Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008, Best Gifts and Projects From The Heart

Although the year hasn't quite ended yet, and I don't know what I am getting for Christmas, I felt like writing this now, a profile of my favourite gifts and projects from the heart for 2008. Some are gifts I have given, and some are gifts I have received.

Friendship Book
This was the first project I featured in Easy Giving 101 on Bigblog but it was an idea introduced into my circle of friends in 1998. You can buy a lovely notebook, or decorate one yourself, and the concept is that you write lovely messages to your friend in it, and they keep it and it grows over the years. It is a lovely thing to turn to when you are low in spirit or feeling sentimental and I have even taken mine with me to hopsital. My friendship book has greeting cards written by friends in it, handwritten notes, quotes and poems as well as doodles and photos, pressed flowers and embellishments.

Share A Precious Moment
I took my father on an outing this spring, to share a precious moment with him. Last year he was critically ill and had a second major heart surgery, while he was in hospital two mares in paddock in our hometown gave birth to the most beautiful foals. My mother and I drove past them everyday on our way to Fremantle to visit and care for Dad. This October marked one year from his surgery, so I took him to pat the yearlings, and reflect on their and his own impressive progress. It was one of the most special and meaningful times I have shared with him.

My Charm Bracelet
For my birthday this year I was given one of the new 'add a charm' bracelets and received some very meaningful charms to put on it. The first was, of course, a star! Then a ladybird (they are special to me, and when I was Mary in a nativity play in a theatre, on the night, a ladybird was on the face of baby Jesus, I always wondered how it came to be there, but it was a magical moment in my life). A cat, dragonfly, love heart, and cup cake were the other charms.

Gratitude Journal Project
The best gift to give is a gratitude journal as it encourages positive reflection and transforms the recipients life. I featured a project on Easy Giving 101 Bigblog, 'Gratitude Is A Garden.... come in and plant a seed'. With an artists journal embellished with scrapbooking paper and materials to welcome the recipient into the garden.

Light Catcher
I had the tremendous privilige of making a new friend, Cheryl Radford this year, through blogging, and she was very kind to send me a crystal light catcher in the form of a star, now we have lightcatchers in our respective rooms to catch the morning sun and brighten our world. The best gift of all though, is the friendship we are growing, one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

Decorated Photo Frames
For my nephews birthday this year, I purchased plain wooden photo frames, and decorated them by gluing wooden buttons the shape of hearts onto the frames, making them unique and original. It was very easy and still looked masculine.

Mosaic Mirror
I was given a mirror with a mosaic frame, of purple tulips, a very thoughtful birthday present as tulips are my favourite flower and purple is my favourite colour. That was a very personal selection and I enjoy the gift very much.

Photo Music Montages
This year for my father's birthday I made him a music montage of all the best photos of his paintings, and some personal and family photos set to 'Vincent' (Starry Starry Night). I then caught the montage fever and made one themed on my own life, my mother's, and all the children in the family, that one is very popular, set to 'Call Me Irresponsible'.

Decorated T-shirt
This project was also featured on bigblog, I had a new black tshirt from Kmart, which I washed and dried. I then measured out the centre of the shirt, and marked it with a pin. Using metallic silver fabric paint from Spotlight, I painted a heart on the shirt. I waited two days for it to fully dry to safely wash and iron the shirt, I then sewed on a border of pink and purple sequins (alternating between the two colours) and one feature bead for the base tip of the heart. It has been very popular when I have worn it out and about, and you could easily paint other designs, flowers, dollar signs, musical notes and motifs...

Earring Pin Up Board
I bought a pin up board at Big W, and a pack of 100 gold drawing pins, a reel of ribbon from Cost Plus, and selected a large fabric remnant from my bag at home. I pinned the silver fabric onto the board and then laid out strips of ribbon in a grid pattern, securing at each end and at every intersection with a pin. I then placed subtle dressmaker's pins here and there on the ribbons where I hang earrings with the backs tucked under the ribbon, they make a beautiful display and the earrings never tangle, and as they can all be seen at once, it makes selecting a pair to wear very easy.

These have been my favourite gifts and projects of 2008, I look forward to sharing many more with you in the new year, have a safe and wonderful time, xxx Starry

Friday, December 12, 2008

Easy Last Minute Affordable Gifts

Hi, are you in a tizzy, strained budget, gifts to buy but can't afford to or just can't find something fun and meaningful for your special ones? Here are my favourite easy last minute ideas for this Christmas.

First of all, it is so easy to make a music photo montage, I do it using my Windows Photo Gallery, first of all you load photos from your SD card, camera, or scan images onto the computer. Then you select the photos you want to have in the montage (like a slide show set to music), you also import your favourite song from audio file on your computer and ask the computer to auto format it for you. It is easy and spectacular, my favourite creations this year is a montage of all my fathers best paintings set to the music 'Vincent' (Starry Starry Night). I also did one of all the children in the extended family - beautiful and cheeky, funny shots, set to Bobby Darrin "Call Me Irresponsible", it was an instant hit, and you can make multiple copies so all the relies can have their own copy.

