During times of loss, it’s often really hard to figure out what’s appropriate as a gift – especially when someone’s just lost a spouse. You don’t want to evoke painful memories with something overly sentimental, but at the same time, you do want to gift something meaningful. While it is tricky to decide what’s right, there certainly are gifts that are perfect for the occasion. Here are some tasteful ideas to get you started:
People often send flowers to express their sympathies. But while flowers are indeed beautiful, they also die. The whole point of a sympathy gift is to make them feel better – not to remind them of death. This is why an actual plant is a better option than flowers. The most popular plant for such occasions is the Peace Lily, but others like yellow rose plants, gardenias, and Calla Lilies are also great choices too.
This isn’t just us being biased. You know how when you’re sick you really don’t want to exert the effort to cook anything more complicated than canned soup? Multiply that by a million and you’ll be close to understanding what the widow or widower is dealing with. This is why gift baskets are great. They offer good food without the hassle of going to the grocery store. The best baskets are those that include quick meals, snacks they can eat right away, or items that last a fair amount of time – like muffins or nuts.
What’s scares us more than ghouls, goblins, and ghosts? Awful Halloween costumes. I mean, sure, we all are pressed for time, but it’s possible to still whip up something great for trick-or-treating. So, spare your kids the black trash bag witch ensemble and enjoy your white sheets without the custom eye holes – a completely clever and oh-so-original costume can be ready in a snap.
Up, Up, and Away!
Shazam! So they seek to transform into a defender of goodness who can turn fire into water, have superhuman strength, and fly around the globe at lightning speed? Perfect – because you can whip up a superhero costume that easily tops Batman’s. Colorful leggings are perfect for out-of-this-world bottoms. Just add a long-sleeved t-shirt, shiny fabric for a quick cape, and felt for belts and headpieces and you’ve got yourself a topnotch hero.
What little lady doesn’t dream of being a mermaid or a fairy or a ballerina? And luckily for you, it’s easy to make their dream come true with barely any sewing (phew). Take a leotard of whatever color you desire (pink for ballerina, purple for mermaid, green for fairy, or whatever) for your base. The skirt couldn’t be any simpler. Take a piece of wide elastic that’s 8-10% shorter than the measurement needed (so it stays put) and sew it into a belt. Purchase a few different colors of tulle. For example, if she’s opting for life under the sea, try to pick up not just green tulle, but light blue, aqua, etc, to make her costume more interesting. Cut the fabric into 6-inch thick strips and use a lark’s knot to secure the pieces around the elastic. For the mermaid, make the strips very long so that they reach the floor and give her fins by tying a piece of tulle around the bottom of the skirt by her ankles. Ballerinas and fairies don’t need long skirts, so make theirs short and cute – like a tutu. And don’t forget to add some flowers, seashells, and ribbons to her skirt and hair.
The last day of October has always been filled with a sort of spookily magical aura of alluring mystery and superstition. But not always quite like it is today. Actually, it wasn’t until about 80 years ago that the customs we now associate with Halloween came into fruition, though their roots can be followed back thousands of years.
Historians trace Halloween’s beginnings to a pagan Celtic festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The event was held on the eve of October 31st, lasting until November 1st, which is the date of their new year, and signified the need to stock up on food items in preparation for the winter months. They thought that this night was a time when the dead were among the living, so they dressed in scary animal costumes to ward off the evil spirits, danced around a special fire, told stories, practiced divination – the whole shebang.
During the 8th century, Catholicism began to make its way into Ireland and Samhain became integrated with the religious celebrations of All-Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. These holidays take place November 1st and 2nd, and are meant for honoring saints and those who have recently passed. All Saints’ Day is also known as Hallowmas, All Hallows, and Hallowtide (so you can guess where the current name for October 31st stems from). And the whole dressing up thing didn’t disappear, as you may have guessed. It was believed that All Souls’ Day was the spirits’ last time to get revenge on their enemies, so the Christians did what anyone smart would do: they made masks and costumes to disguise themselves. (Pretty sneaky, guys.)
Trick-or-treating also has roots in these Catholic holidays. For All Saints’ Day, people would make special breads called soul cakes that the poor would go door to door collecting in return for prayers. Thus, trick-or-treating was created. But this act of collecting didn’t gain popularity in North America until fairly recently.
We love our grandparents. They introduce us to new ideas, offer perspectives that differ from our parents, and spoil us. And not just with unconditional love and letting us get away with things. Generally, grandparents should spend between $50 and $100 on birthday presents, depending on a variety of factors like how old the child is, finances, and how many grandkids there are in the family. Grandchildren certainly don’t come cheap. But you can make the money go further by spending it more wisely than on useless toys.
So say you’re spending $100 on a grandkid’s birthday buying – let’s face it – stupid toys that are prized for a few weeks and are then forgotten. How about putting that money to better use? Still give them a gift – something small – and spend the remainder at the bank, by putting it into an account for them. If you put $75 into a bank account twice a year, your grandchild will have close to $3000 by the time they’re 18 and if you put $25 into it once a month, that’s $5400 by the time they graduate high school. When they’re checking out student loans, having their first semester of state college taken care of will be a lot more useful than video games and meaningless plastic they haven’t touched in a decade.