Holiday Gifts...Part II

After yesterday's wildly off-topic post, I'll hopefully stick to the topic today. Maybe.

I would like to give those of you making crafty holiday gifts, a little someum' someum' to think about. I know for a fact that anyone can make a spectacular gift - all anyone needs is a little time and the right tools. Maybe some instructions - or at least a creative idea - and some patience. Those few things, plus the points I'll discuss below, will help to make your gift fantastic - rather than fugly. Read on for my thoughts - and a few ideas - about making gifts for the holidays.

I've done so many different things for holiday gifts - and they've changed a lot over the years. Since having childebeasts (which would make it sound like I remember what life was like before they came along...NOT! lol), I've tried to do things they can help with - but are still wanted by the recipient. There is nothing worse than getting something the parent considers cute - but you have no idea a) what it is, b) what it's used for, and c) what to do with it. I'm all for giving gifts made by the kids - but certain things are items only grandparents adore. Let's not force those things on the unsuspecting (or unwilling)!

Also, another quick note - know your skill level. There are so many different projects online (all it takes is a quick Google search), it's easy to find one that fits with your talents, skill level, budget, and style. If you run across something you really want to make - and it takes you 5 hours to make one, that may not be the best thing to make for all 100 of your office mates. Trust me. I've done this to myself before - and rather than enjoying the process, I wind up cursing the recipients existence. That isn't really what the holiday spirit is about...

Edibles are always great - especially for people you work with. If you have (or can find!) a dynamite recipe for fudge or other holiday confection, you'll endear yourself to those you give it to...forever. This is one of the easiest things I've done - and has saved my backside more than once. Great for last minute gifts - or to keep on hand to give to those people who give you something...and you don't have anything to give back.

Ornaments are also appreciated. These are great things for associates or acquaintances - maybe those who are closer to you than the majority of people at the office, but not a real close friend. These can also be good for teachers because they are so easy to customize. Last year, we did a lot of ornaments. (I thought I made a tutorial for this - but I can't find it, so evidently I didn't.) Since we live in Denver, we made "melted snowman" ornaments. Clear glass ornaments, clear (and a few white) seed beads, black (eyes & buttons), orange (nose), and red & white (hats & scarves) polymer clay, and acetate (overhead projector sheets) cut to fit inside the ornaments. I made a pattern for the acetate so it would fill the diameter of the ornament - and before cutting them out of the full sheet, I stamped white (and embossed iridescent) snowflakes all over. Then I wrote, "Happy Holidays from the _______ 2008" on the acetate, taking up most of the room. Around the bottom I wrote, "Genuine snowman from Denver, CO". I cut these out, rolled them up to fit through the neck of the ornament, and used a pencil to center the writing. Dump in the seed beads and little accessories you've made out of polymer clay, tie a ribbon around the top, and you're done! You can make a lot of these quickly - and inexpensively.

The other things I've/we've made...homemade potpourri, sun catchers with dried flowers/leaves/seeds (this one takes some forethought if you want to save by drying your own flowers/leaves/seeds), wreathes, lip balm kits (for my daughter's friends), personalized stationery, mini/art quilts, and memory boxes. If you are looking for something to give a pet lover, homemade treats for their pet are appreciated, as is an easy-to-make personalized food or water dish.

Whatever you decide to make, whether it's from scratch or you're just altering something you've bought, personalizing it to the recipient is easy - and appreciated. It shows you've taken the time and made the effort to make it special. Which would you rather receive - something someone made 100 of...or something personalized? Personalization doesn't take that much longer - but can really make your gift special.

I know I said I would only talk about this for one day...but it's now lapsed into two. And I'll open it up for questions...if you are going to be crafty this holiday season, and you have questions, let me have 'em. From questions about how to make something, to wanting me to write a tutorial about a project...or needing ideas for a certain skill level - or particular recipients...or wanting to know where to get a supply (at a great price)...or anything else, leave a comment with your question. If there are enough questions, I'll make a Q&A post.

Just don't ask me about the meaning of life.

Holiday Gifts

Before I get in to today's post, I want to thank you for the well wishes. I'm not dead after fact, I feel a lot better today. Unfortunately for the childebeasts, their plan was foiled. Muwahahaha

Today, let's talk about holiday gifts. As someone who absolutely despises the holidays, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this. In fact, I'm not even going to say anything more about it...probably until December. By then, even those of us who don't get all "warm and fuzzy" about the holidays can't resist the pressure of it all, and are forced to submit. Leave me alone about it the other 11 months - and I'll do my best to pretend I like it the last month of the year. (Maybe I'll write some schleppy post about why I dislike Christmas so much...but maybe not. It's not interesting, no one thing made me start hating it, and it just brings up more holiday talk.)

