Ceramic Christmas Trees

One of my favorite things to pull out every year is this lovely painted ceramic tree that my mother-in-law Edna sent to us years ago. I beleive she painted it in the 70’s but not really sure. I love how pearly white it is, somehow kitcshy and elegant at the same time. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Obviously you can buy these ready made and just plug it in, but if you want to get your hands on an original vintage tree, you’ll need to search eBay and thrift stores. Better yet, ask your aunts and grandmothers if they may have one tucked away.

Read about the history of these DIY gems here

Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Here is a short list of some of my favorite gifts this season. Some local, some not so local.

MAYO & TOMATO T-SHIRT $30
Such great gifts at bittersoutherner.com for your southern friends, and those who want to be southern. Nothing conures up memories of a perfect southern summer day than a tomato sandwich with home-grown tomatoes and mayo. Dukes or Blue Plate… please. bittersoutherner.com

GALENDARS from $10
Friends that I gifted with Galendars last year asked where to buy some of these tiny desk calendars for their friends this year. These gals only do two shipments each season so order now so your gifts will ship on their last ship date of December 14th! Oh, and they sell out fast! galendars.com

If you’re in the Austin area you can find them at Blue Genie Art Bazaar

MDK FIELD GUIDES $14.95
If there is a knitter in your life, they need one or twelve of these. These themed, pint-sized tomes are a perfect gift. Each beautifully designed volume explores a technique, yarn, or pattern style. My favorite so far is Wanderlust. masondixonknitting.com

DZIUK’S MEAT MARKET from $6.99
In my circle of San Antonio friends it is imperative if near Castroville, to make a trip to Dziuk’s Meat Market. Their Chunk Beef Jerky is like nothing I’ve ever had before. If dried sausage with wild combos such as quail and pork smoke your meat… look no further than dziuks.com

WHEN PIES FLY $21.59
This follow up to 2018’s James Beard nominated Pie Squared will make any pie lover a happy baker. I’ll be trying the apple strudel recipe over the weekend. amazon.com

Bring These to Your Next Cookie Swap

Coconut Macaroons

But if you work at a certain Texas magazine… don’t, because I’m bringing these.

I’ve been bringing these to every cookie swap since forever. I’ve recently started making these with almond flour instead of all-purpose. The structure is still the same, and my gluten free friends can enjoy them too. You can use half the extract that I do, but they will be less fragrant.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

2/3 cup all purpose or almond flour
14 ounces shredded coconut
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla or almond extract

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix in condensed milk and vanilla. I use either a 1″ or 2″ cookie scoop. They only need to be about 2 inches apart since they don’t spread much. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown at the edges. I like the edges a little crispy (see above)

Dip the bottoms in some melted chocolate if you must, but I like these just as is.

Cool on rack and enjoy. But be sure to enjoy at least one of them warm. Makes about 2 dozen cookies… depending on the size of your macaroons.

Five Things to do This Week to Make Thanksgiving Easier

Photo by Pixabay

There is a lot of menu planning, food shopping, and prep to do for Thanksgiving, even if you’re hosting a small group.

Now’s a good time to confess I hate dislike the term “Friendsgiving”. I feel it makes it seem less than, like a conciliatory celebration. We’ve been hosting friends, their friends, and their aunts since 1996, and it is no less a Thanksgiving than one spent with a family of origin. End of rant.

The real reason I am here today is as a public service announcement for the often forgotten tasks to do this week that will make your holiday less hectic.

  1. Restock bulk herbs and spices. Beat the crowds in the bulk aisle by shopping during one of your lunch breaks this week.
  2. Take those knives to get sharpened. You may have a ceramic sharpening doohickey at home, but nothing beats a professional sharpening.
  3. Iron any table linens if you plan to use them.
  4. Schedule grooming appointments for your dogs. Your guests will thank you. Just keep your fingers crossed they don’t get skunked between now and next Thursday.
  5. We like to send our guests home with some leftovers, so order to-go containers like these now.

PS. Make some no-cut fabric napkins this week, if you’re feeling crafty.

“Now listen…”

Now Listen…

This is how our neighbor Julia began her sentences when she was making a point. She was usually pointing a finger at me too.

When we first bought our home we had a lot of work to do, we installed central air, pulled up carpeting, refinished the hardwoods and seemed to have a paintrush in my hand Friday-Sunday. We stayed in our rental in Austin for a month, and drove out here every night after work and on the weekends to work. I would leave work, go by and grab Roscoe and head out to the “new house”in Elgin. Our meals were mostly of the drive-thru variety. 

