Archive for the ‘Christmas,’ Category

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organizers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December 7 question – It’s holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?
Fall behind, way way behind. This is the time of year when – ooh, look, something sparkly – I can easily get distracted. There is a very small child inside of me who is all agog about coloured lights, baubles, and glitter. When December begins every year, I imagine I’ll carry on just the same way I have the rest of the year, that I’ll do all my writing jobs each week the same as normal. And every year, on the first weekend of December, I go to the Xmas market and start my gift shopping. Something gets ignited within, and from then on, for the rest of the month, my life turns into a whirlwind of Xmas-related things. I watch all the movies and cooking shows about how to make festive dishes. Working on my stories starts to take a back seat to list-making, shopping, catch-ups, get-togethers, and sparkles.

I have to-do lists as long as my arm. I make the annual greeting card and post them to family and friends. The boys and I bake the big Christmas cake (rich fruit cake). We go visit friends with food and gifts. We attend group lunches and end-of-year dinners. I go out shopping most days, to various carefully chosen stores to buy small gifts for family and friends. I wrap gifts. Wrapping gifts is one of the most universally hated jobs. Not for me. I make an evening out of it. I treat it like a craft project, getting out my boxes of ribbons, papers, and bows. It’s fun.

I still have the end-of-year maintenance jobs to do: washing the house and the windows, cleaning and repainting the three verandahs, and repainting the bathroom. I’ll add them to my “to-do” list. December is a juggling act. I intend to relish every moment of this wonderful season. The food, sunshine, time with family, and vacations. What’s not to love? Hello, Summer. (Yes, here in the southern hemisphere it is summer!)
Wherever you are for the month ahead, whatever you celebrate, I wish you every success. And I hope you do celebrate, make (or order) a big cake, light some candles, play beautiful music and enjoy the coloured lights. After the year we’ve had, we deserve a party. A big party.

Writing? What writing? LOL.
Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing!
Yvette Carol
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Let it be easy. ~ Anon
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It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow. If your festive season is anything like mine, you will have been invited here, there, and everywhere. Each time, people asked you to bring “a plate” (or food to share). Last weekend, I joined a group of my oldest friends for our usual Christmas get-together. Normally, we meet at restaurants for long, boozy dinners which are an absolute hoot.

But, this year, with the lockdowns and current restrictions on movement, we opted to meet for a late lunch at one of my girlfriend’s houses. She asked us to bring a plate. My go-to, and I mean nearly every time, is to make a frittata. It is adequate for lunch or dinner. Having a recipe you know like the back of your hand is mighty useful, especially in the festive season when there are so many extra jobs to do and quite frankly, the brain is fried (pardon the pun). A frittata is delicious, too.
My tip: Everything tastes better home-grown and homemade.

Whenever I make this dish, people ask me for the recipe. I thought I would share it here as well. It is an easy and tasty meal for eight to ten, although you could halve it for a family of five. Left-overs will freeze and can reheat perfectly well at a later date. If reheated, I like to add a little sprinkle of fresh cheese on the top before baking it again.

Ingredients List for Frittata:
1 large potato, a large carrot, and kumara or sweet potato
2 decent-sized slices of bacon
1 red onion
I zucchini
6 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
12 eggs
1 small block (250g) of mild cheese, grated
Black olives pitted
Small oblong tomatoes, whole
Capers or any other yummy things you like

Here’s how to make your Frittata:
There are a few things to do in advance. It’s possible to prepare the first elements the night before without spoiling. You boil or steam the chopped-up root vegetables. I used potatoes, carrots, and kumara. Alternatives that work just as well are pumpkin, parsnip, and swede.
When you need to make the frittata, you start by frying up some short strips of bacon. I used two big strips and cut them up to pinkie-size. Then put them aside to dry on paper towels. The paper towels soak up the extra oil. Fry the mushrooms, the zucchini, and the onion separately. Let them cool on separate plates with absorbent paper towels.

