Sunday, 30 September 2007

An Eco-Friendly Extravaganza

My dear baby Muffy turned one year old today. As I sit and reflect on the past twelve months, I am astonished at how quickly my sweet tender newborn has transformed into a bright, determined little toddler with a crooked grin and a keen interest in climbing! Needless to say, today was a day of celebration in our household. The festivities were both casual and lively as our families gathered to pay tribute to the charming little guest of honor.

While my baby’s first birthday was a momentous occasion that deserved special attention, I wanted to ensure that the environmental impact of the event was kept to a minimum. It seems most kid’s parties these days result in several trash bags of paper plates, disposable cutlery, excessive decorations and junkie party favors. With an eco-friendly theme in mind, I decided to pass on the paper plates and napkins for this affair and opted to use my everyday dishes and linens. I enlisted the dishwashing services of my dear husband between courses to ensure there were clean plates in time for the birthday cake. Junkie dollar store loot bags were replaced with a few adorable party favors that were handmade, all-natural and simply beautiful! The infants and toddlers each received a hand-crafted finger puppet and a wholesome crocheted strawberry compliments of the Wool Fairy. Muffy’s seven year old cousin was no doubt pleased with the small assortment of seashells tucked into his favor bag. As the big brother, Chi-Chi made his contribution to the party planning by providing the majority of the decorations. A banner comprised of his artwork adorned the dining room along with a simple “Happy Birthday” sign that I whipped up during a naptime. With the recent discovery of a balloon in Chi-Chi’s diaper, I decided it would be safe and wise to seek out an alternative to this popular party favorite. I picked up a set of paper balloons that did the trick and can be re-used for future family celebrations. A collection of goofy hats and wigs from my “tickle trunk” replaced the traditional paper party hats. Our menu consisted of a steaming pot of homemade organic chili and a healthy assortment of cheese, fruit and veggies. We all enjoyed a scrumptious chocolate zucchini cake compliments of my sweet and generous mother!

My eco-friendly party planning resulted in a fun and festive event that was enjoyable for the guests and kind to our Mother Earth!

Friday, 28 September 2007

Chi-Chi's Fabulous Find

Last weekend my husband and I packed up the crew and headed down to the Annapolis Valley to attend the Wolfville Antique Show. This proved to be no small feat. Navigating two very active and curious toddlers through an auditorium crammed with precious, fragile and expensive objects could have easily spelled disaster! We have both been avid antique collectors for years and continue to indulge in this hobby, despite the fact that it is becoming more difficult with a growing family. Gone are the days of spending countless hours in musty shops and barns - poking, dreaming and losing all track of time. We have learned to be more efficient in our shopping techniques, as we are now faced with the challenge of working around the limited attention spans of Chi-Chi and Muffy.

Perhaps our passion for antiques is beginning to rub off on the little ones. Despite the fact that Mommy and Daddy are the collectors in the family, Chi-Chi was the one who walked away with a fabulous find at the show. He eyed an adorable antique upholstered chair that was just his size. The chair measures 22” high by 19” wide and we were told it dates back to the 1920's. Being a bit of a nostalgic, I have a soft spot in my heart for children's antiques. This dear little chair was simply irresistible. I envisioned it nestled into a cozy little reading nook for the kiddies. Not wasting any time, the boys and I dropped it off at a local upholstery shop this week to give it a much-needed makeover. We chose a cheerful, bright red fabric that is durable enough to withstand the wear and tear it will undeniably experience. Decked out in its new attire, the little chair is a charming addition to the living room and accents the décor beautifully. What a wonderful alternative to a gaudy, furry purple “Dora” chair parked next to my sofa!

I regret not taking a "before" photo of this piece. It was definitely well-used and well-loved throughout its life. For close to a century this sweet little chair has been bringing a touch of joy and comfort to children’s lives. It warms my heart that we are providing it with a loving and caring home where it can continue its journey. I have no doubt Chi-Chi’s fabulous find will be around for generations to come!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Return of the Wool Fairy

The Wool Fairy of Seaside Farms paid another late night visit to our house recently. Her basket was brimming with a cornucopia of freshly harvested woolen veggies. Since we are in the midst of the fall harvest season, she wanted to ensure that Chi-Chi and Muffy’s pantry was well stocked with a fresh and diverse supply of produce.

