Best Gift I Ever Received...

As a gift blogger, I am often asked "What is the best gift you ever received?"  Though I have several favorites from childhood, the best gift I ever received as an adult was a Reed & Barton silver bell ornament at Christmas.

My grandmother had passed away in November of 2008 at the age of 97, and I was grieving her loss as she had been a huge part of my life.  My dear friend, Meg G., had heard my many stories about my grandmother, and knew how important she was to me.

For Christmas that year, Meg presented me with a Reed & Barton silver bell ornament engraved with "In Loving Memory of Nana" and the year "2008."  What took my breath away was the note she enclosed.  Borrowing from that much beloved Christmas movie, It's A Wonderful Life, she wrote:

"Every time a bell rings an angel gets its' wings."

Though I have seen that movie at least 30 times, that simple sweet phrase is timeless.  The sentiment combined with an actual bell perfectly captured my grief and joy for my grandmother's well lived life.  Needless to say, I sobbed and smiled as I admired the beauty of this gift.

It was truly the most complete gift I have ever received as it comforted me, and honored the memory of my grandmother.

Each year, I place this ornament on a prominent limb on our Christmas tree.  When I pass by the tree, I smile knowing my grandmother is remembered and (hopefully) present in spirit during our Christmas celebrations.  Of course, I also think of Meg G., and how lucky I am to have such a thoughtful friend.

I confess I loved this gift so much, that I copied the idea and gave it to two friends who are sisters and had recently lost their mother.  They loved the bell for "Kiki," and treasure it at Christmas.

If you plan to use this gift idea, be sure you know your recipient well to determine if it is appropriate for them at that time and that their loss is not too big/nor unexpected.

Where to Buy:
Silver Ornaments - These special ornaments tend to sell out quickly as they are marked for the year or the special edition.  Though you can purchase the sterling silver ornaments, they are very expensive.  I recommend the silver plated ornaments as they are just as beautiful and more affordable.

I like to order mine online/catalog at Coopers or the Silver Superstore which allow you to order engraving. $25.00 silverplated without engraving

If you are short on time, Macy's, Dillards and other department stores carry the silver ornaments.  For engraving, take it to Things Remembered in the mall or to a local engraver.

Christmas Card Treasures

Front of Card
The holiday photo cards are arriving daily, and it is heartwarming to see the snapshots of friends and family for the year.
Each year, our family Christmas card is usually comprised of photos which commemorate some life event or trip we took that year.  I imagine your friends' cards are special photos, as well.  So, take these memorable cards and make them a treasured photo card gift.

These block acrylic frames byCanetti Designs are great looking, have a clean contemporary line, stand on their own, and have the added bonus of seeing through the back of the frame (perfect for two-sided cards!).  Separate the two sides of the frame, and position your photo card in the middle of one side.  Then, place the other side on top--you will feel it click into place with the small magnets.
Back of Card

Spice It Up:  As you receive friends cards, plop them in a frame and give it back to them as a festive Hanukah/Christmas/New Year's gift. 

Or, take your own family card and give it in a frame to your in-laws to admire the grandchildren, or to your spouse for their office desk.  For new parents, take their birth announcement and place it in the frame as a gift.

In addition, these frames are also great for commemorating a special concert, pledge day, 21st birthday, or graduation.  Print a picture from that concert you attended, and place the ticket stubs on the back side of the frame. (Many tickets are electronic now, but you can include something from the event like a program/card from bar or menu/etc.).  A great way to remember a fun time with friends!

Buy a few frames to keep on hand for when you need a quick gift.  I hate to admit it, but this is an ideal plan for the lazy gift giver!

Where to Buy:  Crate & Barrel carries a few sizes with free shipping. 5x7 $19.95 or 4x6 $15.95.  Amazon has a range of more unique sizes. 6x8 $41.00, 4x4 $22.00, 2.5x3.5 $12.50, etc.  Or buy direct from Canetti Designs.

Final note:  I keep about 5 of these on a table in my den for myself, and love seeing how my niece has grown from year to year in our Christmas card.  I can't decide which is my favorite, but love to enjoy them rather than tucking them away in a scrapbook.

Amazing Adventures!

Some of the best gifts are not trinkets, but rather memorable experiences.  A scavenger hunt, ala the Amazing Race, is guaranteed to get those couch potatoes off the sofa and diving into a local adventure!

Whether for a birthday, date night, anniversary, proposal, corporate team building, or holiday outing for the family, a scavenger hunt is a neat way to engage the entire family or a group of friends in a day to remember.  Most hunts include the use of your smartphone, so the teens/tweens won't feel deprived of technology for the day!

My friend, Misty W., discovered this great idea while dreaming up a plan for a special birthday for a dear friend.  There are several great scavenger hunt services that you can tap into online which are tailored for your particular interests.  Watson Adventures is one that specializes in hunts at local museums, while My Mystery Party focuses upon faux murder mysteries.  For adults, there is the ever popular Urban Beer Hunt

Watson Adventures is highly recommended and has been featured by the ABC News, Daily Candy and the New York Times.  Upcoming public hunts include The Met in NYC, Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the American History Museum in D.C., and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco.

Up the ante by utilizing Segways on your hunt.  In most cities, you can rent Segways for city tours to tie into your adventure.

Or, plan team costumes like these Gnome and Where's Waldo teams at the Urban Beer Hunt.

Spice It Up:  Prepare the contestants for their adventure with a drawstring bag to carry.  Pack it with bottled water, a snack and any extras they might need to gather clues.

Make sure the teams use their smartphones to take pictures as they reach each checkpoint and to record any antics along the way.  After the race, use the photos to make a photo collage commemorating the adventure. 

Where to Buy:
Scavenger Hunts - Hunts vary by price depending on the size of your team, where it located, and whether it is custom designed for your group.  Most hunts allow for as few as 2 people to as many as 50. 

  Basic Hunts - These are downloaded on your phone and are preplanned for general use.  Tours For Fun - $44.00 for a group, Scavenger Planet $20.00 for a group

  More Elaborate Hunts - Watson Adventures, My Mystery Party, Urban Beer Hunt prices range for each of these hunts depending on whether you have a custom hunt or public hunt.  ON average it is $35.00-$40.00 per person but may require a minimum number of people.

Segway Tours - In Dallas, try Dallas Segway Tours $60.00-$85.00 per person.  In other cities, search online or check Trip Advisor for recommendations.  It is worth your while to call and negotiate a possible group rate or discount for non-peak days.

Drawstring Bags - Found at most sporting goods stores.  Academy from $9.99-$32.99  Custom type or monogram bags at Etsy (Etsy sites allow for small orders 1-10 which is preferable to promo sites which require minimum of 150+ bags). $10.00-$15.00 per bag

Photo Collages - Easily created on photo sites like Shutterfly.  Or try Pic Monkey to create your own printable collage.  $5.00-$15.00

Pillow Collage - See my post dated September 4th for a quality collage pillow from Stitchagram.