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Tigress by Ellen Tsagaris
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Ellen Tsagaris' The Bathory Chronicles; Vol. I Defiled is My Name
This is the first of a trilogy retelling the true story of the infamous countess as a youn adult novel. History is not always what it seems.

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Wild Horse Runs Free
A Historical Novel by Ellen Tsagaris

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With Love From Tin Lizzie
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

hide-n-(sensory)-seeking: A Year in the Secret Garden - Tea Party, Book Revi...

hide-n-(sensory)-seeking: A Year in the Secret Garden - Tea Party, Book Revi...: We are still buzzing with excitement from this weekend. Our house was transformed Saturday afternoon into a dazzling venue for our Mid...

Free Newsletter Doll Collecting at About.com

From Ellen Tsagaris, your Guide to Doll Collecting
A good part of the country has been blessed with early snows.  My heart goes out to the folks in Buffalo and elsewhere; be safe. This week,we have a variety of doll posts with all thoughts moving towards the holiday.  Soon, excerpts from "Creepy A** Humans; The Dolls Reply."  Happy Thanksgiving!  
Grodnertal with Provenance
Wooden doll provenance linked to Queen Victoria! The story of a doll once played with by the great Queen and Doll Collector herself.
Search Related Topics:  queen victoria  grdonertal  wooden dolls
In Praise of Souvenir Dolls
Great collections like Sam Pryor's, Laura Starr's, and Janet Pagter Johl's have been seeded by souvenir and tourist dolls, those small ambassadors of goodwill from faraway lands.  They are a worthy addition to any collection.
Search Related Topics:  international dolls  tourist dolls  souvenir dolls
Why not Everyone Collects Antique Dolls
You might be surprised at why some collectors prefer not to collect antique dolls, even when they admire them.
"Thrifty Treasures:" Discovering a Vintage Collection at Goodwill
A wonderful find gets better with great customer service. The dolls are now sorted and put away, some awaiting TLC, others ready for display. Thrift stores are still great places to find dolls, and buying them there does some good for others as well.
Search Related Topics:  shirley temple  gene dolls  softina


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Profile: The King of Dolls by Ljeposlav Perinic (1922-2005)


 
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This newsletter is written by:
Ellen Tsagaris
Doll Collecting Guide
Email Me | My Blog | My Forum

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eat, Drink and Be Married, A Couple Recipes, and Relatives for Dessert

Sunday Morning today is called "Eat, Drink and be Merry," and features eveyrthing on food, from menus, to Chinese food, to creating at 11 Madison Avenue without menus.  Chef Daniel Humm says that you wouldn't get a mineu dining at someone's home, so that's his philosophy.  Of course, you don't pay usually when you dine at someone's home, either.  Also there is a special on Mme. Cecilia Chang, guru of Chinese Food.  No moogoo, no chop suey, no egg foo young.  Sorry for typos; I'll fix it later.


The Mandarin was Mme. Chang's restaurant.  Kung Pao, Peking Duck, and Sesame Shrimp are authentic.


The recipes:


1. Easy Pot Roast.


You don't need a crockpot.  If you are a crock expert, and I'm not, go for it.  Hint:  Sunday AM is showing you how to make potroast, all tied up and everything, in a crock pot.


Take any cut of beef, less than 1 lb or so works. Chuck, eye of round, thick porterhouse, even, flank steak, probably. Spray a glass pan,  9 x 13, with pam, or grease it lightly. Place cut of beef or other meet.  You could probably use a chunk of tofu and veggie broth, too.  Pour a can of broth, aobut 12 oz over it, and if needed, add water till you reach about half way to the beef top.


Season meat; I used Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, about 5 shakes each, and a little basil.  Tuck a pat of butter in a couple of places in the meat.


Cut up celery, onions,  carrots, strips of fresh peppers, throw in some brussels sprouts, cabbage, or garlic.   Musrooms are good, too.


Bake in preheted 425 degree oven, about an hour and one half, till meat is cooked.  Cooking time varies with size of meat.


Refrigerate leftovers.  They are great if you skim the fat off the broth, aadd about 3 large tablespons of beef gravy, any kind. I used Heinz because it was on sale.  Microwave 3 minutes per serving or until hot.


Enjoy.  Makes about 6 servings.


2.  Meat Balls by my Mom:


1 lb lean ground beef, break up into a large mixing bowl.
about 1/4 chopped onion and/or celery


2 tbsp. grated cheese, parmesan is good


5 shakes each salt and pepper


Italian seasoning, garlic, oregano, basil


Curry is good, powdered, if you like space


Fresh herbs are great


2 eggs


Dash Worctershire sauce, optional


A couple lartge tbsp. bread crumbs, I used Italian


Mix all ingredients in large bowl.  


