- Start with a budget- allotting a certain amount for each person and commit to not going over this amount. This alone helped my stress levels so much, knowing that I could work harder to find a simple gift that would actually have meaning; rather than just buying what seemed like a great gift but was actually just plain pricey.
- Start writing down ideas now- whether you're planning homemade gifts or store-bought. This way, if you find a great deal at the store on something that would make a good gift, you can buy it. Likewise, for homemade gifts you'll have a way to make a timeline so you won't be making everything last minute.
- Start getting a gift area prepared- a place to keep everything organized. I just started this last year, in a desperate attempt to save myself from Christmas Eve-itis. You know, the thing only men are supposed to have- the syndrome where on Christmas Eve (or at 5:30 am on Christmas Day) you're still wrapping gifts. Avoid this at all costs- store/hide all gifts in the same area, and get out all your gift-wrapping paraphernalia and put it there too. Paper, boxes, tape, scissors, ribbons- all in one place, all with your gifts. Doesn't that sound nice?
In case you also make cookies, I want to share one of my favorite cookie recipes. Alert- this is a basic butter recipe with few modifications. Readers who are regular visitors here and expecting a "healthy" recipe: you should probably leave now! For everyone else, you'll see why I love this recipe- it can be modified to create three variations, so your baking day(s) won't be so crazy.
Basic Cookie Dough
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar (this is one place I don't use honey, although I do try to use unrefined cane sugar)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups flour (I recommend sprouted flour here as soaking doesn't work well with cookie doughs)
In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the eggs and vanilla and combine. Add in the salt, and then add in the flour slowly. Combine well, then divide the dough into four equal portions (if planning on using all the following variations.) Refrigerate at least 3 hours until firm, or for up to 1 week.
This dough may be rolled and cut, or shaped as desired. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Variations: Orange-Chocolate; Ginger-Spice; Snowballs
1 Tablespoon orange zest (organic oranges recommended)
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
Add in the zest to the cookie dough. When cookies are baked cool on rack, then drizzle melted chocolate on top.
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice (may substitute 1/4 teas. each of ground cinnamon and clove)
These are especially nice formed into balls, pressed down flat with a glass, and sprinkled with sugar.
1 cup pecans, almonds or other nut diced finely (best if almost ground, use a food processor or grinder)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Add nuts and coconut to dough, and shape into medium balls, about 1 tablespoon of dough per ball. Bake, and when out of the oven for 1-2 minutes but still warm, sprinkle with (or roll into) powered sugar. An alternative decoration is to drizzle with white chocolate.
Additional ideas/ tips:
I like to make these three variations, leaving one quarter of the dough to make plain rolled cookies which I shape by cookie cutters, and decorate with diced fruit, colored sugar or royal icing. These are especially fun to make with children. This dough is very versatile, consider altering the recipes above to suit your family's tastes. See this Martha Stewart article, which inspired the idea of this dough and the recipes.
Please come back tomorrow for more holiday tips and another recipe- perfect for Thanksgiving.