easy ways to do good

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Over on Facebook, I keep seeing ideas shared on easy ways to help out the homeless that you pass on the street, so as we move into the winter months, I thought it might be useful to compile the ideas I’ve seen into a blog post.

  • Meal Bags – The following incredibly simple idea comes from Thomas Willeford.  (Photo credit is his.)foodThese cans of food can be purchased for about $1/each on sale, and are examples of things that can be made into self-contained easily carried-and-opened meals that don’t necessarily need to be cooked.  Add prepackaged take-out packs of forks/spoons/napkins and a bottle of water, and store them in bags in your car to be distributed as needed.  Total cost per bag is roughly under $2.
  • Fill-A-Bag  purseYou can obviously get creative with this idea.  Add in snacks, gift cards, socks, gloves, combs…the possibilities are endless.  Or if you have other types of bags, customize one for the guys.  These items can be so easily found in the trial size section of a grocery or drug store – or, if you’re staying at a hotel and you don’t use the soaps and shampoos in your room, take them with you for these packages!
  • Suspended Coffees – Being a lover of coffee, I love this idea…although it can easily extend to meal times, not just coffee.  There is a network of cafes around the world where you can prebuy a coffee (or a cup of soup, or whatever you’d like), and ask the barista to ‘suspend’ the purchase.  When someone in need comes in and asks for a suspended coffee, they get this item.  It’s truly a random act of kindness and you can do it knowing that your money is going directly to a person in need, not to someone’s salary or overhead. (You can learn more about how this idea came to be here.)
  • Restaurant Leftovers – This is a no-brainer, especially if you pass people in need on your way into the restaurant.  Should you not finish your dinner?  Depending on what’s left over, get it put into a take-out dish and give it to someone.  Does your meal come with something you’re not going to eat, like soup?  Get it and give it away. (My friends and I have gone so far as to order an extra appetizer, or sandwich, or meal – especially easy if you’re getting fast food – and give that away.)  Note:  We were all working at a museum for minimum wage, so please don’t think that this is something for wealthy people to do.  Anyone can do it.
  • The Bloggess and Her James Garfield Miracle – Once a year, Jenny Lawson puts up a post that allows people that want to help others to network with people that can use some help.  If you don’t read The Bloggess, please do click on that link and see what it looks like when a community of people come together out of a desire to help strangers have a better holiday season.  (It’s pretty amazing.  It’s also officially over for 2015, BUT the links for the wish lists are still active, so if you’d like to go buy a holiday present for a kid, go take a look.)

Obviously, there are LOTS of ways you can help people out…from saying yes at the register when someone asks you to donate a dollar or two to a cause, to chipping in on online fundraisers.  I like these ideas because they’re personal. You are in control of the focus of the help.  And most of them are so, so, EASY to do!

…Thanks for reading this.  Now go be awesome. 🙂

$winterholiday shopping? here are some ideas

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I’m a little late this year, but heeeeey!  Need some nifty $WINTERHOLIDAY presents?  Consider the following!  (And please note, as you read over this list, that a great deal of these fabulous people are doing good things with their profits…so purchases here really are a gift that does ongoing goodness.)

BOOKS

    • Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway) by Jason Michael – A charming tale told by a cat about what it’s like to be adopted into a new family.  Proceeds of this story of a special sort of blended family are being donated to two animal charities in Virginia.  This would be a lovely bedtime story book.
    • True Haiku for You:  A Daily Dose of Spiritual Growth by Jason Michael – A book for the adults!  “Begun as therapy writing in 2001 after the death of his father, and inspired by watching Dr. Wayne Dyer’s PBS special, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, Jason’s “Haiku Project” has amassed some 4400 haiku to date and there’s no end in sight. True Haiku for You is a collection of 366 haiku primarily on inspirational, motivational and spiritual themes designed to be a daily reminder of our self-worth, of our need to persevere, and of our innate ability to overcome any crisis. Meant to be read one haiku per day True Haiku for You strives to be a reminder that God is all around us, without and within.”  (I also love this book.)
    • Acting Out Yoga books by Danielle Palli – If you’re looking for new ways to get your youngsters moving around and trying new things, you should really consider buying one (or both!) of these two books.  Harvir in the Amazon follows the adventures of young Harvir in the Amazon rainforest; Anna in Paris recounts the journey of a ferret, Fondue, and his wanderings through Paris.  Both books illustrate varied yoga poses, and kids are encouraged to try out these poses as well!  The Acting Out Yoga series is an innovative introduction to yoga for both the storyteller and the story listener!  An additional bonus is that portions of the purchase price are also donated to children’s charities – Harvir proceeds go to a nonprofit organization that provides much-needed school supplies and medical care to young children in the Amazon Jungle, and Anna purchases support the Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County!

