Monday, August 28, 2006

Affordable Gifts

Occasionally there is a request for suggestions about easy and inexpensive gifts. Gift giving, although a simple matter in past times, can be quite daunting today.

Life was a lot easier you gave what came from your heart and your hands: a potholder or handkerchief for a lady, pens or knitted socks for the men. One might make for a child a stuffed doll or a set of building blocks.

Children love to open presents. It doesn't matter much what is in them, because they will always be surprised. Some children enjoy themselves enormously just wrapping up their old toys and books and giving them to their brothers and sisters. When a homemaker goes through her things and tries to eliminate the clutter, she may end up with a good collection of gifts that can be passed on. The recipient is then free to pass the gift on to anyone she likes.

The dollar stores are a good source for gifts. It is nice to take a little gift bag filled with scented candles, soaps, or even kitchen utinsels, bought from these great discount stores. Don't think that dollar stores contain products of inferior quality. Some times the stock comes from high-end stores, or have major name-brands on it. The more expensive stores have to make room for the newest lines and will sell the older stock to these stores. If you learn to look for quality, you will get good gifts at the dollar store. Just recently these stores had large cooking utinsels made of high quality stainless steel, costing only one dollar each. In other stores, they are up to $5.00 per item.

For a homemaking High Tea that we will be having, the guests will each receive a bag with a dish towel, scented candle, cookie cutter, and crocheted doily, all from the dollar store. These were purchased in multiples: "four for a dollar," or "two for a dollar," making them even more economical.

It would be a relief if women could teach themselves to be content with simple gift-making and gift-giving. Sometimes they feel that one little thing is just not enough, and they go overboard. If you are very busy and feel pressured, there are a number of young, single girls at home who would probably allow you to commission them to make gifts, such as hand made cards, hair ties, handkerchiefs, hot pads for the kitchen, crocheted items, or embroiderd cloths. For someone who loves a tea party: a tea party box containing homemade shortbread or scones, a bag of tea and a tea cup. Tea cups can be purchased at second hand stores and Goodwill, sometimes for under a dollar. There is no need to match the saucers exactly, as they are most charming when they are slightly different.

A tape recording of a story you read, or tell, or a little hand made book or scrapbook, would probably be a delight to just about anybody.

When you have had family and friends for many years, you might find yourself giving the same thing over and over. Didn't I give my sister in law a candle-holder last year? I can't remember? For this reason, it might be fun to start a gift book to record the occasion and the gift that you gave.

Gifts can be geared toward the interest of the person. For a gardener: a new plant, gardening magazine, special hand cream for gardeners, a pretty pot. For a seamstress: a round box of the new threads on the block with all the metallics and sheens, a new measuring tape that folds up automatically in its own decorative case, a pin cushion.

Flowers are always loved and appreciated. It is better if you have a special cutting garden at home and can give your own flowers. Zinnias are easy to grow, even for those who just don't have any luck at gardening, they come in all colors, are usually long stemmed, and make a beautiful bouquet. A single rose at a grocery store is about $1.00 and can be given in a jar that you have at home. Just cut the stem to fit the jar. One of my favorite jars for flowers is from Motts apple juice. The single-drink bottle has a narrow neck, just right for one flower, and the bottle is shaped like an apple, with embossed apple leaves at the top.

The most cherished gift is the gift of a letter telling the person the may ways in which they have influenced you and the qualities they have that you delight in the most, along with an entertaining bit of chit-chat about every day life.

The best ideas for sensible gift giving will, of course come from the comments on this blog.

"The Gift is Yourself" from Petit Louvre Gallery


Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a great article!

I've been worrying about giving gifts to various family members--and there are a lot of them to whom to give!--so this article comes as a real blessing for me.

Some ideas I've come up with:

- Sachets made from a pretty floral cloth, lace, and a small amount of fairly stout "room potpourri," all purchased at a steep discount.
- A jar of chocolate-covered raisins, made from a giant-sized box of raisins and a giant-sized bag of chocolate chips, purchased in bulk, then put in a quart-sized mason jar and tied with a bit of "scrap" ribbon.
- Special seasoning mixes you can't get in other regions.
- A CD of copyright-expired e-books (available for free from Project Gutenberg, btw).

That kind of thing. One of these years I'll even have time to do these things...

Thanks for the excellent ideas! I might just do the hand-cream routine for my gardener sister!

Mrs. Bartlett

Anonymous said...

