Category Archives: Gifts

How to have a natural Christmas

Minimalist tree from Michael’s Craft Store

I love Christmas and part of what I love about it is the beauty and fun of it. But I am changing some of my seasonal customs this year, because I’m learning more about materials and practices that are not healthy for the planet.

I came up with some ideas for having a more natural Christmas this year. Would you like to try it? Maybe it would be hard to make all these changes, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do a few, at least.

Here are some ideas for reducing, reusing and recycling during the holidays.

I am decorating with more natural materials.

  • What I love: I feel good about doing my part for the planet, even if it’s in small ways. And I really like the cozy, simpler vibe.
  • I am getting a real Christmas tree. 75% of Americans put up a plastic Christmas tree. My tree has a smell and an appeal you cannot replace with plastic branches and can also be recycled and composted.
  • I am not using tinsel or flocking on my tree. It’s pretty but not recyclable.
  • Following the advice of YouTuber Garrett LeChic, I am saying NO to glitter: glitter is a microplastic that is terrible for the environment, including marine wildlife. You also cannot send glitter-decorated cards to deployed troops or people in hospitals, and there is probably a reason for that.
  • For holiday sparkle, I’m using glass ornaments I already have that reflect the lights. And fewer ornaments this year, so they really stand out. Minimalist trees are trending!

I am changing the focus of this season from shopping and consumerism to exploring other kinds of activities and self-care.

  • What I love: not struggling to find parking, having lots of time for exercise, cooking and making my home a home, saving money!
  • Shopping can be addictive! I used to shop for fun and at no other time is shopping more fun than at Christmas. I decided to cut way back on the time I spend in stores. I can’t remember the last time I was in a mall! Now, I shop only for what I absolutely need and I think intentionally about whether I really need it.
  • I avoid commercials on television, radio and YouTube by using a SmartTV, playing my own content in the car, and investing in commercial-free YouTube Premium.

I am exchanging fewer gifts this Christmas. 

  • What I love – no more pressure to shop for the perfect gift.
  • Spending more time writing notes in Christmas cards.
  • Saving lots of money. I am even saving more gas!
  • I feel more in tune with the real meaning of Christmas.
  • I made an agreement to exchange only one small gift or to share a special meal or experience together (such as a concert) in lieu of presents.

I am choosing gifts that are consumable or reusable.

  • What I love: I can make some of my gifts. Colors and sizes are never an issue.
  • I give edible gifts, such as sweets, nuts, popcorn, etc.
  • I give consumable self-care gifts, such as seeds from the garden, bath salts, scrubs and balms.
  • I give gifts of books, cards and board games that can be used again and again and don’t require batteries or electricity.
  • I wrap gifts in materials that can be reused or recycled: fabric, cardboard, cotton string, white tissue, etc.

I’m making more of my baked goods and eating at home.

  • Why I love it: it’s healthier, tastier and less expensive than eating out. I have really been shocked at how bakeries and fast food restaurants are using so much plastic these days! It seems like everything comes in a plastic clamshell packaging. But that wasn’t true not so long ago. Baked goods came in paper or cardboard containers that were biodegradable. The world does not need more plastic, so…
  • I’m cooking lots more and experimenting with fresh herbs and produce. I feel a lot healthier and it’s much less costly, for example, a roast chicken: a cinch to make!
  • I am eating more vegetarian meals — beans, legumes and tofu.
  • I found and am using unbleached parchment paper. You can recycle or compost it.
  • I’m reading ingredients and not purchasing items that have high fructose syrup or artificial colors and flavors.
  • I’m baking some of my Christmas treats. I hope to make a Yule Log cake this year!

Let’s hear from you!

I am really just beginning to live in a way that is more respectful of the environment. What other ways could I have a “green” Christmas? Post your tips in the comments!

Advent Calendars and Fillables

Last year, I started a tradition of filling little advent boxes for my son. Before, we had used Advent Calendars, the kind that are flat, you open a little door, and there is a saying or picture. The calendars were great when I saw my son everyday.

But now that he lives with his Dad, sometimes I do not see my son at all in December, or if I do, only very briefly. He misses me and I miss him, too. So, I started making these boxes to remind my son that I am thinking of him and to bring some joy into his life at Christmas.

I bought this set of Advent boxes on Amazon for just over $8. The price quickly shot up to over $12 but there are many to choose from. I liked the size of these, they are 3 x 3, which just perfectly fits a tennis ball, to give you an idea of the capacity. They were easy to assemble and quite sturdy for being made out of cardstock.

