Sunday, December 17, 2017


RHYS BOWEN: Hear Ye! Hear ye! Starting with a Sunday shout-out for Debs! her book, Garden of Lamentations made Carole Barrowman's top ten list. We are all so thrilled!

RHYS:  We have an olive tree in the garden and this year we had a bumper crop of olives. "I know," I said. "We can make our own olive oil."
So I went on YouTube for videos on making olive oil. (there are video how-tos on everything these days, aren't there?). And I watched several videos. First one picks the olives. In Italy they place big sheets around the tree then they bang the trunks with sticks and shake the branches to knock down the olives. This wouldn't work for me as mine is on a steep bit of hillside.
Then you pit the olives--all three million, six hundred thousand of them.
At some point you have to steep them in lye or brine or some kind of solution so they are no longer poisonous--yeah, right.
Then you put them in a mortar and smoosh them into a paste.
Then you hang them in a cheese cloth with a basin underneath and leave them until liquid has collected in the basin. (several days)
Then you skim off the clear oil from the top of the icky, sludgy liquid and voila:
You have ONE CUP of olive oil!

Actually I have a Trader Joe's nearby and I can buy good Italian olive oil for $7.99. Enough to last me a month. So olive oil making will not be added to my skills this year.

The problem with do-it-yourself or make-it-yourself is that things take too long. When my kids were small I made stuffed toys and doll clothes and puppets, and frankly I could buy much better ones for the same price. But it was the love that counted, right?

One Christmas we decided that the holiday was too commercial and we'd all make hand-made gifts. On Christmas morning we exchanged candles and beaded jewelry and pillows and scarves and we said how lovely they were and thanked everyone. But the kids said, "Is that it? I get a scarf for Christmas?"
"And a wooden toy," we added. "The holiday shouldn't be all about gifts."
Small faces fell.
Then I relented. I darted into the bedroom. "I did buy a few gifts," I confessed. "Just in case."
Everyone else darted into their bedrooms. "So did we," they said.
But you know what? I still use the scarf and the pillows and the candles years later and every time I do I'm reminded of the person who made them for me!

More recently my daughter Clare pointed out that it was wasteful and polluting to use wrapping paper. So she made bright cloth bags for all the gifts. They looked nice the first year. The second year a bit more crumpled and frankly there was no fun in untying a cloth bag. At least not as much fun as ripping open paper. So I'm afraid we're still going to waste and pollute. (although I do put everything I can into bags and boxes that can be reused).

So I'm afraid it will be a non-crafty Christmas this year. The children and grandchildren are way too busy to sit down and make things. And I don't need any more candles or pillows or even scarves. I'd make home-made fudge but it would have to be lactose-free, sugar free and gluten-free for various family members, which sort of loses the point, doesn't it?

The only things I still am commanded to make are the mince pies and sausage rolls of my British heritage. I don't make my own Christmas pudding (I buy one for John and me). We don't really eat that many cookies. So it looks like a labor-free holiday ahead, which suits me just fine.

How about you? Have you ever made holiday gifts? And what else do you make?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I am the anti-Crafts, so I don't have a good record with home made gifts. I've made cookies and fruit bread as hostess gifts, of course, but I'm afraid nothing as good as my college roommate, who for many years made her own faux-Kahlua. Delicious!

My grandmother Greuling, who lived through the Great Depression, was the queen of homemade gifts. Every year, she would give each of her grandchildren - all eighteen of us! - hand-knit mittens and scarves. I have some that are over forty years old and still in good shape. She would start in January and knit all year long.

I think she may have done more elaborate projects for her five children, although I have to confess I wasn't paying attention to boring old brown-up gifts when I was a kid. She also hand-crocheted an afghan for each of us for a high school graduation gift. Mine is in the family room right now! Thanks, Grandma!


