Homemade Christmas Presents (planning now!)

I know no one likes to speak of Christmas before Halloween, y’all, but for us that like to make homemade presents, there is a bit of panic in the air. How close are we to Christmas? Nine and a half weeks! That may seem like a long time and there is still plenty of time to pick out costumes and plan Thanksgiving dinner, but I am wondering how I got so far behind! (Oh yea, I moved.)

The sewing machine has taken up residence on the dining room table and will probably stay there on up to Yule. There are lists of yarn and fabric still to get. Things to create. People to make presents for! And as you all know, nine weeks goes pretty darn fast.

My grandmother made many homemade gifts. She made this doll for Shyanne that year.

It is easy to go pick up something from Walmart, wrap it up, and say, “Here ya go!” But said item may inevitably break, homestead budget rarely allows for elaborate and multiple gifts, and a homemade gift speaks volumes. Wrapped in a homemade gift is poetry and love songs and a recipient can feel the affection from the giver (too romanticized?). A homemade gift is usually useful and deliberate.

So, what can you make?

Do you sew? You can make any number of things, from quilts to aprons. Maybe cloth napkins or place mats.

Do you crochet? You can make shawls, scarves, blankets, candle or cup cozies.

Do you paint? You could paint a wooden box for keepsakes or a painting of a favorite pet.

Do you weld? My daughter’s boyfriend welded together car parts to make me the most charming snowman I have ever seen.

Do you wood work? Crates and boxes and furniture are all amazing gifts.

Do you cook/bake/preserve? Jars of preserves, homemade wine, and bread are wonderful to receive.

Christmas shopping is kind of fun, so maybe get someone cast iron. Cloth napkins with good wooden spoons. Candles or an oil lamp. Antiques that are still useful. Or if all else fails, no one will balk at a gift card to Lehman’s!

I will be thinking of what I am going to dress up as for my friends’ Halloween party but I will also be busy creating gifts. What great gifts do you like to create?

Grandma’s Sewing Room-Part 2(the makeover)

Alright folks, this makeover isn’t going to win any awards or find its way into the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  However, it is a realistic approach that we can all take.  Using what we have.  Admitting that the $20,000 craft room addition may not happen since the goats eat so much.  Not to mention the kids.  But, I had a perfectly usable space.  Though not pretty, unpaintable, and dark, it could certainly stand in for a sewing room.  It came completely equipped with shelving and space.  Good enough!




I purchased three rugs to cover the cold floor.  I also bought a space heater that looks like a charming fireplace to warm the room since it is ten degrees cooler downstairs.  Shyanne’s room is the other side of the basement (like thirty feet away).  As soon as she moved home last week, she promptly stole the fireplace and put it on her side.  Who can blame her?


I unpacked box after box of material and organized them by prominent color.  I placed soap making supplies, the iron, half finished projects of Grandma’s on the top shelf.


I organized the yarn side by side so that we can see what colors we have before going out to buy more.  Cubbies of rick rack, ribbon, and lace allow me to see what I can use for projects.


My paintings have a place to stand.  I haven’t completed a single painting this year in all the hubbub of starting a farm so I do hope to spend some time down here painting this winter.  I have so many ideas!

The sewing machine is ready to run.  Ample table space.  Lamps.  Inspiration.  Project ideas.  Christmas presents to be made.

santa hat

Now that I am a Grandma, it is nice to have a full sewing room.  I have memories to craft.

Simple Gifts and Spiral Notebooks

Shyanne concert 001  (Shyanne when she was littler.)

Christmas Eve was upon us again.  We gathered around the kitchen table excitedly finishing our supper with Christmas music dancing through the house. Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year and even though the stress of finances was on them, my parents enjoyed the season.  Our beautiful tree glistened with old ornaments, funky childmade ornaments, and lights.  The same angel that always looked down, did so from her perch that year from the top of the tree.  Our stockings were hung, on the wall, so it seems, no fireplace was there.  The three of us giggling and trying very hard to be good looked out into the dark December sky and saw a red light flying by.  Heidi yelled, “Rudolph is coming, hurry!”  (Perhaps it was a plane, but it being Rudolph was much more likely being Christmas Eve and all.) We went to bed a wee earlier than usual and stayed awake for what seemed forever with sounds of Mahalia Jackson’s, “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and the Andy William’s Christmas album singing us to sleep.

Santa must have fallen on rough times as well that year because he brought a toy for us to share.  Not a usual occurrence, but we were so delighted with the community castle and a “My Little Pony” for each of us.  We played and danced and opened our stockings and ate the chocolate and smiled.  (Even now, you must eat the chocolate immediately before the dog gets into the stocking and does it for you.)  I don’t remember this part, but the tree was rather bare that year, my parents were concerned that we would be unhappy with our small gifts.

There was a tea set under the tree from my Grandma and Grandpa.  Miniature, real china tea cups with a single sweet rosebud on each with saucers, and a real teapot with the same pink roses.  It delighted me so.  My mother found invitations that said the “Tuesday Tea Party” and I was allowed to choose a few girls to come to my house after school and have tea with real sugar cubes and little snacks.  It was a delight I will not soon forget.

There were not many other gifts but I do remember one.  One that would change the course of my life forever.  A simple spiral notebook.  I cannot imagine how my parents would have fretted over such simple gifts and our reaction to them as our peers were receiving tape players and Madonna-esqe clothing.  “You can write some stories in it,” my mother said.  I took that as a personal invitation, as if I was not able to write before.  I quickly filled the spiral with short stories and poems.  I gave them to my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, to read and she told me to call her when I became an author.  An author?  I never thought that was an option!

Through teenage turmoils and growing pains, I filled journals and spirals with thousands of poems and thoughts.  The notebooks shaped me.  As I became a young woman I outlined my dreams of the future in poetry prose.  My journal in my twenties was my therapist, hearing out every thought and making sense of the jumble and stressors in my mind.  It fueled me to start school to be an English teacher (though that was short lived because of finances), but I continued to write.

I have now written three vegetarian cookbooks, a textbook to use in my Certified Herbalist Courses, an “Ask the Herbalist” column in the paper, and most fun, I am the Food and Wine writer for another local paper, circ 5000, called the High Plains Rider.  Katie’s Culinary Corner sure is catchy.  And now I can write this.  All because of a spiral notebook.

What a simple spiral can do in a child’s life.  My son has filled several with adorable stories and now, at nineteen years old, fills them with music lyrics. So, this Christmas, instead of the newest video game or (gasp) cash (that they will spend on junk food at the gas station, guaranteed!) maybe a beautiful journal with nice pens, or drawing paper and oil pastels, or a beginning knitting or crocheting book and needles and fabulous yard and a bit of your time, or an apron with wooden spoons and a cookbook.  Most adults might enjoy these things too!

Give simply, and see what your gift will become.