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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 23 – Hard Sauce Is Easy

While traditionally served over the Christmas pudding, hard sauce works just as well on cakes, between cookies or even on mince pie. Why not? It’s basically just icing. Here are two easy ways to make it:

Easy Hard Sauce One

butter

icing sugar

brandy or rum

Take one generous tablespoon of butter for each serving. Cream until soft. Or you can use margarine if you have a decent-tasting one. I find Becel works well and speeds up the process since it’s already soft when you take it out of the fridge. Gradually add in icing sugar until it resembles icing. Thin it back down by adding in brandy or rum a few drops at a time. You want it gloopy but not so thin it runs off the spoon. That’s it.

Easy Hard Sauce Two

Substitute room temperature store-bought vanilla frosting for the butter and icing sugar. Thin down a few drops at a time by adding in brandy or rum. The results aren’t as good but if you happen to have some unused frosting in the fridge it’s a good way to use it up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 22 – Festive Tablecloth



Remember those paper snowflakes and garlands we were making back in the first week? Well, here’s a way to put them to use. You’ll need a dark blue tablecloth (I actually used tissue paper for purposes of illustration), an assortment of paper snowflakes and garlands, and another clear plastic tablecloth. Simply border the tablecloth with garlands and arrange the snowflakes in the middle, then cover with the plastic tablecloth to keep things protected and in place. You could use holiday-themed sequins if you have any but I’d avoid glitter as you’ll never get it off the plastic cover.

Monday, December 21, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 21 – Egg Nog

Of course you can always buy the yellow-coloured syrup with the artificial rum flavour that passes for egg nog in the grocery store. But home made tastes better and takes less than five minutes to make.

 

1 egg

1 level tablespoon white sugar

¼ cup table cream (10%)*

½ cup milk

dash nutmeg

 

Combine the first four ingredients in your Magic Bullet or blender and zap for a few seconds until foamy. Add nutmeg and your poison of choice (rum or brandy are traditional but almost anything works) and there you are. Merry Christmas!

 

Serves 1

 

*You can just use milk if you like but the texture won’t be as rich.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 20 – Room in Our Hearts

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Luke 2: 6-16 (KJV)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 19: Christmas Don’t Be Late

 

My parents had this album and every Christmas growing up we’d listen to it. It just wouldn’t be the same without the chipmunks. Alvin? Alvin? ALVIN!!!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdN_8OlJGs0

 

Friday, December 18, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 17-Christmas Stress

 Oh, Christmas Stress

(you know the tune)


Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

Why must you put me to the test?

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

You've got me feeling not my best.


To trim the tree or send my cards?

Buy presents? Decorate the yard?

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

Why must you put me to the test?


I need to bake, I need to shop,

But I just feel I want to drop,

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

You've got me feeling not my best.


The tree is up, the wrapping's done,

The kids are having lots of fun.

Is that the door? I've got to run!

And may God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 16 – Animated Winter Village

I found this animated winter village, complete with instrumental Christmas music, on YouTube. It’s totally cute and charming and apparently runs for four hours (there’s about a 15-minute loop for the animation though the music doesn’t repeat). You may be interrupted by ads, however, though they are several minutes apart.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRpKNsytq9Q

 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 15 – Robert Frost Poem

This poem suggests to me someone dealing with Christmas stress (perhaps on their way to do the last of the shopping?) and pausing for a few minutes’ peace before getting on with things.

 

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Robert Frost – 1874 – 1963

 

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

 

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

 

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 14 – Wooden Nativity Scene

 


Today I thought I’d show off the nativity scene my dad made for me years ago. He got the pattern out of a magazine and it must have been a popular one because at least one set of my in-laws also have one.

Mine’s unique, however. The original pattern didn’t have camels, but at my request Dad made me a couple. Don’t they look sweet? Though I gather in real life they’re anything but.



 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 13 – Counted With Us

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

Luke 2: 1-5 (KJV)

 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 12 – Christmas Truce

In December of 1914 the First World War had only been going on for five months. Things were relatively peaceful and the men in the trenches celebrated Christmas the best they could despite the cold and the wet and the mud and the enemy in their trenches nearby. In some places they were actually close enough to hear each other. Check out this amazing 2014 Christmas “advertisement” (I’ve put that in quotes because they’re not selling anything) from British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. You might want your Kleenex handy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWF2JBb1bvM

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 11 – Marshmallow Sheep and Snowmen


 

Okay, maybe mine aren’t quite as cute as the ones in this how-to video from Kraft https://www.myfoodandfamily.com/recipe/211788/fluffy-marshmallow-sheep but I’m about to eat the evidence anyway. I didn’t have any candy eyes on hand, so I just drew them on with a toothpick dipped in the melted white chocolate. I did have a lot of trouble inserting the pretzel legs through the white chocolate coating and getting them to stay in. If I was making them again, I’d probably not coat the belly area with the coconut/chocolate mix.

