Category Archives: holidays

Holiday Favorites – My December “To Do” List!

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There are certain things that I enjoying doing each year when December rolls around.  They’re things that I must do or experience in order for the Christmas season to be its best – at least for me.  I know everyone celebrates different things and/or in different ways, and I really love that celebrating is unique to each individual or family.  Tradition, culture and personalities play such a big part, don’t you think?

Here are some of My Holiday Favorites – things that I love to partake in each year, if I can:

  • Watching the movie “Elf” starring Will Ferrell.  Buddy the Elf is so innocent, gleeful, and funny.  I love it!
  • Decorating for the holidays
  • Making – and eating – Magic Cookie Bars!  I could literally eat a whole pan myself, they’re SO good. :]
  • Listening to the Soundtrack from The Nutcracker
  • Eating Dryer’s Peppermint Ice Cream.  Yum!
  • Doing something to help those in need, like donating food to a food bank
  • Listening to the song “Feliz Navidad”, performed by José Feliciano.  I listen to it several times during the month – it fills me with joy!
  • Baking sugar cookies.  When I was little my family used to make the kind of sugar cookies that you have to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, which was fun, but these days I go with a sugar cookie recipe that’s easier to make and is simply scrumptious.

What’s on your holiday “Must Do” list?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. Yep, that little girl in the blue dress in the photo up top was me – over 35 year ago. It was my one and only picture with Santa as a child. :]

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Another Look: Holidays!

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share some goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is holidays!  Just click on a photo to link over to the original post…
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Seven Suggestions for a Happier Holiday Season
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DIY: Aluminum Star Ornaments – Frugal & Festive!

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Magic Cookie Bar Recipe

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My Festive Cubicle!
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Fudge Recipe
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My Visit with Santa Claus
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Sugar Cookie Recipe
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My Christmas-y Cubicle
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Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

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Vintage Snapshot Ornaments
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I hope you have the happiest of holiday seasons!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Halloween Costume Idea: The Rotten Tooth Fairy

Greetings!  Halloween approaches, and I thought I’d share my costume from last year in case some of you are still looking for costume ideas.  I went to work dressed as The Rotten Tooth Fairy, and had a blast putting the costume together!  I just have simple (rather fuzzy) phone snapshots, so these photos aren’t the best, but you should get the idea.

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Last year, as I was trying to figure out what I should go as, my warped little mind stumbled upon the idea of being The Rotten Tooth Fairy.  Far from the lovely, white-winged Tooth Fairy that gathers the baby teeth of children, my Rotten Tooth Fairy would collect rotten teeth from dentist’s offices.  You know – the teeth adults neglected and had to have pulled!  This Tooth Fairy would be a bit rough around the edges, I decided.  Tougher, mangier, and “darker”.  With the basic concept in mind I was off and running.  Here’s the costume – head to toe:

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Hair: Ratted hair and a black headband with a black tulle “poof” on it

Makeup: Black and gray eyeshadow around the eyes, and lots of eyeliner and mascara.  Dark red lipstick. Teeth made grungy by smearing black tooth wax on them. (I purchased the tooth wax in the costume section at a party store – Party City)

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Clothes: Basic dark gray cotton t-shirt with the collar cut off.  The Rotten Tooth Fairy iron-on was created by my talented hubby in Photoshop, and was ironed on to my t-shirt after I printed it onto inkjet iron-on paper.  Long black skirt, black tights with snags and runs in them, and black motorcycle boots.

Jewelry: Sparkly black earrings and rubber “barbed wire” bracelets.  I would’ve loved to have some teeth earrings, but didn’t get that done in time!

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Other “accessories” and details: Long “gloves” cut from dark stockings and then snagged.  Black, chipped nail polish. A basked (sprayed matte black) filled with a Milk Duds, a wooden box of “teeth”, a hammer, pliers, and other rusty metal tools.  A tooth “wand” that I made by wrapping a paintbrush’s handle with black masking tape and attaching the tooth-shaped backing paper from the iron-on logo from my shirt.

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Please let me know if you have any questions about the costume, dear readers.  Oh, and don’t forget to brush those teeth!  :]

Warm regards,
Melody

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Another Look: Autumn!

