Warming Hearts at the Office

Valentine’s Day is great for couples, of course, but why should they get all the fun? Love, after all, has many forms, and romantic love doesn’t have to be king. For singles and those who have to work on Valentine’s Day, this holiday can not only be a little depressing but annoying. That’s why Poptart always does something special for her coworkers on Valentine’s Day. This year, she made Valentine mice out of Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses. And whose heart wouldn’t melt into a big, sloshy puddle of happiness walking into the office and finding one of these adorable little critters in the in box?

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These little guys (or gals) are so cheap and easy to make! The only materials you need are Hugs and Kisses (any flavor you want!), a glue stick, red and pink paper, a heart die cutter, and a smile.

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First, cut out a stack of hearts. Then, fold the bottom of each heart up. This gives the mouse something to sit on.

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Now, take the Kisses and rip the paper tag off the top (this will be the mouse’s nose). Then glue the Kiss to the front of the heart, with the bottom flap pointing up.

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Now you’re ready to put the back on. Take the Hug and glue it to the back of the heart. Don’t rip the paper tag off the Hug (this is the mouse’s tail!). Your mouse is complete and should be able to stand up by itself!

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Don’t forget to add a cute note to the mice you hand out. Poptart and I made about 50 mice, and it only took us 30 minutes. Imagine all the smiles you’ll create at work by handing these out. Crafting a better tomorrow means crafting a happier work environment. So get crafting! And Happy Valentine’s Day!


A Low Cost, Big Heart, Handmade Christmas

As big box retailers push Black Friday madness deeper into Thanksgiving day, as stores stock shelves with holiday merchandise earlier and earlier until the whole year feels like one big holiday shopping spree, and as retailers continue to pay workers less than a livable wage to protect large profits for the few at the top, it becomes ever more important for people to shop small, shop local, and shop smart. We are given titles like “shoppers” and “consumers.” We are told our worth, our identity, is tied to what we own: the latest device, the luxury car, the designer labels. We are told our economy’s survival depends on our hard work and loyal spending even as credit card debt increases, quality jobs are outsourced, and quality of life tanks. When did we lose our humanity? Why do we insist on conforming to the labels pasted on us?

Poptart and I made a pact this year to reject the mindless consumerism that cheapens the human spirit and have a small, handmade Christmas, and you can too. For decorations and gifts, we made as much as we could by hand with materials in the craft closet and from local stores. Gifts we couldn’t make we bought at craft fairs or local shops.

I’ll walk you through the types of decorations we made and the materials we used to give you ideas for what you can do in your own home with your own supplies, but I won’t be showing how each item is made. Many items you should be able to figure out on your own. For the rest, we plan on doing tutorials in the future. We simply want to show here that you don’t have to buy the pre-packaged Christmas on sale at big box retailers and advertised in holiday magazines. This is YOUR holiday season, and you can do it any way you choose.

Poptart and I love to put a nice, holiday wreath on our door. Poptart makes the wreaths out of all kinds of materials. She uses the plastic rings left over from industrial packing rolls, although you can use Styrofoam loops, wooden hoops, or even bend branches into loops for the frame. She uses organza, tying it in strips around the frame or twisting it around the loop. She also uses left-over wrapping paper.

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For the tree, Poptart bought an artificial one she reuses each year so she doesn’t have to buy a new one, but she also makes trees from various materials. She makes one tree from a cone of thick paper, a Styrofoam cone, or old vegetable frames (especially tomatoes) scavenged from materials stores like Scrap. She covers them with either looped, left-over wrapping paper, or if they’re wire, she wraps garland and ribbon around the frame.  She decorates the tree with homemade ornaments.

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For ornaments, you can really get creative. Let yourself return to your preschool days. Think popsicle sticks, glitter, paper snowflakes, and macaroni. Because we live near wine country, Poptart loves to use wine corks for ornaments. She makes Santas, reindeer, and carolers from wine corks. She also uses a small knitting loom to make miniature knitted wreaths. Chenille sticks (otherwise known as pipe cleaners) can be shaped into Santas, Grinches, and reindeer. You can use wooden beads and felt to make little elves to decorate shelves and table runners and paper towel rolls and foam to create adorable carolers.

