Thankfully, my family decided to do the secret Santa thing this year, so I only had one person to think of this Christmas other than Ryan and Leigh Grace (the kids will still get a gift from everyone in the family — the cut off is whether or not they’ve graduated high school). I drew my sister-in-law, Sarah, and Ryan drew my sister, Kristen. And for Ryan’s side of the family, we have his parents Lei and Renee and our fond Uncle Bob. Here’s what we’ve done for each of them this year (Click any of the photos to seem them larger):
Sarah - My brother and his family never really settle down. Both of them were raised in families that did a lot of traveling and relocating, so I think they’re both pretty comfortable when they can keep their surroundings fresh. So, I thought a portable growth chart would be something that might come in quite handy for them since they have one little darling and another on the way. As they track their children’s growth throughout the years, I can stitch it into the fabric for them, or they can simply mark it down with a sharpie. Either way, this will be a great way for them to still have the experience and memory of a “wall” that tracks their heights over the years, even if they move every so often. You could make your own like I did, or ask very nicely if you could buy it from the person who inspired me. It looks like she doesn’t have anything in her shop right now, but most Etsy artists will do custom orders if you’re pleasant and willing to pay.
Leigh Grace – My niece turned 2 in August and is already one of the coolest people I’ve met in my lifetime. She is in love with books, movement and changing outfits. I thought that, although I just love to run around with her when I babysit or at family gatherings, if I were one of her parents I would be relieved to find something that could inspire her creativity while also being able to keep her in one spot for longer than the length of a Dr. Seuss rhyme. So, I made her some play dough. There was a recent article that I was reading about developing the imagination, and I realized that so many of the games and toys that come out these days encourage a concrete beginning-to-end philosophy (video games, board games, everything is so structured!) rather than remaining open ended so the child can take the reigns. So the play dough was made in hopes that she would also enjoy herself as her imagination went wild! The recipe is easy (and would be great fun for kids!), check out my entry on the play dough process right here.
Kristen - While my sister doesn’t have very much in common with Ryan or with myself, we did have a relatively easy time deciding upon something that we both thought she might like (I helped him out a little…). As a social worker, she has to dress up every day for work, and business casual can get boring very quickly if you’re not careful to continuously add new little accessories wherever you can. She’s a person who appreciates simple jewelry rather than going over the top or funky, so we settled upon this little silver necklace from OneLifeJewelry and are satisfied that it will get some wear.
Lei - For Ryan’s Mum, he has crafted a CD that is just to her liking. With a bit of Native American in her blood, and a lot of appreciation for music, he used his own handcrafted Native American flute to record a series of tracks that are soothing and warm. He wrote each song with her in mind and, seeing as he’s such an amazing musician, I just know she’ll absolutely adore the entire collection.
Renee - Renee loves to work with her hands. She spends a lot of time handcrafting her own things, actually, we have several pieces of furniture in our home that she has made herself, and so Ryan decided to return the favor by making a sign for her to hang in the garage where she works. Since we don’t have our own garage or workshop space to do woodcutting in, he purchased the wooden pieces and painted and assembled them himself. Had we more space and the appropriate materials, this project would have encouraged us both to branch out creatively and try to do something entirely new for the both of us. But, alas, we live in a tiny city apartment…maybe next year.
Uncle Bob – Since Uncle Bob has invited us to spend the holiday at his house this year (New Hampshire is a little far when I have to work on Christmas Eve and Ryan has to work on Christmas), we have considered many different gifts for him. Finally, after much deliberation, we have decided upon a couple of small gifts. First, Ryan made him a corn cob pipe with some remnants of our local summer. He’s absolutely brilliant, that kid. Second, Ryan made him a hallowed book box by cutting a square of pages from the inside of a book after gluing the outside pages together. It looks like a normal book on the outside…inside, it holds more treasures than just great words (or in some cases — terrible words). This Christmas morning it held the corn cob pipe that Atlas found so incredibly fascinating.
