With the holidays approaching, I was overwhelmed by all the things I could write about regarding gift wrapping. So, I am scaling it down to a mini-series called “A Gifted Christmas” to keep track of my own Christmas gift-wrapping preparations. I hope you’ll join me along the way! For more, click the “Christmas” link in the right-hand column.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are enjoying good company and good food today. It’s a good time to count our blessings! Here is the third of three posts on how to brainstorm gifts for your loved ones.

5. Make them something. Early this year we took a trip to The Ojai Retreat with my parents-in-law. This beautiful bed-and-breakfast had a simple breakfast spread each morning, with the highlight being homemade granola. My mother-in-law had the good idea to ask for the recipe. The nice inn manager stopped what she was doing in the kitchen to jot it down from memory. Since coming back and getting the hang of making it, I’ve given granola as a gift a few times.

6. Give something immaterial. Since most of us are blessed with everything we really need, non-material gifts have become a favorite category for our family. I have definitely been influenced by Unclutterer’s gift guides in this respect.

Donate two chickens to a family who needs them in honor of the gift recipient. Give them a night on the town by buying them a restaurant gift certificate. Or give a coupon for your time and services – to help clean out their office, for example.

Do these ideas remind you of gifts you’ve given or received in the past? Let us know in the comments!

With the holidays approaching, I was overwhelmed by all the things I could write about regarding gift wrapping. So, I am scaling it down to a mini-series called “A Gifted Christmas” to keep track of my own Christmas gift-wrapping preparations. I hope you’ll join me along the way! For more, click the “Christmas” link in the right-hand column.

Since you can’t plan your gift wrapping if you don’t know what you’re giving, some of the first posts in this series are about how to brainstorm gifts for your loved ones. In three parts, here are some of the ways I approach thinking of gifts for friends and family.

3) Consider buying local. With the ubiquity of national chains, regionally-specific gifts can be a nice reminder of the diversity of our fair country. My parents-in-law sent us to Seattle with a jar of blueberry-jalapeno jam from the Iowa City farmers’ market (yes, from the very stall pictured above), and my parents loved it.

4) Share something you love. While this won’t work for every gift recipient, sometimes you find something you absolutely love and want to share. Even though we live in Southern California, G. and I live in Smartwool socks in the winter. (Thanks, Mom, for introducing me to these!) We love these socks.

True story: my mom left a pair of her Smartwool socks at my grandparents’ house. When he found them, my grandfather tried them on and liked them. He liked them so much that he went online and Googled a store to order more from (pretty impressive, Jiichan!). On the phone with my mom, he told her he started doing the laundry so he could wear them again the next day. My Baachan said, shocked, “What! I wondered why you were doing the laundry!”

At the risk of being dorky, we got three pairs each for our aunt and brother-in-law for last year’s gift exchange in Iowa. I think they got some good use in the harsh winter weather!

Have you bought local or shared something you love as a gift recently? Share your stories in the comments!

With the holidays approaching, I was overwhelmed by all the things I could write about regarding gift wrapping. So, I am scaling it down to a mini-series called “A Gifted Christmas” to keep track of my own Christmas gift-wrapping preparations. I hope you’ll join me! For more, click the “Christmas” link in the right-hand column.

Though I can’t say I’m any better than the average person at it, I do enjoy thinking of what to give as Christmas gifts. Since I can’t plan the gift wrapping if I don’t know what I’m giving, some of the first posts in this series are about how to brainstorm gifts for your loved ones.

1) Pay attention to their hobbies and projects. My mother-in-law is a Spanish teacher and loves collecting Mexican, specifically Oaxacan, folk art. The photo above is just part of their beautifully decorated living room. When I got her name for our Christmas gift exchange two years ago, I knew just where to head! The Folk Tree in our town carries just those kinds of wares, and I found her a mismatched but really cool set of black candle holders.

As you think about the person you want to get a gift for, think about the pastime or leisure activity are they into right now. Alternately, there might be a project they are working on – remodeling a room, refurbishing a car, training for a marathon, etc – that might inspire some good gift leads.

2) Think about their daily needs. My uncle was commuting to a seminary class several times a week and my aunt suggested getting him some ‘driving snacks’ for the road. I had fun putting together a sturdy box filled with various snacky foods and a simple, homemade trail mix.

What’s part of the weekly routine for the person you have in mind? Is there a way you can help meet one of their everyday needs?

How are you going about picking presents this year? Let us know in the comments. And stay tuned – there are more gift brainstorming approaches to come!

As you already know, the holidays are the time of year when the average person is most likely to be thinking about gift wrapping. I started psyching myself out by trying to think of all the things I could write about to address the needs of potential readers. In a word, this was stressful!

So, I am scaling it down to a mini-series called “A Gifted Christmas”. In it I’ll be keeping track of my personal Christmas gift-wrapping preparations. I hope you’ll join me along the way!

I finally got inspired to start this series after attending a holiday open house at Fugu Fugu Press. Fugu Fugu Press is a small letterpress company here in Pasadena. I saw them online some time ago, and was pleasantly surprised to learn their studio is within walking distance from our place!

I look longingly at their (shuttered) windows when I walk to the library and church, and I was excited to have the chance to take a peek at their studio and line of adorable cards! I had seen the holiday elves card (at the start of the post) online and had a few people in mind I wanted to get them for.

I could just post about the cards, but I got so many great pictures I thought I’d indulge in a little photo essay. Here’s the view from the corner.

A canine shopkeeper.

One of the presses, backed by boxes of neatly organized cards.

Shoppers perusing the wares. There were two young siblings selecting birthday cards for friends. Sophisticated taste!

A shot of the card display.

Outdoor entertainment – very lively, this song!

The goodies I walked away with.

I felt like a kid in a candy store when I found a box of misprints selling for a buck each. These are some impeccable-looking misprints! The irresistible graphics on this one are making me think of ways to wrap a gift that would showcase, not hide, these little faces.

All in all, it was a nice experience to see Fugu Fugu in person, pick up some beautiful cards, and meet co-owner Shino (I believe Ken was playing the piano at the time). It’s energizing to think of this quality, crafty business running just around the corner!

How are you feeling about the approach of Christmas? Have you done any early preparations?