Archive for December, 2010

I have been spending the last few years trying to sort through family items, on all sides of our family.

Some of the lessons that I’d like to pass along are the obvious ones, which bear repeating. Others you may not have thought about.

# 1    Label all your pictures when you can! Don’t use pencil or ball point pens, if you can avoid it. Use thin point permanent markers, preferably acid-free archival photo safe markers. You can get them at the big box supply or hobby stores. Test the ink on the edge of the back of the photo.

There are photos that I have been shown over the years, and ones that turned up in boxes, and drawers.  Many of the pictures are obvious who they are of…some are not at all.  Memories vary in their accuracy also.  Even photos that the subjects of seem obvious to one family member, are not so obvious to another.  We’ve had good help from some extended family members in identifying subjects and places.  But there are going to be “family” photos that we cannot identify at all.  Don’t let it happen in your family!

# 2    Either make a list, or individually put notes, with special pieces of glassware, china, or tools.  I followed John’s mother, Harriet, around the house one day, making notes on all sorts of pieces of glassware, furniture, etc. I had it listed by whom in the family it had belonged to, and what cabinet it was in or where it was in the house.  But they moved. She moved twice.  Some pieces I can match up.  Some, I cannot.

          John’s father’s mother used to put notes inside items. They would say a few lines about the history of the item. Often, the note would also say who she wanted to have the item when she was gone. This worked very well. 

His aunt and uncle gave a lot of items to the people that they wanted to have them, while they were alive.  That way they could tell them about the items, and see the people’s pleasure in receiving the gifts. Many items she would label, or write a short note about.

If you intend to keep using the item…just pull the note out, and put it back when you return the item to the cabinet.  Make sure the note says what the item is, in case they aren’t put back together.

          Elizabeth, our oldest daughter, and I try to take pictures of items, and then label the picture.  It does not always work. We still have a lot to identify.  But we are making progress.  If you keep copies of these photos off the premises, in a safe deposit box, or at a family member’s home, it also helps identify items if there is a fire, or theft.

#3     The greatest gift that you can give to your family is their past.  Do not be embarrassed about how you look in a video; do not be afraid of how your spelling or sentences read.  Have your family run a video camera at Christmas. Tell them about the quilt that your Great-Aunt made at her church group.  Show them the piece of glass that was your first gift at your new home. Identify the tools that your father used. 

If the family isn’t home for the holidays, take pictures of your bowl for baking bread; the rolling pin that was your great great grandmother’s; the china cabinet that was rescued from your parents’ house fire. 

Don’t just say “Great Great Grandmother’s”. Say the name. And say if you mean your Great Great Grand, or your son’s, or your grand-daughter’s.  It makes a difference! Make copies of the photos that you take of the items. Label them. Send them. Don’t worry that they are not in a fancy scrapbook. Don’t wonder if anyone will care. Do it. Give your descendents your memories.  If you have a family member and a printer/scanner available, join the technology era, and work with them to scan and label photos of people and items.

My grandfather used to say:  “It’s all memories”.

Don’t wait to share those precious memories and remembrances. 

It costs very little to share memories.  Try it this Christmas season.  If you don’t get it done now, do not fret.  This gift is greatly appreciated at any time it is received.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.  Antiques are the ultimate recyclable; and make unique gifts for home décor.

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We are all trying to find the perfect gift for our family members. The “perfect gift” can have a whole spectrum of definitions, from a big screen television to the original, or a copy, of the only picture of your mother’s grandparents.

Listed below are some ideas for gifts that might fit the definition of the “perfect gift”.  Most show creativity and thoughtfulness rather than an expensive price tag.  But there are a few of those too.

1.     Many specialty businesses can ship a package to your giftee.  If you are sure that someone will be home to care for a plant, an amaryllis is an enjoyable indoor plant that produces plenty of growth. Several “big name” garden companies will ship gorgeous plants for you.  Or you can find them at local suppliers, and mail them yourself, for much less.  We have some beautiful Christmas cacti in different shades…ready to bloom.

2.      I am a big fan of magazines.  A monthly subscription provides a treat to a senior citizen who might not get much mail, or to a young person, or couple, away from family and friends.  Some magazines offer a buy one, get one free feature; and most give significant discounts for a subscription.  You can pick up several different magazines, on a single topic, at your local bookstore for a one time gift.  Or buy one, or more, to wrap and use the coupons inside to order a follow-up subscription. It is not a very “green” gift, unless the paper is recycled. 

