Christmas Gift To Myself

Happy New Year! My apologies for the drop in posts. I’ve been busy with the bakery division of Sister Girl w/ Skills. My family loves my carrot cake, so for the last few years I’ve been gifting mini loaf size pan versions, each person gets their own cake. The recipe is one I’ve had for over 40 years, which I got from my Big Mama, Inez Kent (she was tall, over 6′ so I distinguished my two grandmothers by Big Mama and Grandma). She was a scratch cooker, using the palm of her hand to measure out teaspoons and tablespoons, but she wrote down this recipe for me. I’ve got to get this framed before it disintegrates more. This year I followed her recipe exactly, putting the nuts in the frosting. Over the years I had morphed it to follow my zucchini bread recipe, which I’ve also had for years. It was given to me by a colleague of my mom, Vivian Dobur, who use to grow enormous zucchinis in her garden every year.

The zucchini bread recipe saw a lot of action this year too. My friend, Carolyn owner of Perfect Brew catering, asked if I could make it in tiny pans that would allow her to include it in a gift box she created called, Making the Holidays Bearable. I think she may have birthed another side hustle for me. Typically I have two versions of the bread raisin or pineapple walnut. Given nut allergies in some people we stayed away from that one, but a few months ago when I had a taste for some bread I stumbled across a combination that is to live for, cherry chocolate. I ended up making more of it and actually selling it to other friends. I’ve been encouraged by those friends to market the bread to local restaurants and coffee shops, so I’m strongly considering it. I now have three sizes x-mini, mini, and regular, which I’ve priced at $4, $8, and $12. Not a killer profit for me, but at this stage I just like that someone loves something else I created and it’s worth exploring since Covid is forcing me to reinvent myself.

Living A2

In regards to the gift for myself my living room is comfortable, but it lacked a coziness that made me prefer to eat dinner on a TV tray in my master suite while watching TV.  I was spending too much time in my master, so I decided it was time to make my massive Rookwood fireplace (100″ wide, 60″ to top of mantle) functioning.

When I bought my front door lock set at Bona Hardware in Oakley two years ago I noticed they sold log sets. Remembering this and the great service they gave me I decided to get pricing on their units. Guy, my sales clerk, showed me a couple of options. I was looking to spend as little as possible. The opening, which was only 18″ deep and 39″ wide at its narrowest point and the existing location of the gas line (hole for gas line was there when I bought house) became the driving factor. I selected the vented Rasmussen Cross Fire log set in a sand pan with manual ignition. Guy connected me with a plumber, Lyons Plumbing and Heating, they frequently partner with on fireplace installs.

Gary (owner) and his son Joe came out to access my situation and give me a quote, which I accepted. Given I had already paid my HVAC company a similar amount to run the gas line two years earlier I thought their rate seemed high. I have no point of reference to compare and I wanted it done by Christmas, so opted to trust the referral and not obtain other bids. They returned on December 22 with the third member of the crew, son/brother Matt, and got to work. I already new my HVAC company had not installed the gas cut-off in the right area. They put it in the fireplace and code requires it to be outside. I was fortunate the City inspector didn’t flag me for it at that time. I bought the correct part months ago and was waiting for this moment to have it installed. I selected an oil rubbed bronze finish since I knew it would be located in the floor.

Gary and sons did a great job; I’ve found another reliable plumber. They discovered that my HVAC company had failed to replace a key 1′ section of iron pipe, which needless to say really annoyed me once discovered. They had put new pipe and valve in the fire place, but the 1′ section that ran underneath, accessible in the basement, they did not replace instead only connecting a new iron pipe line to it that ran back to the gas meter. That 1′ section was completely clogged, so clearly they never bothered testing their new line. The pipe was hard to access. Gary and his sons spent an hour working to free it, which is probably why the other company ignored it. I’m so grateful they just didn’t give up, since running new pipe was not part of their bid. I had to pay an additional $100. After about 3 hours of work my gift to myself was up and running. That first night I wore my mother’s robe and Bombas gripper slippers while enjoying hot tea from Churchill’s Fine Tea laced with brandy, ice cream, and a Sugar Tin mixed berry hand pie. I think I’ve fallen asleep on my sofa (which isn’t a comfy couch) every night since.