Mod-Podge-n-Yarn candle holders

Guess what?

all three

I just found a cheap, simple, and thoroughly cute craft for any occasion. Found, I say, not invented. My mom introduced me to it over Thanksgiving, but our original source is my friend Renee Shafer (A Beautiful Captivation), and her sister Andrea Graybill.


Renee made these for a bachelorette party two years ago already, so … let’s just say it takes some of us a while to catch on. She and her sis also made them in fall colors this year. My mom, organizing a family craft, chose Christmas colors to match the season.

I think they’re darling.

You will need:

Balloons – any color
Yarn – any color
Mod Podge
Styrofoam plate
Latex gloves (optional)*
Battery-operated tea light

Blow up a balloon. Cover your workspace with newspaper or something disposable to catch drips. Pour some Mod Podge onto a Styrofoam plate and dip your yarn in it to soak, wrapping and crisscrossing it around the balloon. Hang up to fully dry. Pop balloon. Insert a battery-operated tea light into the yarn globe and hang somewhere pretty.

*(We did ours barehanded, but we were sick of Mod Podge by the time we were done, and picked shreds of it off our hands for the rest of the day…)

white one

Now I think that’s a pretty awesome craft, and customizable for any size and season. Thanks again to my mom and Renee Shafer!

portrait against wall


Posted with permission.

If you want some inspirational words for moms in the thick of it, don’t miss this beautiful post of Renee’s: “Why NOW is the Time to Speak.”

Handmade notes of Thanksgiving

Confession: Sometimes I am tired of confessing my idiocies.

If you’re tired of hearing of them, don’t worry—you’re not nearly as tired as I am of committing them. I told Alison this week that “any organizational/ navigational skills I have are a desperate attempt to get a handle on my naturally forgetful and scatterbrained self. True story.”

I planned and planned and over-planned this week. I planned for the ultra-special lunch exchange at my boys’ school; I planned the dishes I’ll bring to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house; I planned the brunch I’m hosting on Saturday; I planned ahead for Christmas. I bought supplies. I made lists. I stocked my fridge and checked my ingredients and made food ahead of time and got on top of everything…

And then this morning.

Ryan woke me in good time and I, exhausted from a late night and then a wakeful session with my crying foster son, fell back to sleep. At 7:37 a.m., I re-woke and staggered out of bed, and as I entered the bathroom this thought came to me, jangling: “What about chapel with the junior high girls, hmm?”

Oh NO!!

Ten bright-faced girls were counting on me to show up. I needed to leave at 8:20, 8:25 at latest. I needed to pack two lunches, prepare my own body and heart, dress and comb and feed two preschoolers, and – oh, newsflash: I had utterly forgotten to brainstorm, research, and concoct the Thanksgiving Craft I promised those girls this morning. I had no idea what we were making.

I panicked.

I spent the whole time I was washing, dressing, and combing groaning to God to help me. I thought and thought. Thanksgiving turkeys? No supplies on hand. Pumpkin praise? I did that with them last year—and I don’t have enough pumpkins. Something with fabric? But what?

As I stepped out of the bathroom, I had another thought… (I need to check that doorway; maybe God is sending me brainwaves and reminders as I pass through…?)

Just this.

card 1

Paper? Check. Sewing machine? Always ready. Scissors and glue? Available at the school.

Oh thank you God thank you thank you.

I still could never have made it without my husband’s generous help through our children’s morning routine. And my hair looked {still looks} like something a pig sat on. And, mercifully, I entirely forgot that I’d done a similar craft with these girls before. And my foster son messed his diaper halfway through our session and I had to put him in the hallway so we could breathe for those last minutes.

But I showed up. And I got to coach them on the sewing machine and oh, we had fun. Some of these pictures include their work.

Here’s how:

1. Fold a paper into a basic card shape.

{This card is made from 12×12 sheet cut in half. Tri-fold to form a pretty flap.}

trifold card

2. Cut or tear a rectangle of colored paper for the face of the card.

3. Machine-sew the colored paper to the white.

{Brown thread looks pretty too.}

card 4

4. Add cut-out shapes to suit the season… leaves, pumpkins, candles.

{Use small stencils or cookie cutters for easy templates, or just have fun freelancing.}

card 3

5. Write a word or two on the card’s cover.

card 2

6. Add a message inside and share with someone who’s blessed you.

card inside

Let your children join you in Thanksgiving. They’re not too little to snip and glue, nor too young to express gratitude. You can handle the sewing machine, or farm it off to your teenage daughter, or skip it entirely.

It’s the season to give thanks. Start with God, and then those He’s placed near you—and if He has preserved your sanity and given you ideas when you don’t deserve them and helped you through harried mornings, say it again. Oh, thank you, thank you…

Introducing flower journaling

Recently, while browsing the web in search of ideas for simple homemade journals, I stumbled across this gem–how to make a book with only paper, one rubber band, and a “backbone” of choice, such as a twig…


…a pencil


…or chopsticks.


{Check out the instructions here, from twowritingteachers.}

It’s too cool an idea, and adaptable for any age from preschooler to adult. You can use it for a notebook, a sketchpad, a journal, a love letter… you name it.


