by Tammy Taylor
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One year I just got completely frustrated with all the consumerism associated with the holidays. Every year we were struggling to equal or top last year’s gifts. Then there was the shopping, the crowds and the mounting EXPENSE! Now don’t get me wrong I’m not against gifts. They’re a fun way to share our love with those around us. But whatever happened to the real meaning of Christmas? You know, gathering with family & friends and spending time together in celebration of the birth Christ?? When did that get shoved aside & it all become about the GIFTS and the tunnel-vision mindset of “what’s in it for me??”
RancherMan & I had a heart-to-heart talk with each other that year & decided although it would take much more effort on our part, we wanted to give more personal gifts. Something from both of us, straight from our hearts. We’ve now been doing this for several years – way before I had my own blog. So I don’t necessarily have pictures of everything to show you. But I thought it would be helpful to know some of the gifts that we’ve given that were well received.
~ Hummingbird Feeders & Nectar – When we bought this property there was a large area of trash tucked away in the trees in one of our pastures. Now the house that was on this property burned over 50 years before we purchased it. So I’m guessing that’s just the way they did things back then. There wasn’t much plastic in those piles but lots of glass, metal, old cars, etc. We cleaned up that area by taking all the metal to a recycling facility and much of the glass as well. But some of those glass jars were just so cool and obviously old. Maybe there’s something we can do with them…
We took some of the more interestingly-shaped ones and washed them up. We bought glass paint pens and painted a different design on each one. Then we bought rubber-cork/flower hummingbird feeder tips and made very cool hummingbird feeders. We included a pkg of homemade hummingbird nectar along with the instructions so they could make more homemade nectar when it ran out.
~ Pasta & Pasta Sauce – We like to make consumable gifts whenever possible since we don’t often know preferred colors or designs, nor what the gift recipient already has or wants. Often our consumable gifts are food items because c’mon, everyone likes to eat! Now our gifts come from BOTH of us, not just me. When making our Christmas gifts RancherMan is right there beside me doing the work. It’s a true sacrifice for him since cooking & canning’s not something he enjoys. A true gift from his heart! One year we planted extra paste tomatoes in our garden and when they were harvested we cooked and canned pasta sauce. We also made homemade pasta and packaged it all in stainless-steel strainers with stainless steel spaghetti utensils.
~ Homemade Food Gift Baskets – One of our favorite things to give are homemade food baskets. The contents of these baskets obviously change year to year based on what I’ve been able to grow in the garden or make & can throughout the year. One year we shared my favorite Pumpkin Granola packaged in reusable hinged glass jars. Of course this gift started waaaaay back in the spring with the planting of heirloom pumpkin. Then the weeding/watering/harvesting of that pumpkin. Followed by cooking that pumpkin down into puree and then finally using that puree in my recipe. I feel good knowing we’ve put so much of ourselves into this gift. Even the pecans are harvested & shelled from our own trees! The dried fruit in the granola can be dehydrated plums, or perhaps dehydrated apples shared from my aunt’s trees. Some years I’ve dehydrated jujube from our own trees.
~ Apple Item Canned Goods – One year our gift basket was entirely apple themed. My aunt invited me to pick the apples from her tree and we came home with boxes & boxes of delicious apples. RancherMan & I spent weeks in the kitchen peeling, chopping cooking and canning apple products. We made apple-pie filling so our little bakers could just plop that jar of pre-made filling into a crust and have homemade apple pie in a flash. We also made and canned creamy apple butter, Cinnamon/Vanilla Applesauce, cinnamon-spiced apples and apple slices in light syrup. Another big hit was the dehydrated sugar-cinnamon apples perfect for snacking.
~ Homemade Pear Preserves – A fun thing to include in a food gift basket is homemade pear preserves. A sweet friend had allowed me to harvest the leftover pears from her tree and another sweet friend shared her pear preserves recipe that has always been RancherMan’s FAVORITE.
~Gifts Packaged Beautifully – Sometimes if I was giving a jar of home-canned goodies to a neighbor or friend, I wanted a lovely, rustic way of presenting my gift. Mama always says: “Presentation is half the gift” and mama’s always right. I started making these fun and oh-so-cute denim baskets using repurposed denim from RancherMan’s worn jeans. I love that they are so easy to make even with my beyond-novice sewing skills and can be embellished in so many cute ways.
~ Venison Jerky – A couple of years ago we gave homemade Jerky made from venison that RancherMan harvested. We bought a * jerky gun and a flavoring kit. Then it was simply a matter of taking the ground venison, adding the seasoning, mixing it all up and “shooting” it onto the dehydrator trays and drying the meat. This gift was very, very well received.
~ Wild Game Summer Sausage – One year we gave processed wild hog meat. One of the wild hogs that RancherMan harvested right here on the ranch was processed by a wild-game meat processor. Some of the meat was made into summer sausage and jalapeno-cheese snack sticks. The meat was presented in a new small soft-side cooler with reusable ice pack.
~ Homemade Cold-Press Soap – Although this was waaaaaay before I started the blog, one year we made a couple of kinds of homemade soap. This was a really fun and unique idea that was very well received. One of the soaps was made using rosemary from my plants right out back that were dried and crushed. We made gentle unscented Castile soap as well rosemary-scented and vanilla-scented soaps. We’ll be doing this again soon so watch for the tutorial on the blog. UPDATE: I’ve posted about our homemade Rosemary/Lavender Soap using botanicals from right here on the ranch. I’ve also posted about our Vanilla-Scented Shampoo Bars. They were both very well received by our gift recipients and of course RancherMan & I are able to spoil ourselves with some pretty incredible homemade soap too!
~ Something For Fido – Can’t forget those pups! Many of our friends & family have dogs and my healthy Homemade Dog Treats is a fun thing to include in our gift baskets for their fur babies.
So there’s a list of some of the fun homemade gifts we’ve presented over the years. What are your favorite homemade gifts to give or receive?
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