The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Christmas presents

The Times. UnreadDanny and I have never been ones for lavishing the credit card on each other when it comes to Christmas. We decide the ceiling in November and work around that.
“Does this ceiling include our stockings?”
“Of course.”
The limits are then raised by £10. A good £10 stocking can put the Main Present in the shade. The secret is to start looking early.

Nothing beats a good stocking. It is the heart of Christmas for me. Like a secret kiss. An extended moment of indulgence without the formality of opening a present with a family audience. The best stocking that I ever had was a simple stocking that my sister gave me (ceiling £5). It was full of tiny, thoughtful and fun surprises. A joy.

For the past two years the limit on the main present has been £20. This is quite canny as twenty quid is more than we would spend on a whim. So generally there are lots of twenty quid presents that we have seen and wanted during the year. However, in November, the twenty quid genie has vanished. We are struggling.

This evening I arrived back from work and announced that I knew what I would like for Christmas. A little device that makes briquettes from your old newspapers and junk mail. I am so busy at the moment that I don’t have time for more than a cursory glance at the newspapers before they are wedged into the boot of D’s car and eventually taken to the recycling bin at the dump. I know that this little wizard has been around for years, I just haven’t got around to adding it to my list.

Danny spun round from the oven
“This is weird. I was planning to ask for the same present from you!”

I shot onto the internet and read the reviews, which got me nowhere. We have ordered a briquette maker from this guy on eBay. There is another well reviewed (just the one), discounted on sale at briquette maker. Apparently you can add loads of other ingredients to your briquettes. Dry leaves, olive stones, nut shells, twigs, tea bags and anything that is dried out and beefy.

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  1. Christmas has just got out of hand in recent years and so many people are in debt because of it .I think many are now trying to get back to the christmases we had years ago when we didn’t have much.We were glad of a stocking with an apple, orange and a tangerine ,a pink sugar mouse,a small packet of sweets a hair band or ribbons .My mum always made us a hat,gloves and scarf set and she’d buy little bits and pieces from the local church fair ,a knitted doll ,second hand books ,dinky cars for my brothers ,we were always thrilled with what we were given and I think people got more pleasure from making and receiving gifts that had been specially made .We are giving hampers of home made things, christmas cake,jams,marmalade,chutney,damson gin,mince pies and the girls like making peppermint creams and arranging them in a nice box and we know that this will be appreciated far more than the bought ones .

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane,

    We are concerned about the drying out. Little racks under the radiators? A slow oven…

    Anyway we have bought it now!

    I am not organised about Christmas at all. My mum has demanded lists so we are thinking about it. Our butcher also wants our order, so I’m thinking about that…

    Hope all is well with you all.

  3. Hi Fiona
    Ah, this brings back memories! We have two log makers, one like this one and a dry telescope-type one. The only thing with the wet one is that the briquettes take FOREVER to dry! So we tend to make ours in the summer. That said, it’s a lovely stocking present, if it’ll fit in a stocking! You are so good to be so organised – I am in Christmas denial at the moment…!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah,

    The squirreling away of Christmas stocking presents is all part of the fun, isn™t it. Glad to hear that the Min ins and cats get presents too!

    That’s great news about the Kitchen Aid mixer! The Magimix that I got for my birthday is wonderful and taken a lot of the slog out of cooking.

    Hi Spidra Webster

    Thanks for pointing out the log maker on the wiggly wigglers site. This looks better than the one we ordered as you don™t have to soak the paper and can use the logs immediately.

    What a shame that you live alone and miss out on a Christmas stocking.

    Hi Mildred,

    I agree. We are making more and more of our presents these days.

    Hi Amanda,

    I’ve just had a browse through the Wigglywigglers site and it’s packed with useful stuff.

    In fact I have spotted just what I want for Christmas – they sell blackthorn hedging plants. This would mean our own sloes in a few years time!

    Hi Anne,

    Sorry that you miss out on a family Christmas. Our family is quite small – usually just Danny and me and my mum (88 years old) at Christmas so it’s a quiet time.

  5. anne waller

    hi spidra webster, i too live alone and miss the stocking thing. i work all of christmas, by choice, so that i can live other peoples christmas’s instead. not quite the same though………………..

  6. Brilliant and thank you! My husband has been saying he wants to get one of these for ages, infact for a while he was stockpiling the papers for that reason. He hasn’t ordered one so I think I’ll get one for him for Christmas.

    Wigglywigglers (as mentioned by Spidra Webster) is where we got our wormery from – they have a great catalogue full of things you could spend a fortune on.

  7. I love little, thoughtful gifts! A jar of home made jam, a delicious cake or an easy hand knitted scarf are appreciated more than anything ‘bought’!!

  8. Spidra Webster

    Interesting. I didn’t know there were a number of different designs for newspaper logmakers!

    This one is slightly above the 20 pound limit:

    Vermont Country Store in the US has sold a different design in the past as well.

    I live alone and I miss the excitement of stockings.

  9. I love stocking gifts…”Santa” start thinking of little things to put into my husbands stocking in early summer. When “Santa” see’s a great sale on something he would like I squirrel it away for Christmas. I don’t think we ever spend more than $20 or $30 on stockings, but it is so much fun to open them. My husband works every Christmas, I always hope he is scheduled for the night shift so we can have a leisurely morning to see what Santa brought us. Santa brings the min pins nyla bones, pig ears (that he had the foresight to buy in the fall at the farmers market!) and a toy. The Kitties get cat homemade cat nip toys and a few cans of food. My husband and I always get a new ornament for the Christmas tree, we write the year on them before we hang them up.

    A Kitchen Aid mixer for has been on the top of my Christmas wish list for years, my mother in law has just told us she found one at an estate sale and will give it to us early to help with our holiday baking! Now all I want is a new dish drying rack to replace the scrungy 20 year old one that sits on my kitchen counter. I may need to leave a list for Santa on the refridgerator!

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