Our family has been taking full advantage of the bountiful assortment of fresh, local fruits and veggies available at the many farmers markets this autumn. We have all been feasting like kings, enjoying the mouth-watering selection of natural treats that grace our plates each mealtime. Chi-Chi and Muffy have been devouring every last morsel of these healthy, wholesome foods. As a health-conscious, doting mommy, the phrase, “More please!” is music to my ears!

I am proud to be setting a positive example to my children during these formative years. Not only are they eating a varied and nutritious diet to support strong, healthy growth, they are also learning the ins and outs of adopting a healthy lifestyle. Involving the little ones in our shopping trips helps them gain a better appreciation for the foods we consume and teaches them the benefits of buying local and organic when possible. To my delight, Chi-Chi has been enthusiastically re-enacting our shopping expeditions, regularly engaging in imaginary trips to the market for food to feed the family. As I quietly observe his play scenarios, I marvel at his creative imagination and his striking ability to learn by example. Chi-Chi may not be aware of it, but through his play, he is practicing and developing important skills and values that will serve him throughout his life.

I’ve also learned that presenting my children with healthy play food is a fun way to plant the seed for future healthy eating and lifestyle habits. On a recent trip to a department store, I was horrified to discover a set of play food depicting the offerings of a well-known fast food restaurant. In light of the rising childhood obesity rates, we must question the message this sends to our children. I am pleased to see my little ones playing with more appropriate options including strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and pears. (I will admit to making an irresistible cookie, but at least it was oatmeal raisin!) As Chi-Chi prepares an elaborate concoction of eggplant, mushroom soup, Muffy munches happily on a leaf of lettuce. These natural, open-ended toys offer endless opportunities for these young creative minds while promoting a diet rich in fresh produce!

Who knows what woolen treats our play-food obsessed fairy will supply on her next visit. You may see her wandering the booths on your next trip to the farmers market, seeking inspiration!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Kozy Kanteen

It was a wet, blustery day today. The wild weather presented our family with a perfect opportunity to “bunker in” for the afternoon. With both little ones tucked in for a restful nap, I settled into my overstuffed couch with a comforting cup of Red Rose and a basket full of wool. I’ve been itching for a quiet moment to embark on the latest project brewing in my head.

A few months ago, I initiated a “plastic elimination campaign” in our household. Worried over the risks associated with the use of plastic beverage and food containers, I started seeking out non-plastic alternatives. Chi-Chi and Muffy were outfitted with a set of “Klean Kanteen” stainless steel sippy cups. These sippy cups are available locally through my friend at Nurtured Products for Parenting ( Our Klean Kanteens have been a big hit. Their trim and lightweight design makes them easy for Chi-Chi and Muffy to handle. As a concerned mommy, I’m pleased to have found a healthy alternative for serving drinks to my precious little ones. The canteens are both durable and easy to clean. I have noticed, however, that these metal cups can become a bit cool for little hands when refilled with a frosty serving of milk. A quick wrap in a tea towel easily takes the chill off. Although this does the trick, I decided to devise a solution that would be more fun, creative and colorful!

My deep passion for wool and my newly acquired crochet skills inspired my latest endeavor. I hopped in the car for a quick ride to my local yarn shop – Tangled Skeins in Dartmouth. After an hour of drooling over the gorgeous selection of luxurious natural fibers, I settled on a sumptuous skein of hand-dyed wool by the Fleece Artist ( I was convinced that both Chi-Chi and Muffy would be drawn to the ocean-inspired hues of my selection – a most beautiful blend of blues, greens and aqua.

Although simple and straightforward in design, I’m very pleased with the new "Kanteen Kozy". It works wonders at keeping tender little fingers warm and toasty. As a bonus, it helps soften the blow when the odd cup is hurled across the hardwood floor! Chi-Chi adores his Kanteen's new wardrobe and enjoys fingering the soft wool as he guzzles his yummy milk.

The rhythmic and repetitive motion of my crochet hook is often meditative in nature. With the rain battering against the window and the wind whistling through the eaves, I lost track of time today, absorbed in the details of my project. What a “kozy” way to spend a stormy afternoon!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

A Gift From The Sea

For many of us, it is a struggle to dream up unique and creative gift ideas for children. This may sound ironic, considering the shelves of most big box toy stores are literally overflowing with the “latest and greatest craze”. It seems today’s children have it all. It is often a challenge to find a gift that will capture a child’s interest long term, and spark their imagination.