Here’s a tutorial on how to make marshmallow snowmen https://www.thespruceeats.com/marshmallow-snowmen-521048 . Looks a bit more complicated than the sheep, but still quite doable (I haven’t actually tried it).

24 Days of Christmas: December 10 - Paper Tree Garlands



It’s been a long time since I made these. My first two attempts at a freestyle one fell apart. After that I figured I’d better take a look at the instructions: http://www.thatartistwoman.org/2008/12/how-to-make-holiday-paper-chains.html . I had been only drawing half a tree, which didn’t extend from side to side, when what I needed was a whole tree that did.

I was really just looking for plain white snowmen or trees. It had never occurred to me to dress the garlands up. But the ones on this website, especially the penguins (templates provided) are adorable and I think kids could really have a lot of fun decorating them.

Also found this website https://www.redtedart.com/paper-chain-pop-up-christmas-tree-card-diy/?cn-reloaded=1 showing you how to use the same process to make pop-up tree Christmas cards.

Gotta go! The shortbread needs to come out of the oven.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 9 – Landlady’s Christmas Gift

I’m taking a break today so I can finish putting the tree up. So I’m posting a link to a Christmas story I found online and really enjoyed. It’s a true story about a young woman and her first year living away from home in the big city. https://thoughts-about-god.com/christmas_/hl_landlady

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 8 – Snowy Tree and Wreath Cookies

 


These cookies look much fancier than the candy cane ones but they take almost no time to decorate. Again, you start with a rolled cookie dough. I used the same one—in fact I made up a double batch, and used half for the candy cane cookies, half for these ones. You’ll also need wreath and tree cookie cutters, though you can also use a biscuit cutter or even a large glass to make the wreaths and cut the holes out by hand. I find the cookies roll out better on a silicone cookie sheet liner. I had to flour the first rolling but didn’t need to after that. Once you’ve cut out and baked your cookies, you’re ready for the decorating stage.

 


Did you know you can turn store-bought frosting into glaze using your microwave? I used the Betty Crocker Creamy Deluxe French Vanilla but according to Google most brands will work. You just put a few tablespoonfuls in a microwaveable container—custard dishes work well—and microwave for a few seconds until it melts. Stir in some green food colouring and it’s ready to apply. I brushed it on using a pastry brush and then sprinkled the cookies with unsweetened desiccated coconut. Once the glaze is dry, your cookies are ready.

 


Don’t like coconut? Not a problem. Cover the cookies with glaze and sprinkles instead. Give each kid their own tree to decorate and watch them get creative.

Monday, December 7, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 7 – Candy Cane Cookies

 



These are not the most dainty or elegant of cookies, but they’ll please those who favour quantity over looks and the kids can definitely help make them. You’ll need to make up a rolled cookie dough that can stand up to a lot of handling. I like the one in the Joy of Cooking but use the one you’re most familiar with. I suggest you use butter for the fat, not only for the flavour but because the dough will handle better.


 

Once you’ve made up the dough, divide it in half and tint one half with red food colouring. This will take a lot longer and a lot more food colouring than you think. You can also add a few drops of peppermint flavouring to the red dough if you like. Then wrap both halves in plastic wrap and chill for a few hours. Bring the dough back out of the fridge an hour or so before you want it so it can warm up to a pliable temperature. I generally squeeze it in my hands until it’s a good texture for rolling—think of it as a stress ball, always useful this time of year.

 


Once the dough’s easy to handle, divide each ball into an equal number of pieces. For each cookie, you will need to roll out a rope of white and a rope of red dough—just like the plasticine snakes you used to make in kindergarten. If you do this on a silicone cookie sheet liner, you shouldn’t need any flour to stop them from sticking. Don’t make them too thin or they’ll fall apart on you.

 


Then twist the ropes into a cane shape and place on a cookie sheet to be baked.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 6 – Child of Promise

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

Luke 1:26-31

 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 5 - Paper Snowflakes

It’s gloomy out there today and I’m almost wishing it would snow to brighten things up a bit. So I’m making paper snowflakes. Here’s a link on how to make the square ones you probably remember from childhood: 

https://laughingkidslearn.com/how-to-make-paper-snowflakes-with-kids/

It’s simple enough to turn your kids loose on.

