I'm thinking I'll pass on doing this next year, or at least re-structure how I do it. One of my reasons for not wanting to do this again could be summed up as "This is an expensive gift that looks cheap." Between the cost of shipping, of buying ingredients, of buying containers to send them in, and the time invested in making/packaging/shipping them, it's not really a moneysaver.
The reason I started doing this is that I got tired of trying to figure out what my siblings or parents would like for a present. And everyone eats, or at least knows someone who eats. I've always liked those gift baskets and "towers of treats" and so forth, but I've been disappointed in the cost, quality, and quantity of the food in them. This led me to think "I could make my own, and it'd be better".
Well, maybe. I made five different goodies this time around -- cream-swirl brownies, crumb cake, eggnog cookies, oatmeal cranberry cookies, and sugar cookies. The batter tasted good on all of them. I was disappointed with the brownies, though. Dang it, I must've tried at least six or seven from-scratch brownie recipes by now, and I still haven't found one I really like. Lut said the oatmeal-cranberry cookies came out well. The crumb cake seemed all right. I'm not sure about the sugar cookies or the eggnog; didn't really try them. The sugar cookies ought to be good; I've made a lot of sugar cookies and worked out the recipe I like best for them fairly well.
I was going to make raspberry-swirl brownies, too, but I ran out of time. More organization -- putting dry ingrediants together the night before, for example -- could help with that end of things. I did wind up making stages of the project this time: I put together stacks of all the ingrediants for each recipe, pre-measured and in individual containers. This meant I didn't need to have bags of flour and sugar and everything else out while I was trying to work -- or that I'd keep having to bring them out and put them away again, the other alternative. That part worked out really well, though it did mean I got just about every container in the house dirty in the process. :) My kitchen is still a disaster zone; I got up in the middle of writing this entry to load up and run another cycle. And to change out the laundry. And to throw in a load of towels. I've started mopping up the seepage in the basement with towels, and containing one leak with another towel. Sadly, the basement never did dry out from the melting of the last snow ... and it rained today. This could take a while. Fill dirt's supposed to be this weekend; my friend emailed me back to say she'd do it then.
Anyway, about the baking thing: I do like baking, and I especially like baking for people who are going to enjoy the final product. But I'm not sure that the recipients of my little packages wouldn't enjoy, say, a gift certificate more. It would certainly be easier to produce. :)
I think I'll email my relations and ask them for feedback -- which treats did you like and dislike - and see what the reaction is. And tell them that anyone who doesn't like 'em can just say nothing, in which case they can get a nice gift certificate next year. >:) Or, even further on, I can see if anyone wants a gift-giving truce. I like Christmas, and I like getting things for people and giving them. But I don't really know what my siblings want, and if giving them a present just makes them feel like "Oh no, now I have to get her something!" then there's no real need to go through it. I know my parents will get me something every year, and one present on Christmas is enough to satisfy my need to have something to open on Christmas morning. :) I mean, I do like getting gifts. But I hate to think of it as an obligation, something that has to be done. Defeats the whole purpose. I don't keep score of who does or doesn't give me presents and make sure to reciprocate or not accordingly. Actually, probably the most fun is sending presents to people who aren't expecting anything at all. After all, they're almost never disappointed by whatever they get. (Several years ago, I mailed a couple of bars of fudge to a man in the navy that I'd just met online that night. A year or two later, he sent me chocolates from Germany. Sadly, I never did send him another gift after that, and I've no idea now how to get in touch with him.)
Maybe what I really need to do is send my goodies to near-strangers who won't be expecting it, so they can think "oh, how nice!" Rather than my siblings, who I fear may think, "Oh, how cheap."
I mean, I'd like to think we're all grown ups now and past that sort of silliness. But still ....
In other news, I finally found out where my mail was going. Since we put in the new mail box, we've gotten two pieces of mail to it. Two. On the same day. After three weeks.
I called the post office 800 number, which is the only way to get the direct line for a post office branch. Then I called the local post office for my new home, which assured me that they weren't holding my mail. I knew that if there was a problem, it had to be with the local delivery, because my parents had mailed something directly to my new address that hadn't arrived, and my bills all have this address and I haven't gotten them, either. But, since I also haven't received a forwarded piece of mail, either, I called my old post office. They confirmed that the forwarding was in place. (Well, I knew that; one of the only two piece of mail we'd gotten was that confirmation.)
So, my mail is: (a) not at my old post office (b) not at my new post office and (c) not in my new mailbox.
Somewhere, there had to be a box with my mail on it. It obviously wasn't on my property, but it had to exist.
I'd scouted down the street earlier, in case there was a bank of multiple mail boxes somewhere. There wasn't.
However, across the street from my house, at the end of my neighbor's driveway, there are two mailboxes mounted, rather badly, on one post. This afternoon, on my return home, I decided to investigate them. One of them is unlabeled. The other is marked "20". My house number is "9200". "20" wasn't what I'd call promising, but with some trepidation that the neighbors (whom I haven't met -- haven't met anyone around here) would think I was stealing their mail, I opened the box.
About twenty pieces of mail for Lut, me, and a "Jessica Love" whom I assume was the previous occupant (back in March or so) were inside.
I'm wondering now what the best way to try to get the mail switched over would be, or if it's even worth bothering to try. Do people still tip the mail carrier at Christmas? It seems like a risky tradition these days, leaving money in your mailbox. But if they do, I was thinking of putting a nice note inside a card, asking the carrier to please use the mailbox at the end of my driveway, along with a Christmas tip, which might coincidentally encourage the mail carrier to go along with my request. But I don't know how much the tip for Christmas is supposed to be, assuming people even still leave one. Any of you other home-dwellers know?