Monday, December 26, 2011

Eggnog Cookies: HumanLight, the Happy Holidays debate, and a Cup of Cheer

I should preface this by saying that I celebrate Christmas.   Though I am Catholic by birth, my husband's family was Jewish, and we are now both UU by choice, we go to our fellowship's Christmas services, put up a tree, and track Santa via NORAD.

But I've felt particularly shell-shocked this year by the "war on Christmas" on both sides of the fence.  You've got the "keep Christ in Christmas" people who shout back -- in an annoyed tone of voice -- "Merry CHRISTmas" to the waving antlered Girl Scouts who are wishing people "Happy Holidays" from the float in our holiday parade.   And then you've got people who get all offended when random strangers wish them a "Merry Christmas" because, well, it's not their holiday, and one shouldn't assume.

I find the "war on Christmas" especially ironic because, after all, it's a holiday that is supposed to celebrate peace.  And joy.  Now, I know that Hanukkah and Christmas and Yule and Kwanzaa are fundamentally different kinds of holidays, celebrated in very different ways.  I realize that Christmas dominates the store decorations and sale advertisements for months leading up to the day, and the other holidays barely get any billing.  As someone who dated Jewish men serially during college and graduate school, I got first hand exposure to the frustration with the Christmas takeover, and it was useful perspective.

BUT: when most people wish others a "Merry Christmas," I feel like it has much more to do with good will towards other human beings than it does to do with Christ.  It's like someone wishing you a good day, only in a different language.  AND: when someone wishes me Happy Holidays, I appreciate that they understand that everyone has different traditions.  I don't get offended either way.

A friend of mine recently shared with me a link to a page about the celebration of HumanLight on December 23.  It's a movement/holiday founded in 2001 to celebrate the ideals of reason, compassion and hope--to be a positive expression of humanist values.  Though it originated among atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and other people not affiliated with a faith community, there's a lot to be said for the common ground it shares with religious holidays during December.  Isn't it time we put down the word-weapons and stop second-guessing expressions of compassion and hope?

Join me for an egg nog cookie, and tell me: which side of the holiday fence do you come down on, if at all?  How do you feel when people wish you Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?  How do you wish people joy at this time of year?

Iced Egg Nog Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup egg nog


1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons egg nog
ground nutmeg (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. In another mixing bowl, mix sugar and butter together. Add egg yolks and vanilla to the mixture and beat until smooth. Finally, add egg nog and mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly add flour mixture into egg nog/sugar mixture until completely combined, but be careful not to over-mix.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20-22 minutes. Remove immediately to a cooling rack.

For icing, whisk powdered sugar and egg nog together. Add more sugar or egg nog, depending on the consistency you prefer. (I like a “barely thick” icing for these cookies.)
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Moderation: Vegetarian Corn Chowder

(Welcome ICLW visitors!  If you want a brief back story, click here: the short version is that I'm mom to two after experiencing RPL and secondary IF.  I make, talk about and take pictures of food, because doing so makes me happy and keeps me mostly out of trouble.  I believe in the power of good food to nourish the body and soul.  I also muse about life, yoga, and being a compassionate, mindful human being.  I hope you'll poke around and stay a while.)

On Friday, my son came home from school with a gingerbread house.

By Sunday, it was starting to look sort of like post-WWII Dresden.  He decided to attach a little note to it:

Truth be told, I was helping to demolish this cultural artifact.  But you sort of have to love the "soup-na.zi" tone.

In many ways, this really is perfect, isn't it?  How many of us overindulge during the holidays?  In food?  In shopping?  In something else? 

My son's note was a nod to moderation.  Yes, you can nibble on the gingerbread house.  But remember what happened to Hansel and Gretel?

This corn chowder was something I threw together last night; it's perfect for rainy, chilly days, and it uses things you probably already have in your pantry.  It's also a good stand-by for when you've overindulged: comfort food without the discomfort that usually comes with it.

Vegetarian Corn Chowder

2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c. scallions, chopped
1/2 t. thyme
1 stalk celery, choppped
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 c. flour
2 c. vegetable stock
2 c. milk (or half and half, or non-dairy milk of your choice)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 1/2 - 5 c. corn (about 6 ears' worth)

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add scallions, thyme celery, and carrots; saute about 2-3 minutes.

