Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reply to Ye Olde Christmas Letter

Woman Writing a Letter

Mrs. Jones reading the reply

Dear Friends the Joneses,

How nice of you to go to all that trouble to send us a card, seeing how busy you are. And thank you for the long letter updating us on the doings of your family. The paper was such nice, fine quality. It was a pity to throw it away but we had to use it to light the kindling in our little tin-can stove. It is the only heat source we have now, in the garage, since our home burned down this year, just before the snow storm hit.

Congratulations to you for your new son-in-law, and that your daughter married so well. It sounds like you are enjoying your grandchildren. We are, too, since the job market crashed and all the kiddos moved back home-- with all 17 grandchildren. Fortunately they think tent camping in winter is "fun."

Our in-laws have parked their RV close by, so we have some access to plumbing and running water. Since my son's father-in-law lost his job, they have been strapped for cash. We felt that it would only be fair to let them stay in the driveway and enjoy their grandchildren, too. We are hoping that the landlord will see fit to take our collected rent and let us stay a little while longer, since we can't go anywhere else as gas prices are high and we only have one car now, since we sold the others to buy food.

I hope you don't mind us re-using the front of your Christmas card. The post office forgot to cancel the stamp, which was a boon for us. You are the only person to get a card from us this year-- until the post office forgets to cancel another stamp.

If you are ever up this way, be sure to drop by and say "hi." We'll put more water in the soup for you.

We are sure you will have a warm and merry Christmas.

-The Smiths

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ye Olde Annual Christmas Letter

Good News from Abroad
Good News from...
George Smith
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Dear Jane and John,

Well hello again, friends. It has been another fantastic year. I hope you enjoyed it! Our family grew by leaps and bounds again this year-- we were so busy we met ourselves coming and going!

Our daughter's wedding in France was beautiful-- it was quite a feat not just to host 600 people for a wedding, but to get them on planes to the wedding was something else! She pulled it off beautifully. It was a good thing the chateau was large. And here we have yet another son-in-law that is a millionaire. Our daughter continues in her highly successful career as a consultant, and she is often called away from her Island home in the Mediterranean to fly all over Europe and offer her advice.

Our second son graduated this year with all the usual honors from Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge all in one month! You can imagine how tired he was from all that studying and traveling. He is excitedly looking toward the future as he starts his new job in a prestigious law firm. He is already on track for the presidency and sure that in a couple years he'll win an election. Pretty good for a 15 year old.

Our youngest boy-- the baby of the family!-- is really into sports. He's won every major competition in swimming, basketball, biking, skateboarding, track, skiing, hockey, soccer, football, figure skating, volleyball, baseball, chess, and Frisbee. His coaches are talking about sending him to the Olympics. If so, that would make 3 of our kids who have competed in that venue.

My Uncle Hal won the lottery again!! That makes twice! Can't believe the luck of that man! We enjoy having him around-- he was a 5 star chef and he makes the most wonderful meals for us. We want him to retire and stay with us forever, but he is in much demand in Hollywood.

Hubby and I continue our busy week of work, he has been with his company for so long they are naming the new office building after him, and I am still called upon again and again to run the bank. I guess a person of my abilities can't be done without! But I have to get off work early so I can oversee the construction of our new house. This is our 5th custom home, and I think I'm beginning to be an old pro at being my own general contractor.

The new home will be our biggest yet, as we are expecting to host a lot of family gatherings, now that our oldest has had their 3rd child. Yes, we are grandparents yet again. All the little ones have far exceeded the normal milestones; Ace was supposed to enroll for kindergarten, but the teachers in 2nd grade begged to have her there! Topp is reading already-- at 2 years old. This isn't a surprise as his Daddy already was writing up his thesis at 2 1/2, and his Mother had cut an album of original songs by that age. And the new little baby is as bright as they come, so they named her Starr.

Lest you think it is nothing but work, work, work around here, we did enjoy 5 weeks of vacation this year, besides the wedding (which I don't think you can call a vacation!). Two relaxing weeks we spent at our summer home in Aspen. Then we spent some time visiting friends in Italy, and took a hop over to India and enjoyed a resort. Then off to Australia! You can imagine we were glad to get home and take a rest! But with the Christmas holidays upon us, we will be glad to take some time off of the hustle and bustle and celebrate the New Year on our Yacht in the Caribbean.

We hope that your family has a happy holiday!

-The Joneses

Hi Smiths-- how are you poor people doing this winter? I heard you had 6 feet of snow and no power for a week! Hope you stay warm!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Printable Card Display Easels

Here are some printable paper easels to use for displaying holiday cards. These easels are also nice for displaying any home-made cards you might get for birthdays, etc., which can often be so elaborate that it is a pity to store them in a box! If you are handy with your printer, you could print the easels out smaller and use them for  place card holders on a holiday dinner table (though you would have to have a lot of patience or many willing volunteers to cut around all those leaf-points for a large Thanksgiving gathering!).

