Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Tag: Crafts

Spirit Lanterns: Illuminating Aspirations

Spirit Lanterns: Illuminating Aspirations

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’ve been busy planning and setting intentions for 2016 and am stoked to discover a wealth of resources for manifesting goals! I feel like I’ve tapped into a mother load of resources, which brings to mind the adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Teachers and active support networks of women coming together virtually to inspire and encourage one another!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a tremendously creative and inspiring tool: Leonie Dawson’s  2016 Create Your Shining Year in Life workbook.


This workbook is so full of goodness that it would be impossible to describe it with only a few headlines or examples! It begins with wrapping up and reflecting on the previous year and includes a page to list everything you’re grateful for from 2015, which is a great exercise because gratitude is key for moving forward! The rest of the workbook focuses on creating a shining new year in all areas of life by setting inspired goals and listing resources you have to support you along the way. (My favorite page is the self-created list of “Things to Do When Everything Sucks!”) There are pages for affirmations, mottos, and plenty of space for creating a dream board. I’m having so much fun (with my colored Sharpies) brainstorming and imagining, setting intentions and goals, breaking goals into actionable steps, and writing the steps in my day planner. It’s something I can look back at throughout the year to help me stay on track. I’ve never done anything like this before and think it will be a catalyst for serious growth.

I anticipate that various pages in this workbook will inspire blog material throughout the year, but for now I want to start with something simple: choosing a “sacred word for the year”.

When I was teaching, I’d create an elaborate binder for each school year to keep me focused on what was most important and in alignment with my core values and aspirations. The cover of the binder featured a picture embellished with my word for the year. The word served as a compass to help me navigate the year. Since the binder also housed my weekly lesson plans for the whole year, I saw the cover every day and was reminded constantly of the intention I set for the year. It was a powerful tool!

So choosing a “sacred word for the year” was not something new for me. Before choosing my word for 2016, I made a list of words to consider. I kept the list in my phone and added to it whenever something new came to mind. I finally decided on abundance. Yes, I think it’s high time to expand my horizon and focus on that word!

Truth is, I never made money a priority in my life and was never intentional about it. Money was not something I considered when it came to choosing either a college major or a spouse. It simply didn’t show up on my radar. I lived simply and with some creativity learned how to live on very little. But since resigning from my teaching job, I’ve been doing some conscious work on my attitudes and beliefs about money because I think I’ve been selling myself short all these years and cutting myself off from a flow that shouldn’t seem so unattainable given my level of education and what I have to offer the world. Lately, I’ve been stretching myself to use my brain in ways that are entirely new to me and realize that developing a healthy “money mindset” is critical. It seems clear that all my life, the attitudes I’ve held toward money have obstructed the flow of prosperity in my life. Now I am curious about this energy and feel inspired to experiment with it and see what I can do with a friendlier attitude toward it. So I’m working first and foremost on raising my “money vibration,” which goes hand in hand with pursuing professional opportunities.

But abundance isn’t only about money. It applies to all areas of life, and gratitude seems to be a fundamental part of it – which is why it felt so worthwhile to make a list of everything I was grateful for in 2015. This year, I intend to be conscious about how I am either allowing or cutting myself off from the flow of abundance in my life. (Since deciding on my sacred word, I already have received some powerful lessons related to abundance. More on that in a future post!) To keep my sacred word front and center, I am printing the photograph below and mounting a small print on both the refrigerator and the inside cover of my daily planner and a larger, framed print on the wall of my work space.


To super charge my word for the year, I identified what habits and actions will draw more of the quality of abundance into my life. I also created a unique lantern for my meditation space with my sacred word and several other words to (literally) illuminate my aspirations and intentions for the upcoming year. This includes qualities that I anticipate will be useful to have in my toolbox for the year, to support what I want to accomplish. Words to uplift and inspire me when things don’t go the way I want them to. Reminders to help me stay on track.


Here is another view of my multi-colored lantern:


And here is a Spirit Lantern I made several years ago that ended up being a powerful manifestation tool back when I was pursuing a teaching job in a competitive job market:


I’ve received numerous requests to share instructions for making Spirit Lanterns, so here goes!


