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I love fresh eucalyptus, and it’s quite possible to find a bundle in a vase or drying on a wall somewhere around our home often. My children tease me that I’m trying to allure koalas, but truthfully, they’re an inexpensive way to add muted green tones and gentle fragrance to our spaces. They tend to last longer than fresh blooms and are just as lovely and fragrant when dried, which makes them as much an economical choice as an aesthetic one. That combo wins big points in our home.

The scents of a home have always felt equally as intrinsic to me as the visuals. There’s something comforting about a good, natural home scent, whether the food on the stove, the glowing winter candle, or the diffuser on the shelf. With no surprise, Mark and I have a soft spot for old homes and have always chosen the quirky charm of an old fixer-upper over the swanky new ones, but they can easily smell musty or forgotten if left alone too long, especially our closets.

Closets and drawers feel especially important in the winter home when they’re stocked with cozy knits. I imagine no one truly likes pulling a sweater over their head that smells like dust and neglect, even though many do. This season I decided to make some natural, gentle scents for our family’s closets and drawers using the dried eucalyptus leaves, dried lavender (another favorite bloom that I wish we had enough sun in our yard to grow), and essential oils.

They were quick and easy to make and easy enough for children to help, although I recommend gloves in case they are at all sensitive. I purchased the little cotton pouches at our local craft store. You can find something similar here or here, or simply sew them yourself. (I’m not quite skilled enough for that yet.) I opted for the drawstrings so I could empty and refill as needed. While more expensive or difficult to make on the front end, they seemed like a wiser choice for the long run. If you don’t have lavender growing in your yard, I usually purchase mine in bulk at our local grocer. Below I jotted down the loose measurements and process I used. I’ve placed them in bureau drawers or simply hung a few on hangers in the closets. (Parents: please read the note below.)

5 dried eucalyptus stems

2 cups of dried lavender

lavender and eucalyptus essential oils

small cotton drawstring pouch

bowl and spoon for mixing

hand blender or food processor to chop the eucalyptus leaves more finely

Lightly hand wash and air out purchased pouches ahead of time. Strip the eucalyptus branches and crush the leaves to release a bit of scent. Mix together with the lavender. Add 5 drops of each essential oil and mix again with a spoon. Fill the pouches to your liking. I folded the top of the pouches over to make them a bit smaller. It should make 6-8 pouches.

A SPECIAL NOTE: If you’re adding these sachets to a child’s closet or bureau, make sure they are out of reach or that children who are old enough know not to open, touch, or eat the contents. With babies, simply hang in their closet or wardrobe to more gentle diffuse the scents. Their skin may be too sensitive for the sachets to rub directly on their clothing. 

 

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These weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to pass too quickly each year. Between the fluster of finishing our school work, giving or making gifts, visiting family, and joining local celebrations with friends, time feels so concentrated. One way I’m trying to slow up our days and enjoy the season a bit more is having a craft and read-a-loud time each afternoon with my children. These are often hours contrasting with the loud, boisterous mess of handmade projects and the quiet doodles with candles and warm drinks and read-a-louds. Honestly, it’s been wonderful. Even the mess.

Last week, for one project, we made salt dough ornaments together. I pulled out all of Christmas cookie cutters (and the boys grabbed the Star Wars pancake molds in honor of the anticipated movie release–ha!).  My sister and her three children joined us, because this project is really fun and easy for all ages. She created a really sweet video from our afternoon together, which you can view by pressing play in the above box. In case you’re interested in making these at home, I’ve included the recipe we used below (and doubled). Enjoy!

SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTS (adapted from Moonschooling Eleanor)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
1/4-1/2 cup water
a few drops of essential oils (optional)

  1. Mix together 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup salt really well.
  2. Slowly add water until a dough forms–careful not to make it too wet!
  3. Add a few drops of essential oils (peppermint, balsam fir, or orange/clove –if your child isn’t sensitive to the clove)
  4. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it chill in the fridge for about twenty minutes.
  5. Roll out dough on floured surface and cut shapes.
  6. Poke holes using something toothpick-sized.
  7. Bake at 200 degree oven for about 60 minutes. Check them often, so they don’t harden or brown.
  8. String with twine and use for your tree, gifts for friends, or as gift tags for presents.

 

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Although I enjoy a good scone most anytime, there is something almost magical about eating them straight from the oven when the edges are still crispy and the blueberries are still warm and soft at the center. They are one of the more subtle morning pastries, ones I tend to prefer most in their simplest form without the jam-filled centers or decadent icing tops. When we planned Olive’s small morning party, I knew lemon-blueberry scones would be an easy pairing with her tea, and serving them with sliced strawberries smothered in a little maple-cinnamon whipped cream would substitute the traditional birthday cake perfectly–without becoming too labor-intensive for me. (Wink.) But more about that later. To make Olive’s scone a little more special, I pinned two scones together using six ecru party picks–six tiny balloons just for the birthday girl–with a layer of whipped cream in the middle, something special, without being over-the-top.

When Kara, from ecru collection, first introduced me to her shop, I immediately fell in love with the minimal design and muted tones of her aesthetic. Her handmade pieces, whether for the home or body, are playfully simple and transitional–and I always enjoy things that can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion.  I asked Kara to share a bit below about her inspiration as well as a few tips for mothers of crafty children and young women starting a new business. You’ll find her responses below along with my newly favorite blueberry scone recipe and a chance to win $100 to Kara’s shop, ecru collection.

