Category: christmas

Merry Merry.

Vintage SHINYBRITE Christmas greetings ornament.

It being the holidays, I thought it was only appropriate for me to reach out to all of you who make this blog worthwhile. Thank you for being a part of my life, and my blog, and thank you all for being so kind to me over the past year (and of course, long before that- but this past year I really needed it).

So much has happened in the past year. From me being so sick to getting married. And you’ve all been so supportive and sweet! While 2014 ended on a bad note and 2015 started out rough, it got better, and its ending on a great note. But I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

No matter what holidays you celebrate or don’t, I wish you all the best in the upcoming year, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Merry merry.

Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

Continue reading

All I want for Christmas, the 2015 blogger version.

Every year I know some of you are struggling to find the perfect gift for someone. So I thought I’d take a break from the baking to ask some blogger friends- with varied interests- to make lists of what they’re wishing for this year, to give you some ideas. From foodies to photographers, to people who love to sew and folks who love to travel and back again, there’s something unique on one of their lists to help you out, for sure. And of course, I added some of my own.

Yes, there’s like, barely 2 weeks to go and Hanukkah is over. But Kwanzaa doesn’t start until the 26th, and for the rest, you’re still better late than never!

Marilla, Cupcake Rehab

Hey Santa! Or whoever is looking to buy me gifts…

This year, I want an Eyefi Mobi, so that I don’t have to remove and re-plug my SD card into my Macbook every time I want to edit my Canon T4i photos. Which is A LOT- hello? I’m a blogger! This way, I can use the Eyefi Cloud and transfer my photos wirelessly onto both my iPhone and Macbook.

I totally love online shopping- but I especially love shopping on Etsy. It’s the best ever! I think I purchased 80-90% of my wedding stuff online, and out of that, probably 60% of it was from Etsy! Lately, I’m especially loving ParlorTattooPrints– most especially the Johnny Cash and Beetlejuice prints. Great for fans of art, movies, and music alike, as well as people who are just fans of old school tattoo flash.

If we wanna get really crazy, and talk about my dream wishlist, then I have to add Smeg to it. Smeg refrigerators, stand mixers, kettles, you name it.

While it will never replace the fun of making jam and jelly the old-fashioned way, I’m itching to try the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker. I can imagine taking the guesswork out of the timing of tricky homemade jellies might be pretty cool. Jams are fairly easy on their own, but for low sugar jam that has to cook a bit longer or requires added pectin, and for jelly, I’d definitely use it!

I love old rings. Old cocktail or engagement rings, old bands, anything. They intrigue me, and I always wonder about who owned it originally or who had it made. As if this isn’t evidenced by my own vintage engagement ring! Anyway, I’d love a “right hand ring” like this one called Upminster from Trumpet & Horn. Circa 1915, with onyx and crazy detail? I’m sold.

Ariana, 3twentysix

No disrespect to those who pray or those that are spiritual but these candles are freaking gold!! I’m not much into praying but the idea of having the characters from Bob’s Burgers on a candle like this cracks me up. I probably won’t ever light them up but the idea of having them would light up my day!

I love my city! I may not have been born in Houston, but it’s raised me to be the proud southern that I am. Having this specific print in blue, my favorite color, showing neighborhoods and streets of my city makes me happy in so many ways. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I have any prints on my wall reppin’ for my city. What kind of aficionado am I? Haha!

I’ve always been a fan of big hoop earrings, but they’re annoying as hell, haha! I’ve been looking for hoops that cup my ear lobe and these look just right for my small lobes. Sterling Silver would definitely be the way to go for me!

I’m not as big as a book worm as I’d like to be but who can say no to this sweet Alice In Wonderland bookmark? I know folks are all into ebooks these days but nothing compares to turning the page on a book. Oh, and the smell of the paper!!

I’ve taken up bike riding with the husband and even though I’ve been majorly slacking (mostly because of the weather), I’ve been srsly thinking of getting myself a fannypack. It might sound a bit cheesy but I like them. I’m not sure when they became nerdy or uncool. I think it would be perfect for my cell, wallet and peanut M&M’s!

Mucho thank yous, Santa!

 Dana, Hot Pink Apron

This holiday season I am all about baking and cocktails. OK, let’s face it, I’m almost always all about baking and cocktails but there’s just something about Bing Crosby crooning and trips to an overpopulated mall that help justify my completely indulgent obsessions.

