Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crafty? Helen has been called worse.

Dear Helen Hartman,
I am trying very hard to keep Thanksgiving from being overwhelmed by Christmas so I have avoided all those magazine photo spreads and malls already playing Christmas music.  I didn’t think of this when I promised my kids we’d try some homemade Christmas decorations this year, so now I realize I should have been working on this like… last July! Help! I need some fast, cheap and easy projects. Send a little Christmas craft love my way!

 Dear Fast, Cheap and Easy Loved One,
Stick your fingers in your ears, Helen is about to serenade you with the Christmas song whirling around in her head today. "I’m dreaming of a white… statuette of the Madonna in a canned ham tin…"

I have a Madonna that glows in the dark but she's pretty small, do you think I can make a version of this using a kippered herring tin or would that just be tacky?

No, YOU’RE not dreaming. It’s true. Today we’re delving into the wonderful world of Styrofoam, spray paint, egg cartons and something call milkweed pods! In no time your whole family will be creating beautiful holiday art with things you have handy around the house.

My whole family? Even my husband Stan?

The footrest on my recliner seems to have dropped again, Martha. When you finish hanging that dry wall, will you come put it back up for me?
No, I said things that are HANDY around the house.

Norm: "Hey, what happened, you can see through my glass now."
  Beatrice: "Yeah, it's a little trick I'd like to teach you boys. It's called washing the dishes."    Chuck: "Sounds complicated. I'll just stick to drinking right from the bottle. Just let me smash open this thing..."

But otherwise can just anyone do these projects, you ask. Will I end up with pretty decorations for my holiday home, you ask. Where could you have come up with such a wonderful resource, you ask.  You ask a lot of questions, did anyone ever tell you that? Now, pipe down and fix your peepers on this amazing little instruction booklet.

No, the photo is NOT blurry. Maybe it's you. Maybe your eyes are tired from looking at whatever unholy heck you look at all day on line. Maybe you've had just a tad too much "cough medicine" for a person whose cough has been better for a week now. Have you ever thought of that? No? Um, okay, you're right. Sorry. The lighting was bad and the images from the booklet were not all that sharp (though a few did look kind of prickly)

 I know it’s an instruction booklet because it says  - “with complete instructions, easy to make… step by step instructions”. So if you were hoping for some half-assessed, leaving some steps out because they’re boring, non-instructional deal here, then you better look elsewhere, pal.

This booklet is so durned instructional, in fact, the first 2 pages explain spray paint. I mean it. What it is and that if you want to use it on Styrofoam you need the kind that says it’s for Styrofoam. 2 pages. Then it starts detailing the kinds of egg cartons one might use in these projects.
 Hang on, Helen is going to need a drink just to find the strength to approach page 4.

Just a soda, I promise, to give me a moment to regroup.

No, I swear, no alcohol was involved in the making of this post… though I cannot swear the same for THIS:

If you look closely you can see these are made from egg carton cups - just the kind of thing you want to trust to hold up a lit candle. Fire hazard? We wore fire hazards in our toxic lacquered hair dos back then. We laugh in the face of fire. Also in the face of good taste.

No year on this booklet but from the price and crafts I’m guessing it was published in the early 60s… people did acid in the 60’s right? There has to be some explanation for this:

The instructions for this begin by instructing us to 'obtain many kinds of macaroni from your Italian grocer'. Obtain? Leaving themselves some wiggle room for the housewife who has some kind of barter system worked out with her grocer I guess.

 And this:

I didn't know angels lived in teepees, did you? I knew they lived in pink glitter structures, of course, but teepees? Did not remember learning that in Sunday school.

 And… no, there is NO explanation or excuse for this:

Dreaming? More like nightmares... with visions of milkweed pods dripping glitter dancing in my head.

 So don’t worry you’ve left it to too late, grab some glue, macaroni and spray paint (if you don’t know what that is, I have a booklet that lays it all out in simple terms) and have fun. And take heart. It may look like a big old craptastic mess glossed over with gold paint to the uninstructed eye 

Fabric, yarn, Styrofoam and coat hanger figures spray painted gold from the booklet.

 but to you… it’s a memory.

A cheesecloth and Styrofoam angel that my daughter made 20 years ago that comes out year after year to help us celebrate the season.


  1. You know I'm completely LOVIN this post. It's totally up my alley. I scoop up every vintage craft book I can find and pour over those lovely Christmas crafting ideas. Keep them coming! I'm hooked!!

  2. Um, not sure what to say here... I actually think I remember "crafting" some of that... stuff (I deleted the word I originally typed). I definitely made a few items with "obtained" pasta and gold spray paint:@)

  3. Thanks Kim!

    We were a spray paint macaroni family too - my mom made a GIANT wreath on cardboard with macaroni, spray painted silver... and it showed up in the photos of a family wedding! Class-eee, n'est pas?

  4. I don't know who originally came up with the idea that pasta was a suitable art medium...but they really shouldn't have.

  5. Oh my GOD! I made a cheesecloth and Styrofoam Angel about 2O something years ago too! (Hmmm maybe 23 or 24 years ago.) I picked a quite LARGE styrofoam ball *lol* And I drew a face on mine in green felt. The Christmas decor has not made its way out yet... but when it does and I come across that Angel I am going t have a laugh. (P.s. your daughters is nicer than mine.)

