“I knew you wouldn’t like it.” Blogmas 15

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216api‘Tis the season for another exciting Blogmas post. It’s a busy time of the year. People shopping, shopping and shopping. Those who say online shopping is killing the mall haven’t spent any time trying to navigate the malls during the Christmas season. The mall parking lots are full now and it won’t get any better any time soon. Finding a parking spot at the mall is like winning the lottery during the Christmas season. And if the spot is near the entrance, it’s like a glorious early gift from Santa. Santa, I’m sure, has no problem finding parking. He just lands the sleigh on the mall roof, and he’s good to go.

216akfI’ve got almost all of my shopping wrapped up now. Literally. As soon as I get home with a present, I wrap it. No luck for any snoopers in my home. Maybe it’s because of one of my good friends in middle school. She went snooping and found an Esprit shirt her mom had bought her for Christmas.  Then she wore it to school before Christmas with the tag still on it. Then she put it back where she found it. I would never have been so lucky to get away with such a thing. I would have spilled food on it for certain. I did snoop one year, but realized that it wasn’t any fun on Christmas when you already know what your gifts are. Then you also have to be an amazing actress. The only upside to snooping is if you open a gift that is totally not you. It’s easier to hide your disappointment when you already know a gift you hate is coming.

216as6My mom is the worst for picking out gifts that I don’t like. I’ve realized over the years that I have to be very careful when I go shopping with her. What she tends to do is pick something up, and ask me what I think of it. Now what I used to think when she did that was, “What do you think of this for me?” But after receiving items that she asked me what I thought of over the years, I now know that “What do you think of this?” actually means “What do you think of this because I’m going to buy this for you for Christmas.”  So now when mom asks me, “What do you think of this?”, my first question to her is, “For you or for me?”

216a9rOne of the worst gifts I got from my mom was the year I asked for a plain white bath robe. What I got was a bath robe with sunglasses and lipsticks sewn on. I may have mentioned this before? But the best part was my reaction when I opened the gift. I couldn’t hide my disappointment. It looked like a plain bathrobe at first, but then I pulled it up out of the box, my face fell. My mom says and I quote: “I knew you weren’t going to like it.” She knew I wasn’t going to like it. But she got it anyway.
I love my mom and she tries so hard to make Christmas special for us all. In fact, she goes overboard every year, even now that my brother and I are well into our 30s and 40s. She braves those mall parking lots every year with arthritis in her legs, hobbling sadly around trying to find gifts that she knows we’re not going to like. She’s Santa with a wheelchair parking pass, and a list she only half reads. Instead of a red suit, she has red hair, but only because she dyes it. But she’s my Santa and I love her dearly. I can’t wait to see what things she knew I wouldn’t like this year!

I don’t exchange gifts. I give gifts. Blogmas #6.

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The other day I went shopping with a good friend of mine, Donna, who is a bit older than I am, but young at heart. We did some Christmas shopping together and got into a conversation about the “gift exchange.” She explained that she doesn’t “exchange” gifts with people. I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, so I asked for clarification.

She explained that when she buys a gift for someone it is because she wants to. There doesn’t have to be a reason and she doesn’t expect to get anything back. When I thought about it, I think I’m very similar. I have had people tell me, “Don’t buy me anything this year. I can’t afford to get you a gift,” or “I don’t want to exchange gifts anymore.” I enjoy buying gifts for friends and family. So I ignore those people and continue buying them all gifts. I buy (or make) people I care about gifts because I care about them! And if I want to get you a gift, I will do so.

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Is milk & cookies a comparable gift for what Santa leaves us under the tree?

So why is the “exchange” of gifts such a big deal to people? Why is it necessary for it to be an exchange? I mean, the wise men brought Jesus gifts, but H/he didn’t have stuff for them. He was just a baby for Christ’s sake. Well, I suppose, if you are a believer, (and I’m not saying I’m not, I’m simply acknowledging those of us who are not Christians), then I guess Jesus did die on that cross for us. But in terms of gift giving and the “exchange,” then the gift Jesus gave was worth quite a lot more than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That’s the other thing about the gift “exchange”- people setting limits on the amount to be spent on each other. I’ve never followed that rule either. If I see something that says “you” and it’s above the “set” price limit, I’m buying it for you. Because to me, Christmas is about giving. It’s not about keeping track of who spent more and who gave what. That’s just petty. I give because I look forward to seeing joy on the faces of the people I love when they see the thoughtful thing I found for them. Sometimes it might be something I picked up at the Dollar Store or a Thrift Shop. Other times it could be something I spent my whole paycheque on. WHY DOES PRICE MATTER!!??