You can finger-paint on the cover. Better and better…

I’m going to use mine for flower-journaling, which is, as the White Knight would say, a tune of my own invention. I stumbled across that too, and I love it.

Sometimes I just feel muddled, especially at this time of year–either by a task list, a complex sequence, or a boatload of conflicting emotions.

So I draw a circle on a piece of paper, and I write in it the topic at hand: What I’m Feeling, or Urgent Tasks, or Dreams for This Summer. What I Love About My Life. Ingredients Available For Supper. Frustration. Happy Things From Today.

I draw petals extending from the circle, and begin to write in them. If I’m assigning the project to one of my children (Things You Like About Your Sister), I draw 5-7 petals. If I’m making it for myself, I draw petals as I progress. Who knows how far I’ll go? Maybe I’ll start a second row behind the first and it will turn into a chrysanthemum…

flower journaling

I’ve found it a valuable way to condense what I’m feeling into a few key phrases; to separate the parts, and yet visualize the whole.

Try it?

Pumpkin praise

Don’t even get me started on pumpkins.

I love pumpkins: at this time of year, almost more than any other shape and color. What daffodils are to spring–a concrete encapsulation of the entire point–pumpkins are to fall. Round, rustic, simple, vibrant, fertile, textured, real.

And it’s Thanksgiving.

Here’s an idea for what to do with those extra pumpkins you grew, or bought for fall décor. Take some pretty permanent markers, assorted if you like, and turn your pumpkin into a canvas of praise.

pumpkin praise

I bought mini pumpkins for doing this project with some teen girls–to each her own. And on Thanksgiving Day I plan to take one big pumpkin to our family shindig, plop it down somewhere, and let anyone who passes add their words of thanks and praise.

mini pumpkins

What are you thankful for? How do you list it?

How to paint a checkerboard

Today I’m going to show you how to make a simple checkerboard and set of checkers with a little wood and paint.

1. checkerboard

You will need:

  • One 12″ x 12″ piece of wood or plywood
  • A 12″ section of dowel, 1-1/8″ or 1-1/4″ in diameter
  • Access to a power saw of some kind
  • Four colors of paint: black, red, ivory, and a fourth color of your choice
  • A paintbrush
  • Sandpaper
  • About 9 feet of 1-1/2″ wide painters tape
  • A razor blade or X-Acto knife


1. Start with your 12×12 board. Give it a solid coat of ivory all over the top.

2. board

3. painted board

2. While that’s drying, start on the checkers. Paint half of your dowel red and half of it black. Let dry.

3. Using a power saw, slice the dowel into circles, about 3 pieces to an inch. (My husband did this part, so I won’t deceive you. But I’ll do your math for you to make it easy: You’ll need 12 red and 12 black checkers, which requires about 4 inches of red dowel and 4 inches of black.)

24 checkers x 18 boys = a lot of checkers

5. checkers

4. The power saw may leave shredded edges…

6. rough edge

…so sand them gently with sandpaper. They do not need to be perfect; you just don’t want rough edges catching the fingers of small players.

7. smooth edge

5. Paint the checkers, 12 red and 12 black, allowing one side to dry before flipping over to paint the other. (Latex gloves are a lifesaver at this point. We also provided homemade smocks for the boys, using kitchen trash bags modified with a few quick cuts–here’s how.)

8. painted checker

9. painted checkers

6. Now, back to the checkerboard! Find and mark the center of your board. Working out from the center, place 8 strips of tape entirely across the board, each one precisely against the next.

10. taped board

(You may note the edge of ivory left exposed on either side. We planned a 12″ board to perfectly fit eight squares, each 1-1/2″ wide. Then we found out that all painters tape has recently switched to the metric system and comes 1.44″ wide instead. We decided not to sweat it, and ignored the extra edge.)

7. Use an X-Acto knife and a ruler to cut a straight line across the center of your board, perpendicular to the lines of tape and cutting through them. You may cut just slightly into the wood; it will not matter. Then move your ruler over the same width as the tape and cut again across the board, parallel to the first cut. You are cutting your strips of tape into squares of tape. (If you have a ruler or makeshift ruler that’s 1-1/2″ wide–or 1.44″ wide, to be exact–this step is very simple. A strip of cardboard will suffice.) Continue this process, working out from the center on each side, until your board has eight squares by eight squares.

11. cutting

8. Peel up alternating squares of tape to expose the ivory surface. Press the remaining squares firmly into place.

12. peeled squares

9. Choose yourself a nice color of paint. (One of my favorite crafting supplies is a paint sample like those shown here–the perfect size for a small project, and only $3 at Home Depot.)

4. paints

10. Paint all exposed ivory on the checkerboard with the color of your choice. Let dry.

13. painting board

11. Peel up the remaining squares of tape…

14. painted board

… arrange your checkers… and start playing!

16. finished product

Here’s Ryan’s class, scowling against the bright sun but triumphant nonetheless:

16. class


Special thanks…

  • To GomiStyle, for a tutorial on the tape squares trick,
  • And to Ryan, who did the grunt work.