Stories about sharing memories at home

How to Make the Perfect Holiday Gift

What is the best holiday gift? It’s the beginning of November.  Halloween is over, and fall leaves have replaced the candy at the local grocery store. Santa and his elves are peeking out of the aisles, and the gift-giving season is upon us—whether we’re ready or not.

Truth be told: I love it. I love to give gifts and I love to receive gifts, no matter how large and no matter how small. And ever since my children were born, one gift I have always given is photographs. Sometimes the gifts have been professional pictures, but most of time they have been snapshots.  Snapshots are usually more candid, and seem to capture a moment in time much better than a formal studio shot could ever hope to.

Here are a few ideas for choosing the right photo for the perfect gift:

  • Organize a “leaf fight”: I take my daughters to a local park with a rake. As my wife has never complained about having an hour or two on her own without the kids, finding this time never seems to be a problem. I let the kids play as I rake a pile of colorful, fall Kateleaves. Then I let the girls loose in the pile of leaves while I snap the photos. As my girls became “sophisticated” teenagers, I thought they might find this tradition getting a bit old. I’m happy to say that this was not the case! As they got older, the leaf fights became more animated and the laughter increased. In this scenario, you really can’t go wrong—the fall colors make great photos. If you forgot the camera, don’t worry. Use your phone! You can print photos from most smartphones directly to a printer. Be sure to get close-ups of the kid’s faces. As I mentioned in my previous post, take several pictures, as you’ll be sure to shoot some great ones. Each year, we choose several of these up-close pictures and print them to give to our family members as holiday gifts. We don’t always frame the photos, but just include the pictures in holiday or birthday cards. When Grandma feels the picture frame under the wrapper, she reverts to a five-year-old kid, ripping the paper off excitedly.
  • Make a memory book: They are not as hard to make as you might think! Here’s an example: My cousin always throws the family gatherings at her house, and the only “payment” she insists on is that a group picture is taken at each party. In the past, our family’s Christmas gift to her family was some sort of basket of treats. Last year, I got a hold of the pictures and created a photobook I called “Ten Parties in Two Years.” All I had to do was get copies of the group photos and a few candid shots of each party, which took about an hour. It took about another hour to upload them to a site that produces the photobook.  There are so many online, and it does not matter which you use—they all produce a very nice book.  Choose a layout, chose a credit card, and a few days later, the book arrives. Note: Although you can spend a fortune on covers, you certainly don’t have to, as all the covers look amazing in the finished product. It was a smash hit! In fact, it was so popular, my cousin had me order two more copies for her children. And the best thing was that the actual cost for the photobook was less than the annual cheese and sausage basket.
  • Have ’em sign the mat: The best gift I ever gave was a photograph.  But not just any photograph—it was a shot of my wife’s entire family. All of us—five brothers and sisters, plus their families—rented several houses on a lake for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. On the last day of the trip, we rounded up all the grandkids on the dock in secret and took pictures. That year, about this time, I was thinking about a Christmas gift for my wife’s parents, and I had an idea. I purchased two frames with matting. I removed the matting from the frames and docksent them to each of my wife’s siblings and had their children sign the matting. My fingers were crossed…at least one would make it back in one piece, I hoped. Luckily, both made it back. I framed the picture of all the grandkids with the signed matting, and we sent it to my in-laws as their gift from all of us. Generously, they had told everyone not to send gifts since we had all traveled to be with them on their anniversary, so they were surprised but overjoyed to receive such a thoughtful present. Five years later, the picture still hangs in the entryway at their house. It will keep that pride of place for years more, I’m sure, as my mother-in-law confessed that she only moves the picture to the dining room when she has people over for bridge nights. The perfect gift? I like to think so. Try beating that with a cashmere sweater or set of golf clubs.

No matter your gift-giving style, any one of these simple gift ideas will have a large impact on the recipient. It’s also nice to note that they also all fit within any budget. All it takes is just a little fall planning, and a few great snapshots.

Photo Credit: Joe Keller

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