This post is probably a bit premature (I should really be bringing this out in around, oh, say, December) but what with everyone around me making 1001 lists and New Years Resolutions (and me not doing that and feeling sort of pathetic because I am so pathetic at keeping lists and being organized and whenever I actually make a list the next day I think "what the hell was I thinking? that's a completely idiotic idea") I thought I'd think back on what worked well this holiday, in terms of Gifts and Things Made.
Good Things Column
First, the kids made more gifts this year than they ever had. Max made Free Labour Coupons for my parents and Interesting Candle Holders out of old birch logs, while the twins made bookmarks that they decorated themselves and laminated, thus rendering them Super Dooper Long Lasting Objets D'Art.
homemade turtles. Look at all that rich, meltingly smooth chocolate. The only downside to these was that they didn't last long. People kept eating them.
Something I find incredibly handy for Mass Baking Incidents: save the long cardboard rolls from foil or parchment paper containers. When making large batches of slice-and-bake cookies, but not wanting to bake everything all at once, halve the dough and roll some of it up on a piece of parchment, then twist the ends shut. Insert that roll into your cardboard tube and place it in the freezer (but not before placing a piece of masking tape with LIME WAFERS or whatever kind of cookie it is on the outside just in case you end up with 10 rolls and no identifying marks, ahem). Keeps the roll round.
The lollipop molds from Michaels work really really well. And they are usually marked down to $1.99 mid-December. This ensures that I will buy them, cheap soul that I am. They will make a return appearance next year. I wish I'd taken a photo of the white chocolate snowflake lollipops I made (then wrapped in Christmas tree-imprinted clear wrap bags for some of the kids we know). They look (dare I admit this?) really impressive for the little amount of work they took.
Give gardeners gifts they can use! I come from a long line of gardeners, so it's an easy thing to get new gloves, or tools, or even pruners as gifts, but this year I went to my feed store around the corner and got something a little different: an Almost Indestructable Bucket (with a hook handle and a flat side in case you hang it on the wall) and several bags of my new favourite gift: my own Hand Mixed Handy Dandy Almost-But-Probably-Not-Quite-Organic Fertilizer (that's it there in the photo - isn't it luscious looking?). Besides, most people who have been gardening for a while already have tools and pruners, no? And who doesn't need mass quantities of fertilizer? My other plant food option is a gallon jug of fish emulsion but this dry mix seemed a little more, err, festive. And less likely to stink up the room in case it got opened.
Things To Change Column
Ditch the baking that doesn't perform. Or takes too much time to produce. Buy more dried cherries when at Trader Joe's.
Use those hard plastic coloured adhesive page markers to mark recipes in all Martha Stewart/Canadian Living Holiday Baking issues. Then one does not have to leaf through each and every issue to find that one recipe for Macadamia Biscotti at midnight on the day before the event at which they are due, whilst simultaneously telling husband to go to bed it's all okay, and please leave out the scotch bottle because a) it's late, and b) it's late and where the hell is that stupid recipe?
Get the Mary's Advent Spiral ready before Advent actually starts.
Make specific plans for homemade gifts for relatives before the 23rd of December. Don't ask why, just trust me on this one.
Do not ever, repeat, ever, purchase No Name tape again. Ever.
Remember that your eldest child's birthday is right after Christmas. Right. After. Christmas.
Buy the snowflake-patterned clear wrap when you see it, not on Christmas Eve when you have suddenly remembered that you need it for all those Bath Fizzies you just made and hope to distribute in less than 12 hours. (Note to self: remember not to spritz so much water on the Bath Fizzie mixture because the last time you did they all fizzed up and over the edge of the molds and you got really fed up and threw the whole batch off the deck and then everyone wondered what the weird crusty purple stuff in the garlic bed was)
Stop the children from taking video after video of the cat sleeping, the cat preening his capacious girth, the cat staring into space, the cat licking his bum (which can only lead to very rude nicknames), and other equally hysterical antics, otherwise there will be no battery juice left for less, err, gripping situations like, say, Christmas dinner with relatives and opening gifts.
Finally, when the VCR dies and you decide to take it all apart on the living room floor in a fit of "but I really need to tape that episode of Midsomer Murders because the dinner we are going to will be deadly and I'll need something to come home to as consolation" remember very carefully where you left all those little teeny tiny bits of metal and screws. Please. For all our sakes.