than to keep edible things where the dog can reach them.

Here I am 41 years old and I swear I’m still as bad a procrastinator as I was when I was 21. When will I learn? Are you a procrastinator? Were you ever? I seriously need to learn how to motivate myself not to put things off. I’m driving myself batty!

Here are the valentines. They turned out really cute even though I waited til the last minute to put them together. I am, as ever, a Valentine’s Day overachiever.

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A couple of weeks ago one of my readers,Tiffny, pointed out that my blog has been really gross lately; weevils, lice, rats . . . Yep, I’m most definitely guilty.  It’s a strange thing when you blog; there is the group of bloggers who feel like they should present a really lovely, wonderful life because it inspires people (or maybe they’re simply insecure. Not sure how to tell the difference). Those blogs are terrifically popular and people just eat them up. I, however, tend do dislike those blogs because they make me feel inferior and terribly jealous. Even though I know those bloggers have bad things in their lives too. It just doesn’t seem like it. And I read them and start feeling the hate roil within me. I turn into a massive green-eyed monster. I’m not exaggerating.

And then there is the group of bloggers, like me, who say “don’t feel bad about the crap in your life! Look at the crap in my life and let’s feel bad together!”   I have always, since I was a child, felt the need to be myself. If some people don’t like it, it doesn’t bother me at all. So this blog is one part, “look at my crummy life”. It’s also one part, “some of my life might be crappy, but I also happen to know how to do a lot of stuff too.”

The hard part of blogging for me is finding out how to balance the nice things and the things I know how to do (without seeming like a big, braggy know-it-all) with all of the unpleasantries and funny stuff.

Obviously, I’ve been slipping in the pleasant things as Tiffny pointed out. One of the biggest reasons is that I still don’t have a computer with Photoshop and I’ll be darned if I’m going to put unretouched pictures up on my blog! But I’ll just have to figure something out. I’ve got about a dozen tutorials that have been sitting around waiting to be edited. I want to be honest, but I don’t want my stuff to look crappy! I do have a teensy bit of self-respect.

To make up for all the ugliness I’ll put up a bunch of pictures from Instagram. I forget that not everybody looks at that. Here are lots of nice and pleasant pictures to see you through until I do some nice posts again (which will not happen until Christmas because I am swamped like you wouldn’t believe.)

Here’s some stuff I made:

Arabella’s Halloween Costume (some sort of Marie-Antoinette type thing)

About a million rolls for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t get them all in one picture. They got eaten in the first round of Thanksgiving, even though there were only 14 people at dinner.

And several pies: two Apple, one Lemon Truffle, and a Tin Roof. The crust this year was a new recipe that I made with half butter and half leaf lard (not the gross grocery store kind of lard) and it was so fantastic it almost made my brain explode.  Here’s my ode to Texas:

I also crocheted a monkey for my friend’s baby. I’m not so great at crocheting. The ear was particularly difficult. My brilliantly crafty friend, Cheryl, helped me crochet one ear and then I did the other all by myself. Guess which one I made!

Oh whoops! I wasn’t supposed to show you anything goofy! Here’e the monkey all finished (I only had to make eight ears before I figured it out!) I tried to make it to match the nursery which was “Dr. Seuss colors”.

The knitting is going lots better. I’ve been working on a scarf for the last couple months. It’s supposed to be the sort of thing that takes two nights to do, but when it’s been 80º for months there’s not quite the motivation to get a scarf finished. But it has been lovely sitting on the front porch knitting in the warm afternoon sun.

You see, there have been some lovely and productive things happening in my life. It just seems like I live in a vile house of pestilence and filth. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a toilet to unclog and eight more batches of gingerbread to bake.

 

PomsCeilingTitle, Tissue Paper Pom Pom Flower Tutorial
Tissue paper poms are my absolute favorite party decoration. They are cheap and big and make a lot of impact. Unlike helium balloons, these can be made weeks ahead of time. I thought everyone knew how to make tissue paper poms but I’ve had person after person ask me how to make them so I figured a tutorial is in order. The poms I’m making are with paper that is 20″ wide. Once the edges have been trimmed and they’re fluffed up, they’re about 16 inches wide. These are frightfully easy. Like, elementary school easy.

