Neighbors of the Kenny Hoggan family in American Fork know at least one thing they're getting for Christmas: a jar of "Hogganberry" jam.
It's a 14-year tradition, and the Hoggans give out more than 60 jars every holiday season. Hoggan raises the blackberries in his back yard. He harvests and freezes them in the summer. He waits until the weather turns cold to do the mixing and boiling "so you're not stuck in a hot house."
Hoggan didn't realize how much people looked forward to getting the jam until there was talk in the neighborhood of foregoing "neighbor gifts" and giving the money to charity instead.
"I got a lot of side comments asking, 'But you're still going to give out your jam, aren't you?' "
Most people don't put nearly that much effort into the small gifts they give around the neighborhood. But "neighbor gifts" are such an ingrained tradition that the Weber County Extension had a workshop filled with ideas during its Holiday Fair last month. Mother-daughter duo Marcia Merrill and Haley Taylor have taught a similar class for the past eight years at the Macey's store in Ogden.
"Each year we keep our favorite ideas that we love and add to them," said Taylor. "Some ideas we've made up during late nights walking up and down the store aisles; others just pop into our heads."
Some of their suggestions have already made the rounds, such as a new dustpan filled with cookies with a tag that reads, "While baking you this Christmas treat, I dropped it on the floor. So I decided to just sweep it up and leave it at your door!"But Taylor has a second tag line that you could use instead:
This ain't a "sweeping" statement
But a very important message to state,
This dustpan of goodies is sent to say,
We "dust" think you're great.Merry Christmas from your crumby neighbors.
We gathered ideas from the class, friends, colleagues, books, magazines and Web sites. Here's a list of neighbor gifts the good, the bad and the bizarre. What you choose depends on your budget, cooking skills and your neighbors' tastes in humor.
Two advantages to packaged treats: You don't have to bake or cook, and the food can be saved until the holiday feeding frenzy is over. A witty verse or tag line makes the gift seem more special.
Put felt reindeer ears and nose on a box of Whoppers candy: "Have a 'whopper' of a Christmas!"
Hershey's Kisses in a wire whisk: "We 'whisk' you a merry 'kiss'-mas."
Bubble gum: "May your holidays 'bubble' over with fun!"
A bag of nuts and a dozen doughnuts: "Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you doughnut!"
Favorite spice mix: "Seasoned greetings!"
A bag of M&Ms: "Have a Merry & Marvelous holiday!"
Jolly Ranchers: "Have a holly, jolly Christmas!"
Mousse or pudding mix: "Merry Christmousse!"
Packs of gum: "By gum, you're a great neighbor!"
Wrapped candies on a felt runner to hang on the wall. Each day a piece of candy can be taken off to eat as a Christmas countdown.
Giant-size candy bars. Remove the paper wrapper, and make your own personalized one.
A bag of gummy bugs: "Bah humbug! Merry Christmas anyway."
A box of brownie mix: "Roses are red, Christmas is sweet, I'm all stressed out, so make your own darn treat!"
Animal cookies: "This place would be a zoo without you!"
Caramels or candy: "We've been so busy running around, life is hectic sad it sounds. Yet we wanted to make you something dandy, so here's this year's version of homemade candy!"
100 Grand candy bar: "Your friendship is worth a million bucks, but we can only afford this much!"
Gummy frogs: "Hoping you have a toadily fun holiday!
Boxes of Ho Hos and Ding Dongs: "Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas from the Ding Dongs next door!" Packaged cookies: "Homemade cookies would be so fine, but these are so much better than mine!"
Some non-sweet munchies are welcome to keep sugar overload to a minimum.
Bags of Chex Mix. "Santa always 'chex' his list
Bread sticks: "We knead your friendship!"
A loaf of bread: "We're just loafing around and wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas!"
Frozen rolls: "Here's a little holiday treat. Rise and bake, and then just eat!"
Popcorn: "We're 'popping' by with a holiday hi!" or "It may sound corny, but Merry Christmas!"
Veggies and dip: "Dip into the holidays and a healthy New Year!"
Cheese with a grater: "To a grate neighbor, from your cheesy friends." Frozen or ready-to-bake pizza: "Warm up to a wonderful holiday season 'topped' with Christmas cheer!"
Drink and be merry
Root beer: "Have a rootin' tootin' Christmas!"
Microwave popcorn and 2-liter bottle of soda: "Pop, pop, fizz, fizz, oh what a good friend you is!"
Sprite: "May your Christmas be merry and 'Sprite!' "
Any soda pop: "We're 'soda-lighted' to have you as our friends!"
Juice pitcher filled with candy canes: "We pitcher you raising a little 'cane' during the holidays."
