Wednesday, December 19, 2018

3 Easy Christmas Crafts To Make With Kids

Here are three easy, green, kid-friendly Christmas crafts that I've made with my daughter over the years.  All three utilize repurposed / recycled / upcycled materials.

#1: Christmas Trees Made from Painted Paper Party Hats

painted paper party hat Christmas tree easy craft for kids

Do you enjoy wearing paper party hats?  Of course you don't!  Nobody does!  Their elastic strings are always too tight, and they bear an unfortunate resemblance to dunce caps.  Since they aren't any fun to wear, why not transform them into some darling decorated Christmas trees?

I made these sweet Christmas trees with my daughter when she was a toddler.  We started with paper party hats left over from a birthday party.   First, we punched holes along the bottom edges so we'd have the option of putting a battery powered tea light candle inside.  Next, we painted them with green acrylic craft paint.  This step is easier if you are able to open the hats and lay them flat on a protected surface.  After the paint was dry, we used white glue, glitter, beads, and pom poms to decorate them.  These trees were so simple to make, but when we pull them out every year, they bring back the fun memory.

2. Recycled Tissue Paper Tree Ornament 

Recycled tissue paper Christmas tree ornament craft for kids

Several years ago, I had a group of kids coming over to our house for a playdate and no time to run to the store for craft materials.  After unsuccessfully combing Pinterest for a simple DIY ornament project using materials that I had on hand, I came up with this idea.    

Start by cutting the trees (essentially, triangles with a square trunk attached) out of cereal boxes or similar chipboard boxes.  Punch a hole near the top of each tree.  Have each child tear and wad up small pieces of festive colored tissue paper for his or her tree (this is the best part).  Apply white glue to the printed side of a chipboard tree a little at a time and arrange tissue wads on the glue.  You can glue the tissue wads in rows or "free-form"--there are no rules here!  Gluing the tissue to the printed side of the chipboard leaves the back side plain so that you can write the child's name and the date on it.  (Optional: once dry, add sparkles with glitter or glitter glue.)  Finally, glue a small brown square of chipboard over the trunk and add a ribbon or string at the top for hanging.

3. Glitter-Dipped Light Bulbs

Glitter dipped light bulbs repurpose upcycle reuse craft

Here's a great way to upcycle burned out light bulbs from your night lights, candelabras, and Christmas lights.  Use a paintbrush to "paint" glue on the glass portion of the bulb and then sprinkle or roll glitter over the glue.

Once dry, these glamorous, upcycled bulbs are fun to display with greenery in a small dish, tuck into a shadow box, combine with ornaments and glass balls as vase filler, or arrange with vintage ornaments for a centerpiece.

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

3 Easy, Upcycled Christmas DIY Projects

Chilly December days at home are the perfect time to try your hand at some simple Christmas DIY projects.  Here are three projects that I have made over the years.  All were made from materials that I already had on hand.

1. DIY Reusable Cloth Gift Bags

After replacing our long, rectangular table with a round one, I found myself with a bright red tablecloth that no longer fit our table.  I'd always been intrigued by the idea of reusable, fabric gift bags, so I decided to cut up the tablecloth to make gift bags for our family to reuse year after year.  They've held up for a decade so far!

Cloth gift bags are simple to make with the help of a sewing machine.  Each bag is essentially a pillowcase with one open end.  I made gift bags in a range of sizes to accommodate different sized gifts.  If you repurpose a tablecloth, you can strategically cut it so that you use the finished edge of the tablecloth for the open end of the pillowcase to save some hemming.  Alternatively, you can use pinking sheers to prevent the open end from fraying. 

To tie the bags closed, I have used tartan plaid ribbon that I already had on hand--similar to this ribbon.  You either can use a separate ribbon to tie each bag closed, or you can use a couple of stitches to attach a ribbon at its center point near the open end of the bag to "marry" the ribbon and the bag.

Gifts wrapped by family members before Christmas are just tucked in cloth bags under the tree; additional empty bags can be left near the tree on Christmas Eve for Santa to fill. 

Wrapping gifts is a breeze--just slide the gift inside, tie with a ribbon, and add a gift tag or a sticker to name the recipient!  Then, at midnight on Christmas Eve, when all of the moms in your local Facebook group are frantically wrapping gifts while posting crying face/glass of wine emojis, you can put up your feet, gaze at the Christmas tree, and indulge in an extra cup of cocoa.

