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13 Dec 2016

Don’t’ Lick this House – Decorating a Mini Paper Mache Holiday House

My son brought home an assignment the other day asking about a tradition we share as a family during the holiday.  We always decorate our living room blasting music and this year’s CD of choice was James Brown (my 7 year old’s latest obsession).  We really had a fun, rowdy time trimming our tree to “It’s a Funky Christmas”.


Another tradition we love is making a gingerbread house.  It is usually a big sugary mess because the kids eat half the frosting.  All amped up, they leave it semi-abandoned once the gumdrop supply is depleted.  Don’t get me wrong, our yearly attempts are joyful, but the results are not pretty!  This year I thought I’d experiment with a less sugary approach and add in some natural elements to the project.


My daughter found these paper mache houses at our local craft store AC Moore.  The tops lift off so you can put a light inside.  We loved the idea of lighting it and adding it to our mantle collection of holiday tchotchkes.

I made a deal with the kids that I would buy SOME candy for this project but the rest of the materials, they had to forage for outdoors.  I had some gold glitter spray paint on hand to add some holiday sparkle to the materials. Giovanna invited her friend Renee to come join our project and the girls headed to the backyard to hunt for woodsy components.  Once they brought everything in the house and planned out what they wanted to use, they spray painted some of their finds.


With everything finally gathered on the table, I brought out the edibles. I had done some research on Pinterest and saw some inspirational uses of pretzels for facades, and Big Red gum for rooftops. The girls spied some cinnamon sticks in the pantry, and loved how those smelled, so we added all of these to the material mix.  I had to make good on my candy promise, so out came the candy canes and marshmallows to much fanfare.


I put some cider donuts on the table in the hope that they wouldn’t eat every last candy cane before any made it onto the houses.

Ingredients we used for this craft:

  • Paper mache house
  • Gathered foliage: such as bark, pine cones, acorns and moss
  • Gold glitter spray paint
  • Pretzels rods and pretzel sticks
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Candy Canes
  • Marshmallows
  • Big Red Gum
  • Scissors
  • Serrated knife
  • Glue gun
  • Newspaper or cardboard for work space

Giovanna and Renee started working and I pretty much stayed out of their way. They used scissors to cut the gum into shingles and a serrated knife to trim the pretzels down in size.


They worked, worked, worked away until they covered most of the paper mache house. I just love what they did!


Giovanna made an impressive entrance with curb appeal. Renee did some intricate latticework combining pretzels and licorice.


I helped Wilton with his house, but he did more licking than making. These nature-clad Holiday Houses were so sweet!

I hope you find some inspiration in this project.  It was really fun to mix up the materials for our family house-making tradition.  Wishing you a crafty holiday of togetherness!


26 Nov 2016

Sand Art Holiday Terrariums

Snow Globes are always a fun holiday décor idea, but I wanted to give the concept a fresh spin. As a designer I’m always on the look-out for trends + ideas…so when I came across these succulent terrariums

…my holiday DIY idea was born.  Why not merge the beautiful + simple craft of sand art with the holiday magic of bottle-brush trees and sprinkles of glittery snow?

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The simple ingredients to create this holiday décor with your littles:

–        Glass vessels (you can pull from vases and jars you already have at home)

–        Colorful sand (you can find this at a local craft or hobby shop or easily purchase online)

–        Bottle-brush trees or small ornaments of gingerbread houses or snowmen (I found some hand-dyed bottle-brush trees from artists on Etsy, but you can easily find them this time of year at a variety of stores, or pull from your ornament collection)

–        Faux snow (another easy find at any craft store)

So let the holiday crafting begin. Check-out my DIY tutorial to see just how easy this holiday project can be…

17 Nov 2016

Jeweled Napkin Rings, Holiday Craft

As much as I love cooking during the holidays, I love decorating even more.  This time of year, you’ll find me in the kitchen baking pies with my son and scheming decorations with my daughter. I am always looking for that inconspicuous “teachable moment” when work seems like play, and the kids are creating and learning without realizing it. Bliss!

I was in holiday prep mode when I recently attended the Country Living Fair in Atlanta to present a show called “Embellishment DIY – Trim Alchemy”.  One of the DIY’s I did was a jeweled upcycled napkin rings craft using ribbons and brooches, perfect for a holiday tablescape. Here is an edited video of the Facebook Live event that Country Living Magazine posted on their Facebook page.

The day after my video went live, I got “tagged” by my friend Jessica that her daughter Charlotte had watched it and was so inspired that she created her own Jeweled Napkin Ring Collection.  She posted this photo on Facebook.


Charlotte’s creations: a master-crafter at 7 years old!

I couldn’t wait to call and ask Jessica about Charlotte’s work.  Although Jessica and I connected on Facebook often, we had not spoken in a long time and we had a lot to catch up on. We talked about the importance of kids crafting, how it develops fine motor skills, problem solving, imagination, and cooperation.  I agreed with Jessica that we need to challenge our kids more. It takes effort to do so but the payoff is big.  She observes “Kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, I am always amazed at what they come up with.”

Jeweled Napkin Ring Supplies:

  •  Paper towel rolls cut to 2” sections
  • Ribbon (approx. ½ yard per ring) for wrapping
  • Ribbon – small piece for attaching the jewelry (velvet works well)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue (use with parental supervision)
  • Brooches, buttons or any type of jewelry
Charlotte cuts down a paper towel roll and wraps it with ribbon for the base of her napkin ring design.

Charlotte cuts down a paper towel roll and wraps it with ribbon for the base of her napkin ring design.

Jessica herself is a very creative mom, raising three children while running a kids’ educational enrichment business called Fairy Tale Inc.  After she posted Charlotte’s work, friends clamored to buy them.  Charlotte has been busy creating more, enlisting her siblings Joe and Violette to help for a true family effort.  You can find her work here at the link above.


