Magic

Fireworks_070417“It looks magical!” exclaimed my 10 year old friend, a recent immigrant from Rwanda, as we sat next to each other on a blanket, watching fireworks paint bright streaks across the black sky. It was another “first” for her in her new life in America. Nearby, her one year old brother and my 5 year old son sat unnaturally still, entranced (as we all were) by the sight, while rainbows of color danced in their sparkling eyes. As long as I can remember, Independence Day and fireworks have always gone hand-in-hand, precluded by a full day of fun and feasting with beloved friends and family. The formula doesn’t alter much from year to year, and yet it is one of those iconic American traditions that never gets old. At any other time of year, the list of things to be checked off and hassles to be endured might have seemed like more of an inconvenience than a pleasure – cleaning, shopping, cooking, packing, crowds, noise, heat, traffic, unpacking, more cleaning – but as my young friend alluded, there is something inherently magical about days with so much “living” packed into them that by the time you fall into bed, once you finally make it back home, you are wobbly from contented exhaustion.

Today has been the opposite of yesterday in nearly every way. Yesterday, I never stopped moving (and never minded). But today, I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t crawl out of bed until long past “normal” breakfast time and I’ve barely moved from my favorite chair, except to refill my coffee cup and snack on yesterday’s abundant leftovers. As I sit on my “island” surveying the aftermath of a dozen warm bodies moving in, out & about my house, instead of compiling yet another To Do list, my mind keeps calling up grainy images from my memory – bits & pieces from party games that have yet to find their way back into the correct boxes recall bursts of uproarious laughter around the dining table; red cups & star-shapped straws dotting the landscape recall kitchen countertops groaning under the weight of so much food & conversations mingling in the air along with mouthwatering aromas; pint-sized wet clothing draped over the rim of the tub recalls squeals of laughter from children running through the sprinkler in the sunshine; the half-smeared remnant of a “dinosaur eye” painted on my son’s face recalls him sitting with barely-controlled patience for the artist to finish her work so he could get back to bouncing his way through all the inflatables; and the subtle soreness of my muscles recalls the movement of my body as I performed with pleasure the duties of a hostess, ensuring the comfort & enjoyment of those whom I most love in the world and then, as the day drew to a close, finally letting go of all responsibility and allowing myself to bounce and sway however I pleased to the rhythm of live music at a riverfront festival.

Magic. Yes, indeed, there is something magical about a day that can make you completely forget everything that normally occupies the most space in your subconscious mind. The itinerary of next week’s work & school schedule, bills to be paid, household renovations to be completed, political shennanigans to fret over, crises big & small – my own as well as others’ – crying out for attention. Where did they go?

In the soft, orange light of the setting sun, last night I laid down on a blanket with my hands under my head and stared up at the swirling clouds – pure summer bliss. Presently, a few drops of rain made cool spots on my face & arms, but I didn’t care. There was nothing I needed to do and no one who needed my help. In that moment, I simply existed. I cannot remember the last time I felt so gloriously free. But a day devoted to the celebration of freedom reminded me that there is so much more to life then the acrobatics required to get through modern adulthood. We experience life at its fullest when we engage all five senses, and yesterday was a colorful kaleidoscope of opportunities to do just that. Tomorrow, I must return to being a “grownup”. But I intend to make a little more room, going forward, for embracing fun & creativity in my regular routine. Making magic wherever I can.

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Cozy Cottage Christmas

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The hard part is over, so now all that’s left to do is wait…and bake…and bake some more! I’ll most likely be spending quite a few evenings this week curled up on the couch with cookies, coffee & some holiday tunes while I enjoy the view…before it all gets torn to shreds. Ha ha. I’ve always admired the look of a potted tree, but could never find a container large enough for my artificial tree’s base. So, this year I decided to see how it looked if I put my presents in baskets and metal buckets around it. Love!!! Plus it’s super-easy to move them out of the way when little ones come to visit. 😉

DIY Pine Bough, Ribbon & Jingle Bell Swags

Real Pine Bough Swags for Front Porch with Silver Ribbon and Rustic Jingle Bells. Country cottage style Christmas & holiday outdoor decorating. By Shalom Schultz Designs.