Greece a cookie sheet.  Heat oven to about 40.


Roll with your super clean hands liittle balls, aabout  1-2 inches in diameter.  Place on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Then, bake, 15-20 mins.  Watch  carefully and when they brown or season, take it out.


Let cool.  Can be about 4 dozen meatballs.  Use on pasta, make sauce for it with tomatoes, make Swedish meatballs, sandwiches, or eat plain.


Can fry in olive oil, if preferred.


3. Chicken Soup:


1 chicken, clean and boil.  Skin if desired. 


When cooked, in about half an hour, in  a stockpot or Dutch oven, add all kinds of vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste.  The longer you boil it, the better.


Refridgerate or freeze after use.


Relatives for dessert.


Let me say first off I love the holidays and autumn; I live for September thru December, and exist thru the rest of the year.   I can't tell  you why, but bad things happen to me during this time, and I usually get sick, but I still love it.


We used to celebrate every holiday with my mom.  When her sister was able, she sent packages with little gifts for every holiday, with everything beautifully wrapped.  I sent cards everywhere and made elaborate decorations.


Then, my mother died, and my father revealed that he hated all holidays.  No Xmas tree any more, no Jack O Lantern, nothing. 


So, turn to my husband's family, you say?


Wrong.  His sister schedules family fights for Thanksgiving, if she comes.  It used to be fun to join the cast of thousands who arrive, and the food is very good, but the dynamics are not.  I seem to be target number one for personal sniping.  Family members assign insults to me through various guests who deliver them.


The annual newsletter usually excludes us completely, step great-grand grandchildren we've number heard of are lauded over, but we're out.  I'm in as "the Greek person" in the list of ehtnicities and nationalities at the table. 


I usually get up and leave Xmas Eve.  I spend it alone.  This began with my own family ostracizing me years ago for dating my husband, and my current family ostracizing me for marrying their son and chief Scapegoat. Most of my siblings in law don't talk to him, or me, a. for defending him, and b) on the principle of guilt by association. They are waiting for my inlaws to die so they can inherit.  The way they live, my inlaws are going to outlive all of us. Good for them, too.  They work full time in their 80s, travel, exercise,socialize, run businesses.  Nothing stresses them.


My sister in law always arrives soused, I like to call her Aunt Zima, in tight pants, false boobs straining her tight, cheap sweaters, her bleached blonde bouffant 60s "That Girl" hair remaining solidly in palce, evcn in cold winter winds. I think she had her bottom padded, or whatever.  She used to be very thin; this new voluptuousness just doesn't look right.


"Becareful of the duck liver, it may have  buck shot in it!" She giggles, as she hints how she'd like to produce another boy as heir and a spare for my inlaws.  Our son doesn't count, of course.   If she runs out of booze, she throws gifts back in the giver's face, picks fights over Happy Meal toys, and generally sulks over what her Daddy would do if he were there. She's at least 51, and Daddy married a girl younger than she is.  Her mother is crazy, and lives out of state.  She did remarry and got help.  My sister in laws parents and step-parents are ten times nicer to me than she ever was.  She sees me as competition.  If she can't mooch of my in-laws, how will she live?  Her excon friends and the hookers she has associated with, not to mention her many boyfriends, will all suffer. Ah, the humanity!


The rest of them all drink and are loud.  Most are over 70.  Favorite topics, Politics, [sources: the Internet and SNL], sex, "Weird Medical Tests I have Loved," and sex.


My father in law tells me it helps to drink a lot. Unfortunately, I don't drink.   I'm too old to learn.


If you stick around long enough, you get to watch old people open their presents.  There really aren't any for me or my husband.  My son gets some insanely expensive gadget, and then fights with his spoiled, nasty little girl cousin over whose is better.  [The girls' usually is.  One of them leaves me"seial killer" hate notes disgusied as Xmas cards.  Yet, I'm the one who used to buy her things, and offer to take her out, write to her, email her.  Familiarity breeds contempt on her part. We're very proud of her; she just turned 21 and go her first tattoo].


I'm not into presents, ButI still give a lot of them.  I enjoy giving them and making them.  But, I never get anything any more.  My hustand is not big into Christmas. In fairness, his brother died three days before, and was buried on Xmas Eve.   I get why the celebrations are so dysfunctional.  I'm just not into making it worse.  We don't have to celebrate anything, but we don't have to make a mockery of Christmas, either.


