I love the holidays! Everything about them brightens my spirit and brings me back to my childhood. The other day I told my friend, Mary C, that nothing makes me happier than singing “Santa Baby” along with Eartha Kitt on the radio. This year, I finally got all of the words memorized, and I think I’m making others happy too. There are a lot of drivers smiling (or laughing) at me as I give a concert from my car.
But with all of the joy, excitement, and anticipation that the season brings, there is one pet peeve of mine; the incredible waste accumulated by those flimsy gift boxes. Now I don’t profess to be a person of perfect recycling-repute, but I do my best. We recycle paper, bottles, and cans with our township, we return our wire hangers to the dry cleaner, and most times we re-gift the wine bags (not the bottles) that we get when we’re brought a bottle of wine. But when it comes to those flat, you build yourself, pop-up gift boxes whose sides never seem to stay in place, and that could never be reused for any other purpose…well, this irks me. These would never last for 29 years the way that shirt box from Bamberger’s still protects the love letters that Mr. S. wrote me in college.
This week I’ll give you some ideas for healthy food gift packages, while at the same time addressing our concerns for the environment. The wrap is part of the gift! That being said, I still do believe in wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows. So I’ll also give you tips on how to organize your wrapping supplies, after you’ve taken inventory of what you have from last season. You don’t want to be wrapping Mrs. O’ Flannery’s present in Chanukah dreidel paper, do you?
Nuts and seeds are an easy way to add healthy fats and rich flavor to your foods. They provide a great source of high-quality fatty acids, as well as various nutrients, such as vitamin E and selenium.
Almonds: highest in calcium and fiber
Cashews: high in protein and creamy taste
Pecans: high in iron
Pine Nuts: rich in magnesium
Walnuts: used to strengthen kidney and lungs, good for the brain.
Pasta with spaghetti sauce from a local farmers market.
Try gluten-free rice pasta for a change to see if you feel less bloated after a pasta meal. Rice pasta is lighter than wheat. This spaghetti sauce is made from the amazing tomatoes which we ate all summer long from Maple Acres in Plymouth Meeting. Now we can enjoy their sauce all winter.
Hanukkah Latke Bowl
Give this gift basket to your latke-making friends and family. In the bowl you can include a grater, a cut-resistant glove, and most importantly, organic potatoes. Splurge for organic here. White potatoes are usually highly contaminated with pesticides. Menorah candles and mini dreidels make the package complete.
Cast-Iron Skillet and Silicone Oven Mitts
Cast-iron pans are great for preparing quick breads, pancakes, and for sautéing vegetables. You can make your cornbread right in the pan, just like at Redstone, minus the maple butter. It’s not recommended to make soups or stews or anything acidic in cast-iron, so make your chili in a Dutch oven or soup pot. The longer-cooking foods will leach harsh-tasting iron from the pot. These great silicone oven mitts are waterproof, slip-resistant, and stain proof. And the best part is, they protect from heat up to 500 degrees, and can be washed in the dishwasher.
A lunch bag filled with healthy snacks for your favorite student or teacher.
Organic Red Wine.
If you enjoy red wine, you’ll enjoy organic red wine too. The grapes are not sprayed with chemicals.
Mini Colanders filled with fruit and chestnuts.
These adorable mini colanders are from Mackenzie-Childs and are perfect for rinsing berries and cherries in the summer, and lady apples, seckel pears and figs and chestnuts in the fall and winter. They are so pretty; they can even be used as a serving bowl for the fruit, as the holes allow air to circulate.
Hot Chocolate and Mittens.
This is a great gift for a favorite niece, or your child’s babysitter.
A sports bag filled with energy-enhancing snacks for your family athlete or your personal trainer.
Bowl of Lentils, Beans and Grains with Mesh Strainer
It’s important to rinse your beans and grains to remove the dust and pebbles. In particular, quinoa should always be rinsed to remove the bitter outer coating, saponin. A fine mesh strainer is also good for straining liquids for broths.
Tea and Honey
Think of tea as a beverage as well as a first-aid kit. It can be a digestive aid by sipping ginger, fennel, and peppermint or licorice tea. Drink chamomile tea for relaxation. Green tea gives a bit of an energy boost. To enhance your immune system, try drinking Echinacea, goldenseal or rooibos teas.
Salt Cellar and Salt
Salt heightens and deepens savory flavors. Add it toward the end of cooking and use sparingly. Use naturally harvested sea salt and mineral salt. They will vary in color depending on where it was harvested. The general rule is, the mellower the taste, the higher the quality. I like grey Celtic Sea Salt, and also pink Himalayan Mineral Salt.
And now onto FUNCTION……
Do you know those impeccably decorated homes we see in Town and Country magazine, or Architectural Digest? Actually, even in People magazine, we can now check out the digs of different celebrity homes each week. How cool is that? I’m always intrigued by the number of mansions that contain a “wrapping room.” Yes, this would be a room solely for wrapping gifts. Three of the walls are usually covered in a Scalamandre hunter green toile print paper, matching the draperies that hang over the floor-to-ceiling picture windows. The fourth wall has floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookcases displaying fabric-covered boxes in a beautifully coordinated gingham check print. These, of course, hold the wrapping supplies; ribbons, bows, tape, scissors, etc. So one day, I got a crazy idea to create my own wrapping room. Well, it’s actually a wrapping closet, but it works! Check out the before and after photos of our wrapping closet as well as the steps for you to create a wrapping closet of your very own.
Take inventory of your existing wrapping paper to see what you’ll need for this holiday. Make a list. Don’t forget about tape, gift tags, and money envelopes.
Look around your house for some canisters or clear florist vases that you’re not currently using. Our white jars are from IKEA. You can also use retro-looking wide-mouth quart Mason canning jars found at the supermarket. Retro is very hip.
Place loose ribbons or ribbons on small spools in one jar. Tape and scissors go in a second jar, and gift tags, labels and gift cards go into a third. If you have other things to store, feel free to use as many jars as you need.
Label your jars. If you don’t have a label maker, the clear glass jars work best because you can see the contents. However, if you think you might be hanging with Figs and Function for awhile, you may want to ask for a label maker for Christmas. This will not be the last time we label something in your home. Shocking, huh?
I like to keep the rolls of wrapping paper off the floor, so Mr. S. installed these giant hooks, (also from IKEA) to hold our paper. He also hung these mini 3M hooks to hold the large spools of ribbon as well as the gift bags. The basket on the floor holds tissue paper, and reusable gift boxes that I picked up at Michaels Crafts.
Extra-Credit: This is the piece de resistance. I had some wallpaper leftover from a room which my friend Marcy helped me decorate. You must check out her company, Discount Decorator, (www.discountdecorator.com). It’s so cool. You can go online, click the thumbnail of tons of different papers from Brunschwig to Schumacher, and place an order for the most beautiful hand-screened printed wallpaper in any quantity you need, at great prices, and shipped directly to your house. So, even though we don’t have our own “wrapping room,” we can still have the feel of one. Oh, and don’t tell anyone; I just hung the paper in my wrapping closet with pushpins.
P.S. If you don’t have any leftover wallpaper, you can use contact paper with pushpins or even wrapping paper works well. Very convenient!
So my friends, I want to thank you once again for sharing your time with me. I know you’re all really busy, especially this week, but I want to leave you with one final thought. BREATHE! In fact, why don’t you give yourself permission right now to take one minute to close your eyes, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth? I won’t even ask you to “follow your breath” today; (more on that in January,) just get some oxygen into your brain and lungs.
Have a wonderful week and I’ll see you next time.
Be Well and Breathe,