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.

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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!

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Mostly sunny skies, bliss likely…

Fall arrived weeks ago, so when you find yourself riding without having to pile on layers of leather you take full advantage of those days knowing they are becoming more numbered.

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I remember a few weeks ago, after the first blast of cold came in a full week of frigid rain, I headed out to see where the day would take me. In that case it lead me to a favorite place for seafood to dive into a sweet and salty pound of crab legs and a cold one. As the old bay and melted butter flew, leaving my spot at the bar looking like the aftermath of a Gallagher show, I realized how special those days are the rarer they get.

Activities that are commonplace or even taken for granted in the middle of summer are treasured second by second when there’s more wait time on colder days in between. The sun is more tangible on your skin, the air is sweeter, and simple pleasures turn decadent.

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A surprising high in the mid-seventies earlier this afternoon brought another glimpse back at summer even as the changing leaves have reached their peak of colors and my route included a stop at my polling place to vote on an election day.

I hope everyone eligible to vote today got out to do just that, no matter what form of preferred transportation!

Vance & Hines vs. Duncan Hines?

Cake aftermath...
Cake aftermath…

I’m up late baking a cake for my boyfriend as it’s his birthday tomorrow. I’m also a bit fascinated at the changes in me as I’ve aged, and why this is such a daunting task. I mean- I remember back when I was 8 to 10 years of age and I could have whipped this up from scratch. We’re talking using only one hand to deftly crack an egg and empty it into the batter with no shell, then decorating the cake afterwards in a professional manner.

And now I find myself straining to remember the last time I baked, striking yoga poses to reach into back cabinets for long missing electric beaters and squinting at directions printed on the back of a cake mix box, hoping to not screw up the whopping 4 steps I must follow for an edible treat.

It’s funny how some loves stay with you through your life, and some fade in and out on the journey as they’re meant to. I still enjoy cooking, but admit baking is an art that takes more patience than I seem to have anymore.

Looking back, I remember signs that this transition was taking place. I learned how to change the oil on my first motorcycle, but one time when I went to accomplish this I found I couldn’t remove the plug to drain the oil. I called in a friend to help me and when he asked if I had a pan to empty the old oil into he was fairly shocked when I emerged from my apartment with a pie tin that belonged to my roommate. Shock turned to laughter when I used flour to soak up some oil I spilled onto the pavement in the parking lot.

Thankfully these days I’m equipped to perform routine maintenance on my bike without having to steal makeshift tools from the kitchen! Likewise no loose screws will be found in the birthday cake tomorrow, just in the cook…