Jul 30

Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Christmas tree and Christmas decorationsChristmas time and decorating the Christmas tree is a favorite part of many people’s holiday season. Many family traditions involve going to a tree farm or Christmas tree store to pick out the perfect tree. A real tree can add the beauty of the season to your home and fill it with a pleasant scent of pine.

Unfortunately, real Christmas trees can also pose a fire hazard. According to the National Safety Council, each year more than 400 residential fires involve Christmas trees and tragically nearly 40 deaths and 100 injuries result from those fires. To help protect your family this holiday season, below is a list of important Christmas tree safety tips.

Christmas Trees:

  • Select a fresh tree by looking for one that is green.
  • The needles of pine and spruce trees should bend, not break, and be hard to pull off the branches.
  • For the fir tree species, the needles should snap when bent, much like a fresh carrot.
  • Also, look for sticky sap on the tree’s trunk.
  • Cut off approximately two inches of the tree’s trunk and place the tree in a sturdy, water-holding stand.
  • Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times so that the tree does not dry out too quickly.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet (one meter) away from any heat source, such as fireplaces and radiators.
  • Try to position the tree near an outlet so that cords are not running long distances.
  • Do not place the tree where it blocks doorways or foot traffic.
  • If you decide to use an artificial tree, buy one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  • Be sure the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label is on an artificial tree with built-in electrical systems.

Tree Lights:

  • Only use indoor lights with the UL label.
  • Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Replace any damaged light sets.
  • Do not use more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Also be sure to place the extension cord next to a wall to avoid a tripping hazard.
  • Do not run extension cords under rugs.
  • Always turn off lights and decorations on your Christmas tree when you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Never use electric lights on a metal tree.

Tree Ornaments:

  • Avoid placing breakable or small tree ornaments with detachable parts on the tree’s lower branches where small children and pets can reach them.
  • Never place lighted candles on a tree or near any flammable materials or decorations.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on all Christmas tree ornaments.
  • Use the proper step stool or ladder to reach the top of the tree while decorating.

Disposing of Tree:

  • It is time to dispose of the tree when it begins dropping needles. Dried-out trees are highly flammable and should not be left in a house, garage, or placed against the house.

To keep your family and home safe this year, be sure to check your smoke alarms, replace batteries as needed, and know what your fire escape plan is.

Happy Holidays!

 

Lesley Dietschy is a freelance writer and the founder of http://www.HomeDecorExchange.com – The Home Decor Exchange is a valuable website full of information and resources about home and garden decorating.

In addition to editing the Home Decor Exchange website, Lesley is a crochet pattern designer and needle fiber artist. You can view her crochet patterns and needle fiber designs at: http://www.ErinOliviaDesigns.Etsy.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Jan 23

Creamy Speculoos Fudge

A mouth-watering treat that’s deliciously spiced and perfectly sweet

Creamy Speculoos Fudge

Creamy Speculoos Fudge

With its traditionally Christmas-like flavours, this fudge makes a great gift for anyone with a sweet tooth.

“Inspired by the traditional spiced cookie from Belgium and Netherlands, the velvety spread used in this recipe contains a plentiful amount of crushed cookies. Flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger make a great base for homemade candy,” says Chef Tom Filippou, executive chef President’s Choice. “Microwave fudge is a gift from the sugar gods – no boiling sugar, candy thermometers, and sore arms from stirring the candy until it cools.”

Creamy Speculoos Fudge

Ingredients:

• 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar

• 1/2 cup (125 mL) evaporated milk

• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

• 1 cup (250 mL) PC Speculoos Cookie Butter

Directions:

1. Line bottom and sides of 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish with foil; set aside.

2. Stir together sugar, evaporated milk and salt in large glass bowl until thick and grainy. Heat in microwave on high for 2 minutes then whisk for 10 seconds. Return to microwave; heat for another 1 minute.

