This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:
As the year winds down and the presents pile up, it's easy to get caught in the shop-and-buy frenzy of the holiday season. It's important to remember this is a season about giving though, not just buying. Instead of asking for the gifts you want this year, what if you asked for glasses to help a child who can't see, or a mosquito net to prevent a family from getting malaria?
In The New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof's "Gifts That Say You Care" gift guide, he highlights five great organizations to think about giving to. A $5 donation to Against Malaria will provide a bed net to a family in the part of Africa where many young children are getting sick. Would you be willing to give up one of the gifts in your stocking for that?
If being green and keeping the earth a comfortable place to live for everyone, including animals, is something you're passionate about, check out the NRDC's "Green Gifts" gift guide. You can help protect forests from being chopped down or preserve the habitats for all kinds of wildlife. Even at home, rally some people together and volunteer to plant trees in your neighborhood.
Caring about charity doesn't mean you have to give up presents altogether. HuffPost High School has compiled unique DIY gift ideas for the artsy, the tech-y, and the geeky that take time, but not much money to make. Or you can go even simpler while staying creative -- write a poem for someone and express through words their importance in your life.
So as we get closer to Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, let's talk about giving -- and getting -- new kinds of gifts.
Questions for discussion:
- Is there a charity you'd want to support instead of getting all your presents this year?
- What's something you could make as a gift for your parents? Your siblings? A friend?
- What do you think about having a no-gift-at-all holiday?
Turn treasures from your collector's pockets (and a few from the garden) into a fun learning game. How To Do It: Collect 26 pretty rocks and wash them. Paint colorful alphabet letters, and embellish with whimsical details like polka dots or hearts. Cover with a glaze. See instructions at Momtastic. Time Commitment: An evening
This flannel boys' wallet is just-like-dad, so we know your guy will dig it. He may not have much money to put in it yet, but maybe he'll keep a picture of his favorite girl inside? How To Do It: Pick a solid color lining for the inside, your favorite suiting fabric (we heart tweed) for the outside and decorate with grommets, a scrap of leather or buttons. Full instructions can be found at Noodle-Head Time Commitment: An evening
They're easy (and super cheap!) to make so create a whole menagerie! Plus, no need to hunt around for Halloween ideas next year. How To Do It: Decide upon the inhabitants of your at-home zoo. The lion? Attach a feather boa piece to a headband. Reindeer? Start with a store-bought headband, trace ears and antlers using freezer paper and embellish them using embroidery thread. Full instructions at Hart and Sew. Time Commitment: An evening
Wingardium Leviosa! Opticus Reparem! No wizard getup is complete without a special wand, and this paper-and-paint creation is simple to make, and looks like the real thing. How To Do It: Stick some double sided tape diagonally on a sheet of paper and roll it into a thin tube. Fill the wand with glue gun glue and wait for it to set. When dry, make a pattern on the outside with the glue gun by rotating the wand as you do it. Spray paint the wand a base color, and then embellish or distress as you please with acrylic on top (try gold paint for extra pizzazz). Full instructions at Instructables Time Commitment: An evening
This plush guitar toy has all the superstar cool she craves, but is still completely snuggle-worthy when she's done rocking out with it. How To Do It: Make two guitar shapes out of red and yellow felt, decorate with yellow stitching and a lightning bolt, and sew together (don't forget the stuffing!) Cut six strings out of black elastic and secure using pieces of felt, then embellish with cute pom-poms. See full instructions on Craftzine Time Commitment: A day
From: No Time for Flashcards What You Need: -Mini marshmallows -Markers -Glue -Construction paper -Orange scrap paper -Scissors How to Do It: Draw a snowman on the construction paper, including the face and buttons. Cut out a carrot nose from the orange scrap paper and glue onto the face. Outline the snowman's body with glue. While the glue is still wet, stick the mini marshmallows in place and let dry. Hang up your fun new marshmellow friend on the fridge or wherever you hang holiday cards.
The kids may be a tad too young to decorate a real-life Christmas tree from top to bottom, but these yard-wound trees are a great a substitute. They can also be used as props for your girl's (new!) dollhouse once the holiday's over! From: Pretty Ditty Good for ages: 6 and up What you'll need: - 1 ball of thick green yarn - 1 ball of fuzzy white yarn - 3 foam cones - pins - red berries, stars and other accessories How to make it: Beginning at the base of the cone, pin together a green yarn strand and a white yarn strand and attach them the base. Wrap both strands around the base, pinning approximately every 2". Once the base is completely wrapped, work your way up around the cone, wrapping to the top. (You can stop pinning the yarn once the base is secure.) Once you've reached the top and covered it completely, pin the yarn strands down. Then, begin to wrap the yarn back down the cone. At the bottom of the cone, cut the strands and secure in place with a pin. Accessorize by pinning on some red berries, or adding a star to the top of the tree.
From: Frugal Family Fun What You'll Need: -Black construction paper -Tissue paper torn into pieces -Snowflake-shaped cookie cutter -2 pieces of clear contact paper How to Do It: Trace around the snowflake cookie cutters on the black construction paper. Cut the shapes out of the paper. Take the black paper and place on top of a piece of contact paper, sticky-side up. Press into place. Sprinkle the tissue paper pieces over the sticky snowflakes. Take another piece of contact paper, this time sticky-side down, and press over the artwork. Press into place and hang in the window.
From: Creative Kismet What You'll Need: -Clay -Rolling pin -Cookie cutters -Rubber stamps How to Do It: Roll out clay like cookie dough. Take cookie cutters and cut out shapes of all sizes and styles. Press the stamps into the clay to make designs. Make a small hole in the top. Let dry overnight and then paint. Thread ribbon or yarn through the holes to make into an ornament and hang on your tree!
From: Crafts by Amanda Good for ages: 5 and up What you'll need: - wooden paint stir sticks - white paint - 3" x 3" pieces of felt for the hats - 8" x 1" strips of material or felt for the scarves - buttons or pony beads - orange toothpicks - yarn or string - glue and hot glue gun - black marker How to make it: First, get some free paint stir sticks from your local paint store, then paint each stick white and let dry. Cut fabric scraps or felt into strips for scarves and squares for hats. Wrap the "hat" square around the top of your stick, and glue the sides together with a hot glue gun (you should handle that part). Tie a piece of yarn to gather the top and finish by fraying the ends with scissors so it looks like a pom-pom or hat tassel. Tie the strip for the scarf around the "neck" of the stick and knot it. Glue on buttons or beads down the center of the stick, and then glue on the half of a toothpick for a nose. Use a marker to decorate with eyes and a mouth.
In her new cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."
We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.
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