Grease an oven-proof dish. I used a rectangular oven tray with tall sides. I think it tastes better if you can make a deeper frittata with more layers.
Now’s the fun part – building your layers!
Spread out the root veggies on the bottom of the dish. Set the bacon strips in between.

At this stage, sprinkle a layer of cheese – and season with generous salt and pepper—it makes a big difference to the taste. Next, set out the mushroom and onion mixture over the top of that. Add another layer of root vegetables and bacon.
Beat together the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables until you have covered the filling.
Dot in big black olives and small oblong tomatoes (like the Sunburst variety) and sprinkle a few capers on the top. Season with salt and pepper and cover in the grated cheese.

Bake at 150 degrees – slowly. I left it in the oven for about an hour or more. You know it’s done when the cheese has pleasant colour, and the mixture stays solid when you wobble the tray.
Bon appétit!
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

I wish you good eating, celebrations with loved ones, and joy. Happy holidays, everyone!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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When you get up in the morning, you have two choices–either to be happy or to be unhappy. Just choose to be happy. ~ Norman Vincent Peale


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Every year around this time I have two mammoth jobs that need to be done. My sons and I bake the massive Christmas Cake, which is a rich fruit cake to feed about sixty-four. We also do the photoshoot of my two young victims sons, whom I make dress up in festive gear at the start of December. Then I pick the best photo from the shoot and make our Christmas card for friends and family. We did the photoshoot this weekend. The boys get a bit grumpy about it these days, which I think is quite cute. I had fun making the cards all day. It’s creative, it’s fun and it involves glitter. What more do you need to know?

When I first started this blog, my middle son – who was born with Down Syndrome – featured by himself on the card. Three years later, his little brother came along and the pair got to feature on the next family card and so it has gone on.

Here is how you can make your family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Once you have your photo, reduce it to a small size. Figure out how many people you are making cards for. Print out the photos on regular A4 paper and cut them out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the thrift store) and cut them down in size. I use the same “guides” for the layers which I made myself out of cardboard, so they are all the same dimensions. Start with a guide for the size of the card. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper and iron them towards the following year’s cards. Make a guide for the interesting saved paper, or any fun paper you like, as your next layer. It must be smaller than the card and larger than the photo.

Now you have the items you need for your cards: a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible), the rectangles of saved wrapping paper, and a stack of your cut-out photos.

My next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix” which is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. The fibres come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat until the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

Begin construction by gluing the saved wrapping paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends.

Then glue the photo on the top.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile weights on top.

The best part is adding the embellishments! It is time to decorate the front of each card with glitter and crystals and stickers to your heart’s delight.

Inside each card, I include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Match your card as closely as possible to the size of the envelope. It looks better that way. Write a special message inside each card and post it to family and friends.
It’s homemade. It’s personal. It’s crafty fun. What’s not to love?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


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When I first started this blog, I shared how to make a homemade greeting card at this time of year. The tradition of making my own cards with photos of my youngest boys started with my middle son’s birth. Samuel was born with Down Syndrome in 2002, and featuring him on our card was a way of celebrating his arrival.

Sam’s younger brother came along two years later, and I’ve made these photo cards every year since then. I love the ritual of taking the photo for the card and bringing out all my card-making materials. Crafts are fun! Just seeing my glitter and stickers and the carefully saved paper brings a smile to my face. It’s like being a kid again. Personally I am a fan of homemade looking festive things rather than the store-bought variety.

This year I failed to get my two teenage boys to smile for our greeting card photo, however, it’s still an excellent likeness of them and I made the best of the shot I got. For those who are new to this blog, I will share how we make our family greeting card for next-to-nothing.

Start by organising the kids, the dog, whatever your subject is, and snapping your photo for the card. Then print on regular A4 paper at a dinky size and cut out.

Take cheap Christmas cards (I bought ours from the dollar store) and make them smaller. I use “guides” for the sizes which I made myself out of cardboard, so the layers have the same dimensions.

You have the first two items you need for your card, a stack of cut-down cards (preserving the message inside if possible) and a stack of your cut out photos.

Next is the saved wrapping paper. On Christmas Day each year, I save the interesting pieces of wrapping paper for making the following year’s cards.

