Like the rest of the universe, I am deeply entrenched in the land of Christmas shopping.
Well, not the whole Black Friday thing. There is not enough liquor in the world to make me impaired enough to deal with that kind of insanity.
However, I am in the home-stretch of gathering up ideas for the last few people on our list. The shopping part is easy enough; it’s the coming up with gift ideas that I struggle with. Unless you know specifically what a person wants, finding a gift that has broad appeal can be challenging.
So, as I continue on my gift-idea quest, I thought I’d share some of the things I think have great gift potential.
Today, we have kitchen stuff. Why? Because I like kitchen stuff.
First on my list is this magnetic knife strip:
I have one of these, and love it. You simply mount this magnetic strip to a wall, and stick your knives to it for easy storage. They stay visible and super-accessible. Also, you reclaim valuable counter-space, because you don’t have a gigantic knife block hogging up the place. These strips usually run $20-$25, and are a nice treat that the average person may not splurge on for themselves.
Another neat gift is this:
This palm vegetable peeler is $6 well-spent. I am about the clumsiest person alive, and have yet to peel potatoes with a traditional vegetable peeler without taking some skin off my own hand. In fact, I used to hate peeling potatoes so much, I did not cook them for years. Now I do, and my husband is happier.
Everybody probably knows about Silpats:
But at $20 a pop, not many people buy them for themselves…that is, not many people living on a tight budget buy them for themselves. If you know someone who loves to bake, I am sure a Silpat or two would be a welcome luxury.
And, of course, my last pick is my much-loved Living Cookbook software:
If you want to know why I love it, read this. However, should you decide to gift this, I encourage you to see the demonstration videos that the developer has on their website. I would never have figured out half of the cool stuff this software can do otherwise.
So, there ya have it. Some ideas for Cyber Monday…just don’t let the boss catch ya shopping on the job.
That is what I had for lunch. It was a Thanksgiving leftover binge of truly epic proportions.
I will be hiding from my scale for a few days…and my skinny jeans.
Our first Thanksgiving in our new house was a resounding success. I actually managed to seat and feed all 18 people in our crowd, which was my primary goal this year. In our old house, we were desperately short on space, so a few people often had to sit on the floor in the living room…I know, classy, huh?
But not this year:
I did have to use some kids’ tables:
But, everyone had a real seat at a real table. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would get this excited about Thanksgiving seating, I would have told you to quit eating the crazy flakes. Oh, how things change…
Ever wondered how much gravy you need for 18 people?
The answer is a lot.
Among other things, we had Cheesecake-Pecan Pie:
Pumpkin Rum Cake:
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie:
as well as Chocolate Pie, Strawberry Pie and Blueberry-Banana Pie. I don’t have a picture of these, because my refrigerator was protesting the constant opening-and-closing, and began to give me the warning beep that the temperature was rising too high. Dang nagging refrigerator…
Overall, the only real surprise was the fact that the turkey was done a full hour and a half before it should have been. I’m still scratching my head over that one, but we made it work.
Unfortunately, I was so busy cooking that I got very few pictures of the food, or the people. I may need to train my husband in using the camera, because I never seem to get many pictures of the events we host. Between cooking , cleaning, and dealing with the aftermath:
My camera sometimes gets forgotten. Thank goodness my mother-in-law washed 90% of the dishes, or we would still be buried in a mess.
My friend J came over yesterday to keep me company while I worked on some Thanksgiving preparations. We planned to make my booze-filled cranberry sauce, and resolve some seating issues that we knew would probably require a trip to Target for a few additional tables. Seems easy enough, right?
J herself had already been shopping, and happened to pick up the above box of liquor-filled chocolates.
There is something I’ve leaned about J. She is impulsive in a check-out line, as I witnessed firsthand. When we ran into Bed, Bath and Beyond so I could grab tablecloths for the tables we had purchased at Target, she managed to walk out with multiple tablecloths, a bag of 100 tea lights and a $10 magazine…all in less than 45 seconds. Therefore, I was not surprised to learn that she had gone for a turkey platter and came out with booze-filled chocolates.
She brought them straight to my house…because she knows me well…
We pretty much tossed them aside while we took care of business, but once we finished, J, my husband and I busted into the box with the intention of trying a chocolate or two.
I will tell you now, liquor-filled chocolates ARE NOT a healthy dinner…and eating 15 liquor-filled chocolates in lieu of a healthy dinner is an awesomely bad idea.
If you need me, I will be hiding under my desk today.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, my youngest was about the easiest child to keep entertained ever. He was so weird like that.
Give him a box of blocks, and he would sit at the coffee table for hours, sorting them, rearranging them and constructing devices that I am sure had purpose in his little mind. This was great for me, because I could get a whole lot of stuff done while he was busy plotting his takeover of the free world.
