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gifts

Dec 14 2012

Holiday Gimmes

by Veronica W

Teenagers are notoriously poor, especially around Christmas. Unless they have jobs, they have no real money to spend on gifts…mainly because they have spent it all on themselves prior to the holiday. My sisters and I were no exception. One year I asked one sister what she was getting me for Christmas. With eyebrows raised, she asked “What did I get you last year?”   “Nothing. Niente. Nada. ” I replied huffily.  “Three gifts? I gave you three gifts? Wow! Didn’t you like any of them?” By now she was starting to grin.  “Not really,” I shot back.  “Okay then,” she said, as she turned to walk away. “I’ll get them in another color this time.”

What is this compulsion that has us (okay, has me)  running around at 11:45 pm on Christmas Eve, throwing stainless steel, color coded meat tongs into a cart, as a gift for someone I don’t know well enough to know they’re serious vegans? My mother used to say, in answer to my outrage at a gift I didn’t appreciate, “What’s the problem? It’s not your birthday anyway.” Tell that to the friends in the television commercial who sit around a cozy fire, holding up hideous presents they just opened and laughingly, honestly confess to the giver that they are going to destroy them or throw them away.

With the advent of gift cards, giving should be a piece of cake.  They cover a range of tastes and interests, although they can be a tad impersonal. However there still will be insincere cries of joy on Christmas morning for the SpongeBob tie (my apologies to those who love their Sponge ties), the belly button brush or the supersized box of taffy for Granny and her new dentures. Is it really the thought that counts, even if those “thoughtful” people were behind me in the line at 11: 55 pm, waiting to buy the ugly snowman salt and pepper set, as a last ditch effort?

Lest you think I am Scrooge reborn and my sister’s miserly attitude has scarred me for life, please know that I love giving and receiving gifts. However, these days, I crave meaning in the giving and the getting.  At my advanced age, I have enough stuff; what touches me most are gifts of caring, time, creativity and sacrifice. (Did I mention that cookies, cakes, pies and other goodies are never despised?)  My granddaughter (remember, poor teenager) once gave me the gift of a leisurely, home style pedicure. Not only did I get a pedicure but I got genuine conversation, which I enjoyed and appreciated. If you have a teen, you know conversation can be rare and very costly. Also, it was doubly special because I know she isn’t all that fond of handling other people’s feet.

My gift to you is the suggestion that you read—or re-read—O’Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. If you become depressed with every garland or light you string up, with every foray into the mall; if you have sung as many stanzas of Jingle Bells as you can stand and even the mellow Nat King Cole’s Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire is starting to pall,  this incredible short story will rekindle the joy of this season. There are many other stories and movies that tell us that Jo, in Little Women, was wrong when she said “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”  Look below and pick a favorite.

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Jan 30 2012

The Books They Gave Me

by Jesse M

For this week’s post I’m highlighting a blog called The Books They Gave Me. Begun in June of last year, The Books They Gave Me (hereafter referred to as TBTGM) is a blog “In which we reflect on books given [to] us by loved ones”. The format is minimalist; just an image of the book cover and a paragraph or two by the submitter reflecting upon the gift and the giver. Despite this many of the posts are deeply personal, moving tales of shared passion and human understanding, as exemplified in the gift of a perfect book.

TBTGM is driven by user submissions, so if you’d like to contribute, you can go here to view the submission guidelines. Alternately, feel free to share your story here in the comments.

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Dec 28 2011

This year, make it handmade

by Dea Anne M

I think we all could agree that there’s nothing quite like a gift you make yourself. Take, for example, the Mother’s Day gift I presented to Mom the year I turned nine. My scout troop made papier-mache earrings, and the ones I produced resembled nothing so much as a pair of orange golf balls. Some green glass beads and shellac turned them into something I considered quite fashionable and dramatic. Mom’s reaction upon opening the gift was…gracious, to say the least. I never saw her wear them. How could she? The things were huge and being clip-ons they probably would have slipped right off of her earlobes. She claimed to love them all the same and, as far as I know, they still reside in her jewelry box.

My crafting skills have improved since then, I hope, and there have been holiday seasons when lack of funds—or sometimes just the desire to give something more personal—have inspired me to make my gifts instead of purchasing them. One year I made personalized refrigerator magnets from polymer clay. Another year, we made candles and decorated picture frames. As I’m not the most enthusiastic shopper in the world, these gift-making sessions were infinitely more satisfying and fun than hitting the stores.

If you’re interested in planning your gift-making for next year’s holidays, or you want some ideas for gifts you can create through the year, DCPL has resources to help.

The Handmade Home: 75 projects for soaps, candles, picture frames, pillows, wreaths, and scrapbooks from the editors of County Living magazine will give you tons of ideas for gifts with down-home charm.

For the green-thinkers among us, Eco-craft: recycle, recraft, restyle by Susan Wasinger provides a number of ideas and instructions for stylish and surprisingly sophisticated gifts made from items that we often throw away. I was particularly wowed by the shopping tote made from coffee bags.

Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 inspired projects for year-round celebrations has gift ideas as well as inspirations for tabletop decor, gift wrapping, and holiday activities. Ideas for New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, etc. are here and the book  boasts the high-quality photography and enthusiastic tone that you’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crafting herself.

As long as you’re giving a lovingly crafted handmade gift, why not include a beautiful card that you’ve made yourself? Ultimate Card Making: A collection of over 100 techniques and 50 inspirational projects by Sarah Beaman provides, as the title might suggest, a wealth of ideas and instructions for making beautiful and unique cards. To keep the presentation of your gift as thoughtful and one-of-a-kind as the contents, be sure to check out The Art of Gift Wrapping: 50 innovative ideas using organic, unique, and uncommon materials by Wanda Wen. The wrappings themselves are gorgeous, and you’ll also find ideas for wrapping oddly shaped objects such as house plants and bottles of wine.