Wassail mix or "Scrooge's Brew," usually orange or lemonade drink mix and spices. Package in gift bags or small jelly jars with lids covered with Christmas-print fabric. Mountain Dew: " 'Dew' you know we want you to have a merry Christmas? Well, we 'Dew.' "
Fudge sauce or caramel sauce in a clear, deli-type container.
Pretzels or Ritz crackers dipped in melted chocolate, with 5-6 drops of mint oil added per cup of chocolate, and a tag that reads: "We 'mint' to wish you a happy holiday!"
White divinity with a tag that says: "Have a white Christmas!"
A loaf of quick bread: "No matter how you slice it, you're a great neighbor!"
Frozen cookie dough with cookie cutters: "Here's a little extra 'dough' for Christmas."
Jar of jam: "Hoping your Christmas is 'jam' packed with cheer." Homemade frozen rolls: "Warm fresh rolls just for you. Top with butter, that's all you do! Warm greetings to you"
Oranges: " 'Orange' you glad we're friends?" Merry Christmas!
Apples: "You're so apple-ing," or "You're the apple of my eye!"
Bananas: "If we could choose our friends, and we searched the whole world through, we'd go 'bananas' trying to find a better bunch than you!" Fruit basket: "When you feel like a basket case, remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays!"
Some people would rather forget about food and give something to use in the kitchen.
A laminated, credit card-size phone list of everyone in the neighborhood to keep for emergencies.
A gift certificate to a restaurant or food store. (If you know the proprietors, it's a two-way gift you're helping their businesses as well.)
Paper towels: "Blot out your troubles; 'absorb' the Christmas spirit!"
A box of long-handled matches: "To our matchless friends."
Wooden spoon with a baking mix: "Not a creature was 'stirring' . . ."
A set of oven mitts or hot pads: "We have to ad-mitt, you're a great neighbor!" or "Merry Christmas, from our pad to yours!"
Measuring cup or spoons: "Wishing you joy beyond measure!"
A candle: "May your days be merry and bright!" Mark the candle on the side with Liquid Paper or nail polish dots to count down to Christmas. Each night the recipient burns the candle down to the next dot.
Calendar: "Keep Christmas in your heart the whole year through!"
A new roll of wrapping paper: "Wrap your holidays in love and cheer! And now you won't run out this year!"
A big popcorn bowl with the family name painted on it. "You bowl us over!"
"I Spy" bottles for kids, made from clean plastic jars filled with 30 or so small trinkets and bird seed for filler. Kids can stay occupied by trying to "spy" all the different items in the jar. A bag of simmering potpourri: "Scenting you holiday greetings!"
Here are six easy-to-make recipes that can be used as neighbor gifts.
SWEET & SPICY WALNUTS
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
4 cups walnut halves
1 tablespoon cinnamon or1 tablespoon red curry powder
Stir sugar, salt and water together in a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. As the sugar dissolves and begins to bubble, add walnuts and stir well for several minutes so nuts are coated with the glaze. Add either cinnamon or curry powder, and toss to coat. Spread nuts in a single layer on a greased or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Cool completely. Store nuts in an airtight container.
Note: As the nuts tend to absorb the seasoning, taste first, then shake on more spice if needed when packaging. Valerie Phillips
3 cups pecan halves
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce, optional2 tablespoons barbecue seasoning salt
Stir pecans in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot and slightly toasted. Mix sauces together, and pour over nuts, tossing quickly to coat. Sprinkle with barbecue seasoning. Spread nuts in a single layer on a greased or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Allow coating to dry and nuts to cool before storing. Valerie Phillips
1 pound Kalamata olives
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper1 bay leaf
Crush olives slightly with the side of a chef's knife. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add olives and toss. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Spoon into sterilized decorative jar. Olives must be kept refrigerated. "Half-Baked Gourmet Party Food," by Jan Turner Hazard
CRISPY CHEDDAR BITES
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil1 cup toasted rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy. Add cheese and continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, garlic salt and basil. Beat on low speed until incorporated. Stir in the cereal. The dough may be crumbly. Knead until dough holds together.Divide dough in half. On a sheet of wax paper, form dough into a 10-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate until firm. Repeat with remaining dough. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut rolls into 1/4-inch slices. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time, 10-12 minutes. Serve at room temperature. "Half-Baked Gourmet Party Food," by Jan Turner Hazard
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugarChopped nuts (optional)
Mix all ingredients with hands or spoon until well blended. Roll into rolls in powdered sugar or nuts, and wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate until set. Slice. "Fun Fabulous Fakes," by Carol Earl
2 large Symphony candy bars (7 ounces each)
1 can Eagle sweetened condensed milkNuts (optional)
Break bars into pieces; add milk and stir. Microwave on high 1 minute; stir well. If not melted, microwave 20 seconds more. Pour ( 1/2-inch thick) into container and refrigerate. "Fun Fabulous Fakes," by Carol Earl
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