 The Christmas Tree card holder (pictured above) has been cut out of green card-stock.

Print the easels on heavy card stock and cut, or glue two print-outs together if your card stock isn't thick enough. If you find the cards aren't standing right, you can bend back the upper branches of the tree slightly, but I have tried to "engineer" that trouble out of the templates for you! 
Click the links to go to the Google Drive page, and look for the little printer icon to print.
Christmas Tree and Autumn Leaf Easel

Here is a Christmas card displayed on the tree easel. 

Just for fun, I've included some print-outs for other seasonal and holiday cards.

 An Autumn leaf  Easel. (The print-out has a slightly longer base, as I found it was a little sturdier that way, so yours will be slightly different than the picture.) Just for fun, I decorated the easel by just stamping it with ink pads.
Christmas Tree and Autumn Leaf Easel
 Here's one for Valentine's day, perhaps. I glued two easels together for this one, to get two colors.
On the other side, I glued pink hearts to the card stock.
Heart and Flower Easels
Another two-tone easel, perhaps for Springtime or Easter, with the bottom part cut out of green card stock and glued to some pink card stock.
Heart and Flower Easels

And just in case you would rather have a simply shaped card easel, here is a plain one. The one above I covered in scrap-book paper. Plain and Fancy Easels
 And another one with just a few scrolls to make it a bit fancy. This one I am showing decorated with rubber stamps (below).
 This particular easel does well displaying open cards, too, so you can see the message inside of your card.
Plain and Fancy Easels

And here is a BONUS idea for you! Use the "negative" side of the print-out to make a card! I have used the "Scrolly" easel on red card stock to make a flourish (below) and I think the Christmas tree negative would also be neat glued to the inside of a card.

Or you could use the easels themselves glued on a card. 

I hope my readers enjoy this little craft, and that you all have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Modern Way To Clean Out The Basment

First, get an early start. Pull out everything you can to make a path through it so once you get in, you can get out. By the time you are done with this, your friend next door will be awake and texting you, so you can have a break and answer her text and then send her a picture of the massive project you are undertaking. If your friend liked the photo, it might make a neat Facebook update, so upload the photo to Facebook, and put a clever caption on it-- "boy I need a Starbucks right now..." 
Look at the mess again, decide where to start. Move a box. Say, it might be a good idea to have "before" and "after" photos-- so take another picture of the mess and upload it to Instagram. 
Now a few comments are trickling in on Facebook. Some of them are very clever-- answer with some cute replies of your own before going back to work.
Pick up the old lampshade, and wonder whether to keep it or toss it, then wonder why you wonder whether to keep the out-of-style thing!  Say, this project might make a great blog post: "How to stoicly let go of useless objects for a cleaner house." Take pictures of  a few items that you might want to toss, to post on your blog. 
It isn't any good typing a whole post on a smart phone! Besides, it must be almost lunch time. So go in the house to fire up the laptop so you can do some decent typing. Get out the tablet to look up a good lunch recipe. 
After lunch, and typing your post, uploading photos, getting on Photoshop to crop and write quotables on the photos, searching your affiliates for any links that could be useful in your post, and looking up to see if "stoicly" is a word since the spellchecker seems to think that it isn't (you know you've heard it used before), publish the post, then read and edit it for the things you left out or shouldn't have left in. 
By now your friends on Facebook have simmered down, but there are some comments on your Instagram that could be answered. 
My, you didn't realize that the sun was getting lower in the sky. You really got distracted!  But at least you have a great blog post to show for your time. 
It's time to get back on task, but you just don't feel like it. Maybe a jaunt over to Pinterest to look up "Organization" boards will inspire you. Say, there are some really good ones there that you should add to your own boards, and some pictures to embed on your latest post. 
Well, it's time to get down there in the basement (or up there in the attic) and start following all that good advice you wrote about on your blog-- at least with the time left you can start a pile to take to the thrift store. Oh wait, your friend is texting you to say that your blog post is great! I'll bet there are some comments on the post already. Better check to see.
It's dinner time now, and you are getting awfully tired-- mostly your eyes hurt. You only moved one box and a lampshade. Well, Rome wasn't built in a day! I'll bet those Romans never had to clean out a basement anyway. They probably filled it in with dirt and built on top of it. Yeah, that's what they did!  That's why we have archaeologists today-- to clean out those old basements. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Art of Discouragement

Discovering the Telescope, 1855
Discovering the...
Edouard Ender
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By Arthur Helps  

Regarding, one day, in company with a humorous friend, a noble vessel
of a somewhat novel construction sailing slowly out of port, he observed,
"What a quantity of cold water somebody must have had down his back." In
my innocence, I supposed that he alluded to the wet work of the artisans
who had been building the vessel; but when I came to know him better, I
found that this was the form of comment he always indulged in when
contemplating any new and great work, and that his "somebody" was the
designer of the vessel.

