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Handmade Holiday Cards

If you haven’t gotten your holiday cards out, it’s still early.  You have time.  Grab a box or two of Santa’s reindeer clearing the rooftops,  include a quick handwritten “Happy Holidays; Wish I was there/you were here” and get ‘em in the mail.   You’re done.   Not so fast you say.   This year may be the year I make my own.   Maybe.   But you’ve been saying that since 1992.   Last year, as in years past, you found yourself, at the eleventh hour, at Walgreen’s, trying to match that pale green snowflake envelope to the last Hallmark card suitable for your mother-in-law.

This year, with some help,  and a little inspiration, you might actually make those cards and in the mail before your neighbors dismantle their holiday decorations!    The titles suggested here run the gamut from traditional to inventive creations.   Some are just right for big ideas but not too much experience or craft background.    Some will require more supplies, time, and expertise than you have to invest just now.    But, hopefully,  you’ll find one or two titles that will make this the year you make your own!    No more Walgreen’s at the eleventh hour in 2012!

Handmade Hellos:  Fresh Greeting Card Projects From First-rate Crafters include a photo project.   Simple and eye-catchingly personal.   Very complete instructions.



Papercrafts for Christmas by Judy Balchin and Polly Pinder go all out!   These are projects for dyed in the wool crafters.   Beading, stitching, embossing, yarning, glass, and silk painting.   From the stitched stocking card to embossed motifs, these are ambitious!   Next year, perhaps.



If your style leans toward an elegant but minimalist approach, take a look at Designing Handcrafted Cards by Claire Sun-Ok Choi.   Paper quilling and cut outs include motifs for a Christmas tree, Christmas Star, and a Poinsettia.



Jazzy Greeting Cards by Mickey Baskett strikes an entirely different note.   Holiday selections are Crayola fun with full size templates.



Want your holiday cards to do a little dance?   Cards that Pop Up, Flip, & Slide by Michael Jacobs, will have you spinning!   How about a postal wreath card, a stand-up card, or for something very different, a triptych card!   Imagine the fun on the other end — Yours will certainly stand out!



Swedish Christmas Crafts are sophisticated —- but easy to do!   Hearty Greetings, Stars in relief, and a charming Angel card are minimalist but elegant with a clean design.



175 Fresh Card Ideas byKimber McGray are for the ambitious.   A terrific collection of ideas, however,  and coverage of birthdays, other holidays, special days, as well as those for seasonal greetings.   Step by step, maybe more than is needed for beginners.



Greeting Card Magic with Rubber Stamps includes holiday inspiration.   Again, perhaps more process than you want to pursue this holiday season if you are a beginning crafter.   Certainly keep it mind for next year.   And avoid that Walgreen last minute rush.



Homemade Christmas by Tina Barseghian brings us down to earth.   “Kid friendly”  projects can make quick work of  felt card, collage, or rubber stamp creations.   The sheer simplicity of these little cards make them a winner for time-hungry adults.



Diane Maurer-Mathison in the Handcrafted Letter reminds us that although there is nothing like the personal greeting of a holiday card, there is also nothing as wonderful as getting a personal note tucked inside.   Be it short or long, you know the receiver will savor it.   You may wish to combine a piece of artwork or include a poem.  You may also wish to send these as the holiday greeting itself!   Why not!


Most of these titles give not only instructions for making the cards but also the envelopes.  Now you will have solved that dilemma too.   Foraging at the eleventh hour is no fun.   Making these handcrafted cards will be, guaranteed!

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Out, Damned Spot!


Apologies to the tormented Lady MacBeth, but if watching our planet go to “hell in a handbasket” isn’t also cause for angst and hand wringing, mail me a postcard with something more critical.  (I’m excluding nuclear holocausts, the Mayan’s prophecy coming true, and things like that.)  The dilemma of trying to do the right thing ecologically versus the difficulty of doing so can seem like a nightmare at times.    Trying to finesse our way, after the fact, through recyclables, poisons, and pesticides, versus not having  to use them to beigin with — what would Lady MacBeth do?   I’m not entirely sure.

