Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Easy, Cheap Holiday Crafts

OK readers, here are some tips to help out this budget holiday season.

First - have you heard of Google Docs? It's free and it's awesome. If you are looking for a free way to create your holiday newsletter, mailing labels or gift tags you can download templates here, just go to New and click on the down arrow and choose From template, you can browse All Types or or search by category.

You can also find many download-able gift tag designs and decoration templates from the Craftzine Blog. Look for the search bar and type in gift tags or ornaments or holiday or whatever and all of the related blogs will pop up. There are some cool projects out there. Many just require a printer.

There are two projects I learn from my days teaching Victorian Christmas traditions that can be made with things most people have in their home. To decorate your tree you can make a Victorian candy cone by taking any square paper (or cutting an 8 1/2 x 11 paper into a square)

and rolling it into a cone like this:

after it is rolled, glue in place and punch holes for a ribbon handle.

You can decorate the paper before you roll it using markers, glitter or anything you have. You can use fancier paper like wrapping paper or wallpaper or even fabric covered paper. Keep in mind the cone should be stiff so card stock, felt or wallpaper works best. If you have to use regular paper, glue several sheets together. If you want it to be lined you can glue two pieces of contrasting paper wrong sides together and then roll. When it is done, wait for the glue to dry and fill with your favorite candy!

Another great, easy decoration is a Victorian paper lantern, a nod to the era's Orientalism. Take any piece of paper and fold in half width-wise.

Cut equidistant slits on the folded edge leaving a border around the entire paper uncut like this:

Unfold the paper and glue or staple the sides together, you should have a lantern shape. These lanterns can be made in any size, small ones for the tree or large ones strung across the mantle or entire room. It adds a festive flare on the cheap! To hang or string just use a hole punch on two sides and use ribbon, yarn or string to hang. again, you can decorate the lanterns any way you want or use any color paper.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving, NYC and delayed long weekends

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was really fun. We went to McLean VA to break bread with the Buckmans. We brought vegan green bean casserole and Quorn roast cooked with carrots, onions and potatoes. The casserole used beans from the CSA (one bag down, 3 frozen bags to go) and the recipe came from Fatfree Vegan. After the meal we played with the Wii. The kids practiced Rock Band and we tried our hand at bowling. Time sure flies when you're playing the Wii.

The holiday weekend was cut short because of the annual conference I attend in NYC. I arrived with a co-worker on Saturday and stayed until Wednesday. The conference was mind-numbingly boring as usual. I counted the minutes on my phone and made frequent trips to the exhibitor lounge for free coffee and cookies. It is good for people watching and rating the fashion of attendees.

I almost don't mind the conference because it is very cool to be in New York during the holiday season. We spent two nights just walking around, looking at the decorations and seeing the store windows. I visited Macy's on 34th street; the holiday window was not so great but the floor with Santa and the decorations was worth the trip. Everything was so pretty and on sale! We couldn't believe the sales so early in the season, decorations 40% off? We walked up to Saks Fifth Avenue and they had beautiful holiday windows, plus almost everything in the store 60% off. It was amazing to see the world famous Saks looking like TJ Max with all the low prices and messy shelves. Speaking of 5th Avenue we went to Tiffany's just to check it out and who did we see in the store? Martha Stewart! For Reals! We couldn't go in to the store because she was there but we saw through the glass doors and kept peaking until it started to look weird. Then we casually walked away.

I just missed the tree lighting since it was Wednesday night but we did see the tree and the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center.

Tuesday night I had dinner with my friend Kristen. It's funny that we can go without talking for several months but then pick up just where we left off. Its also funny that no matter where our lives take us we are so alike we tend to choose the same things without knowing it. We were both wearing eye glasses and berets, but hers were fancier of course. I walked from my hotel to her office on Madison Avenue, just a couple of blocks. It was cool to see her office. We took a cab to Greenwich Village and had the best meal at Gobo. I love eating in NYC because I so rarely get to a vegetarian restaurant and even more rare, a fine dining experience in a vegetarian restaurant. It was New York fancy. After dinner we actually walked all the way back to Penn Station with a stop at Macy's again. It gave us time to talk and hang out until she got on the train.

So, because of my interrupted weekend I took Thursday and Friday off to give me a full 4 days at home. In those 4 days I managed to start my xmas cards, purchase 2 more gifts at the SquidFire Holiday Art Mart (added to the 3 gifts I purchased on Etsy for Black Friday) and work on 2 gifts I am making. I plan on making 5 gifts altogether but of these 2 - one needs to get in the mail soon and another takes a long time to make so I started it in early November. I also slept a lot, cleaned the house, did laundry and watched too much TV. Back to work tomorrow and try to fit crafting into my after work time for the next 2 weeks. ONLY 2 weeks? I may never finish! I promise to detail the projects after xmas but don't want to spoil the surprise.