Category Archives: holidays

Making all the things… Part Two.

Back again after an interlude of extreme involvement in the art of forging metal into pretty shiny things. I am not sure why I am utterly entranced by this process but it makes me feel as though I have come home. Perhaps it’s the fact that all the problems that arise are so easily fixed with a reapplication of heat or a polish here and there. Whatever the reason, I am basking in the sheer joy of turning sheet metal and wire into pendants and bracelets.

Of course, not every will want pendants or bracelets for the holidays so I am back with another handmade gift suggestion list. Last time we focused on college age people, so let’s look at tweens and teens this time around.

Easy Sharpie Tie Dye


I love the look of tie dye but I have always been intimidated by the actual process of it. After some savvy internet research I discovered a simple way to create tie dye decor.

For gift giving the possibilities are vast. You could purchase small canvas bags and create personalized tie dyed lunch bags for your kids. Go bigger and you’ve got overnight bags, beach bags, sport totes, etc.

You can certainly make gorgeous shirts for not a whole lot of money with this technique. Hanes has a crazy sale going on and their shirts are soft, durable, and come in light colors that would be easy to tie dye over. You could even check out their sweat pants sale and tie dye up some super comfy lounge wear for the cold holiday season.

Finally, make some small zippered coin purses/dice bags/make-up bags with tie dye decor for a cool stocking stuffer.

DIY Bleach Design

Image from By Hand London

On the opposite end of the DIY shirt spectrum we have bleach. A good friend of mine taught me this technique and it’s fairly simple. You choose a stencil, leaf, shape, etc, that you like. Lay a dark shirt flat on cardboard and place the stencil on it where you want the negative of the shape to be on the shirt. Spray with a bleach spray and toss in the laundry to rinse. You may want to scrunch the fabric around the shape or stencil to get a more even look.

If you want to take this idea to the next level and add additional materials, like fabric paint, the folks over at By Hand London have posted a DIY Galaxy Shirt idea.

Once again, Hanes is a great resource for well made and comfortable shirts, this time in a variety of dark colors, to assist you in making your teen or tween (or anyone really) a well made hand decorated shirt worth wearing.

Duct tape is your new best friend

Source: JoAnn Fabrics. 

You can do nearly anything with Duct Tape. As we are approaching Halloween I felt a DIY Halloween Candy Bag was a good image example for duct tape madness. Before you dive in I suggest a visit to for their basic duct tape fabric tutorial video. You don’t have to master making sheets of duct tape to make a project, but you do if you want to make a duct tape project easy.

A few ideas for gifting with Duct Tape:

Source: Duck Brand

Make a Duct Tape necklace as a cool stocking stuffer, or assemble the necessary parts for said necklace, slip them into a small gift box with several small rolls of colorful duct tape and printed out directions and gift your teen/tween with a duct tape necklace kit.

Owl Tote Step Out Final
Source: Duck Brand

You can go a little bigger and create this stunning Owl tote bag. (Remember, it’s a sew free project!)

If you are looking for a fun gift for your technology lover (That doesn’t cost a small fortune) try your hand at a DIY tablet cover.

Source: The Craft Train

Does your tween or teen have a younger sibling? They can make these charming Duct Tape and sponge boats for the bathtub and gift them with something they made themselves, in addition to a great deal of bath-time fun.

I could do several months worth of blog posts on the power of duct tape. I strongly suggest you check out the Duct Brand websites craft section or just google “duct tape diy” and your browser will be filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of ideas ranging from fashion accessories to waterproof beach totes to wedding dresses.

Friendship Bracelets: Fun and Easy Accessories 


Whether you are making them for your teen or giving your teen handmade gift ideas, the friendship bracelet is a time honored gift. Once again I’ll turn your attention to They have assembled 19 different styles of bracelet for your imagination to feast upon.

DIY Sites of Interest

The world of DIY is vast and there are so many people putting together lists of ideas for your holiday crafting. Here are a few of the sites I have found the most useful.