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Dollarama my second favorite store. Although I love how they have the $1 in a circle beside the sign when things are priced anywhere for $1 to $4. 

Just the word “exchange” has implications. When I used Google to define the word exchange, here’s what came up: the noun- “an act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return;” and the verb- “give something and receive something of the same kind in return.” So the word “exchange” has some pretty negative connotations when you think about it. It is very much a word related to trade and focuses on the importance of an item’s value. It is a word that says “capitalism” all over it. And I don’t think the increasing consumerism of Christmas can be argued.

So as you do your Christmas shopping this year, I ask you to consider- why are you buying gifts for people? Because you expect something of similar value in return or because you want to show your love and appreciation for the recipient of your gift? If it’s the latter, then the dollar amount should not matter. And it should not matter if the person gives you something in return either. I think it comes down to: WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) Do you think H/he kept track? Do you think if someone was in a financial place that they couldn’t give H/him something of “similar value” in return that H/he would just abandon you?

If Christmas is truly about the spirit of giving, then we should all stop keeping track of who spent what and we should stop setting limits. My friend might give me a $50 gift card for Sephora, for example (OMIGOD, I would so love that BTW!) and I might may make her a Happy Jar. Which gift is worth more?

This Christmas, please don’t “exchange” gifts with your loved one. At least, not until after Christmas and that’s only if it’s the wrong size or you don’t like it and you do it at the store. This Christmas, give gifts to the people you love. Give with your heart and show the true spirit of what the season is all about!

 

 

What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store: Thoughtful, Creative and Relatively Cheap Gift Ideas- Blogmas #5

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Today I have some creative gift ideas. Finding gifts for people in your life can be challenging but remember that it’s like the cliche “it’s the thought that counts.” These are gift ideas that can be used for any occasion; most of these are not just limited to just Christmas. And most of them are relatively easy and inexpensive. In fact, I have found that the most inexpensive ones on this list are the ones that are appreciated the most by the receivers. And I apologize in advance. This post is going to lack my usual humor. I think. Who knows what will come out of my silly, and sometimes, demented, mind?

  • Baked goods  20171204_114757.jpg
    • This one should be pretty obvious. If you’re a good baker, you simply bake up some of your specialties. For Christmas, I enjoy making gingerbread and shortcake cookies. Put them in a pretty Christmas tin from the Dollar Store (or Thrift Shop!) and voila: a relatively inexpensive and thoughtful gift.
  • Bits and Bites 20171204_142051.jpg
    • On a related note to above, every year, I make batches of my famous homemade Bits and Bites and give them out in Christmas themed tins from the Dollar Store. The more I like you, the bigger the tin! These can be expensive to make, simply because cereal tends to be expensive. Generally, I watch for the ingredients I want to come on sale, and pick them up in the months and weeks just prior to Christmas. I am including my personal recipe for Bits and Bites that everyone raves about! You are all incredibly special because I generally do not openly share this recipe. 

OH’s Bits and Bites

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 3 cups Shreddies
  • 3 cups Crispix or Life cereal
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 3 cups Quaker Corn Squares
  • 240 g bag of pretzels
  • 1 pkg 200 gram Goldfish or Cheese Nip crackers
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp seasoning salt
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions: Preheat oven to 215 F. Mix all dry cereal, peanuts, pretzels and crackers in roaster. Whisk together oil, garlic powder, seasoning salt and Worcestershire sauce. Pour oil mix over cereal mix in roaster in batches and stir to coat cereal mix in oil. Bake in oven for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and store. Let sit overnight before eating to let the flavors set in. Then seal in smaller containers. Enjoy!

 