Secondly I like to burn cds of my favourite beautiful songs to share with my special friends, I make a beautiful cd cover for the album and write a note sharing any special memories I have of the songs, what they mean to me, so that they stimulate thoughts and memories of the recipient. All you have to do is put a blank cd in your computer, tell it you want to burn an audio cd, then when you are in your Media Player, you simply drag songs to the burnlist, and click begin burn when you are ready. It automatically calculates how much time/space you have left in the cd so that you can fill it most effectively. It is quick and easy.

For free email greetings, I like smilebox you can send photo postcards, photo albums and scrapbook layouts with personal photos and text, even slide shows of up to 400 photos. It is wonderful, they are always adding new designs for you to pick from.

A friend sent me an elfyourself dancing elf video with her photo loaded onto the video clip, it is hilarious and you can make your own elfyourself and other movie clips with the site, through JibJab or OfficeMax.

Don't forget that you can frame or laminate children's art, or have it printed onto t-shirts, teatowels, cushions, and quilt covers. Of course the cost goes up as you move through that list (the quilt cover would be the most expensive, but a wonderful gift even for the child who drew the art to begin with).

Stocking Stuffers: candy canes; mobile phone charms; melts (from Dusk); bubble bath; textas and pretty pen sets; nail polish; small soft toys; 2009 diaries; bookmarks; scorched almonds; Christmas ornaments; stickers; boutique jams and marmalades; lotto tickets; sets of Christmas cards, for next year (I give these to my mum, she especially enjoys the homemade ones); shortbread; and CD singles.

I hope this helps you to find the beautiful and easy gifts that surround you, good luck and happy creating, love Starry

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Family Movies and Cool Summer Treats

This summer why not watch some family movies together in the cool comfort of your home? Here are some of my favourite movies to watch with my family.

Mouse Hunt
Home Alone
Baby's Day Out
The Lion King
Brother Bear
Finding Nemo
Toy Story
About A Boy
The Dark Crystal
The Princess Bride
The Wizard Of Oz
Ella Enchanted
Mary Poppins
The Wind In The Willows
Watership Down
Charlotte's Web
Anne of Green Gables
The Princess Diaries
What A Girl Wants
The Santa Clause
Ever After
Simon Birch
Into The West
School Of Rock
Its A Wonderful Life
The Sound of Music
A Knight's Tale

While you are watching the movies why not eat some frozen fruit kebabs? I skewer pieces of my favourite summer fruits (banana, grape, kiwi, apple, strawberry, pineapple, watermelon) onto kebab sticks and place in the freezer where they are left either to chill, or to freeze completely. They are so cooling, and as they take longer to eat than a popsicle the kids will be entertained for longer.

My favourite ice tea treat is simple black tea, chilled and then mixed with lemonade, it looks like a shandy but you can still drive and it is more refreshing than alcohol which is actually dehydrating.

Another simple tea is twinings peach and raspberry tea bag, chilled and served with ice, I love it.

What are your favourite summer treats? I hope we will soon have the weather to enjoy them, at the moment I have been having unseasonal rain and thunder.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 Things I Can Do to Improve Myself & the World

One day I decided to get specific about what I could do to improve myself, and of course via the outcomes, the world, at least in my immediate surrounding.

1. Be less judgemental, and remember that God loves everyone - He created them - so imagine how he feels when we speak insultingly of other people. We may name call, curse, or judge them even behind their back, it is not contributing to the greater good, and it poisons our own happiness and virtue.

2. Say please and thankyou more often, even to busy cashiers.

3. Give people second chances and forgive them when they ask, or apologise.

4. Pick up litter, just because you can.

5. Be more charitable and give gracefully.

6. Smile more!

7. Waste less - waste less time, energy, resources, food, money, and recycle and reuse more items.

8. Do everything you can to be fit and healthy. It is not limited to diet and exercise but includes taking care of yourself properly, not avoiding screening tests out of fear, taking medicines responsibly and seeking balance and order.

9. Anticipate the wants and needs of others, that way when you're taking care of them it seems natural and easy, they don't feel like they are putting you out.

10. Encourage people to fulfill their dreams and goals.

I hope this helps you to think of your own ten things, or even one, and I am working on a list of my next ten things, life is a lifelong mission and we are all works in progress.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Make Personal Comments in Cards & Letters

It seems that if there is ever a time to tell someone what they mean to you, it is on their special occasion, be it birthday, anniversary, or just to say thank you. As soon as you sit down with pen and paper, why do you get stuck? It may be that you feel stressed or under pressure to say the perfect thing. It may be that you are out of practice. Whatever the case there are some simple things that you can do to write a deeply personal, and therefore, individual message in a card or letter.

