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How You Should Prepare Your Gifts This Holiday Season (And Wow Everyone)

Sometimes, I feel like on October 1st I take the first step onto a roller coaster ride. I sit down with anticipation and the cars start to move slowly, carefully. My senses take in the beauty of the world, colorful scenery smells and textures of the seasons, fire, Cocoa, cider, crisp leaves, cool air, and the sights.

Oh, the sights! Our river valley becomes the most exquisite piece of artwork. Strong unyielding stone climbs out of the riverbed turning with deep dark mischievous water. The season Has crowned him in bright jewels red, green, and gold. The wind comes dancing along full of laughter stealing those tools away.

My mind and body relax thinking only of today and the enchantment that exists now. I reach the top and the world is filled with calm and wonder. Then suddenly a jolt. An awakening. The descent has begun. Lights and sights and sounds flyby in excitement and adrenaline. Exhilarating but often accompanied by that queasy feeling.

My heart pounds. My senses are heightened but all the wrong ones. I am anxious. I am frenzied. My decisions are fast and careless. The sights and sounds continue to swirl and rush past. All I want to do is to stop and get off.

As I grow wiser and realize how fast things are moving anyway, I’m trading my desire for entertainment and adrenaline for friendship and joy. This year one of the ways I’m getting off the holiday roller coaster is through mindful gift giving.

1. Pare Down Your List

I know there is a lot of social pressure to gift everyone you know. But if you feel that’s too much pressure others probably feel the same. Are there friends and family members who might consider not doing a gift exchange a gift? You might be surprised.

2. Plan Mindfully

Once you have your list take the time to think of what each person would want to receive. Remember not all gifts have to be store-bought. Maybe Grandma would rather have an afternoon of baking together then a gift card or another bird feeder this year.

3. Consider Creating a Gift


We all love those adorable homemade snowman marshmallows and would love to pop one or two into our hot chocolate on a slow morning or weekend but we may not have the time to make them. Consider taking on a cute and crafty project for your friends.

The boys and I spent a few short hours the other afternoon dotting faces on these snowman “smiles”. We had the goofiest afternoon making silly faces and cute faces then we had some hot chocolate of our own and spent the evening sipping and reading. It could be a lot of fun to get some girlfriends or families together and make a little party out of it.

Want to try it? Here are the instructions!

You will need:

  • 1 bag jet-puffed marshmallows
  • Orange candy melts
  • Chocolate chips or chocolate candy melts
  • Several toothpicks
  • Powdered sugar for coating
  • Cut the marshmallows into three rounds each.
  • Melt candies/ chocolate according to package directions.
  • Dip a toothpick end into the melted chocolate and dot eyes and a mouth on marshmallow rounds.
  • Dip a toothpick end into melted orange candy melts and make a small triangle for the carrot nose.
  • Dip the marshmallow snowman smiles into the powdered sugar to coat.

4. Prioritize Friendships

I sort of love the idea of subscription boxes. They are fun and surprising and have the ability to make you feel spoiled. This year, I’m making a few “subscription” boxes of my own and filling them with things that I know my dearest friends will love and that speak of our friendship.

For my girl Nikki, I made a “home box” filled with things I think will remind her of home. Including our marshmallow smiles and a cookies-in-a-jar recipe. (scroll to the end of the post)

I found the most adorable mugs from a small shop and sent along a letter. My sister-in-law and I had the best conversation about our dream-job-in-another-life. I found out we both secretly would love to be park rangers for our national parks system. Her box includes things to keep her cozy on a long winter walk and a jar of milk bath (recipe at the end of the post) for relaxing and warming when she gets back in.

5. Prioritizing Joy

So much of the gift-giving stress just dropped away when I allowed myself to clear the clutter and think so personally about a few gifts. Instead of rushing around worrying, I spent a few slow afternoons immersing myself in thoughts of friendship. It was a great joy!

Subscription Box Ideas

  • Hygge box: hot chocolate, handmade mugs, cozy socks.
  • Bath and body box: facial toner, hand cream, lavender pillow spray, facial masks.
  • To make life easier and your boxes extra special use a few fillers for all the boxes you make. Cinnamon sticks, vanilla candles, and a personal letter will help fill out any box and it smells so heavenly when opened! Some ideas are:
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Vanilla scented tea light candles
  • Pine cones!
  • Marshmallow snowman smiles
  • Hot chocolate
  • Tea
  • Christmas ornaments
  • A handwritten letter

Remember it’s the thought that counts and gifts are always better when they come from a place of joy.

Cookies-in-a-jar (or two) Recipe

You will need:

  • 1-quart jar with lid and band
  • 1-pint jar with lid and band
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 4-5 inch square pieces of cotton fabric
  • 2 tags with ribbon or string for tying
  • Optional:
  • Chalk paint and a small paintbrush
  • Chalk pen

– Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the 1-quart jar. Top it off with chocolate chips.
– Add sugars, one at a time, to the 1-pint jar.
– Cover jars with lids and cotton fabric squares. Screw on band and tighten.
– Tag jars and label the 1-pint jar with #1 and the 1-quart jar with #2.
– Copy and paste onto a letter or recipe card instructions to include with your cookies in a jar gift.

Recipe Card Instructions (to copy and paste)

You will need:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla

– Preheat oven to 375f
– Cream butter and contents of jar #1 in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until incorporated.
– Add contents of jar #2 to your bowl and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated.
– Drop by spoonful onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 9-11 minutes.

Optionally, you can paint chalk paint over the label space on your jars if they have one. When chalk paint is dry label the 1-pint jar with #1 and the 1-quart jar with #2 using a chalk pen.

Milk Bath Recipe

You will need:

  • 1 1-pint jar with lid
  • ½ cup pink Himalayan salt
  • ¾ cup powdered milk (or enough to fill your jar)
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • Label or tag

– Pour salt into jar.
– Mix milk powder with essential oils and pour into the jar. Close with lid and label.


Mandy Tetrault believes the most brilliant moments and stories are right in front of us. We can catch them if we slow down just a little. She can be found on Instagram as @amessybunkitchen

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