Make a List and Check It a Dozen Times

by: Billilyn Friese

School's back in session and Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas loom ahead. Over the years I have developed my TWELVE HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING RULES to help smooth the bumps. This agenda allows me to be a little less stressed, a lot more organized and feel so superior to all those folks going crazy in December.

RULE #1: (January) Make lists

Take a hint from Santa, make a list and check it at least a dozen times. I use a three ring binder entitled "Gift Giving Guide". My guide contains lists of gift ideas, sizes, colors and names so I don?t miss anyone. Don?t forget to note if you hide the present under a bed or in the top of the hall closet.

RULE #2: (February) Select a theme

This year the theme is candy canes because after Christmas I found bags of little candy cane decorations on clearance. I already have candy cane cookie cutters, rubber stamps and a mold for making paper candy cane gift tags. I?ll put lots of candy canes on the tree and make peppermint taffy canes for everyone. Here's how:


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
Mix sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 265?F. Remove from heat and add peppermint extract. Divide the mixture in half and add red food coloring to one half. Let candy cool until you can touch it. Butter your hands to pull and fold the pieces repeatedly until they appear glossy, then roll them into thin ropes. Cut each rope into 6 pieces. Put a red and a clear rope together and twist. Set on greased cookie sheet to cool. Makes 6 medium sized candy canes.

RULE #3: (March) What to give?

The answer to this question is always open to change this early in the year. Again I try to pick a theme, for example sweaters or sweat suits for everyone. I can make them if I start now or buy them if I find a good deal. For personalization, I can applique or embroider on the clothing, box and wrap each gift as it is finished.

Start with the adults as children grow so fast, it's best to wait until Fall to begin theirs.

RULE #4 (April)If it can be done early, do it now.

Test recipes while there is plenty of time to make adjustments or abandon the whole idea. Gifts that can be put in canning jars have been popular for years. These gifts do not have to be food, but if they are, they should have a long shelf life if you are preparing them now. Fill pint or quart jars with candy kisses, salt-water taffy, nuts, dried fruit, bath salts, marbles, or hair ribbons. Crush colorful tissue paper or Christmas wrap in a 4 oz. Quilted Jelly jar and drop in a pretty pair of earrings. Here are some simple recipes using jars and easy enough for kids to make.


  • 3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
Split vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds into bowl with sugar and stir to blend. Store in closed container at least one week. Divide sugar into decorative jars. Cut vanilla pod into 1 piece per jar and lay on top of sugar.


  • 1 cup fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried ground sage
  • Mix ingredients and store in jars. Make several different herbed salts; place in small decorative jars or salt shakers and combine in a pretty basket for your favorite cook.


  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • 4 drops essential oil (your choice)
  • few drops food coloring (optional)
  • Mix in glass or ceramic bowls and store in pretty jars.

    RULE #5: (May) Check your supplies

    Keep on hand a supply of jars, food gift boxes and "cello" bags. You may also want a variety of small silk flowers and foliage, ribbon and raffia, tissue paper, colorful packaging material, white or brown lunch bags, beads, sequins, bits of fabric, etc. I know you already have a hot glue gun. You can find the gift boxes and cello bags at Kitchen Krafts.

    RULE #6 (June) Take a break

    Make your own wish list and place where hubby can't miss it. Leave your copy of The Foodcrafter's Supply Catalog in a prominent place with little yellow sticky notes marking all those must have items.

    RULE #7: (July) Wrapping

    If you bought your wrapping supplies on sale after last Christmas take the month off. Don't forget the tape.

    RULE #8. (August) Label

    Check out the Personalized Kitchen Labels from Kitchen Krafts.

    The variety lets you label any package from the jar of candy kisses for Grandpa to sealing the tissue paper cuddling the soft baby afghan you made.

    RULE #9: (September) Edible gifts

    There is still time for canning. You can make beautiful clear grape jelly using unsweetened, frozen concentrated juices. Check your Ball Blue Book for ideas. Applesauce also makes a wonderful gift and there is still time to make it. Put it up in large jars for a family or 4-oz. to 8-oz. jars for your favorite single person. Label and dress up with bows, ribbons, silk flowers, ornaments or fabric.

    RULE #10: (October) Plan menus.

    Knowing what you are going to fix for meals well ahead of time and making a list of items needed could save you lots of frustration. Now is also a good time to plan what cookies, candy, breads, and other goodies you want to make and get all ingredients in the cupboards. Do not make something you have not tried in advance when you're going to have a house full of guests, even if they are only family. That can be a disaster waiting to happen.

    RULE #11: (November) Decorate

    Now is the time for outside lights go up and tree decorations come down from the top of the garage. Wash the holiday tablecloths and napkins.

    RULE #12: (December) Trim the tree

    Catch up on rules not completed on schedule. I know it's hard to think of Christmas when you still have 342 or just 142 shopping days remaining. You can, of course, cram everything into 3-4 months or there is always next year.