  1. Oh, Rhys, I am chuckling over making the olive oil . . . that just sounds far too complicated to give any thought to actually attempting it.
    I don’t know why “from scratch” is always so much more difficult, but sometimes it really doesn’t matter. If it’s something you really enjoy doing, like making bread or cookies or knitting afghans, the time involved doesn’t seem to matter quite so much.

    I don’t do too much crafty gift stuff these days, but I used to make costumes and dresses and play super-hero capes and all those sorts of things when the children were little. My daughter still makes all the costumes for her kids, even though she has about two seconds of free time in any given month.

    I always set aside a few days just before Christmas to make cookies. [Some for gifts, some for us, some just because the grandbabies will be here!] And cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast. And plum pudding for dessert.

    1. I made capes for my nieces and nephew when they were at the "play dress-up" phase. They loved the capes! And they were pretty easy to make, too.

    2. I did make dress-up clothes for granddaughters when they were little, and made a complete Hogwart's kit with cape, wand, book of spells etc. Now they only want gift certificates.

  2. Wow, all that effort to make 1 cup of olive oil, Rhys? I agree that some DIY projects are not worth the time/effort when you can get the commercial version.

    I am not crafty at all but I used to make holiday goodies to give out.
    In past years, I made custom-made (i.e. pick your flavour) chocolate truffles and almond stollen (since many people do not like fruitcake and I discovered this alternative while travelling in both Germany and Austria).

    1. I used to make Stollen, Grace, because I love it but nobody else does. So now I buy one.

    2. I think Stollen is making a comeback, Rhys. I have seen it in bakeries and other food shops as a special order food item/holiday gift.

  3. I love the olive oil story too! and your truffles sound delightful, Grace.

    I have made quite a few cookies, shared at several holiday parties, with some left over in the freezer for this week! I was a little lazy with the sugar cookies though, and decided to slice the rolls of dough instead of rolling out and using cookie cutters. So they look like little pieces of toast with green sprinkles on them:). Same flavor though!

  4. Seriously, one cup?? I'll keep buying mine at the market! I have made homemade goodies--loaves of cranberry-orange bread with homemade jelly in a pretty basket for holiday gifts--as well as other items--my sisters loved the flannel nightshirts I made for all of us one year, the lap quilts (or couch-snugglers) were a big hit--the knitted scarves for the boys? Never saw them worn. This year the only gift I want to give--and want to receive--is time. Time to just relax and enjoy the company of the boys before they've fledged the nest, time with my sisters, my friends--even some time for myself--to curl up with a really good book or two and indulge myself!

    And congratulations to Deborah!! And to all the Reds for the outstanding pleasure you've all given your readers this year!

  5. I often make gifts. One year everybody got a hand-sewn apron, another year colorful coasters made of African cloth. This year I'm giving little jars of dried herb mix and bags of granola. But making olive oil? No thanks!

    1. And how many books do you write each year, Edith? You are amazing. Time is what I don't have.

    2. Uh, three a year. I know, time is tight. But really, drying home grown herbs, and baking up a double batch of granola is a snap!

  6. Rhys, please reshare your mince tart recipe! Using a kit, I made some adorable felt bird ornaments as gifts. And, the pieces of my gingerbread house are all baked. To be assembled, and then, on Tuesday, decorated by the granddaughters.

    My mother and I always made Christmas gifts -- one year, we made Winnie-the-pooh stuffed (with old stockings) animals for the cousins.

    Years ago, I did a lot of "making," but now less and less. I had a plan for doll quilts for the granddaughters but that won't happen this week!

    1. The mince pies are so easy, Denise Ann. You make pie crust dough, roll it out and cut into circles in a muffin pan. Fill about half full with Cross and Blackwell's Mince Meat. Put on a smaller circle for a lid and crimp it on. Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar. Bake 425 until slightly golden.

  7. Laughed out loud at : one cup of olive oil...
    No manuel talent here, even my gift wrapping seems to have been done by a 5 years old and not because I didn't put efforts on them.
    But every year I make dattes'squares and maple sirup's squares for my brothers who love them. Our children and children's children receive bought gifts.

