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25 March 2015

Paper Stars for Pennies

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Recently, my 8 year old son came home from art class with the most impressive paper star. 
 I made him share the details with me and today, we are sharing how to make paper stars with YOU!


8.5 x 11" Cardstock (or printer paper in a pinch).
Scissors (sharp, large scissors for precise cuts).
Tape or Stapler/Staples or Brad Connectors.
Yarn, String or Copper Wire to Hang.
NOTE: This project can be done with cheap printer paper to practice on before using your nice crafting papers. 


Start with a basic 8.5 by 11" piece of paper or cardstock.
 Fold the top corner down to make a clean edge and cut off the bottom few inches.


Fold over again to make a triangle.  Cut strips from the folded side, leaving an inch or so UNCUT on the opposite side. 
 Thick cuts like this will create a basic lantern while smaller cuts will make a more intricate lantern (see photos at the end of post).

How-to-make-paper-stars-Crafts-Unleashed-2 How-to-make-paper-stars-Crafts-Unleashed-3

When you unfold your triangle, it should look like this:


Start at the center with the smallest cuts and tape, staple or brad the two pieces together.


Take the next two pieces and roll in the opposite direction (backwards). Continue until all strips are attached.  Single pieces can be hung individually as "lanterns", but the real magic is combining six of these pieces together to make a full star.  Simply staple 6 pieces together by the tips as the center of the star and on the sides of each piece to it's adjacent piece.

A few variations of how to make paper stars:

To create more intricate lanterns, use smaller cuts and a very steady hand (see photo above)!

To create stars with a bit more staying power,
use metal brads to secure pieces together and super thick cardstock (below).


If you follow this how to make paper stars tutorial with children,
 consider crayon marks/lines before cutting to keep them on track and successful with their cutting.
(See residual crayon marks on the lantern below.)

Whether you use this how to make paper stars idea as a simple time filler for kids or go whole hog with them as party decorations or home decor, they really are a bit of magic as they "appear" out of simple pieces of paper!

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19 March 2015


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At least here in Pennsylvania, it was really starting to feel like spring this week.  We cracked 60 degrees last week!  Brilliant! Of course is snowing...but no worries!  The forecast is looking up friends and the daffodils are pushing up and spring is COMING!  Can you tell I am excited?  To celebrate, today I am partnering with Ames Tools to bring you a fun giveaway.  Not 1 tool, not 2, not 3 nor 4.  No, today the giveaway is for an entire collection of tools from Ames.
This collection is specifically created for new homeowners that might not know what they have gotten themselves into when they bought that little patch of backyard.  Gardening can be tough!   Before we dive right into the giveaway though, let's talk about the differences in these basic tools and why you will need each one as a first-time gardening home owner.

AMES steel tools have a really cool logo stamped into the steel -- Solid, right?

The 16-Tine Welded Bow Rake

GOOD FOR: Prepping a vegetable garden!  Once your soil has dried out a bit, this is hands down the tool you want after digging your veggie garden.  Get the soil all flat with perfect lines ready for planting!  This tough rakes also does a great job of pulling ivy down from where it has wandered astray.

NOT GOOD FOR:  Delicate weeding tasks!  This rake is strong and mighty.  It will eat little seedlings and small bulbs right along with those weeds you are trying to get rid of.  Save this tool for tough projects!

The Steel Handled AWESOMELY HUGE Poly Leaf Rake

GREAT FOR: Cleaning up those wet and nasty fall leaves that you never got around to cleaning up before the ice storms of 2015 hit.  Get them out of the way and compost them so the grass can start growing!  This rake is also FABULOUS for moving big bundles of ornamental grasses and other drystuffs for the chicken coop (YES!  Chicken are coming back to the Nest this spring...stay tuned to see the new baby chicks!)  This rake also did a great job of grabbing thorny ramblers to throw in a bonfire :)

This rake is HUGE -- note the size next to the almost 7 year old :)
This is the only tool requiring any assembly -- 2 bolts and DONE
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Trying to move (larger than pea-sized) gravel.  Trust me -- you need a heavier duty tool for the job.  Though this rake is STRONG and moves a lot more than your average garden still isn't going to be moving rocks.

