Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Homemade Gifts, Cards, and Letter Writing (Homesteading #23)

Homesteading is about living on less so that you can work less, do what you love more, and attain financial security.  Homesteading is about doing more yourself because the pride that comes from the work of your own hands is unprecedented and you can control your own environment.  What you put on your skin, in your body, how you treat the soil, it all matters.

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Homesteading brings with it a peace of mind that we have mostly lost in our fast paced, make money, do everything lifestyles.  Our ancestors worked hard but they also did methodical, slow work where one can get their mind right.  Slowly stirring curds to make cheese, hanging clothes on the line in the fresh air, planting seeds that will feed the family through winter in jars on root cellar shelves.  Doug chops wood when he is upset with me.  There was one winter that we had a lot of wood!

Another beautiful aspect of homesteading is homemade gifts and cards.  Really, the mass marketed, big box store, kids in China made crap has got to stop.  No one wants a skirt that will fray in a month, or appliances they will never use, or heaven forbid, tchotchkes.  We have to dust enough!

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A bar of goat’s milk soap, a jar of preserves, chokecherry gin, pickles, or chutney.  Hand written recipes, a wheel of cheese, a plant for the garden, or saved seeds with a story.  Or something really special like a quilt, or something woven.  A hand poured candle, or a keep sake box.  Jacob, my daughter’s boyfriend, welded together parts to make a snowman for me for Christmas.  I love it.

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Hand painted cards are a lovely surprise, or have a child draw out the card.  Write personal notes.  Don’t depend on the card company’s catchy phrases.

Make a phone call.  Write a letter.  Send a card just because.

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I am anxious this fall to get out the sewing machine and the crochet hook and start creating skirts, shawls, and quilts.  To set up my paints and be ready to paint a canvas or use watercolors to create cards to send to my pen pals.

These things come from the heart.  And heart is the very soul of homesteading,

Would you like to be my pen pal?  There is nothing like opening the mailbox to find a letter, neatly addressed and stamped.  I love to put it in my apron pocket and then sit with a cup of tea and savor both.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 1901 Brown Ave, Pueblo, CO 81004

Here are a few more ideas:

Simple Gifts and Spiral Notebooks

Painted Letters

Painting 101 (just for the fun of it)

It doesn’t matter if you think you are a good artist or not.  Art is subjective.  What might affect my emotions in a painting may not be the same as what style someone else is attracted to.  I have stood adoring many a painting in museums and in homes and I am in love with southwest oil realism.  Or anything from the sixteenth century.  My friend has a painting in his dining room of blue brush strokes that he no doubt paid hundreds for.  See, none of that matters.  We are painting because it is fun.  Creating and using your right brain helps your brain function better, breaks up the daily schedule, and helps us be like children again.

First grab a canvas, acrylic paints, and a set of brushes.  These things are found easily and inexpensively at Walmart.  Acrylic is easy to clean up.  I adore oil but I do not love the fumes or clean up.  Watercolors are also nice.  I have carried watercolors with me with a small canning jar of water in my purse before for a stint, capturing moments in coffee shops and parks.

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Find a photograph that you love or something out of a magazine.  In your mind, imagine a cross through the photo evenly splitting the photo into four blocks.  Now do the same on your canvas and use that as your scale.  Use pencil.  Here is a great trick that my seventh grade teacher taught me and I will use it forever: if you get stuck, turn the photograph or picture upside down.  That’s right, turn it upside down.  You will start drawing it as you see it not as your mind sees it.  Big difference.  You will be astounded by your accuracy!

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Use an egg carton as a palette.  It’s easy clean up and you can blend twelve to eighteen colors at a time!  Start with the background.  You are building from the back to the front, otherwise it will look confusing to the onlooker.

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Have some fun with it!  There are no rules with art.  These koi fish could have been purple and blue and maybe would have looked even better!  Look for sparkle paint to highlight pieces of your painting; the scales, or a sunset, or fireflies.