Our nephew, who lives just down the road, turns seven tomorrow. I wanted to give him a special birthday present that he would truly appreciate, but that would also meet our family’s personal ethical standards. I am making a concerted effort to supply my own little ones with natural, ecologically friendly toys. It only stands to reason that I would take these same factors into consideration when choosing gifts from our family.

Fortunately, I’ve got Chi-Chi to keep me up to speed on what kids go crazy for these days! His keen interest in sea life provided me with the inspiration I was looking for. His love of the sea prompted us to purchase him a copy of Canada’s Atlantic Seashore by Jeffrey C. Domm. Mr. Domm just happens to be a neighbour of ours! Despite the fact this book is targeted at an older crowd, Chi-Chi has grown quite attached to his copy and refers to it on a regular basis. His enthusiasm lead me to the conclusion that our little nephew would likely enjoy this publication as well. I picked up an extra copy at a local independent bookstore and assembled a small collection of native shells and preserved sea creatures. The collection includes a starfish, sand dollar, moon snail, scallop, whelk and a few periwinkles. It is the perfect little starter set for a young, aspiring beachcomber!

I’m so pleased with this little package of treasures from the sea. Not only is this a unique, educational and natural gift, it was also sourced locally. The book was written locally and was printed and bound in Canada. All of the shells were discovered by yours truly, or purchased at a nearby souvenir shop. Obviously, they are biodegradable, and will not be taking up residence in a landfill fifty years from now.

I hope our little nephew enjoys this small gift that comes from the heart. Perhaps it will provide him with gentle encouragement to further investigate, explore and appreciate the abundance of sea life at his doorstep!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

An Antique Lover's Sandbox

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the past. I am a lover of old homes, antiques and the simpler methods and lifestyles of the “good old days”. An object with a lengthy and colorful past emanates a warmth, charm and patina that simply cannot be duplicated or reproduced. Not surprisingly, my husband and I have been avid antique collectors for several years. Although we built a new home four years ago, we incorporated a number of reclaimed and antique materials into the construction. We were extremely fortunate to stumble upon a set of hand-hewn beams being salvaged from a crumbling barn in the Annapolis Valley. We integrated these beams into our downstairs living space, creating the illusion of an authentic post and beam frame. The leftover and unused beams were tossed in the backyard for unknown future projects.

This past spring, I decided it would be worthwhile to install a sandbox in our backyard. Chi-Chi adores working with sand. I knew a sandbox would provide endless hours of entertainment for both of my little ones. Although we live just a hop, skip and a jump from the beach, it is not always practical to make the trek to the shore with two small children. I printed a few sandbox plans off the internet and presented them to my husband one Saturday morning. He was assigned his “weekend project” and instructed to march off to the local hardware store to purchase the required supplies. Being a resourceful and creative man, he suggested we incorporate the remaining barn beams into the construction of the sandbox. What an ingenious idea! Not only did we save on material costs, we also “recycled” our beams. We were thrilled with the end results. The completed sandbox is simply beautiful and possesses a warmth and character like no other! The box is 6’X6’, which provides ample space for two to three children to play creatively and independently. The wide beams provide the perfect place for a tired mother to rest her laurels!

Chi-Chi and Muffy spend over an hour each day digging and exploring in the sandbox. Along with the traditional buckets and shovels, the sandbox houses treasures from our trips to the seashore. Both Chi-Chi and Muffy delight in discovering a scallop or moon snail shell while working away on their excavation projects. I too enjoy the sandbox and have discovered its therapeutic qualities. I often find myself getting lost in the relaxed, open-ended play opportunities that it presents. I enjoy assisting Chi-Chi with his elaborate road and trail systems and giggling at the grimace on Muffy’s face following a gritty bite of sand pie. Our sandbox is a soothing and peaceful spot for children and adults to pass the afternoon!

Once again, I am impressed with the play value offered by an open-ended, natural toy. The sandbox is truly a timeless toy that has stood the test of time. No doubt, we can all recall this much-loved favorite from our childhoods. This is a classic from our past that should be enjoyed by all and not reserved for the nostalgics!

