Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creative Gift Ideas for Kids

I'm going through my holiday shopping list and thought I'd share some of my favorite gift ideas for kids. No batteries required!

1. Art supplies - it wouldn't be a holiday around here with out them. I usually include a how-to book for inspiration or a new sketchbook. Colored pencils, fancy sketching pencils, watercolors and oil pastels are favorites here.

2. Craft supplies - these are always put together as a kit. I don't like to give kits that have set projects, I like supplies that offer open-ended creativity. This year it's a sewing kit for my youngest. I'll include fabric, thread and notions. Other kit ideas include polymer clay & sculpting tools. Beads with an inexpensive tool set and stringing materials. Foam, pipe cleaners, craft sticks and other general supplies offer a world of imagination when packaged together.

3. Books, big surprise! But I like to include them with new pajamas or a little fleece throw, it's good to encourage cuddling. My sister gave blankets to all the kids last year - they were a huge hit! I stole her idea for my husband's side of the family this year.

4. Scarves - again with the cuddle factor. A scarf is like a little hug each day during the winter months. I like to use big knitting needles and 2-3 yarns for a nice fluffy scarf. I'm not a fast knitter. I whip one up in 2-3 evenings while watching TV.

5. Stuff animals - made by you! There are tons of free patterns online if you can sew. One year my girls designed the animals and we made them for their cousins. They were so cute and funky. Check out Whip Up for patterns.

6. Board & card games -  I love board games from my own childhood and rediscovering them with my children. My top pick this year is Yahtzee. Great for kids who are learning multiplication, but still fun for the whole family. We like Uno and Boggle too. Anything that brings the family together gets a thumbs up from me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Deck the Halls

We went Christmas tree hunting yesterday and it turned out to be an actual hunt!  There was a tree shortage in San Antonio.  We heard from one salesperson that it was due to trees arriving from the east and being delayed by the weather. Who would have guessed!

One of my favorite things to do after the tree is up and the family is asleep, is to turn on some holiday music,  fix myself a cup of tea and sit in peace while enjoying the lights.  I think it reminds me of being  little and staring at the tree from my bedroom door.  I'd stare at the tree until the lights blurred and sugar plums danced in my head.

Content, filled with wonder and a belief in the impossible - the very magic of childhood is wrapped in the season.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Take a Chance!

On what?  Entering contests - you just never know!  First I will say that contests are so subjective that if you enter and don't win, don't sweat it.  At the very least you'll have new work for your portfolio and that is always a good thing.

I haven't worked my way up to entering the illustration contests outside of the children's book world, but I do enter SCBWI portfolio contests as often as I can.  Before I won the Tomie dePaola Portfolio Award last year there was a moment a few weeks before the conference where I almost talked myself out of not entering.  What a shame that would have been!

Get your work out there and see what happens.

So a month or so ago when I learned about Picture Book's contest, I immediately entered.  The grand prize is a page in their annual, that would be sweet and 4 runner-ups will receive an online portfolio.  That wouldn't be too shabby either. 

So guess what?  I'm one of the 30 finalists.  They will announce the winners mid-January.  Cross your fingers, knock on wood, rub a horseshoe, eat a four-leaf cover and all that jazz for me!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gather ye craft supplies

Between now and December 25th I will do a impossible amount of crafting and creating, decorating and gift-making.  I can't help myself.  I'm a complete Christmas nut.  In fact we'll be getting our tree this weekend and then all tinsel breaks loose. 

First, we are incapable of having the same theme each year.  For the last few our tree has evolved into this cute red/white snowflake, nature kind of theme.  This year I'm adding another layer with birds, lots of birds in all shapes and sorts.  Including: needle felting, polymer clay and etched metal.  I'm telling you, I'm hopeless when it comes to restraint and the holidays.

And then there are the gifts.  There is jewelry to be made.  Needle felted hamsters because my youngest wanted a Zhu Zhu and I couldn't get over how un-cute they are.  There will be knitting neckwarmers.  Sewing a few little bags and trying my hand at pajama pants.  I've sewn doll pj's, we'll see how I do with life-size. And then there is my ambition to make a needle-felted Mr. Fox, we'll see if I have time.  And to top it all off, I will make a doll or two with paper clay for someone sweet on my list. 

Are you a crafty holiday elf?  I know I'm not alone in my yuletide mania!  Let the creating begin...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snowflake Ornaments

I love when my two worlds meet somewhere in the middle! 

This is an ornament that I created last week using a snowflake rubber stamp that I carved.  The metal is stamped and the ink acts as a resist, it's then set in an acid bath until the metal is 'eaten' away.  After it's washed, the image is antiqued with a blackening solution.  Then, ta-da! It's an etched metal ornament.

I'm not a fan of chemicals, but it's an easy enough process and I love the results.  Now to make those snowflake rubber stamps do double duty and create some gift cards!  Oh how I love printmaking!

You can find these ornaments and all sorts of beady goodness in my Etsy shop.