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Awesome Fall/Winter Projects and Crafts

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! ‘Tis the season to roll yourself in glitter, slap a paper star to your forehead, and adopt as your official motto the phrase “All Your Crafts Are Belong to Us.” Work has made me insane in the membrane, so this year I’m not thinking too far outside the box and am instead revisiting craft posts from the past, all of which emphasize getting your gluestick groove on in cheap and easy ways. The TP Tube Turkeys and Borax Crystal Snowflakes are not to be missed, but there are some other gems in there too. (The Starlight Peppermint Cups are pretty awesome, IMO.)

Have fun, pin away, and let me know which are your favorites!

Fall and Thanksgiving

TP Tube Turkeys *crowd favorite!*

Thankfulness Turkey Basket (There’s a surprise on the feathers.)

Winter and Christmas

Borax Crystal Snowflakes *crowd favorite!*

DIY Snowglobe Magnets *crowd favorite!*

Starlight Peppermint Cups

Ivory Snow Trees

Spaghetti Trees

Martha Wrap Trees

Easy DIY Felt Trees

DIY Snowglobes

New Years

24 Awesome Advent Calendars (to Make or Buy)

14 New Year’s Eve Projects and Crafts

Easy DIY Felt Trees

These are great, aren’t they?


L to r: Land of Nod, now out of stock, and the Company Store, $29 (hat tip to Caitlin’s holiday decor guide for the link).

Now let me show you how to make them for $3.


This post was originally published in December 2012.

Here’s my definition of the perfect craft: quick, easy, inexpensive, endlessly customizable, and goooooood-lookin’. When I came across these simple and modern felt trees (Christmas or otherwise) in the LAnd of Nod catalog (in 2012), I knew I had to at least try to make them. To tell the truth, sometimes my “inspired by something I saw in a catalog” DIY crafts are epic failures, but this one? This one was even easier than I thought it would be, which is why it’s genius for busy families, even ones who think they don’t have crafting skills.

Putting the tree together takes almost no time at all, but there is a fair amount of prep, which makes this a good project to start while kicking back with a cup of tea (or hot toddy) and watching a holiday movie you’ve seen three dozen times. (It doesn’t get better than Love, Actually, yeah?)


What you’ll need:

–papier mache cone
–sheets of felt
–small circle for tracing (I used the rim of a shot glass)
–pen for tracing
–hot glue gun or craft glue

The inspiration models had soft, rounded bottoms, were sewn and stuffed, and would be way too much work to replicate exactly, which is why we’re making some working-mom adjustments, starting with the tree form. I found three sizes of papier mache cones at the craft store, and they were just the thing. They’re inexpensive ($2 to $6), easy to work with, and they stack away when the holidays are over. If you can’t find paper cones, I bet styrofoam would work too.


The cones are 7″, 10.63″, and 13.75″ tall. Here’s my almost-four-year-old holding the medium-sized ones, for scale:


I loved the muted colors of the original trees, but I happened to have a giant sheet of bright green felt already, so that’s what I used for my first attempt. I bought some red felt (the cheap kind that comes in 9″x12″ sheets for $.29) to balance out my collection.


I traced circles onto the felt using a shot glass and a really inky pen (but one that didn’t bleed through the felt to the other side). Each circle measures just under 2″ across; I made them all the same size so I wouldn’t have to do any math. If you have an ink pad, I bet you could even stamp out the circles, which would speed things up even more. (If you’re doing trees in several sizes, it would probably look great to do smaller circles for the smaller trees, and larger for larger, but you certainly don’t have to.)


(You also don’t have to cut your own circles at all, since Etsy sells them in big batches.

The number of circles you need will depend on the size of your tree and how close together you glue your circles. For the medium-sized tree in these photos, I needed 47 circles; for the smaller red tree I used 27. I traced and cut out the circles not while drinking tea and watching a favorite holiday flick but while bouncing my baby in his carrier. So it goes.



Now comes the fun part! Glue the circles onto your cone in rows starting at the bottom. Let this bottom row overlap the base of the cone so you can either flare the ends out onto your table or tuck and glue them under for a finished edge. I worked around the cone from left to right in rows (rather than in a continuous spiral, if that makes sense; basically, go all the way around the bottom, then start a new row above that). You can tuck the edge of the last circle in each row under the first circle from that row for a seamless look.


I used hot glue because it dries almost instantly and makes the process go faster. The only things you need to be careful about with hot glue are (a) not using too much or letting it get too hot that it melts the felt and (b) not gluing your fingers together (ouch). Craft glue (even Elmer’s) is the other option, although you risk the circles sliding around before the glue dries. I’d definitely use craft glue if I were doing this with kids, for obvious reasons.

And there’s not much to it other than that! I glued the circles onto the medium tree in about 15 minutes, which was great because I wanted to make a whole forest of these for my dining room table. (I have small children and naughty cats, so my decorations need to be unbreakable.) If you want to get really fancy, and if you have access to a wide range of felt colors, you could pick shades that would let you do a cool ombre pattern from tip to base. If you have wacky kids who love to make wacky crafts, you could cut out circles in all kinds of crazy colors (do they make neon felt?) and create multicolored trees. I’ve even seen felt stamped with patterns like waves or snakeskin. If you’re into glitz, mist your finished trees with a bit of spray glitter, or glue on something shiny like beads, sequins, or ribbon. Instead of cutting circles, you could cut triangles for a pointy tree. Hey, how about using those zig-zag fabric scissors? Or making these in fall colors for Thanksgiving? So many options. So much fun. Let me know what you come up with!


