Holiday Giving and Traditions

Last year Traditional Home Magazine invited us to participate in an article about holiday giving ideas. Below are a few of the questions and answers that weren’t included in the final article… we thought we’d share with the hope some of our ideas will offer inspiration. And if you have some great answers to the below questions, we would love to hear about your holiday traditions!

1.    What is your favorite gift to give during the holidays?

Laura: We are very conscious that many people are trying to reduce the amount of “stuff” in their lives. Our family is particularly interested in simplifying.  Therefore, in our family we try to give each other things we really need and want.  Sometimes that means gift cards, or if we want to give something more personal we will give things that are non-material and more experiential such as a massage, music lesson, or a session with personal trainer. This year we are forgoing gifts all together (except for Santa’s gifts for the children) for a family vacation.

Alison: When I don’t know what someone needs or if I’m unsure of someone’s personal style, I usually give edible gifts like homemade cookies, artisan chocolates, organic wine, or a basket of fruits or vegetables from the farmer’s market with a recipe.

Laura: I also can’t help but to give my favorite inspirational books, which are often related to the home or personal transformation. A few of my favorite books include; The Sensual Home; Peace at Home, Life, Paint and Passion; Shelter for the Spirit; Spiritual Liberation; Healthy Home Healthy Child; and of course for anyone expecting a baby, please consider our book The Peaceful Nursery!

1.    What do you give in less assuming economic times such as these?

Laura: It’s so easy for the holidays to get out of control with both spending and time. Often we are so busy and overwhelmed trying to complete our shopping list and make preparations that it takes away from simply enjoying quality, meaningful time with our families.  The holidays are a great time to practice reducing consumption andsimplifying in general. Think about simplifying across the board with gifts, decorations, meals, and entertaining. Just pick the things you really enjoy doing.

Alison: This year, our family is taking a ski vacation in lieu of giving gifts. I also think this is a great time for homemade gifts like baked goods or a “personal gift certificate” such as a long overdue promise to clean the garage, fix something in the house, or an offer to cook dinner for a friend, baby sit for a relative, etc… Or try creating a photo book with your favorite photos from throughout the year, or a playlist of your favorite tunes.

2.    What is a good gift for the person who has everything?

Alison: Something personal… this year I’m giving a “secret” family recipe on a recipe card with a basket full of all the ingredients and an offer to cook.

3.    What will you do with your children this year to make their Christmas memorable?

Laura: When we think back to our own childhood holidays, it was as much the enthusiasm that my mother brought to the traditions that made them so memorable as it was what we actually did. We certainly bring this same enthusiasm to each Christmas. When we go pick out the tree- it is an event! We talk about it in advance, set a date, look forward to it, bring the camera, and sometimes go out to dinner or make a special meal. Once home, we put on Christmas music. Same with going to visit Santa, decorating the house etc… Even driving around looking at neighbor’s Christmas tree lights is something we make into a celebration.

4.    Tell us how you wrap gifts.

Alison: We use cloth bags that we get from that can be used again and again. Also, Viva Terra carries beautiful silk gift bags in rich holiday colors as well as recycled wrapping paper and gift bags.

5.     Is there anything that you love to make during the holiday season, be it a gift, food etc.?

Laura: We love making Christmas cookies. We have used the same recipe since I was a child for very rich, buttery sugar cookies that we roll until they are paper thin. I have a collection of cookies cutters and we decorate them with some wonderful natural dye-free sprinkles and decorations that I get from the Baking and decorating your own cookies can be fairly time consuming and tricky with kids, but worth it! It is the best tasting dough I have ever had! And the cookies make wonderful gifts from the children, they look homemade and people can tell love and time went making them.

6.     How do you display your holiday cards?

Alison: I have a big wooden bowl in the living room where I put all the cards I receive.  This way they are easily accessible for anyone who wants to sit down and read them. My mother, sister, and I all have similar bowls and when we visit one another’s homes during the holidays we all enjoy reading the cards and “catching-up” with each other’s friends and in-laws.

7.     What food/treat have you added into your holiday dinning and what is the one staple that will never change?

Laura: We have really simplified in this department. Perhaps it’s because I have young kids and therefore less time, but I also think it’s because I’m driven to reduce and simplify. We have moved away from the big, heavy meals we had growing up such as a roast beef or turkey to less food altogether and a lot less meat. Last year I made broccoli soup, salmon, and pasta. Of course, I included some traditional favorites like sweet potatoes and green beans.

Alison: On Christmas Eve I like to make pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes and basil. It’s delicious and the red and green colors are festive.

8.     What new tradition have you started as an adult?

Laura: Beginning about three weeks before Christmas, almost every night, I read “Twas the Night before Christmas” illustrated by Mary Engelbreit to my children. The pictures are so beautiful and fanciful that I enjoy them at least as much, and possibly more, than they do!

9.     What was your favorite gift?

Laura: My grandfather was a woodworking enthusiast and made beautiful wooden toys, including a dollhouse he made for me when I was eight.

Alison: My mother once wrote down all her recipes on individual cards and gave them to me in a beautiful recipe box. I love that each recipe is a meal I remember from my childhood and that each card is written in her beautiful, distinct handwriting.

10.      In the coming year, what would you like to accomplish as a designer to take you in another aesthetic direction?

Laura: I would like to focus on the art of everyday living. I have come to realize that to achieve peace and comfort at home, I need to design my “inner-world” as peace and comfort come from within. No matter how beautiful my surroundings are on the outside, I don’t feel whole unless my inner-self is aligned with the outward peace and beauty.

Alison: I am continuously working to simplify and reduce consumption so I can enjoy the benefits of a streamlined, organized home and have more time and energy to focus on what really matters.

Check out the green dining room table we set in the November 2006 issue of Traditional Home.

Or read a transcript of an online chat we hosted for Traditional Home readers last year by visiting our press page.

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