What do you do when a big storm leaves a pile of fallen pine branches in your front yard? Make festive holiday swags for your front porch of course! After clipping off some smaller segments, I bound them together with yarn & tied them to my railings. Sparkly silver ribbon and a rustic jingle bell on each add just the right touch of Christmas curb appeal.

Christmas Cards and a Cozy Cottage in the Woods

Cottage style Christmas mantel decor with a green tinsel tree in a white pot, mini lighted paper house , a red & black fabric bird, and a wood snowflake ornament. Rustic country style holiday decorating. By Shalom Schultz Designs.

The magic is in the details! I love how cozy my little cardboard cottage in the ‘woods’ looks at night when I flip the switch on the led tea light inside. Overhead, my collection of Christmas cards is steadily growing. Holiday cheer is in the air!

DIY Christmas Star Stained Glass Ornament Craft For Kids

Kids Christmas diy paper star ornament craft uses crayons & wax paper for a faux stained glass hanging that will look amazing in any window. Preschool art project. Make a fun & easy suncatcher for the holidays. By Shalom Schultz Designs.

What a fun weekend project this was & the perfect way to spend some extra time with my little helper! First we used pencil sharpeners to spread crayon shavings over a piece of wax paper I’d taped to the counter (with card stock underneath), then we placed another piece of wax paper (topped with more card stock) on top & mommy ran an iron over it on a ‘low’ setting to melt the colors together, giving them that lovely stained glass look. After the paper had cooled, we traced star shapes with a cookie cutter & I cut them out with my exacto knife (which I found produced cleaner edges than scissors). They are truly show-stopping when the sunlight is streaming through the window! And we even have enough left over to decorate his teachers’ Christmas gifts.

Wood Block Nativity Advent Calendar

DIY Nativity scene advent calendar. Black graphics on weathered wood blocks, individually wrapped to count down the days til Christmas. Country cottage style rustic holiday decorating. By Shalom Schultz Designs.

Day 4 of December and all 3 wise men are now on their way to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus! This is the first year I’ve done an advent calendar with my 4-yr old son, Connor and I wanted it to be a fun way to teach him about our faith, so I decided to make a 25-piece nativity set and wrap each one individually (Connor LOVES having a little present to open each day!). My husband kindly cut the wood blocks for me out of old garden fencing and then I designed the images (pasted on with Elmer’s glue) to look like they had been printed on weathered wood. The whole set will be centered under an antique wood frame I keep on the mantel, over which I have hung a rustic wood star. Stay tuned for more pics, as we get closer to Christmas!

DIY Mason Jar Lid + Chalk Snowflake Ornaments

DIY Mason Jar Lid Snowflake Christmas Tree Chalk Ornament by Shalom Schultz Designs

New additions for my tree this year. Mason jar lid ornaments with hand drawn chalk snowflakes! I just replaced the black paper on the lid tags I’d previously made for my husband’s graduation party back in May (used glue dots to adhere the paper to the lids & a scrapbooking punch to make the holes) & then spent an hour or so on the new drawings. They turned out so cute and add a fun, rustic element to my tree (more pics to come!).

P.S. I’ve been getting a lot of question about how to get fine detail with chalk & the trick is to use a chalk pencil, rather than a regular stick of chalk. You can find them in the chalkboard aisle at your local arts & crafts store or a white charcoal pencil from the drawing supplies aisle will work too. Then, if desired, you can seal your chalk drawings with a light coat of hairspray.

DIY Christmas Sweater Ball Wreath

Handmade Sweater Ball Christmas Wreath by Shalom Schultz Designs. Recycled holiday decorating.

I made this sweater ball wreath over the weekend as a donation for Quad City Arts Festival of Trees auction fundraiser. All proceeds support the arts in my community & I’m excited to be a part of the festivities again this year. A little sad to say goodbye to something that looks so nice on my own front door, but I hope it finds a lovely new home to adorn this holiday season.