Friday, June 27, 2008

Christmas in July

I'm an atheist, my partner's agnostic, but who doesn't love a good holiday? You got it, we'll celebrate it. Add to that the fact that I'm a lapsed scholar of the medieval period, with its flat-out obsession with Jesus, and we've got Christmas covered. Never mind that our family believes neither in God nor Santa, we've still got Santa hats and homemade cookies and hand-made gifts for all the loved ones. We're still a young family, though, with the chaos of two kids two and under barely behind us--add to that the fact that we always spend the week around Christmas not in our own home, but with my parents in Arkansas, and perhaps you won't be so surprised to learn that we have nearly no holiday decorations. We've never had a real tree yet in the house, we have only a very few tree ornaments, we have a hand-made quilted tree skirt from Grandma Bangle and two hand-made wooden reindeer from Grandpa Bangle, and about a thousand strands of Christmas lights that are part of the general interior decoration of our house, and yeah, that's it.

This year will be different, however. Willow is old enough now not only to participate in the making of holiday decorations (heck, I consider an infant who can hold its own head up old enough to "participate" in pretty much anything), but she's also old enough to really want decorations. My etsy shop is up and running enough that I'll be able to sell decorations on it, if I make any that are nice enough. And my Christmas in July Stashbuster swap is providing me with the impetus to think about all this and even make or plan the making of a few things well, well in time.

Obviously, we prefer handmade in this house. We prefer to craft with recycled materials, and we prefer our stuff to be, if not entirely badass, at least not Country Christmas. I've been playing around with sewing some tree ornaments out of denim with cookie cutters as templates, but these are still in the works (just last night, one really, really, REALLY ugly example went straight from the sewing machine to its new home in the trash bag--sigh). I've also found in reference sources some really cool project ideas that I plan to try with the girls:

Simply Swank has a cool gallery of soldered glass ornaments on their web site. Last year I made ornaments with the girls' photo inside for the great-grandmas in the family--they were cool, but very small. Larger sizes would be more in proportion with most people's larger trees, and I also plan to utilize the random selection of old holiday cards we've got hanging around in a scrapbook box somewhere.

Since Willow was a baby, we've been making these cinnamon ornaments for every holiday. Here's the recipe:
Cinnamon Cutouts

  • one cup cinnamon (yes! one cup)

  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves

  • 1 1/2 tsp. allspice

  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger (the spices are just to smell nice, so really you just put in whatever you want)

  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup applesauce

Mix everything up and knead it with your hands until it's a nice dough ball. If the dough is crumbly, add a little more applesauce. If it's sticky, add a little more spices.

Sprinkle a flat surface with spices and roll out the dough to 1/4".

Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter, using a drinking straw to make holes for hanging.

Preheat oven to its lowest setting. Bake cutouts on an ungreased cookie sheet for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and leave them in overnight to dry out completely.

When we did this recipe last winter, Willow spent the whole time making "Christmas poops" out of the dough. We might try this recipe for Salt Dough Ornaments this year, because I like the fact that it incorporates different colors. Rainbow Christmas poops?

The Craftypod blog includes a photo of an ornament the author's mother made:

It looks very much in the style of a beautiful pendant necklace I bought at the farmer's market craft fair last month, with the spiral wire and the large bead--and we know I currently am up to my butt in beads, right?

I've seen several tutorials for stacked fabric trees, and they all look pretty easy, but these might look the easiest. I like how this tutorial in particular lends itself to the use of a variety of not necessarily mitchy-matchy fabrics.

Other ideas--felted wool ornaments and stockings, garlands and ornaments made from our dress-up jewelry, wall hangings or banners from children's picturebooks--shoot, the baby's crying.

Do you ornament?

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