For the past couple of weeks, I’ve republished posts I wrote last year about compact-y holiday gift ideas: experiential gifts, handmade gifts, and super-frugal gifts. I thought I’d tell you about some of the gifts I’ve been giving lately.
The memory book pictured above is a labor of love for my parents from my brothers and me. We lived in several different houses while growing up, and we had a pretty happy childhood, so I think my parents will enjoy reading some of our favorite memories. We each wrote a page of recollections and stories from each of the houses we lived in, and included some photos as well. We inscribed it “thanks for filling all of our homes with love and laughter.” I’m really excited about this gift, and it cost us a lot of time but very little money (I already had the album). We have all been hit in different ways by the recession this year, so none of us had a lot of money to spend on a gift. I think this might be more appreciated than anything we could have bought.
For one brother, I’m putting together a handmade recipe book filled with simple favorites. This would be a good gift for anyone moving out on their own, a college student, or newlyweds. I know I treasure the handwritten recipes from my grandmother, and this will be filled with go-to standbys.
For my other brother, I used Shutterfly to create a photo album from a trip we took together this year. I think he will enjoy having a picture book of our adventure to look through. I also used Shutterfly to make a mug for a friend, which is not strictly compact-y, except that I know she will love it and will never get rid of it.
One of my favorite gifts (both to give and to receive) are books, and they’re also one of the few items I allow myself to buy as an exception to The Compact. I want to support the literary community and writers I admire. If you buy them at a neighborhood bookstore, you’ll also be supporting the local economy. For friends I know will enjoy it, I’m giving my favorite nonfiction book of the year, but I can’t tell you what it is because a few of them read this blog. For others, I’m giving my favorite fiction selection of the year, which was Empire Falls, by Richard Russo (it’s my favorite I read this year, he wrote it several years ago). If the people on your list aren’t readers, there’s usually some kind of more practical book you can give that they’ll be able to use, like a cookbook or a travel guidebook. My 13-year-old nephew says he doesn’t like to read, but he loves to draw cars, so we found an excellent how-to book about drawing cars for him. And picture books are my go-to gift for kids under four, and Dr. Seuss for four-and-five-year-olds.
Food is the gift of choice for many people in my life. I bake shortbread for one friend and pumpkin bread for several others. Last year I started giving my homemade granola as a gift and it was well-received. Naomi Seldin of Simpler Living wrote up my recipe as a post, you can check it out here. While you’re there, stick around to read about other ideas on her fabulous blog. I made homemade egg nog the past two years, but that recipe takes a minimum of three weeks in the refrigerator so I’ll try to be organized enough next year to give you that recipe earlier. There’s one new recipe I’ve got to try this year because it sounds so amazing and also simple: spicy chocolate bark. It will make a great gift for the chocoholics in my life. And finally, my husband and I generally exchange fairly simple gifts that we both love like books and liqueur, and I also always give him a box of hand-picked See’s candy, which I consider the perfect gift for anyone you know well enough to choose the particular chocolate they covet.
Cate at Liberal Simplicity wrote a great post about Homemade Gifts that includes two of my all-time favorites I’ve received over the years: a photo album and a quilt. She’s got some other cool choices that you can put together more quickly, including some chic tile coasters.
And finally, I’m a big fan of rethinking the regift. I agree it’s tacky and cheap if you’re regifting because the item was lame in the first place, but there’s nothing wrong with passing along a really nice gift that you know you won’t use. I’ve had great success with this (it helps if you have a mother with really good taste like I do). You might have the perfect thing for that difficult-to-please relative, like a hand-knit scarf that you’ve been holding on to for years, because it’s too nice to get rid of but it’s just not quite your color scheme.
What are some of your favorite gifts, to give or to receive? Please share in the Comments section.