a peek inside the fishbowl

11 Dec, 2009

Get down n’ crafty

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Oh! Things!

I think working in retail over so many Christmases spoiled the season for me a bit. Although I was at the epicentre of gifting, the stink of desperation I often witnessed slightly damaged my idea of giving. Even today, the thought of shoppers trampling over each other to get that “hot” Christmas toy, the stale air, the canned holiday music, the thought of SO MUCH STUFF … it makes me break out in the cold sweat.

It’s taken me this long to get with the program again (25 days has helped – I will post an update soon) but I’m still working on it. But I don’t think I’ve succeeded in getting over the feeling of dread I get when I think about visiting the mall at this time of year.

The solution:

  1. (1) Shop local – that means avoiding that soul-sucking hell on earth commonly referred to as “WalMart” and the big shopping malls. Support your local small businesses. It’s good for everyone.
  2. (2) Shop online.
  3. (3) Make stuff.

My recent piece over at SavvyMom combines all three, although #3 doesn’t factor in as much because this year I’m leaving the “making stuff” aspect to the professionals.

The article is about shopping locally on Etsy, the grand poohbah of crafty and arty shopping sites.

Do I need to tell you how awesome it is? Not only can you AVOID THE MALL, but it’s a very easy way to pick up some very original art and crafts (and more). AND by making a purchase you are also supporting an artist or two … people who are pursuing their passion and sharing it with others. And I think that adds up to a lot of good karma all ’round.

I bought something for the girls yesterday – er, not locally – but very cute nonetheless. I ordered Thumbelina and Pippi Longstocking shadow puppets from this vendor.

Which reminds me (because I have been wanting to ask) what are your fave Etsy shops? I have a list of favourites but I love to learn about ones I haven’t discovered yet.

7 Responses to "Get down n’ crafty"

1 | Tiana

December 11th, 2009 at 11:00 am


Also – I love those shadow puppets!!! They are so intricate.

2 | Tiana

December 11th, 2009 at 11:02 am


oh seems like my list of favorites didn’t make it as a comment. Let me try again:


3 | Laurie

December 11th, 2009 at 11:49 am


sophiebelle – home of the sophiesaver! I buy them in bulk and give them as baby gifts.

4 | andrea

December 11th, 2009 at 12:37 pm


Oh my –
Someone sent me an off-topic email about the fact that I described WalMart as a “soul-sucking hell on earth” and that by doing such I have offended legions of retirees, people on fixed incomes, and other people who are econonically disadvantaged.

If you are one of those people I do hope I haven’t offended you so deeply – shop where you choose – but I do stand by what I wrote, even though my particular choice of words was intended for dramatic effect. We haven’t shopped at WalMart for years even though there may be cheaper goods to be found there. I’d rather buy less, slightly more expensive stuff than shop at WalMart. Every experience I’ve had there has indeed been “soul-sucking” and I don’t agree with their business practices.

5 | andrea

December 11th, 2009 at 1:00 pm


Some people are having trouble posting comments with lots of links. Sorry !

Here’s one from Lynn at Turtlehead:

I have so many Etsy favourites, I could talk about them all day. But recently I added a bunch of new favourite shops because they are all located in Ottawa.

Here are some of my favourites that are funky AND local (for us, anyway):

Northern Girl Jewelry

Dame Named Redd


(her Mom/Grandmother stamped necklaces were a particularly big hit at the big Craft Fair I organized a few weeks ago at my kids’ school)

(I think she actually comments here sometimes!)


Phoebe and Me


The Hookery
(also very popular at the craft sale)

The Envelope Please

Mothership Photography


Life is Good at the Beach


6 | betsy mae

December 11th, 2009 at 10:28 pm


I love Etsy but don’t have any favourite vendors! I love browsing and Lynn at Turtlehead does a great job of sharing some amazing finds so do you Andrea, you introduced me to Etsy. I’m off to check out everyone’s favourites!!!!

PS- I love the shop locally feature on Etsy. In the summer (at a festival) I met a vendor who I had been admiring on Etsy, I recognized her goods at the festival and asked her if she had her items for sale on Etsy.

7 | Siobhan

December 12th, 2009 at 12:14 am


I think it took me over a decade to get over my retail-job-induced dislike for Christmas. Getting into crafting really helped.

Another thing that helped is that we set up a scheme for gift-buying with our main gift-buying circle. Each of us picks a name, and we’re responsible for buying the “group gift” for that person. For each person, I can either buy an individual gift or donate towards their group gift. It means that each of us is really focused on the likes/wants of just one other person (but can still buy for other people if we happen across something appropriate). It’s worked well for several years, though I have a feeling we may try something different next year.

(We don’t do the “pick a name and buy a small gift” route that many families take when everyone’s grown up, because we’ve got a fairly wide range of incomes, and this lets us be a bit socialist. The people in the group with lower incomes really need that little extra at Christmas and birthdays to help them get by.)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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