Friday, November 21, 2008

Preparing For A Homemade, Handmade Christmas... AND, What Color Is YOUR Christmas?

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:
presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.

~ Burton Hillis

Christmas is not as much about opening
our presents as opening our hearts.

~ Janice Maeditere

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas
spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.

~ Harlan Miller

The holiday time is, once again, upon us. Next week is Thanksgiving, and following fast on it's heels is Christmas. Christmas has always been a beloved holiday for me and I have the joy of a child around the whole season. However, a decade ago my decades long marriage ended and my children were fast growing and going off into their own lives, which, of course, is as it should be. In the years that followed Christmas became a hard, sad time for me, and a deep worry over money, and I would plan to make gifts and never have time to finish them, and I was filled with panic and in tears. As the holidays approached I began to feel a sense of dread. Well, no more. Christmas is only a scary time if you buy into the commercial aspects of Christmas and set yourself to standards that are not your own, but those of the world around you, those who will worry for some time after the holidays about how they will pay for what they overspent on the holiday. Now, if you have the money to spend, good for you, but if you don't, never fear, handmade, and homemade, and fun is here.

Three headbands I knitted very
quickly a few Christmases ago.
They are wide because they are
meant to cover the ears in the
wintery cold weather. Quick to
make and the girls loved them.

This year, with the economy putting so many in such a hard place, Christmas has become scarier than ever. I won't do that to myself or to my family. I wrote them each an e-mail that said that this year we should have a low-key Christmas full of love, but that the gifts should be homemade, handmade, or even regifted. I have many skills and the tools and supplies to make many gifts. We can make cookies or jelly or other homemade goods (And I am finding, more and more, that people are appreciating homemade, homespun, thoughtful gifts made of love, with our own hands that so often mean more than store-bought, expensive gifts. At least so I believe and so this is the way I choose to show my love through gifts.)

A little knitted pouch to
carry cell phone around
and be hands free. Great
for the car too. I also
tucked in the earphones
so I could do anything
inlcuding doing dishes
or crocheting while
talking on the phone...

So what, you ask, might you do? What can you cook, bake, or even package up, really pretty, a variety of ingredients for a loved one to make something else later on? We often get so many cookies and baked goods at Christmas we are inundated and then in January there is a sinking spell. What about a jar of jam and box of scone mix to open up in January? And I bet that there is not a person reading this that cannot make something! One of the most wonderful suggestions, for my children, would be pictures of their families. My son, and his then girlfriend did something a few years ago that I thought was adorable. They got a cheap frame (You can make a frame in any number of fun ways as well -- how about cutting and gluing together a couple of layers of heavy cardboard covered with fabric, felt is great -- it doesn't need sewing and doesn't unravel, and you can decorate with anything!), they put a picture of themselves in it, and then decorated the frame by gluing on lots of colorful buttons. I adore it! What about popcorn balls, candied apples, or the ever popular rice crispies squares with something Christmasy added in (sprinkles, M&M's, now in Christmasy colors, oh, so many things...). And guys, I bet you know how to make a lot of things in your shop if you have one, something with wood, or something from nature. Go out and cut greens and make a Christmas wreath, delivered fresh and early! Get the kids to help you make little home-made ornaments!

A little handmade doll made from recycled baby overalls bought at a yardsale. Soft corduroy, washed, and stuffed with other old clothes. Not embellished so safe for babies, but imagine what great dog or cat toys you could make like this, maybe tucking a little catnip in for a kitty...

And there are those of us who are artists that can make all manner of fun things. AND don't attempt BIG projects that will set you up for a nervous breakdown when the holiday draws near and you still have 10 things to finish with no hope of time enough to do it. Think of small things. And making things realistically small means that you don't end up giving I.O.U.'s so you can finish them later, only to (red cheeks) never finish them anyway (ahem)... Sigh...

A scarf can be knitted very
quickly one evening while
watching tv and is a great
winter gift!

Re-gifting. Don't knock it. How many nice things have you bought and never used? Maybe even on e-bay, or in a store? These things make wonderful gifts. Take cuttings now from favorite indoor plants and make little starter plants for Christmas. I did this for my eldest daughter a few years ago with a jasmine plant and she loved it. How many books are sitting on your shelves that you bought with good intent but never even cracked open? Cookbooks, garden books, craft books, novels, whatever. Make homemade journals. Kids notebooks, those little spotted ones with heavy cardboard covers we used as children and are still going strong today. They are cheap and you can easily decorate them a hundred different ways. You can make them guy oriented or feminine. Let your imagination SOAR! And further, feel free to send YOUR ideas in in the comments section after this post! We can all help one another through the holidays!

