Tis the season

Hand-gown and hand-made wreath from my most wonderful husband.

Although we should always give lovingly and generously, we are now into the second week of Advent, three weeks before Christmas; the largest giving season in Western culture.  Decorations and gifts have been stocked on local store shelves since late August, along side the abundance of Halloween decorations, costumes and aisles of candy, beckoning small children and those that live for shiny, sparkly things.  Are you done shopping, have your cards written and mailed, and enjoying this special time?  Have you not even begun to think about those special people in your life, the ones that make it so fantastic?  Are you stressed out with the challenges associated with this now very commercial season?

Textured plate - my potter and weaver friend made and my pressed flower coasters.

I enjoy giving gifts; but I hate to shop.  My distaste for shopping is a part of me, it isn’t just the holiday season that brings it out.  As I have a rather large family, spanning all ages, to provide gifts for, I could easily become overwhelmed shopping for everyone.  My solution is to make most gifts.  I do enjoy creating, crafting and making something from another thing.  Guess the desk I posted about told you that already.

Using the finest ingredients, when they are at their peak, ensures a taste sensation.

When I was in my teens I moved to Washington State from the east coast.  My mother decided she wanted to learn to can/preserve a year or two later.  Naturally, that meant I was going to learn as well since I was helping.  Our very first experience was making strawberry jam.  The foam on top ended up in most of the jars as we weren’t knowledgeable enough to avoid creating it or able to get rid of it all.  The taste of that jam was enough to keep me hooked.  Nothing in the grocery stores tastes as fine as fresh picked strawberries made into jam right away; I still feel that way.  Over the years my mother and I broadened our attempts to include applesauce, other berry jams, apple butter, plum butter (she has an Italian prune tree that always produces an abundance of wonderful fruit) and pickles.

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter and tea.
We will bottle and label many bottles of wine as part of our gifting this year.

Since those early attempts, I have expanded my canning to include numerous types of pickles, a huge variety of jams, jellies, and sauces as well as freezing and dehydrating other foods.  This evening, in preparation for going to see a friend tomorrow, I thawed pumpkin that I cooked down and froze last year to make pumpkin bread.  There are a few jars of pumpkin butter that I made a couple of years ago that I will put with the bread and some tea bags for her.  I have done the same thing with applesauce and apple butter I have made.  The simple pleasure of sharing something hand-made that will be savored and enjoyed makes me happy.  Last week I participated in a cookie exchange with several friends.  These homemade goodies, an assortment I wouldn’t have had time to bake myself, help celebrate visits with other friends and family during the holidays.  Our wines will likely play a large roll in the gifts we give this year as they are ready to share.

For the love of Dragons, my son's early clay pieces.
Angel from my friend, also an angel.

Some of my most cherished gifts have also been homemade.  I have a lovely angel from a friend of mine that graces my craft room.  My mother has made many items that help us celebrate various holidays, as well as things that I cherish daily.  Most of my favorite items have been crafted by my children.  This last year both of my father’s parents died; I have pieces of jewelry they each made as reminders of the love and talent they shared with so many.

Ceramic nativity: simple, but elegant.

As with my desk, sometimes I prefer to make something for me rather than purchase it.  Years ago, the nativity I liked best was way beyond my price range.  Looking at the boxes and boxes of it below the glassed in shelf it was displayed in, I determined I was going to make my own set.  I researched various styles, kept that lovely set in my mind and chose to purchase greenware pieces from a small ceramics shop a mile from my house where I met some very fun people that I have stayed friends with through the years and all of my moves.  It was fun and interesting to purchase a few pieces, clean them up and smooth the seams away, get them fired, glaze them and have them fired again.  I was so taken by the process that I did the entire set: three wise men with three camels, a shepherd and lamb with another sheep, a cow and donkey, an angel and of course, the Holy Family.  That set is twenty two years old now and I still love it.  This year it is on the desk I refinished.

Three generations of family crafters and counting.
Again, multiple family members handy-work.

Coming from a creative family it is not strange to think that Ichoose to make rather than purchase commercial gifts for those I care about.  Those gifts that are purchased are typically for the youngsters, those most prone to advertizing gimmicks, with the least understanding of that personalized present.  Someday they will see the value of a handmade item, so I will enjoy watching their reaction when they open their gift regardless of its origin.   The loving, thoughtful gift is the goal.  Enjoy your holiday preparations.

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