Christmas morning clean up is simple too--no wrestling mountains of wrapping paper into the recycle bin.  Just fold up the bags, and you're finished!  

2. DIY Vintage Postcard Window

The mullions on an old window offer an easy framework for displaying vintage Christmas postcards (or your favorite Christmas cards from past years) on a mantel or over a sideboard.  Old windows can often be found at your local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  Simply attach the cards to the window with rolled tape.  If you don't have a collection of favorite cards, The Graphics Fairy offers fun, free, printable vintage French Christmas postcards here.  You can also order books or sets of reproduction vintage Christmas postcards, such as this set below, offered by Amazon:

3. DIY Gift Garland

I was inspired to make this easy garland after a stylist used a similar garland in a photo in the Pottery Barn catalog many years ago.  Wrap small gift boxes with scraps of wrapping paper or fabric and tie with pretty ribbons, and then string all of them onto a single ribbon to hang as a garland.  Tip: if you don't have enough little boxes, the lids and bases of jewelry boxes can be wrapped separately to stretch your box supply.  These gift garlands are darling draped across a mirror, mantel, or armoire.  They also make cute props for Christmas portraits.

Happy crafting!

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Easy DIY Farmhouse Centerpiece

Easy DIY Rustic Farmhouse Centerpiece Using Ball Jars from The Red Chair Blog

There is a mindset that I adopt when I do interior redesign work.  It's more a directive than a mindset, really: I assume that I already have what I need.  I could write a lot about this mindset and how it relates to bigger issues like consumerism and minimalism and spirituality and contentment, but for the purpose of today's post, all I need to say is that this simple directive always pushes me to flex my creative muscles and find solutions to problems.  Somehow in my creative work, whenever I assume that I already have what I need, I'm right!

Inspirational quote from The Red Chair Blog Assume that you already have what you need

When it was time to photograph this kitchen for my website, the long farmhouse table was begging for a long farmhouse centerpiece.  More specifically, a Joanna Gaines "Fixer Upper" style long, rustic, reclaimed wood box centerpiece.

White farmhouse kitchen with walls in Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray and floors in Pergo Haley Oak

I didn't have a long, rustic, reclaimed wooden box centerpiece--nor did I feel inspired to build one--but I did have a single, rustic board.  And a shelf full of blue Heritage Collection Ball jars.  And access to a North Carolina backyard bursting with mint.  And so a formula presented itself:

Wooden board + Jars + Filler= Instant Farmhouse Centerpiece  

The centerpiece pictured here is shown on an 8 foot long farm table.  I'll share more details about this room in a future post.  To assemble the centerpiece, I started with a piece of pallet wood measuring approximately 5" x 40" and centered it on the table.  A longer, wider board would have been ideal, but I was assuming that I already had what I needed!  I filled ten aqua blue Ball jars half full of water, lined them up on top of the board, and added fresh-cut mint to each one.
Easy Joanna Gaines style Rustic DIY Farmhouse centerpiece using ball jars from The Red Chair Blog

The Ball jars are sold on Amazon in sets of 6, so two full sets are pictured here.  If you look carefully, you can spot the final two jars serving as drinking glasses on the kitchen island.  As a side note, the jars are perfect for lemonade, iced tea, or even smoothies, as their wide mouths make them easy to clean.

If you don't own blue Ball jars, scout your house assuming that you already have exactly what you need!  Clear jars would work well too; check your recycle bin for peanut butter jars, pickle jars, or jam jars.  You could also substitute a row of short drinking glasses.  Even tin cans with the labels removed could work.  Filler can be flowers, herbs, or votive candles for a different look.

Also pictured in this tablescape are vintage Libbey Duratuff Gibraltar glass goblets in a light green color called "Spanish Green".  These vintage glasses can usually be found on Etsy.  A clear glass version of the same product can be found on Amazon here.  The white dishes are Pfaltzgraff Filigree.  The woven cotton turquoise placemats were made by Windham Weavers / Homer Laughlin (RN# 84914).

The key to making this centerpiece look intentional is repetition; whatever vessel you choose to use, use a lot of them for visual impact!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Feng Shui Tips for Love and Romance

Feng shui tips for love and romance from The Red Chair Blog

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese art and science of arranging one's environment to be in harmony with nature's energy.  Whether you are single or in a relationship,Valentine's Day is a great day to spend a few minutes improving the feng shui of the "marriage / relationship" corner of your master bedroom.

