Preparing: are you?

We all have our own way of confronting (or trying to hide from) the Holidays. 

It’s not ONLY Christmas, of course–although both secular and sacred Christmas imagery and messaging seem to be everywhere in my Kansas City environment. From Festivus to Kwanzaa, from Hanukkah to  Winter Solstice celebrations to Yule, there seems to be a holiday for everybody at this time of year.

Whatever holidays you celebrate, how’s it going? We’re at the mid-point of December. Are you ready?

Perhaps you’re one of those organized, super-prepared people, who’ve been buying a building stockpile of presents since last January. You already have you holiday greeting cards in the mail (or your e-cards pre-loaded to send at just the perfect moment).

Perhaps you’re in the thick of it now–still working on the gift list, still considering your plans. Partway there–getting there–but not done yet. That’s about where I am: working on it. If you’re still looking for creative gift-wrapping ideas, you may find some of my last-December Image-of-Interest posts helpful.

Or maybe you prefer to live dangerously, and save your shopping/decorating/cooking for the last possible second. Good luck, and may the Creative Force be with you, all you last-minute thrill-seekers!

No matter how you celebrate–and no matter which, if any, holidays you celebrate–I hope you find some merriment along the way!

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Explore December Holidays Pinterest Board, for the “paper dolls” image, and the talented and creative Debbi Ridpath Ohi, via The Office, and John Atkinson, via Wrong Hands, for their humorous holiday images.

How can we be both generous and wise?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Today is not only Kwanzaa, but also Boxing Day in much of the English-speaking world. No, contrary to some of the stories I’ve heard, Boxing Day isn’t called that because we bundle all our unwanted gifts back into their boxes and return them to the stores that day.

The name of the holiday comes from the alms boxes or the poor boxes that churches have put out over the centuries, to collect aid for the poor. In other words, the holiday seeks to honor and promote the tradition of charitable giving during the holidays.

Maybe you have some newly-received “Christmas money” fattening your pocketbook and would like to share some of it, or maybe you are seeking a nice tax deduction before the end of the year. Maybe you simply have the altruistic generosity of love for others overflowing in your heart (wouldn’t that be lovely?).

Whatever your motivation, today is a traditional day for charitable giving. If that’s your aim, then God bless you!

If you are in the habit of giving, you probably have your list of favorites already. Mine include our local animal shelter, the Great Plains SPCA, my church, Harvesters, The Nature Conservancy, the ASPCA, the Southern Poverty Law Center, K9s4Cops, and WikipediaI’d give more to the many deserving others in operation, but as I noted last week, all of us mortals are finite beings with finite resources. If I may disagree slightly with Anne Frank above, it is possible to impoverish yourself from giving, although the intrinsic benefits are many.

I hope you have your own list! But wherever you give, may I also suggest that you run it past The Charity Navigator (another excellent candidate for receiving donations, by the way), for a dose of clarity and realism before you invest too deeply? Unfortunately, wherever generous people seek to help others with their gifts, there also are unscrupulous people who seek only to enrich themselves in the name of “charity.” The Charity Navigator helps us to be both generous and wise

Happy Boxing Day!

IMAGES: Many thanks to Inspired by Familia, by Mari Hernandez-Tuten, for the Anne Frank quote image. Her article includes some perceptive insights you also might find interesting. Many thanks to Period Oak Antiques for the photo of an alms box from about 1450; there are more views of it on the website. We now have more efficient ways to give, though no less need. The Charity Navigator logo is from the organization’s website.

5 slick tips to make your own wrapping paper

The Artdog Images of Interest

It’s December (I know. Already!) Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, BrumaliaYule, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Boxing Day, or anything else, it’s likely you’re wrapping presents in December. So this year, on the first three Saturdays of December, the Artdog’s offering some creative gift-wrapping solutions.

1. Designer Marian Parsons used stamping to create this wrapping paper–but this only scratches the surface of the possibilities with kraft paper, butcher paper, newsprint, etc., and stamps. In this case Parsons used a wood block stamp and white paint, but those are more like guidelines. Your imagination is the limit.

The ideas in this post involve, as you see, some personal craft capabilities, and require some advance planning. That’s why I’m running it first. Gives you more time to plan, and execute said plans.

2. Here’s another brilliant idea from Marian Parsons: making decorations with stencils. Use butcher paper for this, so the paper won’t pucker. Parsons uses diluted acrylic paint. You’ll probably want to make some test runs on scraps of butcher paper before you take on a big piece, to get your mixture just right. Otherwise your stenciling efforts could get really smeary (voice of experience, here).

Don’t hog the glory. Most of these ideas are easy enough that kids can do them. If you’re going to make a mess anyway–and if you have the odd child rattling around the house–by all means, deal them in! (Even if they’re not odd, they’ll probably enjoy it).

3. Speaking of children, here’s a project that’s actually designed for them. First, wrap your boxes in plain blue construction paper.The uniform round circles are made from a pencil eraser, dipped in diluted white craft paint then stamped onto make the design–snowflakes, a snowman’s body. Then add permanent-marker arms, eyes and mouth, and a wedge of orange paper glued on for a nose, and a snowman appears. Of course, it’s okay for adults to do this project, too. Thank designer Morgan Levine for this one!
4. Here’s another ultra-kid friendly idea from Marian Parsons: Potato prints! Never heard of them? It’s not only easy, it’s a lot of fun. Parsons offers step-by-step instructions for this project here. You’ve never had such brilliant wrapping paper! Give it a try–even if you don’t have any kids around. Big people can excel at this, too.
5. Here’s another stamping project, only this time you’re using a wine cork, cut to make the oval shape of a Christmas light. Might want to make several, perhaps one for each color. Wrap your boxes in butcher paper or sheets of unprinted newsprint. Then brush the paint onto the cork stamp(s) and alternate colors in a row (maybe you could “cheat” and add a pencil line to follow). After they dry, go back and darken or draw in the line with a permanent marker. This genius idea is from Morgan Levine.

As you can see, these five ideas all require gathering things up in advance, and planning a work-space that can withstand a little wet paint. But with some advance planning and acquisitions, I think you’ll find these are fun and easy creative ways to make wrapping paper that will most definitely impress. Have fun!

IMAGES: I must confess, all of these images and ideas were really easy to find–they’re from a gallery of 50 Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas presented on HGTV’s website. Many thanks for all the great ideas, and for rounding up all the bright-eyed designers!