Saturday, October 15, 2016

DIY Pine Cone Wreath

2016: I really feel the need to decorate for all the holidays this year. Maybe it's because SourPatch is old enough to appreciate the decor? Or maybe it's just an extension of my nesting instincts (a less useful one; my nursery is still a disaster.)

Yet since this is me, I also don't want to spend any money... there lies the rub. When I casually looked at wreaths online, the prices were quite shocking. $100 wreaths from Walmart?? You've got to be kidding me. Luckily, I really knew in my heart that I wanted to make my own wreath (nesting, right?), and that I wanted to make it out of pine cones.

I think pine cone wreaths are lovely. They are naturey and have great texture. There are so many tutorials out there, too! We live next to several pine trees, so over the past few weeks, I would gather a few cones every day during my walks with Patches.

Good idea: gather lots of pine cones. I was going to count how many I used, but then I didn't. You need a lot.

Another good idea: wash and bake them. I found that some tutorials wash first and others bake first, mostly depending on if they wanted them open or closed when applying the cones to the wreath (a bath in cold water will cause the pine cones to "close up" tight.) I liked the idea of putting them on my form closed so that when they opened, they would interlace together tightly. This worked great with the first wreath I ever made. It worked less well with my second. With my third? The pine cones all popped off and I had to start all over again. The lesson? Glue them on once they've reopened. It's safer.

So first, the washing: I doused and swirled the cones in cool water several times until they looked nice and clean and the water stayed clear.

I popped the cones in the oven for 20 minutes at 200 degrees to kill any bugs and dry up any sap. (I forgot to take a picture here. All I did was line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and pile them on! Here are the rejects that for some reason didn't make it into the initial washing phase.)

 This... is where the tutorial ends. Thank you for reading. Okay look, I kind of trialed and errored my way through this wreath rather than sensibly following one of the sensible tutorials out there. Would you like a list of my bad ideas?

  • I wanted to fit my pine cones into a wire frame and let them expand to keep themselves in place. No gluing or wiring? A dream come true! It's a good idea if you have the skinny kind of cones, such as in this tutorial here. Though I knew my cones would probably be too fat, I tried it anyways. Bad idea. Some did fit, yes, but most didn't. 
  • Most tutorials with a wire frame actually wire them in place (such as this tutorial). I used hot glue. (Update: Shockingly, both wreaths I made in 2016 are still kicking one year later, good as new.)
  • Most wreath tutorials have you sort the cones by size and then put them in concentric rings accordingly. I preferred the wreaths that mix up the sizes a little more, giving it a more natural look (see the difference at this blog). However... I still should have sorted the cones so I could better created overall symmetry.
Disclaimers aside, I'm so glad I made this wreath. I had a fun time doing it, and it felt very low-pressure working with the free cones nature provided. Any frustration over my poor choices I shrugged off, knowing that I'd only invested $2 in the wire frame (and I suppose in the glue sticks.) Overall, I think it turned out actually quite beautiful. I lightly dusted it in gold spray paint and added $3 worth of berries and flowers from Dollar Tree. I do plan to spray it with a clear, acrylic sealer to better preserve it for future years on my door. Voila!

2017 Update: My glorious fall wreath I made last year held up so well! It made me happy all autumn long. Yet autumn did end, as it always does, so I thought I'd share the Christmas wreaths I made as well (one for me, one I shipped off to Chicago last year as a Christmas gift.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Build a Kubb (Viking Chess) Set

This summer we helped plan an extended family reunion with Mark's family. In preparation for the week, we asked our youngest son to come up with fun activities that would appeal to the broad range of ages that would be attending. Along with croquet, badminton, boche, and other great ideas, he suggested that we bring along Kubb, a Swedish lawn game. The Swedish connection is significant since Mark's paternal line is pure Swede. Kubb was entirely unknown to me, but oddly enough, I have heard it mentioned by other young adults since then, so it must be a growing trend.

I checked out the links he sent us, and we were on our way. Kubb, or Viking Chess, as it is sometimes called, is an outdoor game made of wood and consisting of six throwing batons, 10 kubbs (chunks of wood), a king (a larger chunk of wood), and four stakes to mark the corners of the kubb field. (Just fyi--I used colored flags that we had left over from our "do it yourself" sprinkler system project years ago. They work great--easy to see and inexpensive to purchase at hardware stores. A bundle of fifteen costs $1.79 at Home Depot.)

my home made kubb set

null 15 in. Irrigation Flags (10-Pack)

Following the instructions from this site, Mark and I set about making our own game.

My drop saw worked well for cutting the batons--so easy. The king and the kubbs were a little trickier. Since we don't have a table saw, Mark used his circular saw. It was doable but definitely required more work, and the results were probably a little rougher. However, because it is an outdoor game where you are throwing pieces of wood at each other, rough isn't really a problem. (If you purchase your 4x4 post from Lowes, they will cut it into 6" lengths without charge, which eliminates one step.)

I won't take time to review all the rules here since they are available at this site and others online.
Basically, the goal is to use the batons to knock down the other team's kubbs before they knock down yours so that you can take pot shots at the king who stands alone in the middle of the field. The first team to take out the king, after all the opponents' kubbs are vanquished, wins!

This game was a hit with all ages; the other outdoor games we brought lanquished unnoticed for the entire reunion. Here are a few action shots:

Just for fun, I checked out ready-made sets on Amazon. They range in price from $33, for a set that appears to be a smaller size, to $130, for an Italian-made, official U.S. Tournament set. Our homemade set cost about $20.