Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Creative Giftery

Angela (Hi Ange) commented yesterday about taking the "stuff" out of giving. She suggested time is a good thing to give and got me thinking about other ways to taking the stuf-ing out of the holiday.

A few times in my life I've been in the name drawing sort of events.

All the cousins on the Wagner side used to draw one name each and get a gift just for that person. I think the price limit was 5$. It worked while we were all young or youngish.
After too many of the cousins got married and/or knocked up, there were too many people and too many of us were no longer acquainted. So, we quit gifting all together.
But as kids, this was a good way to go. We each got something, usually something silly, and a good time was had by all. It tended to limit gifts for those who were "easy to buy for" and make sure that those who are tougher to buy for got something as well.
The drawing was usually on thanksgiving day after we were all bloated from eating. I don't know if the Michigan cousins were involved. I hope so but I was a kid and I don't remember.

In recent years my group of friends from undergrad days at Iowa State U had a drawing event for two christmases with the requirement that the gift be "craptacular." That was pretty well interpreted as hand crafted or crafty in some way. We drew names among the 11 or so friends, though I think couples counted as one entity to simplify matters. It was great fun. I remember making a calendar the first year (well...Jonny assembled it) and being blown out of the water when Ange made the daily calendar...oh well. The next year I decoupaged a serving tray for the friends in Louisiana who hadn't seen many of us in years. I covered it with photos of us from back in the day and more recently and for extra craptacularity...I used glittery decoupage goo. This also had the effect of putting us all in soft-focus which was good for the more recent photos.
However, those other more talented friend took the "crap" right out of "craptacular". The first year I got a pillow from Laurie with Iowa themed applique's, and a matching cool/warm eye mask with piggies over each eye! That wasn't crappy. It's spectacular.
The next year Bree made me a lovely mosaic out of tiny tiles. It still hangs in my kitchen in Plummer. It's gorgeous.

So that was a fun way to limit the number of gifts and the amount spent, but it was also too difficult to maintain. We don't all have the time and ambition to make gifts each year.

I try to make some of my gifts (hope the Aunts and Uncles need more jam...) and most of those have been big hits, but I don't always have the inspiration or the time to do it. So it's a melange.

I agree with another part of Angela's comment...consumables are good. I love candles (even butt-smelling ones) and burn them pretty much continuously through the winter. The light cheers me up. In fact right now I'm burning 2 candles rather than having a light on. Also, we all look better in candle light.

A couple of my aunts often give me spice mixes and whatnot. I love those. I made some seriously good chili just the other day when I repurposed some fajita spice from last christmas into the blackbean chili pot. I should do that again...soon.

And one aunt used to always get me bloomingdales underwear. That was fun. It's sort of a "consumable" since undies only last so long. Last christmas she came up with some excellent socks (just wore them today) among other things.

I used to love getting towels and things, and while I still love those, I now have enough towels to supply a football team for a week. When I took on the second household people tried to give me things and my first words were: NO SHEETS AND TOWELS!
(But if anyone talks to Gram...I'm down to my last two sets of embroidered dish towels because I use them everyday and am wearing them out.)
I think the best set of towels I have were also pre-used. They are purple and teal and in perfect shape. They are still the "good" towels that I get out for company.

I'm not against non-consumables! I got a lovely duvet cover last christmas. I've gotten pendleton blankets now and then, and the kitchenaid mixer of course.
But, not everything has to last forever. We're all getting older and don't need as much stuff because we have more stuff.

Even though we don't "need" as much stuff, I think the act of exchanging gifts of some sort is important but I won't go into the dull anthropological theories behind that.


Fly Right said...

As the owner of a gift shop, I hope that the entire act of giving gifts is not obsolete (which is why I have a GREEN gift shop--takes the guilt right out of ya'). I do agree with all the gift theories expressed here on S&F, though. One holiday thing I always thought was great was the year that Chersten's family decided at Thanksgiving to all pitch in for a big donation to the community food pantry instead of buying each other big presents for Christmas. They still did little stocking-stuffers, but the $100 drawing names gift was foregone that year. I think the young children got stuff, but they need it. They haven't been around long enough to accumulate a bunch of crap yet.

As for Ange's question about not giving a gift--I think it's okay, as long as you give a card and/or verbally acknowledge the birthday. And a hot cocoa date, movie, or tidbit to eat is as good as, if not better than a present you grabbed from your "regift" bag. Or she could always make them a string of Snow Angels. (that was what I got from her when we drew craptacular names--it was a strand of snowman lights that she made into angels with all of our faces on them). We do a mean Charlie's Angels impression when we're all together, don't we?

Anonymous said...

Hi Punkins,

Hey Jill, I took pictures/saved pictures of a lot of the craptacular gifts you and Laurie mentioned if you want fun fo-toes. Laurie, you raise an excellent point and I hope that you don't think I was undermining your business! In fact, I keep going back to your store's website hoping that we can order stuff online because I'd love to give you my business. And no, giving gifts is wonderful for all sorts of reasons. What I was lamenting was this "I have no idea what this person wants/needs/desires/is allergic to" but I'll dash out to Target and find a Jean Nate (pronounced Na-TAY) spritzer and soap-on-a-rope and hope that it won't offend..." situations we sometimes find ourselves in. There is really no easy way to extricate ourselves from these types of exchanges and commitments. I still want to try to find some meaningful way to tell the people I love (i.e., you two) that I love and appreciate them. I want to, in the words of James Taylor, shower the people I love with love, not with Jean Na-TAY (do you remember that circa 1978 Jean N. commercial where the woman was literally showing and splashing COPIOUS amounts of that stuff all over? She must have stunk, in the words of either my grandmother or James Taylor or the real Jean Na-Tay, "to high heaven."

Laurie, one solution is for me to get off my rumpus and come up to visit you. After classes get out, I just might do that and not only enjoy seeing you but also seeing all your cool stuff first-hand. I actually LOVE shops like yours - places where you find cool and unique things that you don't see lining the shelves of a Target or a Walmart or whatever. So, I'm looking for creative gift ideas with a little bit of heart in them, and you both gave me some great ideas. Angela