Easing out of the holidays

I always seem to have a problem easing back into work after the holidays. Do you? It’s not as though we did much. Just putzed around, visited with family and played with cats. The period between Christmas and New Years seems to fall into this nebulous gray area where I’m perusing the past, cataloging my considerable sins of the year and casting a wary eye towards needed changes in the new year (dread). Who likes the change that inventorying and tallying dictates? Not me. One goal as I mentioned before, is to zero out my unread email messages. I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like, down 272 to 2,567. I just never know where to put things. Or, some I don’t know how to respond to, those that require the most time and thought. Some messages are really touching and affect me, many from home sewers. I am humbled by those and hold off waiting for a spate of repose that never comes, their messages taunting me. Then guilt swoops in, roosting fearlessly, feeding and scatting with abandon. Those who wrote will think I’m not listening, what other conclusion should they come to?

So, what kind of loot did you get? What kind of loot did you give? Were you generous to the less fortunate? By the way, I don’t make a big deal of it, posting a sticker on my website but I donate a whole lot more than the 1%-2% that others advertise. Do you know which group gives the greatest percentage of their income to the poor? It’s the poor themselves, they give the largest share, nearly six percent. We encourage everyone to meet or exceed that.

Loot I got:
SIL gave me a book on technical illustration and a CD (Vienna Teng). MIL got me a grey rayon scarf and a vegan cookbook. DH got my pearls restrung, I haven’t worn them in years because they’d come unbound. He also got me the Nelly Don story (book and DVD; just ask if you want to borrow it) which we finished watching last night. For the life of us, we can’t figure out how the largest women’s dress manufacturer in history could have been so ignored by history. We figure it’s because she was from Kansas City rather than New York. Provenance sparks lots of snobbishness -to which I can well attest. The last thing he got me was a copy of Pattern Magic 2, although he says he didn’t get the advertised free shipping. Very cool pattern puzzles. Actually, I got two copies, one damaged with the spine broken. It’s still usable though. Would it be too chintzy to give it away as a contest prize? If it were me, I wouldn’t mind getting it. If so, we need a contest. Suggestions?

Loot I gave:
I gave SIL/BIL several vegetarian cookbooks. The latter’s been making noises about going vegetarian so of course I want to encourage that. SIL/MILeach got mobius scarves, really birthday gifts, theirs fall right after Christmas, also jewelery we’d bought from an artisan at a local craft fair; nice pieces too. Niece/Nephew got toys (wooden of course) and socks from Sock Lady. DH got socks too and a book on commercial property law and another on economics written by a friend of ours. Also a guitar trainer. He plays guitar, very well too. I don’t play anything. I’d been hoping for a banjo or a fiddle but DH isn’t likely to buy me one since the guitar he got me last year is collecting dust. I’m wild about bluegrass in case you wonder. The boy got an MP3 player and books. He doesn’t read though. I figure it’s his form of protest. Any horizontal surface we have (including the floors) are covered with books.

So how was your holiday? Do tell…

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  1. Amy Mello says:

    Hi Kathleen, the Pattern Magic book had to be shipped in Japan to receive the free shipping. I noticed after your previous post when I went to purchase it. Good luck getting through your emails!
    Happy New Year,

  2. Diane says:

    Christmas is my favorite holiday and in past years I’ve gone all out with decorating and gift giving. However, the spirit seems to be declining and the Halloween display of scary masks right next to the waving santas and Christmas trees really drove a commercialism nail into the season. So, this was a minimalist holiday. We have so much stuff already that DH and I put a $50 cap on gifts for each other. My theme was the giving of useful gifts. Oldest daughter got a CD player for her car to replace the one that was stolen and a shoe shopping expedition to replace favorites that have worn out. Youngest daughter also got shoes as she’s on her feet all day. Others received frangrances and bath products. I also knitted a few wool hats for the skiers and snowboarders in the family. Gifts were wrapped in reusable cloth bags that I made this year. In turn, I received gift cards to my favorite restaurants and a special Starbucks card with my name on it. Instead of the traditional dinner, I put DH in charge and we had pizza and beer. I’m thinking this may be a new tradition as clean-up was minimal compared to the usual multiple dishwasher loads and the cardboard boxes ended up in the recycling bin. Very low key but it’s the people, not the stuff, that counts.

  3. Jennifer E. says:

    My MIL asked this year that part of her gift be personal items given to women shelter like soap, tooth paste, shampoo, tampons etc.. The shelter’s here get funding for food and housing but not for these items. So I went shopping and got what I though would be stuff for a women and two kids and give it to a local women shelter that help with long term housing for abused women.

  4. Carol in Denver says:

    About “Pattern Magic” — here’s some info I’ve been intending to post for the last six weeks: There were two copies of Pattern Magic One at Kinokuniya Bookstore (telephone 212-765-7766), which is in the Rockefeller Center development in NYC. (I was on a business/sightseeing trip just before Thanksgiving). This is a Japanese-language bookstore, and a flyer said they are opening another location near Bryant Park in NYC. They had about 5 linear feet of periodicals for the home sewer and lots more for knitting/crochet etc. — all with Japanese text, but I could understand the graphics. The clerk said they were expecting a new shipment of “Lady Style” the following week.

    We had a quiet, low-key Christmas Day at home. Because of unexpected 11″ of snow, DH did two round trips in the Jeep to pick up & return home our handful of guests for lunch. In original invitation, I said it was going to be simple (a nice soup and miscellaneous food gift items that had accumulated, like a fancy cheese & some smoked salmon from Costco). We all enjoyed each other’s company and the ligher meal too!

  5. katyrenee says:

    Merry Christmas to all. I got a small digital camera.. Hopefully now I’ll be more inclined to post and blog! Also, after a slow Friday at work last week, I ran across Kathleen’s top stories and checked them out at the library before I left town. I’ve finished the Cinderella Complex. Gives me insight into my posted question on children/careers. Thanks, Kathleen! I look forward to the other two books too–diet and Frankl.

  6. Wow. I can’t make six percent: I’ve plateaued at 3.7%. I don’t even volunteer. (On the other hand, I am Canadian so I pay more taxes that feed into a better social safety net. With our winter weather we simply can’t accept homeless people fending for themselves.) But ok, another target.

    Stuff: this year I gave home-made cookies, lemon curd and small useful things, most of which had been specifically requested. (Warm socks. Warm gloves. Polar fleece undershirt. Coasters. Beautiful gloves. Underpants.) My beloved also received DVDs of popular Québécois TV series to improve his language and cultural skills, and a subscription. In turn I received small useful things: pencil sharpeners. A candle snuffer. A wonderful kitchen knife (small is not always cheap). A book on the history of curry. A large, beautiful tablecloth from Bangladesh. My beloved gave everyone gifts to various international organisations, for instance a cookstove in Pakistan and seeds in Vietnam.

    If I can’t think of something useful to give someone, I’ll give them something consumable. (Flowers are a great birthday present for both men and women. They are beautiful and can be thrown out without regret when their time is up.) CDs can be good gifts for someone you’re educating – for instance a young person who has never heard Bob Marley or The Dark Side of the Moon – but are often hard to choose otherwise. I used to try but have sort of given up since discovering Arvo Part. It can only be downhill from there.

    Books are even harder than CDs. I got my father Reading Lolita in Tehran a year or two ago, which was a success, but otherwise I worry that I won’t get it right. On the other hand I love love love getting any books as presents, because I’m an indiscriminate reader. I end up reading things that I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is always good. (Even if I don’t like the book I at least want to find out about it and think about the people who do like it.)

    My father just got back from Bangladesh and is currently in an Ottawa hospital with typhoid fever. He was only supposed to be here a month for a family visit before going back but it looks like he’ll be changing his plans. Anyway, he was more on our minds than gifts this year.

  7. dosfashionistas says:

    Wow! 6%. Where did you find that statistic? My darling husband will want to know. This is the first year in a long time that I have not given to Heifer Project and Habitat for Humanity. However I have given long hours this year to make 3 sets of vestments for my church, thus freeing up some of the (church) community’s money for charitable purposes.

    My husband gave me something I have long been wanting, a canary. I have great childhood memories of the one we had that would sing with me while I washed dishes. So far this one is more interested in flinging seeds on my head, but I have hopes. Each day his song gets a little longer and more involved. He is up to 4-5 notes at a time now, whereas the first day it was single cheeps. I bought him a training CD, which is the time honored way to train young birds to sing. Since the song is actually a territorial claim, if they hear a bird that they can’t see, they will sing to warn him off their turf. And the longer and more involved the song, the more dominance the bird can claim.

