Archive for the ‘Holiday Giving’ Category

Husband’s work had a gift exchange this year, but it was something a little different. They had a Yankee Swap, but instead of buying a gift, everyone was supposed to bring a handmade, homemade gift they made themselves.

In addition to being less commercial and (likely) more eco-friendly, it was a great way to showcase everyone’s talent (or lack of talent, as some of the gag gifts suggested). And it was just plain cool.

Gifts ranged from knitted scarves, bookmarks, screen-printed pillowcases, framed photographs, baked goods, mini clay sculptures, mix CDs, and so much more. What a cool idea, and so completely obvious. It seems like just one more thing to have to do in an already busy time, but I had so much fun making my gift, and I imagine others did too. What a great way to bring some meaning back into gift giving. I usually try to make most of my gifts anyway, but it was fun to know that everyone had made theirs too. Usually, I’m the rogue crazy environmentalist offering homemade lip balm and vanilla extract, wrapped up in a reusable bag made from an old umbrella, and it felt good to not be the odd one out for a change.

So what did I make? I wasn’t sure where to start, but I wanted to definitely make something fun and whimsical. Then husband asked, “what’s a Yankee Swap without a Yankee to swap?” And it was all over from there. I had to make a Yankee. Uncle Sam was my inspiration (whom I have now decided bears the surname Yankee).

And here he is, himself. Uncle Sam Yankee.


Did anyone else give or receive cool handmade gifts this year?


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Firstly, I know that posting twice in one day is overkill. But I have to tell you about my day!

I finally broke down and did it. I gave in. I surrendered. I BOUGHT SOMETHING to give as a gift. I know it’s not really that big of a deal, that I bought ONE thing, but for me, it was the idea of making handmade gifts for everyone and not giving in on the commercialism, and buying something means I’m cheating. But today, I made an exception. Just a tiny one. See, my nephews LOVE trucks. And trains. And planes. And cars. And generally any type of toy mode of transportation. Well today, I came across a toy recycling truck. I’ve never seen a toy recycling truck before, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I’m sure they don’t have a recycling truck. There’s also little slots so you can sort all of your toy recyclables: cans, paper, and plastic. And to top it off, it’s made out of 100% recycled #2 milk jugs, free of BPAs, packaged in recycled cardboard, and printed with soy ink. Totally earth-friendly through and through. And, the place I got it from was having a major moving sale, so it was super discounted. I couldn’t resist.

But now this means I’ve got two gifts for 3 kids (they’re also getting the Chaos game), so now I’ve got to figure something else out. My little niece will be getting one of those towel cats, I think…..

On to the Goodwill. I know you’re thinking it: “Who shops for Christmas gifts at the goodwill?!?” I wasn’t shopping for gifts. Just browsing. This is one of my all-time favorite places to browse. Among other things, I got a couple of old tattered hard-cover books, because I want to experiment with making a hollow book to use as a pencil case for my drawing pencils. And you won’t believe one of the books I picked up. It was titled “Better than Life.” What’s better than life? Making art, of course! 🙂 I have no idea what the book’s about….the paper jacket was missing, but I think it’s the perfect book title to hold all my artsy drawing stuff. I’m sort of intrigued to read it before cutting it up, but I’m also really chomping at the bit to get started with this project, and I don’t want to end up liking the book, because then I won’t want to cut it up. I also picked up an old dictionary too (for a prototype), just so I can get all the mistakes out the first time around. Expect an additional posting about this, and pictures too. Better than life, I’m still laughing about that one. Maybe I will read it….

EDIT: The book was really completely lame. It was all motivational-speaker-ish and preachy about why reading books is important. You’re preaching to the choir, Mr. author. Anyone who’s dedicated enough to pick up your book doesn’t need to be told that reading is important. I definitely don’t feel so bad cutting it up.

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Like it or not, the holiday season is in full swing. As much as I hate getting started with Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving, I know others do, and advertisers are pushing hard for us to spend more money, buy more stuff, and start earlier every year. This year, I’m excited to try a new challenge for myself: the hundred dollar holiday. Inspired by an article  by Bill McKibben I read here, I’m working on making this holiday season more meaningful, less stressful, less about the stuff I give/get and more about enjoying time with my family.

I’ve always been a rather creative person, and I do lots of sewing, so this year, I’m giving homemade gifts. Not only homemade, but I’ve also tried to make my homemade items using fabric I already have or by cutting up other items I don’t need or use anymore. I have to say I have made some beautiful things that I’m really looking forward to giving. I plan on posting pictures of everything I made, but after I give them. My status so far: I’ve made gifts for everyone in my immediate family (mom, dad, 2 sisters, niece, 2 nephews) with the exception of one person (husband), and my total spent is about $30.

Here are some great ideas of ways you can simplify:

Cards: We all give and receive lots of cards. And let’s face it–e-cards are just lame. Why not send something a little more meaningful than just a piece of processed paper that will end up in the recycling bin later? Grow-a-note cards are plantable cards with wildflower seeds infused in the paper. You’ll have to wait until the weather warms up, but what a great way to send a card that can have another use than just filling up a landfill.

Services: One of my favorite all-time gifts received was an index card good for 12 hours of massage time. Best. Husband. Ever. Best. Gift. Ever. That is all. Cards like this are fun to give, fun to receive, and can build and strengthen relationships. Maybe a voucher for cooking a favorite family meal together, an offer to do a chore for someone else, to babysit for another family member, or the ever-popular back rub. Get creative!

Donations: Why not give to those who need it more than the people in your family? Make a donation in honor of your family member. Communities all over are trying to meet more needs than ever, and a great way to help would be to make a donation. Local food pantries are always in need of money or donations. Or you can branch out further from home. Organizations like Oxfam America will let you give a meaningful, yet tangible donation that will directly impact a specific family. And it’s just plain cool to say you gave someone a goat for Christmas.

Repurposing: I do considerable amounts of sewing, and a favorite thing I’m finding I like to do is sneak something from a family member to make it into something better and give it back to them. For example, I made a beautiful fabric wall hanging for my mom made out of leftover fabric scraps she had after making some curtains, some sheets she was getting rid of, and other fabric odds and ends of hers and mine. And now I know she’ll like it because it is all made out of stuff she already likes and it will match her curtains! And it’ll be really fun to present her with old things of hers remade into something new. The creativity here is absolutely endless. A fabric gameboard with milk jug cap pieces. Strips of old plastic grocery bags are really fun to crochet or knit with. Coasters made of opld fabric scraps. A heating pad made from an old placemat. the possibilities are truly endless. For those feeling intimidated by the words “get creative,” here’s a great site that’s full of easy-to-do ideas to get the creativity flowing.

Wrapping: Try to use reusable wrapping as much as possible, or start a challenge of who can use the same wrapping from year to year. Or hide your gifts all over the place and have a scavenger hunt for people to find their gifts with written clues. We waste a ton of time, energy, and resources just to throw away all that beautiful stuff in just a few minutes, and there are definitely less-impact and still meaningful (and fun!) ways to reduce our waste.

Anyway, the purpose here is not only to be greener in our holiday habits, but to also simplify. We all deserve a truly meaningful, joyous Christmas season free of stress, commercialism, and hype. And it will bring your family closer together, enable everyone to enjoy it even more, and will help you feel empowered to rise above some of the guilt that comes with our environmentally-trashing habits Christmas gift-giving.

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