hibernating, now

IMG_1231Last weekend was a lovely day at Mayo Street Arts.  We held the Big Chill craft fair for the third year in a row and had many visitors throughout the day.  Kiddos made crafts in the basement and the main hall transformed in to a holiday bizarre with sunlight shining through the stained glass windows.

Here’s my favorite shot from the day.  Alyce Paul joined us, who was recently featured in Real Simple magazine with her dinosaur air planters, and our local paper, the Portland Press Herald.  Her display was gorgeous, especially with the light shining through, and I also like that you can see her and I in the little mirror at the top right.  Just our shirts, but still.

So now that this monument of a day has come and gone I’ve been in full hibernation mode.  Except for some holiday parties, daily obligations and snow-related chores I’ve been sitting by the fire and wrapping presents extra tight so that little fingers will have to wait just a bit longer, anticipation building, on Christmas morning.  Can’t wait.

merry xmas

from little eye (aka audrey)

from little eye (aka audrey)

Happy tidings to all you out there in cyberspace.  Our very fake, little bright green tinsel Christmas tree is bring very real warmth to our home and every day more presents are appearing beneath it waiting to be delivered to their new homes.  Little gifts, meant only to show we were thinking of you, but yes, with the prudence of a healing economy and, of course, two people who are saving, wishing and dreaming of a house one day (soon?)  Still, the little pile of wrapped sentiments, tied with wool remnants and little, handmade tags makes me feel happy and abundant.

The niece and I made sugar cookies last night while Ya-Ya fried up some wontons and rice for family dinner.  Little one is talking up a storm, and now we are all dreaming of days past when she was much quieter, and much less demanding.  🙂  It turns out, now that she’s a fluent English speaker, that she’s even more assertive than any of us thought.  We continue to be a family of strong women (and strong men, too).

There is a short, snowy road trip in our future – heading west (to Vermont) for the New Year.  On the docket are:  short hikes to the beaver pond, a hopeful Molly the Moose sighting, wood stove stoking, cooking and reconnecting with family, spoiling a cousin who recently had knee surgery, looking at old, old books, goats, chickens, and all under the shadow of Mt. Mansfield, a rocky formation that looks like the face of a man forever watching the sky.  It also happens to be the tallest mountain in Vermont, and is an item on the bucket list that I haven’t yet completed, in nearly 30 years of going to VT.  Next year?

Here’s to wishing you well, safekeeping for you and your family, and always striving to put good things in the world despite the challenges against it.  Happy Holidays!

Inspiration: Heartfelt Gifts , Playing Cards and Calendula

Calendula Salve recipe from Barnacle Bags Blog - click to view!

Beautiful, beautiful.  It’s Christmas-time and having had the very recent experience of battling crowds at our closest Toys R’ Us (and almost not surviving to tell the tale) I feel it’s very, very very (very very very) important to share the importance of giving a gift of time, effort and love over price tags + capitalism.

Every year as the crowds get crazier, and more pepper spray-ier my opinion on this matter gets stronger and stronger.  Our economy is driven almost entirely by a paradigm that seems to say “disposable is good, more is good, spending money equates status and I don’t care where this item came from, as long as it’s cheap.”  Whoa, whoa, whoa America.  Let’s take a step back!

Buying locally, from skilled tradespeople and artisans ensures there is a face and a name to go along with the product you are buying.  If there’s a problem with it, if you have a question about it, or sometimes even if you’d like to know how to make it these people are right there for you, happy to help.  Lissa, from Barnacle Bags, posted this amazing salve recipe (part 1, part 2) for her readers, even though it is a product she’ll presumably be selling.  How can she afford to do this?  Well, most of us DIY-ers turned entrepreneurs have the Achilles heel that we’re actually just super-psyched about the things we make, and want others to experience the happiness, too.  Try it next time you’re at a craft fair – ask someone about their method – usually they’ll tell you WAY more than you want to know!  Also, here’s a super-duper tutorial on playing card notebooks from Malaika at Hand-Me-Down Designs:

