Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Novica's new Artisan-Powered Gift Finder‏ and a Giveaway!

Novica is one of the leading fair trade artisan websites. They work with National Geographic to give talented artisans around the world a place to express their artistic talents and provide access to the world market.

i have always been drawn to unique artwork and clothing from other countries. However, once i became aware that many times artists are not paid a fair wage for the product i became hesitant to buy many imports.

Novica provides fair trade products made by artisans around the globe. They want you to know who you're buying from, to feel an attachment to the product, and to the hands that created it. One of my favorite features on the Novica site is that there is an artist story at the bottom of every product. So, you can see the artists who are actually making the items. When you purchase an item from Novica, an artisan card is included with each item.

It is hard not to love the gifts and artisans on Novica, but it can be a little overwhelming trying to navigate through all the products because there are so many wonderful gifts to choose from!

That is why Novica created the Gift Finder!

 The Gift-Finder allows you to sort by Gifts for her or Gifts for him,  you can find gifts by price, by region or select categories like jewelry, sculpture, home decor, clothing, handbags, games, tableware, vases and more. You can even search by the type of personality, favorite interests,  Eco-friendly and specific occasions!  It really breaks it down and helps you to find the perfect gift!

No matter what your budget, NOVICA’s gift finder is a super easy and fun way to find something extraordinary for your friends and family members on your holiday shopping list. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful works of art that are created by the artisans from all over the world on NOVICA’s site.

Thanks to the generous folks at NOVICA, One of my reader will win a $40 online  Gift Code to   
Please enter using the rafflecopter form below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Novica provided me with a gift code to use and one to giveaway. In exchange for a blog post about their new Gift Finder. All opinions are my own.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homemade Gifts- getting started.

Handmade gifts are a big part of our holiday celebration. Every year, i make my kids something really special.    Here are a few of the gifts i've made in the past.  These are from last year, you have to scroll down the page to see the handmade items.   These and These are from 2010.

This year, i thought i was getting a head start on my holiday shopping and crafting.  Then it seems i blinked and we have less than 3 weeks left! Ack!!  So yeah, a bit of panic is beginning to set in.

So i am just getting started on handmade gifts for this year. Here is a bit of a sneak peek.

 Last year, my boy requested Harry Potter bendy dolls, and i never actually got around to making them.  This year, he requested the entire company from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings...and decided Harry Potter would be much easier!!  So this is my first attempt.  Ron and Hermione are still in progress, and i'll post pictures when they are finished.  My hand is definitely not steady enough to draw glasses, but it will do.  My plan is to have the 3 dolls for my boys stocking. i'm planning to make a few bendy doll for my girl as well, but haven't decided what to make her yet.

 For some reason my girl is completely obsessed with Monster High. Other than seeing them on the toy isle shelves i'm not sure where she got it from. i personally don't care for the dolls, but i do like the cute little skull with the hair bow. Since Monster High is high on her list this year...and i don't actually plan to buy any (good Aunty gifts) but i did cave and make her a couple of Monster high themed hats.  i was orginally only going to make one, but i couldn't decide between the pom-pom or ears. So i decided to go with one of each.  Her favorite MH girl has brown wolf ears, so that's what i was going for. :)  i think she'll love them.

i'm also going to make my boy a hat in Ravenclaw colors, and will probably make them both a few other things as long as i don't run out of time. Still working on my other hand made gifts which typically include crocheted wash clothes and jars of jam.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Acorn Cap Toadstool Ornaments.

For the past few years, we have decorated our yule tree exactly the same. We decorate it in blue and silver. Our ornaments are very simple.  Pinecones painted silver, blue bows, silver bells, blue glass balls, gingerbread and hand blown glass icicle ornaments.

This year i wanted something different. i wanted something even more simple and rustic.  i decided a  woodland theme would be perfect.  Later that same day i headed over to the Martha Stewart website to snag the gingerbread recipe we use every year. Apparently Martha has been reading my mind, on the homepage was a photo gallery for a Woodland Christmas at Martha's house.
The photo gave me so many ideas.  One of my favorite of course were the toadstools. The wool ornaments in the photo gallery were made fom wool felt and are needle felted. i wanted something a little different, and came up with these acorn cap toadstool ornaments.  They are really easy to make and look wonderful on the tree.

All you need for this project is some acorn caps, preferably the flat larger ones that measure around 1" across.  Red and white paint, clean carded wool, and some white embroidery floss or string. Hot water, a drop of dish soap and a needle.


i let my daughter paint all the caps red.  Then we added all the white dots. 