Ryan – My one and only. This year I got him:
- A vintage corduroy vest – It seems like neither of us has really invested in any new clothing in awhile, and Ryan always seems to be frustrated with his closet. In search of something a bit more grown up for this guy who has just turned 25, I sought a style that would allow him to advance beyond “college-mode”. He has told me in the past that he admires Professor Lupin’s style (that is, the character from Harry Potter, of course), and I thought this vest would be just about perfect. It’s casual, but still a bit more dressed up than just a tee-shirt and jeans. The price was amazing and I found it on Etsy from this user. Etsy, of course, is one thing I just can’t live without during a handmade/vintage holiday season.
The neutral coloring will make it perfect wear for any button up long sleeve, and it looks great layered under cardigans as well. I’ll try to remember to post a photo of him wearing it then next time he does. When he unwrapped this vest on Christmas morning his comment was “Aw, if only I had a pocket watch to go with it!” I smiled and told him to work on his stocking next.
- A pocket watch - He excitedly went to his stocking since it was what I had suggested, and found his favourite gift of the season. Ryan is a classic man. He prides himself in doing things the old fashioned way, and hates to fall back on technology for something so simple as the time. When the power goes out, or the battery dies (a problem that he in particular struggles with — he can never seem to remember to charge his phone), where are we then? A pocket watch seems the best solution to a problem such as this one, so the choice was simple. It also helped that he had been hinting around about wanting a pocket watch for quite some time now…
And later I found this out about the pocket watch…
- A vintage skeleton key – The skeleton key was the perfect little nick-knack to keep the pocket watch company in Ryan’s stocking this year. And now it adorns our bathroom shelf along with an antique cigar box that I inherited from my Grandparents’ house via my Mom. I love the little vista that we’ve created here with my hair bows, bobby pins and the seashells that keep the little guys together in one place. The key is from this Etsy shop, and the seller was quite nice. At the last minute there was a complication with my sale and they kindly contacted me to keep me in the loop then offered me a different item (I think the one I purchased online had been sold in person just that same day or something to that effect). Dealing with this user, either way, was a delight, and I am very happy with the product.
- Two gnome ornaments for our tree - This will be our third Christmas living together, so we still have a limited amount of ornaments on our tree that are actually ours. When we moved into our first apartment together, his family gave us a whole bag of hand-me-down ornaments which are absolutely hysterical (they were originally factory rejects with very colorful suggestions). We love these little gems because of the history that they have in his family, and because some of them are unintentionally explicit, but it’s very nice to be able to look at a tree and recall all of the personal memories behind each ornament, so each Christmas I make sure to give Ryan at least one new one so we can remember that particular year. These were handmade on Etsy by this user and just captured my heart!
- Yarn Kirby ornament – I made this one because I have a tradition of giving him Nintendo themed ornaments and Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a game that we bought earlier this year and enjoyed quite a bit together. It’s so much fun, and pretty easy for a beginner like me. It’s a bit hard to see the colours in this photo (the pretty tree lights are giving it their own colouring), but it’s pretty accurate except that I used red yarn for the feet. I didn’t want to go out and buy a skein of magenta yarn that I knew I’d probably never use just for two inches of it for this project. The green cloth around it has been sliced at the edges to emulate a wreath so Kirby can be Christmas-y. As we go through the years I’ll continue to make a different Nintendo character for as long as I can before running out! I’ve still got awhile
- Garlic sketch - If I had to guess, I’d say the kitchen is most likely the hardest room to decorate. What does one put in a kitchen for decorations? Of course, you can paint the wall some crazy colour, because you’re only in there when you’re cooking, and you could do your best to match your kitchenware to the rest of the kitchen, but what’s the point of buying everything new for that reason? And as for art, what kind would you hang on the wall? I have considered this question before, but since we’ve never actually had a real kitchen (in our studio apartment there was a living space with kitchen and living room together and in this apartment it’s a narrow galley-style kitchen), we’ve never really had to solve the problem. Then I ran across these prints of veggies on text and thought they were just darling. I reproduced the effect quite easily thanks to Ryan’s cut-out book box that he made for Uncle Bob and the stack of pages that were his by-product, and framed the results in our kitchen this year as a Christmas gift for him! In the future (when we have a real kitchen to hang them in) I plan on sketching a few more veggies to complete the series.
