1. Is it a book? As an author, mother, former teacher and avid reader books are always at the top of my personal wish list and gift-giving lists. Always. This year each of my children's teachers will get a novel to enjoy over the break (wrapped with a festive pillow-case, of course!). Shhhh, don't tell them! And when we look for books, I'm not just shopping from the bestseller list (though there are great ones there, and I did get a few of those) - we're discovering some great ones that are produced by independent publishers, too (like PJ Hoover's middle grade fantasy books). Check out the Moonbeam Children's Book Award listings for some recent titles for kids.
2. Is it local? A favorite gift for our extended relatives (aunts & uncles that shouldn't be forgotten, but don't require a big chunk of the budget) is something grown in the Pacific NW. The fruit grown out here is AMAZING, so we alternate between Chukar Cherries and Canter-Berry blueberry syrup. Our little Valley is also well-known for visual arts, so prints & notecards by local artists are list favorites. It is great to support our local economy and the creative energy that spreads here!
3. Does it inspire? If it is something that can be used once, we're generally not interested - unless it is an experience (tickets to a museum or play, for instance). Clearly that means Kleenex is out. Some people on my list are budding runners, so Carol Goodrow's 2010 What a Day for Running! calendar or a pair of running socks are perfect choices for those folks. Notecards from Banana Blossom Press are another choice for my running friends. And a new pair of running shoes is on MY wish list - to keep me going! My son loves to build and draw, so we're looking for open-ended, creativity-feeding toys like Dado Squares for him.
4. Does my purchase help others? We have a gift store in our little town that sells nature-related books, Folkmanis puppets and games, all in support of protecting and restoring wild fish throughout the Northwest. The toy store in town is offering a special shopping day on Saturday in support of my daughter's cooperative preschool - 10% of the sales that day will be donated to the school. Proceeds from the sales of the fly fishing-themed children's books about Olive the Woollybugger by my friend Kirk Werner support the program Hooked on a Cure. Our company Balanced Steps, LLC donated a case of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to our local YMCA in support of their Invest in Youth campaign - folks who purchase one of those copies at the Y are not only inspiring their friend/family member with the message in the book, but 100% of the purchase price goes to the YMCA. Not too shabby.
5. Does it respect the environment? While this answer isn't "Yes!" in every case, we do try to take it into consideration, especially when it comes to packaging/wrapping. Amazon.com is making strides to cut down on packaging by offering "Frustration Free Packaging". We've combined things to ship once, re-use gift bags, use the kids' artwork as wrapping and wrap small gifts in the pillowcases I'm making. All of the gifts we have for our children will be wrapped in their fun pillowcases I've made over the years. The kids and I are also hitting our local used bookstore where they'll pick out some books to give their dad for Christmas. Who says a book has to be new to hold value?
6. Does it fit the budget? I'm a bargain shopper. I'm all about the free shipping offers (if it is for something I want - I don't shop BECAUSE of free shipping) and last year's selection of Christmas fabric (which enabled me to make pillow cases at half the price by buying off the clearance rack!). I'm also make good use of coupons. These savings enable us to splurge on a few full-priced items. Everybody wins!
Happy December and happy shopping, everyone!