Gifts That Speak From the Heart
photo by sxc.hu
photo by sxc.hu
Thoughts on Shopping
One of my favorite things to do for Christmas is to try and find unique items to give as gifts. I try to put a lot of thought into my purchases.
First of all, for the most part, I don't care for pre-packaged generic gift baskets. Although a lot of them are nicely packaged with some theme items, you'll find that they are filled with no-name items that are pretty much on the cheap side and have no lasting value, not to mention you might only use one of the items, with the rest going to waste. The only saving grace I've seen with those is that sometimes the container is decent enough to use for something else. There is, in my opinion, not much thought needed to fill your cart with such items. However, it strikes me as a conscience easer. You know, you can say to yourself, well, I at least got something and won't come across as a scrooge. In some cases, I think the person might prefer the scrooge, better to be thought a scrooge than someone with poor taste.
So, unless you're buying brand-name gift baskets from Yankee Candles or Le Gourmet Chef, I'd say stay away from the ‘cheapies'. If you want to go generic, a gift card is always welcome, even though those require not much thought either.
Thoughts Behind the Gift
Since I love to poke around antique stores, thrift stores and the like, I tend to find unique items for friends or family. For instance, I have several friends who are cat lovers, so I will try to find something related to cats. I recently purchased Egyptian glass cat perfume bottles and gave those as part of a gift. My former daughter-in-law loved owls, and I found a lovely German-made owl pitcher in a muted dark coffee brown color. She loved it. A co-worker of mine loved penguins, and I came across an old vintage metal tray that had penguins on it, along with an old (I believe from the 50s) gorgeous silver ice bucket with penguins on it. In fact, I think Penguin was the brand name. My best friend's daughter loves horses. I found lovely vintage horse head bookends to give her, along with some books (she's also an avid reader). Candles are almost always a welcome gift, especially for your female friends and family. My favorite ones are the ones my son and daughter-in-law make, which are equal to and I was told, even better than Trapp or Yankee candles. They totally permeate a room and the scent lasts till the last of the wax is gone. I've given several of those to my best friend and she absolutely loves them. If just candles weren't enough, it would also be nice to include lovely vintage candleholders. Most commonly, you'll come across either lovely, embossed silver-plated or sterling ones, so those, along with an old candlesnuffer and silver polish would make a nice gift for the candle lover in your family or your group of friends.
For someone who loves to cook or bake, there is a world of wonderful vintage cookbooks that can be found in an old bookstore. There are also vintage kitchen utensils and gadgets out there that are in good working condition. Fill up a nice basket with those and include pre-packaged soups, pasta, sauces, and cake mixes. Maybe even include a gift certificate for a cooking or baking class.
For me, it's knowing what my friends and family are into, and when I see something that reminds me of them, I generally buy it. This type of shopping might become a bit stressful if you wait till the last minute. I find that when I have to find a certain thing in a short amount of time, I generally don't find it. You need to keep your eyes and mind open during the year so that by the time Christmas rolls around, a lot of your gifts will be ready for wrapping. You can also be creative with the gift-wrapping. You can use newspaper comics for kids. Tin foil, and brown paper bags that you decorate yourself also come to mind. For the car lover or car dealer, you can use the newspaper car ads. Just use your imagination. However, if you must buy wrapping paper, the dollar stores are the place to go. Their prices will save you a small fortune on paper items, which will leave you with more money to spend on good quality gift-wrapping paper.
The same can be said for finding the right container. Instead of buying boxes, use a bucket and fill it with car washing supplies. Baskets are always a good choice, whether new or vintage. Tie on a piece of greenery with a pretty bow and you're all set.
Put on Your Thinking Cap
In one of my favorite shops there is something for literally anyone. If you have a friend who likes to entertain, sets of lovely etched glasses, glass stirrers, vintage trays for serving, ice buckets, old metal ice trays (the kind that had a lever) and coasters would make a lovely gift. Pick out a wonderful old basket, line it with bar towels and there ya go! Of course, liquor is optional.
This shop also sells furniture as well. For a school-aged child, it would be great fun to find an old wooden child's desk and chair, an old wooden pencil case, vintage schoolbooks and a wooden ruler. You could add writing and drawing paper, notebooks and construction paper, pens, pencils, crayons, chalk and perhaps a stapler, pencil sharpener and paste.
This is not to say you have to spend a fortune. You will find that many pre-owned, vintage items are very affordable, and run from a few dollars to a few hundred, it just depends on what your budget can handle and who you are buying for. Of course, there are always the gifts that cost nothing. The gift of time. Make plans to spend time with a long lost friend. Volunteer at a nursing home or animal shelter. Visit sick children in the hospital. Reconnect with family. Write a letter, yes, with paper and pen. Send it to a friend or relative you haven't talked to in ages. It doesn't always have to be about the almighty dollar, or who got the biggest and most expensive gift on the planet. Give from the heart.
Most Importantly, Have Fun!
The fun part of shopping like this is it can and should happen all through the year when you're out and about. By the time Christmas rolls around, you won't feel the sting of having spent too much money all at once. So, if you're stuck for ideas about what to buy, first, think of the person you are buying for. Think of their likes, hobbies, interests. Then make your list and head out to the antique stores, antique malls, and even so-called junk shops. You'd be amazed at some of the treasures that are out there.