I once told my family, “Hey, if you ever have trouble figuring out a gift for me, get me some sort of nice bookmark.” It hasn’t happened yet (I think I need to repeat to say it again closer to my birthday or Christmas), but […]
Stuck on what to give as a Christmas gift for somebody? Consider an ornament!
Almost everybody, regardless of their religious persuasion, does some sort of decorating in December. In addition to being hung on trees at home, ornaments can be used to decorate office desks, classrooms, and even porches.
Every winter when we decorate our tree I am reminded of special people in my life — childhood friends, college roommates, relatives who have passed on, and former students — who gave me ornaments many years ago, many of them personalized with my name and the year.
As nice as an ornament gift is, it’s even better when it’s chosen around someone’s specific interests and hobbies. It makes it more likely that your gift will be unique, and it proves that you really know someone and took the time to carefully choose something especially for them.
Being a book lover myself ever since childhood, I had a great time searching for these literary Christmas ornaments. I hope you enjoy looking through them as well.
This ornament is made by a company called Old World Christmas, who specializes in creating hand-crafted, hand-painted ornaments that are made out of molten glass mouth-blown into exclusive molds. This particular ornament features a stack of books in glittering colors of blue, red, and gold.
It comes packaged in a special gift box, making it ideal for Christmas gift-giving.
Gone with the Wind Christmas Ornament
A couple years ago I watched the movie Gone With the Wind with my husband and oldest daughter and was inspired to re-read the book. (I “had” to read it during my sophomore year in high school.)
I was struck by how complex and deep the book was, and with how much I learned about the time during and after the American Civil War. It is so much more than a “love story,” as so many people of it as, and probably one of my favorite non-children’s books.
This Hallmark ornament of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara is titled “Almost a Kiss” and has a sturdy enough base that it be used as a figurine as well as an ornament. The facial expressions are quite detailed, and the red and green colors of the hat and box are a nice contrast against the dark clothing.
Gift Baskets for Book Lovers
Polar Express Christmas Bell Ornament
I’m sure I’m not the only adult book lover who has a special fondness for children’s books. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, which was the 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner, is one that we read every December.
This ornament (another Hallmark Keepsake) is a metal sleigh bell with a faux-leather hanger with attached “The Polar Express Round Trip” ticket charm. The bell actually jingles (of course).
It comes in a seasonal holiday gift box that is nice enough to keep use for storage purposes.
Winnie the Pooh Hallmark Keepsake Ornament
A. A. Milne’s stories have been a favorite of mine since I was child and my mother read The House at Pooh Corner out loud to my older brother and I. The Disney version of Pooh and his friends is a little different, but still delightful, and The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh is one of our families very favorite Disney movies.
This ornament, titled “A Visit from Piglet,” is the first in a library series that also includes “Honey Time” and “A Blustery Day”. Each ornament in the series opens and closes like a real book. You can display it either to highlight the book cover or to show the story and characters inside, giving it instant versatility.
The inside scene has Pooh and Piglet together with honey pots. The opposite “page” reads:
“Thanks for the honey!” said Pooh. “Is there more?”
Piglet smiled and said, “What are friends for?”
Disney Gift Ideas for Adults
Goodnight Moon Christmas Ornament
If you’ve ever been the parent of a toddler, you probably know all about “the great green room” with “the comb and brush and a bowl full of mush.” I have to admit that Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon was never one of my very favorite books, but it does bring back some very distinct memories of the days when children were very little, which makes it very special.
This ornament captures that infamous bunny bedroom in beautiful — and accurate — detail. Children who love this book will probably treasure it for years to come. This strikes me as a particularly poignant gift for a grandparent to give to their grandchild.
Alice in Wonderland Christmas Tree Ornament
I’m sure you’ve already noticed how many ornaments I’ve chosen that represent children’s books. Yeah, I can’t help it … there are so many good ones, and children’s book have so many good, lasting memories for me.
