Thanksgiving is over, and we’ve been noshing on the leftovers for a couple of days now–the turkey and roasted veggies, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes redone as potato pancakes (my first successful batch! it helps to have a recipe and a lot of fat to fry in…).

Yesterday, M and I went out to Manning’s Tree Farm and picked out a six foot Scotch Pine as bouffant as an old lady’s beehive.  They have a handy-dandy tree stand there with a spike in the middle that you simply set the tree on after they’ve drilled a hole in the bottom.

I probably should’ve gone for it, but budgetary concerns coupled with the amount of time I spent with WD40 and vise grips getting the old stand ready for action made me think twice. That, and when someone tries to sell me something handy-dandy that I haven’t tried before, I always step back.

I might’ve thought a third time and avoided the hassle of trying to get this tree straight in the old stand, but H helped and we got the thing mostly straight in the front window and decorated it last night.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a real tree–it’s been a long time since I had a tree at all.  A lot of years I simply decorate my tropical hibiscus bush–though it’s kind of hard to give a decorated shrub a shower, which is my normal way of watering “Biscuit.”

Now it’s time to start thinking of holiday gifts for family and friends.  For me, that’s usually a matter of looking in the pantry and putting together boxes of all the special and delicious goodies I’ve canned and put by during the season.  This year I’ve got some corn relish and pickles, chutney and jam.

I also dried some leeks this year, along with the little tomatoes I always do.  Those always make a good insert to keep the canning jars from clinking.  Once I’ve selected a nice assortment for each recipient, I’ll sometimes scout the thrift shops for something pretty or functional to put them in, then scout the basement for the right-sized box.

It’s not that I avoid spending any money on gifts–I do generally buy a couple new things, but I also know that to keep within my holiday budget of about two hundred dollars, I need to think about the shipping costs of packages to other parts of the country, which can take up 1/4 to 1/3 of that total budget (canned goods are heavy, after all).

To me, consumables make some of the best presents–especially for people who already have a lot of “stuff” or don’t want a lot of stuff.  Something made by hand that can be enjoyed in that festive time of year seems like a better bet than something that’ll just take up more space and may or may not be used.

And it’s fun to put together the little packages of goodness–spicy for those who like it, sweet and mild for those whose tastes go that way, and little extras that further reflect the recipient’s taste based on raves from previous seasons.

It’s also great to get the season’s gifts put together and shipped off early instead of wandering the aisles looking for the “perfect gift” and never finding it because it’s not there.

It gives me a little more time to relax and enjoy what I really like about the holiday season (and it’s not final grading): food, friends, family, potluck parties and cheery lights, and curling up with a good book in the cozy house.


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