  • smooth glass jar or straight vase (I like to repurpose 16-oz. salsa jars)
  • sheet of handmade/natural/mulberry paper from an art or paper store (either a large sheet or a few 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets)
  • Mod Podge (either matte or glossy)
  • paintbrush or foam brush
  • inkjet or laser printer
  • a few sheets of regular copy paper
  • tape or glue stick
  • glitter (optional)
  • silver and/or gold Sharpie pen (optional)
  • sparkly star stickers (optional)
  • charms
  • thread
  • hot glue gun and a few glue sticks
  • ribbon, raffia, or twine


Step One: Brainstorm, Layout, and Print Your Words

  1. Brainstorm and select the words you want to include on your lantern. For best results, limit your list to no more than 12 words.
  2. In a word processing program, type out your list of words, leaving space between each word. (Eventually, you will rip out each word by hand, so you’ll want to leave enough space to do so.) Use whatever font(s) please you. At times, I’ve used a variety of fonts for one lantern. Other times, I’ve only used one font (and think I like this effect best). I prefer to use a calligraphy or script font, such as Caflisch Script (a free download).
  3. Test print your words on a sheet of regular copy paper to make sure the words are the right size.
  4. Print your words on a sheet of mulberry or handmade paper. I recommend cutting this paper a little smaller than a regular sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″ copy paper and then either taping or using a glue stick around the edges to adhere the mulberry paper to the regular copy paper so the delicate paper won’t get eaten by your printer. In the past, I’ve been able to print directly on the mulberry paper, but the printer I have now is too rough for such delicate paper. Use the “best” print quality setting.
  5. After printing onto the mulberry paper, detach it from the copy paper.
  6. Tear each word out by hand, leaving as little paper around the words as possible without tearing into the word. If there are difficult to tear fibers, use scissors to cut through them, and then continue tearing.

Step Two: Prepare and Cover Your Jar

  1. Begin by cleaning your jar and removing any label residue if you’re repurposing it. (Goo Gone does the job well.) Make sure the jar is dry before proceeding.
  2. Cut your decorative paper to a size that will cover your jar with some excess left over. You will want the paper to extend about 1/8″ above the rim, and a couple inches beyond the bottom (to cover the bottom surface).
  3. Paint the entire outside of the jar with Mod Podge.
  4. Cover the jar with the decorative paper. Smooth it out as completely as you can. Try to have as little overlap as possible where the two ends of the paper meet, but make sure there’s no gap. If there’s a gap or you don’t like the way the overlap looks, you could run a strip of matching washi tape vertically along the seam. Trim the paper so it’s flush with the top rim of the jar.
  5. Cut slits in the paper that will allow it to cover the bottom of the jar, and carefully fold the slits over the bottom so it is covered completely. Smooth it out as much as possible. If you end up not having enough excess on the bottom to cover it completely, you can cut out a circle nearly the size of the diameter and adhere it.

Step Three: Embellish Your Lantern with Words, Charms, and Other Details

  1. Apply Mod Podge to the places where you want your words. Smooth out the words.
  2. When all your words are adhered to the lantern, paint over the entire lantern with a coat of Mod Podge. Let dry.
  3. At this point, you can embellish the lantern with designs and/or stickers. I love to take out my metallic Sharpies for this and make spirals! You might want to decorate with a few shiny star stickers.
  4. Cover with another coat of Mod Podge, and let dry. I like to sprinkle some fine glitter in the Mod Podge for the final coat!
  5. If you are using charms, attach each one to a few inches of fine thread. Find places for them to hang so they are not covering any words. Put a dab of hot glue near the top of the rim, and attach a thread to the glue so the charm dangles in the space where you want it. Do the same for the remaining charms.
  6. Use hot glue to secure ribbon, raffia, or twine around the top of the lantern, to cover any threads in the glass (that allow the lids to screw on).
  7. Place a tea light or votive inside the lantern (inside a small votive holder if you wish), and enjoy and reflect on your illuminated words!

