I love the holidays. Everything about it. The decorations. The cheesy music. The festive vibe. All of it. I love the whole peace on earth stuff. I love the pretty packages wrapped up under the tree. I love the excitement on my daughter’s face as she counts down the days. I love knowing that there will be cocktails and get togethers and food. So much food. I don’t know about you, but as much as I adore the holidays, I also find them exceptionally exhausting. Not only am I’m tired from my regular life, but my house is in this weird flux of organized chaos, with rolls of wrapping paper hanging around and furniture not in their usual spots to make room for a giant tree, that I’m almost starting to get sick of seeing. I have about a million things to do; I have Christmas cards that are half written, gifts that still aren’t wrapped, my pantry is overflowing with ingredients that promise to throw my kitchen into a flour-powdered-butter-slicked-disaster, and all I really want to do is watch Netflix and feel sorry for myself. Is that too much to ask?! I don’t want to have to think about finicky appetizers or the pie dough I’ll be rolling out and getting annoyed at when it tears as I go to put it in the pie plate. And if my #christmasproblems aren’t enough; I have to worry about the holiday well-wishers who will inevitably drop by. Which, I might add, is both the very best and very worst part of the holidays. You see, I love the drop in, in theory. It’s so festive and so 1950s I can hardly stand it. And yet, I am not so 1950s that I always have mulled cider at the ready and a tray of freshly-baked-still-slightly-warm gingerbread, perfect to perk up those just-fresh-from-the-cold unexpected guests. I wish I was. I think about it sometimes. And then I stop because let’s be honest, I wear sweatpants.
More DIY Gifts to Consider
You might be asking yourself, what does my holiday rant have to do with DIY gifts? I promise, it’s going somewhere. When I started thinking about gifts for coworkers, which can be challenging when you want to show someone you like working with him/her, but you don’t want to gift something too personal, I thought, what would help me get through the holidays? And other than a clone (or five) of myself, I would really love to have some appetizers and drinks on hand, just so it’s one last thing to worry about. And during the holidays, anything that makes life a little more relaxed is appreciated.
As I mentioned in my last post, when I DIY, I don’t make everything. You could, and man, would I be impressed! But the reality is, most people don’t have the time, or tools to do absolutely everything. Pick one part, one thing that you know you do well, and do that. The rest can be bought, and then wrapped up cutely, and you’re done.
I decided upon two more DIY gifts to add to this year’s list:
DIY Mulled Wine Kit
Okay, so if you’ve never had mulled wine before, you need to try it. Think mulled apple cider meets wine. It’s very holiday.
To make the cheesecloth bag: Cut out a piece of double thickness cheesecloth, (approx. 6”x6” square). Put the steeping ingredients in the centre. Gather the cheesecloth up around the ingredients until you have a little sack. Tie closed with butcher’s twine. Basically, you’re creating a little tea bag that will steep in the wine.
I put the sugar in a glassine bag, added the cheesecloth bag, then tied the whole thing to the neck of the wine bottle. I also included the instructions for the recipient (which is pretty nice of me, no?!)
1 bottle of red wine, preferably something that you like to drink
½ cup organic sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
½ vanilla bean pod, sliced open lengthwise
6 whole cloves
large chunk of lemon rind (avoid including pith)
large chunk of clementine rind (avoid including pith)
Pour half the bottle of wine into a saucepan. Add the sugar and cheesecloth bag. Heat wine until hot, stirring often. DO NOT BRING TO BOIL. Once the wine is hot and sugar is dissolved, reduce heat and allow the wine to sit until you are ready to serve it. If you are planning on serving it right away, let it simmer on low for 10 minutes in order for the cheesecloth to steep. Remove cheesecloth bag, add the other half bottle of wine, warm up the wine until hot. Serve.
DIY Instant Appetizer Kit: Homemade Spicy Pepper Jelly+Goat Cheese+Carr’s Water Crackers
This is a classic. But delicious. So delicious. It used to be a thing. I don’t know if it still is, or if it’s gone the way of tiramisu, but I don’t care. It’s that good (so is tiramisu, for that matter, which I also eat and enjoy. Take that, 1992!) For this DIY gift, I purchased a small log of goat cheese, a box of crackers, and made the pepper jelly. The red pepper jelly is ridiculously easy to make. One caution though, heed my words and not my actions: wear gloves. I can’t stress that enough. The underside of my fingernails burned for hours. HOURS.
DIY Spicy Red Pepper Jelly
This recipe is an adaptation of my sister-in-law’s. It’s kicky and hot on the palate, but the goat cheese keeps it from getting too crazy!
2 cups organic red bell peppers (approx. 3-4), seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1 organic ghost pepper (if you can find), seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups organic apple juice
¼ tsp salt
1 pkg certo
5 cups organic sugar
1 organic lemon, juiced, reserve juiced halves
Add peppers, vinegar, apple juice, salt, certo and sugar to large saucepan. Add the juiced lemon halves. The pot should be large enough to accommodate the rolling boil of the jelly, which will triple in size.
Bring to rolling boil and let boil, stirring continuously for 3-4 mins.
Remove from heat. Take out the lemon halves. Add the lemon juice and stir continuously for 5 minutes. This helps to prevent the peppers from floating on top of the jelly.
Pour into hot sterilized jars, screw on lids. Hot water process according to your jars’ instructions.
Yields 5-6 125ml jars