Archive for October, 2011

The Reclaimed Christmas Project…

October 16, 2011

Buttons, buckles, beads...

Following on from my musings in the previous post, I’ve decided that this year I’m going to reclaim Christmas, in more ways than one. I’m probably not the only person who’s had enough of the commercial version; of the endless grimly-glittering tawdry tinfoil decorations which start to appear in mid-September along with incessant adverts for wildly expensive bits of plastic or noxious potions, of giant flock snowflakes obscuring the aisle lables in supermarkets and “this year’s colour” plastic tree. I’ve nothing against fake trees, as I love the real thing, especially where they belong (outdoors)  & don’t like to feel I’ve been directly responsible for the needless death of an entire tree. But I really cannot get my head around people feeling they have to buy a new plastic one every year just so they have the “right” colour… Our current tree was rescued from the Recycling centre a couple of years ago and does a grand job; however this year it may get left in its box as there’s a Lawson’s Cypress in the front garden that needs a good haircut and one of the upright branches of that would make a fine Christmas tree too – it even smells right. Handling spruce always brings me out in a rash, anyway.

I’ve also had enough of spending too much money at Christmas. The retailers have parents over a barrel;  every year there’s a blizzard of adverts for electronic must-haves that every other child in their class will surely be given – and some of them undoubtedly will be – how can you possibly be so mean/inhuman/unloving as to say no? You love your child and you really, really don’t want them to feel deprived/disadvantaged/unloved, especially not on Christmas Day… but it does start to wear a bit thin when said children have technically reached adulthood and could, probably even should, go out & earn said must-have trinket for themselves.

I have a clear idea in my head of what I want Christmas to be; a time of goodwill to all living beings, and that includes the trees. A time to reflect on why we’re here, and a time to celebrate the life that we have. A real feast with family & friends, but not at the expense of going short for the next couple of months. A time to remember those who are really going without, and a time to try in some way, however small, to help. An oasis of goodwill & good cheer, peace & tranquillity in a mad, mad world…

Not much chance of that, really! But there are ways I can undermine the dominant view of Christmas as an opportunity to spend, spend, spend, and indulge, indulge, indulge. Quite apart from what we as a family get up to on The Day itself, I’m going to run the Reclaimed Christmas Project at my shop on Wednesday afternoons from here to – well, mid-December. We’ll be making beautiful & unusual festive decorations, cards & gifts from reclaimed or natural materials. And buttons, LOTS of buttons, thanks to a wonderful find at the Recycling Centre this week. There’ll be plaids & checks & stripes, there’ll be ricrac and lace and possibly even sequins, but there will NOT be overblown tinsel so thick it looks like it could do with a good prune. There’ll be felted wool,  embroidery silks and a little bit of angelina; there will NOT be irritating flashing lights that make you grind your teeth whilst attempting to hypnotise you. Homer Simpson will NOT be featuring; in fact there will not be any blow-up or cartoon characters at all, not even a cartoon reindeer that looks like it’s the morning after a very heavy night before. The only festive icon perching on the roof will be the robin that lives in the bushes opposite. However, there may be gingerbread & icing, not to mention tissue & crepe paper. There may even (shock, horror!) be a little religious imagery, though I shall try not to upset the Thought Police too much. And if there are any icicles, they’ll probably be made of ice. “Keep it simple, keep it joyful, keep it real,” will be my motto!

I’m hoping that even if you’re not able to come & join me, you”ll be there in spirit & doing your own Reclaimed Christmas in your own special way.

And more buttons...

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Phew…

October 6, 2011


…life seems to be calming down a little now. Just enough to write a post, anyway. We had a wonderful holiday (there’s so much more to Spain than many tourists ever see! Every time I go I leave a little bit more of my heart behind) but spent much more money than I’d anticipated. And now I’m beginning to realise why more people don’t start their own businesses… even running the shop for just 25 hours a week, there’s never enough time for all the things I need or want to do, either in the shop or at home. This season has been a complete write-off from the preserving point of view; I’ve had no time at all for foraging or preparing, beyond a small batch of crab apple jelly. Luckily there’s still plenty left in the freezer & on the garage shelves from last autumn, but I actually physically miss going out & gathering stuff in. I really need to sort the house out & redecorate whilst there’s less stuff in it, but there’s no time for that either. And younger daughter needs more input from me (elder girl is my right-hand woman in the shop, and is in fact a huge help in all ways – I wouldn’t be able to do it without her, and can’t thank her enough, even if she is just working off her airfare to Las Vegas!) but there’s no time for that, or re-stocking the shop… MUST do better at the things that really count; it’s thinking cap time.

So I’ve started the Christmas planning now. For many reasons, we have never gone overboard & spent a fortune on consumer goods, but this year I’m really going to rein in the festive spending. I know that for a lot of people, that isn’t a matter of choice, and I don’t mean to make light of their grief & dismay, but I see this as a joyful & interesting challenge; how can we have a happy & meaningful Christmas for the least possible cost? A while ago I read Jo Robinson’s excellent “Unplug the Christmas Machine” about how to make Christmas less stressful & genuinely enjoyable, and I’m taking many of my cues from that as well as from various Frugal-type forums I’ve belonged to & contributed to over the years. Also from the Quaker attittude that every day is a holy day; there’s simply no need to work yourself into the ground celebrating just one or two of them, especially if you end up losing sight of what makes them special in the welter of work you’ve created for yourself. For that reason, I’m not going to go all out for a handmade Christmas either, lovely though that is; I’m going to concentrate my efforts on the things that really matter.

I have a collection of in-date Tesco vouchers saved up that will cover festive booze and any of the “special”  food items I can’t buy locally; Twiglets particularly spring to mind! Otherwise our local market & shops can supply everything we need – superb quality at reasonable cost. Prezzies for the offspring will be modest again this year (especially as I gather they’re hoping to go back out to Spain next year) and amongst the wider family I have suggested a second-hand or home-made Christmas; with more than 30 of us that’s only sensible, and we’ve had a strict “upper spending limit” for many years now. Decorations will be home-made (or possibly CraftsPlace-made) or natural and the tree may even be home-grown, as a Lawson’s Cypress in our little front garden is in need of a severe haircut. We never decorate until just before the Big Day anyway; IMHO the whole idea goes stale after a couple of weeks & if you start Christmas at the beginning of December you’ll have had enough of it all by about the 20th!

So now I need to find the time to hunt around for those little special items that will bring a genuine smile to people’s faces. And for patterns, supplies & ideas to keep my customers happy in the shop, too. In other words, what I need most is just – more time