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12/11/12blog post

seven non-traditional holiday gift ideas

Only about 35- 40 of my immediate family get together for our family’s Christmas Eve celebration. The first time my husband came to Christmas, it was busy and loud compared to the quieter Christmas’s he grew up with. A Christmas tradition of my family is to share something little with the other families rather than buying large for all. We look forward to the yummy ranch crackers, annual baked goodies, candies and then also the non food gifts that are bought or home-made. One year, my husband and I made a wood cutting board for each family (now I understand and appreciate the tools and process to make them). Other years, we made cinnamon and sugar Chex Mix, homemade strawberry jam and then, there were the jarred recipes (see below to make your own!).

Christmas is a time of giving gifts: gifts from the mall and gifts from the heart. There are so many people we want to show our gratitude with a gift. Food, of course, is center of many holiday parties and sometimes, our gift giving.

Here are SEVEN thoughts for food and non-food gift giving at this time of year

  1. Baking: Involve your kids at the holidays is both yummy and full of happy memories (plus cooking in the kitchen teaches math concepts!). Taking pictures is a must – from the flour all over the counter tops and on the floor to the finished product with the smiling kids. Attaching a favorite recipe along with your goodies can be a simple gift and the children feel proud.
  2. Creating picture gifts: a most treasured gift from a sister one year was a group of pictures taken at our parent’s wedding. Print a picture of the loved one or of your family and place in a nice frame, make a picture book or place in a framed ornament.
  3. Assembling favorite music: Record favorite sounds on a CD and share with others…this was a fun and creative gift from another sister. We enjoy appreciating their music and quite frankly, it was music we enjoyed, too.
  4. Preparing jarred recipes: I have made several of these. During the summer, when canning is popular, my husband and I take advantage of the jar sales and only buy those with large mouths (easier to fill). We like to make “healthier” recipes such as soups and side dishes, but, we really have enjoyed the pancake and some of the cookie jars, too. We still open up our jar recipe cookbooks and just make some of the soup and rice side-dish recipes. Giving one of these jar recipes is giving part of a meal…who doesn’t like help during meal prep? (Mix in a Jar Recipe) And, don’t forget Man’s Best Friend.
  5. Making family fun time: think puzzles, books, games. Last year, we sat with our older two boys and built Lego’s over the holiday. We sat on the floor at our Lego table, assisting with new Lego sets and then had fun creating from the older sets. Creating traditions, from puzzle time to playing a special card or board game at the holiday, reminds us to sit with our family and interact (without TV or texting)
  6. Budgeting wisely: If you do buy for several family members and are looking to cut back financially, consider the Secret Santa exchange (agree on a monetary amount first!) or just buying for those under a certain age (ie: age 18 years).
  7. Shopping “off-season”: It’s a little to late for this now, but why not get ahead after the holiday’s for next year and get ahead of the holiday season rush. Take advantage of end of season sales and place them in a box for later use. I enjoy doing this for teachers and my children’s friend’s birthday gifts. Remember this box exists for when you need that gift!

Remembering the season is truly more important than the latest and coolest game! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Here is one of my favorite jar recipes:

Hearty Lentil and Barley Soup Mix

  • ¾ cup brown or red lentils
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomato halves, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dried vegetable flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • ½ cup uncooked medium pearled barley

The above is layered in a 1-pint jar.

We used dried carrots we found at a market. If you prepare this at home, you may just be able to add fresh sliced carrots.

What is given to the recipient of the jar (the recipe is attached to the jar):

  • Recipe card to include the following:
  • 1 jar Hearty Lentil and Barley Soup Mix
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green peppers, celery and onion, undrained
  • 8 ounces smoked sausage, cut into ½ inch slices
  • Lemon pepper (optional)

Place contents of jar, water, tomatoes and sausage in slow cooker. Stir; cover and cook on LOW 6-8 hours. Add additional water, ½ cup at a time, if needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with lemon pepper (optional).

Conventional method: Simmer ingredients in Dutch oven, partially covered, 1-1.5 hours or until lentils and barley are tender.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Adapted from: Gifts from a Jar: Soups, Chili’s & More by Jane Lindeman

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