  • Boys often get the short end of the DIY stick. DIY Projects for Teens has a post devoted to them. From splash bomb trebuchets to skateboard shelves these project ideas are sure to delight your kiddo.
  • Moms and Crafters have a number of good DIY posts for both boys and girls, with one focusing on teens.
  • Craft Forest is filled to the brim with great DIY ideas, including the good old standby – the marshmallow shooter. However, they peg the meter of coolness with a DIY Lightsaber tutorial!

There’s more to come! Younger kiddos are next. I hope you enjoy some of these project ideas and have fun getting started on your handmade holiday!

A New Year’s Letter

Dear friends,

It was a lovely holiday, though busy enough to tire me out to an unusual degree.

The children enjoyed sledding, snowball fort making, too much food and sugar, and a satisfying pile of presents. We focused on games for the kids this year, ideally those we can play together.  Ms. Marlena got Gloom, a cheery game focused on making your family as miserable as possible before killing them off.  Oliver got a TMNT version of Trouble.  Together we got Whowasit? and Castle Panic, both of which turned out to be rather fun.

I got several intense headaches due to the winter storms but I managed to enjoy the freshly falling snow in spite of them.  I am hoping the new year will offer some resolution to this ongoing issue, but not counting on it.  Instead I am focusing on breathing through the pain and managing a good life where my headaches, though unwelcome guests, don’t intrude overly much.

I have been enjoying my time away from Facebook.  For the first few days I kept looking at my phone to check my feed but eventually I stopped and instead, brought my new Kindle with me wherever I went.  I have read 7 books in the two weeks since I dropped Facebook. I think it is time better spent.  I do miss the regular updates from people’s lives but I got a chance to see most of the people here over the holiday and instead caught up in person.  My plan in the future is letter writing, both on physical paper and here.

Dan’s dad showed me some of his stamp collection and we enjoyed a discussion about the stories stamps carry with them.  This got me all fired up to send out some stamped stories of my own.  I shall have to purchase some attractive stamps to use as postage and some satisfying new letter paper, but I am set for pens. A caligraphy set appeared in my gift pile this year and I am looking forward to using it.

I have also been enjoying Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries this holiday, a show about a lady detective set in the 1920’s.  I fell back in love with the fashion of the era and much to my delight discovered a nearby consignment store with a dizzying array of cloche’s, scarves, and tops that will allow me to add a touch of 1920’s glamour to my day.

For my part, I gave out gift baskets full of wine from and chocolate treats from Swiss Colony.  I made some bookmarks and wine glass markers as additions to the baskets and my parents added their own presents as well.  The baskets were pleasing to deliver and sparkled with glittered branches and poinsettia blossoms.

Dan and I spent a number of days resting together as he transitioned into his new day shift.  Moving from nights to days has worn him out but I am sure we will both enjoy having him home after four p.m. instead of after three a.m.  We will be happy to have more time to socialize with people and attend evening events together.  In the meantime, we have enjoyed days spent reading to each other, watching television, playing with the cat and dog, and generally relaxing.

Before too long we will have to get moving on getting him moved in.  I have been clearing out things I no longer need to make room for his things and we have been putting our heads together with my father to renovate the largest room in the basement for our own private sanctuary.  We are going to put in recessed lighting and sconces, new wood flooring, and a wet bar for entertaining.  We will miss sitting before the cast iron stove fire in his basement abode so we may be getting an electric version for our new space.  Our hope is to have a place we can play board games, role playing games, and quiet conversation that is separate from the rest of the house.  For now, we will share the large attic garrett that has been my living quarters.

The children are excited about the transition, though initially some trepidation was expressed.  Oliver wanted to make sure he could still snuggle in with me at night if needed and Marlena wanted to establish that she would maintain her hard earned responsibilities and liberties with a new adult in the house.  We explained that we were all making this up as we went along and promised to make it up all together.  That seemed to set them at ease.  It helps that Dan is very supportive of their relationship with their father and has made it clear to both of them that he does not see himself as a replacement.

It will be interesting staying in a multigenerational household but I already see how much happier the children and I are here and how much more closely they have grown to their grandparents.  I treasure the relationship I see building here and am so happy we have this chance to spend so much time together.  While I am sure there are roadbumps ahead, and I acknowledge the bravery of a man willing to move into a multigenerational family home, I think we will all be very happy here.

