How Our Family is Doing a Remote COVID Christmas

Paper Lanterns for Christmas summerhouseart.com

We live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada and like everyone else we’ve been dealing with the Pandemic. We’ve stayed home, ordered our groceries online, been super careful going out to shop, or to the library, making sure we use a mask, sanitize our hands a LOT. And it’s been OK. Really. We’ve managed and more importantly, we’re still healthy. We’re so thankful for all the health care workers, all the people who are still working to keep us in food and everything we need. We’re especially happy that our provincial government has taken the Pandemic seriously and taken care of us.

Luckily we’re both artists, busy in our studios, or doing art research, or gardening, so we haven’t been bored. We have each other so we haven’t been lonely. We don’t take any of that for granted, especially now. We have a family that is all grown up now. We’ve kept in touch with the ones that live in another city by Skype for years. In fact, our grandson really enjoys calling up and asking. “Want to visit? We’ll fire up the Skype!” It’s been a huge help over the years, in staying close, just having that visual connection, a boon in a Pandemic. With the family in town, we’ve kept in touch by phone and by keeping our distance when we do see them. And again, it’s been fine, not a big deal.

Paper Lanterns for Christmas summerhouseart.com

But now, well, Christmas is almost here. We do love the baking and the getting together with a big turkey, lots of goodies and crazy presents. But this year, we’re all agreed, it has to be different, so we’re going to do a COVID Christmas! And it’s going to be remote! All of us together but via Skype.

Plus, it’s going to be just Will and I, at home, just the two of us on the day. So we’ve actually made some adjustments. Kind of toned it all down. We’re still baking, but a bit less than usual, just the most favourite goodies and we’ll be dropping off some of those to our local family, very carefully, of course. Usually we do lots of local shopping for Christmas at thrift stores, finding vintage and used treasures. Our usual recycled gifts. But not this year, just a bit of online for the family out of province. We’re still having a turkey, but this year it’ll be a little turkey breast with all the trimmings just for two. Indulging in a few treats for ourselves as well.

Paper Lanterns for Christmas summerhouseart.com

We’re reminding ourselves, it’s only for this year, this Christmas. NOT forever. We’ve decided we’re going to make the best of it and still make it special.

Paper Lanterns for Christmas summerhouseart.com

As for all the lanterns in this post… well, they’re another way we’re scaling down a bit. Not dragging out ALL the lights, just enough. These actually have been languishing in the greenhouse, found at a free box at a garage sale years ago. They were a bit torn and worn, but we did some artistic repair with glue and coloured tissue this week. Looks pretty cheerful too. My favourite is the green one above. The tears become lovely little lines in the random abstract composition. As for the rest of the decorations, most of them are staying packed since we’re planning a natural décor with greenery from the garden arranged in wreaths and vases. Looking forward to it, too. A nice relaxing Christmas. Hope you have a lovely Remote COVID Christmas too. Take care but keep having fun.

Paper Lanterns for Christmas summerhouseart.com
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Yuletide Greetings

This was another year for playing with an alternative to a tree.  Instead we set up this lovely duo of Bird cages, filled them with lights, set them off with a few beads and let the birds free to sit on top.  Looks lovely and bright in the early evenings.  And with that we send our wishes too.

2016 Christmas bird cages, summerhouseart.com

( BTW, if you’d like to comment just click on the title and it will take to the post with a comment section.  We love comments)

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A Little Composition in Christmas Colours

In the midst of getting ready for the holiday, I couldn’t resist playing with some stained glass shards in various shades of greens and reds.   We decided to use it for the splash page to our website, to set a colourful tone….

Stained Glass composition, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

( BTW, if you’d like to comment just click on the title and it will take to the post with a comment section.  We love comments)

 

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Not Another Christmas Tree! No, Something Much More Fun!

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Last year, as an alternative to the ubiquitous tree, we decorated a bamboo birdcage with rather nice results. And this year, we again pondered whether or not to get the tree out… or do something else. And once again,we unanimously decided not to do another tree for Christmas.

We like to do something different now and then, for instance, this year, we didn’t even unpack our collection of over 100 Santas.

I’d been seeing the occasional decorated chandelier on Pinterest and it brought to mind a chandelier that we’d picked up in a free box at a garage sale a few years ago.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

It had been languishing in large basket in the greenhouse ever since. It didn’t work, since it needed rewiring, but I could see it dripping with little lights and way too many decorations.

Christmas Chandelier, closeup, summerhouseart.com

Not to mention a rather nice collection of crystals that I’d been collecting. Of course, they took a bit of searching for, but eventually I found one batch in a drawer in the kitchen and found more in a dish in the studio.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Then loads of colorful beads. And jewel colored baubles.

Almost everything has been found at thrift stores or garage sales. But, amazingly, I found I needed even more beads! Thank goodness, just in time, I got an email announcing that all the Christmas decor was on sale for 50% off at the Thrift Store. We wasted no time getting there and found a wonderful long string of LED lights for the entry way for $5 as well as more bags of beads for only $4.  As I’m always saying, the world is an abundant place, especially if you like 2nd hand.

The  chandelier is definitely over-the-top, just the way I like it!  And it looks lovely to us in the day time…

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

as well as the night…

Christmas Chandelier, daytime, summerhouseart.com
We had such a good time taking photos of it, that I just had to share.

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

 

Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

One thing we did notice, when we were trying to take photos, is that it takes a while to stop swaying, once disturbed. So, probably, just as well, that we no longer have a cat. Can you imagine how much temptation this would be for a cat? Oh, I don’t even want to think about it!
Christmas Chandelier, summerhouseart.com

Hope you are having just as much fun decorating your place for the Holidays!

 

 

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Christmas Pared Down Just a Little Bit

Every year I try to have some fun with the Christmas décor. Make a few little changes, tweaks, and sometimes something entirely different. This year we’re going for the latter. Usually, about a week before Christmas we go down to the basement and bring up the tree and all the decorations and pretty well put up every single piece of décor we’ve got, somewhere.  And we do have a lot of decor.  As I’ve written before about our Abundant Christmases, you can collect a lot if everything is secondhand!  This year we decided to pare it down just a little bit.

Christmas Bird Cage

This year I happened to have a tall bamboo birdcage out in the corner of the living room. When the season rolled around enough people had suggested we decorate it that we decided, why not?

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We dropped some lights inside it and decorated with lots of tiny and mid size vintage glass balls. With some birds on top and a bit of mistletoe for greenery it looks quite festive.

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And of course, this year I did put out my Santa collection, but that too ended up just a bit pared down. Couldn’t leave out the Grumpy Santas

grumpieswmOr the Gumby ones and a few other odd but happy ones.

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So there it is. Almost all the decorating is done. Ok, the mistletoe may be replaced with some other greenery on top of the new “tree”. It will probably be put in the doorway, still needing some greenery, in order to catch a quick kiss from those coming in the door.

Now to do Baking! But even there, for once, I think I’ll cut back too. The mince tarts for sure and maybe some cookies, but all in all maybe I’ll spend more time in my studio than the kitchen this year.

And the ChrisMoose, a hand made gift many years ago from Will’s mum, will always be up for Christmas, just to remember her by.

 We hope everyone has the Best Christmas Ever!!

chrismoosewm

 

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We have a new online shop!

new-prancer-tileWe’ve just opened up a shop of our designs on Zazzle, which is a great service out of California. They offer really good quality products and we’re kind of excited to get our work out there.

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Posted now are just a few Christmas items, with our original designs on cards and ornaments.  We’re planning to add more items to our gallery as we go along.  So if you’re looking for something fun and a bit unusual, you might find it here.  We’d also love to hear your comments.  BTW our watermark won’t show on our cards, that’s just so you’ll be able to find us on Pinterest and anywhere else these images end up online.

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Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Anyone who knows me also knows that I’m not a big fan of snow.  But there it was, snow on our Windmill Palm this week.  Thankfully, it’s one of the tougher palm trees and can usually make it through our winters if they don’t get too severe.  I blame it all on those folks who want and wish for a White Christmas.  As you can see the birdbath we finished in the summer is well frozen over.  We love a green rainy Christmas ourselves.  A walk on the beach is what we look forward to on Christmas Day.

Right now I’m busy getting ready for the big day and baking a lot.  If you are interested in some ideas for avoiding the Mall this year and finding greener, less expensive presents, I have posted a few of my ideas on that subject here .

Will and I would like to share our little wish for the holidays to anyone reading my little blog.  I’m looking forward to the New year and lots of new posts.  And I’d also like to add many, many thanks to all those who have left comments and pinned from this blog last year.

 

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How we Created our own unique collage Christmas Cards or E-cards

xmas-holidaywmEvery year we look for Christmas cards but rarely find exactly what we like. We’ve also looked at e-cards. Not that there isn’t some wonderful artwork out there. But this year we wanted to do something unique to us. And we want to be green about it all too. So what to do?

I used to look for Christmas cards at Thrift stores. Believe it or not they do exist there and you can buy a real selection that way instead of a box of all the same card. It’s a good idea, you’re recycling but takes a lot of time.

Bill and I happen to really like to create collages from old magazines. This is what I call fun with Glue sticks and Scissors. Why not create collage Christmas cards? Some will become paper cards and all the images will be used for e-cards too.

This year I just happened to have found in my reorganization of old mags and papers saved for collaging, quite a few Christmas editions of decor mags. Voila, lots of relevant stuff to create our own Christmas cards. And I also kept some of that glossy junk mail that comes to our mailbox to use as more collage fodder. If you’ve saved old Christmas cards you may want to look at them with a new eye, as fodder for Xmas collage.

So with the table strewn with mags and busy cutting out colors and textures we soon had more than enough to start with. The idea is to look through all the mags cutting out bits with an eye to color and texture not necessarily literal depiction’s of trees, santas etc. We try to go for the “feel” of Christmas. And with a sense of abstraction as well. And this is what we came up with…… a few abstract art cards in the Christmas theme

Deck the Halls with lots of color

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An abstract take on Rudolf?

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A psychedelic take on Giving Joy

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Sometimes you only need one word….Merry

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Another collage using almost the same elements, the snowflake and the colors

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Another idea we had last year was to create our own e-card in Photoshop. So in a way, just another collage but of a favourite Santa ornament and some decor arranged into a jolly looking card. Now you may not be a fan of e-cards. They are hard to display for one. But we think of the paper and resources saved too. I also like to take the time to send a little personal message to everyone with each email.

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Ok some people on our list still get the real card. We just happened to have a lot of old stock greeting cards from a former business and we just scan our images into the printer and create a new image and tape that onto old cards. You can do the same by just taping an image onto card stock cut to fit any envelopes you have. So there you are, a DIY way to create your own unique take on the Christmas card. Have fun. We did.

Oh, here’s a little bonus thought, in case you didn’t get your cards bought and sent in time.  Why not create something great with some family photos and collage and create an e-card you can send out at the last minute? Cheating? maybe, but why not? It’s still personal, you get a chance to be creative and send something unique to your friends and rellies.

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My Santa collection revisited or should I say recycled?

christmas-daywmWe are all about recycling, and living the recycling lifestyle has also given us an abundant lifestyle especially at Christmas. And especially where collecting Santas is concerned.  What started as a little collection to add some color on the sideboard at Christmas grew to over 100 Santa ornaments in no time.  How do you create such an abundant display of Santas?  Well, it’s almost all secondhand thrift shop finds and a few are gifts from friends who knew I’d been collecting.  In the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of recycling I’ve decided to recycle some of my old posts about Christmas.  Three years ago I spent some time for every day for the 25 Days before Christmas making up little vignettes of my huge Santa ornament collection.  Today, to make it much easier to view, I’ve decided to replace and recyle those posts and put all the collection on one post. Starting with my  fave Grumpy Santas and ending with my other faves, the Gumby Santas.  Enjoy….

Introducing my faves, The Grouchy Santas

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The Globe and Moon Santas

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The Wine Taster Santa

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Collector Santas

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Candle light Santas

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Skinny Legged Santas

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Odd Santas

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Santas from around the World posed on an Atlas of course

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Tropical Santas

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Santas Waving

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Tiny Santas

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Softy Santas

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Scary looking Santas

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Salt and Pepper Santas

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Night Santa all lit up

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Santa in an Evergreen Sleigh

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Santa in a Chili Pepper Sleigh

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Big Thoughtful Santa and Two rather Surprised Santas

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More Santas in Sleighs and a handsome Reindeer

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Santa on a Sledge

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Racing Santa

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Santas thinking of Tropical nights

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Santas bringing, what else, gifts

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Troubadour Santas

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And ending with my all time faves, Gumby Santas

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Of course, by now I probably have more, but I haven’t unpacked them yet.  There’s like about 5 boxes of them in the basement!  But hopefully, you’ve enjoyed my much quicker look at this runaway collection.  I swear, I’m NOT collecting any more.  Really, positively, no ….. more.