JEWELRY

    • Belethil – Home of the best dang elf ear jewelry you’ll find.  Alanya makes absolutely gorgeous stuff and right now, she’s running a half price sale to help out a friend, so you should really go take advantage!  (As of this writing, the store is active, but she’s going to be putting it into vacation mode in early December, so shop while the shopping’s good!)

ART STUFF

    • Celtic Art Store – I discovered this artisan at a local Ren faire last year.  I was feeling completey overwhelmed by the crowd and the day, and when Erin invited me into her booth to trace a knotwork pattern with a small instrument, I had ZERO interest in complying.  That said…wow, did it help my brain calm down and focus.  A lot.  It’s like walking a labyrinth for those of us that have no time and no access to a labyrinth.  🙂  These bits of magic are called Mandalynths, and they’re truly great for helping with stress, anxiety, autism, ADHD and PTSD.  (Click on the type of pattern to see which version is recommended for what ails ya.)  You’ll also find a new-but-growing line of glass dome jewelry in this brand spanking new web store!  Catch their sale prices from now until Dec 12th!
    • Alternate Histories – A Pittsburgh-based company that I love madly!  These guys take old images and maps and insert monsters into them, or twist them into reflecting a history where monsters and aliens are a common part of life in America.  You can search their store by US regions, which is something I think is pretty great.  Want proof there’s a creature running rampant in Sacramento?  A lake monster in Cleveland?  Do you suspect robots were involved in the Revolutionary War?  Would you like a map showing exactly where the zombie outbreaks have been in Pittsburgh? Look no further!  You’ll also find some of the most unique holiday cards on the market as well as a series of prints advertising why you should flee America‘s monsters.
    • Jeanine Leclaire – Jeanine is selling varied types of prints and cards from her shop to help raise funds for one of the kindest people I know, Anthony Paino.  I’m going to also say that if you are feeling extra special generous and would like to help Ant out directly, you can click on his name -OR- you can visit http://www.sokindregistry.org/registry/7217 and choose a gift of varied price points to help him out.  It’s a lovely way to send a Random Something to someone that so desperately needs some help.
    • There Are Squirrels in My Head – I’m tossing my own hat into the ring this year. 🙂  I have a Zazzle store!  From holiday cards to blank cards featuring some of my photography, to items for that Special Someone in your life that is made of awesome and win and cookies, my store is small but growing.  And during December, Zazzle runs all kinds of sales, so it’s a great place to do some shopping.  (Thank you!)

OTHER AWESOME STUFF

    • Shadow Elements – Mary creates some of the best cat beds out there.  She uses organic buckwheat, and you can purchase varied covers to fit your and your kitty’s needs.  Pair it up with a soothing travel dream pillow and case for your own snoozing needs!  (The pillows are not currently listed, but let her know you’re interested and she’ll hook you up!)  Mary also creates lovely stained glass pieces and an assortment of tote bags for your gifting needs! Be sure to check out her gallery at http://www.shadowelements.com/gallery/ to see what kind of custom marvels she can create for you.  (Purchases made from Mary is a gift that helps her keep her house and pay her substantial medical bills from her ongoing fight against breast cancer.)

There is NO way I can list every awesome person I know that creates fantastic things.  😦  But this is a good start!  🙂

Hope the start of your $WINTERHOLIDAY season treats you gently! ❤

Today is #GIVINGTUESDAY! Give AND buy pretty things to help my mom finish kicking cancer’s butt!

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This has been an intense few months…not just because of Halloween!  My mother, Iris, had a recent surprise bout (and defeat!!) of  a wicked rare form of cancer this year. She’s had some health stuff pile up as a result of her surgery, and the bills are..impressive. Here’s a pretty way to shop for $WINTERHOLIDAY presents and generate donations for her!

