Monday, December 26, 2011

And It's Christmas, Once More!

Hello everyone!  Another Christmas has come and gone.  I hope your Christmas day was merry; filled with family, friends, yummy food and precious memories.  It was a lovely Christmas here at our house, although my little Annabel was sick.  The last thing I wanted, was for my little pumpkin to be sick on Christmas Eve, but she was a tough cookie and didn't let it get the best of her. 

Earlier this week...

Annabel's "Christmas Craft Celebration" took place in her classroom at school.  Children were asked to invite one special person to come to the celebration.  Since Daddy had to work, I was the lucky attendee! 

The class welcomed guests by singing three special Christmas songs

Annabel working on her wreath craft

We worked on it together

Annabel and her BFF, Kate!

Students and their guests enjoyed a hot chocolate topped
with mini marshmallows and rice crispy treats!

How I love these little hands!

I baked these Pistachio Christmas Tree Cakes for family on Christmas Eve

December 24th...

I made this double chocolate ganache cake for my sister's birthday.  We celebrated
at my parents' house on Christmas Eve.  It was a special sister turned 22,
her champagne year (she was born on December 22nd). 

Cheers to that!

Christmas Eve...

Setting out the milk and cookies for Santa's visit


Annabel fast asleep after a long evening


It's M-A-G-I-C!

Mama Claus making pancakes

Daddy frying the bacon and maple sausages

A stack of Christmas pancakes

Our Christmas breakfast

After breakfast, we went on to open the rest of the presents under the Christmas tree.  We put on a fire, listened to Christmas music, and enjoyed a lazy morning at home.  It was perfect! 

Today, we are enjoying much of the same thing.  I'm loving these holidays at home with my family.  Nuno is home from work until the New Year, and the girls only go back to school on the second week of January.  This is when I'm home with my husband and my girls enjoying the care-free days that are the holidays.  

I hope you are all enjoying these special days with your family and friends. Wishing you a wonderful week leading up to the New Year.  I can hardly believe 2012 is just around the corner!  Happy Holidays!  xo

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My 50th Post And Much To Celebrate!

It seems like just the other day when I started blogging and now, here I am, writing my 50th post!  To celebrate, I am going to do a giveaway very soon.  The only reason I'm not doing it today, is because I haven't found the perfect item(s) for the giveaway.  Believe me, I've been looking, but nothing has caught my eye.  I'm sure I'll come across something fitting soon.  I will keep you posted!

Let me catch you up on what's been happening around the homestead this past week.   To say it's been busy around here is an understatement.

On Tuesday, December 13th, we attended the Barrie Bassmasters Potluck and Award Ceremony.  Every year, the club invites the bass members and their families to the potluck to share in an evening of great food and good friends. 

This year, I baked Hello Dolly bars to take to the potluck, since I brought savoury items the last two years.  If you are not familiar with them, they're made with a graham cracker crust and topped with chocolate chips, flaked coconut and chopped nuts; held together with sweetened condensed milk!

Nuno (in the middle), along with fellow bassmaster, Brad Hudson (on the left), were honored to receive the President's Award - Member of the Year - for going above and beyond their duties as members, putting in a lot of time and dedication to the club and always willing to help out in any way they could.  I am so proud of my husband and congratulations goes out to both of them!

On Wednesday, the 14th of December, it was Nuno's birthday.  I wanted to bake his birthday cake and  decided on a glazed lemon layer cake with homemade raspberry filling.  Nothing says love like a home-made cake, no store-bought cake can ever convey the same sentiment.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest for the cake

Cake layers cooling on racks

The birthday cake (minus the candles). In my heart it reads, Happy birthday Nuno, I love you!

The love of family gathered around the table 

This is a cream cheese ball flavoured with a roasted garlic dip.  I rolled it in chopped walnuts and cranberries and served with crackers.  
I also made some other munchies...brie en croute, filled with raspberry jam and toasted almonds and a quail egg and chorizo appetizer, as well as assorted nuts, figs and dates.  My mother-in-law baked some Portuguese tarts as well, so we were spoiled with yummy goodies.

The next evening was the girls' school Christmas Concert.  Anita and Annabel's classes weren't involved this year (as there were too many classes to all be included). Anita sang in the choir, however, and my niece Emily was part of the concert too! 

