2014: a gratitude roundup

I think I must be getting older, because the years seem to disappear so fast now. I feel like it was only a nap ago I was in Sydney for last New Year’s Eve. 2014 has rocketed by, but it’s been a good year with lots to be thankful. This is one of the best times to reflect back on what’s happened and look forward to the future. I’ve got big plans for 2015, which I’ll talk more about tomorrow. But for now, here are some of the things I’ve been most grateful for in the year that’s about to be gone.

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The Best Beloved

I thought I’d get the really sappy one in first. You can scroll past it if you want. I am so grateful every day to have met him. I’d still be honoured to know him even if we’d remained as just friends, but having him as my boyfriend is truly a blessing. He’s my hero, the best and kindest man it has ever been my good fortune to love. I don’t plan on letting him go.

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Adventures

Hikes out and about in Auckland, parades, a wonderful wedding, parties, craft, LARPs. This has been a good year for getting up to shenanigans, exploring new places, and trying new things. I hope for much much more in this line in the coming year, but I’m so thankful for all the fun and happy memories this year has brought me.

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My crazy, wonderful friends

Who I hope won’t mind being in the little photo montage above! And yes, OK, Geoffery Peabody Wildington III isn’t a friend. She’s family… I’m thankful for the friends who I’ve gotten to know better this year, like my lovely flatmates. For the new friends I’ve met. For the old friends who I’ve had all kinds of fun with, who know just as I do how easy it is to accidentally books. Or Typo. Or patterns. I just couldn’t imagine life without the splendid people I have in it, and who I’m incredibly thankful for every day (it’s not everyone who could put up with someone like me).

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Big changes

If you’d told me back in January that by the end of the year I’d have multiple tattoos, bright red-pink hair, and be actually enjoying doing exercise and wearing red lipstick regularly, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s been a big year for me in how I see myself, and how I show myself to the world. I feel like I’m being a LOT more truthful and authentic to who I am and who I want to be, and to have come as far as I have is something I never would have expected. I’m so thankful to be in the place that I am now, and to be looking forward to growing into myself even more.

How about you? What have been the highlights of 2014 for you? Let me know in the comments!

A story about squee, and other reactions to gifts

“Your reaction was priceless.”

That’s what my flatmate told me yesterday about Geoffery’s Grand Reveal. It’s the kind of reaction we all hope a gift will induce- especially a handmade gift.

Maurice Sendak was once asked about the greatest compliment he’d ever received about his work. He told this story:

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

The reaction we get isn’t always the one we expect. Mostly, the reaction will suit the thought we’ve put into the gift. But then there are the times where a gift gets ignored, or used the wrong way- for example the story a knitter told about knitting a hat for her boyfriend, who used it and treasured it…as a tea cosy.

Sometimes our love and thought is thrown away. It doesn’t mean the love and thought is wasted, because in putting it into the world, little by little we make the world a better place. That’s what I think, anyway.

And note, it really is the thought, not the cost. A book found in a charity shop can be as much loved as a diamond ring.

All we can do is choose our gifts with love, and hope for the best. This, by the way, is still my favourite reaction to a gift I’ve ever seen:

May all your gifts this year score an 11 🙂

Five rules for Secret Santa awesomeness

It’s that time of year again.

 

Sometimes you’ll be given a name from a hat, sometimes you’ll just be told ‘bring a gift for Secret Santa’. Sometimes you’ll be told “there’s going to be a fun game as part of the Secret Santa”- to which my reaction is usually

Secret Santa comes upon us often unexpectedly, rather like this:

I have a particularly fraught history with Secret Santa. There was the year I gave a nice Lush gift box for the knitting group Secret Santa and got…a button. The year I carefully made a gift for someone only to be given a random assortment of flotsam from a charity shop. I’ve had things I actually wanted stolen off me, and been stuck with thoughtless gifts. I think we all have. And yet I persevere. I’m stubborn that way.

But, for the sake of any others out there under a Secret Santa curse, I would like to present you with five rules for your Secret Santa gifting that will, hopefully, make your experience and that of your recipient more festive than f***ed off.

