Saturday, October 29, 2011

Here's an article I wrote and published on EzineArticles.  I think it is appropriate for this blog and so I am reposting it here.  I hope you enjoy this article and I hope it gives you some good ideas for this Christmas season's gift buying.

What Are the Hot Gifts for Christmas This Year?
By Shirley K Williams

This year for Christmas you will need to use care in spending your hard earned money on gifts. It is very important that you choose wisely, ending up with the perfect gift without spending a fortune. Christmas is almost upon us, so now is the time to start thinking about what you want to get for your loved ones. Gift giving is always a challenge, but with the economy the way it is today and so many people out of work, this year proves to be a serious challenge.

One thing you can do this year is start early. Waiting until the last minute will be frustrating and cost you more money. There is always the chance that your gift is not quite on target because of the need to get your shopping done in a hurry. There will be many really great sales between now and Christmas and if you are prepared, start early, and have a plan, then your gifts will be really appreciated because of all the thought you put into them.

I've reviewed quite a few sites online this year all touting the "Hot" gifts for 2011. There are some things that remain constant, such as the allure of the gadgets and our love of technology. Some of the really hot items this year will be the same as last year- iPads, iPods, cell phones, game systems, televisions, etc. You will never go wrong buying these items as gifts, but they usually come with a very large purchase price.

Maybe you need to step back a bit and look at other types of gifts. If your gift receiver loves to read and loves books, maybe a Kindle would be a good gift. If your receiver loves photography and video, maybe a hand-held video camera or a digital SLR camera would do. If the receiver drives an older car and gets lost frequently, maybe a GPS system that can be mounted on the dash.

The easiest way to buy for someone is to learn about what that person enjoys or likes to do in their spare moments. Usually, these activities help to relieve stress and keep them centered. Hobbies have long been an outlet for us as life gets chaotic and stressful. Look to these outlets for clues about what to spend your time and money on. I guarantee you will be glad you did.

Then there are the old stand-by's that have always been good for gift buying. Jewelry and personal care gifts are always appreciated and used. Children have always enjoyed games and toys.

This year, you should look to video games like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo Reach. These games will be coming out soon and many young boys will be excited to receive their own games. My Pillow Pets are still very popular with the younger children and may become hard to find if you wait too long. Lego board games are popular with school age children as are the original Lego's. Action figures will always be popular with young boys, so look at those as an option.

Mom and Dad may enjoy a new espresso coffee machine to make their own fancy coffee at home and save them time and money. Today you can spend quite a bit on the fancy coffee and may drive a distance to get to a coffee store. This gift will be seen as a thoughtful and useful gift, saving both time and money for the receiver.

Young adults will always enjoy tickets to must-see movies, sporting events, and concerts of favorite bands. This is a gift that will be appreciated and remembered for some time. You will become the best gift giver of the year. Start checking your area now for possible events that you could purchase tickets for.

Tablet computers are all the rage right now and if you can swing such a purchase, I know you will be rewarded with squeals of delight from the receiver. iPads are expensive, but there are several tablet computers on the market now that are just are good and that cost less. Explore these for ideas.

There are many choices out there this year so you will be on the money if you take your time, start early, and really think about the likes and dislikes of the receiver. With just a little thought and some extra time, this Christmas may turn out to be the best ever. Even with money being tight, you stand a chance of being the best gift-giver this year!

Christmas is always stressful, and this year will prove to be just the same. You can get a head start if you plan now and start your shopping early. Be sure to check online for ratings and availability of items that are beginning to fly off the shelves. If you start now, you may even get your shopping done online and never have to fight the crowds.

For more ideas and information about Christmas, please visit my blog. For gift ideas please visit
Christmas is coming too soon. Here's my wish for you to have a very merry Christmas 2011.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Black Friday Specials are starting to be announced!

BURBANK, CA - MARCH 02:  (L-R) Cyma Zarghami, ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeJust got this in my email and wanted to share it with you here. 

Posted: the Kmart Toy Book

It's official...The holiday season is starting! We got our hands on a copy of the Kmart Toy Book and posted it on our website right away. There are 64 pages of toys, with sale prices available both in-store and online. The sale begins on Sunday, October 30th and continues until Wednesday, November 23rd. The Toy Book is packed with popular toys like Bratz dolls, Transformers action figures, Dora the Explorer, Elmo, and many more.
Some of the highlights of the Kmart Toy Book are:
  • $10 off the LeapFrog Leapster Explorer ($59.99)
  • $5 off Justin Bieber Singing Doll ($19.99)
  • Furreal Friends Cookie, My Playful Pup for $44.99 with coupon
  • Free Nerf Ammo 16-pack with purchase of any Nerf Blaster (in-store only)
View the entire Kmart Toy Book here.
We're just getting warmed up. We can't wait to see which ads and sales break next...
Thanks for reading!
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Friday, October 14, 2011

I did find this Carol Duvall show episode about decorating your table for the holiday season, so here it is for your enjoyment.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Make a Pyramid Box

Carol Duvall had an episode during Christmas where her guest, Mary O'Neil made beautiful pyramid boxes to use for Christmas gift.  These are perfect for small, expensive gifts, especially if you use Acetate Velvet and emboss the box.  Mary used double sided sticky interfacing to attach the velvet to her box template and then finished it off with a beautiful organza bow.  Almost too pretty to open!

