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Letter from the Editor: The Perfect Gift Answered

Is it just me, or does it seem like time speeds up around the holidays? It doesn’t matter where I’ve been in life, time seems to enter a sucking vortex towards the end of the year. Every year I have plans to be more clever, more efficient, more thoughtful when it comes to the holidays, and each year I hear myself getting snappier and more impatient with the demands made upon me. “A Christmas list? I don’t have time to think about what you could give me to make my life easier!” That’s right, I’m an ungrateful troll.

So in an attempt to keep this holiday-troll at bay, I make lists. I gather supplies. I get excited about what I can make for friends and family, and I set out to learn whole new skill sets to accomplish my goals. This year, a laser-etched arduino-powered cribbage board with hand-carved pegs! Knit socks in decadent colorways for everyone in the family! Infused liqueurs with home-grown fruits and herbs! But let’s face it, last year, I taught myself crochet so I could make a friend a beautiful sampler afghan. It’s almost done! It’s right next to half a sock I started knitting the year before. Oh, and I don’t grow fruit.

Still, every year I pride myself in how this year I will make simple gifts for family and friends. I will eschew consumerism! I will not fall prey to deep discounts and crowded malls. I will not find myself waiting by door to accept delivery. And yet, come December 24, you’re likely to find me trying to hide my face in the endless queue at whatever store is still open at midnight, arms rammed full of manufactured goods that no one really needs or will remember, promising myself that next year I will start in May!

Let’s get real.

I didn’t start in May. I will probably never start in May. But maybe one day, I will learn how to think mindfully about the holidays and what they mean to me. I will think about my loved ones and what they mean to me. I will simplify and know that it is enough. I will learn that it is for the best of everyone that I find time to breathe and to let go. One thing no one wants for the holidays is a cranky troll – I have at least learned that.

To be honest, I don’t remember the gifts I receive from year to year. What I remember is the time I get to spend with friends and family. So this year I will try to make myself a simple gift: the gift of time. Time away from a computer, away from responsibility, away from my self-imposed pressures. Time to spend with my loved ones. After all, isn’t that the best gift we can give?

Ok, I’m still going to make something for everyone I can. I mean, c’mon, it’s what I do! But reflecting on this helps me remember the point. So how do you handle the holidays?


I like shopping for Christmas gifts, but I hate doing it at Christmas - crowds, rush. I prefer to keep a weath eye open all year, and buy stuff that is a combination of cool, impractical and right for the recipient.

Even worse, though, is being asked what I want.

I don't know, and I don't care.

I'm not in it for the loot, just give me a card or buy me a bottle of beer. I only wanted one thing special, and Kitewife has bought it for me (and left it in the bedroom, sealed in its box!).

For the rest, let's just get together, eat an indecent amount, drink slightly too much, and enjoy each other's company.

Sounds like a plan. When can I expect your arrival in Pennsylvania? ;-)

One day, one day, I will spend the entire summer vacation driving around the US, dropping in on iblers.

One day.

Remember to bring some decent draught as I doubt I will ever be able to make the trip there.

If "they" let me bring it through customs...

I had a nephew bring back one bottle of the cheapest (and it wasn't cheap by our standards) beer he could find on his trip to Germany. He had tried one and didn't like it, but then, you could actually TASTE it's hops and barleys :-)

I love the supermarkets at Christmas time, they always do deals on bottle conditioned real ales, last year some were down from almost £2.00 a bottle to as little as 99p ($3.14 to $1.56) that is for a full pint of proper beer with real flavour & no chemicals.
Now that is what I call a perfect Christmas gift ;-)
Next year once we have the house properly organized I will have to get to making some ale at home ready for the summer BBQs & the Christmas holidays.

Yeah, too many people here in the USA are spoiled and don't like the taste of things.
Real beer, real chocolate, etc.
tis getting hard to find anything over here that isn't semi-bland or watered down.

Even the last bottle of Guiness I had over here, apparently was "Americanized" grrrr. The first taste of it I had back in 1980 or so actually had some taste (and color) to it. The best we can get now are from the micro-breweries that don't cater to the numbed taste bud crowd.

One of the first things I did when we had our pub was put up a bookcase for the customers to use on a bring & borrow basis.
As a thank you for something they had been asking to have for about five years one of the customers brought me a book in which had genuine recipies from uk brewers such as Church End, Fullers, Wychwood, Shepherd Neam etc.
When I left the pub it somehow got left behind as I used to keep it behind the bar, I will try to pop in sometime to pick it up & let you have the ISBN number for it, perhaps you could get hold of a copy & surprise you friends with some home brewed beer that actually has a flavour

That would be awesome. I haven't tried in years though (I was in my late teens  with my first and only attempt, and for an uninstructed first try, it wasn't so bad (if you don't mind flat beer LOL).