Some of you may have seen Bravelets – bracelets and necklaces in varied styles that bear the slogan “be brave.” Money raised from these sales goes to varied fundraising efforts…and this one is very important to me.

Bracelets purchased on this page will generate donations to my mother to help her with her medical bills …even with Medicare, that stuff is *expensive*.

Today, all purchases on the Bravelets page will generate ***$20*** in donations, not just $10! So if you’re looking for a shiny present as a $WINTERHOLIDAY gift, please consider clicking and shopping here. That would be awesome of you.

THANK YOU!!!! (And yes, please consider boosting the signal!) ‪#‎GIVINGTUESDAY‬

https://www.bravelets.com/b…/help-iris-kick-her-cancer-bills

$WINTERHOLIDAY shopping? Here’s some awesome stuff you should buy!

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We temporarily interrupt your ALL HALLOWEEN ALL THE TIME postings to bring the following to your attention..

I’m a big, big believer in shopping locally and in supporting artists by buying their work directly.  And so, la!  My annual Buy This Stuff post!  🙂  Pleeeease be sure to click on all the links below if you want to learn more about these artisans!

BOOKS

    • Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway) by Jason Michael – A charming tale told by a cat about what it’s like to be adopted into a new family.  Proceeds of this story of a special sort of blended family are being donated to two animal charities in Virginia.  This would be a lovely bedtime story book.
    • True Haiku for You:  A Daily Dose of Spiritual Growth by Jason Michael – A book for the adults!  “Begun as therapy writing in 2001 after the death of his father, and inspired by watching Dr. Wayne Dyer’s PBS special, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, Jason’s “Haiku Project” has amassed some 4400 haiku to date and there’s no end in sight. True Haiku for You is a collection of 366 haiku primarily on inspirational, motivational and spiritual themes designed to be a daily reminder of our self-worth, of our need to persevere, and of our innate ability to overcome any crisis. Meant to be read one haiku per day True Haiku for You strives to be a reminder that God is all around us, without and within.”  (I also love this book.)
    • Acting Out Yoga books by Danielle Palli – If you’re looking for new ways to get your youngsters moving around and trying new things, you should really consider buying one (or both!) of these two books.  Harvir in the Amazon follows the adventures of Harvir the ferret in the Amazon rainforest; Anna in Paris recounts the journey of another ferret, Fondue, and his wanderings through Paris.  Both ferrets make use of yoga poses throughout their travels, and kids are encouraged to try out these poses as well!  The Acting Out Yoga series is an innovative introduction to yoga for both the storyteller and the story listener!  An additional bonus is that portions of the purchase price are also donated to children’s charities – Harvir proceeds go to a nonprofit organization that provides much-needed school supplies and medical care to young children in the Amazon Jungle, and Anna purchases support the Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County!

JEWELRY

    • Belethil – Home of the best dang elf ear jewelry you’ll find.  Alanya makes absolutely gorgeous stuff and her stock fluctuates often..there’s not a lot posted in her Etsy store right now, but watch that space, folks.  And if you want something custom made, you’d best contact her ASAP..demand for her work is pretty heavy!

ART STUFF

    • Celtic Art Store – I discovered this artisan at a local Ren faire last year.  I was feeling completey overwhelmed by the crowd and the day, and when Erin invited me into her booth to trace a knotwork pattern with a small instrument, I had ZERO interest in complying.  That said…wow, did it help my brain calm down and focus.  A lot.  It’s like walking a labyrinth for those of us that have no time and no access to a labyrinth.  🙂  These bits of magic are called Mandalynths, and they’re truly great for helping with stress, anxiety, autism, ADHD and PTSD.  (Click on the type of pattern to see which version is recommended for what ails ya.)  You’ll also find a new-but-growing line of glass dome jewelry in this brand spanking new web store!
    • Ego Likeness – You’ve rocked out to their music …now bring them into your home.  The majority of their art is done on old book covers and combines varied mediums into some truly interesting images.  If you’ve seen the band in person, this is the art they’re selling at their merch table.  I’m not going to link to their art because there’s too dang much to choose from. Just go to their store and start looking.  (Sometimes there’s jewelry available as well.  There isn’t right now, but if you like stuff that incorporates animal skulls, you should keep an eye on this space.

