I don’t know if you’ve heard but the gift giving season is coming. *insert: eye roll*. Despite the relentless assaults my email’s inbox is getting from the Black Friday hype, I love this time of year. I love cold weather, I love Christmas and I love giving gifts. So, I thought I’d jump into the “Gift Guide” frenzy and bring you some of my all-time favorite gift ideas.
Really, I think anything homemade is a lovely gift but marshmallows are among my favorite food to make to give as gifts. Who doesn’t love marshmallows? Years ago, I found a recipe for homemade marshmallows in a Martha Stewart’s Magazine. I was shocked that (1) you could make marshmallows at home and (2) that it was incredibly easy and fast to do. Because everyone loves marshmallows, they make perfect little gifts for folks you want to give something to but may not know very well, like neighbors you say “Hi” to every morning or for the 5+ co-workers that work in a different department than you but you see every morning. The only change I’ve made to this recipe is to substitute the peppermint extract with vanilla. I never managed to find the bags you see in the picture above but these might work.
Tip: don’t double the recipe. Every year around this time, my best friend and I get together to do a craft project. Unfortunately, every year, almost without exception, has been an epic failure. Alone we are successful crafters, but something weird happens when you put us together. We’ve dubbed it the “Christmas-Craft-Curse.” Anyway, one year we made these marshmallows but doubled the recipe because
we I thought it would be more efficient. Terrible idea.
For the last several years I’ve given one family member 3-6 months of a monthly produce box. This can cost upwards to $100 a month so this qualifies as a big gift to give. But I think it’s the perfect gift for that super-special person who doesn’t want/need anymore “stuff”. How it works: the company puts together a “box” of their best, in-season produce (fruits and vegetables) and delivers it to the recipients front door. Usually, they are delivered weekly but you could opt for bi-weekly.
Last year, we gave this to Mr. Man’s mom and I think she really liked it. At the time, I tried to find a local, small community supported agriculture group (CSA) but couldn’t find one that serviced her area. We ended up going with Farm Fresh to You, which was the second time I used them. I’ve seen Groupon-type deals for them so I think they’re a large-scale operation. Both family members were generally pretty happy with the produce they got and found it easy to control their orders. If you want to try to find a smaller, truer CSA in your area, check out this website.
This year we are completely stumped as to what to get Mr. Man’s mom…we might get her a subscription to The New York Times…this is also a good gift to give someone.
With a little planning you can get anything personalized, and for not a lot of money or effort, you’ll give someone a truly, special present. Some of my most favorite personalized gifts.
Personalized Cell Phone Cases
I’ve only made these on Shutterfly but I know you can do the same thing on Zazzle and Vistaprint. I used Zazzle to make business cards once and loved the experience. I’ve never used Vistaprint. Currently, Shutterfly only offers cases for iPhones and the prices range from $45 to $58 depending on the phone’s generation and the finish on the case (e.g. flat or glossy). (Zazzle and Vistaprint seem to offer a wider variety of cases.)
I’ve been using Shutterfly for years to make everything from calendars, Christmas cards and photo albums, and have always been very happy with how easy they make it to design my project and the quality of the product. How it works: select the phone case you want, then upload your photos. You then drag the photo onto the image of the phone. Once the photo is on the case, you can edit it (e.g. color, size, etc.) and also change the layout in order to have multiple pictures. Finally, you type in the person’s name. It’s that easy!
Tip: I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for anything on Shutterfly. They are usually running a sale or I get a coupon in the mail. Right now you can get up to 50% off of orders over $99 in honor of Black Friday. You can also try the codes on Retail Me Not.
Lunch Box or Swim Bag
For the last several years one of my dearest friends has given my kids personalized lunch boxes or swim bags from Land’s End. My kids use their lunch boxes every day and subject them to unspeakable horrors, and still they last for years.
Right now, Land’s End is having a sale on lunch boxes, bringing the price down from $15 to $25, to $8 to $14. Monogramming costs an additional $6.
Another gift giving idea I’ve had is to get the Land’s End beach towels monogrammed. This could be a great gift for any kid on a swim team. The towels range in price from $25-$30 without monogramming. Once that is added you’re looking at closer to $40.
Tip: Before placing your order, sign up to receive emails from Land’s End. Within a day of doing so you’ll probably get a 25-40% off coupon to use on any order. They offer these discounts so often I don’t think I’ve ever paid full-price for anything.
Sherry and John from Young House Love talked about the personalized ornaments their kids receive every year from a family member and I thought that would make a terrific present. If you follow the link above, it will take you to Young House Love where they go through some of the vendors they found on Etsy offering personalized ornaments. If you do a search on Etsy for “personalized christmas ornaments” you’ll get 250 pages of results. Staggering.
Tip: You can also search Etsy for other personalized gift ideas. The possibilities and price points are vast.
Well those were my ideas. What are some of your favorite gifts to give?