In each box, I put a little gift, some Christmas games, some candy. Here are some ideas for fillers.

  • December 1: Christmas Lights Day – a mini set of electric Christmas lights.
  • December 8: Christmas Tree Day – a tiny tinsel tree
  • December 9: Christmas Card Day – some stamps and a short list of addresses
  • December 11: Reindeer Day – Pocket hand sanitizer with a reindeer on it
  • December 12: Gingerbread House Decorating Day – a paintable Gingerbread House ornament, complete with paints and brush (1/2 price at Michael’s)
  • December 13: Cocoa Day – an envelope of cocoa mix
  • December 16: Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – an ornament that looks like a sweater
  • December 21: Winter Solstice – a lighted Christmas ornament, snowflake and snowman ink stamps

The other boxes got little games, paintable crafts, Reeses Trees, kisses, Ghiradelli squares, nuts, Kinder egg, etc. I also cut up a Christmas game book (Walmart, 94 cents) and put folded up the word searches and mazes. I also copied a poem out of a book and found some free printable materials on Teachers Pay Teachers, such as a Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt and a Mad Libs-type game.

On the inside of each box, I wrote a little note.

It was a lot of effort but it was worth it because after all I only have the one child. I enjoyed doing it.

Consider this for this year or next: as a Secret Santa gift, a gift for a shut-in or for a special child.

 

5 Reasons to Complete Your Holiday Shopping Early This Year

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I have a small gift list, so this is easy for me, but each year, I try to get my gift shopping done before Thanksgiving.  The benefits of shopping early are many! Continue reading

Host or Hostess Gifts for Thanksgiving

Are you having Thanksgiving in someone else’s home? Then, you’ll want to bring a gift to show your appreciation. Here is an assortment of ideas from Cracker Barrel.

Cool Yule Picks for Small Business Saturday

SHOP_SMALLTomorrow is Small Business Saturday, an initiative that encourages holiday shoppers to frequent small business retailers.  Here are some local area favorites…

  • Books: Hooray for Books, Alexandria, VA
  • Toys: Doodlehopper 4 Kids, Falls Church
  • Cameras: Penn Camera, Fairfax, VA
  • Ornaments and decorations: Merrifield Garden Center, Merrifield, VA
  • Retro glassware: The Hour Cocktail Collection, Alexandria, VA

Do you know their Myers-Briggs type? Then you know what to give them for Christmas

I read an interesting article from the folks at Keirsey Temperaments that presents the kinds of gifts people with different personalities will like.  Keirsey lumps the Myers-Briggs types into 4 categories of people.  Here is a summary of their Christmas gift recommendations (read the full article here)

ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, or ISFJ?  Then she/he is a GUARDIAN.

For her: sentimental, engraved gifts.  For him: practical, useful gifts.

ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, or ISFP?  Then she/he is an ARTISAN.

For her or him: handmade gifts.

Is she an ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, or INFP?  Then she/he is an IDEALIST.

For her or him: fun gifts you enjoy together, like trips.

Is she an ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, or INTP?  Then she/he is a RATIONAL.

For her or him: the latest, state-of-the-art tech gadget.

What do you think?  Are these recommendations spot-on? Or would you gift differently?

Christmas Gifts for Distracted People

Do you love someone with ADD or ADHD?  If you do, you know the greatest gifts you can give them are your time, patience and understanding.  But you can also help them learn coping skills and organizational skills that can improve their daily lives tremendously.

The key to gift giving to someone who has neurological differences is to do this it with love and acceptance, as well as appreciation for their gifts and unique and positive qualities.  If you are a person who gives lots of unsolicited advice, then don’t give them one of these presents.  It will come off as patronizing.  Give them something lovely and meaningful, instead.

But if you are someone he or she turns to for support, one of these presents may be welcome.

This post is part of a longer article I posted last year: A Merry ADHD Christmas.

