Archive for Homemaking

DIY Spring Bird’s Nest Tutorial

Even though we still have two feet of snow on the ground, I’m working on decorating my house for spring. Today my goal was to finish decorating my mantle.

I made this bird’s nest for the mantle and thought I’d share how I made it. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you are not crafty, maybe this will help you to try your own. I just LOVE bird’s nests in general, so this is one of the sweetest crafts in my opinion.

DIY bird's nest

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You need two grapevine wreaths, one bigger and one smaller. The smaller one should fit inside the larger one. I found these at the Dollar Tree.

Using the larger grapevine wreath as the top of the nest and the smaller one as the bottom, wire the two wreaths together. Then form a bottom of the nest by weaving the wire like a basket. It’s okay if it’s a mess. It will all be covered. You want the basic shape of a nest or a bowl. Wire it to death if you have to to get the rounded shape.

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Next, I used a glue gun to add moss to the outside. I found the moss ribbon at Jo-Ann’s Fabric for $3.99. I pulled the moss so that it looked loose and sparse and not “ribbonny.” I wanted it to look natural.

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After I line the outside with green moss, I added some to the inside of the nest. I then stuffed the bottom with a good sized handful of Spanish Moss, also from the Dollar Tree.
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After the basic nest is done, you can pretty it up by hot gluing small flowers, berries, or leaves around the perimeter.

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

I filled mine with five little eggs (for my 5 kids). The eggs were also at Jo-Ann’s. Other years, I’ve used the nest as a candy dish, placing a shallow dish inside and filling it with Cadbury Mini Eggs, which look adorable. I’ve also filled them with yellow Peeps for Easter.
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Here’s the finished mantle. I used things I had around the house: an old Ball Jar filled with moss, one of my favorite antiques, a signed Wallace Nutting print entitled “The Coming Out of Rose”, some galvanized buckets filled with greens and a few natural elements from some potpourri I had around the house. I hope this inspires you to try your own nest. Send me pics if you make one!
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A six word question that has saved me many times.

At the end of our lives, we want to say that we lived our life well. I don’t want to look back with regret, or realize that I majored on minors, spending my precious energy on things that didn’t matter or things I couldn’t change.

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The fact is, we only have one life and we only get to live it once. It’s non-refundable. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.

This means that our decisions are important. I know you agree on the big things of life, like where to move, what job to pursue, etc…but it’s even more important in the little things of life.

“The way we live our hours is the way we live our days. And the way we live our days is the way we live our lives.

I have a question I ask myself whenever I am at a crossroad. Six little words that have helped me choose wisely: What is most important right now?

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When the house is a mess and the kids are in creative mode in every.room.of.the.house and drill Sargent mom starts to surface demanding that they clean up in short order, and frustration is mounting: What is most important right now?

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When you’ve got a million things to do, and nobody else seems to have two arms or two legs that day: What is most important right now?

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When you’re frustrated by people who don’t seem to have a clue about the basics of common courtesy: What is most important right now?

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When you’re dealing with that woman who just can’t seem to control her tongue, and you’re tempted to give her a piece of your mind and put her in her place once and for all: What is most important right now?

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When you’re overwhelmed with life, and you are asked to cram more into your schedule: What is most important right now.

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When ministry opportunities are abundant and more requests are coming your way: What is most important right now?

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Asking the simple question takes you out of the arena of the “immediate”–I’ve got to say something, or do something—and gives you a chance to make a wise decision.

Many times, prayer, time, and checking with your spouse adds clarity, too, and keeps you from prioritizing your life so you won’t be sorry.

The answers to “What is most important right now” may vary: God’s glory, devotional life, time for kids to be creative, teaching our kids to be kind with our words, practicing imperfect hospitality, stewarding well our spiritual gifts, being there for a friend, the laundry (!!!), being with a loved one in their need, encouraging a friend, getting this meal on the table.

It’s simple, admittedly. But it has helped me more times than I can recall.

Do you talk to yourself? What questions do you ask?

 

 

Frugal DIY Chalkboard Hack

Wanted to share this quick idea with you. I came up with it while trying to think of a frugal way to decorate for a church event this weekend.

Behold, the foamboard “chalkboard.”

Foam board "chalkboard"

Foam board “chalkboard”

My Walmart sells black foam board near the poster board. It was less than $3.

