Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Simple Gifts

I adore the holiday season.  Not just Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but the whole season.  I especially love to surprise people I treasure with little gifts throughout the month.  For my sister and mother, this usually means small but useful trinkets like pretty holiday napkins or votive candles.

Maybe the best part of giving (and for me, receiving!) gifts, is the wrapping.  When I was a kid, I loved to wrap all the presents for my mother each Christmas.  She would hand me a box and tell me who  it was for, and then I'd wrap it accordingly, pretending I was one of the women in the department stores who gift-wraps items for customers at Christmas.  I especially loved to curl the ribbons with my mother's sharp scissors.  I think I often even wrapped my own presents without knowing it until afterwards.  My mother was sneaky that way! 

This year I'm using my old standbys, plain brown craft paper and white tissue, so that I can dress them up in whatever way I fancy.  I often like to include a small extra gift on the outside of the package that relates to the gift on the inside of the package.

In the case of these cocktail napkins, I tied a white porcelain spoon, for serving mustards or chutneys at holiday parties.  I also tucked in a sprig of fresh bay leaves, which can be tossed into a pot of sauce or soup for flavoring.  I love using simple baker's twine for a little present like this.  It reminds me of candy canes, which I covet, plus it's economical.  A large spool (enough to last me at least a year) costs $10.  Oh, and I reuse tissue whenever I can!  If it's wrinkled, I just iron it out and it looks like new.

I found the galvanized star gift tag as well as the baker's twine at one of my favorite local Portland shops, Folly 101, but you can find them online, too.  You just write the recipient's name with chalk or a grease pencil, and then they can erase it and reuse the tag when they give a gift--or hang it on their tree as an ornament. 

One of my girlfriends has her birthday at the beginning of December, so I packed her up a box of Magpie finds, including these tiny pinecone votives.  I couldn't resist them, plus they're the state flower of Maine, so I'm sending her a little piece of the place I love. 

Just before I closed the box, I tossed in a few fresh bay leaves to make it look and smell beautiful when she opens it.

The box itself is a silk-covered one that came with a scarf I recently bought.  I always save pretty boxes to reuse, and this one fit the treasures I'd found for my friend perfectly.  I simply tied it with a very wide piece of ribbon that I bought last year during the after-holiday sales at Christmas Tree Shop, when they were selling gorgeous ribbon for almost nothing.

Like nearly everyone I know, I am on a serious budget this year, but I still love giving gifts to the people I treasure.  I'm making several gifts, giving smaller presents, and reusing nearly all my wrapping materials, but I don't think that means the presents can't be just as wonderful as ever.  Maybe even more so.  

I'd love to hear from you about your holiday shopping, crafting, baking, and wrapping this year.  What are your plans for the season?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn Road

Some roads you take with a purpose in mind, but I prefer roads that lead to the unexpected.  I took these photos on an old farm road that hugs the Connecticut River near my husband's hometown.  We were just wandering when we discovered Cruise, who, according to the sign on his fence, gets bellyaches from apples, but loves carrots, and can eat as many as you give him.  

Sadly, we had no carrots, but we made promises to Cruise for our next visit.  I suppose this means that this little back road will now have a purpose.  

Somehow I think it will still hold plenty of surprises, too.