Don’t pass the plastic please

I am often perplexed about what to get loved ones for their birthday, Christmas, or some other special event in their lives. Finding the right gift for the right person is not an easy task. And what you think is the perfect gift, in all reality, just might get thrown in the back of a closet somewhere and sought after later the next spring for the annual yard sale donation.
I hate giving money. I know that the gift cards are always welcome, especially the ones that you can purchase through the banks that can be redeemed anywhere, but I am not fond of these. To me they are cold plastic greetings that say, well, nothing. My eighteen year old grandson, Tyler, says they smell like cash to him. What a difference forty-some years make.
I know I probably stand alone( or virtually with little company) when I say these things.
And please tell me how we know a person wants that $25.00 gift card to Wal-Mart when they are a K-Mart shopper?( Can you remember those blue light specials? I loved those.)
So, other than my immediate family, I have gone a totally different path and chosen food giving. Don’t frown, it has been a successful venture. But I don’t do the fruit cakes or the frozen pies, instead I cook and bake to make life easier and tastier.
( I can tell it’s time for an example)
Last year for my cousin Karen’s birthday I made a huge pot of homemade chicken stew. Karen works six days a week, with Sunday being the only day she actually has for relaxation and no alarm clock. So I delivered this pot of stew on the Saturday after her birthday and she had a ready-made delicious meal in her fridge for Sunday. Good food, no cooking( which she admittedly says she hates anyway) and in her very own words,” the perfect gift.”
Another time when food was the perfect answer was for my son’s birthday. At the time he lived in Washington C.H. and was driving approximately forty-five minutes to work in Columbus, Ohio. I don’t believe, except for maybe a nice thick and juicy porterhouse steak, that there is any food that my son loves more than homemade cabbage rolls. He had to work on his birthday that year, so I called him the day before and said, “ What time do you go through Mt. Sterling of a morning?” ( which is about the halfway mark for him and a twenty minute drive for me) “ About 5:30 A.M.” he said. “ Good,” I told him. “ Don’t pack your lunch tomorrow and I will meet you in Mt. Sterling at the gas station in the middle of town with your lunch.” The next morning I got up before the chickens and packed a homemade lunch of cabbage rolls,7-layer salad, a piece of pie, and headed towards my destination. I got there just moments before he did and when I saw him pulling into the station I grabbed the cooler from the back seat and approached his slowing down car. “ Here’s lunch son. Happy birthday. I love you.” “ Mom, you didn’t need to do this,” he said. “ Oh yes I did, “ I remarked as I kissed him on the cheek and sent him on his way. Later he told me how much he appreciated it and that the other guys wondered how he got so lucky. Now tell me, would a pair of socks and a shirt have been a better token? However, I must be honest here and tell you I also slipped an envelope in the bottom of the cooler with a little cash. After all, he is my son!
A few years ago I invited eight of my closest friends to a Christmas afternoon tea. Nothing fancy, I actually told them to wear jeans and their favorite Christmas sweatshirts if they wanted. I set the time and told them to bring nothing except themselves and  to  just relax and enjoy. This tea party wasn’t about white gloves and stuffy society things. This was going to be a Christmas gathering of good friends with homemade hors oeuvres , creamy fudges, lots of laughter and stepping out of the fast lane of the holidays for just a few afternoon hours.. And it was going to be my pleasure.
See, it doesn’t have to be all about the money. The gift of yourself and your time with special meaning is what touches hearts. ( and warms your own in the process)
For me, food always works and is always welcome. As a giver or a receiver. However, when I get in my nineties I just may have to change my mind about this whole ordeal and ask my children and good friends to buy me those gift certificates or some of that plastic. After-all I will have to get my toilet paper and dental cream somewhere.
Following is a quick and easy  candy recipe to share with those extra people on your gift list.
Peppermint Bark
2 bags of white chocolate chips
1 cup crushed candy canes
Peppermint flavoring
In a double boiler melt the chocolate chips. In a zip-lock baggie place several candy canes and using your rolling pin, crush the candy canes to small bits. Add 1 cup of these to your melted chocolate. Add 2 drops of peppermint flavoring. Pour out on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and then break in chucks, much like you do for peanut brittle. Yummy!
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