Monday, 10 September 2007

At Tisket, A Tasket

As a concerned citizen of the planet Earth, I make a concerted effort to reduce the amount of waste produced by our household. Although each step often feels like a grain of sand in the Sahara, I remain persistent. Recently, our two major grocery chains launched campaigns promoting the use of reusable shopping bags. I am pleased with this sign of progress and with the message being delivered. Such changes in attitude give us all hope that the concepts of waste reduction are becoming more and more mainstream. Practices once reserved for “granola types” are now becoming commonly accepted.

Our family owns a sizeable stash of cotton shopping bags that serves us well on our weekly trips to the supermarket. I always keep a small supply on hand in the trunk of the car so they are conveniently available when needed. Until recently, I’d never given much thought to these shopping bags beyond their utilitarian value.

As Mom and I prepared for our visit to a local farmers’ market last weekend, I noticed she was toting the most handsome basket. This lovely, large basket, with its pleasing round shape, was simply begging to be filled with freshly harvested fruits and veggies. I was truly amazed at the vast amount of farm-fresh goodies she was able to cram into her shopping basket. Mom’s attractive basket seemed to enhance the richness of our market experience. Browsing amongst the vendor stands with a basket on your arm is somehow both a nostalgic and romantic experience. Luckily, I was able to pick up one of these beautiful baskets for myself during my visit to the Annapolis Valley. I even discovered a matching one for Chi-Chi so he can share in the market experience!

A tisket, a tasket, I love my new basket! It is a fun alternative to my drab cotton bags and is also a great way to incorporate a touch of beauty into my weekly chore of stocking the family’s cupboards!

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Recharging my Batteries

It is a breezy, sunny fall morning. The air is crisp, yet a hint of summer still lingers. As I lounge comfortably in the pergola, savoring a steaming cup of tea, a light gust of wind rustles the leaves of the wisteria vine overhead. The wind chimes entertain me with a cheerful, nostalgic tune. I breathe deeply. I am feeling rested, relaxed and calm. The day before me is a blank canvas and I am free to decorate it as I my heart desires. Something seems amiss in this picture. It is most definitely not a typical day in my life as a mommy. There are no meals to prepare, bums to change, floors to wipe, toys to tidy. It is a day of well-deserved self-indulgence!

In the two and a half years since Chi-Chi's birth, we've been separated a mere two nights. My one-time "getaway" was far from peaceful or relaxing. It was spent at the local maternity hospital, giving birth to dear little Muffy. Muffy's first birthday is fast approaching and I decided it was not unrealistic or outrageous to grant myself the luxury of a weekend alone, free from my day-to-day chores and obligations.

I booked a room at the best five star B&B I know of- my parents' house in the Annapolis Valley! Their 200 year old home overlooks a picturesque valley of rolling farm fields. The house is warm, cozy and full of charm and character. The big bonus for me is the incredible room rate. I'm always welcome free of charge!

The Annapolis Valley is 'the place to be" this time of year. There is a contagious sense of enthusiasm buzzing in the air during the fall harvest season. The farmers’ markets are overflowing with a colorful array of freshly picked fruits and veggies. My shopping basket was filled to the brim following my visit to the Wolfville Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, corn, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, beans – these are just of few of the tasty treats my family will be feasting on this week. A visit to my favorite antique shop, “Antiques at Home” in New Minas was followed by a relaxing afternoon of reading and chatting with Mom. I enjoyed the simple pleasure “free time”, something most of us with young families crave desperately!

I’ll admit, I’ve placed a total of eight phone calls home in the last thirty-six hours. I miss the sticky kisses, sweet smiles and even the poopy little bums! When Monday morning rolls around, I will feel more grounded, patient and appreciative of my family. Just last week, Chi-Chi turned to me and stated, "I want to be by my lone, Mommy." Even at this tender age, Chi-Chi recognizes that we all need personal and private time to think, listen, read, dream (or in his case, have a poop behind the couch). My simple little “no frills” getaway was just what I needed to rejuvenate my mind and body. I will be heading home with my batteries recharged.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Hats Off to Cast-Offs