At this stage in the card production, I take my saved paper, set the iron on a low heat and iron out the wrinkles. *My tip, iron the paper with the picture side down, in case any ink comes away. Then it doesn’t mar your iron’s surface and it also protects the ink.

Take a second cardboard “guide” that is smaller than the card and larger than the photo. Cut your saved Christmas paper to this size.

Now you have your photos, your cards, and cut-down Christmas paper.

The next step is to cut little flags of “Angelina Hot Fix.” This is a synthetic product made by Funky Fibres here in NZ. I’m sure you could find a similar product where you are. Hot Fix come in different funky colours. You spread a handful between baking paper then iron on a low heat and the fibres fuse, making a thin sheet of sparkly material. I cut out small rectangles of Hot Fix, one for each of my cards.

The first step of constructing the cards entails gluing the Christmas paper to the card, at the same time trapping a wedge of Hot Fix in between so that one end extends like a flag.

*Tip: dry and flatten the cards after you apply each layer; I put them between chopping boards and pile various weights on to press them. The second step is to glue the photo on top.

The third step is the best part—embellishments! Time to decorate the front of the cards with the glitter and ‘gems’ and stickers and doodads to your heart’s delight.

Inside each envelope I like to include a surprise, usually gift tags, or I also have a set of miniature antique postcards which I bought in a thrift store once, and I’ll include a couple of those with each one. Make sure to match your envelope as closely as possible to the size of the card. It looks better that way.

Write personal messages inside your works of art and post away.

What do you think of this year’s greeting card?  

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette Carol

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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

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It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Every month, the organisers announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. Remember, the question is optional!!! Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

December 2 question – Are there months or times of the year you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

Yes, definitely the winter and autumn months are the most productive for me because during those months I’m indoors more and the shorter days keep me at my desk, whereas in spring and summer I’m hopping outside all the time at every excuse just to do things in the garden and feel the warmth of the sunshine. Spring is my favourite season of the year. I love the blossoms and flowers, the cool green shade of new leaves, the scents on the air.

Working from home in your jim-jams with a view of your garden, outside the French doors it’s hard not to hop outside and run around barefoot regularly.

In particular, I find the start of summer distracting. For us here in New Zealand, summer begins in December, which is also the beginning of the festive season. Coloured lights are going up outside houses and within. The lighted trees are appearing in living rooms, including ours. The decorations festoon the shops and there are wonderful gift ideas everywhere I go. I’m not one of those people who can do Christmas shopping all year round. To me, that is something you do in December, when there’s glitter and greenery in every mall and the cupboards at home become hiding places for gifts and gift-wrap. I like to make a master list around this time of the folk I want to buy a little something special for, and that includes family, friends, teachers and all the various bods who help my son with Down Syndrome throughout the year.

Then a few days of each week leading up to the 25th, I go out and slowly make the rounds of all my favourite stores. I don’t rush in, buy the thing I want and rush out again, I like to window-shop, walk around and look at the decorations and all the wares. I savour the experience. I like to take my time over every gift and think about that person and consider them. Then I get to go home and wrap the gifts beautifully. It’s lovely.

Shopping in crowds gets a little stressful, however. There is a lot to do in the festive season. It’s busy. Everyone rushes everywhere. Doing the grocery shopping yesterday, there was a lot more traffic on the road, the car parks were fuller and the queues longer. But you expect public places to be more crowded, and you adjust to it as you go along. Buying your groceries takes a lot longer, but that’s okay. I even enjoy the hectic side. It’s only Christmas once a year and after the shit year we’ve had this is fun.

It’s almost impossible for me to get any writing done in the festive season, so productivity plummets through early summer to mid-summer.

Usually after Christmas there are family jaunts to the beach, picnics, road trips and get-togethers. I will typically pick up the pen and paper or the laptop again, in February to start my writing year again. I’m lucky though, as I don’t do this to make a living. I write at the weekends when my kids are elsewhere. If I was a professional writer, I would have to put butt in the chair and do the hours.

