Harvesting Clutter-Free Gifts
Holiday gifting this year feels like I’m skating fast and smooth over a river of ice: effortless, exhilarating and, yes, fun. How did this happen? How did the usual angst and frustration transform so completely to confidence, joy and an almost childlike giddiness? Two words: no shopping. A few years ago our families decided to give each other presents only if we were together during on the holiday. This cuts the pressure in half already, but it isn’t the perfect solution for everyone, especially when families are younger and the Christmas want/need lists are longer. Also, over the years I’ve identified the edibles and experiences that my giftees look forward to and appreciate. As a lifelong health nut, I could never in good conscience give candy or traditional cookies. My husband and I spend hours cracking walnuts and dehydrating fruits from our trees to bag in cellophane and tie with handmade tags and twine. Oddly enough it took us several years to realize we had this cornucopia of nearly ready-made gifts in our own back yard. I’m also experimenting with paleo (sugar free) truffles and brownies from the Practical Paleo cookbook by Diane Sanfilippo . I know, I know, go ahead and roll your eyes. But they are truly delicious and I can give them (and gobble them) without guilt. If you are on a budget or want to give clutter-free gifts, take a look around your homestead. Is there something staring right at you that you could transform, with a little work, into a great gift? Do you make a great pasta sauce that you could jar and give? Is your cranberry jelly something people comment on and look forward to? Or maybe you don’t even need to give the product, just a neatly typed copy of the recipe tucked into a holiday card. A dehydrator costs just $100 or less and, if you throw in a mandolin for slicing, can turn all that fruit you’ve been trying to offload into gorgeous treats. If you’ve never seen a sliver of dried Fuyu persimmon, it is a delicate and delicious thing of beauty. Multi-talented T Beller, owner of Verve Napa Valley, turned me on to persimmon drying and my dehydrator has been running non-stop every November since. Remember the mix-tape? One of the resources you might not think about is your music library. Consider putting together a bunch of hand-picked songs for people on your gift list, either on a CD or a USB drive. I also love to give time, our most precious resource. Since my main skill is organizing, I give gift certificates for my services. If you perform a service that people want or need, consider gifting it here and there. Even children have gift-worthy skills—computer and smart phone help anyone? If you can’t afford to give too much time away, how about a portion of a service? For example, a hair stylist could give a free trim with the purchase of a color treatment. A personal trainer could give a free session on a package of ten. The other thing I’m doing is spontaneously choosing a couple people on my list to receive extra-special or more expensive gifts. I found some rare first edition children’s books that my sister (who doesn’t read my column, so I’m not busting the surprise) mentioned. I caved and purchased (online—no store time) some old-fashioned games from Restoration Hardware that will be fun for the whole family to play while waiting for the turkey in the oven or the (paleo) pumpkin and chocolate desserts to be served. While online I happened upon and splurged on a couple other gifts that will be appreciated without intentionally stressing over and shopping for them. For me the best part about getting older is appreciating what I have. Especially living here, in the Napa Valley, the crazy abundance never ceases to amaze me. We spend our younger years cultivating and planting and our later years harvesting and pruning. The abundance from our personal harvests often make the most appreciated (and least likely to clutter) gifts.