Alice in Wonderland (and the lesser known Through the Looking Glass, which, contrary to what Disney would have you believe, is a completely separate book and different story) were always favorites of mine.
When I was in fifth grade, my school chorus put on a production of the Disney musical. Then the next month was my birthday and one of my best friends, Kim, gave me a beautiful hardcover copy of the two “Alice” books combined, with her personal inscription in it. I still have the book, decades later.
There are so many great quotes from Lewis Carroll’s books, not the least of which is, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
The ornament itself reads “May your days be merry and bright” and features Alice examining a new Christmas ball while playing with her kitten, Dinah.
Anne of Green Gables Doll Ornaments
I about squealed when I saw this ornament kit on Etsy! Anne of Green Gables clothespin dolls of Anne Shirley and best friend Diana Barry … does it get any better than this? I would have snatched these up in a second and made them with my girls back in the days when they were about seven or eight years old. (Well, either these or the set with Laura and Mary Ingalls. Oh, heck — I would have gotten both!)
The kit comes with all supplies needed, including two dollpins, felt, doll hair, lace, a coordinating ribbon, materials for a “slate” and a silver basket charm, one pattern sheet and two instruction sheets. The finished products can be hung from the tree or stood on a shelf year-round.
The Etsy seller, regencyaustentation, has several other kits in her “Classic Literary Pairings” series, including Rhett and Scarlett, Anne and Captain Wentworth, and another squeal-worthy one of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.
Personalized Book Club Ornament
If you love books, you’ve probably been in a book club at one time or another. I haven’t been in one for a long time, but I was in one for about two years when I was pregnant with my second child and when she was a baby. We met one Saturday every two months for breakfast, and I absolutely loved it. One of the great things about it was that we read books that I normally never would have chosen myself, like Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love, and P.D. James’ The Chidren of Men. They all led to some pretty deep and interesting conversations, far beyond, “Ooh, I really enjoyed this part.”
If you have a book club that is near and dear to your heart as well, this personalized ornament is a lovely gift to show the other members how special they are to you — and how special books are to all of you.
Vintage Book Christmas Ornament
Do you ever worry that you’ll give someone a present that they already have? Well, that’s virtually impossible if you give one of these decorative paper flower pomander balls.
Each flower is hand-folded from a vintage book (the image above shows Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but there are many other choices as well. Etsy seller Greencycledesigns makes paper flowers from Garfield comic books, Disney World park maps, and Beatles sheet music. And if you want to see something super unique, as well as beautiful, check out this amazing Dr. Seuss paper flower wedding bouquet.
Generally speaking, teachers tend to like reading books. If you’re looking for a special gift for your child’s teacher this year, this rustic apple ornament is a nice choice. Each one is uniquely made from a book that was “rescued from a recycle bin” and given new life. It can stand alone on a desk top as well as being hung as an ornament.
Each ornament is packaged inside a white gloss paper box complete with cream-colored crinkled paper, making it both a perfect gift box and storage box.
I have a theory about why so much of us claim that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was our favorite book from high school English. (Mine actually was Catcher in the Rye, but TKAM was a very close second.)
It’s because we could actually relate to it. I don’t know about you, but at fifteen or sixteen I couldn’t identify with the Buchanan’s problems, or anything that Hemingway had to say. But Scout Jem, we understood.
This clear glass ornament is filled with the dainty hand-cut and curled strips of damaged and vintage books. An ivory satin ribbon hanger is included to give it a “shabby chic” feel.
You can also have this ornament made with vintage copies of other books, including Peter Pan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Secret Garden.
I hope you were able to find a great ornament for the book lover in your life — or maybe even one that you’d like to treat yourself to!