Presents That Show You Care and Understand

  • A month-at-a-glance calendar with blocks big enough to write in plenty of notes and appointments.  If the calendar or planner is for a woman, make sure it will fit in her purse.
  • A mini-recorder (maybe for a keychain) so the person can record where he parked the car.
  • A fun fidget for their purse, backpack or keychain: check out Tangle.
  • A GPS system to keep them from getting lost in the car.
  • Watches with easy-to-read faces are a good gift. You can’t have too many watches.
  • A digital camera for recording events.  People with ADHD tend to be visual learners.
  • Those lavender scented heavy pads for shoulders.
  • Massagers.
  • Timers to remind them to take the cookies out of the oven, or to take a break.
  • A relaxing music CD, such as classical music or instrumental jazz.
  • ADHD self-help books.
  • Nice pens and notepads for making lists.  Post-it notes.
  • Bubbles are relaxing for children, because it requires slow breathing.
  • Thank you notes or other stationery, with custom printed return address labels and stamps.
  • A tiny zen rock garden.
  • An artificial plant (you don’t have to remember to water them).
  • Key organizer (to mount by the front door)
  • Desk organizers
  • Closet organizers
  • Cosmetic bags and jewelry organizers
  • Ornaments organizers
  • Checkbook organizer and budgeting tools.
  • Write on/wipe off calendars and white boards
  • First aid kits, car emergency kits

The Tradition of Holiday Tipping

If you have not already distributed presents and Christmas gifts to people who work for you, Boxing Day (December 26) is  traditionally a time when servants were recognized with gifts of cash and is a perfect opportunity to do it.

Wondering how much to tip people who work for you?

The postman isn’t supposed to get cash. I wish I had known this, but you are not supposed to give postal workers cash, and they are not supposed to take it.  It’s against their policies.  They can accept presents with a value of less than $20.  My postman took the money I gave him, but I’ll remember that next year. Continue reading

How to Make the Holiday Bright for Your Unemployed Friend

One out of ten people are unemployed in our country right now (I’m looking for a job, myself!).  With the holidays right around the corner, are you wondering what to give to your unemployed friends on a tight budget?  Here are some ideas to lift their spirits this Christmas.

  • Get them out of the house and moving! Job-seekers spend a lot of time on the computer (looking for jobs, of course!).  Why not invite them for a winter walk?  Then be prepared for a lot of listening.  Some people find it easier to talk about their problems when walking.  You’ll be doing their mood a lot of good by getting them walking briskly (which will increase their endorphins) and by listening to their problems (which will reduce their stress level).
  • Propose fun and free things to do together. Check out museum exhibits, free concerts, and tree lightings, all of which are abundant around the holidays.  Skip the mall, which may remind them of how little they have to spend.  Go for a drive and look at Christmas lights.  Volunteer.  Or spend an afternoon together making Christmas cookies or watching old movies.
  • Give the gift of networking. Bring your friend to a holiday event with you and introduce them to people.
  • Offer to read their resume. If you have worked together, and it’s appropriate, consider writing a recommendation for them on LinkedIn.
  • Agree to exchange modest gifts this year. If you usually exchange gifts, or it’s a relative, set a budget, e.g. not to exceed $10, and honor that.
  • Help them with a useful gift. Take their picture of your friend and help them upload it to their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles.  Help them design and purchase a set of business contact cards on VistaPrint. Give them a month-at-a-glance calendar to help them keep track of their job interviews.

A Merry ADHD Christmas

If you, or someone you love, has ADHD, you know that this neurological difference presents daily challenges.  This challenge may be exacerbated with other conditions that may co-exist with ADHD, such as mood and anxiety disorders.  Here are some tips for accommodating the special need of ADHD during the holidays.

Understanding the Impact of ADHD on People During the Holidays

Even brilliant people with ADHD may have trouble maintaining attention to everyday tasks, organizing their homes and work spaces, managing finances, handling impulsivity, arriving on time for appointments, and remembering things.  They may also have social challenges, such as interrupting too frequently, and sensory sensitivities (such as being more sensitive than is typical to noise or fabrics).  They may also have trouble sleeping and may fatigue easily.

Imagine how the holidays can affect someone with ADHD.  There are tons of details to remember, and all kinds of schedule disruptions and special events to attend.  Budgeting, shopping for, wrapping, and hiding gifts can be enormously challenging for someone who is impulsive, highly distractible, and who tends to forget details (such as where the car is parked).  There are twinkly lights and decorations everywhere, which can be highly distracting.  And let’s not even talk about the sheets of burned cookies! 🙂

While everyone has these symptoms at some point, especially during the hectic holidays or other stressful times, people with ADHD have these symptoms for 6 months or longer, in some cases, for their entire lives.  The severity of the symptoms is another diagnostic criteria.  You can be forgetful and not have ADHD.  But if you have several of these symptoms to a chronic degree, and they interfere with daily living activities, such as keeping a job or maintaining relationships, then you may have ADHD.  A neurologist can tell you more.  These “survival tips” may be useful for you, even if you don’t have ADHD.

