Archives for posts with tag: gift

Basic, basic, basic supplies are all that's needed for this gift. That, and an idea.

When I was a kid and Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Easter or a birthday or… any holiday rolled around, I would break out the felt pens and paper and glue and scissors. I would make my family and friends little imitations of “real world” honours, things like badges, crowns, and certificates. When I grew a little older I transferred this urge to cut, draw and paste my gifts into the idea of specialized coupons.

Coupons are great to offer services that cannot be wrapped up in a box: “One Free Car Wash”, “One Free Babysitting”, “One Dozen Cookies (need 24 hours notice)”, “A Vacuum of The Entire House”… you get the idea.

You could use some of the simple book-binding skills we covered the other day, as I did in the example below. Simple-simple! I just cut may paper to size, stapled once. I took care that the pointy-bits of the staple went to the inside. I also cut a little into each page just inside from the “binding”, so my coupon-recipient would find it easy to rip them out of the little book.

Easy gift: Proving that it's the thought that counts.

All of the papers in the Coupon Book were destined for Recycling… they’ll still be recycled, just are being diverted along the way.

Natasha Henderson in Montreal, wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas!

Canadian Santa Claus drawing from 1875

Santa seems to be reminding us that sharing is one of the most important things to do during Christmas

When the heat of the season is upon us, there are a few ways we stay cool.

Break it down into little tasks. Decide to do a couple things every day and stick to that.

Be realistic as to what you can accomplish in a particular time-frame. It might be lovely to have a home bedecked with every imaginable DIY project out there, but if it is a total stress to accomplish, is it really worth it in the end?  A few branches and a couple candles are great seasonal décor items that require minimal effort to put together.  One plate of freshly homemade cookies (or choco-almo date balls) is always impressive.

Take time to relax. Take a bath, listen to relaxing music, watch your favourite seasonal movies or go out to dance.

Make more time for yourself and drop some things off “the to-do list”. Do I really need to make THAT many types of cookies? Do my guests care if my bathtub is sparkling or not?

Cook simply, for example soups and wraps.  Even if I am making the full traditional Christmas lunch, I try to prepare some things ahead of time so that I am not overwhelmed on the day when everyone is together in my home.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Working together can be part of the celebration.

Keep your regular routines in place, but spice it up here and there whenever it will be fun to do so! For example, if you really want to make reindeer-shaped pancakes, then do it! However if “everyone expects” you to make reindeer-shaped pancakes and you’re not feeling up to it, then do something from your “Christmas Fun List” when you do feel so inspired.  These activities and projects can be enjoyable, enlivening processes that help us find joy in the dark of winter.  If it is not, don’t do it.

Know that it’s not all going to be ruined if everything is not in place. It will be ruined if you have a nervous breakdown.

Stick to a budget. It is obvious that dealing with outrageous credit card bills in January, while trudging through the dark of winter, will not be pretty.  Everyone will still love you even if they don’t receive gifts that are completely beyond your budget.

Order things online. For example, we can order things online through Etsy and send them to loved ones.  Easy-peasy stress free gift giving.

If you are feeling emotionally frazzled, take a break from sugar, alcohol, grains containing gluten and dairy. Buy a big bunch of kale, some brown rice and the protein of your choice.  I know that this is the last thing we want to hear right now, but sitting down to simple meals helps to create peace.

We take time to chat with friends. Calling up a therapist can also be a good idea.

Take it outside. Take a walk after meals, go skating, go skiing.  Get a good dose of fresh air and take the time to exercise every day.

If you can, Don’t Drive. Notice how coo-coo it is out there right now? Avoid being outside during rush hours.

Try some fun things that could become new traditions… an example: three of my family members would go to Mass on Christmas eve. Two of us would not. My brother and I would make healthy pizzas while everyone else was away, play Beatles music very loudly and sing along, do our own thing. Then when everyone else came back, the music would change to soft carols, and we’d all share a nice supper together. My brother and I were assigned a task: “Make Supper” but it was made to be fun.