Unpainted Wooden Christmas Ornament Kits
As a professional piano player, I spend Decembers playing the piano for office lobbies, departments stores, school choral concerts, Christmas luncheons, sing-a-longs, office parties, and home parties. A couple years ago I even played the piano a few times a week at Von Maur department […]
Painting unfinished Christmas ornaments together is fun and easy way to spend family time together during the holiday season. When my two girls were little, they loved crafts of all kinds. I would regularly go to Michael’s and buy them foam craft kits and glue […]
Chili cook-offs are a great way to get together with neighbors, church members, or co-workers. It’s fun, easy, and inexpensive. And who doesn’t love chili?
Since my post about Jamie Deen’s award-winning chili recipe is by far the most popular post on this website, I decided to do some research. These tips will make your chili cook-off so fun and delicious that your guests will want it to become an annual tradition! In addition, I also found several handmade and inexpensive items on Etsy that can help make the event more run and run more smoothly.
Step One: Round Everybody Up!
Invite your guests to bring their favorite chili, hot and ready to serve in a crockpot, along with a ladle for serving. Try to encourage them to consider different varieties, such as vegetarian or white chili, or maybe a recipe with a surprise ingredient. That’s a lot more fun that every single person bringing chili made with ground beef and red kidney beans.
Don’t make a chili entree mandatory, however. As long as you have about 3-5 entrees, that’s enough to have a successful contest. However, if you’re inviting a lot of people, you might want to consider limiting the entrees to the first 10-12 people who RSVP (or sign up, if it’s an office setting with a sign-up sheet.). After eating ten different chilis, they all start to taste the same.
Here are some cute printable invitations I found on Etsy. Of course, you can always create your own, use Evite, or just slap a sign-up sheet on your office bulletin board.
Step Two – Plan your set-up
Make sure you have a couple of power strips and extension cords on hand so that you can easily plug in everybody’s crockpots without blowing a fuse! Also, of course, have plenty of bowls and spoons on hand (you might want them to be disposable, especially if you’re having a lot of guests), and an extra ladle or two in case some people forget.
One thing I’ve experienced at chili cook-offs that I’ve attended in the past is that, if all you have to offer is bowls and spoons, people might just eat the two or three chilis that appeal to them and then quit. Since ideally you want everyone to sample every entree, consider putting out these 2-ounce plastic cups for sampling, and then plan to bring the bowls out after everybody has voted.
Since “multiple people scooping out chili” usually equals “mess,” I’d recommend covering your tables with something like this gold foil paper, which looks festive and makes clean-up afterwards super-easy.
If there are going to be a lot of kids at your event, consider a table of two for them that are covered in brown craft paper and leave out boxes of crayons so they can draw, doodle, or play tic-tac-toe.
Half the fun of chili is the toppings, so set up a Chili Toppings Bar with items like shredded cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, sliced jalapenos, crackers, and sour cream. (My own kids love putting Fritos on their chili.) A salad, possibly some corn bread, and a variety of drinks rounds out the meal. If you feel to need to serve the dessert, brownies are a simple choice that everyone will love. If you want something more impressive (and time-consuming, you can check out my family’s favorite dessert recipe.)
11 Easy Chili Recipes for the Slow Cooker
Step Three: Label the Chili Entries and Have Everyone Vote!
It’s a lot more fun and interesting to make the entries anonymous with numbered labels. People can discuss whether “number 2 is too spicy” or “number 5 is my favorite” without feeling like they’re being rude. You also might like the labels to be color-coded to identify the heat level.
Of course make sure there are plenty of voting ballots and pencils for everybody, and have some sort of container set up that people can drop their finished ballots into.
Once all the votes are in, break out the bowls and let everybody chow down on their favorite!
Step Four: Give Out Awards!
The awards don’t have to be fancy or expensive. A simple certificate is enough to give a sense of accomplishment and make it “official.” Prizes can also include things like a bottle of hot sauce, a cookbook, pot holders and/or aprongs, or a tin of homemade cookies.
In addition to just having 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place prizes, you want also want to present awards for different categories, like “Most Creative” or “Spiciest.”
Click here to add this to your Pinterest food board!