3. Whisk in cookie butter; heat for 30 seconds. Using wooden spoon, stir vigorously for a few seconds then heat for another 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir very well; immediately pour into prepared pan, smoothing top with wooden spoon. Let cool on counter for a few minutes then refrigerate to cool completely.

4. Lift fudge from pan; remove foil and cut into 64 squares.

www.newscanada.com

For more holiday dessert ideas, have a look at our favorite cheesecake recipes!

Dec 03

Craft Project – Embroidered Holiday Ornaments

hand-made-pillow-with-embroidered-birdsI really enjoy making these primitive country-style holiday ornaments each and every year because they are easy to make and I can use up a lot of my left-over scrap fabric and embroidery supplies. If you are a beginner craft, you can make these! In less than 1 hour, you will have a brand new holiday ornament that you made all by yourself.

Skill Level: Beginner
Time Involved: 1 hour

Supplies Needed:

  • holiday pattern from coloring book
  • disappearing ink marker
  • small piece of tea-dyed muslin fabric
  • embroidery floss and embroidery needle
  • small amount of poly fill stuffing
  • scissors
  • sewing machine with basic sewing supplies
  • scrap piece of homespun fabric
  • wax crayons (optional)

Pattern Notes: You will need to obtain your own holiday pattern. I got mine from a child’s coloring book and traced it onto my muslin fabric using a disappearing ink marker. My pattern measures 3″ wide by 4″ high. You can shrink any pattern you want to use to ornament size by scanning it in and shrinking it down before printing it out.

Optional: If desired, you can use wax crayons and color in a few small areas of your design to add some color to it. You will want to do this before starting your stitching.

Step 1: Trace pattern onto muslin fabric. Using 3 strands of embroidery floss in coordinating colors, hand stitch all pattern lines on the design. In my case, I selected a Santa Claus face and used red, gray, black and green embroidery floss. For his eyes and mouth, I used french knots.

Step 2: Using a tape measure, I measured 1 1/2″ past my stitch designed area and cut my muslin down to size. It now measures 4 1/2″ by 5 1/2″ in size. You will need a second piece of muslin fabric measuring the same size as your first piece. Cut a piece of homespun fabric measuring 1″ wide by 4 1/2″ long. Pin right sides together with the homespun hanging loop at the top.

Step 3: Sew around 3 1/2 of your edges, leaving 1/2 an edge open so that you can turn your design area inside out. Once you have completed the sewing, lightly stuff your ornament with poly fill stuffing. Using a sewing needle, hand sew the opening shut with little stitches.

Your ornament is now ready to be hung onto your holiday tree, package or on a peg shelf.

 

Shelly Hill is a mother and grandmother living in Pennsylvania who enjoys crafting, sewing, quilting and scrapbooking. You can visit Shelly’s online craft blog called Passionate About Crafting at http://passionateaboutcrafting.blogspot.com for free craft project ideas and tips. You can find a photo of the completed project on Shelly’s blog at passionateaboutcrafting.blogspot.com.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Dec 03

Craft Project – Easy Beaded Icicle Holiday Tree Ornaments

Frost Covered Beaded Ornament

Are you looking for a great craft project that you can do with older children? If so, I have a great project to share with you today. These beaded icicle holiday tree ornaments are super easy to make and they are inexpensive. You can find all of the supplies at your local general craft supply store.

You can make these cute icicle ornaments any color that you would like, but I think they look the best when made with pale blue and clear beads. Once you hang them onto your holiday tree, you will find that your Christmas tree lights will enhance their beauty. In addition, once the project has been completed, they can be hung off of garlands, on holiday wreaths or used a cute package toppers.

Materials Needed Per Ornament

  • 9″ piece silver bendable craft wire (thick enough to hold its shape)
  • 6 blue 6 mm and 8 mm faceted plastic round beads
  • 8 clear 2 mm faceted plastic round beads
  • 1 clear 1″ oblong plastic bead
  • sharp wire cutters
  • needle nose pliers
  • (optional) all-purpose liquid craft glue

Before you begin this project, lay some newspaper down onto your work surface if you decide to use glue. Make sure when you are cutting the wire that all of the small pieces are properly disposed of.

