Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap 2021!

Once again, we’ve thrown our crafty hats into the ring of the Hilltown Families Hand-made Valentine Swap!

This annual tradition charges local families in the hidden hamlets of western Massachusetts (the Hilltowns) with creating original Valentines and sending them to other families and individuals.

I’ve actually participated in the HFHVS several times, including before I had children, and each year we receive a wide array of greetings from people of all ages in exchange for our own offerings.

This year, our Valentines took on two forms: magic wands and heart flowers, which followed the same basic pattern. First, I bought sheets of heart-shaped labels from Avery (I used template 94603, but there were a few available sizes) and craft sticks, ribbon, foam hearts, and heart stickers from Amazon. We rounded-out the supply list with our own stash of sequins, beads, markers, glue, and paints.

From there, two labels stuck together over a craft stick created the base for any creation, and we were off to the races — making not just enough for each Hilltown family on our list, but also for family members, friends, and holiday decor around the homestead.

Heart-flower Valentines, the Tiktok tutorial!
Julia’s preferred design was magic wands with long strands of ribbon. Amazon tip: I bought 20 rolls of themed ribbon for $11 – brand name Vatin. I think I’m set on Valentine ribbon until 2025.
I made more flowers than wands, largely because layering the foam hearts as petals is very mentally soothing. We kept going with flowers and wands until all of the foam hearts were gone; a bag of 300 from Amazon was $8.
My favorite wand of Julia’s was her two-sided “Frankenstein Heart,” which had green stitches on one side and brains on the other. I’ll be sure to repost this next Blogtoberfest. 🧠
The stickers were $9 for 500; also all set on multi-design heart stickers until at least mid-decade.
I had fun with the sequins, too…🦩
Heart wands, the TikTok tutorial!

Many thanks to Hilltown Families founder, publisher, and editor Sienna Wildfield for spearheading one of my favorite activities of the year — one that creates connections that felt a little more important this year than they already had. ❤️

Geeks on Fleek: The Art of Nerd Burlesque

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Last weekend, we hit up something new: a body-positive, male/female, nerd-themed burlesque show.

Stay with me.

The show was created by Western Mass.-based troupe Bon Appetit Burlesque, which often performs in the Northampton area and is lead by the delightful Hors D’oeuvres, pronounced the way you want to say it.

So let’s break down Nerd Burlesque… It’s the art of the tease mixed with a healthy dose of Star Wars and hobbits.

Stay with me.

The nerd quotient was high among the performers, much to our glee, across plenty of decades of multimedia nerd-dom. In the course of a few hours, we saw Han Solo, Godzilla, Pokemon, and a bound Princess Leia strut their stuff. The costumes were surprisingly elaborate. There was a wide gamut of talent, too – budding dancers as well as seasoned teasers who all had the crowd riled up as they played to their strengths.

Here are some glimpses… This is Baroness Blitzen Von Schtupp in the midst of her Alien-inspired routine…she also performed a Godzilla-themed dance in Act II.

In the ‘boylesque’ category, this is Dale Stones, CFO of the Boston-based Sirlesque. Here, Dale is transforming into Captain America… He also doubled as Link from the Legend of Zelda.

My personal fave of the night was Femme Bones, founder of the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts, who started off as Red Sonja and returned later as Tina from Bob’s Burgers.


 Sadly, the venue we visited, Diva’s Nightclub, is about to close after several years in business. But all of the performers have gigs on their schedules, and Bon Appetit Burlesque is expected to resurrect itself at a new place soon, pasties and all.
Have any experience in the burlesque world? I’m intrigued. Tell us about it in the comments or send me an email at writerjax -at – gmail.

Prize Secured for Blogtoberfest Guest Post Contest!

There are nine days of October left, and that means nine more days of Blogtoberfest! Guest posts submitted and published between now and Nov. 1 are eligible to win The Jump’s annual contest, and we’ve just secured our first prize, with more to come.

Readers will be asked to choose their favorite post on or about November 1, and voting will run for a week. At that time, one lucky winner will receive a gift basket from Berkshire Naturals and Berkshire Outdoors of Lenox, Mass.!

The holidays are nearly upon us, and this is perfect for gift-giving… but I’m fine with it if you’re gifting yourself. Regardless of who it is, the recipient will receive a basket with a lemongrass-scented soy candle, soap, and foaming hand wash. It’s wrapped and sitting in a cat-proof area of the house now, and I can already smell the lemongrass when I walk by.

I’m psyched about this prize, and grateful to Berkshire Naturals and its owner, Jay. Check out their web site — you can order great, organic stuff right online — if you’re in Western Mass., make a trip to Lenox to visit the store or even go on an outdoor adventure!