Dec 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Well it's almost here, it has come upon me soo fast!  I feel like there wasn't enough time, enough time to soak up and squeeze out every bit of holiday magic.  But it is still good and I am more then happy to receive Christmas with an open heart and ....well a cup of coffee, of course! ;)

We've been outdoorsy, baking, family visiting and present wrapping. Hubby is off until the new year so we will be quality time enjoying as well, for the next ten days.  My sister from Victoria, BC is visiting and it is really nice to get to spend some time with here.  Also GREAT news, I'm going to be an AUNT!!!  I'm extremely excited!! My other sister is expecting in June and this is truly a miracle!  She's excited and scared, but I know she'll be an excellent mom!  We are all so happy for her!

So I wanted to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas!!! May God bless this season for you and may love, peace and grace fill your hearts and homes! So I leave you now with photos of food, fun and festivities, one of my favourite Christmas songs and happy thoughts!  So have yourself a merry little Christmas!




Pretty packages...filled with gifts of love.




My sister from the west coast. *heart*





Homemade peanut brittle and chocolate, cranberry and pecan cookies.


Some like the snow..................while others.........................do not!






*heart*






Chocolate cookies...okay so not the most traditional shapes, but I like 'em!
My famous bits and bites - and they are MIGHTY tasty, if I do say so myself!!!
More biscotti, except these are the best ones I've made yet....SOOO terribly good!






Now we're loving the snow!






                    Naughty or  Nice?                              



Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself...

-Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas." 1976





Dec 21, 2010

Wreath Watching




Ever stop to look at all the beautiful and unique wreaths that are around this time of year?  It's kind of like people watching, except it's wreath watching.  Each one has it's own story, a reason for being chosen and a style that hints at what may lay beyond the door. These are the ones I found on my block, so intriguing, cheerful and colourful!




I just want to walk right up and enter, doesn't it just say "Welcome!"?






Fancy, sophisticated but not over done...that's how I read it.





You know these people are fun - I mean a blue door - there's a good time to be had in there!






Wintry fun and whimsical - or people who just LOVE ice sports.






Traditional and warm, the hot chocolate is on and the fire is crackling.







Rustic yet classic, a nod to simpler times.






Nature inspired, I expect a woodsy home full of outdoorsy people.







Classic but with a slight rustic modern flair...can I even describe something that way...??







And last but certainly not least, my house...again...I REALLY like this wreath! ;)






 
"There's more, much more, to Christmas
Than candlelight and cheer;
It's the spirit of sweet friendship
That brightens all year.
It's thoughtfulness and kindness,
It's hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding,
And for goodwill to men!"
                                     
-Unknown


Dec 19, 2010

Bark and Bite


This is what the weather looked like outside on Saturday.....




...wintry, Christmassy and white; so I filled my day with colorful baking.  Making five kinds of chocolate bark.






First was Four Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bark (with crunchy peanut better of course!)






And if that wasn't terrible enough, we have Cookies and Cream Bark.






Next I wanted something more festive looking, so created Christmas Sprinkle Bark, it has such a great texture when you bite into it....not that I would know....





For my next number I did not have an orange on hand and the weather was so bad I didn't want to go back out in it. Thankfully we have great neighbours who gave us an orange or I would have had to use a lemon and it just wouldn't have been the same.  Here we have Cranberry, Pecan and Orange Bark.






My finale creation is an ode to all those, like me, who crave savoury more then sweet or a medley of the two, we have Toffee and Rock Salt Bark.  Yum!  And if you haven't tried salt with chocolate, wow it's something amazing and I recommend you do!!!



So there you have some inspiration or possibly just temptation, either way enjoy!




Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.
~Peg Bracken





Basic Bark Recipe

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Allowing for paper to hang over the edges.
Coarsely chop your chocolate.
Gather any add ins you may need.

Fill a small pot with about an inch or so of water.
Make a double boiler by placing a heat proof bowl over the pot.
Place chopped chocolate pieces into bowl.
Heat water to hot but not boiling.
Stir chocolate frequently until melted.

Once melter pour onto prepared pan.
Spread out with spatula or palette spatula until about 1/8 to 1/4 inch think.
Add toppings.
Swirl (if desired) with skewer, butter knife, sewing needle or any other such too.
Allow to set in fridge for approximately one hour.

Break or cut into pieces.
ENJOY!


NOTE-For the peanut butter one I melted three types of chocolate together first, then poured onto the pan and spread.  I then melted milk chocolate with the peanut butter to add on top and swirled with the reverse end of a dessert spoon.




Dec 15, 2010

Lights, Cookies, Colour!

 Okay the days are flying by and we're doing our best to soak up the season!  We partook in our annual "Christmas Light Drive".  Where in, we pile into the car, get some hot beverages, play Christmas music and tour our city to take in all the Christmas lights.  This year was especially fun as Olivia in particular LOVED all the colourful lights!  A few struck my fancy too and I wanted to share them with you.




These make me happy!




The weekend was filled with festivity fun.  Pot luck, friends, art gallery visiting, wrapping gifts, card making (they're finally done now) and baking!  My dad and step-mom came over to bake with the girls.  It was good family fun and hopefully a new tradition.


He brought over his old cookie press, I believe he said he got it over 25 years ago at Goodwill for only 98 cents! 






So everyone rolled up their sleeves and got making my late Granny's short bread cookies.






Enthralment, excitement, enjoyment - and with two small kids it was slightly exhausting!








