Just Maybe the Best Homemade Holiday Gift Ever

When the holiday season arrives, the best gifts just might be from your kitchen. And when those gifts are extra decadent, well that just makes them even better.

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A couple of years ago I got the crazy idea to take my homemade gifts of food beyond cookies, cakes and pure vanilla extract to bacon. Seriously. More specifically Bacon Jam.

Yes! And I have to say that with all the challenges you’ll discover as you read to the end, Bacon Jam is quite possibly the best holiday gift ever. I say that because it’s what local friends and family clamor for.

Bacon Jam

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (note 1)
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (note 3)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar, more or less to taste
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (the real deal, please)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Note 1: Ignore the molasses in the photo.

Note 2: I’ve tested substituting bacon crumbles for bacon and wasn’t thrilled with the result. Your results may vary, which means crumbles are certainly an option.

Note 3: May substitute apple cider vinegar for all or part of the balsamic vinegar, which is what I do now after considering my own taste and feedback from my recipients. However, either will give you great results.

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The first step is to cut the bacon crosswise into one-inch pieces and cook them in a large skillet, stirring occasionally until the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned about 20 minutes.

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Super Cool Gadgets and Electronic Gear

I love gadgets—anything that is clever, innovative, useful and reasonably priced. Gadgets make great gifts, especially when totally unexpected. I just love it when one of my kids or my husband opens a gift with a spontaneous, “Wow that is so cool!”

For your entertainment pleasure and perhaps a gift solution or two, I’ve put together this short list of gadgets, gizmos and electronic devices that are all the buzz this holiday season because they’re so cool!

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KIDS

ELECTRONIC PET DOG. His name is Harry. He’s an adorable Dalmatian puppy that walks and barks; responds to touch, loves to chase, sing and dance. Harry the Electronic Pet Dog wants to play with your little ones! So cute and one of this season’s hot electronic toys for kids age 2 to 7.

SMARTWATCH. Complete with built-in tiny camera to take photos and videos! Touchscreen, motion sensor, clock, voice recorder with voice-changing effects, cute games, songs and lots more. Kids ages 5 to 9 say VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch is the coolest thing ever! Several options and colors.

TEENS

SUNRISE ALARM CLOCK. My son says this is the best gift I’ve ever given him, it’s that awesome. Instead of blasting an annoying wake up buzzer, this alarm clock wakes up naturally with a gradual increase in brighness from 1 to 100% over an amount of time, which you choose. Just like the sun coming up, the light gradually brightens until it’s time to get up. Perfect, especially during the short dark days of winter. Tons more features you should read about. HomeLabs Sunrise Alarm Clock, Read more

2017 Holiday Gift Guide: Toys for Kids

I saw it on Facebook and it made me laugh out loud. I want to use this in the invitations to our next Dinner Party. I’m sure everyone will know it’s a joke, right?

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure. Could be a touchy subject, I suppose.

I must admit that the humor of this meme quickly faded once I thought about it for awhile. People staring at their phones. It’s becoming the new normal.

And not just for big people. Little people are catching on to this pasttime, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against smartphones. I have one myself, although 99% of the time I don’t think about it and have no idea where it is; the other 1% I’m in a panic because I’m just sure I’ve lost it.

The thing about kids and electronic devices with screens is that it becomes an isolating factor. Kids check out, failing to engage emotionally with others or with their environment when they have an electronic device in hand.

Doctors are urging parents to keep smartphones and laptops out of their kids’ bedrooms, and limit the time they text and tweet. An influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

All of which brings me to my 2017 Gift Guide: Toys for Kids for ages birth to 8 years, and beyond (you knew I’d get there sooner or later).

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Christmas Gifts From My Instant Pot: Candied Lemon

I’ve never gotten into the whole Black Friday retail extravaganza. Might be because I’m not a fan of crowds, chaos, and mayhem, which is the way I would describe it.

Or I don’t like the idea of being manipulated into thinking that everything is a bargain on Black Friday, therefore, I must shop til I drop. Nope. Not me.

