One day, during the Christmas season, I was pondering the act of gift-giving. I reached out to a friend. “Do you and Jim exchange Christmas gifts?”
“Yes and no,” she replied matter-of-factly. “We do little things, in our stockings I mean, but mostly we give gifts of experience.”
She paused a moment. “So, rather than buy this or that thing, we go on trips together.”
Years ago, I devoted a column to simple gifts, ones that don’t cost much and are gifts of the heart.
Stop for a moment…
How do you feel when you receive a present that has been chosen or made especially for you?
Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
My thought exactly. And so, with a little ingenuity and some easy-to-find materials, let’s look at some unique gifts that stand-alone or nicely complement a store-bought gift.
While pondering ideas for simple gifts, try to focus on the intention behind the giving.
“All that counts in life is intention,” says Italian opera tenor Andrea Bocelli.
If you can practice this kind of intention during the holidays, it just may carry over for the rest of the year.
What follows are ways to simplify the act of giving, beginning with just that—simple gifts.
Many of these suggestions don’t cost a dime. And they require little if any, assembly or wrapping paper. Less wrapping paper means fewer materials end up in the landfill.
1) Garden In a Jar
With a quart canning jar and a lid, you can create a variety of gifts, from tiny terrariums and a mini-hydroponic garden to an herb garden, a palm tree garden, or even a jarred potting soil mix, with the ingredients layered like dried soup in a jar.
2) The 5-Gallon Bucket Tool Carry
This idea is relatively easy to implement, mostly because Kodiak never lacks for 5-gallon buckets. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, it’s easy to convert a 5-gallon bucket into a tool holder. Attach a painter’s apron or another kind of tool pouch to the outside.
You can also make an apron from old blue jeans, Carhartts, or upholstery fabric. Throw in a trowel, gardening gloves, or a dandelion digger for inspiration.
3) The Unsung Hero Gift of Health
Create coupons for a friend or family member to be redeemed for walking, hiking, swimming, playing pickleball, or biking together, and then slip them in a greeting card, water bottle, or a pair of sneakers.
4) Gift Certificates
Most local retailers offer gift certificates: The Islander Bookshop, BrightBox Farms, The Rookery, Cactus Flats, Big Rays, restaurants…
How about a massage or acupressure session? Or pay for 10 swims at the pool. It’s not just about physical health. How about a membership to the Kodiak Arts Council, the Alutiiq Museum, the Kodiak History Museum, or the Maritime Museum?
5) Coupons and “promise to do” notes
Here’s where you give a coupon to offer a special skill or service you can provide. For example,
- House, baby, or pet sitting
- A load of kelp or manure for the garden
- Two hours of mending or sewing
- Offer to mow the lawn, paint a room, fix a door, or weed the garden
- A couple of hours of computer time to help with troubleshooting
- Offer to shovel snow or take someone shopping
- Share a sport fishing trip or afternoon of golfing
- Wash dishes for a week (or a month)
- Fix a car, lawn mower, or bicycle
- Cook dinner for someone’s freezer, to be used when most welcome. Label it with the contents and cooking instructions.
- Donate non-perishable food items to a local food bank or collection site.
- Start some geraniums or house plants from cuttings.
6) If You’re Feeling Shy: Anonymous Gifting
Unpaid water bills and electricity bills can be very stressful. If you know a family in need, consider paying a utility bill. As I write this, I’m wondering if this service is available in Kodiak…
7) Make an Edible Kitchen Ornament
As you’ll see, edible ornaments are both decorative and practical. Here’s what you do:
- Collect garlic bulbs, whole ginger, red and green chilies, whole cinnamon sticks, dried apple slices and apricots, and dried herbs such as bay, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, sage, or thyme. If you didn’t dry herbs this summer you can buy fresh herbs and dry them.
- Cut a piece of wire, about 12 inches long. Starting at the top, twist one end of the wire around the stems of two or three heads of garlic.
- Continue building the ornament down vertically by twisting the wire around a bundle of cinnamon, then say, a bundle of chilies. Continue until the ornament is 8 to 12 inches long. Use more wire to add extensions of whole herbs.
- To create an end tassel, gather two or three stems of an herb together and wire it to the bottom. Tie a bow at with string or ribbon at the top of the bunch.
8) It’s a Wrap! Earth-friendly Wrapping Paper
Consider earth-friendly gift wrapping alternatives. Swaddle gifts in scarves, bandanas, tins, reusable shopping bags (cloth and brown paper bags), the Sunday comics, or outdated marine navigation charts. Decorate them with sisal twine, pine or cedar branches, cones, cookie cutters, sand dollars, bits of dried kelp… you get the idea.
And remember to re-purpose last year’s holiday cards as homemade gift tags and decorations.
Use your imagination to come up with themes that fit the personality of the person receiving your gift. Finally, take your time and wrap each gift with the ultimate intention: Love.
That’s it for now.
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