Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts

Blogmas Day 21 Christmas Stockings

christmas home decoration

Hello my little cranberries

It is only 4 more sleeps until Christmas! Who is getting excited?

One of the things I still have to do is wrap the stocking presents. Over the years I have been surprised at how different families do the stocking thing. Of course as a kid you think that everyone has the same traditions.

In our house we didn’t hang our stocking by the chimney with care  they just turned up Christmas morning on the end of the bed filled with goodies. I used the be amazed at all the stuff in there. I still have my childhood stocking and I am amazed at how small it is. Maybe it was magic, but I always thought it was a mountain of goodies. And in the toe was a mandarin orange.

We opened the stockings in bed and one of the gifts was always a chocolate letter. This is a Dutch tradition that we adopted in our family likely because there are a lot of Dutch families in the area and well it is a good policy to adopt all traditions that include chocolate.

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Somewhere along the line a magazine was included in there as well. This gave you something to read as you munched your chocolate letter waiting until it was late enough to hit the living room for the tree presents.

I still like getting a magazine and I look forward to taking a break sometime during the day and having a few quiet minutes flipping pages.

The rest of our presents were usually little things, socks, notebooks, toiletries and more chocolate. they were always wrapped which is what I should be doing right now.

I followed those same traditions with my own kids. Now that they are grown we tend to open the stockings around the breakfast table while having a juice or tea before moving on to the bigger tree presents. I love it when I see the whole family with their noses in the magazines and reaching for another chocolate.

Some families pass on the stockings and have moved on to Santa sacs that does allow for some bulkier gifts. I have to admit I get carried away and sometimes have to have an overflow bag for the things that won’t fit in. Or rather Santa gets carried away….

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · out and about · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 20 – Gingerbread house contest

Hello sugarplums

I was doing a bit of last minute shopping today at the mall and came across the finalists in a ginger bread competition. This was not individual people entering but businesses and office groups creating local landmarks in gingerbread (and other edibles) on a big scale. I did not even know it was happening so I’m glad I just stumbled across it.

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The closest town to us is Goderich Ontario and has about 8000 people living there. Not very big really, but it is the largest town in the County. Our mall is only about 11 or 12 stores and businesses – welcome to living in the country. But we have everything you actually need. It was nice to see that so many people had put so much effort into the contest.

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These pictures may not be the best as I only had my phone to snap pictures. The building above is the mall itself, well at least the Food Basics store.

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The public works department did a full scene including white icing snow (lots of it) chocolate roads, Oreo crumb “dirt”. leggo workers and trucks and diggers. There is a battery pack in the middle…I bet the little digger can actually move the “dirt”. The building looks like a log cabin made from those rolled cookies. I don’t think the real works shed is a log cabin! Maybe that is wishful thinking.

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The Air Cadets did a great airport (we do have a small airfield just north of town) They made their own planes from cookie dough. I think they should get extra points for that! And a graham cracker runway. The one issue might be that the plane is too big to fit through the door of the hanger….

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But the grand prize winner was the amazing town square made by the folks at the local radio station “The Beach”. Goderich is based around a circle road surrounding a big square County building. A few years ago we had a horrible tornado and the solid court house was one of the few buildings still standing (the windows were gone, but the building was OK) All of the trees in the park surrounding it were lost. But the town has now recovered and the park is just as beautiful as ever. This is a great candy model of it. Very impressive.

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The three dimensional trees are amazing. And I notice that Santa is on the roof! He’s a little early I think.

Well done to all. It was a very festive thing to come across the week before Christmas and made me feel all Christmassy.

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Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 19 – Christmas TV

Hello my little Gingerbread.

Do you have specific Christmas TV memories from when you were young? Of course that is going to differ depending on your age, though most people would mention watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Grinch.

But since I am a bit weird (and was a weird kid) mine was the Andy Williams Christmas Special. Not only did they often featured the Osmond brothers, they were a visual fantasy of the perfect Christmas. The elaborate sets, people lounging about enjoying an eggnog who suddenly broke into orchestrated Christmas songs – what’s not to love?

To a girl from small town Canada in the 70’s they seemed sophisticated. This was what my adult Christmas would look like – Including the Osmonds of course.  Oddly that didn’t happen.

TV was very different then, thirteen Channels, a printed TV guide or the listings in the paper, no DVR or even VCR to tape shows. Shows with the word special in the title actually were special and if you missed them at the time they were scheduled, you couldn’t go google it and watch it later. So Sunday nights were Walt Disney night, the only cartoons were on for a half an hour at lunch and were the best part of a sick day, and the time and date of the Christmas shows was a hot topic on the school yard.