Welcome to a new installment of Another Look!  This post is designed to share a handful of goodies from my archive while I’m recovering from my surgeries.  I hope you enjoy these links, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or have seen them once before.  Today’s category is Autumn  – and could also be recipes!  Just click on the name of the post to link over to the original post…

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Popcorn Ball Recipe
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A Visit to the Pumpkin Patch
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Pumpkin Bars Recipe!
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Apple-Cranberry Cake Recipe
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I hope you’re enjoying Autumn thus far, dear readers.  Will any of you be dressing up for Halloween this year?

Warm regards,
Melody

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Dyed Coffee Filter Flowers

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It’s that time of year again, when chocolate bunnies and brightly colored eggs abound.   Not into dyeing eggs? You might consider buying some discounted egg dye kits after Easter Sunday nonetheless.  Don’t own a coffee machine?  You may want to pick up some coffee filters anyway.  Why? Egg dye kits and coffee filters constitute the base materials for a variety of spring-hued projects that can be enjoyed year-round! From paper flowers to festive banners, these versatile dyed circles can be used in projects that are both frugal and versatile.

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Egg Dye on the Cheap

Last year I purchased a kit to dye some Easter eggs for a photo shoot with one of my rabbits, Cypress.  After Easter had passed I noticed the same egg dye kits were marked down to something ridiculously low – I think it was ten cents per kit, if I’m remembering correctly.  I decided to buy five kits on the cheap since I knew I could come up with a fun way to use the lovely dyes the kits make.  Well, it took me almost a year to get around to it, but here are some of the ways I used last year’s clearance dye.

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Paper Flowers

My primary idea was to use the dyes to create paper flowers.  And though I don’t drink coffee, or own a coffee machine, I kept seeing a stack of coffee filters in the break room at work.  I wanted to find a way to use both the dye and coffee filters, and my mind finally connected the dots.  I purchased a package of coffee filters as soon as I hit upon the idea.

I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, but I decided to give it a whirl, and was thrilled with how many beautifully-colored paper circles I was left with.  I made nearly 200 colored paper circles in dozens of shades!  Nine colors of dye came in the egg dyeing kit, but by using the dye in full strength followed by increasingly diluted dye (pour out some dye, add water, repeat) you can create many shades of just one color.  It just depends on how much time and patience you have – and how many coffee filters!

The samples I created include two flowers with embroidered centers – including one with a vintage lace hanger – and a flower with a vintage button center.  (Please don’t laugh at my embroidery “skills” – I’m a total beginner!)  I also created a simple light green flower with a stamped center that’s been embellished with a single large, black button.  I attached this stamped flower to a gift bag, and love the way it dressed up what started out as a bland basic!

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Banners, Too!
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Another project I whipped up is a banner. In addition to the dyed circles, I used a small paint brush, black India ink (you could use craft paint instead), a ¼” hole punch, and brass brads.  With a pile of dyed circles on hand it’s quick and easy to make banners for any occasion quickly and easily by using different pictures, symbols, and letters.  It would also be super easy to make a Very Hungry Caterpillar from paper using this same technique!

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Our bunny, Pinto, loves these colorful, dyed coffee filters!

My Dyeing & Drying Tips

  1. Cover your work space with plastic and work carefully to avoid dyeing your work space. Consider wearing a water-proof apron or old clothes.
  2. Wear gloves if you don’t want colorful fingers and hands.  I passed on the gloves because I happen to love colorful hands!
  3. Decide how many coffee filters you’ll dye at once.  I dyed around 6 at a time, but you may choose to separate them and dye them one by one.
  4. Squeeze out excess dye after you’ve dunked your filter(s) into the dye.  You can either squeeze the filters out over your cup, or into a sink.
  5. Allow for plenty of drying time. I ended up using a blow dryer with a diffuser attached on my dyed filters because I was trying to finish the projects for this post in one day and it happened to be raining outside on the day in question.

*Please note: The cups of dye in the photo near the top contain two batches of dye per color.

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Who Knew? Apparently Egg Dye Tablets Have a Shelf Life

Quick note on the egg dye tablets: it’s best to use them sooner than later.  I waited nearly a year before using the clearance packs I purchased last year, and though they dissolved enough for me to make plenty of dyed circles, the tablets didn’t effervesce the way “fresh ones” do and didn’t dissolve completely.

