If you were around these parts this time last year, then you’ll already know that I am great at doing Christmas. Like, seriously great. Potentially better than I am at anything else, which is a bit worrying. You can re-visit last year’s posts and check out my 2011 gift guides for writers, book-lovers and coffee-drinkers by clicking here, but today we’re going to talk about a gift I’m actually giving to someone this year. Someone who wouldn’t read this blog in a million years, let’s hope!
Here in Ireland, as you may have heard on news bulletins filled with terms like Celtic Tiger, the boom years, IMF, bank bailouts, and totally screwed, all our purse strings are a little tighter this Christmas, and so the days of waltzing into BTs and getting some shiny girl behind a cosmetics stand to put together a prezzie for you are long gone for most people. I’m not bothered by this; I see it as a challenge. And if you have any imagination at all, making a gift for someone not only costs less, but it’s fun too and a far better thing to receive, because it’s thoughtful, personal and unique. And you made it.
Now let’s be clear: when I say make I’m leaning more towards assemble than create. You won’t catch me knitting jumpers or glass blowing or glue-gunning glitter onto things and calling them art. I am, let’s not forget, The Girl Who Hates Tinsel. But I think a little DIY can go a long way, and My Ultimate Hot Chocolate Hamper is a good example.
What you need:
- Jamie’s Epic Hot Chocolate Mix (see below)
- A fancy jar to put the mix in
- A bag of marshmallows (extra points for Christmas shaped ones)
- About a meter of cellophane (a nice florist will sell it to you)
- A basket or gift box
- Some shredded tissue or paper
- Ribbon, Christmas paper, gift tags. etc. to decorate.
What you need to do:
The idea of this hamper is that you give a hot chocolate-lover a unique gift: a hot chocolate mix that turns into a liquid hot chocolate much richer, much nicer and much more chocolately than anything they can buy in the shops or order in a café or restaurant, and you give it to them in a gorgeous hamper you made yourself.
Assemble the ingredients for your hot chocolate mix. I used Jamie Oliver’s Epic Hot Chocolate recipe, but as I’d a tall jar I had to double the amounts. The main ingredients are icing sugar, corn flour, cocoa, Horlicks (or something resembling it), cinnamon and grated or chopped chocolate. Layer them into your jar but don’t mix them. We’ll leave the recipient do that, and until then your jar will look oh so impressive.
Cut a square out of Christmas wrapper paper about twice the width of the lid of the jar, and secure it to the lid with a elastic band. I stuck a bow and some miniature jingle bells on there too.
Next, fill the bottom of your basket or box with shredded tissue paper—or, shredded paper. I’m downright smug about my idea to take scraps of leftover Christmas wrapping paper and the red carrier bag the marshmallows came in and feed them to our shredder. Smug, I tell you. Especially since shredded tissue is like €4 a bag, and this way you’re recycling as well. Get you!
Put your jar of hot chocolate mix and your bag of marshmallows into your basket, standing upright but leaning against the back of the basket. You might also want to add a festive mug, a bar of chocolate, a mini-grater or any of the other things you might associate with drinking hot chocolate at Christmas time. I just added a Christmas card to mine.
Before we start wrapping it, we want to make sure that everything is stuck in place as there’s nothing more annoying than having to undo the cellophane wrap to fix something that’s fallen over. I put a bauble in between the jar and the marshmallow bag to keep them in place, and I also secured the jar, the card’s envelope and the marshmallow bag to the back of the basket with sellotape. Cheating, I know but hey—it works!
Now comes the tricky bit: the cellophane. Cut a very large piece and place your basket in the middle of it. Our aim now is to gather the cellophane above the basket in the best way we can. I start by taking each end and holding it together above the basket with one hand, while folding the ends (the sides) in over each other as neat as I can. Then I just gather it all in an elastic band at the top. You might need a few goes to get it right but remember as well that this is supposed to look homemade, not perfect.
All that’s left to do now is decorate! Be sure to put the instructions for making the hot chocolate either in the hamper or on the gift tag.
Obviously this hamper idea doesn’t have to be confined to hot chocolate. You could also make:
- A Christmas Movie Night Hamper. A couple of Christmas DVDs, a box of microwavable popcorn (or, if you’re in Ireland or the UK, “Reindeer Poppings” from M&S!) and a clapboard picture frame which you could frame your Christmas message in.
- A Christmas Night In Hamper. A copy of A Christmas Carol (or any Christmassy book), a Be Jolly Yankee Candle, a pair of fluffy slipper socks and a box of Twining’s Christmas teabags.
- A Christmas Morning Coffee Hamper. A bag of Starbucks Christmas blend, a festive cup, a red Bodum cafetiere and a handheld milk frother.
So that’s my Ultimate Hot Chocolate Hamper. Tip: give this to someone who lives with you so that (i) you get to enjoy it too and (ii) you get all the stuff back so you can make it again next year…