make gifts from memories

Giving gifts of meaning is always appreciated, and it makes me feel good to do it, too.

A $5 notepad bought because I’d love the picture is a much nicer gift than a $20 impersonal gift voucher in my eyes.

And home-made gifts show love and care as well, so why not make a meaningful gift for someone this Christmas?

Creating memory gifts

I’ve thought of a few ways to collate some memories to share as gifts…

  • frame a collection of old kitchen or workshops gadgets – or a photo of them!  Use a deep frame or a shadow box (best for reducing dust collection!) or skip the glass front and attach items onto the backboard of a frame.  It’s a great use of old things not used much but too treasured to throw away.
  • put a collection of treasured items inside a glass topped table

    Trinkets on display in a coffee table

    Display table {image courtesy of HousingWorksThriftShops (Flick’r)}

  • make a picture out of special cards or tickets – put a few on an interesting background (try scrapbooking paper for inspiration) or overlap a lot of items.
  • put some special photos into ornaments that hang on the Christmas tree
  • laminate a special or funny photo and put it into a clear containers to fill with soap  as a personal addition to a bathroom or kitchen
  • stick photos/collage onto kitchen canisters – it’s a very personalised kitchen, reuses old canisters and displays special memories in a creative way
  • use old mirrors (especially those hand held ones that could be a reminder of a grandmother or childhood) as alternative photo frames
  • make a picture or a collage of old house and car keys – a great  trip down memory lane! Alternatively, make them into a mobile or windchime.

    Display of old keys

    Mount some old keys to remember their secrets! {Image courtesy of TakiSteve (Flick’r)}

  • use an old window frame from a family home to create a shadow box or picture frame so the frame and the contents bring warmth and happiness
  • turn old wooden items into Christmas decorations
  • make a wreath (of Christmas or perhaps to hang outdoors all year round) out of old tools, garden implements or kitchen gadgets
  • make a patchwork quilt or throw rug out of some favourite fabric items like
    • baby clothes and blankets when the youngest child grows out of them
    • old tablecloths, runners and doyleys from your grandparents
    • a few favourite dresses or t-shirts

      colourful patchwork couch

      Is this a colour statement or a collection of memories? {image courtesy of Maleva Apaixonada (flick’r)}

    • tea-towels from various places you’ve visited
  • make a hanging rack by sticking objects on a length of wood – you can use cutlery and kitchen tools bent to shape, handles from various tools, door knobs, Lego or wooden blocks, and all sorts of things
  • use some old lace and some glue to create a lamp cover or even a decorative bowl

    Two bowls made form lace doilys and glue

    Two bowls made from lace and undiluted glue {image courtesy of Christine Majul (Flick’r)}

  • make a snow dome using a laminated photo or some small items, like a toy car, animal or person

Of course, the hard part may be giving up your work when it’s time to hand it over!

Have you ever been given a gift based on memories and treasured items?


* All Flick’r images are used under the creative commons licence.

Creating Santa in wood

I just came across a news article that is wonderful so I am sharing it here 🙂

Carving Santas

Ken Miller lives in the USA and literally carves Santas for a hobby and profit!

art of carving in wood with a carver working on the background

Carving wood takes patience, perseverance and practice.

He carves Santa’s face and body into wooden objects such as rolling pins, bowls and shoes (clogs), and then paints them. Some are given as gifts and others he sells at craft markets – what a pity none of those markets are in Australia as I’d love to see his work!

But what I think is really special is that he sometimes carves Santa into old wooden objects that have sentimental value to people. For example, taking the rolling pin of someone’s great grandmother and turning it into a Santa statue that can be placed on a mantelpiece with price each year – rather than keeping the treasured rolling pin locked away in a cupboard.

Do you have any old objects that could perhaps be given new life by being turned into a Santa? Are you game to try the transition yourself?


Christmas Memories

Santa hat on Christmas tree of green lollipops

The perfect Christmas tree for a sweet tooth – it’s made of lollipops!

My momma always used to make Christmas for me and my brother special.

The Christmas tree…

We would get a Christmas tree as tall as possible without touching the ceiling.  I remember the struggles we all had trying to get the trunk into the base so it would stand straight.

Decorating the tree was always a special occasion.

Although my mom stopped putting candy canes on the tree until Christmas Eve arrived because my brother and I would sneak and eat one or two or five a day.

The future…

I loved Christmas and now 20 years later as my wife and I prepare to have kids I will give them the same memories of Christmas my mom gave to my brother and me.


