Archive for the ‘crafting’ 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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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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I was thinking today how cool it is being an Indie Publisher. I get to do the labour of the writing and I also get to design the finished product. For instance, with my upcoming release, The Last Tree, I’m in the final stages of preparation. After two years of writing, rewriting, and editing, now I get to put the whole package together.

I will do a few illustrations, organize the formatter, the printer, the ISBN’s, and think about the book launch—you know, the fun stuff. I’m communicating with my nephew, Si, the artist, about the cover art. And I’m dreaming of what it will look like and whether it will mesh well with the first two books in the series.

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I can’t wait to see it and the artwork could arrive at any moment!

This is when you can be as creative as you like. You don’t have to go the full Lemony Snicket, but you can let your imagination run wild in your own way about how your final masterpiece will look. I like the design side of book production. I would find it difficult to hand over the decisions to someone else. I had a picture book accepted once by a Wellington publisher, but they wanted to change the names of every character, so I declined the offer. These stories are my creations. As Martin Baynton said, ‘A book belongs to you. It’s your intellectual property.’

My stories are my intellectual property, and they will live long after I’m gone, therefore I want a true representation left in the world.

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I find the end stages of book production particularly pleasing. There are lots of little details to get done. It’s when the story morphs into something real I can hold in my hand. There are delicious treats to savour ahead like seeing the cover art, when Si will bring one of my characters to life. Then there is that singular moment when I get to see my book cover for the first time. Every published author can attest that there is no greater delight than laying eyes on one’s new novel! After the hours spent nose-to-the-grindstone editing the story, these are the glory days. These are the exciting things every author dreams about.

When I pictured how the finished books in The Chronicles of Aden Weaver series would look, I wanted eye-catching covers, which I created with Si, and the cover designer at BookPrint. And, I wanted a symbol to act as an emblem linking the books together visually on the shelf. So I designed the seal of the Order of the Order of Twenty-four and set that on the spine of the jacket.

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As a child reader, I always appreciated it when the author added their own artwork to their stories, which is why I also include my pen and ink illustrations inside. In last week’s post, I shared how to create a map. This week, I’m sharing how I created the first pen and ink illustration, which I finished on the weekend.

This is how I did it. I drew a rectangular frame within an A4 sheet of paper. Then I chose a scene from the book—a battle between two giants. Breaking away, Ike Lee collected a boulder with his free hand and tossed it. (chap. 63, pg 210)

I drew the scene in pencil within the frame. Once happy with the image, I went over the pencil lines with black ink pens.

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As with making my map, I used a variety of size nibs, and also black water colour paint to fill in the shadows.

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It is fun to fill in the outlines and ‘colour it in’ with ink. I like to experiment with different patterns and textures. I think it’s essential with pen and ink to have some decent areas of black and white, too, as it’s so effective in this medium, creating differentiation, drama, and maximum impact. Then imagination can let fly.

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I built up the layers, lines, dashes and dots. I spent the whole day adding more. I finished with a black key line to frame the image. It was lovely to doodle all day after the hard graft of getting the story written and edited. I always look forward to doing the illustrations as an author’s reward for making it to the final stages of production.

And here’s the finished picture. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it. ~ Roald Dahl

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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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I have talked about my homemade festive cards in previous posts, however, since there have been lots of new subscribers to this blog in 2017, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to welcome everyone aboard and share the idea again.

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I make a festive card featuring my kids each year. The tradition began with the birth of my middle child, Samuel in 2002, and continued when the youngest was born three years later, featuring both the youngest boys on the cover.

In one little festive-themed image, I could instantly update friends and family about the kids’ progress, and using cards recycled from the year before. It was a win-win situation. The homemade card is easy, super cheap being made out of mostly recycled materials, and most importantly, it’s fun to do.

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Every year, towards the end of November, I make my kids sit and pose for the Xmas photo. There’s always a lot of moaning and groaning. But, eventually they cooperate, and we always get a good picture. Sometimes they help with the crafting of the cards, yet even if they don’t, that really is the fun part, crafting the end result.