We used to do a tree for his mother, with ornaments that belonged to our Jewish aunt. I know, but lots of people have Xmas stuff.  It's largely secular in many ways, anyway. Or at least, nondemoninational.  We don't do that anymore.  She has interior decorator type decorations, mainly fozen looking and icy.  Very appropo.


We usually head for the shopping centers out of town for sushi on Thanksgiving.  Or, I just stay home.


Thanksgiving and ChristmasI eat early with Dad, sometimes a can of soup.  He doesn't let me cook or bring anything. Last year, he threw out shrimp and lobster tail to spite me.  We go to the cemetery, which is really where my heart is anyway.  Dad goes to bed aby 6pm, up at 3. 


Christmas Eve my family used to open gifts, play carols,  sometimes go to Church.   I used to sing in the choir at Christmas, too.  In California, we had all kinds of seafood and homemade desserts.  We didn't have necessarily expensive gifts, but everyone had a lot, and they were fun and unusual things. We searched all year, made things, hit after Xmas sales.


I wrapped gifts on Halloween, if I could!  Did cards at Thanksgiving, had packages out by December 1. I get very few cards, now.  I wait to see who sends them before I mail any.  Money is always an issue anymore, and cards, to me, are the real gifts.  I scarcely have time to do them, but I miss the people who get them, so I try.  I email cards, too, and it's fun, but not the same. Still, I try to remember everyone somehow.


We called each other during the holidays, my family that is, though I dreaded the calls from my mother's in -laws.  They, too, were great at sniping at us "Americans," even if we are all fluent in Greek, and other languages for their snooty information. She usually ended up crying.  Now,  my Dad thinks' they're all the cat's pajamas. Sure the are, after the cat barfed in them.


I played carols on my guitar and piano, Joe, my wonderful guitar teacher, gave me a book of Xmas carols with chords. He used to write songs for me, and transpose the chords himself.  He was wonderful, and only aobut 8 years old than me.  And so patient.  Merry Christmas, Joe, wherever you are.  I miss you, and Monday nights at Grigg's Music.


My mom wrapped piles of presents, and hid little things on the tree and all over the house.  I did, too. Her birthday was three weeks after Xmas; I loved finding surprises for her and making her things, but she always seemed disappointed with the holidays.  I guess hers were not quite the same as with her own family, either.   Day after Xmas found us at Marshall Fields.  So did Black Friday.  Oh, to have one of MF's Yule Logs and to hear the music playing in the cold air.


I read a lot of Christmas Stories, including Tasha Tudor's book on Xmas, "Take Joy."


Wish I still could do these things. Wish we could play "The Little Drummer Boy" on the record player.


Now, I try to go to church with Dad, and to the cemetery.  I send packages to my Aunt and Uncle in California.  I miss them, and my home there, and Xmas roses.


I think of my Mother constantly.   I live in my memories, and listen to the Christmas caorls and songs on the radio.  I hate the modern sad ones.  Go get a life,  I say.


I remember how she cooked.  When I can, I bake her recipes.  Like those above, I cook them, too. 
I play carols on the piano, I look at the store displays. I take out our ornaments, even if I can't display them, and just look.


My kitties don't let us have a real tree, and I don't have a lot of room anymore to decorate as I did, but I sitll like to look, and add an ornament to our family collection  My Mom loved them, and one day, you never know. She used to buy me Nativity figure at Woolworth's, and later, she started a Fontanini collection.  We bough a fruitcake just for kicks and tradition, and strung popcorn.


So, Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving, of course, and everyone hang in there.  Remember, Christmas is a feeling of goodwil for everyone.  Keep it in your heart, even when everyone else is fighting over the xbox.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Newsletter About.com

Those who get the Doll Collecting at About.com Newsletter; please be patient. There has been a glitch with publishing it beyond my control. You may read it on my blog, Dr. E's Doll Museum. at http://wwwdollmuseum.blogspot.com/ I am sorry for the incovenience. I did resend it, so you may get two copies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

We've Remodeled' Check out our New Look!

With the changing seasons, we've decided to change our look.  Bitter winds blow early this year, and we hope they sweep away and cleanse bittter memories anyone out there may have.  Speaking of bitter thoughts, briefly let me comment on "Scandals," a Fall CBS show that is new.  I watched it with trepidation; I am the victim of a stalker myself.  Nothing has happened for some time, but I'm always looking over my shoulder, more than13 years after the stalking began.  The show was realistic in many ways, except that the police in the show are way too caring.


Usually, nothing happens.  Local police like to throw back to the civil arena, or they want the victim to play detective.  Not a good idea.


Also, the police officer, a woman, in charge of the "stalking unit" online is herself a victim with secrets.  Nice dramatic touch, but who knows?


