hostess gifts

Milkshakes are my favorite when we have company in town. Because really, what dessert is easier? Plus it is the perfect excuse to sink a straw in and indulge.

This weekend I came up with another way to share a shake. We put together a pumpkin pie milkshake kit to drop off to a few neighbors, so I thought I’d take a few pics and share. If you’re headed to someone’s home for Thanksgiving, this could make an excellent surprise to sneak into their freezer with a little thank you note.

I’m sure you know or can guess the basic makings of the shake. Depending on what I’m in the mood for, I’ll go with prepared pumpkin puree or homemade. The homemade freezes very well, so if you’re going to be prepping some for pumpkin pie, prep extra. Don’t tell, but I’ve made mine last for up to a year in the freezer before. And I always pick up pumpkin pie spice this time of year, to expidite all my pumpkin recipes. But you can mix up your own.

The basic makings of a Milkshake care package, if possible, should include cute straws. I picked up a few from Garnish. (Did you see Garnish carries a polka dot version too. eek! such cuteness.)

If you’d like to dress up your straws even more, you can find a few fun printables right here.

One of our favorite tricks is to butter up a few grahm crackers, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and toast them in the oven on broil. They are amazing crumbled on top or for just scooping out shake. I know, you’re telling me you don’t need to know that, you’re already having a milkshake. Oh, but you do, you do.
 All of the ingreds pile up nicely for a perfect fall delivery. (And if you’re in need of an alternative, non-melting fall care package, here’s a little something.)

Pumpkin Pie Milkshake
serves 4

4 cups vanilla ice cream
1/2–2 cups milk (I like my homemade milkshakes milky, so I go for a full two cups)
1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combine cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves)

If your making this at home, dump everything in and blend, stopping occasionally to stir as needed. If you’re dropping this off for a friend (1) combine the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice and tuck it in an envelope, then (2) fold the vanilla into the pumpkin puree and scoop it into a little cup. Stack on top of some yummy ice cream and deliver.

Toasted Cinnamon Grahm Crackers
12 full grahm crackers
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven broiler. Combine cinnamon sugar. Spread crackers very lightly with butter, sprinkle on cinnamon sugar. Broil until toasted.


My friend Miranda of Narrating Life is hosting a blog hop today.

And the topic is hostess gifts.

And since that is the funnest topic ever and since Miranda is a darling, of course I was thrilled to join in the blog hopping fun.

Also because I happen to know what the best hostess gift ever is.

No contest.

I know because I got it last week. It is breakfast.

Think about it, you just turned over your entire house to houseguests or worked the day away in the kitchen for dinner guests. What is the last thing you want to do the morning you wake up after all that fun?

Make more food. But you want to eat food. So this is where the hostess gift comes in.

After having a houseful of houseguests last week I woke up the next morning to find my sneaky SIL had cleaned everything and my sneaky little sister had made me a wonderful ooey layered loaf of this amazing bread.

That’s right, thanks to the baking brilliance of Joy the Baker and my sweet sister I pulled the kids out of bed the next day and sat down to this amazing thing.

Of course I did not take a photo of our delicious pull apart cinnamon bread because I was too busy pulling it apart.
and eating it.
all of it.
by noon.
But it was such the perfect breakfast (and lunch) that we couldn’t wait even a week before making one for ourselves. This time, we used my favorite orange roll recipe from Martha and made the recipe Joy’s pull apart style and it was pure heaven.

Pull Apart Orange Bread
Based on Joy’s Pull Apart Cinnamon Bread
and Martha’s Orange Rolls

2 envelopes active yeast (2 scant tablespoons)
1/4 cup warm water mixed with a pinch of sugar
1 cup scalded milk, cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Vegetable oil cooking spray, for bowl and tins

1. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over sugar water; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, granulated sugar, salt, half the zest, and shortening. Slowly add flour, mixing until combined. Knead until shiny and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

2. If you’re making the dough the night before, like I did, so it is all set to roll and bake in the morning, this is the part where you can cover your dough and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make filling: In a small bowl, mix remaining zest, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and butter. On a well-floured work surface, gently knead dough 3 to 4 times to release air pockets. Roll out dough to an 18-by-14-inch rectangle, dusting with flour as needed. Brush some of the filling over bottom half; fold to enclose. Brush half with filling, and fold again to enclose. Let rest about 5 minutes.
4. Lightly roll out dough again to a 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Brush half with remaining filling, and fold. Cut into squares. Place squares in coated pan (I used my new IKEA bread pan, which I love), with layers facing up. Let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 12 to 15 minutes.