I brought it home, rubbed it over with chalk, then wiped it with a tissue. That gave it a chalkboard look, instead of it being solid black. I sketched words and the nativity (I used a clip art image as a guide) then, when I was happy with my design, I traced it with white chalk marker, also available at Walmart.

What do you think? Pretty convincing for a fake, huh? I don’t think it will hold up to erasing the chalk pen, but I will let you know if it does.

It’s large, so it would also be great as a focal piece on your Christmas mantle.
Let me know if you make one, or share your link in the comments! Have fun!
Magic Cabin

Virtual Christmas Open House

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I love decorating, and never more than at Christmas time. It’s a love my mother taught me. And like I told you in Merry Christmas, Meager Budget , my decorations are not elaborate or expensive, but they don’t have to be. Simple things make the home feel warm and cozy.

I mostly decorate with natural greenery, lights, and ribbon.  I snip pieces of different greens and wire them in bundles and stuff them in corners here and there. It does the trick and makes the house smell beautiful.

I thought it would be fun to do a virtual open house, so come on inside.

Wreath Welcome

I found this ribbon at Homegoods and fell in love with it!

I found this ribbon at Homegoods and fell in love with it!

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Come on inside.

The kitchen. This is my favorite room to decorate. We spend so much time here. We homeschool at the kitchen table, so we are here a lot of the day.

The kitchen. This is my favorite room to decorate. We spend so much time here. We homeschool at the kitchen table, so we are here a lot of the day.

I absolutely love this antique jelly cabinet. It holds my extra dishes and behind the magic curtain I store home school resources.

I absolutely love this antique jelly cabinet. It holds my extra dishes and behind the magic curtain I store home school resources.

I stick cedar and holly everywhere. My grandmother gave me this brown transfer-ware gravy boat and dish set.

I stick cedar and holly everywhere. My grandmother gave me this brown transfer-ware gravy boat and dish set.

I found this antique recipe box at an antique shop 20 years ago. It's full of handwritten recipes. Someday I will go through them.

I found this antique recipe box at an antique shop 20 years ago. It’s full of handwritten recipes. Someday I will go through them.

I refinished this Hoosier Cabinet when I was 25. It was a wedding gift from my mother in law.

I refinished this Hoosier Cabinet when I was 25. It was a wedding gift from my mother in law.

Kitchen tree with antique style mini cookie cutters. My hoosier holds all of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.

Kitchen tree decorated with mini cookie cutters and mercury glass. My Hoosier holds all of my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.

 

This beeswax lamb was made by my sister Bethy with an antique chocolate mold.

This beeswax lamb candle was made by my sister Bethy with an antique chocolate mold.

Motto sampler in old Adirondack style frame.

Motto sampler in old Adirondack style frame.

This is an idea I found on Pinterest. I altered it by adding mini lights inside the jars rather than tea light candles. I was afraid it would go up in flames the other way.

This is an idea I found on Pinterest. It’s an antique milk carrier, ball jars, and greens. It called for tealights inside the jar, but I substituted mini-lights…I was afraid it would go up in flames the other way.

Vintage Eatmore Cranberry box. They use to sell berries in these.

Vintage Eatmore Cranberry box. They used to sell berries in these.

Family room mantle and tree.

Family room mantle and tree.

My friend, Jen, gave me this sparkly "Merry Christmas" years ago. I filled pots from Ikea with mini trees, added greens and lights. Easy.

My friend, Jen, gave me this sparkly “Merry Christmas” years ago. I filled pots from Ikea with mini trees, added greens and lights. Easy.

Our tree is decorated with handmade ornaments. This is from a dear friend. Cross stitched on linen.

Our tree is decorated with handmade ornaments. This is from a dear friend. Cross stitched on linen.

The kids learned a simple whip stitch on felt ornaments.

The kids learned a simple blanket stitch on felt ornaments.

This mitten is needle felted onto a felt heart.

This mitten is needle felted onto a felt heart.

Calligraphy from a dear friend.

Calligraphy from a dear friend.

Another mantle

Another mantle

Greens inside the fireplace that doesn't work.

Greens inside the fireplace that doesn’t work.

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Entry way

Entry way

Hope set up this tea table.

Hope set up this tea table.

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Plum Pudding candle.

Plum Pudding candle.

Seasonal table.

Seasonal table.

That’s about it! I enjoyed sharing these pictures with you. Feel free to link up to your Christmas virtual tours or blog posts about what you’re up to!

Happy decorating!

