We are sitting out here in sunny California,  trying to get into the holiday spirit.  It hard when the skies are blue, and temperatures are in the 70’s.  I know I shouldn’t be complaining.  This time of the year, I want to see flakes of snow outside my office window, and a big cup of hot cocoa next to my laptop.  And being outside of the city, is definitely different during the holidays.  Our neighbors don’t have Christmas lights in their windows, nor decorations in their front yards.  It is really different.  I have been doing little things around the house, to try to get into the spirit.  I picked up tiny white lights for our back deck;  it looks so pretty when all lite up.  As well we got a little rosemary tree.  It has two purposes:  to make us happy, and to season many dishes in 2012.

Slowly I am beginning the shopping process.  I wish I could say I was baking like a mad woman, and crafting like crazy;  but, I am not.  I am saving that for 2012, when I anticipate having time to enjoy the holidays, hosting lots of dinner parties, and maybe even a holiday or two in our home.  *wink*  Back to shopping, I am not the type of person who can buy a gift for the sake of buying one. I put a lot of thought into my gifts, and if I don’t find something right away, that is perfect for the receiving person, then I wait.  I would rather give a gift late, instead of something that is ho-hum.  In fact, I would rather give small gifts throughout the year; when I see something that reminds me of someone.  Seems a little more special, to me, at least.  So, here I am, I should be purchasing for our loved ones, but instead, I am thinking of you, our readers.

This morning I whipped up some homemade cranberry bread, and boy did it smell good baking away, while I searched online for things that I think you would all like.  It was early morning, a bit chilly, and the sun was just peaking, perfect baking weather. Orange zest, vanilla, cranberries, and cardamon filled the house, as I sipped on hot coffee, and found wonderful things to share with you.  What a great way to wake up!

Here, is our first-ever holiday shopping list.  I think all of these items are really lovely, and am sure you can find someone one your list who would enjoy them.  Heck, maybe you should get one for yourself;  after all, it is the holidays.

Chez Us 2011 Holiday List

*will update with new findings – daily

  • Eat Boutique Homemade Gift Boxes – the gift boxes are made with pure love.  The products that Maggie choices are very special, as they are made in small production;  think homemade.  I love the themes, from a New England gift box (which we loved), all the way down to Marshmallows.  There is definitely something for everyone on your list.
  • Terrain – I love their living gifts.  Can you imagine the surprise on your hosts face, when they receive one of these gorgeous gifts, before you even arrive for your extended holiday stay, or before their holiday bash.  I am sure you would be invited back!
  • Earthy Delights – the team at Earthy is simply amazing.  We love those guys and gals.  I use them to stock my pantry with basics as well as hard to find items such as aged black garlic, bourbon syrup, and amazingly different vinegars.  For that hard to shop for foodie, they also have great gift baskets.
  • Kaufmann Mercantile – every morning I receive an email from them, featuring something unique, and special.  They have everything from unique toys, to masculine one-of-a-kind shaving kits.  Simply beautiful …. all of it.
  • Love Apple Farms – how about a gift certificate for the person in your life who is always wanting to learn something new.  The fine folks over at Love Apple Farms have great workshops on cooking, farming, beer making, bee keeping, soap making, the list is really endless.  Why not promote education this holiday season!
  • Etsy – I clearly spend too much time on this site.  Not only do I find unique gifts, but I do most of my prop shopping over here.  You could say;  I am kind of an addict.  I am even scouring their site for furniture these days.  I really cannot stop!
  • Turntable Kitchen Pairing Box – for the food and music lover in your life there is no better gift box.  You can sign up once, or your can sign up to receive monthly.  No matter which route you decide on, you will receive a carefully put together box of goodies to create a unique food and music pairing.  Being big fans of both food, and music (why didn’t we come up with this concept), we can say, the two definitely go hand-in-hand.
  • EX49.com  –  They made these adorable wooden cutting boards that would be perfect for the chef in your life.  I know what a few peeps on our list are getting!  May have to even sneak one for us.
  • A Heirloom – Another gift for that foodie in your life;  awesome cutting boards, that are shaped like your favorite state.
  • Fingerling Limes – Need a gift to please the mixologist on your list.  Well, look no further, this is the perfect gift.

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Recipe:  Cardamon Cranberry Bread
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t cardamon
  • 12 ounces cranberries, patted dry
  • 1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, except for the sugar.

In a mixer bowl cream together the butter and sugar, until light and fluffly:  about 3 minutes.  Add the zest, vanilla, and caradmon, mix for 1 minute.

Add the dry ingredients, and mix for 3 minutes.  I

n a small bowl, gently fold the cranberries with the 1/2 cup of flour, until the berries are coated.

Fold into the batter.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan, and bake for 60 minutes.

Serve.

Eat.

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