Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Couple of Non-Holiday Cards and Some Talk about Simplicity and Christmas

How about a couple of birthday cards for today? They're made with Dare 2B Artzy's Eat More Cake set and represent my playing around with color and placement. One is, in my opinion, more successful than the other, even though I like them both.

The first card is fine, although I would like the candles and sentiment to be placed slightly closer together. The colors are fresh and fun citrus and perfect for a summer birthday, don't you think? But analogous color schemes (three in a row on the color wheel) can be a little flat if there's not something for contrast (such as black). Note that the first and last candles are lime, just like the sentiment, to create a better sense of unity for the design. The flames are accented with yellow Stickles.

The next card has a much more successful layout.

Adding the bow to the sentiment as if it were a wrapped present is much more unifying and visually interesting than the row of candles. The colors are essentially complementary (opposites on the color wheel), which gives a huge amount of pop to them. Also, taking advantage of the rule of thirds and placing the whole design on the 1/3rd line at the bottom of the card adds interest and stability.

At least, that's how I read the two cards. You might have a different opinion!

And Now for Some Holiday Talk

I'm a hypocrite.

You see, I posted a Christmas card for Friday, but Saturday morning at JCPenney I ranted to my son about how retailers start the holidays too soon.

"Maybe they're just trying to draw out the holiday spirit, Mom."

"No, Nick. They are trying to sell stuff. Lots of stuff. And they want you to start buying Christmas presents right now, hide them, forget about them, and buy more the day after Thanksgiving."


"Yes, really."

Holiday cynicism. It's justified.

Of course, in making holiday cards early, there's no sinister ulterior motive...I'm simply trying to prevent a last-minute panic of having to make 120 or so cards in a rush at the busiest time of the year. Been there, done that, not a lot of fun.

But some of you, I know, can't stand seeing Christmas cards on blogs this early. You either don't make holiday cards, or mass-produce them at some point closer to the holiday, or have really short lists of people you send cards to and don't fret about it as I do. You feel like I did at JC Penney. Or at Hobby Lobby in July when the Christmas stuff started appearing there. I get that. And I'm sorry.

Now, since I became a mommy, I've been rushing from one crisis to another as they pop up in my life. I just sent a whole pile of birthday cards for October late, for instance. Oh, the cards were made months in advance, but I didn't send them out until late. I'm human and forgetful and distracted and hate myself, but there you have it.

Christmas, however, usually gets more planning...and this makes my AR/OC self happy.

By the middle of November, I'm usually finished making cards and turn my focus to making some larger crafty items (teacher gifts and such) and tracking down addresses of people who have moved. After Thanksgiving, I start shopping for gifts and decorating my house, the family goes to a tree farm to chop down our own tree, and I start writing my Advent posts for Questioning my Intelligence.

In other words, I'm fairly organized when it comes to Christmas. Since 2004, I have kept a Christmas planning journal...just started volume two this year. I read back over it to remind myself where I've gone wrong before, and of tips I found that were really helpful.

What I have learned from this journal is that most of what we stress over is pretty pointless. The holidays should be a time of joy and love and peace and happiness and celebration. Anything that keeps us from feeling that joy is unnecessary baggage.

This Christmas, things are changing somewhat. With my recent diagnosis of specific allergies, a lot of our d├ęcor will need to be reconsidered. A live tree? Is that any worse than a fake tree full of dust mites? I have the same allergic reaction to putting together a fake tree as I have to trimming a live one. What will we do this year?

After I decorated our new house last year, I was extremely dissatisfied with the results. Our decorations had looked great in the old house, with its 18-foot ceilings and balconies and showcase stairs, but here, in our one-story home with 9-foot ceilings and much darker decor, they were just too much. Too much garland, too many dusty old nick-knacks, too much clutter. I want a simpler, cleaner Christmas this year.

My sinuses will thank me for it. I hope.

So even though it's not yet Halloween and I hate the early commercialism of Christmas, I'm going to start sharing my thoughts and experiences with Christmas planning and our family's move toward a minimalist Christmas.

I'm going to focus on the following question: What is the least I must do to make this Christmas our most festive ever? In other words, where's the balance? It's time to evaluate what is really important and what we do because everyone else does or because we think we must or because we're trying to live up to other people's expectations or because it's what we've always done even if it's not exactly fun anymore.