The first and most important thing you need is tissue paper. I buy mine in bulk from Nashville Wraps. They have every color imaginable and it’s really fantastic quality at a good price. But most people don’t want to go to that much trouble. You can use any tissue paper you like but keep in mind that most tissue paper is pretty chintzy, flimsy and small. You’ll need more sheets of the cheap stuff to achieve the same look.  Just how much? The tissue from Nashville Wraps is 20×30″. Since those are pretty big, thick sheets you’ll need less. I can get away with 9-10 sheets per pom. The average tissue paper you can buy at the store (say a 99¢ pack of eight sheets from Party City) is smaller (20×24″) and thinner. So you’ll need about 12 sheets to get the same effect.  You don’t have to use that much, but if you don’t your poms will look a little anemic and lackluster. If it’s a party full of screaming 4-year olds then maybe you don’t care so much. But if it’s for a wedding or a party where there will be actual people who will notice, you might want to splurge. It averages out to about 1.5 packs per pom. Honestly it’s not going to break the bank.

You’ll also need floral wire (I use 26 gauge but pretty much any thin wire will do), clear fishing line and clear push pins.

Tissue paper pom materials

 

Your first step will be to lay the tissue paper out with the corners nice and even. You’ll fold your paper up like a fan. (I think I made a fan out of the church program every single week until I was about twelve. So I’m pretty much an expert.) First fold the paper one way, then flip the whole stack over and fold the other way. I’m sure everyone knows how to do this. If you don’t, well, maybe throwing a party is not your biggest concern.  The important thing is to make the folds about 1.5-2 inches wide. Not any wider than this. Trust me, OK?

Tissue Paper pom folding

 

If you get to the end and there’s not quite enough to make another complete fold, just bend it underneath anyway. It will look fine. When you’re done, you’ll have an accordion-ish thing like this.

Tissue Paper accordion

 

Once it’s folded you’ll trim both sides. I prefer cutting mine to a point but you can also cut the edges so that they’re rounded. Rounded edges look a little more flowery and feminine. Points are a bit more dramatic. The tissue will probably be too thick to cut all at once so just cut a few sheets at a time. There is no need to be all perfect and OCD about this. Once the poms are fluffed up and hanging from the ceiling nobody will notice any details.

Tissue Paper pointy

 

Now grab a floral wire. You don’t need the wires to be super long, so I usually cut mine in half so they’re 9-10″. Bend the piece of wire in half.

Tissue pom wire

 

Slide the wire onto your folded tissue paper right in the center.

Tissue Pom folded

 

Now twist the edges of the wire together. You don’t want to make the wire too snug around the paper. It should be a bit loose; the puffball will be easier to fluff that way.

Tissue pom twisted wire

 

Now you’ll bend the wire over to make a loop. Take the loose ends and wrap them around the bottom to secure the loop. You’ll be hanging the pom from this.

Tissue pom loop

 

The easiest time to attach the fishing line for hanging is while the pom is still folded up. So take a piece of fishing line that’s about 10′ long and put it through the wire loop. Unless your ceilings are outrageously high, this will be plenty long. Better to cut the line too long than not long enough.

Tissue fishing line

 

Once the fishing line is through the loop, hold both ends together and tie them in a knot. This will keep the line from squiggling out at some point. Finding the wire loop again is a total pain once your pom is fluffed up, so make sure it’s a nice tight knot.

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Now it’s fluffing time! Just a reminder that tissue paper is incredibly easy to rip. No duh, right? But I guarantee that at some point you will tear the paper. Just take it slow and easy. Start by gently lifting the top sheet of paper away from the others.

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The first piece or two should go straight up. The easiest way to do this without ripping the paper is to put your pointy and middle fingers on each side of a fold. Slide them from the outside of the pom towards the middle.

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Do this with about four layers of paper on both sides of the loop.

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Then flip the pom over and repeat until the whole thing is a big fluffy ball. Puff it up until it looks full and gorgeous.

Tissue Paper Pom Flower Tutorial

When you’re ready to hang your poms, it’s as simple as dragging a ladder around and sticking pushpins in the ceiling. It’s ever so helpful to have someone on the ground telling you if the poms are hanging at the right height. There actually is no “right height”. If they’re too low, you’re merely inviting all small children to try to jump up and hit them. I think about about 7 feet off the ground is nice so that tall fellows don’t get bopped in the head.

Tie the fishing line from each pom onto the pushpins and you’re all set. I bet you’ll be so thrilled you’ll consider leaving the poms up long after the party has ended.