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Helen’s 10 Recycled Earth-Friendly, Pocket Book Friendly, Guilt Free Gift Giving Idea or How to Avoid “the Mall”

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Yesterday we had to go to “the Mall”. No, not to shop for Christmas, but for some things that were needed from the pharmacy etc. I haven’t done Christmas shopping at a Mall for so long that I can’t remember when I did. The place was packed! The parking lot was packed. You know the scene.   Where you have to follow someone back to their car and lurk until they pull out, putting your indicator light on to let others know that this spot is TAKEN and grab their parking spot. It is rather aggressive. Then there are the line ups! OMG! I’m just so happy that I don’t work as a cashier. My back starts aching just thinking about it and all for minimum wage too.

But the worst part of it is the sheer consumerism of it. All that new stuff which will eventually be discarded as the wrong color or the wrong style or just not right somehow. The amount of goods going out is mind boggling, the amount of resources used, and the amount of money spent and a lot of it spent by people who really really can’t afford it. Well, what if there is an alternative? And of course there is…

In past years on this blog I’ve written about Abundance at Christmas and written about the fun we’ve had finding Decor and Music for Xmas all from second hand sources. I’ve shown my HUGE Santa collection, in the post, Revisiting my Santa Collection,  all also second hand for the most part.

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So with that done, for 2011, I’d like to present some gift ideas that don’t require going to the Mall. Think of it as Helen’s Recycled Earth-Friendly, Pocket Book Friendly and Guilt Free List of Gift Giving Ideas. These ideas are tried and true. In fact, we have a rule and all our friends and close family also follow it in regard to presents for each other. The rule is the present must be second hand or hand made. It should be fun, lovely or useful and most of all it should be CHEAP! ** So no worries about how much to spend, no worries about the credit card maxing out and no worries about having to go to a Mall. Wow that’s a lot less worries eh?
(** Cheap is a subjective term. Inexpensive is different things to different people. Our rule is literal, no more than $10, less if possible. That said, my list offers a wide range of “inexpensive” according to your budget. )

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OK here goes.
1• Go to the Used Book Store and look for books that are in nice shape, and would interest your friend, relative etc. This year we’ve found Cook Books galore. And believe me there is something for everyone. I even found a Weight Watchers one for a friend who goes there and a Diabetic one for another friend with Diabetes. Don’t forget about Decor books and Books about Crafting and Creative Arts.  There really isn’t any subject or interest that isn’t covered somewhere in a book.

2• Still at the Used Bookstore? Well, there are an awful lot of Kids books, Craft and Art books, and books about any possible interest that a friend could have. Actually, books are one of the things we look for at Garage sales all summer ( yes, I’m one of those people who are looking for gifts all year). You can get great deals. And if the book is already inscribed with a sentiment by the original gift giver, no matter… just add yours as well. Our friends have no worries about giving away a gift to someone else after they’ve read it and just adding another inscription. The more times given, the better, we all agree.

santajack3• Go to your local Thrift Stores. There is an absolute abundance of gifts here.
I’ll break it down by age and gender

Gifts for Little kids
Kids grow out of clothing so fast, that very often you can find almost new things of good quality too. In fact, some were gifts and never worn and still have the tags since Sally or Sam was already too big for the gift when it was given. So…. there it is in the Thrift shop ready to be a gift again.

Toys, there are just huge amounts of old toys ready to be played with by a new child. That sounds nice doesn’t it? Just check for broken parts, make sure it’s age appropriate and clean.

Gifts for Mother in Law or Moms are sometimes difficult to buy for. Well, see #1 and #2, books. But don’t forget things like vintage jewelry, or scarves. There’s so much out there in signed and artsy textiles and jewelry that you ‘ll be tempted to buy some for your self too.

Gifts for Guys of all ages; Guys are hard to buy for. Unless you look for interests. Like cooking, or sports or collections or gardening but more about that later. You can find T-shirts with great graphics on them. If you know how to silkscreen or can use a transfer go for it, on a used T and have some fun making some home made designs. Cooks can always use aprons. Collections are always a good bet too. Bill collects Elephants, Dave collected Buddhas for a while too. We kept finding them everywhere.

