Homemade & eco-friendly Christmas tree trimming

Last year I got all crafty and made all of the decorations for our Christmas tree. The mood didn’t strike me this year (although we still have several of our salt dough ornaments from last year), but in case any of you are inspired to create an eco-friendly homemade Christmas tree, I thought I’d repost the blog I wrote a year ago.

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Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

Originally posted Dec. 15, 2008

After writing my holiday eco-friendly crafts post, I got this insane great idea that it’d be lots of fun to make all of the decorations for our Christmas tree this year.  I was hoping to involve the kids in the crafting, but my first two attempts – with popcorn garland and cranberry garland – were not as successful as I hoped. Turns out that popcorn is fairly hard to put a needle through and I didn’t want to risk Ava poking the heck out of herself, so she and Julian ate popcorn while I threaded it. The cranberries were a little harder than I would’ve liked too so I did those myself while the kids ate them and then spat them out because they are, of course, very tart. ;)

I also made the star on the top of our tree by cutting it out of a pie tin (super sharp edges) and gluing it to a piece of black paper.

Finally this morning, I decided on a project we could work on together (at least Ava and I could and Julian could help out later) – salt dough ornaments!

Here’s the recipe that I used.

Salt Dough Ornaments

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Optional: 1 tablespoon any type of oil (to make it easier to work with – thanks to Brighid for the tip)

I didn’t have enough sea salt, so I used my kosher salt (after grinding it up in the food processor a bit). It worked just as well. I think table salt is probably what they have in mind for this recipe though.

Mix salt and flour. Add in half the water, then gradually add the remaining water. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes.

I divided up my dough into different segments and used food coloring on some of it.

For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough (to about 1/4 inch thickness) on baking paper, wax paper, or directly on a cookie sheet. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands.

Add details to the ornaments with a toothpick and knife.

Don’t forget to use a straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament. (I forgot to do this on two of mine. Oops!)

Baking: Time varies based on thickness of ornament
Temperature: 325°F.
Time: 20 minutes or until dry – They should be hard to the touch, but not brown.

After they are done baking and cooling, you can paint, add glitter, spray with a clear finish, etc. We chose not to do this and let me tell you why I’m glad we didn’t.
a) because Julian decided to start tasting several of the ornaments
b) because a few, invariably, got dropped or stepped on and broke, but because they don’t have any extra stuff on them, I can just throw them into the composter. (The popcorn and cranberries can go out for the birds when you are done with them or into the compost bin). :)

Finally, add ribbon, yard, string, twine, etc. and your ornaments are ready to hang on the tree or give as gifts.

And now, the pictures…

Ava hard at work 12/14/08 Decorating candy cane ornaments 12/14/08 Ornaments ready to go into the oven  12/14/08

Putting yarn in our ornaments  12/14/08 Finished ornaments  12/14/08 Ava showing Julian how to hang ornaments  12/14/08

A tree on a tree  12/14/08 My little candy cane 12/14/08 Julian gets the hang of it fast  12/14/08

Ava’s happy tree 12/14/08 Last-minute rearranging before bed 12/14/08 Our homemade-decorated tree  12/14/08

I don’t know if we’ll stick with just the homemade decorations on the tree – I think we may add a handful of ornaments we’ve collected over the years – but I will say that despite the extra work involved, I really enjoy the organic-feel and personality that our tree has this year. It’s been a lot of fun. :)

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3 Years Old, a love letter

Dear Julian,

It’s been three years since you made your surprise entrance into my world, dancing your way into our lives and into my heart.

You’re such a sweet child. I love watching you and Ava play together and hearing you tell her that you love her. You don’t always get along and you can get quite feisty when you want to (yes, you are strong-willed just like your sister and your mother), but you are a gentle soul.

You enjoy your fair share of rough housing and got your first stitches last week to prove it. Well, not quite. Actually the stitches were the result of an accidental fall into a coffee table, and while I hope they are the only stitches you ever have to get, as I watch you jump off the furniture wildly, I’m afraid they may not be the last. As a result of the coffee table fall, you are celebrating your third birthday with a black eye.

There are little things that you’ve said over the past few years that always make me smile. You’ve grown out of saying “elphalent” (elephant) and “ee-thare” (either), but you still say “their chothers” (each other) and I love that. I don’t want to forget all of the cute sayings, but I know that if I don’t write them down like this, sadly I will.

You go to preschool one day a week now, and although you have separation anxiety for a moment or two when I drop you off, you have transitioned into Miss G’s class remarkably well. I’m so proud of you.

You make me smile. You make me laugh. I love your “nose cozies” and silly faces.

You also challenge me. Both you and Ava make me want to be a better mom and a better person.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to nurse you the past three years. I don’t know when our nursing relationship will end, but I think that “na-na” has definitely helped you get through some illnesses, nourishing you both physically and emotionally, and I’m thankful for that.

I find it hard to believe that you, my baby, are three years old today. It simultaneously feels like you were just born and that you’ve been a part of our lives forever. As we say goodbye to the toddler years, I look forward to seeing the boy you become.

I’ll never grow tired your response when I tell you, “You’re my best boy,” which is “You’re my best girl.” I love being your best girl, Julian. :)

Happy third birthday, Jules. I love you.
— Mommy


Photo credit (for the second picture): Linda King

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First stitches – Wordless Wednesday

On Monday afternoon, Julian took a header into the corner of the coffee table at my sister’s office. I had just left and missed the trauma, but returned momentarily after my sister called me and we piled into the car and took him to the ER. Julian got 7 stitches above his left eye and was quite the little trooper.

In the ER, before stitches:

Later that day at home, after stitches:

In the moment, it wasn’t hard to be present for my little guy as he was restrained and stitched back up, but when I think about it now, after the fact, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I hope I don’t have to go through that again anytime soon. You hear me, coffee tables?? Stay away from my kids’ heads! (We actually retired our coffee table to the basement years ago.)

I’m happy to report that Julian’s been acting just fine since the incident. His eye is mostly swollen shut, but it’s not affecting his desire to play and be his goofy ol’ self.

Ava decided to commemorate the occasion by drawing a portrait of Julian with his ouchee.

Julian gets his stitches out on Saturday – two days before his 3rd birthday. :P Happy birthday, wild boy!

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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The Halloween version of Wordless Wednesday

It’s Wednesday and I’m sick and posting a few pics is all I can muster right now. :P

This is what happens when you get a foot of snow before Halloween:

Two days later “I’m melting, I’m melting!”:

Happy Halloween from the mime, doggy, snow princess & Mr. Clean:

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Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern – Wordless Wednesday

Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern
You are such a funny sight
As you sit there in the window
Looking out at the night

You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a sturdy vine
Now you are a jack-o-lantern
Let your candle light shine

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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