November 29, 2023

Handmade Gift Idea: Hex Sign Cork Coasters

Our wooden end tables have been taking some abuse from the many cups of hot tea and coffee I've been consuming in the last month.  I might perch my hot cup on a magazine, but sometimes I'm guilty of just setting it on the table.

A friend gave me some crocheted coasters, which I've used at times, but they always seem to be tossed like frisbees around the living room by my boys.  I think one of them is still under our sofa.

I thought maybe some less-inviting ones might be worth a shot.  I saw these swakny glass ones at Target the other day, but of course glass+boys=second thoughts.
I saw some nearly identical ones in the dollar store the other day, but plastic with cork centers.  They begged to be decorated, and at one dollar for four and weighing about 5 lbs less, I thought they were worth a try.  I'm pleased at how they turned out.
Living in a Pennsylvania Dutch town, I'm inspired by the arts and crafts and designs that make up this region's heritage.
So I had a little fun creating my own versions of hex signs.
I have a book on Pennsylvania Dutch designs that proved helpful, but you can search online for hex sign designs and find plenty of options.

It was a very inexpensive project, considering I only had to buy the coasters since I had the rest on hand.  Here's what I used:
  • Cork coasters 
  • Acrylic paints or a paint marker
  • brushes
  • pencil
  • Mod Podge (for sealing the paint onto the coaster)
First off, I found a simple design that I liked and used that as a starting point.  I wanted to copy a hex sign I have on my wall, but change the colors.
Then I lightly sketched it onto the coaster with a pencil.  I apologize for not snapping photos of the craft in progress, though I think you can fill in the blanks with your imagination.

Next, I painted the design.  You could make it all one color, like white, or use a lot. I went with primary colors and white, and I made sure that some of the cork was visible underneath. I like the contrast of the natural brown color and the brighter hues.

Once the paint dried, I added a thin layer of Mod Podge to protect the paint.
They're not perfectly painted (I was lazy and didn't meticulously measure my designs), but I like the handmade look.
So far they haven't been whipped across the room, but if/when they are, I'm not worried about them shattering into pieces or clunking someone on the head.

I definitely see more sets of these in my future; they would make great Christmas gifts.  If you're not so artistically inclined, you could always use or make a stencil to add a monogram to the coaster. 

Welcoming Winter at Your Front Door

When it comes to decorating at Christmas, I have a fondness for all things natural or handmade.  Since the door is the star of our front porch, I like to dress it up a bit for the winter.

If you choose to go with a natural wreath, it will often take you from November through February, especially if you change it up a bit with a different bow or swag.
This fresh wreath, the 18" Magnolia Pomegranate Wreath from Creekside Farms will be gracing our door all season long.
The rust/salmon colored bow (it changes depending on the light) and the tan undersides of the magnolia leaves looked beautiful throughout November. The best thing about this wreath is how great it smells whenever I open the door; that evergreen scent permeates the space between the storm door and front door.
The cedar, pinecones, juniper, echinops and pomegranates really add to the texture and interest of the wreath.  It's been a few weeks now and the wreath is still in good shape and ready for a more festive Christmas bow. 
I'll probably change at the bow at the end of the holiday season, to something white and wintery. 

Creekside Farms sells so many more beautiful wreaths, like this Apple Berry Wreath
Creekside Farms also carries wreaths and garlands beyond Christmas, like for Fall and for weddings and even herbal ones for the kitchen.  The herbs and flowers in the wreaths are pesticide-free and harvested by hand in California.

Their wreaths have been seen in top home décor retailers and catalogues, including Williams-Sonoma for over 18 years, Pottery Barn, Sur LaTable, Restoration Hardware, Front Gate, Pro Flowers, Orvis and Harry and David. 
Creekside Farms' artisan-made wreaths would make a great gift for anyone.  I would be thrilled to have one of these gorgeous wreaths show up at my door (and I was when mine did).  I like that the purchase of a Creekside Farms' wreath supports a family business and contributes to the continuation of a family-run farm.  It's a beautiful way to greet the holiday season at your doorstep.
Disclosure: I received a sample wreath from Creekside Farms for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

November 27, 2023

Brown Paper Packages Pinned on a Wall

Before I settle in to this long, languid Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to post something I worked on today while Chris was home--a Christmas countdown or (more Christian-like,) an Advent Calendar.
We have a chalkboard wall at the top of our stairs, right outside Soren's room.  We enjoy scribbling on this wall, whether just doodling or turning it into an interactive, communal display of wishes, sentiments and meaningful words.
Even the littlest hands among us like making their mark on our wall.
But I digress.  This isn't really about the wall, as difficult as it is to photograph (hello dark, windowless space with a black wall and a glare-inducing overhead light).  It's about something on the wall, something that you could create anywhere in your home.  And it requires the simplest of ingredients to make it happen.

