A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: 2015

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24 December 2015

... to all a good night.

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Grow, Gather & Give ::: 4 Natural Hostess Gifts

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Grow, Gather & Give was actually one of the working titles while I was writing Crafting With Nature.  While some of the nature crafts in the book didn't particularly lend themselves to being given as gifts, some are absolutely perfect! Here are four gifts you can literally grow, gather and then give...

GROW Citrus - GIVE Pot Scents!

On Crafts Unleashed this week, I am sharing a last-minute fun idea for changing up the "pot scenter" neighbor gift:




Click the following photos or text for full tutorials of these GROW, GATHER and GIVE ideas!
The GROW text leads to a gardening article and the GIVE text leads to a craft tutorial for each!

GROW Mint - GIVE Craft Kits!



GROW Lemon Balm - GIVE SOAP!


GROW Succulents - GIVE a Wreath!

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For over 55 ideas of plants you can grow and gather (and sometimes give!), check out my new book!


Make your own coconut oil.
Gather your own sea salt.
Grow your own grapevines for wreaths.
Give gifts naturally grown and crafted from your backyard garden.

Each chapter focuses on a plant or groups of plants and how to grow them in your home garden.  Then, gather up those natural ingredients and get crafting! From lavender wreaths and hypertufa planters to lambsear angels and pickled tomatoes, there are projects for beginners on up!

Crafting with Nature is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a MillionPOWELL's! (!!!!)  Booktopia (Australia!), IndieBoundAlibrisGlose.comThe Book Depository and Walmart.com.  Books are also rolling out to retailers and libraries, so check for them there. 
 If your library does NOT have it yet, this is why you should talk to your librarian!


17 December 2015

The Week Before Christmas

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It is almost the week before Christmas! ...and I have a few fun ideas for you to celebrate the run up to Christmas. The first is a fantastic little website that has a "Science Advent". Note: Advent starts on the first day of December and each day counts down until Christmas, but YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO IT THAT WAY!  The idea of Advent is to prepare your heart for the coming Christmas and get excited about the season.  You CAN DO THAT THIS WEEK even if you haven't jumped in with a formal advent.

We have used several of these science and STEM advent ideas for our "activity advent" we do every year and the kids have loved them.  The super simple CHRISTMAS MYSTERY box, where I put a bunch of Christmas things in a box full of packing peanuts and they had to guess what the items were by touch alone, was a favorite and took maybe 3 minutes to set up.

Visit HERE for the site where I found Christmas Mystery.


HERE is another website with fun STEM Christmas activities.


We are also super into Christmas books the closer we get to Christmas and there are two new ones I want to share with you this year:

Reindeer Dust and The Visit


Both are new this year and both are part of my countdown to Christmas.  Reindeer Dust is a story we read a week ago or so, but we will be "making" the reindeer dust the night before Christmas. (You realize that is does NOT have to be super complicated...a packet of instant oatmeal and whatever glitter you have in the house will really do the trick.  The kids think it is ***magic***!)


Speaking of the night before Christmas, The Visit is a BEAUTIFUL take on the "real" story behind ANBC.  It is one of those books that children enjoy listening to, but the illustrations make it a pleasure for adults to read.

Also on our Christmas book list every year is Christopher PopinKins (the nicer, original version of Elf on a Shelf) and the girl version: Marie. We also read THIS beautiful version of The 12 Days of Christmas and Jotham's Journey (though this year we cannot find it...where did it GO?!?!) There are actually a whole bunch of "Journey" books for advent -- Ishtar, Tabitha, Bartholomew, Amon...

Whether you use Christmas books as part of Advent or as a Christmas gift, they are a treasure.  My Aunt Fran started us on classic Christmas story books and our small collection is truly treasured and a joy to get our each Christmas. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and have a fun-filled week before Christmas!

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11 December 2015

Your Public Service Bulbing Announcement

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Does it still feel like fall and not-so-much winter in your neck of the woods? Thank El Nino. Those bulbs typically planted from September to mid-November can still be planted now because the weather has been so mild and the ground has not frozen.

