Sunday, December 19, 2010

quick crafts: things to do in under an hour

My sister emailed me today with pictures of her and my niece's Sunday morning activity, which demonstrates there is no end to the non-ice cream things you can do with an ice cream cone. Cone robots, cone trees, cone snowmen...And I love that the dregs of the Halloween candy will come to a useful end.

A Surprise Ball is a fun homemade option to those obscenely overpriced Christmas crackers. You'll find good tutorials at Speckled Egg and at Not Martha, but essentially all you need is a roll or two of crepe paper streamers and a bunch of small and/or flat trinkets to roll up inside the layers of crepe. Think stickers, photos, tattoos, charms, candy...

I actually have hundreds - literally hundreds - of these glass votive holders (leftover from my wedding) so I am always interested in votive-related crafts. These pretty branch and pine cone votives are described at Garden Mama. A kid-friendly votive project involving white craft glue and coloured rock sugar sprinkles is over here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

free shipping weekend & 20% off manhattan toy

Pulling out the big guns this weekend with an unprecedented double offer: free shipping and 20% off everything Manhattan Toy. Save! And wrap it up.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the excitement is building

Here it is December 7 and we do not yet have a tree. My children are incensed. And I am fighting a swell of resentment at the notion of having to be "done". It's December 7th! My commitment to slow living is being seriously tested. I went to Sheridan Nurseries today for some cedar roping and was aghast at the emptiness of it. Clearly I missed the email that we were supposed to be all decked out by now. One bonus: everything was 25% off - if a little brown around the edges, but what the heck. So with cedar roping now in place, a holiday urn at the doorstep and a stack of Christmas cards that I'm pretty sure will get mailed this year, Christmas is underway, but it doesn't feel official until the tree works its magic in the living room. We have plans to visit the tree farm in Hockley Valley on Sunday. I have promised that it will be worth the wait - especially if we have to wade waist-deep in snow to find the perfect tree. Wasn't yesterday's snow so great? We have managed to get Santa letters written,  but not actually mailed. I find it impossible to part with those little handwritten notes. I have kept every letter (along with notes to the tooth fairy and a bunch of weird little baby teeth) at the terrible risk of my daughter one day coming across the stash and discovering that her entreaties never made it out of my nightstand let alone to the North Pole.

Almost as much fun as getting a letter from Santa, the Portable North Pole personalized video is back this year with new backgrounds to foil older kids. You'll need a digital photo of your kid and about 10 minutes to plug in all the info. Fun.


Friday, December 3, 2010

making a list

The December issue of Martha Stewart magazine has been on my coffee table for at least three weeks already - and it's full of lovely ideas, naturally - but I was most eager to find and download the free Gift List template promoted inside. I no longer trust my mental filing system, so something like this is a huge help to me.    
But if, like me, you tried to find the template online you were foiled until December 1st, when it was finally available online. Download it here as a very useful and nicely organized Excel spreadsheet. There are columns that keep track of everyone on your list and gives you a running tally of expenses. Nifty!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

a welcome light

Love this!

For a couple of years I've been a supporter of  Kiva, a micro-financing non-profit that connects lenders with borrowers in developing countries. It's been such an interesting experience reading the applicant profiles and checking in every couple of months to see how their business plans are progressing. I get a little thrill when my email rings with news of a Kiva repayment. Hooray for small business!

Along the same good lines of Kiva but more gifty, Prosperity Candles are handmade by women entrepreneurs living in distressed countries around the world. The woman pictured here is a widow from Baghdad who is rebuilding her life and supporting her children through this enterprise. It's a really inspiring organization - you should definitely check them out. And then buy some pretty candles! At $25 a piece they're perfectly priced for teacher and hostess gifts. They're made from soy-based wax with a clean burning cotton wick, so there's thought put into quality too. I love that this is a gift that gives twice: once to the recipient and once to the maker. Happy Hols.