Monday, November 30, 2009

Some Alternative Christmas Gift Ideas....

I love shopping for other people. I enjoy shopping for my kids, my husband, friends and family. Christmas-giving is something very fun for me (except the wrapping). This year we have been in negotiations with Rob's side of the family to decide how we would approach gift-giving now that we are all single-income families. I know some families who exchange put a monetary limit on their gift-giving, some require the item to be handmade, and some choose to not exchange at all. My sister and I decided a number of years ago to only exchange gifts with each other during birthdays.

Rob and I try to keep our Christmas as simple as possible. I do most of the shopping, but we usually brainstorm beforehand, especially for the kids and usually for his dad and mine. We only buy gifts with cash. Sometimes that means that I buy a few things here and there, and that is what we have found to work for us. We do not own a credit card. We have always kept our kids expectations low in that they probably receive about five gifts from us and they are quite happy with that. I always buy them a full outfit to wear for Christmas day, a few small gifts, and their "big" gift. This year the big gift for Josh is a hunting rifle and I bought the girls some "school" supplies for when they teach their stuffed animals. We also donate to charities for our great-grandmothers, typically to a local charity or through Samaritan's Purse (they will send a card informing them of the gift).

I also try to make some homemade treats for several neighbors and friends. Another thing I have done since my kids have been in school is to prepare some food for their teachers. In the past I have done either a lunch for them to eat at school (usually a salad, a piece of quiche and some fresh fruit) or a breakfast that they can share with their family (blueberry coffee cake, fresh fruit, and a whole quiche). They have always responded with enthusiasm, but it will be interesting to add all of Josh's teachers to the mix (four main subjects).

I have been trying to creatively give this year. We decided to exchange names with Rob's side of the family and I am planning to give a four-part gift: a gift of service, a "re-gift", and a traditional gift, and a handmade gift. The gift of service means that I will give my time to someone....maybe to babysit, to help with small projects around their house (ie cleaning their refrigerator, helping to organize a garage, re-arrange and "house clean" a room, etc.) as a few examples. The "re-gifted" present is self-explanatory - I found something in my attic that I think will be perfect for my recipient. As for the handmade gift, has a great slideshow of gift ideas that can either be purchased or made.

I do a lot of shopping on Amazon. I will add things to my wish list all through the year, plus others can view the list simply by adding your email address.
When I shop on Amazon, reviews play a large part in my selections. I love finding "treasures" that other people have tried and love. An idea I had for gift-giving would be to give your recipient a basket of "your favorite things"- include items you use every day (mine would include magic erasers, dove deodorant, oil of olay face cream with spf 15, bigelow products from B&B works, etc.)

Here's an idea for the cook on your list: Give a gift of spices. Include all of your favorite spices and maybe a few recipes for use them for. Another suggestion is a copy of your favorite cookbook. Notice how my Betty Crocker is quite well-worn? She brought me through many a long day when I was newly married, lived five hours from home and my mom wasn't able to answer the phone!

Maybe you could start giving someone a collection of something. My friend, Whitney, has been giving me this collection. I have found it to be a very meaningful. You could even explain on the gift tag that this gift will be added to each year.

I put in a special request for whoever draws my name this year. I would like some new Christmas decorations. I am still using this table runner my mom made and used in her home since at least 1983. What I am asking for, however, is a "gift certificate" that my purchaser will shop for new decorations for me AFTER Christmas (when everything is 75-90% off).

One of the best gifts I have received is an address book from my mother-in-law. She bought the book and then filled it in my all of the addresses of far-away relatives! You could buy a basket and fill it with an adress book, envelopes, stamps, thank-you notes, a few occasional cards and envelopes, etc.

Maybe you have finished your shopping, or your list has already been decided. If not, I hope some of these ideas might inspire you!


  1. The picture of the salt reminded me of this question. Do you use less salt when you use Kosher salt?

  2. I'm not sure...I've been using Kosher for a few years (just bought my second box). I would guess that I probably use less--not as many will fit into a measuring spoon.
    I don't know anything specific...I just know Ina and Alton (my food networks heroes) use Kosher! :)

  3. I always use Kosher too, but when I made cookies the last two times, I could taste the salt in them. That made me curious to know if I should be using less. Maybe it's b/c I use salted butter too???

  4. salted butter is a tough one...I happen to love it, but I've heard that it is impossible to tell how much has been added because manufacturers don't follow the same measurements. I use salted butter and kosher for my cooking and baking...are you kidding? like I would be organized and controlled enough to maintain separate stores of butter/salt? :) maybe you could taste the batter before adding salt to determine how much? I happen to love saltiness, even in sweet dishes-especially with chocolate....I'm going to try to make PW's truffles with sea salt (but I'll probably use kosher, cause I'm a rebel like that!).