Well it’s official. I was in a store over the weekend and Christmas consumerism exploded in the aisles beside a shopping cart full of reduced-priced Halloween candy. I’ve seen on the news recently that some major stores have appropriated the traditional family gathering time and started their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. I think that stinks. Way to go American consumer culture, take from families who could really use some meaningful time being thankful for what they already have.
I admit I do go out for Black Friday. I’ve done this bargain hunting with my sister-in-law for at least 16 years. I always buy for the older kids in the Toys for Tots program. Good deals make my dollars go farther and that means a few more kids are assured of at least one gift.
Black Friday is one crazy morning. I saw a fist fight a few years back – two women fighting over a TV. Last year I heard about a pepper spray incident over a video game system. I’ve seen a crowd turn ugly when people who've waited in line for hours encounter people just leaving their cars who are determined to cut in line. We don’t go nuts on things like electronics, we just go to save money on regular stuff like socks. Admittedly, we people watch too!
Yes, I buy those Black Friday socks, but I mostly make my gifts. Each handcrafted piece is done intentionally – that is – with intent. My imagination, my affection, my creativity, and my time on earth, all align in focus to create interesting or lovely things for the people I care about.
Another thing about me. I love to repurpose things. To make nice things out of discarded things just tickles me. It also keeps junk out of the waste stream that’s clogging our landfills and polluting every corner of the planet. I’ve taken a cue from Martha Stewart and made mittens from old sweaters and shopping bags from vintage draperies. I’ve also concocted bath recipes, coffee blends, and relaxation CD’s. I invite you to look me up on Pinterest for more ideas.
As a jump start on the holiday season, the following are a few gifts I’ve made over the years that were really well-received. Alas, I don’t have pictures, but I tried to be as detailed as possible so anyone wanting to make them should be able to follow along.
Repurposed Stationary Set ~
I started this project by buying a sustainably grown bamboo pen for my daughter (off ebay). Then, using two sizes of opened and flattened envelopes as templates, I made crazy envelopes out of full page magazine ads and Patagonia catalog pages. A fine bead of regular old Elmers glue sealed the sides of my new envelopes. I could have used a glue stick but having had glue stick projects come unglued before, I opted for the sure thing. I added white labels for the addresses, and a recycled paper writing tablet. I made a custom cover for the tablet from a very nice picture I found online depicting the recycle symbol as a stylized tree. I also found a Save a Tree/ Reuse Paper self-inking stamp. I bundled up the envelopes in two stacks and put it all into a cigar box that I covered with cancellation marks from all over the world. It was one of my more fun projects that looked like it came from one of those fancy and pricey catalogs.
Ransom Note Refrigerator Magnets ~
Picture one of those TV crime show ransom notes where the words are glued together from newspapers and magazines. Now picture these individual letters sticking to the front of your refrigerator. Cool huh? Being a Scrabble fan I was confident words could be made if I followed the number and ABC count of Scrabble letters. I also added questions marks and exclamation points for emphasis. After cutting large alphabet letters from cereal boxes, glossy sales papers and magazines, I stuck them on peel and stick magnet sheets. I bought those, but it’s also a great way to use up those freebie ad magnets and out of date magnetic calendars. Just carefully peel away the text or picture to get to the sticky base underneath. Tip: arrange them this way and that to save space. I then use a matte finish Modpodge coating. After they dried, I cut them out. They came out really nice and got a lot of laughs. They look fabulous on the fridge.
Snowmen vs. Santas Checker Set ~
A friend of mine drinks different types of beer and saves bottle caps of all colors and brands for me. A few years ago I thought up a twist on an old standard game – checkers. You’ll need:
• 24 bottle caps. Be sure they’re not bent.
• 1 bottle of clear Diamond Glaze (check your craft store) or two or three bottles of cheap dollar store clear nail polish
• 12 pictures of Santas and 12 pictures of Snowmen thought really it could be anything as long as there are 12 of one and 12 of the other. I cut mine from a catalog with vintage pictures but you could also check the dollar store for inexpensive holiday greeting cards. It’s possible to cut the small circles (bottle cap size) by hand by tracing a quarter. Or buy yourself a nice quarter-sized hole punch. I eventually did that. Much easier and super fast.
Once you’ve assembled your supplies, dab a dot of glue inside the bottle cap and carefully center the picture inside. Smooth out any bubbles and lumps. Allow to dry then slowly fill the bottle cap with Diamond Glaze or nail polish. I found simple checkerboards at my local dollar store and used those to go with my games. You can easily make your own. A search online will give you the exact count of squares needed.
Secret Book ~
This book innocently sits on the shelf with the rest of your library, but when you turn a few pages, you’ll discover this crumby old book is actually a secret compartment. It’s a box made out of a book and the cover is the lid. Sneaky.
• You’ll need a thick old and boring-looking book. Try a thrift store or the library for a free or inexpensive discard.
• Modpodge and applicator (foam or bristle brush)
• An Exacto knife or box cutter blade.
• A sheet of foil or waxed paper
Flip open the book and go at least ten pages in. Mark the page by tucking your sheet of foil or waxed paper inside and close the book. This is what you should see – ten loose pages and a protective sheet of foil or waxed paper. The rest of the pages will be the box. Now apply a liberal coating of Modpodge to the edge below those ten pages. Put something heavy on top, smooth any blobs with the brush or foam applicator and wait about an hour for it to dry.
The book will be stiff now except for those few loose pages at the front of the book. Determine the size of the compartment your book will have within its pages. Trace out a smaller rectangle and carefully use the Exacto blade or box cutter to cut out as many pages as you’re able to at one time. Keep on going until you almost reach the back cover. Once you have a nice deep center cut away, paint on the Modpodge to seal the raw edges just like you did to the outside. Using the scrap pages you’ve cut out, paste these over the raw edges inside with more Modpodge for a nice finished look. Leave your book open to dry. And there you go — a very cool looking, infinitely useful, gift.
And when my gift making is over for the year, my creativity turns inward and I write!
News: Coming later this week -- my Exquisite Quills group blog and companion yahoo group's Exquisite Quills Holiday Anthology Vol I.
multi-published award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and
learning interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her
family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in
the rolling glacial hills of the upper mid-west.
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