The Trowel and The Transplanter

Can YOU tell them apart?
These two hand tools look similar, but they are used for totally different tasks.  The trowel is a fatter tool, perfect for getting down and dirty planting perennials and large bulbs.  When you need a deep hole, but do not want to disturb existing plants, the transplanter is exactly what you need.  As a new homeowner,  WAIT to plant and transplant for at least one spring-summer-fall cycle so you know what it in the garden.  You don't want to start digging holes for peonies and cut all the irises to shreds because you didn't know they were there.  JUST WAIT...and at the very least, use a transplanter, not a trowel.  Trowels are also great for hand weeding the veggie garden and working plants out of pots.

The Shovel

If you do not have a shovel and you want to garden, you might just be up a creek.  The shovel is one of the first tools created by mankind and it is essential to getting the Earth to produce.  Vegetable beds need to be turned, trees need to be planted, noxious weeds need to be upended and mulch has to be moved.  The shovel is the go-to tool for all the chores you really don't want to do.  You know what is worse than doing those chores?  Doing those chores with a dull shovel.  Get a nice solid shovel (from AMES!) and keep it sharp and free of rust.  Your back will thank you.

 (Shovel on the right, spade on the left)

The Spade

You are a new homeowner and you wonder why on Earth you would need TWO shovels.  Why not just one?  Well, let's call a spade a spade, shall we.

SPADES ARE GOOD FOR: Lifting dirt.  I would say soil, but typically if you are reaching for a spade, you might have nasty old, infertile DIRT on your hands.  Shovels move nice, light, fertile soil.  If you need to dig a serious hole, edge a garden, remove sod, etc, etc.  The spade is your tool of choice.

NOW that you are tired from thinking about all those chores to get to in the garden (don't worry!  The seeds and flowers are coming soon!) let's giveaway some TOOLS!  This collection is going to make one happy reader's life a lot easier and it COULD BE YOU!  Enter below and you can KEEP entering by tweeting once per day!

Established in 1774, AMES® supplied the tools that built America. AMES continues to provide quality, innovative lawn and garden tools for gardening, landscaping, and lawn maintenance activities. AMES is a brand of The AMES Companies, Inc. The AMES Companies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Griffon Corporation (NYSE:GFF), is the leading, as well as the oldest, manufacturer of lawn and garden tools in the U.S. Headquartered in Camp Hill, Pa. (near Harrisburg). The company manufactures and markets a wide variety of long-handled tools, wheelbarrows, carts, hose reels, hoses, snow tools, cutting tools, hand tools, pruning tools, and striking tools as well as outdoor lifestyle product categories such as planters and outdoor accessories. To learn more, visit or find us on Facebook.
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06 March 2015

What to Read While You're Writing

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If you missed the passing instagram announcement, here is the official one.

I AM WRITING A BOOK.  A real, cover-to-cover, paper pages BOOK.  Due to release in Spring 2016 via Page Street Publishers and distributed by Macmillan.  I am  excited and focused and currently up to my ears in leaves, twigs, glitter and glue.  OH, and books.  Yes, I am up to my ears in BOOKS because sometimes reading is exactly what I need while writing.

Inside The Secret Gardens of the Cotswalds
Some theories contend you should hole yourself up away from other influences while creating your own work,  but I daresay that is a lonely place to create from.  While writing, I eschew books and blogs that are very similar to my subject (garden crafts), but I read everything I can get my hands on that relates from a different angle to my subject.  You see, if I can see the way hundreds of other authors see pieces of my subject, then the way I see my subject snaps sharply into place.  If you are curious, here is what I am currently reading and WHY.

Inside The Secret Gardens of the Cotswalds
Note: All the links are my affiliate links to the books on Amazon.  I get a small percentage back from Amazon when you click and buy, no pressure. 