Step 1: If you purchased your wire by the spool, cut off a 9″ piece. Using needle nose pliers, twist one of the ends into a very small loop and make sure that it is tightly twisted so that it will hold your beads on firmly.

Step 2: Thread onto your wire the following: 1 clear oblong bead, 1 clear small round bead, 1 blue round bead and continue with the round bead pattern (minus the oblong one) until you have 11 beads on the wire. Then thread on 2 of the clear little beads, followed by 1 round blue bead.

Step 3: Twist the rest of your wire into a pleasing shape to resemble an icicle. Using your needle nose pliers, twist the remaining end of wire into a small loop.

The shape that you twist your icicle into should have a 3/4 large circle towards to the top so that it can be hung from a Christmas Tree branch.

Tips: If you find that your beads are sliding around too much and not staying in place, dab a small amount of glue onto the bead before stringing it onto the wire. If you would like to make your icicles large, just increase the sizes of your wire and purchase additional beads. For inexpensive ornaments, use plastic beads. If you want elaborate and fancy ornaments, purchase glass beads.

 

Shelly Hill is a mother and grandmother living in Pennsylvania who enjoys crafting. You can visit Shelly’s online craft blog called Passionate About Crafting at http://passionateaboutcrafting.blogspot.com for free craft tips and craft project ideas. You can find a photo of the completed project at passionateaboutcrafting.blogspot.com.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Nov 11

Christmas Cookie Recipe: Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Cookies

This traditional festive cookie incorporates whole wheat flour to provide a fiber boost without compromising flavor or texture.

Whole wheat gingerbread cookies

Prep time: 30 minutes

Chill time: 1 hour

Bake time: 9 minutes

Yields: approximately 6 dozen (72) cookies

Ingredients:

• 1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, softened

• 1 cup (250 mL) packed golden yellow sugar

• 1/4 cup (60 mL) 100% pure fancy molasses

• 1 large egg, lightly beaten

• 1 tsp (5 mL) Great Value Artificial Vanilla Extract

• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) iodized sea salt

• 1 1/2 cups (275 mL) Great Value Whole Wheat Flour

• 1 1/2 cups (275 mL) Great Value All Purpose White Flour

• 2 tsp (10 mL) ground ginger

• 2 tsp (10 mL) ground cinnamon

• 2 tsp (10 mL) Great Value Baking Cocoa

• 2 tsp (10 mL) Great Value Baking Soda

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg, vanilla, and salt until combined.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; add to wet ingredients and mix until well blended and dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before handling. If chilled overnight, allow the dough to warm up slightly or it may crack when it is rolled out.

3. Preheat oven to 350F (175C.) Line two baking trays with parchment paper, set aside. Divide dough into 4 pieces; roll out one at a time keeping the remaining dough refrigerated.

4. Roll dough to ¼ inch (½ cm) thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes using floured cookie cutters. Carefully transfer to prepared baking trays.

5. Bake for 7-9 minutes, rotating trays top to bottom halfway through, or until cookies are set. Cool 1-2 minutes on the tray then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

Tips:

Make a simple Royal Icing to decorate. It will harden overnight, making the cookies stackable for storage. Lightly whisk together 1 egg white and ¼ tsp (1 mL) lemon juice. Gradually beat in 1 ½ – 2 ½ cups (375-625 mL) of icing sugar to desired consistency. Tint using food colouring, then pipe onto cookies using a zipper storage bag with the corner snipped off. Allow the icing to dry overnight before storing in an airtight container.

More cookie recipes are available at www.walmart.ca/recipecentre.

www.newscanada.com

For more holiday dessert ideas, have a look at our favorite cheesecake recipes!

Sep 11

Christmas Crafts – Christmas Doorknob Decorations

With a sachel, ribbon, and holiday potpourri, you can make this simple yet elegant doorknob decoration. Paint and decorate to your liking!