While pondering the possible end of my life yesterday, I was continually interrupted by commercials of happy families getting their holiday groove on. Especially by KMart and their lay-a-way plan. (I think those commercials started like a 4-6 weeks ago.) Irritating as it was, I know it's going to get a whole lot worse - much like the political commercials do right before a presidential election. Then I found out that Santa will be arriving at area malls this Friday. November 6. A full FORTY-NINE days before Christmas. It's a record - and the malls say they're doing it to help "parents get in the mood, and realize Christmas is just around the corner". As if parents - who have children of any age - can forget? Really?? I find it hard to believe the 'beasts are the only children who, all year long, say they want _______ for Christmas. Even the day after Christmas, while half the crap is still in its packaging, the 'beasts are watching TV and commenting they want _____ for next Christmas. Thanks, KMart - I don't need a reminder that I can put everything on lay-a-way. And a huge THANK YOU to the Denver Post - for letting me know Santa will be at the mall from tomorrow til Christmas. You just cemented the fact I will not be going to the mall - for any reason - til after the first of the year.* The last thing I want or need is to get the childebeasts all riled up about Christmas...while they are still hyped up on their Halloween candy.

Hello...can you say tangents? Maybe we'll get to what my point is. So the post is a little convoluted and confusing. So am I.

Crafting and holiday gifts. This will be old news to some of you - but still important things to remember, nonetheless. There are some very specific rules to making things for others as holidays gifts, lest you land on Homemade Hilarity. Fantastic site - if you, or something you've made, aren't on it. In an effort to help all of you - craftista or not - here is some important information to keep in mind if you are going to make gifts this year, rather than buying everything. Let's face it - rollin' with these economic times means everyone needs to save a few Benjamen's (or in my case, Washington's), so many people who haven't necessarily considered giving a handmade gift before, are seriously considering it this year. Which is awesome - I'm all about forwarding the handmade movement - as long as it's well thought out and not just thrown together.

There are several points I want to make about crafting a gift for the holidays - especially those who are new to making gifts. I truly believe anyone can make something really nice - whether they have experience or not - and I'd like to give you some pointers so you can be as successful as possible. I'm not going to focus on what you can make - doing a search on Google will net you more results than you could use in 100 holidays - but I do want to give you some things to think about before plunging in, headfirst.

Unless you'd rather do things the Queen Katherine way...don't think about it, just start making something. Don't worry about how many you need to make - just start on one. After finishing that first one, realize it took you six hours to make it, you've use all your supplies for that particular project, it's ten o'clock at night so the stores are closed, the gift exchange event is in two days, and you need to make 109 more. Sadly, that's how I do I'm trying to save you and spare you a lot of frustration. Tune in tomorrow for the stuff I was going to post today, until I got off on other subjects.

* In all fairness, it should be noted that I haven't been to the mall's been so long that I can't even remember the last time I went to the mall. So it isn't like they'll be missing out on my I-don't-have-two-nickels-to-rub-together-food-stamp-getting-I-hate-Christmas self.


Ugly Dog Flu, Swine Flu & Turning into a Wombat



Could it be SWINE FLU??

Or...Am I just turning into a WOMBAT??

Any of these is entirely plausible.

Whatever it is, I'm dying. Wait. I can only hope I'm dying.

Since I rarely go anywhere, I didn't just pick this up somewhere. No. I think it was a conspiracy. I think this is the way my children have planned to finally get rid of me.

Everything hurts. It's hard to type this post. But I wanted to let someone know, just in case this is it.

If I make it the next few hours, I'll be laying in bed, watching my favorite new shows. Have you checked out ABC's Wednesday night line-up? Hank (with Kelsey Grammar), In the Middle (Patricia Heaton), Modern Family (Ed O'Neill), and Cougar Town (Courtney Cox Arquette). Sadly, watching these shows is the high point of my week, sick or not. If you haven't seen any of them, you are under orders by the Queen to watch. Especially In the Middle. LOVE IT. Whether it's due to fantastic acting - or the strange way the three kids remind me of my three kids - this is a DO NOT MISS show. And I don't think I've said that since Ally McBeal.

Since I'm dying, you have to find the links yourself. Or not. I don't have enough energy to care. I just think you'll really enjoy these shows.

And that, my dear friends, is my final gift to you, in case whatever-this-is really does kill me. Just know you were loved enough for me to share my television-watching secrets with you.

Now get out of here before you get whatever-this-is. I'm also not doing any dropping today...I'm sorry. I just can't. And I don't want to infect anyone. But I really do love you.

xx (from afar),

To Whom it May Concern...