Practical Tips for Surviving the Holidays

How can you help your friend or relative with ADHD  enjoy the season without disaster?  It’s important to remain positive and remind your friend, child, or relative about how successfully they have handled situations in the past, and that neurotypical people often struggle with similar challenges.

These tips may help, as well as help anyone else you may know who is undergoing any kind of stress during the holidays.

Even during vacation periods, try to maintain schedules. Going to bed and waking up at the same time can help manage restful sleep and emotional equilibrium.  Stick to the same rules, and make sure they are clearly understood.

Get plenty of exercise.

Make sure they are listening to you. The best way is to be close to someone with ADHD and ask them if they can pay attention for a moment.  Connect first, then tell them.  You might have to say  it again, but you will have better luck getting them to focus on you if you tell them you have something to say before you say it.

Write it down. Is it important that they be somewhere?  Don’t just tell them and expect them to remember. Make sure they write it down in their planner, or on their digital calendar, and watch them do it! Send email and text reminders.  If necessary, write it down for them, e.g. a post-it note on their bathroom mirror or front door.

Fudge on the time. If you need them to be there at 8:30 a.m., tell them they have to be there at 8:00 a.m.  Trust me, you should never tell a person with ADHD the actual starting time of a movie, play, or airplane departure because they will almost always be late for everything.  You don’t like it and they don’t like it, but it is a fact of life for people with ADHD.  Always give them about a half-hour cushion, at least, if it’s important.

Break down the tasks for them. People with ADHD often operate well with lists, calendars, schedules, and other forms of structure.  Help them break down a task, by talking through the steps together, whether it’s shopping for toys or making cookies.

Don’t let them take on too much and set reasonable expectations. People with ADHD often over-estimate their ability to handle a multitude of tasks, and take on too much, not finishing much of anything.  If you simplify your expectations for the holidays, and help them focus on just a few tasks at a time, and celebrate the milestones and completion.  For example, agree in advance that the adults will get just one present.  It is fine to use Christmas bags and tissue instead of wrapping presents with bows.  You can decorate a tree with lights, tinsel, and just a few decorations.  You can still enjoy a family Christmas dinner with a turkey breast and instant mashed potatoes and a store-bought pumpkin pie!

Stash back-ups. For example, an keep umbrella or extra pair of glasses in the car.  Stow extra hats and gloves in the car trunk, as well as the closet.  Then when your ADHD relative forgets or loses an important item, they won’t be cold!

Help them relax. What relaxes people can be different, but in general, slow down and don’t try to do too much.  Take plenty of breaks, and stay hydrated.  Relax together at a a coffee shop and regroup.  Hand fidgets can be helpful: they help you relax and focus.

Alert them when they need it. Are they spacing out?  Sometimes gum helps, or ice cold water or lemonade, a quick walk, or a little chocolate or caffeine.  If they’re really tired, however, just call it a day.

Get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Studies show that people with ADHD become more high-functioning when they see green outside — so take a stroll around the Christmas tree lot or outdoor garden center.  Take brisk winter walks.

Let someone else do it, at least during the holidays. Take the linens and towels to a laundry and let them wash and fold them for you or your ADHD relative.

ADHD Friendly Presents

  • A month-at-a-glance calendar with blocks big enough to write in plenty of notes and appointments.  If the calendar or planner is for a woman, make sure it will fit in her purse.
  • A mini-recorder (maybe for a keychain) so the person can record where he parked the car.
  • A fun fidget for their purse, backpack or keychain: check out Tangle.
  • A GPS system to keep them from getting lost in the car.
  • Watches with easy-to-read faces are a good gift. You can’t have too many watches.
  • A digital camera for recording events.  People with ADHD tend to be visual learners.
  • Those lavender scented heavy pads for shoulders.
  • Massagers.
  • Timers to remind them to take the cookies out of the oven, or to take a break.
  • A relaxing music CD, such as classical music or instrumental jazz.
  • ADHD self-help books.
  • Nice pens and notepads for making lists.  Post-it notes.
  • Bubbles are relaxing for children, because it requires slow breathing.
  • A tiny zen rock garden.
  • An artificial plant (you don’t have to remember to water them).
  • Key organizer (to mount by the front door)
  • Desk organizers
  • Closet organizers
  • Cosmetic bags and jewelry organizers
  • Ornaments organizers
  • Checkbook organizer and budgeting tools.
  • Write on/wipe off calendars and white boards
  • First aid kits, car emergency kits