I found this tutorial for making the pyramid boxes, and I looked but could not find the episode of Carol Duvall anywhere online.  This is  from Things to Make and Do and you can use your imagination to design and decorate your own boxes.

This is an unusual box that can be used for small or large gifts. There are three downloadable templates to choose from, a large template or two small templates that will fit on a sheet of A4 card, and one small template that fits on a sheet of A5 card. There are two sets of templates for each size, one with the dotted fold lines on (this is great to practice on with a sheet of paper, or if children are making the box), and one with no dotted fold lines (these are harder to use but give a more professional finish). These boxes are easy to make with no gluing required and can be used for a variety of gift ideas including favours at a wedding or for small gifts hanging from a Christmas tree. The larger pyramid measures nearly 8 cm across the base and 4½ cm high, the small pyramid base is 5¼ cm wide and 3 cm high.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

You will need:

A4 or A5 card
Craft knife or bone folder
Hole punch

Things to make and do - pyramid box

What to do

1. Download the template onto card, or onto paper and trace the design onto card. Remember there are two sets of templates for each size, one with the dotted fold lines (this is great to practice on with a sheet of paper, or if children are making the box), and one with no dotted fold lines (these are harder to use but give a more professional finish).

Things to make and do - pyramid box

2. Cut out the template.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

3. Score the fold lines using either a craft knife or bone folder and ruler, if you are using a craft knife, do not cut through the card. The scoring is just to help the card to fold.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

4. Punch a hole where marked near the top of each triangle.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

5. Fold over the sides and narrow flaps, pressing with your finger to make crisp folds.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

6. Put the small gift into the box and close the top of the pyramid with ribbon. Take a ribbon end and thread it through the punched holes. Start by threading from the front of one hole into the box then through the next hole from inside to outside the box, go into the third hole from the outside and then thread through the last hole from the inside to the outside. Tie the two ribbon ends together with a slip knot and finish with a bow.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

Things to make and do - pyramid box

7. If you need to make a loop to hang the pyramid up by (Christmas tree decoration) then after threading the ribbon through all four holes and tying the ends together with a slip knot, thread the ribbon back through the box, under the ribbon making a loop, tie another slip knot and finish off with a bow, this can be a little tricky so another pair of hands may come in handy. Or, after tying a bow to close the top, thread a separate piece of ribbon through and tie a knot to make a loop.

Things to make and do - pyramid box

Things to make and do - pyramid box

Things to make and do - pyramid box

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Quilled Snowflake Ornament

Here is a spectacularly beautiful handmade Christmas ornament tutorial for you to make this year.  This is from Reese Dixon, and I want to thank her for the instructions.  I cannot wait to try this out.