    1. Maple sirup squares?? Danielle if you're still there, recipe please!?!

    2. Base: 1-1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter
      Cut the butter in the flour and brown sugar and press in a 9X13 baking pan
      Bake at 350* For 15 minutes
      Then: 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 cup maple sirup, 3 table spoons flour
      Mix bring to simmer for 5 minutes
      Then beat 3 eggs with 1/4 tea spoon of salt and pour in the hot sirup slowly
      Then pour on the base and you can add 1/2 cup of pacans or nuts and bake at 350* for 25 minutes

      Hope didn't miss a step,it's the first time I translate a recipe in english

  8. I'm pretty crafty, but oh, so slow. I have given all sorts of hand-crafted things for Christmas, including fancy shirts, quilted placemats, and even a full-sized quilt or two, but I have to plan for that months and months in advance. Back when I was in college, my sister and I were into Anne McCaffery's "Dragonriders of Pern" series and I made her a "life sized" fire lizard stuffed doll. I designed the pattern, made the dragon, and then stayed up until 2 am on Christmas morning to finish the fancy stitching and beadwork on the wings. I managed to keep myself awake long enough for her to open the box and be amazed, then toddled off for a nap.

    These days I still make things, but I never count on myself to get them done in time for gifting. Like Rhys, I have learned that DIY projects take serious planning and forethought.

    Congratulations to Debs on Carol Barrowman's recognition of her genius! Yes, it was one of the best books of the year.

  9. Had to laugh at "how to make olive oil" - our neighbor tried to make maple syrup. Tap the tree. Hang the bucket. Collect the sap... gallons of it. Boil those gallons down (you've got to do it out of doors... though I don't remember why) for hours and hours and hours and get.... less than a cup of syrup.

    Christmas handmades: Every year I make chocolate covered orange rind for my husband and son-in-law. They're both very hard to shop for and I will personally SHOOT the next person who gives my husband another book. I'm not crafty so no coasters or knitted woolies. I wish I were.

    Rhys, I'm with your daughter on trying to avoid wrapping paper. I split the difference by wrapping packages in tissue paper and curly/paper ribbon and putting the packages into big colorful reusable (have been many times) oversized Xmas bags. We exchange a ridiculous number of gifts and I"m never sure how that happens.

  10. Olive oil! Oh, no.....

    I am terrible at crafts, terrible, what I make turns out like the Island of Misfit Toys, uneven and gluey and unrecognizable.

    I did have a great idea one year. When the nieces were oh, 7, 9 and 12, I went to a fabric store and got all different kinds of glitter strands, feather boas, gold beads, silver stretchy stuff, lengths of sparkly tulle, stuff like that. I thought it would be such fun to make costumes out of!

    They had NO INTEREST whatsoever. NONE.

    I love to wrap presents, but I also feel bad about all the paper. I do re-use last years received holiday cards-I cut them up into interesting shapes and use the blank back sides as gift tags. They are beautiful!

    1. Brilliant idea for tags! Do you punch a hole in it tie it to the gift?

  11. love the olive oil project! Before harsh winters destroyed my lavender plants, I harvested the lavender and made sachet bags. Growing replacement plants but it takes years. I bake cookies for neighbors and use a photo from whatever trip we've taken to make cards. That's it. I outsourced wrapping to my daughters before they were out of elementary school. They're pros.

    1. Margaret, my lavender plants--which were five feet across at the time--suffered the same fate a couple of years ago in that bad winter. So heartbreaking.

      And my middle daughter, now 33, also wrapped gifts, starting when she was in fourth and fifth grades. Her business was called "I Wrap".

  12. We make gift tags out of last year's cards, to, Hank. Sometimes my wife will say, oh that's from so-and-so's card, isn't it? I love the Island of Misfit Toys--when I tried to help the kids do crafty things when they were young, that's how they often turned out.