Playing Card Notebooks by Hand-Me-Down Designs

I get so sad when I am talking to people who are experiencing major holiday anxiety because of the pressures they’re feeling as a result of living up to ‘tradition.’  Like, they’ve married in to a family that is big in to gift-giving but said family is also really in to procreation so people are taking out big loans in December to cover their ‘tradition.’  That’s not a good tradition!  In our house, BIG Christmases were the way to go when we were growing up in the 80’s and 90’s.  However, we’re all adults now, and have shifted our gift-giving traditions to more family and food-oriented ones.  Every year we get together and eat like crazy on Christmas Eve, special foods we don’t normally cook.  On Christmas morning we do a little gift-giving (stretch it out as long as possible!!) and then we watch some kind of family friendly movie and eat some more food + cookies we don’t normally have.  This year we’re going to add-in some song-singing because the little one (she’s 2 1/2) really loves music.  What’s more special than quality time with family?  Definitely not iPads and Xboxes, that’s for sure.

This year, almost everyone’s getting something handmade.  The money I’ve spent on Christmas presents for the whole family won’t exceed $50.00, but the time I’ve spent making everything is probably pushing 40 hours of ‘after work, TV-watching’ time.  While I know not everyone can knit or crochet, everyone has the ability to do something that someone else can’t.

Are you good at fixing cars?  Making cookies?  Babysitting pro bono?  Building bird houses?  Even if you can’t make a THING to give to someone, consider drawing up a nice ‘gift certificate’ for services you can offer your friends and family in the future.  

And, if you’re lucky enough to have enough income in your budget to really go nuts this time of year, showering out the contents of your wallet at local shops and at craft fairs giving directly to the artisan is going to do WAY MORE for your quality of life and the American economy than waiting in next year’s Black Friday lines at 4am.

If I don’t get to the bloggy-blog before the big man is shimmying down the chimney:  MERRY CHRISTMAS, internets!!

Day 20 of Giving: Drive Carefully.

The gift we give today is pretty serious – it’s making sure that others are healthy, happy and safe to enjoy their holidays by making sure we responsibly enjoy our own.

Firstly. We are SO LUCKY to have a white blanket of snow covering Maine, even in the South!  Of course with your snow tires (or four season tires) your Maine car is equipped with the necessary precautions to prevent skidding, bumping, crashing.  But that guy coming down the straightaway that you’re turning on to…does he?  Tuesday evening brought a beautiful (heavy!) snowfall to the Portland area that resulted in a 17-car-pile-up near Deering Oaks and countless other accidents.  Personally, as I was driving home in my equipped, yet somewhat finicky sedan, a zippy motorist crossed the straightaway with only 15 or so feet between me and him – my antilock brakes take at least 20 feet to be effective!  And pedestrians, use CAUTION.  Just because someone could potentially brake from the distance you’re planning on crossing at, just assume that the car will slide and swerve and may not do what you’re thinking it will.  Remember snow?  It’s slippery.

Secondly.

In my mind, there is absolutely no excuse for excessive drinking and driving.  It’s taken way too big of a price for me to really, truly know this.  So if you’re going to parties between now and the New Year and want to enjoy beverages, here are a few ground rules your mother, teachers and friends probably already told you but if you don’t listen I will personally break your knee caps so you can’t get in your car.  (Not actually true, but I’ll definitely take your keys).

#1.  Designated driver.  I personally think this rule of thumb is a sham.  DDs always end up getting persuaded to ‘have a drink!’ by their increasingly sauced friends and, who wants to go to a party with a large group of people they may or may not know and not taste a little liquid courage?  Sometimes this works.  I have friends who don’t drink but like going to parties.  This works.  Couples who can actually stick to this plan have some success.  This works.  But if this seems like kind of a bummer, please see Rule #2 + #3.

#2.  Taxi cab!  Sure, you may have to wait awhile and hey, it may cost $20 to get across town but stop being such a miser, Scrooge, it’s Christmas!  Leave the house with cash so you are not in a bind later when you’re contemplating a hackney driver and also leave a nice tip for the fellow or lady working on the holiday.  Split the cab with people who live close so it’s not such a pain in the wallet.  $20 is totally worth avoiding thousands in lawyer fees, losing your license or killing yourself or, worse, one of your friends.