    I gave books and warm clothing, and an inspirational quote on a bracelet to my daughter who is going through some hard changes. And classic toys, like crayon soap and kaleidoscopes to the grandchildren. And of course I gave the usual promissory notes for things I intended to make but didn’t get finished: in this case a wall hanging for my son-in-law and a stuffed sheep for my grandson. (He will get it for his birthday next month.)

    We did a finger food supper Christmas Eve. It was nice because we didn’t spend way too much time preparing way too much food and we enjoyed our time together more. But we were all half (or more) sick, which put a damper on things in general. We have shared that cold throughly, and I am glad to be seeing the last of it.

    Cheers to all!

  8. Marie-Christine says:

    As I get older, I get more and more fanatical about consumable gifts. I’m damn tired of lugging all these books around :-), and expect most people to be in a similar mood. If they don’t like the fruitcake, they can pass it on easier than if it was a crocheted toilet-paper cozy.
    This year, I was delighted to find on craftsters a link to a sugar-based body scrub http://www.arizonaspagirls.com/0/Lifestyle/BeautyLab/I_Am_Radiant_Sugar_Glow
    which gives something very similar to a very expensive organic blah blah thing that I can’t get any more being too far from my local hippie coop. I was happy to make a big batch with a couple kilos of sugar, pack it in the vast collection of should-be-recycled jars I should have dealt with before, and the friends certainly seem happy with it. It’d have been better if I’d gotten it together to fix the printer and make lovely labels (instead of writing them with Sharpies), but hey, there were wrapped in real gift paper, that was already better than my usual efforts at presentation :-).

  9. Happy Holidays to you, my friend.

    Wow…I thought I was the only one who had guilt from not answering the thought-provoking emails I receive. If I can’t answer it with a one-liner, I procrastinate and often never answer it. Ugh!

    Christmas here is a wild. Between the ridiculous amount of gifts, abundance of food (2 1/2 lbs lobster tails and prime rib courtesy of the Palm in NYC) and the customary family brawl (younger sister always manages to tell off psychotic Dad), it was a good day. Although I used lots of wrapping paper and embellishments for my 14 yo daughter’s gifts, most of it will be reused:


    As far as doing good for the holidays, I befriended a single mother of a severely disabled boy several years ago. I rallied dozens of friends and we bought him a specialized wheelchair (over $5,000) 4 years ago. Knowing I could do more, I’ve supplied Christmas to this family every year since.

    The best gift I gave this year was to a family whose critically-ill teenage son is currently hospitalized awaiting a liver transplant. I gave them a digital camera and printer so they could keep his siblings who are away at college up to date. This family said it was the best gift they had ever gotten.

    This year my DH bought me a new Dell desktop and another HP color laserjet printer. Yippee! The day after Xmas, I bought myself more than a dozen sewing-related books on Half.com for dirt cheap prices…I, too, love books!

    Alison…I hope your Dad makes a full recovery and gets back to enjoying his visit soon.

    With friendship,

  10. Nanette says:

    I made alot of handmade items this year – totes for co-workers and friends, LSU outfits for my “adopted granchildren” and dresses for 3 little girls from a needy family our company adopted this year.

    One of the best times was the weekend before, making goodies with my daughters – peanut butter fudge, oreo balls, pralines.

    My favorite celebration is Christmas Eve. I make a big pot of seafood gumbo, potato salad, baked ham, dips and desserts and we open presents with family then later friends come by to visit.

    Two of my favorite gifts this year was one of those alarm clocks that project the time on the ceiling and a small teapot with a strainer for loose tea.

  11. nadine says:

    Well, I’m always so busy that I never give any gifts for the holidays unless it is for hardworking service people or a couple of colleagues. I usually celebrate “Because You’re You Day” which is a day I invented to get me out of the doghouse for not sending gifts on time or at all. So when I have a slowdown such as Easter Break, or Summer months when my retail projects are slow, I send random gifts to people. They are always delighted since it isn’t expected and given without obligation. I always send it with a handmade card and an explanation of why the person “being you” makes me appreciate them.

