The holidays are practically over! Was it a whirlwind for you, as well? There’s a Christmas song from a Broadway show that’s called “Need a Little Christmas” (that usually prompts me to change the radio station for a few minutes until it’s over…) But can we all agree? If there was ever a year when we all needed a little Christmas, it was this one. I started early. Give me all the nostalgia. Play classic tunes all day long. We got our Christmas tree a week earlier than usual this year and I even broke one of my long-standing rules by turning on our exterior Christmas lights BEFORE Thanksgiving dinner. We’re all home a lot more than most years, yearning for gatherings and friends and hugs and far-away family. I think I dove into the season as much as I could because my soul needed it. Do you feel the same?
This year, heartfelt or homemade gifts felt right to me. I always enjoy baking and sharing with loved ones, but instead of exhausting myself in the kitchen with three kinds of cookies, I tried a couple of new ideas that may take a little less time but don’t skimp on love. Let me show you what we dropped on porches this year.
First, can we talk about these Caramel Pretzel Bites? Crunchy, salty, sweet, super cute, and simple. They are so tasty! To make them, I simply placed the pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I dropped an unwrapped Rolo candy on each one, then warmed the pan in a low-heat oven (200 degrees). After about 7 minutes, when the Rolos were soft, I pressed another pretzel on top to make a gooey, chocolatey, caramely sandwich. YUM.
After the candy cooled and firmed up, I dipped each one in melted colored chocolate and added some holiday flair. I let them cool again before packing them up to share. A few may or may not have found their way into my mouth. We’ll call it quality control. YUM! The hardest part about making these treats was peeling the foil off of the Rolo candies. Delicious doesn’t have to be difficult, and a homemade gift is always appreciated! My neighbors loved them. These would be fun for any party or gathering throughout the year.
If it’s not your style to add to the piles of treats everyone accumulates during the holidays, try making these Stovetop Potpourri jars. I love the smells of this season. Warm cinnamon, earthy pine, clove, cranberry…so comforting and part of my memories of Christmas each year. With a few things from your pantry, you can bottle up that cozy feeling and share it with others! I started by drying some fresh orange slices in the oven. It’s a little time consuming, flipping the slices every 30 minutes for a few hours, but I took that time to gather the rest of my ingredients and work on my ever-growing stack of Christmas cards. This season is all about multi-tasking!
When the dried orange slices had cooled, I set up my assembly line of yummy-smelling goodies and some lidded jars. My potpourri pots would include pine and fir snippets (sold at my local nursery), cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh cranberries, a star anise, and a couple of the orange slices. I love seeing the ingredients in the jar, those nostalgic items that invoke joyful holiday sighs.
As I was putting them together, I simmered a batch on my stove to make sure this gift delivered on its holiday promise. Ahhhhh…the aroma of Christmas floated through the air. Success! Comfort and joy to share. I stuck a cute label on each lid (leftover from wrapping gifts) and tied a tag around each jar so the recipients would know what this gift was all about. What a fun and thoughtful thing to share with neighbors, teachers, or to offer a hostess at a holiday gathering. Warning: You’ll definitely want to keep a jar of potpourri or two for yourself! I did, and I’ll be using them well into the New Year.
After the strange weight of 2020, we all need a little extra love. I’m hoping the people who received these little tokens felt it from us.
Can’t wait to share more about our holidays. May these last few days of 2020 be calm and bright!
What are your favorite homemade gift ideas? Let’s share!