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Christmas is coming - help!

"it is rare anyone gets your presents perfectly right, and then they just sit there all year being, well ... not quite right." Nigel Slater

And that's what I'm afraid of - not getting it right. Besides I have a very difficult family. For a start, none of us are poor and none of us want for anything. The grandchildren are positively spoilt really, and the grown ups now have just about everything they need. Besides, the majority in my family are men. I think I need say no more.

I will ponder elsewhere on major presents, but, inspired by my plum glut, I decided I would try and give every member of the family a home-made food hamper of some kind, designed to pander to their favourite things, no matter how bad for them they might be.

First of all, of course I have to find out what those things are. In the case of my husband it's actually very easy - chocolate - and maybe honey and pinot noir. Everybody else is more difficult so I need to do some research. That's step one.

Step two is to look for interesting ideas, and I did find a few. There are endless cookies and things like that, and maybe I should settle on one recipe and distribute them around, but cookies are not really my thing.

Then there are heaps of choc centric goodies and I shall certainly be looking at some of them - White chocolate pretzel bites - for example - a little bit different and pretty easy. Of course there are endless versions of chocolate balls/truffles, chocolate fudge, rocky road kind of things, choc chip cookies, chocolate drinks even, let alone commercial guilty pleasures (Maltese's) or luxuries.

There was even a Dark chocolate granola from The Guardian's Thomasina Miers. That could be a good thing - I mean you can use granola for a lot of things from crumble toppings to actual breakfast. There are sweets/lollies of various kinds - of which the most tempting I have found so far was Microwave boozy fudge mostly because it was so easy. Because I am definitely looking for easy.

Still on the sweet side of things there are drinks. Alas I am too late to gift a plum gin or vodka. Though I may well start it off and gift later. It's all those plums you see, and that only takes a few. I could use the few plums on the tennis court tree. If I've got some gin in the cupboard (and I think I have) I might start it off today. 800g of plums, 200g of sugar and 700ml of gin - prick the plums - put it all in a large jar - shake for a couple of days until the sugar has dissolved and then leave for at least a month, preferably longer, before draining off and doing something delicious with the boozy plums. Then there are syrups that can be made into cordials, and probably lots of other things like that too. I've actually got a fair bit of limoncello in the cupboard so I could put that into smaller bottles.

Let's not forget that plum leather I made - doesn't it look great? It tastes good too. Concentrated, slightly tart plum, but not as tart as I feared it might be. I think the idea is to cut into strips and roll it up. And of course, there is jam, jam, jam. If your recipients eat jam that is.

Then there's all the savoury things - flavoured salts and sugars, chutneys, pickles, spice mixes, mustards, vinegars and oils. Jamie even had some flavoured couscous mixes. Not to mention actual plants - herbs and suchlike. You have to be careful though because these are things that may well just be left in the back of the pantry, or, even worse, thrown into the bin - especially the chutneys and pickles I think. Unless you know that someone is addicted to such things. There are various things like tomato chilli jam as well which are not quite pickles and not quite chutneys and more likely to be used than actual chutney, like sauces and pestos. I could make onion jam/marmalade/caramelised onions - whatever you call it, but (a) onions are horrendously expensive at the moment for some reason and (b) I have never really managed to make caramelised onions. I don't think I have the patience.

I also saw various 'kits' that people had devised - a jar layered with the things you needed to make cookies for example, which seems fraught with disaster to me - I mean everything is bound to get all mixed up in some disastrous way. What is the point of putting the basic mix a the bottom of the jar I wonder? But the idea of some kind of kit is tempting, particularly in relation to the grandchildren. I shall have to think on that.

Another major issue in all of this is the packaging because I am completely useless at making things look good. Mind you there are a whole lot of things to help you with this these days beyond wicker baskets and cellophane these days. A trip to the local Chinese dollar shop and/or K-Mart and Target will probably solve those problems. And some of the ideas for packaging are really simple I guess. You just have to find the right jars, bottles, spice grinders, wrapping paper, labels, ribbon, etc.

And you can always boost your home-made stuff with shop bought luxuries. Ok - not too hard.

So on to the really hard part of finding out what my giftees really like, so that it all doesn't end up in the bin.


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