Handmade Holidays: Food Edition
Here’s the gift I best remember from last Christmas: Two jars of pickled quails’ eggs that my sister gave me. I also remember—with longing—the orange Bundt cake she made for our grandma and the ceviche she gave our dad. If you like to cook, then you know the pleasure of feeding someone else: Food is love in one of its most elemental forms. And food gifts are also great because you’ve probably got a good idea of what the recipient likes to eat—the same cannot necessarily be said of knowing, for example, how the recipient likes to smell. Once you’ve realized that, yes, food makes a wonderful gift, you’ll probably come up with plenty of ideas of your own, but I’ve scoured the web to find a few recipes that look delightful to me. Here they are
Let’s start with pickles. So easy! So delicious! Martha Stewart has a nice pickle primer with recipes that might inspire you to experiment. From pickles, it’s just a small step to stuff preserved in oil. If you search for “preserved in oil” or “conserved in oil,” you’ll find a ton recipes. These mushrooms look pretty awesome to me, as do these peppers. After oil, of course, we turn to vinegar. This balsamic glaze is gorgeous, and infused vinegars are simple and pretty. And, while we’re on the topic of infusing, I would like to mention homemade liquors and cordials. If you try this honey and saffron liquor, please make a bottle for me.
Candy is classic. Again, Martha Stewart is a great source for ideas. Check out her basic bark recipes if you want something easy and sure to please. The grownups on your gift list might appreciate some no-bake rum balls. Brown sugar-rosemary walnuts sound like a glorious combination of sweet and savory. And these gum drops! Just look at them! Imagine them in unexpected flavors—herbal, maybe?
This list would obviously be incomplete without cookies. This Santa cookie wins the prize for sheer adorableness, but Martha Stewart’s holiday icebox cookies are pretty sweet, too. I’m a big fan of icebox cookies, especially when I need a large quantity of cookies. The other thing that’s great about icebox cookies is that you can give someone frozen or chilled dough so that they can make fresh cookie themselves after the holidays. I can personally vouch for the wonderfulness of these chocolate-black pepper cookies. And, as long as we’re turning on the oven, both Heidi Swanson and Nigella Lawson have incredibly enticing gingerbread recipes.
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Handmade Holidays: Etsy Edition
You want to give beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade gifts. Of course you do. But maybe you’re insanely busy this season, or just not feeling crafty. Etsy to the rescue! I’ll be posting some more handmade ideas soon, but today I’m introducing you to some of my favorite Etsy shops. It’s an odd little mix, and you won’t find something for everyone here. But you might find something perfect for someone—maybe even yourself.
Eleneetha Aromatics is my preferred purveyor of handmade soap, and possibly my favorite shop on Etsy. I love Anastasia’s scents because they are deep, earthy—sometimes even a little dirty—and thoroughly grownup. I generally have at least one bar of her Old Whore soap on hand. I like to let it cure on my bedside table before I use it. My bedroom smells like a seraglio—or, I guess, what I imagine a seraglio might smell like. But that’s what Anastasia’s scents are like: They inspire. Just read a few of her product descriptions and you’ll see what I mean.
Hand-carved rubber stamps are my new little obsession. I like making them myself, but I also like to see what other folks are up to. Tyr at This Is Just to Say has a wonderfully eclectic mix of imagery, and the quality of her work is excellent. I’ve purchased the moon set which is—obviously—fantastic. I also bought Huginn and Muninn, which is mounted on a piece of tree branch and really satisfying to use. It is, alas, a little late to be ordering Christmas presents from Sweden, but Tyr also does kickass custom stamps—portraits, pet portraits, Lego guy of your choice—that you can purchase now, give as a gift, and let the recipient send Tyr the details—kind of like a gift certificate. (I checked with Tyr, and this is totally cool with her.)
Swoon Fibers offers the kind of luxury that’s hard to buy for oneself—even for me, and I’m pretty good at buying luxuries for myself—so it’s an ideal place to choose a gift for the yarn-crafter on your list. This is the only place I’ve ever seen mink yarn. I bought a few skeins to make a scarf and it’s delicious. (Like I said, buying luxuries for myself is one of my special talents.) The baby camel is also divine, and the skein of yak-bamboo I have in my stash is one of the softest, springiest yarns I’ve ever handled. And if you’re thinking “Minks! Baby camels! Jessica, how could you?” I can assure you that these supersoft fibers are brushed from living animals—just like collecting angora. UPDATE: Mink and camel yarns are 10% off until December 25!
A couple of years ago, I went looking for moonstones, and I found Puffluna. I’ve probably made more purchases from Julie than I have from any other seller on Etsy. I just love her mix of vintage findings and semi-precious stones. Her pieces are charming—even a little whimsical—without being fussy or too-cute. I would link to my favorite necklace currently at Puffluna, but I think I might just buy it for myself...
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