Gift giving is definitely a subject that I have considered very seriously. Finally realizing my full potential and "retiring" to a full time wife and mother, I knew that presents must be given from the heart instead of the wallet. By creating as many gifts as possible, I am not only giving of myself, but I am using the talents that God has given me. If I am able to draw/paint it, sew it, embroider it, knit it, or bake it, I am willing to do it! And that is the key, my willingness. My main focus has been on creating keepsake gifts for my children and grandchildren. Some examples for the gifts for the children have been painting portraits, requested knitted items, tea cozies, "fancy" napkin sets, or a token gift of knitted dishcloths. The grandchildren are very young, but embroidered balls were a big hit with the 1-3 yr old. Requested knitted items are always wanted and more exciting projects are currently in the works! In addition, I have supported my husband's job by making appropriate gifts for his co-workers or their families for situations such as an illness or a birth. God has also given me opportunities to pass on these skills to others. What an honor! I feel that not only am I contributing to the economics of the household, but I am fulfilling at least in part, the example of the Proverbs 31/Titus 2 women.


Lydia said...

Here are a few things I would like to have, that I value the most. It might shed some light on what to get other people:

Scrubbers crocheted from nylon netting, in different colors. They are by far the most effective pot and pan scourers. You can usually only get them if you see a craft sale that comes around once a year.

Potholders. Full time homemakers who provide most meals at home, find that the commercial pot holders and hot pads just don't hold up for very long. The hand made ones I've received that are patchwork or woven on a loom, are the best.

Crocheted cotton dishrags: these are absolutely the best and can only come from someone else's hands. Impossible to get at a store.

Handmade soap. I like the hard soap best and the ladies who make it do a great job. It is well worth the price to buy at craft sales.

Apron: although most homemakers do a little sewing, they are often far too busy to make an apron for themselves. Aprons wear out and a new one, hand made is top notch. Nothing else will do.

Knit or crochet scarf: another thing one doesn't have time to make for oneself.

A big pile of letter paper and envelopes. The problem with the boxed sets is that there aren't enough pages for real letter writers. Whether it is made on the computer or hand made, it is really neat to have a drawer you open and see that stack of paper.

BoysMom said...

A gift that I have found popular are the meals-in-a-jar: you put the dry ingrediants for a recipe such as cookies, muffins, or bean soup in a quart glass canning jar and put a pretty peice of fabric and a ribbon on the top, write out the directions and tie them to the ribbon. There are some books with recipes designed for this out there.

JenniferAnne said...

Dear Lady Lydia, You have such exquisite taste and take such great care. May I share with you a little tidbit?

If you are serving "high tea", you are serving a dinner-type meal to the peasants after a hard's day work, including meat pies and ale. My guess is you are preparing an elegant event for ladies with tea and sweet and savory finger foods. This is affectionately known as "afternoon tea". High tea was so named because it was served on a high table, as a meal. It is a common mistake.

I've received the impression that you don't live in the United States. Am I correct? If you live in England and I have shared this information erroneously, I apologize. For the rest of us, if we take tea in England and call the elegant event high tea, they know we are tourists.

Have a wonderful tea!

Lydia said...

Tea parties have made a big wave in American society, where they are finally learning to bring the water to a full boil before pouring it in the pot... and while we are fully aware of the true meaning of "high" tea, there seems to be evolving a different meaning of high tea in America. High tea has come to mean a huge meal with tiny bites of savory things like sandwiches and quiches. It is usually served at lunch and when we say high tea, we expect a lot of food. Afternoon tea, on the other hand, can be scones and jam and cream with tea. I live in the US but lived in Australia for a number of years in my youth, where the evening meal was called "Tea."
No matter how much you teach the Americans about what it should be, they will insist that a high tea is a fancy tea with all the trimmings. (What can you expect, when the true English language hasn't been spoken here in years!) They will insist on pronouncing things "their way." But I will say on their behalf that the tea party business is bigger than ever here and in Canada, which may mean they will be more civilized (I hope). Americans are very, very casual but they are getting more interested in using their tea cups and sitting across the table with family to talk over tea. I'd love to come and see you sometime and see how you do it in England.

Lydia said...

Or, you could post the menu for a high tea on your blog for us!

Anonymous said...

Crocheted cotton dish rags; I love those and have some my grandmother made for me; but she no longer crochets.

My gift giving technique is a bit different than others; I ask people what they would like or if they have a gift wish list.

That way I get them something they would appreciated, and I also learn a little bit more about them!

I like this method for myself too. Sometimes someone will by us something that is very random, or that we already have, or is not our style, or we don't need. Almost all those gifts go in the Goodwill bag, unfortunately, and is a waste of that giver's money.

wendybirde said...