 

Here’s how to make six-pointed ones:

https://www.firstpalette.com/craft/paper-snowflake.html

It’s a little more complicated – that’s the first time I’ve had to use a protractor in a long time – but even young children can help if you fold the paper for them first. Lots of other cool kid crafts on this page too, like paper bowl jellyfish, and a coral reef diorama.

This site has templates and stencils for snowflakes:

https://suncatcherstudio.com/patterns/christmas/snowflake-templates/


Make it snow!

Friday, December 4, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 4 - Snowflake Songs

I heard these songs every Christmas growing up so even though they’re not technically Christmas songs, they’re part of my Christmas nostalgia. You know, back in the day, when someone else put up the tree and the lights, did the baking, did the cleaning, did the shopping… and all I had to do was receive and rejoice. Kind of like the very first Christmas, actually.

First up is Suzy Snowflake. I’ve got two versions for you, one which is a video made by a Chicago TV station back in 1953. Music videos are older than me? Who knew? 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaUBpsn4QjQ

The second is the more familiar version, at least to me, as sung by Rosemary Clooney.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbJuqBkXrdM

 

And here’s another snowflake song, a romantic piece by Jim Reeves, Hey, Hey, Hey, Snowflake.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3FtlYHjnTw

Thursday, December 3, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 3 - Package from Home Fruitcake

 

Yes, I know I’m going to get bad jokes and comments on this post, but some of us actually like the stuff. This is based on the Canada War Cake recipe I blogged about a while ago. I thought at the time it would make a good fruitcake, so I tweaked a few things, and sure enough it does.

This does not need to be made several weeks in advance and stored away until Christmas. I had my first piece still warm from the pan and it was delicious. It’s rich and moist, while also being easy (no copious amounts of stirring required) and economical. And, apart from soaking the fruit overnight, you can make it and bake it in a little over an hour.

 

1 cup pecans

1 ½ cups glace fruit mix*

½ cup brandy+

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup margarine

1 cup boiling water

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

 

The night before, combine the nuts, fruit and brandy and cover (plastic wrap is fine). Leave overnight to soak.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, margarine and water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square cake pan.

Combine flour and spices in a large measuring cup.

Pour fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in cider vinegar, followed by baking soda. It will foam up. Stir in the flour/spice mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 45 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.


* you can use glace cherries for a more luxurious version

+ the alcohol will evaporate in the oven but you can use orange juice or apple juice instead

 

If you cut the squares in half, warm them in the microwave, and serve with a dollop of hard sauce, you can pass this off as Christmas pudding, so it’s actually two recipes in one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 2 - Christina Rossetti Poem

 

I don’t know about you, but I woke up on December 1st with full-blown Christmas stress. And I haven’t even had time yet to fall behind on my holiday to-do list. So here’s an antidote. Find a comfy chair, make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, take a few deep breaths, and read this poem by Christina Rossetti. Repeat as needed. I like to imagine a clear winter night, snow lying on the fields, a couple of deer standing in the moonlight, a sky full of stars…

 

Christmastide

by Christina Georgina Rossetti

 

Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine;

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.

 

Worship we the Godhead,

Love incarnate, love divine;

Worship we our Jesus:

But wherewith for sacred sign?

 

Love shall be our token,

Love be yours and love be mine,

Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 1 – paper and foil stars

 


I learned to make these four-pointed stars in Germany back in the ‘70s. You could find lovely foil sheets in most of the department stores there, but these can also be made with ordinary paper (I used printer paper) or even cardstock, though you’d need to use a ruler and pen on the back to pre-crease the folds in that case. 


Take a square piece of paper and crease it horizontally, vertically, and on both diagonals. I’ve drawn the lines on the back of the yellow square to show where the creases go. The white one is folded on the diagonal and you can see the crease marks from the horizontal and vertical folds on it.







Cut halfway into the centre on the horizontal and vertical folds only (the dashed lines in the previous photo). Fold the cut pieces in to meet the diagonal crease, forming a point.


Continue folding the cut pieces in until you have four points. This is the back of your star.


Secure each point with a piece of tape.


Flip the star face up. Push in lightly on the corners to plump it up.


For a double-sided star, put two together, backs facing each other. Or you can stack and rotate stars as in my title photo for a more colourful, less plain vanilla effect.

 

I’m adding a few links for other types of stars you can make. They use aluminium foil (ooh, shiny!) which can be hard on scissors, so don’t use a pair you really care about. The first two, like my four-pointers, could be a family craft. The last one is more sophisticated and requires a glue gun, so probably not suited for the younger set.


https://www.ourkidthings.com/aluminum-foil-stars-craft/

 

https://www.diythought.com/foil-art-stars/

 

https://youtu.be/TaOOn35JHJY