* Image courtesy of 123 rf

A Holiday Soup Bowl Party

The women in my family would get together every year before the Christmas holiday to discuss and plan the festivities of the seasons. I’m a planner from way back and I love to have everything planned out, with the holiday school pageants, driving around to see the light displays, making crafts and planning the holiday dinner, time needed to be scheduled to ensure we didn’t miss a moment of holiday cheer.

When we first started this holiday meeting it was all eight of us picking and choosing dates that worked for us, a task that seemed to take hours.

Feeding the workers…

We never gave any thought into having dinner that night, who had the time, there was Christmas planning under foot. There we were with our calendars, schedules and appointment books waiting for the local pizza shop to deliver a few supreme pies, a quick answer to our hunger pangs. Pizza was always a snack to me, not a meal and, as my girls will tell you, I always have a meal.

Squabbling one night over the pizza toppings, I mentioned it would be easier to open a can of soup.

Then it hit me. Soups for our yearly planning ritual. Something quick and easy we could throw together, even after a hard day of work. And me being me of course wrote it down, so I wouldn’t forget.

Four different bowls with different soups

A variety of soups is tasty!

The following year I made cute little soup can invitations for our planning date and mailed them off. Assigning each person a different item to bring. One brought assorted bread, one brought drinks, one brought the desserts and the remaining 5 each brought 2-3 quarts of any soup of their choosing.

It was a hit, not only did we get to sample a variety of soups and spend time together, the entire atmosphere changed. Our scheduling was completed in record time and occasionally we would have time left over to enjoy a holiday movie.

That was several years ago, and we all look forward to it every year. A yearly chore that seemed to be stressful and a bit unnerving, now is an evening the ladies of our family can’t wait to arrive. I can’t help but wonder if it was the holiday cheer that found its way into our date making or was it the power of a warm bowl of soup.

Finding Christmas values

Last week we raised the question of what does Christmas mean to you and the idea that we each have values associated with Christmas.

Model mobile phone showing Christmas message of goodwill to all

A Christmas display from Maldon (July 2015) featuring a message of goodwill to all

Those values are what can make us have a miserable Christmas if they are not met – many of us feel that Christmas is a terrible time to be alone because we value family and relationships at Christmas time and others couldn’t imagine Christmas without going to Church on Christmas Eve/Day.

Like any other values, we develop our values around Christmas from our own experiences so our values can be different even from the people we love most – couples often have different traditions and expectations about Christmas.

And like many other values, we often don’t consciously think about what our Christmas values are.

So here are some ideas for finding your own Christmas values and ideals:

  1. sit somewhere quietly, close your eyes and dream of a perfect Christmas. Then note down the important features of that day
  2. spend some time looking at old photos and remembering the great bits of Christmas past
  3. deliberately spend some time with those old photos and memories thinking about the not-so-great Christmases (or parts of Christmas) – what are the common features of those less-happy memories?
  4. think about your usual values and how they fit with different aspects of Christmas. For example, if you are a minimalist or charitable person, maybe the excess of food and gift giving makes you uncomfortable or as a non-religious person you don’t like going to Church for Christmas with your family.
  5. over the last few Christmases, what worried or stressed you the most? What things made you feel better and calm?
  6. answer this question thoughtfully – if you could only do four things to celebrate Christmas this year, what would they be?
Write down your answers, look for common ideas and you will start to see what is truly important to you. Some things will be very specific (e.g. having a glass of fresh orange juice in front of the tree before opening presents) and others more general (e.g. sharing the gift buying with a partner or children).
Writing down a list of values and ideals will help you remember them and be able to share them.

How will you ensure Christmas meets your value and needs this year?

The Simple Pleasures

As a Foster Carer, Christmas has never been the same two years running. Luckily that’s just the way I like it! We have many lovely, touching memories of course but last Christmas really showed us that money spent and beautiful wrapping can be meaningless. Let me explain:

Christmas 2007 I had 3 children living with me, one of whom was a 5 year old with developmental delays, who had no memories nor understanding of Christmas. Her birth family life had been one of poverty and trauma, and she had no expectations as she had no reason to believe the magic of Christmas existed!

I had saved, bought and wrapped 6 gifts each for the 3 children and piled them beneath the decorated tree on Christmas Eve. The children had left cookies and lemonade out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer and I sprinkled fake, plastic snow across the carpet from the front door (no chimney!) to the tree before going to bed.