For those of us who grew up when household labor saving devices were first blitzing the market, the old standbys of baking soda, white vinegar, and newspapers lining the garbage can were slowly but surely being replaced by Proctor and Gamble Inc. and others.   “Oven Off” hadn’t been invented.  Our clothes were still hung on the line in the backyard and ironed with a squirt bottle.   No Bounce to the ounce.   I won’t say scent hadn’t been invented but washing clothes wasn’t supposed to be a sexy thing to do.

As household product ads have gotten slicker and slicker, even the obnoxious ones are marketed to be seductively and subliminally undermining.  Like the snake oil salesmen of the past, they promise salvation and resurrection in a single bottle.   Recently, I bought a bottle of carpet stain remover — not helper but remover.   Two weeks later the spots returned.   It helped out with company coming but I’m left with a bottle of stuff that I can’t, in good conscience, toss in the garbage, down the toilet, or bury in the backyard.

Doing the right thing takes commitment, more time than a sound byte and more thought than a slogan.   Last year, my neighbor and I spent an afternoon gathering up recyclables to dispose of.  It was an eye opener as to how complicated recyclables can be.   Pesticides, solvents, mercury in flourescents,  paints — the list does go on and on.    There’s no question that there’s been progress in getting our waste recycled properly.    Our awareness “quotient” is high.   Still, it seems that the real “elephant in the room” is how to establish a mind set that is pro-active.

There are a number of titles on this subject but one of the real classics is Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan.  Spending a considerable amount of time on the advantages of using natural ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and other easily obtainable household items, she explains in detail why these natural non-toxic ingredients can compete with commerical brands.    Trotting out  brand name after brand name of the popular household cleaners, pesticides, and personal care products, she candidly compares them with those we can make ourselves.   Yet, she pulls no punches.  Not every homemade alternative is 100% effective in the comparison.  On the face of it, it’s not the easiest choice.   Looking at the bigger picture, mutiplying the many times in a year we can make our vote count for a non-toxic alternative,  the choice might not be that hard, after all.

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What Sunset Eats for Breakfast



The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide (Sunset Western Garden Book

 One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made as a gardener was giving away my older edition of Sunset Western Garden Book.   At the time, I naively thought that the newer edition was “better.”  Since then, I’ve gotten savvier.   Sunset editions, always “completely updated and revised,” aren’t necessarily better in all respects.  Certain cherished features may disappear to make room for the new cherished features.   But the one thing that Sunset cannot be faulted on is keeping up with the times.  If Mark Twain were alive today, he might have to eat his famous quote:  “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, Sunset does!

And they do it because between the concern of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with nationwide temperature lows, and the concern of the AHS (American Horticultural Society) with nationwide temperature highs, the Western gardener got lost in the shuffle.   Somewhere between the Pacific Ocean coast, the central valley, and the coastal ranges, he could be found but it took Sunset to come to the rescue!   Refining the broad strokes of the USDA and the AHS, twenty four climate zones cover states west of the Rockies,  Alaska, Hawaii, and even the bottom northwestern part of Canada.

This summer, I, like many others I’m sure, have been witnessing the extreme unrelenting heat most of our country has been experiencing.   One morning, looking at KTVU’s national weather map, most of the country ablaze in shades of red, I was startled to see the tiny sliver of our California coast in dark green contrast.   In fact, it seemed barely there when compared to the vastness of the rest of the country.    I couldn’t help but think of when I had lived in San Francisco.   Summer tourists would be in their Hawaiian shirts, totally flummoxed by the cold and damp that native San Franciscans shrug off as normal summer “June Gloom.”   Just across the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities and towns, at the very same moment , were experiencing  balmy warm sunshine.   Less than 20 miles north Pittsburg and Brentwood might be sweltering. while towns in the central valley, would be socked in under a thick Tule fog.   This is what Sunset eats for breakfast – the weather of microclimates!  I, for one, take pains not to color outside the lines.

