Monday, November 29, 2010

unique holiday gifts

Let’s face it – most of us are crazy busy at this time of year! The demands on our time increase as the hol­i­days approach. I abjure the mall in favor of online shop­ping when­ever I can. But I don’t resort to the big-box stores online – I try to find unique gifts from small spe­cialty shops and artists. Here are a few I rec­om­mend whole-heartedly:

Kathe Fraga is a painter liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton whose work is evoca­tive of the walls in an old Parisian man­sion. Cre­ated with acrylic on fres­coed can­vas and fin­ished with lac­quer, her orig­i­nal pieces sug­gest a glimpse of a larger view. And now she has cre­ated a set of eight cards faith­fully repro­duc­ing a series of her paint­ings. These are the per­fect host­ess gift for some­one special!

orig­i­nal art­work by kathe fraga

kathe fraga's won­der­ful cards

Another intrigu­ing artist is Portland-based Cathie Joy Young. She is cur­rently show­ing at The Lit­tle Things Show at Guardino Gallery. Many beau­ti­ful small works are avail­able for gift-giving. Orig­i­nal art­work is such a per­sonal gift — and the small size pieces are afford­able where larger pieces might not be.  Cathie also has an Etsy shop and offers cards and more on Zaz­zle.

a small work by Cathie Joy Young

A lit­tle closer to home, Shan­dells in Miller­ton NY is per­haps best known for cus­tom lamps and lamp­shades.  But for the hol­i­day sea­son (and year round), Susan Schnei­der also cre­ates match­boxes, tis­sue boxes and more. In par­tic­u­lar, the match­box and can­dle sets (fea­tured in House Beau­ti­ful) are per­fect for teacher gifts and long-lasting host­ess gifts. Each box has a wood top cov­ered with a bold graphic paper that is decoupaged, and the cor­ners are fit­ted by hand with cop­per tape. Hand­made, beau­ti­ful and incred­i­bly use­ful – what could be better?

shan­dells can­dle and matches gift set

hun­dreds of match boxes to choose from! is a small hand­crafted soap and can­dle busi­ness located in cen­tral New Jer­sey. Whether you need cus­tom photo or logo soaps for spe­cial occa­sion, or sim­ple witty hol­i­day gifts, Ellen has what you need.  Their “Santa’s Coal Soap” was fea­tured in Real Sim­ple mag­a­zine and I know a few peo­ple who would love the Bacon Soap! Check out and more options at Etsy.

santa's coal soap

I hope you find the per­fect hol­i­day gifts for every­one on your list! And if you tweet, fol­low these great tweeps: @kathefraga, @ cathiejoyy­oung, @shandells @sweetsoaps.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas colors — traditional vs. non-traditional?

Thanks­giv­ing passed in a flash, and the Christ­mas rush is upon us! For the first time ever, our tree was stand­ing before Thanks­giv­ing — our own lit­tle Christ­mas mir­a­cle. Actu­ally not so mirac­u­lous, as this is the first year we have tried a faux tree, so it was either set it up or leave the enor­mous ship­ping box in the foyer for another few weeks. It still awaits dec­o­ra­tion other than lights, but this week should see its final dressing.

Our home color scheme is warm, and heav­ily weighted toward golds, reds and greens. Tra­di­tional Christ­mas col­ors blend rather eas­ily with our usual décor. But what if your home palette is cooler, or funkier? Do you force the usual hol­i­day col­ors, or use the color scheme you live with every day?

You can choose col­ors that are not typ­i­cally asso­ci­ated with Christ­mas to cre­ate a unique look, while still using sea­sonal green­ery for a tra­di­tional feel. Or you can trend into a more mod­ern look, with a mono­chrome pal­lette and plenty of metallics.

Have you con­sid­ered pur­ple and gold for a fresh look?

from the daily mail

 Per­haps orange works with your décor? Love the pea­cock topper!

from Veranda, by Mary McDonald

 Blue is increas­ingly pop­u­lar for the holidays…

from prague

Would you give up your green tree in favor of sil­ver or white? I am lov­ing that tree skirt…

from mak­ing it lovely

Have you con­sid­ered the eco-consciousness of your tree choice? I will admit that I have not. My under­stand­ing it that cut-trees are slightly ahead of faux trees on the eco-friendly scale, given that most faux are made with non-renewable plas­tics. Would you, could you, give up both in favor of…plywood?

from buro north

I think I might, if I lived in an urban loft. Con­sider how cool it looks, and it packs flat! Maybe with some decorations?

If you've done non-traditional Christ­mas décor or col­ors at your home, send me a pic­ture. I'd love to share!

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