1: Stick to the budget.

You’re not going to get any special prizes for going over-budget, so resist the temptation to buy something that costs more than the price limit you’ve been given. And don’t go way under, either. That’s just mean.

2: No ‘funny’ gifts.

You wouldn’t want to be stuck with one. Don’t stick someone else with one.

3: If you’re allowed to state preferences, be reasonable

Give people some leeway to work with, but remember rule number 1 about the budget. And don’t provide a long list.

4: If someone else has stated preferences, pay attention to them

If they haven’t asked for reasonable things, then see if you can interpret what they’ve asked for into some idea of their tastes. If they have expensive tastes then a small amount of something fancy is probably better than lots of something cheap (so for example a mini bottle of the posh fizzy wine instead of a big bottle of Lindauer- or just get them some strawberries to accompany their posh fizz instead).

5: Don’t make the gift.

Unless it’s an exchange of handmade gifts. Save your crafting time for yourself, or people who you *know for sure* will appreciate the effort.

And remember, keep smiling no matter what you’re given.

After all, if it’s the work Secret Santa, you can always “accidentally” leave that “hilarious” gift on the bus.

Gratituesday: Knock knock, motherf***ers

I have my own metal chicken. Her name is Geoffery Peabody Wildington III (now), and she is everything I could ever have imagined a metal chicken could be:

Metal chicken on a coffee table

My awesome flatmates bought her for me a couple of months ago, so she’s been in their room, hiding under a towel, awaiting her magnificent Christmas big-reveal moment. Apparently they found her up north, a couple of days after I first read the Bloggess’ story of how she acquired HER metal chicken and went “it’s a sign. We have to buy this metal chicken for Ellen.”

Apparently my reaction made it ALL worth it.

I have found my people.

It’s been quite the week for people being awesome like this. There was Geoffery. And then there was an old colleague and friend of mine messaging me on Thursday and telling me I’m going to Webstock. He won a free ticket, but as his work had already paid for his spot, he gave the free ticket to me! Talk about floored.

I started to get my kraken tattoo coloured in on Friday and it’s looking fantastic. It also itches like a motherf***er. It was a really lovely couple of hours (pain aside), chatting to Nursey, Dr Morse and the woman he was tattooing. Dr Morse told me about the very best misheard song lyric I have ever heard- but I’m going to make you wait to hear it because I plan to turn it into a cross-stitch.

Spending a bit of time down in Wellington was nice, I got to catch up with some friends I haven’t seen in a while, ate nice brunches, and I may have bought things at Holland Road Yarn Company. I also went to the Santa Parade. The takeaway from THAT was don’t go to the Santa Parade if you’re OCD. Nobody’s shoes match their costumes.

The Christmas cross-stitches are DONE, and now I can start on fun summer stuff. Also bunting. Which really I should have started on first, but I had an overwhelming urge to embroider a lawn flamingo. So I am. I haven’t tried paper piecing before, but with just over 2 weeks off over the break, it’s a perfect time to try something new.

The little things:

Tiki tours with the Best Beloved, Christmas music, tea (always tea), meditation, decluttering, library books, nice reactions to presents, fun stuff in the mail, Gchat.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Geoffery paying homage to Beyonce the Metal Chicken:

Metal chicken outside a doorKnock knock, motherf***ers.

 

What a cross made of boxes taught me about authenticity

When I was home for the Easter holidays from university, I helped out a couple of years with the Holy Week Club at my then-church. It was mostly the kids from the Sunday School, and some of their friends, coming for a couple of hours each morning to do some activities, give their parents a break. Oh and learn about Easter.

One of the crafts we did each year was a cross made out of cardboard boxes, painted with different images from the Easter story (by the children), and then displayed in the church for the services.

One year, a particular woman, the Verger of the church, was helping.

The children duly painted the cross. While it was drying, she said she didn’t think it looked very good. Some of the images were messy, she said. People might not know what they were.

The kids who painted them will know, I told her. And it looks like children made it. Because children made it.

