Not just a hobby, it's a way of Life

Archive for December, 2011

In Defense of Gift Cards

(Disclaimer:  I am in no way suggesting that gift-giving should be a requirement at this time of year)

So today I was in the Mart o’ Walton (name changed just in case they try to sue me) . . .

Yes, anti-social me was in the Mart o’ Walton two days before xmas.  And no, I was not buying last-minute gifts.  You see, we were out of bananas . . . anyway, my trip was not holiday-related, but there really wasn’t a better time for me to go.

I was looking around at the various gift sets of this and that when it struck me – these are Gifts of Desperation.

Don’t believe me?  Quick, name someone you know whose life will be endlessly enriched by 48 shades of inexpensive eye shadow.  I don’t need 48 shades of eye shadow.  (I don’t even need one, but that’s another story)   Look at most of the ‘gift’ specials.  Would you really want any of it?  In another store, we saw Chia Pets.  Yes, they still make them, and yes, they are still trying to foist them off as ‘gifts’.

If you’re scrambling at the last minute, this is not the finest hour for decision-making.  You can start shopping in December, but to be successful, the consideration probably needs to be constant throughout the year.  Christmas is not a surprise sprung on us.  It happens every year.  It’s going to happen next year, too.  (Well, unless the Mayans are right, then you’re off the hook.)  And I don’t mean stock up on eye-shadows 90% off a few days after xmas.

Remember, gift-giving is Not About You.  It’s about them.  My mom’s friend shops with the idea of just buying ‘whatever’ and if the person doesn’t like it, they can take it back.  Really, she thinks it’s a gift to make people stand in those return lines?  Is she insane?   (the answer to this is yes, for lots of varied reasons other than the one I just mentioned)

We’ve stepped off that crazy train a few years ago and started giving gift certificates or flat out cash.  Impersonal?  Not as impersonal as that ‘champagne bottle’ of bubble bath I received one year.   Do I ever take bubble baths?  No.  Did the person know that?  I’m pretty sure she couldn’t be bothered with such mundane details.  Our society seems to be caught up in the ‘must give something, anything‘ mania.

Gift cards (or cash) I like to think of as the Gift of Possibility.  When you give a person a gift card, it’s still a surprise.  What will it be?  It could be anything.  And the best part is, the person will love it because they picked out what they treasure.  Even the most diligent friend may not be aware of things we covet.  And some things just need to be picked out by the person who will own them.

Just step away from the Snuggie.

Okay, so maybe it’s not a knitting blog anymore

Well, Mercury being retrograde has messed with the knitting projects, but the good news is the food has been fantastic.  I credit Elsa with inspiring me.  :)

Last week, I made one of our new favorites.  This was inspired by the tri-color potatoes that are sold at the folksy fairs.  I didn’t have three kinds, but I did use russets and sweet potatoes.  Sliced, salted and peppered, touch of oil, then fried.  Excellent.

Then last weekend, we were introduced to Great Harvest Bread Company Tomato Bisque Soup.  Oh my.  I needed a recipe.  And I found one.

I didn’t have celery on hand.  But it still turned out really good.

I also used less chicken broth (3 cups, I believe) and used a large can of crushed tomatoes.

Then after pureeing it, I added evaporated milk instead of the heavy cream.  I tossed in a bit more sugar and some red pepper flakes.

Then what goes great with soup?  Bread!

This is pretty much the standard Dill Casserole Bread recipe.  This was my first attempt at a yeast bread, and I’m happy to report I successfully channeled my champion-bread-baking grandma.

I used regular cottage cheese since I had it on hand and wasn’t interested in buying the creamed stuff.

I didn’t get to let it rise quite as long as I would have liked, but it still raised a respectable amount.

Both recipes received rave reviews.  Yay!

Now to get back on track with the knitting.  Crazy planets.


Keeping up the reputation of this being a knitting blog

You’ve been very patient with me and the food.  But I know at least some of you come here for the knitting.   And Ravelry definitely curtails some of the posting I would probably do because it’s so easy to load things there.   So, without further ado . . .

Starry, starry socks

These are socks made with yarn from Maine (squee!) by Done Roving.  It’s Frolicking Feet in “Starry, Starry Night.”   I think it replicates the night sky rather well.
Starry, starry socks closeup

There’s also been some xmas knitting, and xmas ripping, and more xmas knitting, and xmas flinging back into the yarn room for a time out.   Less said the better.

Okay, so we are redeemed on knitting content.  Now let’s get to the food.  I’ve tried to love brussel sprouts.   I love broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, and almost every other green thing there is.  The one exception has been the sprouts.  I believe it was partially a flavor issue, but more of a textural one.  If I don’t like the texture of a food, it’s not going to happen.  No how, no way.  But what else can you do to brussel sprouts but boil them to death?   I feared they were too compacted to steam well, turning to mush on the outside before the inside would ever be tender.  Cut them in half.  Eh.

Cue Elsa and her magical recipe blog.  How does she know exactly what I need?  Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

Crunchy on the outside, with structure remaining on the inside.  Flavor that doesn’t need to hide behind any butter.

Now, I wonder if she can hook me up with a great tomato bisque recipe?  We headed south this weekend, and our lovely hosts introduced us to the wonder that is Great Harvest Bread Company (GHBC) Tomato Bisque soup.

It really was a fantastic food weekend.  Friday night goulash – the perfect warmth for the cold evening.  Saturday lunch at GHBC – another restaurant to add to the favorites list (of course, the nearest one is about 60 miles away).  Saturday evening – a christmas ham feast prepared by our hosts.  Plus two awesome breakfasts.  Always a great visit, and we can’t wait to return the favor.


I suppose it’s about time

I’ve finally started the not-really-holiday-but-the-occasions-coincide-with-the-holidays-so-close-enough knitting.

I know, I’m way early.

It’s Snowing on the Blog! Again!

Just like it did last year. And it still makes me happy.