Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creative, DIY Christmas Presents

This time of year can be tricky for those of us on a budget. You want to give nice, thoughtful presents, but don't want to break the bank or leave anyone out. Right? When I was a kid, I have distinct memories of helping my mom churn out dozens of Christmas cookies to deliver to friends and family. In recent years, I've been making this tradition my own. These gifts are perfect for neighbors, acquaintances, classmates, teachers, etc.

Step one: gather an assortment of holiday plates. Usually I try and have some non-Christmas options to give to people who don't celebrate Christmas. In my experience, the best way to gather these plates is to buy sets of dessert plates. Usually Macy's, Crate and Barrel, etc. have sets of four. It's a great bargain. The tree plate on the left and the white plate on the right are leftovers from last year, the two center plates were new. This year the pickings were slim, so from now on, when I find plates I really like, I'm buying extras. They don't go bad, so you can always use them in the future.

 Step two: make holiday cookies. Recipe here. In any given year, I make several batches. This year I think I will make 3 batches for all of my plates. I like to make my cookies super fat, so I tend to get less out of my dough. I also like to load up my plates, so I go through a lot of cookies. Depending on my recipients, I vary up my shapes. Some Christmasy, some generic winter shapes.
Step three: frost and decorate the cookies. Tip: I try and give each plate at least one of every shape and then usually two holly shapes and two candy canes. Usually the repeats (holly and candy cane) are different in their decorations. But here is the thing, no one is going to see all of your cookies. So it's perfectly ok if your Christmas trees are exactly the same because they won't be on the same plate. It definitely makes the design process go way faster and reduces the amount of  time spent on creativity.

Step four: Buy a roll of cellophane. It's maybe $2 at target. Cut a large piece and tie it around the plate with some ribbon. Use whatever you have on hand. I experimented a bit with the cellophane but I think I found a great technique. Start with one corner. Hold it up over the center of the plate. About 2-3 inches to the left of the corner, grab the edge of the cellophane and add to the bunch in your hand. Repeat until you are all the way around the plate. This technique gives the plate an even look, rather than having awkward bunches at certain places. I hate when that happens- I think it's which happens if you just grab the corners.

Step five: Deliver! Hope your holiday season has been wonderful!

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