The biggest ask on my Wish List this year is a new food processor. After a heart breaking tumble off the countertop, my dear old food processor was forced into retirement. Cuisinart seems to have a few well-reviewed options but it’s the Braun 12-Cup Food Processor Ultra Quiet Powerful European that’s topping my list.

I also reeally, REALLY want an authentic ‘made in France’ Silpat silicone baking mat. As a food blogger, there is just something oh so sexy about photographing a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie against a golden threaded Silpat backdrop. Sure, parchment paper works but it is no Silpat… And for my fellow perfectionist, there is a Silpat Perfect Collection with visual guides for cookies, pretzels and scrumptious macarons.

Also, what avid cook would ever complain about getting fancy spices?? I’d love a pantry stocked saffron, dried lavender, gourmet sea salts, rubs, and vanilla pods. Anything to assist in creating luxurious foods but just fancy enough (i.e. costly enough) that I hardly ever buy them myself.

Now, to wash down all of the delicious homemade goodies of my future bakes, let’s talk cocktails. I am currently obsessed with bitters. Angostura bitters is pretty popular thanks to classic cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned but I’ve been exploring the world of concentrated flavourings since buying the book Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas. A bottle of rye or whiskey paired with an unusual bitters or cordial from Fee Brothers to play with would make a lovely gift.

I recently had a cocktail from New York’s Death & Company that featured a curry bitters, it was indeed unusual… and totally inspiring. The speakeasy styled bar released a cocktail recipe book last year that is absolutely topping my Wish List this year since it’s been classified ‘The definitive guide to the contemporary craft cocktail movement.’ by some pretty respectable amateur and professional bartender.

So, there you have it, Santa. You bring me the baking and boozy goods and I’ll upgrade your milk and cookies. Cheers! xo

 Yoyo, topstitch

I’ve been looking for a point and shoot camera for a while, then I saw this awesome red Canon PowerShot SX610 at Target. Favorite feature is the built in wi-fi connectivity.

I recently used this trimmer while visiting a friend. I instantly fell in love and it’s a must have for every crafter out there.

From recipes to DIY and everything in between. I love reading All You magazine every month.

Scones and coffee for breakfast and cornbread and chill for lunch! How perfect is this Nordicware pan! I love Nordicware.

I love sending postcards, so this Polaroid ZIP mobile printer is perfect for when I travel. I can send postcards right away. Imagine that!

A big thank you to my fellow bloggers who contributed to this little blurb! I hope it helps you get those last minute gifts, or even gives you an idea what to spend all your holiday money or gift cards on.

Now, we shall commence with the foodery!

Mele Kalikimaka!

“…is Hawaii’s way, to say Merry Christmas to you…”

In case you didn’t know, “Mele Kalikimaka” is one of my favorite Christmas songs sung by one of my favorite singers: Bing Crosby. It’s also featured in one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I have my grandpa’s original record of Bing’s Merry Christmas! album which it was on, and I also have my late Uncle Pat‘s White Christmas 40th Anniversary VHS box set (from 1994) which includes the script and other reprints of film memorabilia.

I’m clearly into it.

Christmas tree 2013!

Well, anyway, it’s here. Finally! Christmas is here. After months of preparation & anticipation. And I hope it lives up to all of that for you. For me, it’s a vintage Christmas. Vintage ornaments on the tree (and some new ones), vintage-looking colored lights.

Some of the vintage ornaments are my grandparents’, some are my great-grandparents’, and some other belonged to my parents. Like these Shiny Brite ones that were my grandpa & grandma’s…

Vintage Shiny Brite silent night ornament.

Vintage Shiny Brite Christmas greetings ornament.

And a few awesome hand-painted striped glass ones like this…

Vintage blue striped ornament.

And still others are new! Or fairly new. Like this acoustic guitar I bought Jay in 2005 at Restoration Hardware, or the Jack Daniels crystal one Jay’s parents got him from Lenox.

Acoustic guitar ornament, Restoration Hardware 2005.

Jack Daniels ornament!

There’s also this one, that Jay bought at the 9/11 museum.

9/11 Fidelis Ad Mortem police ornament.

And you know I have baking/cooking-related ones on there too. I’ve got a few “baking fairies” with spatulas/pastry bags/etc, a wooden spoon & whisk, a cookie cutter & Santa cookie from Yoyo, a bunch of different glass cupcakes and a personalized chef. This is a very delicate glass cupcake imported from Poland that I got at Sur La Table:

Glass cupcake ornament from Poland.

Each & every ornament has such a special meaning. Isn’t it lovely to look at your tree & have each ornament spark a memory?

