I am “one of those”.
One of those people who shops in September and October with just a few finishing touches to be done in November so that I can avoid the stress, expense and chaos of shopping in December.
I assume not everyone is like me, and in fact, I never used to do things this way. Certainly in my drinking days, I was a last-minute shopper…someone who roamed the malls on Christmas Eve praying to find something, anything, that might seem appropriate or like I actually put some thought into people’s gifts.
When I got sober, I changed a lot of things in my life, and procrastinating on important tasks was one of them. I no longer wanted to be rushing around a busy mall on December 24th buying things that I could pass off as thoughtful gifts.
In an effort to save you from some of the shopping stress, I wanted to put together this list of gift ideas that I thought you could use or take inspiration from. Many of these ideas I have used in my own life and they have gone over well. Other ideas came to me as I started making this list. I hope it helps you rest a little easier over the holidays.
While I don’t buy into the notion that we have to spend money to show people how much we love them, I do really enjoy giving gifts…in fact it is my “love language” (if you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, it is a relationship game-changer) and so the following gift ideas will reflect various price points.
I also like re-purposing items in my home to be included in the gift. This is not the same as re-gifting! I'm not talking about receiving a a gift and then swapping the name tag. I'm talking about using a pretty tea towel I bought but never used to wrap a loaf of banana bread, or gifting that lovely votive candle I bought but never took out of the bag, for example.
I love shopping local and supporting local businesses. I shop at gift shops, craft shows, farmer's markets and specialty shops but I also balance this with visits to Costco, Bulk Barn, and the Dollar store for some items.
I also like buying multiples of some things or buying in bulk to be able to prepare several gifts.
There are times I like turning home-made gifts into a fun project I can do with a friend or loved one.
And I always, always like to include a card. You can buy cards at gift shops, specialty stores, art galleries, card stores, dollar stores, or you can get creative and make your own out of simple card stock or pretty paper from a paper store (like Paper Papier or The Village Quire in Ottawa). There is nothing like the gift of your own words in your own handwriting to someone.
In fact, a card can be the only gift you give someone.
At the beginning of this post, I shared that before I got sober I would scramble to find a good gift for someone.
Cards, on the other hand, were different.
Cards were my "thing".
I would go from card store to card store searching for the one that said exactly what I felt inside. I took pride in finding those words and then I would spend time writing my own words inside them, as well. I loved seeing my parents' faces when they opened my cards. It made them so happy to read how I felt about them.
I still do this. I try to find cards that have meaning and then I take time to write something personal inside. It is amazing what the gift of your words can mean to someone. Truly. So, if you are short on money and yet want to make a big impression on someone, consider your card as your gift.
You might even think of writing a poem. Or perhaps you might write a list of things you love about them. Or, you can use your card to create a "gift certificate" inside.
It doesn't even have to cost you money. Consider a gift certificate to go for a hike or a walk together.
TIME with someone is the greatest gift. Always.
Perhaps you'll consider writing your certificate to go for lunch or coffee and then treat to the event. For my brother and sister-in-law, I have gifted babysitting and then put money in their card for them to go out for a fun date night.
You can write romantic gift certificates for massages, bubble baths together, date nights or whatever comes to mind that you think your loved one will enjoy.
But no matter what, the whole point of the holidays is to be grateful for what we have and to show our appreciation in a gesture of some kind.
The Holidays Are Not Easy For Everyone
That said, I realize that for some people, the holidays can be a very difficult or lonely time. Perhaps you have recently lost a family member or they are suffering with an illness and the last thing you feel like doing is celebrating. If they are still alive, I invite you to consider writing them a letter, listing all the things you love about them. Or perhaps you might consider this idea: A few years before my father passed away, I gifted him with a small book on Father's Day called My Dad, My Hero by Jenny Kempe.
On each page, I drew inspiration from the author's words and I used them to elaborate and share memorable experiences I had enjoyed with him throughout my childhood. When he died, that book was in the room with him. My mother read it to him in the days before he passed and it brought him, and me, comfort to know he was aware of how special those times had been to me. My mother gifted me with the book after he died. I cherish it.
I have done the same for my mom, with the book titled Thank you Mum by the same author. One day, I expect it to bring her comfort, as well.
I found Jenny's books at Chapters in Ottawa, Canada, but for more of her titles and to order, visit Amazon.com. Some of her titles have even been translated into French and other languages! Here is the link to her work on Amazon.ca.
