Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Food and Decorating

Every year at just this time, In cold and dark December, families around the world all gather to remember, with presents and with parties, with feasting and with fun, customs and traditions for people old and young. ~Helen H. Moore

I make these candy candles, but I don't put ribbon around them, and at the bottom I don't use a bow...I use lids and I spray paint them gold or silver. I have even added snow at times. I use very small greenery from the craft store and make a wreath to go around and decorate with tiny bulbs etc... ~Lina

Candy Candles

York Peppermint Patty
Hershey Kiss
Bows or other decorations
Other candies and ribbon for decorating
Cellophane tape

Instructions: For the base, take the peppermint patty and wrap it in foil or fold the corners under and tape. Glue a bow to the top of the peppermint patty. Cut out the center loop of the bow. Take the outer wrapping off the Lifesavers roll. Don't remove the foil wrap. Tape a Hershey Kiss to the end of the Lifesaver roll. This will create a candle. You can use other types of rolled candy such as Mentos, Rolos, Spree etc. Tape the bottom of the candle into the bow where the center loop was removed. You can decorate the candle with ribbon or stickers. ~Lina

In a large glass bowl place colored Christmas ball ornaments in different colors and shapes. Also add strands of silver or gold garland that goes on trees...add these around the glass balls... place a few sprigs of greenery around too. If desired you can also add battery operated clear lights to this.

Lay fresh pine greens flat on table then tie around middle with a big velvet red or green ribbon and bow. This makes a nice evergreen arrangement for over the door. Simple and elegant,plus it smells so good when you enter the house. Do this about 2 weeks before Christmas.unless you're in a very cold area where it will last longer. ~Bearwoman

I made these especially smashing latkes that went faster than the Christmas cookies, so I thought I'd pass it on to you, with Hanukkah beginning on the 15th:

Liz's Light and Lacy Latkes (yield: approx 2 doz.)

3 cups thawed loose-shredded potatoes
(save your knuckles, don't bother shredding whole potatoes!)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh or thawed, finely chopped onion
1 tbsp.. lemon juice
2 eggs (I use extra large Eggland's Best), whipped thoroughly
2 tbsp.. olive oil
2 tbsp.. plain flour
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, blend all gently and thoroughly. In a heavy skillet, heat up your oil of choice. I used a combo of olive oil and plain vegetable oil. Have about a 1/2" in your pan. When it sizzles, drop potato mixture by small teaspoon-fulls & fry on both sides until golden brown. Flip them over gently and don't try to form perfect rounds; they're better and lighter when they are small and slightly free-form. Remove carefully to several layers of paper towels. Keep hot on a platter in the oven until ready to serve. Cold latkes aren't very good,so keep them hot! Serve with apple sauce and sour cream for garnish. Enjoy! ~Liz

MORE: Try more wonderful recipes for Jewish celebrations!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Tips to Save Time & Money

Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given--when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children,the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes. ~Joan Winmill Brown

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season. I strive every year to keep the chaos to a minimum and so far we've been managing fairly well. Today I have some more great tips for the holidays!

Year before last, I began last year's Christmas shopping the day after Christmas. I didn't do all the shopping at once, but I did find a lot of sale items that were on a tremendous price reduction. I keep a tiny corner of the shelf in my husband's closet just for gift stashing. When I find a gift throughout the rest of the year that I think someone will like, I label it for that person (I'm bad to forget), and place it up in the box on the shelf. All thru the year, I add to this stash, so by the time December gets here, there are very few loose ends to tie up. That way, I can concentrate on stuff like decorating and cooking, the fun stuff!

Also, on my computer in my Word documents, I have a running list of who we give gifts or cards to. These lists date back to 2000. Each year, I paste the list of names to a new page, delete what I got for them the year before, and color code where I am with that person's gift. Such as red for "need to get", blue or "purchased", green for "wrapped" and pink for "mailed off". It only takes a few seconds to update the list, then I can print it out and keep it in my purse. This way, I can look over the years and see what I've gotten for someone, I don't duplicate, and can always see in a second what my status is. With a family as large and diverse as ours, I have found this a life saver! ~Liz