To start, locate the marriage corner of your room. Stand in the doorway so that you're facing into the room. The far right corner of the room is your marriage corner:

How to find the marriage relationship corner feng shui The Red Chair BlogTake a look at your marriage corner.  Is it piled to the ceiling with dirty laundry? Is it home to your video collection of every episode of "Divorce Court" that ever aired? Is it where you showcase your prized prickly cactus or your pet piranha, "Jaws"?  Or maybe it holds accidental symbols of solitude and unrequited love, such as this sad little perpetually-puckering figurine?

Kissing angel image from The Red Chair Blog

I once worked with a single client who discovered, much to her dismay, that her marriage corner held two overflowing garbage cans!  Another client laughingly observed that the display shelf in her marriage corner had been home to the cremated remains of her pets.  She quipped, "You mean I'm not supposed to have dead animals in my marriage corner?!"

Think about the symbolism of the objects in this corner of the room.  If an object doesn't symbolize love, partnership, and affection--and your current relationship--it doesn't belong in the marriage corner!

So what does belong in your marriage corner?  Here are some suggestions:
  • Photos of you and your beloved together.  Wedding photos are wonderful here!
  • Thriving, growing houseplants
  • Fresh flowers 
  • Your wedding cake topper  (But if you saved and dried your bridal bouquet, display it elsewhere; dried flowers are a feng shui "no-no" because they are technically...dead!)
  • Candles (pairs are best)
  • Framed love letters or framed quotes about love
  • Pairs that represent love to you (for example, two "lovebirds")
  • Heart-shaped objects
  • Your marriage certificate or framed wedding invitation
The colors that are said to enhance this area are red, white, and pink. What a coincidence: Valentine colors! Pink can be tough to incorporate into most of today's color schemes, but red and white are good candidates. You may even be able to repurpose a few of your Valentine's Day decorations or cards here year-round. 

This set of 2 Elufly porcelain mini heart dishes is a textbook example of what to display in your marriage corner.  This affordable set gets points in three categories: it's a pair, it's white, and it's also heart-shaped!

Heart dishes are good feng shui for the marriage corner of your bedroom The Red Chair Blog

A sweet heart dish is good romance feng shui The Red Chair Blog

While feng shui-ing the marriage corner is helpful, it's also important to take a step back to assess the master bedroom as a whole from the perspective of whether it can accommodate the needs of just one person or two.  Is the bed wedged into a corner, or are both sides of the bed easily accessible? Are there two nightstands and two table lamps flanking the bed, or only one?

When I work with single clients, I often notice that they have only one nightstand and/or one bedside lamp in the master bedroom.  Sometimes they have stored the second, matching nightstand in the attic or in a closet, explaining that they "don't need it".  I encourage single clients to symbolically make space for a future partner by including a pair of nightstands and a pair of lamps flanking the bed in the master bedroom.

Pairs hold symbolic power in a master bedroom.  But feng shui aside, pairs also add nice visual symmetry, and a pair of lovely, matching lamps can sometimes be the finishing touch that elevates the room to "finished" status.  The two nightstands don't need to be identical, but they should be of similar height, color, and visual weight.  In a small bedroom, a pair of petite dressers can serve as nightstands, eliminating the need for a single larger chest of drawers or a large dresser.

Be creative and have fun! Happy Valentine's Day!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bicycle Napkin Rings at Steinmart

I recently saw these fun, red bicycle napkin rings on clearance at Steinmart, and I couldn't resist snapping a photo with my phone to share.  Priced at $1.95 each--with additional coupons available--they're a whimsical design surprise for your table, especially if your family loves bikes and bike riding!

Given their cheerful red color, they could be pressed into service for several different holidays too.  Pair them with patriotic place mats for the Fourth of July, or wrap a little sprig of faux holly berries and leaves around the handlebars at Christmas.  When Valentine's Day rolls around (no pun intended), these little bikes can partner with pink and white table linens.

Bicycle napkin rings from Steinmart spotted on The Red Chair Blog

I have a special place in my heart for all things bicycle-related because I rode an older, red "Gypsy Sport" bike as my primary form of transportation all through my undergraduate years.  There were more bikes than people in our CA college town, and the town was designed to be bike-friendly, with abundant bike lanes and bike parking.  Though many bikes were stolen every year, no one ever stole "the Gypsy"!

