Last year The Magnifying Glass contributors shared some of their favorite gifts from nature for the winter holiday season. I loved getting inspiration from those series of posts so I thought I'd share a recent project my kids and I have been working on that might give a few of you some gift ideas. Since moving to Sicily, we have been amassing quite a large collection of beach finds...sea glass, shells, smooth rocks, and lots of pieces of Italian tiles. Each time we come home from a beach walk we add our finds to growing piles in pots on our patio. Now that we are in our final year in Sicily, I have been wanting to find a more permanent way to display and share our Sicilian finds.
So we spent a recent morning sorting through our bits and pieces and after grouping them by color, we began to collect the supplies we needed: plaster of paris, an old bucket for mixing, and a variety of containers for molds (styrofoam food trays, plastic apple cups, jam jar lids, go through your recyling bin!).
The styrofoam trays worked well for our menorahs and we also found that coating them with non-stick spray made for very easy removal in later stages. Apple sauce, yogurt cups, and metal jam lids worked well for smaller mosaic pieces. Make sure all of your containers are clean, prepped, and ready because once the mixture is ready you must move fairly quickly. It's also a good idea to do this project outside or in a space with old newspapers since it can get messy.
Now onto mixing. I will have to admit that it took us a couple of tries to get the consistency right. It can't be too wet or it won't dry properly, but you also don't want it to be too thick...aim for the consistency of greek yogurt (about 2 parts plaster to 1 part water).
After filling the containers, we waited a bit for the mixture to start setting and then we began constructing our mosaics with the shells, tiles, rocks, and sea glass. Once the designing stage was completed, we had to wait for the plaster to fully dry before removing from the molds. We also decided to keep a few pieces in their molds like the jam jar lids since they made cute little "frames".
Since we celebrate Hanukkah we made menorahs, but we also made some smaller mosaic pieces to be used for paper weights or decorative pieces. I think these will make nice gifts for teachers, friends, and family members and it's a great way to remember a special place. During this winter holiday season, our family sends you and yours warm wishes. May you all find some time to take a nice nature walk together and create gifts that have meaning and special memories.
Happy Creating and Happy Holidays!