5. Bake until golden, about 30–35 minutes. Remove from oven; let rest 5 minutes in pan, then transfer loaf to a cooling rack.

6. Make a thick icing by whisking together remaining 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and the juice. Drizzle over loaf. Pull apart and taste pure heaven.
Your blog hopping fun has just begun. Be sure to pick up more hostess gift inspiration today from these lovely ladies.
Marisa, Make Happy // Joy, Simply Bloom // Jocelyn, Inside BruCrew // Michelle, Chez Moi



My latest guest to join in the gift retreat is the lovely and sweet Calli of Make it Do. Calli’s blog is stock full of great tutorials. I would love to try her cozy bed warmer, and I am in desperate need of practicing this pie crust since I’m lame at pie crusts (I’ve also received a couple great tips from some of you. Maybe there is still hope for me.)

Calli has a fantastic simple idea to share today, so I’ll let her take it away.


Hi, My name is Calli from Make it Do. I’m so happy to be here at The Giver’s Log talking about handmade gifts.

There is no better way to show someone you love them than to spend time creating their gift. One of my favorite handmade gifts I made and gave last year for the Holidays was a Snowman Kit.

This gift is wonderful for so many reasons. It is inexpensive, the kid’s are able to help (by gathering and painting the stones), and it is so FUN to make.

It’s also giving the gift of wonderful memories. A simple snowfall can turn to magic, when the day is spent as a family, making a fat, round snowman.

Be sure to check out my tutorial on how to make a snowman kit. If you don’t want to sew a cap for your snowman, like I did, after-Halloween sales are the perfect place to find a fun and whimsical snowman cap.

And don’t forget to make and give Hot Chocolate on a Stick with your snowman gift… it’ll be the perfect way for your friends to end their snowy adventure.


I am excited to introduce you to the next talented woman joining us for our gift retreat. If we were all spending the weekend together turning out handmade gifts, this woman would be busy at work in the kitchen making yummy things.

Please help me welcome Marisa of Food in Jars. Marisa lives and teaches canning classes in Philly, and I adore her because she makes me feel brave about canning. I love her canning 101 series, and of course, I love all her recipes. I want to have a picnic and bring my own canned pear butter and garlic pickles, and would love to start making my own stock for fall soups. If you need yummy gift ideas this year, her blog is the place to go.

And now I’ll leave you with Marisa.


As the days turn colder (a blessed relief after the hot summer we had in Philly) I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday gifts. The recipe that keeps springing to mind is the one I developed around the holidays last year. It’s a sweet, spicy and herb-y roasted nut mix that is completely addictive and super easy (and who doesn’t like an easy homemade gift!) It’s also a good one because the ingredients aren’t seasonal, like so many of the other recipes on my website. That means you can cook it up at the last minute, without having to make any major substitutions.

I make it with peanuts and cashews because they’re my favorites, but you could do it with any combination of nuts that you like. The only thing to keep in mind is that since there are so few ingredients, you must use good ones. Get high quality butter, real maple syrup and check to ensure that your dried rosemary is fresh and fragrant. And of course, use the best, freshest nuts you can afford. Packed in jars or tied up in brown paper and baker’s twine, these nuts are tasty addition to any holiday gift basket. Visit here for the full recipe for Rosemary Maple-Glazed Nuts.


Thanks, Marisa! Be sure to stick around through October and into November to meet the rest of the talented women joining us on our gift retreat!

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While we’re talking Father’s Day food, here’s one more edible surprise for Dad. This is something we put together for my husband’s old college roommate to use at his desk. He really, really likes curry. So we gave him a salt, pepper, and curry shaker, plus a little hand mixed garam masala, to have on hand for lunch breaks. The curry was pre-mixed store-bought, but next time, I’m making my own. I know many men have a spice they favor, and unless it’s garlic, I figure it’s worth encouraging.


Divine Twine

If you haven’t had the chance to stop by the new shop for  Whisker Graphics , make sure you schedule a stop today. So many fun printables and paper goods. Not to mention the famous Divine Twine.