Lastly, and I have repeated this story many times over the years. I first heard this nearly 2 decades ago from a very dear friend whom I have sadly lost contact with over the years, but it has stuck with me forever because I think it's GENIUS! Imagine this. First of all, a holiday gift exchange rather than buying something for everybody helps if money and time are really tight. Barring that, if you want to give inexpensive gifts and make it fun, here's what my friend did...

If you have time and not too many gifts to make, a shawl is always a wonderful gift to snuggle up in on cold winter nights. This is one I made for my dear mother a few years back. You can also make smaller ones that just wrap around neck and shoulders, and the easiest thing to do is to do up a good size square that can be folded in half in a triangular fashion.

Brook and her friends would get together, draw names, and then each year they drew a color. Say it was BLUE. They set the limit at $5 and had to buy as much as they possibly could for $5 and ALL of the gifts had to be BLUE that year. I think a nice alternative, since everybody has a different favorite color, is that when you put your name on a little slip of paper for the drawing, you put your favorite color, so all your little gifts would be your favorite color. And they took great fun and delight in seeing how many things they could find, tiny things, in drugstores (tiny blue hair clips, cheap blue pens, cheap cheap cheap sparkly blue fingernail polish...), consignment shops, flea markets, wherever, (and these days we have Dollar stores everywhere, a font of great fun and surprises CHEAP!), like a scavenger hunt, finding the little items and wrapping them up in -- of course -- the person's favorite color paper (or maybe an old scarf that color, or cut up old clothing you won't wear anymore but it makes fabulous gift wrap!).

A picture of yourself wearing your
favorite flamingo light necklace
will not soon be forgotten!

Now, if you're not doing an exchange and have several people to buy for, even those $5's worth of items can add up so just MAKE the little things in that color. What about PURPLE Christmas cookies? Old salt and pepper shakers that have lost a mate make perfect little flower bottles for the kitchen windowsill for wildflowers. And SAVE all the little jars things come in through the year for these tiny gifts. And I can't stress enough, SHOP AT YOUR OWN HOUSE. You will find so many things it will be positively shocking. An unopened package of incense or never used candles. Again, if you sew, wash and dry an old pillow and cut up some of your old clothing that no longer fits or has a rip or tear somewhere and make a pillowcase for a pillow or two for throw pillows. My middle daughter made us all pillows one year and I still treasure it! Start looking around your house with a new eye... "What could I use THAT for? What might I turn THAT into?" What about cleaning and painting an old light shade? The possibilities are endless.

A wind-up
chicken is
a much
gift than
rocks in
sock of
who has
been a
bad boy
or girl!

So this is how I plan to prepare for Christmas, and in the light of my hard lessons and tender days, to be on the hunt or making something for someone I love will make all the difference. That's what I intend to do.

I knitted up this pouch a few years ago. A large single pouch sewn down the middle and covered with vintage buttons, with the handle color inspired by the buttons. A double pouch is a great idea. Glasses on one side and little note-pad and pen on the other, great for nature walks. Or cell phone in one side and sunglasses in the other, or whatever!

And if you don't celebrate Christmas, use these ideas for your own holiday if gift giving is involved. And have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving next week...

Happy Holidays, Merry Everything...



MySweetThree said...

So many great ideas that you have shared. My family and I have been drawing names out of a hat for the last 3 years and set a low limit as to the amount that can be spent. This year, due to a tighter bugdet, me and my girls will be making cookies and put them in a tin with ribbon that we will tie to it..hee hee, now, it may not be pretty. The cooking skills and tying ribbon skills of a 3 year old are not very good..but they will be handmade..and loved, I am sure. Again, great ideas..I only wish I could knit!

Shinade said...

Oh my I wish i had your talent for crocheting. We now have 11 immediate family members. So christmas can very quickly get out of control for us.

I tried the let's have a hand made gift, and also, the drawing of names in our family. But, no one went along with it.

We also have 5 grandsons who are teenagers. I never have a clue what to buy them.

So we have to be very careful at Christmas not to let our budget get out of hand. thank fully all of our children understand the fact that we do have such a large family now that we simply can't give as we once did.

I give gift cards to Barnes and Noble to some of the grandchildren and to others I give gift cards to their store of choice for shopping for clothes or other items.

Then I try very hard to find something simple and inexpensive to send along that is unique to each one's personality.

