Category Archives: DIY

Making Spirits Bright

Our family Christmas tree 2017

It’s been a full three days of decorating at my house!  Generally, I have my decorations up by the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but since we went to the beach I got a late start.  Normally I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get it all done by tonight, but I’m having my Fiesta board over for dinner on Thursday night and I want it to be just right!

Of course, instead of just doing what I did last year I decided a change was in order.  Don’t ask me why I do this to myself but I decided I wanted my front door and staircase to be silver and gold!  This meant buying a new green artificial wreath and finding just the right plastic gold and silver ornaments to use.  In the process, I also needed new lights for the swag over the door as well as the staircase.  Little bits of inspiration were hitting me all week as I pulled out items I haven’t used in a while.  I have a set of Southern Living at Home very heavy silver glass ornaments from way back.  I used to simply put them in a large vase in my bookcase but this year they’ve taken on a new look hanging from rhinestone ribbon and evenly spaced out on my staircase!  I actually found three extra of these ornaments at the thrift store a few months back so it must have been meant to be!  I’m loving the look…and the sparkle!

My front door wreath turned out pretty nice too, if I do say so myself!  This despite THREE finger burns with the hot glue gun!  Yikes!  I don’t know what was wrong with me today but that hot glue kept wanting to stick to ME rather than the ornaments!  I had two sizes of ornaments and decided it needed some smaller ones to fill in the gap so I headed to the Dollar Store for those.  I used the leftover plastic ornaments to make bundles of silver and gold to use on the outdoor swag and one I hung in the entryway.

Tonight, we decorated the family Christmas tree…me, my husband and my daughter, Emily.  It was a little bittersweet for me.  Generally, the last act of decorating for us is on Sunday night and all the kids make a point to be home to help out.  We take bets on how many of my Hallmark ornaments Eddie will break.  None this year…YAY!!!  We added just a few new Hallmark ornaments to my huge collection this year so they are safe until next year!  I always try to add the most ornaments to the tree after the rest of the family gives up.  All that is except for my son-in-law, Ryan!  He always sticks with me to pack the tree full!  Still…it was nice to spend time talking with my sweet Emily and watching Eddie look for gaps in the tree so we could fill them with ornaments.  We listened to Christmas music on Pandora and sang along.   Our annual family photo in front of the tree will have to wait until everyone is together over the holidays.  I look forward to that…

 

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That Awkward Space Above Your Kitchen Cabinets

That space between the top of the kitchen cabinets and the ceiling – my original display with vine wreaths and lights.

There’s that space between my kitchen ceiling and the kitchen cabinets that I’ve always wondered about.  I guess if I had known more about building a house when we built ours I would have asked for more storage in the form of cabinets all the way to the ceiling.  But that was a long time ago and I digress…

Instead, many years ago I was at a friend’s house and I noticed she had a similar situation and she did something very simple and creative…she unwound a grapevine wreath and added white Christmas lights and voila…problem solved!  I got home determined to so something similar.  I went to Michael’s and bought two wreaths and thought it would be a simple project for a Saturday afternoon – one hour max!  Wrong!  First of all, those dang wreaths would not unwind the way I wanted them too so I ended up separating them into sections and using brown pipe cleaners to put them together side by side by side.  Next I began wrapping the lights around the separated wreaths and was making headway.  I had several extra strands of lights from Christmas that I decided to use.  Of course, I tested the lights before I wound them.  I finished up and placed them on top of the cabinets, plugged them in and…a section right in the middle of the display wouldn’t light.  Really???!!!  Yep…I then remembered why these lights were in a bag and in the attic!  I should have introduced them to the trash can!  So after a quick trip to the store for another set of lights, unwinding the bad lights, rewrapping the new ones…it was now 3 hours later and I was finally finished! Yay!

Over the years, I started adding things to the top of the cabinets.  At first it was pretty sparse but over time I was loving the look!  It was a nice way to display things that I loved.  I didn’t turn the lights on all the time either.  Usually they were plugged in over the holidays and on special occasions.  With just the under the cabinet lights on, it gave the kitchen a really cozy hue.

