New tradition…or just nuts?!

With each passing year I like to try to find new ideas for Christmas gifts that I can create for family and friends. There are so many presents that are just as much fun to make as to receive.

Yummy treats are always good to get. I admit I don’t have the patience to do much baking anymore though. Oh yeah, the first sheet of perfectly shaped cookies are a blast. But then I find myself in a showdown with the never-ending bowl of dough and the cookies get freakishly bigger and bigger until the last batch consists of just two frisbee-sized cookies so I can get it all over with!

So this month I decided while my man was tending to his customary smoker full of chickens, I’d take a crack at spiced pecans.

Not literally, they were already shelled and the ease of roasting a whole batch at a time was appealing. As I pored over different recipes online, the boyfriend suggested I make at least 3 types and we settled on sweet (flavored with maple syrup), savory (thanks to rosemary), and spicy.

Sweet and spicy pecans

The spicy turned out to be my favorites, spices with a little heat like cayenne mix with the sweetness of brown sugar in an addictive way I don’t think should be saved for just the holidays but will be enjoyed all year. Plus, we’re already looking forward to trying different recipes for next Christmas.

Happy gift recipients and quality time with a handsome guy in the kitchen? It all adds up to a nice Holiday bonus for me!

Borrowing a few from Ol’ Man Winter


I mentioned last month, how we treasure days late in the year that are mild enough for pleasant rides. We were treated to another today.

Dec. ride resize
December ride in Gettysburg

In the past two years since I moved north of the Mason Dixon we had seen plenty of snow by this point. Although we are now just weeks away from Christmas, this December’s temps remain mild and it feels like spring even as I hum carols in my head and check out decorations in the yards along my route.

As I putted along this afternoon, I recalled past rides in colder weather and remembered something I wrote about 10 years ago to send to a newsletter. They were asking for submissions about riding in winter and the following was my response…

On summer days my brother and I would spend long hours in the river behind our farmhouse. We were playing in the same water our parents would chill a whole watermelon in to have for dessert that night.  Even with blue lips and chattering teeth, we were reluctant to leave that cold mountain water when called inside for dinner.  Some activities are just too much fun to let a little chill get to you.  Now that I’m an adult, those activities have come to include riding my Harley all year long.

I’m usually greeted with the same surprised looks and questions from colleagues concerning my sanity when I ride to work on a winter morning.  Some people prefer coffee.  I’ll take a brisk, eye-opening putt to start my day anytime.  Sure, I’d rather be riding on a warm day with the sun shining on my bare shoulders.  However, rolling through an afternoon in December can be just as intoxicating.  Where pockets of perfume from wildflowers or curing hay might be in hotter months, I now find myself tilting my face to sniff at a trace of smoke from a chimney.  Or while passing a lumberyard, I breathe deep so I won’t miss the cinnamon-like fragrance lingering in the air.

So far this winter we’ve had one snowfall and two ice storms.  The result was an agonizing two weeks off of two wheels waiting for the roads to clear.  The reunion with my bike was sweet.  Heading out of town meant making my way through intersections littered with the sand/gravel mix melted precipitation had left behind, as well as cars full of wide-eyed stares.  But after a few minutes, the payoff stretched out ahead of me in the form of a pleasantly empty and familiar country road.  Parts of the asphalt usually completely darkened in summer are now striped with the shadows of sleeping trees.  Darting through the alternating flashes of sun and shade creates a strobe light effect.  It’s enough to make the kid in anyone wave a hand in front of their face to see it in slow motion.  And so I do, until I find myself giggling hard enough to make tears squeeze out of my eyes.  Maybe it’s just the freezing wind in my face.  Or maybe I’m simply overcome with the reminder that I’m living a dream, fulfilling my wish to ride my own motorcycle.

Moments like this, though intangible, are one of life’s greatest gifts.  A treasure that can always be held close through memory and can never be taken away.  I allow the sound of the engine to lull me into nothing more than the present, and lose myself in the peace of following a strip of charcoal grey through fields of white glitter.

 When the cold finally seeped into my gloves enough to be noticed, I headed home stopping for gas along the way.  By the time I filled the tank, my hands had warmed up and I couldn’t resist a couple more miles rumbling slowly through neighboring suburbs looking at Christmas lights.  Once home, I parked the bike and was grateful to have put one less non-riding day in my year.  To me, that means winter is one day shorter, spring is that much closer, and my spirit is infinitely higher.

So if you’re in an area where it’s possible to ride but you feel like time spent getting dressed will exceed time spent on your bike, go for it anyway.  And take my advice, skip the treat of an icy slab of watermelon upon your return home.  Indulge in a hot toddy instead!