Seven homemade gifts for Christmas

Oh me, oh my!

Our homemade gift exchange brought out some delightful creativity in the family. We had homemade log cabins and furnished doll houses for little girls, wood-framed Lego baseplates for boys, gift baskets of treats, personalized T-shirts, denim blankets, wooden shelves, pretty scarves, knitted slippers, and more…

Here are a few our little family made, most of them super-simple. I share them to spark your thinking. I’m going to say this only once: Do not try them all. I had to make a mental note for 2014–no more than (x number) of homemade gifts!

1. Prepaid dates basket

12 dates

Inspired by this website and armed with funds from a personal project, I created this for my husband: twelve envelopes containing plans and gift certificates for date nights, one for every month of the New Year. You can be as extravagant or frugal as you wish in planning time together! I interspersed bigger dates (an IMAX movie, dinner out, or a mini-golf spree) with no-cost fun (a hike, a picnic, a free concert, an intimate rendezvous). He was delighted, and the planning and scheming brought me much joy.

2. “Fun in a Box” for couples

fun in a box

Using an idea from thedailydigi, I made a list of spunky, low-cost, slightly tacky activities for couples to do together, and gave them to our brothers-and-sisters-in-law in Christmasy little boxes. View or print my list here: Fun in a Box (for couples).

3. Grapevine wreath with seeds

For a sister-in-law who loves to garden, I saved seeds from my flowers and herbs, packaged them in little envelopes, and hung them with ribbon on a homemade grapevine wreath. You could buy seed packets instead of making them yourself; but if you live in the Midwest and have access to woods, chances are you can find an abundance of wild grapevine. The wreaths are sooo fun to wind up.

4. Chocolate chess set

chessmen

With a simple chocolate mold (available here from amazon), we made black and white sets of chessmen, gluing the chocolate halves together with caramel. And of course, here’s how to make the board if you want a playing set…

5. Sock puppets

sock puppets

This was another favorite project—forgiving, low-cost, and open to infinite variation. Simple instructions at wikihow… and then, the sky’s the limit!

6. Jar mixes

For another SIL, my son layered gluten-free food mixes in Mason jars.

For the fourth jar in the set, we combined bath salts with fragrance oils and a drop of food coloring, for layered relaxation.

7. Framed word art

And finally, you know the rage with photos of alphabet letters in nature, to spell inspirational words? Believe, Rest, Love and so on? We shot our own, with the kids forming the letters to spell our word of choice. Turned them black and white, added simple black frames from Dollar Tree, and called that project complete.

We even got our cat in on the E!

E b&w

F

F b&w

G

G b&w

*****

Are you inspired? Tired? Haywired? I’m singing Christmas songs…

Weekend of love

cake

Here are my frosting toadstools.
The perfect rose in the front was made by my friend Sherry, who worked in a bakery for 13 years.
She has an unfair advantage, right? I thought so.
Doesn’t keep me from being stinkin jealous.

All the flower shops and chocolate factories are heaving a collective sigh of relief and counting up the dough. We made it.

One of my favorite things about Valentine’s Day is watching men with bouquets ducking sheepishly around in stores. They look lovely and fragile and full of hope.

The bouquets do too.

One of my friends got engaged this Valentine’s Day; her feet haven’t touched the ground yet.

I like the philosophy of another friend, who firmly tells her teenage daughters “Valentine’s Day is for lovers.” True that. But this year it seemed to be about many people, from the radiant fiancée to the quiet shut-in, from kiddos smeared in pink frosting to the Lord Jesus himself.

I liked the excuse to make chocolate cupcakes and a New York cheesecake. Today I got hit in the arm by a flying cupcake at fellowship meal. That was kind of fun.

And anyway the frosting had already been licked off.

I liked getting words from my man. He doesn’t write much and when he does it’s really precious.

I liked singing love songs in church…

 “Jesus loves me, this I know—for the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong; they are weak but he is strong.”

“For God so loved us He sent the Savior,
For God so loved us and loves me too.
Love so unending! I’ll sing thy praises:
God loves his children, loves even me.”

 “O Jesus my Savior, with you I am blessed
My life and salvation, my joy and my rest:
Your name be my theme and your love be my song;
Your grace shall inspire me and keep my heart strong.”

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”

I liked listening to my church people pray aloud the things they really love about Jesus.

Jesus, I love that you never change, even though my circumstances do.

I like that you invite us to walk in relationship with you.

You give me hope.

I love that you are so smart.

I like that you are perfectly righteous, yet you never give up on me.

You are so faithful.

I love that you became human.

I love that you can redeem all my faults and mistakes.

It’s a good time of year to be alive. Winter is softening. Love is beating in many hearts.

*****

How did you feel most loved this weekend? How did you love? Share an idea for the rest of us to tuck away till next year… a tip? a gift suggestion? a recipe?

Be brave, little Piglet. You are loved.

January boredom buster

Hello, my pal! Welcome to Daffy Supper Land, where we eat with a shovel in one hand and a baby fork in the other. Have fun eating!

–Aarick Zook

Confession: When I was a teen, I spake as a teen, I understood as a teen, I thought as a teen: but when I became a woman, I put away teenage things.

Until my children made me dig them back out again.

What is it about Daffy Suppers anyway? I confess that for me they don’t hold the appeal they once did. I would far rather eat my dinner reasonably with a fork and a spoon and a little chunk of quiet. But to my children, they are just the riotous fun I remember. About once a year—just often enough to allay the begging, but not so often it becomes expected—we treat the kids to one.

A Daffy Supper consists of eating ordinary food with extraordinary implements. Each family member randomly draws another family member’s name, and chooses a place setting for that person: one dish, one cup, and two utensils, as “daffy” as they wish. Each person must eat supper with the trappings provided.

Here we have Exhibit A:

Exhibit A

  • Veggie tray
  • Egg cup
  • Soup ladle
  • Baby fork

And Exhibit B:

Exhibit B

  • Bread pan
  • Water pitcher
  • Bar server
  • Ice cream scoop

And then of course you have to cook something really fun like spaghetti…

You wouldn’t believe how much joy was milked from this silly experience. The kids wrote wacky placecards and messages. Ryan made me drink from a CD spindle case. He wanted to make me eat with a paint scraper, too; but it was rusty and I rebelled.

So the kids had a blast and we adults played along, and in the end we all had a whole lotta fun.

How do you bust boredom in January?