Creative Christmas Gifts on a Budget

Yay! I have to share the excitement with you. I really love being in the kitchen, especially when making a mess is involved, but not usually when the dirty dishes are staring back at me. Mark and I spent a wee bit of time making salsa for our neighbours. It was a creative Christmas gift on a budget, and I thought I ought to share!

I have a delightful hodgepodge recipe for Salsa and it is as follows:

  • 1 Can of Chopped Tomatoes (chili flavour)
  • 1 can of regular chopped tomatoes (in case you want to compare size — they’re 440 grams/15 oz. in my present locale)
  • a nice handful of fresh coriander or cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 finely diced green chili pepper
  • and away we go!

But why am I so extra-delighted about salsa? I’ll be honest. It’s the containers. We picked up some fru fru plastic ones that they sold us really cheap off the counter in the deli section at the grocery store. I wasn’t so excited because they were frumpy. I now digress to say my husband loves Coca Cola. And he especially loves it here because it still comes in glass bottles. And he thinks it tastes the very best that way. We had six glass Coke bottles under our sink waiting patiently to be recycled. And we arrive back at salsa. Now in gorgeous, thoroughly cleaned coke bottles. Garnished graciously with ribbon and a wee Christmas card apiece.

Here’s the play by play. If you like it extra spicy, drop the plain can of tomatoes. We tripled the recipe and added one extra can of the chili flavoured tomatoes, and an extra couple of garlic cloves for good measure. Maybe a few extra spices too, who knows. Anyway, start with the happy ingredients listed above.

Happy Ingredients

Mark had to convince me that this tiny food processor was a good idea. And now I use it like it’s my job. I suppose it is. Anyway he is great. So we mince the garlic in this bad larry first by itself, and then the onion follows. Then you can just add all the other tasty stuff.

Mix it up

You might want to put a few slits through the coriander first, or else it might get wrapped around the spinny thing, and not chopped! (Not pictured, but be sure you know we made that mistake!)

Chop Chop

Now is a good time to turn on the Wonder Pets, because the baby is probably tired of not getting enough attention, and you still have lots to do.

Wonder Pets to the Rescue

You’re almost there! We dumped our three and a half batches of salsa together in one big pot, gave it a good couple of stirs, and then began the process of funneling it into our coke bottles.

Big pot…

Pot o Salsa

Funnel… (and use a straw if you get cloggies)


Sorry ladies, that handsome demonstrator is claimed! And this is the final product…

Finished Product

I am pleased to report that the neighbours are really enjoying their spicy salsa Christmas gifts. I was delighted to deliver such a cute product at such a great price! I hope this has your brain-a-storming with creative ideas for being a blessing at Christmas without cursing your wallet! If you do have some Christmas-on-a-budget ideas, please comment away – I would love to hear them!

Travelling Tuesday: Gordon’s Bay, South Africa

This week’s Travelling Tuesday is of a slightly different persuasion. Instead of the usual travel shots, I thought I’d give you a wee slice of life in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa with the Collies at the moment. It’s probably still travelling for most of you. And if not, please come over for dinner!

We’ll be saying good-bye to some of these sweet views tomorrow as we slowly make our way to visit Mark’s family in Bloemfontein. It reminds me a little of the Christmas story and the donkey trip to Bethlehem. Fortunately we’ve got Mr. Potato Head, and room at the inn already booked along the way. (Can you believe taking three days to drive and staying overnight twice is STILL cheaper than flying?) We’re excited for the change of scene, visiting Mark’s parents and seeing his sister at Christmas, and we are (read: Caroline is especially) excited for Mark’s Mom’s bacon-covered cherries that will be on their way to my tummy our tummies very soon…YUM!

So back to the present…at the moment in Gordon’s Bay, the Bear is struggling to decide between football and rugby.

Touch choices

(Football usually wins out because it’s easier to get out of the toy basket.) My door is decorated for the holidays, with ornaments and ribbons I already had from this and that.


(Many thanks to the Nester and Southern Living for that idea!) We spent a few hours at Bikini Beach (here in Gordon’s Bay) on Saturday. I wore a tankini in case you were wondering.

Bikini Beach

The Bear had a good dig, a good swim, and afterwards, a great nap! And don’t worry, that peely-wally skin had SPF 50 on it, no doubt!

So that’s a slice of life Travelling Tuesday from right outside our door! Hope you enjoyed the journey, and that the road rises to meet you, wherever it takes you next!

The First Word

The Bear is in a wonderful stage of firsts right now. It is funny how I feel the need to document all these firsts. We brushed his three teeth for the first time yesterday (in the bathtub), and I was practically jumping over Mark to try to get a good angle with the camera for a photo.

He will probably be taking his first steps sometime soon. I suppose he was aspiring to be a clothing designer at about six months, because he once said the word, “gingham.”  It seems he has set that dream aside…honestly we’re quite sure it was unintentional but we laughed at claiming that was his first word. The “Dadas” and “Mamas” are in full force right now, but a proper first word is probably coming soon. It is exciting to think about the billions and billions of words someone is going to say in their entire life and actually getting to witness the first one.

First Toofer BrushI was reading in a couple of different places this morning when I was convicted about my own words. I memorized Ephesians 4:29 quite a while ago (and it was part of my reading again today): “Let no corrupt word proceed outof your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” I try to let that Scripture ‘filter’ what’s going to come out of my mouth. If you stop before the first word, you don’t have to finish what you’ve started!