My paintings take about two hours.  If I have to create them over months, they will end up in the pile of unfinished knitting and other projects.  Remember that your painting will never look like you imagine.  Art has a mind of its own- even for the great artists of the world- and art looks like it darn well wants.  You cannot manipulate it.  Just go along for the journey and see what creates itself.

Spray with a protective spray for paintings, sign, and hang on the wall!  Be proud of your work.  We are all artists!

The Inspiring Arizona Landscape and Paint

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Arizona is even more beautiful than I could have imagined.  The brightly colored flowers landscaped down the highways splash raspberry pink along the desert city.  Palm trees and giant Saguaro cacti intersperse.  I had never seen a Saguaro cactus.  I am inspired to paint.

 

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Just last week I was wondering what might have happened to my painting of Chimayo.  Who did I sell it to or who did I give it to?  I love my paintings and always miss them when they sell so I was so thrilled to see it hanging on the wall here.  We haven’t seen our friends in three in a half years and I am overjoyed to be with them.

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My children called them Uncle Monte and Uncle Erik growing up and they are very dear to us.  Monte is a collector of fine art.  Amongst his fabulous collection- still, after all these years- is a painting that my daughter, Emily, painted when she was about seven years old.

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We had fabulous vegan tacos at Mi Vegana Madre and enjoyed the warm spring day alfresco.

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I awoke to a portable easel that Doug had shipped here and was waiting for me for my birthday.  Every year I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Grateful for birthdays.  Grateful for life.  Grateful for great friends.  For my family.  For travels.  For beauty, for nature, for adventures, for health, for a morning of bird song and sunrise in Arizona.

 

A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

Head of a Capri Girl

Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent

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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

Farmgirl Inspiration

Hello March, it’s nice to see you.  January and February can be the very hardest time of the year for farmgirls.  We have our gardens, our farms, our animals, our preserving, our home making, our crafting in the fall in anticipation for the holidays, we have our cooking, and our entertaining, and our pleasant fatigue.  Then there is January and February…hello March, it’s nice to see you!  Thank the Lord you’re back!

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Even though it is still cold and there is ice on the car and tomorrow it is going to snow, it is March and all things can come anew now, in my mind and in nature.  I have plans!  Oh glorious plans, and guess what?  I figured out a way to make them manifest.  My son texted me yesterday and said he would come help with the fencing.  I found an affordable way to get the outbuildings I wanted.  Yes, my gardens are about to take on some marvelous expansion and changes.

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Field fencing is a farmgirl’s friend because it is easy to put up and can be taken down if needed.  I am expanding the chicken yard.  I am fencing off another part of the backyard for a greenhouse, raised beds, and space for a rooster.  Doug isn’t thrilled we have a rooster.  But I think one in seven wasn’t bad!  I also have ducklings on order to pick up in April.  They are honest-to-god worthless (few eggs, eat ten times more than the chickens, are noisy, splash water everywhere), but dang, they are so cute!  The greenhouse will double as night quarters for the trouble makers and Captain the Rooster.  None of them can jump or fly up on things, so plants will be safe and the added humidity from the ducks’ water antics will create a nice space.  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t like ducks either?  I just look at him like I don’t speak English.)

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A shed is going up to fit all the yard tools in, which will make room for some outdoor furniture and hanging plants around the back porch.  Listen, y’all, I will do before and after pictures when all this is said and done, but right now it looks like a hundred and fifty pound puppy dug holes to China, ate all the outdoor pillows, destroyed a huge dog bed, and threw some trash around.  (Actually, that is what happened.)

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In the front yard, a large archway will have pumpkins and other climbers growing up it.  Add in a few twinkly lights and I will have an enchanted garden for sure.  I have added a couple hundred feet of gardens.  The stalks of the roses are all turning green.

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There is a loom downstairs.  I have friends that can show me how to use it.  I have always wanted to learn how to weave.  I painted a box with a lid for my son’s long time girlfriend for Christmas.  It has a dear clasp and longs to be filled with secret treasures.  I painted a scene from a vacation they took on the lid.  I would like to do more of those.  Maybe set up my sewing machine.  Craft ideas come to mind.