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It’s How-To Tuesday! Today I’ll be showing you how to make a fantastic cork board jewelry display. Like most girls I love jewelry. But there were lots of pieces that I rarely wore because they were in a giant jumble in my jewellery box.  I tried to find some way to organize all my necklaces and bracelets and earrings in an easy-to-see way, but I have a lot of stuff and there just wasn’t anything that really fit my needs.

I was browsing at the Container Store a few months ago for–get this–a container. I needed someplace to stash my knitting supplies, but instead I found a really cute magnetic bulletin board. There was a necklace hanging from one of the pegs and the wheels in my brain started to spin. I considered buying the magnet board to store my jewelry on but it was $50 and the magnet pins were $12 for 8 of them. Way too expensive.

After wandering around my second favorite store, Hobby Lobby, (my favorite, in case you had to ask, is Target. Duh.) I decided to do a corkboard jewelry display, using an empty picture frame.

The great thing about a corkboard holder is that it can be completely customized to whatever your jewelry needs are. Using push pins makes it possible to change your storage as your jewelry collection changes. Have a lot of long necklaces? No problem. Suddenly get obsessed with bracelets? Just add  a bunch of pushpins and you’re all set.

This is an incredibly easy project. It requires zero artistic ability. Things can get a little spendy if you go out and buy a brand new frame (use that 40% off coupon that most stores offer online!). There are lots of frames at thrift stores or you might have some ugly art around your house that can be tossed while still using the frame. All the materials you’ll need (besides the frame) will cost about $20. Considering how much jewelry boxes and displays are, that’s a real bargain!

I originally made my corkboard from a pre-made frame that I got at Hobby Lobby. But I also made a corkboard for my daughter, India, and used a hundred-year-old frame that that my grandma gave me which had an ugly, faded print in it.

The important thing is to consider your jewelry collection. Think about how many necklaces you have and how long they are. What about bracelets? And earrings? Do you mostly wear post earrings or danglies? You’ll want to consider how much square footage you’ll need. You don’t want to make too small a corkboard. Remember that bigger is better since it’s likely that you’ll be accumulating more jewelry through the years.

Another thing to consider is where you’ll put this thing. Mine ended up being 28 inches x 32 inches and that’s not exactly a size of frame that can be stuck just anywhere. I wanted mine kind of near my closet but not out in broad daylight for my kids to pull stuff off of. I ended up putting it in what I fondly call, “the poop room” (the little room in my master bath with the toilet in it).   It works for me.

These are the items you’ll need to make this:

Picture frame. It doesn’t need to have glass or a backing. Just the square frame.

Thick foam mounting board. This can be cut to size at any craft store or picture framing shop.

Roll of cork. This can be found in most craft shops.

Spray Glue.

Pushpins. India opted to make some cute pushpins but I prefer clear.

Ribbon for dangly earrings (optional). I used thicker ribbon to make it easier to see the earrings, but any width of ribbon is fine.

Utility Knife.

You may also need a heavy-duty staple gun for the backing.

I highly recommend using the thickest mounting board that will fit in your frame. The cork is actually pretty thin, it’s the foam board that will do most of the actual holding of your jewelry.

If you’re using a frame that has something else in it, pay attention to how the print and glass are held into the frame. Sometimes there are little nails called brads. These can either be removed or simply bent out of the way with a flathead screwdriver.

Before you start assembling your project make sure your mounting board actually fits in the frame. This is especially important if you had it cut at a store. If it’s too big, use a utility knife and a ruler to cut it shorter. Once it’s the right size it’s time to stick the cork to the backing board.

Cork is very brittle. It’s incredibly easy to break it or even stick a finger through. It’s best to roll it out on the ground and not lift it.  If your frame is big, it’s nice to have an extra set of hands helping out. The cork board we’re making today is for India’s room, so I’m having her do most of the work. Teach a man to fish, right?

Roll your cork out on the ground using something (or someone) to keep it unrolled. Some heavy cans of food will work.

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Spray both the cork and the foam board according to the directions on the glue. It’s sticky, smelly and messy. You should absolutely do this outside!

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Place your foam mounting board onto the cork and press it down thoroughly. If the edges aren’t attached well,  spray them again.

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Once the glue is dry (it should only take a couple of minutes), use a utility knife to cut off the extra cork.

