Monday, July 14, 2008

'Have a handmade holiday' challenge

Christmas in July. Actually, in my family, it's Christmas shopping in July.

What began as a survival tactic as a broke newlywed, recent college graduate - starting my holiday shopping six months in advance, so that I could actually afford gifts - has stuck as a family tradition. And while my sister-in-law laughs at me now, it's me who's laughing and truly enjoying the month of December, when I am not anywhere near a shopping mall.

It's the middle of July, and I haven't started shopping yet (with the exception of a Christmas toddler dish set I bought at Babies R Us, clearanced for $2, back in March). Given the vast evolution of our financial situation, I'm already thinking about the most cost-effective yet meaningful ways I can celebrate the holiday season with my loved ones.

I feel this holiday season will be very much akin to the months after 9/11, when shoppers scrambled to stock up on essentials - sweaters, jeans, etc., rather than the latest and greatest Nintendo. This year, I plan to be more creative in my gift-giving and stay away from many of the stores if I can.

So we have five months and 11 days until Christmas, a few days less until Hannukah. I am encouraging you to think how you can use your talents (or even purchase someone else's) to create unique gifts this holiday season.

My challenge to you? To come up with one "handmade" gift for the holidays, birthday or other gift-giving event.

A few ideas to get you started:
  • Maybe you can't live without hitting the closest scrapbook store. Use up your stash to create a personal album for someone who doesn't scrapbook, make a set of notecards for your grandmother, create an "art kit" for a kid.
  • Love to take photos? Create a calendar for the grandparents of favorite family pictures from the year.
  • Cook like crazy. If you're not a baker, consider making a few dishes that can be stored in the freezer until needed. Who wouldn't want to have dinner simply ready to heat on a hectic evening?
  • Create a gift certificate for babysitting, lawn mowing, car repair, computer repair, dish washing - any service, no matter how small, that would be greatly appreciated by the recipient.
  • Knit up a frenzy. If you're a newbie, create new scarves, dishcloths, or other simple items.
  • Not crafty? Challenge yourself to make a gift basket of items from your local market: a soap/lotion basket or bottles of local wines or sauces, etc.
While I'm not planning to give away what I might be doing this year, I will post ideas as we get closer to the holidays. And yes, if I can do this as a working parent, so can you.
So who's up for having a little handmade holiday?

1 comment:

K said...

(To use up herbs from the garden)
Italian Olive Oil
Stuff whole sprigs of basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano into a decorative bottle and cork it. This oil is fabulous drizzled over thickly sliced garden tomatoes and mozzarella bocconcini, tossed into pasta, brushed over crusty bread with grated parmesan cheese, and baked into Italian casseroles.

Lemon Vinegar
Stuff a bottle with lemon zest, lemon geraniums, peppery nasturtiums, and mint. Pour distilled vinegar over the top and cap. This vinegar is very versatile. It can be mixed with olive oil and a sweetener to make a lemon vinaigrette, reduced with white wine to make a lemon sauce for grilled chicken, or mixed into couscous for added flavor.