Add flour and stir to coat, cooking until the flour begins to brown and become fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Slowly add vegetable stock and milk, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture begins to thicken.  Add potatoes and corn, and cook until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Through the Window: Stained Glass Cookies

Growing up in suburbia, it's sort of hard not to look in people's windows at night.  If you walk anywhere when it's dark, your eyes are bound to be drawn to the light.  And I confess, I've always liked looking in windows ... not in a creepy-peeping-Tom kind of way, but in a curious "gee, I wonder what those people are like" kind of way as I'm passing by.

When I was younger, I made up stories about the people in those houses.  I gave them dialogue.  I imagined what they were having for dinner.  Their lives were mostly more perfect than mine was.

Now, the older, wiser me knows that you can't know what someone is thinking, or feeling, or experiencing, just by looking in the windows.  Even if the lights are on and you can see them, admire the color of their living room and their taste in wall sconces, see what they're watching on TV ... you never have the full story, and you certainly can't know what is going on in their heads.  I've known people who lived next to victims of domestic violence for years, and never guessed what was happening.  On the flip side, I've known people who didn't even realize that their next door neighbor was pregnant until after the baby arrived.

The same is true for anything.  Facebook (which is a pretty self-selected public persona).  Blogs (ditto: remember Trey Pennington?).  Even reality TV (Michelle Duggar comes to mind).  Just because we think we can see every lovely or sordid moment of someone's life doesn't mean we know them.  Or can understand them.  Or feel their pain.  Or can speak on their behalf.  Or that we have the power and right to judge them.  The fact is, we simply don't have all of the evidence.

These cookies come out like beautiful stained glass windows.  They taste wonderful.  But don't try to look through them.  Because everything you see will be colored by Jolly Ranchers.

Stained Glass Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
7 ounces assorted clear colored hard candies, such as Jolly Rancher, colors separated and finely chopped (about 30)


Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl; set aside.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; mix until smooth, 1 minute.

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until combined. Stir in vanilla.Wrap dough in plastic, and refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Roll out chilled dough on a well-floured surface to a little more than 1/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes using a 5-inch tree-shape cookie cutter. Using a metal spatula, space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a triangular cutout in center of each cookie for candy filling. Reroll scraps, and cut.

Sprinkle candy in a single layer in hole of each cookie, avoiding edges of triangle. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies until candy has melted and completely filled cutout and cookie edges are just starting to turn pale golden brown, 11 to 12 minutes. Do not let the cookies brown, or the candy centers may become bubbly. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. Use a metal spatula to remove cookies from parchment.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Darkest Hour: Chai Shortbread Logs

The days continue to get darker earlier.  I find myself lighting the candles in our windows now at 4:00, looking out into the dusk. Even though the solstice is still a week away, the afternoons have me feeling a strange primal urge to build myself a fireplace and burn a very large log.  Nature draws inward for the winter, gathering energy for the lengthening days and the beginning of spring.  I find myself drawing inward, too, even though everything else around me draws me outward in celebration of the season; perhaps it's no wonder that I'm feeling a little overrun by the holidays.

And yet, at the darkest time of year, we celebrate the coming of the light and the spring.  The festival of Yule was initially celebrated by the ancient Germanic people, where at this time of year the hours of daylight are limited, if they exist at all, as a recognition that spring was on the way.  Last year we were invited to a Yule gathering, and I learned that the holiday is also a fertility celebration: the ashes of the yule log were scattered on fields to ensure a productive harvest during the coming months.

I've been thinking a lot about the IF community lately.  The winter holidays can be very dark days when you're grieving a loss, or when the cards plastered with photos of happy families remind you constantly of what you don't have.  Even those of us who "crossed over" feel the darkness at this time of year: old wounds become tender, we feel strange pangs at happy announcements.  And the sad announcements are even worse: I was heartsick to hear about the friend of a friend who, after six years of TTC and several rounds of infertility treatments, just lost his wife to complications from a C-section with twins (you can read about them, and reach out, here).

