On the 12th and Final Day, I Gave a Traditional Gift

Well, it is here. The final post for Christmas gift ideas. This year will be the tenth anniversary of our family calendar. Not only do I include family photos and all of the standard holidays, my family calendar has all school dates and special school events for the grandkids. If it is your birthday or anniversary, a picture of you is on that calendar day. If you have a special reunion or favorite sport event, it is highlighted.

I would be lost without this calendar. I know my mom would too. It helps me keep track of my siblings and their families since we don’t live very close to each other. It also acts like a little yearbook. When I started giving this gift, my second niece had just been born. Now there are 9 grandkids in our family! What special traditions do you have for your extended family?

The Template: I built a massive Word document with tables and text boxes. Each year, I open the old calendar and update the months. I just checked out Shutterfly, and they now offer the option to customize the small “day” squares as well as the photos in the top page where the name of the month is listed. I am sure other photo websites are beginning to offer more flexibility in what you can add to your calendar. I may change over to Shutterfly this year after testing out the options.

The Months: I include pictures that relate to the specific month. For example, April this past year had all of the Easter pictures of the grandkids. If there is a month that does not have related pictures, I can dedicate that page to the grandparents or one specific sibling and his/her family.

The Dates: It is usually pretty easy to go to school websites and get a calendar of the current academic year. I cannot always get the dates for the following academic year, so sometimes school dates won’t go beyond June. I also include items like Final 4 (for my dad and brother) and Kentucky Derby (for my husband) and Mardi Gras (for me). It is fun to add dates that are not national holidays but are special events for my family.

The Photos: I keep a file on my computer throughout the year. Any time a family member forwards a picture, I save it to my calendar folder. OK, I will be honest. I have a main calendar folder with sub-folders of all the past calendars listed by year. Within those sub-folders are 12 sub-sub-folders, so everything can be saved by month.

The Printing: I save the document as a PDF and have it printed at FedEx Office. It is color printed on white cardstock, front and back. I have spiral binding inserted at the top and ask for a hole to be drilled at the bottom for hanging.

Thank You: Thank you, Beth. You inspired me to start this tradition many years ago when I saw a calendar your sister made for all of your family members!

Then I Considered Gifts for Christmas 2012 (Day 11)

SPOILER ALERT family blog followers– this post may contain information about your gifts this year.

After this post, I will have tapped out all of my gift suggestions, but I am only one post away from wrapping up the 12 Days of Christmas Gift Series. There is usually one gift idea I have each year that really nails it. I have not found that one perfect gift idea yet, but the list below is the starter list of gifts that I am considering for my extended family this year. Readers, I am open to suggestions!

Bacon Olive Oil: Umm, does life get any better? Why have I not thought of this before? The interesting part about finding the Queen Creek Olive Oil website where you can order the bacon olive oil is that my web browser tab reads “Vegan Bacon Olive Oil”. After reading the description, I located the words bacon flavored. I still want to try it.

Preppy Dog Collar: Our puppy, Birdie, will be sporting one of these Christmas morning and perhaps other extended family member’s pets. These collars have the contact information engraved on the buckle. The ShopMimiGreen website has a variety of pet accessories.

Wrap Bracelets: These brightly colored bracelets are available on an Etsy site. Sunkissed Sisters makes a variety of neon colored cord bracelets and necklaces. I think they would work well for teens through mom-aged gift receivers. I know I want a set with a variety of colors and charms to wear stacked together.

Casserole Carrier: Almost all members of my family like to cook and love party food. We all seem to have occasions where we need to transport a hot casserole dish. I love the style of these casserole carriers. According to the AllAboutBlanks website, you must add the monogram on your own. It can not be done via the website. I am a little bummed because I thought the monogram was the best feature. It adds an extra step to take the carrier to a local monogrammer.

Return Address Stamp: There are a variety of places to order a custom return address stamp. I liked this one that looks like calligraphy. I also liked an Etsy site called ChattyPress that had unique designs and better prices. If you read previous gift posts, you may be aware I shop for a large family. I like these stamps because I could give them to a whole family unit, which would reduce the shopping list.

On the 10th Day, I Gave Consumable Gifts

Sometimes it is nice to give a gift that won’t be around forever. I know when I am trying to find new homes for all of the fabulous gifts we receive at Christmas, I like to have one or two that will be eaten or used and won’t need a specific space on a shelf. Over the past several years, I have given and received some great consumable Christmas gifts. Gift cards fall into this category as well, but I tried to list non-gift card ideas. I am thinking about restaurant gift cards this year– any thoughts?