With a sachel, ribbon, and holiday potpourri, you can make this simple yet elegant doorknob decoration. Paint and decorate to your liking!

You can create your own Christmas doorknob hanger to place on any door in the house. Just by using your imagination you can make great holiday decorations for your home, plus it’s fun for the whole family to create wonderful Christmas crafts that will last a lifetime. Below are several easy craft ideas for Christmas doorknob hangers.

Simple Holiday Doorknob Hanger: By using a 4″ to 6″ piece of plywood and dressing it up with Christmas décor, you will have a Christmas doorknob hanger in no time. All you need is a piece of plywood, Christmas colored markers, a holiday stencil, red or green chenille stems, ribbon, glue gun and of course your own imagination. Try a gingerbread man stencil and add the words “Bite Me” to the plywood. Use one of the chenille stems to hang your doorknob hanger around the doorknob once you have finished decorating it.

Christmas Crafts Doorknob Wreath: Just by purchasing a small grapevine wreath that a doorknob will go through and a few other items you can have a really unique doorknob hanger. Use a glue gun and glue little holiday bows, bells, green garland and holiday picks on the grapevine wreath and slip on the doorknob of your choice. Make one or several and get the family involved in this fun and easy project.

Jingle Bell Doorknob Hanger: A 2 ½” or 3″ gold bell is the heart of this doorknob decoration. You will also need a Christmas greenery pick (one with greenery and gold accents), 1 1/4″ wide Christmas ribbon, a 12″ length of rope that is ½” or less in thickness, green floral wire and a hot glue gun. Make a bow that has 8 loops; each loop needs to be approximately 3 ¼” long. Thread the bell onto the rope. Using lots of hot glue, glue the ends of the rope together to form a circle. Make sure the hot glued end is close to the bell. Feed a length of floral wire thru the bell loop and attach the bow to the rope and bell with the floral wire. Hot glue the Christmas pick to the center of the bow. If needed, also use the wire to keep the Christmas pick attached.

Pine Cone Doorknob Hanger: Use a pine cone to create an elegant doorknob hanger. Quickly paint craft glue onto a large pine cone, being sure to cover each pine petal. Shake glitter over the entire pine cone and let dry. Place 5 drops of essential oil onto the pine cone. Place a hole for a ribbon to fit through the top of the pine cone and put pretty holiday ribbon though it. Now tie the ribbon around the door knob to create your pine cone doorknob hanger.

Recycled Christmas Card Hanger: Use skinny Christmas ribbons in varied lengths and in colors of green, red and white. Simply cut out different pictures from old Christmas cards, such as Santa, Christmas tree, stockings etc. Small jingle bells and small candy canes are great for this project too. Using hot glue or white fabric glue, attach the cutout to the end of one of the skinny Christmas ribbons. If you want to add small jingle bells and candy canes, you will also glue them onto the ribbon. Once all is dry, tie the ribbons around a door knob into pretty bows.

Santa Door Knob Décor: For this project you will need a wooden cutout of Santa or of one of his reindeer or elves that can be found at craft stores. Using ceramic paint, paint Santa and once dried, punch a hole at the top of his head and stick a piece of holiday ribbon through the hole and tie it up around a doorknob into a pretty bow. Hot glue little bells onto the ribbon if desired. These cute little hangers look good on any door and are so easy to create.

Find free Christmas crafts to make including Christmas decorations, ornaments, angels, santas, snowmen, kids crafts, outdoor yard decorations, quilt patterns and more.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com

Looking for more children’s craft ideas?  Visit our Crafts section for more Crafts for Kids!

Sep 02

Christmas Cookie Recipes: Gluten-Free Allspice Gingerbread & Raspberry Limoncello Linzers

Raspberry Limoncello Linzers

Raspberry Limoncello Linzers

(ARA) A cookie can be more than your average treat this holiday season. Out do yourself and step outside your comfort zone with delicious detours and tasty twists on some favorite holiday baked goods.