This morning, though, I wanted to tell Mark the story of a conversation I overheard at the gym, and although it was completely useless nonsense, and really not a very nice story to retell, I went against that ya-know-in-yer-knower-you-should-hush feeling and proceeded to tell the story anyway.

And then as I was reading in Proverbs later, I came across Prov. 11:13 —

A talebearer reveals secrets,
But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

Ouch! That’s clear enough, methinks. I asked the Lord to forgive me for going my own way and letting my mouth run with ungraceful talk, and I am thankful for the clean slate and the fresh opportunity to move forward with grace-filled speech instead.

Every word we speak is an opportunity to build up or to tear down — even if it’s just the tone and attitude we are using to deliver the message. Please, Lord, give me a greater measure of Your Holy Spirit — to direct my steps and my words. And help me to obey!

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Ya know, it might be a little hard to celebrate Thanksgiving in the southern hemisphere at the moment. I don’t know where to find cranberry in a can or canned pumpkin for pumpkin pie or that special topping everybody seems to use for green bean casserole. And I definitely don’t have any Jiffy Cornbread mix or Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. And, honestly, no matter what it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without the following:

My Mom’s sweet potato casserole, my brother scraping most of said sweet potato casserole topping onto his plate, a football game on TV, that sleepy post-turkey-triptophan feeling, and for the past few Thanksgivings I’ve been back in the States to enjoy, stepping in a wee pond of my brother’s dog’s drool as he lies on the kitchen floor with those pitiful big brown eyes and that look of — are you really gonna eat all that and give me dog food?

While it’s tough to be away from home at these times of year, and though my Thanksgiving lunch was a (surprisingly tasty) toasted bacon, egg and cheese sammie (sandwich) at a nearby coffee shop that boasts free wifi, I’m still giving thanks down here in South Africa. And here are just a few of the many many things I’m thankful for at the moment.

Of course I’m gonna say this guy. I am so thankful for him, and his wonderful wonderful Daddy! Love you my delightful boys!

Thankful Bear

And I’m thankful for enjoying my own football game today. Complete with a star player in a very special t-shirt. A little different from the games you might be watching if you’re in the US…


My sister is expecting and I’m really thankful for this new little one on his or her way into the world. You’re gonna have great parentals, kiddo!!


I’m thankful for our new home here in SA. Here’s Harold, our friendly but perhaps a little dangerous neighbourhood seal, doing tricks with a fish! It’s a show we enjoy from our balcony! Our evening Thanksgiving meal will be boerewors with potatoes and butternut squash, grilled on the braai on said balcony!


There’s a lot more I am very thankful for…my great family in good health back in the US, so many good friends around the world, friends very dear to me getting married soon, and a list of other things that goes on and on, I have limited this post to a few that are easily illustrated! And while I might have tonsilitis and be far away from home, I still have so much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving. We are in a great place, and we’re where we’re supposed to be. And living life inside the will of God is a wonderful thing to give thanks for, any day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving friends near and far! Don’t forget to give thanks!

Travelling Tuesday: Lourensford Wine Farm

Top of the Tuesday to ya! I hope your week is off to a great start! It is Travelling Tuesday again! (Forgive me for bailing last week when I was a grumpymuggins and not feeling well.) A few weeks ago Mark captured what I considered quite a stunning shot of some clouds coming over the Hottentots Holland Mountains. Here’s the backstory.

The Collie Clan went for a stroll at a nearby wine farm a few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and, as she often does, adventure caught up with us there. We encountered a big beautiful peacock on his way to the cheesery. Delightful!

Peacock Fancies Cheese

I would’ve thought he’d have gone for the chocolate shop but, to each his own.

After a while, the Bear got tired of being held and did some of his delightful and mischievous crawling around, here there and everywhere. At one point, he was just a short distance away from us, and we both simultaneously turned to look at him, because the wind picked up, and the outdoor umbrellas, which were closed, looked like they might still be blown over. Not two seconds later, down one comes and — surely it’s not going to hit him on the head — yes, the huge umbrella bops him on top of the head.

It was like it happened in slow motion — the umbrella s-l-o-w-e-d down just before bopping him — as if an angel happened along just in time to hold it back. He got the fright of his life (maybe besides his circumcision) and kind of crumpled over. We ran over to pick him up and I cuddled him for ages, but after forty-five seconds it seemed like he’d totally recovered! He is very brave. He didn’t have a bump anywhere on his head — just a couple of tiny wee scratches on his face from his landing. And ya know, I think mother’s intuition warned me about those umbrellas but I thought — surely not, you’re being overly protective! I will listen next time!

The staff who saw it happen felt absolutely terrible, and gave him a HUGE chocolate lollypop, which he proceeded to devour in two, yes two bites. He still only had one tooth at the time (a few more are on their way in right now!) … how did he do that? In the end, I think he decided the mishap was totally worth the treatment afterwards. Here he is, struggling to keep his mouth closed with a huge bite of chocolate inside:

Bear Wants Chocolate

And afterwards, in a chocolatey stupor. (He refused to share, mind you.)

Dern That Was Good

Finally, just before our departure, Mark captured some shots as the clouds began to pour over the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It is so beautiful to watch the clouds move like this… cascading and pouring over so gently and so quickly. It seems like it happens a lot in this part of the world, but I’d never seen it before I came here.

Wine Farm

So that’s this Travelling Tuesday! Happy Trails, wherever the journey may take you!