January 2, 2014

Homemade Christmas Gifts

Every year, we gather. My family. My sister’s family. My parents. My brothers-in-law. Their families. My sister’s in-laws. There are a lot of us. Mostly adults, though the kid count is starting to creep up.

Every year we gather for Christmas. Baking cookies. Planning meals. And buying presents. Because we all love to give. And who doesn’t like to receive?

Over the past few years, it’s started to get out of hand. Really indulgent gifts. And more of them. There’s been talk of no presents for the adults. But what fun is that? The idea of Secret Santa gets thrown around. But I want to get something for everyone, not just one person.

So this year my sister and I issued the following guidelines: all gifts must be either homemade or purchased for no more than $25. (Kids gifts had no restrictions but probably should have because who are we kidding, it’s not like they need more toys.)

To our surprise, everyone accepted the homemade or under $25 idea. It was a chance to get creative and be thoughtful. And to rein in what had become excessive.

Ziggy's first Christmas with us
I’ve never thought of myself as a crafty person. But suddenly I was inspired. I knew my gifts would be food based. But which direction to go? I didn’t want to make cookies or cakes. There would already be plenty of those around. I thought about layering jars with ingredients for soup or hot chocolate or brownies. But everyone in my family is a good cook. They didn’t need a jar of ingredients to make a good brownie.

So I started thinking in terms of ingredients. Things that each person could take and use however they wanted. Flavored salts. Or butters. Infused vodkas. And hot fudge sauce. Even then there were so many tempting possibilities. So we decided on a mini theme: spicy for the guys and sweet for the ladies.

Spicy                                       Sweet
Vodka diablo                            Stoli doli (pineapple-infused vodka)
Mexican hot fudge                    Mocha hot fudge
Sriracha salt                             Lemon sugar
Cajun butter                             Cinnamon honey butter

Armed with the outline of a plan, my husband and I hit the Container Store. A couple of hours later, with a bit of dent in my wallet (let's just say by the time the cashier had finished ringing up our order she knew what was going into each container, where we were celebrating the holiday, where the members of my family were travelling from and what we were having for Christmas dinner), we left the store with bags of jars, bottles, ribbon, twine, stickers, labels, gift tags and some double-sided tape. 

It took time to plan and prepare and package. But I can honestly say that I haven’t had this much fun with Christmas in years. 


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