One of the first poems I ever had to memorize in school was Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."  I remember being struck by the stillness that the poem evoked, and feeling like my tweenaged self could identify with the traveler: drawn by the darkness, but determined to go on, to reach the hearth waiting at the end of the journey.  Especially now, we owe it to each other to stick together, to keep each other moving through the darkness.  To embrace the turning-inward that comes naturally when we are attuned to the seasons and to our life experiences rather than struggling against them, but to prepare together, quietly, for what comes next.

These look a little like logs, and you can pretend that the white chocolate drizzle is snow.  I hope that it's not too dark where you are; at least you are with friends, and eventually, there will be a warm hearth to come home to.

Chai Shortbread Yule Logs

1 c. butter (or a combination of vegan margarine and shortening)
3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 t. vanilla
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. almond flour (or more regular flour)
2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. coriander
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. chai tea leaf blend
4 oz. white chocolate, melted
1 t. (or more) oil

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Cream the butter; fold in powdered sugar and vanilla and cream together until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flours, spices, baking soda, salt, and tea.  Add to the butter mixture in two parts, mixing well after each addition until a dense dough forms.

Divide the dough into two logs about 8x3" and 1/2 inch thick. Slice into 1/2" slices and place onto parchment about 2 inches apart.

Bake 12-14 minutes, until the edges are just turning golden.  Cool 5 minutes.

Melt white chocolate (either over a double boiler or in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring after each interval).  Add the oil and mix well.  It should now be a good consistency for drizzling (it should run off a fork pretty smoothly).  Drizzle over the shortbread and allow the chocolate to firm up before storing tightly covered.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

More Food in the Mail and the Great Food Blogger Cookie Exchange: Mostaccioli

Every year during the holidays, I try to get involved in some kind of cookie exchange.  I love the tapas approach to eating (this drives my husband nuts, because I can often be found grazing in my kitchen), and cookie exchanges are like the potluck tapas of the dessert world.  I have fond memories of cookie exchanges from childhood: my mom was a teacher, and every year around the holidays she'd leave with a Tupperware full of our cookies and come home with new treats for us to try.

You learn a lot about people when they break bread--or cookies--with you.  There's an immediate intimacy that comes from sharing food ... and perhaps that's what I love most about cookie exchanges: not just trying new things and sampling in small bites, but feeling like a member of an instant community.  And during the holidays, when family gatherings can be complicated, these gatherings can make you feel at home.

(Those readers who knew me in my professional 
life will get a good chuckle over the name of the 
winery and the vintage date!)
Last year, I happened across Steph Chow, a food blogger who was running her second annual blogger cookie exchange.  I signed up, and was paired with Emily from Life on Food.  She sent me two kinds of cookies and a bag of peppermint bark, in beautifully tied bags, and I sent her three of my favorites packed in Tupperware (and was a little embarrassed about my presentation, or rather lack of presentation, in the interest of airtight-ness).  This year Steph has been busy with work and with the launch of Foodiacs, but when I did a search on blogger cookie exchanges, I discovered I was not too late to sign up for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Lindsay and Taylor of Love and Olive Oil.  This swap required participants to send one dozen cookies to three different bloggers, and three additional bloggers would send a dozen cookies each to me.  All in all, you get to meet six new bloggers and try three new kinds of cookies, and there's a round-up at the end wherein one could salivate over all cookies in the exchange.  Though I don't consider myself just a food blogger, it sounded like a fabulous plan.

The challenge for me was that I blogged all of my usual holiday favorites last year, so I'd be testing something new on people I'd never met.  Still, if I wanted to write at all during December, I'd have to start trying some new recipes at some point, so I crossed my fingers and fired up the oven.  This recipe caught my eye for its unusual list of ingredients (including WINE!), and I thought I'd give it a try.  I had to adapt them a bit because I preferred a slightly different balance of spice, and I found that the dough was too sticky to roll, but I thought that the end result was really quite delicious: definitely an "adult" cookie with a complex sweet and spicy and ever-so-slightly fruity flavor that will keep them guessing.