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Christmas TV is different than watching Christmas movies on TV.  Most sitcoms or TV dramas have done the Christmas themed episode over the years, some more memorable than others. There are a number of ranking lists about this subject. I remember a few that stick out. But for the life of me I can’t remember anything memorable enough to write about at the moment. It seemed to be the one time when the people on the shows were doing the same things we were at the same time.

 

As I write this I am watching Victorian Farm Christmas. It is a 3 part special filmed the the Acton Scott Estate. The history geek in me loves to see how the season was prepared and celebrated in Victorian times. I expect it is also why I enjoy reading Washington Irving’s Christmas stories.

I also love all the Christmas food and cooking specials. Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver making roasts and sprouts. Kirstie Allsopp has made a crafty show for several years celebrating her love of all things craft and Christmas. Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas has tree decorating, present wrapping, and baking competions and an epic hand knit jumper/sweater runway show. Christmas and crafts!

It is odd how in just a few days now all of this will end and we will go back to regular TV. After we watch the Queens Christmas message of course.

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The common theme above is that they are all British shows. I find the Brits just do Christmas better than anyone else. The seem to enjoy it, and revel in it. They raise Christmas to a whole other level.

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Most of my Christmas entertainment this year is not on TV at all. In fact it is the inspiration for my whole Blogmas idea and that is Vlogs on You tube. Zoella and many other You Tube Vlogers are posting every day with festive ideas or just a daily vlog of their activities and Christmas preparations. I watch them shop for a party or go and select their tree. I’m not sure what it says about wht I consider entertainment, but it is a much more real version of Christmas than the completely fake world of Andy William’s chalet in a TV studio.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 18 – Christmas meat pies

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Hello my little pie crusts

So as I was making the annual Christmas meat pies today I realized that they are not really all that photogenic. Nor is there an exact recipe. My Dad was a chef. A few years before he passed away I asked him for the recipe. He wrote it out for me with no actual amounts, and no times or temperatures for baking.  But I figured it out, as he knew I would, and I even made some changes to make it mine, as he knew I would.

So to begin you need to make pastry. I make mine in the food processor – and I have to say that is the only way to make pie crust.

3 c flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup of both cold butter and shortening cubed, 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons of vinegar – to this add ice water until it makes 2/3 cup.

In a food processor mix flour and salt, add the butter and shortening and pulse until mix becomes crumbs. With machine running add the liquid until it forms a ball. Form into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Then roll out on floured surface and shape/cut as needed.

I make the Christmas meat pies in muffin pans so they are single serving size, but it also works as a full pie.

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For the filling I finely chop about 1 cup each of onion, celery, and carrot and saute until soft. Remove to a bowl. in the same pot saute 3 or 4 lbs of  ground beef. Add some salt pepper and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. After the beef is browned stir in 1/4 cup of flour to absorb the excess fat, stir to cook.

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Put the vegetables back into the pot and add a carton of beef stock. stir and cook over medium heat util it starts to thicken. Add several glugs of Worcestershire sauce and two finely diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender.

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Fill your pie crusts, top with rounds of pastry cut holes to vent, and bake at 400 F …well until they look done. I guess I write recipes about as well as my Dad.

I won’t claim they are pretty, but they do taste great.

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Now I will freeze them until needed at Christmas. Warm and serve with gravy.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 17 – Christmas food

Hello my little satsumas

I was pondering what to write about today. I thought I should stay current with how my own preparations for Christmas are going. Today I did a huge grocery shop. It was so big partly because we have been stormed in for a couple of days and there is more snow forecast for tonight,  and partly because Christmas is one week away. It got me thinking about how much food is a part of all Christmas celebrations. So I went to my trusty friend Google and typed in Christmas foods. Turns out there is a nifty list on Wikipedia  of 42 countries and the national dishes served at Christmas. No surprise that I recognized and agreed with those served in Canada. There maybe a few things missing but it is pretty accurate. Same with the list for the United Kingdom, since my heritage is British it is again no surprise that many of the dishes feature in my own holiday meals. I smiled that Australia’s list mentions cold turkey and ham, as well as seafood dishes.

I think we all look forward to the feasts at this time of year. And also to the quiet times when we stop and reflect on how grateful we are for all we have. My family’s traditional meal usually features the turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. There will also be meat pies. I am not sure when that started but usually my parents would make them prior to the big day and freeze them. My Mom was on pastry duty and my Dad made the filling. They were individual sized and served re-heated with lashings of hot gravy. Since I believe any food can be improved by the addition of pastry, these have long been a highlight of my Christmas. I’ll be making them tomorrow and sharing the process with you.

