Saturday, December 15, 2007

Making Christmas: Gifts

This is a tricky one to address. Many of us are disgusted with the commercialism and consumerism around the holidays that takes away from the reason for the season. And hey, I'm in that boat. Avoid malls, avoid toy stores, avoid too much Santa, try to find meaningful Christian ways to celebrate. However, that said, I love, love, LOVE to give gifts! I don't really mind getting them, either. I guess it's one of my love languages - I think it is for most of us Younces.

Now that we're grown, we choose names for sibling gifts in both the Younce and Hickman families. It would be my great pleasure to give Christmas gifts to everyone, but it's just not financially feasible, so we rotate, which works well. But there are always spouses, kids, and parents to give to. And then there are other people, like friends, neighbors, and teachers, if applicable.

What I'd really like to do is have everyone throw out their gift ideas for different people, but we don't want to spoil any surprises. So instead we can talk about gifts and gifting in general. For example, every magazine this month has a gift guide of some sort. I love looking through these, though most of the stuff I would never buy for anyone. I just like the window shopping. I tore out one page of cool ones to mention on here but Ginger ripped it up beyond recognition. Sorry. Friends and neighbors usually get consumables - one year I made chocolate peppermint biscotti, this year I gave homemade hot chocolate mix or Trader Joe's Orange Cranberry bread mix and my holiday mix cd. I love one year Tona gave neighbors fresh bread or baguette and a little dish of homemade flavored butter, like orange honey or basil parmesan. I don't have kids' teachers to think about yet, but having worked in schools I know what they want - gift cards for classroom supplies, anything handmade by the kids, and baked goods will never be turned down.

This brings me to one of my favorite gift ideas - handmade things. Food is going to be the next post topic so here we're talking about nonedibles. This is a potentially limitless genre, and with so many creative ideas out there, handmade does not have to mean subpar. I remember one year at Kat's over-the-top holiday dinner party she made star stained glass ornaments for each guest as favors. Last year I took Hazel to The Painted Pot and she painted a mug and picture frame for gifts. For awhile I enjoyed making earrings and necklaces for gifts, but the beads have been packed away since the little ones came along. Even if you don't knit, paint, bake, sew or otherwise "craft", custom gifts are still an option. I myself am a big fan of photo gifts - puzzles, tote bags, post-it pads, magnets, note cards, calendars, etc. Drag, drop and a few clicks of the mouse, voila! ReadyMade is one of many good sites for "making stuff", and check out responses to Todd Oldham's call for DIY holiday videos.

What other awesome gift ideas have you used, seen or heard? What's at the top of your list? What's your approach or attitude toward holiday gifting?

Fresh ideas on wrapping gifts is also welcome!


Maren said...

Wow, yeah, this is a loaded topic. I'll start with a few things that come readily to mind.

Our gorcery store sells gift certificates to other stores, so I usually give the teacher a Barnes & Noble card. (My kid has had a male teacher for three years now, so cutsie little things are pretty much out.) It's always appreciated. Our preschool teachers ask for no gifts at Christmas time, but usually provide an alternative. Last year you could contribute to their retirement fund they were trying to get off the ground, and this year they have a box for the local food shelf that your kid can contribute to. That's nice- takes the pressure off.

I tend to be a very practical gift-giver, especially when it comes to my family. Everyone usually gets things they need anyway, not necessarily things they would really like but aren't expecting to see. I could be better at that, I guess. I have a theory that most people give the kinds of gifts they, themselves, would like to receive. Maybe I just really like getting things I need, not things I want. I mean, I like the fun little surprises, but I'm not going to pout if someone gives me a new vacuum for Mother's Day. (In fact, I would love it!)

I always think I'm being so good at keeping the buying down, but (in classic family form) it ends up being a ton of presents under the tree. It's not totally my fault (they're not all from me), but I could do better here as well. We used to make a Christmas budget and keep track of things, but the time to have those conversations escapes us these days. Quinn did mention something about it the other day because he's just starting to think about buying presents. It's too late for me, though; I'm all done shopping.

Wrapping. Hmm. I'm not all that fancy most of the time. Tona's awesome, and I take a lot of inspiration from her presentation style, but I guess it's not that important to me or I would try harder with all the presents. This year I've done a lot of white gift boxes tied with a ribbon. Simple. Or green argyle paper with white 1" synthetic ribbon, tied in a bow, curled and shredded. Looks fancy but still easy.

Jenny said...

I have loved reading your latest blogs all about christmas. It has been fun to reflect on different aspects of christmas and hear others traditions. It has really boosted my holiday spirit.

I have actually made home-made gifts the last couple of years for my sisters and people at work. My sister Rachel and Mom are very crafty and always seem to have some project they are doing. Here are some of my favorites
1-I made heat pads one year - I used soft flannel material. You can create any shape you want. Fill with rice or beans and close. You can heat them up in the microwave for a minute or so and they stay warm for hours.
2-Hot pads - kind of the same concept as above. Add a stick of cinnamon so when you place your hot dish it smells like cinnamon and the rice keeps the dish warmer longer.
3-Embellished dish towels. My mom makes these. They are very cute and nice to have for each season.
4-Framed cross-stich for each month. It is a small 4x6 frame and it came with 12 cross stich patterns writing the name of the month and charms to add. You just change it out each month.
5-Mod Podge, love this stuff. You can take any plain box, frame, book, etc and recreate any theme or color scheme. You just have to find the right paper - which is easy now a days with all the scrapbooking stores around and online. My favorite mod podge creations were a sketch book that I put mod podged pressed flowered to the covers. Small boxed for christmas or valentine to put something in. Layering tissue paper works really well.

My sister makes these beautiful bows for wrapping and I havent been able to master. My latest wrapping technique has been to buy really cheap wrapping paper and a spool of really nice bendy ribbon. With the nice ribbon even a regular bow looks fancy.

Disco Mom said...

OK, thank you goes to Maren for inadvertently pointing out my glaring inadequacies in every creative realm by emailing me some amazing design blogs. AMAZING.

Here's an awesome post on wrapping which is relevant here.

Here's a nice 30 gifts under $30 list.

And here's one* on kids making gifts for each other.

*Let me point out one of her kids is named Maude, one of my favorites that has almost made it to #1 with both girls, but about which name a lot of people give my crap. I stand by it, and Design Mom backs me up!

Just Katy said...

I really really love wrapping presents. I almost like wrapping more than any other part of the gift process. I don't know why and you wouldn't know it from looking at my presents.
Anyway, I've started using the paper brown bags we get at the grocery store to wrap then tying them up with ribbon. They have a very nice "brown paper packages tied up with string" look. If it's for a kid I get out the glue stick and the glitter. Wa-La. Who under the age of ten doesn't like glitter? It's good to look at, touch, and eat. Mmm Mmmm. And it you have the right glue stick you can do designs, like stars or circles.

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