I sent out my cookies just after Thanksgiving, and in the past week I got the best kind of mail:
Sarah from Healthy Mom on the Run sent me cranberry orange cookies and gingersnaps.
Kisha from Kisha's Kitchen sent me butter toffee cookies.
Nicole at Life's a Batch sent me Cinna-Mas.

Thank you to the three of you for spreading holiday cheer across the country!  I hope that the people who got my cookies liked them ... and that they were something a little fun and different.  And I hope that you get to share something sweet with someone new this season, too.

Chocolate Spice Cookies/Mostaccioli
(adapted from an adaptation from Nick Malgieri's Great Italian Desserts)

1/2 c. natural (not Dutch process) cocoa powder
3/4 c. flour (you may actually need more than this to make the dough manageable)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1 t. baking soda
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. dry red wine (I used Merlot)
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 T. water

Into a mixing bowl, sift cocoa powder.  Add flour, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda. Mix lightly to combine.  Add honey, molasses and wine. Mix til a smooth sticky dough forms.  Allow to stand 1 minute to absorb the liquid, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to a few hours).

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Pat into a rectangle approx. 1/4" thick.  Flour the dough lightly and roll over it once or twice with a rolling pin to even it out.

Cut the dough using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, into 2" squares. With a dry pastry brush, wipe off any excess flour.  Transfer the squares to the baking sheet spacing about 2" apart. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies sit for a minute. Then lift the parchment with the cookies on it, and place on a wire rack.  While the cookies are still warm, make the glaze by stirring the confectioners' sugar and water together til smooth, then brush the glaze onto each cookie top. After a minute or two, brush on another coat of glaze.  Cool and store in an airtight cookie tin.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Putting Christmas on Standby: Pumpkin Muffins

I don't know what I was thinking. 

No, actually, I do know what I was thinking.  I was thinking that it was the second rainy day in a row, and I needed to get out of the house with N., and that she needed to have something in her stocking this year (for the sake of appearances for I.), even if it was something small.  I was thinking that it was a weekday in the middle of the afternoon, and that perhaps the stores wouldn't be so crowded.  I was thinking that I had a few gift cards that I needed to spend, and what better way to use them up than on Christmas presents.

I thought wrong.  Forgive me, friends: I went to the mall.

And honestly, after about an hour there, I felt dizzy.  The bright colors, the noise, the crowd, the toys that went "dingalingaling" and the toys that talked ... I couldn't handle it.  I walked with N. back out into the rain and I could hear myself think again; I could breathe again.  I started to wonder what kind of freak I am that I can't go shopping in T.oy.sRu.S any more.

I haven't been to yoga in a few weeks because S. has been traveling.  But one of the last times I went, my yoga teacher talked about restoring vata, the dosha (one of three humours that comprise the body according to ancient Ayurvedic medicine) comprised of wind and space.  When things are swirling around us, and in us, she said, vata can get very off balance. We might experience nervousness, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and loss of range of motion: our bodies feel stiff, tight and contracted. And so go our minds, following our bodies.  We practiced re-establishing equilibrium by breathing, imagining the place where the inner and outer air are connected.  We also did partner yoga, which made us all laugh as we played with the asanas, trying to balance each other in a blooming lotus asana, and inevitably toppling over.

Laughing, playing, breathing ... all of these things are supposed to restore equilibrium between the inner and outer air.  And during this time of year, it's essential: our own equilibrium will go a long way towards helping those around us to stay calm.

Standing there in the rain, breathing, I thought to myself: yes, I need to bake cookies and write cards and get some gifts.  But I also need to do the holidays on my own terms, not on someone else's.

These are not Christmas cookies.  They are good for breakfast, when you need something to hold in one hand while you're holding ten things in the other hand, on your way out the door.  They are equally good with a cup of tea, as you're sitting at the window, looking out at the rain.  Which is where I am tonight, in a much saner place.

Buttermilk Pumpkin Muffins

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me: Vegan Thumbprints

It's been over a month now since our freak October snowstorm.  Though it's definitely cooler and the days are definitely shorter, it hasn't quite felt like winter since then, and for the first time in many, many years, it's not going to snow on my birthday, or on the day before my birthday, or on the day after my birthday.  (If you want the story about why it used to, click over here ... it's worth the read.)