If your loved one has passed, I encourage you to find ways to honour their life. Perhaps there is a special ornament you can hang on the tree or something special you can place in your home that will remind you of them. Perhaps you can create a tradition that honours them in some way. Maybe you enjoy their favourite meal over the holidays. Whatever you choose, I hope it brings you comfort to remember your loved one in a way that is meaningful for you.
If you feel isolated and alone during the holidays, I encourage you to reach out to your neighbours or your community. I invite you to consider giving back to your community. Donate your time and skills to those less fortunate. We can always, always find something to be grateful for and when we do things for others less fortunate, we tend to feel so much better ourselves.
I want you to know that if you are reading this post, then I wish you a holiday that is as peaceful as possible, spent in whatever way brings you less stress and more calm. You deserve that.
So, let's get to it. When it comes to gifts, the first thing to think of is the person (or people) you are gifting. Be sure to gift them something they will like and use. I used to find things I would like, but I wasn't always being considerate of the recipients' tastes. I have learned a lot, and people often tell me I give the "perfect" gifts.
If this is true, it is simply because I have started putting others' needs ahead of my own.
Let The Gifting Begin!
One thing to consider is a unique container to package your gift in. I like giving gifts that are placed into containers that also make up part of the gift (examples to follow).
For containers, think of re-purposed wooden crates; wicker baskets; plastic bins; large bowls; mason jars, glass containers; cake pans, dish towels, or you can paint and decorate a shoe box, etc.
For all suggestions below, you might consider buying the whole "bundle" or simply picking and choosing items you think your recipient will like. Here goes!!
2 mugs (Chapters and specialty gift stores have so many cute ones with sayings but even the dollar stores have attractive mugs), a pound of coffee, a coffee grinder, a pour over mug or French press, a book on coffee, and a gift card to their favourite coffee shop.
Tea mugs, their favourite loose leaf tea with a tea ball, a loose leaf tea pot, a wooden display box, a gift card to their favourite tea/coffee shop, a lovely votive candle, a book about tea.
A cookbook (I personally love The Detoxinista's Every Day Detox for yummy, easy recipes using real food as well as Kathy Smart's Live The Smart Way gluten free cookbook which also includes delicious and easy recipes). Kathy's can be found in stores like Kardish and Farm Boy in Ottawa, but you can also send an email to info@LiveTheSmartWay.com for a FREE pdf version of the book which you can then print out and place in a binder for your recipient. Otherwise, look for recipe books with lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions for the newbie in the kitchen.
In their bundle, include some kitchen utensils like spatulas, measuring spoons and cups, a grater, funnels etc. all from a specialty kitchen store, the grocery store or the dollar store (Dollarama carries the bright red Betty Crocker line). Place everything in a large mixing bowl and wrap it in cellophane tied with ribbon.
Some of my favourite kitchen utensils include the Ikea garlic press; Lee Valley metal rasp; a lemon reamer; herb peeler, and for more advanced cooks, you might want to gift them cheesecloth (to make a bouquet garni), and perhaps a fresh herb plant. Specialty kitchen shops are wonderful places for the seasoned cook, but dollar stores and grocery stores have good value for money as well.
Fluffy robe (all price points--Nordstrom, Land's End, The Bay, etc), fuzzy slippers (dollar stores even carry them), sleep mask, loofah, foot file, body brush, and an assortment of at-home spa products (preferably organic products like those sold at Oresta and Westboro Beauty Room in Ottawa or others online--bath bombs, bubble bath, soap, etc.). Another nice touch is a relaxation music CD. Steven Burgess of Chelsea, Quebec is a local artist whose music is featured at Le Nordik Spa. It is beautiful, special and incredibly relaxing. Purchase his CDs here. You might also consider a magazine subscription to spa magazine or else another topic (like home decorating, cooking, golf, fitness, yoga, inspiration--like O magazine--etc.) that speaks to your recipient's interests. We often don't indulge in a subscription but it's nice to receive as a gift. Note: I then use my magazines to make my vision boards. In fact, instead of a board, I use a photo album. I have several "mini" vision boards, and on any given day, I focus on one. It's a great idea as something fun to do with a friend, as well, and this can even be turned into a gift. Have your friend over for tea or lunch and make a vision board together. It's an amazing way to get to know someone and leave your visit with something powerful and special. Or, you could always do a gift certificate for a spa visit. This is what my brother and sister-in-law often gift Roger and me, and we always really appreciate it!