The last entry reminds me of that Dar Williams song, The Christians and the Pagans.  Taking on others and their religious expression, choice of profession, lifestyle, political leanings, etc., during the holiday creates a great deal of stress.  While being gracious towards others tends to be perceived as near-miraculous, often it can help a great deal in reducing stress.

Write a letter to Santa.

Two words: Take Out.

One word: Yoga.

Natasha Henderson and Tammy Schmidt, keeping the stress to a minimum in Montreal.

I can’t believe how time is flying!  My posts are getting shorter and shorter and I am barely finding the time to cram in all of the last minute to-do’s.

Quickly, I will tell you about today’s DIY gift.  It is scented sachets.  This year I made some scented sachets with flannel to give to the kids in my family.  I attached a list of herbs and spices in the sachets so they can research this more.  It is a pretty traditional recipe.  Perhaps in the years ahead I will have the time to do something a little more creative.

roses, lavender, rosemary, cloves, allspice, star anise, orris root, sea salt

cool little sachets for the kids

Kay, gotta go!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Last year I gave my family all a variation of the same thing for Christmas… Coasters. They were Cute felt coasters,  decorative and waterproof!  Real wool felt is great for this project, because wool is a natural insulator from temperatures and also moisture. I like to line the felt with cork, for an added layer of insulation.

Cork for the bottom of the coasters can be very thin.

Take some felt, a bit of cork-board (available at many stationery stores), glue, and something for “edging” (like a scrap of leather, a bit of twine or ribbon, sequins…)

Make a circle out of paper as your template. No-one likes a miniature coaster, so be generous. One time I used a plastic thing that was headed for the recycling-bin, another time I used the top of a huge mug I have (keeping the pen-tip away from the cup, of course).

Use this template to trace onto the cork, then cut out the cork circles. Next, cut circles out of the felt. Simply glue together, and then glue your edging around to look all pretty.

My personal coaster, after a year's HEAVY use (every day at least twice, still holds up!)

I used home-made felt, but store-bought felt would do, as would any non-fray or cute-fraying fabric (other wool, denim…) Keep in mind that most “felt” sold at craft stores is actually made from synthetic fibres, unless they mark it clearly to be wool. Real wool felt is more expensive than synthetic; however, it provides a real barrier for heat, cold, and moisture so it’s better for coasters. Happy crafting!

what's this? a gift for me? aw!

Green Christmas Tip Number One: Wrap gifts with pretty scarves, I can get them second-hand or 5 for $10 at Ardene. They are a gift in themselves and can be tied to make knot-purses, table runners, etc.

I add to the scarf idea by tying the corners to 2 bangles to make a nice bag.

Ingenious techniques for wrapping gifts can be found here!


Green Christmas Tip Number Two: Old Sweaters! Like the one you got last Christmas that you know you’ll never wear…Upcycle it into a gift! They can be made into a comfy couch cushion, mitts, booties, leg warmers, hats, stuffed toys and more! If its 100% wool it can be felted, oh the FUN!

a charming sweater becomes mitts for mom and slippers for baby

Weihnachtskarte Seide 1900

Christmas Cards can be re-used in many ways!

Green Christmas Tip Number Three: Save Christmas cards to use for all kinds of crafts. You can cut out the pictures on them to make gift tags, cut them into strips, staple into loops and make a garland and/or cut and paste pieces of them to make new cards or scrapbook embellishments.

Green Christmas Tip Number Four: Baby Socks! This year I dug out my kids outgrown socks and cloth-pined 24 of them on a ribbon to make an advent calendar.

Each sock has a little treat inside. You could also use the socks to hide treats in and hang them in the tree.

They make sweet gift card holders too.

Green Christmas Tip Number Five:
 Instead of using tissue paper for gift bag filler, why not make use of the SCADS of Christmas flyers that come in the mail.

What’s your Green Tip?

Thanks to Brooke McCartney-Langdon for letting us share her Green Christmas Tips!

The photos of beautifully wrapped gifts, throw pillows, mittens, slippers, socks and treats are also from Brooke.