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Gifts take quite a bit of work, but your attention and care will not be lost on the recipient. Making handmade gifts for loved ones requires you to pay attention, to know their interests so you can make something to surprise and delight them. And if you just don’t have the time, local crafters and artisans will have amazing, unique items for anyone on your list. If you live in the Bay Area, festivals and craft fairs are plentiful. I suggest the Patchwork Show, Renegade Craft Fair, Alameda’s Art and Wine Festival, Half Moon Bay’s Art and Pumpkin Festival, and Sundays on Telegraph. See the links below to find out more about these venues. If you want to shop online, I suggest buying from Etsy.

The important thing to remember this holiday season is that YOU have the power, and change starts with you. If you hate rude, pushy shoppers, don’t be a rude, pushy shopper. Be polite to employees, many of whom sacrifice their own holiday celebrations to help you prepare for yours. Be patient, wait your turn, and be courteous. If you make a mess while shopping, clean it up. Don’t buy something simply because you’re told to do so. This way, you won’t feel awful for weeks after getting your credit card bill. And let family and friends know that you want a wholesome, heart-felt Christmas, and that’s the type of Christmas you’ll be giving. Remember, if you support crafters and local artists, you support diversity of products and help business stay in the hands of the many instead of the pockets of the few.

Spreading Holiday Cheer with Handcrafted Ornaments

To continue the random acts of kindness started with Poptart’s tiny turkeys, Poptart made a bunch of handcrafted ornaments to give away with no strings attached (except for the ones that hold the ornament on the tree, of course).

Please remember that many are suffering financially this holiday season, and a smile and kind gesture from a stranger can not only brighten a person’s day but help him or her survive. And you don’t have to spend a lot to show you care. Poptart made all of the ornaments you see in these pictures from existing supplies in her craft closet. Most of these supplies were bought at local shops like Scrap for very little money.

Poptart decided to hand out ornaments because wherever they are placed, they will remind their owner that others care. The ornaments Poptart made include picture frames; Santas, reindeers, and carolers from wine corks; crocheted wreaths; and chenille stick Santas. She also made adorable carolers from paper towel tubes and elves from wooden beads. Literally, your supply list if you want to make similar items is as follows: yarn, a few pieces of felt, chenille sticks, wine corks, metal hooks (for antlers), paper towel rolls, a couple pieces of foam sheets, wooden beads, pom pom balls, cotton balls, googly eyes (yes, that’s technical crafting jargon), and hot glue sticks.

We will be handing out these cute bits of Christmas Cheer at the Oakland Children’s Parade on Saturday, December 7th. If you happen to receive one, you can post your picture with the ornament on Twitter with #craftingkindness, and we will post your picture below! Most importantly, please pass on random acts of kindness so we can all craft a better tomorrow!

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Update: The parade was amazing! And we had a blast distributing the ornaments. We witnessed many of them find new homes, and people have already started posting pics with their discoveries!


Spreading Happiness with Tiny Turkeys

During this consumer-driven time of year, getting and giving something handmade sends a nice reminder of what the holidays are all about, especially when those handmade items are given away to strangers as a random act of kindness. We’re all flustered trying to get everything done that we often forget to enjoy what’s right in front of us. An unexpected gift can help us embrace joy, and these days, joy is priceless. Poptart decided to make tiny turkeys and give them away this Thanksgiving to remind people of the importance of unexpected gifts and random acts of kindness.

Poptart made these tiny turkeys from chenille sticks, and we will be distributing them on Thanksgiving Day at The Little Ice Rink at South Shore Center in Alameda, CA. We chose this spot to release the turkeys because the city is family friendly, safe (though lock your cars and hide valuables due to the increase in car thefts in the Bay Area), and has plenty of parking. The turkeys will congregate on tables, chairs, and nooks and would love to find a good home where they can brighten a shelf, mantel, or hold a family photo.

If you find a turkey, take your picture with it and post it on Twitter with #tinyturkey. All pictures will be posted below! And pass on a random act of kindness to show your gratitude this Thanksgiving! After all, ’tis the season of tiny turkeys!

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Update: We didn’t receive any pictures of the tiny turkeys, but as we were setting them out, a woman passing picked up two, and when we drove by later, they were all gone. We hope they warmed the hearts and homes of whoever found them!