Blah Blah Blah · Family Ties

A Homemade Holiday

Martha Stewart's idea of a lovely homemade gift. And it is lovely...but if I made this for someone, it would be the only homemade gift I finished in 5 years.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas music, and decorated trees, and people being just a little bit kinder to one another. I like the yummy food and seeing friends and family. And while I do, of course, like receiving gifts, I really like giving gifts. In particular, I like giving gifts that are well-received and liked by the recipients. We have a heck of a gift-giving list, one that gets larger every year as more family and friends have kids. Dave and I tend to be generous when it comes to gift-giving, because we like to use gift opportunities to let people know how much we love them. This year is going to be a bit of a struggle, though. The freelance business is picking up, but it’s still new – less than a year old, really – and we have nowhere near the same income we had at this time last year. This leads me to start thinking about something I haven’t done in a very long time – making homemade gifts.

To be fair, it’s not just the money. We’ve also been feeling lately all too…commercial. We don’t feel we need anything else in the whole world – no more junk to enjoy for a moment and then try to find a place to store it. No more contributions to giant evil corporations than is necessary. And it seems like that’s probably true for most of the people in our lives – they also don’t need a whole lot more…crap. I have a feeling we’ll also be giving to charity in the name of others and buying more locally this year, and while I’m sure we’ll certainly spend some on mega-corporation-generated stuff, we’re going to make a concerted effort to cut down. Homemade gifts will contribute on that front as well.

Here’s the trouble, for me, with homemade gifts – we’re not terribly crafty people. I don’t even own a hot glue gun (or a sewing machine, and I don’t crochet or knit either), and we have only the most basic of tools. We’re pretty good at cooking, but we’re not very experienced at the kind of cooking that makes for good gifts, like canning and pickling and jamming and preserving (also, we have little to no storage space to hold such things until the time comes to give them out). Plus, the last time I did this, buying all the ingredients and containers to wrap everything prettily took almost as much money as just buying presents outright. So I’ve been trying to do some research on cheap and easy homemade gifts. The Martha (as my friend Jen calls her), has tons of ideas, but very few of them are both cheap and easy. There are lots of blogs out there that have ideas and recipes, and a few of them will definitely make it onto my list.

I don’t want to give away specifics of things we’re planning to make, because I don’t want to spoil any surprises for readers who will also be receiving gifts from us, but I did want to share a few of the places I’ve found good ideas in my research.

So those are sites where I’ve gotten a lot of ideas, but I’m still totally open to suggestions. Anyone have any great homemade gifts ideas you like that take little time, skill, space, and money?

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7 thoughts on “A Homemade Holiday

  1. I regretfully threw away at least 20 jars of homemade jam this past weekend that were gifted to us over the last few years… We don’ t eat jam. I saved it with good intention, but I’m pretty sure that after a year or so it’s not a good idea to eat it… and if we haven’t eaten it yet, we aren’t going to. The thought was lovely, but yeah… we aren’t really in the market for jam. And when I threw it all out I thought “we’ll now we have room for this years supply of jam!” HAHAHAH. I think homemade gifts are REALLY hard! I love the idea, but I also know my shameful little secret – I throw away ALOT of jam.

  2. You both have excellent taste in books and music. Mixed CDs? Books from used book stores? I’ve seen people come up with some amazing stuff purchased from thrift stores. I don’t have the patience for shopping, but perhaps you could find some cool vintage stuff? Erm… I’ve found delicious recipes for roasted/spiced nuts prepared in a slow cooker.

    1. I did mixed CDs for co-workers a couple of years ago; I thought about using the same playlists for certain friends and family members this year. The thing about books is never knowing if someone actually reads/reads the same things as you/reads book-books (Dave’s sis and her husband mostly listen to audiobooks as opposed to reading paper or e-books). And I have no patience with shopping either, at least not in person. I hate going to thrift and vintage stores because the part where you sift through the things you don’t want to find the things you do bores me to tears. Nuts! I was definitely thinking about some nuts for people I know who like yummy nuts 🙂

  3. There are a number of food items that are easy to make. For example, I know a family that makes huge batches of bourbon balls every year and it’s something that they’re known for.

    Homemade quick breads (like pumpkin bread, banana bread, etc.) are great because they can be eaten right away or frozen for later.

  4. I’m still thinking everybody will have to settle for cute pictures of babies. Even starting to consider Christmas gifts gives me almost as much angst as the thought of finally deciding on daycare.

    Isn’t it still like, July? WHERE DID THE YEAR GO?

  5. Every few years some friend makes a Christmas mix CD that we are happy to receive. I highly recommend that.

    I like to make t-shirts for nieces and nephews – I buy the iron-on transfers you run through your printer and packs of plain tshirts. (Also good gifts for husbands.) The year the nephews were super into ninjas I found a fun ninja font I used. Total success. I’ve also used freezer paper to make stencils and done some fabric painting (in a cool way, I promise.). If I’m feeling super overachieving, I might run it through the sewing machine or add some hand embroidery. You can get away with just the basic though.

    One year I bought clear glass ornaments we decorated by filling with moss and tiny birds. Another year we made bath salts. The last few years I just pull out jars of pickles & fruit butters I’ve made and give those. Pat’s folks love my watermelon rind pickles and Edie’s bus driver has a fondness for my green bean pickles. For people on our list that none of that works, I give it to Edie. This year, she’s getting busy with some duct tape crafts.

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