This year, add a little spice and a dash of zing to the traditional with new recipes sure to tempt the taste buds. Try one of these holiday recipes that feature a mix of familiar flavor with contemporary style:

• Gluten-Free Allspice Gingerbread: treat yourself and cater to dietary needs at the same time with these thin and crispy cookies, full of the flavors of ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

• Raspberry Limoncello Linzers: This easy-to-make Linzer cookie tops the traditional raspberry filling with a bright Limoncello glaze.

Gluten-Free Allspice Gingerbread

Gluten-Free Allspice Gingerbread

Gluten-Free Allspice Gingerbread
Makes three dozen cookies.
Ingredients:
2 1/3 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum powder (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup natural, unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
Colored sugar, for decoration

Directions:
In medium bowl, combine flour mix, almond meal, xanthan, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pepper and salt; set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; blend well. Add dry ingredients in three batches, blending just until fully incorporated. Dough will be stiff. Divide dough into two balls, flatten into discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least three hours or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one dough disc from refrigerator and roll out between two pieces of parchment paper or on lightly gluten-free floured work surface to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle cutouts with colored sugar, if desired.

Bake nine to 13 minutes, until edges of cookies are crisp. Cool cookies on sheet two to three minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to one week.

Notes: Gluten-free flour mix and almond meal or almond flour can be found in the gluten-free or natural food section of most stores.

Xanthan gum powder will improve texture of cookies but is not required to make this recipe. It can be found in health food stores and baking or gourmet markets.

Raspberry Limoncello Linzers
Makes two dozen cookies
Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups seedless raspberry jam
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 to 3/4 cup Limoncello liqueur

Directions:
In large bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese and brown sugar using electric mixer. Add egg yolk and extracts; mix well. Gradually add flour and cornstarch; mix just until blended. Divide dough in two pieces, flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough to 1/8-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake nine to 11 minutes, until edges begin to brown and cookies are firm. Cool cookies on sheet three to four minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, bring raspberry jam to simmer over medium-high heat, insert candy thermometer. Simmer, stirring constantly, until jam reaches 225 degrees; cook one minute more. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Spread one heaping teaspoon jam in center of each cookie.

In medium bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and egg white powder. Add lemon juice and zest; stir in Limoncello beginning with 1/2 cup, add more, if necessary, to reach desired consistency. Pipe or drizzle cookies with frosting; allow frosting to set before serving or storing.

Store cookies in airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, for up to one week.

Visit ButterIsBest.com to find more holiday cookie and candy recipes courtesy of America’s Dairy Farmers. While there, sign up for the daily holiday cookie e-newsletter, “Better Baking with Butter,” available to subscribers through Dec. 25.

For more holiday dessert ideas, have a look at our favorite cheesecake recipes!

Aug 03

Christmas Cookie Recipes: Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs and Mojito Jammies

Cookie Traditions in the Making

Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs

Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs

How does a cookie achieve legendary popularity? Through the decades, each generation votes with its taste buds, as home-baked cookies are enjoyed at school events, holiday gatherings and family feasts. Many recipes reflect the ingredients popular in their era, while others are simply easy, with classic tastes that never go out of style. Holiday baking, more than any other, honors the past with traditional family favorites – yet, new recipes find their way into cherished collections each year.

This year, America’s Dairy Farmers offer several new must-have holiday cookie recipes. Each cookie features Real Butter for its incomparable taste and texture in baked goods, along with a trendy, of-the-moment ingredient – a flavor that will have your friends and family reaching for more. The following recipes are a twist on classic holiday cookies. Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs (tender, hand-rolled gems, also referred to as Mexican wedding cookies) and Mojito Jammies (mint-filled cut-out cookies) are sure to start a new tradition in your family.

Visit www.ButterIsBest.com for the complete must-have holiday cookie recipe collection.

