Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life

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It’s the Season of Gift-Giving: Think Outside the Christmas Box

Christmas is just around the corner!  It’s that time of year to start buying gifts for loved ones.  I love giving gifts.  However, I really hate it when you don’t have an awesome gift for someone and end up getting them something just to get them something.  That’s pretty silly, right?  I mean, sure it’s the thought that counts.  But, why waste your money if the person will never use your gift?  And don’t you feel especially loved when you know someone really thought about your gift, and personalized it to your taste? 

I’d rather not receive a gift than receive one that I can tell someone just randomly picked up to fulfill the obligation of getting me something.

I challenge you this year to give meaningful gifts; ones that will be used and not wasted.  There are some people that are easy and fun to shop for.  Maybe they give you a specific list, or perhaps the person has similar taste as you (like my sister).  There are others that seem to have everything (like my parents), or are really picky (like my husband). 

So my gift to you- a few ideas for gift giving.

Homemade- if you know someone that shares the passion you do regarding what goes in or on their body, make them something like lotion, bath salts, body scrub, body wash, brownie mix, pancake mix, the list goes on and on.  Check out Crunchy Betty and others’ blogs for ideas.  This link takes you to her kid’s list, but you can easily find other ideas for women and men.

Herbal Bath Sachets from Crunchy Betty.

Herbal Bath Sachets from Crunchy Betty.

Local- if you don’t have the time or energy to make something, look local.  Local food- coffee, brews, bread, tea, chocolate, etc.  Local products- candles, bath and body, etc.  A few examples:chocolate

  • Askinosie Chocolate: a local chocolate factory in Springfield, MO that builds relationships with cocoa farmers and produces the most delicious chocolate ever!  They are very picky throughout the process, and each chocolate bar you buy tells you the name of the farmer and where it came from.
  • Heroes Coffee: Wake Up. Do Good. Repeat. That’s their motto.  These folks are super-duper awesome, recognize people and organizations that ‘do good’, and roast ridiculously good coffee (and they sell tea, equipment, and more). 
  • Mother’s Brewery: Craft beer made with mother’s love.  What more can you ask for?  They brew love… enough said. PS- Winter Grind (and Mr. Pumpkin in the fall) is my favorite.

And if you have that person that wouldn’t appreciate homemade lotion any more than a Walmart brand, or doesn’t relish good food, why not give a gift in their name?

A little girl receiving her health kit from Food for the Hungry.

A little girl receiving her health kit from Food for the Hungry.

  • Kiva gives loans out to people around the world for personal and business costs.  The person then pays you back, and you can give the money to someone else.  My sister got me a gift certificate a while back, and I’ve helped out a few farmers in various countries, and most recently a Palestinian man buy medicinal herbs for his shop!
  • Food for the Hungry has a gift catalog where you can purchase a gift of water, animals, school supplies, pastor training, healthcare, and many other things- to help people around the world.
  • Or be original, and give a goat.  Chivas Goat Milk Skin Care has partnered with The Nomad Foundation to donate a herd of goats to the nomadic Tuareg people of Niger.  When you purchase the gift ($52), a goat will be donated in the recipient’s name to the tribe.  And, the recipient gets a gift box with goat milk bar soap.

So this year, think outside the Christmas box.  Think jars, bottles, and food for the hungry!


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Holiday Happiness

 I know it’s a week after Christmas, but I have now had a chance to use all of my wonderful gifts!  Some of the things I was most excited about were the cheapest, simplest items.  For example, new kitchen tongs, a silicone brush and a meat thermometer.  And an apron:

          I’m not the most… graceful person; Tyler calls me clumsy.  So when I cook, and especially when I eat I am bound to get some food on my clothing.  So I am very thankful to have an apron! It’s so beautiful; I am even encouraged to be more careful and tidy.

          Now that I got to share some excitement; I am going to share a recipe with you.  Then, I will end on a more serious note.

          I’m no baker.  My baking adventures usually end in failure; which is fine because I don’t enjoy desserts like I do other food (Andy’s frozen custard is plenty to please me).  But, one thing I have mastered is Cranberry-Orange bars.  I can’t remember where I got the recipe, but they are rather simple. 