As I sip lemonade on my sun-drenched deck, basking in one of the few remaining days of summer, bizarre visions of snow squalls and sub-zero temperatures drift through my wandering mind. This may sound rather peculiar, considering the thermometer reads 20 degrees and I’m sporting a tank top and sandals. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Chi-Chi and Muffy are parading through the house in attire suitable for an Arctic expedition. Just moments earlier, a scavenger hunt in the hall closet lead to the exciting discovery of treasures from a recent trip to the local thrift shop. Muffy is proudly toddling along in a cuddly, cozy red LL Bean bunting suit with the $2.99 price tag still attached. Chi-Chi is decked out in a smart navy blue Land’s End snow suit and matching Stride Rite winter boots. His complete outfit set me back a mere $24, which is a far cry from the $200 retail price (including shipping, duty and taxes). The true accountant in me surfaces as my lips form a wide, satisfied grin. I feel a deep sense of pride as I tally the savings in my head.

As the “baby” of the family, I grew up cringing at the mere mention of the word hand-me-down. I had little need or desire for my sister’s outgrown and unwanted leftovers. I hastily snubbed any previously owned article of clothing that snuck into my closet. Needless to say, the tables have now turned, and as a parent, I pounce on any opportunity to clothe Chi-Chi and Muffy in second-hand threads. No doubt, others may find it premature to be shopping for a winter wardrobe as we cling to the fading summer. Experience has taught me that this is a prime time of year for rummaging through second-hand shops and scanning eBay listings for super deals on cold weather apparel. Ninety percent of Chi-Chi and Muffy’s closet is comprised of gently-used attire. I frequent the thrift shops regularly, keeping my eyes pealed for a bargain. I’m rarely disappointed and my efforts are often rewarded with fabulous finds of high quality clothing in pristine condition.

Not only are hand-me-downs easy on the pocketbook, they are also friendly on the environment. Reusing and recycling second-hand items is a great way for families to reduce their ecological footprint and practice the “Three R’s” in day-to-day life.

In setting a positive example, my hope is that Chi-Chi and Muffy will inherit an appreciation for hand-me-downs and the benefits they offer. My dear mother is likely chuckling to herself as she reads these lines. My days of giving cast-offs the cold shoulder are long gone!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Ode to the Modern-Day Milkman

The crunching of gravel on my driveway and a soft thump on the doorstep rouse me from my slumber. I groggily glance at my bedside clock. It is flashing 5:30 a.m. I turn away and nestle back into my warm cocoon. I smile to myself as I mentally cross an item off my endless to do list. Our family’s supply of milk has just been replenished. How organized and efficient I feel to be accomplishing chores from the comfort of my bed!

Several months ago, my life was feeling a tad more out-of-control than usual. It was the dead of winter and we were in the midst of a particularly cold spell. Although Muffy was already four months of age, I was still having difficulty adjusting to the increased responsibilities in my job description! The juggling act involved in meeting the needs of “two under two” was overwhelming and was taking its toll on me. Averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night, I was running on empty. It was a struggle to find a spare moment to wash my hair, let alone stay on top of my regular household duties.

Early one morning, while picking up the newspaper, I noticed a delivery truck pull into a neighbor’s driveway. Out hopped a cheerful looking man with an armful of dairy products. A light bulb immediately turned on inside my head. With two growing boys to feed, late-night milk runs were a common occurrence in our house. The idea of a regular and reliable supply of milk delivered directly to my doorstep seemed like an answer to my prayers. Without hesitation, I signed up that day for home delivery with Farmers Dairy. With just one quick phone call, I took a fairly significant step at simplifying my life.

In today’s fast-paced world, where past traditions and customs often fall to the wayside, it is heartening that the neighborhood milkman is still making his rounds. The romantic notion of a horse-drawn cart filled with glass bottles of farm fresh milk may be long gone, but our modern-day milkman is still providing a valuable service to today’s busy families.

Monday, 3 September 2007

A Child's Corner Office

Each morning following breakfast, Chi-Chi, Muffy and I stand at the doorway and bid farewell to Daddy as he departs for another day at the office. As Daddy’s car disappears down the driveway, Chi-Chi turns to me and declares, “I go to work now Mommy”. He scampers off and quickly occupies himself with the serious business of playtime.