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Tell us a bit about yourself, Kara. Though I currently live in LA, I’m an East Coast girl. I grew up in DC in a house full of lawyers, and never really considered I could make things for a living. I spent a year studying painting, and art history in Florence, Italy during college, and was lucky to land an internship in Emilio Pucci’s palazzo, working with his vintage textiles. It was a pretty great education in color and pattern. And if that wasn’t enough, I met my hunk of a husband, Giampiero, while I was there. Talk about the trip of a lifetime.

How did you begin making jewelry and home wares? What inspired you to more specifically begin Ecru? I have always been a maker. After graduating college, I started working the safe 9-5 but needed a creative outlet. As much as I love the world of fine art, I wanted to make something more accessible so I started making simple statement necklaces. People really responded to their minimalist, almost sculptural quality and I started selling them off my neck. It kind of just snowballed from there. Now I’m interested in the intersection between home decor and fashion; how something functions in both realms. I decorate the same way I get dressed so it feels like the natural next step.

I was immediately drawn to your choice of materials and muted color palette. How did you select them? Palette mixing was always my favorite part of painting and often I liked the look of my palette more than the painting itself. I could experiment with the way colors balance or fight each other all day, every day, but I wanted to incorporate geometric form so I began making my own beads. The clay gave me both the tactile process and color mixing. Life in Los Angeles has really influenced my sense of color and my use of natural materials. A lot of color combinations are born from walks with my dog, pausing to check out a succulent garden. I know the people on the East Coast are hating me right now.

You often reference another piece of art in your product descriptions. Do you have an artist who has inspired your work more than others? I love the art world but it can feel stiff or exclusive so I wanted to incorporate the artists and processes I love, with a wink. Right now, I am really into Alex Katz’s paintings. His colors feel like shapes outside of their subjects. I’m also drawn to Cy Twombly’s fantastic squiggles. There is so much artistry to his work, but that appearance of effortlessness is really the mark of a genius. Helen Frankenthaler, Amy Sillman, and Esther Stewart’s works are also a great inspiration.

Do you have any advice for mothers who have young daughters interested in jewelry making? Use what you have! I have seen some pretty chic pasta necklaces. Truly! I rarely go into bead stores, finding much more inspiration at the hardware store, the sports store, and supermarket. I go just to check out materials and consider shapes. Materials don’t have to be expensive if they’re well considered. Just don’t tell your brother or dad I told you to steal their tools!

Do you have any tips for young women wanting to start a new business? I’m still figuring it out myself. I’ve worked for small businesses for years and you think you know what it takes until you start your own. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. I work harder now than I ever did for anyone else but I love it! I will say though, balance is a struggle. My husband is constantly reminding me to step away from the computer to enjoy a meal together. You have to remember that though it is your business, you have other things going on. Don’t stay in your PJs all day! Sometimes going out with friends or getting dressed up for a date night puts everything in perspective. But the rejection can be tough. It’s hard not to take it personally because it can feel like they’re rejecting you. You need a thick skin for sure. I can’t tell you how many emails I send out everyday and it feels like they just go out into the ether, never to be heard from again. So when I get a rejection I actually plot to turn it around because at least they took the time to respond. Ha! But that’s what makes finding good collaborators and people who are stoked about your business so awesome!

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Enter the giveaway below and all Cloistered Away readers can enjoy 10% OFF  ecru collection during the month of March with the code CLAWAY10. Happy weekend! xo

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This post is in partnership with ecru collection, a lighthearted collection of accessories for self and space handmade by Kara Templeton. All opinions are always my own, and thnak you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat. 

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Since moving to our home last spring, I’ve wanted to make a wreath for our front door–something organic and simple that reflects the rest of our home. So when my sister called earlier this week and asked if I wanted to make holiday wreaths together, I answered wholeheartedly, “yes!” A wreath seemed the perfect way to begin gathering this cozy holiday season into our home. We loaded the kids into the car and snipped a few branches from nearby trees, made hot chocolate, and got to work. It really was a very simple project, something easy enough for kids to help with or create on their own. I used 8-10 branches for my own wreath made with standard-sized hangers, and the entire project took under an hour (minus the branch-gathering)–a reasonable afternoon holiday project. Enjoy!

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The Gingerbread Man
by Rowena Bennett
The gingerbread man gave a gingery shout:
“Quick open the oven and let me out!”
He stood up straight in his baking pan.
He jumped to the floor and away he ran.
“Catch me,” he called, “if you can, can, can.”
The gingerbread man met a cock and a pig.
And a dog that was brown and twice as big.
But he called to them all as he ran,
“You can’t catch a runaway gingerbread man.”
Then he came to a fox and he turned to face him.
He dared old Reynard to follow and chase him;
But when he stopped under the fox’s nose
Something happened. What do you suppose?
The fox gave a snap. The fox gave a yawn,
And the gingerbread man was gone, gone, gone.
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Today, the kids and I drank hot cocoa and read this poem aloud together, laughing at the haughty little gingerbread man and his fate. Over the weekend, we had built a gingerbread house together, something we do each year (the pre-made kits of course). Some years we build our house at the beginning of December and leave it out on display–their piece of art to discuss with friends and other visitors. Other years, they, like the hungry fox, snap it up only hours after creation. This year was the latter.