WFMW: Simple Christmas Gifts

These past couple days, I finally got around to preparing Christmas gifts for mailing to family.  (I still need to head to the post office, though!)  I don’t do anything extravagant, but try to keep things simple.  I make up gift packages full of fun flavors and pampering for the holidays, attempting to personalize my gifts for the recipients.  I especially love giving gifts that were produced ethically/locally.

Throughout the year, I create unique flavors of homemade jams and other preserves, and set them aside for gift giving.  Family members living in other areas often appreciate a taste of our Northwest flavors (such as berries or pears!).  I canned 25 lbs of pickles this year (using my homemade pickling spice recipe), so I’m sure everyone will be
helping me eat them
receiving a jar or two!  
Some years, instead of preserves, I will prepare spice/herb mixes, such as salsa seasoning (just add tomatoes/cream cheese), or a pretty jar of Herbs de Provence.  (I like to reuse jars, or find unique ones at garage sales/thrift stores.)  This summer we picked lavender at a friend’s house, and dried it.  I was able to add the lavender to our Herbs de Provence mix!  There are varying recipes out there.  Here is the recipe I used (but I don’t remember where it came from):
Herbs de Provence
Use on meats, fish, roasts, casseroles, pizza, etc.
Mix together equal parts:
  • Summer Savory
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Dried Orange Zest
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
Along with the preserves, I typically include a homemade treat or two.  My most often requested recipe is for Honey Crystal Almonds.  (This recipe is from an old almond advertisement, which tries to convince you that this is health food.)  I like having a recipe that doesn’t involve food coloring, and is stable enough to make it through the mail.  I added the soaking step to the almonds to possibly make them more nourishing… but in reality, they are covered in sugar- to abundance.  Certainly an indulgence.  But here it is: 

Honey Crystal Almonds
2 cups soaked & roasted Almonds
1/4 cup Honey
2 Tbl. Butter
1 cup Turbinado Sugar

Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, heat butter and honey to boiling. Reduce heat to med-low, and simmer 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add almonds; simmer and stir 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer almonds to a greased baking sheet. Spread in a single layer and cool slightly. Toss almonds with sugar to coat.  

I usually tuck in a box or two of tea as well.  I keep my eye out for fun flavors of fair-trade teas at discount stores or co-op sales during the year, while grocery shopping.  (Chocolate Chai, anyone?)  
The gift boxes vary each year; occasionally including items from craft fairs or items that I have made.  This year, I picked up some affordable, small wooden toys (made locally), for our darling nephews.  I found them at a local grocery store! (Check out their company site here.) 
Preparing the bulk of my gift boxes throughout the year (while doing canning for our own pantry storage), incredibly simplifies my gift-giving.  I keep the year’s holidays in mind while preparing my preserves (birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas), and store them until needed. Then, when December arrives, I just need to add the final touches.  This is especially nice when shipping things long distance; I can have my packages ready to beat the holiday mailing deadlines (and lines!).  
It works for me! 
To read more about my Simple Christmas preparations, stop by this post!
 Visit Rocks in My Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas.  
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