 

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If you want to do a ribbon across the cork board to hang your earrings on, this is when you’ll do it. I put mine along the bottom, but you can do it wherever you like. India wants to use hers as a bulletin board so she didn’t want a ribbon at all. If you do want an earring hanger, hot glue one side to the back of the board. Once it’s cooled down and is very secure (at least five minutes), pull the other side of the ribbon extremely tight. The ribbon will eventually sag if it’s not as tight as possible. Even so I put a few pushpins in the ribbon to keep it from drooping in the middle.

 

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Once your ribbon is all finished, you can flip the board over and place it in the frame. Hopefully yours already has a wire for hanging. If not, you’ll need to install some hooks and wire.  You can figure that out because you’re smart. And good looking!

 

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If you used a frame that previously had artwork in it, you’ll hopefully be able to use the clips or brads that were there before. India pulled the brads out of our antique frame and hammered them back in so they were nice and secure (are you totally digging my pink hammer? I have a pink drill too!)

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Once you’ve gotten your cork board all put together it’s time to hang it up on the wall.The final (and funnest) step is to stick your pushpins in and hang up your jewelry! It will feel so wonderful to have everything organized and right at your fingertips!

 

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Today we have a guest post by my favorite reader: my sister, Arianne, from Little Pink Houses. She and I (and my brother, too) were ingrained from the time we were born with the notion of “I can do it myself and probably cheaper”. Arianne saw a cute vignette of stuffed fabric birds mounted on a branch and decided to make something similar for her daughter’s nursery. They turned out really adorably and would be completely easy to customize to any sort of decor. I asked her to do a tutorial for my blog because I knew these would be a not-too-difficult sewing project; plus I LOVE BIRDS! OK, Arianne, show us how to put a bird on it!

First you’ll need to pick out some fabrics.  Any fabric will work, but some are easier to work with than others (lightweight quilting cotton is easier than denim, for example. Silk would be a really lovely and elegant choice.) You can use fabric scraps you have on hand, you can ask someone you know who sews to look through their extras, or you can buy fabric quarters (called “fat quarters”) in coordinating fabrics.  Most fabric stores sell these for around $1.50-2.00/piece, or in pre-coordinated packs for $5-10 for 5+ pieces.   You need 2 fabrics for each bird. A safe amount is 8” square for each section of the bird.

I recommend laying out your fabrics in pairs before you start, one piece for the top/head/wings and the other piece for the belly of the bird.  If your pieces are different sizes, the larger piece should be for the top of the bird.

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Print out your pattern. I used one from SpoolSewing; you can download their free PDF here.  Cut the patterns out of the paper.

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I made these patterns a little bigger because I found the 1/4″ hem to be a little too tight.  It was very hard to sew a ¼” hem on such a small shape, since it requires a lot of turning as you sew. A few of my birds had to be re-sewn because I missed an edge.  Give yourself a little extra room around your pattern so that you can allow for a bigger seam allowance.

Next grab your first pair of fabric pieces .  Choose the piece to be the top/sides of the bird.  Make a fold in it, about 6” deep.  Lay the bird top pattern along the fold of fabric 1 so that it will double itself when you open the fold up.  Pin it down with a couple of pins.  Lay your bird belly pattern on fabric 2 and pin it down.  Cut them both out.  (If you didn’t leave an edge around the paper pattern, just leave an extra edge around it now as you cut it out.  I promise you won’t be sorry for giving yourself an extra ¼” allowance once you start sewing.

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Repeat this process with all your birds.

Iron your bird pieces.  The last thing you want is to get them sewn and stuffed and THEN notice that they are wrinkly, or that the fold is still showing across the top of one.

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Lay the top and bottom bird pieces together PRETTY SIDE IN.  In other words, the sides of the fabric you want to show when you’re done should be facing each other.

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Starting at the tail, pin together one edge of fabric 1 and one edge of fabric 2.  Pin about every 1-1 ½” and stop when you get to the end of fabric 2.  Remember that these will be 3 dimensional birds, so the fabrics won’t lie exactly flat.  You’ll have to sort of bunch the top piece a little, with little folds between the pins, to get the edges flush.  They’ll sew up just fine, so don’t worry.