Friday, June 3, 2016

DIY Small Space Laundry System Revisited

DIY small space laundry system using hanging laundry bags from The Red Chair Blog

In January of 2010, I wrote a post in which I shared my small space laundry solution: hanging two hanging laundry bags on double hooks one above the other on the back of a bathroom door to hold two full loads of dirty laundry without taking up any floor space.  The original post--which includes detailed DIY instructions for painting the bags--can be found here

Over the years, my DIY laundry system post has consistently been one of my top ten most visited posts.  Apparently Don Henley was right: people really do love dirty laundry!  Today, I wanted to circle back to reaffirm my love for these bags.  I'm happy to report that they are still going strong 7+ years after purchase. 

In my former home, I hung the bags one above the other on the back of the bathroom door as seen in these photos from 2010:

DIY small space laundry system using hanging laundry bags The Red Chair Blog storing laundry

Easy DIY small space laundry solution using hanging laundry bags from The Red Chair Blog
The system worked beautifully; the only problem that I noticed over the years was that when both bags were completely full of laundry, they threw off the alignment of the door a bit due to the weight.  This problem corrected itself as soon as the bags were "reset" to empty again.

After moving to a new house that has a bathroom layout without space behind the door, I decided to use drywall anchors to hang the bags on a side wall in my master bedroom closet.  Though the closet is tiny by today's standards--less than 4 feet wide and just over 3 feet deep--the bags fit right in.  The photo below shows placement.  Full disclosure: despite my appreciation of the KonMari Method and my earnest efforts at decluttering, I do in fact own more than one outfit!

Easy DIY laundry storage system using hanging laundry bags from The Red Chair Blog

This photo was taken last summer, but even today, these laundry bags look great and are still sturdy and strong.  In this day of planned obsolescence, it's refreshing to discover products that last.

I love these bags.  They're sturdy, affordable, easy to carry in one hand, and each bag holds a full load of laundry.  The hook at the top of the bag comes in handy for hanging the bag when you are transferring clothes to the washing machine. They're sold plain, but you can easily personalize them as I did in my original post.  The right organizing tools can make all the difference!

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sweet and Simple Cloth Beach Balls

To continue my series on handmade kids' toys, here's one of my favorite DIY toy projects.  Cloth beach balls are simple to sew, and they make adorable baby gifts.  For preschoolers, they're a soft, gentle, less-destructive ball for indoor play.  As an added bonus, due to their patchwork nature, they can be made from smaller scraps of fabric that are left over from other projects.

I discovered this project on the Purl Soho website many years ago.  This link will take you to Purl's beautiful and detailed tutorial, including templates to make three different sized beach balls.

When I followed the Purl tutorial the first time, I came across one challenge.  The instructions suggested cutting the center circle from cotton fabric, folding the edges under, and then hand stitching it onto the ball.  This turned out to be easier said than done!

Here is the first ball that I made for a sweet friend's baby boy.  Despite my best efforts, the blanket stitch around the central circle came out looking more than a little homemade!

As a scandalous side note, the plaid fabric was actually snipped from an ill-fitting sundress.  Sorry, Ann T., but crafting trumps fashion!  And as I've said in past posts, when you think like a Martian, you don't see tablecloths, pillowcases, dresses, or curtains.  You just see fabric!

I made another beach ball for a sweet baby girl.  That time, I used fleece for the center circle.  I cut the edges of the circle with pinking sheers to reduce fraying, and then hand stitched it onto the ball.  As you can see from the photo, I use the term "circle" loosely!

I made the ball below for my daughter around five year ago from mismatched fabric scraps selected purely for their "fun factor".  If my memory serves, an oxford shirt may have been sacrificed for the black and white gingham, and the purple fleece came from an outgrown sweatshirt.

Again, I cut the sweatshirt fleece with pinking sheers, and I stitched it on "wrong-side-out" for the center circle.  I preferred the texture of the underside of the fleece fabric.  Reversed fabric can be used in home decorating too, as I discussed in this post.

DIY cloth beach ball great baby gift and easy to sew from The Red Chair Blog

If you'd like to make a cloth beach ball but don't have fabric scraps on hand, Amazon offers some neat fabric bundles like this one by Amy Butler.  You may want to compare dimensions with the Purl template prior to placing an online order, as some bundle shapes (eg: smaller squares) might not work for this project.