This is a great gift for younger girls, as well. Pack up a cosmetic bag and fill it with nail polishes, emery boards, nail polish remover, cotton swabs, Q-tips, toe separators, lotion, nail stickers etc… You can include a "gift certificate" to let her know you will be playing "spa day" with her and spend time giving her a pretty mani/pedi. You might want to gift her a pair of flip flops. My niece always loved having her nails painted "rainbow style", meaning different colours on each finger and toe. We also enjoyed using a glitter polish as a second coat which allowed the original colour to show through but made some nails sparkly.
If you know the title of the book your recipient wants, this is a great time to indulge them, but if not, a gift card to their local bookstore or Indigo/Chapters is a nice idea. If they use an e-reader, surprise them by loading on a new book or two or treat them to an Amazon or iTunes gift card so they can buy their own. I also love the reading socks I am seeing everywhere. They are so cute and cozy! A box of lovely tea and a scented candle would go nicely with this gift, as would a bookmark of some sort (home made would be nice) and you can even buy bookmarks that you can have engraved or else craft shows or specialty stores often sell interesting ones.
After publishing my book, a dear friend of mine sent me a gold pen and pencil set that she had engraved. I love using them and every time I do, I think of her. This, perhaps paired with a leather journal or cloth notebook, would make a lovely gift for the writer in your life. You could certainly keep going with this theme and do the reading socks, a gift card to their favourite cafe, a box of their favourite tea and a scented candle.
Buying a game is fun because it often follows that you'll all play together! There is nothing more fun than a good old fashioned game night. While you can buy brand new at department stores, toy stores or game shops, you might consider buying used at Value Village, Salvation Army and other second hand stores. You'll often find mint condition games for under $5! You can find all of the old classics and perhaps ones you've never even heard of that could end up becoming your new favourites.
Speaking of having fun, you could always throw a "White Elephant" party, where everyone gives something tacky they already have in their home and they will end up with something equally tacky from someone else's home. Here are the rules of the game. I remember my parents throwing this kind of party and they had a riot!
This one is great for bachelors, pasta lovers, "Secret Santa", and the tough-to-buy-for person. I did this one year for one of my male cousins and he loved it! In a large basket, colander or serving bowl (I used a bowl I found at a specialty kitchen store, but Costco, grocery stores and dollar stores carry lovely bowls and colanders or you can re-purpose a basket you have on hand), place the following: a bag of pasta (a nice gourmet one is fun--find at health food stores, specialty, and pasta stores and for a healthier version, look for whole grain or ancient grain pasta), utensils (spatula, wooden spoons, tongs...), a jar of homemade or store bought sauce; and a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano--lower price, similar cheese). You can certainly keep building on this theme if you like. Think olives, olive oil, capers, etc. The whole gift can be wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. For a gluten free option, I really like Buckwheat noodles available at health food stores or the organic section of your grocery store.
Everybody loves bread...and especially homemade bread! If you have a bread maker, pull it out and consider making loaves for gifts. Wrapped in a dish towel, wax paper or parchment paper and tied with twine, home made bread makes a lovely and sophisticated gift. Mini banana bread wrapped in wax paper is also a great gift idea! There are loads of healthy and nutritious recipes out there, so move over, enriched flour, and seek out recipes that boost the nutrient profile. I am a fan of grain-free banana bread, made with almond butter rather than flour.
Consider putting together a charcuterie board for your recipient. On a fancy wooden board or a simple piece of wood (sand the edges), place small jars of gourmet mustards, pickled vegetables, olives, cured meats, chutneys, patés, and cheeses and tie it all up in cellophane or a large dish towel. A loaf of crusty bread tied with twine is also a nice touch.
One year, my girlfriend and I got together and painted words and pretty symbols on glass bottles (dark coloured bottles work best for olive oil) that we found at the dollar store or a kitchen store (it was a long time ago!). We used paints we found at a craft store (dollar stores also carry them). The bottles had corked lids and we filled them with various herbs and spices like fresh garlic cloves, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, rosemary sprigs, etc. and then filled them with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. We tied ribbon around the necks and attached name tags that we wrote notes on (we cut brown cardstock into large labels and using a hole punch, we slipped the ribbon through the hole and tied the ribbon around the neck of the bottles). They were a huge hit and the oil tasted amazing! P.S. Allow the flavours to infuse for at least a week. We made one for ourselves, as well, and we both re-filled the bottle once we had used it all. However, I wouldn't re-fill a third time. I recommend cleaning out the container and starting over with fresh herbs and oil.
