Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Twelve Days of Prepping - Round Up

The holiday season is really hard for me. I have a hard time reconciling my anti-consumerist ideals with the expectation that many of those in my life have that they will receive a gift from me. In the past, I have often made gifts, but some of my home-made gifts were received with a rather disappointed expression.

I don't expect gushing appreciation, but some acknowledgement of the time and effort that went into the gift might be nice. A dismissive attitude about something that I've taken a great deal of time, effort and thought to create is a little hurtful. Once I made, what I thought, was a really nice photobook for someone, who opened the gift when I wasn't around. Later, when I asked that person if she'd received the book, at first it was "what book?" And then it was, "Oh, that book ... it was nice ... there was a misspelling on page 52."

Gift giving is hard for me, because I don't like putting so much of myself into a gift only to have it dismissed like some Dollar store trinket, neither do I like spending my hard-earned dollars on dollar store trinkets, and I just can't consider buying something for someone else that I wouldn't want to use myself.

This year, we ended up buying more than I made. But with a goal of not totally destroying my personal ethics in order to meet others' expectations, I concentrated on finding things that were useful. My Twelve Days of Prepping series was actually my Christmas list.

I did, indeed, gift one family member with a fruit tree from the Arbor Day Foundation. So, we gave that person a real gift-that-keeps-on-giving, while supporting, what we believe to be, a worthy organization.

Deus Ex Machina and I actually did give a pound of black turtle beans ... along with a book on making Baked Beans. Planted or soaked and made into soup, the beans will be awesome ;).

Someone on our list was the recipient of a French coffee press. It's very close to the one we have and use, and it's good for making tea, too ;).

Some of the items on the list, like cast iron cookware and a Diva cup, were not gifts - this year -, but in the not too distant future, some young lady who lives in my house will, likely, find one in her stocking.

Canning jars were filled with Confetti Bean Soup or Butterscotch cookie mix, and before we gave either, we made sure that we cooked them ourselves, using the suggested recipes. Both turned out amazingly delicious, and I don't feel the least bit awkward about giving those gifts. I hope the recipients will also keep and enjoy the canning jars, which make a wonderful way to store all sorts of pantry items.

We didn't put together a Forager's kit, because we don't really have any forager's on our list (yet ... but we're working on that ;), but we did put together a S'mores making kit, that included one of our homemade canning-jar oil lamps.

Kitchen hand-tools ended up being pretty popular, and one family member, who likes to make applesauce, is now the proud owner of an apple/peeler/corer. Another family member has a new pasta maker. There's nothing quite so delicious as home-made pasta.

Spices and tea have long been traded along the same routes, and both were once considered incredibly valuable commodities. In fact, it was the tea tax that finally broke the resolve of the colonists resulting in a war that created the country I live in. A few people ended up with both - well, a blend of both - spiced tea ... and a keen little ceramic travel mug to go with it.

Every Christmas for the past many, I've made pajama pants for my girls and Deus Ex Machina. The girls didn't get pajama pants this year. Instead, I made them each a padded messenger-style bag. Deus Ex Machina received his annual pants. This year, they're made out of a recyled flannel sheet ;) - not exactly long johns, but warm and cozy nonetheless.

Two of my girls ended up with gifts related to the fiber arts - not sewing notions, but rather a beginner knitting kit for one, and a drop spindle for the other. We even gave her a set of carding tools, and she's already started carding the collected dog hair to spin into yarn. Maybe I'll end up with another dog-fur scarf.

I'm not normally a toy buyer. Just the thought of visiting Toys R Us makes my skin crawl. Luckily, there are more options. For my grandchildren, I found some amazing real wooden puzzle toys at a local art store. But kids aren't the only ones who like to play. Our gift to each other this year was the Celtic Challenge Chance And Strategy Game, which we found at a small, locally owned toy/game shop.

Upon reading a synopsis of my book that included the words "sustainable" and "entertainment" in the same sentence, someone asked, "What's sustainable entertainment?" My answer: games, like Celtic Challenge, and musical instruments, like the ukulele Deus Ex Machina gifted me.

I'm not sure I found a balance for myself, but I feel better about the gifts we gave than I would have if we had just picked up something because we had to give something.

And while I don't like that most of the gifts were purchased rather than made, I am comfortable that most of them were purchased at small, local stores, so that at least 60% of the cost of the items we bought stays here, in our community ... even if many of the gifts did not :).


  1. Love it! Much thought went into your gift-giving! I'd be quite happy to be the recipient of any of those gifts. Did a little along those lines...socks, mittens, and dishcloths handmade by others...two quilts, and scarves made by moi...all well received!

  2. Did I tell you I loved your 12 days of Christmas? I'm printing the previous post with the full list to keep as a reminder. Very thoughtful.

    brenda from arkansas

  3. I'd have loved a foraging kit. ;-)

    Here, the kudzu has pretty well gone dormant, so I may cut down some vines & try weaving a basket or two. Now that would be a nice way to contain some handmade Xmas gifts, a handmade basket!

    Daughter Dearest knitted scarves for everyone a couple years ago. She did one custom for me: black and white to match my motorcycle jacket, and a little short so it fits in a pocket and wouldn't catch in the spokes unless it's off my neck completely. Can't get better than that!

  4. Wendy,

    I laughed out loud when I read about the dog-fur scarf. Not only had it never crossed my mind until I read your book, but I had never thought that my dogs would be good for anything except companionship, guarding, and eating leftovers!

    Gav x

  5. Your blog is very enjoyable and inspiring-several years ago I was housesitting for a friend and found all the lovely home made gifts I had given over many years unused. Homemade vanilla, spice blends, massage oil... I thought of the many other folks who might have the same collection. After my initial reaction, hurt feelings-adding up in my head the cost of raw materials and the unable to calculate time and instead of getting stuck in a negative space decided then and there to make the things I really enjoy for my family and to bake cookies for everyone else. I have some folks who request certain items but for many reasons I keep Christmas very simple and spend a tenth of what I did in many years. Butter+sugar+spices=Merry Christmas. And i loudly encourage everyone who will listen to simplify the giving and to accept my belief that every day is Christmas when you live in relative comfort and security.
    I was quite freaked out by my children's friends and parents posting lists of what they had received as gifts. Our modest by our culture's standard Christmas was well received and no one felt "gypped" until they read the postings of others...."Whaddy get for Christmas" was innacurately stated as "nothing"-a facial at a salon, new boots, funky animal mittens and some interesting items are not nothing, except in this mixed up world. I gave my husband and I merino wool long johns, since we now keep our huge old house quite cool. Washed by hand, they will outlast us!!!

    Thanks for your words.

  6. Much to my kid's dismay our Christmas this year was scaled back, even more so then usual. For all their lives they have received three gifts to represent the three gifts the Christ child received from the Wise Men. I also remind them, every year, that we give gifts to others to remind ourselves of the great gift we were given.

    Anyway, this year they received one gift from us (oh, grandma and aunts gifted them).
    Eldest daughter receives a digital, Nikon camera for her upcoming home school, photography class, and because she loves photography. She won several ribbons this past year at the county fair.

    Youngest daughter received a cast iron, TOY, cookstove with accessories from a local antique store. She was ecstatic and plays with it almost every day...

    Our eldest son (23) received money to purchase clothing, and our youngest son received a coveted TONKA bull dozer which he has his sister have been using to plant the garden. He digs the hole, she plants the seed.

    My eldest daughter also crocheted everyone hats, scarves, potholders and coasters. I received a patch work, crocheted lap afghan.

    I'm all for less consumerism, and more thinking of the other personal and useful gifts. Keeps the focus where it should be.