I recently listed Spirit Lanterns for sale in my Etsy shop, so if you’d like one but don’t feel like making one on your own, I’d love to create a customized lantern for you using your sacred words for the year and/or even an inspirational quote!

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seahorses Inspired by Eric Carle

Seahorses Inspired by Eric Carle

This is another teacherly post. I want to share a tutorial of my favorite art project of the year: Eric Carle-inspired seahorse collages. I got the idea from a lesson plan I purchased from Deep Space Sparkle a few years ago and have modified over the years for implementation with my kindergarten students. 

We haven’t done much painting this year due to our switchover to the rigorous Common Core curriculum. The paint bottles have been sitting on the shelf above the cubbies calling to me. I have been waiting all year for this opportunity.

Throughout the year, we have read a number of Eric Carle picture books, and one of the children’s favorite snack time videos is a collection of Eric Carle stories that includes The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me; and The Very Quiet Cricket. So they are quite familiar with his work. (And I love the calming nature of the video.)

Toward the beginning of our ocean life unit, I read Mister Seahorse to the children. This book features aquatic fathers that take a primary role in carrying for or protecting the eggs and babies. Seahorse fathers, rather than mothers, are the ones who become pregnant and give birth. So this is also a Father’s Day tie-in, and we create the seahorse collages as Father’s Day gifts. (Father’s Day can be a tricky celebration to acknowledge in the classroom since some children do not have a father present in their lives. In such cases, I encourage children to give their collage to an important male figure in their life or whomever they choose.)

Click HERE for a video of the Mister Seahorse story being read aloud.

We also watch a fabulous video, Eric Carle: Picture Writer, in which Eric Carle talks about early influences (including his kindergarten teacher) that nurtured his interest in art. He also reads from some of his books and demonstrates his process of creating collages in his studio. 

Here is the complete list of supplies I have on hand for the project. You can definitely improvise; not everything is essential!


  • Two sheets of white 12″x18″ construction paper (per child)
  • Watercolor paint (blue, green, purple)
  • Smaller and larger paintbrushes 
  • Paint cups
  • Several different colors of tempera paint
  • Scrapers (or a plastic fork)
  • Textured “stamps” (i.e. backings from carpet samples, bubble wrap, anything with a textured pattern)
  • Sea sponges
  • An old toothbrush (for splatter painting)
  • Patterned sponge rollers and/or matchbox cars
  • Plastic trays (for applying paint to the sponge rollers; I use the large rectangular lids from store-bought salad mixes)
  • Newspapers or some kind of protective covering for tables
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Glitter glue, or glitter and Elmer’s glue, or metallic paint pens
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • Smock
  • Wiggly eyes
  • Hot glue gun or tacky glue 
  • Poster board or cardstock (to make tracers)


Each child needs two white sheets of 12″x18″ construction paper for the seahorse project. (I have considered using a paper size that is easier to frame but haven’t done it since all my tracers are sized for 12″x18″, and the size really seems to “work.”) The first paper will become the ocean background, and the second paper will become “pretty paper” for the seahorse. Note: If you are doing this at home with one or two children, you will want to make a few sheets of “pretty paper” for the project; one won’t be enough.

1.   Create the Ocean Background

I start by having each child write his/her name in pencil on what will be the back side of one sheet of white paper. Then they turn it to the front and paint squiggly “waves” all the way across using the blue, green, and purple watercolors. After making the lines, they can splatter-paint or let their wet paintbrush drip color onto the paper to suggest “bubbles.” Set aside to dry.

This step goes quickly, and I did it with one child at a time. I was fortunate this year to have one student who volunteered (without being asked) to be the cleanup person. He was ready with a wet paper towel (see top photo) to clean up any paint that got on the table surface. (I didn’t put down newspaper.) Another student took it upon herself to be the teaching assistant. She explained directions to her classmates and showed them examples of the ocean backgrounds in the Mister Seahorse book. I had the next child write his/her name on the paper and sit at the table watching the child who was painting, to see how to do it. 

