Category Archives: Special occasions

30 days til Christmas…let the frenzy begin

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English: The evolution of artificial Christmas...

English: The evolution of artificial Christmas trees to adapt to modern styling trends. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Christmas. Not so much the actual day, but the preparations. I like decorating the house, baking, choosing and wrapping gifts. There’s not much I don’t like about the pre-Christmas season. I even like Christmas music, although I draw the line at Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

What I don’t like about Christmas is how stressed I get. I put a lot of pressure on myself to find just the “right” present for everyone on my list. In recent years, I’ve tried to make as many gifts as I can, plus make my own Christmas cards. I want the house to look perfect and unique. Every year, I find myself failing to finish half the projects on my “to do” list. Not only do I inevitably end up making a mad dash to the mall the week before Christmas, but by the time December 24 rolls around, I also end up feeling like I’ve failed. As if the “to do” list is some sort of test. Not surprisingly, this takes quite a bit of the fun out of the whole Christmas experience.

This year I’ve decided to do things a bit differently. I’m cutting down on the number of pre-Christmas projects. I usually make the nibblies and sweets for our an annual holiday, but this year, I’m going to rely more on store bought items – nothing wrong with a cheese tray. M and I will still make cookies, but probably just enough to serve at the party and give to friends and family, rather than our usual 80 – 100 dozen. Thanks to a card-making course I took in late-October, I got a head start on my Christmas cards and I finished the last one last week. I’ve got 21 cards (plus a few leftover from last year that never got sent); now all I have to do is send them out!

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Christmas cards – ready to send out

As for my Christmas shopping, I’m making progress. I’m lucky to have a friend who, like me, is a craft-fair junkie. If I can’t make it myself, I’d prefer to buy a gift from a local artisan, rather than purchasing a mass- marketed product from a big-box store. We’re fortunate that from early November to mid-December, there’s at least one craft fair every weekend within a 30 minute drive. One of our favourites took place a couple of weeks ago, and I was able to cross a couple of people off my list and pick up a ideas for a few others. We’re looking forward to a couple of events in December, including one in the community centre that’s co-located in M’s school – it’s a mix of artisans and part-time crafters. There’s always a few gems mixed in with the tole painting and crocheted toilet paper holders.  At last year’s sale, I bought Mr. Magic a beautiful photograph of boats in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, from a photographer who lives just a few blocks from our house.

This year, I’ve also decided to wrap as I go, rather than waiting to do it in one fell swoop. What I’m going to do on Christmas eve, I’ve no idea. But this way, I can make my own tags and fuss with the wrapping.

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Gift tags

Where I’m really cutting back this year is on home-made gifts. I have mixed feelings about this, as I get enormous pleasure out of making a unique, one-of a-kind gift for a close friend or a family member. However, I’m involved in a big project at work that runs until at least mid-December. I’m already working late almost every night during the week, so why put extra pressure on my skinny shoulders?

Here’s my (short) list of gifts to make:

– multi-strand stretch bracelet for some teenage friends (similar to a couple I found on Pinterest from Avon)

Colorful Multi-Row Stretch Bracelet

– a pair of earrings, like these great Magma Drop earrings from FusionBeads, as well as a complementary necklace for my friend, the craft-fair afficienado

Magma Drop Earrings | Fusion Beads Inspiration Gallery

– a necklace with a Jennifer Jangles flower charm for my best friend’s daughter

Itty Bitty Ceramic Flower Links, Set of 2

– a laptop case for a MacBook Air (this is for me) – lots of tutorials available, but I like this one from arstechnica (but I might iron my fabric first – lol).

I also have a couple of more projects on my list, but I’m keeping them under wraps for the moment (just in case the would-be recipients read this blog).

‘Tis the season…good luck with your holiday preparations.

 

Busy…not blogging

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The last few weeks have been busy – work assignments, organizing the Bake Table at the school holiday event, as well as several evenings at the theatre (seasons tickets). As Christmas approaches, things will only get busier around our house. Not a lot of time left over for blogging.Part of the issue is that I love Christmas. I want to make cute little decorations and hang them all over my house. I want to give hand-made, adorably wrapped gifts to most of the people on my list.If I have to buy a gift, I prefer it be crafted by a local artisan. I  to ply friends and family with yummy handmade goodies. Forget UNICEF, I want to create a unique card for everyone on my Christmas card list.

Clearly, my expectations are completely out of line with reality. There aren’t enough hours in the day between mid-November and December 24th to get through everything on my “To Do” list. At least not if I want to work (an economic necessity) and still eat, sleep and make sure my kid gets out the door to school every morning. Add in the fact that I am not highly organized nor particularly disciplined. So it’s not a big surprise that blogging has come almost to a stand still. I have lots of ideas for posts, but I also have lots of competition for my time. Those cookies aren’t going to bake themselves!

