Picking, wrapping and giving gifts is my favorite part of the holiday season, tied with eating all the tasty food that abounds, so it was only natural that I’d put together a gift guide for the year. I’m so excited to share this selection of gifts with you, each so charming, one of a kind and quality made I’ll be gifting them to my own nearest and dearest*. I’m confident each one will delight its recipient, and in many cases become a new heirloom to be treasured and shared for years to come. Bisou pawpicked some of her very favorite items that she’s sure the cats (and cat parents) on your list will adore, and I’ve rounded up my favorite home wares, kitchen staples and beauty obsessions that I love not just because they’re beautiful and functional, but because of the hard working and dedicated folks behind them.
It’s easy to fall into the big box store trap when it comes to gift shopping, especially when your list is long and during the holidays there are a million other things to do. But what better time to support small businesses and the talented craftspeople who put in long hours this time of year so you can gift their wares to the people you love? I’m making it extra easy to support family- and women-owned businesses, makers who lovingly handcraft every item they sell, and brands committed to responsible and animal-friendly practices by including some of my favorites here.
*To my closest family and friends: avert your eyes now, or there could be spoilers. You’ve been warned! To everyone else, read on for our favorite picks for all the cats and human people on your list and watch in amazement as your gift shopping pretty much does itself this year!
Is early November too soon to start thinking about Christmas (or whichever holiday you and yours celebrate)? Not in my book, at least when it comes to planning which gifts to give to your favorite people. Christmas is one of my favorite times on year, despite winter in general being my absolute least favorite. It’s a beacon of warmth and light in the cold and dark of the season, and a source of anticipation, joy and nostalgia every year. I have fond memories (and many pictures – thanks Dad!) of sitting at the top of the stairs with my sister on Christmas morning, giddy beyond belief and in impatient disbelief that our mom was usually still in bed. Years later we’d learn she was exhausted every Christmas because she’d stay up into the wee hours the night before staging a magical scene for the two of us. The fireplace screen would be askew, bites would be missing from the carrots and cookies we’d left for Santa and his reindeer, and all our packages would be wrapped in different paper than the family presents under the tree, proving they couldn’t possibly be from anyone but Santa himself!
Even though Santa no longer visits my parents’ house, gift giving is still a Christmas morning tradition of ours and one of my favorite parts of the holiday. P and I started talking Christmas gifts already last month because we so love finding the right gift for everyone on our list; nothing warms my heart like seeing a grown adult gleeful over that perfect present! This month I’ll be sharing some easy DIY gift ideas, and I’ll be starting December with a gift guide (with Bisou’s help) for all the cats and humans on your list. Continue Reading
Happy November everyone! It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through autumn, and the month of Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!) is upon us. Before you know it, it will be Christmas which I can’t wait for, because it means P will have two weeks off of work and my sister will be home from college. December also happens to be Bisou’s birthday month! Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the next several weeks. For now though, I’m still making the most of fall – even if it is an extra gray and rainy one in Portland – before all the leaves fall and it’s too cold out to go on strolls around the neighborhood. Speaking of leaves, how about this laurel wreath? The leaves aren’t technically from a laurel bush, but once they’re layered into wreath form, they look pretty darn festive anyway. Don’t you love how the wreath looks like it’s magically floating on the front door!?
I’m not usually one for seasonal decorating; I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of storing a bunch of objects that only see the light of day a month or two out of the year. I’m happy to make an exception for this wreath though, since it’s seasonally appropriate for fall and winter, and afterwards I don’t have to worry about finding a place to store it. All you need to make your own wreath is a bit of floral wire, hot glue, fishing line and any thick, glossy leaves you can find. I couldn’t decide whether to make a natural green wreath or a fancy gold one so I tried it both ways, and I still can’t choose a favorite. Either way, hanging a laurel wreath on your front door or somewhere in the house adds some natural looking autumnal vibes and holiday cheer, depending on the month. It complements our pumpkins now, and I really hope we get some snowfall this winter so I get to see it in the snow, too. Read on for the tutorial, and a look at Bisou wondering what the heck I was doing standing outside. Continue Reading
If you follow Bisou and me on Instagram, you’ve likely noticed Bisou has one unusual feature for a house cat. The tip of her right ear is missing, and though some have guessed she lost it in a cat fight, the truth is a little less exciting but meaningful nevertheless. You see, Bisou was a feral cat before I met her. Her tipped ear tells us that while she was spayed and vaccinated as part of a trap, neuter, return (TNR) program. TNR is just what it sounds like; feral and stray cats are humanely trapped, taken to a veterinary clinic where they are spayed or neutered and given immunizations, then released back into their colonies. Their right ears are tipped to indicate they’ve been through a TNR program. It’s a humane way to reduce the size of feral cat populations, while also improving the health and livelihoods of the cats in our communities who don’t have homes. Without TNR programs that support feral cat colonies and the dedicated volunteers who keep them running, I might never have found and adopted Bisou, so you can bet I’ll be celebrating National Feral Cat Day tomorrow!