Gavin De Backer's "The Gift  of Fear" is a good read for those of us who have this problem. The book builds awareness, yet instills courage and confidence.  There are also other good books that help by various psychology groups.


One day, I'll publish the log I kept of everything that happened to me, and my legal odyssey.  Only one Congressional Rep. helped; he could do nothing but sent a personal note commiserating with me about his stalker.  He died this week, very young, from a chronic illness.  I said a lot of prayers for him.


I hope you like our new look.  Please comment, but keep it family friendly.   More soon on farm to table dining and a new book on eating local. Blessed be!

Original Tips 28-31

Just in time for the holidays, we are publishing again these three from our original 49 tips.


28. If your VCR still works, don’t toss it. Make use of videos.
29. The radio is still a great option, so are cassette players for those of us who still have them, so are records and turntables. Vinyl records can be valuable collectibles, but they are still affordable in various types of conditions. Or, if you play an instrument, get it out and dust it off. Pay attention to the composers, to how things are composed, see what different types of genres and music the composer has written, for what instrument. These are vocations in themselves, and interest nearly everyone. Take a survey and ask friends family, students, etc., what types of music they like, and you will find we are all amateur experts in certain types of music. Sharing that knowledge is one of they joys of everyday living.
30. Unplug it if you don’t use it.
31. Crafts; consider collage and decoupage; assemblage, use materials you already have. Making toys and paper dolls from old clothes, socks, yarns, magazines, and papers is a time-honored tradition. Same for Christmas ornaments. Repair toys that break; what we need are a regular doll hospital around here, not just for collectors toys, but for everyday toys for kids. Also, check the manufacturer; toys are under warranty, too, and Mattel and other companies have been known to repair their own toys and send them back

An Apologia for Countess Erzebet Bathory: The Countess Replies

An Apologia for Countess Erzebet Bathory: The Countess Replies: The Countess Replies   Alright; enough is enough!   What rubbish!   I am as civic minded as the next member of the nobility, but m...







The Countess' Flower

Doll Museum: My Newsletter from Doll Collecting at About.com

Doll Museum: My Newsletter from Doll Collecting at About.com: From Ellen Tsagaris , your Guide to Doll Collecting This an eclectic newsletter, as eclectic as the holidays taking place this time of...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Antique Doll Collector Magazine: Creche Dolls; See More in our December Issue, Snea...

Antique Doll Collector Magazine: Creche Dolls; See More in our December Issue, Snea...: Creche Dolls, Nativities, Santons and Santons-Angels we have Heard on High     A Memoir by your Director of Social Media My firs...

Something to Share in Memory of Balzac and Organic Coffee Lovers and Growers Everywhere!

Friday, November 14, 2014
 
Wait, What!? Drinking Coffee Could Save Your Life?
 
By Richard N. Fogoros, M.D.
Heart Disease Expert
 
Studies have shown that coffee can reduce mortality rates -- but just how much do you have to drink for the benefits to kick in?  READ NOW 
ABOUT HEALTH
 
 
 
 
ABOUT HOME
 
How to Hide That Ugly TV
 
By Anne Reagan
Budget Decorating Expert
 
Nothing can ruin the look of a room like a huge black TV. Here are cheap ways to disguise it. READ NOW 
 
 
 
 
ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
 
Why Having a Best Friend Can Actually Be Bad
 
By Cherie Burbach
Friendship Expert
 
Friendships are very important, but having one very close friend may not be that beneficial. READ NOW 
 
 
 
 
How Do I Get My Boss Fired?
 
By Susan M. Heathfield
Human Resources Expert
 
 
The Best Memes of the Last 15 Years
 
By Paul Gil
Internet Basics Expert

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Oldie but Goodie; Holiday Tips, DeStressing, and a Memory of Violets in October


Violets in October

 

I was walking to my in-laws the other day with my twelve-year-old son.  Always look down and up, I say, or you miss a lot.  In late October, there were violets growing and blooming along the sidewalk.  They are usually gone shortly after May; in fact, I used to populate my early May baskets with all color and kind of violet, and tried many methods of preserving them.  Seeing them this late in Autumn, all glorious purple in symphony with the red and gold leaves surrounding them on the ground made me uncommonly happy.  One of my best friends in the world was named Violet Ellen, no coincidence, I think.  Just the other day I took out a bunch of purple silk violets attached to a brooch to wear.  Something told me they were autumnal yet, and Mother Nature proved me right.

