Kyce from Old Recipe for a New World (she doesn’t write often, but always wonderful) wrote a great post a few weeks back called Letting Go: The Christmas Edition. Oh honey, don’t I know it!
I (love)(hate) Christmas. I really do. I’ve written about it every year since I began blogging [here, here and here], and lord knows I don’t want to repeat myself. Suffice it to say, I seem to be finally catching on that this infernal holiday of compromised values begins in November. It’s taken me a full 34 years to get my head around that. I am determined to be prepared this year, thinking ahead for quality gifts in order to avoid getting caught by the last minute Icky Gifting.
I want to share my few ideas, and get your ideas. If we pool mental resources here, maybe we can pull this off without too much heartbreak. Well, it gives us something to hope for. I’m putting it on my list anyway,
This Christmas, please just let me relax and enjoy the generosity of loved ones without too much ethical compromise, personal angst, or familial alienation.
We are spending our Christmas at home this year, with my mom coming. That will help right off the bat. My in-laws, godbless’em, have too much money to restrain at the holidays. My mom would probably go as crazy as them if old-hippie poverty didn’t keep her in check.
For whatever reason, Christmases with my mom are always much smaller than with the in-laws. In fact, it’s one of the best times of year for our otherwise very strained relationship, at least we can bond about Christmas and how it ought to be.
Which is sparkly lights, the smell of evergreen and cinnamon, whispered secrets and The Animals’ Merry Christmas.
My list of secrets so far looks like this:
For the 4yo– a dollhouse. She wrote her first ever letter to Santa asking for one. I am making it myself of course, more on this soon as I realize how in over my head I am.
For the 2yo– a train table. He already has a nice wooden train set, just needs a table and a way to semi-permanently attach the track to it.
For My Man– Oops, tut-tut, he might be reading….
For my mom, sister, MIL and sister-in-law– freshly ground and personally mixed organic spice set. I’m pretty excited about this idea. If you’ve never smelled or used freshly ground spices, it’s an epiphanal moment. It makes you want to sweep your arm through your (inevitably stale) spice cabinet, straight into the trash. All these ladies like to cook, but don’t get to do that much complicated cooking, and I think will appreciate really kick-ass, unique spice blends. I’m going to do a Mexican mole, Moroccan ras al hanout (unbelievable! the smell makes me swoon!) and a not-your-average-Italian blend with juniper berries and fennel. All these are fantastic with meat, but can also rock a pot of beans. I even ordered a pound of fancy Hawaiian finishing salt. Part of reason I’m excited about this idea is because I’ll get a share too! I never order fresh spices for myself because replacing a whole collection is expensive, and I don’t use that much over the course of the year. Fresh spices make much more sense for a group of people than for just me in my lonesome kitchen. I spent almost $80 on organic, fair trade spices, which sounds like a lot (feels like a lot!!!) but then I have four of my important gifts covered, plus plenty leftover for my own pantry.**
The father and brother-in-law I think My Man will cover. Hopefully at the local artisan market, lots of awesome stuff there.
Grandparents get the standard (they love it) calendar of cute kid photos.
I made a batch of homemade soap (it’s gotta cure for 3 weeks, so do it now!) and some lip balm for those last minute little gift moments. It’s good to have tricks up your sleeve. The lip balm takes all of 3 minutes once you secure the beeswax.
That leaves a 4yo cousin and a 12yo half-sister. Any ideas?
I will be filling you in more about all the above gifts over the course of the month. I have lots of Riot-y ‘stuff’ subjects to cover, as well as lots of good Christmas ideas, like the adorable songbird tree ornaments me and the kids made this morning out of tag-board and poster paint! In fact I’ve been feeling inspired to do a series, “Christmas– It Doesn’t Have to Suck Ass.”
Please leave your favorite homemade gift ideas in the comments, especially for children. If you have posted anything on your own blog, leave a link. We can all use some extra inspiration this time of year!
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**If anyone else thinks this spice mix idea is brilliant and wants to tag along, I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs. you would think organic spice would be more expensive, but the Mountain Rose prices averaged around $3.50/4oz, which is quite good. I ordered the spices whole in 4oz bags (the smallest size available), I’ll grind them in our coffee grinder and package them in 1/2 cup (the really tiny size) canning jars. This wouldn’t be worth it for less than 4 or 5 gift recipients, and I think could cover more like 6 or 7. I will give y’all the recipes when I get to that point, but if you want to follow along, here’s what you’ll need to order:
- allspice berries 4oz
- black peppercorns 8oz
- whole chile peppers, or red pepper flakes 4oz
- cinnamon sticks 8oz
- whole cloves 4oz
- cumin seed 8oz
- ginger, ground 4oz
- juniper berries 4oz
- whole nutmeg 4oz
- fennel seed 4oz
- thyme 4oz
- rosemary 4oz
- sage 4oz