Plant fall bulbs in December by Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature

Buy up ALL the clearance bulbs. GO ahead...this afternoon...they are waiting on you! Daffodils, tulips, hyacinth -- any spring bulbs you can get your hands on at nurseries, online distributors, WalMart, Lowes -- anywhere you see them. Buy them at 90% off, sink them deep into the soil immediately and cover with mulch. Your spring show this year will be fanTAStic.

Plant fall bulbs in December by Amy Renea of Crafting With Nature

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10 December 2015

Need a Christmas Gift? Try a GAME!

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I have always loved board games, but it wasn't until my husband and his brothers and sisters introduced me to "thinky" board games that I really fell head over heels.  Now I spend my downtime beating other stay-at-home moms at online Ticket to Ride. I miss playing board games with our brothers/sisters in law and hope to get together again for game night SOON!  

I have gathered up my favorite board games, ipad games, and games & activities for the kids. I can pretty much buy a game for almost anyone on my Christmas list and they will be a happy camper.  It is just a matter of getting the RIGHT ONE.

Board Games

Ticket to Ride - Based on trains, this strategy board game is fairly simple to understand and then more complex as you begin to memorize routes and calculate out your opponents routes, cards and block their next move. While "blocking" is looked down upon by some, it is really the fun way to play.  Consider chess without trying to actually get your opponent's queen...it just isn't really fun, right?  Blocking is the name of the game in Ticket to Ride. Note that there is the original American version and then additional countries and an early American version (1910) as well.  I like Europe -- and I still have not mastered Asia.

Carcasonne Extensions - Carcasonne is a super chill game with little action and a lot of strategy. Let's just say it is the opposite of "spoons". There is the original game and a bunch of extensions, but the one I linked to above is the "big box" of 5 for $50 which is quite a good deal for all that you get.  It would make a great present for the board game lover in your family :()

Puerto Rico - We started playing this before the real Puerto Rico was even an option for us.  It is interesting that only ONE of the commodities traded in the game is produced in a significant commercial way by Puerto Rico in its current economy. (Coffee is still going pretty strong!  Tobacco, Sugar and Tobacco are not.)  Sugarcane used to be a massive industry in Puerto Rico, and with a forced minimum wage and unions that seem more powerful than they do in the states -- the sugarcane industry completely died.  There are now abandoned sugarcane plantations scattered around the island (I know to turn for Costco thanks to one crumbling smokestack!) According to the 2012 Annual Financial Report, Puerto Rico received more than $6.5 billion annually in federal aid from the United States with most going towards welfare. 6.5 BILLION. Meanwhile, the TOTAL value of country’s exports stood at $46.9 billion f.o.b. according to the 2001 figures and the value of country’s imports stood at $29.1 billion c.i.f. according to the 2001 figures. Those numbers are really sad when stacked up against each other. I didn't mean to go on a political tangent when talking about board games, but there you go. Board games can turn into political discussions when they are good ones! (PS My favorite export in Puerto Rico is of course coffee for its trade value, but only if paired with the office. A close second is sugar which has a good trade-in rate with less players gunning for it and can be partnered easily with the +2 market.)

San Juan - Yes another Puerto Rico game!  This one is similar to Puerto Rico, but played with cards instead of on a board and the strategy is slightly different. The "library" is gold in this game, so get it early, but make sure not to play a "chapel" TOO early or you will pull money out of your business too early a la Kevin O'Leary. The game overall is well-balanced and holds up to multiple strategy twists and turns.


We are also big fans of OLD old board games from the 50's, 60's and 70's.  Hunting on ebay turns up a few sometimes, but Alex had a good haul once from Craigslist that has kept us satiated for years now.  Our favorite? The SUPER nerdy Facts in Five.

For iPad -- all found in the app store

Apps can be a great stocking stuffer that gets used over and over and over again!


Ticket to Ride -- YES, again!  ...and I dare say it is MORE fun playing electronically. All the other versions (Europe, Asia, etc.) are available as well and they are worth the $5-10.

