7 Last-Minute Easy Holiday Gift Ideas

There are people in our lives who are a dream to shop for. There’s the aunt who is thrilled to receive the latest National Book Award winner or a pair of clunky, silver earrings, your nephew who is perfectly happy with a new t-shirt, and the cousin who collects teapots and can never get enough.

Then there are those that don’t have any identifiable hobby or interests. Or, if they do, you’d have to mortgage the house to buy anything they’d want. When we do our holiday shopping, we tend to procrastinate purchasing gifts for our difficult friends and family and buy easier presents first. I suppose we hope inspiration will strike as we browse.

When it doesn’t, then we’re in for a last-minute scramble to find the perfect gift for a perfectly difficult recipient.

Here are some suggestions.

Alpaca Socks

You know times have changed when your favorite gift under the tree is a pair of socks. With this silky-soft alpaca footwear, however, your change of heart from when you were a child is perfectly reasonable. 

The Nordic Star pattern is particularly lovely, and the striped socks are stylishly fun.

S’mores Kit

Especially wonderful for families, this stainless steel s’mores maker lets families have the fun of toasting marshmallows and sandwiching them in a gooey chocolate and graham cracker sandwich without having to brave the winter weather.

Earrings

The ever-popular Kendra Scott Earrings come in a variety of materials including onyx, mother of pearl, rose quartz and more. With the introduction of the Elle design, Kendra Scott stood out at the Bloomingdales’ jewelry counter and ensured a flurry of compliments from wearers.

The company also carries engravable, delicate bracelets and necklaces for your special someone. These graceful pieces have the on-trend daintiness that’s particularly sought after this year.

Bonus: Kendra Scott’s website states “We believe in a world in which all women and children live their brightest, healthiest, and most empowered lives.” In other words, a portion of your purchases is used to support programs to help women and children.

Tea of the Month

There are many companies out there who will send your giftee a monthly selection of fragrant and flavorful tea.

Plum Deluxe, for instance, hand blends their tea in small batches to ensure fresh flavor and aroma. They use organic, fair-trade sourced ingredients, and are committed to non-GMO, no corn, no soy, no gluten and no dairy products. Their Santa’s Blend of blueberry and cinnamon is only available in December.

Charge and Clean

The PhoneSoap Smartphone Sanitzer cleans your phone while it charges. 

PhoneSoap is happy to inform you that your phone is 18 times dirtier than a public restroom. Don’t click on their tutorial, it’s too disturbing. All you need to know is that your phone is crawling with bacteria; you don’t need to know any more details of how it got that way.

Perfect for a germaphobe–or for anyone, really–this device helps keep you free from the illnesses we can pick up when we’re out and about.

Future Travel Plans

For your wanderlusting relative, who is probably climbing the walls at this point of the pandemic, give them some hope for the times to come. This scratch-off map allows them to remove the exciting gold film covering the countries of the world. They can scratch off where they’ve already been and plan for the future when they’ll be off to foreign climes to hear the chatter of foreign tongues.

Hand Block-Printed Scarf

Many of our customers may be unaware of all of our products. Besides table and kitchen linens, we also carry scarves.

Handcrafted and made out of 100% natural mill-made voile cotton, our women’s scarves are lightweight and semi-sheer. They are comfortable for all-day wear during any season and in any climate. Available in elegantly modern prints and colors, our cotton scarves are 46” x 78”. This larger size makes for easy wrapping and draping, so you can wear one as a wrap or a scarf.

Happy holidays!

Delicious English Holiday Recipes

When we think of a traditional Christmas celebration, we tend to think of caroling, wrapping and unwrapping packages, the holly and the ivy, mistletoe, special family moments and food we only get to eat once a year. Basically, a scene straight out of “A Christmas Carol”.

Charles Dickens didn’t invent Christmas, however, but he certainly gave it a much-needed resuscitation. 

According to the Guardian, “Britain’s newly urban population didn’t have much energy or opportunity to celebrate it, thanks to the extremely un-festive combination of long hours of unregulated industrial toil and displacement from the rural communities they’d grown up in.” 

Apparently not the only one who tried to give Christmas a jumpstart, “Dickens was the most successful of numerous cultured Victorians keen to revive the season.”

Since we get our idea of Christmas from Dickens, why not try a couple of traditional English recipes?

Christmaspudding

Christmas Pudding

First off, as you probably know, a traditional Christmas pudding is more of a soft, fruity cake than a gelatinous mass with marshmallows or whipped cream on top. This classic recipe is from Saveur, and is served with whipped cream.

Yield: makes 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quality assorted raisins
  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1 12 oz. quality assorted candied fruits, such as pitted apricots, cherries, melon and citrus peel, cut into thin strips
  • 5 tbsp cold beef suet or butter, diced
  • 1 34 cups fine day-old bread crumbs
  • 1 cup blanched almond meal
  • 14 cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tbsp finely grated peeled carrot
  • 12 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 14 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 12 tsp dark treacle or molasses
  • 13 cup Guinness stout
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 34 tsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Macerate raisins in brandy for 1 hour. Drain, reserving 13 cup of the brandy. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. Put raisins, candied fruits, suet or butter, bread crumbs, almond meal, sugar, flour, coconut, carrots, zests, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl and stir well. Combine egg and treacle or molasses in another bowl. Stir in beer, juices and reserved brandy, add to fruit mixture and mix until evenly moist. Pack half the batter into each of 2 greased 2 ½-cup glazed-ceramic or glass bowls (about 3″ deep × 5″ wide). Cover each bowl with 2 layers of wax paper, then foil; secure with twine. Put bowls on a rack set in a wide deep pot. Add boiling water to the pot to reach 2″ up sides of bowls. Cover pot and steam puddings in the oven, replenishing water as necessary, for 4 12 hours.
  3. Remove bowls from the pot and let cool. Store puddings in a cool, dark, dry spot (or refrigerate) for at least 1 day and up to 2 years. If storing for longer than 1 day, replace covers. Reheat puddings by steaming them, still covered, for 1 hour. Unmold onto plates.
Traditional-English-Trifle-9-660x440

Traditional English Trifle

This trifle recipe comes from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Ingredients

  •  10 ounces pound cake (I used a Sara Lee frozen pound cake)
  •  1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  •  12 ounces fresh raspberries (reserve a few to garnish the top of your trifle)
  •  2 cups heavy cream
  •  1/2 cup sugar
  •  6 egg yolks
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  •  1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  •  1/4 cup powdered sugar
  •  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  •  Sliced almonds to garnish, if desired

Instructions

  • Cut the pound cake into bite-sized cubes. Spread some jam on half the cubes and place in the bottom of a trifle dish. Spread jam on the rest of the cake and set aside.
  • Sprinkle half the Grand Marnier, then half the raspberries over the cake layer.
  • Make creme anglaise by heating the 2 cups of cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Beat together the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale yellow. Set aside.
  • Just before the cream starts to boil, remove from heat. Very slowly drizzle some of the hot cream into the sugar/yolk mixture while beating or whisking constantly.
  • Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low until mixture thickens and can coat a spoon. For the smoothest texture, do not allow it to boil. Run through a strainer if desired. Allow to cool before adding to the trifle.
  • When the creme anglaise is cool, pour about half in the middle of the trifle, then layer more cake, sprinkle with the rest of the Grand Marnier and raspberries, then the rest of the creme anglaise.
  • Whip the 2 cups of heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Smooth whipped cream over the top of the trifle and garnish with raspberries and almonds, if desired.

That takes care of dessert for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! We hope you have a lovely, lovely day.

Happy holidays!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol