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A Less Material Gift Guide

Sunday, December 9, 2018

We're smack dab in the thick of gift giving time once again. It's a fantastic time of year for many reasons, but sometimes you might just feel like giving but without all the stuff. Maybe you're short on money this year, maybe you're actively trying to be a bit more minimal, or maybe you just can't be bothered to fight your way through stores or try to be around for all those package deliveries. Whatever the reason, I thought I'd put together a bit of a gift guide with less of focus on material goods. There's still a few physical things in here, but I hope they're a little more purposeful or thoughtful while bringing delight.

1. A personal advent calendar 

Instead of advent calendars that center around small gifts or candies, this year I'm making a personal advent calendar for John. I wrote down 25 things I love about him, rolled them all up and taped them with Christmas themed washi tape I had leftover from past bullet journal spreads and tied them all up into a string I can hang on the mantle. Each day he'll get something hopefully makes him feel loved, appreciated and special even though he's not getting something physical.

2. Charity donations

So it's not actually something that goes directly the the recipient, but it's definitely something that could make them happy as long as you do a little research on what causes are close to their heart. For instance, if someone was donating something in my name, I would be very happy if money went toward anything that helps prevent climate change in any way. If I was giving to my parents, I'd give money to a local music group like the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra, a group my dad has played in since it's inception. For my cat loving sister, I'd give to the local no-kill cat shelter. If you're not sure what causes your recipient is passionate about, try asking them where they've volunteer if they had all the time in the world!

3. Schedule a fun day trip together

If you can't give a lot in terms of money, try giving your time instead. A lot of times I just wish I could spend more fun afternoons with my family and friends, but it's sometimes hard to come up with a plan the day of. I would love is someone planned out a day with things like an easy hike or bike ride in a park with a picnic, a museum visit followed by some local window shopping, or a day trip to a nearby town because it would me that not only would I get to spend time with them, but I also wouldn't have the added pressure of doing the planning myself.

4. Lighten their load and do their dirty work for them

Another way to give your time, and probably my favorite gift I could receive in this list, is volunteering to do someone else's dirty work. What have they been putting off for a long time, or what do they absolutely hate doing but have to do anyway? I hate folding laundry. If John promised to fold my laundry for a full month I might cry with happiness. Maybe it's something like doing someone's grocery shopping for them when they're busy, meal prepping for them for a week or two, helping them deep clean their closets/garage/bedroom/etc, or doing all the emotional groundwork on project like learning about what size of bathroom exhaust fan you need to buy (not that I've been needing to do that for a few years now or anything...). Anything that takes a little stress out of someone's day to day life is perfect!

5. If all else fails, keep it simple

Sometimes you still just want to give somebody something material. Go for it! My only advice? Make sure you're giving in a conscious way. I once heard a little saying to help focus gift giving that I still think is a great idea to this day -- buy something they want, something they need, something they'll wear and something they'll read. Obviously you don't need to get someone a gift in every one of those categories, but it's a nice place to start brainstorming from. Just try to stick to things that the recipient truly wants and doesn't already have something similar to so you can be sure it doesn't go to waste. And finally, if you're really stumped, I love the idea of gifting a plant!

Hopefully this little list has given you some ideas for the holidays this year. Happy gift giving!

November Highlights

Sunday, December 2, 2018
And so it begins -- the most wonderful time of the year! Cheesy? Maybe. Accurate? Absolutely. Of course I can only say this openly now that's it's officially December, but truthfully our household started hitting the Christmas movies and songs hard starting November 1st. Some say that slights poor little Thanksgiving, but I beg to differ. For us, Christmas isn't religious (*insert gasps here*) and Thanksgiving just doesn't have it's own bad Hallmark movies or traditional songs (minus Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, of course). I love Thanksgiving just as much, but until it steps up it's celebration game, Christmas songs will just have to fill in for both. On that slightly ramble-y note, here's a look at my highlights from the month I call the official start of the holiday season.

November kicked off with a bit of an unusual family tradition of sorts: seeing The Bruce Katz Band at the Zoo Bar. Every time they announce they're coming to town again I brace myself for an email from my dad arranging for us to get ticket. My uncle also loves them, though they rarely seem to venture up to Chicago where he lives, so my aunt and uncle used the show as an excuse to come down, see us family and enjoy a few beers at the dive-y-est of dive bars. The atmosphere at the Zoo Bar is always fantastic (you can practically feel the history seeping out of the walls -- or maybe that's just the aging wallpaper of old show posters), the show was amazing as per usual and seeing family is always special, especially when the whole night culminates with family dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant.

The next weekend was decidedly quieter, but still quite enjoyable. On a few scattered Sundays throughout winter, one of the summer farmer's markets reforms inside for a special winter market. There's produce, some tasty baked goods and a few handmade items. Even if you don't need anything, it's fun to meander around and take a look at all that's on offer -- especially when there are free samples. John and I joined my sister and my brother-in-law for a little adventure. We hit the market, refueled with the most delicious vegan pecan roll I've ever eaten at Goldenrod Pastries and then did a little shopping at paper kite, a cute kids shop, and Home & Closet, a vintage furniture and clothing store where we found the most 90's Husker national championship sweatshirt, complete with a black and white gradient Husker logo and gaudy picture of the championship ring. Naturally my brother-in-law pulls it off like no one else could.

Then the marathon began. Thanksgiving day we always go to John's cousin's house for lunch with all of his (very large) extended family. Then, because my brother-in-law's birthday happened to fall on Thanksgiving this year, we headed over to my parents' house for birthday dinner with my family and another aunt, uncle and two cousins and their respective significant others. The next day kicked off with an 11am football game (we lost 😢) and then my family's Thanksgiving meal which we capped off with a 7pm volleyball game (we swept them 🎉). Saturday we had a slow morning of reading and putting up Christmas decorations and then we headed to Omaha for Friendsgiving. This was the first year I didn't host Friendsgiving at my house and it was also my first ever fully vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. It was great! I'll have to share the full menu in another post here soon because it could easily work for any other holiday. Finally, on Sunday we woke up to a blizzard warning, but that didn't stop us from making our fourth Thanksgiving meal, this time with John's immediate family. All in all, I had nine different kinds of pie, saw many people I love and thoroughly enjoyed four days off of work.

Lastly, I've been loving all the beginnings of winter and the holidays that have been popping up. We have already seen snow three times this year which is a little bit insane, but since it's just enough to give you that cozy feeling and not enough to really stick around too long or make you curse while shoveling, it's been lovely. We've had more fires in the fireplace, enjoyed seeing little kitty prints on our front porch and cuddled under blankets watching Christmas movies and cracking open shelled nuts with a nutcracker. It's pure wintery bliss. Let's hope it still feels that way by the end of next month...