Tis the Season for Gift Anxiety

gplusbannerWe’ve been told the economy is in an upturn, but I’m afraid that only means the rich are making profits again. Seems this is largely based on underpaying most people, as so many good jobs with benefits are gone, obliging people to hold down multiple part time jobs instead with raises and bonuses now the stiff of myth. As a result, the retail market is again tanking, since many are not getting gifts at all, while others are reduced to shopping at s is at the dollar store.

mamabearsmallI’ve been making gifts for most of my life, not just because they are economical, but because if I make them myself they aren’t going to fall apart immediately.  If you can sew or knit, you can male personalized gifts like this Teddy Bear I made for my neice decades ago (that her children play with today).

It is late to start making your own, but here are a couple ideas of gifts you can make in a relatively short period of time.


Bake cookies, cakes and Christmas treats etc. and package them in tins, mason jars, whatever you have (note: especially if it is a reuse tin or plastic container, be sure to line with waxed paper)


Burn DVDs of free culture movies (or make a gift card with a link to downloads or places to watch online) like Sita Sings The Blues
Blender Animation
or any of the wonderful old movies are in the public domain available at the Internet Archive movie section.


In Canada blank burnable CDs are more expensive than blank burnable DVDs (thank copyright law for that bit of foolishness), but for the music lover’s in your life that may be just the ticket. One of my absolute favourite musicians is Josh Woodward, who releases all of his music CC by, again, making it easy and legal to download and burn a CD.

Find more free culture music through the Creative Commons search tool here,  at the Free Music Archive, or Internet Archive.

There are lots of free culture books as well that can be found in digital formats at Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Canada, and Project Gutenberg Australia


Great gifties for grandparents: plaster of paris toddler hand or footprints. Best to use a disposable container for the plaster placque.

1. mix the plaster
2. pour plaster into container
3. Press a pencil or straw into the plaster at the top so the plaque can be hung on the wall
4. cover your child’s hand or foot in vaseline before pressing it into the plaster.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT submerge. The top of the hand or foot needs to be able to lift out cleanly.
5. Paint (or not)

Dead Lightbulb GrinchMake decorations out of bits and pieces around the house. Broken bits of costume jewellery and toys can often be refurbished, or you can paint a Grinch on an old lightbulb.

You can find many “blanks” (plain wood boxes, christmas ornament cutouts, picture frames, clocks) at craft or dollar stores.  You can decoupage pretty pictures cut from magazines, or pictures of your kids on these (modge podge) or you and/or the kids can paint or decorate them.  You can get water based Tempra paint (like they use in elementary school) if your small kids are doing the decorating, more durable (and still water based) is acryllic craft paint available from art, craft, hardware or dollar stores.  A few bottles of primary colours will go a long way.  Crayons or markers can be used as well.

Make your own bakers’s clay ornaments etc. with the recipe at a maker’s space.

You can also make a lot of decorations by hand– paper snowflakes, paper chains, and my absolute favourite: popcorn garland!  Use old colour comics or magazine pages for wrapping.

Hope this helps make the holidays happy!




Star made of modelling clay, coloured with crayonI’ve been having a terrible time getting my debut novel to market.  I’m way behind the schedule I set for myself.  It’s a good book, and I’m very proud of it.   So what’s the problem?

Well, there is a lot to self publishing.  Just learning the technical stuff – crafting an ebook format that makes me happy is a bit more difficult than I expected.   Especially when there are other calls on my attention.  I think that I blogged more in November (NaNoWriMo) than any other time during the year because so many important political issues are coming to a head right now.

Then there are real life issues… like getting prepared for the festive season that is almost upon us.  I haven’t even got my annual Christmas card ready, which results in a twinge every time I open a card I’ve received.   I’m a dinosaur, I like mailing cards.  It’s a nice way to stay in touch with family.   The worst of it has been the politics.  I’m not a politician, I’m a writer.  A fiction writer.  But a lot of stuff is happening that I just have to blog about.   In the past, the world of politics has traditionally slowed down in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

But the reverse seems true this year.

American Flag

In the US: SOPA/PIPA threaten the Internet in Canada and around the world while the American Bill of Rights is taking an even greater hit with the passage of the NDAA yesterday.

canadian flag

In Canada: Our government seems in a rush to follow the American footsteps in becoming a police state with the prosecution of Byron Sonne and Julian Ichim

Canada is also fast tracking legislation that will assault Canadian civil rights with the Omnibus Crime Bill

A surge of public opinion regarding incursions against the Canadian right to privacy resulted in the removal of Lawful Access portion of Bill C-10, the Omnibus Crime Bill. However, the government is forging ahead and plans to push the pared down Omnibus Crime Bill through in spite of very real concerns raised on a variety of fronts. Serious issues raised by all stakeholders (the only exception being the corporate special interest group behind the draft legislation) have been similarly dismissed by the Government in respect of Bill C-11 “The Copyright Modernization Act”

Yet the Canadian Government has stated its firm intention to pass both of these highly controversial and unpopular laws by Christmas.

Are they doing this because they hope those of us who believe passage of these laws will be a tragedy for Canada will stop being concerned because we will be too caught up with our Christmas preparations, you know, peace on earth and goodwill toward men?

My child will be coming home from university this Christmas, so I want it to be special. That’s important.

But what is even more important is that the world he inherits should be at least as free and respectful of his Charter rights as it was when he was born.

Peace on earth is a good goal – maybe it’s time to bring our soldiers home from an unjust foreign war.

Good will toward men is another.   I raised my child to be a good citizen, to live with honour, to think for himself, to share what he has with friends, to help those less fortunate than himself, to safeguard the environment, and to respect the law.  When he was small, our family mantra was “people are not for hurting.”  Now that he is an adult, it still is.

So.  For 2009, my house will be messier than usual, my cards will be late, and my book delayed, all because I don’t want to see our government legislate away our privacy, our ability to share our culture freely if we choose, or our liberty without very good reason.   My grandparents escaped from Soviet Russia so they wouldn’t have to raise their family in the shadow of the Gulag.  I don’t want to see my child, or any other Canadians, deprived of liberty by incarceration except as a last resort.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s a lot cheaper, too.

My Christmas wish for Canada is to see some real “Good will toward men” … and women … and children.

these lights stretch to the Clock Tower, photographed at Victoria Park, kitchenerFurther reading should include Stephen Bradley Scott’s important three part Lawful Access series. Although removed from the Omnibus Bill, our Government remains committed to this legislation.