When I arrived at church the next day, the cross looked very different to how it had when I had left the day before.

The Verger announced to me that she just couldn’t stand that the artworks weren’t how they were ‘supposed’ to look, and had ‘neatened them up’.

It was monstrous of her. The work was no longer the children’s’. It had lost the most important qualities that any art or craft can have- authenticity (by which I mean it’s an expression of the person who made it), and love.

I talk a lot about not worrying about perfection on this blog. Because it’s important. When a child makes or paints something, they do it with joy, and they don’t worry about getting it absolutely perfect (at least not until they’re older). No matter how it looks, that makes it worth displaying.

Some of you reading this, I know, are frantically finishing your Christmas crafts. Just remember, if you’ve put love- for the person you’re giving it to, for the act of making something- into what you’re making, it’ll be beautiful.

Environmentally friendly gift wrapping- three ways

Hopefully by this point in December you have most of your Christmas gifting sorted. Or at least some time off before Christmas to finish it all (like me).

Of course, you can’t have a present without wrapping.

Well, actually, you can. You totally can. I would say the number one best way to avoid using unnecessary and landfill-bound paper or cardboard is simply to hide the gift and tell the recipient (as I often do) “Close your eyes and hold out your hands”.

By the way, don’t use this to prank them if you expect to be able to use this line for holidays or birthdays. Just saying.

2) Sew reusable gift bags.

My friend and former flatmate has done this the past few years and I cannot even with how well they work. She matches fabrics with peoples’ tastes, so the wrapping is always as popular as the gift. And they’re reusable. I have several she’s made me over the years, and they make fantastic project bags. They’re also almost laughably simple to make. Though if you WANT to get all fancy then there are many other tutorials around out there. Also you probably have way more time on your hands than I do.

3) Furoshiki.

Don’t want to sew, or don’t own a machine, or just plain don’t know how? You can still give a gift beautifully wrapped in fabric.

Well, you can if you can tie a knot. C’mon, that’s basic life skills right there. You can tie your shoelaces, right? Good. Anyway.

Furoshiki is a Japanese technique for wrapping things in fabric. You can find a basic tutorial on the Liberty website– and no, you do not have to use Liberty print tana lawn fabric. I’ve used bandanas from the $2 store, fat quarters of quilting fabric (go to a craft store, they’ll know what you mean). But if you want to have a play with different techniques (or you’re wrapping something that isn’t rectangular, such as a wine bottle), you can find a whole bunch of different tutorials on the Furoshiki website.

And if you get paper-wrapped presents, please, please recycle the paper. And as much of the packaging as you can. And if you’re buying presents, take along a reusable shopping bag, and try and minimise the packaging. Every little helps.

Monsterful Monday: Pick myself up, dust myself off

So I didn’t get the funding to go to Webstock. But I learned some useful things. At least I think I did. And maybe, just maybe, if I apply those lessons next time I try something like this I might have more luck. Anyway, I’m grateful for those friends who did back me, and for the learning experience.

I’ve been getting the cross-stitch on, and I might even finish all the Christmas projects I had planned this year- first time ever. I’ve also been getting a strong urge to embroider- expect photos and tutorials in that line in the new year. I grabbed the latest Mollie Makes to arrive in New Zealand at the weekend, and found lots of inspiration, which always makes me feel motivated and energised- definitely something to be thankful for. Sewn/cross-stitched/embroidered graffiti? Ohhhhhh, yes please. Little crocheted frames? Two thumbs up! We’re two issues behind out here though, so their confident assertion on the front cover of ‘QUILT IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS!’… well, maybe if I didn’t have a job and could sit in a fancy cafe stitching all day.

I also have an exciting tutorial coming for y’all as soon as I’ve taken some photos to go with it. Because the other urge I’ve had along with embroidery is zines and scrapbooking. That came out of another really useful bloggers’ Meetup– I’m so grateful to have access to friendly, supportive and inspiring folks!