Carcasonne -- YES, YES again!  Although I prefer this one on the board, I do enjoy a peaceful game of Carcasonne on a tablet.  It is the perfect game to concentrate on during a long, long flight.  The music will put a baby to sleep (for reals...I used it for 2 years!)

Puerto Rico -- Yup, this one is available on ipad too and is MUCH much faster to play than the board game. Do you see a trend here?  Like it as a board game, LOVE it as an app.

San Juan -- Again, this game is different than Puerto Rico because it is a card game as opposed to a board game, but there are many crossover similarities.  

For the Kids:

Kids LOVE a good craft kit, especially one that is well suited to their interests (Cars!  STEM!  Construction!).  





Squirrel King hits the nail on the head with interesting, fun building kits.  From a gardening scene 
to a beachside umbrella stand to a simple car (with working axle!) my boys ate these kits right up.  



They are a perfect stocking stuffer!






Oddly Obvious -- Fun for kids, and great for working on vocabulary skills.  It was just right for our 7 and 9 year old...too much for the 5 year old.




Toca Builders - This is hands down my kids' favorite tablet game and it is great for building spacial reasoning skills.


Geometry Dash is a family favorite, as is Drive Ahead and Cut the Rope if you are looking for downloadable apps.  (Those are recommendations straight from my sons!)

Monkeys in a Barrel -- At under $3, the price cannot be beat!

Crazy Legs - As a board game, my kids were kind of "eh" on this game at first.  However, a week later, they pulled out the cards and were doing all sorts of yoga poses and exercises around the house - essentially making up their own new games. These cards with actions on them are constantly showing up around the house and the kids definitely find more to do with them than a deck of cards. If you consider the amount of workouts they have completed vs the $15 cost of the game, I would say it is like 25 cents per workout?  Not bad, eh??


Monkey's Up - This game is a math game with cute little red monkeys.  The kids again decided to make up their own games including a tower "Jenga-like" game which they loved.  



This game can challenge a 4th grade math student, but is also good for tiny hands:


 Speaking of Jenga --- BOOM.

I hope I have given you a few new ideas or sparked old gift thoughts you might have had!
Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!




Curious? Here is my wishlist for Christmas this year!


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08 December 2015

Gifts for the Comfort Hounds and the Garden Dwellers

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I sometimes find the difficult gifts to give are the smaller gifts for adults -- where you want to buy something nice, but not over-the-top.  I've rounded up a few of MY favorites for the comfort hounds and the garden dwellers.

For the comfort hounds...

Are you a shoes on or off in the house type of person? It seems this varies from home to home, state to state and country to country. I am a shoes OFF person and my kids have learned to be as well.  They track in so much filth that I cannot imagine a house where their shoes stayed ON! Even so, there are always little bits of sand, dirt or dust that seem to appear no matter how often I sweep, vacuum and mop. Those little bits sticking to the bottom of my feet drives me batty.  Thus, I am almost always in socks or slippers when I am inside. Lately, it has been THESE socks almost exclusively:

Christmas Gifts for Adults Miscoots Socks

These pretty socks are from Miscoots and they come in men's, women's and children's sizes.   I wear all three :)  The larger children's socks are great for athletic socks and I wear both the men's and women's around the house. They are thick, but not too thick and maintain a nice softness even after washing. The coolest part of Miscoots is that for every pair purchased, they give a pair away to someone in need.

Miscoots Socks for Adult Stocking Stuffer Christmas

...and Miscoots doesn't only make socks -- they make tees and cute little beanies -- see?

I squint when I smile...I can't help it...

Same deal with the beanies -- for EVERY one sold, one is given to those in need.

If you are more of a slipper type of person, I cannot recommend THESE SLIPPERS (an LL Bean classic) enough!  I live in them all winter.  The men's are thicker and heavier duty (I like to wear them outside), but the girl versions are prettier.  Target also has a good version of this slipper (though the insides are not nearly as nice) and I saw a Pottery Barn knockoff slipper in the latest catalog as well that look plush and wonderful.