It seems a shame to throw out all the beautiful Christmas cards we get every year, so I decided on a fun way to use them again. I stick them in a box with our holiday decorations,then when the next year comes around we use them to make tags for our presents. I let my son cut out the pictures into tag size pieces ,then we may add a squiggle border with a paint pen or marker, punch hole with a hole puncher and add a piece of ribbon! This is a great to teach kids to reuse things and it is a lot of fun too! ~Melodie

About 40 years ago we decided that there would be no gift exchange. There were no small children and what we bought for everyone was the wrong color, didn't fit or was just plain not liked. Therefore, Christmas in my family is getting together. The "Halls are all decked". We have a big Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day Dinner. We celebrate each other!! We therefore make a HUGE deal out of everyone's birthday as it rolls around. There is not hustle and bustle and fighting the crowds. ~Sharon

On OFL: Fun gift wrap to make yourself with the kids help!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ideas for Your Holiday Table

Christmas is not in tinsel and lights and outward show. The secret lies in an inner glow. It's lighting a fire inside the heart. Good will and joy a vital part. It's higher thought and a greater plan. It's glorious dream in the soul of man. ~Wilfred A. Peterson

Today I have tips for your holiday table from some of our visitors.

I put my glass punch bowl on my glass cake stand and then I fill the bowl with blue and silver glass bulbs and around the base I put greenery with tiny silver and blue bulbs. I light the blue candles that I have placed in clear glass candle sticks on four sides. It sparkles wonderfully. For the kids table I glued different size and colored bulbs together to make a tree. Then I circled the bottom with greenery. ~Lisa A.

Each year we try something new with decorating the tables for Christmas lunch. The kids' table is my favorite to decorate. They get so excited when they see what awaits them each year.

There will be 8 kids and I am doing a gingerbread theme for their table. The tablecloth is red, with a white overcloth and will be sprinkled with Christmas glitter. The centrepiece is a gingerbread house we are making and 2 lolly (lollipop)trees. I have some gingerbread dolls that will grace the table and there will be a gingerbread boy or girl cookie with the child's name piped on it in icing. The cookies will sit on the white plates at each place setting. I bought some Christmas crackers that have a red and white swirly pattern on them for each place setting.

The adults table will have a white cloth with a gold and silver overcloth. The centrepiece is a silver and gold Christmas tree and beside it is two silver candle holders with white candles (they have little silver and gold stars on them). Our china is white and we'll use the crystal wine glasses (with gold bows tied on the stems) and the good silver cutlery. Each place setting will have a gold bauble with a place card attached to it. ~Lizzy

I laid a green tablecloth on the table; and in the center placed a small white tablecloth that has Christmas plaid border. I have a centerpiece of Santa's workshop. Around the workshop are goblets with a snow scene. I filled the goblets half full of rock salt and placed a votive candle in each one. The 4 goblets are placed around the workshop. The centerpiece is round so I put red garland around the base. The place settings are my Christmas dishes and I placed the napkins with gold napkin rings in the Christmas cup on top of the saucer which sets on the dinner plate.

My dining room buffet has a lot of candles, a nativity scene placed on a round mirror piece; angels, and Christmas tea cups. My buffet area I set up in my kitchen; I use the counters, butcher block table and breakfast bar; I set candles, whimsical Christmas pieces as decorations and of course my Snowman Soup Station for everyone to enjoy. I have a small Christmas tree with nativity scene ornaments on the Breakfast bar.
~Ms. Jodi

On OFL, Mary Emma shares on capturing holiday memories:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Tips and Recipes

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

Today I have a neat tip on making homemade gift tags and a couple of recipes for holiday goodies.

I wanted to make gift tags that were special and homemade. So I went to the fabric store and bought pieces of country Christmas fabric. The print on the fabric is in blocks with angels,santas and stockings. I put fusible webbing on the back . then ironed them on index cards and cut them out. Punched a small hole in the corner added a ribbon. I can write on the back of them and the are so cute and easy. ~Lisa

Make these for a special gift or just a very rich treat to accompany coffee tea after Christmas dinner. ~Lizzy

Christmas Truffles

7 oz. dark chocolate (good quality)
1/3 cup thickened cream
1 tablespoon of orange liqueur (or try rum)
3 oz. unsalted macadamia nuts (or almonds or hazelnuts)
Coatings: dark cocoa / shredded coconut / chocolate sprinkles

