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I know.

It’s not even Thanksgiving, and the stores have been playing Christmas tunes for weeks. Holiday displays have been twinkling even longer in store aisles like Macy’s and Target and, well, just about anywhere else that sells things. It’s annoying that Christmas has become commercialized, yes. And I’ll have to admit I’m the first one not to want to jump into a purchase frenzy before I’ve even thawed my Thanksgiving turkey. But hear me out! There is a very good reason to think about (and start!) shopping now.

Getting the shopping out of the way makes more room for celebrating Advent and the REAL meaning of Christmas when the time comes, with the family, unencumbered mentally. You won’t have to physically fight the snow and crowds and busy roads, or that stressful time crunch and pressure. You won’t click on a link and find the one sweater your mom might LOVE is just not available in her favorite turquoise blue in her size because everyone else thought their moms would like the sweater too. The early bird gets the worm, as they say, and the smart mom gets her shopping done before Thanksgiving, if she can.  In this spirit then, I’m jumping on board to share with you my favorite ideas for Christmas this year.

We’ve all read blogs that are plugging products guised under a thin veil as a creative idea for presents rather than the (not so blatant) advertising that it is.

I WON’T DO THAT HERE!

This list, this suggestion of Christmas gifts for loved ones comes from a sincere like and appreciation for the gifts. I’m not posting a link to do anyone a favor, I promise (I am good at ignoring requests for things I don’t like and I would NEVER recommend something I didn’t.) Many (actually most- probably 99%) of these suggestions come completely unsolicited by those who sell them. In some cases I’ll even give you multiple places for purchasing them. Among other things, I’m recommending books I think look amazing (or I’ve read and they are), knowing full well that if you like THEM, you may choose them over MY BOOKS. It’s okay. I want you to trust me to recommend only what I really like, what I’d really use and what I really feel is a great gift for a loved one.

With that all straight then, here is my list (in no particular order) of Best Christmas Gift Picks for 2014:

HIGHLY PERSONALIZED GIFTS: 

Family photo, ornament, scrapbook. The gift of a family picture is always a best pick for a Christmas gift. Barter with an acquaintance, hire a professional or ask an camera-handy friend to take a picture of your family for you. Upload these shots to the computer and choose the coloring (black, white, sepia) and size then download to make prints. Pick up a few nice frames (Kohls has some on sale right now, as does Michaels, and probably a dozen other local places. )

This picture/print gift will be cherished especially by grandparents, members of the family, especially young adults who have moved out. The photographs can be used in many ways to make key chains, mugs, even a mouse for the computer or a child’s t-shirt (Try Zazzle, CafePress or your local Staples store for these). The prints can also be used to make unique Christmas ornaments to give away to friends, or the first page of a scrapbook for the family, a nice Christmas tradition to start. Family scrapbook ideas HERE. A starter family scrapbook is a perfect gift for a young married couple. Nothing says ‘belonging’ like a family picture. Build family unity by giving this gift this year.

Personalized Cookbook. Every family has its own unique recipes and favorite meals. Organize a family cookbook for those you love. This need not be elaborate. When my oldest children left for college I put together some recipes for them to make when they missed home. These cookbooks can be as elaborate (professionally done) or simple (typed out on the computer) as you wish. If you simply type out recipes on computer paper, cover with plastic and put in a three ring binder, the recipient can add what he likes as years go on.

ARTISTIC GIFTS:

One of many many beautiful prints from North Dakota local artist Nellie Edwards. Nellie is a mother of eight, who began her painting after the death of her husband and with no previous fine art training. Her work is full of vibrant colors and attention to detail. It is stunning. Her ‘Teaching Madonna’, a depiction of Jesus being taught by His mother Mary, graces my own homeschool room. This link will take you to her website. However, you can also purchase prints (or framed prints) from other distributors.

teaching madonna nellieadoration nelliedivine mercy nellieSacred-Communion nellie

Something from Goodwill or a locally owned vintage shop. Yes, you heard me right! Goodwill is a great place to find gifts!  If you have a loved one who enjoys vintage gifts, you might be able to pick up a wonderful present for just a few dollars. My daughter and I each have vintage typewriters (mine from the 1930s, hers an enviable older one!) picked up from two different Goodwill stores. Figurines, silver, candy dishes (be sure to fill with Christmas candy before giving as a gift!), tin signs, salt and pepper shakers, glassware, cigar stands, decorative plates, and small furniture like stools and chairs, which can be inexpensively painted, all make wonderful gifts for the right person.

I’m lucky enough to have Mishawaka Art and Frame, a locally owned, wonderful vintage shop nearby as well. There I have purchased many quaint items for gifts, including 1950s president shaped shot glasses, antique glass Christmas bulbs, and a pretty 1940s lamp. The etsy shop for this store is online here.

