Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making Memories: Gift Exchange

I know the holidays are over BUT that's part of the point of posting this now.

Each year, we get together with a small group of friends sometime in January, well after the holiday season is over. During the holidays, we're usually pretty swamped, and its difficult to squeeze another activity onto the calendar. After the holidays, we can get together and spend the better part of an afternoon and evening sharing a pot-luck meal, playing games, and exchanging gifts.

Yep, that's right. Exchanging gifts.

Now, before you groan, thinking that we just got finished with trying to get gifts assembled for everyone on a big long list....let me tell you that this gift exchange is no ordinary gift exchange. (We originally called our gift exchange a Christmas Consortium.....but we no longer hold this at Christmas, half of the participants are Muslim, and Gift Consortium just doesn't have the right ring to it.)

Here are the rules to our gift exchange:
  1. You may not buy anyone a present.
  2. You should try to give something to each person.
  3. You may make a gift, re-gift something of your own, or gift another item you previously owned. (Baked goods and other consumable items are welcome.)
  4. You may buy some materials to make a gift with, but we set a limit on how much money you can spend on supplies (we've usually gone with around $2-$5 per present on total supplies).
That's it!

We've had, through the years, many fun and memorable gifts following this system. When we were in college (yes, that's how long we've been doing this), gifts ranged from ziplock baggies full of Arby's sauce packets to large sheets of bubble wrap to painted coffee mugs. One year the Jedi made a favorite dessert for everyone in the Consortium. I was eating triple chocolate cake for a week. Now that we are older, the adults exchange presents, and the kids exchange presents.

This year, I totally took advantage of the fact that we are homeschoolers, and encorporated making our gifts into our school curriculum. Did you know that tie-dye is a fabric art form that flourishes in West Africa from Cameroon to Nigeria to Liberta? We were, co-incidentally, just finishing up our unit on Africa so.....

Sweetling made hajibs for the two girls in the Consortium.

Toa of Boy made t-shirts for the two boys.

We had also just read Galimoto and discussed the art of making things out of found objects. It wasn't a galimoto, but we made duct tape wallets for the other kids as well. (I sent out an email to the other mother and asked for her kids' favorite colors. We used that information to plan the colors for the both the tie-dye and the  duct tape wallets.)

In return, Sweetling and Toa received books picked from some of the other childrens' favorites (Toa of Boy got "The Activity Handbook" which he is already picking activities from. Sweetling got a larger collection of favorite novels, which I'm sure she'll devour.) They also got some fun items, like a watermelon-scented pencil made from 100% recycled newspaper, a squishy monkey, and a plush monkey as "bigger than Peach Boy!"

Books were a theme amoung the adults too, since I gave out some books from my bookshelf, along with bookmarks for each person done in chalk pastels. (I realized on the way to the party that I hadn't photographed them yet, so the following photos were taken with the bookmarks on my hat, on my lap, in a moving car, with a flash that reflected off the plastic laminate I used to try to protect the chalk pastels. I made 5 beautiful bookmarks, but only 2 of the photos are any good.)

The Gentle Giant gave out artwork as is the recipient of that art.

Other adult gifts included pocket knifes, still in their original boxes, given from the collection of a father who had passed away several years ago. The Jedi made "Absolutely Deep Dark" Chocolate Cookies from the Death by Chocolate cookbook.  I received a lovely angel statue for my collection and a beautiful warm wrap that I am snuggled in right now.

So how about you? Do you have a group of friend that you just didn't have the time, or the money, to get together with over the holidays? It's not too late for a Winter Gift Consortium! (And, it might be just the thing to chase away the dreary, cold days of winter.)

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