 

One never knows where inspiration will come.  My unlikely muse appeared this morning when I was watching one of my favorite shows, Sunday Morning.  Keith Richards talked about his life, and his phenomenal immune system and strong constitution.  Well, I supposed he would have to have one like that!  He began to talk about his lemon tree and gardens, and it turns out that he was “always planting something.”  I found that inspirational, and it made his music mean more to me.  Such a simple act, so fundamental and basic as planting to promote life, keeps people going and ties them together no matter who they are or what they do in life.  He, too, is an artist, and a craftsman, and a citizen of the world.

 

I dedicate this blog to my dear friend Francesca and her new husband Tracy.  They are a beautiful couple, and I’m very happy for them.  We, too, are now autumnal, but we continue to bloom as though we are in eternal spring.

 

My idea for the day is the Holiday cake.  I’ll start with Halloween, and move on to Winter, Christmas, even Valentine’s day [the latter is not my favorite holiday, but I love the color and trappings, the Valentines themselves, and the story of the Saint who gave the holiday its name].

 

For a Halloween cake, which I’m sure you’ve seen in cooking mags, and in Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping, start with a cake mix, usually chocolate or devils food, or use your own home made cake.    Then, use a dark fudge, chocolate, or smooth creamy frosting.  My husband makes fantastic frosting from scratch, but for “art projects” like this, I like canned, Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, or your store’s brand, which can save money.  Look for sales.

 

For other ingredients, small gummi worms and bugs, any candy bugs or monsters, marshmallows, large, Lorna Doone’s, Pepperidge Farm Chessman, other squarish cookies like Vienna fingers, or even chocolate covered grahams or Fig Newtons, candy sprinkles in Halloween colors, food coloring, tubes of icing, cake decorations for Halloween, candy pumpkins, pretzels to make fences, etc.  Finally, chocolate wafer cookies are needed in large quantities.  You will crumble them, to make “dirt.” Think old-fashioned graveyard, ghosts, and tombstones.  My miniaturist friends and muses like Margaret Grace and Deb Baker, and the late Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Thorne would excel at this type of culinary activity.  Martha Stewart would have a few ideas, too.

 

Bake the cake in a large square or rectangular pan.  Glass works, and so do large, somewhat deeper cooking sheets, the kind used to make the layers of Yule log.  You’ve seen them on Julia Child and Jacques Pepin TV shows.  Bake according to recipe or directions. I leave the cake in the pan.  Let cool.  Ice with the dark chocolate frosting.

 

The, let the frosting set a little bit, and the fun begins!

 

You can use a photo or drawing of an old graveyard, or maybe you have a picture of a graveyard cake.  Arrange cookies like tombstones.  You can write names on them with the icing tubes.  Crumble the cookies and scatter over the frosting to make the dirt.  Create small fences, and maybe even a tomb or sarcophagus with the square cookies.  You can get creative and slice gumdrops for shingles or use candy corn or candy rocks here and there  to make paths and ruins and stone benches.  If you are artistic, you can make Marzipan figures and ghosts, especially for the tops of sarcophagi.  Talk to your friends who make gingerbread houses and terrariums.  Make ghosts by spearing or “impaling” [a nod to Vlad Tepes!] two large marshmallows together.  Arrange candy pumpkins in a pumpkin patch, and scatter gummi worms and monsters.  You could also use plastic and porcelain cake decorations, like the kind I buy made in France, originally made for New Years bread and cakes.  Voila!  Display.  This is a great project for the Blue and Gold banquet the boy scouts have, because there is always a cake contest.

 

If you want a vampire cake, use red velvet cake as the base and go whiled.  You could go very Goth with it if you like.

 

For Thanksgiving, there are tiny turkeys and pilgrims, or you can make them of candy or Marzipan.  Use food coloring to tint cocoanut to make “hay” to scatter and use pretzels to build cabins or make fences.   There are a lot of Native American art miniatures and little tables and pots and pans to create the first Thanksgiving dinner.  These can also be made of nontoxic bread dough clay, recipes on the net, or of marzipan.  Think Thanksgiving colors, if you can make little flowers, do it,  also, large bubble gum balls with some frosting or slivered almonds attached as “feathers” make good turkeys.

 

For Christmas, you could use any cake for a base, as you really could for Halloween, since the frosting will cover it, but I think that a red velvet cake with white frosting would be great for Christmas or Valentine’s day, even 4th of July depending on how you decorate it.  Follow same baking, cooling, frosting directions as above for Halloween cake.

 

For Christmas scenes, you can build graham cracker or tiny gingerbread houses, or use decorations like tiny bisque light up houses, great with an led candle inside, candy canes to build and make fences, [think Candy Cane lane], Dept. 56 or Lemax figures and miniatures to populate the top of the cake, mirrors or foil for little skating ponds, edible silver and gold dragee decorations, marshmallow and toothpick snow men with licorice gumdrops hats, all sorts of Christmas candy, doilies, or vintage cardboard houses.  Get some old Wilton cake decorating books, and if you are a lucky collector, Dennison crepe paper idea books to peruse.

