Simply Green: Giving by Danny Seo

simplygreen_giving1With Christmas almost here I decided to dust off a gift-giving book review I wrote for another blog ages ago and re-post it here. I would post a new review but things have been nuts and I’m trying to get over a really bad cold. Enjoy!

I’ve been a big fan of crafter Danny Seo ever since I saw him on Wendy Russell’s late crafting show “She’s Crafty.” But the delightful Danny is more than just a crafter; he’s thrifty and devoted to the environment He’s also utterly charming and cute as can be.

Being a fan of Seo’s I was pretty thrilled to find Danny’s book Simply Green: Giving at my local library. I quickly checked it out, hoping to get some good advice.

This slim volume tells you simple tricks you can use to give your holiday gifts (or any gifts really) an extra punch. Have extra VHS tapes around? Take apart the cartridge, pull out the tape and use the tape for curling ribbon. Who knew those taped episodes of “Friends” would come in so handy?

One idea I really like was personalizing homemade soap using Scrabble tiles or those old poetry magnets and using them as gift tags. Further bonus: These gift tags are also functional. Of course, anyone familiar with my soap making process is not surprised by this.

Another great idea I liked? Turning a used potato chip bag inside out and using it as wrapping paper. This works best when the inside is silver, and it’s probably a good idea if the bag has been properly washed of potato chip grease. Nobody wants potato chip grease on their gift. However, this does give you a good excuse to eat more potato chips.

Seo also offers suggestions using vintage greeting cards, watch faces, old work shirts, wooden boxes, natural box fillers (including actual peanuts, not the foam kind), old hardback books, terra cotta blooming boxes and even leaves and grass you find in your backyard! Before you throw something in the garbage or recycling bin ask yourself, “Hmm, can I found another use for this?” Yes, I bet you can!

As I read Simply Green: Giving I found myself thinking of other things I could use to wrap and hold gifts. I found some paper grocery bags I could use as wrapping paper. I brought home some cardboard inserts we use at work to divide various print jobs and I’m going to cut them into smaller shapes and make them into gift tags. Seo is a crafter that inspires rather than intimidates.

This book also has a section on actual gift giving using handmade know-how that is both charming and gracious, and will please the many people on your gift list. These tips are also thought-provoking, and will make you think of gift giving in a whole new way that is economical, green and yes, very crafty.

Simply Green: Giving is divided into four sections, which include Cards and Tags, Boxes, Gift Wrap and Bows and Handmade Giving. This book is written on recycled paper (no surprise there). And the various resources Seo provides at the end of the book are a lovely added bonus.

Simply Green: Giving is a great addition to any crafter’s repertoire, and it also makes a great stocking stuffer for your best crafting friend.

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood Edited by Henriette Mantel

No-KiddingWith shows like “19 Kids and Counting” and “Teen Mom” taking up our airwaves, hyper-focus on celebrity baby bumps, and the tiresome “mommy wars,” you might forget there are women who have eschewed baby making. Sure, some childfree women find support groups on Internet message boards and blogs, but for the most part you’re not going to find many books on the topic of women going through life sans kids. That’s why as a childfree woman I was delighted to find the book No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood edited by Emmy award winning writer, producer, actress, stand-up comic and director (and childfree woman) Henriette Mantel.

In No Kidding, the writers focus on why they don’t have kids, and their reasons are pretty diverse. Some women knew from a very early age that they didn’t want kids. Some women did want children and even went to great lengths to get pregnant but infertility issues got in the way. Ultimately, these women find themselves embracing their life without offspring. And there are woman whose lives focused were focused on other things-education, careers, travel, hobbies-and they just find themselves not mothers.

Some of the women whose essays are featured in No Kidding are names that you know. Comedian Margaret Cho writes about choosing not children in a Korean-American culture that puts children on a pedestal and jokes that if she ever gets a yearning to have a kid she’ll adopt one from China because as she jokes, “who’s going to know the difference?”

One a more serious note, former Saturday Night Live cast member Nora Dunn gets into the thorny debate on abortion and asks why so many pro-lifers don’t seem to care about the welfare of children once they are born.

Actress Jennifer Coolidge may have played one of the most famous cinematic moms ever, Stifler’s mom in “American Pie” (you know, the original MILF), provides a very witty foreword to No Kidding. Her reason for not having kids? She just can’t handle multi-tasking. She recalls a story about having her mom hold her gum while she went to the bathroom. Coolidge just couldn’t handle a piece of Bazooka and taking a piss. Hmm, is the kind of woman who could handle getting Bazooka gum out of a toddler’s hair while changing her baby’s pissed-stained diaper?

Then there are notable essays written by women who may not be as well-known but whose views, thoughts, experiences and insight makes for some very good essays. Valri Bromfield’s jokes that Motherhood Personality Disorder (MPD) should be recognized by the psychiatric community. According to Bromfield MPD has several notable features including intrusive preoccupation with offspring, episodes of major martyrdom, and intermittent cooking and cleaning. Hmm, I bet even moms reading this review will say to themselves, “MPD? I know so many moms afflicted with this.”

Wendy Liebman might not be considered truly childfree because she does have stepchildren. However, as she writes about her stepkids awesomeness, she also raves that she got to have these kids in her life without doing all the painstaking work of actually raising kids.

On a more poignant note Laurie Graff mentions she does feel a bit of melancholy about not having kids when faced with family photos posted on various Facebook pages.  Patricia Scanlon really wanted to have kids but hit the brick wall of infertility. However, she soon embraced the idea of living a childfree life and is thriving (complete with a beloved dog named Dudley).

Plenty of the essayists in No Kidding are devoted aunties and enjoy being around children (granted, on a very limited basis). But there are also essayists who would prefer to shovel turds in Hell than have kids. They never played with dolls when they were little girls, and aren’t exactly fans of babies, toddlers, young children or teenagers. Then again, we all know of women who did have kids but don’t exactly seem like the biggest fans of babies, toddlers, young children or teenagers.

If I do have a problem with No Kidding, it is the writers are all in some capacity, working in show business. Many of them are stand-up comics, writers, actresses, directors, and playwrights. I’m all for creative types, but I would have also liked to read stories by women who are nurses, professors, bankers, administrative assistants, social workers or bartenders. Most of these writers appear to be baby boomers or older Generation X-ers. I would have liked to have read essays written by Millennials or on the other age spectrum women who have reached their “Golden Girl” years. Hey, one of the most famous childfree women out there is the 91-year-old Betty White.

Still, I found No Kidding to be an enjoyable and interesting read. I think most childfree women will find a lot of support and understanding within the pages of No Kidding, and I bet a lot of moms will also appreciate some of the essays. There are many ways to leave a legacy that have nothing to do with having children. No Kidding may not exactly leave a legacy, but it definitely shows us that women can live truly vital lives without ever being called, “mom.”