Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Fairy Godmother

I have the gift for gifts. For the most part, I find unique and personal presents my friends and family love. I’m not sure if it’s a talent or just a combination of caring, listening and a dash of creativity. Whatever it is, it’s a skill I’m glad I to have developed. I think most anyone can learn to do it. It sure comes in handy this time of year!

While I wish I could be like the Fairy Godmother or genie in a bottle and grant my loved ones three wishes, the title of this post refers to a business I used to dream of—a boutique where I’d make this gift giving talent a paid gig as an owner/gift consultant. It didn’t take long for me to figure out; it wouldn’t be half as much fun without the personal connection to the recipient.

Some of these gifts I have given stand out in my memory.

· Joyceisms for Tim - When I first reconnected with my childhood sweetheart, now husband, I was influenced by a dream for the first Valentine’s Day gift I gave him in 36 years. I got one of those beautiful wooden boxes from
Things Remembered, and I had engraved on the gold plate, Joyceisms for Tim. In the dream—the one that ultimately nudged me to look him up— he was a relationship book author. Tim was coming to a signing in my city where I’d see him for the first time in all those years. In his book, he wrote about me with great warmth as his foundational relationship. When he talked about someone doing things in his or her own inimitable style, he said it was to “Joyce it” after me. “Joyceisms” were things I had said or done that he found endearing. My Joyceisms in the wooden box were little typewritten slips of paper, rolled and banded into mini-scrolls. Each one is a reason why I love him. Under Joyceisms for Tim, I had engraved Valentine’s Day 1997. Not only does he enjoy them any day; he especially enjoys dipping into the box on days I’m crabby, when he’s wondering if I even like him!

· The Boundless Birthday Wish Box – This gift consists of a colorful, square box, the kind that can be found at stores like
Michael’s or Beverly’s. Inside are a small spiral notebook and a birthday candle. (Michaels sells them in tins for travel, with Happy Birthday literally written on the lid, and they’re only $1.) Lastly, I made a card in MS Publisher on my computer that explains what the Boundless Birthday Wish Box is all about. Why celebrate your birthday a measly once a year? Especially when it’s all about the candle and the wish?

This box contains all the materials to make magical wishes any day of the year. Directions on the inside of the card advise: (1) Use the spiral notebook to write down and date your wish, also creating a wish diary; (2) Prop the wish diary open with the candle in front of it. (3) Say the wish to yourself—light the candle; (4) Blow it out after the universe has time to absorb your desire; and (5) Check back now and then to see how many wishes have come true. Note them on the back of each wish sheet. This one-of-a-kind blessing box costs only $3-5 to make and is priceless to the recipient.

· The Duct Tape Basket – One year, I was at a loss about what to get my brother-in-law who works hard as a handyman. I stumbled across a wallet on Amazon made out of duct tape material. A spark went off in my brain, and soon I was searching for books on uses for duct tape. I found one that had all kinds of artsy and practical ideas of what you can do with this versatile material. I added the book, the wallet (with a $10 Home Depot gift card in it), and a roll of duct tape to the basket. He was thrilled.

· Chicago Hot Dog “Picnic in Winter” Basket – Tim and I come from Chicago, and there’s no dog like a Chicago dog. His sister and her husband met there long before we all moved to California. My sis-in-law had just talked recently about a hot dog stand she missed from the old days. This inspired me. I looked up the fixin’s and recipe for a Chicago dog. I found information online about the hot dog stand and its history, along with the general history of Chicago-style hot dogs. Along with the recipe card and the hot dog history in a presentation folder, I added everything but the dogs and buns—bottled green peppers, celery salt, relish, and an onion—and a grocery store gift card to buy the rest of the ingredients fresh. My special card suggested an indoor wienie roast in the dead of winter to remind them of the warmth of summer days when we usually eat hot dogs. How much fun would that quick dinner be in front of a roaring fire? I guess you could even roast the dogs over it.

I love gift baskets, as you can tell, and I’ve done a lot of different themes, including one called “Our Favorite Things,” spinning on
the tune from A Sound of Music. It contained all kinds of products and foods we particularly enjoy or find helpful like a jar opener and Goo Gone, that stuff that gets off those sticky price tags, or Downy Wrinkle Releaser, my favorite alternative to ironing. I always create a card that explains how it all fits together.

This year, I’m giving my sister- and brother-in-law a gift cluster I call Ménage à Tweet. (Nope, it has nothing to do with Twitter.) I found this wonderful bird feeder—a metal squirrel with bright orange leaves on the umbrella-style top. It caught my attention because my sister-in-law and I share a love for autumn. I’m including a package of gourmet birdseed. Finally, there’s a bottle of one of my favorite blend wines, Ménage à Trois by
Folie à Deux Winery. The card will explain that this is winter entertainment. You feed the birds that didn’t fly south for winter; then, you open up the wine, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show as their fine feathered visitors go nuts at this high-end bird diner. Husband, wife, and the birds—a Ménage à Tweet.

Since I have no real time to be your Fairy Godmother, feel free to use any and all of these ideas. However, I am going to offer a special holiday gift to my readers. If you’re stumped for a gift idea on your shopping list, Comment and tell me something about the person. I’ll give my wand a quick flick and offer you some suggestions! I’d also like to hear about unique gifts you have given or received.

In my next life, I’m coming back as Santa Claus. Ask me if I like Christmas …

Photo: I always knew that this Christmas ornament I have had for eons would be the model for the logo of The Fairy Godmother boutique. The motto: Your wish is my command. Here she is on a wand too big for her wings, britches—whatever!


LawTunes said...

Thanks for the great suggestions. May we humbly add that, if there is a lawyer or legal professional on your list, for only $14.95 you can get him or her one of indie music label LawTunes' (http://www.LawTunes.com) unique CDs of humorous, lawyer-created, law-related rock-and-roll songs: "Merry Lexmas From The Lawtunes," "The Lawyer's Holiday Humor Album," "Legal Holidaze," and "The Lawtunes: Live At Blackacre." Further information and sample clips are available at http://www.LawTunes.com. Thanks again and Happy (Legal) Holidays to You!

Joyce Mason said...

LawTunes, checked out your clips, and the CDs sound like so much fun, I wish I had a lawyer on my list. Hope it might inspire some other readers who do. I'm happy to make this post a swap for unique holiday gift ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Beverly Mahone said...


When my daughter was 10, I gave her several boxes filled with clues which she had to solve It was cool because it ended up being an all day affair and with each clue we laughed and reminicsed about the previous year and we grew just a little bit closer. Plus she was searching all over the house to put the missing "clues" together.

She ended up getting her first computer that year--and even today she remembers the gift by the "clues."

Joyce Mason said...

Beverly, what a wonderful memory and idea! Thanks for sharing.

Pam Archer said...

And I thought I was creative! You win the award for best gifts, girlfriend!

Every year, I do something very sentimental for my daughters. One of their favorite ones was about 3 years ago.

My mother, their grandmother passed away in 1982. She was an award winning cook. I got her dough board, rolling pin, sifter, a dipper that she gave water to the grandchildren in, a bell collection, and my grandmother's deviled egg dish.

I wanted to pass these items along to my daughters while I am still alive. I prayed and prayed about what to give to each of them. The oldest daughter loves to cook and entertain. I gave the rolling pin and dough board to her. I wrote a letter telling her why I was giving those particular things to her.

My second daughter I gave the sifter and the egg dish. She has really been through the fire of refinery in her life, and her letter contained how God had allowed her to be sifted to produce the beautiful heart she has today. I elaborated on the egg dish, too.

The youngest daughter got the dipper and the bell collection, because she was the last grandchild to drink from it. Mother would hold her (Mother died when Abby was 1 year old) and let her ring every bell. I relayed some stores in her letter as well.

They know that they will get something every year, and it is their favorite gift.

This year it will be their mother's (me)first book. They do not know that I have dedicated it to them. I'm just praying it will be here by then. We are cutting the publication very close.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Pam. I just love doing it. Still, those sentimental heirloom gifts you have been giving your daughters--that is the best! Especially laced with meaning. Crossing fingers on the books arriving on time. I'm sure your daughters will be thrilled. I would be!

Eileen Williams said...

Dearest Joyce,

I can so easily see you as a Fairy Godmother! Your spirit is such an amazing blend of caring and creativity, and coming up with special gifts for your circle of friends and family would be right up your alley.
Thanks for your wonderful ideas and suggestions. You've sparked my own creativity and, believe me, it needed it!

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Eileen. That made my day. I love being a "sparkler"--as much as I love playing Santa.

Melodieann said...

I always try to do unique personal gifts for those close to me but I must admit my creativity was in low gear this year. You have given me some fuel for the creative fire. Thanks!

On the subject of ideas, I did something last year for my daughter that she loves. Then one day as we were planning Christmas dinner, she made the comment of how she always looks forward to Christmas Eve when we do the traditional Czech dinner and that she only hopes she can learn to make all the food so she can continue the tradition. It made me realize that I learned how to do this from Baba but that the recipes aren't actually written down anywhere. I started writing them in a notebook for her, when the idea hit me. I took all of our favorite family recipes and then contacted her mother-in-law and had her send me some of their traditional family favorites. I put them all together in a scrapbook complete with pictures of the family during special holidays and added little memories from each of them (like her first Christmas in Hawaii and how she was wondering how we would decorate a palm tree - since there aren't any "Christmas" trees there). I left some blank pages for her to add some family favorites of her own. She loves it and says she intends to keep adding to it and hand it down to her own daughter one day.

Joyce Mason said...

Melodieann, this post has sparks flying! First, I love the idea that you created this personalized family recipe book for your daughter. My sister who died this year was a fabulous cook, and you reminded me not to neglect on the back burner (no pun intended!) a project to put together a book of her recipes for the extended family. Second, I forgot you are of Czech ancestry. I am a quarter on my birth mom's side, although with the many shifting borders in former Czechoslovakia, our ancestral village of Kista is now in Slovakia. Even though I had 15 years with her after our reunion in 1986, I never tapped Helen for any of those ethnic recipes. If you want to share a fave or two offline with me, I would be thrilled! Third, when I was seeking my birth families and discovered my interesting ethnic blend (also Hungarian and Greek), I immersed myself into learning about the cultures of those countries. During the holiday season when I first started seeking to find my families, I discovered Ryba's Czech Christmas Mass. This upbreat, raucous piece says yes to life for me! If you don't already know it, "Czech" it out. It's a treasure from our gene pool.

rosie said...

I love gifts that go beyond the non-creative act of pulling out the credit card. Although, that might be a real creative act these days.
However, thanks for helping us to take a look at "outside the box" gift ideas.
I would love to work with a group to do hospital.nursing home and senior site visits for the morning of Christmas. To deliver the gift of time.

PopArtDiva said...

These were great suggestions and very original!

I love the hot dog one - maybe because it's 4:30 pm and I haven't eaten all day, lol.

One year I made Memory Boxes for some close friends - I took small tins (like breath mint tins), covered them in all sorts of beads and trinkets (like those unmatched earrings we all have when we lose one of a pair?), teeny little toys - whatever was cute and small and glued them all over the boxes in themes. They make great little boxes for all sorts of things.

Joyce Mason said...

Leave it to Pop Art Diva to pop in with some great, creative gift-making suggestions! Speaking of odd earrings or ones I never wear, I just reconfigured my Christmas tree topper angel. I couldn't get her to plug into the light set of our pre-lit tree. So I disassembled her "torch," one of those Italian Christmas lights. Instead, I decorated her wings and dress with all my odd and never worn sparkly earrings. Now the lights pick up her fake bling, and she looks better than ever. Extreme Makeover, Christmas angel style, LOL!

Thanks for an idea of what to do with all those tins I save.

Joyce Mason said...

Rosie, I agree the gift of time is the greatest gift we can give. I'd like to reconfigure my life to do more of that. Sometimes all a person needs to feel a whole lot better is a smile and the presence of caring people. Thanks for such an important reminder.

Debbie said...

G'Day Joyce,

I can't wait to know you better,judging by what I have been reading- these clever ideas for gifts, are obviously one example of your creative mind!


Debbie Stevens

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for such a nice comment, Debbie. I'm thinking of having "The Fairy Godmother" visit annually so we can swap gift ideas each holiday season.