   My friend had carefully studied the art of discouragement, and there
was a class of men whom he designated simply as "cold-water pourers." It
was most amusing to hear him describe the lengthened sufferings of the man
who first designed a wheel; of him who first built a boat; of the
adventurous personage who first proposed the daring enterprise of using
buttons, instead of fish bones, to fasten the scanty raiment of some
savage tribe.

   Warming with his theme, he would become quite eloquent in describing
the long career of discouragement which  these rash men had brought upon
themselves, and which he said, to his knowledge, must have shortened their
lives. He invented imaginary dialogues between the unfortunate inventor,
say of the wheel, and his particular friend, some eminent cold-water
pourer. For, as he said, every man has some such friend, who fascinates
him by fear, and to whom he confides his enterprises in order to hear the
worst that can be said of them.

   The sayings of the chilling friend, probably, as he observed, ran
thus:--"We seem to have gone on very well for thousands of years without
this rolling thing. Your father carried burdens on his back. The king is
content to be borne on men's shoulders. The high priest is not too proud
to do the same. Indeed, I question whether it is not irreligious to
attempt to shift from men's shoulders their natural burdens.

   "Then, as to its succeeding,--for my part, I see no chance of that. How
can it go up hill? How often you have failed before in other fanciful
things of the same nature! Besides, you are losing your time; and the yams
about your hut are only half planted. You will be a beggar; and it is my
duty, as a friend, to tell you so plainly.

   "There was Nang-chung: what became of him? We had found fire for ages,
in a proper way, taking a proper time about it, by rubbing two sticks
together. He must needs strike out fire at once, with iron and flint; and
did he die in his bed? Our sacred lords saw the impiety of that
proceeding, and very justly impaled the man who imitated heavenly powers.
And, even if you could succeed with this new and absurd rolling thing, the
state would be ruined. What would become of those who carry burdens on
their backs? Put aside the vain fancies of a childish mind, and finish the
planting of your yams."

  It is really very curious to observe how, even in modern times, the
arts of discouragement prevail. There are men whose sole pretense to
wisdom consists in administering discouragement. They are never at a loss.
They are equally ready to prophesy, with wonderful ingenuity, all possible
varieties of misfortune to any enterprise that may be proposed; and when
the thing is produced, and has met with some success, to find a flaw in

   I once saw a work of art produced in the presence of an eminent
cold-water pourer. He did not deny that it was beautiful; but he instantly
fastened upon a small crack in it that nobody had observed; and upon that
crack he would dilate whenever the work was discussed in his presence.
Indeed, he did not see the work, but only the crack in it. That
flaw,--that little flaw,--was all in all to him.

  The cold-water pourers are not all of one form of mind. Some are led to
indulge in this recreation from genuine timidity. They really do fear that
all new attempts will fail. Others are simply envious and ill-natured.
Then, again, there is a sense of power and wisdom in prophesying evil.
Moreover, it is the safest thing to prophesy, for hardly anything at first
succeeds exactly in the way that it was intended to succeed.

   Again, there is the lack of imagination which gives rise to the
utterance of so much discouragement. For an ordinary man, it must have
been a great mental strain to grasp the ideas of the first projectors of
steam and gas, electric telegraphs, and pain-deadening chloroform. The
inventor is always, in the eyes of his fellow-men, somewhat of a madman;
and often they do their best to make him so.

   Again, there is the want of sympathy; and that is, perhaps, the ruling
cause in most men's minds who have given themselves up to discourage. They
are not tender enough, or sympathetic enough, to appreciate all the pain
they are giving, when, in a dull plodding way, they lay out argument after
argument to show that the project which the poor inventor has set his
heart upon, and upon which, perhaps, he has staked his fortune, will not

   But what inventors suffer, is only a small part of what mankind in
general endure from thoughtless and unkind discouragement. Those
high-souled men belong to the suffering class, and must suffer; but it is
in daily life that the wear and tear of discouragement tells so much.
Propose a small party of pleasure to an apt discourager, and see what he
will make of it. It soon becomes sicklied over with doubt and despondency;
and, at last, the only hope of the proposer is, that his proposal, when
realized, will not be an ignominious failure. All hope of pleasure, at
least for the proposer, has long been out of the question.

-McGuffey's 5th reader