Sew one edge of your first bird.  (Although it’s generally easier to work in a sort of assembly line fashion—cutting all of the pieces at once, ironing all of the pieces at once, etc.—I found through trial and error that you should sew one bird completely and then turn it inside out to check it for seam holes before moving on to the next bird.)  I used white thread, but you can use any color you want.  The stitching doesn’t show much except on the tail.*  GO VERY SLOWLY.  You have to turn these babies a lot, and they are very small.  It can be kind of hard to get them turned in time if you go fast, and the attractiveness of your bird, especially the head, depends a LOT on how evenly and carefully you sew these seams.  Sew it poorly and your bird will end up looking more like a vulture! (Ask me how I know.) Also, remember to sew a little bit bigger hem than the pattern shows (if you’ve cut it with extra room) so you don’t miss any edges.

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Remove the pins and pin together the other edges of the two fabrics, again starting at the tail.  These two will lay even less flat, with even more bunching between the pins.  Just do your best to keep the edges aligned.

Sew the second edge.  Now keep in mind, when you get to the end of the belly fabric (#2), you can just keep going and sew up the bottom side of the head of the bird.  I found it easiest to keep going up the breast, up the head, and right off the end of the beak.

Then to come back and do the top side of the head separately.  If you try to take that corner (around the beak’s point), you may end up with a weird-shaped beak.

You probably won’t need to pin the bird’s head to do the rest of the sewing—it’ll be pretty well held together.  Just make sure your two pieces of head fabric are lined up right.  This next part is very crucial:  STARTING AT THE BIRD’S BACK, TAKE AS SHALLOW AN ANGLE AS YOU CAN COMING IN TO FINISH OFF THE BIRD’S HEAD, almost continuing the line of its back.  If you come in steep, you will create a point on the bird’s back, and your bird will look like a vulture!  I had to unpick my first 2-3 birds before I got the correct angle.  This is why it’s crucial to turn the bird inside out before you move on to the next bird.  I even recommend using a pencil point to get the whole beak turned out so you can see its shape.  (Sewing around that beak is tough.  Just remember, go very slowly.  And stop every few centimeters, with the needle still IN the fabric, lift up the foot slightly, turn the fabric, and continue sewing.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to do a very rounded seam around the bird’s head to avoid it having a vulture-like neck or beak.)

Note from Jennie: To keep any puckering from happening at the birds neck, make three little snips about 1/8″ away from each other right where the neck arches. You’ll cut from the edge of the fabric right up to the seam (but don’t cut the seam!).

After you’ve sewn both sides and the head (the tail is left open), turn your bird inside out and check to make sure you haven’t missed an edge and left a gaping hole.  If you haven’t, good!  You’re a better seamstress than me.  Now move on to your second bird.

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Once  you’ve sewn up all your birds, and they’re right-side out, it’s time to start stuffing!  I bought one 12oz bag of ultra plush fiber, and it was plenty to do about 14 birds.

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Use the eraser of a pencil to push the fiber down into the beak first.  You don’t want to get done and find you have a floppy beak!  Leave about ½” of the tail empty so that you can sew it closed.

 

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Finish the tail.  You can do a fancy hand-stitch here to make the thread invisible.  But after doing that with one bird, I found it way too time consuming.  Instead I decided to just fold both pieces of fabric over, inward, ¼” and sew a straight stitch across the tail.  You can see the thread, but once the birds are up on the branch, it won’t show much.  And I actually think it looks pretty cute!

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You’re done with the sewing! Aren’t your birds so cute?

 

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Next select a good branch.  You can buy fancy polished branches at the craft store.  Or you can pick one off a tree in your yard.  I recommend one with at least a ½” diameter on the main branch with ¼” diameter shoot-offs; too flimsy and it will bend under the birds’ weight.

Lay out your branch on the ground and position your birds before you glue them on.  That way you can be sure you like the final look without having to peel off mis-placed birds. I also recommend taking a picture because once you pick up the branches to mount them, you’ll forget where your birds went.

Mount your branch.  You want your branch to be at least an inch or two from the wall so your birds’ tails will fit behind the branch.  So if you can find or buy some really long nails (3-4 inches), that will allow your branch to sit away from the wall.  Hold your branch up to the wall and mark where you want it to go with a pencil.  Put in a couple of nails to support the branch—allowing your branch to lie on them.  Use some clear fishing line or thread to lash the branch to the nails.

Hot glue!  Use a dab of hot glue on the branch (not on the bird) where you want each bird to sit.  Right where the body meets the tail is a good spot for balancing the bird (it’s where the feet would be on a real bird, after all).   Stand back and check each one as you go to make sure it’s

sitting level and looking the right direction.  It’s a lot harder to move them once the glue has hardened.  Put all your birds on and…voila!  Birds on a branch!

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