Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Treats for Giving

Before I begin this post, I have some sad news to share.

Custer State Park January 2017
We had a forest fire that swept through Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and surrounding ranch lands last week. Strong winds added to the problem, and made the fire hard to contain.

Go here to see some pictures from the height of the fire: Wildfire Today

The news Saturday night was that the fire was 90% contained. The really good news? Even with the gusty winds, this was not a hot, out of control fire. Many of the trees will survive and the grass will grow back. Wildlife appears to have come through all right, and none of the historic buildings had damage.

Hopefully we'll be able to make a trip out there sometime soon, and I'll keep track of the recovery process. :-)

But the big news today: Can you believe that Christmas Day is only one week away?

Snow, sleighbells, Christmas greenery, the fragrance of Christmas cookies baking....

...and neighbors greeting each other with more than the usual wave.

At least in our neighborhood we do.

For the last several years, the neighbors around our little cul-de-sac have shared cookies and other treats with each other as a Christmas greeting. Neighbor to neighbor, getting to know each other a little bit better.

Nothing fancy, nothing big.

Just a little something to say, "Merry Christmas!"

Last year I made Mindy's Pumpkin bread and shared one of those little loaves along with some fudge and a few cookies. You can find Mindy's recipe here: Mindy's Pumpkin Bread

This year, I'm adding a bag full of my amazing Crunchy Cereal Mix. What makes it amazing? Because I've tweaked the "official" ingredients to make my own blend of spices. You can do that, too - mix in some Cajun spice, or maybe add a bit more garlic. Is siracha more your style? Add it in to the spice mixture! Here's my recipe to get you started: Jan's Crunchy Cereal Mix

I made some fudge this year already. Carrie, Katie and I got together for a baking day a couple weeks ago. But where is the fudge??? Alas, I didn't hide it well enough! So today I'm making a batch of my favorite peanut butter fudge, and another one of chocolate fudge. Grandma's Peanut Butter Fudge

Whatever we put in our bags or containers for our neighbors, we know it's appreciated. And it isn't something that happens in a lot of neighborhoods anymore. People move - like we have - and it's hard to form friendships. Front porches are non-existent in newer sub-divisions. And if you don't have children going to the same school, you may never really see your neighbors.

But this one time a year, we leave a bit of a snack on a neighbor's doorstep - - and it has made a difference on our little street.

Joe, a few doors down, found out we have a wood stove, so he collects the scraps from his woodworking hobby for us to burn (thank you, Joe!). And his wife loves to guess who gets a copy of my books?

The family with all the dogs (4?) had a problem with their back gate last summer and the two biggest dogs escaped one day when everyone was at work. When the dogs came back home to an empty house, Joe and I tied them in the shade with a bowl of water to wait for their owners.

The family at the end of the street - in the rental house - is always fun. Every other year it's someone new. It's so much fun to surprise them!

But more than anything else, giving these little gifts reminds me of Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Day - it takes so little to give something that can make such a difference in someone's day!

So as the year winds to an end and the winter chill sets in, let us all spend this week - this last week before Christmas - with the spirit of giving in our hearts and a smile of joy on our faces. Because no matter what else is happening in our lives, this is the time we celebrate our Savior's birth.

What is your favorite way of giving this time of year?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan


  1. Oh, I love this glimpse of simple Christmas fun... of the kindnesses... the moments... the sharing. :) And here's our secret for hiding fudge.... learned in my Tupperware days... Tuck it well wrapped into the freezer and mark it "Calve's Liver" with a date that's at least six months old...

    This is a tried and true bit of advice! :)

    Thank you for sharing these pictures, and I'm always so sorry to see the fires, and yet those of us who research history for stories realize that fires and nature have gone hand-in-hand for as long as we've recorded history. Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on that via facebook...

    And Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family, Jan! And the neighbors! :)

    1. The problem with hiding the fudge is that the person who hides it always knows where it is. I wish I could blame someone else!

      A wonderful Merry Christmas to you and yours, Ruthy!

  2. Fires have been freakish awful this year, haven't they? And December seems so late in the year for a fire. I associate them with the hot summer months.

    Love your treat giving tradition. I find that so many people I know don't do home baking any more so it's super exciting for them to get 'from scratch' treats. When my daughter was little we used to give baked goods to friends and family and even service people like bus drivers, postal carrier and drugstore clerk. Now we get together and bake and make up containers for co-workers and friends. Haven't done a neighbourhood treat exchange in a long time. Not at this address. Must give that some thought. Oh -- and we used to make dog treats and make up presents for all the dogs in the neighbourhood. lol All the dogs in the dog park loved us.

    1. The big problem here is that we're in a drought year. We had very little snow last winter, and not enough rain through the rest of the year. We're about 7" down from our average precipitation of 18". When it's this dry, it takes very little for a fire to start.

      And your treat-giving traditions sound wonderful, even if you haven't done them in a while! I'm sure the doggies loved them, too. :-)

  3. Jan, I'm a day late. But you've inspired me! I want to go out like Scrooge and start handing out gifts! :)

    Thanks for sharing links to the recipes!