For this holiday guide, the sadists on my editorial team assigned me the DIY Christmas craft story. I think they might have said, “Sara, you’re crafty.” With this inflated sense of my own self worth, I spent about four weekends trying to make Christmas decorations. Not just any holiday decorations, though. I wanted to make beautiful holiday decorations. Something worthy of this magazine.

To be fair, I had a lot going for me.

Time: I started way back in September with some salt dough, then graduated to polymer clay, to fashion tree ornaments. It doesn’t start well when the crafter (me) forgets to make a hole in the ornament for the ribbon loop. It should have filled me with foreboding. But it didn’t, and I just figured the clay thing wasn’t my thing and moved on to other mediums. 

Motor skills: I graduated from the kindergarten blunt edge scissors years ago. I can thread a needle. I rarely fall down. I got this.

Money and an Amazon account: I bought watercolors, watercolor pens, the aforementioned clay, glue sticks, fancy markers, a set of acrylic paints (in 24 colors!), Modge Podge, tacky glue, cookie cutters in tropical shapes, etc. And I even organized them into a nifty little three-drawer chest after I threw out my teenager’s crap. (“Mom!”)

Secret weapon: My husband, Mark Matthis. He’s a mechanic by trade but he has ALL the tools. In fact, he has now graduated to owning the same tool in different sizes. Readers, I almost broke him. I have real doubts about how happy this holiday is going to be. For me.

Sigh. I didn’t even come up with a couple of OKish crafts that I could glamorize by bringing to bear the Photoshop skills of our hugely talented graphic designers for this feature. And I’ve had plenty of time to think while staring glumly at my failed crafts. Right now, they’re piled in a corner of the living room and I want you to picture me standing in front of that pile, glumly poking at it with an index finger, trying to find a single piece of redemption. There isn’t one.

You know those people who wander around the art festivals saying things like, “Oh, I can make that. Look at that, honey! We could do that.” No, sister, you can’t. Please join me in supporting the talented artists in our community and buy local.

P.S. Modge Podge and I are not friends. We’re not even on speaking terms.

Foreclosure fun lights! 

On Pinterest, these were made of felt, but early in this process I tragically elected to do a newspaper theme. I traced a spoon for an approximate right shape, stacked like eight sheets together, put a temporary staple in them and handed them over to my husband to sew. He got through about four before the machine broke — a spring inexplicably got sucked into the inner workings of his cherished, vintage and family heirloom Singer sewing machine — and though I’m not proud of this, I pretended to be asleep to avoid the drama. 

Later, I tried stuffing a ripped-up cotton ball between the layers to make it puffy. The pencil I was using to stuff the puff promptly poked through an edge. 

Also, I realized I had chosen the classified pages for this craft. Normally, that’s a good aesthetic choice. Not this week. How festive is it, I asked myself, to have holiday lights THAT DON’T EVEN LIGHT UP made from foreclosure legal notices? Not very.

The Star Garland of Dammit

The simplicity of this project called to me — it’s a beautiful way to decorate the home with supplies readily available around the house. In the inspiration, these are made with either scrapbook stock paper or thickish pages from a book. Again, I wanted to use the newspaper, but had enough sense to realize it wasn’t going to be hardy enough for the task.

 So I spent about an hour Modge Podge-ing — is that a verb, or even a word? — newspaper onto a piece of posterboard. (This time, though, I was careful to find upbeat articles with happy words, not legal notices. Can’t fool me twice.) 

The next morning the posterboard had as much flexibility as a bulletproof riot shield and was not at all simpatico with the bendy nature of the craft. Coupling that obstacle with the 8-minute origami video I would need to master before continuing brought this unfinished craft to an abrupt end. 

Pyro Hip Hop Pixies

OK, super cute idea. Again, I saw it on Pinterest and in the inspiration project, it was a girl on a matchbox cover, with match box legs sticking out of the open box. Adorable, right? First I went on a three-store hunt to find the match boxes. Who uses matches anymore? Then I had to find a VERY simple image to pair with my drawing skills. I went with an elf that, after I had drawn it a dozen times, it morphed into a sinister gangster rapper and became decidedly un-holiday-like. Eight hours into this nightmare, when I should have dipped the match points into acrylic paint or hot glue or something to reduce their flammability (I dunno, I’m just spitballing here), I came to the conclusion that a good fire could only help.

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