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CHRISTMAS ARTICLES

As crunch time approaches for the holidays and you have lots of little last minute things to do it might help to have an extra pair of hands or two to help you. Children will make wonderful assistants for all the little projects you are working on such as making cookies, decorating the tree and feeding the birds who visit in the winter. Here are a number of small projects in which they can participate that will help everyone get into the spirit of the holidays.

Pinecone feeders for birds

What you need:

pinecones
corn syrup (or peanut butter if there are no allergies)
bird seed
parchment paper (or something to catch the drips)
string (to hang the feeder in the tree)

Place the pinecone on the parchment paper. Squeeze corn syrup all over the pine cone (or children can spread peanut butter on with a dull knife). Sprinkle bird seed over the corn (or roll the peanut butter in it). Let dry (in the case of the corn syrup) before hanging. Tie a piece of strong string on the top of the pinecone and hang it in your tree. It will be great to watch all the feathered visitors that come in for a snack!

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Hostess gifts

Looking for great hostess gifts? Pick up some extra ornaments and wrap them nicely to have on hand to give away after a party or if someone unexpected pops by and you want to give them a little something. Candles, potpourri and cookies are always well received.

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Home made ornaments

Get out a wide variety of materials such as glitter, ribbon, clear plastic balls and styrofoam balls, jingle bells, glitter paint, sequins, tissue paper and patterned papers, glue, paintbrushes and other odds and ends you may have on hand for your children to make ornaments to decorate the tree. Invite other children and make it an ornament decorating party. The children participating can take home their ornaments. The ornaments they create will look good on the tree and make nice gifts for relatives.

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Gingerbread cookies

Make gingerbread cookies that will fill your house with wonderful smells to get you into the spirit of the holidays. Children can help decorate (and eat) the cookies with icing and little goodies such as small candies, liquorice and silver balls. Invite other children and make it a gingerbread decorating party.

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Please note that this idea is for decorative purposes only. Since these ideas involve flammable supplies such as pine tree branches and pine cones, use the candles for decoration purposes only only. DO NOT LIGHT THEM as this is a fire hazard. Likewise do not place these decorations near fireplaces or any other areas where flames may be present!

Bring the outdoor greenery and other products of nature to decorate your home for the upcoming holiday season. Arrange pine tree branches on mantels and hutches with candles distributed amongst them for a warm and simple way to spruce up a room. Combinations of pine tree branches, pinecones and sprigs of berries gathered outside or purchased from a florist's or nursery and embellished with paint, glitter and artificial snow will make your house look and smell wonderful for the holidays.

Gather or purchase pinecones in a variety of shapes and sizes to display in your home. You can leave them au natural or embellish them to use in arrangements or display in a bowl. If you leave them in their natural state and display them in a bowl or basket add potpourri for scent and color. Make sure to line the basket with a cloth napkin or something similar first.

Paint the tips of the pinecones gold, spray paint the entire pinecone gold or add a sparkling look to your pinecone with glitter.

Fill a resealable bag with the color(s) of glitter you want to use. Mix all the colors to make a multicolored combination. Coat a pine cone with spray adhesive in a well ventilated area, drop the pinecone in the bag of glitter, seal it and shake it until coated (like chicken). Coat one pine cone with each color of glitter (including multicolored) and display them in a bowl or basket. If you are using a basket it might be a good idea to line the basket with a napkin or something to catch the excess glitter that might gather.

Mix and match and be versatile with your uses of these pinecones. You can combine gold tipped pinecones with natural, spray-painted and glitter ones in a bowl or basket to create a festive decoration to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. These embellished pinecones as well as plain ones can be used in a variety of decorative crafts such as wreaths.

VALENTINES DAY ARTICLES

Decorate Your Home for Valentines Day!

Gather a variety of red, pink and white materials such as tissue and construction paper, ribbons, crinkle paper, stickers, heart shaped metallic confetti and anything else you can imagine to help decorate your house for Valentine's Day.

Enlist the kids help according to their age and capabilities. They can cut out hearts in a variety of sizes and colors if they are old enough to use scissors safely. The younger ones can decorate the hearts with metallic confetti and stickers. Give them glue sticks that are easy to use and don't make a big mess for a quick clean up after the decorating is over.