My father has already created a new parking space for Dan and is happy to have another man about the house.  My mom is excited to have another person interested in cooking, as it means yet fewer meals she has to prepare.  She isn’t very fond of cooking and Dan and I are.  Further, Dad has become quite the cook since his retirement, so the once onerous job of preparing family meals has lessened significantly.

Both Mom and Dad had some health issues this holiday, with mom having cataract surgery in both eyes and Dad having a sprain in his leg from all the home improvement work.  It’s been paining him a lot.  We have all been trying to muddle through our various ailments but I am not sure the three of us all together yet make a whole healthy person. Still we are solicitous of each other and work hard to help out when we can.

Work has been lovely.  I am really looking forward to the coming work year. I really enjoy the reading, writing, and designing I get to do and am excited to get our new website up and our newsletter out.  Then I suppose it will be time to study for, and take, my certification exams.  If for no other reason that I need more paper hanging on my office wall. I bought a new bookshelf for the office and have been bringing books into it.  I enjoy the process of filling that space with my own work things and getting them out of my house! This is the first time in ten years that work will be somewhere other than my home, most of the time, and it is very relaxing to shut the light off at the end of the day and go home to read fiction, crochet, make earrings, or play games.  I think I might be finally achieving some sort of work/life balance.  Hooray!

On that note, I am signing off to make the bed and prepare some tea.  Dan is on his way home to me after a cold day enforcing the law and I am sure he would love to revive himself with some lapsong souchong and snuggle by the fire.  For that matter, so would I.

My favorite kind of holiday gift…

Like most people there are many little things that please me about holiday gift giving. I love thoughtful gifts, well planned gifts, creative gifts, charitable gifts, handmade gifts. However, over the past few years my cousins have given me something I have come to enjoy above all other little presents. Homemade jam and jelly. Each year they tuck a jar into their other present as almost an after thought and each year I spend the following week gobbling up toast and english muffins spread with their utterly delicious jelly. I can’t help myself, it is the feature ingredient in every breakfast until the moment it is gone, the last few smears scraped from the jar with a spatula.

Homemade jelly just tastes better. It’s colors are deeper, it’s flavors are richer, so much less of it goes so much further, and it has the ability to turn each item it is spread on into a trip back in time to the March’s breakfast table. Spreading it onto my toast feels like the playacting I used to do as a child and sitting down to eat it feels like a treat, every time.

I wish my cousins would simply pack me a selection from their family jar each year and give me nothing else. While their other gifts are tasteful and appreciated nothing makes me happier than to see that shining jar nestled neatly inside my package, placed there as just a little extra small gift, waiting for breakfast.

Holiday messages…

Every year we try and remember the positive socially concious ideas behind the holiday season and behave accordingly. We go through all our stuff and donate everything we can in November, we choose several charities to assist or gift to, and we try and focus on spending time with our loved ones instead of money on them. This year we are focusing a little on the ecological side of giving.

To start with we did e-cards this year instead of paper cards. Every year Americans generate some additional one million tons of household waster over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day (according to the EPA).  That number represents 20 percent of the waste generated by our country each year. I believe doing everything I can do to minimize our part in that is hugely important. Hence the e-card.

We are also making our own wrapping paper out of recycled grocery bags decorated with stickers and stamps, and we are shopping primarily at Amazon which is working with their retailers to minimize the packaging on their products. We also give handmade gifts with no packaging at all and try to recycle any of the packaging we get.

So, with that in mind, Happy Holidays everyone! We wish you a joyous 2009 holiday season and a fantastic 2010!

Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar….

Happy Valentines Day!!

For the first year in a really long time Lee and I actually went out to dinner without the kids on the Hallmark day of love. We ate some delicious Indian food (Lamb Korma and Lamb Masala, veggie samosa, and garlic naan.) We drank an entire bottle of Eschelon Pinot Noir, we sipped chai.

Best of all, we spoke. We paid attention to each other, has lots to say to each other, and truly enjoyed ourselves. (Thank you for babysitting Mar!! We appreciate it.)

