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Live it!: How to create or find that perfect holiday gift

For Lowell Anderson, his skills woodworking skills offer a perfect medium for crafting personal gifts for friends and family. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

Be it at Christmas, for a birthday or Valentine’s Day, we all want to give a gift that is meaningful — without breaking the bank.

Recently, we at Live it! Magazine were discussing the holiday season and how we find the perfect gift for friends or loved ones.

In the process, we decided to reach out to area residents and to gauge what creative gift ideas they come up with for the holidays and other special events.

We also spoke to retailers.

Here's what a select few of them had to say.

Lowell Anderson uses a penchant for carving to create rich wood ornaments. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

The wood smith

It’s been a mere eight years since Lowell Anderson discovered a knack for wood carving after attending a class in Sunburg.

You wouldn’t know it: the multifarious novelties he’s crafted — from plates to candle holders, to ornaments, jewelry boxes and pocket-sized trinkets — more so hint at a lifelong avocation.

Almost all are cut from Tilia, also known as basswood, which Lowell purchases from wholesalers in Wisconsin and Michigan, and feature a floral design produced by bushels of dinky gouges and a precise hand.

With the pieces varying in both size and shape, the gouging can take days, even weeks.

Lowell then hand sands and cures each piece — using Danish oil to produce a hard, liquid-resistant satin finish — as well as applying three coats of a clear spray varnish.

The woodworkings are invariably presented to family and friends as anniversary, birthday and holiday gifts.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” said Lowell, a retired postmaster from Clara City. “It keeps me active.”

Fore Catherine Moudry, a gift should capture a moment in time. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

The creative mind

Catherine Moudry’s desire is for each of her nine grandchildren to feel a connection to their birthday and holiday offerings. So each year, she fashions gifts with a defined theme.

A photo on her computer boasts the knight’s garb and foam swords she made by hand one Christmas for her grandsons; another reveals the kitchen aprons she stitched from a jumble of bandanas for her granddaughters. As a topper, Catherine also presents her grandkids with a receptacle containing a novelty: kiln-fired cookie stamps were last year’s entry.

“It’s fun to think new things up,” said Catherine, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Woodland Centers in Willmar.

This year’s theme is rodeo, with each member of Catherine’s immediate family receiving cowboy boots for Christmas. So Catherine has selected patterns on folkwear.com — a source for crafting ethnic and period clothing — to hand-stitch Western-style chaps for her grandsons and two-toned rodeo skirts for her granddaughters.

It’s a time-consuming venture, she said, as the initial fabric cuts will act as the template for those that follow. “But it’s all worth it to see the looks on their faces and the twirling and whirling” when they model for photos.

There's little Lois Nelson can't create with an idea and a sewing machine. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

The sewer

Lois Nelson has been sewing and embroidering for as long as her memory serves.

It’s among a number of arts and crafts talents she inherited from her mother and grandparents.

Over the years, she has relied on needleworking to create innumerable gifts, most commonly blankets, potholders, scarves and stocking caps.

“It’s a big thing in our family to pass things on that were made using your hands,” said Lois, whose father, Lowell Anderson, is a woodworker and is also spotlighted in this piece. “It’s fun to have these traditions.”

Occasionally, Lois will host girlfriends at her Willmar home and “we’ll hackle and cackle and commune over the sewing machine.”

She’s currently working through a multiplicity of varicolored fabrics and materials to create oversize holiday quilts for friends and family.

Jewelers are just one business that offers parties to find the perfect gift. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT!)

The retailer

If there’s one thing Jill Hanson has learned during her years as a gemologist, it’s that jewelry sales are more often predicated by the knowledge of the staff over the wants of the customer.

In fact, she said, buyers consistently enter the store with little or no idea about just what they are looking for.

It’s why Elmquist Jewelers in Willmar and other similar stores offer family open houses and ladies’ nights. Here, customers can select their favorite gift ideas and complete wish lists, simplifying their color, cut, design and budget choices.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Jill said. “It’s a great way for us to ensure the customer gets what they want and for them to see all the options available to them.”

A favored item is switch-n-fun jewelry, stainless steel rings, pendants and bracelets that boast interchangeable stones of nearly every color so the jewelry can be easily matched with other fashion accessories.

Pandora — a product that offers women the opportunity to build their own jewelry piece by applying gemstones and charms to an unadorned bracelet — has also remained trendy.

“There are so many options with both these pieces,” Jill said.

Dan Burdett is the lead writer for Live it! Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @danburdett1

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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