There are so many reasons for this - firstly and most importantly we want the gifts to mean something to the children - for the gift to be more than a random box of stuff that they feel no connection to. When we make things for people we spend something irreplaceable - our time. We take time to work out what to make, all four children are involved, and we talk about who we are giving the gift to, and why.
I hope that the gifts mean something to those who receive them too - for a long time most of the adults in our extended family have had far more disposable income than us. If they especially wanted something then it's generally not an issue for them to get it. Which leaves a dilemma, really, when you prefer to give meaningful gifts. So we found an answer :)
So far we have made, to name a few ; personalised coasters, Christmas tree ornaments, photo frames, fudge, biscuits, Christmas cake, cinder toffee and hot chocolate mix.
Each year we have fun, make memories and make a mess :)
This year we are seeing the two sets of family at different times, so we made one set of gifts this week, and gave them to Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles on Saturday.
Most people were given Rocky road - based on this recipe. We tweaked it a bit after the test batch (yum!) We used 400g of dark chocolate, and 180 g of biscuits (instead of 300g / 200g respectively) ,and when the recipe calls for some chocolate mix to be reserved and poured over the rest, we kept back 200 ml (vs 125 ml) Oh, and the kids wanted to sprinkle some marshmallows on top as well as mixing them in. But yeah, it was that recipe, sort of . . .
Given how nice it is, Rocky road is *really* easy to make. Melt butter, dark chocolate and golden syrup until it is properly mixed. Take a small amount of this mix out and *keep it warm*. Crush some biscuits until you have small chunks and crumbs, then stir those into the mix. Stir in some marshmallows. Pour into a chillable tray, pour over the mixture you reserved. Chill, then chop, then watch as it disappears*really* fast!
As we were going to make two batches, I divided the kids into pairs, just to make it a bit less crazy. Each pair brought their own frictions - L and J worked well together, eventually, but L was reluctant to let J do anything hot or spillable . . . M and A worked better, but M wanted to race and compare all the time. A just more or less ignored his suggestions and did her own thing :)
A's rocky road, ready to go in the fridge.
M's at the same stage.
J's on a plate, the spare bits :)
L's boxed up almost ready to go.
Being Christmas, we did decorate the boxes, maybe just a tad more than is tasteful . . . so no pics of those!
The children's favourite uncle - Uncle N - doesn't eat chocolate, so we had to make something different for him. We decided on some nut brittle - recipe here.
This was another really easy recipe to make, but the mixture gets very hot, so you need to take serious care.
Basically, you heat water, sugar and golden syrup (in place of the corn syrup listed) until it is *really* hot. You can test it is the right heat by dripping a tiny amount into some very cold water, if it solidifies but is squishy it's ready. Next mix in the butter and nuts. Cook for a bit longer - until the syrup (when dropped in cold water) makes brittle strings and a hard ball. Then mix in the vanilla and baking soda - be warned it'll foam up! Then pour it out, onto a greased tray, and chill.
We tweaked the method a tiny bit - we lined the tray, to make it easier to get the brittle out :)
I mistakenly stored the baking tray in the fridge overnight - not in a sealed container - and the brittle went a bit tacky and not-so-nice to touch. I panicked a bit then :( but popped it back in the oven at gas mark 1, hoping it would dry out and crisp up a bit. As it happens that was a really good move :) Half an hour later the brittle was soft again, but had gone clearer and settled to a more even layer. A little later I remembered to mark where I wanted to break the sheet, and when I came to break it up, it was so easy :) Once it had cooled completely the brittle was smooth, and not at all sticky - much better than the first time even, so a fortuitous accident :)
Again with the pictures - not so many, because most of it was eaten!
We used cashew nuts, but you can use any nuts :)
As ever, lots of mess, lots of fun, and gifts made with love and care - a perfect Christmas really :)