Gift Giving

Jul 11

Gift Giving: In-Law

My in-laws are good folks.  They are honest, hardworking, selfless, loving, and remarkably patient with all of us.  They have four boys, a girl in the middle, three daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, two granddaughters, two grandsons (I should say 4.9, as my sister-in-law is due this summer), and two dogs.

Both my in-laws have worked in education for years, and as many of you know education is not a job you get to leave at the office when you head home for the day.  In addition to his full-time job at a high school, as a grandfather, and as a sweetie to my mother-in-law, my father-in-law (like my father) is also responsible for his church congregation.  But, despite their busy schedule, my in-laws recently made time to come visit Daniel and I here in Arkansas, and their visit got me thinking…


Sometimes I don’t go through the process I used to find a gift for Jen… Sometimes I hold onto my idea for the perfect gift until a gift-giving occasion rolls around.  And sometimes I come up with an excuse to give the perfect gift, for no occasion at all.  So, today I’m here you tell you about the most-recent time I knew exactly what I would buy months before the occasion rolled around.


Now, back to my in-laws… who, like my own parents, are are quite adept at growing edible stuff.  In addition to a large garden, they grow oranges, grapefruit, lemons, blackberries, and bananas.  Their yard stands out as a cool oasis in the middle of an otherwise dessert-ish Mesa, Arizona.  And, to match their green yard, my in-laws have some green habits.

Don’t go picturing a pair of 50ish hipsters–my in-laws are legitimately earth-conscious.  They are not in it to be trendy or to win fans, it’s who they are.  They’ve been in this nature-loving routine longer than I’ve been alive, and they know their stuff.

Arguably, their most-noticeable green habit is composting.  I say most-noticeable, because my father-in-law has historically kept an old plastic container (that originally held dishwasher detergent packets) on the counter next to their kitchen sink for items to be taken out to the compost bin.  And, as you can imagine, a clear container holding a few days worth of carrot shavings, lettuce bits, corn remnants, and old tomatoes isn’t exactly unnoticeable in an tidy kitchen.  Even with the lid closed tightly and no hint of a smell, it is not a pretty site.

So, after spending a month with them in 2010 and hearing a few conversations about the clever, although less-than-cute container, I had a pretty good idea what I’d be getting them for the next gift-giving occasion.

Idea #1 (& Only)

Brushed Stainless-Steel Compost Pail by Williams Sonoma


It was perfect.  It matched their appliances and their sink.  It was shiny (and not transparent).  The design included replaceable filters to prevent the natural stink of compost from doing its thing in the kitchen.  And, the best bit?  It was undeniably useful.  I knew it would  make my MIL happy and not seem unnecessary to my practical FIL.

The dimensions sounded a bit large.  It would likely be covered in fingerprints.  And I feared that, despite the filters, it would still stink.


Honestly, I never really made a decision.  My mind was made up as soon as I had the idea.  The hardest part was being patient enough to wait until the new year to give the combined gift, and hoping no one gave them one in the mean time.  I lucked out, and my patience paid off, because from what I hear, they both love it.  And, after our recent trip to Arizona, my fear of any escaping compost stench is cured.  So, with the three of us pleased, I’ll call it a success… and keep buying compost pail filters as a Mother’s Day gift for my MIL.

Feb 11

3 Ways to Enjoy yet Another Gray Day

Daniel and I are home, enjoying what currently amounts to over 18″ of snow.  And, while the pupsqueaks are outside enjoying the icicles that form on their whiskers, I prefer to stay indoors and appreciate the beauty of the winter weather from the comfort of my warm and cozy house.  More specifically, I plan to:

1.  Admire this stunning piece by Asher Israelow (and dream of ways to create something similar for my own home).  Look at the edges and corners.  It’s breathtaking.


2.  Curl up with my oldest homemade quilt, look for plane tickets for our next WDW trip, and catch up on White Collar with my sweetie.

3.  Head over to Etsy to shop for a Valentine’s gift I probably will not buy, and make a treasury (or two) before I wrap up.  I made my first treasury on a gray day last week, and I think I am hooked.

