Tag 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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My Day of the Dead Altars 2017

I’ve been creating Day of the Dead altars for many years now.  Every year I add more items to my DOD collection and swap thing up as I work through the set up each year.  It’s a very personal and sentimental process and not something that I want to get “routine” by any means.  Of course, there will be papel picado, monarch butterflies and votive candles.  But other things will change depending on photos I’ve discovered or stories I’ve heard of family members.

This year, I created a nicho retablo for my altar from a photo of my dad and his brothers and sister.  They are all sitting on a couch at my grandmother’s house – all smiles.  I love this photo!  It’s makes me smile and get misty-eyed all at the same time.  These siblings are clearly happy to be together and someone thought enough to capture this moment in black and white and I’m forever grateful for that.  This is my first time to create a retablo and it won’t be my last!  I wrote a blog post last week about how I created my retablo.  I have plenty of DIY arts and craft supplies on hand to make a few more so I can see my altars really taking on a new “look” next year.

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

One change I made this year was to create altars in just the dining room.  In past years, I’ve used the coffee table in the living room to honor my mother’s family.  This year I used half of the dining room table for the Stone/Weaver clan.  The other half shows my extended Zuniga family.  Then I incorporated the tea cart into the décor and placed the Odom/Wilson family there.  My husband’s parents wedding photo hangs in the corner where the tea cart is so this seemed like the perfect place for this particular altar.

My buffet has always been the Zuniga family altar for my dad, his parents and siblings.  This year I changed up the photo of my dad.  Usually I have the photo of him in his beloved T-Bird car but this year I found an old photo of him from his early professional days.  It’s larger and makes him seem larger than life even in his younger years.  I’ve tended to lay photos around the tables and altars too but this year I added a few more framed photos.  I think this will be a goal for next year – add more frames and also a few more retablos.

Every year it’s a labor of love to create these altars.  I started earlier this year so I could have them around a little longer.  I tend to want to leave them up for a few weeks after Day of the Dead if over too but they will need to come down this weekend.  When I take the altars down, I also take my time and reflect on everyone no longer with us.

Tonight I flipped the switches on all the votive candles on the altars and took some photographs of the beautiful setting.  Then I raised my Day of the Dead wine glass in a toast to those who are gone from our earthly presence but are clearly not forgotten.

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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