Hmm, what else can I make?

I’m sure I’ll think of some more goodies to make with these dyed circles, and am looking forward to more brainstorming and creating.  In the meantime, I’m simply taking pleasure in looking at the delicious colors.  Yum!

Your turn: What would you make?  Have you dyed something aside from eggs with egg dye?  Have you used the tie dye technique with egg dyes? Please leave a comment if you’d like to weigh in on the subject of egg dyes, creating with coffee filters, or if you have any questions about the projects I created.

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Happy Spring, and Happy Easter!

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Chocolate Box Transformed (Your Heart’s Desire)

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Melody the Magpie?

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a bit of a scavenger.  Whether I’m up-cycling metal food cans or using cardboard packaging to make mobiles, I’ve always got an eye out for cast-offs that can be used in a new way.  I enjoy making something wonderful from something simple.  Today’s “something wonderful” is essentially a box to hold your hopes and dreams – your goals.  How does that relate to chocolate box transformation?  Please read on…

Confession

I’m a sucker for heart-shaped Valentine’s chocolate boxes.  Bubble gum pink, lace, and silk roses aren’t in my usual rotation, but something gets me when it comes to those heart-shaped candy boxes.  Whether the box is a relatively plain gold or red, or is fully decked out with saccharine Valentine’s trim, I love them all.  Today’s project is how to turn one of these heart-shaped boxes into something that you can treasure – and put to good use – all year round.  So, if you (or a friend) are gifted with a heart-shaped box this year, don’t throw it away when it’s empty! (You can do this same project with a rectangular or square shaped box as well.)  Oh, and hopefully you can save the box’s liner, too.  It makes a great template!

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A Look Inside Your Heart…

This project is called My Heart’s Desire because the outer box is intended to hold visual representations of your hopes, dreams, and goals.  Whether you gather small 3-D objects that represent what you hope to bring to fruition, or create paper “pages” that you embellish – like I have – I suggest you identify 5 to 10 things you’d like to work on in your life and include them in your box.  Here’s how I made my pages, including the materials I used.

Materials

Watercolor paper
Gesso
Paintbrushes
Glue Stick
Liquid Acrylic Inks or paint
Rubber Stamps
Black Ink Pad
Sticker & Seed Packet
Alphabet Stamps
Metallic Gel Pen
Rhinestones
Pen
Decorative Paper
Scissors
Walnut Ink
Double-Stick Tape
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How to Visually “Spell Out” Your Heart’s Desire
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1. Cut out one “page” for each of your heart’s desires.  Make your page by tracing the liner of your candy box, or by tracing the bottom of the box lid and then cutting just inside those lines.  If you’d like, you can add color to your page at this stage.  I brushed a mixture of acrylic inks and walnut ink onto watercolor paper. Alternately, you can use colored card stock instead.

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2. Note one desire on each “page”. (I chose “garden”, “travel”, “art program”, “nourish”, “get book published” and “run” and stamped the words on with alphabet stamps) It’s best to be as specific as possible when it comes to verbalizing goals though, so include as many details as you can.  You can write on the back of your pages, too.

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3. Add to these “pages” by drawing, painting, stamping, collaging, or otherwise embellishing your “pages”.  I’ve listed the materials I used, but you can use whatever materials or methods you’re partial to – there’s no wrong way to do it.  The pages can be a simple or as elaborate as you’d like them to be.

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Decorating Your Box’s Exterior

There are a million ways you can decorate your box, if you choose to change it at all.  Whether you keep the box’s original look, or customize it to make it more “you”, is entirely up to you.

Here are a few décor ideas:

  • Paint your box
  • Decoupage your box
  • Cover your box with duct tape
  • Use some of the same materials you used on the “pages” to decorate the box’s exterior (which is what I did)

I opted to cover the red foil look of my box with a few coats of white gesso.  Next, I used some of the decorative metallic paper on the cover.  I stamped “My Heart’s Desire” on the box’s liner, stamped three flowers in the upper right, and glued a layer of tissue paper over the top to soften the text.  I accented the edge of the liner heart with metallic rub-ons and glued three rhinestones in the flower centers in the upper right of the heart.  Finally, I attached the letter-stamped liner piece to the box’s lid with a strong double-stick tape.