The only requirement of his self-absorbed playtime was that I kept his DVD of the week playing on repeat in the background. He never really watched the DVDs, but something about the sound was of upmost importance to him. I am sure parenting experts were fainting in horror everywhere, but if it meant I could brush my teeth in relative peace, then I was all for it.
During one memorable November, my youngest’s favorite DVD was Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. He was a lot like Linus, with his quiet ways and blue blankie. For about two straight weeks, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was on frequent repeat in our house, and I never thought anything of it.
But one day, I took him with me to meet my grandmother for lunch at a local diner. As usual, he was his quiet self, rearranging jelly packets on the table and pretty much ignoring the world around him. At this point in his toddler-hood, he barely talked, and certainly not to people in strange environments.
Well, lo and behold, as our food was delivered, the little heathen suddenly looks up, and busts out in a Peppermint Patty voice:
“Where’s the mashed potatoes…Where’s the pumpkin pie… what kind of a Thanksgiving dinner is this??!!??”
Please tell me you remember this scene:
Because I don’t think anyone else in the restaurant did…and that’s probably why they were looking at us like we needed some medication.
The very first Christmas that my husband and I were married was definitely our poorest. However, I still managed to come up with gifts for our family that, to this day, are some of my favorites. That year, I dug through my mother’s house, and managed to find just about every long-lost photo she had hidden away. I scanned them all, burned them onto a CD, and gave each family member a copy. I also was able to send my favorites to Target to be printed, and through careful shopping, found frames for dirt-cheap. Overall, each gift was less than $5 a person.
Sure, I only gave each family member a framed picture and a CD, but the treasure of the gift was their discovery of photos that had been long since forgotten. I spent a great deal of time scanning photos, digging in boxes, and bargain-hunting for frames, but that effort is what truly made this a gift from the heart. Also, many people have photos, but may never take the time these days to get them printed and framed. Therefore, a memory that is ready-made to display can be especially exciting.
I picked up the above frame at a local discount store for about $7, and printing this photo cost less than 50 cents. (By the way, that’s my priest as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination). Not too shabby for a keepsake we treasure.
Getting creative with family photos is even easier these days. Free photo programs, such as Google’s Picasa, provide pretty impressive editing features, such as the option to turn color photos black and white, add text and even do corrective actions, such as lightening a too-dark shot or cropping.
Over the years, I’ve adapted the photo gift idea to include specialty frames, such as a family tree frame, and even preloaded digital picture frames for far-away relatives.
Perhaps the best result of the family photo hunt of that first Christmas was a secret surprise I found. As I dug through my mom’s forgotten photo box, I came across a photo of her that my grandfather took before he passed away. It was a photo of my mom out in the oilfield, after she drilled her first well (which most people probably thought was an insane endeavor for a stay-at-home mom). Stuck to the note was a yellow post-it, and in his handwriting were the words “I’m so proud of you!!” I framed that picture, post-it and all, and surprised her with it.
So, if you need a special gift that is about as cheap as it gets, start tracking down those old photos, familiarize yourself with Picasa, and shop around for frames on clearance. The gift of a memory is definitely a gift from the heart.
When I first moved back to Louisiana, we had an overly ambitious bagel shop in the middle of my hometown. This bagel shop not only offered a plethora of fresh bagels for its patrons, but it also served several bagel-sandwich options for lunch. The lunch-hour business was an essential market for this part of town, though the local college did contribute to eateries in its’ immediate vicinity.
My sister and I loved the veggie bagel, which was basically a bagel of your choice piled high with vegetable-laden cream cheese. Considering that we were two high school girls who avoided vegetables like the plague, our love of the veggie bagel was indicative of how good it was.
Unfortunately, a bagel shop was too ambitious for both the city and the time in which we lived. This was Louisiana, after all.
Bagels?? Um, can we say Yankee much?
Bagels were far outside of our cultural influence, but more so, the bagel shop existed long before riverboat gaming, economic growth and national restaurant chains helped broaden our community’s perceptions and economy. Though we lost our one and only bagel shop, I never got over my craving for their veggie bagel. A few years ago, I stumbled across this recipe for Roasted Vegetable Cream Cheese:
Well, not only does this recipe conjure my memories of our long-lost bagel shop, but it also acts as a flavorful bagel spread, dip and overall appetizer for any event I’ve hosted. This recipe is an awesome way to sneak vegetables into the unsuspecting masses, or to wow unknowing guests. While I prefer to serve it on bagels for me, or on mini-bagels for guests, you could still serve it as a spread with crackers if you were so inclined.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.2. Place the bell pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl and toss until the vegetables are coated. Spread the vegetables evenly on sheet pan lined with foil and place to the oven. Roast, tossing occasionally, until they are soft and are beginning to turn brown around the edges, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.3. Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor along with the cream cheese and process until well combined and spreadable; do not process until completely smooth.4. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.