Monday, October 12, 2009

Can you believe Christmas is just over 10 weeks away?

Neither can I! Last year, I sent out a request to friends and family to kindly limit how many gifts they brought for our children, and I set out guidelines that helped steer them towards things that would be appreciated. I felt a little awkward sending the request, however, I really wanted people to know we enjoy their company over the holidays more than what they bring with them, and as a mom of four kids, I often find myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we have in our house, so any opportunity to limit the amount of picking up I have to do is welcome, and besides, as we all know, kids don't need a lot of 'stuff' to find ways to amuse themselves!

So, do you want to know what I asked for?
  • gift certificates from the city of Ottawa. We enroll our kids in their aquatics programs, the girls have enjoyed city summer camps for a few years now, and we've signed the kids up for city soccer from four years old on -- to say this is money well-spent is an understatement!
  • movie tickets. My husband is a big kid at heart, and he loves to take the older kids to a good movie, a fabulous get-out-of-the-house-card we can play when the weather outside sucks.
  • annual museum memberships. We have enjoyed the Experimental Farm since Maddy was a baby, even now, eight years later, she still gets a thrill going! A yearly memberhsip to the Agricultural museum also gets you into the Museum of Science & Technology, and the Museum of Aviation.

We also asked people to avoid gifts that were made of plastic and/or required batteries, and we asked them to purchase goods made in North America. I know a lot of products are made overseas, but it is possible to find things made within North America, even made locally, for that matter.

When people come into the store looking for things we can't source, I often take a look on Etsy and point them in that direction. You've never heard of Etsy? It's a fabulous marketplace that connects crafters with buyers. We have a few staff members who sell their wares on Etsy, Melissa and Laura are both talented, creative seamstresses, you may have seen Grace rocking one of Laura's creations this summer in the shop. If you take a look at Etsy, you'll see there's a fabulous selection of one-of-a-kind handmade creations, many of which are sold at very reasonable prices (I'm often tempted to contact sellers and suggest they raise their prices, lol).

So, do you have any kid-friendly gift ideas you'd like to share that meet the above criteria? Maybe it's an Etsy shop, or perhaps you know someone who'll be selling their wares at one of the many local craft shows coming up in Ottawa (or elsewhere). If so, please post the details in the comments section of this blog entry, one random comment will be selected to win a Bamboline doll, one of Laura's handmade soft dolls we sell in the Ottawa shop.


  1. I am very fortunate to have very creative and crafty family members. When they ask what my daughter needs I suggest they make handmade things for her instead of buying her something. This year on our list are longies, cloth wipes, knitted hats, mitts, socks. For the family members that are like me and lack the creative genes I suggest to them going to local craft shows which are everywhere at Christmas time!

  2. I really want to make it to Ladyfest in Ottawa this year,

    I had dreams last year of making preserves for everyone, made a big batch of strawberry jam, and our family ate it all.... doh! I am not crafty, I just don't have the attention span for it, ask the half-finished waldorf doll sitting in my dining room!

    susie ;)

  3. We also try to tell our family to please not go overboard during the holidays. since we know ppl will be gift giving no matter what we often ask for the 'living gifts' that ten thousand villages offers

    they range from $20 to over $100 I believe and include
    things like seeds for one family to grow their
    vegetables, a goat or chicken, books for a
    childs education, etc.
    Last year my sister got my partner and I the seeds, it comes with a nice
    little note card telling you what your gift will provide.
    It's a great wayto teach kids too, about those less fortunate than us.
    Another great thing you can do is 'adopt a
    family' where your family picks another family in need and you purchase gifts for them, it often includes necessary items that family needs such as diapers, clothes, food vouchers, etc

    And of course books and CDs always make great gifts

  4. We like modular things. That is things that are easily added to what we already have. Things like train tracks, lego, duplo, playmobil, and costumes. This kind of toy also spans a wide age range and is adaptable to both boy and girl play styles.

    We also like consumables like paper, pencils, crayons, origami paper, pastels, paint, and other craft material.

    Our kids always get at least two books at Christmas.

    I've been trying to come up with a tactfull non insulting way to suggest less "stuff" at xmas...
    I love that xmas is about sharing time and lets face it - once you have kids it should be more about them...
    I'm with you - i look at our playroom sometimes and the amount of "stuff" makes me sad. Especially all the plastic stuff that I know eventually will end up in a landfill somewhere...
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of the city gift cert. (my parents bought our daughters Gymnastics class this year for her bday - and THAT was my fav. girft for her!
    ANYWAY - just wanted to say 1) I loved this post and 2) 10 weeks away - Where did the last year go?!?!??!

    PS. I'm new to your blog...and I LOVE it - I think it has some great valuable info!...You know whats recent blogs you've answered questions I've tried researching on google within that same week -

    Thank you :)


  6. You just scared me quite a lot with the Christmas count down! It is coming pretty soon and I already have my hands full with my two girls!

    You do have a point with the gifts. My home is full of toys that sometimes don't get any attention from my 2 years old girl. Relatives are starting to ask us for some suggestions ... but we just don't know what to ask! I would love to be able to ask for some clothing, shoes or organic food! Life is just expensive and my girls just grow up so fast that they need more of those "practical" and boring things more than an other toy that will end up in the basement!

    I will check out the links that you gave us! It's just great to help out local people or business.

    If I may suggest, there is a great toy store in Ottawa named Playvalue toys. They have a large range of toys for every age and the staff know their stuff! They now have an online store ... no need to face the christmas shopping crowds!

  7. Wohoo for christmas. :)
    I love christmas! I love the decorating, being with family and the chocolate that comes along with it :)

    As far as toys mine have sooo many that I usually just ask for clothing or books. Lilly loves books more than anything. I bought her a playhouse that I know she will love.

    Im sure she'll get some battery/plastic toys that will get played with for a bit and then left to collect dust.

  8. How is my house so full of toys - oh yes because of Christmas past. I have tried to limit gifts from some family (I usually ask for clothes - I give a size that is about 2 sizes too big so that they can grow into it) although some family just cannot resist and buy way too much (for my daughter's third birthday she received 17 - yes seventeen - bags/boxes from one cousin. Why would buying the Little Tykes kitchen be enough, doesn't everyone need the 101 piece accessory set as well as a toaster, extra stainless steel pot set and other things - remember she turned 3). Although what I find strange, my daughter always gets way more than my son (everyone loves to give girl clothes but not boys, therefore my daughter gets three outfits and my son will get one shirt).

    I usually try to be very specific, underwear comes up every year. I ask some people for money to buy the kids shoes and boots (I love to be practical with some people) or to apply to activities - wow 4 year old ballet is expensive.

    One place I find great to buy for kids and adults if the Third World Bazaar. It is not local, although the artists are paid fairly for their work. That is where I bought from last year. This year - Maple Landmark - I'm glad that you will now have their products in stock.


  9. I am asking for winter outdoor fun stuff. Last year we got new skates. This year I want mimiTENS for my girls. I'm hoping that I will spend less time fixing mitts with them.

  10. We are going to give the 3 R’s a try! Reduce - the amount of packaging at the curb by buying used – which takes care of Reuse. Recycle – well, not sure about this one – any ideas? We have already bought some kids toys off Kijiji, and will be antique shopping over the coming weeks!

  11. I am hoping to make it to Craftilcious to do some Xmas shopping. It is being held Sat. Nov 14 @ 217 First Ave. (St. Matthew's) in the Glebe.

    My husband and I are also to hoping to make a few gifts this year. A wooden sleigh and some personalised clothing are some to the items on the list.

  12. Thanks for the shout out, Susie. ;) A lot of us Etsy sellers are also happy to do custom work -- in fact, I often find my custom work more fun than the stuff I make to list.

    A few years back, I experienced Christmas burnout and decided things had to change. Now all our Christmas presents (with exception of stuff for kids because of wear and tear and safety) are bought used at antique or thrift stores, from local artisans, or made ourselves. It's a lot more fun for us, it's really not that hard to do, and I feel it embodies my take on "Christmas Spirit" more than going to the mall. ;)

    There are lots of great craft sales around. Laura and I will be at the W.O. Mitchell craft sale on November 21st. ;)

  13. Lots of great tips... but I've gotta give the doll to Briget, those mitts are pretty fabulous! E-mail to let me know when you can pick the doll up.

    susie ;)

  14. Where did you go?! I just found your blog and have been anxiously waiting for your next post...
    I am not a mom (yet, I hope) but for Christmas and other gift giving events, I always encourage presents that are either useful (I asked for a vacuum cleaner last year) or tickets/passes/fees to something someone likes to do, like ski lift tickets or a pottery course.

  15. we don't have a lot of extra money, so all aunts and uncles agree on gifts for children only. for adults, we spend our money on wine & food to share with one another. we keep a very strict limit on gift spending and commision our crafty friends for things they are good at.

    i have a toddlers, there is no time to be making lots of gifts, especially since i work full time. we turn old paintings into wrapping paper instead of making something new. for grandparents, we get pictures of all the grandkids and make calendars with all birthdays and anniversary's already added.

  16. One thing I usually do for the grandparents is an album with pics of the kids from the year. I did put the effort into making *two* completely different scrapbooks (big ones!) for the granparents one year, but that's simply too much work, it was insanity, props to all you scrapbookers out there!

    susie ;)