Another girlfriend of mine gifted us all with these one year, and it was so special! She layered a mason jar with all the ingredients to her favourite cookie recipe. She attached the recipe to ribbon that she wrapped around the lid. It looked pretty and all we had to do was add eggs and bake! To improve the health profile of your cookie recipe, consider using coconut palm sugar instead of granulated sugar, use oat flour (ground oats) or a healthy gluten-free flour instead of bleached, and add in nuts and dried fruit instead of chocolate chips or else use a 70% or higher dark chocolate.
Healthy Food Lover
I made this kit for my niece and sister-in-law a few years ago and they loved it! I filled small brown coffee bags (I bought them at Pritchard Packaging in Ottawa) with things like Ceylon cinnamon, chia seeds, hemp hearts, quinoa, raw nuts and seeds, cacao powder, wild rice, cinnamon sticks, etc. and I wrote the name of the ingredient on the front and all the health benefits and ways to use it on the back. The cool thing was, I always have those ingredients on hand, so I was simply sharing mine with them. For this one, you might consider gifting my book, as well! With over 90 recipes using many of the ingredients you can put into your kit, it's sure to be a hit with your loved one looking to live a healthier lifestyle.
For 2 years now, we have gifted my niece and nephew with $100 each and then taken them to the mall on Boxing Day so they can choose whatever they want. This may not be a preferred option for some, but it works for us since we live in different cities and we want to spend time shopping with them, talking, and learning their tastes. When we hit the mall, we don't put a time limit on it...we know it will be hectic, so we pack some snacks and a few bottles of water and we fetch a Starbucks on the way in. Plus, we make sure we make time for a lunch or dinner out, so once we have built up our appetite, we head to a good restaurant for post-shopping treat!
A Gift Outside The Box
This is a gift I gave to my brother who was experiencing knee pain when running. I sent him to see Ryan Grant, a podiatrist here in Ottawa. While this may seem like a strange gift idea, we often don't want to spend money on ourselves, and yet seeking out health care specialists, massage therapists, exercise physiologists, etc. can be the most amazing gift to help someone get out of pain and live more vibrantly! If you live in Ottawa, Sarah Zahab is an exceptional exercise physiologist and Sarah Whiston is the massage therapist who helped me repair a knee injury. (I think I am drawn to Sarahs!!!) For people with back pain, I highly recommend the book Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection by John Sarno. It was recommended to me by Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind, who healed her back pain using it, and I have now told many people about it who have reported excellent results.
We always take my family to the movies as part of our Christmas gift to them and with Star Wars being the block buster for the past two years, we will do it again this year! We gift a card with a "gift certificate" and the movie passes, but we have also gifted movie posters that my nephew has hung in his room and you can make a home-made card with pics of the movie you are taking them to. Costco sells movie passes for 2 adults and also a "Kids Adventure" movie pass at great prices.
For At-Home Movie Lovers, you can buy the DVD, a new pair of pajamas, fuzzy slippers, a blanket, and popcorn. If it's in your budget, you might even consider a set of the 3d movie glasses and a 3d movie. We have a couple of sets and they are pretty cool!
Donate To A Cause
Is there a cause your loved one feels passionately about? Have they, or a loved one, suffered with an illness? Perhaps consider donating to the cause on their behalf. Send them a hand-written note letting them know what you have done. They will truly appreciate this gift and it is a lovely win-win. If you are looking for a cause to donate to, might I suggest Heroes Equine Learning Program (H.E.L.P.), which is a 4-day retreat, at no cost to participants, where our military and first responders suffering with PTSD begin or continue their healing journey using equine therapy.
If you google "hottest trends in (fill in the blank)", you can uncover what's new and hot. For example, if you are shopping for kids, here is a good list of the hottest toy trends. If you are shopping for him, here is a good place to start. For her, you might consider signing her up for the FabFitFun Box, which is a box of new and hot items they will receive 4 times a year. You'll pay about $49 for $200 worth of goodies. What I did, though, was instead of buying into the program, I watched a video of this girl opening her fall/winter box and I went out and bought my sister-in-law one of the hot items as her gift! (I can't share what it is in case she reads this). Of course, you can also just google "hot trends for women" to get inspiration.