Finally, I must mention Pinterest, the social photo sharing website styled as vision boards. Users pin images related to special interests such as photography, gardening, and design as well as ideas for focused projects such as wedding planning and home decor. Crafters can browse hundreds of images for appealing ideas for crafts as well as handy source links for further information and instructions. What Harry Potter fan among your friends and family wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a Golden Snitch tree ornament? How about adorable “dinosaur tails” for the kids? It’s all there on Pinterest! You have to be invited to join, but the site has a handy “request an invite” button so that before you know it you’ll be crafting your gift-giving heart out.

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Dec 16 2011

Choosing the best book for a child

by Patricia D

When I worked in the Children’s Room there was one question, above all others, that we were asked this time of year.  “What is the best book for a holiday gift for my child/niece/nephew/young friend?”   We would ask about the child’s interests and age, and offer up some of our favorite titles, things that were new during the year and also things we loved, either from our childhood or from our own experiences with children.   I completely understand the worry over choosing just the best book for that special child.  I ordered books for children for a living and was  stopped in my tracks by indecision at the bookstore every time I tried to buy a gift.

It’s almost impossible to predict what a child will actually like—I hated, hated, hated Dr. Seuss as a child (still do in fact) but Junior can’t get enough of Fox in Socks.  Thank the great Great Panjandrum there are other adults in her life who are thrilled to read him to her.   I have yet to be able to interest her in The Cricket in Times Square (charming and age appropriate) but she couldn’t wait each night for the next chapter in Calico Captive, something I thought was way too much for her but that she picked off the shelf herself.

There’s a secret to choosing the best book for a child.  Wanna hear it?  Lean in, and pay close attention because I’m only going to say this once:  The best book for a child is the one you are reading together.

That’s it, that’s the secret.  Books and children work best, even when the child is older, when you are sharing them.  If they hate it, if they love it—doesn’t matter.   Shared reading isn’t really about phonemic awareness, sequencing and decoding of letters.  Those things are part of it, sure, but it’s really about you and the child.  It’s about your undivided attention as you snuggle in the oversized easy chair or under the covers.  It’s about crying together when Charlotte or Ann & Dan dies, and cheering in one voice when Taran is finally revealed to be the High King.  It’s about taking the time to show your child that reading matters and that it matters to you.

I read aloud to a blind classmate during my college years.  I didn’t really want to read The Last Temptation of Christ or Mr. Sammler’s Planet and I well and truly did not want to read Anna Karenina but we read them together and the memories of those times are still sweet.   I think the same will be true for that special child in your life.  Is it tough to work reading into the nighttime routine?  Absolutely—there’s dinner to manage and that always takes longer than I think it will (seriously?  75 minutes to eat a hotdog and some slaw?) and then there’s the goofy homework assignments and the bedtime fight over how well the teeth got brushed, among other things. So yeah, it is tough to work in some print time.  I promise you though, this gift will keep on giving long after that amazing pop-up book by Robert Sabuda that I’m going to recommend has fallen to bits.

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Dec 14 2009

The Best Thing to Spend on Children

by Patricia D

Years ago I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Eddie Bonnemere.  He had played piano for Duke Ellington and told wonderful stories of late rehearsals and long road trips.  One story that stuck with me was this: whenever the band finally stopped for a meal Mr. Ellington would return thanks not only for the food but for the time and company as well.  All these years later I’m still grateful to Mr. Ellington, by way of Mr. Bonnemere, for reminding me that time and the people we choose to spend it on are precious.

Now, let me get to my point.  As a children’s librarian I am frequently asked, especially this time of year, by Grandma and Uncle and godpapa to help them choose books for the darling young person in their lives.  They have gotten the message that books are good for youngsters and are eager to do their part in setting that child on the path to academic success.  There’s a second, delicious part to the equation though.  Books are great gifts, but they are all the better when a much loved adult spends time reading them with the child.  If the adult is too far away there is reading together over the phone, or a video call, or even a homemade read-along with a CD or (yikes) a cassette tape of the adult reading.  Jim Trelease can tell you all about the benefits of reading aloud, even to older children, and offers many wonderful suggestions.  Any children’s staff member at DCPL can do the same.  So, buy the books, check them out of the library, it really doesn’t matter either way but be certain to treat yourself, and that special child, to time together talking, laughing or crying over a book.  Books are great, but books + time together is the best.

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Dec 23 2008

Making a list, checking it twice

by Heather S

If you have procrastinated in shopping for your holiday gifts, as I have, then my list of last minute book purchases might help as you frantically dash through your local mall.

For my friends, K, who reads everything, and R, who doesn’t read anything: Water for elephants

For my cousin, S, who loves Twilight: Wicked lovely

For my cousin, M, who loves the Harry Potter series: The lightning thief, the first book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

For my sister, who hates reading: Babymouse, queen of the world

For my dad, who is a history buff: The Hemingses of Monticello

For my mom, who is a small town librarian and a crazy cat lady (I love you): Dewey: A small town library cat who touched the world

What are you hoping to unwrap during your holiday celebrations? I still have a few people that I’m shopping for, so any help with great books will be much appreciated! And, to those listed above, if you happen to stumble upon this post, I am sorry that it ruined the surprise. Happy holidays to our readers; may you and your family and friends have a warm and happy holiday season!

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