Comfort in Scents

Scent is such a comforting thing, isn't it?  I love a good candle and they make a great little gift. Tarah Jade has interesting scents like Black Fig or Volcano, while Yankee keeps things simple a homey with classics like Christmas Cookie and (my favorite!) Macintosh. This year though, I TOTALLY have my eye on THE Jaime Fraser candle...mmmmm.

Min Design also has really cool gift candles this year, with chalkboard jar candles (you can really write on them!), a super cute gumball candle and my favorite:


The Cuivre Copper Collection -- GORGEOUS right??

For the Gardeners...

West County Glove #1 -- These puppies are waterproof and THICK. They are soft inside, tighten around the wrists and are seriously fantastic gardening gloves.  I haven't worn any others since getting back to PA and planting as many bulbs as I can before the ground freezes.

Any gardener worth their salt puts a lot of wear and tear on gloves and a new pair is always appreciated.  I would recommending splurging on these AWESOME elbow-length options! ($27)  The best part??  Fingertip reinforcement (Iron Man style...) so rose thorns don't pierce your fingers and you don't get holes in the index fingers.


Hori-Hori (Yes, again) I mentioned this tool last year (I asked for and received a hori-hori), but I mention it again because every gardener could use a new hori-hori.  It will be much appreciated, much utilized and carefully hidden from the rest of the family which will try to steal it for non-gardening chores.

Mini-White Globe Lights - Gardeners use Christmas as an excuse to light up their favorite plants. Mini globe lights are the perfect complement to evergreens or faux greens. THESE Martha Stewart globe lights available at Home Depot are a quality favorite and you can connect up to 25 SETS from one outlet safely. (I did another fun little project with these lights on instagram!) That's all for now, but I have a detailed game gift guide coming up later this week and for now...


Curious? Here is my wishlist for Christmas this year!





03 December 2015

Mercury Glass Menorah

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Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed title 2

Today's project is a simple one that packs a big atmospheric punch!  The classic Menorah includes 9 candles on one holder with the 
middle candle raised.  These can often be quite pricey, but today's craft is absolutely affordable and can be adjusted for various faiths. 

DIY Mercury Glass Menorah by Amy Renea, author of Crafting With Nature

Supplies:

Instructions:

The key to making this assortment of candles a "Menorah" is to raise the middle candle.  These unfinished wooden candle holders are the perfect size UPSIDE DOWN to fit the tealights.  To match the tealights, I gave the wood finish a coat of silver paint and then a quick spray of gold glitter.

DIY Mercury Glass Menorah by Amy Renea, author of Crafting With Nature

Hot glue a tealight holder to the candle holder (upside down!).

Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 3

In my simple version, the 4 tealights on either side are set directly on the windowsill or centerpiece, then the middle one is raised.  For greater impact, you could place all 8 outer candles on upside-down candle holders, then stack one candle holder -- one upside down candle holder and tealight for the middle candle.

Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 5

I confess I am a baker's twine-aholic and though its trendiness may have waned, I am still a die-hard fan.  A few wraps of various twines from the Cappiccino collection take the Menorah into a bit more rustic look as opposed to straight up glam.  Feel free to omit the string if it isn't your thing.

Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 2

What you may NOT omit is the fragrance.  This Evergreen Pine fragrance smells like winter itself and is the easiest way to make cheap tealights seem luxurious.  Simply drip a few drops of the oil INTO THE TEALIGHT HOLDER, set the tealight on top and light.  The heat will release the scent.  Note I did NOT say to pour fragrance oil onto a burning candle.

Evergreen Pine Scent

 Tealight holders + tealights + elevated middle candle +  fragrance =


Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 8

Now.  If you are not of the Jewish faith, these ideas can still work for you!  Simply take the tealight holders and add to these beautiful flocked pine branches for a 5 minute centerpiece.  The branches are large and lush -- you only need 2-3 for the 9 candle arrangement.

Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 9

...or mix the Menorah with the pine boughs...


In any case, don't forget the fragrance and enjoy lighting the halls this Christmas and Hanukkah season!


Gold Mercury Glass Menorah Candles by Amy Renea for Crafts Unleashed 6


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