1. Animal Cracker Ice Cream Sandwiches – Kids will love helping make these bite-size beauties. Sandwich ice cream or sherbet between two animal crackers using a melon baller to make mini-scoops. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and freeze. Decorate a plain round tin with circus animal stickers and layer the wrapped sandwiches inside. Since the filled tin will need to be stored in the freezer, you may wish to present Dad with a card listing mysterious clues that eventually lead him to his present in the freezer.
2. Tree of Promises – Purchase a ready-to-plant potted tree, such as a Dogwood, from a nursery or home supply store. Buy fancy tags from a craft supply store (or, make your own on the computer.) Have each family member think of two or three chores or favors they are willing to promise to do for Dad. Younger kids might promise to shine his shoes or read him a story, while teenagers could commit to washing the car or babysitting their young siblings while Mom & Dad have a night on the town. Write each promise on a tag and hang it on the tree for Dad to pluck when he needs a special treat. When all the tags are gone, Dad can plant the tree outside and use it to hold tags for family celebrations for years to come.
3. Daddy Dossier – You Tube has turned us all into amateur cinematographers. Gather your siblings and make a movie of memories for Dad. Visit spots around your area where Dad earned his reputation for being the best Dad in the world… The local baseball field where he, fearlessly and without the aid of controlled substances, taught you how to drive… The row of 40-foot walnut trees that you and Dad planted as seedlings for a school 4-H project… The Wishnik troll doll (am I dating myself?) that Dad gallantly rescued after it accidentally flew out the car window on I-95. Film each other on location documenting the events in your lives that shaped treasured memories of Dad.
4. King for a Day – Plan a full day of activities that Dad loves and type up a fancy itinerary on your computer. Entries might include breakfast in bed, followed by a round of golf, followed by a picnic in the park, followed by his choice of movies and so on. Put the itinerary in a box and wrap with pretty paper and ribbon. Present it on a tray along with the breakfast in bed.
5. Thrill of the Grill – Mix up a couple of barbeque spice rubs for grilling. Here are two good recipes:
CURRY-CAYENNE RUB – A curry-based rub for chicken, beef or pork
In a large bowl, combine 1/3 cup curry powder, 3 tablespoons each sugar, freshly ground black pepper, onion salt, and dried leaf thyme, crumbled, 2 tablespoons garlic salt, and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper. Mix well and store in airtight container.
SWEET & SASSY RUB – A sweet-spicy rub for fish, poultry and meat
In a large bowl, combine ½ cup paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper and garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon onion powder. Mix well and store in airtight container.
Put the rubs in airtight bottles or jars and add pretty labels. Buy a large washtub (that can later be filled with ice for chilling drinks), a bag of charcoal, grilling tools, an apron and perhaps a 6-pack of beer. Arrange all the items in the washtub and add a big bow.
6. Storytime – This is a great gift for grandfathers. Choose one day a week, or one day a month, depending on your availability, to read aloud to your recipient. Pick a book you both like and read a chapter each visit. Sure, you could just buy a couple of books on CD, but that’s not the point. This is actually nothing more than a commitment to spend time with a loved one. Besides, with a book on CD you can’t stop and discuss the plot with the reader, or share a cup of tea, or a hug.
7. Cookie Emergency Kit – Nothing tastes better than freshly baked cookies, still warm from the oven. Mix up cookie doughs in three or four flavors you know Dad will like. An assortment of chocolate chip, oatmeal, peanut butter and sugar cookies makes a good combo. Shape the doughs into logs and wrap each in parchment paper. Attach a tag with baking instructions to each log of dough. Buy a nonstick cookie sheet, an oven mitt, and a metal spatula. Arrange the logs of dough, mitt and spatula on the cookie sheet and tie with a pretty ribbon. Dad can store the doughs in the freezer and lop off a chunk whenever he is craving homemade cookies. He can bake a whole plateful or just slice off enough dough to make one or two cookies at a time. (Like anybody just eats one or two cookies at a time!)
8. Young Wine – This is a great gift for a young Dad-to-be. Ask the folks at your local wine shop to help you pick out a wine that needs to age for several years before it becomes truly spectacular. Give it to the Dad with a note that says, “Drink this wine to celebrate your baby’s 13th birthday,” or “Do not open until the day you write your first school tuition check.”
9. Tub-o-Treats – Maybe Dallas Cowboys season tickets are not in your budget, but you can still surprise Dad with an impressive gift that keeps on giving. Collect lots of little things that Dad can use while he watches his favorite sports events on TV. Wrap each one in pretty paper and ribbons and put them in a large bucket or canvas tote. Let Dad open one gift every time he sits down to watch a sports event. Items might include a large tin of gourmet nuts, a baseball cap with his team’s logo, a Rubik’s Cube, a beverage can cozy, a case of microwave popcorn, a stadium blanket, a TV remote holder and a book about his favorite sport.
10. Cook the Book – If you like to cook and your Dad lives nearby, this is for you. Buy a cookbook with recipes for foods Dad likes. Wrap it in fancy paper and include a special handmade coupon with the card. The coupon entitles the bearer to one recipe of his choice per month, prepared and delivered by you. For example, if Dad has a sweet tooth, you might give him a dessert cookbook. The card could say something like, “Real men eat dessert first. Here’s a coupon for one sweet treat a month for the next year. You pick it and I’ll make it.”