Gifts from ajar

Last year I decided to make a lot of my Christmas gifts because I wanted to give something that didn’t break the bank but also had a nice personal touch. So I decided to stick to  a theme to also save time on shopping and making: namely, put stuff in jars, or if posting the gift, a home-made bag.

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.

This year I’ll be doing nothing of the sort – I’m no superwoman and there’s every chance I’ll need to pull out the”just had a baby” excuse.

Anyway, the jars and bags seemed to go down a treat, so here are some ideas that I shared on my blog last year, that could inspire those of you who prefer the idea of staying away from the shops and making your own gifts. Obviously you have to buy the ingredients and materials but that can be done quickly online once you know what you’re making.

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 too.photo (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 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 to satisfy my jar obsession….) 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. 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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The Ghosts of Christmas

It’s finally here! I thought it would never come! Christmas Eve! I’ve had a blast I really have, and I really feel like I can toss my “bah humbug” hat in the bin. I’ll never be one of those types who starts getting excited for Christmas in September, but for once, I feel like I’m free of all those things which keep me in a spirit of Christmas dread. Oh yes, it really has been a case of “The Taming of the Scrooge” here.

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I’ll be back in the New Year and won’t be mentioning the “C” word for at least 8 months…. I promise. Wishing you a “blue skies Christmas”….

Naomi 

Day 24 – A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide

All too often we get an unwanted visitor at Christmas – the Ghost of Christmas Past haunts our present day and has the power to tear it to pieces.

 Memories of….

  •  A lost loved one

  • A far away loved one

  • Love turned sour

  • Past mistakes

  • Past hurts

  • Past disappointments

 ….eat us up inside and cast a shadow over us, especially at Christmas.

 This Christmas is going to be the first without my mum-in-law who passed away in June.

This Christmas I’m going to be acutely aware of a big empty space inside me where I’d expected to feel a baby kicking, after we had a miscarriage in July.

 That hurts. It hurts so much, it takes my breath away sometimes.

 I don’t plan on sweeping that pain under the carpet. Equally I don’t plan on being so caught up in what might have been that I miss the present moment.

I believe in letting myself feel whatever I feel, and not feeling that I have to hide it so that others don’t feel uncomfortable. Life is not all about just putting a smile on your face and getting on with it. It’s a rich tapestry of love, loss, joy and pain. Of course, we all prefer to be on the mountain top all the time, but the fact is, life in all it’s fullness requires us to take the long journey and to experience the mountain tops, the valleys, the plateaux, the beautiful meadows and the dark forests.

I’m learning to embrace it all.

I remember one year, when I was in my early twenties, that I was so devastated by a long-term relationship break up which happened just a few days before Christmas day, that I couldn’t even eat my Christmas dinner. I tried to put a brave face on it, but my life had just fallen apart. I just felt sick and empty inside and I dampened the atmosphere everywhere I went.

Other times, I’ve let a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future come and take my eyes of the present. I’ve been so caught up with “what if’s” and worries that I’ve ruined it for myself sometimes. Wanting so badly for the future to turn out a certain way, worrying that everything will go wrong. Trying to control it all.

I don’t want my Christmas this year to be ruled by the ghosts of the past or ghosts of the future. I want to enjoy the present moment and be a blessing to others around me too.

I don’t think it’s enough to just focus on the present, to practise “mindfulness”. It’s a great thing to be able to do, but I believe there needs to be deep level healing if we want experience the present with peace and joy.

There is a ghost which has the power to do that. I’ve seen this ghost at work in my life and my husband’s life. And I’ve seen my marriage, once full of bitterness and tension, healed and given a fresh burst of life. Yes, there is a ghost who can walk into our past with healing power and write us a new future. A ghost who can help us to live in the present with joy and peace and wisdom….

 …The Holy Ghost.

You see, we focus on the birth of Jesus at Christmas, and I’m all for that, but we often forget that it was the Holy Ghost who “fathered” the baby in a miraculous, immaculate conception.

Don’t freak out on me. Please. Because if you can grasp this, you will find power to exorcise those ghosts of the past and the future. If you want to. Or just stop reading now and get back to “reality”. It’s your choice.

Here’s what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit – the modern translation of the Holy Ghost….

“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and some day shall be in you. No, I will not abandon you or leave you as orphans in the storm—I will come to you….

“I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of me — and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid”.

When I lay awake half the night, bleeding and not knowing if I’d lost my baby or not, it was the most horrible place of “purgatory”. It felt like the night would go on forever, while I waited for my scan appointment. It was the same when we had to wait weeks to find out whether my mum-in-law had untreatable lung cancer, or just a bad cough.

Waiting, waiting, and more agonising waiting.

As I lay awake, I felt my mind go to a verse in the Bible, as if the Holy Spirit was guiding me and comforting me.

It wasn’t a verse I wanted to hear. It wasn’t a verse I would have chosen if I was trying to imagine a verse of comfort for myself.

“Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit; though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.”

And yet I knew, at that very moment, that it was the best thing I could read. I’d wanted the Holy Spirit to tell me that everything was going to be alright. But instead, what I learned was that the worst thing I can ever do is to depend on a circumstance, person or thing for my peace and joy. If I do that, then I will spend my entire life haunted by the ghosts of the past and the ghosts of the future, bouncing between worry and anxiety for the things and people I might lose, and an ache for those things and people I have indeed lost.

Jesus offers complete peace and joy regardless of circumstance. That means that if I’m in the trenches, he’s there. If I’m on cloud nine, he’s there. He’s not going anywhere. He will always be with me:

 “Yes, he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense, and fortress—why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come?”

Jesus was a man of sorrows and also great joy and peace. He wept for his dead friend Lazarus, even though he knew he was about to bring him back to life. It’s not only possible to experience the full range of joy and sorrow and everything in between, I believe it’s the only way to experience a full, true life. It’s okay to laugh and feel deep sorrow at the same time. It’s ok to feel sorrow and yet a deep sense of joy, simultaneously. I wrote more about this in my blog post “Leave me alone world“.

I’m not a great fan of campaigning to keep the Christ in Christmas. That’s because, for those who aren’t interested in Jesus, why would I want them to celebrate his birth? It’s just an empty gesture. If you want to, make Christ the centre of your Christmas. If you don’t, don’t.

As for me, Christ is the centre of my life. He’s the centre of everything I do. I don’t know how to live without him, now that I’ve tasted life with him. Christ isn’t just the centre of my Christmas, he’s the centre of my day, my night, my ups and my downs. Whether I’m partying or falling apart, I’ve got him to go to, to love and to be loved by.

God doesn’t ever promise that life will be a bed of roses. He offers something better. He promises to be there in the thick of it with us. He promises to bring beauty out of ashes, joy after sorrow, healing to the wounded, comfort to the hurting, wisdom to the clueless.

And so, may your Christmas be filled with joy, peace, contentment, and love, no matter what your past, present or future was, is, or will be.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”…this Christmas and forever-more.

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Bible references:

– John 14

-Habbakuk 3.17-19

– Psalm 62.6