Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Handmade's Tale

The most meaningful gifts I've ever received are those that are handmade. A lifesize doll, pewter ornaments, a wooden music box, my quilt, hand-knit scarves, framed artwork, photographs, and poetry are just some of the cherished homemade gifts I've received - and loved - over the years. Thinking about ways to make Christmas more meaningful this year, I decided that our gift theme would be "Made from the heart."

In October, I gathered all the necessary supplies for making glorious gifts: wooden boxes, canvases, picture frames, paints, photos, mod-podge, and more. I spent several afternoons working with each boy to create beautiful gifts for each other. Leo and Aidan each made small trinket boxes for each other, carefully painting, then decorating the outside of each box. Aidan wrote sweet notes to Leo to put in his box, and I scribed a list of "wonderful things about Aidan" for Leo to put in the box he was making for Aidan. The older boys painted picture frames for Pax, then created pictures to go in the frames. I finished all of the frames and boxes with a protective coating. The end result was like lots of kid projects: the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Another afternoon, the boys created gorgeous and original notecards for extended family and friends with cardstock, liquid starch, acrylic paint, and a water bath. Each notecard was beautiful in its design, the colors either vibrant and bright or light pastels. After they had dried and I pressed them flat, I divided them into piles of four and added the envelopes to go with them. There was not a single one among them that was unattractive - each was unique and special.

In November, I took the boys to the Glass Palette to create fused glass art for my parents and for Jeff. Working together, they made two of the most gorgeous abstract art ornaments you've ever seen - not to mention, the experience itself was so much fun!

Jeff helped Aidan create a beautiful Christmas plate for me - Aidan had seen how upset I was after two (!!) of my beloved Christmas plates (decorations, not used for food) got broken. He set out to re-create the Christmas tree surrounded by holly, and the result is, dare I say? -- better than the Spode original. (though I still regret that the Spode was shattered). Leo made the sweetest mug for me, adorned with a colorful rainbow, a heart, his name carefully printed, and two of his famously cute people drawn on it.

Pax helped with the fused glass art (and the projects for me as well) in the way he knows best - staying out of the way - but even he got to make a gift for his older brothers. He chose his favorite picture of all three boys and carefully mounted it to a piece of cardstock. Then, he painstakingly handprinted two sides of the picture with his acrylic painted hands and asked me to write "Best Brothers Ever - Hands Down!" below the photograph. The framed masterpiece was fantastic.

Meanwhile, Jeff and I were also hard at work on our own homemade gifts. (Oddly, we chose not to do homemade gifts for each other this year, although we've frequently done them in the past. But we certainly enjoyed all the time we spent working on and collaborating with each other on the projects!) Jeff had found these Nature Collages in a catalog, and we instantly knew how much the boys would love them. Instead of purchasing them, Jeff crafted them himself, and they turned out beautifully. For my own part, I made each boy a cute and cozy fleece hat, complete with funky prints and pom poms.

The project I am most proud of, however, is the cookbook-storybook I created, with Jeff's help, titled Betty Eater's The Joy of the Table. Quite simply, it is a collection of recipes, each of which includes a rich story behind it. There's the "Four Generation Banana Bread," the "Rattlesnake Pasta," and the "How I Met Your Father Soup." In addition to writing, rewriting, editing, and finalizing each story, I also cooked or baked each recipe in the book and carefully photographed each dish. I have a whole new appreciation for food photographers - it was hard work getting the food to look good! The end result is something I hope will be cherished and enjoyed by the recipients of the book; I certainly enjoyed the time I spent making the gift. (How wonderful, too, to discover a gift under the tree quite coincidentally for "Betty Eater" - a handmade apron from my mother!)

The mod-podge has left residue on our kitchen counters; the acrylic paint stained a few shirt sleeves (and Pax's pajamas!); there were some minor injuries in the sewing and hammering; but the cost of the gifts we gave? Priceless.

"If as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary? For each one of us there is a desert to travel, a star to discover and a being within ourselves to bring to life."
(Source Unknown)

1 comment:

gthiele said...

Loved this "tale" and could feel the joy in all the gifts.
The quote is wonderful too !!