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Family Gift Themes

Make memories, make it affordable, and pop out of a rut when your family swaps gifts this year.

Studio 5 Contributor Shelli Christiansen, from Needle in a Haystack Stitchery, suggests four gift-giving themes that promote unity, memories and laughter.

With the Christmas Holiday just ahead, many of you have already begun your Christmas shopping and preparations! When it comes to exchanging gifts, what are your traditions? Do you give to everyone in the family? Do you exchange individual or family names? For those who participate in a family gift exchange, the pressure to find just the right gift can be stressful. Where to begin? What to buy? I find I often resort to one of three gifts when I can't figure out what to buy for my chosen individual: a DVD, a gift card, or a game. Any of those gifts are great, but perhaps lacking in a bit of originality on my part!

This holiday season, however, you can add a little punch to your family gift exchange by creating a new tradition of choosing a theme on which to base your gift-giving. Having a theme can provide your family with a jumping-off point when it comes to making gift-giving choices, and can enhance and promote originality and creativity. In addition, the yearly themes create great memories as you reminisce about the funny or meaningful items that were exchanged. We have for you four themes that will hopefully provide you with some gift-giving inspiration!

1. A Recycled Christmas

The struggling economy has touched all of us to some extent, and of course, it is ever-popular right now to "go green". What a perfect theme in which to be frugal and channel your inner ingenuity! My sister's family recently used this theme, and included a little poem as a guideline: "Something bottled, something baked, something old that you remake." In addition, they determined that any of the "re-" words would be acceptable: re-cycle, re- purpose, re-furbish, re-use, re-make, and even re-gift! My sister sewed pajama pants for each of her grandchildren using recycled t-shirts; and created drawstring bags from old t-shirts as well. One of her daughters received too many bath towels for her wedding, and re-gifted them to a sibling along with a gift card to Bath and Body Works. Others baked delicious goodies for each other. Of course, your local thrift store is a gold mine when it comes to finding things to repurpose, as well as And don't forget to look in the "free" section there! The saying is true: "One man's trash is another man's treasure!"

Some additional inspiration for you:

*Display Shelves: using an "L" bracket and some old books, create unique display shelves for special trinkets and treasures. Great gift for someone to place in a den or kids' room!

*Message Board: Paint an old frame and spray-glue fabric or scrapbook paper to a section of cardboard that fits the frame. Place it under the glass, add hooks and wire to the front if desired for hanging notes or photos. Use a dry erase marker for messaging. Darling gift!

*Serving Trays: It is such fun to serve cupcakes and treats on a darling tray. I found this tray at D.I. and could see that it had potential, but needed a little updating. I simply painted it black and Mod Podged fabric to the bottom surface and sprayed with polyurethane.

You can also paint an old frame, add drawer pulls to the edges for handles, and place a fabric or patterned paper panel under the glass. Easy and so cute for serving up a sweet gift! The internet is chock-full of unique repurposed items to give you inspiration!

2. As Seen on TV

This exchange theme can get a little crazy, but that's what makes it so fun. Haven't we all wondered how well the Shamwow really works, or if a Snuggie is really as cozy as it's made out to be? Any guy would love the Tool Bandit, right? This theme gives you permission to buy something completely practical, or utterly ridiculous, and everyone will think it's fantastic! And fortunately, many of these products are sold at Wal-Mart or Wal-greens, as well as the internet, so finding them should be fairly easy.

3. My Favorite Things

I really love this theme, and it varies enough that families could use it from year to year. The idea behind this theme is for the givers to give items that are their current favorites. Do you have a new favorite book or CD? A new hobby? A fabulous recipe you've stumbled upon? A favorite activity that you'd love to give away tickets to? What a great way to get to know the individuals in the family and to share items and activities that are important to one another!

4. Treasures that Tell a Story

In each of our homes, we have treasures or trinkets that are special to us or that have a story behind them. What a beautiful gift to find a way to present these items to a family member.

*Shadow Box Displays: Use trinkets and photos to create one-of-a-kind displays that hold fond memories of loved ones.

*Costume Jewelry: My niece made this stunning display for her father in law out of his mother's old jewelry when she passed away. Create the outline of the tree or shape on velvet with necklace chains and fill in with the assorted jewelry using glue like E-6000 and frame. Gorgeous!

*Recipes: Is there a family recipe that has been handed down over the years? What about making up a plate of the yumminess and writing up the recipe to be handed down once again? Recipe books also tell great stories of the meals and recipes that are important to a family. One of my favorite gifts was the year my hubby gathered all of my old, worn, misshapen recipe cards and printed them onto uniform cards and organized them into a binder.

*Quilts: When my mother passed away, she had bags and boxes full of sorted and organized fabric scraps that she was sure she would use again someday. My siblings and I couldn't bear to throw them out! So instead, we began using them to create quilts. We have laughed together as we reminisce about the fabrics we remember having dresses, prom gowns, or doll clothes made out of. These quilts have truly become treasures that tell many stories.

*I cried this past Mother's Day when I opened one of my gifts from my hubby. He outdid himself again with a simple, yet sophisticated gift that I love. He gathered photos of my parents, grandparents, and children, and created a pictorial pedigree chart in Photoshop for me and had it framed. I love that my children can regularly see and remember who their ancestors are. Whatever theme you choose, it is sure to leave your family with warm and fond feelings as you make some unique memories over the holiday season!

Download patterns for Shelli's stitching ideas here:

Ho Ho Ho tea towels: ts-christmas-in- july-free-christmas.html

"Grace" shadowbox pattern: embroidery-patterns

Find and follow Shelli at

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