Happy Saint Nicholas Day everyone! I love to remember creeping into our dining room early on the morning of December 6 each year to find my stocking overflowing with chocolates, candy, nuts, fruit, an ornament, (or two or three), a stuffed animal, and other little gifts neatly stuffed into the red felt stocking. I even enjoyed St. Nicholas Day at school when I was in my mom’s German class. She would tell her German students to take off one shoe, leave it on the desk in the classroom, and wait quietly outside. Then, she would tiptoe around her classroom and leave some goodies in each of our shoes to bring this German tradition to her lucky students.
St. Nicholas Day always signaled that Christmas was right around the corner. It certainly is! It’s the beginning of December, and I wanted to share a few Christmas gift ideas I’ve used in the past for friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Back in San Antonio, our house was on a quiet cul-de-sac with the friendliest neighbors. A week or two before Christmas, we would open our front door to find little gifts left on our porch. By Christmas Day, every resident on the cul-de-sac left a little something to spread Christmas cheer. We were given fun gifts such as ornaments, candies, bells to hang on the door, a Christmas soap dispenser, and homemade trail mix. When we were the neighborhood elves, we went to Costco and bought several packs of sparkling apple cider bottles. I found some pretty ornaments at World Market, and we hung one on each bottle to add more sparkle to the gift. The bottles are pretty even by themselves with the gold foil on top and Martinelli’s logo on the label.
The sparkling apple cider bottles were an easy yet pretty gift to give and could be used for co-workers, neighbors, teachers, or anyone else you want to give a little something to for Christmas. When I was teaching elementary, I put together another fun Christmas gift to give to my teacher friends. I went to World Market and found some neat looking cans of red velvet hot cocoa. I paired the hot cocoa with marshmallows in glass canisters with green clamp lids. I put each set in a Christmas gift bag with tissue paper and chocolates.
Another unique idea that I have not used is honey jars. This fall, when I was still living in New Braunfels, I got to visit the Gretchen Bee Ranch with my sister and her family. What a fascinating place! My sister found out about it and planned a visit while we were in Seguin for two of my nephews’ cross country races. Beekeepers Mark and Thien have several hives on site at the ranch, but most of the hives are scattered on farms and ranches in Texas. You can buy pure Texas honey from Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Medina, Frio, and other south Texas counties.
The Gretchen Bee Ranch is also a great place to visit to learn more about bee-keeping. Thien has an observation hive inside her shop where we were able peer through a glass pane and locate the queen surrounded by her worker bees. While we were there, we watched a hive swarm around the outside hive boxes, and Thien explained that the bees were trying to pick a new home. The hives are contained in pastel boxes that I love because they look very beach cottage!
They have a little store at the ranch, and I bought a jar of Comal County Wildflower Honey and another jar of delicious creamed honey. I think a jar of local honey with a beautiful Gretchen Bee Ranch label would make an excellent Christmas gift. Each of the flavors tastes different and distinct from what you find in the grocery store. If you visit the bee ranch, they have a table with samples of each type of tasty Texas honey.
They also have these adorable wooden honey dippers that would look great attached to the jars with a piece of twine. You can visit the Gretchen Bee Ranch website here.
Finally, for something more homemade, I used my cute seahorse cookie cutter to make gingerbread seahorses. Silver nonpareils made the perfect eyes, and light blue sprinkles gave them a sea blue sparkle. Gingerbread expands during the baking process, and I’ll have to use less dough per cookie when I bake them again. Their stomachs seemed to be what expanded the most!