This year I’d really hoped to do a “31 Days of CriFSMas” series. There was to be tutorials for making ornaments by hand, decorating tips, diy greeting card ideas, menu suggestions – even a list of festive viewing options. (Actually, I’ve planned on doing this for several years now, but veganmofo always leaves me exhausted and burnt out.) This year seemed an especially opportune time, seeing as I’ve been planning it since July and created many of the ornaments on the tree from scratch. But since time cannot be rewritten – that is, unless you are a Timelord or happen to know one – I’ll just have to cram it all into one ginormous megapost. Sound good?
The Pirate Tree
What better place to start than the tree? Whereas in years past I’ve gone heavy on the pasta-themed ornaments, this year I decided to do a full-on pirate theme – with a special focus on Firefly. Space pirates are totally relevant when you’re a Pastafarian, yo! Also when you’re the guardian of two dogs who are named after characters on the show! I’ve been dying to do some holiday cosplay with Kaylee and Jayne ever since we adopted them five years ago, but this year I actually took the initiative and did it! (Hence the early planning.) I’ll post photos of the dogs later this week, but suffice to say that their costumes directly influenced the look of the tree. Since I’ve never done a pirate tree before, almost all of the ornaments and decorations are new this season.
The decorations are mix of re-purposed items (pirate toys from the Dollar Store; some cool and inexpensive pirate and nautical wood party favors from Jo-Anne Fabric; glass bottles that look as though they might hold messages from castaways, also from J-Anne Fabric; “gold” skull & crossbones metal charms found on eBay), Firefly merch (ID badges for Kaylee Frye and Jayne Cobb; a Serenity keychain), and diy ornaments made by gluing pirate stickers and photos onto bottle caps and card stock.
It’s this last group that I wanted to make a tutorial for but really, it’s all very simple. Throughout the summer I saved up whatever bottle caps and lids I could (the flatter, the better) and when I had a pretty good collection going, I laid them all out on the floor of the barn (on top of a drop cloth, natch) and spray-painted them black. Since you’re likely to have collected lids made of variety of materials – plastic and metal, mostly – make sure you buy a spray paint that’s suitable for each.
Then hit the internets and gather up as many pirate-y pictures as you can: google Firefly/Serenity (the art produced by this fandom is both plentiful and delightful!), Pirates of the Caribbean, pirate Amy Pond, women pirates (girl power!), etc. (Though that last search term turns up some rather depressing results. To cut down on the number of sexy pirates, search for historical woman pirates. You won’t get many results, but the hits you do get will be awesome!) Next, resize ’em so that the portions of the photos that you’d like to use are similar in size to your caps and lids, then copy and paste them onto 4×6, 5×7, and/or 8×10 canvases (depending on the size, you’ll be able to fit between one and five images on each), and either print them up at home or order them online at Sam’s Club or similar.
The hardest part is cutting the images to fit snugly inside the lids. Cutting a circle freehand is pretty much impossible, as I quickly learned. Instead, try to find a circular item – a cup or bottle, for example, or even another, slightly smaller lid – and use it to trace a circle on the image. Though still difficult, the guide will help you to cut a much rounder circle. (Just go slowly!) When done, simply glue the photo into the lid. (A heavy-duty, acid-free glue stick works well for this.)
If you can find circular stickers – I happened to have some 1.5″ round skull & crossbones stickers left over from last year – these are a nice option too. While they don’t offer a whole lot of variety, they do come pre-cut. Score!
For hanging, you can either glue a jump ring (used in jewelry making and available at craft stores) to the back of the lid or, if it’s made of plastic and thick enough, drill a small hole into the “lip” of the lid. Either way, string some curling ribbon or a pipe cleaner through the ring or hole to make a loop that can then be used to hang the ornament from the tree. (Curling ribbon is much easier to work with, imho.) We stuck with black to match the tree’s color scheme (namely, black and gold).
Another option is to pick up a book of cardstock paper and affix your photos to these instead of (or in addition to) caps and lids. For extra decoration, cut the paper an inch or two wider and taller than the photo, so that there’s a backdrop to frame it. The paper I picked up was one-sided (most is, if I’m not mistaken), so I glued two pieces together so that the backside of the decoration wouldn’t look so naked. If you have enough pictures, you can even affix one to each side of the paper so that there isn’t a backside. (This works well with images from the same series of artwork, e.g., the “Wanted” posters from Firefly, or the Art Nouveau posters, also from Firefly. I was not kidding about how hard Firefly artwork rocks!)
Since you can cut the paper to size, this method offers much more flexibility. On the other hand, these ornaments are much more one-dimensional than those made from lids. If you can, I recommend making some of each. Mix it up a bit!
Of course, we just had to top the tree with a Jayne hat! Handmade Jayne hats are widely available in adult, children and even infant sizes on etsy, but I specially ordered three custom dog-sized hats for the occasion: one for Jayne, naturally, and then two smaller ones for the other dogs. (Even though they didn’t make it on this year’s card, I still had to photograph them for the outtakes! Also: just for general shits and giggles.) The one on the tree is from Sam’s Crochet (yup, that’s my Jayney in the listing!), and the two not pictured are from Whitaker Knits. You’ll see ’em in the next post, so keep an eye peeled.
When not in use, the hats can double as decorations: in addition to tree toppers, you can put them on stuffed animals – either holiday or everyday ones – to make them more festive. Cookie jars, too!
Finally, since we can’t put “real” presents under the tree (lest the dogs chew them to bits), we opt for “fake” presents instead. Usually this means x-mas themed cookie tins (empty, obvs!), but since our tins didn’t really fit with the tree’s color scheme, we wrapped some boxes with brown paper. Very care package-y. (Back to the Jayne hat!) To snazz them up a little, I decorated the paper with Allied Postal and Blue Sun stamps from Ma Cobbe’s Hat Shoppe on etsy (A wise investment! I wish I’d bought every Firefly stamp in her store instead of just these two!) and finished it off with some ribbons and bows. And my domestic terrorist vegan pirate bear, who’s guarding the stash ’till CriFSMas!
Flying Spaghetti Monsters
My favorite part of CriFSMas decorating is the flying spaghtti monsters, noodles-down! They’re just so cute, what with their sparkly appendages and plush soy balls and huge googly eyes. (Yeah, it’s the googly eyes that do it for me, most definitely. They look awesome on anything!) Every year I make a few more spaghetti monsters and yet I never seem to have enough. You can put them pretty much anywhere, which means that they’re everywhere in my house: hanging from ceiling fans, hovering in the windows, chilling on shelves, looking down on you from soffits, crawling out of stockings, resting on lamps. EVER-Y-WHERE. Since they’re made mostly of pipe cleaners, you can create most any type of hook, loop, strap, or string you need, and yet it still looks like part of the decoration. AND THEY’RE SO SPARKLY!
“TAKE MY NOODLE IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!”
Most of my monsters were born of shiny, metallic red, green, gold, and silver pipe cleaners, which are readily available at dollar stores this time of year; you can also find them in craft stores such as Michaels. Others are made of more subdued, plush beige, red, white and black (etc.) pipe cleaners, which you can find in craft stores year-round. These pipe cleaners tend to be a bit sturdier and thus harder to work with. Plus they’re not as sparkly! But they are nice if you’d like a monster or two for other occasions, such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and the like. I’ve even seen ginormous, 1+ foot long fuzzy pipe cleaners, which I just may make into a giant flying spaghetti monster outfit for the dogs next year. I’m picturing a FSM riding on O-Ren’s back, with his noodles spiraling forward and encompassing her body, massive googly eyes extending overhead. It will be ADORABLE and NOTHING WILL HURT. Except for O-Ren’s pride, that is. But hey, I’m good to her the other 364 days of the year!
Anyhow, if you’d like to make your own little spaghetti monsters, I posted a tutorial a few years back. Check it here.
Eye patches for everyone!
If you’re going with a pirate theme, eye patches are a must. Most of mine are from the dollar store – as well as a few online pirate shops and party stores – but some came packaged with pirate-themed dog costumes, too. Use them to dress up stuffed animals – again, either holiday or everyday stuffed animals – as well as stockings that feature animals, cookie jars, and any other appropriately-sized, animal-shaped decorations you may have. Ditto: pirate hats, pirate bandannas, and pirate dog outfits.
If you have any extras, hang them from the tree!
