I think that one of the reasons I was so excited to give handmade gifts to my family members this year is that I really enjoy receiving gifts crafted by their giver. Additionally, when purchasing gifts my choice has hardly ever been spot on (except for that one year that I bought my sister Megan glitter glue sticks), but handmade items always seem more personal, so even if you weren't writing to Santa for a chicken made of a sweater, you know that someone was really thinking of you anyway.
This year Nathanael and I received a lot of really neat gifts from our families, and four of them were particularly special to us because they were made and not purchased.
#1 Painting from my Mom
My Mom is an artist, and now that all three of her daughters are out of the house and safely on their way she has had a little time to get back into painting. I was very glad when some time last year she told me that she would be taking a painting class. I am sure that she would have done fine on her own, but this particular painting class not only would have the motivating factor of homework and weekly meetings, but the wisdom of an 82 year old man who is a spry enthusiast about oil painting. (I have heard that he is also on facebook.) He is not timid about his opinion or about making his students re-do something good because he knows they can make it much better, and because of this my Mom has a painting of a Native American woman that she has repainted at least three times--my Dad is starting to tease her about it--but she is really glad to be learning. For Christmas she gave this oil painting of a Japanese vase that goes perfectly against the red wall of our living room. I am proud of my Mom.
#2 Traveling spice kit from my Dad
My Dad is a wonderful cook. He has catered 2 events a year for our church for many years and sometimes when I have hung around with other young adults they have mentioned that he is the best cook they have met. It's probably true. But not only is my Dad a fantastic chef, he is also the boy scout of cooking. No situation will stand in the way of delicious meals, not mountain climbing or camping or visiting foreign kitchens. For many years he would try to anticipate his spice needs and mix things in jars ahead of time, but recently he began to bring an assortment of his favorite spices along in small labeled bags so that he would have more room for creativity. This Christmas, however, I received the fantastic prototype for his traveling spice kit. Someday he hopes to sell them with some of his secret spice mixes (notice the one labeled Pawilla steak in the bottom left corner). I can't wait to go camping.
#3 Ceramic mug from Gabriel
Nathanael and I drink a lot of tea, and that we have moved somewhere cold we probably consume even more of it. Nathanael's brother, Gabe, made us a mug that has perfect proportions and coordinates with our earth tone clothing tenancies. I have been using it almost every day since Christmas.
#4 Photo album from Melissa and Michael
My sister Melissa and her husband Melissa were so wonderful to Nathanael and I before our wedding. Not only did they help us with every detail they could, but they hosted our entire wedding party and our musicians in their house for the days leading up to it. With all of our friends surrounding us as we making our preparations, a busy time turned to one of our favorite weeks to remember. I don't think I took a single picture during that week, but Melissa and Michael took some of every activity, even the cake flippings. We are so excited to have some pictures to remind us of all the fun.