Gardening "TEXTS"

First Ladies of Gardening - I just recently received this one for review and have been absolutely devouring it.  The women are so incredibly inspiring -- you know the kind.  The gardeners that seem like little fairies amidst their gardeners, trowel and secateurs in hand puttering around the daisies and the willows -- I want to be them...
This is the inside of the cover...that is just the beginning...
Secret Gardens of the Cotswalds - If you are a fan of THE Secret Garden, then this is a fun companion.  These are REAL gardens, private and hidden away in the English countryside.  I want them ALL and I want to make my readers feel that way when they read my book -- except my goal is to make them want natural crafting materials and plants that can be manipulated as opposed to secret gardens.  The writing strategies though -- those are similar and I can learn a lot from Victoria Summerly.
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The Southern Living Gardening Book - A classic.  A new version just came out and this book is CHOCK FULL of information.  It is a valuable tool, especially when researching plants that are more common south of my zone 6 garden.

Sissinghurst - I mentioned this text during the Christmas season and am still counting it on my one hand of favorite garden books right now.  A great history of an incredible garden.

Vegetable Literacy - From last year, this beautiful gardening book is a fantastic reference for me as I write about specific plants.  ...and when I say beautiful I mean HANDS DOWN the most beautiful gardening book I have seen...ever.  It is stunning cover to cover.

Also in that gardening book post last year, I mentioned The Beautiful, Edible Garden and that book still makes me want a persimmon tree more than any other plant right now. I daresay it makes me want to do something like Orchard Crafting for book #2.  (PLEASE let there by a book #2!!!)

365 Days of Gardening -- an oldie, but a goodie.  This book was one I found long ago at a library book sale and it is not deep reading, but it is fast and easy garden reading.  Tips and tricks in 2-3 sentences are spaced throughout the seasons and are often good "sparks" for me to remember to include such and such tip in my book.

What is the connecting thread between these books?  Knowledge.  They are not crafty/DIY at all and are not geared towards beginners.  They serve as references for plant facts and get me thinking about the garden when mine is under a foot of snow.  They are inspiration, but in a different thread of thought than my own book.


Other books from Page Street Publishing like The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen, OATrageous Oatmeals and Mixed Media Masterpieces are also on my must-read list.  Why?  Even though many of Page Street's books are currently cookbooks, they still give me a very good framework for the shape my book will take.  They show me the grid where my words, my crafts, my ideas will be placed.  Understanding the framework helps me to visualize my content in published form.

OLD Magazines and Brand NEW Publications

I read super old magazines for old ideas that can be made fresh again and I read brand new quarterlies and monthly publications for layout inspiration.  I am currently obsessing over the layouts in Rochelle Greayer's Pith + Vigor quarterly.

WiseCraft - I love the cover on this one and found tons of inspiration for organizational layout.

Old Ideas Reworked + New Presentation = Fresh, Solid Content 


Yes, I said junk.  Easy reading.  Quick and fantastical and escapist reading.  Sometimes I get in the trenches of gardening and crafting thought and it is hard to claw myself out and get some new perspective.  Historical novels and good old basic literary junk helps me climb out of the trench and when I turn back towards my own work, it is with fresh eyes again.  A small note to historical fiction writers: I daresay you would consider garden and craft books YOUR junk while writing, so please don't take "junk" as an insult.


There are a few more books that I am excited to get cracked open.  I recently ordered Artist's Houses and Writer's Houses off Amazon, but have yet to start reading.  I cannot WAIT.  There is also Artist's HANDMADE Houses which I would love to read. (different author entirely from Artist's Houses)  I am also incredibly excited about this cute Secret Garden Pen + Ink Treasure Hunt/Coloring book. (Yes, I am a grown-up, but it looks so very fun!)

I also recently ordered Bunny Williams' On Garden Style after hearing her speak at the Garden Bloggers Conference, but I ordered the OLD version since the NEW version is set to release soon.  HERE is the new version -- HERE is the one I ordered.  Why all the style, home and environment books?  Simple, really.  I am fascinated by the environments in which other writers and other creatives work in.  I love to see their process and their surroundings (another reason I really love reading about Vita Sackville and Sissinghurst) and other artist's surroundings are inspiring even via proxy.

Also on my list -- the next Outlander book.  I never said my reading list was classy.

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I would love to hear what YOU are reading lately!! I would love to hear your suggestions in the FORUM or on the Nest facebook page! Feel free to link to YOUR books or YOUR book roundups on the Nest facebook page and forum as well!

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