Monday, October 31, 2005

Money really DOES grow on trees!

Everybody loves money! And money is a great gift idea ... but usually only one I would consider giving if I really couldn't think of anything else. But if you could give money in a unique form ... along with some suggestions on how to "grow" that money ... now that would be a great gift idea!

This would be a fun gift for kids because as a kid, you are always being told "Money doesn't grow on trees." And while, in reality, that statement is true, I have found a perfect gift idea to prove that statement wrong.

Just Paper Roses offers a Real Money Tree which comes with a guide that teaches how to create wealth. Kids need to learn the value of money from an early age. They need to learn that while money doesn't really "grow on trees," it does require attention and proper nurturing to "grow." And in order to "grow" your money, there are certain things you should and should not do.

This would also be a great gift for a businessperson (especially someone in the financial industry) to keep on their desk. It is a unique conversation starter as well as a constant reminder of what it takes to really "grow" money.

Check out the Real Money Tree link at Just Paper Roses and see if you don't have someone (or several someones!) on your list that could benefit from this unique gift idea.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Thousand Tiny Pictures

Webster defines "mosaic" as "a surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored material to form pictures or patterns." We're all familiar with the mosaic artwork that has been around for centuries ... thousands of tiny colored pieces that make up a picture or design.

I'm sure you have also seen puzzles where the main picture is made up of thousands of tiny pictures. You may have even seen magazine covers doing the same thing. Fascinating concept, to be sure, but so what, right?!

Well, how about having a mosaic picture made using your OWN photos?! Imagine thousands of your own little pictures making up one big picture! What fun. But don't worry, you don't have to come up with thousands of pictures ... just a few will do, and they'll be repeated to create the final "look." All you have to do is decide on the ONE picture that you want as your final result, and then choose a few other pictures that will make up the mosaic look.

The theme can be whatever you want it to be. Being a dog-lover and having lost my canine companion recently, I would think a photo of him would be great ... and I certainly took enough pictures over the years to find some good ones for my mosaic pieces.

Or you could give a picture to your grandparents of the "old family farm" made up of either scenery pictures from over the years or pictures of family members that had lived there. Or you could give a graduation gift to your child or grandchild, having their graduation portrait made up of all their annual school pictures.

This is truly a one-of-a kind gift. Check out what My DaVinci has to offer. Click on the Modern tab across the top of their homepage and then the Photo in Photo tab along the left side. See how creative you can get!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Big Photo Cover-Up

Whether you would like to snuggle up when the weather is cool or cover up when the weather is warm, why not do it in style?

A unique way to display some favorite photos would be on fabric. Photo quilts are made using several photos based on a theme ... family photos, celebrating a wedding or anniversary, baby photos and memorabilia, etc. A photo afghan is made from a single photo that is actually knitted into the pattern, not screen-printed on the top. Either of these heirloom gifts would be great for displaying around the house.

But another great type of gift could be one to take outside the house and actually use. What about a photo beach towel for a birthday or anniversary gift?! I think it would be kind of hard to "lose" that at the beach or the community swimming pool. After all, if your picture is on the towel ....

Be sure to choose your pictures wisely though ... these are for keeps! Personal Creations has a great gift selection of photos on fabric. Just select "Quilts & Pillows" to see what they have to offer.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Fate of Your Favorite Photos

What do you do with your favorite photos ... the ones that you just absolutely "love" ... the ones that just make you "feel good?" Do you frame them? Do you hang them on the wall? Maybe scrapbooking is one of your hobbies and you've found some creative ways to display them in albums.

I have several photos that I often look at because they make me smile. I have a really cute one of my mom and the two youngest grandkids. It was taken one evening when they were being silly but it's one of my favorites. I also have some professionally taken photos that I really enjoy. And, of course, there are the absolutely adorable ones of my dog when she was just a puppy. All those photos deserve special attention.

Yet there is a limit to how many table-top or wall-hanging frames you can accommodate. So what do you do with those photos?! Just leave them in a photo album (or worse, in the processing envelope you got them in?!) Why not find a unique way to display them so that you can enjoy them more often and share the joy with others.

With modern technology, a photo can be transferred to virtually ANYTHING! The "where" is pretty much limited by your imagination. And most companies can work with either the actual photo or the digital version. So just pick your photo (you probably already have at least one in mind!) and decide what you would like it displayed on. These make great gifts for others or even for yourself.

You might choose a mousepad or a mug. Or get a little adventuresome and have a puzzle or a deck of cards show your favorite photo. Or what about a doormat to greet you and all your guests?! Check out Personal Creations for some ideas of ways to display your favorite photos and personalize a gift in the process.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Gift of Time

In the hustle and bustle of life, we so often forget about the Gift of Time. We're so busy doing, doing, doing, and going, going, going, that TIME becomes a priceless commodity and one we so easily "lose."

Spending quality time as a family can be one of the hardest things to do. Finding the time is tough enough ... but then what can you do that is fun and relationship-building, yet not stressful (for the parents) or boring (for the older kids,) and that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age or ability?! It's a tall order but with a little planning and brainstorming, your family can come up with something.

One idea would be to have a Family Night. Pick a night of the week and plan family activities. You could stay home, order a pizza, and play board games or work a puzzle. When the weather is nice, you could go play miniature golf. Or rent a funny movie, pop popcorn and watch the movie together. The possibilities are endless ... and they do not have to be costly.

Or find a project that your family can work on. The project can be a one-time thing or an on-going activity. Be creative and ask for input from everyone. You could grow flowers from seeds, then transplant them to small clay pots you've decorated and deliver them to some of the older folks in your neighborhood. Or make Christmas ornaments and take them to a nursing home to deliver to the residents. You might even want to occasionally reach out a little and include a neighbor kid or friend from school whose parents aren't home much.

Spending time with your family will be the BEST gift that any of you can give to each other ... as well as to yourself. Family togetherness, the true gift of time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

It's All In the Game

A well-chosen game can be a learning experience ... for an adult as well as a child. After all, don't you learn something every time you play a game like Trivial Pursuit? That may not be your intention when playing the game, but it's a by-product nonetheless.

And so a well-chosen child's game can also cause children to learn. But tell them they're going to learn something, and they'll likely rebel. After all, that's human nature ... I want to play, not learn!

For each of the past few years, I have given my mom one or more games for a Christmas gift. The games were not really for her -- they were for the grandkids. Since they spend a lot of time at her house, they might as well have some fun games to play also. And if a game can be educational, so be it.

Math is such an easy subject to "teach" in a game ... whether it's learning to make change as the banker in Monopoly, or whether it is just adding up or coordinating the dots on dice or dominoes, it's amazing how much math you can learn in a game. Games that encourage spelling or word creation are also great learning experiences.

Simply get a game, play it with the children, and see how excited they can get about learning. Last year's favorite in our family was Pass the Pigs. Other hits for young school-age kids have been Bunco, Syzygy, and Countdown.

Check out the largest game and puzzle store on the planet and see what fun educational games you can find.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Puzzle Me This

Puzzles are a great family activity. Since they can be worked on over a period of time and by any number of people, they are a great way for families to interact either as a whole or in smaller groups. Puzzles can also be preserved and maintained as showpieces - no need to tear each one up and return it to the box if you particularly like it.

Previously, the only options were the standard puzzles ... 500-, 1000-, 1500-piece rectangular puzzles that you could find in many stores. Those are the ones most of us grew up on. But now there are options! And so many to choose from!

Some that we have tried in our family are the 3-D puzzles (we've done the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the Washington Monument) and mosaic puzzles (we did one of Civil War photos making up the picture of Abraham Lincoln.) We've also tried a couple of the Mystery puzzles where there is a crime that has to be solved and there is NO picture to let you know what the puzzle looks like! There are also puzzles in the shape of the theme of the puzzle (such as a puzzle of a Golden Retriever in the shape of a Golden Retriever.)

A word of warning though. While many manufacturers will replace any missing pieces (and we've had to do this also!), this is not an activity for the family dog to be involved in. Years ago, we were making a 3000-piece puzzle that stayed on our dining room table for weeks under a vinyl tablecloth for protection. The one type of protection we were not diligent enough in was a quick puppy who got to a dropped piece before we did. So much for being able to frame that work of art!

Are You Game claims to be The Largest Game and Puzzle Store on the Planet. Check them out and see what you think.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What's in a Name (Part 2)

Once you've learned the meaning of your family name, you're sure to want to know the meaning of your given name also. Many people have both a first and middle name ... and each comes with it's own meaning.

In years past, names were chosen based on their meaning and a name was given because the meaning seemed to fit, or the parents hoped the child would grow to "fit" the name. Although most western cultures no longer follow that tradition, our names still have meanings.

While the meaning of a name does not change with the different spellings, receiving a personalized gift that not only tells the meaning but also spells the name absolutely correctly would be something to be cherished. Several of the members in my family have names that are spelled in the not-so-common way so this option works out great for buying them gifts.

By doing a search for "meaning of names" at Personal Creations, you'll find ceramic mugs and other items that display the historical meaning and origin of a name, as well as the personality traits, characteristics, number, and animal associated with it.

Do you know the meaning of your name(s)?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What's in a Name (Part 1)

Every name has a meaning and last names have heritage. Do you know what yours is?

Haven't you ever wondered about your family name ... its origin -- what continent, what country, what history is associated with it, what famous people have the same last name or that name in their lineage. Every name also has a crest assigned to it. Do you know what yours is?

People should take pride in their family name ... and will, once they know the rich history it holds. With over 35 years of researching and writing family name documents, House of Names has histories and crests on over 1,000,000 names at their disposal. Doing a search is free. Give it a try and see what you can find out about your family name(s).

Perfect for any occasion, these are gifts that will be proudly displayed in any home and will be the topic of conversation again and again! Some great gift ideas for family members would be a set of mugs or wineglasses, a framed description of the history, or the crest displayed on a hand-painted plaque or even a mousepad.

If you're looking for group gifts such as for Christmas or a family reunion, why not get a keychain for everyone in the family with that name? What a conversation piece those will be. And what a stir you will cause!

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Versatile Mug

A mug has got to be one of the most versatile items you can give as a gift. First off, there are so many to choose from. And then, in addition to the standard use for a mug, there are all the other uses that people create for them.

For those of you that are coffee and tea drinkers, you probably cannot have enough mugs. For those of us who are not hot beverage drinkers, we don't "need" them like the rest of you do, but we still appreciate them.

A couple of years ago, my mom give me a gift set which included some Oreo cookies and 4 mugs with the Oreo design on them. I promptly ate the Oreos ... but then the mugs just sat in the cupboard, taking up space, but not getting any real use. Until one day, I had an inspiration! Ice cream! I could eat ice cream in the mug ... and it would keep me from eating as much as I'd eat from a bowl. So that's how I use my mugs most of the time now.

Mugs, of course, can come in different sizes and even be shaped a little differently, but the most versatile thing about them is the design on the outside. I have some from college, from places I've visited, funny ones and seasonal ones. I even have one from a church I visited this summer.

They are a great item if you are wanting to buy a souvenir for someone (like your dog-sitter or house-sitter or a family member who couldn't go with you.) Buy them throughout the year as you find something you like, or you can visit many of the places mentioned under Links in the right-hand column to order ones that are personalized or for special occasions.

Friday, October 07, 2005

And Today Is ... ?

What day is today? Don't know? Well, just check your calendar.

How many times do we look at a calendar throughout the year? Countless times ... several times a week, probably everyday. Every time you need to make an appointment, you look at the calendar. To check what day of the month it is, or what your busy schedule shows for tomorrow, you look at the calendar. Regardless of the reason, we all use a calendar on a regular basis.

But how interesting is the picture on your calendar? Is it something you enjoy looking at, or is it of so little consequence that you don't even know the theme of your calendar? If you're going to be looking at the calendar so many times throughout the year, why not make it of a subject you enjoy. And why not share that subject as a Christmas gift?

Years ago, my mother gave me a calendar for Christmas. When I opened it up, I couldn't stop laughing. I probably should have been crying, it was so sweet. But I was so surprised that I just couldn't stop laughing. Looking back at me -- on every single page -- was my own dog! It was such an unexpected gift and one that was so special to me. I still have it, even after all these years.

This is a gift that would be perfect for virtually anyone. A calendar of a new baby given to grandparents or aunts and uncles. A calendar of the family pet given to an away-from-home college student. A calendar of all of the grandkids given to the grandparents who live miles away. A calendar of scenic photos taken on last summer's vacation. A calendar of old photos showing the kids growing up. Or even a calendar showing family ancestors from back in the 1920's or even the 1800's.

You name it ... the possibilities are endless. Let your imagination run wild and create a special calendar for a special person this Christmas. You can order these locally or save yourself the gas money and the hassle of fighting the crowds by ordering online at Personalization Mall. Just follow the Desk & Home link.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Not Just Another Picture

How many pictures do you have hanging on the walls of your home? Lots, I'm sure. But how many portraits do you have ... actual paintings of your loved ones?

Most people don't have any, and yet they are so beautiful and so much "softer" than a traditional photo. After all, who even knows an artist who could paint a portrait for you?! And who has the time (or patience) to sit for a portrait?!

But there is an alternative. Have someone create a portrait from a photo. That's right, there are talented artists that can take any photo you have and paint a recreation of it, giving you that hard-to-come-by portrait-quality picture. Whether you choose oil painting, pencil sketching, or water color, they can reproduce your photo in portrait-style, immortalizing that special look for you.

Instead of giving regular old pictures this time, why not be a little more creative and give a portrait instead ... a painted picture instead of just a photo.

See what the artists at My DaVinci can do for you. Work with them to create a picture of a lifetime.

Monday, October 03, 2005

An Ornament By Any Other Name

OK, when you buy ornaments for yourself, you tend to buy complete sets that either match or are coordinated. That's fine and makes for a beautiful Christmas tree with a theme. Nothing wrong with that ... but you would never give that type of ornament as a gift. Everyone wants to choose their own basic theme, but you can spice things up when giving ornaments as gifts.

Here again, you could buy a set and give each ornament to a different person. You could also make it part of a mix-n-match gift (coming in a future post.) But a really fun ornament to give someone is a personalized one.

Last year I took advantage of the after-Christmas specials and bought personalized ornaments for each of the younger children in my extended family. I can't wait to see their faces when they open up their gift this year and find their own ornament ... with their own name on it! It will be a fun Christmas.

Personalization Mall is a great place to find some adult- or kid-cool personalized ornaments. And since the personalization is done specifically for your order, you know the spelling will be correct!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

When an Ornament is More Than Just an Ornament

Continuing on with the Christmas ornament theme, why not buy sets of special ornaments and break them up?! Umm ... break up the set, not the ornaments themselves!

Rather than just using a traditional ribbon bow, get creative and decorate your package with something they'll want to keep and use year after year. A carefully selected ornament can be such a decoration.

Now, I say "carefully selected" for several reasons. In our family, my dad plays Santa at our big family get-together every year so he hands out all the gifts. Actually, he often tosses them instead of just handing them. So you need to make sure that the decoration ornament you choose can handle a little abuse or mistreatment and that it will stay on the package as it is transported from place to place before it is opened.

Look for ornaments that are small in size (although a larger package could handle a larger ornament,) sturdy in construction, and that are cute or attractive. The ornaments in the set can all be identical or they can all be slightly different. Just be sure that each ornament can stand on its own merit. (Don't buy a nativity scene set and give Mary to one person, Joseph to another, and Baby Jesus to another! Not to mention, no one would want to get the donkey!)

By buying sets of ornaments, you cut down on the cost of each one and yet you are able to decorate your package in a unique way. Buy a set that you personally would like and then keep one of the ornaments for yourself! Check out Terry's Village for some great ornament sets and make your gifts stand out from everyone else's.