Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And, we're off!

In the mad rush that has become the holiday shopping season, Americans have been known in years past for their excesses. It looks like we're off to a good start this year. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

Good for - the economy, the government (tax income), the ever increasing "big box" stores, UPS, FedEx, USPS, airlines, AmTrak, and people who just love stuff...any stuff...so long as it's stuff (and potentially returnable!)

Bad for - families who live within their means, families living far beyond their means, children who will become more inundated with toy commercials on Saturday morning, people who have recently been laid off or soon will be, small stores that will "make it or break it" in December, and probably the stock market (I think people will pull money out of stocks to "salvage" Christmas this year.)

Since our family has recently changed from a two income family to one we will be cutting back this year along with hundreds of others. Is that such a bad thing? Not in my opinion. Do we have to buy $50+ worth of gifts for each and every person that we've ever come in contact with, including our postman? No. (We didn't personally but many of our friends do.)

This year I'll be adding to my list of baked goods and other handmade gifts. It's something I started several years ago after watching Martha Stewart make infused vinegars. That very day I found a great deal on some glass bottles, perfect for vinegars. Add a few handfuls of fresh herbs, maybe some citrus, and white or red vinegar and you're in business!

Of course, not everyone used their gift. Some still have them on display in their kitchens. However, I customized each bottle according to what I thought the recipient would use - salad topping, marinade, or display. (Yes, I planned that. Not everyone cooks, even if they say differently!)

If you're interested in giving it a try, here are some links that you may find helpful:

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/infusedmixes (This link discusses the differences between infused oil and vinegar and points out some great health concerns.)

http://www.ehow.com/how_4453680_make-herb-infused-vinegar-salads.html?ref=fuel&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=ssp&utm_campaign=yssp_art (This link goes over the basic canning techniques and offers a recipe. I need to point out that I didn't use lids. Instead I used corks which I covered with hot wax to seal. You can melt down some cheap white candles for the wax or used leftover candle pieces you have around the house.)

http://www.galenacanning.com/index.php?categoryID=90 (This link will provide some ideas on what items you can infuse into the vinegar and what to pair it with. Consider whether or not your recipient likes salads, steak, pork chops, etc...)

http://www.fabulousfoods.com/recipes/article/553/18536 (This link gives exact measurements, if you're so inclined. I'm a "dasher" personally - a little of this, a little of that. It's terrible for baking but serves me well elsewhere.)

Over the next several weeks I'll provide other gift ideas. Feel free to follow along. We'd love to have the company!

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