Glue three hearts of varying sizes and colors on each other and display in your window. Use combinations such as red, pink, white/white, pink, red/pink, red, white for the three hearts decoration. Cut a length of red ribbon (make a loop at the top). Glue hearts in three different colors onto the ribbon the same distance apart from each other. You could embellish them with heart shaped doilies of the same or different colors as the construction paper hearts. Hearts cut from round, white paper doilies would work just as well. Sparkles and metallic confetti add a nice final touch of glitter to your hanging decoration. Hang and enjoy.

Kids can use the leftover materials from the decorations to make Valentine's for their classmates and teachers if they want.

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Pink, white and red are the colors of the Valentine's season. Let them be your guide when thinking about how to decorate and materials you will use for crafts to celebrate this special day.

There are a number of materials you can use to decorate your house to celebrate the love you feel for someone or for your family. Make Valentine's a family celebration and get the kids to help. Pink, red and white streamers could be twisted slightly and hung around the room in any number of ways depending on what you have to attach them to. Accent the corners of a room where you have attached the ends of the streamers with pink, red and white balloons and already your room will have a festive look.

For the table, you can decorate it using the same pink, red and white color scheme. Cover the table with a pink table cloth and set up red and white candles in your candleholders. Sprinkle the tablecloth with metallic confetti, red, in Valentine's shapes such as hearts, cupids, X's and O's.

Before you do all this the children may want to make some cards for family members. Keeping with the pink, red and white color scheme you can supply the children with a variety of materials they may need such as more Valentine's metallic confetti (to glue on the cards and/or stuff in the envelopes), foam hearts in various sizes, yarn and construction paper. Give them a variety of magazines and scissors to cut out images that represent Valentine's such as hearts, flowers, candy, etc. They can decorate the cards with glitter pens in a variety of colors. Valentine's stamps and red ink will also add a nice touch to their cards.

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY.

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A personal card that is simple to make is the Hands and Heart card. Younger children may need help with the cutting from an adult or older child.

Hands and Heart Card

Children trace both their hands on pink, white or red construction paper. Make sure they trace part of their wrists to glue onto the heart. Cut out the hands.

Draw and trace out a heart that is comparably larger to the size of the children's hands. The heart should be a contrasting color to the hands so they will show up against each other.

Bend the area of the wrist so when the hands are glued down they will open and close over the heart so you can read the message underneath.

Spread glue on the wrist area of the hands and press them into place on the heart. Keep in mind you need room to write a message underneath the hands. Hold them in place briefly and let them dry.

When the hands are dried onto the heart, bend them back into place and hold them there until they stay on their own. Write a message with a marker or pen saying "My heart is in your hands. Happy Valentine's Day. Love, ________."

Special Treats for Your Loved Ones

Hide special treats in the lunch bags, backpacks or briefcases of the ones you love on Valentine's Day. These could include lollipops, candy necklaces, small boxes of chocolates, message candy hearts and even a rose (not for children). It will make the day even more special as well as surprising when they open their lunches or bags.

EASTER ARTICLES

Easter supplies are already available in stores for you to use to decorate your home. Spring will also be over a month old when Easter rolls around so using the traditional pinks, yellows and light green pastel colors as well as purple and white you can brighten up your house after the dreary winter months. Bright flowers in vases and pastel colored ribbons tied here and there (ie. around vases) are quick infusions of color that will bring Spring into your home. Use the same pastel colors as a color scheme to create Easter baskets (that double as centerpieces) to give away as gifts to friends and relatives.

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Easter Baskets

Buy a predecorated basket from a craft store to fill with Easter goodies as a gift. I found some lovely baskets that were partially lined with a satin material; one in light yellow and one in a light blue. There was also a satin ribbon in the same color attached to the top of the handle of the basket. On one side of the basket was a small plush bunny wearing an outfit in the same color as the material decorating the rest of the basket. If you can't find anything you like similar to this you can create your own basket by purchasing the same items (satin ribbon and a bunny with an outfit matching the color of the ribbon) and attach them to the basket. The width of the ribbon should be a little less than the width of the handle of the basket, about 1/8th of an inch in from the edges of each side of the handle. I would glue the ribbon on the handle with white glue because hot glue won't create the nice smooth look you want. If there are glue spots you want to hide after you can add a couple of artificial flowers to the handle with a bit of hot glue. Try not to add too many or in places where they will get squashed when the basket is lifted. Hot glue the rabbit in place either on one side of the basket or climbing up the handle after you glued the ribbon on. It depends on what kind of bunny you have available to you.

