Monday, December 29, 2008

The last days of 2008...

I'm well rested after a lovely (though slightly hectic) holiday with my family and friends, and I must admit, I spent most of the weekend lounging around, not really accomplishing much of anything... the perfect antidote to the Christmas rush, I think!

Througout the fall and early winter, I've been working on new designs, printing, and preparating for 2009, but still have lots to do in the remaining days of 2008, and for the start of the new year, so I'd better get busy.

First up for me is clean-up and organization of my studio / office (oh, not to mention the rest of my home). I did ask Santa to send me a couple elves to help if he could spare them after Christmas, but it seems they couldn't make it, so I guess I'm on my own. I am armed with some storage boxes from the Container Store and various other sources that I've purchased on sale in recent months, garbage bags for the big purge, and inspiration from the beautifully organized spaces I've seen on so many blogs and on flickr, especially in the Pretty Organized and Organization is for Squares groups. If you're looking for some motivatation and inspiration to get your space in order, check them out. I hope to be able to get my studio looking beautiful (and functioning well) over the next few days, so I can share it here and on flickr as well!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Just a few days left....

... to get everything done for Christmas!

Over the next few days I'll be doing a little shopping, a little wrapping, a little cooking, oh, and yes, a little Christmas carol humming..... and am looking forward to every minute of it.

My family has a big festive get-together on Christmas Eve, this year at my Uncle Pete and Aunt Linda's house. We all bring appetizers and desserts, my aunt Linda makes a big pot of soup and we gather to celebrate. We also exchange our family secret Santa gifts... a tradition that we've enjoyed for, oh, maybe 20 years now. We all really love to be together, and good food, a little wine, and a gag gift or two make it all the more joyful! And if we get through the entire night without setting off the smoke alarm, it's even better!

On Christmas day, I have dinner at my brother and sister-in-law's house. My brother never fails to treat us to an amazing feast, which we enjoy with my sister-in-law's family, and some of my family, and occasionally a friend or two. It's a bit quieter than our Christmas Eve, but just as special.

So, before the start of it all, I've still got a bit of work to do.... shopping, wrapping, and of course, preparing my contributions to the feasts. This year, I've decided on spinach pinwheels for my appetizer for Christmas Eve (a tasty spinach and cheese concoction rolled in puff pastry, sliced and baked... yum!) and of course some home made chocolates for dessert on Christmas day.

Last year, I was quite frazzled before Christmas, barely getting everything done, and my chocolates failed. I have no idea what I did wrong, but it was a disaster (okay, that may be a little strong, but I was disappointed with the results, and my family and friends were disappointed in the lack of chocolates!). This year, I'm planning on things going better. So today I start. I'll be making the filling for my chocolate raspberry truffles and coconut candies, so that tomorrow they'll be ready to dip in the chocolate coating. Also on the candy agenda... white chocolate peppermint bark and dark chocolate cherry almond bark... but these are easy so I can put them off until Monday or Tuesday.

Well, if I'm going to get all this done, I'd better get my shovel and move that foot of snow out of my way so I can go to the grocery store!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree!

I love decorating for Christmas, but I do admit I have simplified my decorating dramatically since launching Artful Sentiments, in order to remove some of the pressure from an already hectic holiday season. A few years ago, I switched to an artificial tree, and although I miss the whole process of going out to find the perfect real tree, and the lovely smell it fills my home with, the decision has worked well for me. I lovingly decorate my tree with a combination of ornaments that I've collected my whole life and little silver picture frames, full of holiday photos of me, my family and friends (pictured above, me on my first Christmas). I cherish the memories as I add the ornaments and photos to my tree, listening to Bing and Nat, remembering special people and times, and imagining all the magical memories to be made in the upcoming season.

I'm looking forward to this years festivities, and hope to capture some more sweet photographs to add to my tree for next year!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

All wrapped up!

A few years ago, I decided to take a step toward simplifying my life, and eliminated the endless half rolls of wrapping paper and mismatched gift bags, and replaced them with white and Kraft paper and bags. Don't get me wrong, I love the gorgeous papers that are out there in the marketplace, but I found that I was always buying it, and never seemed to have the correct color, style or theme to go with my gift, and more importantly with my card. Yes, I'm one of those who must coordinate.

