Pregnancy and Parenting Features

Christmas Gifts, Decorations and Memories

from Our Readers

A Christmas Shoebox

We recently participated in Operation Christmas Child, through the Billy Graham Organization. You fill a shoebox with small, inexpensive gifts and personal items, which is then shipped to children in war torn countries who wouldn't otherwise have a Christmas. We thought the idea was so nice, we're doing it for our own children this year. For very little per box, we were able to buy all sorts of things at discount and 98cent clearance stores - marbles, notepads, superballs, small action figures, jewelry, fancy soaps, the list is endless. Normally, we'd buy a couple of these things for stocking stuffers, but the kids really enjoy getting a whole box of goodies. For our own kids, we wrapped each little thing for more fun, then also decorated the shoebox. Having so many little gifts to open leaves more in the budget for a few of the bigger ticket items.
Happy Holidays,

Hand Made Christmas Ornaments

A good Christmas gift (if given before Christmas) are pretty hand-made ornaments. I like to get clear glass balls and put sprigs of dried herbs, flowers or potpourri in them. These can also be set on a small stand to make mini-sculptures.
-Julia P.

A Family Calendar

I come from a large family (6 children) and now we're all grown, but I still wanted to do something for each family. I contacted each family (usually my brother or sister in law) and asked them to send pictures from the last year or so. I made a collage on 12 -8x11 paper and arranged them so each family was represented. I took these 12 sheets to my local print shop and they color copied and made several calendars, This was such a huge hit my siblings asked that I do it again. This will now be my present every December. And it really took only about 6 or 7 evenings to complete!
Good Luck

A Really Personal Gift

Make a list of all the names of people on your gift list (first & last names). Find those names in the index of a good street map or local atlas. You'd be surprised how many street names are named after people's names! If you can't find the first name, try the last name.

Plan out the best route, and spend a day driving to those street signs. At each street sign, pull your car up close to it, stand on the bumber or hood of your car (making sure the sun is behind you), and take 2-3 photos of the street sign. Try to make the background as uncluttered and simple as possible.

After developing the photos, choose the best ones, and have those framed (or matted). These make great personalized gifts that are always cherished!

Go Together More Expensive Items

My father-in-law wants a new air compressor because his died. My brother and sister-in-law need a new microwave. I want a big humidifier for our apartment. My husband wants an expensive oilskin coat and my son wants to take tap dance lessons. Because my b'day is 12/28 and my husband's b'day is 12/18 and my son's b'day is 1/1 with Christmas smack in the middle, these higher priced items were way out of our individual budgets. Together we can chip in and pay for these higher priced and everyone is happy.
--MW from Colchester, CT

A Gift of Self

My husband gave me my most treasured Christmas present when we were married for a year or two and it continues to be the best gift even after 21 years.

It is very simple and maybe someone else might not appreciate it as much as I did but I thought I would share it with you. On christmas morning I opened up a shoe box that when held appeared to be empty and on the outside was the word time written all over it. What was inside was a typewritten note that said basically, whenever I needed or wanted to spend time with him that all I had to do was show him the box and he would be there for me. I still feel the love and the thought that was put into that gift. It didn't cost him anything and yet it cost him everything (his time and his love) and it has meant the world to me.

Decorations and Gifts

Out of necessity, I came upon an idea years ago to help me decorate for Christmas frugally. I went to my fathers house, and gathered small scraps of wood, nothing bigger than a 2 inch square, and wrapped them with wrapping paper, and tied them with ribbon, using the hooks sold in stores, or another piece of ribbon I was able to tie them on my tree. I decorated my tree with "gifts".

To make an inexpensive centerpiece I have wrapped boxes from my kitchen, a cereal box, cracker box and an oatmeal box compliment one another, and wrap them in pretty festive paper, tied with ribbons and bows, complimented with a candle or two, can look as nice as a flower arrangement for much less!