- Embroidered Woodgrain Handkerchief - I purchased the fabric on Etsy for this project then hemmed and embroidered the hanky myself with two “R”s in opposite corners. The pattern on the fabric matches the woodgrain that is found on the front of Ryan’s new pocket watch, as well, so the two were natural partners for Christmas gifts. On Christmas day and his birthday (two days later) he wore the entire ensemble that I had picked out for him; vest, pocket watch, and hanky. I think I did pretty well this year!
Me – I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by really great people who went out of their ways this Christmas to find gifts that would really make it into my heart. I was blown away by some of the truly thoughtful gifts that people sent my way, so I’ll just highlight a couple of my favourites:
- Hand-knit dishcloths - My Mom drew my name for my family’s Secret Santa game and she packed me a nice little tin full of stocking stuffers. My favourite thing in there (besides the Smart Wool socks — good one, Mom!) was a handmade set of dishcloths. These are endlessly useful in our kitchen and I was so happy to give them a home.
- Wooden hangers - You may have seen photos already of the display on our bedroom door of a tree branch, a simple wooden hanger, and a brown paper heart? That particular hanger is a love of mine and one day I dream of having a closet full of wooden hangers that all match and look lovely. I hate the sight of plastic (it’s just so dorm-y) and really want to get away from it, but we never have the money to invest in enough wooden hangers to hang my excessive amount of clothes. I’m happy to say, though, that this year I am just a little bit closer to that goal thanks to Ryan and his giving me several more handmade wooden hangers, each just slightly different than the others, to add to our closet. Perfect, Ry!
- Nostalgic whimsy birdcage – Ryan’s parents hit the nail right on the head this year by gifting me something that I’ve really been wanting lately. This birdcage is currently the center piece on our table, and I have hung all of my necklaces from the flourishes on the top so they dangle inside where the bird should be. It makes an excellent jewelry holder as well as a gorgeous winter-y focus for the table in the center of our living room. I’m just in love. Piece by piece we put our little nest together.
- Shabby chic antique dress form – And my favourite gift of the year; this gorgeous dress form. No longer will I have to peel clothing items on and off of myself during their creation while I cringe at the thought of being pinned. No longer will I have to adjust the size of the item I’m sewing in my head for the appropriate person — now I can adjust the size of this dress form and drape appropriately knowing full well that what I’m making will fit. And, if you’re going to get a dress form, why the heck wouldn’t you go for this gorgeous floral one? It fits right into my favourite decorating scheme.
- New York Skyline Over Central Park Watercolor - My friend Ben did this one himself and sent it to me. It’s been on my favourites list on Etsy for over a year and every holiday I secretly wish someone will buy it for me. Finally, it now adorns my local artist wall (even though he’s not local to Maine, I think it counts that I know him…). You can visit his clothing shop here or his art shop here. There’s nothing in the art shop at the moment, but I bet he’d take some requests if you sent him a message.
- Two Kitty Cat Tower - THIS gift didn’t make the list originally just because it is so amazing that I completely forgot it was handmade! Only now (after the post has been up for probably twelve hours, and in the works for several weeks) did I remember that an individual entrepreneur made it! I don’t recall the name of the person, I’m sorry, but I know that Ryan’s parents got it from the pet supply store that one of their friends owns so the connection is there. The cats are so enamored by this climber. They spend all sorts of time lounging, scratching, and climbing, and I’m working to compile a video of them enjoying their amazing gift so I can send it along to Lei and Renee as a big thank you for such a wonderful gift.
Those are the lovely items that comprised our handmade/vintage Christmas this year. Sorry the post took a little while to compile…I had actually forgotten to photograph a lot of these things until after Christmas when I started to work on the post, so I had to wait for them all to come home (the watch, for example, was always with Ryan and it seemed like every time I was working on this post he wasn’t at home). But here it is, finally. I hope all of your Christmases were just as lovely as mine was.