Ornaments and Tags


I spent an afternoon this week playing with clay like a child.  It was as fun as I remembered, but this clay didn’t smell of earth, like real clay, or that odd salty, musty smell of Play-dough.  I made baking soda and cornstarch clay which is surprisingly easy and economical to make, smells wonderfully fresh and clean and handles beautifully if you use it the same day as you make it.  I found that storing it over night resulted in a crumbly mess.

I will share my process and recipe, but be sure to check out some of the pins and posts that inspired me to make these ornaments and gift tags, there’s so much you can do with this clay.

This photo from mariegracedesigns.com first piqued my interest in baking soda cornstarch clay.  This one adds some sparkle to the dough, but the clay has a slight glimmer without adding anything additional.  I love the use of pine sprigs to press into the clay here.  I only used stamps on mine, but want to go back and use rosemary and other botanicals when I make more.  Laura at dishfunctionaldesigns.blogspot.com did some nice things with ribbons on hers.

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I used the Cooks.com recipe of:
2 cups baking soda
1 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup water

Mix the cornstarch and baking soda then stir in the water.  The water will remain on the top of the dry ingredients and will take a bit of time and stirring to combine and ensure mixture is smooth with no clumps.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly.  The dough will start to stiffen up and clump quite suddenly.  Stir quickly to avoid scorching until the mixture resembles lumpy mashed potatoes.  Turn the dough out into a bowl and cover with a cool, damp cloth until it’s easy to handle.  Turn out onto counter dusted with cornstarch and kneed four or five times.

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Roll out to1/4 inch thick.  Stamp using your choice of colored inks and stamps or press articles into the clay to make patterns.  Cut out with sharp cookie or biscuit cutters or with a knife.  I learned from experience that using a glass or other cutter with a thick or dull edge makes for messy results.


You can allow the cut ornaments to air dry or place in the oven at 200 for an hour or so depending on the thickness of your items.  A hotter oven or extended baking times will cause the clay to brown.

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After my initial cuts I re-rolled the dough which resulted in a nice marbled effect.

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These ornaments were made with the re-rolled/marbled clay.

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Once dry the ornaments feel like porcelain or Jasperware.  Seal with a spray sealant if you prefer a smoother finish.  I can’t speak yet for how long the ornaments or tags will last without being sealed, but will be watching over the next few seasons.

This is definitely a medium I intend to experiment with more.

A Couple of Holiday Creations

IMG_2504-001I love staying home for vacation (although though the term “staycation” grates on my nerves for some reason) because it allows me a chance to nest, to reconnect with my home and spend some extended time in a creative mindset verses trying to cram all of my creativity into the hours after work or on the weekends.

I cooked a lot this week.  Beyond the holiday fare I made food that takes longer than an hour after work to put together.  That alone is incredibly fulfilling creatively.

I started a writing project that is still in its infancy.

And I made some things with my hands.  First, an Advent Calendar to hang on the mantel above the fire.  Each day we will add that day’s date until the calendar is full on December 25th.

Awaiting December One

Awaiting December One

I kept to a very limited pallet which not only goes well in my home, but is neutral and could work with many decors.  Until the start of Advent we have a black grosgrain ribbon stretched across the fireplace below the mantel with a basket of date tags sitting in wait, each with a tiny brown clothes pin to clip it to the ribbon.

Each date tag is slightly unique.  I stamped the dates on Kraft and manila tags, brown and white doilies, and a couple of custom shapes I had in my stash.

IMG_2587I embellishedIMG_2586 with punched snowflakes in red, white and brown and some stamped images. On just a few I used red sealing wax and and a seal and on others paper butterflies made from book pages  and custom paper

The final tag, for Christmas Day is an envelope.  I won’t be home for Christmas.  I will be off in New Hampshire with my middle child and the two who will be home in Denver can open the envelope for a surprise.  Even adult children deserve unexpected surprises on Christmas.


I will share more tomorrow.  Happy holidays!

Extended Family and a Wild Goose Chase

lettersToday I started a wild goose chase.

My family has a treasure.  A cache of family letters from 1892 to 1927 was uncovered several years ago.  The letters are funny and sad and at times horrifyingly poorly written.  Sometimes they are truly charming.  I find them endlessly fascinating.