Screen Shot taken from

How do you spend your gray days?  Do you like to curl up and stay cozy, or get caught up around the house?

Jan 11

Gift Giving: Chef Jen the Seamstress

Birthday girl Jen, of Sweet Olivet and 12 Squared, is a talented gal and a kindred spirit.  She’s a friend to many, a sibling to three, a momma to two, and a sweetie to one.  She cooks delicious food, even when she thinks she’s just throwing something together.  She sews lovely things for her girls, her home, and sometimes just because.  She’s a clever game-lover who can make and take a joke, and she’s a powerful example to folks around her.

Both Jen and her sweetie, Dave, are strong people who know how to make good things happen.  I take no credit for my meeting them.  In fact, I am grateful my folks began a friendship with them long before Daniel and I were Daniel and I.  I am grateful we enjoy a similar friendship, and I am especially grateful Dave’s residency didn’t take them and their girlies any further away.

After perusing my bookmarked potential Jen gifts, and looking for a few new options, I’ve narrowed the list down to three:

Idea #1

Love Lives Cozy Here, 11×14 Poster Print by Grace Hester Designs


This is so true.  It hits at the heart of what Jen’s home is… the sort of place where I always feel relaxed and at home.  Seasons are welcomed with perfect touches and meaningful decor.  Conversation and laughter are common, and she has a kiddo who adds to the cosy with her love of cuddling.

Although it holds a special place in my heart, wall art is not especially personal.  I imagine this ditty hanging in her kiddos’ bathroom, but it’s not the sort of thing that would remind Jen we love her each time she saw it.  Nor would it feel special, and just for her.  Plus, none of the color choices (though plentiful) seem just right.  However, I do love combinations like honesuckyle and beige or vermillion and turquoise.

Idea #2

Champagne Necklace by Metalicious


Beautiful.  Peaceful.  Original.  The blue would go well with Jen’s unbelievable blue eyes.  I’ve never seen anything like it, so it has the feel of something special.

Symmetrical, with a fairly common overall shape.  The finish seems a more industrial than I believe Jen’s tastes include.  And the price is a bit beyond my budget.

Idea #3

Moriah by RachelleD


The necklace is so stunning, it deserves it’s own name.  The colors are consistent with Jen’s wardrobe, and I can’t stop thinking about delicate gray flower.  Although, I admit the bird trend isn’t my favorite, it’s enough unexpected (and understated) in this application that I don’t have a bad taste in my mouth.

The combination of motifs may not be up Jen’s alley.  And the piece may not be as lovely on, or in person, as it appears in a well-edited photograph.


I imagine my pro and con lists made quite plain my leaning… I ordered the Moriah necklace by RachelleD.  Although I’d been a bit worried about the actual product being as lovely as the photographs, I noticed RachelleD has 100% positive feedback and about 2600 sales.  That settled it.  I have no doubt Moriah will be a winner.

It’s been fun focusing on Jen and trying to pick something special, just for her.  I will let you know if all goes well with the gift.  And I’ll see you back here later in the month, when I share my next birthday shopping endeavor.

Jan 11

Gift Giving

Although I dislike shopping in brick and mortar stores, I love online window shopping.  And, even more than pointless wandering, I love shopping with a friend or family member in mind.  Doing this provides a context in which items come to life and online shops feel as cozy as a well-curated booth or boutique.  It makes an otherwise anonymous web experience more personal, and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.  This, in turn, keeps me from putting off my shopping.

I dislike selecting gifts at the last minute.  Procrastination almost-exclusively results in giving gifts that are less personal, less thoughtful, and less meaningful than they ought to be.  So, to prevent procrastination, I shop for gifts a bit each week.  And, this year I’ve decided to share my process with you.

Each week I will highlight a recipient… their life stage, personality, and interests.  I will share the stores I shop, the things I find, and the items I think are contenders.  The first will be a birthday gift for Chef Jen (the Seamstress).

And, as I mentioned here, feel free to opine.  If you see something you love, please tell me.  When I post about something you own, please offer a review for the other readers.  And, if you hate an item or site I discuss, please let me know.