Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: All Hands On

The world is abundant of mass produced goods and digital replicas, prepackaged meals and plastic lawn ornaments. On the back of every plate is a stamp that says made in China and cards now arrive in your inbox, not your mailbox. We are easily detached from all this manufactured stuff. Our merchandise in theft proof packaging is devoid of human contact, has traveled thousands of miles and will crowd our landfills soon enough. But there is something magical about handcrafted goods because the human factor still exists. Someone actually has to take the time and put their heart into making the very thing you will use, devour, admire or hang on your wall. It seems so simple, but these little things are the very nature of our humanity.
I am a maker of these things, so it comes as no surprise that I am building a reputation of promoting a handmade revolution. We can be real for a moment – I still shop at Target and some nights DiGiorno will do for dinner. But it is so satisfying when I can do it myself. I love to see the moment when all the ideas come together and something tangible and real has come of the time and talent well invested. Most of the online communities I frequent are full of do-it-yourself kind of people. In fact they afford me more ideas than I have time to tackle! But I know there are enough artisans making quality products that I can substitute some of the things on my big box shopping list for beautiful handmade gifts.
 Do you have projects planned, decorations to make, cards to send, and cookies to bake? There is something authentic to giving a homemade gift, but if you are not the making type, have you considered buying handmade from sites like or or doing a search for local shops in your area? In the spirit of my effort to “Occupy Christmas” and take the commercialism out of the season, I have been compiling lists of great and affordable handmade items either to make….or buy from a real live person that handled it with care and love. In an effort to keep you out of the stores on Black Friday (which now starts on Thanksgiving!!) I am hoping you will see another way to give gifts this year. Handmade is just the beginning, but certainly the most gratifying solution for my creative soul!
Spending the week elbow deep in handmade goodness has made this the best week ever. Here are a few of the lovely - practical and rather reasonably priced -things I have been admiring (links under each item):

Strawberry Fairies
Bird and Branch Necklace
Slugs - Rainboot Liners
Sherlock Holmes Book Safe & Flask Holder
Bow and Arrows
BBQ Spice Rubs
Red Bird Print
Paint Your Own

Tonight I will be buzzing about in my studio, making things for you. So, will you join me? Pour some eggnog or a hot buttered rum and tell me what you are making to make this the best week ever?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Make it Meaningful

I may have about one week left of golden fall leaves before they have all fallen from the trees. The cool autumn winds have replaced humid summer days and sweaters have replaced shorts. The sun is shining and the days are getting shorter. I think of home. I think of family. I soak in the calm before the storm of a busy holiday season.  I briefly enjoy orange and yellow before red and green take over. I want to snuggle up and read a good book and make pies and share long visits with friends. Autumn is the perfect season to realign myself with all that is kind and true, reminding my soul that there is so much goodness left to be found in this world. It is the perfect season to think of giving.
If Thanksgiving is the season of gratitude, then what follows in December should be a manifestation of those feelings. I keep thinking about how I want to share the love I feel. My heart is full and there are people in my life that I want to say thank-you for another wonderful year. And who can deny that first look on the children’s faces in the wee hours of Christmas morning? So, every year when the leaves have all descended from their homes above and made a pile big enough for jumping, I know it’s also time to finalize the game plan for the Holidays.
This must be the reason we all get caught up in the buying frenzy. But the mounting tab for useless plastics and smelly lotions boggles my mind. It’s always been a bit unsettling to me to say I think of you all year fondly with this gift pack I picked up in the checkout line of Costco stamped “made in China.” It’s no secret that there have been more than enough Christmases past that I have resented the whole process. I was feeling a bit Bah Humbug about the whole thing again, until I stopped for a day or two and began to let this simple fact soak in…the change begins with me. After all, it’s what I have been saying about everything else this year. For all the times that ringing in the New Year has left me exhausted and saying “Merry Giftmas” was more appropriate; I vow to do it differently this time. I will give with meaning, or I won’t give at all. I will not tire myself of shopping, wrapping, shipping and checking the credit card statement; making, baking, toiling and slaving for naught. It will come from the heart, or it won’t come at all! And more importantly – my kids know it!
We are all on board this year and I can honestly say I am surprised! This pleasant turn of direction has made it the best week ever! Let me give you a few more reasons why:
·         I asked the kids to make gifts for each other and their relatives and they were excited and full of ideas. Who would have known?
·         Yummy pumpkin everything.
·         Everyone in this house has agreed that less would be more this year.
·         Harry for the Holidays.
·         We are starting a service project together. Handmade fleece blankets for kids in the hospital and the best part is that we can snuggle up on the couch watching movie together while we do it!
·         I’m thinking outside the box for special gifts from local shops or services in hopes to make mall time minimal and American Made possible.
·         David has a lot of leave time he needs to use up. Which means lots of family time this season. Which is in fact the best gift of all!
So, as fall is wrapping up and Christmas swings into full gear, how will you make it meaningful? How will you give from the heart? How will you make it the best week ever?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Happy Hour: Share the Love

At this very moment I have a full pantry and a full fridge and more than enough food to put a full spread on our table, despite the skyrocketing prices of food. It’s shocking to see our food bills climb when the paychecks stay the same. It means making different choices about what we buy and prioritizing how we spend our money. Less going out and more time eating in. Less premade food and more homemade meals. Far more homes are growing gardens and turning to traditions we haven’t seen in ages like canning, bread making and long term food storage. Most families I talk to have become keenly aware of the need to be more self reliant and less self indulgent. It feels good to take charge and still come away with full bellies in a warm home.
Unfortunately cuts backs for everyone also means cut backs in giving. America’s food banks are falling short at a time when the amount of people in need has increased.  Yep, I’m getting on my soap box. There are many of us who have enough to share with those who have too little. My boys hauled in 40 pound backpacks to school today because they were told that last year the county’s food drive fell thousands of pounds short of what they needed. And I think we were among the many who forgot to donate. Well, not this year! I figure that if I could pick up a couple extra items every time I went food shopping and drop it in the donation box…and if I could encourage everyone I know to do this…well, you get the idea.
So, yeah, for Happy Hour this week, I am buying canned goods instead of drinks! How about you? Will you buy beans instead of beer, macaroni instead of margaritas, or stuffing instead of soda? Because we have food on our table, it has been the best week ever! Here are a few other things that make it the best week ever:
·         Everyone is healthy (despite a sugar overload).
·         I have found mittens and hats and winter coats that fit everyone, without the need to go shopping.
·         The kids have enthusiastically agreed to help make some Christmas gifts this year.
·         Fall colors in Maryland are amazing and vibrant.
·         When it’s cold out, we have heat.
·         I have two eyes and two hands and a mind that all have the ability to create.
·         Good and kind people have inspired me to look at life in new and wonderful ways every day.
How about you? Do you have enough on your table to have had the best week ever? How do you plan on sharing the Love?