One Sunday morning during that month Julia invited us to come by for lunch at noon. We cleaned ourselves up and head on over at noon. She had been cooking all morning for us. She’d made fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, green beans, rolls, and chocolate pie. We were blown away at such hospitality and knew we’d made the right move to this small town. We love telling that story to people who wonder why the hell we moved from Austin to a small town who’s claim to fame is sausage and bricks.

While we were getting excited for our first Christmas in our new home, I’d noticed she had all the candied fruits and nuts to make fruit cake, but she’d recently taken a fall and said she wasn’t up to the task that year. I’d never made one so volunteered to help her. Once the fruit cake was baked, she covered it with cheesecloth and pulled a plastic wrapped bottle of Mogen David from her deep freeze, unscrewed the cap and drizzled it over the top. Julia was a good Baptist woman so I assume this bottle had been in her home since I graduated high school in 1983.

The next morning, I walked next door to give her the molasses I’d picked up for her at HEB, so she can make her rolls. Mind you she was moving in a week and was hell bent on baking rolls for her family’s holiday meals. She’d tried to substitute with the sorghum she had, but she said they tasted nasty. She told me that she started baking her rolls every October, and just put them up in the freezer until they came by to fetch her to spend the holidays with them. She was really sad that she wouldn’t be able to do this anymore.

Julia gave us the buffet that is now the work table in my print studio. She gave me her yarn tote too, though it fell apart years ago. She crocheted, she said it was her constant companion and reached for it beside her chair every night when she was watching TV, much the way I do with my knitting.

In September of 2007 Julia was beginning to pack up her to move into assisted living close to her son and his family. She was a few months shy of her 90th birthday and had been living alone since her husband Roscoe died in 1993. She was a pistol, and lived in that house since before ours was moved from San Marcos and plunked down next hers in 1950.

As we were getting closer to actually inhabiting each room of our home, and hanging artwork and family photos, Julia was next door taking hers down. 

We miss her being next door, but luckily the new owners are great neighbors and renovating the old house to reveal its original beauty, they love it as much as Julia did. 

I only wish I’d remembered to ask her for the recipe for those rolls…

Spread it on!

Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese

Serve this spread with the usual crackers, spread on a sandwich in place of a slice of regular cheddar. I promise it will not disappoint.

Makes 4 Cups (recipe easily halved)

2 cups jalapeño jack, shredded
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup chopped pimentos
1/8 cup chopped pickled jalapeños
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Duke’s is my favorite)
1/4 sour cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2  teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2  teaspoon granulated onion
1/4  teaspoon cumin
1/2  teaspoon chili powder
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of sugar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer bowl. Mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment until creamy and the pimentos are well distributed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.

Pimento cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pro Tip: While you can certainly use pre-shredded cheese (and I have in a pinch) your spread will be creamier and the shreds less separated if you grate your cheese with a box grater.

Print & Tuck Valentines

Just a little something to make it a wee bit easier to let your family and friends know you care.

Print, fold, and tuck these cheeky valentines into lunches, pockets, and laptop bags. Print on copy paper or on card stock and slip into a 4 Bar size envelope. Be sure to print in landscape mode and at the best quality your home printer can output.

Download printable PDF here.

Hogeye Festival Update. Why? Because Olive U

Game of Scones_ spreader Potluck Tableware Bean and Noodle photo by Stacey Van Landingham

“GAME OF SCONES” Cheese/Butter Spreader. Photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Also, because I cannot wait for GOT Season 8. C’mon already. Cue the opening credits, jam, and clotted cream.

Olive U_pickle fork Potluck Tableware Bean and Noodle photo by Stacey Van Landingham

“OLIVE U” Olive/Pickle Fork. Photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Because OLIVE U… and picking up pickles and olives with your fingers or toothpick is barbaric.

Pile of freshly tagged Potluck Tableware

Ready for Hogeye. photo by Stacey Van Landingham

Please come visit our booth at the Hogeye Festival tomorrow, Saturday, October 27th. My crew She Creates Union will be selling original designs and hand made items. Be sure to check out our new website Emma created SheCreatesUnion.org.

Festival attendees who sign up for my email list will be entered into a drawing for a “Mind Your Own Biscuits” Spreader. You don’t have to be present to win, but you do need to to sign up in person. I’ll be drawing for the winner Saturday night at 11pm.

See you there!