A number of years ago, suffering holiday burnout, I decided to simplify my holidays. Under the "keeping it simple, keeping it fun" motto, I issued myself an annual gifting challenge -- one year everything had to be "previously loved", discovered in thrift stores and antique shops. Another year, I used reusable wrappings for everything -- tea towels and fabric ribbons make great wrapping paper and a gal can never have too many new tea towels! My favorite year was the year where all the gifts I gave (with the exception of those for my kids) were handmade by me -- I expanded this the next year to include "or handmade by others". This year, I'm a bit more crunched by time -- babies, surprisingly, eat up a lot of the energy I'd otherwise put into carefully crafting everyone's gifts (who knew?), so I'm taking a hybrid approach. I've put a concerted effort into winning some of my Christmas gifts this year, with surprising success (hello, Flip HD video camera!), and will be doing my usual baking-as-gift for the members of my extended family who prefer the treats to gifts.
For the rest, though, I'm carefully constructing a list of "perfect gifts" -- all including a homemade element, or specific items to look for at thrift shops (china and crystal patterns, vintage cookware, etc). Fancy biscotti and Christmas cookies will be paired with home-blended teas and home-roasted coffee, some fancy tea cups or travel tumblers to make thoughtful and useful gifts for our loved ones.
One of my favorite teas to gift is an herbal one I call "Wintermint":
20g spearmint leaves 30g peppermint leaves
Blend the dried herbs together in a bowl. Pack into an airtight jar or lined "coffee bag". I like to use old glass-topped canning jars for packaging teas and pair them with a spoon-style loose tea infuser.
Mountain Path is an excellent place to source dried herbs in bulk. Thrift stores are a great source for old bottles and interesting containers to use in packaging. To pretty them up, tie a bit of festive ribbon around the top and identify it with a handmade label!