We have this great supplier here in Sac that collects vintage soda from everywhere. They’re called Blue Dog Beverages and they’re fantastic. I had a chat yesterday with Bob Lake, one of the owners,  about what he might recommend for a good soda sampler. He put together a little tour of root beers for me (a little bit like this one, from Erin), starting with River City Rootbeer, which is brewed here locally. I thought I’d share Bob’s recommendations with you, incase you’d like to put something together for dad for next Sunday.

After I hung up with Bob I headed right over to a Nugget to pick up my loot, but Bob mentioned that you could probably find most of these at BevMo too. I’ve also put together some tags to add to the overall effect, and I’m posting a few blanks labels incase you want to write your own message. You can download them here.

Rootbeer Tour Labels (2275)
Stripey Tags, blank (2164)

(helpful hints: You might have to right click and choose “save link as” or “download linked file.” Also, you can resize these once downloaded by inserting them as a picture into a Word document. And finally, if you need printable label paper, I bought this kind and have been very happy with it.)

River City, from here is Sacramento, California. Bold and hearty, like Dad.

Dad’s, originally from Chicago, Illinois

Abita, from Louisiana

Olde Rhode Island Molasses Root Beer, I’ll let you guess where this one’s from

Capt’n Eli’s, from Maine

Waialua, from Hawaii (note, this one was not on Bob’s list, but I had to throw it in after reading reviews)


For some time I’ve been meaning to start highlighting your comments. So often they put a smile on my face so I’d like to pass them on every now and then. I thought Mandy‘s comment on this blog post was a good place to start.

“holy crow are those weck jars…it’s my dream jar shelf…” —Mandy

If you are unfamiliar with Weck, you can feast your eyes right here.

And one last, very important thing. Be sure to stop by Mandy’s blog. She has a recipe for Disappearing Strawberry Freezer Jam that I can’t wait to try.

[pantry image from here via here]


I am not a black-licorice person, though I do love a good bag of green apple licorice. It is the perfect road trip food. But for those of you who are licorice lovers, or who have licorice lovers in your life, here are a few hard-core licorice treats that may take your love of licorice to the next level.

Kookabura licorice (in the first pic). This stuff is from Australia and comes in amazing flavors like Mango, yum, and even comes enrobed in chocolate.

row 1

Sambo licorace. I found this at a favorite online shop, and love the description “Sambo is the brand of Kólus, the most well-known licorice manufacturer in Iceland. We had a meeting with the 70 year old “Mr. Kólus” and as much as we begged and pleaded he refused to let us see the factory.”

Fazer’s Salmiakki Licorice. A quick FYI, Salmiakki is a type of salty licorice. Sounds intriguing, right? You can read more about it here. This one is also available at kioskkiosk, and here’s what they have to say about it “While in Finland, in search of the perfect licorice and other things for KIOSK, I found this yummy on our first day at a very basic Kioski. Mainstream all the way, the perfect balance of salt and licorice flavor, no added flavoring of any kind.”

Finnska licorace. Another imported version that has a milder flavor, available on Amazon.

row 2

Dubbel Zout. It’s just what it sounds like, double salted disks that are “firm but chewy.” Available here.

Tyrkisk Peber. These sound crazy. “Very hot and salty liquorice sweets with a liquid centre and powder coating.” Available here.

Panda licorice. This brand has a huge following and is probably a great place to start for the person who loves licorice but may not be up for trying the Finnish salted Salmiakki. It’s available on Amazon,and you may also be able to find it in stores at REI.

Golia. This one is an Italian licorice candy that’s hard to come across in the US. I found an online distributor here.

row 3

Darrell Lea & RJs both make some delicious flavors of licorice (the strawberry Darrel Leais popular) that come with rave reviews. Get them at Amazon hereor here,or visit their websites here and here.

Licorice Altoids. how fun are these? Also, this shop looks great for finding several other imported versions of licorice.


I spent yesterday gathering advice for planting my expanded herb garden. I’ve resolved never to have homemade pizza again without fresh basil sprinkled on top! Yesterday I spoke with two amazing women, a friend who runs her own nursery here and my amazing Idaho S-I-L. (The one who taught me to make this salsa.) I thought you might like to hear their thoughts. But first, you have to see what my S-I-L gave me last year:

Seriously the best birthday gift ever. This is an herb garden she started from seeds for me. I almost cried I was so happy. I have managed to keep much of it alive since, so I feel ready to expand. So here, from Laura (my local California girl) and Cherie (my Idaho girl) are a few tips for growing your own herb garden.

