Stumped on what to give this year? Try these ideas.


Photo credit: daveynin via Flickr

Ah, holiday shopping. Whether you have 10 people to buy for, or one, it’s never quite as easy as you expect it to be. For all the items that are plug and play on your Amazon list or in and out of the store, there are just as many that leave you clueless, running around town from store to store, begging your mom or sister for more ideas as each idea becomes a bust.

But in the end, we all know that it’s not the hottest Wii game or the fashionable scarf or the Target gift card that makes us happiest. The gifts that truly come from the heart mean the most. I’ve tried to put together a little list of ideas here that might help you check off your “shopping” for that special someone. Let me know what you think and then add your own in the comments!

  • For the person that loves to cook/bake: put together a set of recipe cards of your favorite meals for him/her to try, and make samples of a couple of them.
  • For the coffee/tea lover: put your photo on one of those personalized mugs
  • For the writer: design custom stationary or a notebook template
  • For the traveler: make a top 10 list of places you’ve visited that they MUST see
  • For the volunteer: set up a volunteer “date” with him or her, doing something you’d both enjoy (Bonding + giving back all in one!)
  • For the book lover: make homemade bookmarks with quotes, photos, etc. (I did this for my Dad – a big win)
  • For the gardener: plant some herbs in a window box and gift them
  • For the sports fan: Do they like basbeall? Set up a batting cages visit. Racing? Visit the local go-karting place together for a spin.
  • For the photographer: get one of their shots matted and framed for their wall
  • For the outdoorsy one: schedule a day to go rock-climbing, canoeing or hiking together at a new place.

Happy holidays!

These things are the wonderful things…

…we’ll remember all through our lives.

First, Casey's turn...

So goes a verse in the Carpenters’ Christmas classic, “Sleigh Ride.” This song will be playing while my parents and I drag up the big plastic containers with red and green lids from the basement that snugly hold our universe of Christmas decorations. We’ll pick and choose from the bins which knicknacks we want to place around the house and which ones we don’t feel like dealing with, and slowly begin to unwrap each of the dozens of ornaments from their boxes and paper towel wrappings and bubble wrap. We’ll marvel over the ornaments that have made it 20 years or more, over the handmade pieces I created in school as a child, and the still wonderful, potent smell from the clove ball all these years later.

Harrison will circle around us, sniffing everything. We’ll remember when Casey used to try to distract us with a toy. Dad will come at the very end, to hang his favorite ornaments and to lift me on his shoulders to place the angel on top of the tree. Then we’ll switch on the string of lights… and all will be well and wonderful in the world.

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Giving back doesn’t have to mean $$

“Giving back” is the new, sexy buzz phrase these days – EVERYONE wants a piece of the philanthropy pie. It’s on the nightly news broadcasts, in every blog, and if you work at a non-profit like me, everything you do is about giving back.

But I noticed that “giving back” often has the same connotations as shopping for the best Christmas presents – how much money can I give and to how many organizations?

To me, giving back isn’t about racking up a list of the 10 charities you made a donation to – because then it ends up reading like your other shopping list: “Oh, I saved a child for $15 here, bought a water jug for $5 there…” When I think about giving back, so many “old-fashioned” methods come to mind. Here are a few I like:

  • Cooking dinner for your local fire/police station (the firefighters by my parents’ neighborhood have come to love our Cajun dishes)
  • Instead of stuffing last season’s coat/scarf in the back of the closet – donate it to a shelter
  • Bring old blankets and towels to an animal shelter
  • Hand someone walking in the rain your umbrella
  • Pick up an extra latte for your door man/woman, front desk person, security guard, etc.
  • Offer to walk the dog/cook/pick up the mail/go grocery shopping for your elderly neighbor
  • Mail a holiday greeting card to someone who isn’t expecting it
  • Drop off lunch for someone with a busy schedule
  • For book lovers, make homemade bookmarks with their favorite quotes and photos on them (I did this for my dad – he loved it!)
  • Call someone you love – even if they were supposed to call you first.
  • Loan some of your favorite books and movies (happy, comforting ones!) to a friend who can’t make it home for the holidays
  • Tell the people in your life that you love them. Works every time.

What are some of the ways you are giving back this year?