    But this year, I actually am bringing a few gifts since I’m taking a very very rare vacay to Hawaii to see my sis. That’s my gift to myself. Bringing some gifts to her kids – wooden toy car for the 2yr old, ultra mini remote control helicopter for the older boy that he can fly in his room (props for me but my sis will hate me) and a diary and handmade purse for my niece who has a dog walking business at the tender age of 7yrs.

    My best friend and I give the best gift of all to each other which is our opinion about each other. We realized that we appreciate having the kind of friendship where we can freely give honest opinions about the things we create and the no BS feedback that helps us take it to the next level.

    I haven’t given too much to charitable causes this year since living on the block with the sweet little old homeless lady who has everyone worrying about her and giving her money but who buys crack and smokes it on the street every day. That sort of thing makes you wonder if you are really doing the right thing sometimes. Maybe the best thing is for her to go to rehab and the teens who sell it to her go to jail for xmas? We have endless discussions about this issue where I live.

    I try to give all I have to my students. And I did help a highschool girl make shoes for her graduating thesis this past year. Somehow she got my number and ended up crying on the phone that no one would take her seriously and help her so her graduation was in danger. I just thought that was probably the worst feeling a teenager can have is to have an ambitious dream but no one will take any time to help them make it come true. I don’t even like making shoes but I pulled out all the stops for her and she did graduate plus made 3 pairs of shoes. She was grateful but I told her that I was more grateful because her project helped me realize that not liking doing something doesn’t mean we can’t do it or do it well. So I started thinking how many things I never attempt because of some mental preference about it. The end result was that my new years resolution is to get back out in the dating world and be open minded about finding a partner in life. It may sound silly to many but for me it is a huge stretch.

    Happy New Year to all and hope it brings prosperity in more than a material sense, happiness, good health and more things to learn from ourselves and each other!

  12. Gave ALOT more than I received. I don’t care for xmas much but did send a lot of beauty products to a charity I support for the working poor ( I think you know which ones I am talking about the others who are working to make their lives better but are stuck in a vicious cycle) I also try and buy my crafting supplies from etsy and support that cottage industry over going to the big companies. Even printed t shirts.

    My xmas requests were simple and I got at thanksgiving time. Cashmere sweaters and spinning hardwear (yes I’m crazy and make my own yarn)

    I am very grateful this year that I have been very self sufficient that my little business has grown where I can buy all my own wants like iphones and imacs

  13. Lisa Bloodgood says:

    Through our church, we gave food for Thanksgiving for the poor, for Xmas, we gave Walmart gift cards for the needy families in our church and money to buy bikes for a bunch of kids in Mexico who have to walk 2 miles or more to get to school (so most don’t go but now they can).

    I gave my stepkids some toys and art stuff and clothes and they got art stuff and pajamas from other relatives. I got my husband a travel alarm clock and one of those little lights that clips onto a book. I received cookies, jams, and much needed dish towels. I also found pink Chinese pajamas at Value Village for $5 for my stepdaughter but I had to go over all the seams and sew one of the frogs back on.

    On Christmas day, I made turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, veggies, and rolls for dinner, all on my own (well, the rolls were brown and serve and the potatoes were instant), but it was so much work I don’t want to have to do all that again. Thanksgiving was nice because it was potluck and easier. I don’t mind cooking but Xmas dinner took all day.

  14. Eric H says:

    A while back (2-3 years ago), I found the charitable giving figures in the Statistical Abstract of 2003. It showed that people in the lowest income range gave about 5.5%, and people in the highest bracket gave about 2.7%. When they broke it down by age, the similarities were striking: older people gave about 5.1%, down to the youngest donors who gave about 3.5%. One interpretation of that could be that the people with lower incomes are also retirees who have lower incomes but fewer expenses and are giving away what they accumulated earlier in life.

    I’ve given this a lot of thought. I find that I give more if I set goals. And I find that I am able to achieve those goals if I give regularly. Others suggest saving your money for a goal and then giving in a lump sum, which I tried this year (and got a nice letter from HfH).

    And Tyler Cowen suggests that you give to people who aren’t expecting it. In other words, don’t give to pan-handlers or charitable institutions; just go find a struggling single mom (for example) and hand her an unexpected wad of cash. You won’t get the tax deduction, but it will do more good than giving it to someone who is expending time and effort to get you to give. Pan-handlers make it a full-time job, and even reputable charities spend 5-10% on fund-raising.

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