Coconut-Lime Thai Snowballs

Butter imparts a delicious melt-away texture to this popular wedding cookie reinvented with the vibrant Thai flavors of coconut and lime. Dusted with powdered sugar and coconut, these festive little cookies resemble snowballs and are sure to become a new holiday tradition.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure lime oil (or 2 tbsp. lime juice) (see shopping notes)
  • 1 ½ tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see shopping notes)

Coating

  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see shopping notes)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch, sifted

Shopping notes

  • Pure lime oil is available in many specialty food stores. Alternatively, use 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice.
  • Unsweetened coconut can be found at many specialty and health food stores. Look for medium shred.

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F with racks in the lower and upper thirds.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat until light and fluffy. Add lime oil; beat to combine.
  3. Gently fold in lime zest, salt, flour and coconut. Blend well.
  4. Lightly flour hands and roll dough into small, approx. 1-inch balls and place about 1 ½ inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until puffy (not browned) and bottoms are just golden, about 15 min. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 5 min.
  5. Meanwhile, combine coating ingredients in a quart- or gallon-size plastic bag. While cookies are still warm, toss them in the coating. Remove and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Mojito Jammies

Mojito Jammies

Mojito Jammies

These lime-flecked butter cookies filled with mint jelly take their name from the popular Cuban cocktail known as the Mojito. Made with the same lively combination of lime, mint and Island Rum, these charming cookies brighten any holiday cookie tray.

Makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies

Ingredients

Cookies

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. lightly packed grated lime zest
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, cool but not too firm
  • 2 tbsp. cream cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. rum (or 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract)
  • ¼ tsp. peppermint extract

Filling

  • ¾ cup mint jelly
  • 1 tbsp. rum or water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preparation

1.Combine the sugar and lime zest in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and flour, mix to combine.

2.Add butter and cream cheese; mix until dough resembles coarse sand. Add egg yolk, rum (or vanilla) and mint extract. Mix until the dough clumps together. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and knead with your hands until it holds together in a ball. Divide dough into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 to 30 min.

3.Preheat the oven to 350 °F with the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or butter them evenly.

4.Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness between sheets of lightly floured wax or parchment paper. Slide the rolled dough, still between sheets of paper, onto a baking sheet, and chill for 10 to 20 min. Remove top paper – carefully turn over and remove remaining paper.

5.Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes and place about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Cut a hole out of the center of half the cookies to make a window for the filling. Gather remaining dough scraps into a ball, reroll and cut into shapes. Do this only once.

6.Bake, rotating the baking sheet about halfway through, until lightly golden, 10 to 15 min. The top cookies with the cutout centers will bake more quickly. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

7.Combine mint jelly, rum (or water) and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 2 to 3 min., cool to room temperature.

8.Using a small strainer or sugar shaker, dust the top halves of the cookies (the ones with the holes in the centers) with confectioners’ sugar. Place about ¾ teaspoon of mint jelly onto a cookie bottom, smearing it lightly around the whole cookie leaving a small mound in the center. Top with a sugar-dusted half.

Courtesy of ARA Content.

Dec 12

Christmas Gift Ideas For All The Special People In Your Life!

Christmas giftI love Christmas because I love giving gifts to the special people in my life. Sometimes, that can be a bit tricky though. Some people are just tougher to shop for than others – especially the men in my life. This year I started my Christmas shopping early and compiled a list of gift ideas – for everyone! Even the those men who seem to have everything.

I always have a hard time finding gifts for my father. He seems to have everything he wants! One thing that my father loves is hot and spicy food. This year I went to gourmet food store and bought large jars of pickled okra, peppers and cauliflower. I plan to take him to dinner as well, but I’m going to keep it simple. He already has enough tube socks, shirts and slippers so I plan to get him an edible gift this year. I think great gift ideas for older people are edible ones, or gifts that do not create extra and unwanted clutter.

For my husband, who is a total technology lover, I purchased him an iPad. It is a bit expensive but I saved all year. If I did not have the money to purchase the iPad I probably would have purchased him some iTunes gift cards for extra apps and CD’s. I also bought him some funny tee-shirts as he is always wearing them under his sweaters and cardigans. For men I think great gift ideas include: clothes, technology, and gift cards.

