Homemade and Local for the Holidays - A Family Tradition
Handmade is Heartmade!
We spend a lot of time on holiday gifts, but not a lot of money. Most of our gifts are handmade for the people we love - family, friends, co-workers. Some others are special local items that celebrate the region of the state and country where we live. Why? Because it means something to my husband and I like to let others know we cared enough to take the time to make them something special. And like Oprah, we like to share our "favorite things."
We had three groups of people in our gift-giving circles, and they were all getting hard to buy for. One group had pretty specific tastes, and we were starting to give impersonal gift cards to people we really cared about so they could choose their own gifts. Then there was a second group who we wanted to show our affection for through a gift, but purchased gifts didn't quite seem appropriate. And finally, for a third group, we realized they didn't need anything and didn't care for frivolous extras. Through a lot of thought, we came to the conclusion that homemade gifts and small favorite items say loud and clear - we care about you, we put thought and effort into this gift, and we truly think you'll like it.
We've been giving handmade and local care packages to family and friends for several years now and have had a blast doing it. On this page, I'll share some winning ideas from the past and some projects we're considering for the future. Hopefully, they'll spark your imagination and creativity toward some homemade gift-giving of your own.
All images on this page are my own.
One of my favorite things is when people feel like they're getting something that looks like you spend a lot of time and even more money to make it happen. They don't need to know that it was easy or inexpensive. The point is that you took the time and they feel special having received that gift. Gourmet Gifts for Christmas is a book of ideas that does just that for you. Do handmade with flair!!
Fun Is the Main Ingredient!
My husband and I start planning our holiday gift giving nearly the day after Christmas for the following year. It's fun for us! We spend all year long looking for special local treats, the perfect recipe(s) and unique ideas to make our gift-giving special. We pitch ideas to each other, test them out, get feedback from friends and co-workers, and roll the ideas around in our minds. Then, we just pick our favorites from the bunch and figure out the best way to package them together for the holiday.
Did you catch the all-important phrase? In case you missed it, it's fun! These are the ideas that are fun to us, and I hope you like many of them, but if you don't, I encourage you to let these be the seeds that start you on your own search for fun and exciting gift ideas from the heart.
Food and Drink
Home Baked Bread
One year, we made mini loaves of cheese bread, a recipe we found in this brilliant book. We fell in love with it and were making it all the time for ourselves, potlucks, and gatherings. That made it the perfect gift to give because we were already clearly passionate about it. We just had to experiment a bit with the recipe to package it for gift-giving. It was a hit!
I make tons of the different kinds of bread in this book from the cheese bread I mentioned to flat breads, pizza crusts, sweet treats, and more. And when they say "Five Minutes a Day" they mean it! I love this book and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who loves home baked bread but doesn't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. It's perfect for making gifts or as a gift itself!
For gift-giving, we knew it wouldn't work well to give full-size loaves of bread to people, so we wanted to give them about a meal of delicious cheese bread. These mini loaf pans are the perfect size for giving bread as gifts.
These are a great size for gifting mini loaves of bread. Just make sure the bread is completely cool before you put them in.
Recipes We're Considering for This Year
My husband and I have lots of fun making, taste-testing, adapting recipes, and finally selecting our favorites for gift-giving. And our co-workers really enjoy being our guinea pigs for our gift ideas.
- Peppery Pecans
A little savory snack for a holiday treat... can't wait to try this one!
- Garbanzo Bean Nutella
A (little bit) healthier spin on everyone's favorite - Nutella. We're considering adapting this a bit by adding Frangelico's instead of water to add a little more hazelnut flavor.
- Sriracha Salt
I have some friends and co-workers who are crazy about sriracha sauce. This has thoughtful and delicious written all over it!
- Nutella Puppy Chow
I haven't tried it yet, but when I get the homemade Nutella (above) just right, I think I might try it in this recipe for gift-giving. Either way, this recipe sounds delish!
- Homemade Irish Cream
I probably won't make this one this year, since we already have our cherry bounce in the making, but I'm keeping this amazing-sounding delight in my back pocket for future years. What do you think?
- Swedish Nuts
I'm thinking of these as a sweet nuts complement the savory "Peppery Nuts" I've listed above. I really like the idea of them side by side because so many families have mixed tastes.
My husband really enjoys experimenting with his Bradley Digital Smoker. Naturally, we purchased the smoker to prepare foods for ourselves. The gifts we are able to give because of it are a great bonus! He has smoked many foods over the years and we have gifted our own smoked cheese, nuts, and fresh-caught Lake Michigan salmon. Delicious and very well-appreciated!
He wanted to smoke cheese during the summer months, so he did tons of research to make sure he had what he needed. This cold smoke adapter was just the thing. He tells me it's easy to use and gives him the freedom to use his smoker any time of year.
Here Are a Few Other Favorites of Ours - Closer to Home
I invite you to purchase gifts from our local favorites or from your own.
- Molly's Rude Awakening Candles and Funky Chunks
Lots of stuff at this coffee shop is funky and fun, including Molly's handmade candles, funky chunks (think scented wax for your warmer), and other locally handcrafted goods. Click here then follow the link to Molly's online "Bargain Bus."
- The Merchant General Store
If you like old-timey, but still practical gifts and products, this is a wonderful shop to get lost in. They have antiques, home decor, bath and body, and much much more. I get some of my gifts from here every Christmas season.
- Sand Creek Brewery
When in doubt, a 6-pack of delicious beers is a great gift for the holidays. And you might as well stop into the tap room on Friday nights for a beverage and a brewery tour while you're there. They also sell fun t-shirts, mugs, and other items for a
- The Fiber Garden
Don't let the name fool you! This place is more than just fiber, although you can get that there too. Think locally made soaps, cocoa, coffee, tea, books, and hand-crafted fiber arts. Do your shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday and you can enjoy a
Things We Make
Crafted by Hand
This was one of our favorite gifts we made and gave - a wood covered, leather bound photo album. We designed it ourselves, assembled all the pieces, stained the wood, burned the image, and most of the time filled it with pictures and memories for the person we were giving it to. It was always well-liked whenever we gave this gift.
This year, I was hoping to find just the right wooden items at secondhand, thrift, and antique stores to turn into hand crafted cribbage boards for my family. The idea is great, but I couldn't find the right items to convert, so that idea will have to wait another year. I keep these kinds of ideas in mind and in time, I/we can usually make them work.
It's all about finding those ideas that are personal to you and to those who will be receiving your gifts. That's what makes them special!