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Hurray!  It’s Done!  NOW What?

The purpose of this box is threefold.  One, to identify what you really want in life and to spell it out in a tangible way.  Two, to have fun creating that tangible, visual representation of what you want.  Three, to regularly refer back to the contents of your box to remind yourself of your goals and to verify you’re taking steps, however small they may be, towards those goals.  So keep this creation within arm’s reach, and let it be your guide…

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, dear readers.  I’m always happy to hear from you!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Sweet Memories of Brach’s

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When I think back on my childhood Christmases, my favorite memories and most nostalgic images come from when I was twelve and younger.  My family lived in a little two-bedroom apartment on Joanne Court for most of those years.  Our celebrations were definitely simple, but they were festive and fun all the same.  Though money was tight, we put out cherished decorations, had gaily wrapped packages under the tree, and enjoyed special holiday foods.

I’ve shared some of our holiday goodies here in recipe form, and it truly doesn’t seem like the Christmas season is complete without making – and eating – homemade Magic Cookie Bars and Chocolate Fudge.  Some of the sweets in my cherished memories were store-bought though, and they were yummy.

I had yet to be introduced to See’s candy at that age, but we did usually get a box of Whitman’s Sampler.  The chocolates were tasty, and their handy-dandy chart helped ensure you’d get a piece you liked. Another treat that sweetened the holiday season was Brach’s candy.  Back in the day there was a Brach’s display at the grocery store, where you could mix and match your favorite candies and buy them by weight.  I loved having Brach’s at home, filling our glass candy dish with their pretty colors and sweet flavors.

My favorites were Royals (flavored caramels), Butterscotch disks, and the Neopolitans – brown, pink and white hunks of coconutty goodness.  Though the wrappers have changed, I still love the colored foil wrappers of the Royals.  So pretty…

Brach’s are no longer available as a mix-and-match candy at my local grocery stores, but I did find Royals at a nearby party store and was really glad they weren’t gone for good.  And having photographed the candy for this blog, I now have actual photos to go with my mental pictures.  Sweet!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Chocolate Fudge Recipe

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Fudge is always a welcome treat, but I usually only make it around the holidays.  This recipe is the one my mom made when I was growing up, and it’s dee-lish!  Perfect for sharing with family and friends at gatherings, it also makes a nice holiday gift for friends and co-workers.  This recipe includes nuts, but they can easily be omitted for folks that don’t like nuts or are allergic.

Chocolate Fudge Recipe

Ingredients:

18 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 pint marshmallow cream
2 cups chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 TBSP vanilla
2 sticks margarine or butter
1 large can of evaporated milk (12 oz.)
4 ½ cups sugar

Yield: 5 pounds of fudge

Directions: Place the first five ingredients into a very large bowl, then set aside.  Put the evaporated milk and 4 ½ cups sugar in a saucepan and boil for a full 15 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour mixture over the other ingredients and beat thoroughly.  Pour the fudge into a 13″ x 9″ pan lined with wax paper.  When cool, cut fudge into squares.  Store in refrigerator.

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I hope you enjoy this fudge recipe, dear readers…

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Festive Cubicle!

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It’s that time of year again – time to bring some holiday cheer to my cubicle at work!  I decorate differently each year, and enjoy the variety of using new color schemes and decorative themes.  Some of you may remember last year’s décor, which included many of the vintage elements I collect: old spools of thread, postcards and letters, black and white photos, ribbons, and silver cooking/baking molds.  I loved the way last year’s decorations came together, and though I’ve gone a completely different route this year, I love this decorating scheme just as much.

I decided to use the vintage tin ornaments that I purchased at a thrift store last month as the starting point for my décor – everything grew from there.  I was lucky enough to score fourteen ornaments for a mere $7, and though I was tempted to add them to the cache of tin ornaments that grace our tree at home, I ultimately decided to debut them at the office.