For an inexpensive Christmas gift this year I am making cookie dough and freezing it. I am giving it to Sunday School teachers, and people I know who are on the go. I doubled the batches of cookie dough, and then divided the recipients, wrapped it in wax paper (wish I'd of had enough plastic tubs, but I seldom buy anything in them) and placed a variety into a large plastic bag. Along with the frozen dough, a note, a short note thanking them for the time they have invested in my children, and wishing them the time to sit back and relax while the cookies are baking. The cookie dough will last longer frozen than if I had baked the cookies, and they get the added bonus of eating them warm. I have frozen several of my cookie dough recipes without any problems. Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal and Peanut Butter all seem to freeze, thaw and cook without much change in the cookies.

You're Special Because...

I am a first year university student and finding out how hard it is to buy gifts for all my family and friends. Me and a couple other friends here (also having the same problem as I) were brainstorming on ideas of what to get for our parents for Christmas. We came up with a great idea. The three of us sat down one evening and wrote a beautiful poem. If you're not exactly a very poetic person don't worry, neither are we. If you actually sit down and just think of everything you appreciate that your parents have done for you, your bound to come up with something (it's even better if you get a couple friends together, then the ideas really start flowing.) I then went to a craft store and bought a piece of really nice paper for $.25. I printed the poem on a computer and printed it out on the paper in nice font. To make this gift really nice you could get a cheap frame at a dollar store. Your parents or whoever are bound to love this!!
--Denise C.

Let Me Tell You About My Grandkids

Our Texas daughter-in-law gave us a great present last year. She used a 1996 calendar and put pictures of the grandchildren and comments about what they did for each month. We don't get to see them often, and it was a real treat that we will always enjoy. It just took some thought and planning, with the pictures they had taken over the year. Tell them the present will be a little late and include some shots of Christmas gift opening, etc. We certainly enjoyed it and will save it.
Have fun and try. We have always had many homemade items we gave as gifts since we were children, and we continue to do it today.
--Jane in Valparaiso IN

Visit Santa, Help a Child

If you go to this web site, you will contribute $1 to the Pittsburgh Children's Hospital Care fund. The provider, USA OnRamp, will donate $1 for every hit at this site, according to an article in the 12-5-97 Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
Aside from the donation you will create, it is a neat site, with lots of links to other holiday sites.
--Ann M.

A Special Memory

When I was 13, my 14.5 year old brother was in the hospital with a cancerous brain tumor. Needless to say, medical bills were astronomic, although my comprehension of that aspect was limited, and my parents were totally distracted (and rightfully so). Despite their deep anxiety, they were still concerned that I should have as nice a Christmas as possible so that I wouldn't feel neglected, even though most of their time throughout the season was spent at the hospital over an hour away.

When I went downstairs on Christmas morning, I found an incredibly beautiful dollhouse. It was(is) about 2.5 feet high, 3.5 feet wide, and maybe 14 inches deep. Painted white, it had a green roof, door and shutters, and a red chimney. It was completely furnished, with carpets, a four-poster in the master bedroom, pictures on the walls, etc. When I discovered the attic, it had cobwebs, "travel trunks", and old bundles of newspapers! Later I learned that many of the family's friends had been in on the secret of this dollhouse in hopes that my holiday would be a joyful one, despite my brother's illness. My godfather had built the house, painted each room, and installed carpet; one of my former teachers had crafted much of the furniture, and made the tiny curtains and bedclothes; others had donated pieces of furniture or other small bits, such as dishes. The ingenuity was amazing. Illustrative of this creativity were the lamps on the dressing table in the master bedroom: I was tickled to discover they were golf tees "stuffed" into toothpaste caps with clay--painted to match the decor, they were exactly the right size, and the caps made lovely "frilly" lampshades! The whole house was gorgeous--a little girl's dream, made even more special by the love it took to create it. It is now carefully tucked away, waiting until my own toddling daughter is old enough to love it as I do.
--Vickie McF.

