Monday, November 28, 2011

O Christmas Tree - and preparing for baking gifts

As a baker, it should not surprise you that my fondness (cough, obsession. cough) for baking also manifests itself in other areas of my life.  The only thing I've been doing almost as long as I've been baking is collecting Christmas ornaments.  I started off with Hallmark and branched out to other brands and eventually ended up with a collection that had both sentimental value imbued with certain memories and ornaments I bought just because I loved them.  But Hallmark ornaments will always have a sentimental place of honor in my collection even though I don't buy them by the dozens every year like I used to.
My Hallmark tree

Nowadays I don't buy as much since I'm out of storage and display space. So I've cut back on new purchases but the old ones still remain.  I've culled out a great many in recent years but kept even more as I just like them.  Not surprisingly, I have an inordinate amount of food ornaments.  I used to decorate my largest artificial tree with just food ornaments.  Last year, my food ornament collection outgrew the big tree so I had to split it up into 2 full-size food trees.
Food ornament tree #1
Food ornament tree #2

I always start decorating early because it takes so long and I like to be done by Thanksgiving weekend. Because that time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one that I devote solely to baking and holiday get togethers.  I've got my Christmas card pictures printed, envelopes stuffed, stamped and addressed and they're all ready to mail by December 1. Yes, I'm also one of those annoying people who not only gets her Christmas shopping done early but gets the Christmas gifts wrapped as soon as possible.  Although this year I am a little behind but expect to wrap up my Christmas shopping with Cyber Monday deals.  It also helps that a lot of my gift giving is homemade baked goods.

When giving away homemade goodies, I take the appearance and presentation of the baked gift as seriously as any store-bought gift that I wrap.  Maybe even more so since it's personal and I put much more effort into the baked gifts coming out of my kitchen than the gifts I buy at the store or online.  Which means presentation matters.  Well before the holiday season, craft stores like Michaels have decorated gift bags, treat bags, treat boxes, cupcake boxes, candy boxes, plates, cellophane wrap and everything else you need to make a nice presentation of your gifts.  When I shop at the after-Christmas sales, those are the things I look for.  Even before Christmas, I save the weekly 40-50% off coupons from Michaels and buy the treat packaging a little at a time.  That's generally when they have the best selection and by the time I'm baking and giving away treats I have all the necessary packaging materials I need.  More avoidance of holiday stress.

I also take into account sizes in terms of how much I can fit into each package and quantity of baked goods for each recipient.  For friends with families, I tend to give more and possibly combine different packages together to give them a variety of treats.  For my (few remaining) single friends, I might give one treat package but put in a little sample of several different things so they still can get a variety without going into sugar overload.  The treat packages I tend to buy are small to medium in size for the most part.  It's easier to put several smaller packages together to make a bigger gift than to give one large gift that's too much for your recipients to consume. 

I hate for things to go to waste but am also mindful that this is the season of (over)indulgence and my friends are likely to be getting treats from other bakers as well or they also make their own.  So I try to give a variety of treats, some of which can go into the freezer for eating at a later date and others with a shorter shelf life are given in fewer quantity.  I also tell my friends which ones can be frozen for later and which ones should be consumed sooner rather than later so they can get maximum taste and freshness from their baked gifts.  Although some eat all of it right away - that's fine too :).

So have fun with your gift packaging - if you give away your baked treats, dress them up!  Although it's inside the packaging that counts, it's also nice for your gift to reflect the effort and care you put into making them and for your recipient to get an eye-catching gift that pleases more than their taste buds.


  1. I adore your Christmas trees. I can't wait to have a bigger place so I can decorate two trees. :)

  2. Such beautiful trees! I used to buy 30-40 Hallmark ornaments every year especially when I worked there, and began running out of space, I have cut back to just one or two new ornaments a year now, just 3 trees, one of which is small and that still doesnt even house half of my ornaments. Glad to find another Christmas crazy like me!

  3. Now I know what to use those 40% off coupons on! Why didn't I think of that. Lots of great tips. Thanks.