Friday, December 12, 2014

To Buy For

Since starting Make It or Bake It, I have very few people to buy for. The Sidekick is at the top of the list, though he's been kind of hard to buy for this year. He kind of has expensive tastes. I'm too poor to have a boyfriend, really, but the heart wants what the heart wants. It's the thought that counts, right? Right?

I always do a stocking for my sister, as well. This year, she is also hard to buy for. Mostly because I have very little funds.

Other then that, I have four friends I like to get things for and my parents. These people understand the financial situation, so I'm not going to stress if I can buy them the moon. The pets also get presents. Not spoiled, though. I hope my list isn't ridiculous. I mean, I try my best to keep it to a minimum which is why I rarely get close to new people.

Just kidding.

What does your buying list look like?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Spirit Of Giving

One of the things I am grateful for is working for a company that enjoys giving back. Earlier in the year, I put together a different basket worth over five hundred dollars and had donations from four local businesses. All the proceeds went towards helping buy a parcel of land for our community forest. This is the point of community. To give back. 

This month, I put together a basket worth over $150 and it has many amazing things in it. It's a raffle for anyone who brings in a non-perishable food item. And it is called incentive. On one hand, it makes me sad people need incentive to donate food to those in need. On the other, I'm excited to be able to help and encourage people to pull out the items from their cupboard they no longer want or need. (Or clothes and blankets!)

So, as it draws closer to the holiday season, try to keep in mind those who may need a little help. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Childhood Traditions

There weren't a lot of traditions in my house as I grew up. We always hung our stockings up and left out cookies and milk for Santa. Don't worry, we didn't forget out the carrot for Rudolph. I remember my mother working on Christmas a fair bit. In the mornings, we were allowed to open our stockings, but had to leave the other gifts for when my mom got home.

One of my most favourite parts of the holiday season was driving around with my parents looking at the houses that were decorated to the nines. They used to print the best houses in the paper for the Christmas light tour. A couple of the houses were interactive where you could get out and go in the backyard, have a cup of apple cider, and there was even one with a Santa.

Also, later in life, I liked wrapping presents with my mother and sister. Patricia would sit on one side of the bed, me on the other and my mom across from me. Each of us would have a different person's gifts to wrap. There was something hectic and awesome about that evening. Something I really enjoyed.

On Christmas Eve we'd have macaroni and cheese, my mom used Cheese Whiz and would cut up canned meat in it. That might be weird to hear coming from my vegan fingertips, but I loved it. And there was always a big dinner on Christmas. I suppose my mom's stuffing is a great way to end this blog. It's the same stuffing I still make. Of course, I don't stuff it in a turkey's butt. Neither does my mom! Still one of the things I look forward to about the holiday.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Your Playlist

My playlist isn't playing Christmas music quite yet. I am stuck in a vortex of Fleetwood Mac and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I wish I could share with you all the festive music I've been listening to, but it's pretty much been this on repeat:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Make It Or Bake It

For the last two year, the Sidekick and I have participated in Make It Or Bake It for Christmas. The idea behind it is to try and make or bake the majority of your gifts for coworkers, friends, family, or anyone you are giving something to because you feel obligated to. Just kidding. Last year, I knitted the girls I work with each something unique. This year I am doing the same. It is quite the endeavour. And, like last year, I am insisting I am going to start earlier for Christmas 2015. I never end up giving myself enough time.

If you aren't a knitter, or artistically awesome like the Sidekick who can draw, literally anything, there are other ways to participate in Make It Or Bake It. Two years ago I made caramel corn for a few family members, which I think they enjoyed, and this year I am going to try my hand at candies for those I love.

The simple fact is, I am too poor to buy everyone gifts (granted, knitting people things is also kind of expensive). And I also am finding the consumerism of Christmas daunting, which is why Make It Or Bake it was brought into fruition.

What are you making or baking for people this year?

The Endpaper Mitts I made for Tiffiny last year. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Go To Gifts

Stockings have always been my favourite. Not only to receive, but to give. When I was young, we always got a movie and music, a magazine and toothbrush, things we needed, like elastics and bobby-pins, and things we didn't, like candy.

We all have our go to gifts. Here are seven go-to gifts that never seem to disappoint and are useful as well as fun:

1. Socks - Everyone loves socks. Slap a cute animal or funny word on it and you will definitely have a hit.

2. Magazine - The great part about magazines is there are so many out there. Knitting magazines. Tattoo magazines. Fashion magazines. Science magazines. Hockey magazines. There is a magazine for every single person in your life.

3. Bubble Bath - Sometimes guys will tell you they don't like to take bubble baths. They are lying. They love taking bubble baths. You can make it a bit more manly by gravitating away from flower scents, but who doesn't love a little lavender in their life? Men. Women. Children. Parents. Girlfriends. Husbands. Say it with me, bubbly bath. They'll love it.

4. Tea - This might be a bit more tailored to tea drinkers, because there are some that don't partake. Then you can buy some artisan coffee instead. A diffuser and loose leaf tea, always a big hit. Make it something season just to make the person feel more Christmasy.

5. Toys - It doesn't matter how old someone is, toys will always make them happy. Think about the toys you had as a kid, like the Etch-A-Sketch or Barrel Of Monkeys, they are still available! These classic time wasters will have your secret Santa buddy ecstatic.

6. Candy - There are sweet treats for everyone you know whether they be vegan, lactose intolerant, or just difficult. Pick up something delectable that you can eat on boxing day while you curl up in front of the television in your pyjamas.

7. Gift Cards - It doesn't have to be a massive amount, either. A fifteen dollar Starbucks card or twenty buck card to Chapters will have most people stoked. It's a stocking, it doesn't have to be too extravagant.

These are the things I love to shove in a stocking for the ones I love. What are your go-to gifts? I love ideas. So, let's help each other out this year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

In My Oven

One of the best parts of Christmas time and winter is the baking. The cooking. Feasting and filling the tummies of the people you love. I love to bake, as you might know. In fact, I call myself the Master Baker, mostly because it sounds dirty. The Vegan Master Baker, of course. Out of all the seasonal goodies I make, my most favourite is the Cranberry Upside-Down cake. It's simple and divine. Honestly, you won't ever taste anything quite so good.

Here is the recipe:

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (Vegan, duh)

1/2 Cup - Earth Balance Butter
1 Cup - Sugar (I use unrefined)
1 Tsp - Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp - Nutmeg
2 Cups - Fresh Cranberries
1 Faux Egg - either a flax egg or egg replacer works, either or. I've used both.
1.5 Tsp - Vanilla
1 and 1/4 Cups - Flour
1.5 Tsp - Baking Powder
1.4 Tsp - Salt
1/2 Cup - Coconut Milk (or non-dairy milk of your desire)

Preheat oven 350

1. Grease bottom of an 8 inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the Earth Balance.

2. Mix 1/2 cup of sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over the bottom of the greased pan, then line pan with the cranberries, spreading as evenly as possible. 

3. Make the cake. Cream the rest of the butter (6 tablespoons) and sugar (1/2 a cup) together. Add the vanilla and faux egg. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). 

4. Mix with the beater the flour and butter together, alternating the dry with the coconut milk. Once well combined, pour batter over the cranberries. 

5. Bake the cake for about 20-25 minutes, but keep an eye on it. When a toothpick comes out clean it is done! Also, this cake might spill over to place some foil under the pan on the rack. I tip this over onto a place right from the oven because whenever I tried to let it cook the bottom of the cake would stick to the pan and it wouldn't come out nicely. An easy tip is to keep your oven mitts on, put a plate on top of the cake, then tip upside down. Hit bottom of the pan to be sure it comes out. You can also run a knife along the edges to loosen a bit before tipping it over. 

Eat it all up! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Get Outdoors

Despite what people think, I am not buried in snow 9 months of the year. I live on the West Coast, what I commonly refer to as the Best Coast. For those who are geographically challenged, I am just above the state of Washington (think Seattle), and our weather is quite similar. During the winter season, it can get cold, but it is December 5th today and we have no snow. We do, however, have rain.

When it starts to get chilly, it is only natural to withdraw inside. Like a bear, I too enjoy hibernation. Unfortunately, the job and living life gets in the way of sleeping a season away. But am I the only one who relishes the thought of gorging on food, then sleeping for four months?

Now, I don't like snow, but I love the freshness in the air when Winter arrives. Cold nipping at your cheeks. While it is detrimental to my fingers to spend excessive amounts of time outside, there are a few adventures I love having. The number one is going to the beach when it is chilly. No one is there and the waves always seem more wild. Walking in the rain is another favourite. It's almost as though you can hear the trees exhale in appreciation.

Once the snow does arrive, I will build snow creatures. Last year, the Sidekick and I built a octsnowpus. It was magical. And there is something soothing about the sound of snow crunching under one's boots. This year, I have a new pair of gumboots and I am excited to give them a go.

On the other hand, I loathe driving in the snow. It freaks me out. And that is why I dread it. Also, when the white snow turns to slush, it makes the world look dirtier.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Do It Yourself

As I typed the title of this here post, I thought of an awesome way to touch on independence and taking care of yourself. But that isn't going along with the theme, now is it? Instead, I am writing about Christmas. Inspiration strikes when you least want it. Well, it shall not get the best of me today.

One of the reasons I came up with this blogging challenge was so I would have a month of planned out blogs and not have to worry about 'coming up with' stuff to write about on the spot. I may be quick on my feet, but after 11 months straight of blogging, I need a little help. And also, I have a lot of knitting to do. Today, we are talking about doing it yourself.

There are so many Do-It-Yourself Christmas projects out there. I mean, Pinterest is overrun with a million things you could try to make and fail at. I absolutely love making things for people. I've decided to never buy another scarf, toque, mitts or cowl again. Ever. Now that I knit, fairly well, I might add, I can't fathom the idea of buying a cheap knitted item for anyone. However, I will buy you a sweater because I am not that quick of a knitter and have yet to knit myself a sweater, let alone someone else. Knitting is my go-to Do-It-Yourself.

I also bake. When in the grocery store, I avoid the cookie aisle. Sometimes those suckers are so tempting. Except. they never taste as good as homemade cookies. So, another thing I will never buy again, chocolate chip cookies. Or any cookie.Well, except fig newtons. I haven't been able to master those yet, but I did come up with these amazing chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies that are amazing. I'd share the recipe but I can't find it.

This year, I am branching out and trying a new project: caramels. I am determined to make tasty vegan caramels for people. Hopefully, I can master these in time for Christmas giveaways. Fingers crossed. So, if you are looking for me this weekend, you may find me in the kitchen, all sticky and grumpy.

Another thing I would love to try to make is decorations for our tree. I imagine when I have children I will become super crafty overnight and be this amazing Martha Stewart mom. Seriously, I envision making advent calendars and sewing stockings, patchwork quilts and clothing. All things I have no idea how to do now. Dream big, right? Sometimes I see what other people create and get insanely jealous over their raw talent. Some people have it. Others don't.

You know what I definitely can't do. Snowflakes. Just like chain paper dolls holding hands. Anything with scissors and paper, count me out. It's important to know where your lines are. Right?

So, what are you doing yourself this year?

Remember this one? 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cuppa Something

As the temperature takes a dip, people ditch the cold beverages for something warm. Fan favourites tend to be apple cider and hot chocolate, and while I certainly love a finely brewed cup of cider, I've always been a tea drinker. But it's impossible to leave it at that. I mean, there are so many teas out there. I used to be all about the rooibos teas, but lately have been leaning towards black ones.  

There are a couple I've been jumping between. Buttered Rum – which is a divine pirate melody for the tongue – and cranberry pear – a fruity little melody fit for a king (also a black tea).

The truth is, I am looking for a new favourite. There was this one called Sugar and Spice, which I loved, but they aren't making it anymore. Talk about annoying. I thought it was going to be the apple cider tea I picked up from David’s Tea not too long again. It might be tasty, but a favourite it isn’t. One of those teas you can take or leave, and if you do leave, you never really think about it again.

What makes a tea memorable?

Hard to say. Tastes differ too much between people. I love a nutty tea and the Sidekick fell in love with a tea called Pink Lemonade last summer and it was a bit baffling. Sure, it was good, but he didn't even want to share it. I have to admit, it was pretty damn tasty when chilled. But alas, the chilling days are over. 

And if anyone asks, I take my tea straight up. None of that milk and sugar business for me, thank you very much. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This Isn't Really A Christmas Movie

Day two in my December blogging challenge!

A movie with snow in it.

This isn't a Christmas movie, but I have to go with Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince because it's the first one to pop into my head. Sure, people wouldn't consider it a holiday classic, especially when they find out the only reason I thought of it was due to the creepiest part of the movie. You know, when Katie Bell touches the opal necklace and in jerked around in the snow, then suspended in the air, screaming. It's pretty much the most traumatizing part of all the movies.

It's snowing n that scene.

Most of the Harry Potter movies have a Christmas scene but I do believe the Philosopher's Stone has the most holiday merriment, probably to show the young viewers the magic and merriment even wizards have for Christmas. You see Hagrid bringing in the tree and Ron and Harry opening presents, which is when he gets his invisibility cloak. In the Half Blood Prince, Harry is actually at the Burrow for Christmas. As I sit here thinking about Harry Potter, I realize there is a lot of snow in them! I think I'll have a marathon over the few days I have off.

Anyhow, what is the first movie you think of that has snow in it?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Because I'm not a fan of Christmas I am finding it difficult to execute my very first December blogging challenge. Grasping - At - Straws. But because I am channelling my optimistic outlook and always try to go above and beyond I will name THREE things I love about winter, not just one. Talk about a glass half full kind of girl, huh?

1. The freshness in the air.

I'm lucky because I live on an island and am surrounded by trees, so the air quality is actually quite good all year round. Still, there is a certain loveliness to the winter air. The chill bites at your cheeks reminding you how alive you are and there is the scent of wood burning because everyone turns on their fireplaces and start stoking their wood stoves. A lungful can be so invigorating.  

2. Frost.

Not on my car windows, though. Though I don't like snow, I have this affection for snowflakes and the patterns the frost leaves on every surface it touches. In the mornings, the grass is hard and icy, but if you look close at the leaves and flowers, there is this fuzzy frost on it and that's kind of beautiful. 

3. Bundling up.

There's something comforting about staying in your sweatpants, wearing a sweater and pulling out a patchwork quilt. Being warm is glorious. And there is nothing better than knowing you have nowhere to go on a cold day. Bring on the slippers, tea and day lounging about with the pets.