Back in my univer­sity days, dur­ing a lon­gago Christ­mas sea­son, some friends and I gath­ered in one of our kitchens and, think­ing that many hands made light work, teamed up to crank out a few hol­i­day treats to give as gifts to friends and fam­ily. I think there was some sort of chut­ney, and—this be­ing the ’90s—sun­dried toma­toes were no doubt in­volved. I do re­call we burned the first batch of spiced nuts, likely be­cause our at­ten­tion to de­tail waned a bit as the con­ver­sa­tion be­came more an­i­mated (and more glasses of wine were con­sumed).

This gift-mak­ing gath­er­ing was partly mo­ti­vated by bud­get—my gig at the stu­dent pa­per hardly made me a high roller—but mainly it was a way to en­joy each other’s com­pany with the thrilling end re­sult of some beau­ti­fully pack­aged presents that we had made with our own hands.

These days it’s hard to find the time to re­peat such an en­deav­our. What­ever free mo­ments I can find come hol­i­day sea­son go to­ward knit­ting my niece and nephew their an­nual hand­made gifts ( last year: shark and mer­maid tails; this year: cat and bear hats)— and, as usual, I find my­self crank­ing those out in far too short a time frame. But after see­ing Julie Van Rosendaal’s recipes in this is­sue (“Twice as Nice,” page 85), I think it’s time for me to get the gang back to­gether. We may be sev­eral thou­sand miles apart these days, but that doesn’t have to be a prob­lem any­more: Skype and FaceTime—along with a vir­tu­ally shared glass of wine—will make it feel like old times again as we cre­ate batches of Julie’s “hot sauce with cran­ber­ries” for our up­com­ing Christ­mas par­ties.

And for those of you who will be un­der­tak­ing the same ef­fort, our as­so­ci­ate art direc­tor, Natalie Gagnon, has cre­ated gift la­bels for you so you can pretty up each pack­age you lov­ingly cre­ate. Head to West­ern­liv­ to down­load your set—and send us a pic of your fi­nal cre­ations while you’re at it.

Happy hol­i­days!

Fol­low Anicka on In­sta­gram @ ANIQUA

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