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PUNCH UP THE NATIVITY

Is it just me, or does it seem like there’s no better season for crafting than Christmas? The same thing happens every year this time, after the shopping is all done, the tree is up and decorated to within an inch of its life, the Christmas music on the record player, and the lights all strung and blazing. I no more get settled down to finally relax, when my fingers start twitching and I’m overtaken by the urge to fire up the hot glue gun, get out the craft supplies and create something truly unimaginable.

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This year was no exception. Maybe it was the rum in that extra slab of fruitcake, the heady aroma of pine sap, the twinkling lights or Jim Nabors deep hypnotic voice droning on and on about the little lamb, but the Christmas crafting compulsion came upon me something fierce. While my glue gun warmed up, I looked around the room for inspiration. Everywhere I looked I could still see the evidence of the craft I created last Christmas: an ornament-crusted net that is fired from a bazooka, so you can decorate an entire Christmas tree in a single shot. That painful memory reminded me to set my sights a little lower this year. They settled on the old Nativity scene. It always looks a little sad – off in a lonely corner of the mantle or half hidden under the tree. It’s not helped by the fact that the wise men, the shepherd, even the animals – all look soooo serious and even a little morose. Heck, it’s the birth of our Savior – shouldn’t it feel more like a party?

All of which is to explain, if not excuse, how I came up with this year’s craft – a festive punch bowl guaranteed to be the center of your holiday party. You can fill it with your favorite beverage, or try the recipe for Tiny Tim’s punch at the end.

YOU’LL NEED:
• A 12 quart punch bowl and ladle
• A vintage nativity scene, 11 pieces or so
• 18” Styrofoam wreath form
• Miniature pine trees
• 6-foot garland. I used holly.
• Assorted doll house ornaments and other knick knacks
• Glitter
• String of craft lights.
• Ribbon
• Toothpicks – 8 or so
• A staple gun or pins
• Spray adhesive
• Hot glue gun
• Sharpie marker (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Plastic 12-quart punch bowls (available at party stores or online) are about 14 inches in diameter, so the foam wreath form should fit perfectly onto your punch bowl. If it’s too large or small, maybe try a different bowl. Place the wreath form face down on your work surface, position the bowl upside down on the wreath form, and stick toothpicks into the foam, tight up against the outside edge of the bowl. Then remove the bowl and set it aside for now. 

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2. Turn the foam over so it’s right side up, then spray the top and inside of the wreath with spray adhesive, then dust it lightly with glitter. Let the adhesive set up for a few minutes, and then shake off the excess glitter.

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3. Now arrange your Nativity figures and other ornaments around the lip of the bowl. Group most of the figures at the back to allow easy access to the punch. Once you get an arrangement you like, lift each piece, put a blob of hot glue on the bottom, and then stick in place. Arrange and glue any additional decorations, remembering to stay within the bounds of good taste.

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4. Use pins to tack the garland securely around the outside edge of the wreath form. A six foot wreath fits perfectly around the outside edge of an 18-inch wreath. Once you have it pinned where you want it, tack it down in a few places with hot glue.

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5. Carefully turn the wreath on its side. Hot glue the craft light battery pack to the underside of the foam. Remember the toothpicks mark the outside edge of the punch bowl, so keep the pack outside that invisible line. Now staple or pin the light cords to the underside of the foam. Finally, put a good-sized blob of hot glue over every pin or staple to keep it in place more permanently.

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6. Make an elaborate bow from ribbon and pin it to the front edge.

7. As a final option, you could “Scripture up” your punch bowl by writing a bible quote on the ladle with a Sharpie. Something like Matthew 7:1 “Judge not lest ye be judged” might be a nice touch, and will come in handy later, as the punch begins to take effect. Now fill your punch bowl, turn up the Jim Nabors Christmas album and enjoy!

TINY TIM’S HOT GIN PUNCH

In Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit cooks up a batch of gin punch for his family, and they all toast Ebenezer Scrooge. Gin punch was a popular drink in Victorian England. There are many variations, both hot and cold. Basically any mix of gin, citrus, fruit and sugar will work.

• 4 cups Plymouth gin 

• 4 cups sweet Madeira wine 


• 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, or more to taste

• Peel and juice of 2 lemons, or more to taste

• Peel and juice of 2 oranges

• 1 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks, or you can cut up a fresh pineapple

• 5 whole cloves

• 4 cinnamon sticks

• Pinch of ground nutmeg




Put all the ingredients in a pot and put on medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and add more brown sugar or more lemon juice if desired. Let the mixture cool until it’s just warm, and then pour into the punch bowl. Garnish with a couple of fresh lemon and orange slices. This is enough punch for a small group, but if you’re having a larger party, you’ll want to double or triple the recipe.

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Seasons Greetings, and Good Cheer!

Posted by michael at 06:11 PM Link to this post


Billy


I was fortunate enough to have had four pieces selected for inclusion in the Society of Illustrators annual exhibition Illustrators 53. The piece above, "Now Billy Can Concentrate", won a gold medal.

I got to express my thanks at the awards gala in New York, but let me say it again here - thank you. It's a huge honor and I'm very grateful.

The editorial and book show were on display til mid February, and I hope you saw it if you could - it's not often you get to see so much amazing work in one place.

All four illustrations were from my book, In and Out with Dick and Jane, A Loving Parody, written with James Victore, and due out this April first, from Abrams Image.

It's a simple book, which tells a timeless tale of children and their world. A beautiful, sunny joyful world filled with foreclosures, gun culture, school shootings, abuse by priests, serial killer clowns, meth labs, racism, the Times Square bomber, big box stores, credit card debt, sex education, ADHD drugs, poor school nutrition, soccer dads, bestiality, latch key kids, Viagra, obesity, litter, pollution - in other words, a world much like our own.The book was over 15 years in the making.

Billy 2

The illustration above was originally sketched for the Los Angeles Times Magazine around 1994. The sketch was killed. 
Gun

This illustration, titled some kids have hobbies, was sketched for the New York Times Magazine around the time of the early school shootings in the mid 1990's, but before Columbine. James Victore and I had written a few humor pieces together for magazines and were casting about for a more ambitious (lucrative) project. I don't remember exactly, but I'm guessing we looked at the killed sketches hanging on my wall and little lightbulbs appeared over our heads. We wrote a proposal, did some sketches, and shopped it around. We got a lot of interest, and many, many exciting - and yet somehow interminable - meetings with editors and publishers. Meetings that went exactly nowhere. In 1999 we put together a dummy of the book and my agent Holly McGhee took it out to even more interest. Offers were made, offers were rejected. A very large offer was made. The very large offer was quickly withdrawn when the editor in question was informed in no uncertain terms by her boss that she was not allowed to publish this book. The dummy collected dust. Fast forward to late fall 2010 - dummy gets dusted off, editor David Cashion at Abrams digs dummy, inks contract, James and I furiously brainstorm, and over beers, jiu jitsu, and sessions at the local gun range, we somehow manage to write a book.

We cried 'Godspeed, little Hong Kong container ship!' and it brought the books over the stormy ocean and safely to our shores.  They were harried thence to the shelves of your favorite book retailer, where they await your timely attentions.
Posted by elena at 10:04 AM Link to this post
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