          I start by making cranberry sauce.  To do this, I just boil some water, orange juice and sugar (about 1 c sugar, ½ cup water and ¼ cup orange juice).  I then add 1-12 ounce package of cranberries and let them cook until they pop, about 15 minutes.  At that point, I turn off the heat, stir in some cinnamon and orange zest and let them set- the sauce will thicken and become jelly-like.  Then on to the crust.  Just mix together a package of yellow cake mix, ¾ cups of butter and 2 eggs.  Stir in 1 cup of rolled oats, ¾ cup brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger.  Now the hard part… spread about ¾ of this mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan.  It’s really sticky, and really hard to spread! Just try to cover the bottom best you can.  Spread the cranberry mixture on that.  Top with the remaining cake mixture, pinching off pieces (it won’t completely cover).  Just pop in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes and allow it to cool for an hour before cutting!  Yum yum! They are slightly sweet, tart and have that warm, seasonal flavor from the cinnamon.  I am attempting to healthify them J  I am slowly cutting out some of the cake mixture and adding more oats.  One day I will be adventurous enough to make the crust from scratch.  Last time, I also replaced about half the butter with some applesauce, which worked great!  And finally, I cut back the sugar some.  Next time I’m going to add some vanilla and top with honey after they are done cooking. 

(credits to Jordan Kent for the lovely picture)

          Alrighty now, I apologize for the long post… but I really wanted to include this final portion!       

          I have an incredible sister, Jayme.  Growing up, we fought a lot and I probably told her that I hated her.  I once even threatened to call child services on her.  I think that’s normal for sisters… But I now appreciate her as a wonderful person.  She is a best friend, and teaches me a lot.  Jayme is a blogger; she got me started.  She began writing about her infertility, which led to international adoption, and now pregnancy (yay!).  All that said, she wrote a post this week that made me think.  You can read it here.  Basically, she first asked what you are thankful for.  Not the obvious things, but everything.  Then, she challenges her readers to do something; get involved to help some people that maybe don’t have those special things- big and small. 

          Tyler got a turkey from his work for Christmas.  I was going to do the honors of cooking it for our family get-together.  My Grandma had some health issues, and our get-together was postponed.  So, I had 14 pounds of poultry and no one to feed.  This week I took it to the food shelter.  Not that this was any big sacrifice; it was free and I had no use for it! But when I went, I saw a lot of homeless people sitting along the curb.  It made me sad. It made me thankful for a lot of things.  The obvious: food and shelter.  But also it made me thankful for a job to provide income for those things.  It made me thankful for an upbringing that encouraged me to go to college and taught me how to be a responsible adult.  It made me thankful for motivation and opportunity to go to school and get an education to have a solid career; one that I will love.  It made me thankful for my car, for the gym I worked out at afterward, the new workout gear I wore.  It made me thankful for all the little pleasures in life; like a cup of hot green tea and dark chocolate on my days off this week.  Because all of my needs are met, I can enjoy things like that.  I could go on and on.  I think most people can sit and feel bad for those people, and think about how blessed we are.  But what good is that?  We have to do something about it.  Between school about 30 hours a week, and work about 35 hours, I don’t have an abundance of time to give.  That’s no excuse.  I’m as guilty as everyone else about getting caught up in my own world and conveniently forgetting about all the needs.  I get caught up in getting out of debt and forget that I have enough money to pay all my bills, buy food, and still buy nice things.  So this year, Tyler and I decided (mostly Tyler… he’s the dreamer) to give a rather large sum of money each month to our church’s outreach program, ImpACT.  I am going to try taking advantage of the church organizing events where we can give some time to help out.  My small group is trying to pick a family or cause each month to give to, last month it was a food basket.  Jayme gave us a gift certificate to Kiva a while ago, which we continually invest for people overseas to borrow to start or run their businesses.

          Now, that ended up being longer than I expected! But please take some of those ideas and find something, anything that you can fit into your life to help someone or something. 

          Time to go tend to my marinara sauce!  I will be updating with a few yummy things I made in my time off this week; tilapia with peppers, mashed potatoes with kale, chicken tacos, and tomato soup.