I started building out the family tree beyond my direct ancestors to try to understand just who these people were who wrote the letters.  Challenges and news in the letters piqued my interest and I started researching the areas in which they lived, what was happening in the country and the world at the time the letters were written.  What was happening where they were, in their world?  A lot happened in those three and a half decades.  Spanish flu, the first world war, droughts, diphtheria epidemics, land grants and migrations west. My second great grand uncle was adamant that the family vote for Weaver in the election of 1892.  Neither my uncle’s campaign nor Weaver’s was successful.

Because I am so endlessly fascinated with the letters I began trying to track down far flung, distant relatives, descendents of the authors of the letters.  First cousins four times removed and fifth cousins and people who aren’t blood relations at all on the off chance that they would find the letters fascinating too.  And I have found some.

So today I wrote them letters, and printed out copies of the old family letters the are written by, or reference their distant direct ancestors.  I have no idea if I will ever hear back from them.  No idea if they will even read the packets I put together.  But it felt good.

Wild Goose Chase Letter_001And maybe, just maybe, it will make someone’s day to get a soft, brown envelope in the mail with words written by their grandmother, or great-great uncle or cousin talking about their day, their life a hundred years ago.  Maybe my own personal community, my village, will expand just a bit to include people I never would have known, but who have ancestors in common, if someone had not decided to renovate a house years ago, and taken the time to call my grandparents and return these letters to our family.

If you are interested in reading a few of the letters you can take a look here.  Letters

Collaging a story – Jenny Crusie’s Latest

I have tried the collage method to get a story to gel, but I have never broken out the construction tools or built anything like Jenny Crusie’s creation for her current WIP.  

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This is amazing and I cannot wait to see what she does with the frame.

Take a look at some of her collages and visual planning for past books.  Some days I really want to be her when I grow up.crusie 3 crusie 4
Do you have a process for getting a story or project to gel as you are writing?

Hibernation (a poem two ways and a poll)


(Image courtesy of Michael Sullivan – check out his post on editing here)

I have a love/hate relationship with editing (please tell me I am not the only one!).  Sometimes I feel that I am invested in every single word I wrote like I gave birth to it. As a result I hang on to words and entire scenes that should have been relegated to the virtual recycle bin in the sky.

But sometimes I really feel that all of the words, the detail, matters.  Not in a Dickensian getting-paid-by-the-word kind of way but in a rounding out the story, the poem, the message that I am trying to capture and share kind of way.

And so, I would like to ask a favor of you.  Please read the two following versions of a poem from my recent feral writing class (they are short, I promise) and just indicate in the poll below whether you prefer version one (longer) or version two (minimalist).  Which speaks to you or resonates?  If you would be willing to leave specific notes on why you prefer one over the other I would be eternally grateful, but if you only have a second please click on the one question poll – and thank you!

Hibernation (Version One – Long)
Fall is in the air.
Walks through the park
Crunching leaves beneath our feet,
Pumpkin-spice lattes
And bonfires
Will give way
To hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
Coming soon
Snowbound afternoons
Reading away the hours
Or the days.
Rich colors
And textures of
Cashmere, flannel
And velvet.
Night falling early
With long, fire-lit
To write
Or linger with each other
Long touches,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Hibernation (Version Two – Minimalist)
Fall is in the air.
Hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
To write
Or linger with touches,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Simple: A Meditation


Simple: A meditation
A scone on a china plate. A fire in the fireplace, or a fan, lazy in the window. Sheets on the clothesline in the yard. A notebook and a smooth flowing ink pen. A stack of library books yet to be read. The scent of Downy fresh laundry. Kids laughing in the other room. Sitting in church on the hard pew in the spare white sanctuary. The music of a single instrument; piano or oboe, cello or native flute. An a cappella choir. Family and history. Holding hands. My children’s voices on the phone. Belly laughs and inside jokes. Quotes from books or movies shared with secret smiles.


Simple truths
We resist the simple truths. Not “father knows best”, but “you will miss him when he’s gone”.

Love one another. Respect others; their beliefs and their belongings. Be true to your word. Be true. Be on time. Don’t be afraid to love. Don’t hold grudges – forgive others as you would be forgiven. Forgive. Listen more than you speak. Take the time. Put your heart and soul into what matters most to you.