I already had the silver wreath and silver tree, as well as the vintage star tree topper.  In fact, I didn’t have to purchase a thing to deck my cube out in silvery style – aside from the vintage tin ornaments.  The silver stars on the walls are the aluminum star ornaments I made and posted about last week.  (Click here for instructions on how to make them.)

The other decorative element I made myself is the white hand-cut snowflakes, and the only materials needed for those were copy paper and scissors.  My cubicle décor is definitely both frugal and festive!

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The silver wreath frames a tin angel ornament.

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The silver tree is decked with a star tree topper, glass ball ornaments, and more tin ornaments.

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Snowflakes, lights, ribbons, and trim spruce up the beige fabric walls of my cubicle.

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Six of these vintage ornaments hang on the tree.

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The aluminum star ornaments I made from Diet Coke cans brighten the walls, along with paper snowflakes.

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Two vintage bird ornaments are nestled among the cloud of white at the base of the tree…

I’ve decorated at home already, too.  Have you put up your holiday decorations yet?  Will you decorate at work?  I welcome your comments…

Warm regards,
Melody

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DIY: Aluminum Star Ornaments – Frugal & Festive!

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‘Tis the season to create and decorate on a budget – at least it is for me – and I recently whipped up some darling ornaments made from empty Diet Coke cans.  With just a few simple materials and a bit of time I was able to create several ornaments, and am thrilled with how they turned out!  Please keep reading to see how you can make some aluminum star ornaments of your own.

Supplies

Empty aluminum cans (I used 12 oz. cans)
Small, sharp knife with a pointed tip
Scissors
Fine grit sand paper
Small hammer
Paper towels
Gesso or white craft paint*
Ball Point Pen
1/8” hole punch

Caution – sharp edges!

Please be careful: the edges of aluminum cans can be very sharp, so it would be wise to wear gloves – especially when first cutting up the cans.  I do not recommend this project for children.  The finished ornaments should be used and/or displayed in a way that children, animals, and accident-prone adults won’t be able to harm themselves on any pointy edges.

Beginning Your Ornaments

Begin by using a small knife to cut a slit in the aluminum can near to the top.  Make an opening big enough to comfortably fit the blades of your scissors into.  Use your scissors to cut along the top rim and remove the can top completely.  Cut vertically down the side of the can, and then cut along the bottom until you have three pieces: the top, the bottom, and a rectangular piece of aluminum that was the “body” of the can.  Carefully discard the top, and rinse the body of the can with water.  If desired, put the bottoms aside for use at a later time.

Carefully dry the rectangular piece of aluminum, and trim off any particularly jagged edges that might grab at you while you’re working.  Use the fine grit sand paper to sand off any of the can’s coloration or label that you don’t like.  I sanded off the smaller Diet Coke logo, but left most of the large red and black shapes.  Sand the plain silver side, too, being sure to sand it multiple directions.  This will give the metal a nice finish.

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Hammer Time!

Place a piece of aluminum can on on top of a soft surface, like a sofa or a bed, and hammer the piece lightly until it’s flat-ish.  (Lay a cloth between the can and your soft surface to avoid scratching anything.) You can strike the piece randomly, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly flat.  The goal is just to flatten the rounded curve of the original can to a flatter surface.

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Next, dip a paper towel into a small cup of gesso or white craft paint, and smear a thin layer onto the surface of your metal on the printed side, making sure the application is relatively uniform.  Let dry for a minute or so, then use another paper towel to wipe off a bit more of the gesso.  Let dry completely.

A Star is Born

Use a star stencil that fits on your gessoed aluminum pieces and trace the star shape with a ball point pen.  Cut the star out, cutting just inside the inked lines so they don’t appear on your finished piece.  Punch a hole on one of the star’s points.  You can hang your star with ribbon, fishing line, or an ornament hook.

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*Please note: If you’ll only be showing the silver “inside of the can” side of your ornaments, you don’t have to sand the outside of the can or apply the gesso/paint.

I used 6 aluminum cans and made 12 star ornaments, but your results may vary depending on the size of your stars.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  As always, I’m happy to help and love hearing from you, dear readers!  Oh, and be sure to read Tuesday’s post – I’ll be sharing photos of my work cubicle’s 2011 holiday décor, and these star ornaments are among my decorations…

Warm regards,
Melody

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