Hello dear readers, fellow bloggers and those who come here to roll their eyes and sneer. I need some advice. We have realized that we can not afford even one Christmas present for my boys who still live at home. Not even one. I thank God that we tend to be food stockpilers so that I have an ample supply of baking foods and other stuff to make Christmas (and the blog) merry with yummy foods. But it still kills me to have to tell my boys that I can’t afford to give them Christmas presents, especially since my youngest, at three, is having his first year of talking about Santa Claus and asking what Santa is going to bring him. Moving tapped us out money wise and our bills are higher now. We can make ends meet but there is absolutely NOTHING in the budget for extras and since we moved rather quickly, I hadn’t thought to save extra towards Christmas or to stockpile gifts early. So I need your advice.
I absolutely SUCK at crafts. I mean, really really bad with no artistic bent whatsoever. I can crochet but I can only crochet straight lines. I can draw but only if it’s in a coloring book and even then I go out of the lines 😛 I can use scissors but I am probably better off with the safety type they give kids in Kindergarten. I don’t want to use food as gifts because 1) I make goodies anyway so it wouldn’t feel like a gift to my boys, just more food momma made and 2) they would scarf it down in five minutes flat and that would be that until the aching tummies happened.
But I know that some of you are the crafty sorts. So my hope is that some of you can give me ideas on some crafts to make that are doable by Christmas by a woman who can only crochet straight lines. I don’t have a whole lot in the way of supplies (that pesky money thing again lol) but I have old clothes I can cup up, paper, pens and pencils and even some fabric paints (the kinds you squeeze out of tubes) from a time when I was deluded enough to think I might be able to use them w/out covering everything in paint.
So there is where I am hoping that you, my much more talented and creative friends, can help me. I am also looking for just general ideas for Christmas gifts that aren’t necessarily crafts but are doable for free or so cheap as to make a penny cry. I think if I have to wake up Christmas morning and have my boys see a tree that is empty underneath it, I will crawl under a rock and stay there forever.
So moving on. I have an amazingly yummy and easy recipe for you today. We all know I went through an apple phase earlier in the Autumn season. Well… it’s backkkkkkkk! I found a recipe in a Southern Living Baking magazine that I had been wanting to try. I wish now I had tried it sooner because it so so simple yet with a taste that made me want to stick my face down in the frosting and never come back out. I didn’t do much to change it though what I did do made this even better than what it would have been, I believe. I added some crystallized Ginger to the cake batter, used Gala apples instead of Granny Smith because that’s what I had, added more vanilla and a slug of bourbon and added maple flavoring to the frosting. These changes put this into the realm of ove the top wonderful. Yet still very homey, very comforting and very easy with just enough batter to hold the apples together. Another bonus is that this smells like a big gigantic snickerdoodle cookie as it bakes. So give this a try. I think you’ll like it.
Apple Ginger Cake With A Browned Butter Maple Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup crystallized ginger
- 1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 pounds Gala apples, cored, cut into 8 wedges then each wedge cut in half (the original recipe called for peeling but I didn’t bother)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 16 ounce box powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup milk (I had to use like a tablespoon or so more)
- 1/2 tsp. maple flavoring
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet until lightly toasted and smelling yummy, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, stir together the 1/2 cup melted butter, sugar, eggs, bourbon and vanilla extract.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and crystallized ginger.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter/egg mixture. Stir just until combined then add in the apple pieces and 1 cup of the pecans. The batter will be very thick; that’s who it’s supposed to be.
- Spread batter into a lightly greased 13×9 inch pan.
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and cake it golden brown. Cool completely in the pan.
- While the cake is baking, start your frosting.
- Cook the 1 cup butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the butter turns a golden brown. This will take about 6 minutes or so. Immediately take off of the heat and pour into a bowl. Refrigerate until the butter is just beginning to solidify.
- Beat the butter in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add in the sugar, milk and maple flavoring. Beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Trust me… the more you beat, the lighter and fluffier most butter based frostings become. Keep beating.
- Spread the frosting on the cooled cake and sprinkle on the 1/2 cup of pecans.
- Eat. Moan. Repeat.
First of all – what a wonderful recipe! 🙂 browned putter makes me swoon, and I love ginger with apples!!
I’m so sorry to hear this – I bet it must be heartbreaking. Unfortunately I’m not one to be crafty, other than crocheting and knitting, which won’t help you. I really hope you get some wonderful advice!