2.   Create the Pretty Collage Paper

This step takes at least two days to complete. On the first day, children paint their second sheet of white paper the color of their choosing (after writing their names on the back in pencil). For this, I like to mix tempera paint to make interesting colors, like tangerine, indigo, turquoise, chartreuse, fuchsia, dandelion, terracotta, etc. Then I dilute the paint with water so it covers the paper more easily and lasts longer. 

One year, I asked children to choose a color ahead of time and grouped them together according to the colors they chose so they could all paint at the same time. That worked well (as long as you have enough paintbrushes and space). Other years, I’ve set up a table during play centers time and worked with two children at a time, allowing them to select from a variety of mixed colors.

The children cover their entire paper with one color of paint. They use the thickest paintbrushes I have, to make it go faster. We let the papers dry overnight.

The next day is the messiest but also the most fun. Children need to wear smocks for this! I set aside one table as the painting table and put out numerous cups of mixed, diluted tempera paints, paintbrushes, plastic trays, textured stamps, kid-sized sponge rollers, sea sponges, etc. 

Then I call one or two children at a time and guide them to:

    • Paint or roll lines or dots across their paper (straight, zigzag, or squiggly) using a contrasting color.
    • Use a patterned scraper, plastic fork, or the handle end of a paintbrush to scrape through the painted lines, to create texture and color variations.
    • Use a sea sponge and/or patterned stamp to add even more texture. 

      Finally, I take the children outdoors to finish their papers by splatter-painting a contrasting color on top. They can use either a paintbrush or a toothbrush for this. If using a paintbrush, they flick the paintbrush (held several inches above the paper) to propel the paint from the brush to the paper. If using a toothbrush, they hold the toothbrush above the paper with one hand and rub the opposite thumb along the bristles to propel the paint to the paper.

      Let the “pretty papers” dry.

      3.   Trace and Cut the Seahorse

      I made tracers from poster board in the following shapes: seahorse, coral and/or seaweed, rock, starfish, and tiny fish. You can do a Google Images search for the shapes, print them out, and trace them on poster board or cardstock, etc. to make the tracers.

      I trace the shapes on the back of the “pretty papers” because children have a tendency to put the tracer smack dab in the middle of a paper. (They do this with cookie cutters and dough, as well.) I like to save the scraps for others to use in their collages, and there are more (and larger) scraps left over if I trace the shapes strategically close to the edge of the paper. I also write the child’s name in pencil in the middle of the seahorse shape.

      The pretty paper each child painted will be the paper used for his/her seahorse, which is the largest element of the collage. I give each child his/her paper with the seahorse shape traced on the back. The children cut out their seahorses, and I save each child’s seahorse in a separate ziplock bag that will be used to store the rest of his/her collage pieces. I have them put their scraps on a table.

      4.   Trace and Cut the Other Shapes

      I sort the paper scraps into piles according to whether they would make good coral, seaweed, rocks, starfish, or tiny fish. Then I trace the shapes on the back of the scrap papers. Hopefully I can trace a few of the same shape on the scrap paper. Then I cut around the traced shapes to make smaller pieces of pretty paper that the children can cut into the shapes. I put all of the paper with coral tracings on the back into one ziplock bag, all of the seaweed tracings in another, etc. 

      Then I have the children select the papers they want to use for the rest of their collage pieces. I’ve found that this works best as a small group activity, and I definitely recommend having another adult in the room to help manage this step.

      I did this during our work stations time. Some children read independently to themselves and others used the computers, while a third group selected their collage papers. I set up piles of the different pretty papers (with a certain traced shape on the back) on a table, and an adult volunteer supervised the children as they selected a paper for each object in the collage. For instance, one pile contains paper scraps with a starfish traced on the back, another pile has paper scraps with rocks traced on the back, etc. The children put their collage papers into their plastic bag along with the seahorse they cut out previously. (Note: I let the children choose either a seaweed or a coral paper, but not both.)