Inspiration to farmgirls is like medicine.  Maybe even breath, if I am not being too dramatic here.  What are you inspired to achieve this spring?

Inspiring Art of Nature and Holiday

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-18 degrees outside with wind chill.  Since we cannot fly to the tropics we are keeping busy on this wintery day!  Jack Frost’s creativity and beautiful artwork in the windows inspired some of my own.

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While we are inside trying to stay warm it seemed a very good time to put on some music, turn on the propane heater to help the stove along, and work on Christmas presents and art.

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Last month I had an idea.  I am both fascinated and sad looking at old, dilapidated homesteads, long ago abandoned by the road side.  The idea was to take photos of these homesteads then transpose a scene of what it may have looked like in its hay day via paint and a bit of imagination.  So one day I had my camera and asked Doug to stop at one of them.  I am not much of a law breaker (outside of selling raw milk by share) and I was nervous about trespassing.  I kept asking Doug, “Is someone here?”  There were no windows or doors on the property so of course the answer was no, save for the coyote pup that dodged under the foundation and a few pheasants that disappeared from our camera lens.  I wish I had relaxed and taken better photos but what I came up with sparked my imagination.

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This is the old barn on the place.  I placed a piece of glass over it and drew this scene…

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The photo is underneath to show what it looks like now and the paint shows what it might have looked like then.

Doug put on the Perry Como Christmas album, the heat is starting to penetrate our chilled skin, outside the world is a magical wonderland, inside is a holiday workshop.

What do you like to do on cold days inside?

Painted Letters

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It’s too cold still to be gardening here and most of my projects are completed for the winter.  This is the time of year that I recoup, reinspire, rediscover.  I hope you have followed along and completed your lists of things you love, things you are okay with, things you dislike, and things you want to try.  If not, click here!  We have written poetry, and broken writing rules, and today we paint.

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I finished the book “Paris Letters” by Janice Macleod, a lovely tale about a young woman that sold everything she had, and took the leap to Paris.  Where, incidentally, she meets a romantic and not bad looking fellow.  She began to carry watercolors around with her and painted scenes that became stationary for her Paris Letters.

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After completing my list of what I love to do, what I am okay doing, what I dislike doing, what I want to try, I was surprised to see painting on my okay with, not what I can’t wait to do list.  I think by the time I find all the paints, the canvas, the easel, and drag everything where I want it, I am too tired to paint.  Presently, my paintings are being displayed at the local coffee shop.  I did expect to have all new paintings there, but alas I have not painted in a year!

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I decided to go get a two dollar pack of watercolors and watercolor paper.  It fits in my ginormous bag that I carry with me everywhere (filled with books, tinctures, salves, day timer, phone, and Maryjane’s toys).  I put water into a small canning jar and put that in my bag too.  I can easily sit and paint at the spur of the moment.  In two weeks, I have completed five paintings.  None that should win awards, but perhaps delight the recipient.

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I painted an elementary picture of Elsa, the baby goat, beneath an elm tree for my pen pal, Holly.  (Want to be my pen pal?  Click on the pen pal post!)  I painted a rosemary plant and wrote a heartfelt letter to Nancy before she died.  I painted a simple tea cup while at the coffee shop and sent it to my other pen pal, Debbie.  I painted a duck yesterday at the coffee shop and wrote a letter to my great aunt Lila.  Then last night I painted a cast iron skillet for my great aunt Donna.

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Aunt Donna called me a week and a half ago after reading the Homesteading Oven post and said, “Now I know you don’t like electronics, but you need an oven!  How can Shyanne bake without an oven?”  And so, my dear aunt graciously and generously bought us a stove.  So, the skillet will go out in the mail today to serve as a thank you note.

All of a sudden I am painting again and connecting with people.  I encourage you to pick up a two dollar watercolor kit and fool around painting in the coffee shop.  We have time.  It’s not time to garden yet.

