DIY Gnome Toppers

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Every year, I attempt to craft something for my family in Finland. I am not successful every year, but this year, I am pleased to report that my hot glue gun skills came through. What is the “black thumb” equivalent for crafting? Smudge thumb? I just made that up. Even if you have “smudge thumb”, you can make these gnome toppers. They’re an adorable accessory for giving a bottle of wine or glogg, adding whimsy to a taper candlestick, or topping a mini tree. You could even make a smaller version as a gift wrap accessory.

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I bought the Bachman’s gnome topper above at Lund’s and Byerly’s. I studied it, and  inside the hat you can see the end of a pipe cleaner, so the materials list was simple to make. I decided to do a small pom instead of the wood nose, because I wasn’t sure how the wood was attached, but I knew the pom would stay with hot glue. My craft store was sold out of white faux fur, so I went with brown. This is so simple, you could add your own variations in countless ways.

If you’re a crafty person, you’ve probably said got it, created a village of gnomes, and photographed and written a better tutorial by now. But if you’re still here, I’ll walk you through a ridiculously over-explained photograph tutorial.

Materials for one gnome:

felt

faux fur (or beard material of choice)

pipe cleaner

mini pom (or nose of choice)

thread or thin string (I used embroidery thread)

small jingle bell (or a pom)

Tools: hot glue gun, scissors

 

 

1. Cut your felt into a long, isoscles triangle. I didn’t bother measuring, because it’s up to you how long and narrow you want the hat to be. To figure out how wide the base should be, wrap the felt around the neck of a wine bottle (or candlestick) and then give it a tiny bit of wiggle room. For the best shaping, make the triangle a little longer than the pipe cleaner.

2. Double-knot a jingle bell onto thread, and hot glue the thread to the narrow end of the triangle. (You could also sew the bell on, like an overachiever.)

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3. Hot glue the pipe cleaner down the middle, with one end an inch or so from the narrow end of the hat.

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4. Flip it over and run hot glue along the edge of the wide end. Fold the edge over the glue to make the brim of the hat. (If you wanted the brim to be an accent, like white trim on a red hat, you could have first glued a strip of fabric on the edge of the pipe cleaner side.)

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5. Cut out your faux fur beard. The Bachman’s gnome beard is long and wispy, but my faux fur wasn’t as wispy, so I cut it into a subtle triangle to make it look more beard-like.

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6. Hot glue the beard, centered, at the edge of the wide end of the pipe cleaner side of the hat, furry side down. Make sure the glue is getting on the batting part of the faux fur.

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7. Glue one long side over the other, overlapping minimally. I did a few inches at a time, so that I could just push it flatly, and then poke my finger through to keep any glue from leaking. I didn’t want to make the hat flat; I wanted it to stay conical.

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8. Glue the pom “nose”. I tucked it slightly under the brim of the hat. The faux fur may shed, so make sure the pom is glued to the felt.

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That’s it! You made a gnome topper! He looks great! What did you name him?

This is Alden. He’s trying out my electric candle. I didn’t keep him there long, because I don’t know whether or not that’s safe. But I thought the pink glow (like when you put your fingers over a flashlight) was cool, especially since he has a pink nose.

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What We’re Reading

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The other day I pulled out my–urrr, my kids’–winter and Christmas picture books. We don’t have enough shelf space for all our books, and fine, I admit, I am kind of a stickler about reading/watching seasonally appropriate media only. So, I rotate books with strong seasonal associations. Tomorrow, I’m surprising the kids with Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We’ve already started with Muumipeikko Herää, (a Moomin lift-a-flap book), Lucia and the Light by Phyllis Root, and Jan Brett’s Christmas Trolls. I’m leaving these stacks on the living room table for now, to encourage browsing. All of us love these books so much, so I’m tempted to give 20 reviews, but I’ll leave you to squint at the titles.

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My husband and I have slipped into an undesirable pattern with the kids lately, where they seem to require constant prodding, nagging, and yelling and threats of no movies! no books! no friend time! to do even the simplest routine actions. I realized I was feeding the tension by avoiding it, so I’ve started making a point of connecting with each of my kids individually every day. Lots of little people’s big feelings are being validated over here. I’ve read part of Raising Resilient Children by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, and I am a huge believer of The Child Whisperer by Carol Tuttle (seriously, it changed my life’s perspective). But in this current rough patch, I also finally picked up a copy of Parenting With Love & Logic by Foster W. Cline. I have many mixed feelings and thoughts about it, so if you want to chat about “Positive Parenting Solutions” in the comments or on Facebook, I’m game.

What are you reading? Are there any books you always re-read at certain times of the year?

 

Christmas Mantle

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I threw together my Christmas mantle this morning. I’ve had my eye on eucalyptus-draped mantles this year. I may decide to make it fuller, but for now I have a few branches. I love that it is no maintenance. The branches dry out quickly and beautifully. When I take it down in a few weeks, I’ll toss it in the fireplace for fragrance.

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I put up my Little Lamb print by Jenedy Paige. She tried to capture historically accurate traditional swaddling bands embroidered with the symbols of the houses of Mary and Joseph, laid in a manger carved from common limestone. Next to it is my thrifted midcentury peace dove candleholder, similar to this one.

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The hand-carved wood and porcelain nativity is a music box that plays “Silent Night” after you wind it by the star. I bought it in Denver at a stand in the mall on my honeymoon, right before Christmas.

