Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving From the Heart

I like to give meaningful gifts. Homemade presents. Thoughtful things. Just going out and buying stuff from a store doesn't quite give me the same satisfaction. I like to give a gift of myself; from my heart. Something that won't get tossed, but hopefully, treasured, appreciated, and remembered for years to come. I want the receiver to feel like, "Wow, Emily must care a lot about me to give something she's put thought, effort, and love into."

With all my good intentions, sometimes I just don't have the time like I'd like. To be perfectly honest, sometimes I feel a lot of stress giving this way. I'm finding that it's harder to give homemade gifts now that my family has gotten bigger, the children are older, and our lives busier. Sometimes, there have been years when I've felt just plain burned out.

With all this, I do the best I can. I do know that giving, whether homemade or store bought, brings me a lot of joy. I know that I really appreciate it when someone I love thoughtfully chooses or makes something with their hands and hearts they'll know I'll enjoy receiving.

With the economy the way it is, giving homemade just makes sense. It speaks of simplicity and frugality. We can get away from the frenzied commercialism and consumer mentality that takes over the true meaning of Christmas. When we take the role of "producer" instead of "consumer", we are developing our talents and sharing part of ourselves with others. Creativity has an outlet for practical expression. A blessing to both the giver and receiver.

I've thought back to all the "from the heart", homemade gifts I've given over the years. (Looking at this list might seem overwhelming to you. This is over 20 years worth of giving, friend!) If you're the type of person who likes to do this type of giving, here are some of the things I've given or received. Maybe one of these ideas could work for you.

To the children:

~easy fleece blankets or tied quilts
~fleece slippers
~knitted hats, scarves, slippers (my mom's specialty)
~flannel pajamas to open on Christmas eve

~festive holiday pillowcases (look for colorful, fun fabrics even for other yearly holidays)
~play dough with cookie cutters
~laundry bags or other tote bags
~pencil or crayon roll up

~doll clothes
~dolls (many, many) and a beloved sock monkey
~painted town and road mat for little cars to drive on
~"quiet" books
~dress ups
~sewing kit

~wooden blocks (Keith and I worked on this project together long, long ago. One of the best things we gave our children.)

~wooden play kitchen (another Keith project. An heirloom for sure.)
~video story time of me reading stories.
~coupons for experiences (going to the Nutcracker, to a play, sporting events, special dinner out)

For adults or families

~a book of family poems, written and gathered from every one in our immediate family over the years. Eliza, who was ten at the time, illustrated it. We copied and bound it to give to family and close friends. What a treasure, especially for me, to have these poems all in one volume.

~a cookbook of my favorite recipes with my favorite quotes and food memories. I love this for myself, having all my recipes organized in one place.

~photos organized into albums. I'm no real scrapbooker. Just the photos simply arranged. I put one together to give Keith of his mission to Portugal. Another one to my parents of all the Christmas's our family has celebrated over the years. I had each of my siblings write a letter to them about some of their favorite childhood memories of Christmas.
~CD photo album with music to accompany, "This is Your Life" or "Our Family Through the Years".
~a few years ago, my mom gave me all her fabric from her years of sewing. I used some of this to make all the special women in my life aprons. I included, in the pockets, a hand carved wooden spoon made by a local artisan, as well as a little booklet I compiled of poems, quotes, and stories about the "Power of an Apron".

~handcrafted jewelry
~felt pincushions
~coupons for "cookie of the month", "once a month dinner delivered to you", "baked goods from me to you, redeemed for the next three months", "dinner and fun at our house", "massage or pedicure date together", "a romantic getaway".
~themed baskets: (this is a favorite of mine. I'm the queen of baskets!) Italian or Mexican foods, relaxation basket with homemade soaps, lotions, bath teas, chocolates, and snugly socks, baskets of baked goods and home bottled items (salsas, homemade bbq sauce, canned peaches, jams.)
~emergency car kit. (I gave this last year to my parents. It included crackers, dried fruit, candy, granola bars, blanket, jumper cables, hand warmers, flairs, etc. They've had to use it a couple of times already. A great idea that saved the day!)

For Grandparents

~framed pictures of the kids
~a calender, created with the grand kids artwork or photos
~pine cone bird feeders
~felt bookmarks
~felt pencil or reading glasses pouch
~coasters made from card stock and laminated with their hand print.
~Christmas apron. We purchased a red, plain, canvas apron at the craft store. We cut and sewed lengths of green rick-rack to form a simple Christmas tree. Topped it with a yellow felt star. Darling and useful!

**Tomorrow, I'll share some simple ways you can anonymously make the holiday season special for those who need extra care, love, and attention. **


  1. look at you! that is quite a list and I am quite impressed. The blocks are awesome!! And, I am sure the kitchen is too. I will need to review this list again.

  2. Yes! I love anything homemade or home cherished! Gifts of self...but I am of agreement it can be time demanding and sometimes a tall then is when you get creative! I love to see all the things you and Keith have made. Comforting!