#3.  Stay awhile!  Eat something!  If you’re planning on leaving the party at 1am after the big toast and a little dancing, stop your intake and start your snacking a few hours before.  You’ll still have good bubbly champagne feelings but when it’s time to drive you’ll be in much better working order.

#4.  Be nice to the dry.  If someone doesn’t want a drink, don’t get all excited because you are and think it’s the best thing in the world.  Some people don’t!  As someone who ‘takes it easy’ at parties and usually switches to tea after 2 drinks, tops, I just want to let you all know that you *don’t* get more and more awesome as the night wears on…it’s actually the opposite.

 

Have fun, but above all, be safe!

Day 19 of Giving: Wrap It Up.

Wow!  I’ve really let the days get ahead of me.  Here I’m writing an entry for days ago!  Still, get ready for a power-packed day of entries so that I can enjoy my Christmas Eve with family without feeling like I didn’t do what I said I was going to do.  🙂

Day 19 reflects on my activity last night of sitting on the living room floor (hardwood, ouch) surrounded by reused paper, ribbons and bows from last year.  Half the fun of receiving and giving gifts is making an event out of it.  Presentation, as in sales, is everything.  But you don’t have to break the bank or widen that footprint in order to do it!

Do you have a ‘nook’ anywhere in your house/apartment?  Do you love breathing air and drinking fresh water?  Then what you’re going to need to do is save these things on Saturday you used to wrap up your presents throughout the year:  birthdays, bar mitzvahs and yes, Xmas 2011 (whoa!).  Because seriously, who wants to pay $4.99 for a tube of shiny paper that will end up crumpled on the floor by noon on the 25th.  Not me.

I had a few pristine sheets of tissue paper in red, green and white that were the ‘top layer’ for several prezzies.  We had a big tube of shiny red paper with snowflakes on it that mysteriously ended up in our possession (I don’t normally do shiny, since it’s triple the environmental impact or some other fudged statistic like that) so I wrapped a present in it that would’ve busted through the tissue paper otherwise.  Simple gold ribbon tied the packages tight and I made little tags from paper left over from a wedding invitation order I made in 2009.  I cut strips of the paper, stamped it in gold with a Christmas tree stamp, wrote the recipients name under the tree and hole-punched at the top so it could fit through the ribbon.

Annnd…our family is celebrating Christmas on the 24th because my Dad works for the volunteer EMT in Yarmouth on Saturdays so he can’t be sure if he’ll be needed for a call or not on the 25th.  I like to think of that as a little gift in itself, of course my dad would wave his hands in the air and tell me to can it if he heard me say that.  So on the night of the 24th when all that paper ends up strewn about, I will definitely be hunched over collecting pristine scraps.  Then I’ll reuse packaging Etsy orders, wholesale shipments to any number of Maine shops, and who knows what else.

Pictures of my eco-econo-wrapping to come – don’t want to ruin the surprise!

Day 18 of Giving: Make a Friend.

Summery Friends

Sometimes the idea of meeting new people, cooperating with and listening to them for more than the polite couple of minutes, can be daunting.  I’m as good as the next guy at saying hello, shaking hands firmly yet demurely (not a limp fish, not a bear paw) and moving on my way.  But to actually give of yourself and receive of someone else is quite the commitment.

At the Biddeford Art Walk on Saturday Kate and I were lucky enough to attract the whirring, busy bee energy of E.B. who was an 8 year old (I think?) who seemed to know anyone and everyone who was hip, productive and somewhat known in the town of Biddeford.

E.B. helps Kate to look awesome

Her energy was captivating and inspiring.  Imagine your acquaintances, friends, etc. live on a shelf in glass jars.  When you see one, you take down the jar and release all the information/emotions/connections associated with that person.  The cool thing is the shelf isn’t finite.  If you make one too many friends it’s not like one of the glasses will edge off the shelf and fall.  The shelf just gets bigger!

So, because of E.B. I urge you all to take a breath the next time you meet someone new, steady yourself, and give that social transaction more than the attention it deserves.  It’s a gift for you and them!

Day 15 of Giving: Open your home to small, furry things.

