A few last minute things…

December 19th, 2011 | Comments »

Hanukkah is only days away and Christmas is fast on it’s heel… I thought this weeks blog would cover a couple last minute things.  Steering away from the decor, decorating & presents I though we’d focus on some charitable initiatives and our stomachs with a great recipe we can take on with a loved one.

Have you ever thought about taking a portion of your holiday spending and giving to charity. I’ve met a couple families this year that are completely forgoing gifts and giving 100% to charity.  Here is a list of 10 charities to check out this Holiday Season; see if one fits you and your friends/families criteria for giving.

  1. Because I Am a Girl (becauseiamagirl.ca) ~buy a goat for a family in a developing world; or rock a fashionable tee that gives proceeds to help Plan Canada’s overseas efforts.
  2. Breakfast for Learning (breakfastforlearning.ca) ~Buy a stylish apron to help feed hungry school kids.
  3. Children’s Wish Foundation (childrenswish.ca) ~Help fulfil a special wish for a child with a life-threatening illness.
  4. Free the Children (freethechildren.com) ~Donate a medicine kit to a family or grant a loan to help a woman in a developing country start her own business.
  5. One Drop (onedrop.org) ~Support easier access to water by making a donation or by purchasing swag such as transparent place mats.
  6. Humane Society of Canada (humanesociety.com) Make the animal lover on your list an honorary guardian of a creature in need.
  7. Red Cross (redcross.ca) ~Aid disaster relief efforts as home and around the world.
  8. Ten Thousand Villages (tenthousandvillages.ca) ~Pick up a Fair Trade paperweight, soap or delicious jam and support artisans around the world.
  9. The Hospital for Sick Children (sickkids.ca) ~Make a hospitalized child’s Christmas brighter with decorations for their room or a surprise stocking.
  10. World Vision Canada (worldvision.ca) ~Help feed a Canadian family, or give text books to a child on the other side of the world.

Now to focus on our tummies… here’s a great Double Vanilla Sugar Cookies to bake with friends, family members or loved ones.

Prep Time:  50 mins

Total Time: 2 1/4 hrs

Makes: 48 cookies

Two sources of vanilla give these cookies a deep and complex vanilla taste.  Put the scraped bean posd into your sugar canister to add flavourful notes to granulated sugar.

  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Using paring knife, scrape seed from vanilla bean; reserve bean pods for another use.  In food processor, pulse sugar with vanilla seeds to combine.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar mixture until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.  Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; stir into butter mixture in 2 additions to make smooth dough.

Divide in half; wrap each and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Make ahead: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours; remove from refrigerator 15 mins before proceeding.)

On lightly floured surface or between waxed paper, roll our dough to scant 1/4 inch (5mm) thickness. Using floured 3 inch (8cm) snowflake cutter, cut out shapes, rerolling and cutting scraps.  Arrange, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, on parchment paper lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake in top and bottom thirds of 350F (180C) oven, switching and rotating pans halfway through, until golden on bottom and edges, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to racks; let cool completely.

Happy Holidays to you, your friends & family!

2012 Colour of the Year ~ Vivacious & Exciting

December 12th, 2011 | Comments »

With the end of the year in sight we all know that it’s about that time that PANTONE group announces their colour of the year for the upcoming year. Last Thursday December 8th PANTONE  announced their  colour of the year for 2012 as Tangerine Tango (17-1463).  According to their press release this 2012 colour of the year  is ‘a vivacious, enticing hue’ that will ‘provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward’. As with their Colour of the Year choices of Mimosa (a yellow) in 2009, Turquoise in 2010, and Honeysuckle (pink) in 2011, we can expect to start seeing a lot of orange in fashion and interior design in the new year.

Inject some of that vivaciousness into your world, be it through decor items, fabrics or a new paint colour. Looking at the Benjamin Moore trends for 2012 try Persimmon (2088-40) from the Urban palette.  If you’re looking for something from PARA, try Dancing Flames (P5068-73) or Orange Crush (P 5069-75D)

With this colour we’re reminded again about adding some fun & optimism into our lives.  Here’s to 2012!

Traditional or Tacky… Either way we all LOVE Christmas lights

December 2nd, 2011 | Comments »

It’s that time of year again… time to string your  illuminated Christmas or Holiday display and play “who has the better house” with your neighbours. Every year about this time we put up lighting on the inside and outside of our homes to celebrate whatever it is that we celebrate.

This upcoming weekend seems to be the most popular time of the year to haul out and reinstall your christmas lights display. However, those of us that were thinking ahead took advantage of the warmer weather we had the past couple of weekends and are now ready to just flip the switch.

Though the tradition of using small candles to light up the Christmas tree dates back to at least the middle of the 17th century. However, it took more than two centuries for the tradition to become widely established first in Germany and soon spreading to Eastern Europe.

Candles for the tree were glued with melted wax to a tree branch or attached by pins. Around 1890, candleholders were first used for Christmas candles. Between 1902 and 1914, small lanterns and glass balls to hold the candles started to be used.

In 1900, eight years after General Electric purchased the patent rights to Edison’s bulbs, the first known advertisement for Christmas tree lights appeared in Scientific American Magazine.  They were so expensive that the ad suggests renting lights for a holiday display as an alternative.

Twenty-five years later, demand was up. There were 15 companies in the business of selling Christmas lights, and in 1925 they formed a consortium called the NOMA Electric Corporation, the largest Christmas light manufacturer in the world.

Even though NOMA was formed three years prior to the Great Depression, their appeal was great enough to pull through, becoming a juggernaut that was synonymous with Christmas lights from the Depression clear through to the Civil Rights Movement. NOMA didn’t just further Edison’s vision, though. They worked hard to bedazzle, becoming the world’s biggest manufacturer of the bubble light—arguably the first great mass-produced tacky Christmas decoration.  Though NOMA is no more, these psychedelic bubble lights are thankfully still in existence.

So, when you go to buy your Christmas lights and all that’s needed for your display (extension cables, cube taps and power strips, etc), know that you’re going to be inundated with sizes, shapes & colours (of both lamps and wire). However I think we’ve all learned that back up bulbs and strands are always helpful. It definitely is a production, but one that most often turns into something beautiful (perhaps occasionally tacky).

Good luck, have fun and don’t forget to be safe when you’re climbing that ladder.