Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

Time is a funny thing. It stands still. It flies by. Yet when it is gone… it is gone. 006I had to dust off the keyboard since I haven’t been on the computer in a while. Geez. I know I missed a letter in the alphabet this past Sunday. I will try to make it up to you all, ’cause I know you all sitting on pins and needles just wondering what I will come up with H. Ha (oooooh, that is an “H”)

I am enjoying the cooler weather that winter has brought to South Texas. I am just so much more comfortable right now, and it feels better when I turn up the stove to bake or cook something too. Rosemary-Lemon cookiesOn Wednesday, I did just that. I made some Rosemary Lemon Cookies for the Annual Cookie Exchange with the culinary group I am in. I have posted about these cookies before, but I forget how wonderful they are until I make them again, and drool.

Unfortunately, I was only able to sample one. ONE! The batch made up exactly what I needed for the exchange plus 2 extra (one for me, one for my husband!)

I returned home with six different types of cookies and that will make my husband happy for a while. Once the sugar buzz has worn off, I will make some more of the Rosemary Lemon Cookies for us.

There are a few things that I love about these cookies; I can walk right outside and pick fresh rosemary to use, they don’t have a lot of sugar in them, they are crispy, and they remind me of shortbread.

What are you baking right now?

Sincerely, Emily

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I started thinking about Halloween cards earlier this month, then a little tug in my memory somewhere made me think that I had already made them.

Off I went up the stairs in search (gotta do it while I am thinking about it or that thought is gone lately!)Oct 2013 2

Low and behold, there they were. Done! Good job Em!

After looking for a photo to use in the this post, I see that I made these cards back in February! I love it when I think ahead.

When I was making these cards, I remember running short on designer paper so I made up another version. Just added another layer of cardstock (black).Oct 2013 3

Here are some other Halloween cards that I have made:

You can also see some other holiday cards that I have been working on.

Will you be making some card this holiday season?

Sincerely, Emily

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I have been looking around for a different cookie recipe to take to a cookie exchange that I am going to next week. In the process I came across a recipe for Pecan Pie Bars. My husband is a big fan of pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and my neighbor usually makes the pecan pie and I usually make an apple cranberry thingy. Well, this year, for Thanksgiving, I completely dropped the ball on desert and Wednesday night by husband asked if we were having pumpkin pie…. ahhh, no.

I did get him to agree to help me with the pecan pie bars and boy, they were great!

Pecan Pie Bars

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. crust: combine flour, powdered sugar and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until your mixture is course crumbs. Pat the crumb mixture into an ungreased 11×7 baking dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it is a golden brown.

“Pie” filling
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1T cornstarch
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

While you crust is baking, mix together eggs, pecans, brown sugar, agave syrup, 2 T melted butter and vanilla. Spread this mixture over your baked crust.
Bake for 20 minutes (350F/180C). Cool before cutting.

We cut our bars rather large (15 bars). I know I will be making these bars a few more times through December and will cut them much smaller (24 bars).

When I found this recipe, I didn’t have light corn syrup on hand, so I turned to our resident baker here at NDIN (Emily at Tanglewood Farm) about using a substitute and she recommended trying agave syrup. After I mixed the “filling” it seemed a bit thin and runny so I decided to add 1T of cornstarch to the mix. I have NO idea if this helped or not. All I can tell you is the “filling” was firm and came out fine.

When I decided to try this recipe I was looking forward to using my Vitamix to make the powdered sugar. Before I got started, I looked up in the cupboard, waaaaay in the back, just to make sure there wasn’t any store-bought powdered sugar still lurking up there. OH, MY! I found A LOT of powdered sugar up there. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I used any powered sugar, but I can also tell you that even though I gave away a ton of food before we moved to Texas (4+ years ago), somehow this powdered sugar came with us. Crazy! I can also tell you that this stuff in OLD. I probably would have bought this when I was taking cake decorating classes when we lived in Palm Springs. That was about 10 years ago. YIKES!

If any of you are from California, you will also laugh, because one of the packages is from Lucky (grocery store) and another box I found is from Stater Brothers. Lucky closed many years ago, but Stater brothers is still around out there.

What kind of treats are you baking this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

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On Thursday, we’ll indulge in the great American celebration of excess that is Thanksgiving. It’s a strange week to be thinking about thrift and frugality.

On the other hand, we’re already well into the annual assault on our senses that is the holiday advertising season, when we learn how desperately we need a lot of shit that we don’t need, not to mention how buying it is the only way to prove to your family and friends that you love them. It’s particularly grating in my family, as my husband is a choral musician, and there’s nothing like a holiday ad for mangling great works of choral literature.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it celebrates consumption and indulgence, a big part of that indulgence is the immersion in family, in thankfulness, in tradition, in things made, and not just things consumed.

So many of the best family memories focus on Thanksgiving. My friend Terry’s amazement that I whipped my potatoes by hand. It never occurred to me to use a beater, and I still don’t like to. I think it makes the potatoes gluey. Watching the kids slowly turn their focus from childish to adult, as one by one, they stopped leaving the adult conversation after the meal. My annual fight with everyone else in the family over canned cranberry sauce which we never ever ever (ever) had until about 4 years ago, and which everyone now insists is a “tradition.” Did I mention that we NEVER had this before? Ever. I must have been having Thanksgiving in some alternate universe, because I’m pretty sure I was making this cranberry sauce every damn year for decades.

World’s Best Cranberry Chutney (From the old Sphere magazine)
1 lb cranberries (these used to come in 16 oz bags, now they’ve reduced bag size to 12 oz, so just deal)
1 cup white sugar*
1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup water
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped apple (Granny Smiths)
1/2 c. chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, sugar, raisins and spices in 1 cup water, uncovered, in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the cranberries release their juice (about 15 minutes). Keep heat low, and stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold. I think it’s best when made the day before and stored in the fridge, then served at room temperature for the actual meal.

* if you don’t want to use sugar, substitute 1 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. You’ll need to simmer it a little longer due to the excess liquid.


Indulgence can be a profane act of excess for the sake of excess, or it can be a sacred meal, shared with the ones you love most. You can consume for consumption’s sake, or in celebration of life’s sweetness.  Consumption can be extraction, leaving you sick and unhappy, or creation, which transports you.

How will you balance the profane and the holy this week?

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Merry and Bright

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.

As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself: “Why, this is Christmas Day!”

~David Grayson

For those of you who are celebrating the Christmas holiday today, we hope your day is filled with all that is Merry and Bright. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Not Dabbling in Normal!

Our Dark Days recaps will resume next week with the East Group.

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Handmade Gift Giving

Gifts do not need to cost a lot.

They don’t need to be mass produced from some foreign land.

Most often the very best gifts are those made with love and full of sweet memories!

This has more meaning than any fancy piece of artwork I could purchase.

It was made for people I love…

Featuring people I love!

Besides…it was much more fun to make than braving the crowds in town shopping for the perfect gift!

So how about you?

Are you holidays going to handmade?


If you would like to know how I made the framed are go here for a tutorial

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Cranberry Apple Relish

Here at Chiot’s Run we LOVE cranberry relish when it comes to Thanksgiving Day meals. I make a big batch each year and we take some to all of our holiday gatherings. It’s a quick and easy side dish and it really adds a great flavor to your turkey meal. Here’s my favorite recipe.

1 (12-16 oz) bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
1 cup of cider (you can use water if you don’t have cider)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon grated cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cook covered for about 30 minutes (make sure you keep it covered as cranberries have a tendency to pop). Uncover, taste and adjust sugar and seasonings to your family’s liking. Cook until desired consistency; if you like it thick cook longer, if you like it thinner you can turn off now or add water if it’s already too thick. Chill and serve.

Do you take a big scoop of cranberry relish at the table, or do you pass it on to the next person?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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It is fun to explore how each of us has our own unique holiday traditions.   Today we have tried to capture some of the magic of our personal traditions with our photos…enjoy!

Each year we make homemade ornaments…these are Christmas balls we made for Sweet Girl’s pink tree.

There is the annual gingerbread house…

We try to find snow somewhere!

Getting out weird and wonderful Christmas decorations!

And of course there are the usual holiday greeting to send!

Here at Chiot’s Run we have a lot of traditions, some very strange. I don’t have many photos of our traditions, I guess I’ll have to make sure to take some this year. We always have a nativity and one of those candle things that makes the angels spin. This nativity is the family set my mom gave me, it’s from Colombia, which is the country I was born and raised in (my parents work there).

Being a religious family, my dad always reads through the Christmas story before we open gifts. We then open gifts one by one, everyone watches the person opening the gift. It’s so great to see the reactions.

While we open gifts we enjoy homemade cookies, candies and pie and we sip on eggnog, coffee, or hot chocolate.

Mr Chiots and I have made a few traditions of our own. We make a big breakfast on Christmas morning and watch vintage James Bond movies all day and as many as we can fit in before New Year’s.

So our not so normal readers…What are some of your unique traditions at the holidays?

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Well we are in the full swing of the holiday gift giving season.  It is so easy to get caught up in the feeding frenzy that is this shopping season!  We thought we would share photos of some of the homemade gifts that we are giving or have been given to us.  Nothing says I love you like something that you have taken the time to make for someone special.

At Roberts Roost the kids have been busy making gifts.  RR built some bird houses,

JJ wove some scarves,

and helped mom make wreaths.

And they built a new crèche for to help celebrate the season.

Here at Chiot’s Run we celebrate a “homemade” Christmas each year. Gifts have to be homemade/handmade or something using your talents. We set a limit of $20 for supplies/ingredients. It’s always fun coming up with fun ideas. Since I love to sew, I made cloth shopping bags for all the ladies in my family last year. I plan on making more this year since I’ve received numerous requests. I usually use old curtains as the main fabric and cloth ribbon (100 yds for $5) so they’re very inexpensive. These cost me pennies each to make.

I also make homemade cinnamon rolls for everyone in both of our families. They’re a HUGE hit. I like giving gifts that get consumed so they don’t take up space, and who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls. I found these great tree shaped pans at a bakery supply place on-line. They cost me less than a dollar each!

I make tons of canned jams/jellies/chutneys as gifts as well. These are given to our professional/work friends. It makes a great gift since most people enjoy jams & jellies, especially the homemade kind!

I am famous for one Christmas specialty: chocolate covered cherries. I have people come out of the woodwork and drive hundreds of miles to get theirs during the holidays. I must say, they are good, I eat my share as I’m making them!

This year I made a calendar featuring a few of my photos for most of my family. I had them printed up at Lulu, but since I took all the photos myself I figure it counts as handmade? It was much cheaper to get them professionally printed than to try to do that part myself. They’re a huge hit with the few people that have received them already.

This year for me it is all about knitting…after years of not picking up my knitting needles I have taken it up again with a vengence.  Everyone is getting a scarf…or two!


White Grape Peach Jelly is the flavor this year in the Christmas baskets…yum!

There will be banana bread…

And apple raisin sticky buns…

And photo books all around!

So what handmade gifts are you giving this year?  What handmade gift have you been given in the past that is dear to your heart?

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Handmade Holidays

I have been noticing that with the economy the way it is that there is a push for frugal gifts focusing on homemade.  There are ‘buy handmade’ pledges all over the blogs.  I think this is a worthy goal to be sure.

But I have decided that I do not want to buy homemade this but want to make it myself.  I have enlisted the help of one of my big boys and my little girl.

We have come up with a list of what we like to do, what we do well and how that can translate into gifts for our loved ones.

My 21 year old son is a great baker.  He and I are going to bake and fill baskets with goodies for our friends.  We are including artisan breads, cookies, quick breads, tarts and biscotti.  To this we will add homemade jams, jellies, preserves and dried fruits.

He and I are also knitting a variety of scarves and hats to give away.

Sweet Girl and I have already made sets of marble magnets for everyone and will include this in decorative tins with varies photos I have taken of the family and the garden.  She is adding to this a specially drawn picture for the recipient to hang on their frig with the magnets.

I am also using my photos to have photo books printed for my mom, sister, and mother in law.  I took pics of my neices and am having those photos framed for my sister in law.  I am making a scrapbook for hubby with pictures I’ve taken of the progress we have been making remodeling our cabin.

For my best girlfriends I am making felt pillows in each of their favorite colors.

The hard group of people to stick to handmade for is my college age sons…they really just want cash, lol!

For the one leaving for college this spring I have made a recipe book of all his very favorite things to eat.  For my second son who is being a ski bum this winter I am making a scarf.  My oldest who is graduating and getting ready for his first real job I am still thinking of how to incorporate something homemade for his first house…

So I have my job cut out for me over the next couple of months. The housework may suffer and the laundry my multiply…but I’m sure it will be well worth it.

Besides I figure what I spend in effort I will save big time in money…which isn’t exactly the point but it doesn’t hurt either!

So, do you have any interesting handmade gifts planned for you love ones this year and if so would you like to share?

And any handmade ideas for my 23 year old heading out into the real world and setting up his first home?

Kim can be found at the inadvertent farmer raising organic fruits, veggies, critter, kids…and a camel!

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