The Wall of Cards
This past summer we installed a special rail along the ceiling over our marble fireplace so that we could hang artwork on that wall without drilling into the grout or damaging the bricks. So far there’s just one very large, two-piece Kill Bill poster over the fireplace; the rest of the wall is pretty barren. Actually, I prefer to think of it as clean and uncluttered, at least 11 months out of the year. But next to the sparkly ribbons and shiny garland that lines the rest of the living room, the wall did look rather dull and cold. So I decided to dress it up with ribbon and holiday cards! It’s a simple if tedious process: punch a hole in the corner of a card, string some ribbon through it, and then hang it from the picture rail using a regular old picture hook. (The rail comes with special hooks and wire for hanging large/heavy items, but cheap picture hooks proved a nice substitution for cards.) You can use new cards, or old ones that you’ve saved up; and remove the cover, recycling the back, or use the entire card. I went with a combination of the two.
No picture rail? No problem! String a length of ribbon, garland, or string from one end of the room to another and use that instead. Or use them to make a mobile.
Bows on ALL the things!
Much like flying spaghetti monsters, ribbons look lovely almost anywhere. This year I picked up a dozen big red and gold bows for a few bucks a pop at a local mega-store and used them to decorate some stationary, non-holiday items around the house: posters, cabinets, doorknobs and baby gates, mostly. Shiny, yes?
While I was holiday shopping at that same chain store, I couldn’t help but pick up three large bags of gift bows at about $3 a piece. Since them, I’ve been putting them everywhere I’m not afraid to stick tape: on tv sets, my pencil and pen mug, the side of the fridge, the washer and dryer, poster frames, stuffed animals; pinned to my cork bulletin board; in windows opposite spaghetti monsters; just resting on piles of books and cabinet shelves and such. Anywhere that could use a little extra sparkle. EVERYTHING MUST SPARKLE! Next to pirates, gaudiness is the work of the day.
How shiny is that pirate in the window?
Speaking of gaudiness, our front window “pirate altar” is a perfect example of everything discussed thus far: sparkles, pirates, bows, flying spaghetti monsters, ribbons, garland, and oh yeah, more sparkles. As per usual, an x-mas red teddy bear pirate sits atop a pile of vegan cookbooks and pirate tomes (my entire Firefly/Serenity collection included). The open shelf is lined with gold doubloons and gold tinsel (so much treasure!), and additional book piles, pirate accessories, and images of Her Noodliness (in frames decorated with macaroni!) round the main display out. The upper half of this built-in is open display shelving with glass sliding doors, which I made more festive with the addition of tinsel, garland, more pirate items, and (new this year) decorative glass beads (like for aquariums) that look a little like jewels, a la The Goonies. (Another dollar store score.)
(James Randi, looking good!)
Not too much different from last year, but I had to include it anyway. PIRATES!
Various and Sundry
I tried my best to organize these photos into like groups, but some just defy categorization!
My laundry room, decorated with leftover garland, some holiday stuffed animals – and bows, of course!
More garland and stuffed animal pirates, this time atop the stove in the kitchen. (Like the stove would be located anywhere else, silly me.)
Homemade magnets on the fridge…
…as well as the filing cabinet in the office. And yes, there’s a tutorial for that!
Dinosaurs on the fireplace mantle. YES, DINOSAURS ARE RELEVANT! Also, I scored a bag of them for less than $10 at a party store. Win-win.
My scrappy sad Charlie Brown tree, courtesy of mum.
A last-minute addition: a wreath on the front door. I’ve always wanted a wreath but for some strange reason, only got one last week. This is a cheap +/- $3 artificial one from a box store; a $4 ribbon and heart-shaped ornament I already had on hand dress it up quite nicely, don’t you think?
Anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton I’m forgetting – I am seriously fighting the urge to caption every single photo in this post – but the day is getting late and I have a few batches of holiday cookies that won’t make themselves. (The 2-hour power outage earlier today sure didn’t help matters any!) And I’m baking in part for our omni neighbors, so I need to bring my A game.
Wish me luck, people!
Update, 4/9/12: Due to a recent negative experience on the site, I’m afraid that I can no longer recommend etsy to my friends, family, and readers (and ESPECIALLY not for expensive and/or custom orders!). While the majority of transactions do go smoothly, don’t expect any help from etsy’s customer service on those rare occasions when you have a problem with a seller. Seriously, they were a nightmare to work with – worse even than the seller who never delivered on my custom order, even after six months of haggling.
That said, I still love and support the many vegan storefronts on etsy, and will continue patronizing those that have a presence elsewhere on the web.