Who among us hasn’t at some time during the hectic days of December said those old familiar words, “Next year I’m going to get started earlier!” I don’t know what you meant by “earlier,” but today seems about right.
Here for your consideration are three ideas meant to encourage you to head-off the heartbreak of post holiday stress disorder brought on by procrastination, under-planning, and overspending.
Be Known for Something
There is a lot to be said for doing something so well that soon your friends and relatives associate it with only you.
Years ago, one of my readers, made small lemon bundt cakes for Christmas gifts—a personal-size cake in a beautifully wrapped cake box for each person on her list, of which I was one. Let me tell you hers are not just any bundt cakes; they’re homemade, lemony, and simply spectacular.
I don’t know if she set out to make this an annual tradition, but her recipients’ raves and reactions certainly encouraged her to consider a repeat. It didn’t take long for her to become known for her Lemon Bundt Cakes. Her cakes have become a holiday tradition her friends and family anticipate with exceedingly great joy.
Make a Limited Edition
One way to ease the holiday stress is to give every person (or each family) the same thing. If this is something you put together or make, you can think of it as a Limited Edition and that only adds to its uniqueness.
Years ago, I made a Buckwheat Pillow for everyone on my list, complete with a flannel pillowcase. I started during the summer and ended up making 45 of them. It was great fun for everyone to open the same thing. And it made for one serious photo op.
A Gift They’ll Relish
I’m a big fan of consumable gifts—items recipients will use up and enjoy while not feeling compelled to display or store that gift for years to come. Consumable gifts, especially when they are some kind of decadent food item, are always the right size and color.
One Christmas I received a lovely gift of Harry and David gourmet food items. Tucked in with all the goodies was a small jar of Sweet Pepper Onion Relish*.
I can say without hesitation that it was some of the best stuff I’ve ever eaten. My husband and I put it on crackers, paired it with cream cheese—basically inhaled it to the last drop. No problem, I said. I’ll just order some more. Right. I went to the company’s mail order site only to learn that one small jar back then would cost about $10 delivered. Hey, it’s good, but not that good!
The following summer I spent a couple of days doing all I could to replicate that amazing relish, using the list of ingredients on the jar’s label as my guide. I can’t say I achieved an exact duplicate, but my husband says I nailed it.
Sweet Pepper Onion Relish has a long shelf life of at least four months when refrigerated. This big-batch recipe makes a lot—about 5 quarts of what we think is the best relish ever.
Mary’s Sweet Pepper Onion Relish
- 20 to 25 medium-sized sweet red and/or yellow peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 to 6 large white sweet onions, finely chopped
- 3 to 4, finely chopped jalapeño peppers (or more depending on your desire for heat)
- 4 cups white granulated sugar
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons salt
Place all ingredients in a very large pot. Stir to blend thoroughly. Bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft, glistening and the liquid has thickened.
Spoon into sterilized pint or half-pint jars, apply the lids while the relish is still hot, allow to cool and store in the refrigerator.
Serve with crackers, poured over cream cheese, alongside beef or poultry or (shhhh!) straight from the jar.
MORE: Incredible Edible Gifts
*subsequently that version of relish was replaced with a tomato-based product.
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