      Then this group of children goes to a table, writes their name inside the traced shapes, and cuts out all the shapes, saving the scraps in a bin (that will be dumped into the “scrap paper” drawer of our art center paper organizer for future use) and putting their cut-out shapes into their plastic ziplock bag.

      5. Assembling the Collage

      Meanwhile, I have been setting up a table for them to assemble their collages. I put each child’s ocean background paper on the table along with lots of glue sticks and some Sharpie markers. I talk the children through the process of assembling their collages in the following order:

      1. First, they glue and place their coral or seaweed toward a bottom corner of the paper. (The paper should be oriented so that it is tall, rather than wide.)
      2. Next, they glue and place their rock in front of (and slightly overlapping) the coral or seaweed.
      3. Next, they glue and place their starfish in the opposite bottom corner (on the ocean floor).
      4. Next, they glue and place their seahorse somewhere in the center of the page.
      5. Finally, they glue and place their two small fish anywhere they want.

      They finish by signing their name in black Sharpie. They also could draw tiny circles on the starfish and coral to create a more textured look.

      6. Applying the Finishing Touches

      I use a hot glue gun to affix a wiggly eye to the children’s seahorses and a very small wiggly eye to their tiny fish. (You could instead use a hole punch, white paper, and a black marker to create eyes.)

      An optional final step is to allow them to accent their collages with glitter glue, metallic (gold or silver) paint pens, or glitter and glue. The children LOVE this step, so I always try to make time to include it.

      They are so proud of the art they have created! 

      © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

      Simple Gifts and Traditions

      Simple Gifts and Traditions

      My students and I enjoyed spending the month of December learning about how winter holidays are celebrated around the world. Closer to home, I find it heartwarming to see how friends and acquaintances celebrate holidays, which is something I love about social media. It brings us closer. So today I’d like to share a few snapshots of my own family’s Christmas traditions.

      I’ll begin with the food. Our Christmas Eve tradition is very simple and dates back to when my children were younger and liked to set up the living room as a dinner-movie theater. They would arrange the chairs, plan the menu, and then of course I would make the food. Quite often, by the time the food was finally ready, it had become too late to actually watch an entire movie. However, that didn’t matter because the joy was in the preparations! So one year we decided to do a Christmas Eve dinner-movie theater, and it became tradition – one that was initiated by the children, which is probably why it is so meaningful to them. Though the menu varies somewhat from year to year, the mainstays are Spinach Balls and a vegetable platter that usually consists of cauliflower, broccoli, and grape tomatoes. This year, I tried out a few new recipes I found on Pinterest, and the Hot Corn Dip went over particularly well.

      As far as the movies go, there are a number we’ve watched from year to year. Most years the lineup includes Scrooged and The Polar Express. This year we got a late start and only managed Scrooged.

      My children’s father and I alternate spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with them, and when the children were younger, it was anguishing to say goodbye to them Christmas morning when they left me to spend Christmas day with their dad. However, in time I came to prefer having them with me on Christmas Eve because of our dinner-movie theater tradition. Christmas day is spent celebrating with extended family, but Christmas Eve is our special time together with the kids when we have them. And when we don’t, we do it on Christmas night instead.

      Here are links to some of our menu items:

        I also intended to make Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Aioli but ran out of time.

        Here is my recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, adapted from a recipe from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin (a recipe book given to me by my deceased uncle, whom I think of whenever I make it):


        • 1/2 cup loose sun-dried tomatoes (I use dehydrated tomatoes from our garden)
        • 3 tablespoon olive oil
        • 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
        • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
        • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
        • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
        • Freshly ground black pepper
        • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese


        1. Steam the tomatoes in a vegetable steamer until soft, for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
        2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth.
        *   *   *   *   *