3.      If you are older, or on a limited income, copies of photos of “ancestors” are a treasure to most young adults.  You can make this a copy in a frame of just one special photo.  Or, you can do an entire album of family ancestors.  I am not a big fan of cutting up photos of people to place in modern “scrapbooks”.  I think that you can lose valuable context, such as the family home in the background, when you cut up photos.  If you are going to do a fancy scrapbook, make sure that a copy of the “whole” photo is saved for its information value; and that you write the information about people and places on the back in a fine point permanent marker that you test on the edge of the photo first.

4.      One Christmas, my parents gave each of their grand-daughters a family quilt made by my paternal grandmother.  These were hand-quilted when their great-grandmother was not much older than them.  They all, naturally, were thrilled with that gift.  How much more excited might they have been to receive the quilts directly from their great-grandmother while she was still alive?  And how excited would my grandmother have been to give those gifts, and see the girls’ reactions? But none of us knew that the quilts existed, or where they were until my parents found the quilts, and my father remembered the stories about the quilts, after she had passed away.

 5.      Antique shops are a wonderful source of interesting and unique “old” items.  You might find the fourth bowl to a four bowl set that your mother had accidently broken. You might find a nautical print that would remind your father of a favorite vacation place.  Or a set of dishes for your sister that exactly match her china pattern. Or a set of glasses for a couples’ new home. Or you might find a treasure that would be “new” like a great old bowl for your daughter, or old eyeglasses for your eye doctor’s office.  We once bought an “antique” porch rocker for my mother-in-law.  It turned out afterwards, that the rocker had belonged to an acquaintances’ family member. Small world!!

 6.      The world of the internet has expanded all gift-giving possibilities.  There are, naturally, gift certificates to all sorts of specialty companies from Amazon to White Flower Farm.  You can direct the gift certificate toward a special plant or leave it wide open for anything from a book to a tool. Most places will send the gift certificate with a catalog to choose the gift from…or you can find an item and have it gift wrapped and shipped/insured.  Some places only offer specific priced gift cards.  Or they have expiration dates.  Our Shops gift certificates are for any amount and have no expiration date, and are good for either the Antique Shop, the greenhouse, or a horse!

 7.      Live animals.  I generally do not recommend purchasing a live animal for a gift for someone.  But, you can give a gift certificate for a particular type of pet, with the promise to go shopping together for it at a later date.  If your friend or family member is in to “buy local” or “sustainable agriculture”, you could purchase anything from a carton of organic eggs weekly for a specific period of time to a dozen chickens of their choice!

 8.       A trip to someplace local.  There are museums, aquariums, movie theaters, live community theater, and a myriad of other places that you can give a gift of tickets to.  Or better yet, do something as a family or a group.  It doesn’t have to be immediate.  The promise, fulfilled, of a trip to the movies or the art museum, whatever, gives the recipient something to look forward to and relish the memory of.  It does not have to be a high priced event to be memorable. Make sure that you bring a camera, or take a few photos on your cellular phone!

 9.        Especially if you are visiting, or being visited by, multi-generations, a trip to some event or place can cure “cabin fever” and “too much” togetherness.  Don’t forget that young children need to move around. And older folks might need a rest.  Plan your activities to allow for the needs of all the members of your group.  So that you will all get the most enjoyment from the event.

 10.      If you have moved to a new area far from home, that has a “local” newspaper, a gift subscription for your family lets them know what is going on in your new “home base”.  On the flip side, a subscription to the “local” paper gives someone who has moved away a recurring reminder of “home”.

 Most of these items can range from a low cost gift to a high dollar one depending on how you approach it. Remember that building “memories” with your family is a precious gift that keeps on giving…

Bake cookies “from scratch” together. Type Grandmother’s recipes in to a computer program and give a copy to each unit of the family.  Go for a drive to look at Holiday Lights. Watch an annual Christmas “special” on TV or buy the DVD to watch several times.  Play Christmas carols while you clean the house.  Read Santa Mouse and have gifts in the tree. Read the Christmas story.  Go to a Christmas Eve Church Service.  Buy a present for a child that will have none.  Shop together for groceries and donate some to your local food pantry.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose.

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