I really prefer to be a part-time author at this stage. I’ve been raising kids all my adult life. On Sunday I turn fifty-six years old and it feels like I can see 60 coming up fast. I don’t want to spend my entire life hunched over a computer. I want to be out there enjoying my days as well, so for me, being non productive is important to my well-being. Then I feel I come back to my writing with extra energy, fresh eyes, and a new appreciation of life.

How do you feel about your productivity and why?

Keep Writing!

Yvette Carol

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Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”

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I’ve finished reading my seventh novel for 2020, The Dark is Rising, by the much-loved British writer of children’s books, Susan Cooper. It was a book I bought in a thrift shop, as I recognized the author, and I’m always looking for children’s books especially in my genre of fantasy fiction. I did not realize until partway into reading The Dark is Rising that the novel was book two in a five-part series, The Dark is Rising Sequence.

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The sequence starts with Over Sea, Under Stone published in 1965, the Dark is Rising in 1973, Greenwitch and The Grey King (1975), and  Silver on the Tree (1977) The story arc depicts a grand battle between good and evil, expressed as the Light and the Dark, and follows the quest type of story, with characters in pursuit of the four Things of Power, which are the circle of Signs, the Grail, the Harp, and the Sword. The Things of Power are necessary for the ultimate battle if the Light is to defeat the Dark.

The New York Times Book Review said that these books are “for a special small age group: those who can read with fluency and attention, but who haven’t yet been afflicted by adolescent cynicism.” That age group is my zone. Middle grade (junior fiction) is a wonderful age group to write for. It makes all the “reading in my genre,” work I have to do brilliant fun!

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Because I buy most of my books as paperbacks – or the occasional coveted hardback – from book fairs, second-hand bookstores and garage sales, I often end up with books that are one of a series and end up reading them out of sequence or only reading one. Therefore, I know how important it is for each book in a series to standalone. It didn’t matter that The Dark is Rising was book two, I carried on reading.

In The Dark is Rising; we meet Will Stanton. He is the main protagonist throughout the rest of the Sequence. He is the seventh son of the seventh son. Nearing his eleventh birthday, the story begins. It is Christmas time and deep winter, a metaphorical device which brings the powerful contrast of the light of Christmas against the darkness of deep winter. Dark and snow and storm are scary things. They make us shiver. Which we like in a book.

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Will Stanton soon discovers he is the last of the Old Ones, and he must help find the Things of Power, beginning with the circle of signs. He meets Merriman Lyon, the first Old One. Lyon has been with the Drew family for generations and they refer to him as “Uncle Merry.” With the Drew siblings, who Susan introduced in Over Sea, Under Stone, and a cast of characters, Will encounters the Dark for the first time and must find the circle of signs.

I love a story based on mythology. Susan Cooper draws on the rich traditional folklore of the British Isles, and Celtic and Norse mythology, and the Dark is Rising Sequence sparked a renewed interest in Arthurian fantasy. In The Dark is Rising the Lady represents the Lady of the Lake from the Arthurian legend, and in later books Arthur (as Pendragon) crops up along with his knights (as the Sleepers).

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The Dark is Rising series won great acclaim, including the Newbery Medal, and the Tir na n-Og Award more than once. In 2002 Susan Cooper was a nominee for Hans Christian Andersen Award, which is the highest achievement possible in the world of children’s literature. For The Dark is Rising Sequence she won the lifetime Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2012.

I’ve long admired her writing since I read King of Shadows.

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The Dark is Rising was an engrossing read, and it was a runner-up for the Newbery Honor Book in the U.S. They made it into a film, in 2007 titled The Seeker in America and The Dark Is Rising in Britain, which had a disappointing reception when the critics said it deviated from the original material too much in terms of plot and characters. To my mind, the books are and should always be the touchstone especially for adaptations.

If I have any quibble with the book, it was that the story was too short, I would have been happier if there had been a lot more meat on the bone. Having read the second book first, I’d be happy to read the rest if I get the chance. If not, I’m also happy with a great read.

My rating: Nearly four stars.

