Mary Beth Writes

12/3/2021

One of my favorite lines this year: “Our family does Christmas cards at 20 paces.” (I apologize that I don’t remember the author.)

Are you done buying or making presents? Is this easy for you or is it a craziness in your life? I think for most of us, obtaining presents isn’t too hard except one or two people will stump and stymie. Make sure that if that person is not your favorite person under ordinary circumstances, try to not devote too much more time or money to them than you do to the folks you love full and easy. Christmas isn’t a contest to win. It’s simply a season to share ourselves and our resources more obviously.

What are thoughtful and helpful things we can give to each other this year? Assuming we would like, as much as possible, to avoid plastic (which will never decompose), or strapping ourselves financially, while attempting to do a little to make the world more just?

Here are a very few ideas.

There are many companies who will try to say they are Fair Trade. Look for Fair Trade Federation. They have the best track record.

Have you ever assembled a dead weeds bouquet? Go for a walk with a kid or a friend. Bring scissors and a basket. Cut weeds in alleys or along roads where no one cares what you do. The beautiful shades and graceful shapes of dried grasses, weeds, and pickers can be as beautiful as the memory of the walk. If you have cats this bouquet might only last a day, but if you don’t like comedy, you probably don’t have a cat.

When I was a teenager my sister gave me a very cool Scandinavian-design hand mirror. Mirrors are simple tools we seldom think to give to each other. I still use that mirror every day.

One year I spent quality time at the library picking gorgeous coffee table books on subjects Len is interested in. Wrapped them up and gave them to him Christmas morning. He spent weeks perusing them - and then I returned them. I would probably only ever do this for Len, but it was fun.

If one can afford it, it is always powerful to give a kid a bike. And a helmet.

When our kids were getting ready to go to college, we gave them boxes with handy tools in them. Hammers, nails and screws, florist wire, duct tape, screw driver set, Allen wrenches, pliers. Our son has turned his set into his garage filled with tools; our daughters still have their boxes and when we help them move, they haul them out.

When the kids were in elementary my mom gave them sewing boxes with various threads and simple sewing equipment. As they grew older they jettisoned the fancy boxes (I still have them, sigh, they were from my mom) but each kid knows how to use a needle and thread if they need to.

Good jams and cheeses. Perugino or other fancy chocolate bars or other candy. The trick to sweets seems to be that if the gift is for a kid, go for quantity. If it is for an adult, choose quality. Nuts and seeds. Fancy dried fruit. Medjool dates. Did you know camel drivers carried figs and dates because one only has to eat a few to garner most of the vitamins, minerals, and calories a person needs to exist? Efficient if you are going to ride a camel across a desert for a couple weeks.

If you know the person well, choose the weird things they love to eat. Our kids give Len anchovies and upscale sardines. The cats come into the kitchen to lick the cans when he’s done.

A good pillow is a fine luxury.

For our anniversary our kids gave us a digital picture frame which revolves photos of people and pets in our family. I walk by it frequently in a day; seeing the faces of my family makes me smile. It works via email, so they frequently send new photos. It’s a great (and expensive) gift for families who don’t live close to each other. A friend and her siblings bought one for their mom in an assisted living residence.

Kites - with a promise to fly it with your giftee! We know kids loves kites but you might have adult friends who would enjoy an afternoon flying a kite with you. Imagine the photos!

This is the time of year to try to shop at least once in places that feature artists’ work, or at Fair Trade Fairs (there is one in Madison this weekend https://www.fairtrademadison.org/ ). Stop by a ceramic studio. Buy cards and bowls, fabrics, and placemats. Shop an independent bookstore. We know all this but have you put it on your calendar? Or ordered online from such places?

This list is not awesome but I think you have ideas, too. 

What do you like to give and get?

 

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We gave some of our Chicago kids a Zoo membership. It gives them free parking, so they can take the “littles” for an hour or so any time. My dad gave me a socket wrench set; a lifetime favorite, and so much power in a box!

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WHITE CAKE!

The picture is our wedding cake, made by my friend Karen, who drove it from Indiana to Chicago on the hottest day of that year. It was in the back seat so their two little boys had to ride in front (remember when kids could ride in front?). They got lost in the city but I didn't know that for years because Karen and her husband start early and had time to get lost and then figure it out. Sometimes wedded bliss is a lot of work. 

The following story and recipe is not about the wedding cake, but it is the photo I have...

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