Over a decade ago my mother in-law bought me the Better Homes and Gardens America’s Best-Loved Community Recipes cookbook. It’s honestly the best cookbook I’ve ever owned. Every single recipe we’ve ever tried in it has been a favorite, from the blueberry buckle to the […]
Rachael recently attended a huge church teen event that had a Chili Cook-Off, and she informed me that not only did I need to make chili more often, but I needed to try making different kinds of chili.
Fair enough. I’d been making the same type of chili for at least five years now, so it was time to try something new.
I discovered that Jamie Deen (one of Paula Deen’s sons, of course) has a very popular award-winning chili recipe. And his cookbook Jamie Deen’s Good Food: Cooking Up a Storm with Delicious, Family-Friendly Recipes, has some really great reviews on Amazon, including ones calling it “normal food for normal families” and “delicious and didn’t have me searching all over town for obscure and expensive ingredients!”
Need to Freeze Your Chili?
One of the great things about chili is that you can make extra (and this recipe makes a lot!) and freeze some or all of in portion sizes for future meals. One of the things I like to do is wake up one morning about a month later, dump the frozen leftovers into the crockpot, and turn it on low. Pretty easy way to make dinner, huh?
The only problem is that packing up and storing those leftovers can be kind of a pain. Big Tupperware-like containers take up too much space in the freezer (and I’ve even had some containers crack from the cold temperature).
Freezer bags work better, but getting the chili into the bag is usually a two-person job that ultimately makes a mess no matter how I do it.
That’s why I was excited to find these really cool plastic racks for filling storage bags.
It makes the job much easier — and a whole lot less messy! You fasten the freezer bag under the clips, which makes the bag “stand up” and stay open so you can easily pour your chili in.
And if you like to clean and re-use your baggies, it also doubles as a drying rack!
And now presenting …
Jamie Deen’s Award-Winning Chili Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
One 4-ounce can tomato paste
One 12-ounce bottle beer
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Once hot, add the onions and peppers and saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and saute until just fragrant.
Stir in the beef and sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
Drain the beef mixture through a colander. Add it back to the Dutch oven and stir in the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook for about 2 minutes.
Stir the tomato paste into the beef mixture; this will “toast” it and give the chili more flavor.
Add the beer and stir up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Bring to a simmer, and then add the diced tomatoes and beans.
Simmer on medium-low for 2 hours, stirring on occasion to keep the bottom from sticking.
We topped it with cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Fritos. Rebecca made mini corn muffins on the side.
We also like to make rice to go with our chili. For one thing, my oldest daughter Rachael loves rice and will eat an entire bowl by itself and call it a meal. Plus I like the fact that it’s an inexpensive way to make stretch the chili out and make it last longer.
I use the Aroma 8-cup rice cooker.
One thing that’s nice about the rice cooker is that it has a delay timer, so you can set up your rice, and then begin making the chili and forget all about the rice, knowing it will ready when you need it.
Almost everyone in my familyagreed that this was better than my usual chili.
The one exception was my middle daughter Rebecca. However, Rebecca dislikes sausage (for some crazy reason), so that could be why. I’m sure one could easily substitute the sausage for more ground beef, or even ground turkey, if they wanted to.
Cuisinart 650-26CP Chef’s Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 5-Quart Chili Pot with CoverAndaz Press Laser Engraved Wooden Mixing Spoon Trophy Award Prize, 12-inch, Best Chili, 1-PackTheLinenBazaar Fine Quality Waffle Weave Kitchen Towels, Decorative Dish Cloth Set of 4, 100% Cotton Tea Towels, Super Absorbent, 18 by 24 Inch – Red Chili PeppersCustom Engraved 14in Chili Cook Off Wood Spoon Prizes (Set of 3)First Place Chili Cook Off Champion White Bib ApronsIndividual French Onion Soup Crock Chili Bowls with Handles and Lids, Ceramic 16 Ounces 4 Pack
Want More Chili Recipes?
11 Easy Slower Cooker Chili Recipes