Sarah

 

 

Two Favorite DIY Holiday Cheese Spreads

I had a group of friends over this week for fellowship and food and one thing they all had in common was their love for these cheese spreads: Garlic and Herb, and Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Cranberry Spread.


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IMG_2577I love this recipe because it’s inexpensive and tastes as good, if not better, than the little tubs of Allouette Garlic and Herb cheese spread.

And the blue cheese cranberry goodness…you can’t get that one in the stores. :)

This is not as pricey as the little tubs, and makes twice as much. It’s a simple, quick treat when paired with crackers and grapes or sliced pears and apples. Enjoy!

To make both:

Combine 3 bricks (8 oz each) with one stick of butter until well blended.

Split mixture in half. You’ll use one half for each recipe below.

For the Garlic and Herb Pub Cheese,

Use one half of your cream cheese butter mixture, and add to it:

1 clove finely minced garlic, 1/2 tsp oregano, and 1/4 tsp each pepper, thyme and basil. Stir well. Let sit an hour to allow flavors to meld.

For the Blue Cheese spread

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Craisins

1/2 cups crumbled Blue Cheese

2T brown sugar

Process the nuts for about 10 seconds until finely chopped . (I use my Ninja for this. It’s my go-to kitchen tool. I hate lugging out the big food processor!)

Put the nuts aside.

Process the Craisins for 5 seconds–just a few pulses. (Or you can chop them with a knife.)

Use one half of your cream cheese mixture butter mixture and add the nuts, Craisins and blue cheese, sugar, stirring until smooth. Let sit for an hour to allow flavors to meld. (You can throw some extra chopped walnuts on the top to make it prettier.)

Serve with a variety of crackers.

 

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Easy, Crocheted Cowl Pattern

I’ve been crocheting up a storm this week, and after making several infinity cowls and playing with patterns,  I’ve determined that this one is my favorite! Thank you, Liz!

 

IMG_5356.JPGYou need to know that my crocheting expertise is next to nil. I literally have to look on YouTube for a tutorial video every time I change stitches. So, if you have some crocheting skills, you are good to go. I made this cowl in 2.5 hours.

It’s my favorite because it has a beautiful drape to it. 

I used 2 skeins of Lion Brand Yarns, Hometown USA, Super Bulky Chicago Charcoal for this piece. I used a size P hook.

Learn from my mistakes, folks. Crocheting gauge is a real thing. Although the pattern specifies to chain 78 for your initial chain, MEASURE your chain to make sure it is the finished size of 54″! Mkay? THESE are the important things. 😉

I did this one with an N hook and it was a little tighter, and I didn’t like the drape as much. I plan to remake this one using the P hook.

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THIS one, I’m loving as well, but it’s a completely different look. I made this one in Tampa Spice (it uses twice the yarn!) , and it was crocheted using two strands of the bulky yarn. I also had to use a Q hook, which was a little awkward at first but I eventually got the hang of it. I think the younger set would love this chunky look. :)

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These work up so quickly for gifts, and I purchased all my materials at WalMart.

And did I mention that crocheting is therapeutic? Yes, yes it is. :)

What are your Christmas crafting ideas? Feel free to link to them in the comments or tell me about them on our FB page. We’re all ears for Christmas crafting ideas!

What My Mother’s Decorating Taught Me About God

Our house was always the coziest house I knew. My mother loved to decorate and it was evident when you walked in the door.

At Christmas time, the rustic stone fireplace that my dad built was piled high with luscious greenery, berries, lights, candles, seasonal books, and figurines. We’d stare at its beauty.

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I noticed as a child that not all homes were this way.

We would drive up the road in our station wagon and my mother would comment about the lady in that house that has all white rugs and doesn’t allow any children in for fear they’ll spoil her rug. My sisters and I would lock eyes on the house as we drove by, and I imagined that the windows were its eyes and that they had a sad look in them, and I felt sad for the house that didn’t welcome children.

Everyone loved coming to our house, but oftentimes, I wouldn’t like visiting other places. Sometimes they’d feel cold and sterile, painfully clean, sparse, or like nobody cared what the place looked like.

I learned later that many Christians feel that decorating is superfluous. In some circles it’s looked upon as unholy to spend money on nick-nacks and pretty things. Indulgent, even. My mom pointed out this misguided view to us several times in our childhood, and I remember her feeling badly for women who held this view, as though they and their families were missing out on so much.

I wonder, do our homes reflect our views of God?

Is our view of God sterile and basic? All business and no happiness? Cold?

Is your view of God one that denies you of all basic happiness?

Is our view of God beautiful, generous, abundant, creative, good, welcoming, hospitable?

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When God gave instruction to have the temple built in 2 Chronicles 2, one thing you note is that the temple was purposefully beautiful and abundant, full of engravings and tapestries.

For those of you who’ve been given the desire to create and design and beautify your homes, I want to reaffirm what you already know: God is not the author of blah and ho-hum. Whatever God creates is gorgeous and abundant and orderly.

Creating an orderly, wonderfully stimulating atmosphere in your home is a good thing. It’s a reflection of the nature of God.

My mother’s decorating taught me that God was the author of order and loveliness. That attention to detail made all the difference in making someone else feel loved. My mom’s efforts in her home were a ministry to others. My mom’s kitchen table was always full, with teens, new families from church, hurting women and those in need. It was not about impressing the Joneses, but lavishing good on the underdog. I watched as women were encouraged, treated, advised, counseled and befriended. It was and is a healing place to visit.

Since when did we get the idea that following God means that our lives would be free from beauty? That following God meant the worst things: dullness, and want and the bare minimum just to get by as though God was somehow a stingy Father.

Within your means, I believe your creative efforts in your home can reflect your view of God. God made us in His image and when we reflect his love for beauty, and goodness, and generosity, we reflect His attributes.

I’m not talking about spending beyond your means.

I’m not talking about expensive things. I’m not saying that you can be covetous at heart over things, or that you must be ruled by the latest Pinterest craze.

Not at all. Creating beauty is oftentimes more a mindset than anything and is inexpensive to attain: Cleanliness, order, music, blazing fall branches brought inside for a centerpiece for the dinner table, candles lit, paintings created and hung, yard sale finds or

furniture taken from the trash and lovingly, beautifully restored into something attractive and useful. (Oh, the symbolism there!)

It’s not frivolous, or sinful, or shallow.  If God gives you those desires, dear friend, embrace it as a good gift and use it for His glory. You can decorate for His glory. You can reflect Him in your home. Those who live there will be thankful. Those who visit will be refreshed.

They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Ps 145:7

DIY Primitive Welcome Candles

It’s fall, and I don’t know about you but I’ve got the decorating bug. I want to tuck berries and leaves in every cupboard and basket I can find. Chunky knit throw blankets come out for chilly nights, and Yankee Candles are just plain a “staple” during this season.

I also love putting Welcome Lights into the windows. They look so cozy. So today we decided to take our plain welcome lights and give them a more primitive New England look. I thought I’d share how I did it. Here’s the finished product. You can buy them like this but they are pretty pricey if you want to do every window. So we make do and do it ourselves.

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Last Christmas I bought battery operated window candlesticks at a Benny’s, a local hardware store.  I got the type that you set once and they turn on automatically at that same time every day, and then shut off six hours later. They are LED and they flicker slightly.   I knew that the basic shape was right and that I could make them look older pretty easily. Here’s the before:

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To give them a primitive look, Hope and I spray painted the base black. I used flat Rustoleum spray paint from Walmart.

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While they were drying, we heated beeswax chips in the microwave  at 50% power for about 3 minutes, checking and stirring every minute to see how melted it is. I used beeswax because I had it, but you could use any yellowish colored wax or old candles that you might have. Melt them down and add a 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to give the wax a “grubby” look.

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Then, carefully dip your candles in the wax. Don’t burn your hands with the hot wax, because hot wax burns. Ahem. Ask me how I know. Make sure you are doing this over newspapers or parchment paper to protect your countertops. You want it to look bumpy and waxy. Spoon the wax over the candle filling in any holes or gaps,  to make sure the whole thing is covered. I drizzle wax on the sides to make it look drippy.

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Then I rub extra spices on the wax to make it look older.

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Then, with an xacto knife, cut through the wax so you can get the battery cover on and off when you need to.

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You can make them look as primitive as you want by adding more wax or more spices, and deciding how nubbly you want them to look. Below, the right hand candle is the most primitive.

IMG_4412.JPGBy the way, I used my iPod to take the pictures while I was working because I didn’t want my nice camera to meet with a wax accident. Sorry about the quality. You understand, don’t you? :)

You can take these right out of the bases and tuck them into baskets, or use them as night lights. Super cute.