I love it when folks give me a little recipe book or recipe cards with favorite recipes that they have chosen, especially if there is a story behind them (my grandma used to___, whenever i make this for my son he__...).

I also love it, really love it, when folks give me anything meaningful from nature--a special rock, shell, leaf, feather, especially of it comes with a card telling the story behind it, or the prayer they are sending with it ("I found this shell walking along the beach this weekend and was so struck by it's feeling of gentleness. I pray that life treats you very gently"...). Things like this become real treasures, touchstones you can keep on your desk or dresser or table etc to remind you you are cared for, to remind you of the blessings and sacredness of life...

Lydia said...

The the English lady: Americans just will not accept the High Tea definition and have made up their own definition, largely from the established Tea Rooms around the nation. High Tea here is an elaborate formal affair with lots of fancy bites of food.

Unknown said...

I like the idea of giving special cuttings from one's garden. That's such a welcome gift. If you don't have a garden a small bouquet is always welcome.

JenniferAnne said...

Lady Lydia,

If you check the multitude of tearooms around the U.S. listed on you will see that nearly every tearoom menu lists itself as "afternoon tea". "High Tea" was described recently in an article from Tea Time magazine for Winter 2005, an American publication. Their "high tea" menu includes stuffed Cornish game hens, herbed scones, carrots with mint and lemon, celery pear stilton and walnut soufflé, potato and watercress soup, and Olde English Trifle. This is not what is served in hotels and teashops around the U.S.

Because most tearooms can't make a profit serving a true afternoon tea menu just once a day at the traditional four o'clock hour, nearly all have extended their serving from 11:00 to 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock, and added a bit to their menus. Most people in the U.S. make tea a meal, not just a tied-one-over-until-supper as it was originally designed by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. A little more light food such as a soup, salad, or quiche has been added to the dainty fare of little sandwiches, scones, and pastries. This does not change it into a "high tea" supper. Sadly, many people use the word "high" with tea thinking it makes the experience sound lofty. They just don't know their tea history, but all that is changing as the opportunities for a tea meal are becoming more available, and tea teaching classes are spreading around the United States.

As to the heating of the water to the boiling point, this is necessary for black teas and herbal tisanes. However, it will ruin the tea that is green or white producing an taste of overcooked vegetables. There is much to learn about tea, and Americans are coming along. The lack of civility you referenced is really just a lack of training, something this blog is addressing.

Should you ever be in the Sacramento, California area, you might like to take advantage of one of the classes given there by, or you could send an e-mail at info@teachingtea to ask about other certified tea educators in your town.

Lydia said...

Thanks for this, Wellspring. And your blog has a lot more on it, for those who want to go look. Just click on her name.

Anonymous said...

This article has really strucka chord within me. having known true penury during my mid twenties, I baked biscuits for my family and friends as presents - "custard creams" and "leibkuchen" which were packed into decorative preserving jars and given as gifts. The leibkuchen went to my beloved grandfather in England (this type of biscuit being well able to withstand long periods of transportation) who recieved it with delight - being the last thing I was able to give him prior to his passing in late 1997.

More recently, gifts of traditional Australian boiled fruitcake and citrus marmalade were sent to friends in the US and UK (though the quick-post costs were pricey - this didn't phase me as it was the thought that truly couhnted. Little gifts of marmalade have been given on and off for the past five years or so (usually with other items). Same goes for the fruitcake, which was a present, or formed part of presents for family last year (and will again this year).

Being vision impaired, now to the point that artistic endeavours are no longer possible (yet - just came across excellent sites for blind and vision impaired artists which I'll share if there's enough interest) card making has been off the ajenda for some time indeed, but I regularly gave hand-made birthday and Christmas cards during my teen years. I'd love to learn how to sew - knowing of several VI ladies who do so, but at this point, I haven't come across any craft folk who could potentially teach me- all in god's time.

As for finding real gems in discount shops, my husband and I were out recently when he spotted a gift, ideal for a friend of ours, at an excellent price, which we snaffled up quick smart, giving it to her when she and her husband joined us for lunch this last Sunday past, to her delight.These folk are wonderfully and genuinely generous, always bringing a special little something for the hostess when they come such as flowers or a little box of chocolates and so on.