And of course no tree would be complete without toys underneath it. My tree has some special vintage toys…

Vintage toys on display under the tree. These are toys that belonged to a grandparent & uncle; some are from the 1920's, some from the 1940's.

These toy trucks & trains are vintage. The Buddy L trucks & Ives trains belonged to my grandfather, and date back to the 1920’s/early 1930’s. The white car in the front belonged to my uncle so it’s probably from the 1940’s/early 1950’s.

And this Christmas is full of new traditions, too. Like this:

Cut the bottom off your (real) tree, then write or burn the date on it. Save them from year to year! Use them as coasters, ornaments, whatever. Just seal them with some acrylic spray sealant so the sap doesn't make them too sticky.

That right there is the bottom of our tree! The nice dude at the place we bought it cut the bottom inch off before he wrapped the tree and gave it to me, but you can do it yourself; either before you put it in the stand when you get it home, or after you take it down. Just slice the bottom off (if you’re doing it after Christmas, use a dry piece, not one that was sitting in water). Sand it a little on both sides, clean it, then write the date on it. I used a wood-burning tool, but I know not everyone has one of those. A Sharpie or rubber stamp works too. I’d also seal it with some kind of acrylic sealer spray (or polyurethane sealer, only if you’ve burned the date in) so the sap doesn’t become annoying.

And now I’ll have a collection of them from every year we have a real tree- which is hopefully many years. You can hang yours on the tree with a little screw in hook & some ribbon, or use it as a coaster, or just put it on a shelf like I did.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

 spacer

Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

Continue reading

Figgy pudding bars made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits!

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree!

Christmas is officially on it’s way. The big tree in Rockefeller Center has been lit for 2 weeks now, everyone has been shopping up a storm, and of course baking! Rightly so… it’s literally 8 days away! If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking of Christmas-y treats. Which brings me to today’s post. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll remember both my figgy pudding cupcakes & also that last holiday season I made a recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies.

(If you’re a new reader- well, suffice it to say, one time I made figgy pudding cupcakes & another time I made a lemon cranberry cobbler recipe featuring Duchy Originals lemon shortbread cookies. Haha.)

Duchy Originals oaten biscuits... transformed into figgy pudding bars!

Anyway… the lovely folks at Duchy Originals wanted me to create a new recipe, this time for their Oaten biscuits. The oaten variety was the first one that was made for Duchy:

The Oaten Biscuit was the original Duchy Original – it was their first product back in 1992. Duchy Originals grow the wheat and oats themselves on farms in the UK. To get the perfect recipe and flavor, they teamed up with Walkers Shortbread who have been making shortbread in the Scottish Highlands for over 100 years.

Of course I said yes! I absolutely love the Duchy company & also the Walkers Shortbread company. In case you weren’t aware, Duchy was started by Prince Charles (yes-that Prince Charles!) in 1992 in order to promote organic food and farming and to help protect and sustain the local countryside and wildlife. it is one of the U.K.’s leading organic and sustainable food companies, producing a range of over 250 products from biscuits to preserves and gifts to garden seeds. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. More than $1 million is raised annually in this way for distribution to charitable causes all over the world. Duchy Originals from Waitrose shortbreads and cookies are baked by the world famous Walkers Shortbread in the Scottish Highlands.

And I thought it appropriate that being that they’re an English brand, and it’s Christmas, I make a “figgy pudding” reference.

Easy figgy pudding cookie bars! Made with Duchy Originals oaten biscuits & fig butter. You can use store-bought fig butter if you need to.

Continue reading

DIY magic: mason jar snow globes.

Oh, December. How I love you. Make no mistake- Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Hands down. However, it’s only acceptable for me to play White Christmas over & over again in December. I don’t mind watching it in February or July, but I find other people take issue. Or perhaps they just take issue with me singing all of the songs (particularly this one & this one) out loud at the top of my lungs? Anyway. I wait until at least after turkey day to break out the Bing! Also, December is the Mount Everest of baking/creating: the best crafts, recipes, and decorations are happening  right around now!

Like these…

DIY mason jar snowglobes. Easiest winter project ever!

This tutorial is something you’ve probably seen all over the internet.

No, not probably. Definitely.  I’ve seen this concept more times in the past two weeks than I’ve seen my fiancee, it seems. I’m just repeating it here to show you how stupidly easy it is. And how fun it is. And chances are, you’ve already got the materials- or most of them- laying around the house. It’s a knockoff of a product that Anthropologie made (they made salt shaker ones too), hence the lack of water.

DIY mason jar snowglobes.

Continue reading