 

For Valentine’s day, you can decorate with pink icing, tiny cake decorations, you can make stand up heart people with cake decorations or gingerbread magic.  Also, tiny cherubs and miniature marble columns made for wedding cakes, pink bridesmaid or Quincenera statutes, tiny Polly pockets in pink, etc, would make great toppers for a Valentine’s cake as well.  There are still candy Kewpies made and sold this time of year, as well as the great classic conversation hearts, which would make great pebbles for pathways or shingles.   Again, if you are good with marzipan, go for it.

 

For St. Patrick’s day, try a white cake colored with lime yellow or green food coloring.  You could also tint icing green.  Make a miniature Irish cottage out of graham crackers or gingerbread, and use the gold, green, and orange colors of St. Pat’s.  You can find all kinds of miniatures There are tiny pots of cold, and these could be made as well with a chocolate dessert cup filled with gold jelly beans of dragees.

 

For Easter, use any yellow, white, or pink cake, or use food coloring.  Tint frosting yellow or maybe lavender, and use the bisque light up houses and figures sold at Walgreen’s and dollar stores for Easter, or make your own as described above.  Miniature Royal Doulton bunnies are great additions to this type of cake decoration, or make bunnies of marshmallows and candies. Plastic and candy eggs abound to inspire you, as do miniature chocolate rabbits.  You could use Easter grass, or use cocoanut.  There are tiny baskets in craft stores and wooden ornaments, and even miniature Easter trees you could use.

 

For the 4th of July, use the red velvet cake, and white frosting, and look for Dept. 56 4th figures, miniatures of Uncle Sam, red, white, and blue Jelly Bellies and berries, make houses as described above, use marshmallows and tiny American flags. 

 

These cakes have become great family traditions, for us.  You could adapt the decorating ideas to cupcakes, or smaller loaf cakes, and they are great hostess gifts or pot luck contributions.  They are also good centerpieces.  You can make  them as complicated or simple as you like, and they are creative and can involve the whole family.

 

Other Holiday gift ideas for an handmade, thoughtful, but cost-effective holiday:

 

