Homemade Gift Exchange, take 2

Christmas has now come and gone. The tree is still up but the presents have all been exchanged, the paper torn off and discarded in a pile. The bows have been stashed for re-use the next year. The pressure to finish all the projects RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW is gone. I still haven’t managed to give out only handmade gifts for Christmas, the way I would like, but this year is the closest I’ve ever come to that goal.

As previously mentioned, I made a wall quilt menorah for Mel and some homemade slippers for Courtney. The second round of homemade gift-giving took place on Christmas Eve when a bunch of my friends came to my house to join in the fun of Cheese-and-Cracker Night.

Now, Cheese-and-Cracker Night might not sound like too big of a deal right off the bat but I don’t want you to have any doubt in your mind about it. It most certainly is a big deal. Well, in some ways it is. I mean there is a bit of preparation that goes into it. We’re just not talking about the same kind of preparation as, say, a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. At its most basic, Cheese-and-Cracker Night is exactly what its name implies. It is an evening where my family sets out an assortment of cheeses and spreads and dips, summer sausage, about six different varieties of crackers (this year we had Triscuits – both Roasted Garlic and Regular, Club, Ritz, Wheat Thins, and the ever-popular Chick’n in a Biscuit), little cocktail weenies in barbeque sauce, veggies and, thanks to LeeAnn, chips and spicy hummus.

The cheese is all sliced and put out on holiday trays and the like and people are free to wander in and out of the dining room area, loading their plate with nibbles, and sit down wherever they like to eat. There is no set gathering time other than “when everything is finished.” And even that is kind of open for negotiation. The television usually gets turned off completely during the evening (you’re more likely to find someone watching it nowadays but I remember the years past when it was almost a mandate that it stay off) and everyone groups around the table and talks. Later, the table is cleared a little to make room for playing games. Usually it’s a game of Trivial Pursuit (I have yet to win against my father but there was one year when I came really close) or Apples to Apples. This year the game of choice was Taboo.

My friends and I took a break between eating and playing to exchange the last bit of gifts. I’d only managed to make homemade items for Maggie and Chris, LeeAnn’s girlfriend. Maggie’s gift is still kind of underwraps to all of you out there in reader land – don’t worry, you’ll find out what it was eventually. Chris was the recipient of some very nice, fuzzy red fleece pajama pants. Remember how I was trying to make things mainly from what was in my stash? Well, there I was, rushing around my basement trying to find anything that had enough yardage for the pattern and was comfy and nice enough to be used for pajamas. I was standing in my computer room, trying to think of what I might have tucked away and my eyes fell on the red fleece. I had folded it and put it away and then completely forgotten about it.

I didn’t even know how much I had of it but when I pulled it out and unfolded it I knew that I’d have no problem having enough fabric to complete the pattern. Gathering the waistband with the elastic was a bit problematic, simply because fleece tends to be bulky when it’s not gathered. When I finished the final stitch and held up the finished product…I squeed. They turned out really cute, and they’re really soft and, I must admit, I was a bit tempted to keep them myself. But they were a gift and so went into a box (barely fit!) and were wrapped.

Maggie made part of my Christmas gift this year, as well. She used what she had on hand in her “workshop”…there are leftover leaves from her Pan


costume, remnant fabric from making a hat for a forum friend a few years back, what looks like bits from my Po costume, and a plastic bit that came off of something from work. Over the years our pins have mingled, so she went through her pile and pulled out the ones that looked like mine. They’re in his feet! She said it took about five minutes to make him and knew as soon as she finished that she was going to give it to me.

It makes me laugh every time I see it, so it was clearly a job well done.

I’m convinced there’s a market for those, as well. Certain people really need to open their own Etsy shop. ::raises eyebrow and looks at three people in particular:: You know who you are.

Christmas the next morning meant the final handmade items. Dad got a cd that came out of the work I did at a folklife archive over the course of four months. I somehow managed to put a song on it that he hadn’t heard in YEARS. It ended up being one of the coolest things I’ve managed to do. Joey’s quilt was the last thing to be opened. He kept unfolding it, trying to see the actual design. He had to stand up and lift the whole thing up before he could see what the top looked like. It’s on his bed now, directly across from the purple curtains I made for him. Now he’s one step closer to having an entirely purple room, and one quilt the warmer.


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