I have a small, possibly boring (no! Don’t leave!) story to share. A couple of years back, I had a job in “The Fashion Industry”. One of the little perks they’d give us was access to a mass Sample Sale twice a year.

This one has the beautiful Indian ribbon sewn to it.

Leftovers from the stores, samples that were made and discarded, and assorted wearable rejects were sold to employees of this nameless corporation by the pound. It worked out to about $1 per garment, and somehow everyone would score some nice stuff. I got my yoga-pants from one of these, and believe me I’m wearing them to the ground. Anyhow, during one of those sales I came across a bag of black polyester-fleece gloves with little pom-poms sewn on the wrists.

Quite cute already, but I thought “I’ll do something with these…” A year or so later, I did! I stuck with a colour theme for each pair, and used embroidery floss and sequins and beads that I already had.

So cool they're hot; so hot they're cool. Fire and Ice...

The most popular gloves have turned out to be the ones on which I simply sewed a colourful ribbon around the top. This ribbon was imported from India many years ago, and at the time was rare to find in mainstream shops. Since then, thankfully, many of the craft and sewing shops have similar ribbons available.

You could sew on a fringe, a bit of cord, some braided leather, some leftover bits and pieces of most anything. I would like to do something similar with old gloves I find in the fripperies and second-hand stores!

A couple of technical pointers: if the gloves are stretchy, either use stretchy thread or make certain that you stretch the material as you sew on the decorations. Try to not sew where there will be a lot of wear. This way your threads won’t be in immanent danger of breaking when the gloves are worn. You might notice that I stuck to decorating just the cuff area. Another suggestion is to tie knots often, so that if a thread does break, all your work will not come undone.

Happy decorating! I glove Christmas!

Decorated Gloves

Natasha Henderson in Montreal

Felted soaps make really cool presents, and are conversation-pieces.

Felted soap is a lovely and unique gift that just takes a bit of patience, but anyone can do it! You need some wool roving, a soap of any type, a bit of bubble wrap (or a bamboo mat, or a texured waterproof surface), a towel, an old pair of nylons, and then some hot water (even boiling!)

A soap, some roving... a bit of bubble-wrap, a towel.

For the roving, you can ask at your local wool-shop if they have roving, otherwise you might like to order some online.

Wrap the bar of soap in wool layers, placing the wool at right angles. It is good to wrap the soap fairly snugly. If it is too loose, it could cause weird bumps, but on the end it would still be ok. Work a few layers, until you cannot see the soap anymore. Keep in mind that the wool will shrink and shift somewhat as you do this, so what you lay out on the soap will probably not be exactly what you will end up with! The factor of surprise in this is actually part of the fun.

Beginning to wrap the soap in wool roving...

Place the felt-covered soap inside a pocket made from nylon pantyhose. I bought my first pair of nylons in possibly decades in order to make felted soaps. From those nylons I cut a few lengths and tied off the ends to make several pockets, so then I could teach soap-felting workshops. Don’t worry too much if the wool shifts a little while you put it in the pocket; it is possible to adjust the wool when you remove it from the pocket later on.

Pour hot water over the pocket. Rub the soapy mass inside the pocket for about eight to ten minutes. Roll it in a towel to remove some of the lather and excess moisture.

Wool-covered soap in the pocket!

Remove the soap/felt from the nylon pocket, then rub the felted soap on bubble-wrap until the felt is truly felted down and matted against the soap. During this process, you might need to rub a little more water on the soap, or roll it again in the towel if it’s a bit too lathery. Do this until you see that the wool is all stuck together, a few minutes. Try making a few of these felted soaps, and you’ll get the hang of it!

The felt will shrink as you use the soap over time, until there is no soap left and you have a cute little ball of wool that you could cut to turn into a little pouch, or a cat-toy… or even Christmas decorations.

In the process of felting the soap!

I have a business selling felted soaps (amongst other things) and my clients have told me that they love the gentle exfoliation of the wool, how fine and frothy the soap lather is, and that the soap lasts much longer than if it wasn’t wearing such a nicely felted wool sweater! Enjoy!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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