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Last-minute, no-cost, stuff-on-hand Christmas gifts for the procrastinator
new vlc Sauteed pecans
Just about any kind of seasoning goes well with sauteed pecans. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

You’ve procrastinated, and the big day is already here. Now, the stores are closed and there’s still a few people you haven’t gotten a gift for. Here are three last-minute ideas that won’t come off as last minute (if you’re careful).

Seasoned nuts
Food is always a welcome gift, provided it’s something the recipient enjoys. Cookies are always a nice choice that says “I was thinking about you,” but not everyone is an accomplished baker. If your loved one isn’t allergic to nuts, a quick and easy gift is to toast them with various seasonings for a unique snack item that they can enjoy alone or when entertaining. It works with any kind of nut, and any kind of seasoning, really.
Just about everyone has some kind of seasoning they purchased because they needed a half-teaspoon of it for one recipe, and it hasn’t been touched since. Like cardamom. Who uses cardamom? Well, probably Swedes, but other than that, not many people do. But cardamom added to pecans sauted in butter with a little salt and a little sugar? Now that’s pretty tasty. Actually, just about anything added to pecans sauted in butter is going to be tasty.
Once your snack is made, let it cool, and then find something cute to put them in. Honestly, if nothing else comes to mind, look in the fridge and see what you’ve almost used up. Like jelly.
Jelly comes in small jars. Make some toast, use up that jelly, and wash out that jar. Soak it for a while to get the label off. Voila! Now you have a nice container for the nuts, and your tummy isn’t rumbling any more. Now, all you have to do is come up with a cute way to decorate the lid. Maybe see if you have some paint, and give it fresh coat of paint on top, use some markers to add some artwork of your own, and hang a tag around the lid. Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” quite like a special jar of your secret homemade nuts.

Loyalty, and then some
Perhaps you have a few unused loyalty cards floating around in your desk drawer. Could they solve the last-minute gift dilemma? Well, maybe. Just keep in mind that loyalty cards aren’t the same as normal gift cards. While normal gift cards by law can’t expire until five years from the date of issuance, loyalty cards that were given as “gifts,” say for sitting through one of those two-hour vacation resort presentations you agreed to attend in exchange for the free three-day stay at a hotel near the resort, the rules don’t apply.
Get your magnifying glass out and check the fine print, and call the number on the back to see exactly how much is on the card and when it will expire. Then, figure out some artful way of including the information with the card: “You’re always on my mind. Even as I was sitting poolside at that Super 8 near Ft. Lauderdale last month. Here is a fine token of my esteem for you, and it is my hope you will seize the day, and this card, and treat yourself to some small luxury, knowing that I am delighted to have some small part in making your day (up to $50 and by Feb. 17, 2018).”

Sew easy ...
If you aren’t into food, and you don’t have any loyalty cards laying around, here is one last idea that won’t cost you a thing, is fast, and you probably have everything you need on hand right now. Particularly if you’ve ever had to sew anything in the past for any reason. And you have old sweaters you don’t really want to wear anymore. With a few items and basic skills, you can turn that old sweater into a brand new pair of homemade mittens.
Gather your scissors, that sweater, a pen, a needle and thread. At the bottom of the sweater where the ribbing is, lay down your hand, fingers together and thumb out, pointing towards the neck opening, and trace around first one, then the other. Cut through both the front and back of the sweater at the same time for each mitten. Put the right sides together and stitch around the outside edge on each, then turn them right-side out again. Wrap them up and you have a nice gift to give. Note: it’s advisable to give this gift to someone whose hands are about the same size as yours. Also, if this turns out badly, please blame Pinterest, where the idea originated.

Regardless of what your views are on Christmas, we wish you a merry one, and a Happy New Year.