Another tradition I remember from childhood was the addition of a satsuma or mandarin orange in the toe of my stocking. I was also very fond of the bowl of nuts in the shell. These item were a treat only seen at one time of the year. But now we are so spoiled with foods available all year long (I saw fresh asparagus at the store today) that not many feel special the way they did for me as a child.

Some of the best Christmas meals for me are the leftovers. Re-warming a plate of turkey dinner on Christmas day or Boxing day is almost better than the first eating. Freezing the remains of the turkey to thaw mid winter to enjoy the festive flavours all over again is worth all of the work in late December.

mmmm can’t wait.

 

Photos today from http://www.pexels.com

 

 

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Making things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 16 – the best Christmas gift for all ages

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Hello my little sleigh bells.

So it is the last week before Christmas. Is all your shopping done? Need a last minute gift? Well there is a one-stop idea for all ages and interests. The best part is that not only is it a fun gift but it also can contribute to better mental health. What is it? Colouring books of course.

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They truly are a gift for all ages from the smallest child to grandma or grandpa. Now it may take some convincing to get a grumpy gus to the table to join the fun, but if you can get them started most people find it relaxing.

Todays adult colouring books are not the ones we had as kids. Everything from detailed fantasy designs, to Harry Potter or Game of Thrones is available. No matter what your special interest or hobby someone is making a colouring book aimed at you. You can’t walk by a news stand without seeing a new selection, and they are for the most part very affordable. There are also general ones small enough to fit in your purse to take along for a spare moment.

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My particular favourites are mandalas,  the designs are balanced so the part of my brain that likes order and symmetry can fall into the  calming repetition of it. On days when I am the most stressed, or when my mind can’t settle to do anything I often pull out one of my colouring books and lose myself in it until I feel better. I have used Coloured pencils, fine makers, and even good old Crayolas, it is really a matter of what you enjoy. I recently bout a box of pencils that are different colours on opposite ends, great for my pencil case to take with me on the go.

Of course there are specialty Christmas books. The one below came free with another magazine.

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A quick search on-line and you can find free pages to download for all occasions. I have linked one below. Great for Family Christmas activities to keep the kids (or adults) entertained.

Relax over the festive season with some pencil crayons and you may find you have found a new hobby. Enjoy

http://www.easypeasyandfun.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Intricate-Christmas-Coloring-Page.pdf

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 15 Christmas Q & A

imageHello my little tinsel tree toppers

Today I am going to do 10 Christmas Questions

1 What is your favourite Christmas food?  

A – It is very hard to choose, because I love the whole turkey dinner but I really love the potato casserole made with hash browns and soup and sour cream.  Not very fancy but I only get it once a year and look forward to it.

2  What s your favoutite Christmas song?

A – If I’m being serious I would say “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Jethro Tull does an amazing version. If I think of pop music I would say Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” – puts me in a good mood. I don’t like the silly songs at all except once a year I love to hear  “I want a hippopotomus for Christmas” – then I have it stuck in my head all day. Now you do too – you’re welcome.

3  White lights or coloured lights?

A –  I have already mentioned this one…white lights inside, multi-coloured outside.

4 Do you send Christmas cards?

A – No but I love the idea of them. I loved seeing all the cards arriving in December when I was a kid. Often I got to open them and that was a treat. Then we hung them up on the wall. It is a tradition I would love to do again….but it is also very expensive (postage!) and time consuming.

5. When do you open presents? 

A – I did not realize this was so varried until I was an adult and found out every culture or family seems to have very firm ideas and traditions about presents. When I was little we had family Christmas with my older brothers and sisters on Christmas Eve so I got lots of presents then. On Christmas morning we always had stockings on our beds as soon as we woke up and then I would get presents from Santa and Mom and Dad (I was the youngest and last at home)  in the morning …we didn’t really do breakfast everyone ate chocolate or leftovers from the night before.

6 Eggnog yes or no?

A – NO

7  Tree real or fake?

A – Fake but only because you can put it up sooner. And I have several. And when we finish the TV room in the basement I will have one down there too. I love the idea of a real tree and have considered getting a potted Norfolk pine….or a little cedar.

8  Favourite Christmas cookie / sweet

A – Shortbread all the way. But there are lots of treats that only get made about now that are great. Love going to a potluck and tasting all the different ones.

9 Fruitcake yes or no?

A – I really, really WANT to like fruit cake but have never found one that really tickled my tinsel. I did make an amazing ginger cake last year that I will be doing again. But no fruit in it.

10  Do you dream of a white Christmas?

A – Yes always want snow on Christmas. This year we may have more than we need. But I also want everyone to travel safely so only overnight and nice fluffy soft white stuff.

 

And that is the end of my Q & A  Feel free to ask your friends and family and see what answers you get. Or comment below with any of your favourites.