COLUMN: Consider your talents when deciding on gifts

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Christmas is creeping up on us and I know many of you have not quite finished your shopping.
Money and time may be factors and I’m here to give you a few inexpensive ideas for gifts from the heart.
You’re on your own for finding the time.
Handmade gifts can range from third-grader art projects to museum quality items, depending on your talent and, just like in gardening, some folks have a black thumb. While I can’t draw or paint, and my woodworking skills resemble a Lincoln Logs meets Superglue disaster, I can cook.
My brother’s family loves cinnamon rolls, even the ones out of a can, so the bar isn’t too high. However, I have a wonderful recipe that I can make ahead and freeze. I’ll take two trays to Indiana, one for Christmas morning and one for them to enjoy later. I already know they’ll become a yearly ritual, just like my jars of green beans that they clamor for every year.
I’m also making jars of dried tomatoes with cloves of garlic sprinkled throughout. These will go to my family members who love to cook. The trick with giving homemade gifts is to know what they love. It doesn’t matter that the gift won’t last for many years, like socks.
If you want a gift that will last, try a calendar. You don’t even have to make it. Buy a nice one and write all the birthdays and anniversaries on it for them before you give it. Baskets filled with favorite items is also another easy make. You can even pick a theme. Books, body care and gardening come to mind.
If you’re not technically challenged, you can buy a digital photo frame or ornament and load it with all those favorite Kodak moments. If your budget is really tight, give your time. One of my most favorite gifts is a simple card that included a promise that gives me a day of being waited on hand and foot. If you’re overly energetic, make it house cleaning or car waxing.
The point is that we all have talents and everyone has loves. The trick is in putting the two together for a Christmas to remember. I hope we will also remember that this is the time of the winter solstice.
Many of our Christmas traditions come from the celebration of the winter solstice. It’s the time when the earth begins it’s new cycle of the seasons. My Norwegian ancestors hung apples as ornaments on their evergreens, to remind them that spring and summer will come again. Scandinavians called this time of year Yuletide, and it celebrated the return of the sun, since the days start to get longer after the solstice.
I’ll be doing a takeoff of one of my ancestral traditions, the yule log. The log was the hard center of the trunk of a tree. It was put in the fireplace where it was burned for 12 days. Slightly green hardwood does take forever to burn, so I’ll just mix some with my regular firewood in the wood stove. It’ll be toasty warm inside and cold outside — just the right combination.
Now, the radio is playing Christmas music and as I write, it’s even snowing outside.
If that doesn’t get you in the mood for making gifts I don’t know what will. Remember to be thankful for making it through the year and thoughtful for the brighter days (literally) ahead of us.
Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.