Christmas is definitely just around the tinsel-decorated corner, and it seems like everyone is going crazy for Christmas shopping. Gift giving is so common these days that everyone seems to start giving out the same generic gifts. For this reason, people are starting to appreciate personalized or homemade gifts even more. They tell the gift-receiver that the gift-giver has put much time and effort into their gift and made it especially for the receiver. This alone is a gift in itself.
Unfortunately, not everybody has the time to spare to create personalized or homemade gifts. My solution? Semi-DIY (do-it-yourself) gifts that are easy to make, easy on the budget, and easy on the eyes. Here are some of my affordable Yuletide suggestions:
- Homemade Pate: A pate is a type of dip that is usually made with a type of meat (usually liver or fish) and has a strong savoury flavour. It is usually made with duck liver or smoked salmon, but since neither are easily available or easy on the budget, you may create a more Pinoy version of the pate. Simply caramelize some onions with butter on low heat and add a couple cloves of garlic. Season it with slat and pepper and an herb of your choice (common choices include oregano, basil, paprika, or bay leaf). Dump this mixture in a food processor. Then, add some flaked smoked Bangus or some canned Tuna in Water (if you are working on a really tight budget) and some Cream Cheese. Blend the mixture in the food processor until it is sooth and spreadable. You may also add chopped nuts like walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. Transfer this mix into decorative glass jars and give them out as gifts. Just remember to keep them refrigerated. Oh, and if you want to, you may create different flavours and give a set of homemade pate to your friends.
- Semi-DIY Chocolate Chip Cookies: Now, this is my personal favorite. I actually do this every time I need some ort of gift and I run out of time to buy some. What I do is buy some decorative boxes (which cost about 50 to 80 Pesos) and line the insides with some Japanese paper (which cost about 2 Pesos per sheet) and then fill the box with some cookies I buy from a popular baked-goods chain. The chocolate chip cookies taste somewhat homemade (as compared to the generic, mass produced ones) and are actually cheaper. Then, I give the cookies in boxes out and claim I made it myself. The receiver always seems appreciative for the fact tat I exerted some amount of effort in “baking” the cookies.
- Chocolate Bath Milk: If you know somebody who loves taking care of their skin and happens to have a bath tub, you may want to give them some really affordable Bath Milk with a twist of Chocolate. They may use this to soak in the tub with to get really supple skin. The ingredients: 2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, and 2 Cups of Powdered Milk. Simply mix the two, put in metallic canisters, and decorate.
- Bandana-Wrapped Candies: People often give out candies or chocolates during Christmas as a default gift. Personally, I dislike receiving edible gifts because there is nothing to remember the gift, or the giver by, once the food is consumed. So what I do when I decide to give out some candy is wrap it with something useful. Usually, I use a bandana which costs well under 50 Pesos. I simply place the candies in the middle of an open bandana, pull all ends to have them meet at the top (surrounding the candies), and then tie a secure ribbon to hold the candies in place, and to add a more festive flair. You may also use this technique when giving out little trinkets.
- Semi-DIY Cereal Snacks: Everybody has stale cereal; and nobody ever seems to want to eat it. To recycle stale cereal I make some Cereal Snacks. I simply heat up a cup of brown sugar, a cup of water, a pinch of salt, and some cinnamon, until all the sugar is dissolved. I bring the mixture to a boil and once boiled, I pour it over the stale cereal (in a bowl) combined with some raisins, chocolate chips, glazed fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and desiccated coconut. Then I transfer the mixture to an oiled baking sheet and wait for it to dry. If you cooked the caramel right, this would dry in a couple of minutes or less. Then, break the pieces (at this point they would have clumped together into one big piece) and transfer them to decorative glass jars, tie a ribbon near the top, and hand them out as edible gifts for Christmas.
- Decorative Alcohol: Alcohol is another classic Yuletide gift because it is generic and (most often) inoffensive. Instead of simply giving out bottles of your favorite booze, try this creative (and cheaper) spin on alcohol-giving for the holidays.
Simply buy decorative bottles in mall-based department stores (or the trusty shops at Uyanguren) that sell house ware or even supplies for flower arrangements. You may simply fill these bottles with affordable Vodka and give them out as gifts. If you want a more creative twist, you may choose different-colored decorative bottles, or simply add food dye to your vodka. You may also flavour the vodka with oil or water-based flavourings that are available in most supermarkets.
- Oatmeal Soap: Oatmeal Soap is very good for the skin, and always looks semi-homemade. Unlike Papaya, Carrot, or Seaweed soaps, oatmeal soap has little granules of oatmeal which makes it look a little more rustic and less “mass produced”. You may wrap the pieces of oatmeal soap (without the box or the plastic wrapper) in Japanese paper or gift wrapping paper made from recycled paper. Then, tie some paper twine around the soap and then glue-gun a piece of dried flower or potpourri on top of the knot.
- Nuts: The Yuletide season is probably the time of the year when most nuts are consumed. There is something about nuts that reminds us of lazy Christmas days, and all the glee it comes with it. Giving nuts for Xmas is not only unique and inexpensive, but is also very helpful for people who are trying to watch their weight. Simply create your own version of mixed nuts, and make sure to include the more festive ones like Walnuts, Chestnuts, Almonds, and maybe even Pistachios. Then, place them in canisters or simple glass jars and tie ribbons on the lid. This makes for a festive and gift that all members of the family are sure to appreciate.
- Monogram White Napkins: White napkins are almost essential to every household; plus they make for really inexpensive gifts. Simply buy a set of white napkins (which are very inexpensive), and some textile paint (which cost less than fifty pesos). Simply use stamps to create designs on the white napkins and let it dry overnight. You may put a simple leaf design or the initials of the person who will accept the gift. If you are giving it away as a gift for the whole family, make one for each member of the family and choose letters that correspond to their first names. The key here is simplicity. Do not put more than one icon on the napkin.
- Hot Chocolate Mix: Everybody loves some hot chocolate during the yuletide season; so why not give it away as a gift? You may prepare some hot chocolate mixes by combining powdered sugar, powdered milk, cocoa powder, and a little salt. You may choose to flavour your hot chocolate with cayenne peppers (which is too good for words), cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever flavour you like. Then, place them in metal canisters or glass jars. Tie a ribbon across the top and give it out as gifts.
Catch Confessions of a Partyphile on the radio at 105.9 Mix FM Every Wednesday evenings from six to nine. You may also follow the columnist at http://twitter.com/zhaun