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What do you think? Have you tried making these? Let me know if you do! Enjoy!

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Purpose for the Sidelined Mom

Nobody wants to live a sidelined life, especially young mothers who are full of energy and dreams. We want to make a difference and live with purpose, but frankly, life with little kids feels like being left out of the game all together.

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The rest of the world seems to be tackling life, moving ahead, and making progress, and we are very much stuck in the house. In fact, we haven’t made it out of the house in three days.

Do you ever wonder,

Lord, when am I actually going to do something of meaning for you? When will my life count? I’m home with these kids all day, every day. Everything I do is undone within 24 hours and nothing seems to last. I dreamed of serving others in your name. I long to share your mercy with others. I’m itching to encourage someone with your great love today.

I thought all these things when my kids were young. Especially on the bad days. You know the ones. On those days, I felt like I had missed my boat somewhere, somehow.

Those are exactly the times when my faith was tested. I wondered if God remembered me. Did He hear my prayer? Does He think that I am only qualified to wipe noses and break up toddler fights? (Which can be pretty scary, sometimes.)  I wondered if He realized all the lovely things I wanted to do for Him….if I wasn’t stuck in this house.

And then, one day, in the midst of my pity-party, God pulled back my blinders and showed me that He HAD in fact, answered my prayers. What I called “stuck”, God called “serving Him.” I wanted to go somewhere exciting to serve, but the Lord set up my base of ministry in my home. 

Perhaps you’re discouraged today. You thought that God would lead you to some exciting foreign mission, or to tend the sick in His name, or lead a Bible study, or to mentor women, or to have a ministry of encouraging hurting people, or feeding the poor. You thought you’d have this amazing calling.

From where you sit {looking over the mounds of laundry and your toy strewn living room} life is pretty mundane, and you’re discontent, wondering if this is all there is for you. You fear God’s passed you by somehow and that everyone else is doing the important work.

BUT, what if God has answered your prayer and you just don’t know it yet. Consider this:

What if God’s special mission for you is to be the one to encourage your own husband in your own home? Imagine how wonderful it would be to have him come home to a smile and a hug, a warm meal, and a “you’re important to me” look that lets him know you care?

What if God sent you to cook for those little faces right in front of you?  To give them a cup of cold water, in Jesus name?

What if God put you there to nurse sick kids in kindness in the middle of the night? To dry their tears when they are having nightmares? Someone has to do it.

What if God sent you teach your own children the Bible? Your teaching will impact generations for Christ, including your own grandchildren. That’s a pretty big assignment. Did you talk to your kids about God today? Are you pouring your life into teaching them first? Perhaps you could start there.

What if God sent you to encourage anyone who entered your home with the wonderful message of mercy and forgiveness that you’ve received? Imagine the impact a heart full of gratitude and a mouth that spills forth praise and thanksgiving could make on a discouraged younger mom, mailman, or neighbor?

Perhaps the biggest ministry impact we can have is right here, in these four walls.

Now, I know you’re doing many of these things, because women get things done. But, we all know that we can serve willingly or grudgingly. Sometimes, we’re going through the motions but our joy is all gone.

Let me encourage you to do what you’re doing for Jesus sake, and the joy will return. 

“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The location of your ministry doesn’t make it big, the Author of your ministry makes it big.

And if you are at home with little ones all day, praise God for such a ministry! Give them your best. Be the best example you can be. Show them how much Jesus loves them by being His hands and feet.

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That perspective changes everything, doesn’t it? :)

This, I can do Lord, for You!

Easy, Fall Watercolor For Kids

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Here’s an easy fall watercolor you can do with your younger kids. This was done by Holly when she was 11. This can be done with cheap Prang or Crayola watercolor boxes.
1. Gather a variety of leaves outside.
2. Bring them in and trace them onto watercolor paper, marking veins and stems.
3. Begin with yellow. Paint washes of yellow. Allow to dry.
4. Next, overlay orange and watery red. (The more water you use, the less intense the color. Let kids play with this concept to get a variety of tones.) Let dry.
5. Add greens. Make greens by mixing blues and yellows. Let dry.
6. Make the leaves “pop” by adding dark purples or browns to the background. This pushes the lighter colors to the front and adds visual interest. Allow to dry.
7. Frame.

Enjoy!
*You can do this on a smaller scale, making stationary by using watercolor greeting cards, available at any craft shop.
** for older kids, add acorns, berries, twigs to the mix.