Imagine That: Rinea Foil Cornucopia

In The Studio

Imagine teamed up with Rinea foil this month and I’m so glad they did. I’d heard of the lovely double-sided foiled papers but hadn’t had the chance to work with them, yet.

Since the foils are so pretty on both the front and the back, I wanted to do something that showed off that feature. What better than a 3-D bit of paper sculpture that also happens to work as a place card holder?

Above is a cleaner look at the pattern I drew out for the cornucopia. Each row is 1/2″ tall and the spine is 1/2″ wide. On the main piece, the spine is the part you cut up to, plus a separate spine for what will ultimately become the bottom of the cornucopia. After the first four rows, the spine and the “arms” (ribs?) shift over by 1/8″ each row to create a little bit of a curve or angle without having to crush or crunch the paper into shape.

Even though the process somewhat resembles trying to dress an octopus in a onesie at first, I promise these do come together quickly! And once you add a simple stamped and lettered place card inside, your table decorations are taken care of in no time.

Make sure to check out the Imagine blog for the video that goes with this project to see just how simple these cute cornucopia can be!

Imagine That: November Projects

In The Studio

For all my US-based readers, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. Non-US readers? I hope you had a happy Thursday. We’ve gotten into such a groove with the Thanksgiving prep over the years that it’s become quite relaxing to host my family for dinner each year and I really do think it was our best turkey yet (for more on how we do our turkey, check out this vintage post all the way from 2010! Todd’s Turkey).

I have a lot to be thankful for this year with the new job, new friends being made here in Thomasville, and I recently got the all-clear on a health issue that’s been hanging over my head for the last two months (more on that another time, perhaps). Todd and I celebrated 10 years together at the beginning of the month, too, and my heart couldn’t be more full of love. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to create projects for Imagine/Tsukineko and share them with not just my own readers but theirs as well!

Another thing I’m not only grateful for but excited to get to do is that I’m going to Creativation in January! I’ve wanted to go to this trade show for as long as I’ve known it existed (which has been a good long while considering how long I’ve been knocking around the craft world in one way or another) and this fall I just decided I was going to make it happen. And, yes, I’ll be hanging out quite a bit at the Imagine booth, so if you’ll be there please stop by and say hello! Until then I’m counting the days and happily removing links from my paper chain!

And now here we are in Christmas build-up with the end of the year hurtling towards us. Last year we had a very quiet Christmas just the three of us (Todd, Duncan, and I) with minimal fuss. We barely even did presents, as well, concentrating on stockings instead, and it was glorious. Of course, if you’re in the mood to give a simple gift to friends, teachers, coworkers, etc., consumables are the way to go, and a little bit of pretty packaging goes a long way to make a simple gift seem like so much more.

Warmest wishes to you all and a Happy Holiday season!

A Relaxed Thanksgiving, Todd Plays the Hero, and Cyber Monday Shopping

Everyday Adventures

A Relaxed Thanksgiving

Did you have a good Thanksgiving?

I’d been making one or two things a night all week and on Wednesday night set up the slow cooker with chicken leg quarters and vegetables so that, Thursday morning, we woke up to the heavenly scent of homemade chicken broth filling the downstairs. I’m only sad I didn’t think to do this before.

Since we didn’t have anything too pressing at the moment, I was able to kick back and watch the Macy’s parade and the National Dog Show while I polished the silver and did a few small tasks from the couch. (The one down side to a closed-plan house is that you can’t see the living room tv from the kitchen, especially when they’re a couple of rooms and a hallway away. Maybe we’ll install one of those little under-cabinet units when we redo the kitchen some time in the future then I’ll feel really fancy, hah!)

The turkey didn’t have to go in until 2:30 for our 6pm dinner (thanks to the speedy nature of our tabletop roaster oven which, once again, served us in good stead) and then it was short work putting together the casseroles to wait for their time in the oven. The only thing I was still working on when my family arrived was the pumpkin brownie trifle for dessert.

We usually watch a movie after dinner, allowing everyone time to digest before digging into dessert, but this time we landed on a marathon of Who’s Line is it Anyway? and laughed our butts off between that and Molly the French Bulldog’s antics.

I think it was one of our better holidays, and definitely our best turkey to date!

