It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all. It’s the… You know what? Forget it – that’s about all the holiday joy I can muster.
I can’t stand the holidays. This, of course, is a direct result of many years of employment at the mall. Nothing like arriving for your shift only to find the once empty parking lot jammed with rude shoppers who’d rather eat their own children than allow you to merge into the hell that is the Stamford Town Center parking garage. Merry Christmas.
Thankfully my days of mall employment are over. But, I think, this year, with all the occupying going on, we should take the opportunity to reexamine the holiday and adjust both our attitudes and spending habits accordingly.
I’ve always been a fan of homemade gifts. I also like to wrap them in newspaper, and make cards out of construction paper. There’s just something personal about taking the time to create something for someone. There were thousands of dollars worth of gifts at my friend Shannon’s bridal shower, but my hand-knit dishcloths stopped the show. And I’d wrapped them in a brown paper lunch bag. It’s not about flash, it’s about love.
Lots of people bake around the holidays. There’s nothing like a tray of homemade cookies. But I wanted to come up with something from the kitchen that doesn’t need to be consumed immediately and can fit into any budget.
I have these great recipe cards that were given to me as a gift when I graduated culinary school. A handwritten recipe along with some premeasured spices makes a wonderful gift. It can be an old favorite with a new twist, classic comfort food, or something entirely of your own creation. A customized recipe is the ultimate personal gift – Baldwin’s Bolognese recipe card, along with the required spices and a gift certificate for Fratelli Market’s freshly made pasta, would make anyone’s Christmas complete; especially Baldwin’s.
For some reason, I have these great little containers all over my house. I can fill them up with a few different spices, and introduce a friend to a whole new flavor of cuisine – Hungarian recipes and a few types of paprika. Or I can fill a 100 calorie size ziplock with cumin, chili, cinnamon, allspice, cocoa – and instructions for the best crock pot chili they will ever encounter, along with a gift certificate for some pasture-raised organic meat from Saugatuck Craft Butchery.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Bag and tag it – “Put dry ingredients into a big bowl. In a separate bowl, add ½ stick of cooled melted butter to ½ cup buttermilk. It should clump. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pull off chunks of dough and space them evenly on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 475 for 8-10 minutes, and then drizzle with melted butter before serving.”
You can do this with muffins and corn bread as well. Put it in a basket, along with a few jars of jam from the local farmers market and some local honey. These kinds of gifts can last a lifetime because you may turn them on to something totally new. They’ll never forget that first biscuit or that first taste of Hungary.
Whatever you make, make it with love. That is the best thing you can do. Shop small and shop local. Buy homemade gifts from jewelry to soap on Etsy. Buy gift certificates from hairdressers and locally owned restaurants. Make a donation to someone’s favorite charity. Make up your own gift certificate for a home-cooked meal. Use your imagination, along with the rest of your noggin, and create one-of-a-kind gifts for each of your loved ones. That’s what the holidays should be about.
#UnoccupyTheMall and occupy the moment. You can’t buy love; you can only make it happen.
Fratelli Market is located at 17 Cedar Heights Rd in Stamford.
Saugatuck Craft Butchery is located at 575 Riverside Ave in Westport.
Let them know the Headbanging Hostess sent you, and read about them on Alternative Control!
Visit the Headbanging Hostess Facebook page for more #UnoccupyTheMall ideas!