well, i missed the entire month of december, but i have a great excuse! i was MAKING GIFTS, in fact that is all i did for 25 days straight. it was an interesting holiday season. . . people were thinking much more about the money they were spending and seemed to be making gift giving a bit more simple and genuine, really thinking about what the person might like and not just buying everything in sight. i have to say, i had a MAJOR internal struggle going on this december. obviously, i need people to buy gifts and lots of them in order for our business to survive and thrive, but i also am an advocate of simplicity and living with less. in fact my family participated in the advent conspiracy this year. we made one another gifts (photos soon to come!) and donated the money we did not spend to charity. we chose to donate to the unity shoppe of santa barbara this year. . . great organization, in fact i saw miss oprah, herself, walk past our shop (oh how i was willing her in the doors!) on her way to the unity shoppe to match their annual donations, so our donation was doubled-thanks oprah! anyways, i think that gift giving, when done in a cheerful, genuine and thoughtful manner is wonderful. i do not think we should feel pressure to spend more than we are able to please another, but when it is within our means, gift away. and for goodness sakes, wrap it cute. i don’t care if you are wrapping up a rock. it’s all about the packaging (re-usable of course). so, on to one of my favorite gifts that i received this christmas. . . the trader joes cookbook!! since i do about 90% of my grocery shopping there, my mother in law chose the PERFECT gift for me! madeira and i cooked up our first recipe out of the book tonite, italian wedding soup. (did you know that it is called wedding soup not because it is served at weddings, but because of the delightful “marriage” of flavors in the soup??) it was really yummy and so cozy to cook with her tonite. we served it with the olive foccacia bread from trader joes. lovely.