The little things:

Snuggling the Best Beloved (always), cookie time, finding new fun ways to style my hair (maiden braids with a headscarf– super simple and gets lots of compliments), freshly made bed, counting down to Christmas, bunting inspiration (another tutorial coming), festive lights, alarming Santas (they make for fun photographs), warm weather (finally), talking to Anna, ice cream, the Slash card game, ideas.

How about you? What’s on your gratitude list this week? Let me know in the comments.

And now for something completely different- Ellen Memes

I blame the Bloggess. I had no idea that people were going into Google and searching for their first name and ‘memes’ and seeing what shows up.

Well, first there was this:

Ellen Memes

With a name like mine, I knew what to expect. ALL the Ellen Degeneres memes. I am more than OK with that. Ellen first showed up on my radar when I was a teenager, watching her sitcom every Friday night. Sadly, Channel 4 stopped showing it when she came out. But she remained in my awareness. There was an Ellen- a famous Ellen. Who was awesome, and had self-esteem and the courage to be herself. Not only that, but to do it with humour.

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If she can do it, I can do it. If I can do it, so can you.

In the meantime, happy Thursday, please enjoy these Ellen memes.

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And my personal favourite:

just keep swimmingAnd I know it’s not a meme, but this. This is brilliant.

 

 

Epic ornaments for Christmas crafting

I admit, I may be a little biased when it comes to Christmas tree ornaments, but I think they’re awesome. I collect them, too. My best friend in the UK and I exchange the craziest decorations we can find each year. There have been Christmas mushrooms, Flying Santa, the Christmas Giraffe, Santa and Mrs Claus paddling a waka (ah, New Zealand), Elvis playing the ukulele- we never seem to run out of options. I have to admit I was rather disappointed to discover that I couldn’t buy a Santaur this year because Archie McPhee doesn’t take payments from outside the US. But it’s probably for the best because I would inevitably have bought a whole bunch of other stuff too. I still want a set of giant Christmas tree googly eyes though.

But for Christmas crafting fun, what’s not to like? They’re festive, they’re great for gifting, and they’re quick. With 3 weeks until Christmas, quick is good. Experienced crafters know this. And to save you the time of disappearing down the internet rabbit hole looking for ideas, here are some of my favourites:

Colourwork Christmas ball ornaments are a classic for a reason (and that link will take you to a free pattern!). They’re beautiful, and the possibilities for designs are endless. Also you get to make a lot of jokes about balls while you’re knitting them. If you fancy buying a whole book on the subject, you can! May I recommend: 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos (who also have a book of creepy knitted dolls, and another of Easter decorations, if you’re that way inclined.)

Or how about some kitschy but lovely felt ornaments from Wild Olive? If you feel like dabbling in some stitching, felt is a good way to go (very forgiving and easy to cut).

If you have a social-media obsessed friend, how about this bird ornament by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner? It may say it’s the Bluebird of Happiness but you and I both know it’s totally the Twitter logo. You could add a festive hat, for intensified Christmassing.

Not much for stitching or knitting? All you need, pretty much, is some glue and some yarn, and you can make these pretty stars from Labores en Red? Yes I know, the site is in Spanish, but the pictures are pretty clear.

Have a hot glue gun? Get some mod podge and some glitter, and make snowflakes! Instructions by Pitter and Glink.

Beads plus ribbon plus a teeny bit of sewing=Christmas trees over at Stars Inspirations. Kinda hipster Christmas trees. But Christmas trees nonetheless!

Buy some green baubles. Get some appropriate coloured ribbon, and some glue. Add GOOGLY EYES (it’s ALL about the googly eyes, people). What do you get? Teenage Mutant Ninja Baubles and a lot of geek cred for your tree.

Sadly, I can’t have a lucky yodelling Christmas pickle (owing to the aforementioned ‘if you’re not American we won’t take your money’ issue). But I can crochet my own Christmas pickle, courtesy of Fresh Stitches, and add the yodelling myself.

I’m totally getting a lump of coal next year, aren’t I?

Have you made ornaments? Are you planning to? What decorations are you busting out for the festive season? Let me know in the comments!