Plain paper - boring, you say? Well, fortunately, I am able to print my paper if I want, so that helps with the boring factor, and there are such beautiful embellishments and ribbons, that I never feel bored.

With everyone wrapping for the holidays, I thought I'd share a couple of my past holiday looks - the first was my favorite ever.

My Christmas card was my polar bear, set against a pale blue sky filled with snowflakes. My wrap - white, with blue organza ribbon. Tags were white, printed with little blue snowflakes. And to top off the packages (for all the girls, at least)... lovely rhinestone and crystal snowflake pins that I collected from vintage stores in the months before Christmas. In some cases, the gift inside was just a small token, a bar of handcrafted soap or some little sweets, and the pin was the real gift! In the years since, I often see my friends, cousins and aunts wearing the little pins that were atop their packages.

Then there was the year of the penguin. My card for that year was the chill card... which I chose because, well, I really needed to do that! For my wrap, I used white again, with hand printed penguin tags, and a variety of apple green ribbons, in polka dots and plaids. My plain white gift bags were all hand printed with the penguins as well. For some of the little gifts, I chose apple green and red polka dot organza bags which I just thought were too cute to pass up! And the little girls had their gifts packaged in pink paper suitcases with green bows and penguin tags.

As for this year... well I'm still working on it. My cards are done, and will be going in the mail in the next few days, and I'm working on my packaging now. Of course, I know I'll be starting with white wrap, then I'll add the ribbons, tags and embellishments!

Happy Wrapping!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sweet little gifts....

Every year I make inexpensive, creative little gifts for friends, family, and also a few extras to have for hostess gifts, or to have on hand, just in case. I've been working on gifts for everyone on my list, but wasn't sure what to do for the extras. I thought I'd like to use my new tins but wanted to add a little something to them... and finally today, creativity struck!

Faux bois tin filled with homemade white chocolate peppermint bark (get it?).

Honeycomb tin filled with teas, and maybe one of the little honey dippers.

Blossoms tin filled with packets of seeds for spring flowers.

What creative little gifts are you giving this year?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dear Santa

Wow, I can't believe it's December already. The months have flown by. Sorry I haven't written in a while. You'd think, being in the stationery biz, that I'd be diligent about sending cards and letters, but I will admit I've been a little lax in that area. In most other areas, I've been really good this year, so I think for sure I should be on your nice list.

I know you're getting lots of letters these days, filled with everybody's wish lists. Honestly, I have enough stuff, so you'll find none of that on my list - please make sure to send my share of the stuff to someone who might not otherwise have any packages to open Christmas morning. So, I guess that's my first wish... that there is a little bit of joy for everyone this holiday season.

As for the rest of my list... I wish for continued inspiration and creativity. It really makes me happy to create, and frustrated when I can't find the inspiration, so I'd really love if you could share some of your secrets. After all, if you can keep all those elves inspired, you must have some great secrets. I would really like for my brother to get the kitchen reno he's been dreaming of. I know this is a big one, but John is always so good to me, and he is a fabulous cook and so deserving of a nice kitchen. I'd like for my friend Michelle to get some time for taking care of herself....maybe enough so she and I can book manis and pedis together and spend some quality friend time. And it would be great if Grace could get a little time to come with us too. I wish for continued health and happiness for my family and friends. We went through a few rough years a while ago, and it's really nice to see everyone doing well....I'd love for it to continue. It makes me happy to see them happy.

Well, I think that's more than my share, so I'll stop now. Oh, there is one more (little) thing... if you can spare an elf or two after the Christmas rush, I could really use some help organizing my workshop!

Thanks Santa, for all you do in spreading the cheer!

Have a Merry Christmas and Peace and Joy in the New Year!


(P.S. You can thank Melissa at Operation Nice for getting me motivated to write this year. She is very inspirational when it comes to keeping her readers on your nice list... so if you can, you should do a little something extra for her this year!)
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