So, if you’d like to start a new family tradition and try making the card yourself, here’s the process:

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Start by taking your chosen photo and reducing the size to fit your choice of card size. I like to do miniatures so the pictures are small and dinky. I am able to get eight miniatures onto an A4 page. Once you’ve set them out on the page the way you want it print as many pages as needed. I usually limit it to sixteen cards in total, as they do take a bit of time and one has to divide one’s time between a lot of activities at Christmas.

Next, cut out the pictures.

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I make templates for the size of the card and the layer of decorative paper in between, and the photo, so a bit of the decorative paper and a border of the card itself will show around the image, in other words, each is progressively larger. Using a template keeps things uniform and pleasing to the eye, and saves time each year.

For the cardboard, I buy cheap bulk packs of old Christmas cards from charity shops. Sometimes, I save the cards we’ve received from the year before and recycle them by pasting white paper over the writing inside.

Either way, cut out sixteen pieces of cardboard to the size of the first template.

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Cut out sixteen pieces of festive themed paper, to the next size template.

Glue the paper onto the front of the card. Don’t worry about whether the patterns match or if you’ve got the layers running in different directions. This is art. Be funky and wild and have fun with it. Go crazy, man!

Then, trim your photo to the size of the picture template.

Choose your bling. I use a type of synthetic crafting fibre which my mother bought for me at a crafting fair many moons ago, which forms a sheet of shimmery stuff. With names like Cotton Candy and Lemon Sparkle you can’t go wrong. I take a clump of that, and iron it flat, then I cut the sheet into small strips or rectangles to add a touch of shimmer. You could also cut up cellophane or tinsel. Alternatively, you could use good old glitter.

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Paste your family photo on top of this background decorative paper, trapping the synthetic fiber, tinsel or cellophane in between.

Decorate! Let ‘er rip and have fun embellishing the fronts of the cards. Sometimes I use glitter, beads and doodads. But, this year, I just added stickers, using up all the kids’ festive themed stickers. Double bonus!

Write a personal message inside each card and send them snail mail to friends and family.

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Fifteen years later and the satisfaction hasn’t waned. I’ve just mailed fourteen handmade cards to friends and family and it feels lovely.

I always make sure there are two cards left over, one for me, as a keepsake, and one “spare.” The funny thing is, every year without fail, I get asked by a random person whether they could receive one of our cards, and I say, ‘yes, I happen to have one left over.’ The spare always finds a home! Last year, the spare went to Paeroa, New Zealand, and this year, it went to Istanbul, Turkey!

We get a terrific response to our cards. Let us know if you do, too!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie

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There is nothing quite like the smell of an extra spicy fruit cake baking in the oven, however, the Queen of them all is the old English style Christmas Cake. In essence, it’s a deeply rich fruit mixture heavy on the fruit and steeped in rum or brandy. Thick and dense, it bakes for up to four hours on a low heat, which is a nice long time for the smell to permeate the house. We love it.

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I come from a family of British immigrants to New Zealand, and despite the fact we have summer in the festive season, my parents continued the tradition of the “Christmas Cake.” I have raised my boys with our own version of the family tradition. At the end of November, my kids and I don our aprons and head into the kitchen for the labour of love.

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I think the secret to a good result is in soaking the fruit in orange juice and rum or brandy overnight. In the old English style, the ratio of dried fruit to flour is about four to one. Typically, there will be raisins, currants, sultanas and chopped dates. Most recipes call for glace cherries and crystallised ginger, but, as I’m not fond of these ingredients, I like to add chopped dried apricots and figs and extra blanched almonds.

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This year, my boys and I came up with a fun idea for a crafty gift. We only used half the batter for the traditional rectangular cake, which will be iced closer to Christmas with brandy butter icing.

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The other half of the batter, we fashioned into rough balls and baked in muffin tins. In this form, they take half the time, roughly two to two and a half hours at a low heat. They form a nice firm ball. Once cool, we dusted them lightly with sifted icing sugar.

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We wrapped the individual balls in baking paper, making neat little parcels with cotton gift ties.

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I had been collecting gift boxes and tins from the thrift stores the last few weeks. We wrapped the paper parcels in cellophane wrap to ensure they will stay fresh as long as possible and divided the balls between the tins and boxes.