    My one success with something crafty was many years ago. My wife was doing needlepoint and made a stocking for me. Since I was so horribly uncrafty, she had no suspicion that I might retaliate, er, reciprocate. So I got a pattern and made her a stocking for the next Christmas, in secret, and she was astounded. We still have them even though we don't do stockings these days.

    Congrats on the recognition, Debs! I'm currently reading Where Memories Lie, so I've got a way to go, but it's nice to have some series where I'm not waiting for the author.

    1. Oh, well, Jim, our hearts are in the right places..xoxoo

    2. Jim, I'm going to show this to John and suggest he makes something for me. Ha. ha.

  13. Congratulations, Debs! How exciting, and well-deserved.

    I used to make gifts, sewn, knitted, cooked. And then saw a quilt used for the dog, a beautifully handmade silk camisole worn under running clothes, and other gifts left to molder, uneaten. Now I only make things I know without a doubt will be appreciated. It's such a waste of effort, otherwise.

    Since we have about 30 acres of wild blackberries, I make jam every summer, and it's in hot demand. Two different friends have urged me to make it to sell, which I refuse to even consider (it's far too labor-intensive, I'd have to charge $50 a half-pint). And I also make fruitcake from a recipe I've been using for forty years. That goes only to select friends and my mother, all of whom have expressed great love for the cake. All fruitcake haters get passed over, so there.

    My husband is the best appreciater of handmade gifts, though. He loved the jacket I made for him when Robin was born in 1984, his first Father's Day gift. He would still be wearing it if I hadn't snuck it out of the house this past spring to give to St. Vincent de Paul. One of the many reasons I love him!

    Rhys, we have friends who live near Paso Robles who bottle their own olive oil. We usually buy a case every year (I don't think they're supposed to sell it out of state, so, shh). It's superb, and we don't mind paying $10 a bottle (with shipping), because it's so darn good.

    1. I LOVE FRUITCAKE... Karen, if you have the time email me the recipe sip!

    2. Hallie, the only problem is that it uses a quick bread mix from Pillsbury as the cake part. It used to be very easy to find the right one, but now fewer and fewer stores carry it.

      I've had the fruit and nuts sitting on my counter for weeks, while I tried unsuccessfully to find the mix, until I finally hit pay dirt yesterday, at a store I rarely visit.

    3. Here it is. I usually double the recipe, and make it in small loaves.

      Dark Sweet Fruitcake
      1 egg
      1/8 C oil
      1 C water
      1 pkg. Pillsbury Date or Nut Quick Bread Mix
      1 C chopped pecans
      1 pound fruitcake mix (I like to use at least a half pound of just candied cherries)
      1 cup golden raisins

      Grease and flour bottoms and sides of pan(s). In large bowl, combine egg and water. Add remaining ingredients. By hand, stir until combined. Pour into pan.

      Bake at 350° as directed below, until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes; loosen and remove from pan. Cool completely. To store (in fridge) wrap tightly in foil or plastic wrap.

      If desired, glaze with warm corn syrup (I add brandy or rum at this stage); decorate with reserved candied fruit and nuts.

      8 x 4 loaf pan – 70-80 minutes
      9 x 5 loaf pan – 60-70 minutes
      10" Bundt or tube pan – 65-75 minutes (double recipe)
      6-8 C ring mold – 40-50 minutes
      5 soup cans 4/5 full – 35-45 minutes
      18-24 muffin cups 2/3 full – 20-25 minutes

      The recipe makes a very moist cake. You can also wrap it in cheesecloth and soak it with rum (or brandy) several times over the course of a couple of weeks. Even though the recipe says to refrigerate it, I've never had one go bad, although I must say that we usually devour it pretty quickly.

