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Ask Martha

Handmade, creative gifts for the holidays

Each year, around September, I start to think seriously about my personal Christmas gifts for family members and close friends, and every year it is a challenge to create something new, something different, something meaningful from my own world. I spend most of my free time at my farm in Bedford, N.Y., gardening, cooking, raising small livestock, and conjuring many of the creative ideas that become articles, books, and products for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. As these free moments become scarcer (Alexis’s new babies now take up lots of time), I find that the gifts have become simpler but no less evocative — I hope — of nature and the goodness of the homemade and the handmade.

In the past, I have steamed countless plum puddings in handmade crockery bowls, made pates in French pate dishes I’ve collected, baked hundreds of stollen and cookies, and jarred even more hundreds of jams and jellies from the berries I’ve grown. This year, I decided to make gifts that would show off some of the products from the farm. Mind you, nothing is commercially made at Bedford, but with inventive labels and packaging and a little bit of spin, a small idea can appear more thoughtful. And I’ve learned that so many who receive these gifts actually do eat, wear, or use what I make. I divided the gifts into groups — edible, wearable, decorative, and practical.

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