Monthly Archives: November 2012

Maria’s Quick & Easy Christmas Craft Countdown

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!

Zany ideas are always popping into my head, so around Halloweentime when the idea to make a series of 12 crafting videos creeped into my mind I could hardly wait to get the holiday crafting party started.

It’s fun to upcycle those Scrabble game tiles!

I quickly made a list of ‘quick and easy’ crafts tutorials I could make for my Youtube channel. But what would I call my craft series? Hm. For a while, I entertained ‘The 12 Days of Christmas Crafts,’ but then noticed there were others with the same name. Hm. More thinking. Then after playing with words I came up with ‘Christmas Craft Countdown.’ It was a real tongue twister, but it had a pepperminty flavor and Christmasy ring to it.

Make a cool art journal/sketch pad from an old board game.

So, let the crafting begin. Coming up with ideas was the easy-peasy part. And mulitiple trips to my favorite craft store JoAnn Fabric & Crafts was tons of fun. After working at the craft store for about a year, I learned how to use my coupons and get the most savings for my crafting dollar. Believe me, I saved a lot of moola using my coupons. (You can find tutorials on how to use JoAnn coupons on my Youtube channel.)

How about repurposing a discarded children’s book & turn it into a cool sketch book?

These clutch purses & wallets are super simple & fun to make! I dare you to make just one!

Next, I needed to make up my sample crafts, then figure out how I would present these tutorials showing each step as I recreated the crafts for my audience. Let me just say for the record that I am a total amateur at making videos. (New 2013 goal: Learn how to make professional videos) I used my iPad to make the tutorials. I love my iPad2, but thought there must be a better way of getting the job done. So, I’ve asked Santa Claus for a tri-pod for my camera, though with all of the bloopers, I probably should have asked for a teleprompter. And maybe a director. The goof-ups were endless, so I finally decided to leave them in and had a good chuckle.

Snowglobes are so magical! These waterless snowy scenes are created in a quart size Mason jar.

I dare you to make this storytime glove and not burst into singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ song.

By the time I got to video taping ‘Craft Project No. 10’ (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Hand Puppet) the spirit of Christmas possessed me. I started to sing. I can hardly carry a tune, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to sing Rudolph and so I sang to my little elf’s heart content.

And after wrapping up the 12th crafting video, something in the closet caught my eye. Something red. Something red with white trim. It was the cheesy, felt Santa Claus suit that I bought at JoAnn’s last Christmas when it was on sale. Then I remembered a leather strap with gold jingle bells attached to it from when hubby played Santa Claus at the after school program where I worked a few years ago. I dashed out of my craft room with two tiny reindeer at my heels (Okay, barking chihuahua/terriers ) and ‘yay!’ found the bells, then slipped on the cheap red suit and created the introduction to my ‘Christmas Craft Countdown.’ And all in only eight takes! (Ho! Ho! Ho!)

I kick start my holiday craft videos with this fun, festive, and yummy ‘Countdown to Christmas Candy Advent Calendar.’

Hope you enjoy the videos! Happy crafting! And happiest of holidays everyone!

Do you craft during the holidays? What are you making? Or what have you made in the past? Is there a handcrafted gift you received as a gift that you treasure?

Meet the friendliest, sweetest, most lovable and popular pig ever…. Stuart the Pig!

Every year, I look forward to the annual craft fair in Norco, California.

The craft fair starts the day after Thanksgiving and draws huge crowds. Today was no different. Hubby dropped me off at the entrance while I scurried off anxious to see all of the wonderful handcrafts displayed in an old chicken coop, a big barn, and the farm’s grounds.

Mmm. The arroma of freshly baked cookies wafted from the barn where there were more artisans selling their wares.

But as I walked past each table, nothing popped out at me. Nothing begged me to buy it and take it home. I felt a bit let down, then hubby found me in the crowd and we strolled the grounds featuring more crafters. There was everything from beaded jewelry to wooden toys to handsewn aprons. I desperately wanted something to say, “Buy me! Take me home!” Nothing.


…something caught my eye. Something large. Something with ears, a snout, and a tail that waggled like a happy dog. It was a pig! A big, beautiful, black potbellied pig. And his name was Stuart. I had never actually petted a pig before, let alone put my cheek next to one. But Stuart was friendly and loving all of the attention he was getting from me and other passersbys.

Stuart was a very popular pig!

I was beaming. Smiling. I whipped out my camera and started clicking.

Then his owner, Curt Mills, of Corona, California, explained how he had rescued Stuart three and a half years ago along with Stuart’s mother from an abusive breeder. Sadly, Stuart’s father didn’t make it.

I was captivated by Stuart’s story. Ping! My writer’s mind kicked in and I soaked up every word as he spoke of how he found a happy home for Stuart’s mother, and how Stuart likes to hop in the shower with him every morning for a scrub down with a bristly bath brush. And get this, Stuart is learning how to play the piano. Yes! Play the piano! I’m telling ya, this is one smart pig!