    4. A hand made jacket, Karen? I can guarantee John would not wear any item of clothing I made for him!

    5. Karen, thanks for the recipe! I know what you mean about unappreciated gifts--my mom was a quilter--she learned from her mother and her grandmother, who get the picture. I am the only quilter out of all my aunts and cousins and cousins' children. I made a hand-made--pieced and quilted--baby quilt to welcome what was my parents' first great-grandchild into the family (my parents' were gone by then). The look on the baby's mother's face was priceless--where was the expensive gift? Where was the money?? Now such gifts only go to those I know will appreciate them.

    6. LOVE love love fruitcake. I use my grandmothers recipe which involves eagle brand and a package of nonesuch, along with pecans and candied fruit. It is exceptional.

  14. Deb, you ROCK! Congratulations to one of my favorite people. xox

    Rhys, I spent Christmas, either actually or, in later years, virtually, with my English "sister", Pauline. My children were reared on her sausage rolls, not just at Christmas, and mince pies. Pauline died three Christmases ago, and my sausage rolls will have two slits on the tip, just like she always made them--just because.

    For Julie's brothers and their wives I will make her mother's date bread. I started doing this when mom went into a nursing home, and I've already been reminded last week, by the eldest brother, that it was time again for me to get started. The big family do will be on December 30, so I won't make the date bread until then.

    Lucy Roberta, I call them sugar cookies too, but up here on the tundra they are know as cut-out cookies. I'm mixing them up this morning so the dough can chill. We'll roll and cut out this evening. Julie insists on frosting and decorating, so that can wait until later in the week. These will go out to the neighbors, along with a few mince pies and sausage rolls, and, if I get energetic, fudge.

    Gifts get wrapped in paper or stuffed in bags. Not one will be hand made. I don't give good craft.

    Twenty or so years ago, Julie got the urge to put on a Christmas pageant, casting her nieces and nephews. They ranged in age from infant to 16, eight of them, and only one boy. The role of Baby Jesus was Baby Darcy, and the BVM, 16 year old Judy. The rest were shepherds and angels, and St. Joseph we did without. I made a few angel costumes for the school age girls. The rest were to be shepherds, easy costumes. Little Maureen was four. Aunt Julie was bundling her into a bathrobe with a towel on her head and a stuffed lamb. Maureen burst into tears, saying, "I don't WANT to be a leopard. I want to be a FAIRY!"

    And thus the tradition began. We've called them the leopards ever since.

    All but one have finished college. One is married. Two are in finance. Another is in marketing. And another is "finding herself."

    Darcy.who played Baby Jesus, in now a senior in college, majoring in environmental studies.

    Judy, the BVM extraordinaire, is in retail management, living in sin with her boyfriend. Go Judy.

    Maureen graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, a couple years ago, is now in her last year of law school, editor of the law review. Watch for her when she runs for governor then senator then president. You can say you knew her when she was a tearful leopard.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season's Greetings and a very Happy New Year from the tundra.

    1. Love this, Ann! Thanks for the guffaw about the leopard!

    2. Happy to vote for a tearful leopard any day, Ann!!!

    3. I think Christmas pageants would be ever so much more fun if they included leopards and fairies. Go, Maureen!

  15. I love the leopard story, Ann. Did you see the video this year where one of the sheep steals Baby Jesus from the manger and Mary wrestles her for it?

  16. Congratulations, Deb! All of your books are worthy of special recognition in my book, but Garden of Lamentations was especially moving.

    Rhys, the olive oil story not only made me laugh out loud but even made me interrupt my husband's reading to share it with him.

    I have absolutely no skill at crafts so have never been so much as tempted to do hand made gifts. I am pretty good in the kitchen, though. When I was younger, I never got too much into Christmas cookies as my mom and unmarried sister together produced such a bounty that we all had plenty to enjoy, give away, etc. My mom has passed now, and my sister still makes just a few of the favorites, and we have agreed we are better off without generating TOO many cookies.

    My son got the brainstorm one year to crochet an afghan as a gift for my mom and sister jointly, as they lived together. It was a great idea, but it ended up being the following Christmas before he finally delivered that present, as it took him more than a year to complete it. Still, he was proud when it was finally finished and they were very touched that he had worked so long on a gift for them.