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“You are the seventh son of a seventh son, Will Stanton. You step through time. One by one, the Signs will call to you. You will gather them and gain the power of the Light. You are the Sign-Seeker.” ~ The Dark is Rising.

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I find Boxing day relaxing after the rush and bustle of Christmas day. The term ‘Boxing day’ emerged out of Britain, when it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of gifts on the first weekday after the 25th as thanks for their service throughout the year. It connected the custom of giving boxes to an older British tradition, stemming from giving servants a day off after Christmas and a gift box to take home to their families. Sometimes the gift was leftover food and leftovers still form a big part of our modern traditions in New Zealand. We celebrate Boxing day by having a rest and eating the food from the day before. Until the late 20th century there was a tradition among many in the British Empire to give a Christmas gift, usually cash to tradesmen and vendors at this time of year.

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A tradition here in New Zealand is to go to the beach on Boxing day. The boys have gone swimming with their father and his family. I thought I might prefer to sit in the shade at home. Actually, as anyone who hosts the family get-together knows, we reserve the next day in some part to cleaning the house, decanting food, sorting the gifts and attempting to restore some order.

There are arguments about the origin of the term Boxing day. Some hold that the name is a reference to charity drives. Traditions in some countries include collecting money for the poor on Christmas day and opening the box the next day – Boxing day.

While others say it relates to an ancient nautical tradition when they sent a sealed box of money aboard sailing ships when setting sail for good luck. If the voyage was a success, the captain gave the box to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.

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Whatever the true origin, it’s a day of utter rest for us, while we try to recover from eating too much and staying up too late.

We had a blissful day yesterday. The boys got up at 8.30 to discover their stockings and presents. Let us just say both boys have restocked their libraries! I want to foster the youngest son’s love of reading. The middle son has always been a reader, but the youngest has only just begun. I bought him a dozen books across a wide range of genres hoping among them he would find one or two to twig his interest, and he did.

It was an effortless day. One of our family traditions is to have fresh peas for the festive dinner and share the job of shucking the peas. It’s something we’ve always done together. Instead of the whole family being here this year, the boys helped me shuck them, which was very sweet.

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My nephew who boards with us helped cook the roast turkey dinner. A niece who had just returned from a long overseas trip joined us for a day of cooking, eating, drinking, and talking. My eldest son, his fiancée, and their one-year-old daughter also came to visit. My granddaughter is vocalizing sweet garbled words, she’s walking steadily, however, she doesn’t quite have the idea of opening gifts. She was more interested in playing with the paper and moving the magnets on the fridge. Her chubby cheeks and big blue eyes held us entranced.

We all pitched in to create a lavish feast of roast turkey, hassle back potatoes, vegetables, fresh peas, spinach and broccoli and gravy. Homemade fruit cake, chocolate chip cookies, and fresh fruit salad followed this with whipped cream.

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After four in the afternoon, we were doing dishes and packing away plates. In the evening, after eating two more rounds of dessert, we strolled down the road to look at the festive lights. The boys were in bed asleep by nine, and finally mama could watch a movie with a box of chocolates.

A modern Boxing day phenomenon is the big retail sales when many people do their Xmas shopping for the following year. Not me. I far prefer some R&R and to unwind and take the time to reflect on things. As I send out thank you messages, I think of the many gifts this year has brought. I like to ponder the twelve months just gone at this time of the year and turn my thoughts for the first time towards the year to come.

May 2020 bring you peace, happiness, and love!  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us!” – H. Borland

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Overheard in the supermarket at the start of December, one checkout operator to the other, ‘It has begun,’ and the other replied, ‘I know we’ve been so busy this morning.’ You could feel the collective tensing by those in the service industries who braced themselves for the onslaught of the festive season madness. After doing the house maintenance jobs later into the season than usual, I didn’t go near the shops to start my Christmas shopping until the second week of December. When I ventured out there on the 8th, I realized the stress. Each foray to the shops I sat in lines of traffic and there was a pervasive undercurrent like a hum of tension in every place, on every face. Each week as I have gotten steadily busier, the shops, the supermarket car parks, all the usual places I need to go are increasingly full. There are more and more people. Each day, the “To do” list has gotten longer. It can get crazy.