What to fill your basket with:

If you are giving this basket away or using it as a centerpiece you can fill it with surprises which will be totally in keeping with the Easter tradition of hiding treats around for people to find. I found some eggs covered in paper with a delightful spring pattern on it. They came in a variety of colours so once again you can keep to your color scheme. They also have ribbons attached to the top so they can be hung on an Easter tree if desired. I also purchased a couple of different types of plastic Easter eggs, plain and speckled in colors to match the baskets I bought. I'm going to fill them with a variety of goodies (jelly beans, foil covered chocolate eggs, whatever I think the recipients would like) and wrap in cellophane with either an Easter motif or in the color to match the basket. A bag of potpourri in their favourite scent or color is also a nice addition. You know what they would like so use your own best judgement as for what to include. Line the basket with Easter grass in the same color as the rest of the materials in your basket so everything matches. If you are using the basket as your own centerpiece you only have to please yourself as for what to include. People (especially children) probably won't be able to resist opening the plastic eggs (or you could hint they aren't empty) and they will delight in opening them and discovering their hidden treasures. Have fun decorating and filling the basket! Easter is always a fun holiday for me and I hope it is for you too.

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SPRING ARTICLES

Flowers, Flowers Everywhere!

Well, not really but it would be a vast improvement on the bleak look outside your window (for most of us who are suffering from the effects of the latest storm(s). If you can't do anything about the outdoors you can definitely work with the indoors. Change some of your decorations to cheer up your home and yourself!

Here are a number of small things you can do for those pre spring days:

-arrange artificial daffodils, crocuses, narcissus as well as other bright colored flowers you like in vases and containers around your home.
-drape your tables with tablecloths that reflect spring, colors such as white, yellow, green, pink and purple. You can also combine two of the colors to make your tables look even more interesting and colorful.
-change drapes, bedspreads and sheets, etc. to bright colors and/or flowery, spring patterns.
-add potpourri in your favorite flower/spring scent and color to bowls or unique shaped containers around your home.
-learn about forcing bulbs on the Internet or from your local greenhouse or gardening center. Grow bright spring bulbs in pots or boxes to bring some color and spring spirit into your home. I bought a pot of bulbs recently to support a charity and took them to work. The flowers brightened up the room and it was great to see something blooming and growing in the winter months.

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SUMMER ARTICLES

Send photos of your summer trips and excursions to family and friends on your very own postcards. Using a real postcard as a template, trace the shape onto a piece of poster board or white cardboard on hand. Keep in mind the size of photos you will be using before creating your postcard. There are different sized postcards you can use as templates or measure the photos you will be using with a ruler and enlarge your postcard size to fit your photos. Cut it out, turn it over and once again using a real postcard as a template, draw in the lines for the address and the line dividing the space for the address and the space where you will write you message.

Once you have prepared your postcard it is time to decide which photo you are going to attach especially if you are writing the message to fit the photo. Write your message on the postcard first before gluing on the photo. This way the writing won't press through to the photograph.

To protect all of your photos from damage during mailing you can cover your photo with mactac before gluing it to the postcard. Measure your photo by placing it on the mactac before you remove the backing. Cut out a piece half an inch larger than the photo and peel off the backing. Lay the mactac down on your surface sticky side up. Centre your photo over the piece of mactac and lower it onto the sticky surface. You only get to do this once so make sure it works and there are no bubbles. Cut the mactac at each corner of the photo in a diagonal all the way to the corner. Fold the mactac over onto your photo one piece at a time. The mactac edges you cut at the corner and fold over to the back of your photo will end up overlapping each other when you fold them down.

You have two options to attach your photo to the postcard once you have finished writing your message. One way is to spread white glue on the back of the photo you are going to use, line it up with the front of your postcard and press it down to the poster board or cardboard. Wipe away any excess carefully so you don't touch the photo and press the postcard underneath a book until the glue is dry and the photo is permanently fixed to the postcard. The other option is to tape your photos to your postcard with double sided tape or fold over a piece of masking or packing tape to attach the photo to the postcard.

