By T.K. Wismer, Blue Oak
Photographs by T.K. Wismer
For most people, I would guess touring a factory doesn't rank high on their list of fun things to do, but I have to admit, I geek out on any opportunity to peek behind the curtain and see how things work. I remember watching an old Mr. Rogers episode when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old where they toured a crayon factory and the images of those multi-colored Crayolas rolling down the line have stuck with me, so when the folks at Phifer Inc. invited me to come tour their Alabama facility and see what trends they are working on in outdoor furniture fabrics and mesh, I grabbed my most Crimson cardigan and jumped on down to Tuscaloosa.
My gracious hosts transported me around the expansive factory by cart while describing the various functions of the facility. Just as the childhood me was drawn into the television screen by images of mass production, I was totally enthralled by the energy and buzz of a true factory. There is an appreciation that builds as you take in the sights of massive machines and robots and people, all coordinated in an effort to make something.
The experience, and story behind the family run operation, got me thinking about the amount of pride one can take in creating something. This is the time of year when we can get overwhelmed with purchasing and the holiday bustle. It is easy to forget to slow down and enjoy some of our time-honored traditions or to make new traditions for friends and family. I often see fun holiday craft ideas but just buy the item in its finished state to save time, but there is something about making a thing that brings special meaning to it and especially so if you share the process with someone and build the memory together. So I decided to carve out a weekend and set up my own little family operation, on a tiny scale. Here are a few of the simple holiday DIYs that we enjoyed making together.
These are so simple and can be used to create garlands, thrown in to simmer pots and potpourri, or used to top packages as we did. Simply slice navel oranges to about a quarter of an inch thickness, place on a rack, and cook at 250 degrees for 2-3 hours, flipping every 30 minutes.
I have seen these online for upwards of $100. I bought a $12 wreath ring and some fresh eucalyptus and made this for a fraction of the cost. The scent is so lovely. You can save the ring and make a fresh creation for any season.
Homemade Wrapping Paper
One roll of plain brown paper yields plenty of creative opportunities. This idea was especially fun for my 5-year-old. I let him illustrate his own paper to wrap gifts for friends and family.
There is something so cozy about watching the glow of a fire. Our house has four 100-year-old coal burning fireplaces that are all unusable so I came up with this fun solution to build a flameless fire.
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