Not all feral and stray cats can be adopted. Some have had no human socialization and don’t adapt well to living indoors with people, and in many communities, feral and stray populations are simply larger than the capacity of shelters to accommodate them. The good news is that there’s still a lot we can do to improve the lives of ferals and strays. You can learn to care for the feral cats in your neighborhood, donate to TNR programs and spread the word about TNR and free neuter-spay clinics in your area. Alley Cat Allies is a great resource for feral cat info, whether you’d just like to learn more about feral cats or you’re ready to start advocating for cats in your community. I’m sharing my love for feral cats (and my feral cat momma pride!) with this I ♥︎ Feral Cats tote. All you need to make it is some iron on transfer paper, a light colored tote or t-shirt and an inkjet printer. Just download the template I made so we can be tote twins and you, too, can start showing off your feral cat love! Read on for directions and the download. Continue Reading
Earlier this year P and I took a trip to the Oregon desert. Neither of us had ever been out to central Oregon and as we drove east, we were blown away to see a landscape unfolding before us that was a total contrast to the evergreen forests of the northwestern part of the state. Central Oregon was beautiful – if you can make it to the Painted Hills, it’s like stepping into another bizarre, breathtaking dimension – but for a homebody like me, the best part of traveling is heading back home. Do you ever get that feeling when you’re nearing home after a trip, a mix of comfort and something like nostalgia? That feeling began to sink in when the pale flats of the desert began to turn back to hills of lush greens around Hood River, a small town known for its many breweries, not far from Mt. Hood. The many rolling orchards in the region were barren in early spring but promised to be beautiful when flush with fruit, so we vowed to go back in the fall.
Last weekend we made good on that promise and drove out to Mt. Hood at the peak of apple picking season. We came home with boxes full of heirloom apples and Asian pears I’d never seen before, including the Mt. Rose apples I used in this baked oatmeal. They are, without question, my favorite of all those we brought home; they have a light green peel with a stunning bright pink flesh I didn’t know existed in nature. Could an apple be any more gorgeous? Most importantly (since not even apples can get by on looks alone!), they are super crisp and have a lovely sweet-tart flavor that was nice and fruity even when baked. Baked oatmeal is a perfect make-ahead breakfast if you’re like me and have trouble making time for breakfast on busy weekday mornings. I made it Sunday and it’s come in handy this particularly hectic week (a roof replacement + getting Bisou out of the house before the roofers start work + also getting P to work on time + sharing one car = eeeeuuuuggghh!), but it would also make a cozy and not-too-messy breakfast in bed on a weekend.
This baked oatmeal is decidedly non-fussy; everything is mixed together in one big bowl before going into the oven, so you get a satisfying breakfast without creating a whole day’s worth of clean up in the kitchen. It’s sweetened with a combination of brown sugar and honey, so it’s just sweet enough without being sugary. An egg gently binds it all together, while a splash of a milk of your choice makes it moist and chewy. It’s tasty right out of the oven but I’ve also been eating it cold throughout the week and can say that either way, it’s hearty, flavorful and satisfies the butter and sugar cravings I get when the weather turns cold without being too unhealthy. It’s hard to go wrong with apples, cinnamon and roasted pecan bits, but you could switch up those flavors with whatever fruit and nuts you have on hand and I’m betting it will turn out just as tasty. Read on for the recipe!