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Plaster of Paris Nature Plaque

Make a mold of a shell with Plaster of Paris. Spread a thin layer of vaseline on the inside of a shell to make it easier to remove the Plaster of Paris when it is dry. Mix the Plaster of Paris and scoop some into the shell. Spread the Plaster of Paris even with the top of the shell. When the Plaster of Paris is dry, pry the molded shape out of the shell carefully so you don't chip the edges. The Plaster of Paris shell can now be painted and decorated. Once again, this "shell" can also be turned into a magnet by hot gluing a strong magnet to the back.
-Gather several shells and other natural items such as sticks, rocks,etc. Spread a thin layer of vaseline onto each item to ensure easy removal of the items once the Plaster of Paris is dry. Mix Plaster of Paris and pour it into a shallow styrofoam meat tray (cleaned and bleached to destroy any bacteria). Quickly press the items you gathered into the Plaster of Paris, not too close to each other. When the Plaster of Paris is almost dry, remove the items you pressed into it and wash the shells with soap and water. Remove your plaque from the tray mold. Wipe the vaseline from the impressions you have made with a dry, soft cloth. There are two ways to hang your Plaster of Paris nature plaque.

1. Hot glue 2 pop can tabs onto the back of the plaque when it is dry and hang it using the holes in the tabs to hook over the nails in the wall.
2. The other option is to take a length of string or natural colored twine and arrange it in the bottom of the styrofoam tray before you pour in the Plaster of Paris. The string or twine will then be hardened into the plaque when the Plaster of Paris dries and ready for hanging.

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FALL/THANKSGIVING ARTICLES

The leaves are starting to turn change colors and even though the summer weather is still holding out, fall isn't too far off. Now is a good time to start gathering items from nature for future fall projects you would like to make. Possible items to gather are:

· Cattails (now)
· Queen Anne's Lace (now)
· Leaves (soon)
· Horse chestnuts (soon)
· Dried flowers
· Grapevine and/or grapevine wreaths

Combine some or all of the above items in various arrangements to welcome fall:

· Centerpieces
· Swags
· Floral arrangements
· Framed floral pictures (press and preserve favorite flowers so you can enjoy their beauty until new ones come up next year)
· Wreaths

Add extra elements to your arrangement(s) as they become available seasonally:

· Gourds
· Indian corn

Other embellishments will complete your arrangement(s):

· Raffia
· Fall colored/patterned ribbon
· Dried fruit slices
· Artificial fruit picks
· Decorative/artificial fall leaves
· Scarecrow figurines

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Cattail Decoration or Arrangement

Hang these cattails on a wall to begin to decorate for the fall season or arrange them in a vase to bring fall to your table. These decorating ideas are simple but the effect will be beautiful.

Materials:

· 3 cattails
· 4 long strands of raffia
· Dried flowers
· Additional raffia
· Vase
· Masking tape

Tools:

· Scissors
· Glue gun

Method:

1. Line up three cattails on your work surface.
2. Cut a 3" piece of masking tape.
3. Wrap the masking tape around the reed like stems of the cattails at the base of the soft part of the cattail. This is just to hold them in place.
4. Take the lengths of raffia and wrap them tightly around the masking tape covered area so you can't see the tape. Don't worry if the cattails are no longer side by side, they are supposed to move so now you will have one cattail in front of the other two. Leave enough to tie a knot with the ends of the raffia. Tie the knot with the ends of the raffia. Cut the ends to rough1/2" - ¾"so the knot won't come undone. The knotted area can be the front or the back depending on how you are going to embellish your arrangement.
5. Trim the small stems on top of the cattails as well as those at the base of the soft part of the cattails so they are all neat and even.
6. Now it is up to you how much you want to embellish this arrangement. If you are placing it in a vase, arranging a few dried flowers stuck in between the cattails would be nice without going overboard. Leave a fair amount of stem on the dried flowers so you can just stick it into the raffia without having to worry about hot glue. If you want to secure the arrangement just squeeze a small amount of hot glue (or white glue) on the end of the stem and stick it quickly in between the cattails, into the raffia holding the arrangement together. Add other small items if you like but you really don't need too much to keep it simple. If you like you could add dried flowers around the cattails to enhance the arrangement. If you are hanging it on the wall, once again you don't need to add too much to complete the arrangement. A small dried/artificial flower that symbolizes fall could be hot glued to the center of the knot tied in the raffia, if you chose to have the knot in the front. Small amounts of dried flowers, wheat, even leaves can be stuck into the raffia in between the cattails to enhance the arrangement. Once again, leave a fair amount of stem on the dried flowers, etc. so you can just stick them into the raffia without having to worry about using glue. If you want to secure the arrangement just squeeze a small amount of hot glue (or white glue) on the end of the stem and stick it quickly in between the cattails, into the raffia holding the arrangement together.
7. If you are going to hang your arrangement this is what you need to do. Make a 1 ½" - 2" loop of raffia and securely knot off the ends. Try it out on the arrangement to see where you are going to attach it. About halfway between the top and the bottom will ensure it hangs nicely. Squeeze a generous amount of hot glue on the knot and press it to the predetermined area. Hold it in place briefly to secure. Let sit 10 minutes until you are sure the glue is completely dry then hang and enjoy the beginning of the fall season!

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Nut Cups

These nut cups serve three purposes; table decorations, place markers and Thanksgiving favors your guests can take with them when they leave.

Line small terracotta clay pots with pieces of brown tissue paper that will slightly stick up beyond the rim of the plant pot. Fill the pot with the nuts of your choice. Stick a few colourful craft feathers in the pot, between the tissue paper and the inside of the pot. The nuts will keep the feathers in place.

Use a larger pot lined with tissue paper and filled with nuts as a centrepiece or put it on another table for your guests to munch on before or after dinner (if they are still hungry).

If you want to decorate the small and/or large plant pots further you can turn them into turkeys, adding extra embellishments to the feathers already decorating the clay pots. Glue wiggle eyes/googly eyes to the front of the pot with hot or white craft glue (keep in mind the white glue will take longer to dry). Use large googly eyes for the large pot and smaller googly eyes for the small pots. Cut out a small triangle of yellow felt for the beak and a slightly larger one for the turkey's wattle (the red flap of skin hanging down from the neck) and glue them onto the front of the clay pot below the eyes. The size of the felt pieces you cut should also be larger for the large clay pot. Look at a picture of a turkey as a guide where to glue the pieces of felt or use your imagination. Let dry completely before using them to decorate your table and before the guests take them home as party favors.

After you're done decorating the clay pots and they are dry, you can write the name of the person on the back rim of the pot and the date of the dinner and whatever other details you want on the pot. This will be each guest's place marker and souvenir of the day. Use gold marker or acrylic paint with a small brush depending on how much time you have and how much effort you want to put into these decorations. The gold marker fits in well with fall colors and will be easier to write out the details of the day and names of the people coming to your dinner onto your clay pots. Once again, let dry completely before using to decorate your table.

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Milk Can Decoration

Using wood apples in this quick craft idea is great as the fruit never rots or attracts unwanted visitors :)

Supplies

cattails
spirea from a shrub
milk pods and stems from the wild milkweed
wood apples
stems from real apples
green felt
outdoor green paint
outdoor red paint
large milk can
1/4" wood dowel

Tools

glue gun
garden shears.
paintbrush
scissors
drill
1/4" drill bit
worktable-anchored vice or clamp

Instructions:

1. Paint the wood apples red.
2. Paint the 1/4" wood dowel green.
3. Paint a milk can green (country), or a color to match the trim of your house
4. Cut out leaves from green felt.
5. Drill 1/4" holes in the bottom of the wood apples. Put the apple in a worktable-anchored vice to securely hold it while drilling to avoid injury.
6. Glue the apple stems on the wood apples.
7. Put some hot glue in the hole in the apples.
8. Insert the doweling in the bottom of the apples, wiping off the excess glue.
9. Put all in a large milk can, and display near your front steps or on the porch.

Remember safety first! If you aren't comfortable using power tools or are not sure how to use them SAFELY, ask someone who does know for help.

hints: make sure to clean all your tools after cutting the milkweed. As the milk dries, it gets sticky and can "bung" your tools up.

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