First of all, breathe, relax, stop thinking of yourself and focus on your special someone. Think of something about them that makes you feel happy, relaxed, even loved. Is it the twinkle in their eye, their smile, their laugh, is it their kindness, loyalty, or another attribute? Don't be afraid to tell them the thing you are thinking of, it will be a tremendous compliment.

Take a walk down memory lane - what is the first memory you have of this person? Remember a special moment or time in your life that you shared with this person. What is the funniest, naughtiest, or cheekiest thing you remember about your special person? Share your memories, memories bond us, if you share a memory your bond is strengthened.

If you are still short of filling your page, try sharing a quote, poem, or song lyrics, but always credit the original author. A poem does not have to be written by you to be appreciated - a beautiful quote or poem cited by you is still incredibly personal, it is flattering to think that these beautiful words reminded someone of yourself enough that they used it in a tribute to you.

I hope this helps you, I will have further tutorials along these lines in the future, my best wishes to you, Starry.

My Top 10 Stocking Stuffers

1. Darrell Lea mini bottles of boiled lollies (under $3 at Darrell Lea, selected pharmacies, and sweet shops) they are so pretty, I've always loved boiled lollies, and these are really good ones. The bottle is a great shape for reuse I have some filled with the tiniest most intricate beach shells I have collected over the years.

2. Dusk Melts. If you aren't aware, melts are strongly scented wax creations that are placed in the top part of an oil burner and they melt when the candle burns, releasing beautiful fragrance. They set again and can be used over and over before their scent wears out, then you just replace the melt. They come in value packs and are sold individually at Dusk. My favourite two varieties are Tibet and Rosehip Tea.

3. Diva rings, earrings and bracelets. The best variety of costume jewellery with new stock arriving every week of the year.

4. Rachael Hale pens, if you are familiar with this photographer's beautiful cat, dog, puppy and kitten calendars then you can imagine the pretty pens with pastel colours and photos on them. I bought mine at the cash register of a local card shop. It cost $3.95.

5. I like many of the cute jigsaw puzzles for young children, they are so bright and stimulating, they are fun to play with but they help the child to think strategically and to become more observant. A few weeks back K'mart shipped in a massive amount of the puzzles for under $5.

6. Mobile phone charms and lanyards for all ages and tastes.

7. Cute cookie cutter sets, the stainless steel ones are nice and shiny and last longer than the plastic ones which can break easily.

8. RSPCA small soft toys in cat and dog varieties you see them at Christmas and Easter in most toy shops including Kmart and Big W they are popular and they raise money and awareness for the cause of animal protection.

9. Mini LED torches that hang on your keyring. Mine is hot fuschia, they come in a number of metallic colours including electric blue, gold, and silver. I bought mine at Big W for under $10 it is gorgeous and so useful, especially getting home late at night to see to get the key in the door!

10. Christmas ornaments, ceramic figurines.... I always resort to these if I don't want to get more food type gifts in the stocking.

My reserve stocking stuffers are sets of handmade cards and gift tags for my friends who are too busy to make their own. I also like the eyeshadow palettes from last week, nail polish, the Razzamatazz lingerie bags I featured in my first week blogging, and the cute socks I got last week with glitter threads and cupcakes on them (they were Razzamatazz or Hole Proof, not sure, but purchased in a two pack from Big W).

I hope these help, there aren't too many boy ones there but that is because I am more in touch with the girly things, for boys I often find great t-shirts, they seem to like them and as they don't like shopping it makes their day!
Love, Starry

"It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to ones fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit", Isabel Currier

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Welcome to Easy Giving 101

Hi, my name is Starry and this is a continuation of a blog I created on bigblog, so to all my loyal readers from the pond, thank you, and to my new readers, I hope you will enjoy Easy Giving.

I created this blog to help inspire people to give from the heart. We have all heard it said that it is the thought that counts but many people don't know how to express themselves, especially to those they love or have profound appreciation for.

I will give you tips on how to speak from the heart, as well as profile free and affordable gifts that you can create, and also show you store gifts that I am excited about. I don't believe that money equals love, only love is love. Gifts that are meaningful and personal are the most memorable and in these tough economic times, make the most sense. Your recipient will enjoy their gift knowing you have not placed yourself in financial strain to celebrate their special day.

Missy Etiquette answers reader's gift related questions.

Special tutorials are given, some to date on bigblog include how to write personal comments in cards and letters, photographing pets, and craft projects that are easy and fun.

Giving from the heart in general is also encouraged, giving to your self, your family, and the world in the most positive and rewarding way. From time to time I share entries from my gratitude journal to help inspire your own grateful thoughts, we are creating a gratitude garden.

I hope you will get a lot out of the site, and enjoy Easy Giving as much as I do, love Starry