BOOKS. Books-audio or traditional- make wonderful gifts. Here are some that have piqued my interest:

Love Without Limits

love without limits

From publisher website:

Even though he was born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic created a “ridiculously good life.” But after dating disappointments and a failed relationship, he reached his mid-twenties worried that he would never find a woman to love him and share his life.

Then Nick met Kanae and everything changed.  But even with undeniable chemistry, they would have to navigate twists and turns worthy of a romantic comedy before becoming “one” in marriage.

In Love Without Limits Nick and Kanae tell how they improbably found each other, fell in love, and then fought to overcome skepticism from others about their relationship. Filled with practical insights that will benefit any couple, this inspiring book describes a godly courtship and the early years of the Vujicics’ marriage and parenting journey.

Above all, Love Without Limits is an inspiring reminder that when Christ is at the center of a relationship—even with serious challenges—true love will triumph.

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

talent is overrated

The Wall Street Journal says:

Asked to explain why a few people truly excel, most people offer one of two answers. The first is hard work. Yet we all know plenty of hard workers who have been doing the same job for years or decades without becoming great. The other possibility is that the elite possess an innate talent for excelling in their field. We assume that Mozart was born with an astounding gift for music, and Warren Buffett carries a gene for brilliant investing. The trouble is, scientific evidence doesn’t support the notion that specific natural talents make great performers.

According to distinguished journalist Geoff Colvin, both the hard work and natural talent camps are wrong. What really makes the difference is a highly specific kind of effort-“deliberate practice”-that few of us pursue when we’re practicing golf or piano or stockpicking. Based on scientific research, Talent is Overrated shares the secrets of extraordinary performance and shows how to apply these principles. It features the stories of people who achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice…

Then Comes Baby

then comes baby

From the publisher website:

In Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood, Greg and Lisa Popcak lend readers the benefit of their twenty-five years’ experience in parenting and marriage and family counseling to help them navigate the earliest years of parenthood. They recommend rituals, routines, and tips on how to manage feeding, fatigue, and finances and how also to prioritize marital bonding and faith life, suggesting that setting the pattern early will pay dividends later. The Popcaks coach Catholic couples as they become first-time parents as they adjust to their new identities and help them face the inevitable challenges of parenthood with ideas for bonding with babies and getting sufficient sleep and nutrition—all while seeing these everyday experiences through the lens of Catholic teaching on the purpose of family life.

Wow! I wish they would’ve had something like this when David and I were first starting out….

Joyful Witness

joyful witness

“…We want others to know the joy we’ve discovered as Catholics and have an impact for good in the lives of others. But can busy, ordinary men and women of faith do something that really makes a difference? Through the heart-warming and candid stories of ordinary Catholics around the country, author Randy Hain shares creative ways Catholics can live their faith and pass it on to others–often with extraordinary results…”

I would also love if you might consider my own

Big Hearted

Big Hearted Image

Big Hearted gives you an inside look into the triumphs, struggles, joys and sorrows of ordinary families with generous hearts. It invites you to witness extraordinary love in ordinary moments like the simple cooking of a meal or the hug between a teenaged brother and his baby sister. Just like your family, these families experience pain, setbacks, and challenges. And just like your family, they also experience love and immeasurable blessing through their commitment and care for each other.

In this book, you will learn the story of:

• A father of seven healthy boys who struggled to love his Down syndrome baby girl

• A mother of twelve who learned an important lesson about Christmas from her children

• A special relationship between a teenaged brother and his infant sister

• Two grandparents in their final days who inspired their grandchildren in simple ways

• Two orphan children from Kenya who prayed for adoption by an American family and got what they asked for!

It has been said that God cannot be outdone in generosity. The stories in these pages will show you how big hearted families experience this truth in a myriad of ways, sometimes miraculously.

OTHER:

It’s no secret I love aprons. Aprons are fun to give because so many of us love to cook and bake! Aprons make great gifts for mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and more… and they are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Here are a few I love:

green apron

Green apron.

pink apron

Pink apron

balck apron

Black apron

Jessie Steele has a nice collection of pretty aprons. Modcloth sells many unique ones. Then there’s always Etsy and The Apron Shoppe.

If you’d rather sew your apron gifts, start with this:

apron book

For a fun flip through of the history of aprons, decade by decade see Country Living’s article here. It’s a nice break from shopping and might inspire you with ideas.

Are you hooked on aprons like I am?

Last, here is something for the little girl in your life- who likes to play with American Girl sized dolls. Have you ever wished for beautiful habits for the dolls so the girls could play pretend about that vocation too? Well, look no more! Summer DuBay at The Little Habit offers these amazing doll clothes:

shower of roses pic

This list of ideas is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully, it has given you some ideas to get those creative juices flowing and get started on your Christmas shopping. Most of all, I hope this post helps you finish your planning and shopping early so you can truly enjoy the Reason for the Season.

 God bless!

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