Sunday, August 16, 2015

You Can't Put A Price Tag On Time

Earlier this summer an acquaintance of mine reached out asking for some homemade, budget friendly doggy treat gift ideas. She had been invited to a coworker's house for a doggy birthday party. It was a small gathering of coworkers, friends and the pup-of-honor. In the weeks prior, party planning was "the talk of the office." Posh. All the bells and whistles. Specialty cake being made by a gourmet dog bakery.

Did I have any recipes for gourmet dog treats? Could the treats be spruced up a bit to look fancy? Any ideas on how to package 'em up so they didn't look cheap-ish?

I sent her a bunch of crunchy biscuit recipes, explained how to make swizzle, suggested various kinds of sprinkles she could use and emailed several dozen photos on how to package the biscuits using inexpensive containers and baskets. When she sent me photos of the final product, I was genuinely impressed. She nailed it.

After not hearing back for almost a week, I sent an email and asked how the party went. Was her brilliant creation a hit?

"Meh. It went ok."

That was it. Although tempted to bombard her with questions, I didn't need to. Those four words said it all. The tone. Disappointment. Frustration. No translation necessary.

It was all too familiar.

I grew up surrounded by exceptionally talented crafters and cooks. Family members, friends, and neighbors our family had grown close to all hand sewed beautiful quilts, pillows and wall hangings, made gorgeous holiday ornaments, whipped up gourmet food baskets filled with their homemade treats, made endless jars and jams, etc. I embraced all of it and learned from some of the best.

I still do. It's a passion of mine. 

Unfortunately, some people don't appreciate or value the time and effort that goes into something handcrafted or homemade. They'd much prefer a mass-produced, overpriced throw blanket or martini glasses purchased at a retail chain. Hey, to each their own. I get it. What I don't get are the looks.

Oh, you try your best to mask the disapproval,'s there. Then, the snarky comments follow when the one who dared to give a non-store-bought gift leaves the room.

One of the biggest misconceptions about DIY gifts is it's a clever way to get out of spending money on a gift. I have to resist the urge to laugh when I hear this because it's the furthest thing from the truth. For shits and giggles, let's focus on throw blankets. You can get a decent, ultra soft, dip-dyed yarn blanket from Nordstrom for around $50. Did you know if someone were to crochet a similar blanket, using similar yarn, it would cost about the same?

Good yarn isn't cheap. You're going to pay about $6-$8 per skein. On average, it takes 8-10 skeins to create a blanket...depending on the size of the blanket.  Bottom line...a handcrafted, crocheted blanket will cost between $48-$80 to make. That's not including the time it takes to crochet the actual blanket. It can take days or weeks to complete a blanket.

For a lot of gift giving occasions, I create themed, rustic food baskets filled with mostly homemade goodies. Last fall, friends of ours renewed their wedding vows. Lisa and I made a gigantic basket filled with autumn harvest stew, yeast bread, cranberry quick breads, cookies, crostini and cheese. Everything (minus the cheese) was homemade. Ingredients cost money. It took a day and a half to whip up the items filling the basket. You can't put a price tag on time. We nestled the goodies in a gorgeous wicker basket. It looked incredible.

And, it was greatly appreciated by the recipients.

I'll be the first to admit, I've shopped at retailers for gifts here and there over the years.  I dreaded it. Cranky shoppers. Dodging unattended kids. Store clerks who hate their jobs. We don't do it any longer. Gifts are handcrafted and homemade. I'm no longer concerned whether someone will be offended by a rustic basket o' cookies or a tin of chocolate-covered-something. I take pride in what we create or whip up in the kitchen. If that stampedes on anyone's parade, well...too bad. If our gift is an eyesore amid all the Sephora and Macy's gift bags, then we need to leave. Not our scene. Thanks for the cocktail. Adios.

Lisa and I are quite fortunate. Most of the people in our life embrace everything and anything handcrafted and homemade. The few who don't...we don't buy 'em anything. 

On a more serious note, if someone gives you a gift they took the time to make, show some gratitude. Even if you hate it or it's not your thing, be grateful. Why? Because they took the time to make it for you. And, the amount of time they put into it, whether it was two hours or two weeks...they'll never get that time back. You can't put a price tag on time. So, put a smile on your face, give that person a hug, pinch their cheeks, smack their ass...whatever.

Show. Some. Gratitude.

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