        And now for the gifts. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not much into buying presents; I prefer to make them. This year, my favorite gift to make and give was a very practical one. I made a case of canning jar oatmeal for my college-age daughter. She has such a busy schedule, between classes and part-time jobs, and usually doesn’t have time to make breakfast before leaving for the day. So I put together individual jars of quick oats, flax seeds, dried fruit (apple and mango), and a touch of brown sugar. All she needs to do is add boiling water to the brim, stir, put the lid back on, and let it sit for a few minutes – and remember to bring along a spoon! She can keep a couple jars in her car and have an instant meal anytime with a quick stop for hot water. She was thrilled because breakfast is such a challenge for her. I also threw in a jar of chai green tea bags to keep her warm on cold winter days.
        I also love to receive homemade gifts, and this year my niece and nephew gave us Christmas lights and potpourri in a jar. The heat from the lights warms the potpourri and makes the room smell nice. It’s beautiful to look at, too.
        We spent the afternoon and evening at my parents’ house, and probably the greatest gift (even though I tease her about it relentlessly) was hearing my mom play guitar and sing her favorite songs. She started taking guitar lessons a little more than a year ago at age 74 and now has 90 songs in her repertoire. It is her passion – just as nature photography is mine – and she practices for hours every day and often goes to hear live music at night. She’s getting ready to do open mike nights. My dad would love to accompany her on harmonica (although I’m not sure she’s agreeable to that, as she doesn’t like to share the spotlight) but for now seems to derive joy from listening to her. He always sits right next to her when she performs for us – and sometimes will do a little jig. He whistles, too, and we tried to cheer him on to do a whistle solo, but my mom was all business.

        After the concert, we all watched It’s a Wonderful Life.
        We live in a tiny, crooked home and most years only have space for a tabletop Christmas tree. We don’t have a lot of money or possessions compared to many, but we are blessed beyond belief compared to many others and always try to remember this. We have a roof over our heads, lots of love, plenty to eat, and this year we were not mourning the fresh loss of any loved ones. We deal with whatever dysfunction arises and make the best of it, feeling grateful for what is rather than diminished by how things could or “should” be. (This has taken some work but seems to be getting easier.) Simplicity works for us. And on that note, I’m going to suggest that my mom learn this beautiful Shaker hymn:
        ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
        ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
        And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
          ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
        When true simplicity is gain’d,
          To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
        To turn, turn will be our delight,
          Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 
        Natural Decorations

        Natural Decorations

        We’re putting up our tree a little late this year, and I’m in the mood for natural ornaments!

        Last year, I came across the idea of apple and cinnamon stick ornaments via someone who discovered them in Europe. All you need is an apple, a cinnamon stick, and some raffia or string (such as hemp). Cut the apple into slices about 1/4″ thick, and let them dry flat on a wire rack, or hang to dry. Punch a hole at the top, tie a knot, put a cinnamon stick on top, and tie another knot to hold the cinnamon stick in place securely. If you want to get a little fancier, you can add a cranberry above and below the cinnamon stick. Eat the discarded parts of the apple, use them in an apple recipe, or dehydrate them for later use.

        This year, I tried out the same idea with orange slices.

        And then there’s cinnamon ornaments, which I have been making with the children in my life each year without fail. I still have the first batch I made with my own children more than a decade ago. They don’t go bad, although the spicy fragrance fades in time.

        You can cover one side with glitter,

        leave them plain,

        or decorate them with glitter glue or dimensional fabric paint. White fabric paint makes them look like gingerbread cookies with white frosting.

        Here is the recipe for cinnamon dough:


        • 1 cup cinnamon
        • 1 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
        • 1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
        • 1 1/4 cup applesauce (measure then drain in a strainer for several hours, or if straining isn’t possible, use 1 cup)
        • 2 tablespoons white glue (i.e. Elmers)
        • 1 tsp. glitter (optional; fine glitter is especially nice)


        In a bowl, mix together the spices and glitter. Then mix in the applesauce and glue. Work the mixture with your hands for a few minutes until it’s smooth, well mixed, and can be formed into a ball. If the dough seems too dry at this point, you can add just a little more applesauce. Or if it’s too wet, add more cinnamon.

        Knead the ball on a surface dusted with cinnamon until it holds together well. Then roll out the dough to 1/4″ thickness, and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Use a straw or toothpick to make a hole for hanging.

