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Life editor makes Christmas ornaments from organic finds

POSTED: December 21, 2012 1:30 a.m.

When I first set out to make my own ornaments, I was picturing something delicate, beautiful and right of Better Homes and Gardens.

What I got instead was something earthy, slightly amateurish and not even worthy of Pinterest.

I’ve been wanting to craft ornaments from nature for several years, but Christmas comes and goes in such a rush, I never think about it until it is too late. And this was lesson No. 1.

I waited until a few weeks ago to start gathering materials. But by then, I was scavenging the wet ground for what was left of the pecans. I was even "barked" at by a hungry squirrel giving me the stink eye. Next time, I will begin my collection at the start of fall when things are still fresh and pristine, not cracked and half eaten.

As you are gathering up nuts, twig, bark and cones, look for items of various shapes, sizes and colors. Once you have everything together, let them air out for a few days and dry (and de-critter in some cases). I took a small paint brush from the hardware store and cleaned away dirt and debris.

Now on to lesson two.

I cleared the kitchen table and put down a sheet of butcher paper. Craft paper or an old copy of The Times will suffice. I had all my materials: twine, acorns, dried beans, wine corks a plenty, ornament hooks and scissors. What I didn’t have was my glue gun.

Because I could not find it, I fooled myself into believing that wood glue would work just as well. After all, acorns are from wood right? I glued the first two acorns together and held them for nearly 20 minutes, enough time to sit through the first part of "NCIS."

I proudly set it down on the paper only to watch it immediately roll into two separate pieces.

Still unable to locate my glue gun, I decided a leftover tube of Superglue would certainly have to do the job. Unfortunately, I only ended up gluing an acorn to my forefinger. I think I also permanently altered my fingerprint. Pretty soon, I began to feel like one of those over-the-top infomercials. (Can it really be that hard to chop an onion or roll a water hose?) I let out a few not-so Christmas-like words.

I went out and bought another glue gun. Three dollars well spent.

Lesson three came after the glue gun warmed up. Don’t throw a bunch of items together and hope it looks like something. Only your kids can get away with that. After some experimenting with various items, I was able to layout a few interesting shapes and designs. I commenced gluing.

Hot glue takes practice. At first, I used too little. Then too much. Some first efforts looked very sloppy and those little strands of "glue hair" were wafting through the air all around me.

Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I began gluing things just to watch them dry. Sort of like my husband and the chain saw, only I didn’t maim shrubbery. (Sorry dear, but it’s true.) The end result was several subpar pieces I might hang on the back of the tree and a few really cute pieces that pass for crafty.

So bottom line: Look at some pictures of other ornaments to decide what you like, collect the materials early in the season, have a plan, have a glue gun and have patience.

And it helps if you have a little Christmas music and eggnog on hand.


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