  1. Cut pictures from old cards to use as collage for new ones.  Punch a whole in them and use pretty colored yarn or ribbons to make a garland or individual ornaments.  They are also great to cut out as paper dolls, or to decorate gift wrap.
  2. For gift wrap, invest in some plain newsprint, which you can buy at Office Supply Stores like Staples or Office Max, and decorate with No. 1.  Or, use newspaper, B and W or the colorful funny pages and comics.  Plain brown paper decorated with dried flowers, bittersweet, holly, or evergreens is great.  Even fake florists picks work, and all the big craft stores have huge varieties already on sale.  Watch pets if you want to use  the bittersweet and holly.  The plain brown paper idea is also very Victorian.  Aluminum foil or Mylar paper is great, old wallpaper samples, and craft paper of all types.  Brown bags, either cut up, or used as decorated gift bags work, too.  Colorful or plain cellophane tied with pretty ribbons, especially silk, which can be recycled, are pretty.  I like to use lace as well.  If you are giving a large piece of linen or a towel, use it as a gift wrap and tie it all up with twine, raffia, or ribbon.  Save little toys and tiny ornaments to decorate packages.  Costume jewelry and beads work well, as do holly leaves and tried twigs glued on to look like winter trees.  I also like to make snowmen from cotton balls, a trick my mom showed me, and glue them on the package.   There are oodles of ideas for hiding gifts, or wrapping tiny packages within huge boxes to throw off the scent, as it were.  I also love gift baskets, and use all sorts of containers, especially pretty boxes or vintage tins.  You can also decoupage or spray paint what you want.
  3. Along the same lines, if there is a crafter in your family, go through your art/craft supplies, and create a craft box or basket for them.  I include pages from magazines I like to cut up and use, Victorian scraps, glue sticks, safety scissors, buttons, material swatches, little jars of beads and clay, small watercolor sets, colored pens and pencils, mini notepads, little sewing kits, pins, and needles, pincushions, you name it.  Most of these are things I have, or they are supplemented from the dollar store.  Etsy is also a good source for finding kits of these materials reasonably.
  4. Christmas ornaments with a lovely note or card are great office and hostess gifts.  Great Hanukah gifts are gold chocolate coins in boxes wrapped in blue Mylar paper.  Go to Marilyn Waters’ The Toy Maker site, just google it.  She has dozens of free printouts and projects for holidays, including easy boxes and favors for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, you name it.  There are other sites for creating paper toys, cards, and book marks for Day of the Dead, Purim, Ramadan, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  Waters also has plans for Halloween houses and toy theaters, as well as games and paper dolls, all in color, all printable.
  5. Select your favorite poems, write them, select images, and make a scrapbook for the holidays.  There are many images in public domain and clipart you can use.  Also, there are old magazine images and dozens of ideas from scrapbook stores or sites.  You can include recipes, or compile a cookbook, use family photos, etc.  You can also make calendars, albums or date books.  Kids love to do it, and it is a great alternative to the “Christmas Letter.”
  6. Go to the dollar store, flea market, or craft store, and look for sales like mad.  For about ten dollars, you can build a theme stocking or basket for a child or teen.  You can put together Nativities for older recipients, a neat purse with cosmetics or toiletries, a roasting pot with cooking utensils and mixes, a bucket with carwash and car care paraphernalia, etc.
  7. Vintage books, or dollar store books, stacked and tied with a pretty ribbon, also sold by the spool in craft stores and dollar stores, are wonderful for those of us who love to read.  They make great office gifts and contributions to silent auctions.  Check out Barnes and Noble, Borders, and  Walden, they are having more book and card sales than ever.
  8. Bake, and package attractively as described above.  Most of my gifts will be baked goods this year, made from my Mom and Grandmother’s recipes.  When I cook from their handwritten, hand compiled recipes, I feel like they are standing next to me, telling me what to do.
  9. Knitters and cricketers, do I have to say more?  Get moving!  Yarn is on sale everywhere, the dollar store has great deals.  You can do simple book marks for small gifts or stocking stuffers, edge hankies or doilies, you name it.  So, “Stitch and Bitch!”  You can combine knitting/crochet get-togethers with holiday parties, pot lucks, or tree trimming.  Kids can ge involved, too.  They can always make yarn dolls or ornaments wrapping yarn around Styrofoam.  Visit you local library book sales and stores for patterns, McCall’s Needlework and Crafts, and Martha Stewart Living magazines.
  10. Kits, all kinds of them, simple and complicated abound this time of year.  They can be made as is, used, or adapted.  Michaels has great one’s for kids.  Get them unplugged and teach them to use their hands.
  11. Having said that, there are digital programs and ideas out there, many free, for making family books and albums you “publish.”  You can also get these made at Walgreen’s and other photos centers.
  12. One of the best gifts I got from an office friend was a box of Christmas cards.  She knew I needed them, but did not have time to get any or make any.  See what someone needs, even if it is small like this, and help out.  Offer to decorate someone’s tree, or help with yard ornaments.  If you have the time, give an hour to baby-sit, promise to cook a casserole or covered dish [and do it!], take someone out to dinner, help with spring planting, etc., or with Holiday clean up if your recipient is hosting a gathering.  They will love you for it.
  13. Have a gift for everyone!  I mean it!  Drawing names is great in big families, so is limiting gifts to children, but you can always print a book mark, enclose a favorite photo in a card, fill a bag with someone’s favorite candy, gum, or mints, buy a box of twelve ornaments at the dollar store, and hand one out to everyone in your family at dinner.  I handed out collage jewelry and small ornaments as favors at my wedding.  Everyone loved them.  I also made candy bags one Christmas as favors, and included ornaments made and decoupaged from luggage tags.  People still talk about them, and I will do something again this year.
  14. Shop sales, shop all year, and put all in a plastic tub.  Think small, and use the prepaid post office boxes.  I go to all kinds of craft sales, rock shows, flea markets, and antique markets, and surf the net and old books for ideas.  I watch Create on PBS, and always have my radar on.
  15. duplicate the simple gifts in Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, and other vintage stories.  Include a copy of the book, or a Bibliomania or Web URL so that your recipient can read the entire story.

 

Even in a recession, the holidays don’t have to suffer.  It really is the thought, and a few well-chosen and printed essays on that subject, wouldn’t hurt to be included in someone’s stocking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Original Tips 23-27

23. Volunteer when you can at community cleanups, book fairs, botanical centers, museums of all types, libraries, Earth Day celebrations. Teach children not to waste, but to share and to trade where possible. See the onsite community areas for barter.
24. When re-gifting and homemade gifts are good. Teach the spirit of gift giving and holidays; commercialism has been an issue since the first Christmas. Read Christmas and holiday stories and lore to see how such greed and commercialism are combated through the last two millennia. Also, you can see how people celebrated in historical times of economic adversity like War, Depression, and famine. You might be surprised at how happy and meaningful some of these celebrations can be.
25. Weddings; tips for economical weddings. I Had a Civil ceremony and church wedding for under $2500. Tell how.
26. Coupons and sales
27. Collecting is always a great way to recycle and make use of things. Collect for art materials, store inventory, personal enrichment or investment, for children, for fun. People who collect tins, baskets, and boxes use them for storage as well. People who collect vintage pens and pencils use them and sharpen them whenever they can. People who collect buttons often use them on their clothes.

