This was the year of the creative Christmas — of making meaningful gifts and memories.
When I was little, I thought Elves lived in our snow village.
Somehow, we were able to trek to Joe’s family’s near Omaha for a Christmas Eve feast (six different meats!) and by Christmas night, we were eating Beef Bourguignon (a blend of Ina Garten’s recipe and my grandma’s) and toasting with champagne at my mom’s dining room table outside of Chicago. A smooth drive was one plus side to missing out on a white Christmas.
For my mom, I crafted five ornaments that represented things we used to do together:
A paper globe-shaped ornament decorated with Girl Scout stickers, because my mom led Troop 784 from Daisy Scouts through my senior year of high school. (Tutorial here.)
A tiny table (clothespin legs and a paper jewelry box top draped with fabric) complete with a pie, like the ones we used to bake at the local heritage society.
A bicycle wheel made from an embroidery hoop, puff paint, floral wire and hot glue to stand for our rides. (We loved to go out on the MKT in Columbia when I was in college, and even did a ride on a rented tandem there.)
A tiny paper wreath made from an old New Yorker because I felt too bad cutting up an old book. I was hardcore about Battle of the Books when I was in grade school and junior high and my mom was our coach. It was kind of like a knowledge bowl for reading. We read 20 books for it a year, then one night would compete with other Catholic schools in the area. Champions!
A sweater that unfolded to represent the matching ones that we sometimes get around Christmas (I insist, mostly because my mom thinks it’s super dorky!), but also to symbolize the great example my mom set for me.
My mom and brother each made handmade gifts for me, too. Kev showed up my sewing machine skills by crafting me a manatee potholder set, and my mom gave me cards she’s had made using some of her nature photos.
The day after Christmas, we got together with my whole Kelley side of the family and all of the cousins received one of the most memorable gifts of all time: “The Night Before Christmas,” as narrated for us individually by my grandpa. We all dissolved into tears as we opened the books and heard his voice. Grandpa turns 90 this May and was quite pleased to present us with the keepsakes my mom helped him record. (You can get the recordable book through UNICEF.)