To make the stems we wet felted some white roving.  It was very easy. We just pulled off a piece that was 3-4" long and dipped it into some hot water that had a drop of dish soap in it.  Then we rolled the wool between our hands the way you would roll clay to make a snake. We had to dip it into the water  few times, and continue to roll and squeeze out the water until we had a felted tube. It looks very similar to a dread lock. We cut the tube into 1" pieces, and then wet felted them a bit more (rolling them in our hands) so that the edges rounded off a bit.  They looked a bit like cigarette butts before we softened the edges.  Then we let them dry.

i apologize now for my bad pictures. :)  These are very easy to put together.  All of our acorn caps had a natural hole right in the center where the stem had been.  On a few of them it wasn't quite as obvious, but we were able to create a hole just using our needle. We didn't have to drill them at all. Depending on the type of acorns you have you may get lucky, or you may have to use a dremel to drill your holes.

To put them together. i used white embroidery floss on a needle. i ran the floss up through the bottom of the wool stem (1) and through the bottom of the acorn cap.  Then i brought the needle back through the top of the cap, leaving a loop. (2).  i tied a knot at the base of the loop, to keep it from slipping through. Then i bought the needle through the top of the wool stem, out the bottom and tied another knot. (3)  i put a dab of glue on the knot and snipped off the extra string.

Here are our finished ornaments.  We have made a dozen so far, and need to go out gathering more acorn caps.i love the simplicity of these, and plan to make some that are natural colored as well.

We have not dug our tree yet, so i am still coming up with ideas for decorating it.  i'll be sure to share them, and pictures of our finished tree once it is decorated.

If any thing is unclear in this tutorial let me know and i can try to explain it a little better. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hiddenite Gems: Emerald Hollow Mine, NC.

i have some serious bloggy catch up to do! My craft business is doing great right now, and trying to balance that and a house and family has left me a bit stretched for time.  So you can expect a few back posts.

My boy read about Hiddenite Gems in Family fun magazine and asked if we could visit. After looking it up, we realized it is really quite close and would make a wonderful day trip!


Pricing is reasonable.  It's $5 per person for sluicing and includes 1 complimentary bucket. Additional buckets can be purchased ranging from $5-$500 each.  The fee for creeking is $10 per person, and it include the sluicing permit and complimentary bucket as well. You can also rent tools/screens for creeking if you don't have your own.

The kids had an absolute blast sluicing!  My one big suggestion is to wear old clothes, and bring a change of clothes if you plan to go anywhere afterwards. It took my kids about 30 sec. to be covered from head to toe in red mud. The mud stain clothing a lovely pink color and is pretty much impossible to you might want to keep that in mind. ;)
  The kids were thrilled with every stone they found.  The complimentary buckets were quite obviously 'salted' but the kids didn't know or care. They had a ton of fun finding each and every treasure.  They each filled half a quart sized ziplock bag with assorted semi-precious stones. 

We didn't find a whole lot in the creek, but the experience itself was a lot of fun. My girl didn't really look for stones at all, she just jumped from rock to rock and actually found a salamander.  Both boys were really into rock hunting.  i found a handful of pretty stones, mainly amethyst and sodalite. i was also the only one to find petrified wood, i found 3 pieces!

Although none of our stones were really worth much, we all had a really nice time.  It was a bit chilly when we were here, and i think the next time we visit it will be during the summer so we can actually get in the creek and pack a picnic lunch. It was really cold while we wee there, and are fingers were numb from picking rocks out of the water.

Here are a few of the treasures i found. Petrified wood, black tourmaline, Amethyst, Aventurine, Rose quartz, smoky quartz and clear quartz. Moonstone, sodalite and Citrine.   After looking at the stone chart after we were done creeking/sluicing we realized that the valuable stones...emeralds rubies and Hiddenite didn't look like anything at all. In fact had we found one in our buckets or in the creek we would have tossed it back thinking it was a common rock. So if you visit hiddenite, you might want to familiarize yourself with those stones in their raw form.

 Reviews on Hiddenite Gems, are quite mixed. Some folks seem to really enjoy the visit, while others feel that it's a tourist trap because some of the buckets are 'salted'.

We went not knowing what to expect at all, and had a great time. We knew it was a treasure hunt...we might find something, we might not.  However, had we come home with absolutely nothing i think i would have been pretty disappointed. So even though i realized right away that the stones had been planted in our buckets....they were fun to find. It was fun washing them off, and figuring out what we had.  So it didn't bother me at all. i suppose if you go there thinking you are going to find a million dollar ruby in a $5 bucket, you might be disappointed.  We really enjoyed our visit though, and the staff was very friendly and informative.   We look forward to visiting again next summer, and spending more time searching the creeks.