Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Baking - Gift Ideas

The weather has been warming up in our part of the world and I must admit I look longingly at pictures of a lovely white Christmas and wonder what that would be like.  One day I would love to experience that!  For this year though, the weather here is predicted to be quite hot on Christmas Day, so it will be a day spent in the air-conditioning or swimming in the pool.

It has been a bit of a challenge to do Christmas baking this year with the temperatures being quite high, especially when working with chocolate!  Here is what I've been able to bake over the last couple of days.

Cherry & Almond Biscotti

These are so delicious, definitely my favourite!  I added lots more coloured glace cherries and whole blanched almonds this year - a huge improvement.  I have to keep them put away out of sight otherwise we won't have any left for Christmas. 

Christmas Scroll Cookies

These were honestly a disaster to make.  If I ever make them again I will use my own cookie dough recipe. The recipe I used here had cookie dough which would not hold together, it kept falling apart, not from being crumbly because it was moist enough, just the type of dough it was - it was a nightmare to try and roll up to try and achieve the scroll effect.  I was amazed when they came out like they did and actually resembled some sort of scroll, I had expected much worse.

Chocolate Checkerboard Shortbread

This is a recipe I have been making for years.  It is yummy, easy to make and creates a nice effect with the checkerboard pattern.  I did colour the plain dough to try and make it red, to look a bit Christmassy - as you can see it turned out more of a pink shade instead.  They still look good and taste great!

Chocolate Rum Balls

This is one of those traditional old recipes which most people love.  You can choose to add the rum or leave it out altogether - they taste fine either way.

Marble Rocky Road

This was super easy to make and lots of fun - it is just Cadbury Chocolate melts, imitation cherries, mini marshmallows and Natural Confectionary Snakes cut into small pieces.  At the request of my children I didn't add in any nuts, although I personally think it would taste great with nuts.
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Today we have been busy making Christmas chocolates - using Christmas themed chocolate molds and Cadbury White Chocolate Melts which we have added colours to.  The kids have had so much fun making these!!

We plan to gift wrap a selection of baked goodies as gifts for our neighbours and friends.  It is so nice to be able to share homemade treats with others. 
Of course we will also have some left for our own family celebrations for Christmas Day too! 
I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of our favourite Christmas treats.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Getting Ready For Christmas

The past few weeks since my last update have flown by so quickly!  Christmas is approaching fast and like most other people I know, we are still busy getting ready, but I am pleased to say that my list of things to do is slowly diminishing in size - what a great feeling when you cross something else off that list!
School holidays started awhile ago now for us - so that means it is no longer just one person (me) who is out and about during the day, shopping, running errands etc, it is now 5 of us!  Trust me, that can take some co-ordinating sometimes, especially with the busy stores full of Christmas Shoppers.

Here is a small glimpse at some of what we have been up to over the last couple of weeks . . .

Making Christmas Cards for family and friends

Shopping ~ this store has the most amazing Winter Wonderland display and it even snows!

Making Snow Cones (and Fairy Floss/Cotton Candy) at our Church's Christmas Carols

Going to see all the spectacular Christmas Light displays - a yearly tradition we always do together with close family friends.  This angel was huge, like a tall building!

I loved this little village with all the twinkling lights, it made me feel like I was looking into a Thomas Kinkade painting

Packing Christmas Hampers because Christmas is about the gift of giving.  This is a great activity to be part of to encourage our children to learn to be charitable to others.
Wrapping Gifts.  These were what we gave to all our lovely Playgroup ladies.

And of course decorating our own Christmas Tree - which we did back on 1st December

Today we are having a day at home.  Friends over to play with the kids - lots of games, swimming and fun on the trampoline and I know the girls want to make up some Christmas crafts. 
For me, today is going to be a day of Christmas Baking and first on the agenda are these cute Christmas Swirl Cookies which I have been wanting to try out.

courtesy of Pinterest

I also want to make some more cherry & almond bread which was a favourite last Christmas and some white chocolate rocky road which is a yummy Christmas treat.  The recipe for this is courtesy of retromummy.  All of today's baking will make some nice gifts for friends and neighbours as well as provide our family with some delicious Christmas snacks.
Do you have any favourite recipes you like to make up at Christmas time?  If you have any recipe ideas for gifts especially, please let me know, I am always on the look-out for new recipe ideas!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Christmas Party Decorations

It's been a busy few days and I have been folding what seemed like mountains of white tissue paper! 