        Put shapes on a wire rack or cookie sheet, and allow to dry at room temperature for about two days, turning several times. (The room will smell wonderful!) Once they are dry, rough edges can be smoothed with sandpaper if need be. String with raffia, thread, or whatever you have on hand.

        *    *    *    *

        While walking in the woods to take some of the above photos, I came across a patch of nature’s own ornaments that caught my eye. I’m not sure exactly what they are (perhaps the inside of some kind of nut) but found them fascinating.

        From certain angles, they remind me of the string ornaments that are made from string dipped in glue and then wrapped around a small balloon (which gets popped and removed after the string has dried in place).

        I think we will finish our tree with a string of popcorn and cranberries, unless we decide to put the string outside as a gift for the birds!

        *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

        © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

        Homemade Holiday Traditions, Part 2: The Gift of Light

        Homemade Holiday Traditions, Part 2: The Gift of Light

        My husband is fond of remarking that our home is like Santa’s workshop at this time of year. We are an artsy bunch year-round, but I’ve always been a big fan of homemade holiday gifts, making December a busy time in an elfin manner of speaking here on the riverside. It began of necessity when I was staying home with my children and had more time than money, but I have held onto this tradition because it is so gratifying.  

        I especially enjoy making lanterns. There are so many great metaphors around candles and light: lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, letting your light shine, a single candle lighting a thousand more, etc.

        This year, I decided to try my hand at making beeswax balloon lanterns, which I hadn’t done in a good ten years. I first discovered these gorgeous lanterns at a Waldorf holiday fair back when my daughter was five and homeschooling. After buying one, I was determined to figure out how to make some on my own. (This was way back in the days before Pinterest!) I found a local beekeeper who sold me a 10-pound block of beeswax, and I set my daughter up with a covered workspace, a hammer, and a screwdriver so she could break the block into small bits for easier melting. (I chipped away at it, too.) The method involves dipping a water-filled balloon into melted beeswax many times to build a shell and then cooling the wax and popping the balloon. The process makes a home smell incredible.

        The first year I made balloon lanterns, I created a full moon bonfire scene with tissue paper and mulberry paper. 

        This year, I experimented with hearts cut from pressed autumn leaves and embellished by drilling some holes along the top.

        I love the creative process! It evolves one step at a time with one idea leading to another. And if I don’t like it, I can just melt it down and start all over again!

        If you’d like to try this relaxing craft with an intoxicating fragrance, here are two links to which I refer when making beeswax balloon lanterns: 

        I’ve used both the double boiler and the crock pot methods with good results but presently prefer the latter.

        Last year, I discovered two kinds of beautiful star lanterns, which became my main holiday gifts. The first is a dodecahedron (12-sided) star lantern:

        Here is a link to directions for making the dodecahedron star lanterns: 

        The 8-pointed star lanterns below are easier to make, and I fell in love with them when I discovered them last year. Making these lanterns became a favorite way to unwind! I even brought this craft to the classroom and invited my students to paint a sheet of watercolor paper which I folded into a lantern for them.

        To view a video showing how to make the eight-pointed star lanterns, click here:

        I have become accustomed to saving jars throughout the year to make jar lanterns during the holidays. I am especially fond of salsa jars and peanut butter jars. I tend to improvise with tissue paper, mulberry paper, and colored wax (“kite”) paper and Mod Podge to make jar lanterns. I love repurposing the jars to make something beautiful to give to someone dear.

        Last year I discovered another beautiful and oh-so-simple lantern that involves wrapping painted paper around a jar. The best part of this was painting the paper! I covered the still-wet paper with plastic wrap to add some texture.

        Finally, here is a string of origami “balloons” (also called “water bombs”) with LED lights tucked inside them that I folded for my daughter from sheet music:

        Making holiday gifts may be more time consuming than buying them already made, but I love the way it feels to craft something with my own hands and to breathe into it the energy of love for the intended recipient. There’s just something extra special about a homemade gift  – and making lanterns is another way to bring more light into this world!

        If you like my lantern projects and have more money than time, some of them are available for sale through my Etsy shop: 

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        © Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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