...I don't really care if you don't want to get up at 6:00 am. Neither do I. But you have to get up so I have 8 hours to look for my sanity, without your help for school. isn't my problem you don't have clean clothes. Maybe you should have put them in the hamper every day - rather than dumping them on me all at once. Oh yeah - the hamper is that huge thing by your bedroom door...right next to the pile of clothes you've accumulated on the floor. You know, that thing you use as a weapon against your brother and sister.'ll get me to wash your clothes if you ask me before 10 pm., I'm not going to let you have a girl sleep over. You haven't been that successful at taking all my sense.

...yes, I do get "pissy" when the police show up at 10:30 pm because the neighbor called after they heard you yell at your sister, "I'm going to throw you down the stairs and kill you!!". And she's screaming in a pitch that's close to something only neighbors dogs can hear.

...I also get "pissy" when you use the word "pissy".

...I hate riding the city bus.

...I get a bit irritated when, 2 weeks into school, you call to tell me you'll be home late because you have detention. gave me every gray hair I have on my head - so stop singing that stupid song you guys made up. ("Secret Gray Haired Girl" sung to what I've now decided is also a stupid song "Secret Agent Man".) can give me all the dirty looks you want for taking 17 items in the 15 item lane at the grocery store. I just want to get out of there before my 'beasts do damage I can't pay for.

...I'm not amused when we get home from the store and I discover 5 things I didn't purchase at the store - but you threw in the cart behind my back. Especially when I had to put my Midol back because I didn't have enough money to cover the total.'ll feel the same way when you discover why I was buying the Midol. isn't charming when you go up to random strangers and tell them I'm single and need a date. really isn't charming when you choose to do this when I haven't showered, we walked to the store in 90* heat, and the guy is:
~ so obviously not into hygeine.
~ has a wedding ring the size of Maldives.
~ is already with a woman.'s so not funny when you call out, in a crowd of people, "Ok, ok - just please don't beat me again when we get home! I can't take the pain anymore!" - OR - "Mom, if you won't use the whip on me I promise to put my own chains back on and get back into the closet myself!".

...I also don't care for the game, Intercom Mom. (Don't know what that is? It's one of the hottest games my kids love to play - and the rules are simple. The store must be busy - and mom must be frazzled. You nonchalantly make your way away from said mother...then beat feet to the customer service desk. Then you tell the person working that you think your mom left you at the store - and could they please page your mom?? Yeah. I love that game.)

...finding out you're a well-known "comp doctor", after you left me hanging with my pain situation, annoys me., I don't think I'm the only mother in the universe who gets upset when you spend the night at your friend's house - and come home with bright green hair. And a nose ring. And some additional new "colorful" words to add to your already "colorful" vocabulary.

...having your dean call me - in the middle of an appointment with "comp doctor" - to let me know you skipped a class, will put me on edge. Telling the dean I don't "do anything" and am just at home, not answering so the dean should continue calling back until he gets an answer, isn't exactly on my list of great ideas, either.

...then again, the dean deciding it's ok to continue hitting redial until I answer, gives me serious cause for concern regarding our educational system.

...I'm sorry you think I'm acting "uppity" because I was irritated you called some 800 number to get a "free" Bible from the Mormons - and now they won't stop calling/coming over - and you want me to handle it, and I won't. You called for the Bible. You can politely tell them you aren't interested. HINT: Agreeing to let them come over for a Bible study this weekend, then planning on just pretending you aren't home when they show up, is not a good way to end their barrage of calls/visits.

...just because I "look" normal doesn't mean my handicap placard hanging from the rear view mirror is fake. No I'm not interested in discussing my medical condition with you. No you cannot have my dr's phone number. No I don't care if you report me.

...and finally, I don't care about so-and-so's parents letting their kid have co-ed sleepovers/go two states over for a rap concert/not having to go to school/drive - alone - even though they failed the driving test/smoke pot/whatever,.You've already told me I'm "the meanest mom in the world", I'm "totally uncool", and that I was "never a kid so [I] don't understand and never will!!" - and that other thing. You know, the one about the joy I get out of punishing you, the pure glee I feel for not letting you do whatever you want, and the sheer giddiness I have about you (and your attitude) staying home rather than going out with your friends. I actually do sit up at night and come up with ways to make you miserable. (Are you kidding me? I'm almost always useless by 7, praying for bed by 8, and catatonic by 9...and you think I'm still able to come up with ways to wreck your life??)

Wait. Scrap that.


Halloween Hangover

My aunt and uncle's, where we spend Halloween every year.
The two little lights in the upstairs windows are little Halloween luminaries.