It’s not like I haven’t been getting things done. M and I have made several batches of cookies – several dozen went to the school bake sale a couple of weeks ago and the rest are in the freezer, to be boxed up as teachers gifts and hostess gifts. We’ve dialed back from our usual 75-100 dozen; we’re up to about 50 dozen so far and we have more shortbread dough frozen in the freezer. Even though we’ve cut back on our baking, we should still have enough cookies to fill a shoebox for our annual donation to a local restaurant’s holiday charity dinner.

Thanks to a network of great craft shows in my area, I’ve made a serious dent in my Christmas shopping. However, the home-made Christmas cards are coming along slowly and I’ve only completed one craft project (and that was a couple of weeks ago). Our annual Holiday Open House is coming up soon and the tree is only half-decorated, the house is messy and most of the appetizers are still to be made. Plus, I think I’m coming down with the office cold.

Rather than run myself down for what I haven’t done or what I still need to do, I’m going to give myself the gift of kindness. I’m going to do as much as I can and not beat myself up if I don’t get everything done. Hopefully, I can avoid visiting the mall on the last pre-Christmas weekend, but if I’m short a gift or two, I’ll cope. Fortunately, the issue with my credit card has been cleared up, so I can do some on-line shopping and avoid the crowds.

I’m hoping to be back on a regular blogging schedule soon – no later than the new year, but I’m hoping it will be sooner. In the interim, I’ll be making lists and checking them twice.

 

The art and craft of a perfect Father’s Day gift

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Father & Son

Father & Son (Photo credit: jeroenadema)

Every year, as Father’s Day approaches, I ask M what he would like to get his dad.  The standard response is “I don’t know.”  My suggestions that we go out together to look for a gift are usually rebuffed:  “can’t you do it, Mommy?”

I am somewhat mystified by M’s reluctance to help select a gift for his dad (admittedly he is similarly disinterested in picking out birthday and Christmas gifts).   He has gone out gift-shopping for me with my husband for the last several years – apparently, he is a willing participant in the selection process.  Maybe M thinks his dad actually needs his help, whereas, I am seen to be perfectly capable of finding an appropriate gift.

That’s not really the point – he’s almost 11 and I think he’s old enough to participate in picking out a gift for his dad, especially for Father’s Day.  I am not asking him to spend his own money, just to be involved.

So this year, I took a different approach.  Rather than ask him to go shopping with me, I decided to take him to a local store that is a favourite of my husband’s.  We had to pass by the shop on our way back from his karate lesson, so it wasn’t a big sell to get him to go in.  We agreed on a pair of shorts.   He was immediately distracted by one of the books the shop owner keeps to entertain clients’ children, so it was a bit tricky to get him to actually identify the ones he liked best.  The first pair he selected didn’t come in his dad’s size, so we agreed on a pair of beige plaid shorts.

At that point, the salesperson brought some shirts from the back that we are on sale – we are frequent customers and are known to like a bargain.  But when I showed them to M, he didn’t seem that keen.  The sales clerk said she would give us 60% off a shirt, so I suggested to M that we take it too.  But he wasn’t happy and when I questioned him, he said, “you aren’t listening to me.  I don’t think that shirt will look good on Daddy.”

Of course, he was right.  So we left just with the shorts.  I realized that I would never be able to get M to help buy another gift for his dad, if I didn’t listen to him.  Not always as easy thing for me to do – I often want things to be a certain way.  But if I want M to take the responsibility of selecting a gift, I have to respect his choice.  I did ask him if he wanted to buy a card or have me make one – he chose the home-made option.

The card I came up with is one of my best.  I used the image of a hat, since my husband is a hat afficienado.  I found paper at Michaels that was the same colour and texture of cardboard.  I couldn’t find any clipart images I liked, so I copied and pasted a picture of a hat from ebay.  I printed in in black and white onto the cardstock and cut out around the hat itself.  In a contrasting colour, I cut out a slightly larger outline of the hat.  I added a few embellishments – metal corners, wasabi tape and printed “hats off to a great dad” in a fun font.

Father's Day card

Close up – hat detail

As is my way, I decorated the inside of the card too.  M seemed pretty pleased with the final product.

Inside the card

My husband was delighted with his shorts and the card.  He wore the shorts all the day and told M how much he liked them.  He really liked the card – he thought it was one of my better effort (High praise, since I’ve showed him (forced him to see) every card I’ve ever made.  He did wonder why M’s name appeared to be spelled wrong – M was in the middle of watching something on the computer when I asked him to sign the card.  Can’t have everything.