WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends.

(Venetian Biscotti: see recipe link at end of post)

This is going to be one of those posts. I decided a few years ago that I was literally done with the stress of holiday shopping. DONE. There were some things in my personal life going on at the time that lead me to re-evaluate the whole idea of gift-giving and the true meaning of the holidays- who I spend time with, or effort on and why. Do I spread myself thin and my wallet on people I am obligated to or do I give, truly give something meaningful to those who matter most?

Maybe that sounds trite because I am sure in the frenzy of the holiday season people often evaluate why they are throwing themselves in the fray, literally putting themselves in harm’s way (have you seen the youtube videos of Black Friday stampedes???) and for what, to get some piece of plastic, electronic or otherwise, usually made in another country (taking away jobs from the USA, or your own country, wherever you may live) to give to someone many times under feelings of obligation and with a lot of stress – financial or otherwise because we feel like we have to in order to make someone happy? This was not the road to holiday happiness for me.

(Pfeffernusse Shortbread: see recipe link at end of post)

OK, now I am starting to get all ba-hum-buggy, which is so far from my intent. I am full of the holiday spirit! But really this kind of gift-giving, which inevitably includes hours wandering around shops and shopping malls searching for inspiration, for a gift to give someone I love to show them how important they are to me, was always a fruitless act. These kinds of gifts have no soul. I don’t know where they were made, or by whom, or under what conditions. I don’t know if they are full of materials that might end up harming the person, even on a small level. Is this how I show my love?

This is not to say I don’t have electronics in my house or I don’t enjoy modern conveniences because I do, but the question is, is this the right kind of gift to give someone in this instance? The season of giving is about that – to give of yourself, to show appreciation, love and compassion for your fellow human, not to get caught up in the materialism that really ends up in a pile forgotten with all the other “toys” of previous years. Is all that stress worth it? Roberto and I even stopped giving gifts to each other, and decided instead to spend the time and money just being together, taking a small trip to Quebec (we are lucky enough to be able to drive there!) to enjoy the beautiful scenery, snowshoe and eat really good food together. It is also my birthday in December, so we do 2 for 1! What more could we ask for than a few quiet days together to connect before the hubbub of the holidays?

(Rosemary Herbal Honey and my official taste tester! : see recipe link at end of post)

In that same vein I decided a few years ago, that I was going to either buy gifts locally or handmade from artisans that I could meet, or at least get to know online, talk to them about their products, etc. and I was also going the route of handmade gifts. Treats which are good for my recipients that will hopefully bring them some cheer, a little bit of comfort and joy during the holiday season. Something to nourish the soul, the spirit, something I could make with my own hands, putting my intention into it, intentions of love, gratitude and peace, because really this is the gift I want for my loved ones, near and far.

I decided to opt out of the craziness and share the fruits of my labor and my joy of creating food for people and enjoying every minute of it!

I also had to be realistic about who would be the recipients as well. It couldn’t be a ton of people, or everyone that I know and care about, so as not to overwhelm myself or my wallet because again, this is not what holidays are for. This is the hard part. I have to remind myself constantly of this, that I am only human, that there is only so much time in the day, etc. because I often catch myself wanting to fall back into old patterns of “getting a little something” for someone to show my appreciation. But that is not realistic.

So, I am also a huge fan of the holiday card exchange! Honestly getting a card in the mail from a friend far away is like getting a big hug and is better than any $5 or less trinket they could buy me and I believe my friends don’t deserve another little piece of non-descript holiday trinket they then feel bad about throwing away. In fact some of my favorite gifts of times past have been from relatives or friends that are items of theirs that I have always loved and they gift it to me (what an honor, what love!). Or just time spent with loved ones- good food, laughter and fun times together. That to me is THE BEST gift in the world.

So for this reason, I want to share with you some really wonderful and economical DIY Gift ideas over the next few weeks. Gifts, treats that are truly from you, something you put fore-thought, time, effort and love into. I would be surprised if your loved ones don’t love and appreciate these gifts all the more, even if they are unconventional, and I would bet they will look forward to them each year, something truly special and from the heart.

(Fruit and Nut Drops: : see recipe link at end of post)

To get you started are some ideas from last year! A whole series of cookies!

*Note: not all of my DIY food gifts are gluten-free, since my recipients are not gluten-free. Another thing about gift giving is give what you think your recipients will enjoy, not necessarily what your dietary restrictions are. That said, all recipes are using whole food ingredients.

Pfeffernusse Shortbread (Gluten, Sugar and Egg Free)

Venetian Polenta & Sesame Biscotti (Gluten Free)

No Bake Fruit and Nut Drop Cookies ( Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free)

Assorted Biscotti

Lavender Limoncello La Befana Stars

Herbal Honey

* Be sure to click on the DIY Holiday Gift Series tag to see all the posts in this series!