Christmas is in two days and you’re all a-panic. I’ve got some ideas for you as to how to spread the holiday cheer in your life (without breaking the bank).
- Foodzie. People, if you’re looking for a gift for me, please buy me this. Tasting boxes allow me, I mean your recipient, to sample a variety of items from local artisans in localities that you may not be local to. Okay, that’s confusingly phrased, but basically, when you open the box, stuff that’s from small purveyors is inside. They may or may not be local to you, so you might never find them or realize they exist, except Foodzie makes this happen. It’s awesome. I had a contest for two of these Tasting Boxes recently over on The Feisty Foodie fan page on Facebook (which should be incentive enough to “like” me!), and I will be posting shortly about the box I received, but put it this way: I already found a product I didn’t know existed before that I will be purchasing more of in the very near future. AWESOME. (And they happen to be in NYC.)
- Pure Dark. I’m not sure why I never posted about them, but they have a ton of good chocolate gifts for the chocolate lover in your life. There are barks, chocolate covered fruits, interestingly flavored disks… all pretty good. Personally, my favorite is the nibs – I bought these last year and still have a decent amount left, and I sprinkle them on a lot of things; ice cream, cupcakes, Nutella cakes, whatever you feel like adding a bit of crunch and bittersweetness to. Yum!
- Williams-Sonoma items. I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for their hot chocolates, including the peppermint one. You probably think $20 is ridiculous to spend on hot chocolate, but this is not cocoa powder, sweetened. This is actual chocolate shavings that melt away in your hot milk, creating an amazingly decadent chocolate experience that even I, a non-chocolate lover, enjoy greatly. Plus, if you have to get a gift for someone you won’t be seeing until after the holidays, well, pick this up on December 26. They discount the remaining containers greatly after the holiday. This tip also applies to my other love, Crate & Barrel, who kindly sent me a postcard yesterday that says “Good girls and boys get presents on the 25th. Smart girls and boys get them the day after.” – up to 50% off starting December 26. Yup. Believe it.
- Amazon. Okay, maybe this is a bit corny, but at least you know they’ll get what they want, and the gift will arrive right away: an e-gift certificate. I love these things. I can buy whatever the heck I want, and I have Amazon Prime, which makes shipping super fast. Cookbooks, DVDs, clothes, shoes, cooking implements… it’s all there.
- This one requires a little more effort, and you may hate waiting on lines, but it’s kind of cool. Go to Marshall’s, or TJ Maxx’s. Buy a couple of mugs for $3-4 a piece, some gourmet hot chocolate for another few dollars, and maybe some Harry & David Moose Munch (yeah, they sell it there, and it’s $6), then package it all in a box and give it to someone. It seems super thoughtful, and it’s a little more involved than buying a ready-to-go-set, but it’s eons cheaper and people are sure to love it because people love getting multi-part gifts. Trust me on that one. If you don’t trust that sort of store for food items, fine, just get the mugs and then go to Trader Joe’s. They have sipping chocolate I’ve been told is really good, but they also have peppermint hot cocoa for $4.99 (much cheaper than Williams-Sonoma, yes, but it’s cocoa powder, not shaved chocolate), and if you can find them get me a box too because every time I check they are sold out – they have peppermint marshmallows covered in dark chocolate. Perfect hot chocolate set right there.
- Okay, all of the above is cool, but also sort of impersonal. And it gets expensive buying all that stuff for people – with gift certificates, I usually give more than I would spend on a gift, because I don’t know, I feel stupid giving someone $20. So if you have a little extra time, I highly recommend baking or making something. It doesn’t have to be difficult. It may be too late to organize a cookie swap, but I’ve found that people always appreciate a few goodies in a cute bag tied with ribbon, a Chinese takeout carton (you can buy patterned ones at Michael’s for $1 or so, or plain ones at craft stores for cheaper), some of those Martha Stewart goodie bag/container kits you can get at Michael’s as well…
My own personal touch, however, is to buy inexpensive cloth napkins, especially with bright holiday patterns. If you look in the cookie swap I linked above, I used red & green lined white napkins to wrap the cookies I gave to the girls. I bought these at Pier One a few weeks after the holiday (not last year, but maybe the year before? It’s been a while), on clearance, for 28c a piece. 28c a piece for cloth napkins. I bought only a few at first, then went back and cleaned out their entire stock because um, it’s 28c each and they are really useful for a lot of things.
Now you have the wrapping part of the goodies out of the way, what else can you put inside besides cookies? Cookies, after all, well, my cookie recipe takes at least 3 days of ‘aging’ the dough in the fridge. You don’t have the kind of time you think it takes to whip up a batch of dough and bake them. That’s fine – it isn’t for everyone. But there are plenty of things that seem super involved and really aren’t, and everyone is sure to be impressed when they see them.
This is what I’ve made so far this holiday season: smoked almond & dried cherry bark; sea salt Kahlua caramels; candied orange peels; orange scented syrup; peppermint sticks dipped in chocolate; pretzel rods dipped in chocolate with candy nonpareils on them (or whatever the small ball-sprinkles are called). None of these required baking or even turning on the oven (well, the bark, for about 5 minutes), and everyone who got some seemed really happy (or they’re good actors, that’s fine). Nothing was all that difficult, either, though some of them were time-consuming (the candied orange peels!), it was just a matter of being in the apartment. I didn’t really need to watch that (I went to take a shower while they simmered), so I could easily have gone and wrapped a bunch of gifts while that went on.
The orange scented syrup, for gifting, requires just a small jar (which I unfortunately don’t have, so I didn’t get to give any away, doh!), and tied with ribbon with a small card stating what it is? How adorable would that look.
Don’t worry, I’ll be taking pictures and sharing recipes for how I made these items in the upcoming weeks, though I don’t have any for now. There are a ton of recipes out there on the internet that will explain how to do them as well as any, so give it a go – if I can do it, it’s way simpler than it sounds, I promise!!!
I hope these ideas have been helpful for you in the last hours before the holiday! What are your suggestions, tips, recommendations, desired items, wish lists??? Share in the comments! I could definitely use some more ideas 🙂
Please note: none of the above are affiliate links. I received a tasting box from Foodzie free of charge as a thank you for running a contest for them, and I have received product samples from Pure Dark in the past, though I paid for the nibs I mentioned myself, but I was under no obligation to post about either of them whatsoever and do so freely. Williams-Sonoma, Amazon, Crate & Barrel, though I wish this weren’t true, know nothing about me (aside from customer information) or my blog. I compiled this list just from ideas of what I want for Christmas, though mostly from ideas of what I’m giving for this Christmas, as a broke college student… homemade goodies are just about the best idea I can have!