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I know this is the last thing you want to think about, and I am fully prepared to catch flack from it, but….

Christmas is only five months and three days from now. Yikes!

Have any of you begun preparation yet? Have you even thought about it? I have. Which, unusually, is about all I’ve done. Normally, I have already begun to prepare by hand-making some of my gifts, and have tucked back at least three or four. Not this year. We have had so much happening, that time has just slipped through my garden rake like it was loose soil. So now I am in the clutches of Father Time, and need to get busy. Very busy.

I think the most difficult thing to do is to determine what gift to get for which person. Most of my family is at the age where they really would prefer to clean out their houses and get rid of stuff, rather than bringing things back in. That means the gifts I need to get for them are at the very least something they will use or consume, or even (gasp!) practical. Ugh.

Last year the ‘girls’ on my list got hand woven prayer shawls. This year, I have no clue what to give. But what I can do, is continue working on the Secret Santa gift list. This is a list we make each year to give to those who are strangers to us, but are in need. Throughout the year I try to purchase toys, clothing items, blankets and other assorted items that have gone on sale. When we come across a family that is in need, we put these, along with food items, in a basket and have our local Secret Santa deliver them. Sometimes, Mrs. Secret Santa takes up a collection and then purchases gifts according to the needs of the recipient.

This year I have decided to add a little homemade touch to my Christmas baskets. I am going to knit scarves. As a yarn junkie, I have plenty of skeins to make several projects. Already, I have one child-size scarf made, and am working on one for a man and a woman (yes, sometimes I have two or three projects going at once). Soon, the winter clothing will be in the stores, and I’ll pick up some matching gloves to go with them. As well as practical items, I will also tuck in homemade goodies such as breads, cookies and Christmas stockings for the children.

One of the worst things I find about the Christmas season is all the crowds, traffic, and stress that is caused by fighting my way through stores trying to find that perfect gift. I actively choose to avoid it as much as possible by getting my shopping done as early as possible. So – I will start now by making a list and seeing what is out there for my loved ones. I will begin picking up a few items each week for my S.S. baskets, so I don’t have to wade through the throngs. And I will be able to sit back and enjoy my holiday instead of pulling my hair out at the last minute.

Need some easy ideas? Try baskets. Find something that a person on your list loves to do, and start picking up items to fill a basket. Do you have someone who knits or crochets? I promise they will love a basket filled with colorful yarn and some of the bamboo or fun wooden needles, and maybe a pattern book or two. Do they love to cook? Find some exotic items such as spices, pastas and bake/cookware, or even a quality knife. For a simple gift, make some cookies or soups in a jar, along with the rest of the ingredients, and tuck in a soup ladle or cookie scoop. Do they love to read? A couple of books by their favorite author, a mug and some tea or hot chocolate mixes are always well loved. Are they embarking on a new lifestyle or hobby? Try sticking in a copy of an appropriate magazine along with a card that tells you they have a subscription coming , as well as a few trinkets that coordinate. Regardless of what you choose, baskets are a great way to offer a gift, and doesn’t have to be very expensive. The best part is, you can determine what will be in your basket and pick up a few items every payday. You may not have all your shopping done this way, but you will definitely have the bulk of it done.

So, are you groaning? Or have I started the ideas to rolling? I hope it’s the latter, because if you are getting some ideas, I could certainly use the help. Happy shopping, folks! Now – the next step is to just figure out what you’re going to do with all that extra time this Christmas season. Me? I’m going to kick back with a good book or two. Or chase cows in the dead of night, which is what usually happens when it’s cold and wet outside.