  • Cards20171204_185117.jpg
    • Cards can be expensive and generally get tossed anyway. Although when cards are homemade or really pretty, I will generally keep them. A humorous way to save money on cards: keep last year’s card, cross out the “to” from your name to the person who originally gave it to you and cross out the “from” and put your own name. This gets even more hilarious if the person returns it to you the following year using the same process- it can turn into a long-running shared joke that you can enjoy for years to come. Note: You should probably be sure that the recipient has a sense of humor and isn’t going to just think you’re a cheapie. Bonus: if they are a cheapie! You’ll both save money for years and years. You’ll only have to pay for stamps!
  • Regift
    • This is not what you’re thinking! Yes, taking a gift you got from one person and didn’t enjoy, and giving it to someone else to not enjoy is a great way to save money. But quite often, people will give you something as a gift that they themselves would enjoy. They will often even make the comment, “I would have liked to have gotten this for myself.” So you wrap it up, and give it back to them! Why not, right?! 
  • Personalized gift certificate 
    • If money is a concern, sometimes the greatest gift you can give is your time. You can either use a printer, get one of those certificate frames from the Dollar store or hand-write it on white paper. Just as I always say to my students, “pretty it up.” Then write down something you can do for the person that you know they will appreciate. A spouse: maybe a certificate for a back rub or some other activity they may enjoy (nudge, nudge; wink, wink). Disclaimer: if the certificate is for a sexual activity, you may not want them to open it in front of mom & dad or young children; the writer of this article is not responsible for the mental well-being of your loved-ones should you allow an X-rated activity to be read out in front of people you should have known better than to allow it to be read in front of. If you scar a child for life, that’s on you.) A friend or other family member: making them a meal, doing their laundry, cleaning their bathroom, shoveling their driveway or any other special talent you may have that you know they’ll appreciate.
  • Award
    • Make your own using a computer, or blank paper, and pretty it up again. Or get one of those Dollar Store award certificates. Then think of a special quality the gift recipient has and make them an award.  

  • Personalized photo projects20171204_142017.jpg
    • Find photos of you and the person, and create a personalized gift. It can be those ones you order from a website (photobook, mug, even a tote-bag) or you can even buy a frame from the Dollar Store and print the photos off at Walmart. I have done this for my husband’s grandfather this year. I found lots of old photos of him and his late wife, have written a poem about Chris’ grandmother, and I’m compiling the photos and frame together for a very thoughtful and relatively inexpensive gift.
  • Gift Bag 
    • This is a twist on the conventional gift bag/sock. I will often do this one for birthdays. For example, when one of my besties turned 40, I went to the Dollar Store and picked up items that are stereotypically for seniors- hemorrhoid cream, prunes, one of those rainhats that old ladies wear, etc. and wrote funny notes on them. But you could do a Christmas one too!
  • Gift basket20171204_135016.jpg
    • Not the ones made for you by the store. A personalized Gift Basket. These are relatively easy to make. You get a basket (Dollar Store, or Thrift Shop, or regift one you already have) and the shredded paper (or you can even shred your own paper if you have access to a paper shredder.) Line the paper at the bottom of the basket and fill it with items you know the person will enjoy. I started doing this because of my frustration with the pre-made gift baskets. They were all so over-priced and always have at least one thing in them that I know the person wouldn’t like. 20171204_141803.jpgThen I get the plastic cellophane (also available at the dollar store) and after I’ve filled the basket with the goodies, I place it over the clear plastic, tie it shut with ribbon, curl the ribbon, and make it look pretty. It’s more effort than a store made basket, but saves money since you can pick things up on sale and get things from different stores. And it’s super thoughtful, because the receiver knows that you really took the effort to think about what they like/need.
  • The Happy Jar20171204_115003-1.jpg
    • This is probably the cheapest gift on the list, but the most thoughtful and most appreciated. I got the idea from a student teacher who made me one. All you need is an empty jar and small slips of paper. Write happy or funny memories or the things you admire most about the person you’re giving the Happy Jar to on the slips of paper. Then fold them up and put them in the jar. Use a gift tag or label and write “HAPPY JAR” on it, and also directions: “In case of emergency, read one.” The idea behind the jar is for the person to be able to open up the slips of paper for a pick-me-up when times are tough or they’re sad/lonely, etc.
  • Advent Calendar 
    • So you take the bottom half of a box (I used an empty greeting card box) and use card board, cut it and tape it, to create 25 squares in the bottom of the box. This is similar to the Happy Jar in that you write down memories or special qualities the receiver has. But unlike the Happy Jar, they read one each day leading up to Christmas, and you label the dates. I tried to save my most creative and funniest memories for the days closest to Christmas.

With a little time and creativity, you can make your own personalized gifts that will mean so much more than a store-bought one. These gift ideas come from the heart. You can make them funny or sappy. More importantly, they will be kept and cherished forever (except for the food which will eventually be flushed down the toilet, hopefully. It could end up in the compost if your food is yucky.) Remember, the best gifts you can give don’t come from a store.- OH

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” 
― Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Source of Featured Image: 

“Day 4- Reason for the Season- Christmas Consumerism.” Daily Dependence.<https://dailydependence.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/%E2%98%85-day-04-reason-for-the-season-christmas-consumerism-%E2%98%85/December 4, 2017.

All other images are my own.