A Few of My Favourite Things

My daughter will not be happy with me for mentioning Christmas before the first of December, but I just can't help myself and it's for truly selfless reasons.  I thought sharing a few of my favourite things might give you some Christmas ideas for that wonderful person on your list who enjoys cooking, eating, photography, reading, writing and spending time with loved ones.

This is a great little stocking stuffer.  I stumbled across it at Valoroso when they were giving out little samples of it with cheese and bread.  It's a basic paste of hot pepper, olive oil, and white white wine vinegar.  I put it a little dab of it on everything I can think of, like scrambled eggs, meatloaf, or apetizers. A half a spoonful tastes great swirled into a bowl of pasta.  There are a couple different flavours and sizes but I find the 90 g bottle of "love fire" has the best flavour and the most comfortable heat.   

A fountain pen makes a great gift for any writer.  My daughter bought me this simple one for Mother's Day a couple of years ago and I love writing with it.  You can buy a box of five ink refills at Opus for $5.00 and they seem to last a long time.

Though it's been challenging finding writing paper (the paper above is parchment I bought from Opus and cut down to writing paper size), I've always enjoyed writing a longhand letter.  I've turned it into a weekly ritual,  since my daughter left for UCLA.  Each Monday I write her a summary of the events I've skipped on Skype and Facebook, ending with an inspirational quote.  I'm sure she likes receiving the letters as much as I enjoy writing them.  

A few weeks ago I made a fun addition to the letters when I purchased some sealing wax and a "W" 
seal from Michael's. You can find them in the wedding department.  If you want to purchase one there, make sure you check the Michael's website for their weekly discount coupons, or down load their free app and they can quickly scan your smart phone as you go through the til.  Since I did, I don't think I've paid full price for anything in the store. 

I've never used the seal on the envelope.  I don't think it would survive the rigours of automated sorting, but I do use it to seal the writing paper, which can mean folding it a bit oddly at times.  I kind of overdid it on the wax here, so I could get a result that would photograph well.

This favourite thing is not an iphone or ipod, but a membership to Audible.  Audible is an app that allows you to download audio books at great prices.  There are a number of different memberships you can buy and they often start with a special offer.  When I joined, membership was free for the first month, $7.95 for the next three months and then $14.95 a month after that.  Membership gives you one "free" book a month and if you'd like to purchase more than one book in a month, you get them at a greatly reduced rate.  The good news is there's no contract and you can cancel at any time.  

Thanks to Audible I can be assured to get through my book club book each month, listening while I do housework, grocery shop, walk the dogs or anything else I can do that doesn't require 100% of my attention. 

If you've been following this blog at all, you knew I wouldn't be able to resist a plug for my favourite photo book site.  A gift certificate for Blurb is a great gift for the  photographers and creative types on your list.  Since 2007 I've made 11 Blurb books.  They have the best quality and the best price of any online self publishing company that I've come across and once you sign up you'll discover they have a sale almost once a month.  I've never paid full price. Since I started making my books, Blurb has added new templates to include every type of photo book you can imagine plus daytimers, novels, cook books, books from blogs, instagram, facebook, as well as yearbooks and magazines.  You're only limited by your imagination.  And if you don't have the time to do your own book, they have a long list of creative people who can do it for you, for a price...

This neat gadget is another cute stocking stuffer.  It costs $3.98 at Lens and Shutter and helps make it easier to sort through the hundreds of slides you may have inherited from your parents.  I came home with quite a collection the last time I helped my dad sift through some boxes.  I'd love to turn them into jpegs but it would be very expensive to get all of them converted.  This little do-hickey (no idea what it's called) helps you sort the good from the bad. You just pop the slide in, hold it up to the light and look through the eye piece.  Compared to a slide projector and screen, it's easier to use, requires a lot less room and is much easier to find.

Another great gift along this line is a slide scanner allowing you to do the conversion at home. Many cost less than $100.00.

The next great gift is for a cook you really want to spoil.  It's a Le Creuset 7 quart cast iron dutch oven.  I'm afraid that's not what's in the photo above.  Though it is one of my favourite things, I do not own a Le Creuset dutch oven.   What you see here is the rising bread dough for a recipe that calls for a 7 quart cast iron Le Creuset.  It was my first attempt at this really tasty ciabatta bread that requires no kneading at all and turned out to be pretty good.  I made in a metal Lagostina dutch oven that I was able to put in the oven - though I did burn my hand when I accidentally touched the handle later, forgetting it had  been in the oven at 450 degrees.  If it was cooked in a  Le Creuset 7 quart cast iron dutch oven I'm sure I wouldn't have touched it and I think it would have tasted even better, don't you?

The last of my favourite things is not an iPhone or an iPhone app, it's the gift of time.  The best gift I've received from my husband was a day timer for the upcoming year. He had written different activities for us to do together throughout the book.  They weren't expensive things, in fact most were free and there wasn't something to do every week. It was simple things like going for a walk along the lake, hiking with the dogs, meeting for lunch or coffee, renting a movie or going to an outdoor concert.   Whether it's your child, your grandmother, your spouse or your friend, a promise to set aside some of your time to do something together really is a precious gift.


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