The Best Homemade Gift Ideas Monthly Digest WIN AN MP3 PLAYER this month: free-gift-ideas-newsletter-December2008.html

by: Brenda Mullard

Table of Contents:

1. Tradition

2. Tips For a Stress Free Holiday

3. Welcome New Subscribers

4. What’s new?

5.Crafter/Artist Interview of the Month

6. WIN an MP3 PLAYER!!! Project of the month

7. Reader Recipes

Let It Snow... Let It Snow....

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. I have to say my favorite time of year goes from Halloween all the way through Christmas. This time of year is just packed full of family traditions. My husband and I started a tradition before we were even married. We would go to church on Christmas Eve, then go back to one of our apartments and make a fancy dinner, candles and everything! The funny thing was that each year we would forget something we needed to make dinner and all the stores would be closed. So off to the gas stations we would go. From one to another we would drive until we found our missing ingredient. Then we would go driving around the city looking at Christmas lights. We still do this today with our kids. Of course we plan a little better and don’t have to go on a gas station tour around the city. We also get into our jammies before we go out driving around to look at Christmas lights. The kids get such a kick out of it. Here is a display that is literally just down the road from our house. Very impressive!

When we get home we make sure to get the cookies and milk ready for Santa before everyone turns in for the evening. Traditions are so much fun. If you don’t already have a tradition, start a new one this year with your loved ones.

2.Ideas For A Stress Free Holiday “Your goal is to let people know that you're thinking of them, not to find the best gift they've ever received in their life,” says Edwin Fisher, Ph.D., professor and chair of health behavior and health education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . “Plus, your own enjoyment is at least as important as giving gifts.” What a great point!!! So often we forget about our own joy at the holidays to make sure everyone else is happy. Read on for some tips on making the holiday season merrier for everyone!

What makes you happy and brings you joy? What makes you feel joyful during the holidays? Yes, some things are an absolute and we must do them. The best thing to do is make 2 lists, those that bring you joy and those that are unavoidable. If something that doesn’t fit into one of those lists don’t do it. Yes, it’s that simple. Get invited to a party you don’t want to attend? Just say no. You don’t have to make up a lie either. Just explain that this year you are keeping the holidays simple and you have decided to carve out more time to spend with family.

Make a plan Write out a plan of what you really want to accomplish this year. Is saving money or keeping things simple a priority for you? Put it all in writing and follow the list. You will keep yourself on track for gift buying, diet or any other goal you have this year. Make sure you keep your list where you can review it often.

Talk to friends and family, then hit the computer! Talk to friends and family to get ideas for gifts. Once you have a list of items you want to purchase browse the web. There are so many great deals out there with out having to dodge the crowds and find a parking spot. Plus many places are offering free shipping!

I don’t even know half these people! When it comes to sending Christmas cards keep track of your sending. Do you send to people who you haven’t heard from in 5 years or more? Let them go. If people aren’t sending cards to you it may be time to trim the list. Another stress reducer for card sending is to not send Christmas cards but wait until a few weeks after Christmas and send a Warm Winter Wishes card instead. That way the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over and you can really take the time to personalize what you want to say in your cards.

3.Welcome New Subscribers

A big welcome goes out to all of my new subscribers! This website wouldn't be worth creating if it weren't for all of you. Thanks for your continued support! It's great to have you all here.

4.What’s New?

With the holiday season just around the corner we all find ourselves a little stressed. Hopefully you read the suggestions above to avoid most of that stress. Please check out my homemade Christmas gifts page for some great gift ideas. There are directions for making an etched glass cake pan etched glass cake pan that any baker or cook who often takes baked goods to parties and whatnot must have! I have also added directions for the always popular tied polar fleece blankets. Looking for a gift to give your boss or a coworker? I have added ideas for corporate gift giving as well. We are all trying to stretch a buck this year and making homemade gifts is a great way to save money!

Christmas is a coming! Don’t forget about the How to Wrap Gifts Video page to help you make your homemade gifts even more beautiful.

I have also added a Christmas ornaments page. Take a look at some ideas for homemade Christmas ornaments.

As always I have my paper greeting cards for you. It’s so simple! All you have to do is choose the cards you like, order them right on the website and they are printed and sent right to your door. All you have to do is sign your card, add a stamp and toss the card in the mailbox.

As always if there is something you are looking for and can’t find please e mail me or if you have a great gift ideas or favorite project you would like to share….. by all means, send me those too. I would love to hear from you.Remeber, this month I am giving away an MP3 player to 1 lucky homemade gift idea submitter!

5. Crafter/Artist Interview of the Month This month’s artist lives part of the year in Colorado and part of the year in Northern India. Yes, I said India! Her name is Beth Mc Coy. One home is at the base of the Rockies and one is a traditional Kumaoni house in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. “In India when we're not walking and collecting ideas for our paintings, we are happily working in our outdoor studio. With no telephone and few worries, our only interruptions are an occasional visitor or a band of monkeys raiding the fruit trees. I find India both thrilling and intriguing; it is a real feast for the senses and the people I meet charm me. I miss our neighbors when we are gone, especially the children who come to our impromptu art classes. When we're in the U.S. we are often doing road trips around the country in our van, "the batik bus", exhibiting at art festivals, delivering work to galleries, teaching workshops and visiting family and friends.” I say Beth’s batiks when I was surfing around the net. I saw her biography and thought, “What a truly interesting person! I have got to meet this very cool lady!” So, here you go, an interview with Beth McCoy!