  6. Well im just grinning from start to finish. Those 60's and 70's craft books have a lot to answer for sometimes ;-)) Loving the angel your daughter made bless her those kind of decorations are timeless and full of memories. Happy monday, dee x

  7. Dana - I KNOW! What was that? Someone having a meal and thinking, these are too pretty to eat?

  8. Coconut - my daughter is special needs and was preschool when they did that project so I suspect the teacher helped. A lot. But my daughter was so proud and to me that is part of the gift of the angel, a teacher who put in something extra so the one special needs kid in the Sunday School class could have an angel too.

  9. dee- no matter how much I decorate or how elegant or elaborate, there are a few memory pieces that if they aren't out, EVERYONE notices.

  10. Oh Dear Helen, I wish I weren't too cheap to buy a canned ham JUST to be able to recreate this tacky masterpiece myself! I SO know someone I'd love to give it to! This just HAS to be right up there with the mason jar wine glasses! Please know I read your blog with every update but most times can't comment because I must run for a new DEPENDS! You're simply too much & really, when all is said, what more can one add?! Love your every update!

  11. A FEAST of tackiness! Hellen? I actually made the item in the third picture up - bottom middle. I was a poor newlywed with no cache of tree deco. I agree with Sponge Curlers up there! Love ya!

  12. hilarious. You know what's interesting though--and it's all said in the very last picture--is that while these things might be completely KOOKOO, what they're not lacking in is CHARM.

    Hooray for charm! Anyone can be that despot Martha Stewart.

  13. Helen, you have the best sense of humour. I never finish one of your delightful posts without a hefty smile on my face - and this fun Christmas one is certainly no exception!

    Thank you very much for your recent blog comment, it's so awesome to connect with you again!

    Big hugs & cheerful Monday wishes,

  14. Thanks Vickie - maybe I should invest in Depends... wait, I'm only one more coughing fit from needing them myself!

  15. Lynn - somewhere there is a photo of me from The Enid Daily Eagle gluing macaroni to a cone as a class project. We've all done these, I think, or if we haven't we SHOULD!

  16. Karen, LOL and hears to Martha the despot!

  17. Thank you Jessica, yours was one of the first blogs I found that made me see there were other vintage lovin' bloggers out there!

  18. I better start scarfing down the ham, if I want to make that first little beauty! ;)

  19. I am NOT a "crafty" person by any stretch of the imagination. I just cussed my way through making my menus for Thanksgiving Day, and I doubt I'll be making them very fancy for Christmas now. My idea of being crafty is simply watching The Martha Stewart Show. That's about as good as it gets for me. I find it amazing what some people are able to create, though. Don't know that I'd want to use a ham can for much of anything, but to each his own! :-) Happy Thanksgiving, and good luck with that ornament making project. Better you than me!!! :-)

  20. I wish there was a way to get stats on how many of your posts had pieces read aloud to unsuspecting husbands. At least he knows who to blame when I laugh so hard I can't speak. Me speechless, actually he's pretty impressed, thanks.

  21. Jori - Maybe you can find some delicious retro recipe involving canned ham - heart shapped ham hunks in pineapple sauce with maraschino cherries? - to serve to guests! You're welcome.

  22. LOL Alycia. Good news - I don't think you have to be too crafty to create these gems!

    Aw thanks. It seems only fair since my husband never thinks I'm funny (but I laugh at him all the time!)

  23. Hello, I'm searching blogs today and found you on google...I love love your blog and especially your concept! I'm your new follower! Hope you stop by to visit us and become our follower too...I would love having you join us and share your creativity with our family of friends! Happy Holiday, Hugs

  24. So they had craft books for this crap...uh er I mean stuff back then? So that's where they got the idea for making candliers out of empty toilet paper rolls, construction paper, and Tide laundry soap mixed with food coloring and Elmer's glue?
    I applaud you on the canned ham nativity. Or is it hamtivity? You know, everyone should have a can of gold spray paint in the garage for those last minute Christmas Caroler's made from Reader's Digest magazines.
    Carry on!:)~Ames

  25. Welcome Loretta - off to visit your blog right back!

  26. Hamtivity - love it Ames! Gold spray paint is so good at covering up flaws I am thinking of sneaking up on hubby while's he's napping and give him a coat of the stuff.

  27. Thanks for the dose of cheer and laughs! I needed it...

  28. HELLO!! To start, THANK YOU for your comments on my blog! It's so nice to meet you and I have loved (!!!!) coming to your blog and getting to know you a bit better--You've given me a much needed lift today, THANKS for that too!! I look forward to following you and getting to know you even better!!

    I hope you have a
    ღ˚ •。* ♥ ˚ ˚✰˚ ˛★* 。 ღ˛° 。* °♥ ˚ • ★ *˚ .ღ 。
    *˛˚ღ •˚ HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!˚ ✰* ★˚. ★ *˛ ˚♥*
    ✰。˚ ˚ღ。* ˛˚ ♥ 。✰˚* ˚ ★ღ ˚ 。✰ •* ˚ ♥"

    By the way, I see you are in Louisville--My family is from around Elizabethtown/Radcliff...Small world, huh? :-)


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