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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

$20,000 and under per Year

I watched the story on The Today Show today of an artists and his wife and toddler son who live on the above amount and less, yet have a beautiful home within walking distance of the beach. He worked with driftwood he salvaged for free, and made beautiful sculpture and furniture from it. She scavenged the local dump, which was set up like a good will. The rest of the furniture and a lot of other household items came from there.

The only caveat was that they had public health insurance/aid to survive. Also, they didn't own the gorgeous house, they rented.

Still, it is a challenge and inspiration to see how little we can live on. It is an intresting story for this time of year, a wonderful giving time, but also one of excess. I still don't shop like everyone else, and yet, I seem to spend a lot without meaning to.



Christmas is still a time to give of the heart; my childhood friend and I made Gingerbread/cookie houses for her family for a traditional German Christmas. We had a lot of fun making little nativities with gum drops and graham cracker roofs, little beds with Marzipan children, chalets. We drank "gluwein" from Aldi, and didn't spend much on the ingredients. We had a wonderful time remembering our families, and things we did when we were in grade school. Last week, I sent to her Church's Xmas progbram, where a local woman told stories from The Little House books in costume, complete with dolls and artifacts. She even had a replica china shepardess. She, emphasized the simplicity of their holiday, as well as their warmth.

In fact, to teach the lessons of Laura and LLOP, it might be fun to recreate some of those gifts, as I used to for the classes I taught on Laura, and on Susan Glaspell called Trifles on the Prairie. Carrie's button string is fairly easy to make, any old buttons and good, strong yarn will do.




For Susan the Corncob doll, I cut squares of Calico from my Grandma's stash, vintage in itself, and wrapped the sqauare around dried seed pods, indian corn, or papier mache ears of corn from the dollar stores and tied them with yarn like baby buntings. A friend of mine likes to put moveable dolls eyes on them, or yarn hair.

The tin cups are miniature buckets or tiny enamel toys I found at yard sales or dollar stores. Use your imagination. I saved candy hearts from Valentine's Day, and a penny as well. I took clementines and wrapped velvet ribbons around them, then stuck them with cloves to make the pomanders. I also used graphics and scrpas to make old Valentines, since I usually taught the class in February. I put as many of the small items as I could in white cotton athletic socks to imitate the old stockings Laura and her sisters had. You could use any vintage Xmas stockings, or even old wool stockings if you can find them. A stocking full of these items and old fashioned Xmas candy with a copy of one of Laura's books is a lovely present to offset all of the gadgets and electronics everyone loves these days. It doesn't have to cost a lot to make someone happy, and to inspire.



This is timne full of ghosts, of bitersweet, surreal memories. It does not seem as if my mother is gone this time of year, yet she is. It is bitter sweet; her birthday was in January, and she died January 29th. I see her and remember her everywhere, and at times I'm transported to our old down town, with its old stores and window displays. It is like a waking dream.



Even having Xmas so soon again is a waking dream. We got the tree up after a series of mishaps,and there are modest lights and decorations outside. There are kitty ornamnets in memory of our little boys, Daxie and Opie, and in honor of our new little girl kitty, Emma.

My husband and I do not want extravagant gifts; we want time, and to pay off some bills, and to be together. More than ever, the music means more to me than anything, and I have to stay in my car to listen to the Harry Simeone Chorale's rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy," Yesterday was ST. Lucia's day, and I still remember singing the song in Swedish when I was seven. I have several dolls of her now in my collection, but they were very hard to find. When I was young, my mom took me to Swanson's Swedish gifts to buy wooden trolls, and advent calendars, Dala horses, ornaments,and special napkins and cards. They only had these things at Christmas, running a paint store the rest of the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone, Happy Hannukah, and Happy New Year, and peace in 2012.

I am adding some photos of angels and Christmas dolls and creche figures for all of you to enjoy.

A gift recommendation, the fantastic book Animals by Smithsonian. I've never seen anything like it, with every family and phylum covered. There are animals I've never heard of, from the air, land, and sea, from the most microscopic, to the most gargantuan.

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