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A lot of folks these days prefer to do all their shopping online and not tackle the crowds to avoid the extra traffic on the roads. But to me, noisy and overwhelming though it might be, I would far rather go out there physically to walk around and discover things, see, feel and smell things than to have another date with my computer. I’m a writer. I spend my entire day in front of my laptop. At least Christmas shopping is a valid excuse to leave the house.

We may differ in the way we celebrate Christmas down here in the summer heat of the southern hemisphere, but one way we are the same as the north, this time of year is about gathering together with friends and loved ones. Each weekend there have been the sounds of people’s voices and music at parties on the wind. Each day there have been lunches and farewells and prize-givings. Each night there have been dinners and parties. My introvert brain is starting to hurt.

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This is the time of the year the list of ‘what I wished I could have done but didn’t get time for’ also grows bigger. We had planned a big family trip to see the Franklin Road Christmas lights, but we were all too tired after a hectic weekend to go out at night. I wanted to go to the big extravaganza Christmas in the Park, but had already been to two events that day and so it goes on. I think I’d much rather focus on what I got done. The house and garden maintenance got done. This week, my nephew and I sanded and repainted the bathroom. The seventeen-year-old graduated high school. And my nephew came along with me to collect Sam that afternoon, and to hand out presents and cards to staff and students.

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We have baked the rich fruit cake. New flowers planted. We’re ready for a ‘small’ lunch on the 25th hosting a traditional turkey dinner for the few family members in town. It will be low key and nice.

I like the thing these days of buying fewer gifts. In our family everyone used to buy something for everyone else. But as the family grew bigger, the stack of gifts grew to uncomfortable proportions and we were spending too much money. So we agreed to cut back to everyone getting one gift from the whole family, by each taking a name ‘from the hat.’ That worked well and made gift buying much more reasonable. Then a few years ago we cut it down again, and now we only buy gifts for the children, which is the best idea of all. It makes the focus of the day less about presents and more about the experience of being together.

The older I get, the more it’s the togetherness I savour most.

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I also like the crafting. Every year since my second son Sam was born, I’ve hand crafted our family cards. I’ve always spent lots of time trying to figure out what to say inside. With this crop of cards I found a terrific site that offers inspirational festive greetings. I found a few I used like this one.

This time of year brings festivities and family fun. It is a time for reminiscing and looking forward. Wishing you wonderful memories during this joyous season.

Great, huh!

Whatever you do my friends, enjoy it. Why not? As the president at our Toastmasters’ Christmas party said, ‘This is the one time of the year we’re allowed to be jolly.’

Happy Holidays, everyone!  

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. ~ Author Unknown

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The other day at Toastmasters, one friend said that she can never get used to Christmas in summer. Being born in the U.K, and only having lived in New Zealand for ten years, she’s still not used to celebrating the festive season at the height of the hottest season. My grandmother was English also, and though she lived here the last nine years of her life, Nan always said, ‘it never felt like Xmas’ celebrating in the sun.

It really is nutso when you think about it.

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The original celebration was about reassuring the people during the dark months of winter that the light would return again, when the shaman or elder went from door to door in the village with a branch of evergreen and a lamp.

Here we are, in the southern hemisphere, where it’s already the height of summer, therefore we are ‘in the light’ and don’t need a reminder that the sun will return again. Yet, we still eat a big roast meal in the middle of the day, we still wear fluffy Santa hats, we still songs about snow and sleigh bells. There is some conflict there because the celebration is happening in the wrong season.

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Me, I put all the negative voices aside. I was born in the month of December, so maybe that’s what makes me partial to the tradition, but I was raised with Christmas in summer. I have no problem with the nutso scheme of things. It suits me perfectly. I am happy to wear a Santa hat at the beach. I have no issue at all with wearing a Christmas jersey in summer. Maybe it comes down to being a kid at heart. I still have a powerful belief in Santa Claus, or rather; I fight for the right to believe in the possibility he exists.

