Archives for posts with tag: Holidays

Lady B and Rosemary: looking after things, 24 hours a day

We have a couple of new mascots in Fleurbain, and both would like to wish you a merry Christmas. Lady B came onto the scene at the same time as Rosemary, who had spent the summer in our friendly neighbourhood community garden. They are both over-wintering in Fleurbain, taking full advantage of our large bright windows and welcoming atmosphere.

All the best to you in 2012!

Natasha Henderson and Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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It’s a good time for branching out and making connections.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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.

rosebud

marmelade, the social cat

Hello!

I hosted a party last night, and I would love to share it with you. We enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends on the weekend before the holidays. And, what else brings friends and the winter holidays together like building a real gingerbread house?

Before the party I fashioned a house-shaped structure wrapped with tinfoil. Just then Natasha arrived, and she placed my homemade gingerbread onto the structure with icing. Strangely enough, we used a butter-cream icing. This is unconventional, but I had no egg whites to make royal icing. None of the guests noticed, so I think this was o.k.

bourboned almon-tinis with cranberry 'ice-buds'

Here are the initial stages of the gingerbread house.  Supplies required: various candies of your choosing, old cards, icing, scissors, glue gun, markers, and another friend to make delicious fancy drinks.

No doubt, there was imagination and creativity involved in the initial stages. As more people arrived bearing their additional decorations for the house, however, the project really took off!

gingerbread, artistry... action!

Plenty of detail was added, and then subtracted. A wise suggestion early in the proceedings was to not do any ‘landscaping’ with icing until the final decisions for the house were made.

Et l’oeuvre finale!

Jelly beans really added colour and character to everything. Also, there was no reason to not include little liqueur candies. Some of what you see here includes a candy cane stream whose brandy bean bridge is lined with red jelly bean lamp-posts.  Nearby are carolling cowboys for good company! In the foreground are liqueur candies topped with Natasha’s choco-almo date balls. They reminded everyone of grannies with flapper-style hats!

note Santa on top the house amongst fluffy coconut balls. chocolate-covered raisins and vanilla jelly beans were brought together to make a welcoming entry. a late addition not seen in this photo are julie's chocolaty pears.

party planning committee members: Tammy Schmidt, host; Natasha Henderson, official photographer; Marmelade, Iggy, Billi and Rosebud, members at large.

party cat

billi is always finding new places to take a nap

Iggy stayed at home because he's shy.

Green Christmas tip of the day: Take something boring and add BUTTONS! I love buttons. I remember spending hours playing with mason jars full of buttons at my Gramma’s (She was a seamstress) They are fun for making jewelry, adding cute details to clothes, mitts, backpacks, and for making easy tree decorations… to name a few. All of these would make a lovely Christmas gift. (And if you have someone on your list like me, just wrap up a bundle of buttons!)
Thanks to Brooke McCartney-Langdon for a brilliant variety of photos illustrating her Green Christmas Tip!

button snowman

too cute!

button wreaths

fashion bracelet

A few months ago I taught felt-making and other craft techniques to a large group of students. The project was massive, and very rewarding for me to see what the kids could do. While working there I received a pretty neat book as a gift. If you are really motivated to learn a new craft right now in time to make “stuff” for Christmas gifts, you could try some of the projects in this book: “Felt (Handmade Style)“, by India Flint. A worst-case scenario would be to buy this book, and then give it as a gift (or a promise of gifts… “I’ll make you what’s on page 36!”) if you just don’t have time.

Kids really love felt-making.

The idea of a promise is a good one… I have a few people on my gift-list who I have promised specific things to this year, and they will receive a rain-check on them. If I don’t have time to devote a whole morning to someone’s gift right now, then they will receive it later! That holds especially true for experimental gifts… trying to make a fitted hat for a friend who lives across the country, or trying to design a massive piece of felt that would be light enough to wear as a head-wrap. These things take time and creativity.

CRAFT TIP FOR NOW: If you want to do one craft that is mentioned in the book that you can do right NOW without referencing the book… well, you can make some wool beads! It’s easy. If you have a small amount of wool roving (or batting) then you can do it. Take a pinch of wool, use a drop of dish-soap and some warm water, and start to roll it around in your palms. Over time this will form a ball, and you can keep rolling it in your hands or on a bamboo mat or piece of bubble wrap. Experiment adding different colours to it, experiment with different sizes. A little wool bead normally takes about 5-10 minutes to do. It’s a good craft for kids, because it takes up time, keeps their hands busy, only involves soap and water as the “messy” stuff, and for some magical reason all kids like to do this! In the end you can use your wool beads for jewelry, as decoration on other things like tuques or mittens, for Christmas decorations… the sky is really the limit what you can do with them.

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