1. Do it. It is so much cheaper than fresh herbs from the grocery store, and you will have basil for your pasta and Tai food, mint for your lemon aid, rosemary for your potatoes, thyme for your chicken dinner, and you will generally be a happier and better fed person.
2. Don’t start with cilantro
. It’s trickier than other herbs and may get you frustrated if you’re not a diligent grower and harvester. (UPDATE: though I just got a comment from Sherry who makes it sound easy. Thoughts, anyone?)
3. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage
. Most basic herbs love the sun and don’t want to be too wet. Just a few like partial shade, like cilantro (which we’ve already decided is high maintenance), lemon balm, and mint. If you want to plant in a container, you can plant each herb separately or put them all together in one big bowl. Or plant them in pots according to the recipes you like to use them for, a Tai pot, an Italian pot, a chicken dinner pot. Use a soilless potting mix that will drain well.
4. Speaking of mint, plant it alone
, in its own pot. It will take over all the other herbs and take over your whole yard if you let it.
5. Pick a spot near the kitchen if possible, so you can step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to hike across the yard.
6. You can start from seeds, but start with at least a few from plants for instant gratification. Big woody plants especially are good to just buy as plants (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano). Be sure to water them before you transplant. Grassy herbs grow quickly from seeds (chives, parsley) and my S-I-L recommends starting these and other seedlings right in the pot or the outside spot where they’ll be living permanently, if weather allows.  The grassy herbs especially are delicate and don’t like being transplanted. UPDATE: The most helpful article I found for planting from seeds was this one.
7. Plant some perennials. I’d never realized how many herbs will come back year after year. Try sage, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano, fennel, marjoram and mint. A few of these will get too mature and woody after a couple years. Sage and thyme especially you may want to replant every few years.
8. Try a few annuals.
You have to go with basil for sure. Big-leafed sweet basil or genovese basil are good all-purpose basils. Plant them when it’s hot outside, when you plant your tomatoes. My S-I-L also likes lemon balm and dill.
9. Don’t over water. Water every few days when the top few centimeters of soil is dry. Don’t over fertilize. Once a month should be enough. If the soil is too fertile, the plants will produce too much foliage and won’t have the intense flavor that a good herb should have.
10. Once the plants are taller and established, throw some mulch down over the soil. It will keep weeds from growing and keep the soil moist. Leave a bare spot of soil right around the stem to avoid a slug problem.
11. Harvest often. Harvesting promotes growth. It keeps plants in their growing cycle instead of letting them mature and finish their life. So stop by your garden before dinner each night and snip away. (Never tear.) You can harvest up to a third of the foliage. And if you see a flower, clip or pinch it off. Once an herb flowers it’s trying to finish its life cycle.
12. If you want to try to keep your plants through the winter, you have some options. Rosemary can thrive by a sunny window. You will lose basil, thyme, and sage after a frost, but you can also try variegated basil, which doesn’t flower like other basils so it can be brought in during the winter near a sunny window and last for months.
13. Eat it! In order to use fresh herbs instead of dried, double or triple the amount called for because fresh herbs aren’t’ as concentrated. Try to add them near the end of the recipe. If you harvest herbs and can’t use them right away, chop them up, put them in ice cube trays, cover them with a little boiling water and freeze them to use in soups once the weather turns cold.


Sometimes I wish I had all day just to share ideas with you. There’s just so much brilliance going around and never enough time to share all I want to. Maybe if I stop folding laundry. Oh wait. I already did that this week.

This is a great idea Rikelle mentioned on the pre-Christmas post about giving a salad kit. Rikelle makes festive-shaped croutons to give friends during the holidays. Don’t you love that idea? I’m finally getting a chance to put this to work, for Valentines.

Alongside my bag of loving croutons will be a bag of candied pecans (just toasted in a hot pan with a spoonful of sugar) and a favorite dressing to make what may be the teacher’s most wholesome valentine this year. Below are Rikelle’s directions for making yummy crunchy croutons.

“I really do love making the croutons. I make them with a mixture of equal parts butter and olive oil, with garlic and parsley to taste. I cut out the shapes and then dip them in the oil mixture and toast them until crisp.”  (NOTE: I toasted mine at 350 for 20 min).

Thanks, Rikelle. The butter and oil combo is delish.