Christmas morning at 5:30 my other 2 children were up, waking me and keen to unwrap, having carefully counted and inspected their labelled gifts. Keen to begin, they roused the little girl and told her to run and see what Santa had brought. She came slowly out of her room, yawning and not in any hurry as she had no anticipation of goodies.

Then she stopped and began to laugh and jump up and down with happiness. “Mama, Mama” she yelled “Oh look it, look it!”.  Had she seen her mountain of gifts at last? No, her delight was in the $2.50 packet of plastic snow that Santa had left behind.

Children playing in fake snow in a summer Christmas

Aussie children playing in a Christmas snowdome

That little girl sat and threw ‘snow’ over herself for almost an hour laughing and calling to us to see the miracle that had taken place. Yes, she did come later and opened her gifts, but she was drawn back to play in the ‘snow’ throughout the rest of the day.

Santa is preparing for his trip…

It is getting close now – one week to Christmas Eve and Santa’s arrival Down Under to help create some more Christmas memories.

As Santa is flying across Australia, our Air Control Towers will be keeping planes and other air traffic out of Santa’s way so there are no nasty surprises for anyone.

Apparently, Santa has a new sleigh with added safety features – you can see pictures ot Santa and diagrams of his sleigh (click on the labels below the diagram for a full explanation) on the Air Services website’s Santa pages.

Due to this being the most popular flight in Australia, Air Services will continue tracking Santa’s progress everyday until Christmas.

Writing to Santa

child's hands writing a letter to Santa

Children work hard at their Santa letters – and it’s a memory worth keeping

We’re a bit behind this year so my kids have just written their letters to Santa. This was something I did every year as a kid and now my kids do it.

It personalises the whole thing and is fun and exciting – I can even justify it as writing practice seeing as the older kids have written letters at school or for homework this year!

Creating memories

I take a copy of their letters – photocopy or scan it – as their messages and spelling can be so creative I don’t want to lose them when we mail the letters to Santa. Their letters go into their scrapbooking albums (when I says their, I mean mine about them!) opposite the letters they receive from Santa to reinforce their memories later on.

I wish my mum had kept copies of the my old letters – I think it would be quite amusing to read them and they will make an interesting piece of history.

** The Love Santa letter template may help your children write to Santa, or read our tips on good letters.

Christmas Memories and stories…

Christmas brings many images to mind – rushing around getting gifts organised, preparing food, visiting family and friends, decorations everywhere, end of year projects/assignments being finished, cricket season, and so on.

There are so many different ways to celebrate Christmas, too. Especially when you consider the variety of family size and structures now, and how many people don’t live close to family.

This section of our blog is for sharing those traditions, ideas and stories that have made our Christmases what they are. Hopefully, reliving the memory will bring a smile to your face and the face of others. And it may just start a family tradition for others, too.

To add your story, please register on the site by clicking register under the meta heading on the left, and then log in using your password. Go to the write page and type in your story – simple! Stories are all moderated before they go live (just to ensure it stays family friendly) but your story should be live not long after you post it.

So please let us know some of the things that make your Christmas special.

Love Santa’s Elf

Favourite Santa stories and memories

From the time we’re one or two years old until we’re about 10, we get a special visit from Santa on Christmas Eve. We also see Santa at special events, shops, parks and in books and movies.

Some families have special traditions for Santa – like leaving the same snack every year, hanging up stockings, finding presents under the tree or on the bed. We love hearing about these traditions, so pelase share them in this category of our blog.

Your special stories can go in here, too – those one off things that happened that hold a special place in your heart.

To add your story, please register on the site by clicking ‘register’ under the meta heading on the left, and then log in using your password. Go to the ‘write’ page and type in your story – simple! Stories are all moderated before they go live (just to ensure it stays family friendly) but your story should be live not long after you post it.

We hope that sharing these ideas will bring a smile to your face and give others’ inspriation for creating their own special memories and family traditions.

Love Santa’s Elf


Santa and Christmas provide magic and happiness to many children and adults around the world.

I am proud to have been asked by Santa to help him keep up with his letter writing each Christmas, but I still want to do more to keep the magic alive. So I have started this blog to share Christmas memories, traditions and ideas.

Everyone is welcome to share their special Christmas and Santa memories in this blog. Remember that if it is a precious memory to you, it can be included no matter how simple or insignifcant it may seem.

Love Santa’s Elf

Share your Christmas story