Put the chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl (or double sauce pan) and place over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure bowl does not touch the water). Stir until the chocolate melts. Remove the bowl and stir in the liqueur and nuts. Cover and place in the fridge for a couple of hours or until firm enough to roll into balls. Line a tray with non stick paper, roll teaspoons of mixture into balls and place on tray. Put in freezer for about 30 minutes then roll the balls quickly to smooth the surface and roll in desired coating. Makes 36.They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

Alabama Chocolate-Pecan Jumbo Christmas Fudge Pie
Christmas With Southern Living 2003

1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet
chocolate morsels, melted
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Garnishes: vanilla ice cream, fudge topping

Combine chocolate crumbs and 1/3 cup melted butter, mixing well. Press into bottom and up sides of ungreased 9" pie plate. Bake at 350° F. for 6 to 8 minutes. Beat 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the melted chocolate and next 4 ingredients. Pour the filling into prepared crust. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes; cool
completely on a wire rack. Garnish, if desired. Yield: 1 (9") pie.

Make this adorable light bulb Santa this year!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Tips for Big Families

Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today's Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday. ~Gladys Tabor

Thanksgiving is past, we survived Black Friday and now it's on to the Christmas and holiday tips!

Long time reader, Patty, sent in these wonderful holiday tips:

I have a pretty big family and we have never had a lot of money, so Christmas was a tough time for us for a while. We tried doing gifts for the kids only, but that didn't work because someone always found "something perfect" for someone else and had to give it, making others feel left out or the recipient feel uncomfortable. We tried drawing names, and that didn't work for the same reason. So about 22 years ago we came up with this idea, and it has served us well ever since.

We give to everyone, but we have a "handmade or less than $5" rule per person. If giving to a couple, you can do up to $10 together. At first we thought we couldn't do it, but took it as a challenge, and have had so much fun with it ever since. You have to get pretty creative sometimes to do the right gift for less than $5. We have found some fabulous kitchen gadgets for cooks, make food mixes and treats for the guys and teen boys, costume jewelry or journals and a fun pen for the teen girls, puzzles, games, and so on for the kids. We have given babysitting or yard work certificates, coupons for Christmas light take down, seeds from a special flower, homemade treats galore, and ornaments that have become treasured. You get the idea. Not only do we get to have the fun of planning the perfect gift for everyone, we get to have the opening fun, too, and nobody ever feels left out.

The children have grown up with this rule, so they don't expect big-ticket items, and they enjoy planning what they will make for the family too. I have to admit, there have been a few (very few) times when someone has cheated for the "absolutely perfect" gift, but it involved spending $6 on that special someone, never spending $10. Amazingly enough, even with inflation, it has gotten easier to spend so little, rather than harder, probably because we have so much fun with it and we are all committed to the game.

When my husband and I got married, and his large family had a similar problem, they came up with a different plan. The children do a name draw about a month before, and for adults they do a "pirate exchange", where each adult attending brings a gift of $20 or so, suitable for man or woman. We sit in a circle and draw numbers out of a bowl. Then the person with number 1 chooses a gift, unwraps it, and places it on their lap. Number 2 can steal that gift or open a new one. If the gift is stolen, the original owner cannot immediately steal it back, but must take a different gift. Then number 3 takes his turn, and so on. A gift can have three owners, then the third owner places it under their chair, making it untouchable. When all gifts have been opened and the game is over, there is usually some further trading that goes on. This way, everyone gets something good, nobody spends more than $20, and it is a fun way to spend some time together. This is actually so much fun that we have used it for kids Christmas parties too.

As far as the Christmas dinners go, we have a traditional dinner on Christmas day. But with so many people getting together, we also do a soup dinner on Christmas Eve. Since I am always off that day, I make a couple huge pots of soup, and my family brings breads or appetizers to go with it. Needless to say, there is usually some sort of dessert, too. We attend church service at 4:30, then go to see a hot air balloon "glow" that we have nearby or drive around looking at Christmas lights, then home for the soup and gifts. All in all, it's a very satisfying way to be together, with very little pressure and lots of fun.

Hope this helps someone out there. It certainly saves us time and money, two things we could all use a bit more of, especially at the holidays. ~Patty

On OFL, Mary Emma shares tips on decorating the holiday table: