1. Books. Hands down number one present to give and to receive. Mark is a techno-geek who reads one book a year. I probably buy him two books a year. He buys me things to plug in.
2. Cookbooks. I know this is a sub category. My poor brother-in-law gets the brunt of this gift because he the only person within my gift-giving circle who cooks. I have been known to get people who don't cook some cookbooks. My husband has received books on biscotti and breads and sushi. He has expressed a desire to make those things, but it seems more of a pipe dream despite my overt encouragement. Last year, I gave me mother-in-law a cookbook that came from a restaurant in her hometown of Marshall, Michigan. She knew the family. So that was appropriate.
3. Art and journaling supplies. What can I say? It is who I am.
4. Personalized stationery. Okay, so snail mail is going the way of the dinosaurs, but kids especially still like getting mail. They like seeing their name on things. And hey--I'd like to think that the Thank You note is not dead. (Although I do tell recipients of this gift to save their stationery for fun letters.)
5. Baby rings. I started a practice of giving my neices and nephews rings for their first birthdays. The boy rings are cool--made by a friend of mine, Suzy Arrington. That tradition started because Jonah saw Maren's rings and wanted one for himself. Later they can wear rings on a chain or give them to their kids. This is not my orginal idea. Got it from my sister-in-law.
6. Personalized Back Packs. I like to give these to little kids. They see their older siblings, cousins with these and they love carrying their own. Plus--it is great for parents. No toys to clean up and store.
7. Gift Certificates to movies, plays, museums, cultural events. Again--a gift that doesn't clutter the house.
8. Pajamas. Love to give and love to get them. My favorite are Gilligan and O'Malley from Target and Vera Wang at Kohl's. Love the Vera Wang stuff--especially anything in purple. Don't own any--yet. Cool PJ bottoms for men.
9. Music. I love giving CD's of things I know others will like but may not know about. I like giving Carla Bruni, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, and local artists. Maybe I'll have to switch to downloads soon.
10. Puppets. Better than stuff animals, puppets encourage storytelling and playacting and reading. Tell your child to make the puppet read aloud a page of the story and then have the child read in his/her normal voice. If I was ahead of the game, I would make my own. I have a feeling my friend Elena from http://www.frenchtoastgirl.com/ will be making some puppets this year. Someday I want to own an Elena Nazzaro puppet and have a stand for it. Sculptural art.
11. Clothing. I still love to dress people up. Maybe it isn't the best thing to give. People tend to have their own ideas of what clothes they like, but at least Mark likes the clothing I get for him. And I like to see him wearing the stuff I picked out for him.
12. Something homemade. It has been awhile since I have done this, but I do like to put the effort in and have it received. Past offerings: stories, knit sweaters, salsa or hot pepper jelly, jewelry, framed photos, felted mittens or slippers, poems. If I didn't make it, then it is fun to give something made by local artists.