Chi-Chi and Muffy share an office that would be the envy of any top executive. Tucked into a cozy 3’x4’ corner of our living room, their “place of business” is snug, inviting and beautiful. With windows facing East and South, the play nook is brimming with a warm natural light throughout the day. The low sills offer the children a breathtaking view of the wildflowers, trees, sky and ocean. The space is filled with natural, open-ended toys that promote creativity and spark imagination. An antique hooked rug and vintage bookcase add charm and character to the atmosphere of the space. Even I tend to gravitate to this corner of the room. I enjoy sitting on the mat in the morning sunlight, sipping a cup of tea while assisting with Chi-Chi’s ironing or taste testing Muffy’s wool carrot creations.

A few months ago, I found myself sitting at the dining room table late one night, pencil and sketchbook in hand. I was drafting potential layouts for a large playroom in the basement. I cringed as dollar signs flashed before my eyes. I was feeling frustrated and exasperated. Our carefully decorated home was being invaded by an army of ugly, loud, plastic toys. All this “stuff” was occupying valuable space and was detracting from the aesthetically pleasing environment my husband and I had proudly created. After reading up on the Waldorf and Montessori approaches, I realized that a child’s environment and playthings deserve the same attention, care and aesthetic considerations that we adults grant ourselves

I set to work on our toy box, earmarking unused and redundant items to be shipped off to a local charity. Obviously, it was non-negotiable that certain loved and cherished favorites remain. My husband and I vowed, however, that on a go forward basis, we would seek out more natural and beautiful options when selecting toys for the children. I’ve always found that Chi-Chi and Muffy are drawn to toys that are displayed in an organized and pleasing fashion. As I result, I’ve sought out creative display options for their playthings. An antique pine shelf, located in a handy spot off the kitchen, attractively displays wooden blocks, hand made finger puppets and beanbags.

My battle against the bulging toy box helped me discover that toys and child-friendly spaces can actually enhance a home's décor as opposed to detract from it. My purging process has simplied our storage solutions and the nightly clean-up as there are fewer toys to "manage". Chi-Chi and Muffy's corner office has turned a lonely and empty spot into a welcoming, cozy nook where adults and children can enjoy a moment of escape!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Thanks, But No Thanks!

I was greeted by a surprise in my mailbox this morning. A tiny rush of adrenaline flowed through my veins as I spotted this unexpected little parcel. Who wouldn’t be pleased to discover something other than bills and junk mail crammed in the post box? Unfortunately, my smile vaporized with disappointment as I tore open the bundle. In my mad rush to uncover my treasure, I had failed to notice that the gift giver was RC2 Corporation – the makers of Thomas & Friends wooden train sets. I looked down in disgust at “Salty” the diesel engine smiling blankly back at me.

Our family was affected by the Thomas & Friends June recall relating to lead paint. Within ten minutes of hearing the news, I had gathered the contaminated toys and tightly packaged them up for return to the manufacturer. I resisted an intense urge to hurl our entire set out the window. My rational side suppressed this desire. Thankfully we only own a twenty five-piece figure eight set. Despite my disgust and outrage over the matter, I’ve allowed Chi-Chi to continue playing with his track. I’ll admit that it promotes quiet, independent and imaginative play that I certainly welcome. My conscience, however, vowed to no longer support “Thomas” and his friends. The promised replacement parts would not be welcome in our home.

With smoke fuming from my ears, I began my search for substitute railcars that would live up to my safety and ethical standards. I stumbled upon a wonderful little company that impressed me with its philosophies and business practices. The Whittle Shortline Railroad is a small, family-owned business that handcrafts beautiful wooden train sets ( All of their toys are handmade from reforested birch hardwood and finished in child-safe paints and sealers. Although Whittle Shortline Railroad is a US company, they do ship to Canada at reasonable rates. Since the toys are crafted in North America, they are free of duty charges. I was delighted to discover they carry adorable railcar lines that appeal to their friendly neighbors up North! Chi-Chi and Muffy will be thrilled to discover a few charming “Canadian National” and “Canadian Pacific” railcars under the Christmas tree this year.

As for my friend “Thomas”, I suppose I should only be polite and send a note of appreciation for my gift. The card will likely read, “Thanks, but no thanks!”