And since we’re on the topic, I have to tell you that my favorite croutons are those made from black bread. And I’m wondering, does anyone have a good recipe for black bread like you find in Germany? I’ve been relying on this bread mix but would really like to find a recipe of my own. I enjoyed Smitten Kitchen’s black bread recipe, but am looking for something firmer and without any rye flavor. I thought it was worth an ask.

If you’re looking for more teacher gift inspiration, I have a couple in previous posts here, or inspiration in my gift guides here.

I hope you’ll visit me at the SEI blog today, where you can meet this guy.

And one last thing. I hope you’ll stop by here and enter my giveaway. Select Registry is offering $100 to use at any of their almost 400 bed and breakfasts. Just stop by this post and
1. Mention an inn you like, or
2. Mention a favorite item from my gift or wrapping guides, or
3. Twitter about it, or
4. Post about it on your blog along with a favorite local shop or restaurant of yours.
Winner chosen on Friday.

Deb picked The Govorner’s House Inn as a B&B that she thought looked dreamy. I’d love to be there for afternoon tea.


A few gifts you can leave behind at your friends’ cabin the next time you go, that everyone who visits can enjoy.

1. A nutcracker that doesn’t send shrapnel when you crack the nut (available here in the U.S., don’t hesitate to bring along a bag of chestnuts for roasting over the fire).
2. A pizza cutter that’s will respect your host’s nonstick pans.
3. A bowl that is just begging for popcorn
4. A first aid kit you can grab on the go (and if you have pups on the trip, you can pick up one for them too).
5. Fun mittens
6. A few pairs of thirty below socks (okay, maybe this one would be better if you hosts kept them for themselves)
7. An apron or two that will make a chef out of anyone (I love group cooking, it’s one of my favorite reasons to go on vacation).

I have a lot of valentine fun coming this week, so be sure to stop back and get in the mood. Also, it’s been a while since we’ve had an interview stock full of gift ideas, so you can look forward to one of those too. I also wanted to say a quick thanks to Joy for her kind words last week. These things keep me blogging. Hope everyone’s week is starting out great.


The Salad Kit


Love the idea of giving a salad kit to a neighbor or hostess, (suggested here via here) using this vinaigrette and these croutons or maybe a bag of walnuts or sundried tomatoes to make a yummy salad. But how to decide on salad servers? That would be the trick.

Seth Andersson,
Jamie Oliver
, or
French Bull

salad servers forks tongs

(pretty salad picture from here found via here)


You may not have been around the last time I mentioned our cow. Her name is Moolie. And sometimes she is a handful. We found her in our neighbor’s back yard again this week. We thought we’d gotten past this stage. The stage where I’d be driving the kids to school, past the neighbor’s house, and glance over to their yard to see her staring back at me. Can you picture it? I took a shot of her this morning to help you out.

moolieAnyway, we decided that our saintly neighbor, who not only hosted our cow this week but also helped us take care of a massive fallen tree, deserved a treat. And a week or two ago a friend brought us the crispiest fresh apples and caramel to dip them in. It made us all so happy, we thought we’d pass on the gesture.

There was no time to visit an orchard, so we decided we’d make up for it by making homemade caramel sauce. We picked up a bag of apples suitable for bobbing, included our caramel sauce for dipping, and added a batch of our homemade granola for crunching. Hopefully it will be something our neighbors can enjoy this weekend with their family.

Would you like to make a package of your own? I happen to have the tags here for you just in case: Bob, Dip, Crunch tags (1430)

We also made plenty extra to offer to our own family, which we’ll be taking along with some pie and rolls and cranberry sauce. It should be a good Thanksgiving.
bobbing for apples fall care packagehomemade granolahomemade caramel dip sauce


Just a few gift ideas for gifts your Thanksgiving hostess can put to use right away. (Stop by tomorrow. With a little luck, I’ll share the hostess gift I’m taking).

-thanksgiving hostess gift ideas1. Placemats. Make this lovely version from the tutorial here.
2. A wreath made of kumquates, via One Pretty Thing.
-thanksgiving hostess gift ideas2 3. A cookie press! Have you seen how fun these are? Give them with cookie dough. Get one here,or take your coupon and pick one up at Michaels.
4. A snow man kit! Get the directions for this adorable version at make it do.
5. Yes, these flags are for football.
6. A good knife sharpener. Or visit here to see a serious carving set.
7. Their own tree, via here.
8. Or, the ultimate last-minute gift. Just offer to clean up. (Awesome broom seen here).