True Christmas Riches

Yet no matter how rich we manage to become, something human in us says our true worth is reflected by what we ourselves create.
John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables

Yes, Christmas is coming again, which always makes me feel a wee bit tired. My girls are very big on Christmas. Like every other sane person in the world, I like Christmas to be calm, family-and-friend oriented, and of course, not about stuff. But for children, it is about stuff, wrapped up under the Christmas tree. So my commitment to avoid the proliferation of stuff on the planet has led me to encourage my marvellously creative and artistic children to let their imaginations run wild and make lovely gifts for each other and me, using what we have as much as possible. 

Here are some of their triumphs:

A couple of years ago I commissioned The Girl to paint these canvasses for Rosy's room. She used old, painted canvasses that the girls didn't want any more, and painted over them with white ceiling paint from the shed. The minty green was a sample pot from the paint store, in Rosy's favourite colour. The Girl found the design on the internet, and transferred it freehand (yes, she is rather clever) to stencils made from butcher's paper and sticky tape. I would never in a million years have been able to produce such a beautiful product, but she is patient and careful, qualities that I lack.

In her turn, Rosy made this artwork for her little sister, Posy. We bought the shadow-box frame from some discount store (this was before we started our Buy Nothing New Year, but I have seen these in op-shops since..), and the Japanese washi paper from our local art supply store, which sells it by the sheet.

The pin wheels are made from the pages of an old book (I keep any of our op-shop specials that fall apart), and the buttons are from the button jar, something which every family needs to entertain the children on a wet afternoon (oh, and also because spare buttons are useful).

Rosy made a similar picture for The Girl: 

A washi paper background again, this time with origami butterflies made out of old sheet music that belonged to my mother. I love the juxtaposition of flying storks and flying butterflies.. I must recommend an origami book for every family with children. I don't know how many hours have been happily passed with the girls and their friends engrossed in paper folding around the kitchen table. And now they can make such beautiful objets d'art..

Speaking of which, the magnificent origami ball in the photo at the top of the post was made for me by The Girl for Christmas a couple of years ago, and is one of my favourite Christmas presents ever.

And, just to prove that although I am a reluctant crafter, I do turn my hand to a creative enterprise occasionally, here is a little project I created for Rosy's birthday earlier in the year. It is a wipeable whiteboard, except that it is, as you will note, actually black. I made it with a framed print from the op-shop ($1.50). I took the cardboard print out and spray-painted it black, cleaned the rather dirty glass, decided the slightly chipped white paint of the frame was the look I was going for anyway, and put it all back together. I did purchase a wipeable chalk-paint marker pen from the art supply shop, and wrote 'Happy Birthday' on the glass with it, and that was Rosy's birthday card. Since then a succession of uplifting remarks have appeared on it in Rosy's elegant handwriting. I particularly like this one..

This year, a selection of new and interesting home-made gifts is being prepared. As I write, Posy is busy creating a painted name-board for her classmate who is her Secret Santa draw for the class Christmas party. 

Meanwhile, my commitment to humble gifts continues, and jars of jam, home-made Christmas goodies and potted plants from my garden are destined for my friends, family and colleagues this year. 

Thursday night saw our Living Better With Less Group gather together for our 'Christmas do' with home-made Christmas snacks, and a present-swap consisting of 'Christmas in a Jar' (jam, chutney, lemon butter, vanilla syrup, home-made candles, home-cured olives, home-made cleaning products, and a bag of wonderful home-made compost!). I gratefully received an IOU for a soon-to-be-hatched Australorp hen to come and live with me in a couple of months' time:) I am always so happy to be back at the Living Better Group - it is like coming back to my tribe. The ones who get it. A simple life, home-made, not glamorous, but meaningful and real, and if indeed our "true worth is reflected by what we ourselves create," then we here are all rich indeed..


Debbie said…
Your family is very talented!
narf7 said…
Are you guys still meeting?! I thought it might have stopped. I might start coming again next year. Lovely sentiments and spot on with the overcommercialisation. The problems come when "home-made" is seen as cheap, or not as good as. I tend to think that people who react to gifts like that are most probably in need of a good "upside-down" soaking in the Tamar River on a cold day, but the truth is that they do exist and some of them may or may not be family members :(. I tend to give gift vouchers now. Sad really...
Jo said…
Hi Debbie, lovely to meet you:) Yes, aren't they clever and artistic children. And the most extraordinary thing about them is their capacity to actually finish a project. They certainly did not get that from me!!