  17. Deb, congratulations! Well deserved. What a happy Christmas present.

    Rhys, if you are of the mind to do it, the sausage roll recipe please. Been looking for a good one.

    I used to craft, but alas, am lazy now. Christmas cookies are as far as I go for holiday treats. In years past, I crocheted afghans for all, then there was the year of the bath salts and soaps - - that was fun and easy - I made glycerin soap, not lye soap - color me chicken, and one stellar year a group of us in my office paid for all our store bought Christmas gifts by crafting ornaments that we sold in the gift shop in our office lobby. We were amazed at our success.

    Going forward, I will happily pay the asking price for EVOO - I had no idea of the process, or that olives in their natural state were poisonous!

    1. Sausage roll recipe super easy. Make pie crust dough, roll out thinly. Jimmy Dean sage sausage meat (if you can't get real British sausage meat) roll a tube of sausage meat. Cover with dough and cut into about 2 inch rolls.
      Bake preheated oven 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until sausage has cooked through and pastry is light golden. Enjoy

    2. I make it like this but use puff pastry, the frozen kind.

    3. Yummy, thank you ladies!So the Jimmy Dean is a good substitute. Excellent to know and I'm making them today. Yippee!

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  19. Oh, and Rhys, thanks for the shout out on GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS!

  20. Rhys, I will appreciate my EVOO more, too! I've never been great at handmade gifts, although I have attempted them over the years. But nothing that required sewing!! For a couple of years my mom and I made Seville orange marmalade--you could buy the cans of Seville oranges at Williams Sonoma. Lots of years I made my cranberry relish, but finally gave that up as I'm not sure anyone likes it but me... And there were a few years of quick breads in there, I think. Oh, and candles. I was into making soy candles for a while. Fun, but not nearly as pretty as store bought.

    I have never made Christmas cookies!! It just wasn't a tradition in my family. I do have some Christmas cookie cutters and maybe will find time to make some for Wren. Or maybe next year, when she can help.

    Hallie, we do use some wrapping paper but we reuse Christmas gift bags and tissue paper until they fall apart. I think we have one Santa bag left from when Kayti was not much older than Wren. And I save all the good wired ribbon and reuse it, too. No one in this family would dare put ribbon in the trash bag!

  21. Congratulations, Debs, on the Top Ten list appearance! Garden of Lamentations is on my Favorites List coming out this week, too. Such a fantastic book, as all of yours are.

    Rhys, I got a good chuckle out of your olive oil making steps. Truly not worth the effort. I think it's great that you do continue the tradition of your English roots at Christmas with the sausage rolls and mince pies. I might give the sausage rolls a try or at least I'd like to. I used to make fudge with the kids when they were growing up, as we had to put some out for Santa. With the kids now 30 and 33, I haven't made the fudge in quite a few years. For Christmas dinner, I do make scalloped oysters, which is a tradition from my growing up.

    Hank, I laughed in camaraderie at your description of your craft items as ones only fit for "the Island of Misfit Toys," I am not a craft person, and I've finally learned to live with that. My one claim to glory is a macrame green Christmas tree that I made at least thirty years ago, but it's held up beautifully. Not to be morbid, but I'm thinking of having it displayed at my funeral to point out that I did indeed achieve a lovely homemade item once. Hahaha!

  22. Hallie, I posted the maple sirup squares you asked for in a reply

  23. Rhys, this post had me laughing out loud. I do love your humor so! I am a knitter so if the stars align then someone might get a Xmas gift from the needles on time, usually a blanket, but with deadlines and such a holiday gift usually turns into a birthday gift later in the year. I love homemade gifts - mostly, food - but I'm really at an age when just getting together with friends is a pretty spectacular gift in itself.

  24. Congrats, Debs! It's wonderful that "Garden" is getting so much love. Well deserved. I am not crafty, although I've been known to paint furniture, and with the help of my husband, even made a custom headboard for our bed. I'm definitely a member of the "Island of Misfit Toys" crafting collaborative!

