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Putting the neighborly in neighbor holiday gifts
Bread and homemade jam, again? This year, why not take the neighborhood gifts up a notch by sharing a gift that best represents you? - photo by J'Nel Wright
Extending warm appreciation for the "neighborliness" of our neighbors can be simple as well as heartfelt. From the guy who shares fresh tomatoes every fall to the gal who mows your part of the easement every other Saturday, and everyone in between, here are some ways to say thank you and happy holidays in a meaningful, generous and unique way.

Make your gift a direct reflection of your family

Its meaningful to receive something that reminds you of your neighbor or friend. It could signify a unique aspect of the family or home. One of my former neighbors worked for a nut company, so he shared a nut assortment or fudge. Another neighbor enjoys celebrating her Danish heritage and often shares Dansk aebleskiver, or Danish doughnuts, with the neighborhood. They are delicious and a wonderful reminder of the diverse nature of the neighborhood.

Other ideas include making homemade churros, making apple butter from your apple tree or making plum preserves from your own plums, sharing zinnia seeds from your garden, or making grape juice from your grapevines.

Share something that your neighbors rarely do for themselves

That doesnt mean you must roll your own sushi or paint cards by hand. It simply means sharing something that is special. A plate with homemade cookies can be a sweet indulgence, as is a batch of homemade toffee. My neighbor makes a mean fresh salsa that is a welcome contrast to the plethora of sweets. Another dear friend bakes the most divine cinnamon rolls this side of heaven. Every year, I look forward to these delicious traditions.

Here are some other ideas: Flavored oil from a crop of jalapenos, homemade ice cream topping, hand lotion scented with home-grown lavender, old-fashioned popcorn balls or homemade seasoned salt (see recipe below).

Go against the flow

A unique gift is often well-thought-out. What could you share that is different than the typical neighbor gift? Truthfully, I am proud of my sweet tooth. It has carried me through more than one stressful week. But I also like to make an impression during the holidays. Amid the flood of sweet treats, I like to share a cheeseball with my neighbors and friends. Its different, its delicious, and it sets my efforts apart from the others.

Think of something about yourself that is uniquely you. Can you bottle it, box it up or stick it in a cellophane bag? If so, your neighbors are in for a treat. You are not just sharing a holiday gift, you are sharing what your neighbors enjoy most about you a portion of yourself.

Grandma Elnas Seasoned Salt

Makes: 7 pounds

6 ounces garlic powder

2 ounces onion powder

2 ounces celery salt

8 ounces ground pepper

4 ounces coarse ground pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

5 pounds table salt

Combine the ingredients and mix well.
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