Every afternoon, at the very moment I'm reaching for that thirty-second cup of coffee and anything chocolate, that's when my four year old, Henry, always wants me to read to him. Not one book, or two, it's usually ten. Yawning, I slide my slipper sacheted feet across the floor, cutting a path through army men and cheerios to the boys' room where Henry carefully stacks his selection of picture book pleasures.
In the mix of literary favorites today was, Bear Stays Up For Christmas, a cute little story about a bear who forgoes hibernation's deep slumber to stay up and make Christmas gifts for his woodland friends. I'm charmed by the endearing images of fresh baked cookies and parcels wrapped in garland and bows.
There is something so irresistibly wonderful about handmade gifts. They communicate thoughtfulness, love, admiration, friendship and sincerity. A couple of weekends ago I went to a baby shower where the mom-to-be's older sister hand crocheted a baptismal gown for the baby that was simply breath-taking. All of the light up, plastic, Made in China must-haves, while gifted with love and purpose, will probably one day find their way to a Goodwill or garage sale, but not the gown. It will become a family heirloom. How beautiful.
Reading the Bear Stays Up for Christmas reminded me of the days of my youth when my siblings and I would sneak around the house giggling and whispering about our ideas, looking for glue, tape, special paper and shiny things that could be crafted into gifts for our parents. It also caused me to pause and think a little bit about my own plans for gift-giving this Christmas.
What if this Christmas, or even throughout the year, instead of buying 10 "affordable" Made in China things, I bought just one really nice gift, something homemade, something with character, something that has a story, a purpose, a history, a message or a meaning. Something real. Oooo, yeah, something real.
Real like the art my brother-in-law, Johannes, paints in is real home with his real talent for his real family and others to appreciate and enjoy.
These are some snapshots taken during the opening night of his exhibit at ARTichokes in Leawood, KS.
Johannes brought his family all the way from Switzerland with the hope that showcasing his art at the gallery would give him an opportunity to share his talent with others and one day be recognized internationally. (Yes, his artwork is for sale!) It was a beautiful evening!
You can view several of Johannes' incredible pieces on his website. He even painted a special piece for the boys, which hangs in our classroom and is enjoyed every day!
As the number of unemployed Americans remains discouragingly high, I wonder how many women have learned how to make soap or candles or jewelry to sell in gift shops or at craft fairs so that she can keep the lights on the the heat running. Or, how many dads have spent their savings buying the tools to woodwork or mechanic in the late night hours to pay the piled up bills or keep their kids in college.
I am certain that there are many, so very many who are doing this: turning what was once a hobby or project into a career. They are making something homemade, handcrafted, unique and waiting for us to find them, to buy them, to give them, to keep them, to enjoy them.
What if this year you and I and our friends and family made our Christmas list (or at least part of it) with treasures that could be found at the local craft fair, downtown mom and pop shop, or even personal online sellers like Etsy.com. instead of the big name chain stores?? Perhaps you have a friend or relative who makes quilts or jam, pottery or paintings, or mows lawns or paints houses....could we buy something from them??
What if this year we employed the unemployed? What if instead of bail-outs and bottomless tax hikes we boosted the economy by blessing our brother's business??
In ten minutes I made a gift list from Etsy.com. Here are just a few of the goodies that made me smile...
A beautiful hand knit scarf (who wouldn't love that?).
Charming screen printed flour sack towels from Oh Little Rabbit. (Looking for a unique baby gift? Check out their adorable onesies.)
Lovely botanical calendar (They also print personalized stationary!).
A groovy guitar strap (I have one from this company, and I love it!)
Simple bread boards made from old barn wood. (This idea came from one of my favorite blogs Our Vintage Home Love.)
Personalized beer steins (someone I love is gonna get these for Christmas!).
Custom wine labels make an ordinary gift sparkle.
Fly fishing lures are super fun and affordable. If you know someone who fly fishes, that is!
Bath salts are not a boring gift. Especially for a really tired, overworked person, like a mom for instance.
I've got my eye on this Floral Handbag. Always wanted a Vera Bradley but still suffering from sticker shock? Look no further! Etsy has many V.B. inspired bags for a fraction of the cost!
A rosary bracelet is a beautiful gift for your spiritual sister. Etsy has an incredible venue of spiritual and inspirational jewelry designers.
These hand stamped pencils with quotes from The Goonies and these
Clint Eastwood inspired notebooks are perfect for those who prefer to scribble rather than type. You really will make someone's day if you give them these! They are created and sold by one of Etsy's featured sellers. I liked his quote:
“In a world filled with mass-produced goods, it’s nice to have something made with care by someone.” — James Partch
Before the buzz of Black Friday, the mayhem and madness of the mall, and superstore sell-outs set in, consider a homemade holiday. Gifts with tags that say "made with care, made with thought, made with love" instead of "Made in China."
Steve's name is gonna look great on those beer steins!