If you like this, you might also like my other winter/holiday/Christmas crafts. Click for the list!

14 Sep

Locked and Loaded: National Child Passenger Safety Week

Nothing ruffles a parent’s feathers quite like a well-meaning bystander pointing a finger and proclaiming UR DOIN IT WRONG. It’s hard not to puff up against criticism when we are, for all intents and purposes, trying our hardest to do what’s best for our children.

But to assume that we always know what’s best is to perhaps be too confident for our own good. You know your child best, yes, no argument there, but that doesn’t mean you know everything. Being open to the idea that there’s room to improve can mean raising your parenting bar and bettering your own personal best. Besting your best. Being the best you can be. And when that happens, everyone benefits.

A year or two ago an online acquaintance commented on a photo of one of my kids in his car seat, politely informing me that his chest clip was way too low and should be lined up with his armpits [instead of the unprotected internal organs that would get mashed like boiled red potatoes in the event of a crash]. She was super kind and respectful and did not go so far as to relay any graphic potato-related imagery, but I was nonetheless appropriately embarrassed and horrified, and from that moment on I became ever vigilant about properly restraining my boys within their car seats. I knew about the pinch test and proper strap-to-shoulder height and how much to freak out when two-year-old Fox started unclipping himself as we merrily rolled down the freeway at 65 mph (i.e., a lot; much freakout, very panic). I thought I was doing my job. I thought I was on top of things. I may have awarded myself a virtual trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Car Seat Strapping-Inning. I at least knew I was doing the best I knew how. But…I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

As it turns out, there’s more to car seats than simply containing your kid so he can’t get out (although that’s certainly a handy feature).

AAA Car Seat Safety Day - A Girl and a Boy_7

This post is sponsored by AAA and was written in support of its 10th annual Child Car Seat Safety program, as well as National Child Passenger Safety Week, aka Now’s a Good Time to Check Out Your Car Seat for Proper Installation and Use Because UR [Probably] DOIN IT WRONG.

Keeping your kids safely in the seat is only half of the equation; the other half is keeping their seat safely in the vehicle.

Confession: I never really bothered to learn proper car seat installation because I’d shoved that into the Husband Job column along with things like cooking food over fire and handling substances of unknown origin. And even if I had read up on my car seats when we’d first bought them, we’re at the point at which I’d switched over to auto-pilot, just assuming everything was as ship-shape as it had been on Day 1, even though my kids hadn’t borne physical resemblance to their Day 1 selves for eons. Go figure I’d have to do things differently when my newborn babies are suddenly 51 and 36 inches tall and weigh much more than 7 lbs (which I know for sure because the car seat techs at AAA put them on a scale to make sure they were in the right car seats for their sizes).

AAA Car Seat Safety Day - A Girl and a Boy_13

A few weeks ago I was invited to a free one-on-one car seat check with AAA Northern California, who will inspect your car seats for free too, and you should definitely, definitely, definitely take them up on that. (If you’re in Northern California, Nevada, or Utah, find your car seat inspection location here. If you’re somewhere else, use this link to search for AAA resources in your area.)

AAA Car Seat Safety Day - A Girl and a Boy_0

I went to the event assuming they’d give me a little pointer or two–raise Wombat’s strap height a few inches to accommodate his recent growth spurt and maybe suggest I consider washing my car more than once a year?–and then send me off with a hearty high-five for having kept Fox rear-facing past his third birthday and give me my trophy for Outstanding Achievement in Chest Clip Positioning. Instead, I came away from the event with a list of important safety tips about things I’d never even been aware of.

Note to self: It’s hard to win trophies in categories you don’t even know exist.

In a follow-up post I’ll brain-dump all the important info I learned that day, but right now, here at the start of National Child Passenger Safety Week and the kickoff of AAA’s 10th annual Child Car Seat Safety program, I want to encourage every one of you who drive with children to get an appointment for a car seat check by a professional. While my list of tips may be helpful on a general basis, it will be based on my particular combination of car seats, car, and kids, so it’s not enough to just read what I write (or what anyone else writes) and apply it to your own situation. Go to AAA, let them give you a personal assessment, and leave feeling confident that you’re doing your best for your children.

AAA Car Seat Safety Day - A Girl and a Boy_2

The techs I worked with were friendly and non-judgey and full of expert information. They not only checked my seats but showed me how to properly install and fit and use them myself. “If you work up a sweat when you do it,” one of the ladies told me, “you know you’re doing it right.” That alone made me feel less like the colossal doofus I’d felt whenever I’d tried to install the seats myself before.

(I did, however, feel like a colossal doofus when asked to talk on camera, but that’s neither here nor there.)

AAA Car Seat Safety Day - A Girl and a Boy_4

When I was approached for this campaign, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Car accidents are the number one cause of death for children in the United States, and three out of four car seats are installed improperly. This is important. This is not about trophies or gold stars, it’s about knowing better so you can do better.

Thanks, AAA, for helping me be a better parent.

(Here seems like a good place to mention that this year AAA Northern California is expanding its impact beyond car seat safety inspections and education and donating 2,200 new car seats to families in need, and making sure they’re being installed and used properly. Yes. Yes yes yes. All kids deserve the best.)

All photos courtesy of AAA and Ian Chin Photography.