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We wrote a personalised message on a gift tag inside each lid.

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We tied a ribbon on each box and there you have it, our Christmas Cake Balls as a gift you can make with your kids and give away at this year.

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Do you make your own gifts or have your own crafting traditions at this time of year? If so, let us know!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is never too late to start enjoying a happy childhood. ~ Joy Cowley

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Ever since the first year my son Sam-the-man was able to sit unaided, I have photographed him and made a Christmas card for our family.

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Sam was born with Down’s syndrome. The card began as a way of celebrating him and his achievements. It created a small yet meaningful tradition for our family. Once his little brother came along, the card featured the two boys and it became another way to chronicle their lives.

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I think people gravitate towards things which are home-made. Those are always the favourite gifts from the kids. I send a parcel to the boys’ grandfather every year at this time. I send him gifts and the boys’ artwork, their calendars, stories they’ve written, as well as our Xmas card.  This is what the older generation, grandparents especially, live for.

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The card is simple, easy to make, creative, fun.

The Photo:

Any parent can tell you, the first and hardest step in any Xmas photo is the child-wrangling.

*Tip: Don’t leave it till December. Try to get the photo taken before the festive season.

I aim to get the photo taken in the last couple of weeks of November, as this gives me a leeway of time up my sleeve if the boys prove resistant to having their photo taken. Ha ha. *evil laugh, rubs hands together!*

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Once I’ve managed to coral them into one room with the box of Christmas get-up, then they must be persuaded with promises of treats, to dress up. After that, I snap as many shots as I can take before they start begging to be let out.

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The boys are fourteen and eleven respectively, this year, and it’s getting harder and harder to coerce them into the festive shoot. You’d think it’d be getting easier, but, no!

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The Construction:

Picture chosen, print up a dozen pictures at 10 cm x 7 cm, and trim them. I like to keep them to a small size because some people like to hang the cards on their tree.

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Then, I choose which cardboard to use. Originally, I used to recycle old cardboard. We have a saying in New Zealand, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle,’ which we try to adhere to as much as possible. Some years, I cut old Christmas cards down to size. This year, however, I sourced a small box from the Hospice shop which were the right size which was a great option as they came supplied with their own envelopes.

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Glue a sheet of paper cut to a couple of centimetres shorter than the card to the front of the card stock. This will form an edging like a frame for the picture. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. I like to see a little of the construction in crafts.

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*Tip: Every year, on Boxing Day, I do a ritual of taking the discarded gift-wrap and cutting up the beautiful or unusual wrap into small, clean pieces for later craft projects. In this case, I have some rather special rescued reindeer, snowflake, and red-chequered print paper.

My mother used to buy me a crafting material called “Hot Fuzz,” coloured synthetic fibres which bond together under the heat of a warm iron (through paper). I cut a dozen rectangular wedges of a sheet of Hot Fuzz, for the dazzle. You could use holographic cellophane just as well for this.

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Stick the photograph on top of the recycled paper, trapping a wedge of Hot Fuzz/cellophane between the layers.

*Tip: use a glue stick as “wet” glue can stain the paper. Press the cards under something flat and heavy between each glued layer as it creates a flatter, more pleasing finish. Make sure each layer is fully dry before you add another.

This year, I bought a “Card Kit” of decorations at the Hospice Shop. It included diamante leaves, silver stars, silver bows and transparent beads. I also sourced some finer glitter.

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*Tip: When you add the glitter, make sure to place the card on a small tray as it’s really hard to collect and re-use the left-over sparkles otherwise.

On top of the photo, in the same corner as the Hot Fuzz, apply embellishment, be it a delicate bow or a star. In the lower right corner, on a sweep of glue, drizzle more glitter and add beads or stickers.

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The last step is to write a personal message inside. Then, post it, yes, via snail mail. It still exists.

I posted ours to the lucky recipients. One Facebook friend – who had requested a card – responded, she ‘couldn’t take her eyes off it.’ Yay!

A Christmas craft project completed feels wonderful. This year, I even had enough left to put one on our own shelf. Joy.

Do you have a festive family tradition? Do you enjoy crafting? Do share in the comments below!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein