Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you the best of the holiday season: love, peace, joy, and happiness. Take a moment, too, to think of those who are struggling this time of year or who don’t have all that you have.
Well, look at that. I never told you all about the crafting I did for Christmas. Meaning the stuff I made to give as presents, not stuff I did for decorations in a Martha Stewart way. Because we all know that’s not me.
Because I knew I was making things for presents, I started early. Like July early. And even then, it was a bit of a scramble to get it all done in time to give as presents. Maybe I was a bit ambitious. Maybe I was just slow. Who knows. And really who cares…it got done!
Remember those friends of mine who had a baby? Well, I decided to make a little sweater for said baby. I have an awesome knit-down, no-finishing pattern that’s super easy. And it looks adorable.
It’s really a purple color with grey trim. For some reason, the colors on my iPhone get screwed up. I should really look into that…anyway, I was happy with how it turned out. I think the parents of said baby were too.
Next up…a scarf for a friend of mine. Most patterns are kinda girly and this was for a guy. So I went to my local yarn store and asked them. They had a great pattern (I think they called it a “rugby scarf” but I call it a “manly scarf”. Tomato, tomahto.) Got the pattern, got the yarn, and started knitting. And knitting. And knitting some more. AND KNITTING. I forget how long scarves are, especially when the recipient is over six feet tall.
But it turned out and I’m happy. I didn’t quite block it enough; the edges curl a bit. But meh, close enough, it was fine.
Scarves for the ladies! I found a great cowl pattern on Ravelry upon recommendation of the fine sales people at the yarn store. And it was free – even better! I got some great wool blend yarn that’s quite soft. That pattern was just K1 P1 in the round, so it went fast.
I should do the pen in the photo for reference, like in science films. Anyway, I made three – gave two and kept one for myself. But I’m not sure I’m stylish enough to know how to wear a giant cowl. Luckily my friend SP has one and will guide me.
Last up, for my dear friend and roommate SR, hot cocoa mix! She LOVES her hot cocoa and who can blame her? Especially with the winter we’re having. I was a bit nervous about it, because she usually adds sugar to hot cocoa because it’s not sweet enough for her. But I found this recipe on Brown-Eyed Baker that I thought might just do it. And psst…it’s so easy! Sugar, chocolate, powdered milk in a food processor and blend. Done. While I was at it, I made some for other gifts too. One batch filled about 8 of these jars.
And you know what? SR loves it and says it’s sweet enough. No need to add sugar. Yes! Success!!
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you the peace, love, joy and hope of this season. Let’s remember, too, those less fortunate or who may be struggling this time of year.
Vodka for as a Christmas present? That’d be totally fine with me. (As would whiskey. And gin. And wine. And a Kindle.) And apparently it works as presents for lots of other people too. Because a lot of people have been asking the Googs recently about how to infuse vodka, and my vodka post gets a ton of hits as a result. And I mean a ton. It’s probably my most popular post.
I think it’s funny how many people are looking to infuse vodka this time of year – my guess as Christmas presents. I did it last year, and I must say – huge hit.
(Side note – apparently I’m into the dash today.)
But isn’t it pretty? And super easy!
You should totally check out how to do it. And majorly impress your friends this holiday season.
It’s the holiday season! Some people say that it starts December 1st (I’m not naming names, SR), but for me it starts with Thanksgiving. More precisely, the day after.
And the holiday season brings out the romantic in me. I love the holiday season. The winter wonderland…
…the television specials…
…and the movies…
…the feeling in the air. I can’t even describe it, really. It’s what they sing about in those holiday songs.
…gift giving. I love giving presents. I don’t have a lot of money, but I’ve been planning for a while. And I’m knitting some things, and I have a good start on those. I love letting people know they’re special to me by giving them presents.
…the decorations. I usually get mine out the day after Thanksgiving. I have roommates this year, so I haven’t gotten mine out. It feels a bit presumptuous to put up my stuff all over our place. But still, I love the decorations in stores and in other people’s houses.
…the friendliness. Everyone seems so happy this time of year. And the idea of families and friends gathering in some Norman Rockwell way brings a warm feeling to my heart.
Now, I know it’s not all rosy. The holidays can be a very challenging time. Depression increases significantly. And it’s easy to feel lonely. For example, a friend of mine was talking about having so many holiday parties to go to, he wasn’t sure if he could make them all. I have one to go to. But strangely, it didn’t bother me. And we all know that spending significant time with some of my family can be challenging for me. And if you don’t have a significant other in your life, it can feel very lonely.
But for some reason, this year, I feel happy. Maybe I’m just in a better place mentally, but I am totally loving the holiday season. I’m OK with being single…actually more than OK. I have a feeling of warmth, and joy, and love, and happiness.
I hope it lasts all month. And I hope you all experience this too, and that the holiday season is full of happiness for you too.
*Survived Christmas with my family – barely.
*Fell into a funk that I think was depression and it made me wonder if I even matter to the world and to the people I know.
*Got to have a cocktail at home!
*Shared my secret to infusing awesome flavors into vodka.
*Had the week off work to relax.
*Worked out 4 out of 6 days last week – YAY!
*Recapped my year.
*Went out for New Year’s eve for the first time in 15 years.
resolutions I mean things I want to refocus on.
*Got bit by a dog at daycare. Luckily he didn’t break the skin, but I have a lovely purple and yellow bruise on my arm.
*Spent most of the week in the thinky place.
*Caught a cold.
I made infused vodka for Christmas presents this year. A few people have asked for the recipe. Part of me hesitates to give it because it’s so crazy easy that people will no longer be impressed by my vodka. But then I remember that I’m a grown-up and not petty, so here it is.
Put a bunch of stuff in a jar, add vodka, shake, and let sit till flavors develop.
There ya go. Done.
OK, if you’re like me, you need a bit more instruction. So here it is. Warning: Math will be involved.
Items to add flavor
I did three flavors this time: orange/clove, cinnamon/vanilla, and garlic/habanero. I used a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka for each flavor.
As you can see, you don’t need the Grey Goose to do this. Don’t go too cheap either. Svedka was just fine.
If you use a smaller bottle, you’ll need to adjust the other ingredients accordingly. I bought a package of 12 pint-sized canning jars earlier this fall in anticipation of this project. Again, if you use quart-sized, adjust the amounts in each jar.
Orange/clove (4 oranges and 50 whole cloves)
I used Cara Cara oranges because that’s what the store had. I also got organic because organic fruit usually has a stronger flavor. Cut off the peel of the oranges, being sure to remove all of the white pith. There is a lot of bitterness in the pith, and you don’t want that in your vodka. Thinly slice the oranges and divide the slices evenly among four jars. Add 12-15 whole cloves to each jar, then add about 1.75 cups of vodka to each jar. Basically you want to divide the bottle of vodka equally among the four jars. Screw on lid, and then shake jar to combine ingredients. Set aside for three to four days. Shake each jar occasionally if you wish.
Cinnamon/vanilla (4 cinnamon sticks and 1 vanilla bean)
I used four jars for this one. Put one cinnamon stick in each jar and add 1/4 of a vanilla bean. Divide the vodka equally among the jars – about 1.75 cups in each one.
Screw on lid and shake jar. Set aside for 2 weeks, shaking jars occasionally.
Garlic/habanero (3 heads of garlic and 3 habanero peppers)
Again, use four jars. Separate cloves of garlic and peel each one. Divide cloves equally among four jars. Slice peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Divide equally among four jars. Add vodka, about 1.75 cups in each jar.
Screw on lid, and shake jar. Set aside for 3 days, shaking jars occasionally.
After the jars have sat for time listed above, taste-test the vodka. (For the garlic/habanero, if you’re like me and not sure if you can handle that strong of a spice with straight vodka, find an awesome friend like ND who is willing to taste-test for you. Thanks ND!) If you think the flavors are good, go to the next step. If you think it needs more time, screw the lids on again and leave the jars to sit a while longer.
When the vodka is ready to go, strain it through cheesecloth and a strainer into clean bottles. (I bought some nice 250ML bottles here.) One 1.75 liter bottle of vodka will fill about seven 250ML bottles. Add labels and tags, and voila! Instant gift.
What’s cool too is that the vodka changes color based on the ingredients. So left to right in the picture above, it’s the orange/clove, the garlic/habanero, and the cinnamon/vanilla.
The cinnamon/vanilla vodka is awesome in ginger ale or ginger beer (or eggnog, I just found out), and the orange/clove is great with tonic or soda. The garlic/habanero which RM described as “holy shitballs freakin’ delicious!” is amazing in bloody marys. (That one was ND’s favorite flavor too I think.) You can also go on the interwebs and find recipes for those specific flavors of vodka. Ah, Google, where would we be without you?
I had originally done a batch of blueberry/mint instead of orange/clove. That one needed more than four jars because the blueberries took up so much room. Something to keep in mind when planning your jars. The flavors on that one never really developed despite crushing the blueberries, so I pitched that batch and did the orange/clove instead.
Rule of thumb:
Intense flavors like citrus and herbs take 3-4 days. Moderate flavors like berries take about a week. Mild flavors like ginger take about two weeks. But be sure to taste as you go.
Right now I have a batch of chocolate vodka going. It’s a bit more complicated but will be so worth it if it turns out! I’m excited for that one.
So now you know my secret for infused vodka. Enjoy it! And let me know if you have any questions on it. And try not to marvel at how easy it is. Pretend you’re still impressed by my vodka-infusing skills.
So you all remember how I was dreading Christmas with my family a bit? Remember how I told you that I was going to suck it up and try to engage my sisters in conversation?
Well, I did. I talked to them. I asked about their lives. On the few occasions they asked about mine, I gave much more detail than they were looking for, just to try and inform them on my life.
And in the end, it went fine. I could tell they weren’t really interested in what I had to say. Body language made that CRYSTAL clear. But at least I felt like I did what I could to try and connect with them.
I was blown away though by their thoughtlessness. My mom made a big brunch on Christmas day as well as a big dinner. Both times, I rinsed the dishes (with some help from my brother). My sisters never made any effort to help with that. They just sat at the table and talked. And I didn’t want them to help for me, I wanted them to help so they could acknowledge all the work my mom put in to make these huge meals. But it never occurred to them to help.
Remember how I was going to go to my sister’s Christmas eve? Yeah I ended up not going. By the time that afternoon rolled around, I was so tired and drained from having all those people around 24/7. And I knew Christmas day was going to be worse. So I didn’t go and stayed home enjoying the house to myself instead.
Everyone else went though. Well everyone who was invited which didn’t include my brother. Weird. (Another reason I didn’t go.) But my sister JO had told my sister AK that she’d bring some appetizers. JO never asked my mom about that, so JO expected to have the kitchen all day on Saturday. Not knowing that I needed it to make tea ring. So I got up early to start it so she could have the kitchen. But again the thoughtlessness – it never occurred to her that someone else might need the kitchen and so she might need to negotiate timing with someone. And then once she found out, she just expected me to adjust or delay.
So JO makes three appetizers and takes them to AK’s. She left the dishes for my mom to clean up. And she brought the leftovers back and left in the fridge for my mom to deal with. SIGH.
When the O’s left Monday morning, they made no effort or offer to clean up anything before they left. So there was a ton of laundry for my mom to cope with – sheets and towels. I tried to help her with that as much as I could. The bathroom was a disaster. Four kids, including two teenage girls, and me sharing it for 3 days.
The picture doesn’t even do it justice because you can’t see the mess on the mirror and the toothpaste blobs in the sink. And the hair all over the floor. So my mom cleaned that. I was planning on doing it but she beat me to it. Grrr.
However, there was one redeeming event on Christmas day. A Christmas miracle, if you will. During the afternoon, my brother-in-law RO drinks a beer. Now, you all know my mom keeps a dry house. But she’s always allowed RO to have beer. (I think it’s when her children drink that she gets upset and bothered.) So on Christmas, when RO got his beer, my other brother-in-law joined him as did my brother. So I thought screw it. And I made myself a whiskey ginger with the tiny bottle of Jameson TL had given me for my birthday.
Ahh sweet bliss! To have a drink at home. God, how I’ve missed that! And yes, I had the whole tiny bottle of Jameson. It tasted so good! Probably the best whiskey drink I’ve ever had. God bless us, everyone!
In the last week…
*Check-up at the dentist. Still no cavities!
*Girly dance lesson with Amy. So fun and learned some stuff. It’s nice once in a while to get a girl’s perspective on dance technique.
*Played Santa and dropped off presents with my friends. I hope they like their presents. But really, it’s just about wanting to do something nice for them.
*Realized that I have a share in the responsibility of the awkwardness with my sisters.
*Survived Christmas weekend with my family. (More on that to come, I promise.)
*Worked out yesterday at the gym!! Yay me!
*Realized that my desire to stay in the background is actually a family trait.
*Made tea-ring for my family.
*Realized that I’ve not been going to as many group classes for dance as I used to, and that means less exercise. I’m going to try to go to more again to keep getting exercise (in addition to working out) and to keep practicing.
*Delighted my readers with a list of the awesome blogs I read.
*Thought about those that are in pain this time of year and hope they realize others care about them.
*Added a bunch of new followers on my blog. Welcome!! And thanks for following!
I have spent a large majority of my life trying to stay in the background.
I’ve been working on this a lot in recent years, trying to become more comfortable with having people notice me and leaving my comfort zone. I’ve tried to get over the belief that being noticed will lead to bad things or uncomfortable things. Dancing has helped tremendously with this, and just getting more self-confidence and less anxiety has helped a lot too.
Yesterday at Christmas, we were all together at my parents’ house. All 18 of us. (Stay tuned for a future post on that.) After brunch, my nieces RO and EO asked if they could use my “Just Dance 2” on the Wii. I said sure. They started playing it, and some of my other nieces and nephews joined in. It ended up with the two kids with the Wii remotes in front, and other kids behind them doing the moves as well.
The kids then started trying to get the adults in to play. I went in, of course. I mean it’s dancing! But what was interesting to me was watching my siblings and their spouses deal with the asking. My sister JO did a few songs. My sister AK and my brother TB refused. My brothers-in-law refused. My dad refused. And it struck me that my whole family tries to be in the background most of the time.
WOW. It was really an epiphany for me. Not only did my own issues growing up drive me to the background, but I realize that I also come by that tendency very honestly in my gene pool. And I realized how stupid it is to be that way. I kept thinking and wanting to say, it’s Christmas, it’s just us family around, and suck it up for the kids. Just dance already! My brothers-in-law each did a dance or two to appease the kids. They were clearly not comfortable doing it. But it was interesting to watch the adults in my family try to stay in the background and not do it. It made me glad about how far I’ve come in that department.
(You could get super philosophical and wonder if it’s in our genes or is it do to the environment we grew up in. I mean, if my dad is like that, did that rub off on us? Or did we model his example? Or was it just in our genes to be programmed that way? But I’m still on vacation, so I won’t get that philosophical on you.)
The best though was when my brother said he would do it when my dad did it. (My dad is notorious for not doing family activities. He’s the worst offender at staying in the background. And by worst, I mean he gets the prize for staying in the background.) I get my contrary streak from my dad. When my brother said that, my dad said OK fine let’s do it. And he got up and was prepared to start dancing! My brother had no choice but to dance a song, and my dad did it too. AWESOME!
The other funny thing was how many adults turned to me after dancing to one song and saying, that’s quite a workout – how do you do that? Or they’d say, I didn’t realize how much of a workout dancing could be.
Why yes, yes it is. And so much more.