Saturday, November 30, 2013

Today is Bouquet Day

I decided to have a poinsettia as my bouquet this week because the red and white geraniums from last week are still going strong so I didn't want to buy more cut flowers.  Instead I used the poinsettia that I was given last week at the party to make a table arrangement.

I chose this burgandy plaid blanket as a table covering to compliment the greens and creams of the poinsettia and the gold of the pot.  The plaid blanket is a thrift store find that I find interesting because it was a blanket used on Air Canada in its former life. 

Then to complete the tablescape I used some bead stars that I made last year at my Christmas craft party (which you can read about here).  I love the sparkle of the silver along with the complimentary pinky-reds and brown beads. 

Do you get a poinsettia every year?  I sometimes do and sometimes don't - because truth to tell I can't stand a poinsettia after Christmas and want them out of the house.  Maybe I won't feel that way about a cream one, but for me the red ones are stale-dated come New Year's.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas Craft Party

I had my second annual Christmas craft party this past weekend. It was a lot of fun to hang out with my friends from the art class, to make some Christmas crafts, and to eat delicious food.

Everyone brings something to nibble on which makes things much easier.  I baked brownies, cut up some veggies, and whipped up some of Sarah Richardson's Spiced Nuts (recipe from this post).  They are delicious, although they burn easily so watch your timing on them and I only put half the amount of cayenne in because I'm a spice-wimp.

Sarah Richardson's Spiced Nuts

The bag was opened and then the bottom was rolled in under itself to hold the chips up near the top - clever, eh!

This year we made four different crafts at three different stations.  I had them set up so people could just move between the tables whenever they were ready to.  

You can see the three stations in the dining room and family room below - thank goodness for open concept homes at a time like this.

Here's the low down on what we made:

1) Twig Stars 

They were simple to make and looked so pretty all lined up along our bench at the end of the evening (why is it that Juno photo-bombed every single photo I took of our finished stars).

Here's what you need to make twig stars:
  • twigs - I used some dogwood branches that I clipped from our bush in the backyard
  • glue guns
  • clippers 
  • different sized star templates
  • ribbon, twine, and berries to decorate the stars

2) Glass Ornaments and
3) Glass Tea Light Holders
These two were at the same table because they took many of the same materials. Everyone got really creative here and there was a lot of variety in how the ornaments and tea light holders were decorated.

Here's what you need to make these:
  • glass ornaments
  • glass tea light holders
  • glue
  • paint
  • glitter
  • paint pens
  • small containers to put the glitter, paint, or glue into
  • small funnel for pouring the glitter into the ornaments
  • paint brushes

and this is how pretty the table covering looked after the party 

4) Orange Carving
We actually did this last year, but almost everyone's oranges went mouldy except mine.  I put mine on the floor heat vent for two weeks and they dried out perfectly.  You can see the ones I made last year all dried out and displayed on my mantel this year, in the photo below.

Orange carving requires the following:
  • oranges
  • a carving set - the kind for carving linoleum
  • a bowl to catch the carved orange peel

Not everyone in the class lives in a home with floor heat vents so I'm drying mine and a few other people's.  And now my family room heat vents look like this and the whole main floor smells like oranges.

You can see what crafts we made last year in this post (one of my favourite crafts we did last year were the beaded stars which I used in the first photo of this post).  Have you ever been to a craft party? We had ours extra early this year to accommodate everyone's schedule - which means, apart from the tree, the house is decorated for Christmas. Wahoo!

Linked to DIY Christmas at It's Overflowing

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today is Bouquet Day

Today's bouquet is a little more elaborate than some because I'm having my annual Christmas craft party this weekend and wanted something special.  

Do you remember the mantel that I showed in my post about how Sarah Richardson decorates for Christmas in the city (you can see it in the pictures below).  Did you notice the container the flowers are in?  Well Sarah apparently used a container from the hardware store that is for applying mud to drywall.  I loved its simplicity so I went and looked for one too.  Sure enough in with all the rough-and-tough drywall equipment are these pretty stainless steel troughs.

I bought one of the troughs and decided to use it for the flowers for my party.  As you can see below the label is stuck on there so it will last through countless drywall projects.  Anyone know how to remove it?  

Unlike Sarah, I love red at Christmas, especially when paired with white - think Nordic Christmas or candy canes - so I bought red carnations and white chrysanthemums to fill the container. 

I like the flowers on the table, but for the party we need the table for crafts so the flowers are on our mantel (and that way you can't see the label glue either).