How long have you been creating batik and what got you started? I've been doing batik for about twenty years. I was a painter and began doing hand painted clothing for the shop I had in Colorado. I found that I loved working on cloth and started doing some dyeing on the clothing. I had heard of batik, I don't remember where, and knew generally how it was done, so I started experimenting with wax and dyes.

Why Batik and not oils, pastels or another medium? I'm attracted to fabric and textiles and enjoy the versatility of working with them. Batik can be decoration on functional items and clothing, mounted in a variety of ways, and is ideal for screens and curtains as batik is especially beautiful when back-lit, or it can be framed as fine art. The thing that keeps me hooked is the process- the drawing and planning, the waxing and the dyeing- each facet is an art in itself. It’s still thrilling to see the image gradually begin to appear with each successive wax and dye. I also love the challenges the medium always presents. I still consider myself a painter, but a batik painter. I've taken my experience with paint and canvas and adapted it to batik.

Did you develop the style we are familiar with, early on or does your early work vary greatly from past to present? I think my work keeps evolving. Because batik is a difficult technique to try and master my work has changed as I've gotten more proficient with the tjanting and dyes. My first pieces were very simple drawings with two or three colors and now my drawings can be quite large and complicated using 25 or more colors. I expect it will keep changing as I like to play around with new styles and techniques.

What inspires your ideas for your batiks? I just like beautiful things and places and great color- lots of color! Usually I work from photos that I take on my travels, but sometimes, when possible, will draw from life. It takes me quite awhile to work out and mark where every different color goes and the final pencil drawing on the cloth looks like a paint by numbers with all my little codes, so its easier to have a static image to work from.

When you were a child was there anyone in particular that influenced your creativity? My parents both loved art of all kinds and we were always surrounded by it and encouraged to be creative. Growing up near Washington DC we were regular visitors at the Smithsonian and National Gallery.

Do you have a favorite piece you have done? Is it hard to let such beautiful work go once you have created it? Usually its the last piece I've finished, unless things go dreadfully wrong! I really like some of my latest pointillist pieces, because they are a new challenge for me and I love the luminosity that can be achieved. I see a lot of potential in using this technique. Once in awhile I'm sad to see a batik go, especially if the subject is close to my heart or its brand new and I haven't had a chance to have it around long.

What does your studio look like? Our (my husband is also a batik artist) studio in India is mostly outside under a large roof overhang, with a view down into the lower village and across a green terraced valley. We have a makeshift table and frame and because we have no electricity, a propane burner to melt the wax. We're right next to the road and we often have curious passers by stop. The studio in Colorado is a nice garage in my brother's backyard. Here in England, where we are now, we have taken over the dining room and half the kitchen. We always need three work areas, one "clean" for drawing, one for waxing, and one for dyeing. We like to work outside when possible because of the wax fumes.

In all cases it can get quite chaotic with wax pots, tools, dyes, etc. and batiks in various stages of completion hanging to dry.

I read that you also teach your art. Where could someone find out if you will be teaching classes in their area? I usually put any scheduled classes up on my website under "Shows". Or email me if you'd like to get a class together.

Have you ever given any of your batiks away as gifts? If so, what was your favorite response to the gift? I've given a lot away to my family and friends over the years and they all seemed happy with them, but I guess I was most flattered when a friend redecorated her living room around the batik I had given her.

If someone were interested in buying one of your pieces how would they go about doing so? Go to the website and see what’s in the "Galleries" or look at our "Show" schedule and come see us at a show or art festival. I also do commissions. Feel free to email me.

6. Win an MP3 Player if your submission is picked as Project of the Month I am always so excited to see what everyone is up to. Homemade gifts during the holiday season is no exception! The winning submission for the most clever homemade gift idea this month will win an MP3 player and their project will be posted on my website!! Come on everybody e mail me your entry today. Don't forget to include pictures and instructions for your submission!
7. Looking for reader recipes!

Do you have a great recipe that you would like to share? I know I am always looking for a super yummy recipe to take to the family gatherings throughout the whole holiday season. What about a family friendly recipe for Christmas cookies? Please send them my way! Here’s another yummy recipe from one of our valued readers! I made these cookies for a cookie exchange I was in with my coworkers. They were a huge hit and very easy to make!

Santa Claus Cookies by Mary from Minnesota

Ingredients: 2 packages (6 ounces each) white baking chocolate, chopped

1 package (1 pound) Nutter Butter sandwich cookies Red colored sugar

32 vanilla or white chips

64 miniature semisweet chocolate chips

32 mini red M&M candies or red hot candies

Directions: 1) In a microwave, melt white chocolate on medium for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Watch carefully so you don’t burn it.

2) Dip one end of each cookie into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Place on wire racks. For Santa's hat, sprinkle red sugar on top part of chocolate before it cools. 3) Press one vanilla chip off-center on hat for pom-pom; let stand until set.

4) Dip other end of each cookie into melted chocolate for beard, leaving center of cookie uncovered. Place on wire racks.

5) With a dab of melted chocolate, attach semisweet chips for eyes and a red M&M or red-hot for nose. Place on waxed paper until set.

From our home to yours, Happy Holiday Everyone!

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