Paper lunch sacks.  Markers.  Clothespins.  Ribbon.  Stuff to put inside.  That's it, assuming you have a wall to display it on.

Sketch your numbers on the bags.  No need to be fancy, though I drew mine in block letters, added white and gold decoration, and made the numbers 3-dimensional with the black marker.  Forgive me for flaunting my art background.
You can make these as simple as you'd like, or even better, let the kids do it.

Tack up your ribbon onto the wall.  I used nails, but you could probably use those hooks that stick to the wall and easily come off when you want them to.  Then arrange your bags, pinning them with clothespins.
Once I had the bags arranged, I filled them with treats.
Rather than just put junky stuff in them, I made each day meaningful by putting something for the kids to do (like take a walk around the neighborhood to view Christmas lights), wear, or make in it, along with some kind of suggestion for kindness or giving to others.
Some examples: decorate an ornament for an aunt or uncle, make a card for a friend, thank your bus driver for getting you to school safely, shop for canned goods for a local food bank, etc.  I know I'll be working with my eldest to accomplish these things, but it's good for me to do express these sentiments as well.

Once each bag has been opened (I plan to reuse them again next year; plus they're easy to store flat), we'll put the holiday cards we receive on that wall in place of the bags.
I think this wall will be a festive reminder of what I hope that this season is about--generosity toward others and enjoying our time together as a family.
Have a wonderful holiday season! 
(p.s. if you're wondering about those lights, they came from Target a few years ago, from their patio section)

November 26, 2023

Holiday Cards from Minted {Giveaway}

'Tis that time of year again, when we go nuts trying to get it all done--decorating, baking, wrapping and making.  One thing that I enjoy doing is creating holiday cards to send to my large extended family and friends.  Picking the perfect photo of my kids from the year and choosing a holiday card to go with it is one way that I like to enjoy the holiday season.
Merry Berry Mix Photo Card
For the past few years, I've gotten my cards from Minted, and I have never been disappointed.  In fact, I even have a few art prints from them and am pleased to admire them all year round.

As usual, Minted has a new assortment of gorgeous holiday cards for this time of year, whether for Christmas, Hanukkah (no Thanksgivukkah though, but that doesn't seem their style), or New Year's.
Preppy Stripe New Year's Photo Card
I've always liked how easy it is to create your own card on the Minted website.  You can easily change photos from color to black and white or sepia.
and in some cards, like the one above (which was actually one of the winners of their annual Design Challenge) you can even change the color and text of the sentiment.
Minted's holiday cards truly are customizable, including changing the edges, choosing a flat or folded design, adding special envelopes and more.  With the huge variety of styles and messages, you'll definitely find one that fits your personality.  And if you're not up for a photo card, they have non-photo cards too.  The hardest part of the process is choosing your favorite design; seriously, it's so difficult!

Some of my favorite include
Hand Painted Branches Holiday Card

Joy, Peace & Love Holiday Card

Quilted Holiday Card
Though it's a little hard to see, the text on the one below uses real foil, either gold or silver, your choice.
The Little Dove Foil-Pressed Holiday Card
A tough decision, definitely.  Which one would you pick?
One lucky reader will win a $100 Gift Certificate to Minted!  Please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a gift certificate to Minted for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

The Sounding Joy from Elizabeth Mitchell {Giveaway}

You might know that my kids and I are big fans of Elizabeth Mitchell's music.  We listen to it over and over in the car, and I can honestly say I don't tire of it.
When I saw that she was releasing a new album from Smithsonian Folkways, filled with seasonal and traditional Christmas tunes, I was eager to listen.
This album appeals to all ages, and taps into the collection of folk carols from Ruth Crawford Seeger's (mother of musicians Mike and Peggy Seeger and stepmother of Pete Seeger) 1953 songbook, American Folk Songs for Christmas, which I had not heard of before listening to The Sounding Joy.
 Seeger's music shares the spirit of community and Christmas prior to the commercialization of the holiday.  I admire that Elizabeth Mitchell is working to keep such songs in our collective American songbook, rather than letting them fade into oblivion.
Here's a sneak peek at one of the songs, Little Bitty Baby:
There are so many songs on this album that I was unfamiliar with, but was pleasantly pleased to hear.  Joining Mitchell on this album are quite a few other musicians and artists like Natalie Merchant, Dan Zanes, Happy Traum, and even special guest Peggy Seeger.  It's truly a collaboration unlike Elizabeth Mitchell's other albums (which tend to have just one or two guests) in that there are so many different voices and styles here.  In January, February, the Last Month of the Year, the vibe is more of a gospel choir than a folk ballad, which is a refreshing change.