Todd: Not Just My Hero Anymore

Ah, neighbors. Unless you live on serious acreage you’ve got them and you just have to learn to live with them, or at least near them. We’ve gotten used to the neighbors on our west side, the personal care home, bringing an ambulance, firetruck, and police cruiser or five to the end of our block on a regular basis as well as the frequent caterwauling of one of the residents–I don’t know her story, but I do know she seems to shout everything, to anyone or no one at all, while wandering their back yard or between the small cottage she shares with her father and the main house.

On the other side, to the east of us, are two sets of duplexes that officially belong to the cross-street, and are more or less separated by trees and a partial fence. There are young kids in these duplexes and, thanks to the thin (read as: un-insulated) exterior walls, it frequently sounds like they’re right under my office windows when they’re outside playing. Aside from the occasional check to make sure they’re not flailing makeshift weapons around our cars, I just think of the day when we’ll get our privacy fence up on both sides and the noise barrier that’ll bring.

All of that to say, I didn’t think too much of it when I heard crying outside on Sunday afternoon. I figured it was the lady next door and briefly peeked out the kitchen window to confirm. Only I didn’t see her, and the noise wasn’t so loud in the kitchen as it was in my office. That was kind of odd.

My next thought, as I stood in the back doorway, was that one of the kids on the other side of the yard was crying out his or her displeasure at being disciplined. Not pleasant, but also something you kinda feel awkward intruding upon, if that’s the case. Or is that just me?

But then I heard the very definite cry of “Help me, please!”

Turned out that one of the boys next door had been climbing in the tangle of trees that divide our properties and had gotten his knee wedged between two of the trunks and was undeniably stuck. I couldn’t easily get to him but got his parents from inside (the kids had been called in and none of them mentioned their sibling was stuck in a tree!) and then went back to our house to get Todd (and his saw). He had to saw through a good bit of one of the trees (they’re not super thick, thankfully, but pretty sturdy) before they could pry the two apart enough for the boy to remove his knee.

If Todd hadn’t been home I think we would have had to call the fire department.

It’s Shopping Time!

I’ve decided that I’m going to do my level best to make the presents to my family this year (both due to budget and the simple desire to), even though I’ve decided this a bit late in the game (it helps that we’re a small group for Christmas or any other holiday). Still, I’d be a poor excuse for a maker if I didn’t let you guys know what’s available from my own shops this holiday, just in case they fit someone on your Christmas list!

First, there’s the CyberWeek sale over at The Crafty Branch

CyberWeek Sale

Our first four Creative Mischief kit releases are all available: Portable Plein Air, both Holiday card kits (which work great for scrapbook layouts, gift tags, and more if you miss the card-sending window), and our new Bound & Determined bookbinding kit. Kits range from $40-$50 plus shipping, but you’ll get 10% off through this Sunday and free shipping if you order 2 or more kits (which saves you about $9 each, at current rates).

For the girl who’s got everything, may I suggest a Character Cocktail? What’s a Character Cocktail you ask? Only a custom-designed, personality-based cocktail presented as a ready-to-frame piece of original art.


This close to the holidays I’d suggest getting a gift certificate for that hard to shop-for girl or guy on your list (we have pretty ones available for you to place in a stocking, just note that you want the gift certificate in the PayPal checkout), since they usually take 2-3 weeks to create.

Finally, for the foodie, gamer, or comic book lover on your list, What to Feed Your Raiding Party is a perfect gift.


Whether you’ve got a cousin who’s moving into their own place and will have to fend for themselves for the first time or your dear Aunt Agnes collects unique cookbooks, this book works either way! We’ll even gift wrap it and tag it at no extra charge. And don’t worry if they’re not a gamer–not only do the recipes stand up just fine on their own, the comics that open each of the five chapter are parodies of popular movies, so anyone can enjoy them!

So, dear readers, what’s your holiday plan: make, buy, or buy handmade?

Giving Thanks for the Little Things

Everyday Adventures

I’ve had a reason to stop at the grocery store each night on the way home, there are two pans of cornbread chilling out on the counter for dressing, and pies and cranberry sauce made. Yup, it’s Thanksgiving!