Shira and Dexter

If you and the kids or you and the spouse or you and the kitchen sink were thinking of adopting some kind of purring, woofing creature at any point in the near future – now is probably the time.

Before we talk about why it IS the time, let’s talk about why it MIGHT NOT BE the time.  This is a very important discrepancy:

WHY NOT:

-DON’T adopt an animal, or worse, buy it from a pet store if you are looking to surprise your son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend for Christmas.  In addition to it being like handing someone a present and saying “Here, this poops, you clean up after it!” it’s also not the kind of thing that is healthy to ‘surprise’ someone with.  After all, you wouldn’t surprise someone with a baby, would you?  No, I think not.  Whether you admit it or not we’ve all seen “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and, well, you get the idea.

-DON’T adopt an animal because it’s cute.  I have a secret – I am the innkeeper for two very adorable, yet very neurotic, goofy, clumsy, sneaky, obnoxious, cuddly cats.  Sure, Cash is little and Yuna is fluffy and it’s oh-so-adorable until one of them is scratching at the bedroom door at 5am (boyfriend allergic, no sleeping with them!)  At that time of the day they are like little demon shadows whose sole purpose in life is to keep me from beautiful, restful sleep.

-DON’T adopt an animal ‘because it’s Christmas’ because guess what, it’s not going to be Christmas in 6 months and you’ll have a considerably larger pet at that point who may or may not understand that while they grew exponentially, your lap did not.  Which is kind of cute…but…see above.

Classy Cashy and Taudrey Audrey

OK, that wasn’t so bad.  Time for the DOs!

-DO adopt an animal if you and your son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend have discussed responsibilities including vet visits, walks, feeding, litter boxes, pooper scoopers, and the average lifespan of Fido and what that means for your traveling, housing and schedules for the next 15-20 years.

-DO adopt an animal if you’ve been thinking about it for awhile, and not just when you saw the weird cage full of cats at Pet Quarters on your way back from the Christmas Tree Shops.

-DO adopt an animal from a shelter, NOT A PET STORE!

-DO adopt an older animal, they’re quite mild-mannered!

-DO adopt an animal if you have $500-$1000 cushion between you and poverty.  Because kitties and puppies do get hit by cars (this happened to me) and they do fall from great heights (this also happened) and eventually your mother is going to be tired of fixing your cat for you (this didn’t happen, thankfully, my mom would literally go to the poor house for her animals, be they hers or anyone else’s)

-Lastly, DO adopt if it’s the right thing for you and you’ve thought about it.  December’s cold, and January only gets worse and you think you get stir crazy in the middle of winter?  Trying living in a little cage during the solstice!  Dark, dark dark.

Mysterious, Fluffy Yuna.

What are some of your favorite animal rights organizations in Southern Maine and surrounding?  I love these guys:

Click to be taken here!

Day 8 of Giving: Naughty or Nice

Bedroom eyes!

I suppose it’s normal that this year the top items on my list are boringly practical:  I need a sweet pair of pajamas to keep me warm, socks to do the same, and a truckload full of underwear so that I don’t have to do laundry for two months if I don’t want to.

But then I got to thinking:  Man, underwear is the best present ever.  Whether you’re the wearer or the watcher, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Let me explain.

We all know that men are like butter in the pan when we don those extra-special drawers.  The ones with the little details that couldn’t possibly be worn practically under skinny jeans, the ones that are a tad-too-scratchy with lace for a full 8-hour-shift at the office.

But too often we forget that for the ladies, wearing a kick-ass pair of skivs underneath (or as) our outfit is like having a special little secret that only we (and maybe someone else lucky) will know about.

Personally, I’ve decided to treat myself to new underwear at least three times a week until Christmas.  This is easy, because I work in Westbrook a short hop skip from the strip, so all these underwear places are readily available.  Might I also suggest you do a search for handmade undies on Etsy?

Here are some possible genres of underwear we should all be treating ourselves to:

 

Lace. Ooh-la-la! By chickippie.

Silky Satin-y Slippery! By Hopeless.

Sustainable! By brookthere.

Day 7: Swap It!