Blackboard Doors (and other ideas with paint)

I love easy craft projects that have big impact.  I have been mulling around this idea for a long time.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long!  I love how the doors look.  All you need is a small can of blackboard paint.

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I painted the door leading from the kitchen to the laundry/cat room.  I thought it might be too dark in a room with white cupboards and light wall paper but the final look is dramatic and actually matches the old look of the kitchen.  It brought out the black vintage handles on the antique island and makes a stunning statement in an otherwise plain kitchen.

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I then moved on to the door between the Apothecary and the girls’ bathroom.  We have a bulletin board in the Apothecary that holds all of our orders, tax license, calendar, and notes but it is filled pretty consistently.  The door serves as a blatant place to write my to-do list so that I can stop procrastinating and get stuff done!

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With the left over paint I could paint flower pots to write what they hold. I could paint picture frames and write the date and name of the person, or draw little chalk flowers around it, or give as a gift with a witty saying like, “Happy Birthday!”  I could paint small pieces of wood and use them with produce displays to state prices.  I could paint our antique dining room table!! I could get carried away.

To Inspire a Farmgirl

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You thought the last place we went to was old!  The Puye Cliff Dwellings show the life of some rugged homesteaders!  900 AD-1600AD the ancestors of the Santa Claran people lived up on a mountain top in the summer in small rooms of one large building made of volcanic rock with a courtyard for dances.  They lived in the rock face in the winter.  The homes are extraordinary.  The people were farmers.  The altitude is the same as where I live.  There is no more complaining from me on the altitude or short growing season!  If they could do it, I can too.  They saved water in a pool.  Grew the Three Sisters that I have talked about, corn, squash, and beans.  They were raided by other tribes because they had vegetables!  Look at this amazing kitchen carved out of stone.  A thousand year old kitchen!  I cannot wrap my head around that.  But, I suppose my kitchen at home is not too small after all.  My stove is little easier to use than the one shown!

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I feel very blessed to have received this break.  Many of our farming grandmas would have had to take their break in the outhouse, find their inspiration while doing laundry.  To be able to come out to this glorious state and refuel is a gift.  I only needed to be inspired.  Lack of inspiration is a terrible thing for a right-brained person.  I can’t think of anything to cook, so we go out.  I can’t think of how to make the house feasible, so I try to move.  I can’t think of what to create, so I feel trapped and pout.  It ain’t pretty.  Here, I have stored up lots of vitamin D and a few years worth of inspiration.

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Everyone we tell that we are from Colorado says, “I love Colorado!”  “I wish I could live there!”  “I love Colorado, it’s just like here, only green.”  And then I realize, we all think the other side is greener!  The terrain is the same here as it is at home.  My love of here is the endless land without all of the building developement that haunts my state.  The adobe structures.  The people, the vegetarian chilis, the history!  But alas, we live in a wonderful place, surrounded by people we love.  That is where I belong.

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I am so inspired to get back home.  All doors closed on a homestead, so the one we have in town will have to do!  Doug flinches when I tell him all my plans as he despises change and would be happier if he just stumbled upon the house being completely rearranged.  The dining room is moving.  There is more room in the current dining room/living room and I need a place to paint and sew.  The art room and office are moving to the living/dining room and the dining room will be on the other side of the kitchen.  Space to create!  The shop is being slightly rearranged as well with my art being more prominent in the shop.  This piece of pottery inspired me to take up a little clay as well.

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It is time to set up the porches for outdoor living.  To get my seeds in the ground and the drip lines set up.  It is time to take the noisy teenage chickens out of the bathroom they are partying in and place them outdoors.  I was even granted permission from the town to have goats and sheep should I be so inclined.  So, the 2/3 of an acre homestead is on.  The Silly Chicken Farm remains and I can get back to writing about what I first set out to do.  Learn to be a farmgirl!  We’ll be home tomorrow!

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What refuels your inspiration?