Today I have a big fat tutorial to share with you. It looks really really scary and detailed, but it’s not so bad. Trust me. I’ll hold your hand through the whole thing.
Snowflake Ornament on tree
I’ve made a ton of these over the years and they never fail to elicit oohs and aahs. This is a perfect application for quilling. Snowflakes are best when they’re all scroll-y and complicated, and that’s when quilling is at its best too. You just need to remember that it’s only rolled up paper, and break it down to each little piece.
Cut a bunch of 1/4″ strips from a piece of 12 x 12 cardstock. I like using an icy blue color, but a true white looks great too. You can make your strips thicker if you want and it will work just great. They’ll look a little more substantial against the tree or on a package and they’ll be a little more sturdy. I happen to like the lacey look of the thinner strips and find them to be sturdy enough.
From those thin strips, here’s what you need to cut
1 – 6″ strip for the center round
8 – 3″ strips for the arms
4 – 6″ strips for the scrolls
4 – 3″ strips for the teardrop
4 – 2″ strips for the marquis
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
You’ll need some kind of a quilling tool, which you can find at Michael’s in the stamping aisle, or you can just make your own by cutting the top off of a needle with a pair of tin snips or wire cutters.
Insert the paper strip into the notch of the quilling tool, bring the tool to the very end of the paper, and begin rolling.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Let’s start with the 6″ center round. Once you master making the round, you can make any other shape. And it’s even easier than it sounds. Roll it all the way up, and then let it go so that it relaxes into a more loosely wound circle.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Spread a little glue on the tail end, and glue it down. Typically when you quill, you’d tear the very tip off before you glue down the other end. That feathery torn edge blends into the rest of the shape, where a cut end will form a definite ridge. Here, you won’t notice any ridge so it’s not worth the extra step.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
The Round shape also provides a basis for the teardrop shape and the marquis.
For the teardrop shape, you’ll take one side of a round made from one of the 3″ strips and pinch it to create a point. Since we haven’t bothered to blend our ends in, I try to line up that ridge with the point at the top of the teardrop to disguise it.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
The marquis is made the exact same way. Make a Round out of a 2″ strip, glue the end in place, and pinch both ends to create two points.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Next let’s make the scrolls. Fold a 6″ strip in half and roll each end up to that halfway point. As is this is a heart shape. Typically a scroll isn’t folded, but it helps to have a measuring point and we’ll be gluing that point down anyway, so it won’t show.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Sorry about the blurry pictures. I really needed a macro lens for this project.
The last piece is for the arms, made out of a 3″ strip. On one end of the strip, roll in about twice.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
On the other end, roll in until the piece measures roughly 1″. Measurements are really loose here. The only thing that matters is that they’re all about the same height. Whether that height is a fraction of an inch taller or shorter doesn’t matter at all.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
That’s it. You’ve made all your pieces. The rest is just putting it together. Start by taking 2 of the arms and glue them together back to back. With that step complete you should have:
1 Round
4 Teardrops
4 Marquis
4 Scrolls
4 Arm Pieces
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Start with the Round piece. This will be the center. Next come the arm pieces. Bump the edges of those bottom loops up next to each other, and glue each piece down to the round.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Now take a scroll and glue it onto those little loops you bumped together.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Gently pull the scroll out until it touches the arms, and glue them together where they meet.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Take one of your teardrops and glue it down in the middle of the scroll. Then pull the scrolls over to meet the teardrop, and glue together. Don’t be afraid to unravel the scroll however much you need to. If the arm is bending or it doesn’t want to stick to the teardrop, you just need to give yourself a little more space.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
Repeat these steps for all sides, and then glue the marquis in the little space between the loops at the top of the arms.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
For the snowflakes on my tree, I sprayed the finished snowflake with a spray adhesive and doused it in glitter. I tried a liquid glue first, but it tended to make all the loops unwind. Then I threaded a loop of fishing line through one of the marquis to hang the ornament. I liked the idea of using fishing line so it would look like the snowflakes were falling instead of hanging.
Quilled Snowflake Ornament
These couldn’t be cheaper. You can nearly get 10 ornaments out of one sheet of paper, and they’re incredibly easy to make up in big batches. Last year I needed to make ornaments for 35 teenagers, and these were the ones I went for. A definite budget saver, and still super fancy.
In making this tutorial, I ended up making another ornament that needs a home. Leave me a comment for a chance to win it! Blogger sucks for communication, so make sure you have an active profile, a link to your website, or an email address listed in the comment so I can contact you if you win. I’ll draw a winner randomly at 10pm Pacific Time on Friday December 12th. That’s actually Bear’s birthday, so we’ll call this a celebration of him. Good luck!
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Friday, October 7, 2011

Possible Christmas 2011 Bestsellers

Christmas Tree (1)Image via WikipediaI've been doing some research and I have come up with quite a long list of things that are going to be much in demand this year.  Do yourself a favor and get yours soon to avoid scarcity and crowds.  I will simply make a list for now, but I plan to make a Squidoo lens for each product to give you more information and when I do, I will update this posting with the link so you can see the product and get yours there.

Here is my list for the kids so far:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (coming out in November) 
Xbox 360 -- this game system in the one of choice with teenagers
ASUS Eee PC Netbook -- everyone can have a computer with them now
Baby Einstein Neptune Soother
Nintendo 3DS
Beyblade Toys
LeapFrog (anything from this company is in demand)
Fisher-Price Big Action Construction Site -- there are other sets, but this one is trending up
Razor BoGo
Rory's Story Cubes
NERF Vortex Nitron
LEGO Harry Potter The Burrows (like LeapFrog, anything they have will be in demand)
Monster High Dolls -- trending up with the 12-14 yr old girls
Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera
Power Wheels Hot Wheels Dune Racer -- this particular Hot Wheel is trending up, but all are in demand
Let's Rock Elmo
Simon Flash
Raxor eSpark
Barbie 2011 Holiday Doll -- Barbie has been a favorite for 60 years and never will stop being a favorite
FurReal Friends Cookie
Transformers 3 MechTech Bumblebee -- this was a popular Halloween costume this year
vTech InnoTab
LEGO Alien Conquest
Smokey the Fire Truck
Fijit Friends
Kidizoom Twist Digital Camera
Angry Birds:  Knock on Wood Game
Loving Family Beach Vacation Mobile Home
LEGO Ninjago
Playskool Poppin' Park Toys
Air Swimmers
Disney Princess Quintessential Castle
Bop It XT

Soon to post a list of trending gifts for adolescents and adults.  I won't forget the pets, either.

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Christmas craft videos!

Here is another Carol Duvall video, this one from here holiday series. I like to post these when I find them because I miss Carol very much.

This one is about making a reindeer from socks:

Here's a video for a funky wreath:

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