The setlist is quite extensive for a Christmas album.

The Sounding Joy Tracklist:
1. Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb
2. Mary Had a Baby
3. Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow (feat. Mike Merenda)
4. January, February (Last Month of the Year) (feat. Amy Helm and Marco Benevento)
5. Joseph and Mary (The Cherry Tree Carol) (feat. Natalie Merchant)
6. Shine Like a Star in the Morning (feat. Simi Stone)
7. Joy to the World (feat. Jay Ungar)
8. Christmas Day in the Morning (feat. Peggy Seeger)
9. Mother’s Child (Child of God) (feat. Peggy Seeger)
10. Sing-a-Lamb (feat. Dan Zanes and Suzan Lori-Parks)
11. Great Big Stars
12. Baby Born Today (feat. The Silver Hollers - Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar and Chris Wood, with Larry Campbell)
13. Ain’t That a-Rockin’ All Night
14. Cradle Hymn
15. Bright Morning Stars Are Rising
16. Sing Hallelu (feat. Elizabeth Clark-Jerez)
17. The First Noel
18. The Blessings of Mary (feat. Larry Campbell)
19. Oh, Watch the Stars (feat. Aoife O’Donovan)
20. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
21. Mary Was the Queen of Galilee (feat. Gail Ann Dorsey and Joan Osborne)
22. Silent Night
23. Singing in the Land (feat. Natalie Merchant, Happy Traum, and John Sebastian)
24. Children, Go Where I Send Thee (feat. Natalie Merchant, Amy Helm, Ruthy Ungar, Gail Ann Dorsey, Dan Zanes, Aoife O'Donovan, Simi Stone)

I'm sure you'll see some songs or some singers you recognize. It's a lovely and meaningful audible treat for the holiday season, especially if you're interested in cultivating traditional Christmas values and a folksy back-to-basics celebration of the season.

And if you'll be in New York on the 14th of December (Saturday), she's playing an 11am concert at Symphony Space.  You can get tickets HERE.

One lucky reader will win a copy of The Sounding Joy!
Please leave a comment here about which song you'd like to hear.  I'll pick a winner randomly on the morning of December 4th, so that I can hopefully get the prize to you before Christmas. Good luck!
Disclosure: I received a sample copy of The Sounding Joy for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

UPDATE: #2, Tara is the winner via Thanks for entering!

November 25, 2023

You'd Better Watch Out

I've gotten myself into a pickle.  As usual, my waffling about a course of action has yet again brought about mixed emotions regarding a certain topic.  This time it's Santa Claus.
We've done the Santa thing for a few years now, including his elves who visit our home each December.  It's fun, certainly, but I've always had some reservations about the Santa charade (click away believers and little kids, you don't want to read the spoilers in the rest of this post).  I'm not opposed to encouraging the belief in magic and fantasy in my kids, frankly, I'd like to nurture that as much as possible in this grim world.  However, Santa Claus to me always seems to symbolize "getting" as opposed to "giving."  Generosity is something I've been having a hard time teaching to my eldest, despite trying to set a good example.

S was making out his Christmas list the other week, as kids are apt to do this time of year.  After listening and talking to him about it, I asked what he'd like to give to his dad, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and to his brother.  It was as if I spoke to the wind; he didn't even hear me at first, and then seemed irritated about it when I prodded the issue a bit. 

Despite a basket full of Christmas books on the topic of giving, peace, and goodwill, the model of charity has not been absorbed into our child.  I'm striving for things to be different this year, somehow, whether it's giving to those in need or just sitting together as a family and reflecting upon our blessings.

To add another complication to the situation, I found out that S doesn't believe in Santa anymore.  In my mind, I had always resolved to tell him the truth when he eventually asked me about it.  I thought it might have been when he was 8 or 9, but it turned out to be just a few weeks ago.  This is where my conflict lies; I thought I was ok with telling him the truth, but the truth is, I feel guilty puffing out that magic.  I try to live an honest, genuine life, so I assumed that by telling him that Santa isn't real would be a way to honor my values, however I'm having regrets.