We manage to keep everyone happy and as a rule stay under $500.

Also like you Christmas as a rule is shared at home just myself and my husband. Everyone lives too far away to make it here every year.

But, you know on the years that we are alone it is so nice. That is probably a terrible thing to say. But, it is so easy when it is just us.

We don;t have an enormous amount of cooking and cleaning to do. And we don;t spend a week trying to escape all of the rowdiness and noise.

Some times we don;t even put up our tree. We always decorate with lights outside for everyone's enjoyment. But I don;t always drag everything out and decorate inside just for us. And I don;t miss having that to clean up, pack up and put away either.

I told you i was a hermit and I am married to one also. We love it when all of the family gets together every 2 or 3 years. But we also love those in between years when everything is so easy.

Oh my I wrote an entire page. Forgive me but you are always so wonderful to spend time with.

And I love your necklace. it is fabulous!!:-)

Zen Ventures said...

so talented! I love your work. WISH I can knit! HA! but yeah our Christmas gifts will all be Handmade too! :) Stopping by here from SITS- come by say hello sometimes..

janed said...

hi.. i used to leave message here this days.. since i have problem in cbox. anyway,ur very creative... take care..

jj-momscashblog said...

Great blog that I just happend upon. I've been seeing your entrcard at different times and thought I wonder who's the artist behind that? I'm into painting, and I just loved your style. I read your post and your right on, my friend and I are in fact making paper mache bracelets tomorrow!!
And then we make about 1-2 wks before Christmas our own version of Cracker Jacks, I have the recipe after we make a batch we put them into cello bags from Dollar Store and then we might buy a chap Stick,mini lipgloss, or anything you want for the surprise in the Cracker Jacks. It's a big hit! Thanks for a lot of great ideas. I had a fun time reading your post..

Carole said...

What wonderful ideas, you have really inspired me. And I love your way of writing, your voice - I feel such a sense of peace and gentleness, an oasis on the internet. I love all the things you made and would be thrilled to receive any of them, I hope your family and friends appreciate them. It's the homemade things that keep the special memories attached to them.

Jennifer said...

I was just talking to my husband about only giving handmade or used (vintage?) Christmas presents. There are some great ideas here ... too bad I have no idea how to crochet! I'm sure people love getting your handmade treasures.

Roxy's Best Of... said...

What a lovely post, so many thankful thoughts and great gift ideas that don't have to create stress at the holidays. Thanks for sharing with us.

Maitri Libellule said...

Greetings Lovely Souls, :o)

Yes, a handmade Christmas is a lovely thing, and even if you don't knit or crochet, you can make many things. I remember when I was in gradeschool one year my mother and I made Christmas presents. She didn't knit or crochet either, but we had so much fun. She got small tin wastebaskets and we painted them bright colors and decorated them. You can use stencils. Anyone can do that. People can cook (jelly or jam?) or make cookies, or make things with felt. You can glue it, you needn't even sew. I saw a wonderful tree-topper that would make a wonderful Christmas gift. 2 big stars cut out of felt and glued together with the bottom open to put on the top of the tree. You can glue on bric-a-brac around the edges, sew on beads, whatever. Handmade Christmas ornaments could be the beginning of a wonderful Christmas tradition to exchange with each other. So many easy, wonderful things.

I can't wait to hear more of your ideas, and I'm sending holiday hugs to each and every one of you!

Warm Blessings,


Ragtree said...

Maitri, BEAUTIFUL post! For the first time ever, I'm having a predominately handmade Christmas. I sculpted my Mom Christmas Carolers and I am making my sister a snowman family. I can't WAIT to receive what they are making for me!

Renee :)

Babette said...

Thank you for your visit to my blog. :o) My mother-in-law is just like you, she loves family photos. I always give my mother-in-law a framed photo of her grandkids. She loves it and now has her sunroom full of family photos. You are absolutely right that hand made gifts are special. Since I don't know how to knit, I give baked goods as presents. Their waists might not appreciate it buy I know their taste buds do. :o)

Tomas Karkalas said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you. While reading your hearty words, I ... I was just fired up with the incredible warmth that radiates from each single word here. Thanks once again.
Best wishes to you from and all other my locations on web.
You created the most wonderful Christmas in my heart and so helped to look at the world in the new light.
God blesses you.

netta said...

Handmade gifts have long been a tradition in our family. I knitted a shawl for my Momma and she wore it always.

When reading your blog, I had a small glimmer of light for this holiday. Thank you for that.



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