Jessica says “I always encourage my kids to get involved in all Holiday preparations. When they make something, whether food or crafts, they take more pride and ownership in the day.”


Charlotte and Violette help set the table with the napkin rings they made.


Close up of the girls’ jeweled napkin ring designs.

Close up of the girls’ jeweled napkin ring designs.

This craft is easy yet elegant, with impact, because even the adults at the table will use these and admire the children’s creativity and accomplishment.

Whether you clear the dining table to craft or converge in the kitchen to cook this holiday, I hope you will be inspired to incorporate creative “teachable moments” and make lasting memories in the process.

If you make these please tag me, I’d love to share #TrimAlchemy

The crafty Mauceri-Gabor family: Violette, Charlotte, Jessica and Joe

The crafty Mauceri-Gabor family: Violette, Charlotte, Jessica and Joe

26 Oct 2016

Why Your Teenager Wants a Black Room

Yes, teenagers were put here to test us. In fact that is their modus operandi. It is a near decade and sometimes more of fierce individuation that helps us grown-ups work on the virtue of patience.

Naturally, the best course of action is to pick your battles. Your son got his license yesterday and wants to take the car loaded with half a dozen pals across the country to a massive music festival? Maybe not. He’d like to quit school and start a garage band? Probably no. But he wants to turn his room into a black cave so he can brood over these injustices? Why not? It’s only paint.

Here are a few more reasons why they might want black:

1. As self-expression becomes more important, kids — especially tweens and teens — search for ways to make a statement and stand out in a crowd.

2. A desire to maintain control.

3. Black makes them feel less vulnerable, forming a protective shield and anonymity around them, private and safe.

Besides, black walls are current and chic. Style aficionados like J Crew’s Jenna Lyons are painting their rooms black. It is the ultimate in cool, what teenager doesn’t want that? And it looks great with classic white or wood furniture and all kinds of graphic posters and concert memorabilia imaginable. Balance it with a light graphic area rug, lots of white textiles and some reflective surfaces. Add a pile of clothes and some casually stashed electronics and voila, the perfect disheveled cool.

killamBlack is all cool and reserve yet black rooms certainly have drama. But since it is technically neutral, it is not as intense and fatiguing as say a scarlet red or hot pink room.

While it can be heavy and require some visual balancing, it is surprisingly easy going and works well with neutral tones, pales and brights alike. It mingles well with all kinds of wood tones and warm and cool metallics too.

Black chalkboard or magnetic paint on one wall can also be a compromise and then it’ll get covered with posters anyway!

You can actually have a lot of fun decorating a black room. But, ahem, of course you will want to leave most of that to your fiercely opinionated teenager.


The teen years are somewhat of a chrysalis, a heavy black cocoon to shut out the overstimulation of the world and focus on her budding inner life might be just what’s called for. It is her private space and if you hate the way it looks, close the door.

But you might find that it makes you want to watch French movies and dress like Kate Moss.

Maria Killam is the Founder and CEO of Understanding Undertones. She is a decorator, author, speaker and internationally sought after colour expert. Transform the way you see colour at mariakillam.com

15 Oct 2016

Fall Festivities – Wow Without Breaking the Bank for Halloween and Thanksgiving

You can sense the seasons already changing as the air feels more crisp and the leaves start to turn those beautiful warm colors. Oh so I hear, since we just experienced record breaking heat in Southern California and we are getting ready for another Indian Summer.  Although us SoCal residents may not be changing out our summer clothes for boots and sweaters just yet, that doesn’t mean we do not get into the festive mindset.  Making some minor edits to your home to embrace the Fall season doesn’t have to be cumbersome or expensive.  Below are some great things I’m seeing done that will get you into the Fall spirit.

Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins

The easiest way to set the mood for a great Halloween or Thanksgiving party is to add multiple pumpkins to your décor.  They come in all different sizes and colors so layering and mixing and matching can be done easily.  You can add larger pumpkins to your front entrance to set the tone right as your guests arrive to your home.  In lieu of flowers, use smaller pumpkins to create a centerpiece or use mini pumpkins on your table setting to create an entire look.  Your fireplace mantel is another great spot to spruce up for Halloween and Thanksgiving as it is usually the center of your living space.  You also don’t have to settle with the color orange.  You can glam up your pumpkin using white and gold paint or get creative and start drawing or adding text to your pumpkins. What’s great about adding pumpkins to your home decor is that you can turn it into a fun family experience by visiting your local pumpkin patch.  You can also make an activity out of it with the kids and do some pumpkin carving.  So many great ideas can come from a simple pumpkin!







Another great way to instantly turn your home into a festive Fall environment is by adding plaid throughout the home.  You can start off by incorporating plaid into your kitchen with linens and kitchen towels.  Add it to your table setting by using a plaid runner or fabric napkins for an instant pop.  If you want to take it a step further, you can easily change up your decorative pillows, window treatments and throw blankets.  This will completely change the look of your formal and living room without breaking the bank. Move into the bedrooms and add some plaid bedding.  Bathroom towels are also an easy fix!  Below are some fantastic things I’ve seen done with plaid.






Fun Appetizer

Because I’m a foodie, and you’ll need to keep those bellies happy during the colder months, below is one of my favorite recipes from shewearsmanyhats.com. It’s tasty, easy and festive! Enjoy and Fall in love with decorating your home… pun intended.



  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Toffee bits
  • Slices apples, pears, pretzels for serving


  • Place cream cheese on a serving dish. Pour as much caramel sauce as you want evenly over cream cheese. Sprinkle with a generous helping of toffee bits.
  • Serve with sliced apples, pears, or pretzels.




26 Sep 2016