OTHER AWESOME STUFF

    • Shadow Elements – Mary creates some of the best cat beds out there.  She uses organic buckwheat, and you can purchase varied covers to fit your and your kitty’s needs.  Pair it up with a soothing travel dream pillow and case for your own snoozing needs!  (The pillows are not currently listed, but let her know you’re interested and she’ll hook you up!)  Mary also creates lovely stained glass pieces and an assortment of tote bags for your gifting needs!

There is NO way I can list every awesome person I know that creates fantastic things.  😦  But this is a good start!  🙂

Hope the start of your $WINTERHOLIDAY season treats you gently! ❤

…Oh, Christmas Tree.

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“I think it would be nice to totally redo the Christmas tree,” my husband mentioned as we drove back from one of his family’s many holiday gatherings.  “I’d like it to have ornaments that are new, and that are just about us.”

It was sweet.

And I kinda wanted to scream.

Since the crumbling of my first marriage, and the lack of space for a full sized tree in my varied living situations, I’d been buying ornaments for my FutureTree.  Some women have a hope chest.  Some women dream of the names of their children-to-come.  Me?  I had two bins of autumnal décor that I was hoping very much to finally open and share with Dustin, my soul mate, the love of my life…and he had just voiced a desire for something that had nothing to do with my FutureTree dream.

So I did what any rational adult would do in this situation.

…I waited for him to go to work, and I set up his gloriously huge Christmas tree all by myself.

The job of tree set-up has generally fallen to me for most of my adult life, but I’d forgotten how heavy a non-tabletop-tree can be.  I ended up pushing its storage bin up the basement stairs with one hand while clinging to the railing with the other to prevent both me and the bin from falling backwards, sorted the branches by their colour stickers, and …realized I had no idea how to get the lights on the trunk of the tree to light up.

After an hour of fighting with lights, I chose to just light the layers of branches.  One of our household cats leapt into the middle of the tree to supervise from within as I returned to the basement to retrieve my FutureTree ornaments.

People talk about their holiday traditions – visits with family, singing carols to strangers – but this solitary act of decorating a tree?  This is my tradition.  Invariably, the other people in my life don’t have time, don’t want to be bothered, and so, generally speaking, I’d find myself alone in a room, setting up a     not-quite-adult tree and adorning it with bits of my childhood.  Wooden ornaments my mother painted 40 years ago, left behind in the divorce, and that my father tried to throw away…skeletons and bats, gifts from friends…a cornhusk doll given to me when my first poem was published…they all made their memory-filled ways to the branches of my small tree, to be taken down..oh, eventually.  “If I’m putting it up? I get to decide when it comes down,” I announced one year when questioned about why there was still a Christmas tree in the living room in March.

I looked at FutureTreeNoMore, at the glorious size of it.

I pulled out the first box of ornaments.  The sales tag on it was from 2007.  The next one read 2008, and so on.  Boxes of grandiose hooks I’d almost forgotten buying, bearing glass beads and composed of silver swoops of wire, connected the black and orange spheres to the tree’s branches.

And I cried.

I thought about the frantically lonely child in her room, mourning her parents’ divorce and clinging to the past by putting those wooden ornaments on a tiny trash picked tree that she’d set up in her bedroom.  I thought about the years when I didn’t bother with a tree at all because I was renting a room in a friend’s house and isn’t Christmas about people more than it is about a fake bit of woodland, anyway?

I thought about my coworkers back in Pittsburgh and how we had successfully orchestrated putting up a non-sanctioned Christmas tree outside our office last year, about how much joy there had been in that bit of ninja decorating.

I looked at FutureTreeNoLonger, and all of these tiny glass promises I’d been making to myself for so many years.

I sniffled and hung another glass piece of candy corn on the tree.  Looked at the clock.  Realized I was out of time.

By the time Dustin walked through the door, all of the boxes and bins had been put away.   I took him by the hand and guided him into the living room, ready to apologize for what I’d done.

A smile lit up his face.  “I had no idea you could even lift that thing up the stairs!  It’s lovely!  I love it.”

“You really don’t mind?”

