For the past several years I have done the majority of my Christmas shopping online and through catalogs. This year I’ve decided to describe my experiences.
I continue to think highly of the Vermont Country Store catalog and its wide variety of spirited chocolate treats and candies well suited to the Holiday Season. My son, Max, had bought a box of ice cream cones with caramel centers because, he said, he wanted a little “bite” of salt so I bought him a box of milk chocolate covered, sea salt caramels which went over quite well and a box of the truffles made to look like cupcakes, which, as it turns out, is most delicious when eaten from the bottom. He also received German mustard made with whole mustard seeds and packaged in a little glass stein for use with all the meats he receives as part of his Christmas Food Bag. The Food Bags are a family tradition that took the place of stockings when we stopped hanging those. Max’s Food Bag features Mick Foley as Mankind because, after all, Christ was born to redeem Mankind.
From the Vermont Country Store my husband received a box of assorted hand dipped chocolate covered cream drops with vanilla, orange, chocolate, raspberry, lemon and maple fillings. My spouse did not care for the raspberry filled ones, deeming them “too sweet,” and wishes there was some sort of map so he could avoid those. He likes the rest though he said he wouldn’t mind having a whole box of just the maple ones, which they do sell, but that’s not surprising as he loved the Maple Candy pressed into the shape of maple leaves that he received from them last year. He also received a chocolate bar with squares filled with Grand Marnier.
Everyone, including me, received one of the trio of mini liqueur cakes. I found the coffee liqueur cocoa cake to be somewhat dry with a strange crunchy texture I couldn’t identify and a milder alcohol flavoring than I prefer but Max declared his rum eggnog cake excellent.
I ordered several things from them meant for workplace presents, including a second helping of truffle cupcakes. For my genealogy helper and his wife I purchased a pound of Filberts because of a request we had earlier in the year involving Philberts. The marshmallow snowballs were both gluten free and vegetarian friendly. The Jamaican Rum Balls came in a three pack so I had two for gifts and one for me. I found the texture of the rum ball itself to be a bit off but the afterbite of rum was flavorful and strong and the chocolate nibs the rum balls were wrapped in were quite delectable. I ordered two packs of Brandy filled chocolate Santas and the one I tried was quite nice and Jay said he enjoyed the looks on people’s faces when they bit off Santa’s head and quickly having to down a nip of Brandy instead of something more solid. The chocolate covered German rum gingerbread cookies smelled great and everyone enjoyed them but there were only five, albeit five large ones, so they are probably better suited as an individual or personal gift rather than a group gift. The pound of Schrafft’s Gold Chest Chocolates were expensive but had a real wow factor and made some people downright nostalgic so I think they were worth the price. Of everything purchased this year I especially enjoyed the miniature bottles filled with liquors and liqueurs left over from Brenda’s present. They reminded me of high school when we used to go to the Mall and buy these from the Swiss Colony there. I would certainly buy those again and would like to try their Divinity and Black Walnut chips so I’ll definitely be a return customer.
This was the first year I had ordered from Edmund Scientific. I was quite pleased with the quality of the offerings which made quite a change from all the cheap plastic crap clogging the arties of mainstream department store toy aisles. I purchased a very nifty music box device where you can punch these strips of heavy paper that come with it and create your own music to play, and a praxinoscope, and a very nice make-your-own soap kit for our granddaughter, Audrey and a make-your-own hot sauce kit for Max. We also ordered a Moshi Talking Alarm Clock for our daughter which did not arrive in time for Christmas thus disappointing both a blind child and her mother, but I would still order from them again only probably through their website to make sure all items ordered are in stock and ready to ship.
MindWare is a company I ordered from last year and this year I ordered a Fashion Design Sketch Portfolio from them which turned out to be one of Audrey’s favorite gifts. This is another source for creative, stimulating, children’s toys.
Old Durham Rd. just fell into my lap when a catalog from them arrived at my home. It is filled with wonderful items manufactured in the British Isles. I ended up ordering an official William and Katherine Royal Tea Towel and some Buckingham Palace Tea and Biscuits from the Royal Collection which seems to be the marketing arm of the Royal Family and makes me think that Katherine Middleton is an exceptionally smart choice to bring onboard the family business. I also ordered some Lemon Curd for my spouse and what turned out to be Strawberry-Rhubarb jam though it was advertised in the catalog as Strawberry-Champaign for my son. I would order from them again as I am most anxious to try their rum pralines.
I ordered some specific themed wrapping paper and a Lucky Japanese Cat ornament from Current. The paper was of good weight but came on short rolls. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a cutting grid printed on the back of the paper and I would also like to see more sophisticated patterns and realistic penguins offered.
I had sworn off ordering from the King Size catalog after some disappointing experiences but decided to give them another chance only to be disappointed again. Two of the three items ordered could not be delivered and the quality of the item that was delivered, micro fleece sleep pants, was not very good. In a way it was a blessing in disguise that they couldn’t deliver because I found sleep pants of better quality for less money at Target. I won’t be shopping with them again.
I ended up ordering some jams and jellies from Amazon. The Amish F.R.O.G. jam was just fine but the green pepper jalapeno jelly manufactured by Tabasco Brand wasn’t actually green and we have come to the conclusion that the green pepper jelly that everyone found so delicious was manufactured by Pepperidge Farm which apparently no longer manufactures any sort of jelly. The Stonewall Pepper Jelly, however, has a gorgeous color and the gooseberry jam, though I paid more in shipping than I did for the jams, was the hit of the Food Bags. I also purchased a bottle opener in the shape of the Star Trek Enterprise that really impressed a hard to impress friend.
eBay remains the place to find exactly what you want when what you want is hard to find. Here I purchased an olive fork, two white Fiesta chowder bowls, a pair of Oneida chowder spoons and a Sunbeam meat thermometer. I got a great deal on a really nice, illustrated, purple cloth covered edition of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories with attached ribbon bookmark for just $1.00 plus $2.00 shipping. eBay remains a good place to find a wide selection a large men’s clothing but buying clothing on eBay is semi-risky without being able to see the actual garment and touch the fabric. Purchases on eBay generally went smoothly, especially as I added money to my PayPal account in advance for immediate payment, but I accidentally ordered the same shirt twice as the photo on the second shirt bore no resemblance to its actual color and when it came it was missing the pearl part of one of its pearl snaps, something I didn’t notice right away, so it ended up in the Goodwill bag and one pair of pants didn’t come at all. I had PayPal refund the money but by then it was too late to order an alternate pair in time for Christmas giving.
And speaking of PayPal….why in the world does it take so long for PayPal to honor an eCheck? The money is immediately withdrawn from the bank account and then held in limbo for five days until paid to the seller. I have a vision of all of these tens of thousands of PayPal amounts sitting in a bank account somewhere drawing interest on millions of dollars for five days before being sent along its way sort of like this story I read once in either an Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen mystery magazine about a bank employee who stole a million dollars by stealing one penny from a million accounts, but that’s just a theory as of now.