Gifts from the heart



Made from greens collected on Cypress Mountain, Vancouver

Helga’s Blog #121:

Gifts, gifts, gifts… can’t sleep because we still haven’t a clue what to give Aunt Nell, cousin Bill, the neighbour who pet sits the cat, and let’s not forget that friend who gave you a gift last Christmas while you had nothing for him.

Time has run out, shipping deadlines are past, stores running low on merchandise. We are doomed, sure to lose friends, certain to be snubbed by family members near and far.

There are always scented candles of course, they are stocked in every drug store, gas stations even, in a myriad of fragrances. A last option. A better one is to give nothing. Far better.


Indeed. Likely the most helpful, most valuable gift you will ever receive, or give. And it doesn’t come from a store. I won’t cost you a dime. You don’t even have to leave your home, no need to elbow your way through throngs of shoppers, lose your temper fighting over a parking space, or any of the myriads of inconveniences called Christmas shopping.

That’s right. You can do this entirely from the comfort of your electric recliner chair if you so wish. Such is the privilege of people who love to read, and because of that love, may have turned into writers.

Because these people, lucky souls, know how to be creative. Like pulling a rabbit from a hat, they create something from nothing. No trip to the ATM is needed, no wrapping paper either. So perhaps it’s time to share this secret recipe of enduring Christmas success for years to come.

There are two options, depending on the preference of your gifting recipients. One assumes he or she is a foodie, the other that she or he loves books. Maybe you are lucky to have friends or family who embody both, so if you cater to their twin passions, you may have a fan for life.

Let’s deal with the foodie angle first. Until a year ago, I would delight family and friends with Christmas baking created from recipes handed down through generations. One that stands out has a special history. It’s a recipe for Dresden Christmas Stollen by one of Vienna’s premier patisseries. I will not indulge you with how I got my hands on this coveted recipe, but in the spirit of Christmas sharing, I am gifting it to you. If you follow the instructions as given, you will produce the best ‘stollen’ available. You don’t have to gift the baked product; a more classy option is to print the recipe on good paper and send it off with your Christmas card. (Recipe is in PDF,  measurements are in metric)

The second option is for the lover of books. No, you do not need to purchase any, your recipients can do that all on their own. As any avid reader knows, buying books is the easy part. Finding good titles is far more difficult. Your recipients will be lucky to get your carefully crafted reading list.

That’s it, you say?

Yes. That’s it. But this is no ordinary reading list. Sure, you can find excellent lists of great new titles at the New York Times Book Review or similar sources. What you, the gifter, will offer is a list of titles that you and your friends have come to appreciate and enjoy beyond published reviews. Not by commercial reviewers, but by avid readers who deemed these titles worthy of sharing with friends. You will offer a list compiled with love and honesty – a gift of passion.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is a short list of random titles (fiction and non-fiction) that trusted friends have recommended and enjoyed. They may not be your genre, but are well written and I am sure worth reading. I have read only a few but will make sure to work my way through the entire list.


Flight Behaviour, by Barbara Kingsolver

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville

Avenue of Mysteries, by John Irving

On Canaan’s Side, by Sebastian Barry

Engleby, by Sebastian Faulks

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbough

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

A Name of Blood, by Matt Rees

Elemental, by Amanda Curtin


One of Us, by Asne Seierstad,

Dead Wake, by Erik Larson

Between You and Me, by Mary Norris

A Fighting Chance, by Elizabeth Warren

The Almost Nearly Perfect People, by Michael Booth

River Town, by Peter Hessler

The Shelf, by Phyllis Rose

River at the Centre of the World, by Simon Winchester

Dust of Empire, by Karl Meyer.

Happy Holidays to you all. May the muse stay with you and follow you into the New Year. And thanks for being our steadfast followers.


From my Austrian recipes


5 thoughts on “Gifts from the heart

    • Thank you Alison and Don! I reciprocate your good wishes. Please know that throughout this year you have brought me much joy with your wonderful, magical blog. I hope you will continue to gift your followers.
      Helga xox

    • So glad you remember the stollen. I guess I’ll have to make it again next year, as this one wasn’t my year for baking. Merry Christmas to you too, Liz!

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