BBQ Seasonings: My husband loves to grill. Not only have I given him the BBQ judging weekend with friends, which I think qualifies as a consumable gift (?), my kids and I gave him a box of spices and rubs. We went to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to hunt around for things like smoked sea salt and roasted cayenne powder.

Hello, Cupcake!: OK– so this is not a totally consumable gift. It allows you to make something that is consumable. Sewing Sister loves things like decorating cupcakes, so I gave her the Hello, Cupcake! cookbook and included supplies she would need for the recipes. I added things like white cupcake wrappers, Ziploc bags, and a small clear roller to flatten candies.

Magazine Subscriptions: One year all of the parents, sisters, brothers, brother-in-laws, and sister-in-laws received a magazine subscription. We like gossip-y magazines in my house, so I sent subscriptions to Life & Style, which is a little junkier than US but not quite as trashy as Star (I thought it was the perfect middle ground for a guilty pleasure). The men received ESPN Magazine. Other subscriptions that make good gifts for my family are Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food or the Sunday delivery of the New York Times.

Wolferman’s: My brother usually sends Wolferman’s English muffins to each family household a few weeks before Christmas, so we can eat them during the holiday break. They are fabulous English muffins. My favorite are the cheddar flavored. I toast well and spread with lots of butter and strawberry jam. There are multiple gift packages on the website from which to choose.

Omaha Steaks: The steaks (or other meats) are shipped overnight in dry ice. Since my husband grills, my parents usually send us a little Omaha Steaks meat care package at Christmas. It is great to have steaks, hamburgers, or pork chops on hand in the freezer.

On the 9th Day, The Gifts Have Tiny Pieces

We are at the height of the tiny pieces toy phase at my house. I will admit that I am often the one who supports the decision to purchase the toy that comes with a gazillion tiny pieces (Lego, Playmobil, Calico Critter…) because I love miniature playsets. WARNING: All of the suggestions below have many tiny parts and may cause injury if you step on them in the middle of the night.

Does anybody have any other tiny playset ideas? Does anybody have any suggestions for protecting yourself from late night injuries?

Kitchen Littles: These are food playsets that are made of die cast metal and plastic. Kitchen Littles was discontinued then reintroduced. I can’t tell if it has been discontinued again, but some of the sets are available if you run a Google search. The size is perfect for Barbie (or other 12″ doll), and the ones we have are much better quality than the Mattel/Barbie kitchen sets.

Calico Critters: These are tiny animal families with clothes and playsets. Visit the Calico Critters website to locate retailers. You can find about everything you might need for life with tiny woodland creatures. It is like the Brambly Hedge picture books come to life. The detailed pieces that come with each playset are amazing, but they are tiny, and you need to apply stickers to a lot of the accessories when setting up the playset.

Lego: We have many Lego sets, but sometimes the Legos in a set are too specific for building creatively. This year, I am visiting the online Pick a Brick store to purchase a generic set of Lego bricks that can be used to build anything we want. Lego used to have a DESIGN byME service where you could customize a Lego structure and then purchase the bricks needed to build your own design. That service has been discontinued but may be relaunched in the future.

Quadrilla: We found the Quadrilla marble sets a few years ago and have been adding supplemental tracks to it every few years. This is a great toy. The tracks are wooden and do not break easily. The sets come with track design suggestions, but it is very easy to build your own marble track.

Two Gifts in One (Day 7)

My mom discovered the Scribble Press Store in New York City and picked up an Author’s Tool Kit ($28.95) as a Christmas present for my son a few years back. He LOVES writing stories, and this was an awesome gift idea. It is a design your own book kit. There are a variety of page layouts included in the kit, and the child writes a story and illustrates it. The kit also includes templates for a cover page, dedication page, and an about the author page. Once the pages are completed, you mail them back to Scribble Press, and they professionally bind the book. The book binding fee was included with our gift, but you have the option to order extra copies. Wrap the extra copies and give the finished books as a gift at the next holiday. It is the gift that gives back!

If you happen to live in New York City, you should look at the class and party options at their store. I also noticed an app and online book functions on the website that would be great for teachers (or parents).