I know what you're thinking: It's not Halloween, Birdy -- get over it! The kitty Trick-or-Treat pendant so cleverly made on a Scrabble letter piece was a gift from a friend around All Hallow's Eve this year. It wasn't because we celebrate Halloween in any big fashion, it was one of those just-because gifts from a friend that just happened around the holidays. I feel very fortunate to have sweet friends who bestow such thoughtful things like that, no holiday required, like the gold leather-bound notebook from a friend's trip to London, and a copy of Bubbly On Your Budget, from another friend's trip to the new local bookshop in Ballard, Book Larder. I can't express enough how grateful I am for such things, not because they are so lovely and enriching, but because you know there was a lot of heart put into their selection. It could have been a shiny rock someone picked up on the ground and given to me, because, "ooh shiny!" That's me! But I'd place it on the mantle like it was a king's crown.

We're getting into the fever pitch of the holiday season, where advertising and media inundate us with the pressure to get bigger, better, over-the-top gifts for our loved ones. Take a moment, take two moments -- deep breath. Your loved ones appreciate your presence more than presents, as the saying goes. And if you feel the desire to give them a token of your love during the holidays, there's no need to "wow" them, they love you for exactly who you are. You'll see something passing by a store, a small and thoughtful bauble you know they would appreciate, and no matter how humble it may seem to others, it will likely mean the world to its recipient. Consider a journal with a heartfelt note on the first page. Or bake a batch of their favorite cookies. It's the un-holiday gifts from sweet friends that are a reminder that it is indeed the thought that counts.

Jaunty Fine Print:  photos by Denise Sakaki, lovely gifts from lovely friends - merci!

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