Gifts From The Heart

So, what do you give the person who has everything or the friend who drops by with an unexpected gift?  Ah ha, always a dilemma this time of year.   As any mother will tell you, that little hand print preserved in clay or the homemade card are the gifts she cherishes the most.  I always loved the “make it, bake it, grow it” theme because it meant someone really put some time and effort into their gift.

This time of year is always synonymous with homemade cookies and crafts which I hope you enjoy as much as I do.  When I was in elementary school and most moms were stay-at-home moms, cookies were the big thing and still are today. Someone must have thrown a spatula into the street as the gauntlet for the cookie wars to begin, and so they did.  Before the Thanksgiving turkey was cold, women for blocks around were pulling on their oven mitts and eyeing up the competition.  As children we had to stand single file in a line, monitored by a “patrol boy,” until a certain time before walking to school.  While standing “in line,” the conversation or rather bragging, was totally out of control.  “My mom made 75 dozen cookies.”  “Well, my mom made 90 dozen.”  “Yeah well, my mom wins because she made 120 dozen.”  No, these numbers are not exaggerated, they really did make that many cookies.  I know this because as fast as my older brother would down 2 dozen cookies and a quart of milk, we still had Christmas cookies at Easter.  Hundreds of the cookies went to what we called “shut-ins” in those days.  These were the elderly or ill, who I’m sure re-gifted the cookies or fed them to their dogs because they received so many.  Plates piled high and covered with plastic wrap accompanied us on our visits to friends and family.  If we weren’t visiting another family then they were coming to our house nearly every night from the week before Christmas until New Year’s Day.  This was great fun when you knew and enjoyed the kids of the people you were visiting.  Unfortunately, I remember more times than I care to admit, of feeling hot and sweaty in my new, usually velvet, Christmas dress, sitting stiffly on someone’s sofa praying the adults would stop talking so we could go home.

I inherited the cookie gene and used to do the same thing; however, never to the extent my mother did.  Once I started working full time and a second job at Christmas, the oven was never turned on.  Can’t remember how the kids got fed!  This is when I learned the true meaning of “gifts from the heart.”   Every Christmas, as long as she lived, our dear friend Audrey baked as many cookies as the moms from my childhood.  She was envied by many for being the best baker in our church.  Without fail, the week before Christmas there would be a knock at the front door and Audrey’s husband or one of her sons would be standing there with a large box filled with delicacies and nestled in the center was one of her famous coffee cakes.  She didn’t just do this for us, she did it for everyone she knew and I’m pretty sure some people she didn’t know.  As a working mom, this was truly a treasured gift.  She treated my family with the tradition of cookies and helped me overcome the guilt of not baking.  None of us could resist the temptation of a cookie, or four, the day they were delivered, but her coffee cake was sacred and saved for Christmas morning.  Thirty-seven years later my kids still remind me not to forget to bake Audrey’s coffee cake for Christmas morning.

Mom stored her cookies in gallon size tin cans on closet shelves, in the laundry room, in the mud room anywhere she could find room and hide them from us.  We had to  search high and low to find them when we wanted to “sneak” a cookie.  I inherited the container gene too! I am a confessed container junkie (as you will see in the following pictures), glass, paper, tin, cardboard, doesn’t matter.  If it’s pretty, has an interesting shape, or is simply well-made I can’t resist.

Our oldest daughter, picked up that old gauntlet lying in the middle of a slushy street, and decided we should give cookies as gifts.  Interpreted this means, mom did all the baking.  However, she took it further with her famous spiced pretzels which filled the second tin.  I can’t remember what we put in the third tin, but we ended up with a tower of treats.  Shopping trips looking for beautiful Christmas tins became another one of our holiday escapades.  If the tins were on sale…we were there, along with dozens of other women grabbing for the prettiest tins.  You gotta love being tall, it gives you a longer reach and we always managed to get the tins we wanted and have fun with the other shoppers.

And so, I share with you a few simple ideas that are fast and easy that you can have ready for that last minute needed gift.  Display the finished product on your mantle, a table or a window sill and you’ll be ready.  Great for teachers, the unexpected friend, or the “shut-in” down the street.  Go for the cookies or try one of the following.


 The small jars contain hot chocolate mix and the large jar contains turkey noodle soup mix.

Hot Chocolate Mix

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 c white sugar

1/2 c chocolate chips

Miniature marshmallows

One small mason or jelly jar

The jelly size mason jar is a little tight so go for bigger or cut down on the chocolate chips or marshmallows;

 a 12 ounce size jar is perfect.

Directions:  In a small mason or jelly jar, layer cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and as many miniature marshmallows as you can squeeze in.  Just picture those marshmallows popping out when the lid is removed…hehehe.  Tighten the lid and decorate as desired.  Attach a note with the recipe and the following directions to the jar.

To Heat:  Place the contents (all but the marshmallows) in a medium saucepan with 8 cups of milk.  Simmer and stir until the chocolate is melted and the cocoa warm.  Pour into mugs and top with marshmallows; add a candy cane as a stir.

Turkey Noodle Soup

3 T chicken bouillon granules

1 t pepper

1/2 t dried whole thyme

1/4 t celery seeds

1/4 t garlic powder

1 or 2 bay leaves

Noodles to fill jar.

Directions:  Layer the ingredients in the order given into a wide-mouth, 1-quart canning jar.  Slide the bay leaves down along the sides of the jar as you add the noodles.  Screw on the lid, decorate the jar, and attach a tag or card with the directions.

To Make Soup:  Place the contents of this jar (turkey noodle soup mix) in a large pot.


12 c water

2 carrots, diced

 2 stalks of celery, diced

1/4 c minced onion

Bring mixture to a boil.  Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.

Stir in 3 cups cooked, diced turkey and simmer an additional 5 minutes.


And there you have it!  Fast, easy gifts for everyone on your list.

There are tons of recipes on line and in books with similar ideas that you and your family can work on together.  Have fun.


More gifts from the heart.

Hand knitted slippers and hats packaged with toiletries by a church youth group for a local shelter.

Gifts are even better when given to someone you don’t know.

Joy is in the giving, not the receiving.

Quote of the day:  “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

Winners of Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet

                                                 Madison, Ohio

                                                   Amy, Pennsylvania

digitalbookcoverupdated (2)Kaylee, Virginia

Evelyn, Florida

Juanita, Maryland

Sophia, Oklahoma

Elizabeth, California

Eva, Pennsylvania

Alexis, Pennsylvania

Chloe – Massachusetts

Congratulations and thank you for entering.  Watch for future contests with questions from the book.

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Merry Christmas and may your New Year be filled with happiness.

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