This Is Your Life

One of my favorite Christmas gifts easily fits into the category of "less money, but lots of value".

About 9 years ago my Mother made a photo album for both of her kids (I was about 26, by brother 23) containing pictures of us from babyhood to the present. These were taken from the pictures that my parents had collected over the years, of course, and one of the things I treasure about it is the very fact that I *couldn't* have gone out and bought it. I love having it and showing it to friends both old and new. I also treasure my mother's comments about certain pictures in the album -- especially one that she said was her favorite: I'm about 2 years old and looking intently at a recipe card in my hand, with a bowl on the table beside me and Mom said that I'm "cooking". Another one that gives me a chuckle is of our family on vacation in Florida when I'm 17, my brother is 14. Both of us look like we're only grudgingly putting up with this picture-taking nonsense and we'd much rather be elsewhere. Aren't the teen years fun?!

Mom spent a fair amount of time on it, I'm sure, and that is something I probably wouldn't have ever gotten around to doing myself since I am much too good at procrastinating. I also like the blank pages at the end of the album which make it easy for me to add new pictures as I get them.

A Memory from Childhood

Having a mother in a wheelchair from MS meant a lot of hardship on family life growing up the eldest of five children. We ended up having a lot of grown-up things tossed our way and had to muddle our way through most of them without any guidance. One Christmas I remember most is when we had nothing at all for Christmas, no food, no toys. We did have a donated silver tree with a color wheel, but even with that we knew we had no money for anything under the tree...we were even kind of used to it...having always made use of hand-me-downs, and using our imaginations while looking through an old Sears catalog...imagining the food in the advertising page were real...I even remember my brother eating a page of the magazine believing he could taste the food...Well, as you can imagine, Christmas was an especially sad time around our house...So this one Christmas my father took me, I must have been about nine years old, and dropped me off at the Salvation Army and just told me to go in and ask if we could get something for food. I was so scared...we had always kept to father being too proud to ask for any help...yet there I was in a long line with a lot of adults, scared that I would be sent home as soon as someone realized what I was going to ask for. To my surprise, the kindness I received there was overwhelming for me..not only were they kind, they didn't belittle the clothes I was wearing..or my young age. They asked why I was there and to this day I don't remember what I blurted out..I was so unsure about why I was even there. But I do remember they gave me some vouchers. One for $20 worth of food, and one for a $5 gift for each of us for under the tree. I had to walk home, but I had the privilege of being able to stop at Stuarts Department Store and buying the gifts for my sisters, brother and myself. I hid them carefully, wrapped them in newspaper, and we had so many smiles at the Christmas feast that was provided before us that year. This is the Christmas I remember most now, now that I am happily the mother of five, am a pastor's wife, and appreciate all the many blessings...past and present at this time of year... May we all remember and be thankful, and thank those who have been there in times of need...Thank You All Salvation Army and all others in the ministry of serving God's most precious ---People
--Karen B.

Each Christmas Is Different

For many years I have decorated for Christmas on "less than a thread." I enjoy sumptuous decorations, and lots of them-----but I don't have the budget. Sometime I only have about $20.00 to decorate with. And I try to use a theme each year. Consequently, I've aquired a good many fabulous ideas that I use regularly. Can you use them?

Every year I make and decorate my Christmas tree with flowers made of white wrapping tissue. The flowers resemble cupped magnolias. They are magnificent, and as far as I know, unique.

Many people have laughed at this one, but it works well: When you don't have an angel for the top of your tree, use a Barbie doll! Utilize bits and peices of fabric from projects, with dabs of ribbon, and carefully glue all her "clothes" on with a hot glue. For a country look, try using tea dyed muslin and grossgrain ribbon. Or, tear Christmas print fabric into narrow strips and use for drape and ribbon to hold Barbie's dress together. Under it all, wrap a peice of soft wire around her waist so you can attach her to the treetop.
--Elaine S.

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