Last weekend we had a special Christmas party especially for the ladies and teen girls at our church.  The reason for all my tissue paper folding was to make some of the decorations.  The room we used isn't really like the old traditional church halls, as we have quite a new building, but it is a large open space and it can be a challenge to create a bit of atmostphere in a space like that.  Being a huge fan of Pinterest, and having already tried out some of the decorating ideas I have found on there, we decided the giant pom-pom flower balls would look great around the room.  So I folded and folded and then folded some more and this is what it ended up looking like when you looked up.  It was a big success and received lots of admiring comments.  Best of all, being white (to help create a white Christmas), it also will look great for an upcoming wedding and more Christmas parties.

It was a lovely afternoon and enjoyed by everyone.  One of the fun things we had set up was a cookie buffet full of Christmas shaped cookies, coloured frostings and a large variety of chocolates and candies - all for a fun activity of decorating cookies - a big success!
These little pearl candy balls were my favourites!!
Everyone also made a Christmas Craft.  This was the craft - a Christmas Tree made from Ribbon and Beads. This idea is courtesy of Pinterest found here. 

Once all the activities were over, we had a secret santa and also a delicious afternoon tea.  Here is a picture of my contribution.  I loved how it turned out and it was so easy to make - marshmallows on skewer sticks, dipped partially in melted white chocolate and dipped in either grated chocolate or sprinkles.  It made up a pretty flower posy for the table!  The gorgeous white pot is from IKEA.

I must remember this when I am next doing a birthday party for one of my children!!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Christmas Gingerbread House

A Christmas Gingerbread House is a family tradition that I remember going right back to my own childhood years.  My mum used to make us a gingerbread house all decorated with lollies (candy) and she also used to make several extras to give away as gifts to family and friends.  They were something quite special and it wasn't like today where you see gingerbread houses in all the stores, back then you had to make your own.

This tradition is something that I have carried through for my own family and it is something my children look forward to each Christmas.  I've had some great years where I cut out the gingerbread pieces and assemble the house and decorate it and everything turns out perfectly, but I also remember one year when we had a particularly hot summer and my gingerbread house was a complete disaster - the walls kept sliding down and the roof caving in, nothing seemed to set hard like it was supposed to.  That year we had to be especially careful when eating it because the walls and roof were all held together with toothpicks and pins!!
So once again it is getting near to Christmas and time to make another Gingerbread House!
Last year I attempted something a little different and for the first time didn't bake my own Gingerbread, instead I went along to the school where my children attend and joined over 100 other ladies for an evening of decorating gingerbread houses made from kits.  I enjoyed it so much that this year I went along and took two of my daughters with me.
Imagine a large room full of women and young girls, gingerbread house kits and tables loaded full with colourful candy and you can picture what a fun evening this was!! 

Sorting the candy into colours, ready for decorating.  My daughter's eyes lit up, she has never seen such large quantities of candy to choose from and she especially loved that she could pick and choose whatever she wanted.

I think her method for decorating was to put on as much candy as possible!

And these are our finished Gingerbread Houses
I love that we go home with a completed gingerbread house, all wrapped up and ready for Christmas!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Lace Doily Stamps - More Handmade Cards

The countdown is on . . . for the final weeks in our school year that is!  I knew it would be a fast term, but I can't believe how quickly the weeks are racing by ~ and my lists of things that need to be done during these final weeks is growing by the day.  Why is it that this is always the most busy time of the year?  But there is also a lot of excitement that culminates around everything going on, especially with the lead up to Christmas.
Like many schools, ours has a presentation night at the end of the year, this one especially for high school students.  We are so proud of our oldest daughter, she has worked very hard this year and been very focused on her school assignments and it was beautiful to see her absolute joy when she received awards for two different subjects this year.  One of those very special moments when you just love being a parent!
Well with everything else that has been going on, I have actually managed to slip in a little bit of papercraft activity and finally tried out a new set of stamps which I purchased at the last craft show I went to.