The poinsettias are from Trader Joe’s–I like that their foil wrap is matte gold. And the felt ball garland is from Target years ago. I can’t remember where I got the faux evergreen wreath, but I wish I could because I’ve had it for years and I love it; it is so realistic and also durable. I’ve shared the other print on my Instagram; it is a custom Bella Adele Co. print with the Finnish saying “Oma koti kullan kallis,” meaning “Your own home is as precious as gold,” with the sentiment of “There’s no place like home.”

If you’re looking for more opulent eucalyptus mantles, here’s what I’ve been pinning:

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DIY Seeded Eucalyptus and Pine Garland on Fiskars

 

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Monika Hibbs Instagram

 

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Peaceful Christmas on Beijos

 

 

 

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Advent Calendars 4 Ways

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Alexandra (my 6-year-old) has been asking me all week how many days until Christmas. I keep telling her we’ll start counting once it’s December. I just set out the advent calendars, so, fingers crossed, the calendars make it through the last few days of November before the kids break into them.

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It used to be hard to find advent calendars in the U.S., so my mummi (grandmother) sent my brothers, sister and I each one from Finland every year, until we were adults. She and my mom sent them to my kids, too, until I took over in her name last year, since they’re easier to find locally now. This year, I got ours from IKEA and Trader Joe’s.

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My December has a lot of traditions, including the chocolate encased in cardboard countdown, so I have never thought much about other ways to wind down to December. But if you’re looking for inspiration here are three simple non-chocolate advent calendars that caught my eye:

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Postcard Advent Calendar by The Merry Thought makes a heartwarming activity seem attainable, and looks so lovely, too. She covered the front of 24 matchboxes with birch veneer, painted and numbered each one, and slipped the name of a loved one inside. Each day, she picked a vintage postcard from the basket below and sent off a little note. There are endless ways to adapt, simplify, or expand this idea, but the simple boxes dangling from an evergreen branch are so lovely.

 

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Photo Frame Advent Calendar by Not on the High Street is 50% off for Cyber Monday, but probably wouldn’t ship in time this year. You could easily make your own simpler version from Instagram or other photo prints, clothes-pinned onto wires in a frame like this, or just along a string or ribbon. If you want to ramp up the sentimental giving, make one for a loved one.

 

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Lego City Town Avent Calendar is at stores (like Target) and elsewhere online. Each day, you get a little piece to put the town together. It sounds fun, and it’s got me wondering what other constructions could be broken down into 24 pieces or steps.

Do you have an advent tradition, or countdown to Christmas?

 

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Pretty Links

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Your 2016 Guide for Gifts That Give Back {For Women} is amazing! Seriously, go covet every pick in good conscious. I LOVE The Good Trade.

 

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I’ve been giving myself a pep talk to craft some Christmas tree ornaments with the kids this year. Landee See Landee Do has a good round-up, including those Pom Pom Pinecones via One Little Project.

 

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I read a brief description of each of the 2016 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and wow, they are an inspiring bevy. Recipients included Elouise Cobell, Ellen DeGeneres, Diana Ross, Maya Lin, Bruce Springsteen, Margaret Hamilton, Robert Redford, Frank Gehry and 13 more! They all share at least two common traits: passion and determination. (image of Maya Lin and President Barack Obama via Cosmopolitan)

 

 

 

 

Gifts Parents Wish Their Kids Would Get

I’m not the grandparents’ ideal when it comes to gift-giving. If you ask me what the kids would like, I will give very specific suggestions and beg you not to deviate from the list. I don’t like to “help” my kids manage a lot of things. But kids who seem to have everything can be hard to buy for, too. These gift ideas work well for both minimalist and maximalist households, and I’m willing to bet that both the kid and the parents will thank you for them. I broke them into three categories of giving: an experience, a consumable, and a charity.

Give an experience.

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Attend a concert, play, sporting event, movie or festival together. Or, give many experiences with a membership to a favorite museum or recreation center. If you want the kid to be excited to unwrap it, attach it to a related book. For example, Frog and Toad books with tickets to go see the play!

We’ve enjoyed a gift card to Children’s Theatre Company and a gifted membership to the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Other Twin Cites membership options include the Science Museum of Minnesota (image of Earth), The Works Museum, and the Minnesota Zoo. I’m planning on getting my family an America the Beautiful Pass (image of Itaska Natural Area in Minnesota), which covers the entrance fee for the passholder’s car and the passengers in it to nearly all the national parks for one year.

 

Give something consumable & useful.

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Art supplies like Eco Crafts, bath supplies like Honest Co. bubble bath, and useful trinkets kids love, like EOS lip balm are a lot of fun, but don’t create much waste or require long-term care.

 

Give to a relatable charity.

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Choose an elephant or rhino by name to foster through Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and every month they’ll send updates on your animal plus collectible watercolor prints.

Buy a soccer ball from One World Play Project, and they’ll donate a ball to a disadvantaged community. The balls don’t deflate, so it’s no maintenance for the recipients.

Bring the kid grocery shopping, and let them pick out food to donate to Feeding America or a local food or shelter program plus a treat to take home, like Bitsy’s Brainfood Orange Chocolate Beet Cookies, which is not a charity, but is an all-natural cookie. (Image of kids with food bags from Second Harvest Heartland, a partner of Feeding America.)

 

Are you a minimalist or maximalist when it comes to gift giving and receiving? Somewhere between? What are your favorite gifts your kids have received?

 

Pretty Links

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Emma Chapman of A Beautiful Mess served Lentil Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce as the main course of their plant-based Friendsgiving. Yum. Photo by Amber Ulman and Emma Chapman.

 

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I just bought Holly Jolly Mad Libs, but there are plenty of free printables online like the one above by Small Stuff Counts.

 

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Can #FeministXmasSongs be an annual tradition? Because I’m really tired of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Image from Distractify.