For my sister, who loves to knit and listen to music, I purchased her a lot of knitting supplies and iTunes gift cards. The key to shopping for hard to please people is to purchase something that will go with their hobbies or things they love to do! For women, I find gift cards, edible gifts, and gifts that add to their hobbies and passions are the best to give.

For my niece I decided to buy her some comfortable clothes and cute accessories. She is easy to shop for as she is a pre-teen and loves lots of things. Kids and pre-teens seem to the be the easiest to shop for. They have no problem letting you know exactly what they want!

For my boss and coworkers, I’m simply giving them Christmas cards and making sweet treats such as: lemon bars, haystack cookies, snowball cookies and chocolate chip cookies. I am putting them in decorative tins and wrapping with a big bow!

Nov 30

How to Create a Happy Homemade Holiday

homemade holidayOne of the best ways to kick off the holiday season is to decorate. And while it’s easy to load your cart with beautiful décor from your favourite store, Christmas is more personal when decorations are homemade.

No time you say? Between planning dinners for the family and throwing cocktail parties for friends, it can be overwhelming. But it is possible to survive it (and enjoy it!) by keeping everything simple. This season, let your creative instincts shine through as you watch your mantels, stairwells, and tables come to holiday life, with ideas like these:

Create a magical mantle

For most families, the living room is the place where everyone convenes. It’s where gifts are exchanged, holiday movies are enjoyed and stories are shared gathered by the fireplace—a major focal point in the room. Give this cozy centrepiece a warm new look by creating a decorative display for your mantel.

Draping a festive garland is one way to achieve a distinctive display. Do-it-yourself banners and garland have become increasingly popular as a great way to personalize your décor.

Start with a heavy fabric, like burlap or the kind used for upholstery, and cut enough pennants for your favourite holiday saying, like “Let it Snow.” Then using a snowflake stencil, spray paint the pattern with a silver colour. Krylon ‘metallic brilliant silver, for example, works very well on fabric. Spray paint chipboard letters in a bright white. Once everything dries, spell out your message, one letter per pennant, and adhere the letters. Adorn the banner with plastic snowflakes and holly sprigs to finalize the festive look.

Trim a tree like a pro

The Christmas tree is another major focal point in your living room during the holidays. If you’re tired of the same old display year after year, give the tree a fresh look by changing up the ornaments and adding a theme.

Start by choosing a specific colour scheme, such as red and gold. Don’t have enough decorations to match your new theme? It’s easy and affordable to create your own by using items already around the house. For example, use bulbs from an old string of lights to create a whimsical decoration. Remove two bulbs from the strand and spritz the inside of the bulb with Krylon’s ColorMaster spray paint in ‘cherry red’. Roll the bulb around to distribute the paint for a beautiful translucent look. Add a little glitz with ‘glitter spray’ to the outside of the bulb for a festive look, and top off with your favourite embellishments like ribbon or bells. You can even spray paint old ornaments so they fit into your new colour scheme.

Once your new décor is complete, hang ornaments and lights on your tree before displaying it for the whole family to enjoy.

Add elegant table toppers

If you are hosting get-togethers for family and friends t, add a sparkle to your table. Not sure where to start? First, choose two or three colours. Select a table cloth, table runner or placemats in your colour scheme and consider the arrangement for the middle of the table. Try replacing the traditional red and green with gold and silver accessories—candles, napkin rings, small figures in the plates and other decorative accents. Include candles so the flickering flames can create a warm atmosphere. Even casually scattered pine cones, fir branches, red roses or poinsettias will add a special touch on the table.

It’s easy to make your fine china the highlight of the dinner; but this time, try making your placemats the conversation starter by utilizing antique sheet music – which can be found at old book stores or simply printed at home. These sheets will make for a chic and unconventional base for any place setting.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year, with a little effort and creativity you can turn take your holiday décor from ho-hum to homey in no time.

More information and additional project ideas can be found at www.krylon.ca.

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