This latest edition of Sunset, while it has done its usual tinkering,  has updated zoning and added sustainable gardening.   In with the new edition, hang onto your old edition, and try out Sunset’s zoning feature — before that trip to the nursery.

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What Goes Around, Comes Around

It seems only in the past couple of years that people are “dis-repecting” each other.   I don’t remember ever hearing this growing up.   Now, I am hearing it everywhere.   Everywhere – or so it seems.   It downright offends me.   So sure was I that dis-respect used as a verb was just wrong,  I  consulted Webster’s.   I’m sorry to admit that I am going to have to get with the program. Not only Webster’s but the OED validate that dis-respect was used in the verb form in the 1400′s.  I am close to distraught with the idea that I am going to have to add this ressurected grating form of dis-respect to other words and phrases that irritate me:   tummy, veggie, and goodies come readily to mind.   Now this!   She dis-respected him.   He dis-respected her in return.

I consulted Strunk & White as a last resort.   Elements of Style, bastion of good form, always there to check my run-on sentences, mis-use of gerunds, and prepositional mishaps,  would they, at least, admonish that while the form is technically correct, it is ”questionable.”  If one wants to talk about someone not getting respect, one would find a way to get the point across thusly:   He or she was shown disrespect.   He or she was not treated respectfully.

In my grammatical fantasizing,  Strunk & White would make it a hanging offense to so dis-respect this noun.  Not likely, sigh.   Prepared or unprepared as I am,  dis-repect as a verb has snuck back into the language.  And it’s here to stay, again, for awhile, anyway.

Long live our amazingly versatile anglo saxon language!  Not to mention resilient!




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Doing The Dewey

Classifying books can be difficult

I needed something to read this weekend that was small, lightweight, and portable.   I was visiting family in Pacific Grove and had thoughtfully left behind my Nook on the kitchen table in San Jose.   In these crises, something from the PG bookcase usually fills the bill.   This time it was Ex Libris – Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman.   A clever title by a bookman’s daughter, the essays were short and to the point about books: collecting and organizing them.   It was the first essay, in particular, “Marrying Libraries” that hooked me.   After years of organizing and re-organizing my own book collections, I was ready to see how Clifton Fadiman’s daughter did it.

Ms. Fadiman begins by confiding that this was no mean feat.   After six years of marriage, the large book collections, of both she and her husband, still had not come together.   Everything else had, including their firstborn child.   Originally, it had been Anne’s loft.   She had, of course, sorted the collection in a way that had suited her.  Now, that the intruding collection had come to stay, the Great Merger would inevitably have to occur.

Finally, the couple had agreed to pile their books on the floor.   They would deal with the thorny issues of how they would sort out who had what under what topic.  This emotional arm wrestling reminded me that classification may seem like a mild preoccupation and straightforward.   But it isn’t.   There is the human condition to consider.   This struck a real chord with me.   In my own personal book collecting saga, it took me several years to realize that I had collected Two Years Before the Mast three times before finding the originally bought paperback nestled comfortably next to my Moby Dick instead of in California history where, I suppose, it more properly belonged.   Likewise, my history of Victorian architecture had migrated to be with the books on the San Francisco Bay Area.   Apparently, the sentimental value, my having lived there in the sixties, overrode the proper place in the scheme of cataloging.

Patrons, too, I have discovered, seem to have definite ideas about where things should be.  Home improvement, for example, is an area in which I order materials for the Sunnyvale Library.   A typical query from patrons might go like this:

Patron:   “Where are the kitchen books?”

Me:          “What were you thinking of doing?”

Patron:   “Oh, I don’t know.    Making curtains, wallpapering, maybe new floors…Just point me in the right direction.”

Me:           “Those might be in several different areas.   Let’s go together.”

Whether they intend to DIY, or are simply interested in ideas, the “in’s and out’s” of the Dewey system, all neat and tidy, and well organized, is just not all in one place!   Then again, if they were thinking of papering their floors or sewing an interesting design for their walls, far be it that I should stand in their way.   However, just to be on the safe side, maybe I should show them the exciting permutations of how collections are really organized.


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