They say that it’s better to give than to receive, and I believe it. Way back when I was four years old, I remember clearly the pain caused by receiving one Christmas gift.
Now I’m sure my babysitter, Mrs. K., thought she had found the perfect present for me. After all, my best friend Denise and I spent hours of our playtime at Mrs. K.’s house adorning ourselves with pictures of jewelry we’d oh-so-carefully cut out of fat Sears and J. C. Penney’s catalogs. I’ll bet she figured we would each just love to have a toy jewelry set.
However, I will forever think of that gift as an amateur torture kit. The necklace and ring were only slightly uncomfortable, just a bit of plastic pokes here and there. But those clip-on earrings were another story. They pinched onto my ears so tightly that I wanted to cry.
To make matters worse, my mother insisted I model the whole set for a picture. I did my best not to cry and to put on a smile while waiting for the camera’s flash to warm up, but anybody could notice a difference between the me in the jewelry picture and the me showing off a cheerleader costume, my Snoopy scissors, and my Pepsi toboggan.
I begged my mother not ever to make me wear those earrings again, but also never to tell Mrs. K. that I didn’t like them. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.
Evidently, my son is a bit more blunt than I was. Last weekend my in-laws were visiting. When his grandfather returned from the grocery store and presented my son with the impromptu gift of a packet of seasoning he’d used to make jerky, my son quickly said, “No, thank you. I like Daddy’s better.”
I was horrified.
While giving is important, we should also learn to receive graciously. I told my son that no matter what gift you receive, you should always say, “Thank you.” Even if it doesn’t fit, it’s ugly, or you just don’t like it, a gift is the giver’s way of saying, “I care about you,” and “Thank you” is our way of replying in kind.
No matter how many of the packages you find under the tree end up being returned or re-gifted, remember this holiday season that the thought behind the present is the true gift.
One gift I will never, ever, ever re-gift or return is my friend’s candied nuts. They are so good that I can’t thank her enough. These sweet nuts packaged in a jar with a ribbon tied around make the perfect gift for just about anybody, so make enough for yourself and to share with somebody you care about.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I do plan on experimenting with a few more spices. I think a pinch of cayenne might spice things up a bit for those who like some heat with their sweet.
1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups pecan or walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Whisk the egg white in a bowl with vanilla until fluffy. Add the nuts and egg mixture to a zip lock bag and mix until coated.
In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add to the nuts in the bag and shake until all nuts are coated. Spread on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 250ºF for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let the nuts cool before packaging them up.