These ones require you to know your recipient well so you'll know what might work. It also takes listening and coming up with ideas that you know they will appreciate. One year, I had Roger's guitar re-strung. He had mentioned the strings being broken so he was unable to play. It wasn't something he would have thought I would do as a gift (or even do for himself as he doesn't play regularly), but he was so happy to receive it all fixed up and sounding great! Think outside the box for something your recipient will appreciate.
Perhaps they are a busy parent and complain about their dirty car. You could get their car detailed. Or have a cleaning company come and clean their home if they can never seem to keep up. Maybe you'll contact 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and have the garage or basement cleaned out if they've commented on all the stuff they need to get rid of.
Perhaps you've heard them complain about their chipped or cracked or old dishes. You could buy them a set of everyday dishes from Costco, for example.
One year, my Dad gifted me with a "survival kit" that I placed in the trunk of my car. It had a blanket, flares, a collapsible shovel, jumper cables and anything else I might need if I ever got into trouble while on the road. At the time, I may not have thought it was a great gift, but that first time I needed a boost, I sure did! Great for a younger person with an older car.
One gift I gave the family one year was a photography session with a professional. We had never had professional photos done before and it was lovely to gather the family in front of our beautiful home. Remember to manage the cost of the session with the cost of the actual prints---in my naivety, I booked and paid for the photog but didn't budget for the photos...so my Mom and Dad had to kick in for them (oops!!), which kind of took away from my gift, but luckily we were left with some lovely photos! Do your research and find a photographer whose work you like and then make sure the pricing matches your budget. You will very likely want more than just one photo. One tip I really appreciated from our photographer was that we should all dress in the same colour (we chose black). It meant that there was no distraction from our faces, which is the point of a family photo.
I am so excited to be a part of an amazing sober community that continues to grow as more and more of us choose to lessen the shame and speak up about what we are going through. If you have a loved one who has recently quit drugs or alcohol, there is so much out there for them to feel connected. It could make all the difference in their recovery journey. Or, if you are gifting a long-time loved one in recovery, they may not even realize all that's available to them! There are so many books to read, communities to explore online, blogs to follow and podcasts to listen to. My personal favourite podcast, especially for women, is the HOME Podcast. The founders, Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen fund the podcast through donations and by selling cool stuff. Check out their shop here. I absolutely love my beautiful Mala bracelets made by Taryn Strong and Dawn Nickel of She Recovers. They make for a beautiful gift for the person in your life who is in recovery and who wants a physical reminder of their strength, courage, resilience and self-love. Note: These bracelets can be for anyone special in your life, not just those in active recovery.
There are all sorts of ideas for sober gifts out there and I found some inspiration here on etsy.
I also found this cool "watch", which reaffirms that the only time is NOW. I really liked the feeling and the look (and the price) of it! They also sell "real" watches that still maintain the "now" theme. Check out the website here.
Gift Your Skills
Do you have skills to share that you can gift to others? This can make for the BEST gifts! Do you sew? Offer to fix a friend's cushions on their sofa or repair a dress they love. Are you a mechanic? Offer to change the oil or the tires and save your friend the expense of going to the shop. Are you great with computers? Offer to help someone figure out their computer problems. You may feel you don't have something to give, but looking to your own skills is a great place to start, especially when money is tight. Write up a "gift certificate" and place it inside their card so they know this is your gift to them.
Christmas Is For Love
I love Christmas. I love giving gifts and spending time with loved ones. I come by it naturally. My father loved Christmas for the music, for the church services, the eggnog, the family get togethers, the lights and the magic of the holiday. His energy was infectious and we all got in on the fun.
My mother thrived on decorating our home beautifully and she relished planning and preparing the various meals over the holidays and she always did an amazing job of finding gifts for my brother and me that we loved.
Because Christmas is for love. It is a time of year where we get to remind our loved ones of just how much they mean to us. Let's remember the real meaning of the holiday and think of ways we can make our friends and family feel special.
Because they are.
And I hope these ideas will help you discover ways to show them how much they mean to you.
Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.
P.S. Please let me know in the comments if this post served you and if you will be using any of the ideas offered here. I would love to hear from you! And please share with your friends if you think they would like the suggestions, as well. Thank you!
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P.P.P.S. To learn more about my story and to order your very own copy of my book,The 28 Day Kick The Sugar Challenge, visit KTSC28.com.