Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas shopping and not

It is always kind of a last minute thing for me, despite the best of intentions, so here we were with Christmas a week away, discussing what to buy for whom. Quite a few years back Ray's and my siblings and we decided that we just didn't need to exhange much in the way of Christmas gifts and we would all prefer to donate to charities instead. We like Heifer International and the Food Banks, so this morning we did our online contributions, then we set out to find a few things. We were going to some friends' for dinner tonight and needed a bottle of wine to take along, so we decided to check out the new Whole Foods Store out in our neighborhood. Emily told me they call it "Whole Paycheck." Beautiful store, but holy smokes is it expensive! It was fun to wander around and see all the exotic foods and wares and we did find a bottle of wine.

How do you select wine? Do you go to tastings and keep a notebook listing the ones you like? Do you read the wine column in the newspaper, or subscribe to Gourmet magazines that have articles on new vintages and how to pair wine with food? I'm impressed with people who do that. Me, I have a much simpler criterion for buying a bottle of wine. I choose the one with the prettiest label. We were fortunate to find a beautiful label, er—lovely bottle of wine, in our price range at Whole Foods.

It looks good, doesn't it? I mean, just look at that label!

We found a few other items to buy at Whole Foods, but by and large I was a little aghast at the prices. A quick stop at Trader Joe's restored my sense of equilibrium. Those two stops kind of did us in, so we picked up tacos from one of the parking lot taco trucks on our way and went home.

One of my Christmas projects actually started last summer. No, actually it started about twelve years ago and finally is seeing fruition. After my Mom died in 1998, my sister, Becky, sister-in-law, Brenda, and I divided up her collection of recipes. You have to understand that my Mom was a very good cook. I mean very good. We didn't want those recipes to get away from us. Our plan was that we would each type up the recipes we took, my sister and SIL would email theirs to me and I would compile them into a book form. We all got busy with other things. We typed a few recipes, but mostly we didn't. I did create a template for the layout, however, and as I needed a recipe I would type it up into the template. This summer my brother's oldest daughter got married and it occurred to me that she would enjoy having some of her grandmother's and aunts' and her mother's best recipes, so I revived the idea with Becky and Brenda and they went to work sending me recipes. I decided to make the book so that it would be pages punched and put into a 3-ring binder (the half-page size) so we could continue to add to it over the years. The initial edition has over 100 recipes. The book I put together for Jessica was well-received and my own daughter and others wanted to know when they were going to get their copies! I promised them for Christmas, and today I finished them.

I was able to find small binders that one can slip a sheet of paper under a clear plastic cover to personalize the cover. I bought a variety of pretty printed papers at a scrapbooking supply store, so each has their own distinctive look. The pages inside are all the same. At one point I was considering designing cloth covers and sewing them. I'm glad I didn't do that. These look so clean and cheerful and can be easily wiped clean if need be. So now they all know what they are getting for Christmas, but it wasn't going to be a surprise anyway, although they might all be surprised that I actually followed through!

Dinner with our friends was lovely. I am feeling the Christmas thing now! I got a lot done today.


  1. Now that wine label is one any quilter would love! Your recipe books for the family recipes are a super idea. I'm sure the young women will appreciate them.

  2. Love the recipe idea. My daughter and I were thrilled to find the little rubber banded stack of cards my father had in his desk after he died. We make some of his classics often now.

    That wine looked lovely and old vine Zins are very rich and heady. I think I will look for that brand. I buy by the label and the brief description of the wine. I like deep, dark reds.

  3. Great gift for the family.

    I sometimes choose wine by the label and the name. We have found some pretty good wines that way.

    Note: The word verification is often eerie like today's, "dishi."

  4. Anonymous12:27 PM

    Such a thoughtful and meaningful gift. If you haven't already, perhaps you could add a chapter about your mom so future generations who may inherit the cookbooks will have a connection to your mom.

  5. I choose cheap(ish) wine -- usually at TJ’s -- by reading the shelf descriptions; if we like it we’ll go back and buy more. If it’s a bottle for a special occasion, we’ll go to a wine shop and talk to the staff. I’ve bought through the mail from wineries I know, and some I just recognize in the stores as labels we’ve enjoyed in the past. Oh yeah, I’ll often check the small print on the back for info on specifically where it’s produced and bottled; sounds geeky but that can tell you a lot.

  6. Maggie Turner3:13 PM

    Hi Terry, Have been working on a similar project and am wondering where you found the notebooks.aressi

  7. I buy by the label, too. I get very annoyed at wineries that don't take the time to make appealing labels.

    I love the recipe book idea, and the way you have individualized them is lovely. The recipients are lucky!

  8. I have to say, as the first recipient of the Cookbook, that it is quite impressive. I can look through the book and remember all the amazing dishes, candy and desserts that were staples of my childhood. I used it just last week for the infamous peanut butter balls...It's great to have all your favorites in one book!

  9. We were down in Ft. Collins CO this weekend and (because we left the snack food we packed at home) we stopped at a Whole Food Store. WOW! we loved it. Wanted to sample everything and the kids were so helpful when we were looking for something. Mind you we were there to buy a few snacks and when paying hubby pulled out a $50 bill, smiled at the clerk, then a look of shock appeared on his face... he had to put out more money. Glad this store is 8 hours away!!! We would be broke!! Merry Christmas to all! Marybeth

  10. RobbinNeff5:30 AM

    I love carving linoleum and wood blocks for printing. The label looks like that and mole quilting from Central and South America. I'll have to get out those tools, and carve something quilty. Hmmm, those quilt labels are the first thing to come to mind. I like to quilt wine bottle sleeves. They make nice gifts.

  11. I did a book of family recipes for my daughter when she married 6 years ago, but just scanned and printed out everyone's recipe cards so they are in the handwriting of 'Old Aunt So-and-So. I made double copies I squirreled away so I can do the same for my son, should I ever get a DIL! I really like the plastic covers for a messy kitchen- good idea! Merry Christmas, Terry! Have a wonderful holiday.

  12. Brenda9:17 PM

    I had not seen your blog, Terry, so it was a surprise to me! Thanks for a book that I will treasure.