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The $10 gift

When the office Secret Santa and White Elephant Christmas gift exchange are capped at $10, it limits creative options. Couple that with my usual time constraints and the fact that I loathe shopping and I’m stymied. I think a cheesy gift is just not worth giving. Practical whimsy and edible are my preferred categories. Practical whimsy include things like unusual kitchen utensils, scented candles, body lotions, sprinkles for cookies, Threadless t-shirts, flower pots and other items that add flair and panache but can be used. This is the central purpose of all crafts, those “soft arts” that women have done since thread was slipped through a needle. Quiltmaking is BOTH beautiful and practical. I find $5,000 miniature quilts that hang on walls to be….offensive. The patina of use is what makes a quilt rich with value. Therefore, I prefer to give gifts that can be used….or consumed. While I could place a tissue paper stuffed gift bag with a Yankee candle inside, I prefer to place a pair of my homemade jams: blueberry and blackberry. I want to think that Christmas morning (or hangover New Year’s Day) would welcome summer’s echo spread on warm toast with butter as an accompaniment to a strong cup of Joe or a bit of the hair of the dog.

For the luncheon table today, I have made my carrot cake. I won’t frost it until right before we gather, but suffice it to say that this cake is divine, decadent and delicioso.

For my Secret Santa gift, I am happy (thrilled) to give something I know will be very well received. I baked two loaves of Strawberry Oatmeal bread. This bread is wonderful and my secret Santa will snatch it like Golem and scurry off. I know it is her favorite. While the original recipe can be found here, I have made my own embellishments and substitutions.

Lisa’s Strawberry Oatmeal Bread

2 c. unbleached white flour

1 c whole wheat flour

1 1/2 c oatmeal

1 1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c packed brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 c vegetable oil

4 eggs

2  healthy cups of  strawberries,  sliced thinly

1/2 c chopped walnuts

Mix all the ingredients. Don’t be deterred by the thick, oily consistency of the batter. The strawberries will do their magic. Pour into TWO greased or Pam’d 8×5 loaf pans, sprinkle the top of each loaf with 1/8 c rolled oats and bake for 60 minutes at 350F or until center tests done with a toothpick. This is a great use of overripe strawberries. The next time, I will puree 1 c of the strawberries. I just never stop tweaking a recipe.

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