Now…over time, as you can probably imagine, things get a little…well, dusty.  And not just a use a Swiffer and get rid of the dust dusty, but sticky dusty from cooking and all that goes on in the kitchen.  I’ve taken everything down on occasion to clean it all off but it’s been awhile.  These past two weeks, I’ve really noticed that everything had a cloudy and fuzzy look so I pulled up a bar stool and took a closer look.  UGH!  The wreath and lights looked like they were growing fur!  Not good…

So today I retired the wreaths – to the garbage – and bought some cute little LED lights, cleaned off the top of the cabinets – more UGH – and washed EVERYTHING from the top of the cabinets.  Some things had to be washed twice!  I got rid of some items, and added others from around the house.  It turned out to be a fun project and tonight I’m sitting in the kitchen really enjoying the finished look.  Now…on to the next project!

Making a Nicho Retablo for Day of the Dead

The nicho retablo I created for my Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos altar this year!

This summer I visited the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I always love going here and seeing the exhibits.  My late cousin, Chila (Orcilia Forbes), served on the board of the center and it’s such a wonderful place to visit and explore.

I was walking through the permanent exhibit section with my mother and my cousin, Ophelia (better known as Boogie!), when we came across a really beautiful piece of artwork of the Virgen de Guadalupe.  It was a retablo or shadow box of a large Virgen Mary in the center, surrounded by small shadow boxes all decorated in different ways with other images of Mary.  We were all in awe of this piece.  I wish I could remember the name of the artist, but suffice it to say that the wheels started turning in my head and in my cousin Boogie’s head!  I didn’t get a photo since no photos were allowed in the gallery, but I sketched out the design so we could have something to reference.  Boogie and I decided this was something we needed to modify and try for our next Zuniga Family Reunion in 2019!  We always bring photos and make a point to remember family members who have passed on.  This would be a wonderful way to engage family members and plan a reunion activity!  Between now and then though, we decided we would each work on a prototype to see what we needed to have on hand in order to create a nicho retablo.

As background, nicho retablos are a mixed media type of creation or artwork.  In Hispanic culture, they tend to be spiritual and religious and can be used on an altar for events such as Dia de los Muertos or in devotional places of your home.  Sometimes these are made with small tin boxes, like an Altoids tin box, while others are made with wood and have doors that can be closed on the images inside. These are always very colorful and vibrant.  The décor can be quite ornate but there is a beauty in all this décor and it is quite striking because it tends to signify the person or persons being honored.

Boogie called me shortly after I got home from Albuquerque and she had found some shadow boxes at Hobby Lobby that she thought would work well.  She sent me a photo and I went to buy a few.  They looked perfect!  I set out to make a nicho retablo for my Day of the Dead altar this year and chose a photo of my father with his two brothers and sister.  I’ve always loved this picture of them…all sitting on the couch at my grandmother’s house and smiling broadly!  I knew I wanted to make this multi-dimensional so I made several copies of the photo so I could cut out each figure and experiment.

Meanwhile, I had collected various “artsy”  items like old jewelry, fabric leaves, decorative ribbon and other crafty items from various places.  I hit a creative roadblock as I got started and I wasn’t sure what to use so I went to Pinterest to browse.  Something I saw sparked my creativity and I decided I needed monarch butterflies to place behind each figure from the photograph to make it appear they had wings!  I headed to Michael’s and found a package in the perfect size!

From left to right – Uncle Lorenzo, my dad Praxedis, Uncle Felix and Aunt Gloria

From there everything started evolving…I used ribbon at the top of the display that reminded me of papel picado.  I also placed some of the same ribbon on the glass at the bottom.  Next, I hot glued each of the figures to the back of the shadow box, staggering them so they would all fit.

Next I used plastic amber gemstones from an assorted I bought at Hobby Lobby along with brown sequins leaves – two leaves to a gemstone – to create a flying effect, like a flying heart.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use them but when I put them on the counter top, two leaves fell next to a gemstone and I took it as a sign to use that particular design!   The front part of the retablo, the glass, needed a little something more so I cut up a few fabric leaves to make them smaller and added a yellow looking plastic stone – again, keeping with the flying heart effect.

Heart applied to my dad’s photo and a look at the glass decor before everything is finally pulled together and completed.

The final touch was a red plastic gemstone heart.  There was only one in the package that I bought.  I placed it on the photo of my father adding a pop of color to the shadow box.  It was now ready to seal up and place on my dining room altar.

The addition of this handmade nicho retablo this year is really what my altar was missing and feel a few more in the works in the weeks to come.  I know when I begin seeing photos on social media of other altars for Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos this year, it will keep this creative streak alive so I’ll need to take advantage of that!

My newly created nicho retablo now has a special place on my Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos altar!

 

The Monarch Butterfly – A Symbol of Immigration

Monarch butterfly ornaments I made for my HICA board of directors a few years ago.

Monarch butterfly ornaments I made for my HICA board of directors a few years ago.

A few years ago, I made monarch butterfly ornaments.  I was the outgoing Board Chair of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, better known as HICA and I wanted to give a small token of my appreciation to my fellow board members.

I was in Michaels looking for some Christmas craft items when I spotted packages of monarch butterflies down one of the aisles.  I’ve always been drawn to these butterflies.  As an active board member of HICA for many years, I knew that they had become a symbol of the immigrant rights movement.  They were very seen at all the marches and events organized during the battle to overturn the HB 56 immigration bill our state passed.  I learned this was because of the migratory pattern these beautiful butterflies take from Mexico to Canada and through the United States and then back to Michoacán, Mexico.  There is so much more symbolism that goes along with all this but suffice it to say, there are a number of parallels between the immigrant movement and the migratory patterns of these beautiful beings.  Something or someone trying to make a life away from their native country…Mexico…that’s all I needed to understand the beauty in all this.

 

So, that day at Michaels I added a few packages of the butterflies to my basket along with some clear glass ornaments.  I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I was going to add these butterflies to the glass ornaments and decorate them for my board.  It was really very easy and the end product was beautiful.  Folding the butterflies up to insert them into the glass ornament was reminiscent of the butterfly coming out of the chrysalis.  I added black and orange polka dot ribbon to the top of each ornament when I was finished.

I intended to make them only for my board, but I had so many that I left them for the staff as well.  Everyone seemed to appreciate the sentiment and for me the symbolism is why I did it in the first place.  My hope was that everyone who took one would consider it a symbol of what we were working for at HICA…the social, civic and economic integration of immigrants into our community.

I kept several myself and I use them on my Mexican Christmas tree, added to the Mexican tin ornaments and other icons from my Mexican culture.

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Thanksgiving DIY Project

Finished DIY project - spray painted silver plated casserole holders.

Finished DIY project – spray painted silver plated casserole holders.

I’m staring down the face of a majorly crazy week so what do I do?  I embark on a DIY project!  Who doesn’t do that, right?  I mean, when I’m heading out-of-town on a trip, that’s when I think I can tackle a room renovation.  What’s up with that?  Whatever the reason, I tackled the project.  It wasn’t that difficult and I love the finished product!

When I was visiting my sister in North Carolina, we spent a lot of time thrift store shopping.  It’s safe to say its our favorite pastime and doing this together made it even more special. We are both drawn to different things and we both find the potential and the beauty in these “things” too.  In my case, I’ve grown to appreciate silver plated dish and casserole holders.  I especially love the painted ones we found at an antique/thrift store one day.  Such bright and cheery colors!

When I got home from North Carolina, I thought it would be fun to find a few of these silver plated pieces and do a little painted DIY project myself.  Of course, now that I was looking for them they were nowhere to be found!  Eventually I found a small one and then a week later, a round one.  This weekend I headed to Michaels for some Krylon spray paint.  I was a bit overwhelmed with all the colors available!  I settled on a shimmer metallic called candy corn.  I thought this color would be a terrific accent to my Thanksgiving table for both these pieces.

So this morning I washed the pieces, let them dry and then took them outside to spray paint.  I decided to spray paint the handle of the round piece first.  As the color went on I thought this wasn’t exactly what I thought it would look like.  I mean, the picture on the can had the color much darker!  But as I continued spraying, I really liked what I was seeing.  My daughter, Anna Marie was home this weekend and she commented that it was the “in” color for things these days.  She really liked the way they both turned out!  Actually, I did too!  They are more of a shimmer bronze than candy corn!

Krylon Candy Corn shimmer metallic spray paint. It turned out different than I expected but I'm pleased with it nonetheless!

Krylon Candy Corn shimmer metallic spray paint. It turned out different than I expected but I’m pleased with it nonetheless!

I’d have to say that this DIY project was a success!  I hope I can find a long casserole holder this week and make it “three” silver plated candy corn dishes!  We shall see!

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