It's not just Santa Claus that has been on my mind.  I've spoken with Chris about how conflicted about Christmas I am.  I'm not a Christian. I'm not a Pagan/Witch. I do believe in celebrating peace and goodwill towards all living things, and trying to bring some light and joy into these darkest (literally) of days.  I enjoyed this comment on a forum about Non-Christians celebrating Christmas
"Christmas barely had any connection to Christianity except that it was believed, from no sources or facts, that Jesus was born on that day when the exact date of Jesus' birth was unknown. Christmas actually was derived from the PAGAN holidays of Yule and Saturnalia, gift-giving and merrymaking are from Saturnalia; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year. Saturnalia and Yule were both holidays celebrating the winter solstice. Saint Nicholas was the Christian figure of Santa, however the Santa that we use as a figure is a trademark of Coca-Cola where they had used that version of Santa in advertisements."

I tend to celebrate Christmas more as a way of connecting to my own childhood memories of the season.  My mom especially brought so much joy into our home during Christmastime, and I want to do the same for my boys.  This year, I will continue to bring light and festivity to our home and family, but am also going to make more space for charity and expressing love and gratitude toward those we care about and to those who are in need.

Some of my ideas:
  • Shop for toys for children in need
  • Put together a food box as a family to donate to a local food bank
  • Make special treats for the birds and animals to hang outdoors
  • Create a countdown to Christmas calendar (I hesitate calling it an advent calendar) that focuses on doing something positive for a specific person each day (their names would be in the calendar bags along with a little treat)
  • Create handmade gifts for friends and family
  • Encourage random acts of kindness all month long, including baking treats to anonymously gift to our neighbors

And for those of you whose children know my son, I beg for your forgiveness in advance if he starts filling your child's head with ideas you aren't ready to face.

November 11, 2023

Knitting, Sewing, Cold Weather Work

Things have been quiet around here.  I often think maybe it's the fall of the Roman Empire, at least for this blog (I exaggerate a tad, comparing K&K to the Roman Empire). It certainly feels as if the blog is winding down (hello one post a week, at most).  It's not that I'm not doing a lot, or wanting to share, but taking photos, editing them, finding time to sit down and write (Chris and I often spend evenings watching movies or talking or reading, rather than hiding behind our respective screens).

I've also made it a priority to get the boys outside before dinner, just to enjoy the tepid weather and gorgeous color, even in our pavement-laced neighborhood.
But the lack of inertia here at Katydid and Kid is a topic for a different post, and rather than get sidetracked, I'll share some of the things I've been working on.

This weekend, I attended a Winter Gardening Workshop at the PA German Heritage center in our town.  It was really enlightening, learning about what the Pennsylvania Dutch grew over the winter months and how they supplemented their diet with fresh vegetables to keep healthy.
Calendula, which I didn't realize was quite hardy.  It's used in salads and other foods.
It's inspired me to take late-season gardening a little more seriously, and I'm intending to get plant some garlic this week, hopefully not too late!
I've also been trying to dry herbs from our yard to use in teas and cooking this winter.
In terms of making, I finished up a picnic quilt that I'm contributing to a fat quarter stash book.  Not sure why I was asked to be part of it, considering I'm not the world's best sewer.  But it was a fun and easy project to make.
And if I can do it, anyone can.  Even the grommets in the corners, which make the blanket versatile and wind-proof.
My knitting has also made it back to my lap, finally.
My latest project is trying to finish up projects, from half-done hats, to a vest that has now been outgrown by Soren, but I'll be darned if Jude bypasses it too.
I also have a goal of making a few pairs of mittens for the boys. I have fond memories of a family friend sending hand-knitted mitten replenishments for my brothers and me each year.  There was always a full basket of these mittens, even while some were soggily drying on the baseboards after a round of building snow forts.

In other needle arts news, we're dealing with a bracelet loom epidemic.
I'll admit to making one or two myself, and that I've mastered the fishtail design.  I'm frankly surprised that Soren is so into making these (and hording them, I'm afraid.  We're working on fostering the spirit of giving).  It makes me happy, that there just might be some things that we have in common.

So this week, you might not hear a peep from me, but you'll know that there's a lot going on in my world.  Enjoy your week, and hopefully find some time to create!
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