Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Our Winter Tree

I love Christmas decorations.  This year we had several actual Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations, but we added a new addition to our winter decorations: a winter tree.  Instead of a Christmas evergreen, it's a tree (a buddleia) that looks all wintry and branchy. 

Instead of looking barren, though, it's really beautiful and inviting.  We decorated it with simple white lights and natural ornaments (bundles of cinnamon sticks, wooden ornaments, etc.).  Our girls love it (and moving ornaments back and forth between it and the traditional Christmas tree in the same room).

To find out more about decorative winter trees, click here.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Home-made Christmas Wreaths

Every year we pick a sunny day in December and make our own Christmas wreath.  They're different every year (click here for a picture of last year's wreath).  We had a great time this year gathering our own supplies and making our wreath for our front door.  Jared and I gathered foliage in a basket.  The girls followed behind us emptying out the basket and forming patterns and decorations all over the front lawn.  It makes a great family activity and really helps me to get into the festive spirit. 

For instructions on how to make your own Christmas wreath, click here.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Spiced Apple Syrup

Every year when we harvest our apples in the autumn, we make bottles of apple syrup.  This spicy apple syrup is perfect for breakfasts, brunches, or desserts.  I especially like it on pancakes.  It's especially good at Christmas time (and we always give bottles of it away as Christmas gifts--some times with jars of pancake mix).  This is surprisingly easy to make and so delicious. 

For my apple syrup recipe, click here.

Merry Christmas everybody & hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Simple Chocolate Cupcakes

It's always good to have a few recipes for home-made treats that are relatively quick and easy to make, and you know will turn out perfectly every time.  One of the best treats is a chocolate cupcake.  They're perfect for almost any occasion (including when you just need a chocolate fix).

My daughter wanted to visit her old preschool.  She wanted them to be able to see how grown up she is in her school uniform, and to wish them a Merry Christmas.  So the girls and I made chocolate cupcakes together.  This is the kind of recipe that still turns out well when you're letting your kids do all of the measuring and mixing.

For my simple chocolate cupcake recipe, click here.

We gave them the cupcakes with a Christmas card.  We wanted to individually wrap them so that all of the teachers and other workers could bring one home with them, and wanted to make them Christmasy.  Here's what we did.

To add a Christmasy feel, we made a mint chocolate icing.  I used a piping bag without a nozzle.  To be even more festive, add some crushed candy canes into the icing and then sprinkle a little on the top.  We sprinkled edible glitter on the top because it looked festive and reminded us of snow.

To individually wrap them, we used plastic sandwich bags.  We put them in then tied around the bag with scraps of festive ribbon.  This is great because you can use up any scraps you have leftover from wrapping presents or other festive activities.  We had a mix of different red and gold ribbons.

These made a delicious and really simple Christmas gift.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Even though we live in an area that doesn't get very much snow (as in normally a flurry or two a year), I can't help but hope for snow each December.  Thanks to all the Christmas cards, songs, and movies, we all idealize a White Christmas.  It's not actually Christmas for a few more weeks, but we have enjoyed snow this year.  We woke up one morning last week to discover that--overnight--our garden had been transformed into a winter wonderland.  There was about six inches of beautiful powdery snow, and it kept snowing all day.

I'm not sure who was more excited--my husband and I or our kids.  I think he was the first to go out in it (at like seven in the morning with his coat on over pajamas).  Miriam thought that, since there was so much snow outside and she wasn't going to school, it must be Christmas.  She was quite disappointed when she realized that Father Christmas hadn't come to fill her stocking during the night.  We had to explain that it was Christmas time, but not Christmas day.  Anya kept looking out the window and pointing out everything that was covered in snow.  Her monologue went something like this: "Snow-car!  Snow-tree!  Snow-bike!  Mummy, snow!  Snow-grass!  Snow-road!  Daddy, look snow! Snow-car!". 

We enjoyed going out to play in the snow.  While Jared was lying down on the ground making a snow angel, the girls took advantage of his vulnerable position and started pelting him with snowballs.  They really liked making tracks through the snow (and looking at the tracks left by a fox, birds, and other wildlife).  It was a lot of fun, and was made even better because we kept going inside for a mug of home-made hot chocolate to warm up.

Almost all of the snow has melted now, and we probably won't have snow on Christmas day (although I'm keeping my fingers crossed), but it was a lot of fun and made us feel very festive.  So Merry Christmas everybody!  As the song says, "May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white."