Stuart loves to give piggy kisses!

As a kid growing up on a farm in the Ozarks of Arkansas, Mr. Mills’ parents wouldn’t allow him to give their pigs names or become attached to them as pets. So, he never imagined himself ever owning a pig let alone two pigs. Yep. Stuart has a sister at home. Her name is Bella.

You see, thanks to Mr. Mills and his wife, Susie, Stuart really does have a wonderful life!

Before leaving, I wished Stuart a Merry Christmas, then hubby and I headed back to the big barn to buy our baked cookies. And all the way back to the truck, all I could do was talk about Stuart and what a terrific pig he was.

As for the craft fair. It was the first time in about 10 years that I didn’t buy anything. (Ornaments made by Susie Mills starring Stuart were sold out.) But I realized I was going home with something far more special. I had met one terrific potbellied pig that I’ll never forget!

Just look at the beautiful face!

Merry Christmas, Stuey!

Monster Fun Time at Barnes & Noble Book Store

Woo-hoo! I celebrated my 55th birthday this week and what better way to keep the birthday candles burning bright than to hang out with my writer peeps for a Monster Moon book signing. We met at the 4th annual City of Readers Bookfair at Barnes & Noble in Redlands, California.

From left to right, Maria Cisneros Toth (me), Lynn Kelley (middle), and Kathryn Sant on the Winnie the Pooh Storytime stage in the children’s department of Barnes & Noble.

Along with a couple of awesome Star Wars Storm Troopers.

Thanks for the escort guys!

Supportive and gorgeous friends from our writer’s critique group Books Born Here popped in.

From left to right, authors Carol J. Amato, Cindy (Annie) Howland, and Melissa Salazar.

And a surprise visit from Sam, a remarkable service dog from Cool Dog, School Dog padded on over and wagged a friendly ‘hello.’

A special memorial tribute was held for Sam’s mother, Ollie, also a therapy dog, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

A pinata bursting with gratitude goes to Sheri Becar. Sheri, an english and language arts teacher spearheads the City of Readers, a literacy program for the San Bernardino City Unified School District. Together, Barnes & Noble and the City of Readers have teamed up, creating this funtabulous literacy event for local students and their families. The special event offered author signings & readings, family activities, costumed characters, music, and lots more.

You’re awesome Sheri! And Barnes & Noble, you totally rock! Monster thanks for inviting us back to this super cool event. We had a great time meeting so many enthusiastic readers!

Sheri Becar takes a sneak peek at Lynn Kelley’s newly released book for early readers, Curse of the Double Digits.

It was a perfect day surrounded with oodles of books and good friends. What else could a birthday girl ask for?

Co-author/ZomBuddy Kathryn Sant entertained young readers with a scene from our second book in the Monster Moon mystery series, Secret of Haunted Bog. Take it away Kathy! And thanks everyone for making this such an unforgettable and fun day!

*Throws confetti!*

What type of reading program (s) does your community offer? How are you involved in promoting literacy? Who was the first author you ever met in person?

Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead at Disneyland

I feel lucky to have grown up in Southern California. I remember the citrus packing houses, the sweet scent of orange blossoms, red berries bursting from low-lying vines at roadside strawberry fields.

And Disneyland.

The Matterhorn Mountain where bobsleds whoosh through its snowy tunnels

Disneyland was just a few miles from our home. As a kid, I was mesmerized by the park’s snowcap Matterhorn Mountain. It’s peak seemed to almost touch the sky. On some days, as we drove by the amusement park, I’d spot Alpine climbers scaling the enormous mountain.

Disneyland honors Dia de los Muertos, in Frontierland, with several festive exhibits.

So what does Disneyland have to do with Dia de los Muertos when the Day of the Dead is about honoring the memory of our loved ones?

For me, everything.

Maria (me) at the Day of the Dead colorful display in Frontierland

After W.W. II, Dad worked as a cement mason. During the construction of Disneyland, he poured concrete foundations for some of the attractions, including the basin of the submarine ride. I think of Dad each time we stroll along the sidewalks of Main Street U.S.A., and again when I walk by the blue lagoon in Tomorrowland.

Dad served in the Pacific during W.W. II

And Mom…

Mom at age 15 overlooking Whittier, California

When I was six years old, she filled enough Blue Chip trading stamp books and took her six kidlets to Disneyland. I can still see her licking those stamps and pressing them into books. I can only imagine her excitement when she redeemed the stamps for park tickets.

Festive altars, offrendas is a tradtional way to honor loved ones.

Now, each time we visit the park, I drag hubby off to Fantasyland to ride Peter Pan’s Flight. And when the pirate boat sails through Wendy’s bedroom then dips out the window and off to Neverland, I’m six years old again and Mom is sitting beside me, pointing at all of the magical lights below.

I was a shy six year old when the pic of Mickey and I was taken. (It’s the only photo of the Mouse and I, and it’s a bit tattered.)

Do you celebrate Dia de los Muertos? If so, how do you honor/remember your loved ones?