It's time to be kind to ourselves this holiday season and not run ourselves ragged trying to do everything and be everything. And because I'm a Stephen Minister and think about these things, I'll also address things you can do (or not do) when you're having a very blue Christmas full of uncertainty, pain, grief, or fear.

I sincerely hope my thoughts and experiences help you find your own way to Christmas peace and joy this year, even if you're a maximalist sort of Christmas person. As usual, my advice is to be yourself...intentionally. Find your own balance, your own happy place in the holiday season. By sharing my intentional process, perhaps you will find your own more easily.

That would make me very happy, indeed!

PS I'm going to start using labels for posts again. I know at least one reader will be happy about it (yes, you, kegbo!). I will not go back and label past posts, but I will move forward using them. Or at least try.

stamps: Dare 2B Artzy Eat More Cake
ink: versacolor
paper: Papertrey
accessories: Stickles, rhinestone


  1. OK, I'll be first. I make Christmas cards all year long, when the ideas or inspiration or time on my hands hits me. Also because I find that they are more useful than some of the other 'occasions' that cards are made for. And because I like to have them all on hand before the rush in December. And finally, because I love Christmas and if we're trying to 'keep Christmas in our hearts' all year long, that's one way to do it. I figure the world's gonna do what the world's gonna do, and it's up to us to keep Christmas as commercial (or not) as we want it to be in our own lives. Love your colour combinations on these cards, too - I especially love the simplicity of the second - that bow just makes it so celebratory!

  2. My personal Christmas cards for this year are pretty much done. I am well ahead of the curve so I'll be able to start work on the cards that people request I make for them to send to their friends and family.
    I am anxious to follow your "thoughts and experiences" for this Christmas.

  3. Okay, I'll be the one to admit that I gave up making Christmas cards (or sending out Christmas cards) a few years ago. Prior to that, I would come up with a mass produced card (not much different than just sending out a mass produced photo card, IMHO) and would spend a couple of days stressing to get them in the mail.
    Then came the added stress of usually working full time during the holidays covering for everyone else who wanted to take off that time. Extra money during the holidays: Good. Extra stress during the holidays: Not so good. Sooo, I gave myself permission to just let Christmas cards go. I would rather spend the time putting up my various trees (because the last year I made cards, I barely got up ONE itty bitty little tree for the boys) and trying to enjoy all the extra performances, social activities,etc., that come with the season.
    Though, I do admit I have considered trying to start making cards now. But instead, I just might start making teacher gifts and baking and freezing holiday goodies so that is one less "stress" on the list instead!!!

  4. Your cards to start, Susan ... I do like the colour palette on the first ... it's only when you mentioned it that I realised a little closer together may be better ... I'm imagining. The second is glorious ... simple, fresh and so wonderfully minimalist. I use one Christmas card design, the nativity ... the reason we celebrate Christmas ... a feast-day I love! Commercialism ... such a challenge to ignore all the hype in shops, on tv and just about everywhere ... I know, going your own way isn't always an easy choice. Looking forward to reading your thoughts. Anita :)

  5. Well I quite agree with you on several points...#1 the first card is cute and happy but you're right with the monochromatic color scheme nothing really pops. #2. Yes, the candles place closer together would be nicer. #3 Love the bow atop the sentiment, definitely conveys the party feeling. #4 Christmas and all it's pluses and minuses...Well I'm also guilty of being a hypocrite, having posted Christmas cards recently and being quite unhappy with all the Christmas hype in store after store...and we haven't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet! #5. I am being myself this year as I was last and the year before that. There was a time when I was caught up in all the pre-Christmas preparations and was ready for Christmas to be over December 1st. But I changed all that a few years ago and I'm happy I did.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post, a very good read! :)

  6. I agree with you about the cards. I find the second more pleasing, although I do like both. As for Christmas cards, I believe I have posted at least two earlier in the year. I have made all that I need - 40+. I was determined not to be behind this year. I quite proud that most were made from scraps. All are CAS. As for decorating, we moved about 7 years ago. We don't live near our sons, grandson or any extended family. I'm still trying to find a way to decorate that works for is in the home we have now. I did get a new color scheme which I like, but haven't gotten the decorations placed in a pleasing way. I'll keep trying, and hope to get it "right" this year.