I've been busy getting ready for the party - I'll share the crafts we did next week.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Spindle Santas and Christmas Cookies

One of our favourite Christmas decorations is our collection of spindle Santas. Each one was personally made for us by a talented local artist and we put them out in a place of honour every Christmas (you can see them on our mantel here).  I sometimes receive emails from people asking me where to buy them, so I was pleased to get an email from Barbara letting me know that they will be sold at two craft sales in the Toronto area over the next week.  Here are the details:

Monday, November 25, 2013
Mistletoe Annual Market Sale
Royal St. Georges College
120 Howland Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 3B5
Telephone:  416-533-9481

and on Tuesday, November 26th and Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Cocktail Kick-off on Tuesday from 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Wednesday show hours from 8:30am - 4:30pm
Crescent School Sale 2013
2365 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M2L 1A2

Telephone:  416-449-2556


I was contacted by Style at Home magazine to let me know that their annual Cookie Recipe swap is happening again this year.  I added several of my recipes last year and will definitely be doing so this year too.  What a great way to find new cookie recipes ... and have a chance to win a KitchenAid mixer.  

Does your family have favourite Christmas cookies?  We are pretty traditional in our tastes and like our shortbread, but I do put a different twist on at least one batch of them every year.  I'll be posting more about the cookies we bake over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sarah Richardson's Ideas for Celebrating Christmas in the Country

In my last post we had a look at how Sarah Richardson decorates for Christmas when they are at their city home in Toronto.  However, Sarah and her family also like to spend Christmas at their farmhouse in the country.  Let's have a look at how her country Christmas differs from the city one.

Canadian House and Home

Sarah likes to keep things cozy and casual, especially when she is celebrating Christmas with her family at her country home. Here she embraces decorating with elements found in nature. There are evergreen wreaths hung on mirrors and pots of paperwhites and amaryllis on mantels and tables.

Canadian House and Home
Canadian House and Home

Sarah uses lots of soft earthy colours, such as rust and olive green on the Christmas tree and her tablesettings - colours which suit the countryside.

Canadian House and Home

When Sarah is decorating her Christmas tree at the farmhouse, she likes to include decorations that she and her mother. Now that her daughters are getting older, decorations they make will likely be added to the mix.

Sarah loves making gingerbread houses with her daughters at Christmas time.  She often buys kits from Habitat for Humanity which have the houses already assembled so they can get right down to the fun of decorating.  

The whole family makes an expedition of finding the perfect Christmas tree on their property.  Naturally, it needs to be a big tree and when the right tree is found it is cut down by Sarah's husband.  Warm mulled cider is enjoyed by everyone afterwards (recipe at the end of the post).  

Entertaining is kept simple.  The table is a charming mix-and-match combination that might include (as it did one year) silverware from her mother-in-law, antique Limoges plates from her own other, dinner plates from her grandmother, and placemats made from an Irish linen runner.  Family and friends are treated to her Molten Chocolate Cake (the recipe is below).

Whole allspice berries
Whole cloves
Ground nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks
Kitchen twine
Tins or jars for packaging
Wrapping paper for labels
Shipping tags for gift card/ instructions

1.  Cut the cheesecloth into 7 by 7 inch squares (you may want to use a double layer)
2.  Mix equal parts of allspice and cloves together in a bowl
3.  Spoon a tablespoon of allspice/cloves + 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg into the centre of the square of cheesecloth
4.  Tie closed with a length of kitchen twine
5.  Trim the excess cheesecloth away from the top
6.  Package into tins or jars – ideally 4 to 6 sachets per gift, top with 2 cinnamon sticks per sachet
Serving instructions:
Heat 4 cups of unsweetened apple cider with 1 sachet of mulling spices and 2 cinnamon sticks over medium heat until cider is warm and spicy.  Serve with a cinnamon stick as garnish (be sure to pour into heat safe glasses or mugs).

1/3 c unsalted butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Melt butter and chocolate in a pan over low heat (you may wish to use a double boiler if you have one)
2. Beat egg whites in an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks – set aside in separate bowl
3.  Blend egg yolks and sugar using electric mixer on med speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy
4.  Add vanilla and chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and beat on med-high for 2- 3 minutes until it resembles whipped pudding
5. Fold the flour into the chocolate mixture by hand, but do not overmix
6. Fold egg whites into the batter lightly until blended
7. Grease a muffin tin
8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
9. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin (this recipe makes 6 individual cakes)
10. Bake for 5 – 6 minutes (the key is have a liquid chocolate interior)
11. Use a knife to carefully loosen the cakes from the tin

Raspberry Puree:
1 container frozen fresh raspberries
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp lemon or orange zest (optional)
1 tsp orange juice

1. Cook on medium to high heat for 10 to 15 minutes stirring constantly (or until raspberries have dissolved and mixture has started to thicken – it should not be as thick as jam when complete. If it won’t thicken, add a bit more sugar and turn up the heat a bit). You may put the mixture through a sieve to strain the seeds, but I like it with the seeds
2. Serve individual cakes on a puddle of raspberry puree while still warm
3. Garnish with fresh whipped cream (or ice cream) and chocolate shavings

Christmas in the country is definitely a change of pace to Christmas in the city.  While Sarah is the master of keeping Christmas simple, this one really seems warm and welcoming and calm.

Which would be your preference - Christmas in the city or Christmas in the country?