But it all got done and I believe there were probably seven dozen or more.  And yes the girls stuck each and every cherry bit on ALL the individual cookies, remarkably with little fussing and a huge amount of sharing - I never miss a moment to teach a lesson on sharing! ;)






And finally at last, the cookies were enjoyed!







Oh and I mean ENJOYED!!



So the holiday is fast approaching, the stores are open later, which is why myself and two other moms were not in bed until 1:00am last night....but ah my shopping is pretty much finished now! :)


There, you have your lights, your cookies and now for some colour....coloured pencil portrait that is!  (Because it's not like there wasn't any colour in the rest of this post!)

I usually get portrait orders right before Christmas and this year was no different - which is one of the reasons I try to stay ahead of the Christmas rush, so that when these 'last' minute orders come in I have some time to get them done....though this year I'm running out of time I think! ;)

Some people have asked me to take pictures of the process, which I ALWAYS forget to do - until now!  I actually had my camera on hand when I began this dog portrait, so I thought I would share the creative process with you all. 






Ah well, eleven days now....okay so I should get more wrapping done and finish my other portrait orders....oh time slow down, just a little...  I 'd love to hear how you're managing your time?  Are you ready for the holiday?


From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another.
The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.
Emily Matthews



Dec 10, 2010

Snow!


Ah, now that's more like it!




Olivia was over joyed to see the snow, to touch it, to taste it and to talk endlessly about it!  She's been merrily tromping about in it since it fell a few days ago.  We've had hints of snow but only earlier this week did it actually come and cover the earth; a wintry world at last!




Now that the world is blanketed in white I really feel Christmas coming - but oh my is it ever coming!  It's only about 15 days away!  Say WHAT?!?!  Fifteen days....how did that happen?!??  But oh well, the house is all snugly, warm and inviting. Gifts have yet to be wrapped, but that's fine with me - because I won't be tempted to open them sooner!  I'm finishing up the final touches on my homemade Christmas cards and hope to mail them out early next week - a little later then usual, but hey I've got two little ones and apparently I don't have the free time I once use to. ;)












Other years I've done the Christmas balls in the glass vase, but this year I changed it up a little by putting those little candy canes in a tall vase.  Very pretty and very festive!  Also another great idea to share with you all is putting gift tags into little photo frames. (As pictured below)  It's a great way to add some more festive flare and also to make a keep sake from a special tag.  Say from a tag off of a gift from a close friend, a loved one, or a very special present. So easy and super cute!





This is our new wreath and 'new' door.  Our door used to be an old blue, gray colour - but a couple of coats of paint later and we have a snazzy new door for the holidays!  Which showcases our new wreath nicely.  Previously I've made all of our wreaths, but when my eyes fell on this Christmassy gem I couldn't pass it up! 




So yes, it's beginning to look A LOT like Christmas and I'm happy about that!




Be merry all, be marry all,
With holly dress the festive hall;
Prepare the song, the feast, the ball,
To welcome merry Christmas.

-William Robert Spencer

Dec 3, 2010

The Reason for the Season

It's finally Christmas time!  The nativity was set up tonight and for me that truly marks the Christmas season.  Because after all...


This sign is posted at the end of the driveway of a dear friend of mine.  This friend of mine is a wonderful Christian woman whom I love dearly and am constantly amazed at her faith.  She has seen it all, faced more trials in the short while I have known her then many Christians face in a life time, and still she turns to God, proclaims His truth and lives to serve Him!  I can only imagine, and not even actually,  that this is not always easy but she does it and I am always blessed to spend time with her.  Like today!  We were finally able to reconnect after so many months apart, to sit and enjoy each others company with good food, a warm fire and hot coffee.  I was encouraged and blessed by our time together, I think we both were.

So fitting that I come home and set up our nativity scene - because without Him, none of this day would have been possible!

Our nativity is old, nice and old - seen a lot of years and a lot of wear.  The stable was made by my grandfather and the people for the set were bought by him as well - many years ago.  I set it up in a corner of our dining room, letting it be the only light at night, casting it's warm glow across the room.  It brings good feelings and happy memories and yet a tinge of sadness at the truth of why we celebrate this birth.



The figures are all made of plaster and before coming into my care, were stored in a cardboard box and so have been damaged.  My sweet husband knew I cherished this set, with it's meaning and history, and built a strong wooden box to store them all in.  But the damage is done and though it would be nice to have them in pristine condition, it's a testament to this fallen world and our imperfectness.












It's funny, I remember every Christmas when I went to stay with my dad I would 'play' with this set. I wasn't a believer and no one in my family was, but this set was always put out at Christmas time at his house and I enjoyed moving the figures about and rearranging the scene. At some point over the years the set was no longer brought out, but kept in it's box, tucked away in the basement.







About 5 years ago, I was at my apartment visiting with my sister in law.  It was late fall and I don't remember how it came up but I had remembered the old nativity set.  I was telling her all about it and how I don't know what had happened to it over the years, when who should pull up but my dad.



 I went out to meet him and he opens the trunk.  Inside the trunk is a worn and ragged cardboard box.  "I was going through some things," he said, "and I thought you might like this."  He opens the box to reveal the family nativity set, wrapped in old news paper, he closes the box and hands it to me.  We say our goodbyes and like a mother caring her new born child I carefully take the box back into my home, to unveil it's contents to my surprised sister in law!




God is amazing, don't you think?  He blesses us in some pretty special ways.  A visit with a dear friend, an unexpected yet timely gift, it is truly amazing.  So as this season of giving approaches nearer and nearer, keep focused on the true gifts of life and never forget the Reason for the season!




And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:9-12

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