There's a lot weird about this birthday: no snow, S. is traveling for business, I'm not going to an office to work.  S. was feeling pretty guilty about this, I think, and left me with a box of chocolate, which I have managed to restrain myself from eating in its entirety just yet.

I'm not feeling alone, though, oddly enough.  Despite the fact that it's been a year of change and uncertainty, I feel more supported, in many ways, than I have at almost any other time in my life: I have a wonderful family, friends both far and near (including former colleagues who stuck with me as I've questioned my professional identity), and a network of people that I've gotten to know here, in the blogosphere, whom I call friends, too.

I've been studying the trees as I've been running lately; now that their leaves are gone, you can more easily see the damage done by the snowstorm, when the snow sticking to the leaves made branches so heavy that they snapped like toothpicks.  I feel sorry for them, and I've been wondering which ones will endure the winter, which ones will come back in a different shape than they'd been before, but thriving nonetheless.  There's an important trend I've noticed, too: the ones that seem to have fared the best were the ones that were stuck together in clumps, whose branches supported the other trees despite the weight of the ice.  Yes, they lost limbs, too.  But they lost those limbs only on one side, or randomly all over.  They are the walking wounded, the survivors.

It's a useful metaphor.  We shouldn't expect to come out of the freak snowstorms of life unscathed.  We change shape, we lose "limbs"; we may not even be immediately recognizable.  But if we're lucky, we're standing close enough to other people weathering their own natural disasters that we support each other, reaching out to collectively bear the weight of the ice.  I'm thankful, this year, that I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by so many other survivors.  If you're reading this, you are among them.  Thank you for the gift of you.

I didn't want to bake an entire cake for myself and my son, who eats mostly frosting anyway, so I decided to whip up a batch of cookies that I could stick a candle into, and kill two birds with one stone: these could be Christmas cookies, too!  Many of the vegan recipes for thumbprints on the web have "healthy" ingredients like honey, or oat flour, or flax.  These are basically unapologetic sugar and nut cookies, the kind I remember my mom making every Christmas (though she made them with eggs and butter).  The two great things about vegan baking is that it's a lot easier to scale the recipe (I halved this one for today) and that you can eat the dough completely guilt-free (which I did).  I hope you'll join me with a cup of your favorite beverage as I blow out my candle and celebrate another year of being here.

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
(adapted from Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar)

1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. nondairy milk
2 t. vanilla
1 2/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts
1 c. jam of your choice

Beat together oil, sugars, nondairy milk, and vanilla.  Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.  Mix to form a stiff dough (it shouldn't be too dry, but should roll easily into a ball).

Pour the chopped walnuts into a bowl.  Roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2" round, and place them on baking sheets about 1" apart.  Push your thumbprint into the center of each ball, taking care not to break them.

Bake 16-18 minutes, until cookies are firm.  While the cookies are still warm, scoop about 1 t. (or however much you like) of jam into the center of each cookie.  Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to allow them to finish cooling.
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Syndicated! A Blogger-Made Gift Guide

When I started this blog, I wanted a place to write.  I was afraid that I was forgetting how.  And I had a lot to work out.

Almost two years later, I've learned a few things.  First, I still have a lot to work out.  But perhaps more importantly, I have been remembering how much I enjoy this kind of work, and I think I've been in denial all these years that I'd really love to be a freelance writer.

SO: I'm thrilled and honored that one of the bloggers I admire most asked me to write a syndicated post for BlogHer on buying blogger-made for the holidays!  It's a post about gift-giving in a more thoughtful way, by getting to know the people who create the stuff you buy, and buying because things have meaning, not because they're on sale at Walmart; it includes links to some bloggers you might want to read and to their stores.  Please go check it out and leave a comment (especially if you can think of other bloggers that we should add to the list) and then go visit these talented folks to do your your holiday shopping!  Thanks to all who helped me in my search for blogger entrepreneurs, and thank you, BlogHer for giving me such a wonderful opportunity!

Because I couldn't include everyone I found, I also wanted to archive a more complete list here (but go read and comment at the post on BlogHer first!):

Now ... go read some new blogs and meet some really fabulous people!  Happy shopping ... and commenting.
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