Recipes Coming Up…

Now that I’m starting to feel a bit more normal, I thought I’d pick up a project I started way back that I never got to finish. Last night I finished adding the links to recipes I posted at Like to Cook when I used to write there. The recipe links can now be found at the Recipe Index. Those, I cannot re-post here because they paid for all the rights. So I can only link. Today while I’m on reprieve from nausea I’m taking time to re-post recipes that I posted at Noodles and Rice. Enjoy!!

Hable-Inspired Christmas Stockings

I forgot to mention in a previous post — where I posted a pic of the Christmas stockings we made — that I got the idea while perusing the latest catalog from Garnet Hill. Years back I started collecting religious-themed needlepoint stocking kits, meaning to make one per child. Well, it’s been several Christmases and I’ve got two started and none finished. The Garnet Hill catalog reminded me that dh had bought stocking hangers last year, and I promised myself the
kids would use them this year for St. Nick, instead of their shoes put outside the door (which has worked really well in the past). The new year came, and it’s almost gone, and I have not touched the stocking kits save the time when I was organizing in the basement. Guilt was the first thing that came to me when I saw the Hable stockings! And then I thought — hey, we can make this!

Our wool felts cost $35+ for the whole collection (24 colors or something like that, from a Montessori supplier), the kids must have used 12 or so of them making their stockings. And they’re far more personalized than I originally envisioned, as each child designed his/her own stocking and drew them out and even did a lot of their own appliquing and embroidery. (The boys grumbled a bit, something about boys and sewing not going together, LOL, but they kept at it.)

I couldn’t help feeling proud. The Hable Christmas stockings at Garnet Hill cost $48 each, +$6 with personalization. Stockings directly from Hable are $76 and up. Ours cost $2 each or so, plus a day of sitting around the living room sewing, drawing, cutting, and talking. Our stockings cost mostly time, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was time well spent. The kids want to do it again next year.

Note: I didn’t show them the catalog page until AFTER all our work was done. They were so proud of themselves as well.

The Loveliness of Handmade Gifts

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Dawn of By Sun and Candlelight is hosting this year’s “Loveliness of Handmade Gifts Fair”. (Don’t miss her link to last year’s fair as well.) She invites us to share our homemade-gift-giving traditions. This is something I really feel strongly about because we want our family to get further away from the over-commercialization of Christmas which gets worse every year. It can get difficult esp. these days when we are bombarded left and right with buy-this-buy-that messages. We still buy some gifts for giving, but an ideal Christmas for us would be one where everything is kept simple, and preferably, homemade. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re not going to give up trying.

My favorite homemade gift — I guess you could call them my “signature gift” — are cookies. Why? Cookies allow us (Aisa and me) to indulge in two passions — art and baking! And cookies are always very welcome wherever we take them, so they’re great for last-minute parties or guests too. I’ve only ever had two “objections” to cookies — one from a friend who made a face when she got them (whoops, mea culpa, she may have been trying to lose weight that year), and an in-law who told me that “people don’t appreciate these sorts of gifts” — I took it to mean herself, and so these two still-loved-ones 😀 always get store-bought gifts now.

I’m following some of the suggestions from Organized Christmas this year. Every year I try to make ALL gifts homemade, and every year, I wait until the last minute, around the 21st or 22nd of Dec., to say, “Okay, I give up, we’re only human and we can’t do all of this, so let’s go shopping!” This year we’re stopping early. Whatever isn’t done by the time Advent is here will be postponed for next year (except for cookies, since baking is one of the ways we slow down and de-stress during Advent). It’s a lovely time to fill the house with lovely scents.

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This year, because we’re a little short on funds, Christmas gift-giving is a little leaner. Some of our loved ones will be receiving handmade rosaries; we got our kits from Rosary Shop.

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Others will receive homemade food gifts — I’ve already made some gooseberry jam which I hope to pair with some tea and/or homemade scone mix. Tomorrow we’ll get to work on some Filipino sinamak — basically a spiced vinegar, filled with hot peppers, garlic and sometimes ginger, kinda like a homemade Tabasco sauce. I may add some Asian infused oils to go with it. A good book for making infused oils is The China Moon Cookbook. If you’ve got an Asian food lover on your list, this is perfect, and infused oils are so easy to make. Add some chopsticks, some dried noodles and you’re good to go. Some of the moms on my list may be getting homemade non-toxic cleansers, in inexpensive spray bottles and tied with ribbon, with a recipe for refills — they’ll be scented with my new favorite Candy Cane essential oil from Aura Cacia.

For packaging, I used to get silver or gold ballotins online or at a local cake decorating store, but these things can get really expensive, so this year I’m using Christmas plastic bags instead for the cookies, and colored and/or stamped paper bags. With some tissue and glitter these should be fine. The bags are available at Michael’s, though last year I found an article about certain plastic bags not being safe for food, so I’ll have to track down the safe ones, soon. For the vinegars and oils, we’re using some French soda bottles that I purchased (along with the soda) at the beginning of the year. They have that hermetic seal (?) that you pop off — just the jars alone will cost you a pretty penny at container stores, but these are FREE, except that my kids got a bit too much sugar from drinking the soda:).

In years past, or whenever we had room in the budget, I liked to put together entire food baskets. Some examples:

  • a jar of homemade puttanesca sauce, some homemade dried pasta, a bottle of Italian wine, a jar of homemade dressing, or dressing mix, homemade breadsticks and a chunk of Parmigiano or Romano cheese. If you’re not into making these things, store-bought and put-together will do.
  • Homemade scone mix paired with Christmas tea and Homemade Lemon Curd is also a no-fail pair.
  • Homemade English muffins (cut in Christmas shapes), homemade or store-bought Hollandaise sauce, plus some Canadian bacon and a dozen free-range eggs.
  • If you’d like to do these, keep in mind that you’ll need room in your refrigerator and you can’t do this too far in advance — not more than 7 days — because of the potential for food poisoning. Ball and other canning supply manufacturers don’t recommend canning your own Hollandaise or Lemon Curd (I’ve asked them), so when I make mine I always refrigerate them and/or give them right away).

  • For those fruitcake-lovers on the list — a small fruitcake (pannetone “muffins” are also good) paired with coffee or tea.
  • Homemade pancake mix with instructions, plus organic, fair-trade coffee and organic maple syrup
  • For those that are sending gifts to faraway friends and family, I sometimes like to send something from the area, i.e., Cincinnati chili mix or canned sauce, plus some old fashioned preserves made locally.

I usually get my ideas from perusing magazines and catalogs — that’s usually when the thought “Hey, we can do that, for a lot less money and a lot more heart!” starts to niggle at me. These days I usually show them to my oldest (16) so we can brainstorm.

Handmade gifts can save a family money because you can always buy your raw materials when they’re on sale throughout the year and stock up. However, you do need to be very organized for this or you’ll end up like me trying to do one last run to Michael’s or the grocery store in the last few days leading up to Christmas, trying to find the one item you forgot to buy, and then stressing when it’s out of stock! I’ve learned my lesson:). Making gifts also tend to slow down the Advent season for us because we can sit down, make some gifts together, have some tea and talk while we make gifts and/orwrap them, etc. Plus you have to factor in the cost of STRESS when shopping at the malls for that last-minute gift. Yuk! Our resolution this year is to not go to ANY mall or store after December 1. And of course, making gifts for loved ones really brings home the concept that Christmas is all about giving of YOURSELF.

And then there are the lessons that come with this *giving of yourself*. This year I thought I was teaching my children the virtue of humility and the grace to accept imperfection, but it seems that *I* was the one who needed the lesson. 😀

Next year I’d like to get back to Christmas card making. For this I like using old Christmas cards that we didn’t get to use or that a toddler doodled on. When I was little, I was most fascinated with those cards that we got from nun friends — they were made from linen paper and nature finds like sticks and dried flowers, and were both utterly simple and beautiful. One of my favorites was a nativity scene with sticks and some dried grass as Baby Jesus’ manger. Maybe we’ll try some next year

We’d also like to get back to knitting a few things for Christmas. It’s been 9 years since I gave my mom some knitted socks and my dad a knitted scarf. Aisa loves to knit as well, and Yena’s wanting to learn, so it would be a good time to learn/relearn. Maybe I’ll even teach the boys to knit and/or crochet:)

Thank you so much, Dawn, for hosting! Looking forward to reading all the other entries!!


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