Lee got me a book called Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar. It’s an examination of philosophy through jokes. It’s really interesting, it discusses metaphysics, logic, ethics, religion, and more. Here are a few of the jokes they use to express these ideas…

Teleology (Aristotle: everything has a telos, an inner goal it is meant to attain)-

Mrs. Goldstien was walking down the street with her two grandchildren. A friend stopped to ask her how old they were. She replied “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

Rationalism (The belief that reason takes precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge.)-

The optimist says “The glass is half full.”

The pessimist says “The glass is half empty.”

The rationalist says “The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”

The Monte Carlo Fallacy (The mistaken belief that the roulette wheel has a better chance of stopping on red the 7th time after six prior black landings. Sadly, it’s the same 50/50 chance each time.)

If you are getting on a commercial airliner, for safety’s sake take a bomb with you… because the overwhelming odds are there won’t be two guys on the same plane with a bomb.

Pragmatism (We choose our truth by what difference it will make in practice) –

A woman reports her husband’s disappearance to the police. They ask her for a description and she says “He’s six feet, three inches tall, well-built, with thick curly hair.” Her friend says’ “What are you talking about? Your husband is five feet four, bald, and has a huge belly!” The woman answers “Who wants that one back?”.

So far the book is one of the more interesting ways I have studied philosophical ideas. I can’t wait for my brother to come into town so I can share a night of beer and bad jokes, this time geared towards discussing philosophy!

Twas the week before xmas…

and all through the house, the creatures were stirring, especially the mouse.

The stockings were precariously hung from the chimney,

strung on a heavy snowman, flake, Santa, and tree,

awaiting a tug from chubby baby hands,

to pull them from the mantle to crash when they land.

The children were increasingly sleepless in bed,

knowing sometime soon presents would greet them instead

of a sleep deprived mama and cranky mad dad,

wishing the holiday didn’t make sleeping so bad.

The recycling bin bulged with emptied bottles of wine,

as the parents sought strength in some alcohol time.

And yet, in the madness, a strange sense of calm

as the lights from the tree cast a glow like a balm,

and the family spent more time close and nearby,

as they peered out the window and watched the snow fly.

Though the season is rough it’s a great time of year,

to spend more snuggle time with the ones we hold dear.

Happy Holidays everyone!! We wish you the best!

All Hallows Eve…

The night when the veil between worlds is the thinnest, when ghosts and ghouls, pumpkins and skeletons, Queens and Batmen, wander the earthly realm in search of offerings of sugar. This year all the members of our family were up for the evening candy-fest and we hit my parents neighborhood for good treats and their neighbors haunted tricks.

First we carved pumpkins:

pumpkin carving
pumpkin carving
Daddy and Monkey showoff thier handiwork
Daddy and Monkey showoff their handiwork

Then we ran the kids through the park in their All Hallow’s finery. (Nana made Monkey the most amazing cloak to go with her velvet gown. It was well received by her Majesty. Otter was supposed to be a pet dragon, but his costume didn’t fit [Darn my really tall baby!!] so we ran out and got a black suit over which we tossed Monkey’s Batman cape.):

Chasing the Dark Knight
Chasing the Dark Knight
You come back here!!
You come back here!!
Her majesty and the Dark Knight.
Her Majesty and the Dark Knight.
Halloween in flight.
Halloween in flight.

Then we hit the streets for candy and ghoulies. Roby and Heather had a bust reciting “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, and a twitching hanging spider victim in their front yard, along with talking skeletons, moving body parts, and cannibalistic pumpkins. It was a spooky sight!!

Outside the haunted house.
Outside the haunted house.

Otter had some fun learning the Halloween ropes. By the end of the night he was walking up to doors and gibbering away at people before running off. Of course, he rarely remembered to pick his candy, so his stash is much, much smaller than his sister’s.

Otter learns to trick or treat
Otter learns to trick or treat

Monkey had a blast running all over the town. We met up with some of her friends from her pre-school (completely by accident) and joined them for the candy hunt. They ran all over the place, flying up and down steps before we could even catch up to them. They were often three or four houses down, preparing to take off again before stern parental yelling drew them back to wait for the smaller members of our party.

Out seeking offerings!!
Out seeking offerings!!

All in all it was a wonderfull All Hallow’s. We all had a great time.