The cake was yummy…
Hi Twin, I hear ya on this issue. Hubs was off for 3 years, went back to work for 3 months and got laid off again. So Christmas will be rough here too. I do have one idea for you. Did you keep their baby clothes? Soccer jerseys or hockey jerseys would work too. Cut them into squares and make a quilt for them as a keepsake. If you don’t sew you can use double sided tape and maybe have a friend sew it at a later date. This is something I want to do for my own kids. Another idea is a gift booklet where you give them things that don’t cost money. I did this one year for grandparents and kids. They got things like ice skating with Dad, watch a movie with just Mom, one ticket can mean they get dessert for dinner one night, what kid would not like that. I know none of this makes Xmas morning any different when life sucks. Trust me the last three years have blown hard. I wish I could help my dear. If I think of anything else I’ll pop back.
Ah snap, and the recipe is wonderful. Geez I swear this week has dropped my i.q. something awful. Lol!
Have you checked out Pinterest for craft/gift ideas? If you don’t have a Pinterest account, you can either a.) request an invite or b.) still browse, you just won’t be able to repin/save pages through the site. At any rate, you can search different topics and look specifically for crafts and homemade gift ideas. I have seen a lot of different cheap ideas using things around the house on there!
I pray that you and your family have a very blessed Christmas even without big, flashy gifts. At least you will have a dinner table full of wonderful treats to gather around!
I agree, definitely check out pinterest – if you need an invite I can send you one!
Sorry I don’t have any suggestions, I’m having a hard time figuring out what to give my 10-year old nephew myself!
And that cake is amazing, I want it now.
I am so not crafty either. Crocheting? Yup, in a straight line only. What I can do though, is to sew in a straight line. Here is an idea for you if you have a pile jeans that are to worn to wear. Or, I dug into my pile of jeans that cookies will prevent me from ever wearing again:)
Hi Janet! I wish I had some ideas for you – I can cook, but that’s the extent of my crafting! The cake looks delicious.
Have you thought about having the kids make presents for each other and getting them involved in the creative process?
I’m thinking of you and you’re in my prayers….
Oh this combo sounds amazing!! I wish I had craft ideas for you, I used to like making those salt dough ornaments when I was little- I think those are relatively cheap to make! I know you’ll find something special to do with them!
Apple ginger and brown butter-yes I am all in on this one. Looks delicious.
Regarding your dilemma with the gifts, I came across a website called make handmade and it has a lovely bunch of DIY creations. I hope you find what you are looking for.
I know the spirit of Christmas will come through with whatever you do!!! I love Kim’s booklet idea…as I am not crafty at all!
Janet if you are looking for something for their grandparents we did tees for hubs folks one year. We took fabric paint and had the kids put their footprints all over the tees (cheap $5 tees at walmart) and then on the front I wrote “Being a grandparent means….” and on the back I wrote “letting your grandkids walk all over you”. They loved them and still wear them to this day which is like 15 years now. Just a thought if you’re looking for cheap ideas for other people.
I wish I had ideas for your Janet. I love the coupon book idea. I have seen ideas for turning cereal boxes into those parking garages for hot wheel cars. That might be fun for your 3 year old.
The cake looks awesome!
Your family is in my thoughts this season.
Hi Janet I feel you we just moved to it’s a tough time of year to do that an adjust to the new cost of living expenses. I do crafts with Julian but nothing super fancy. I did use paints and painted him a cool rocket ship picture with his name on it for his new bedroom door. I had it laminated so he wouldn’t destroy it. How old are all your boys living at home? Do you have a sewing machine? Feel free to email me as I have a sewing machine that was given to me as a gift a few years back it’s new and in the box and I can’t sew worth a lick I never even took it out of the box lol. I’d be happy to regift it to you if your interested. I forgot I had it until I had to move it to a new home. 🙂
wish i could help you out in terms of the crafts but really don’t have any other suggestions to offer. though i can emapthize not having been in a finicial situation to celebrate the holidays for the last couple of years. best of luck w/ it.
on a perhaps more cheerful note – how do you think the cake would be w/o frosting? i don’t tend to like really sweet toppings on my desserts. or perhaps a light lemon glaze in place of ???
Oh Janet….I wish I had some good ideas for you. I have 2 grown boys and glad to have had boys instead of girls cuz I’m not crafty and I can’t sew or do hair! I love to thrift store shop and go to flea markets and very often I’ve seen brand new things, never used. Not sure if there are any good places near where you live. Please hang in there. Times sure do get tough and it’s a difficult time of year when this is the case. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts! (And cake looks so yummy!)