Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas de los Muertos

I don't like to have the same Christmas decorations year in and year out. I like to change things up each year. I also like my holiday decor to have some sort of unifying theme, and I make my own decorations.

Years past, I've done 
  • Winter Forest, which was gold pine cones dusted with iridescent glitter snow and hand made glass beaded snowflakes
  • Purple and Pearls, which was purple balls with DIY glitter patterns, and clusters of pearls gathered with purple ribbons.
  • Christmas Story, which is all the keepsake ornaments that each family member has accumulated over the years (this is my least favorite because it is not hand crafted, and seems too... run of the mill. But my family likes it, and they get to pick the theme some times too)
This year, the kids and I decided on a Dia de los Muertos theme. We happened upon this decision quite by accident. Earlier this year, I took the kids to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. They had a fantastic exhibit on Dia de los Muertos, which the kids really enjoyed. When we went through the museum store, we bought molds to make our own sugar skulls. I fully intended on making the skulls for the actual Day of the Dead, but as you can see by my prior posts, my schedule got away from me.

The kids still wanted to do the skulls, and they decided why not make ornaments out of them. Naturally, I thought this was a fantastic idea and ran it past my wonderful husband who's response was: "Do I have to do anything? No? Then do whatever you want!"

We started making ornaments last month, and I posted some pictures on Facebook. I had several people ask me how we made them, so, here's the how to:

What you'll need:
  • Sugar skull molds (we used the Posada molds)
  • Crayola Model Magic (white)
  • Poster paints and brushes
  • Craft foam sheets (black and white)
  • Craft glue
  • Glitter glue
  • Foam markers
  • Hole punch
  • Toothpick
  • Pipe cleaners
We made the molded skulls with Crayola Model Magic. This stuff is fantastic! It is super light weight and when left to dry will harden nicely. Press the Model Magic into the molds using enough so it significantly overflows the mold then pull out. Cut the molded skull from the excess with either scissors or an exacto knife.  Poke a hole in the top of the skull with a tooth pick, making sure it is wide enough to get a pipe cleaner or hook through so it can be hung. Set the newly molded and pierced skulls on a wire rack to dry for at least 36 hours (yes, the packaging says 24, but we found that wasn't quite enough)

Once the skulls are dry, you can begin decorating with paint, glitter glue or any other accessories.

We also made larger flat skulls. First, find a good skull that you like and make a stencil of it on heavy paper (you can do a Google image search and print your favorite skull). Trace the stencil on to the heavy paper again, and measure points around the skull about 1/4 inch around the image then cut it out. This larger skull stencil will be your background piece.

Trace the larger stencil on the black foam and count how many fit, then make the same amount of the detailed skull on the white foam.  

Use a black sharpie to trace the skulls on the white foam and fill in the facial details. Do not let your hand smudge the marker on the foam. You will need to let this dry for an hour or two as marker stays wet on foam for quite some time, even sharpie.

Rather than waste the extra foam, I traced circles on the additional foam for little accent ornaments.

Once all the skulls have been cut out of the foam, glue the white skulls to the black backing with craft glue and let dry over night.

When the glue has dried, punch a hole in the top of the skull with a hole punch. Then have fun decorating with paint, marker, glitter glue, etc.

When all of the skulls (both kind) have dried, clip some pipe cleaners and thread them through the holes to make loops for hanging the ornaments. Then hang on your tree (or anywhere).

We were included fake flowers on our tree (we will be making some tissue paper flowers soon to add to the tree) and a hand made Victorian bow on the top. The kids found a random fake dove in our ornament boxes and decided it should be on the top of the tree as well. I figured it was oddly fitting, so why not.

Swallowed by November

 My Internet silence stretched through November. This time, however, it wasn't family obligations or holidays stealing my time. No, this month I was dedicated to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write (or at least begin) a novel. You "win" by writing 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes to about 1,667 words a day if you don't take any days off.

I was persuaded, by my friend Carmilla Voiez, to give NaNo last year for the first time. I didn't win, but it did give me the belief in myself that I could do it. This year, I was fully prepared and when November 1 rolled around, I began writing almost every night after my kids went to bed. I started off strong this year and was ahead of the word count for the first ten days; then I hit a lull. By Thanksgiving, I was behind by about 8,000 words. But, I knew what I wanted to say, and I had gotten good at getting into my writing zone, so I wasn't worried. I knew I could win this year.

By the end of the day on November 30, I hit 50,025 words for the monthly total! At this point, I'm up to 59,559 words, but I am no where near done with my story.

Speaking of my story, it is a supernatural tale of a woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship, but manages to escape with the help of a ghost.

I'm going to take a break from the story for the rest of December and come back to it with a fresh mind in the new year.

The Houston Press ran an article, National Novel Writing Month Goes Gothic, by Jef With One F, about Carmilla and I participating in NaNo.

Eaten by October

Once again, I disappeared into the vast wilderness that is life away from the internet.

October was busy for me.

Early in the month, my children and I went to visit my family in Pennsylvania. My mom is in the midst of chemo therapy (now finally past the half way point), so we try to visit often. Seeing the kids keeps her spirits up, and my children love running amok with their aunts and uncles and grandparents. Especially since it means going out for ice cream late in the evening with their grandpap.

This particular trip was planned so the kids could have a Halloween party with their "Pretend Cousins." They have no first cousins on either side of the family, so they have decided that my sisters nieces and nephew and my cousin's daughter can be their honorary cousins.

My sister planned a fantastic party for the kids at our parents' house. There were crafts, a scavenger hunt, games, glow sticks, a bon-fire and smores. The kids all had a fantastic time.

The middle of my month was consumed by work and family drama. Not terribly exciting, but definitely stressful.

Then came Halloween weekend. We had a freak snow storm the Saturday before Halloween. That was the day for Air and Scare at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. This was fun, as usual, and the children were happy that we went.

Monday was Trick or Treating. my daughter had a whole strategy planned for maximizing her candy take this year. By the time they finished, neither child could easily carry their treat bag.