The front yard. Spooky grave site with it's occupant trying to escape by clawing through the earth!
Close up of yard decorations.
Mr Creepy's hand is just visible in the center, at the bottom.
Skull torch lighting the way for trick or treaters

It was a full moon on Halloween.
If you look close, you'll notice something is wrong.
The Man in the Moon is missing!

He's been replaced by a witch!
My aunt - who doesn't need a costume.
She's a crazy old bat everyday.
I hope she knows I'm kidding.

A frightful sight -
she's giving my oldest a kiss.

A trick or treating neighbor -
the cutest little bumble bee I've ever seen!

My uncle, who's married to the above aunt...for 40 yrs next June!
He's a normal guy - but he's just a big kid.
He lives to pull pranks - you should hear some of the things he and his best friend
did in high school. His best friend's name was what do you expect??
Every year he does something to mess with the kids.
Usually he scares them to the point where they need therapy.
Year after year, he gets them so good that they never forget it.
They talk about it for the rest of the year. Seriously.
His pranks are something they wait for -
with enthusiasm and excitement...mixed with total fear and dread.
Nothing is off limits to him.
So when the kids were called to their basement,
they were beyond hesitant.
It took a lot of cajoling to get them to go down there...
when they finally opened the door, turned on the light and
descended the basement stairs, this is what they found...
(this photo has not been altered - and was taken with both of us on the same level)

 (To get the full effect, you may want to click on the picture to enlarge it)
Yes, his knees are in his shoes. And he's holding a "Harpo Marx" horn.
That he honked all night.
I can't look at that picture without cracking up.

And's onto the 'beasts.

Meet Michael Jackson.
(What a pose, eh?!)
An important note about "Michael's" hair:
He actually put this entire costume together himself.
He didn't have any hair - in fact, he shaved his head earlier that day.
(I told him he could have a "faux hawk" - he's wanted a mohawk for as long
as I can remember. His hair was longer than it's ever been. He declined,
asking me to shave his head instead. What could I do but comply??
Is it good for him to be that "normal"? At 13??)
And he's blond. So he needed a little help...but the Queen,
being broke savvy, wouldn't buy the expensive wig.
So what did the young man do?
~ I'm so proud of him ~

A) Used black construction paper
B) Used black yarn & his extensive knowledge of knots he's learned
from tying up his brother and sister
C) Used wool roving and needle felted
D) Asked one of his equally bone-headed friends to cut off a few of his dreads

 While under normal circumstances, I would choose "D" if I were answering that question (come on..."D" sounds totally like what one of my offspring would do!), I'm proud to say he didn't do that. Nor did he do "A" or "B"...I'm happy to report that my son chose "C", all by himself!

He had seen me needle felt in the past - and when he saw my black wool roving, inspiration struck. He asked for minimal help at first, then completed it all on his own. I helped him cut the hair and adhere it to the inside of the hat - but I'm still shocked he did that. All by himiself. Yay! I don't know whether I'm more proud that he thought of making hair out of roving - or that he knew (mostly) how to do it. You mean they are paying attention to the things I say? I think I'm going to swoon.

I suppose that one of them listening to me go on about art - and absorb the information - is better than them totally ignoring me about everything...which is what I thought was happening. They may end up in jail - but they'll know about art, damnit!

 Funny how that leads so well into the next costume.
Since the oldest isn't allowed to dress up like he's in some gang called the Juggalos, this was his chance.
He had his face painted like the main band members, Insane Clown Posse (ICP). He bought an over-priced shirt from ICP...then, and this is the incredibly phenomenal part...he wanted to buy an expensive "hatchetman" necklace - and again, my broke savvy self said no.
(Don't know what the "hatchetman" is?
Now you know.)
So he actually asked for my help - and then made his own pendant.
(I know - it's shocking...a teenager asking their parent for help on something?? Don't worry - I'm calling Ripley's Believe It or Not in just a few minutes.)
He printed out a hatchetman, cut it out of 26 gauge aluminum, sanded it with the Dremel, then hardened it with the hammer and steel block. Then he used metal primer before painting it red with acrylic paint.
I know! Close your mouth - you don't look your best with your mouth hanging open.
I'm just sayin''s not your best look.)
This whole experience was such a shocker!

The Princess dressed up as a witch -  a combination "pretty/scary, good/bad" witch.
That made it a bit difficult to do her makeup!
This particular picture makes me smile because it totally doesn't look like her. When she would put that nose on, strange things happened. Not only didn't she look like herself, but she instantly became the ornery, sneaky, mean little witch. Well, at least to her brothers.

Before long, it was back home to scrub the faces...

(Notice his shaved head?!)
And chain their little bodies to their beds as they each came off their candy high...
and settled into sugar-induced comas.
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