My daughter's favorite way to play with this ball was to sit at the bottom of the stairs, throw the ball up to a higher stair, and laugh as it gently bounced back down to her.  Despite this ball's involvement in more than one pillow fight, it has never been implicated in any bumped noses or broken vases a la Peter Brady.  What's not to love!?

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Painted Pistachio Shell Cars & A Free Printable

Kid toy car craft using painted pistachio shells at The Red Chair Blog

We're snowed in here in North Carolina, so I thought that this would be a great time to continue my series about handmade toys that I have made for my daughter over the years.  If you're snowed in with your kiddos, you can whip up a fleet of these tiny, adorable pistachio shell cars in no time.  I've also provided a free, printable PDF of the backdrop that you and your kids can color!

Back in 2012, when my daughter was three years old, two things happened simultaneously:

1. My family purchased--and devoured--an enormous bag of pistachio nuts.

2. I discovered the wonderful, printable paper toys on the Made By Joel website. 

The synergy of these two life-altering events inspired me to dream up this easy craft project that uses pistachio shells along with a printable backdrop for play.

For an investment of just a few minutes of my time and a few pennies worth of craft paint, I created a fun set that my daughter really enjoyed.  Vroom, vroom!

Kid craft DIY painted pistachio shell cars and printable backdrop from The Red Chair Blog

Are you ready to make some cars of your own? 

How to Make the Cars:

Empty shells from pistachio nuts (washed out and dried)
Craft paint (ie: acrylic paint) in several colors, including white
Small paint brushes (Q-tips could work in a pinch!)
Black fine point Sharpie marker
Toothpicks--flat or round will work
Old clothing or art smocks to protect kids' clothes


1. Gather your materials, cover your work surfaces, and put art smocks on your kids (acrylic paint will stain fabric and clothing).

2. Using small paint brushes and colored craft paint, cover the pistachio shell halves with paint and allow them to dry.  You won't need to wait very long; acrylics dry quickly!

3. Use a black Sharpie marker to draw on the tires.

4. Use a toothpick and white craft paint to add hubcaps (a single dot of paint) and windows (the side of the toothpick point is useful for "smearing" the windows on).

5. Use a toothpick to add bumpers if desired.  I used a grayish purple color for mine.

6. Allow to dry, and play, play, PLAY!

Painted pistachio shell toy cars from The Red Chair Blog

How to Make the Printable Paper Backdrop:

White letter sized printer paper or card stock (the latter will stand up better)
Crayons, colored pencils, and/or markers for coloring (yellow hilighters are great for "glowing" windows)

1. Download the free, printable PDF of the "Pistachio Lane" backdrop from my website.  You can find it by clicking here (no sign up is required).  If you don't see the link, try refreshing the page.
2. Print it out on your printer.
3. Color it in using colored pencils, crayons, and/or markers.
4. Fold at the edge where the houses meet the driveways, as pictured.
5. Play, play, PLAY!

Painted pistachio shell cars from The Red Chair Blog

At the risk of craft-bragging, I love that this project is green and eco-friendly, inexpensive, quick, easy, and kid-friendly!  It would be a great group craft activity for a kids' party or even a summer camp.  As an added plus, the finished product will take up very little storage space in your home.  However, there are two safety issues to consider.  First, due to the choking hazard, this project (and the resulting toy) is best suited for kids age 3 and up.  Also, pistachio nuts are an allergen for some children, so please exercise caution during playdates.

After you have made your first set, there's a lot of room to expand on this idea.  Maybe you'll print several copies of "Pistachio Lane" and connect them side by side to make a larger neighborhood?  Or you can draw a whole paper downtown that connects to "Pistachio Lane", with a library, ice cream store, or other businesses!

Maybe your little one might enjoy drawing his or her own backdrop (including a "parking lot"), as my daughter did when she was three.

Kid craft painted pistachio shell cars from The Red Chair Blog

Or maybe you'll be inspired to create other things out of pistachio shells, craft paint, and a Sharpie.  How about a tiny set of ladybug buddies that are just the right size to slip into your pocket to keep your kiddo entertained on an airplane or in a restaurant?

Painted pistachio shell ladybugs from The Red Chair Blog

Or a minuscule mouse with his own paper wedge of Swiss cheese? The harsh lighting in this photo gives it a "crime scene" effect; maybe the cheese was actually stolen from some other mouse's Swiss account?!

Painted pistachio shell mouse from The Red Chair Blog

Have fun, and happy crafting!

Painted pistachio shell cars from The Red Chair Blog

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