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always Mom’s favorite holiday. When we still made an annual pilgrimage back home to Louisiana, it’d be for Thanksgiving more often than not.

She preferred it over Christmas and I can see why. Leaving aside the pressures on a single mother to come up with presents and a tree and all the other things that go with the typical idea of Christmas, Thanksgiving is about food, and family, and taking a moment to be grateful for what you have, not wishing for what’s next. Those big dinners at Paw-Paw’s house were full to bursting with people, with tables and counters piled high with food. You grabbed a plate, piled it high, and found someplace, any place, to sit and eat.

Many years we kids ended up on the porch steps.

As much as I look back at those trips with a certain nostalgia or fondness, I admit to wanting, if not the full Norman-Rockwell experience, at least something closer to what I saw in the media, or even what I experienced at Sunday dinners at friends’ homes.

Which is to say, everyone seated around one table, food being passed from person to person. And everything that goes with it.

Seems silly, really, in the grand scheme of things. But it’s what I wanted.

Thrifted Table and Chairs for $50 (the leaves are leaning against the wall near the window)

Thrifted Table and Chairs for $50 (the leaves are leaning against the wall near the window)

So when we stumbled upon that dining room table and chair set for $50 at the thrift shop on the next block, I was ecstatic because this table was wide enough to hold people and their plates and still have room for serving dishes. Could seat 8 with no problem and up to 12 if we were in the mood to be cozy. Not only that, but we’d have enough chairs, between the old kitchen table and the new-to-us chairs that we wouldn’t have to bring out folding chairs or wheel in our desk chairs anymore.

Last year, getting ready for our first Thanksgiving in the Dollhouse, I was already looking forward to it when at work, the Friday before, one of the guys in the back came up and said I had several big boxes and did I want to bring my car into the alley for them to load ’em up.

They filled my trunk, the back seat, and even one in the front--it was like moving again!

They filled my trunk, the back seat, and even one in the front–it was like moving again!

Realizing what it must be, I looked at Mom across the office and uttered, rather indelicately,

Did she ship the f-ing china and silver?!


Years back, Aunt M polled the nieces and nephews to see what of her Mom’s things we wanted. She wasn’t planning to wait until the reading of the will to disperse them, instead she was going to downsize in “5 years” (I later found out that was a rolling deadline) when she retired and parcel everything out, then. I requested the china and silver if they weren’t already spoken for.

See, when I was much younger, between ages 3 and 5 or so, we lived with my grandmother on my dad’s side and that house is the site of my earliest memories, including the Thanksgiving I was still in my high chair, at the corner of the formal dining room table, and I asked my uncle in the next seat for another roll as I’d eaten mine. That’s when he explained that I was supposed to save my roll as a pusher (to get food onto my fork) and then eat the roll last.

I don’t know if that’s common advice, but I remember that. And I remember the table set with the china and silver (though I couldn’t exactly remember the patterns). It didn’t matter what they looked like, it was a part of my childhood and I wanted it if it was available.

So in those seven massive boxes, packed in a mountain of bubble wrap and packing peanuts, was Maw Maw Hoover’s service for 12, plus serving dishes. Aunt M was flying in for the holiday in a few days (so I didn’t expect the dishes until a trip she drove down because, really, that’s a lot to ship) and wanted to surprise me.


Noritake Ardis china and Chantilly silver

Noritake Ardis china and Chantilly silver

Todd and I spent a good while digging out all the pieces, checking them for damage to assure my aunt that everything came through fine. Dinner, salad, and dessert plates, coffee cups and saucers and even demitasse cups and saucers all fine and accounted for. I was like a kid in a candy store!

Finally, a family dinner done "right."

Finally, a family dinner done “right.”

I host a baby shower that weekend, so the salad plates were immediately put to use, then Aunt M offered to polish the silver Thanksgiving morning, saying it was usually her job as the youngest to do so, so she’d do it again. And over dinner she told us the story of why there are 13 dinner forks.

The Story of the 13 Forks

The china and silver don’t date back to when my grandparents got married, but to when their oldest daughter (20 years Aunt M’s senior) got married and was doing all the registering for gifts and selecting patterns and whatnot. Maw Maw decided she deserved some china and silver herself. She was always afraid of the silver being stolen, however, and there was a specific hiding spot in the sideboard or wherever that they stashed the silver rolls (preferred over the cases because they were easier to hide/less obvious). Paw Paw, however, was adamant that no one was going to steal the silver and shook his head at her foolishness.