  7. I don't think it's early for Christmas, at all. I haven't bought anything yet, but will start very soon. I usually have my gifts wrapped by Dec. 1st when the tree goes up., or at least the first weekend of December. Pretty much the only Christmas prep I do in December is baking because the only store I will go to is the grocery store. If I think of anything else I forgot to buy, I'll try to order it on-line so I can avoid actual shopping! I have been making Christmas cards all year, so am pretty much ready on that front.

    We have a fake tree because real would give me allergies. Maybe you could try vacuuming your tree? Did you know that caffeine can exacerbate sinus problems, among other things?

    I agree that the second card is better, mostly because I love complimentary color schemes.

  8. I love both your cards and you always give good advice about placement and color. I love how you took the Dare 2B Artzy stamp set and put the stamps in a totally unexpected way. I would not have thought about the bow on top of the word and it looks great! Thanks for all your inspiration.
    As for Christmas...I have a hard time seeing it in the stores so early because it is there to make money. I don't have a problem seeing Christmas cards on posts because they are made with love and thoughtfulness and intended to inspire others to make their own Christmas cards. I for one, need lots of time to think about the cards I am going to make and send out. Thanks to all those already posting Christmas for my inspiration!

  9. Love the cards Susan. I love how you 'analyse' your designs. My cards tend to just 'fall together'-drives me crazy sometimes.
    Christmas cards-I love them anytime of year. I don't send out a lot, but do make some for OWH-I really should start them sooner. Maybe next year :))
    I have scaled back on the amount of decorating I do for the holidays. I focus on the nativity, angels, and some snowmen. My Christmas village is set up around a nativity scene. You will only find 2 Santas in my decor, both Denim Days figurines I set out for my grandkids, and when they are beyond that stage, the santas will disappear.
    About the Christmas tree issue, I used to have issues with a real tree until we started cutting them on our own land. The problems I had with the real one (from a nursery or tree farm) is the fire retardant and fake color they spray them with. I did find I had less issues with balsams than the other evergreens. But since we switched to 'untreated' trees, I have had no issues. Even with the untreated, we set the tree outside and hose it down well to remove any dust or other things and set it in the garage to dry overnight.

    1. Rinsing off the tree makes perfect sense! Do you unwrap the twine first or just rinse it all tied up?

    2. Since we cut the tree on our own land, it isn't wrapped with twine. But I would take the twine off it to be able to get into all the branches.

  10. Great post on Christmas, Susan. I'd love to see photos of your more minimal Christmas decorating as I'm trying to do that too.

    I need a lot of Christmas cards as I sell about 200 of them as a fundraiser for the therapeutic riding program I volunteer with (horse riding for children with disabilities) plus I need my own cards to mail out so I make them all year long. I don't have a blog but I do post a lot of them on SCS throughout the year. I use most of the SCS challenges for Christmas cards - it helps keep me inspired to make so many. So I don't really equate making and posting Christmas cards with the stores starting their decorating so early. That I see as part of our rampant commercialism which just gets worse and worse.

  11. "PS I'm going to start using labels for posts again. I know at least one reader will be happy about it (yes, you, kegbo!)" Ah, Susan, you have made me very, very happy!
    As for starting the holiday season early, feel sorry for me (I certainly am): this year Hanukkah starts the night before Thanksgiving!!!! Waaaaaah!

  12. I sit here reading and puzzling over the "Christmas is in all the stores now" that everyone is saying and wondering how I missed it. Here's the secret: don't go in the stores. Grocery stores and the pet store are not decorated for Christmas! And neither will my house be. I put colored lights up outside my house because that's my favorite part of the holiday but I don't do decorations inside as it is nice to escape from all the holiday madness once the day is over. That also solves the problem of the tree. Maybe you could plant a live one outside a window and decorate that. As far as cards go I do wish I could be like the lady who works on them on and off all year round. Unfortunately I have too much craft clutter so all the Christmas themed craft stuff goes in a box stashed in a far closet. I am working on the craft clutter so one day it can be a part of the easily accessible stuff and I can work on it when the whim strikes.

    1. Good point about staying out of the stores! And my hubs would love the idea of planting a live tree to decorate AND having a cut one in our house.

  13. part of me loves the idea of packing the house with christmas stuff and having the season start now and the other half will enjoy the very few but lovely or special christmas things we kept. i think i'm happy either way!

    1. That's good, Joan. The decorations are just stuff, really, and the joy is in family and friends and all the love of the season.


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