The set I used is the one in the top right corner.  They look like little lace doilies in a variety of shapes and sizes.

I didn't have a lot of time and wanted to keep the design simple so I could get a couple of variations made.  I love laces and everything pretty and feminine, so these stamps really appeal to me.

I was even able to color co-ordinate everything, which is very much my style too.  The inks I used were some new ones I purchased earlier in the year from Close to My Heart.  They are so pretty!  The dots are all made using Liquid Pearls and the flowers were actually white flowers and I coloured them to match using my Copic Pens. 

I had to try out one using the Eiffel Tower stamp too!

So there you go, quick and easy, quite literally.  A few more nice cards for the collection of handmade cards.

I hope you have been enjoying your own crafty projects this week!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Kaszazz Card Workshop

Well I can't say that I have done very much in the way of craft recently, but I did have the opportunity to go along to a Kaszazz Mega Demonstration evening.  My oldest daughter came along with me and we had a fun mother & daughter evening out together.

We enjoyed the demonstration and opportunity to learn some new techniques we had never tried, particularly with our stamping.   Here is the card we made on the night.

I never really had much of a love for distress inks, but after that night I have definitely changed my views.  The blue distressed ink we used in the card we made was just gorgeous!
I hadn't used gloss card in years, but everything in blue was stamped onto gloss card and then coloured using blue distressed ink and a blending tool.  The butterflies were stamped and then punched out with a butterfly punch.
We already had the Eiffel Tower stamp at home, so now we have another idea for some inspiration on how to use it.
We know a couple of Kaszazz Consultants and have done a few of their workshops over the years.  If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one, I do highly recommend it.  You will have a lot of fun and also make some wonderful looking cards. 
And yes, we did do some shopping on the night - courtesy of a $50 voucher the lovely Kaszazz ladies gave out to everyone who attended.  So now we are looking forward to the delivery of our new stamps and inks!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Washi Tape Handmade Cards

Let me share with you one of my new found "craft" loves . . . . . Washi Tape

I know it has been around for ages, but I'm a little slow catching on with this trend.  I bought a small collection of tapes at the recent craft fair I attended and have been having a little fun creating handmade cards with Washi Tape.

The colour combinations look great together

I couldn't believe how quickly a pretty card could be made, all with just strips of tape and a sticker or two.  I really like the texture of the washi tape as well.

This card is made using the same tapes as the first one, just in a different order.  The shading is done with a regular stamping ink and a paintbrush.

I have definitely had some fun trying out my new washi tapes . . . and I know I am quite eager to add to my collection of colours and patterns.  I already have a bit of an obsession with ribbons, so this is a bit of a dangerous find for me, these are just a new form of ribbon for me to use!!!
Please let me know if you know of a good place to buy washi tape, somewhere that has a good variety of colours and patterns and has reasonable prices.  I would be very grateful.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Craft Show Quilt Display

As promised, I will share with you some of the amazing quilts which were on display at the craft and quilt show which I recently attended.  There were so many wonderful quilts, lots of different styles and categories and colours.

I always have loved Baltimore style quilts, have never actually attempted to make one, but definitely do admire all the work in them.

This one was really pretty, it caught my eye with all the gorgeous flowers and blue birds.

The work in this quilt was amazing!

This quilt was voted best at the show and it was outstanding - the hours that must have gone into it, the stitching and even the colour choices of the fabrics made it a real work of art. The photo does not do it justice in the least. I could picture this on a beautiful antique bed, it has that old world vintage charm about it. I must admit I stood there admiring this one for quite a long time.

Something a little more modern in style - I am very partial to hearts, so really liked this one. I could picture it on my oldest daughter's bed.

Doesn't this look spectacular!

And then there is the red & white section of the quilt show

There were literally rows and rows of quilts, all made in red and white.  It looked quite spectacular to see so many all together like that.

The last quilt I just had to take a photo of, especially for the cat lovers in my family and extended family!

It was a great showcase of quilts, hundreds of them, displaying the quality workmanship of so many talented quilters.  What a wonderful day - admiring so many beautiful quilts, craft shopping and demonstrations and workshops - it would have been great to spread it out over a couple of days!!