Sunday, December 18, 2011

Have Yourself a Thrifty Little Christmas--and Party Hearty!

by Kiki Lowenstein, the star of Joanna Campbell Slan's Kiki Lowenstein Mysteries (aka Scrap-n-Craft Mysteries), including the now-available Kindle short story "Kiki Lowenstein and the Secret Santa" (only 99 cents)

It might be the season for eggnog, but my Friday night croppers were obsessed with wine-- make that whine. Our annual Holiday Scrapbook Party, otherwise known as a "crop," was quickly turning from festive to futile. Seems that the tough economy was taking a toll on my papercrafting friends. I set aside the a scrapbook page I was creating to give them my full attention.

"What am I going to do?" Luella Fitzherbert threw up her hands and wailed. "I'm broke--and even if I had the money to buy my niece and cousins gifts, I don't have big bucks to send anything that'll require expensive postage."

Clarissa Stufleven nodded in agreement. "Kiki, my husband has been out of work for a year and a half. We just don't have the money to buy fancy gifts--and my teenage girls are incredibly picky."

"Tell me about it," said Elora Jones. "My son Tyrone doesn't like anything unless it has a designer label on it. If it isn't something special, Ty turns up his nose! He's furnishing his first apartment and everything has to be just so."

"I told my husband that if anyone knew how to stretch a buck, it was you," Luella said, admiringly. "You're always broke and but you're still creative. That's a great combination! What can you suggest?"

I have to admit: I'm a whiz when it comes to cheap but good. So here's what I told my customers...

1. For that special relative who lives far away --
Save time and postage! Buy her one of my two newest adventures, and send them as gifts for her Kindle. There's Kiki Lowenstein and the Secret Santa, where I try to help a grumpy customer with surprising results. 

Or choose Ink, Red, Dead, which tells the story of what happened when one of my customers turned out to be a cat hoarder who had human corpse in her freezer. Both short stories are only 99 cents! (If she doesn't have a Kindle, she can upload a Kindle app and read them on her computer.)

2. For those picky teenage girls -- Let the elves at Amazon do the heavy lifting. You have until Monday, Dec. 19, to order from Amazon and still be sure the gifts will arrive before Christmas. So I suggest you let the girls learn a new hobby: Zentangle. All they need is this fabulous book: Yoga for the Brain: A Zentangle Workout by Sandy Steen Bartholomew, and a few ink pens, plus a pad of paper and they're ready to go!

"Zentangle?"  The three of them asked in chorus.

"Zentangle," I repeated patiently. "It's zen for the mind. Using pens or markers and paper, you can personalize just about anything. And, it's easy to learn. Let me show you some gifts I made with this neat art form."
This lovely journal starts with one of those cheap composition notebooks and turns it into a memorable and useful gift. Who couldn't use a place to keep a diary or take notes?
A pencil bag like this sells for less than a dollar. Just draw an area slightly larger than the clear window on your paper, do your "tangle" or design, and then add sticker letters. This bag is for an author to hold her signing supplies (pens, "Autograph Copy" stickers, breath mints and business cards).
You can do something very similar with clear make-up bags that they sell in most drugstores. To reinforce the "tangle," simply cover it with clear packing tape.

This is a mandala. Framed, it would be a perfect gift for the person who needs more serenity in life.

Although traditional Zentangle is strictly black and white, color can be yummy. I started by painting a piece of watercolor paper with cheap watercolor paints. Before the paint dried, I sprinkled on sea salt. The sea salt lifts color and adds lovely dimension. After the paper dried, I wrote the name "JANE" in pencil. When I had what I wanted, I outlined it with colored pen. Then I "tangled" the rest of the images. I put a darker piece of paper behind my "tangle." I sandwiched both pieces of paper between plastic that I saved from a plastic raspberry carton. Then I ran clear packing tape around the edge to "seal" the image--and finally I punched a hole and added a ring.

3. For the fashion forward person who appreciates the finer things in life -- Make a Zentangle design and frame it. Chose a silhouette that represents something that person enjoys. Here's one that features the outline of a concert grand piano...

"And finally, ladies," I said, "I think you should be thinking about gifts for yourselves."

"Huh?" Luella raised her eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

"How many holiday parties have you attended? Hmmm? Were they fun? Laid back? Did you leave with a gift in hand?" I challenged all three of my scrapbookers and none of the women could say, "Sure did!"

Elora tapped her finger to her lips. "What are you on about, Kiki Lowenstein?"

"Consider this your official invitation to an online party on Thursday, December 22, at 9 p.m. EST to Midnight," I said. "All you have to do is visit this Facebook page--and you'll be able to attend. You can even attend in your pajamas! Guest authors will be Monica Ferris, Betty Hechtman, Joanna Campbell Slan, Gloria Alvarez, Diana Orgain and Julie James. All the authors will have something cool to give away. Most of them are contributing something handmade or a signed copy of at least one of their books. All you need to do is show up at Joanna's Facebook page."

"Speaking of what to wear to parties, I'm amazed that you are improperly dressed," said Clarissa.

"Me?" I try hard to look nice, but with a limited budget I rely on clothes from Goodwill and sales. Now I swallowed hard. Had my standards slipped?

"That's right," Clarissa said, shaking a finger at me. "With all that great holiday advice, you should be dressed like one of Santa's helpers!"

What could I say but, "Ho, ho, ho!"


For more information, email Joanna at or visit her at   You can pre-order the next Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-n-Craft book -- Ready, Scrap, Shoot -- today! (April, 2012 release/Midnight Ink)


  1. I have already read both books and they are great holiday reads to get you in the mood.

  2. I have both books but yet to read them, on my list to read this week.

    And I will be at the party this week, can't wait.

  3. Wicked funny! And thanks for mentioning my book, too. ;-) Happy (tangled) Holidays!
    Sandy B.

  4. Oh, Sandy, (grovel, grovel) I love your books!

  5. Dru and Nancy, thanks bunches! I appreciate you!

  6. I haven't read these two short stories, but I will. I'm pretty sure I downloaded one of them to my laptop. Yikes, I am getting forgetful. I love the Zentangle designs!