Bringing gifts from ajar…

 Day 17 – A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide.

So, my task on Friday was to spend a few days getting all my presents sorted, and then to write a blog about it. Of course, I knew that would take me more than a few days, so Day 16’s “step” was a blank sheet of paper.

The “Thought for the day” was, er, blank, and the task for the day was also (surprisingly) blank. Blank as blank can be.

By strange coincidence, I had rather a blank day yesterday. My mind was blank, my new post page about my gift ideas was also, you know, blank.

I needed that. Needed a blank day. Don’t we all? I still haven’t got all my gifts wrapped up, but I have finished writing my ideas up to share. I don’t need all of them, so I’ll probably save some for another year. I’m guessing most of you will have all your gifts wrapped up by now, I mean it is only 8 days till Christmas! But even so, the ideas can always wait till next Christmas….

Oh yeah, before you read on, just need to give you a SPOILER ALERT! If you are in any way expecting a gift from me this year, probably best not to read this post. You wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises would you? Or worse, read my ideas and think – she’d better not be giving me that.

Firstly, and I don’t mean this to sound smug in any way, but we got most of our kids’ presents in October and November. This is because toy shopping is my nemesis and I am motivated to get organised early because of fear. Fear of toys. Fear of shops. Fear of prices going up (which they do, I’ve noticed after about the middle of November).

So, yeah, toys. I won’t bore you with my moaning. All I will say is, “they were so much better in the good old days”. There, I said it. So many toys these days don’t require imagination, they fall apart easily, they are cheap and nasty and…. oh, sorry, yeah, that soap box was just asking to be stood on. I’ll just get down now…..

So, to manage my “issues”, we have a very rigorous procedure which has been refined over the years. It works very well. Here it is:

  • Kids go through the catalogue with my husband (who still hasn’t lost his childlike excitement for toys).

  • He types up wish list items on a spreadsheet, with prices and links to items on the website.

  • The kids number them in order of preference

  • We both independently look at the links and at reviews.

  • We both type independent verdicts (hidden from each other) along the lines of “yes”, “no”, and “maybe”, with some extra information if needed, such as:

    -“What the heck is that?”

    -“Yes, as long as I get to use the nerf gun on it every time it makes a noise (Furby Boom).”

    – “It’s me or him, there’s no room for two dinosaurs in this house (six foot inflatable T-Rex)”.

Oh, what fun we do have….

Then, we see how the yes’s and maybes look against the budget and reserve for collection at the store/order online. Job’s a goodun. Except when they change their minds completely in their Santa letters a month later. Yeah, that always happens without fail. Every frickin’ year.

Most normal people do not buy their kid’s presents like this. But we are not a normal family. We are a family with one geek who loves toys and shopping, and one shop-hating, toy-phobic miser. So it works well for us.

So that’s the kids sorted. But what about everyone else? Well, I came up with a sort of theme this year. It all started when I went to the school Christmas Fayre. Children are tasked with bringing in a “jolly jar”. We basically have to fill an empty jar with fun little items like sweets, small toys etc to be raffled off. Kids love them, well, as long as they don’t get a really rubbish one – there’s always the odd one of those.

So I thought to myself “Aha! I will make jolly jars for everyone! And for those who live far away, I will make jolly bags! (Ok,so “Jolly Bags” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so smoothly, but still…)

Now, I love jars. I’m literally obsessed with them. I’m like a jar squirrel. I hide them everywhere and forget where I put them, much to the frustration of my husband. So he won’t be too jolly if he receives a jar. He can have a bag instead.

What to fill the jars with? Oh the possibilities! They are literally endless! Here is my favourite one, which is what I’ll be giving a lot of this year :

Spa in a Jar 

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…..Filled with an assortment of home-made or bought creams, bath stuff, herbal tea bags, body brush, essential oils etc. I’ve been busy experimenting with a new kitchen activity: making my own body products as gifts. It’s been so much fun, and way better than fighting my way through the shops. But if you’re out of time, shop-bought body products would work nicely (56)

Here are some of the things I made to go into it:

Hard lotion bars (in homemade wax paper bags) – Made with Shea butter, bees wax and olive oil, and coconut oil infused with chamomile and calendular and lavender.