“Honey!  No!  I wanted to do it, I just…it’s a lot of work.  How long did that take you?  It usually takes me most of the day.”

I let that thought sink in, the realization that he was saying his tradition was also to do this alone.

“95% of the things you see have never been used before,” I told him. “It’s almost like buying new…”

“Perfect!  That’s perfect.  Thank you.”

I hugged him again…and tried to be gracious when he ducked under the tree and figured out how to get the trunk lights to work in less than thirty seconds.

As we’ve been moving through our first December together as a married couple, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I don’t have a lot of happy holiday memories, or examples of, “This is how my family celebrated the season.”  In 2013, I had some powerful ‘a-HA!’ moments of understanding more of the ways my fractured childhood created my fractured adult self, and how much I need to unlearn old coping skills because they don’t help me anymore.  I spent so many holidays feeling alone, unconnected to the people around me, setting up private Christmas trees, wishing I knew how to do it better.

I think I’m finally figuring out how to do that.  And it definitely means sharing the tree duties next year.

Happy holidays, y’all.

cool stuff you should buy for someone for the holidays

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So this post is wicked late.  I usually do this for Cyber Monday sale pushing.  Alas!  However, if you’ve ever had reason to buy shinies for a loved one, you should know about the following folk, because every single one of them is awesome and creates lovely items.

* Natural Charm – jewelry
Julie takes things like flowers, clay, maps, candy, herbs, and such, and creates beautiful wearable bits of art with them.  Her first few creations were inspired by a desire to preserve flowers by turning them into handmade beads, and (because I am wicked hard on my jewelry) I can tell you that her work holds up superbly to daily wear.  Peruse her Etsy store, or ping her about doing custom work…you will LOVE her work.  (She also has a discount code on her Etsy store RIGHT NOW, so you should go take advantage of that.)
White Rose Petal Rosary     New York Heart Map Pendant   Paprika Pendant

* Capsulariums by Laurel
Should your taste run to the more elegantly macabre, allow me to direct you to peruse through Laurel’s “capsulariums.”  She uses the bones of mice and other small critters to create truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of art.  The detail is stunning.
Graveyard Visitor II     Devil Stag     Vertebrae Earrings

* Belethil  
Alanya is one of those artists that’s been truly amazing to watch over the past few years.  Her Etsy store is currently filled with higher-end items; you’ll see that she has a custom option, but that may need to wait until after the holidays.  Waiting is, however, very very worth it.  And if you’re looking for elf ears, you truly can’t do any better than to buy a set from Alanya.
Larimar and pearl bun cage     Hypoallergenic niobium maple ears     14k gold necklace with opal and diamond

* Elemental Sage
I
f your taste runs more to crystals, beads, stretch bracelets, and earrings, allow me to direct you towards Lori’s shop.  I’ve the good luck to own several of Lori’s pieces, and she will absolutely spoil you as far as the quality of her creations.  One purchase from her and you’ll be back.  Because you can’t do any better.  🙂
Tree of Life: Sunstone     Twilight Goddess: Moon Goddess earrings with genuine Amethyst beads     Chakra Eternity: Stretchy Bracelet in Rainbow glass and silver beads

* AF Metalsmith
.
..Last jewelry link, I promise!  But!  If you have a love of Celtic knotwork, you don’t want to miss Amanda’s work.  (Yes, she does other things, but I’ve always been pretty fixated on the knotwork critters!)  She also has a lovely selection of rings, bracelets, and ‘wingnut’ jewelry that makes her work both beautiful and memorable.  You’ll find that several of her pieces may be purchased in varied metals, and some of the pendants can be customized so that your favourite critter is at the top of the circle.  🙂
Three Dragons- a Pendant with Celtic influences     Wingnut- a Playful Pendant     The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars- a stackable Trinket Ring set    Bronze St Brigid's Cross Pendant- cast

* Shadow Elements
Mary’s creations run from buckwheat pet beds (which I highly recommend) to gorgeous stained glass stars and lamps to tote bags.  I love her work, and I think you will, too.
Organic Buckwheat Hull Pet Bed - large (Read my POLICIES BEFORE BUYING)     Design Your Own Moon Phase Lamp     Yew Cyanotype Jacket

