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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

Gifts can be a challenge

December 5, 2012

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent the two hours downstairs in the guest room going through the gifts I've purchased for Christmas, wrapping a few things and filling up the several baskets I picked up at Goodwill with chocolates and bubble bath and tea -- each tailored to fit the person it goes too. There's more filling to do, and I'm heading out to shop once again and see what I might find. I like giving gifts that are practical, that taste good, that can be used up. Sweaters are great, but a basket filled up with ingredients for an Italian meal and a bottle of wine and a box of sea salt caramel chocolates is something else.

The first gift of Christmas came today, for me, to the door. It is a Styrofoam box filled up with MEAT! And some chocolate cakes. How delightful is that. Steaks and chops and burgers and wieners. Addressed to me, with "Merry Christmas", and no return address or name. Well. I put it all into the freezer, and now I'm craving a steak.

Gifts can be a challenge, but if they're from the heart and not so expensive, practical and thoughtful with a little decadence here and there, the stress disappears. This year, for me, it's something filled with something. Everyone is getting a box, a basket, a bucket -- filled with fun things, most of 'em on sale, that I've gathered over recent weeks. There's a baking basket with spices and cookie cutters and an apron; a party bucket with beer and a gingham table cloth and some barbecue sauce; a laundry basket filled with all a college girl might need in the line of hygiene and cleaning; a sweet basket with ribbons for an ailing grandmother. Sounds like work, but it's not. It's simple. Follow your instincts. Gift cards are easy, too, but I'd rather have a slab of fine chocolate, or a jar of homemade jam. And some bread to slather it on, to share on a cold December evening.

Sometimes a mug of hot cider is just the thing at the end of the day. This recipe works for me, and is on the list of Things That Bring Holiday Cheer.

Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider

2 quarts apple cider
6 cups cranberry juice
¼ cup packed brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1½ tsp. whole cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced

In a large pot, combine apple cider, cranberry juice, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon slices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove cinnamon, cloves, and lemon slices and serve hot. Makes about 25 servings.

Enjoy!

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