Old shoes sometimes make good flower pots, and old bowling balls make interesting garden ornaments. Victory Garden and other shows have made good use of incorporating them into garden landscape. Same for old signs, old wheelbarrows and garden implements, wooden doors and fences, statutes, old tires, old claw foot tubs, milk cans, and tractor seats. They have found new life in garden landscapes. DIY scarecrows or other scarecrows as collectibles serve dual purposes as well. For one night special occasions, luminaries from paper bags are still a great effect, especially if you use LED “fake” votives which are save and effective. 

The Autumn Leaves Drift by my Window

And, I raked them into piles, and so far have filled seven bags of recycled paper with them.   I'm not finished, either.  My small  backyard has turned gold with fallen ginko leaves, and pine needles have interwoven themselves till they look like mats.  As I was scooping up piles with my rake, I  saved a moth, bleached gold the color of the leaf he was resting on. You really start to look at the leaves and notic the striations of color in the piles, brown spotted with red and gold, Oak leaves the size of a dinner plate, wide, yellow hosta leaves, our pumpkin vine, dried and sparse, but tough as twine.  The occasional  bright red of a Japanese maple leaf shown like a ruby.


The day got colder, and the wind more chilling, as I filled the leaf bags.  Yet, the pile was so dense, hardly a leaf blew away.  Better gardners than I can enlightenme on this next point, but why do we have this obsession for raking.  I've heard its for the grass and plants lying underneath, but there is grass and there are plants in the forest.  No one rakes there, or under trees in other wild areas. When I rake the backyard leave to the end of my yard, just before they can tumble into the ravine, they cover bee balm, and daffodils, and other flowers, but the flowers always break through in the spring.


Is it aesthetics?  I love the carpets of leaves lying on the ground in different colors. I suppose they could clog gutters, but I have leaf covers, and have learned that I can reach them with my rake if I stand on tiptoe, thus avoiding dangerous and dizzyng climbs on ladders.


These are questions to ponder.


On other fronts, my state has finally passed legislation in favor of crime vicitms.  As a victim of several crimes, including a viscious stalking over the last 14 years, I say it is high time.  I was treated like a criminal by the very courthouse where I often worked, and where I knew more people than I knew in my school. The so-called victim's right advocate told me she couldn't help me; she said she worked for the states attorney, and she would put her job in jeopardy by advocating for a victim, her lofty job  title notwithstanding.  The only real help or concern I got was from our local congressional representative.  He emailed me a personal note after I'd written him for help.  He said he couldn't help me, but he could commiserate; he had had a very visible stalker for years. My colleagues in the law treated me like a piece of dirt, adn I never, ever had justice.  Those of us who are legal professionals in this jurisdiction are fond of saying, "everything is legal!"  Perhaps, now, that will change.


The holidays are coming; I hope to have more ideas and recipes to share, and ideas for crafts.


Think recycle and repurpose, and check out my friends Deb Ritter on Uneek Doll Designs, Etsy, and Teri Long of Long Gone Dolls, Etsy, who make dolls form clothespins and who repurpose unwanted dolls into works of art.


Small kindness done during the holidays are often more appreciated than expensive gifts.  Charities donated in someone's name, like those sponsored by the Heiffer Catalog, are also thoughtful ways to express the season.


For small familes at Thanksgiving, remember it is the fellowship that matters, not the food or suffering over the stove.  It is not very "martha" of me, and she is one of my idols,  but I say, there is nothing wrong with catering Thanksgiving, or going out. Many grocry stores can prepare Turkey dinner with all the trimmings for under $70.  Chicken roasts as well as turkey for small families, and all the trimmings and side dishes work just as well with it.   This year, I plan on buying desserts and side dishes; with my job and my writing, and everything else, I am exhausted.  I can't cook or bake as I used to.  When winter settles in, and things calm down, I'll bake then, and share my new recipes.


So, I'm back.  Read me on The Antique Doll Collector Magazine Blog, and also at About.com Doll Collecting, and also on my other blogs, which I will never forsake :).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Samhain has Passed

Hopefully, everyone had a peaceful Samhain and Day of the Dead, and of course, our beloved Halloween!