Well, they came home one day and the house had been broken into. First thing Maw Maw says is “check the silver.” Paw Paw insists that it would be there, and it was… or so they thought.

I don’t remember if anything (else) was taken from the home, but it turned out that one of the silver rolls had been absconded with, the one with the dinner forks, and was subsequently replaced. Then, later on, a fork was found in the grass outside the huge double doors that were really the front doors but that no one ever used because the kitchen entrance was more convenient. Whoever had stolen the forks was in such a hurry that they must not have noticed when one fell out of its slot.

And that is why there are 13 forks for our otherwise service for 12.

Always good to have a spare, I suppose!

Not gonna lie, I was pretty happy to set our table with the family china and silver, and use the pretty serving dishes along the middle of the table as the sold table decoration (except for the runner shot with silver and gold, tying the curtains and the silver edges of the plates together). There was no need for a buffet, though we did have to remind my brothers which direction to pass the food in, and I was happy to have what I always considered a “normal” family dinner.

This year, Aunt M won’t be joining us for Thanksgiving, she’s preparing to sell her house in New Jersey and relocate to her not-as-downsized-as-originally-planned lake house in Kentucky before jetting off to Liberia to supervise another round of labwork on the Ebola vaccine trials or something to that effect. She’s a busy woman. So I’ll be the one polishing the silver while watching the Macy’s parade this year.

I realize this post might sound sort of superficial–silver, china, a dinner table–it’s not exactly earth-shattering reasons for gratitude. If we were still serving buffet style and using folding tables and our IKEA flatware I’d be just as happy to be hosting another Thanksgiving dinner for my family. At the same time, that dining room table is one of the things that actually helps me feel like a capable adult, instead of the inner clueless 18-year-old that is my usual, and looking at 40 around the corner I figure it’s about time!

So, yes, I’m grateful for my home, my family, my friends. I’m thankful that I have a job that pays the bills, and that I’m able to do what I want with my time the rest of the days and weekends. And tomorrow will likely be a little hectic at moments and on Friday we’ll plunge into the Christmas season and the headlong rush to 2016. But it’s the little things, like the $50 dining room table, that remind me of all of that and more.

Helmar Share: Thanksgiving Centerpiece

In The Studio

The Victorians were known for their ability to combine widely different patterns and make them work together. I’m not sure I’ve got the hang of it just yet with the pink rose wallpaper and our grapevine runner, but I’ll get there.

Something about finally being settled here at the Gingerbread Dollhouse makes me want to decorate all the things. Sure, the wallpaper in the foyer needs replacing, the floors need refinishing, and everything else needs painting, but I can live with the naturally-aged, shabby-chic-ness of it all for the near future, as long as we’re seasonally appropriate!

One other thing I’ll say, in deference to closed-plan homes, is that it’s very nice to have an actual entry hall with little of the living space visible from the front door. It’s so much easier to keep one relatively-narrow strip of the home guest-ready should someone knock on the door than worry about what’s piled up on the sofa. Having our console table in the hallway creates the perfect spot for a seasonal centerpiece (because our Thanksgiving table will have food as the centerpieces) and I’m challenging myself to come up with a new one each holiday.

This one has the look of a farmers’ market, to me, so to assemble your own Marketplace Centerpiece you’ll need:

  • 2 pieces of Styrofoam (upcycled packing material is great for this!)
  • Helmar Foam Glue
  • Skewers or toothpicks
  • Burlap ribbon, 6″ wide or better
  • Fall floral picks, faux acorns and pumpkins
  • Helmar Quick Dry 450
  • Lace and punchinella scraps
  • Ribbon
  • Ouchless Cardboard
  • Pens, Stickers, and Washi Tape

To see how that all comes together, check out my Marketplace Centerpiece post on the Helmar Blog.

Hope everyone that celebrates has a fabulous Thanksgiving tomorrow. If you choose to be part of the crowds on Black Friday, well, good luck! I’ll be cozy on my couch with some project or another but you go right on ahead!