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Soothing balm (Coconut oil, beeswax, lavender oil, Vitamin E oil)

Lavender bath soak (Epsom salts, pink Himalayan rock salt, coconut oil, rose petals).

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Bath “tea” in home-sewn muslin bags (which my children helped sew). Two different ones made with oatmeal, sunflower seeds and lavender buds, and also epsom salts, rose petals and chamomile flowers.

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 Two other really great ideas I haven’t tried yet are – “Ginger and coconut oil sugar body scrub” and “How to make 100 natural body care gifts in an hour”.

I had a few other Jolly Jar ideas:

  • Jar for the car – Fill it with handy journey items – Some money and loose change. First aid, snacks (with a long shelf-life), cloths, nappy sacks (handy to put rubbish in), small bottle of mineral water, pen and paper, kids’ colouring book and crayons, mini travel games/cards.

  • Hairy Jar – Containing hair things accessories, bought or home-made. Clips, bands, pins, headbands, hair ruffles.

  • Chocolate Jar – Need I say more? Ah yes, but to make it more creative, I would make my own RAW chocolate for them (much healthier) and also include instructions and ingredients for them to make their own, plus optional silicone moulds.

  • Man Jar  – (Actually, Man Bag sounds so much better than Man Jar. So you could make him a lovely masculine bag (blue of course.) Ok so I’m not a fan of “genderizing” items, but if you’re stuck for something to give a man, this is just a thought… Mini packs of lego, travel toiletries, shoe laces (tied around the top) a torch, pocketknife, socks, bookmark, matches, oh and a tea towel 😉

Just to clarify, I (a girl) would love to receive a “Man Jar”, bar the Lego. Not because I don’t like Lego, but because I can’t follow building instructions. And obviously I would LOVE the jar itself. (Mmmm, more jars….) By the way, I found Ikea to be a great place for Jars. And cheap too. Being in Ikea was like being in jar heaven. (Other Jar sellers are available…just saying).

So I was saying that I made bags right? Well, did I mention that I haven’t really ever got the hang of the sewing machine, or even really done that much sewing before? Well, my boys love sewing so I decided I had better start learning. I *really* struggle to visualise written and verbal (and even pictured) instructions – I mean, it’s a real problem. So I needed a bit of help from the other half (you know, the one who has two people’s share of instruction-following skills), but I am so happy to say that I’ve managed to make bags and hair bands…without tears and tantrums (Ok, that last bit was a slight tinkering with the truth, alright?)

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I also made a toddler “bag of discovery” out of cute material with trains on it and inside I put –

  • small toys

  • A kaleidoscope

  • A cute sensory play box full of trinkets like shells, marbles, buttons, shiny things (With a note to say: NB: Small parts – Strictly to be played with alongside a responsible adult!!!)

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  • Homemade sensory playdough – with rose petals and lavender buds, glitter and lavender oil, wrapped first in wax paper and then shiny material which they can play with.

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For children, we filled a loo roll (yes, the ultimate Blue Peter item) with the following: A homemade bookmark, some dried fruit, some marbles and a headband (for the girls). Then pushed in the loo roll ends and tied with a bow:

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The teachers will also get a jar. Teachers must be able to find a million uses for a jar! Inside they will get some of the toddler playdough, AKA “Stressbusting doughball”. They can sniff and squish the lavendery dough every time my child drives them nuts. Everybody wins. They’ll also get some post-it notes, a book mark (tied round the top) and some of the above body care products.

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So after all that, I’m feeling pretty shattered, but a lot better than if I’d set foot inside the shops. Kitchen and sewing based tantrums are a little more private than Black Friday based ones….

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