Fran, would love to see you at the Better Living Group again:) I do give gift vouchers too, but only to my kids, and mostly to their favourite clothes shops, which saves me buying them clothes anyway!(I don't think they have quite worked out yet that they would get the clothes anyway. They are still too excited to be choosing their own, without me there..) Other things I give kids and relatives - books, cool, retro or nana stuff from op-shops, locally made gorgeous craft like ceramics and jewellery from craft fairs. Everyone else gets plants, cakes and jam. Because if they are my good friends, they are the kind of people who 'get' home-made presents, and they know I don't want anything more in return than their own lovely home-made goodies. And if they are not my friends, then why are they getting presents from me anyway? My work colleague who is my secret santa draw is going to receive a very nice hamper of.. you guessed it - jam and baked goods. What's not to like? The only way we are going to change anything in our consumerist society is to just say NO. Some people will think we are mad, but I am a grown-up now, and I choose to live my life on my own terms.

Unknown said…
Never mind the children, i want an origami book now!
Jo said…
Lynda, I have to admit, me and origami don't mix well... there is an alarming black hole somewhere between the printed instructions and what my fingers are doing.. but I am sure you would be an origami star! Do have a go:)
Anonymous said…
The team I work in is absolutely lovely and each year we give each other small gifts at Christmas time. However, this was all very well when there was seven of us, but now there's 12ish (subject to change without notice) and that's a bit bloody expensive when you spend $10 or so on each person.

Last year, I made gingerbread and chocolate crackles. It was about 28746C the night I made them, I was covered in icing and everyone really appreciated it. This year, we have a vegan in our team - and I'm 99.98% sure chocolate crackles *are* in fact vegan, so I'm making them again and thinking of something else that's not so weather dependent for success.
what beautiful objects your girls have made - they really are very special.
I had no idea chocolate crackles were vegan! golly I haven't had one of those in yeeeeeeeeeears :-)
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Your blog is full of beautiful things. Respect! Patience is hard - I hear you about that one! I have never felt that I have enough time up my sleeve and if it disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised! However, in the meantime it is a real pleasure to see the different gifts that people have been given and what those same people can do with those gifts. Excellent work.

Cheers. Chris
Anonymous said…
They are beautiful gifts. How clever your girls are!!! Every time I would look at those art works, I would smile and think of the giver. There's much love in a purposefully personal art work as a gift.

I love homemade gifts - if they are nicely done. Love the origami ball. But if made it, it would look like a crumpled ball of paper. Not worthy of gift status. Every year my mother asks what I'd like for Christmas. Every year we give the same answer. Her home cooked bikkies. My barrier to home made is time. I probably should make things earlier in the year because there is definitely no time in Nov and Dec. Crazy busy for me at work.

I have been aiming for a clutter-free gift giving for a number of years. Things you need, like clothes; things you use, like books and kitchen stuff; things you eat and drink.
Gretchenjoanna said…
A Black Australorp for Christmas?! That would be a splendid gift. They are my favorite breed.

All of your lovingly crafted gifts are worthy, too, and inspiring.
Linda said…
Just caught up with this post - somehow it eluded me until today! You have very talented girls and their gifts are gorgeous. Great that they are happy to make gifts for friends too, carrying on your good work! Merry Christmas and all good wishes for 2016!
Jo said…
Miss Maudy, cooking gifts when it is 28746C is a true act of friendship, value: $Priceless

e, I know, vegan?? Surprise!

Thanks Chris, time gets away from me constantly. I am thinking of maybe just giving in. If I make no plans, then no disappointed expectations..

Lucinda, if only I were organised. If only I could persuade myself that Christmas was in October, and plan accordingly. But see above..

GJ, I know, glossy black chickens! What's not to love??

Linda, thank you, yes, child labour is brilliant! All the very best jolly Christmas cheer to you too:)
Minerva said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

Popular Posts