Vegan Food Gifts Giveaway

Grooming Avon & JezebelAnd just like that, the holidays are over! Christmas was a low-key affair at our house. Avon, our 6-month-old kitten, is prone to getting into things that he shouldn’t. So we knew that a tree would quickly be climbed, the lights would be chewed on, and the ornament hooks would be swallowed. Instead, we put up a wreath, and that was it.

I usually get into making Christmas cards and sending them out, but this year I took a pass on Christmas, and you know what? It was wonderful. When Christmas was over, there were no ornaments to pack up or boxes to put away. I simply found room in my cupboards and closets for gifts, and that was that.

Sleepy AvonSleepy Avon 2Since Avon is endlessly interested in ribbons and string, I put off wrapping presents until Christmas Eve when I could just transport wrapped gifts to our car outside. David and I filled the day making food for Christmas, so that we wouldn’t have to spend any of the holiday in the kitchen. David baked a few pies, and I worked on some handmade Christmas gifts.

Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie NewmanThis year I gave two handmade gifts, both from ideas/recipes in Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman. Vegan Food Gifts came out in 2012, and it’s been on my wish list ever since. It’s filled with the best kind of presents – thoughtful, usable, and made with love.

The book opens with pretty ways to package gifts like making your own envelopes, bags, and boxes. There are printable recipe cards, hang tags, and labels with illustrations by vegan artist, Kurt Halsey.

The recipes include sweet things to give that are fully prepared like Cool Lemon Cookies, Orange Chocolate Linzers, and S’more Brownies. Then there are gifts that the recipient can make with compiled ingredients. That chapter is called “Just Add Water.” In that chapter there are recipes like Sweet Lemon Iced Tea, Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Southwestern Three Bean Soup. Each recipe includes ideas on the best way to gift it (i.e. in a box, bag, or jar).

Pasta Basket - Vegan Food GiftsOne of the gifts I made for my cousin was from the chapter on themed gift baskets. I was inspired by the Pasta Party-themed basket. I put together a basket of my favorite polenta, the pasta from a local pasta maker that has been my obsession this year, and a shiny new colander. I included one of the infused olive oils from the book, using a jar I found at TJ Maxx and a chalkboard label from Kidecals.

Infused Olive Oil - Vegan Food GiftsThe infused olive oil I chose was Sun-Dried Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Olive Oil. It’s so simple to make. Just pour olive oil into a bottle along with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh cloves of garlic, and dried basil. I didn’t get to taste it for myself, but it smelled wonderful. It can be served over pasta or salad, used as a dip for bread, or sautéed with vegetables.

Bloody Mary Mix - Vegan Food GiftsThe other gift I made was for my dad, and it was from the chapter on homemade liqueurs, infusions, and mixers. I made the recipe for Bloody Mary Mix. Bloody Mary’s were one of my favorite drinks before I was vegetarian. It’s like a drink and a snack all in one – an adult version of tomato soup with celery, pickles, and olives. Unfortunately, most Bloody Mary’s include non-vegan Worcestershire sauce, which is made with anchovies. This version, though, uses vegan Worcestershire sauce. It also includes fresh lemon and lime juice, which made it taste bright and flavorful. It was one delicious Bloody Mary! (Yes, I did get a chance to try it before giving it away. Priorities.)

The recipe includes a printable recipe card, so that the recipient knows how much vodka to add when making the drink. I took the book to a local print shop and had them print it out on cardstock, along with printing a gift tag for the Pasta Party basket.

Celery Salt - Vegan Food GiftsAlong with the Bloody Mary Mix, I included jalapeño stuffed olives for garnish and celery salt for salting the rim of the glass. I like to use and repurpose my jars.  So for the celery salt, I just used a clean jar that had formerly been used for saffron, got celery salt from the bulk bins, and added a chalkboard label to the outside.

There are so many more gifts that I can’t wait to give from Vegan Food Gifts. It’s loaded with ideas that would be perfect for birthdays, holidays, host/hostess gifts, and presents for people who have a new baby in the house or on the way.

Joni has offered a copy of Vegan Food Gifts for a giveaway! You can start planning now for birthdays and Valentine’s Day. The giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!

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I received a complimentary copy of Vegan Food Gifts and complimentary labels from Kidecals. The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  Post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Personalized Gifts: Photo Books

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, when it comes to gift giving, personalized gifts are my favorite.  There’s no chance of duplication.  The recipient hasn’t already seen it at the mall.  And hopefully opening a personalized present makes him/her feel loved and cherished, knowing the time and thought that went into the gift’s creation.

All year around, I enjoy taking pictures.  I always have a camera in my purse, ready to document a get together, reunion, or even just a relaxed, easy Saturday at the farmer’s market.  Having documentation of our everyday lives makes it easier to remember months and years later what normal was at another time.  So when the holidays and birthdays come around, I often like to choose photo gifts.  Whether it’s a homemade calendar, a picture on a mug, shirt, or ornament, I think I’ve done them all.  (I’ve used different photo websites over the years, but Shutterfly is my personal favorite.)

PHOTO BOOKS:  Once pictures have been transferred from the camera to the computer, a person can easily forget they were ever taken.  Since these days they don’t need to be developed, most pictures never meet photo paper.  That’s why I so enjoy photo books.  It’s cozy to sit down with a book of memories and flip through them on the couch.  Sure, I could pop open my laptop, but seeing a coffee table book of happy memories, invites me to linger over sweet days gone by.

Today I’m going to share a couple of photo books that I’ve made in the past, and maybe they’ll start your gears turning on photo gifts of your own.

After our honeymoon, I made two large 12×12 hardcover books for my husband.  We’d both written about our travels on MySpace.  (Yes, it was a while ago.)  And so I took those travelogues and joined them with the pictures.  I used different fonts for each of us, so that you could easily see which entry was a “she said” and which was a “he said.”  When I page through them, I’m in Europe all over again.

When my best friend was having her first child, I saved every email that she wrote to me about the experience and all of the photos she attached along the way of her growing belly, setting up the nursery, and the hilarious picture of her husband wearing the sympathy belly.  Then after her daughter was born, I put the emails into a book with the photos as a keepsake of her experience.  I know plenty of new moms plan to document every stage of pregnancy, but it doesn’t always happen with all of the other preparations going on.  I was so excited to give it to my friend, so that she could fully remember the experience.  Plus, when she had her second daughter, she was able to do a bit of comparison of what she experienced when.

In addition to a book for moms to be, a book from emails could be made for college students or couples planning a wedding.  Want to make a personalized cookbook for a friend or family member?  A photo book could be a cool way to do it.

I’ll be back with more gift ideas next week!

Today is the last day to vote in the HHL contest to win a trip for two to Napa Valley!  My husband is one of the finalists, and I’d be so tickled if you’d consider voting for him.  He’s #6!