The idea of a recipe book sounds excellent as although now unable to produce the artwork, lovely paper, a decorative cover and beautiful script (plus thoughts and prayers for contemplation) would be perfect. Definately something to consider for this Christmas - perhaps a different little book for each family member containing recipes uniquely enjoyed by them.

keep up the brilliant work of inspiring we ladies in a world where the family and home keeping are being assailed by the enemy at every turn.

Mrs. E

Lydia said...

We just finished a Cooking and Gardening/Homemaking School here. One lady showed a cookbook-scrapbook she had made, in plastic pages to protect the recipes. In it she had photocopied her recipes, along with pictures of her mother making the recipe, and of other people eating the food, along with the date of the event. The cookbook was entertaining as well as informative.

Lydia said...

In think one reason they call the sandwiches and scones that are on a tiered plate, with the hot tea (one party I went to had 17 kinds of foods, make in bite sizes, all fancy, all elaborate) "High Tea" is because it gives us a sense of doing something very special and very royal. Having no real royalty in this country, we seek to make royalty of ourselves and treat each other like royalty. We all feel we are common people with no pedigrees and the idea of calling these elaborate tea parties (and they are elaborate) "High Teas" is very appealing. I don't think we could get anyone to come by sending out invitations that said "Low Tea"--and the "afteroon tea" doesn't turn anyone's head these days. However if someone tells you they are having a high tea, the image of all those little bites of beautifully prepared foods appears in the mind, and you know you'll really be having a wonderful time. The tables will have table cloths and flowers and the hostess will be using a variety of antique china tea cups.I don't think you will ever get the Americans to call it anything else. They just love the idea of doing something "high." It is so different than every day life.

Lydia said...

I've been enjoying Plain and Simple's blog.

Earth Weary said...

For weddings a nice idea is to take the invitation you recieve from the couple and frame it with lovely dried or silk flowers, and lace. For an extra special girft you could find out the bride's wedding flowers and use those in silk or dired!

Rose Red

Anonymous said...

I would like to give my two cents worth about the Americanism of the phrase "High Tea." I think that it has become one of those things in America, where we use the same words as the British but with different meanings. For instance, a "biscuit" in Britain is really different from a biscuit here!
I wonder if we call what we do "high tea" because it is so fancy, perhaps it reminds us of "high society?"
Of course it is technically not the proper term for a really fancy tea, but I think it is too late to correct the trend. It will just become one of those accepted differences over time,between the countries.

JenniferAnne said...

Lady Lydia, I've been really surprised and a little dismayed at where this conversation has gone. I find it interesting that you are so committed to telling me I'm wrong and that America will never change. Its NOT a trend for those who are in the industry and committed to the art and act of taking tea. If reading Tea A Magazine, Jane Pettigrew, Bruce Richardson, James Norwood Pratt or attending the World Tea Expo with thousands of tea business owners who would keep to the original phrasing doesn't convince you, nothing will. Choosing to stubbornly stick with the label High Tea instead of Afternoon Tea because you believe you know better what America will and will never do is a sign of intellectual (from not reading) and social (from not being teachable from those who are in the business) laziness which categorizes you with the other lack-a-dasial (sp?) and casual Americans you write about. As much as I have appreciated your blog, this has surprised and disappointed me. In one last ditch effort to share something with you or maybe just those who will read this comment, I will be posting a poem on my next blog entry that is a fun way to explain the difference, not written by me, but a librarian associate.

Mrs. P said...

To Wellspring Tea, if such a belated post is accepted:

Dear Lady,

I am writing as one that is neither American nor British, and confess my previous ignorance on the matter of the High tea/afternoon tea. Being neither British nor American, perhaps I am excused. All I know is I do love the custom of having what I call a special tea time with fancy tidbits of food and scones and jam (if available). Lady Lydia's post ('A Handful of Quiet', which I read before reading these comments) has given me a longing to do this more often. Even my four-year old son really enjoys this special tea time.

I don't think Lady Lydia was 'legislating' the terminology, and she is certainly entitled to her own opinion as to what the people that surround her like to call things. There is no need as I see it to accuse her of anything on that account and to write in a way that comes across as somewhat aggressive (at least to me it did). If I am mistaken, I am sorry. Please take this as a gently rebuke, if you can. I understand you are very knowledgeable about tea matters, but there is no need to take people to task in this way, is there? Please don't take this the wrong way either, my tone is really friendly, if you could hear it. :-)

JenniferAnne said...

Lady Lydia,
I want to apogize for my unprofessional comment above. It was unnecessary to push the point so far. It was a good lesson learned and I wish you the best in all your endeavors and hope Wellspring Tea can be a source of positive help for you and your readers in the future.