December is a great month, hands down, probably second only to October.  October’s great because the trees are bright, the air is crisp, and the weather changing is pretty darn romantic.  Oh yeah, and my birthday’s in October.  But December’s great because people are unquestioningly nice at the end of the year.  The crosswalk on Washington Ave. is all of a sudden visible where motorists used to zoom by.  People let each other have parking spaces even if they were there first.  Lots and lots of giving.  Giiiiiive!

But with all this giving of one’s self, giving lovely gifts to other people, you absolutely can’t forget about giving yourself something new, or at least new to you.

So:  swap!  Organize a clothing swap with three of your closest, most fashionable friends.  Have a cookie party and everyone bakes a huge batch and everyone gets to bring an assortment home.  Get together with crafty people and trade unique handmade items with each other. OR do what Heidi Finn and I did tonight…

TRADE CAMERAS!

It's not weird to kiss a camera, is it?

I’m so excited for my new Nikon D80.  And she loves her Toyo 45 CF.  And it’s like we just gave ourselves the best freaking Christmas presents.  EVER.

She and her mother met me in Newburyport, MA tonight (halfway point between our houses) and we traded excellent pieces of equipment.  It was so good to see a Mass. Art face again, and especially lovely to meet her mother!

Visit Heidi’s website and get excited for the future digital love that you’ll be seeing on my blog!

 

Day 3 of Giving: Love in your Heart

I wasn’t sure what to do today about the next free or near-to-free thing we can give.  As the day wore on, though, some interesting things happened to me that shed some light on the subject.  Warning:  this entry is quasi-religious in tone, but friends and close family I assure you I am as discerning and agnostic as always.

insanely large amounts of toilet paper (Watertown, MA, 2008)

It’s all very domestic, because the first thing that happened was at CVS while I was getting an insanely large package of toilet paper.  The second thing happened while I was on my way to Hannford to pick up medicine, chicken broth, saltines and goodness knows how many other Mom-type-things (note:  I am not a Mom, I have just always been ‘a Mom’) I would have gotten if I wasn’t trying to get home to my pajamas right quick.

Eraserhead. Would also be okay to turn right around if you saw this guy coming...if it could walk...if it were real.

Thing #1.  I began walking down an aisle in CVS where someone who I absolutely did not want to see was shopping for something-or-other.  Reason?  Not important.  But important to know that in this situation I was the one who could have brought forth forgiveness, perhaps just not ready yet.  I turned on my heels mid-aisle and went the other way, lingering in the back of the store until I knew she had finished her sale.

Greenlight: Go. (Winter 2008-2009)

Thing #2.  I had to run a second errand much later in the evening.  As I was at a stoplight on the way to Hannaford I spaced at the light and was watching a couple standing on the corner, not really realizing in the dark (with my astigmatism!) that I was staring straight at someone who has done some terrible harm to my nuclear-family-fortress-of-solidarity.  The light changed, I accelerated and left them in the snowy night.

The whole thing left me a bit sour by the time I got home for good and plopped the grocery bags, dappled with melted ‘snow’ (it only lasted a few minutes, phew!).  It didn’t bother me who I’d seen and what their own trajectory has done to my own, what bothered me was the feeling left inside was a very bitter and obstinate one.  Bad!

Sometimes it’s fun to be angry, and it can be hilarious to be dramatic.  But at the end of the day, if you don’t give yourself love in your heart and (hey, if you’re feeling generous) a little compassion to others (however terrible they’ve been!) then you’re not giving yourself the gift of feeling good and feeling right.

It may not look totally relaxing, but it is.

I broke out a batch of bottlecaps that were waiting for their found and photographed circles and I painted each one with mod podge, inserted the image and sealed them.  As the ‘finished’ pile got bigger my mind was calmer and it began to go to a place where I started asking questions about why these people had done what they’d done.  And what a stroke of luck that I would skim by them both in the same evening so I could remember how important compassion is in growing as a person.

Think of someone who has wronged you...

This month, hell, any month, take some time to think about someone who has wronged you.  Maybe they told someone something you had explicitly asked them to keep a secret.  Maybe they took advantage of you.  Whatever it was, it’s not worth harboring hate inside your own body/mind.  So ask the questions, get the bad out, and give yourself the gift of filling the holes with love for something, anything.