4• Ok you’ve done Used Book store and Thrift stores, how about Garden Centres? Try to find a centre that locates it’s products from greener eco sources and you’ve got an earth friendly gift for sure. Potted plants for indoors that bloom are nice. An Amaryllis is always a good gift. I used to give one to my Mother in Law for a few years and we’d compete in a friendly fashion as to who got the most blooms. It’s easy to ship and there’s the fun of planting and waiting for the Gorgeous blooms too.

caroller5• Art Supply stores are a great source of prezzies. Not just for those artists on your list but for the ones you know really want to try something creative. There are lots of sketch books made with 100% recycled paper, acid free and archival quality. And if you do a bit of stealthy investigative interviewing of your giftee, you might even find that they would love to take a course in something or other. Most artists are like me and are quite happy to provide gift certificates to their courses.

6• Art Galleries. Ok I know a lot of people are intimidated by Art Galleries but go on, be brave, venture in. You’ll find a lot of interesting things there. Many public galleries have a Gift Shop full of wares made by local artists. And a lot of it is in very very affordable. Most galleries put on shows of smaller pieces at Christmas just to highlight all their artists and offer a start into collecting art. A lot of emerging artists be they young or old, have some amazing work for sale.

7• Art and Craft shows are usually in November, but there are still a few “last Minute shows” to be found showing local artists. Keep art and gift giving in mind in the summer too when many artists and artisans are showing their stuff in local Art and Craft shows. There you will find something for everyone, literally. They have food gifts, herbal makeup, prints, clothing and jewelry, sculpture, art work of all kinds. You will be spoilt for choice and supporting Local Artists as well. I collect their business cards too so that I can look up their web sites later for other gift ideas. A lot of them have Etsy stores or their own web sites. You would be amazed at how much artwork these days is made from recycled materials.

sledboy8• Another gift worth considering is materials for art works. My last birthday was perfect partly because two friends gave me discarded stained glass shards for a present knowing that I’d use them somehow in my mosaics or other artworks. Along that line, give used beads and necklaces to a someone who is into beading, used or scrap material to a quilter, or used dishes and tiles to a mosaic artist. There are so many hobbies and interests that your friends and relatives indulge in that the list of possibilities of materials is endless.

9• Look around your home for gifts. Yes, things you already own. Ornaments that you no longer enjoy may be loved by someone else. Maybe you have a collection that is too big and there are some pieces that you know would be welcomed by a friend. Along that line, have a gift exchange party and have everyone bring something that they no longer want but that would make a lovely gift for someone else. Swap or sell to each other. It’s a good excuse for a party and recycles too. You could even throw in a Cookie exchange which brings me to my next gift idea.

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10• Get in the kitchen and start cooking or baking. I’ve been going to the library and picking up lots of books about Christmas cooking and baking. The library is a great free resource and one day I’m going to do a blog just about libraries. I take out tons of magazines every month. I figure I’m saving some trees and hey, I don’t have to store them. A lot of the December mags can’t be taken out but last years Christmas edition is there to peruse and get lots of ideas from. I love the ones that go all out with Christmas baking ideas. In fact, at garage sales I snatch those Xmas editions up really fast. Ok to get back to the kitchen…. Baking is always a great gift. I find lots of vintage tins at thrift stores  and garage sales all year and give presents of baking. Just line the tin with wax paper or other nice paper and fill to the brim with goodies. One of these years I’m going to learn how to make chocolates too. Another idea to give.

Which brings me to recycled wrapping paper. We save all the gift bags and wrapping paper and use it over again. I’ve also sewn gift bags that get passed around from year to year. This year I’m planning on finding some Chinese newspapers and using them to wrap presents with some lovely ribbon and maybe some lucky people will get one of the many used Xmas broaches I found at the Thrift store adorning their packages. But changing your gift wrap ideas is another way to stay out of the Mall. Maybe this should be # 11.

Hope my little list has given you some good last minute ideas. And with that, we wish you and yours a lovely, recycled, creative,artistic and mall-Free Christmas! That’s the best present yet.  BTW if you liked the little vintage Christmas Illustrations I’ve peppered throughout,  look for Vintage Christmas by Dover Publications for royalty free illustrations.  Which I found at the Library, of course.  But if you want to buy it, it’s a Green Planet Friendly publication.

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