The trouble is, the only place I was able to get barley and hops extracts cheaply, has gone by the wayside (no longer in business).  Since there are microbreweries around I suppose they are still obtainable, but I wonder how far out of my price range that would be.

I still remember that I bought my own polyurethane trash can for the process, sterilized it with boiling water, and the contraption I set up to siphon off "clear" beer, and not get so much of the yeast along with it, I made.  Memories. over 32 years ago actually. . .

I asked a friend who goes to our old pub to check for me today & it seems the book is out with one of the customers.
He is a long time member of CAMRA http://www.camra.org.uk/ & suggested this one
Brew your own British Real Ale. By Graham Wheeler.
Publisher: Storey Communications (Oct 1998)
ISBN-10: 1580171028
ISBN-13: 978-158017102
I looked up the details on Amazon.co.uk
I couldn't remember the title of the one I had but I think this may be the same book, either way it comes highly recommended from a CAMRA member who has made quite a few of them & is quite fussy about his beers.
Having had a look at the index I can say there are A LOT of really good ales in it, looking through them I partially remember many a good evening spent with some of them especially Timothy Taylor Landlord & Hook Norton Old Hookey.
If you do give any of them a try let me know how you get on.

Ok, will do. It might be awhile though, with things as they are at home right now. Thank you for taking the time to look up all that.

"Brew beer" is on my to-do list.

See my answer to Kevpvc999 above :-)

I for one love crowds! I like being pushed against the wall as people come by. Even if I don't want anything, I still want to go to the Black Friday 4am Mall rush!

You could just say I don't want a present.
It works...

I heard someone say that the best gift is your presence not your presents....and it's true. Like you, I can't remember what I got for Christmas, but I treasure the time I spent with my Grandma, eating tamales. This year, my little family is staying home and giving my 2 year old all of our attention as she opens her gifts. Merry Christmas.


7 years ago

Usually at least one person in my family will receive a handmade gift. The rest will get a manufactured gift that I picked very carefully. Eventually, everyone will get something I made. I know that I don't have time for more than that, and I assume they know it, too.

One other rule my wife and I decided on is that gifts to our kids from Santa should be things we made ours(elves). See what I did there? Yeah, clever. Anyway, whether it's something knit or cut out of wood, it'll be hand-made. Eventually they'll figure it out, and I hope the impact is dramatic!

Great idea! Definitely gonna do that with my kids.

Honestly, I am not the most Christmas-y person, I'm not religious or present crazed. I tend to make baked goods for every all my coworkers (which includes most of my friends) and only exchange a present with my partner at the time. :)

His present last year, might I also boast, was a handmade quilt. It was beautiful and I didn't have to buy anything for it. :D

This year I would like to sew up small presents for friends, but I am unsure what to make. Maybe bags for my best friends and mom?

I really only buy gifts for my two nephews, and I get them where I work... a used media shop. Success!

I agree, but for other reasons.
Like I stated below, I don't shop from Thanksgiving to Dec 25th unless it is something I have run out of (food or meds, for instance).

Nevertheless, the last 3 months of the year DO seem like a vortex sucking my life faster and faster down that down side of the roller-coaster ride.

When January comes, I have no vacation left, and I can focus. I try to make "EVERY" day count, (and not "wish it were Friday" so that I only float through the Mon-Thurs period) but I rather seem to slow time down with this attention paid to detail. I try to become aware of as much as possible and notice things. January can take up the first 3 months of the year (sensory wise) since I lost the last three to what felt like a single week of time at the end of the year).

I find it invigorating and different. By July/August though it is hard to maintain.

I have a nice large cedar chest in my bedroom. I shop year round for Christmas and birthdays. If I see something that I think is perfect for someone and within my price range, I buy it and in the gift chest it goes. I have had years in which I made something as simple as winter hats for everyone in my family (some hat patterns only take about an hour or two so it is possible to get quite a few done last minute). Next year, I think everyone may get a pair of hand knit socks since I have scored an awesome batch of lovely, soft alpaca wool. If I start in January, then I should have enough made by the time December rolls around. I find that having a place to stash these gift items throughout the year as I wait for holidays and birthdays to roll around makes a huge difference in budgeting my time for gift purchasing/making. Before that cedar chest came into my life, I was a last minute shopper.

Really? I do that too in a way. Only not with a chest, I use an unused closet in the back bedroom/library. January is probably my busiest "shopping" month, rather than December.

I actually started in July. I bought some items that were on sale at the time. I've started working on a few projects. But being in college and having virtually zero tools/resources, I've still found myself unprepared. I spent all of my home visits making but only found time to finish half of the projects I had planned. So I will have four days after classes end to get home and finish everything before I get my wisdom teeth pulled and can't drive or do anything useful. I'm still gonna try though.