* Sidhefire Arts
Should your shopping tastes run to the clay side of the force, you would do well to peruse Sherry’s virtual store.  Her work incorporates classic historical shapes as well as modern themes popular amongst geeks and pirates…and I would be very happy indeed to someday have a kitchen filled with her plates, bowls, and mugs. 🙂
Handmade stoneware pottery Release The Kraken purple cup     Handmade pottery amphora (Greek inspired)     Celtic knotwork raku handmade ceramic vase

* That Harp Guy
Sometimes you meet someone that completely, utterly blows you away with the gorgeousness of her or his talent.  Gaffer is one of those people.  He touches his harp strings, opens his mouth, and he takes your breath away.  I cannot recommend highly enough his music as a gift for yourself, your loved ones, your friends…he’s just amazing.

* SJ Tucker
You might say I’ve saved the best for last.  Feel free..I won’t stop you. 🙂
SJ Tucker, ‘s00j’ to many, pirate captain to many more, is a vocal treasure.  Her music ranges from book soundtrack to pagan to folksy to laughter, and I’m truly not sure where to best direct you to shop first.  So go visit her music page here – http://music.sjtucker.com/indexpage – and take some time to get acquainted.  Fans of Cat Valente’s books may recognize a title here or there.  Bandcamp is awesome in that you can buy just a few tracks at a time, so go ye and create a mixtape of your very own, filled with s00jy goodness..or go back to the main page and buy a real-world CD.

cool stuff you should buy: Pyratical Cat!

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For those of you who may not know, this is Lurk, my cranky old man kitty.
“Meh.”

Recently,, we received a surprise present from The Pyratical Cat which contained, among other things, a bag of ZOMG potent catnip, several catnip mice that the younger beasties of the househould promptly drooled all over, and…these.

They’re all about the size of a placemat, and at first I thought that’s exactly what they were. That, or perhaps throw cushion covers.

The truth was rather much more awesome..they’re kitty blankets!

This little beauty in particular was made of awesome and win and too many cookies to count. Bones! How perfect! AND it glows in the dark! Honestly, it wouldn’t have had to do anything else in order for me to love it. BUT…

This is me trying to illustrate that there’s an opening on either side of this particular blanket. One side has a larger hole than the other, so that you can…

…SLIDE A HEATING PAD INTO IT!!! Lurk, you see, has been showing signs of arthritis for a while now, and Jen (the owner of The Pyratical Cat) had suggested at the end of last winter that I try making a heating pad available for him after I kept finding him pressed up against heating vents in the house. So this prototype blanket is Jen’s attempt to make Lurk more comfy – in a nice safe Halloweeny way – when the weather starts to get colder again!

These next two shots are just to give you an idea of what the other blankets look like. They don’t have that special sleeve feature – that’s reserved just for Lurk’s special blanket! – but wow, I love these fabric patterns..!

If you swing on over to The Pyratical Cat on Facebook, you’ll see that there’s a wide variety of fabrics to choose from – piratey to feline to magical to just plain ol’ pretty! And I can’t tell you strongly enough how dang good the quality of catnip she’s using in her toys. Jen’s always looking for new ways to amuse the felines – one of her products, called ROUS – is designed especially for those kitties that destroy regular cat toys. She also has (I may be getting this name wrong) a toy called a ‘kitty kickboxer’ that really appeals to the cat focused on hunting/kicking reflexes, and she makes collars and leashes as well.

Also also, you should be VERY aware that everything sold by Jen has been designed AND TESTED by her before it’s offered for sale. This means you know these products are as safe as she can possibly make them!

The gothier versions of these products may be found at Macabre Merchantile (or, if you do not inhabit the Book of Face, http://macabremercantile.com will get you there, too).

The Pyratical Cat is coming soon to Artfire athttp://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/patron/ThePyRaticalCat, but be aware the store’s internet presence is still being tweaked. Liking the FB page is your best bet to not miss out on the awesome!!

waiting for Santa

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When I was a kidlet,  the animated films of Rudolph and Frosty were mandatory viewing in school.

I feel thoroughly cheated that I only discovered the Addams Family Christmas episode last year…!

Happy holidays – whichever you celebrate – and may there be much mistletoe smooching and gothmas goodness for you and yours!