  25. Deborah, I have read all of the James/Kincaid novels except A Share In Death. I have both a hardcover and paperback edition, just haven't made the time. I wish I could remember how I found the series. Probably I was wandering around online free library sites and thought it was an interesting title. I do remember realizing that I could find good deals on Amazon brokered used hardcover books. So I have 5 or 6 of your books that way. (I did pay full price for the Garden of Lamentations Kindle edition. Couldn't wait. It was worth the price.)

    I've never been good and handmade or DIY projects. While I have patience with many things, not so with crafts. This past Easter I was playing with my Android phone camera. I and a friend and his two adult sons and a nephew were sitting on the porch enjoying cigars. Later, at home, I tried cropping the picture, changing it from a landscape orientation to a portrait of just my friend and his two sons. His face just radiated contentment and joy. I sent it to a mail-order photo shop asking them to blow it up several times. When I gave him the tube, he couldn't figure out what it could be. When he opened it he was so surprised and tickled mostly cause he couldn't remember when the picture was taken. (I love the camera on my smartphone).

    1. David, thanks for looking out for the books, and hope you enjoyed them!

      I love my phone camera, too, and I think phone cameras give people who wouldn't consider themselves artistic a great way to be creative.

  26. My wife Barbara is baking sugar cookies as I type this, but not as gifts, they're for us to eat over the next week. With family grown and far away, and all having received a bounty of quilts Barbara has made over the years (with little or no "thank you" from them), we don't do home-made for anyone.

    I had this rationale last year, but it may be silly. If I go to an independent book store and buy a book, say, Garden of Lamintations, the sale is a gift to the bookseller, and to the author as a copy sold. Then if I give the book, that's a gift too. Three gifts in one! What do you think?

    We have sent Harry & David baskets with fruit, nuts, etc. to the adults once or twice, but aside from one person they seemed to have been received with a shrug. So any more, it's a gift card in the Christmas card we send. Doesn't seem particularly special, or Christmas-y, but it seems to be what people want.

    1. Rick, totally with you on the 3-gifts-in-1 idea!!!

      I can't imagine that people wouldn't be thrilled with a Harry & David box. We jump up and down if someone sends us one. Our daughter got two from clients so at the moment we are enjoying some of her pears:-)

  27. My niece knits socks for me, an especially wonderful gift because it's hard to find socks with no latex (elastic/spandex) and because my cranky hands protest after a few rows of knitting. I knitted sweaters for nieces and nephews, and sewed doll clothes for my sister when she was little. I have some of my grandmother's crochet work, more on display than daily use. I was appalled when neighbors were disparaging hand-made gifts which they had thrown away . . . and made sure I never made them anything ever. Save them for those who appreciate.

  28. Congratulations, Debs! ALL your books are The Best!

    I'm not a crafty person, and it's not for lack of trying. I eventually became mediocre at the things I worked at the hardest. For a number of years I did bake cookies and give them away, and received lots of compliments. Then everyone stopped eating sweets, and a really great cookie bakery opened up around the corner from home, so I just run over there if I want home-style cookies. Also, most of the people who told me they stopped eating sweets eagerly eat anything I get from the neighborhood cookie baker. Hmmm.


  29. Rhys, there was a holiday British Baking special recently on PBS. Paul Hollywood made mince tarts. He and Mary made other toothsome desserts. You might like it. Mary kept saying that Paul was "cheeky"?

  30. Deborah, congratulations!!

    Rhys, I love handmade gifts. It gives me a cozy feeling when I receive handmade gifts. I am pretty unusual for my generation because I like vintage clothes. I love Christmas newsletters. I love handmade Christmas ornaments that reminds me of the ornaments we made as young children in school.


  31. I'm a fan of DIY things, but I don't give my DIY things as gifts in Christmas, even scarf. I just using them for myself, decorate my house with them...
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