The theory behind the term Black Friday is not that it’s a dark, horrible thing the way it would be described in say an office environment of the day when all but the boss’ kid got pink-slipped leaving the entire company in a state of shock and awe.

It’s called Black Friday because supposedly, as the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers recoup all the losses they’ve experienced during the year so far—crazed shoppers taking them out of the red (financial loss) into a healthy profit status.

Honestly, I kinda’ doubt that whole red-black thing to be true, but it does explain the name of the day.

Perhaps you’ve guessed already, that I will not be joining any throngs of crazed shoppers next Friday. Instead, I will be home making Christmas gifts in my Instant Pot!

This year my homemade, consumable gifts will include Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Pure Meyer Lemon Extract, Bacon Onion Jam and Candied Citrus Peel. Now here’s the crazy thing—I’m making all of these gifts in my Instant Pot, even the extracts! I’ve discovered that I can make the extracts in one day in my Instant Pot (yes, even pure vanilla extract!), where it used to take up to six months for extracts to be ready for gift-giving.

While I will be sharing all of these recipes and instructions with you soon, today I want to walk you through the simple steps to make Candied Lemon Peel.

Homemade candied lemon peel is a treat—one that is so decadent and classy, it makes for great gift—a treat you know will be gratefully received.

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Mother’s Day Gift Idea: Spa in a Jar

I don’t mean to throw you into a panic, so let me say this gently in hushed tones: Mother’s Day is Sunday. Today is Wednesday. I think you get the picture. Don’t panic.

You still have time to buy a gift. In fact, thanks to Prime Shipping you can expect to have any one of these 16 guaranteed-to-please gifts delivered in time for the big day.

If you have more time than money this Mother’s Day—or just prefer to give homemade gifts—here’s my best gift idea requiring no particular artistic or crafty talent, that will cost less than ten bucks.

DIY SPA SET

Give the stressed-out moms on your list the gift of relaxation. Make your own bath product and them assemble them in a nice basket.

Bath Salts. 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup sea or rock salt, 20 drops fragrance oil, food coloring. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until fully combined and color is even.  Read more

Mother’s Day 2017 Gift Guide

Every year about this time, the age-old question comes up to baffle lots of people: Practical or sentimental? The answer of course depends on your mother.

Let me assure you that many of us (and yes I am one) really do love and adore well-thought out, practical gifts—even a fabulous vacuum cleaner. Or the latest kitchen gadget, tool or device we’ve been dying to have.

Then there are others of us who are downright insulted by practical gifts on Mother’s Day. We’re the sentimental type who love a beautiful bouquet of flowers, plaque or wall hanging that is so lovely that it brings tears to our eyes.

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Cheapskate Etiquette: Cheap with Yourself Generous with Others

Face it. Living below your means requires a good bit of creativity from time to time. You have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck.

But just how far can you go in matters of etiquette before you cross the line?

Ask yourself these questions when making a decision having to do with gracious living and etiquette:

  • Is my choice to be cheap going to harm or insult another person?
  • Will my behavior leave a fragrance or an odor?

Rule of thumb: Be cheap with yourself and generous with others.

Don’t, for example, require a service person to forego a tip so you can live below your means. If you cannot cover a decent tip, don’t eat out. Or order less. Read more

Fabulous and Easy Valentine Sweets and Treats

Let me break this to you gently: Valentine’s Day is next Thursday. This is Friday. Get the picture?

Thankfully, there’s a big beautiful weekend between now and then—plenty of time to make a few of these fabulous treats and sweets!

Mini pies in a jar.  Could there be a better gift for co-workers, neighbors, friends, teachers and any number of other people than a single-serving, mini pie in a small jar? I think not! I have detailed written detailed instructions including recipes here:  The Perfect Small Gift: Pie in a Jar. It really is quite easy and the results are fabulous! I’ve been making these adorable single-serving pies for some time now, and it really is so much fun. Who can resist a small pie in a jar, right?

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