My creative spirit is restless to believe in the ‘wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world,’ in the possibility of anything.

There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897, which says it perfectly.

A girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”

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Francis Church wrote in reply ~

“Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

Christmas magic (via Tracey Henderson)

The original mythology of the large-hearted man delivering ‘gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in early Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century, and he was related to doing good works.

Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a poor family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root. And, it’s been with a great many of us, ever since.

I know the festive season gets a lot of bad press, these days. However, it also brings a lot of pleasure. To me, it brings creativity, inspiration and uplifts the artist within.

The joy! I wish you and your families Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you in the New Year!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.” ~ Brian Conway

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[N.B. The blog will be on hiatus next week]

At this time of year, it’s the homemade touches I relish.

Every year at the beginning of December, I always make our own greeting cards. They are a firm favourite with friends and family, and I always get requests for more. I’ve shared my creative process here before, but for those who are new to the blog, here’s how you can make your own greeting cards the old fashioned way for next to nothing. And, it’s fun!

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I love any excuse for crafting. In early December, I usually work on getting the kids to dress up in festive wear, and I take a ‘cover photo.’ This year, I asked my two youngest sons to pose with my granddaughter for the cover image. At the same time, I also got a photo of all the kids in the family for the inside flap.

Method:

Start by printing out your chosen photographs in miniature. Why so small you ask? Because they’re cute. If you prefer full size cards, you can still use the same technique.

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Next, cut up your cards. I buy a big pack of greeting cards from the Salvation Army shop for two dollars and cut them down to size, making sure to include the message inside.

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For the cover, I create a layered effect. I make up a few standard cardboard guides to keep the layers consistent and to make the scale of the decorative layers progressively get smaller to the photo image on the top. You can add as many layers as you like of contrasting patterns and colours. I like to do two.

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For the first layer, I cut up interesting festive paper to the largest size of the cardboard guides.

Each year, I recycle wrapping paper. I like to sit down on Boxing Day and cut all the relatively flat, usable pieces from the discarded wrapping paper of the day before. I save the ‘good bits’ in a cellophane folder and then reuse them for wrapping stocking gifts and for making greeting cards the following year. Waste not, want not, as my father always used to say.

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For the second layer of my card, I cut out the photos, using the smaller size guide. Last but not least, I snip up a few squares of glittery stuff. You can use tinsel or whatever you have. I make my own glittery sheets of “hot fuzz” by ironing synthetic fibres between paper. Then I divide the sheets into segments and use them to add a glint of light to the cover. These are the elements. All you need is craft glue and a few books or something weighty for ‘flattening.’

Now comes the fun part, when you get to put the whole thing together.

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I glue the first layer – the wrapping paper pieces – onto the outer cover. You need to be quick, because paper likes to bulge and ripple when adhesive is applied. So glue the paper on, and then put the card directly beneath a sheet of paper and something weighty to flatten it. Continue until they’re all done. Once they’ve dried somewhat, you can add the next part.

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The cover photo goes on top. Make sure to sandwich a wedge of glitter stuff in between the layers so it protrudes into the air like a glam flag. Again, as with the first sheets of paper, you need to act fast and weight each one down immediately that it’s glued, to attain a flat, polished looking finish. Also, be careful when dealing with glue and your cover image. I’ve made the mistake before of getting it near the underside of the faces – it completely ruins the photo. So your cover photo must have the people centrally placed to keep their faces clear of the adhesive around the edges.

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I attach the portrait of the children in our family onto the inside page. And because I’m a big kid myself at this time of year and love to collect all things to do with crafting, I have lots of holiday themed stickers and embellishments which I liberally apply in to the cover and the interior at this stage. I add my initials on the back cover, with the words, ‘homemade with love.’

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I bought a pack of old fashioned gift tags at the Hospice shop for one dollar and included a few tags in each envelope as a gift. And there you have it, a creative way to personalize your greeting cards!

Have you ever tried making your own? If so, please share! 

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large. ~ Confucius

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