Anita is the first student on the left, in the middle row. 
This past Saturday, we had my cousin, his wife and their two children over for lunch.  It was their first visit to our home, and I was so happy to have them!  For our lunch, I made an italian wedding soup and chicken stuffed pasta shells.  It was lovely reconnecting and catching up with them. 
Mini meatballs I made for the soup
Italian wedding soup with mini meatballs and orzo pasta
Setting the table
The following day we were invited to my aunt and uncle's place for their annual Christmas lunch.  The food was delicious and we had a fun time, as usual. A special treat this year, was a visit from my cousin, who I hadn't seen in a few years.  Seeing him was like opening an early Christmas present!  It reminded me that the best part of Christmas and the holidays is the act of giving, and the blessings of a loving family and dear friends. 
There are only 5 more sleeps until Christmas.  I'm sure it's a busier time than usual in your kitchens as well!  Will you be baking something special for the holidays?  What about Christmas morning?  Are there any special breakfasts you cook?  I think I'll be making pancakes on Christmas morning, since it's everyone's favourite around here.  How about you?  I would love to hear about it!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays... 
with love, from the kitchen! xo

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Baking

I love to bake all year round, but there's something special about baking during the holidays.  I don't know exactly what it is.  But there's definitely a little magic involved.  There are certain things I bake only in this season, and no other.  And one of those is gingerbread.

I made this gingerbread using Laurie Colwin's recipe from her book - Home Cooking

It was spicy and moist; made with ground ginger, cloves, allspice and cinnamon.
The unmistakable aroma of gingerbread wafted in the house for hours.

The other thing I bake only during this festive season, is Brie en croute. 

I cut the brie in half and filled it with raspberry jam and blanched almonds.  Then I wrap it in puff pastry, and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

You can serve it with crackers and some white wine...

Christmas tree lights twinkling, the aroma of gingerbread, savouring special treats made only during the holidays...I hope that you, too are enjoying the sights, smells and tastes of the season!

Only 14 more days till Christmas!  Happy Sunday! xo

Monday, December 5, 2011

December Welcome!

Hello!  How are you?  Happy December!  So much has happened since last week's post.  For one, December is here and it finally snowed!  See?  Here's proof...

This is the front of our house, snow falling steadily in the morning hours.

My snowman family covered in snow. 

This photo was taken on our morning walk to school

But, guess what?  It's all gone now!  Yep, all of it.  The mild weather melted all the snow and has been providing us with many rainy days. 

This past week, I started my Christmas shopping!  Nuno and I bought most of our gifts.  There are only a few more to buy!  And then we can enjoy waiting for Santa, without all the stress.

You can see me wrapping one of the gifts, here! 

This is my cat, Buddy; sleeping and covering his eyes.  I was wrapping gifts and listening
to Christmas music while he slept in the living room.

If you don't already know, Buddy is my baby.  He's lived with us for 11 years now.
He loves to cuddle and snuggle.  I love him.  He's actually sleeping on my lap
as I sit and type this.  His two front paws are wrapped around my right arm, as I type, and his head is resting on them.  He's just adorable!

I was also invited to a Cookie Exchange on Saturday.  My friend, Sandy, has invited me to her annual cookie exchange for the past three years.  Each of the invited guests picks a cookie recipe and bakes one dozen cookies for each person attending and one dozen for the table (for sampling).  She also provides the recipe for the others.  At the end of the night we go home with a vast assortment of cookies.  We can choose to eat some and then freeze the rest to have at Christmas and over the holidays.  It's really great!  This year, I chose to bake sweet and salty cookies. 

Blending softened butter with a combination of brown sugar and white sugar

After beating in eggs and vanilla, I stirred in flour, baking soda, and salt.  And finally, added chocolate chips, crushed regular chips, and chopped walnuts.

Here are the cookies ready to go into the preheated oven.

Here are the cookies, packaged in clear bags and tied with gingerbread ribbon

This is the cookie table at Sandy's home.  You can see the cookies lovingly packaged for gift giving.  Some in bags, gift boxes, and clear jars too.  Some had pretty ribbons and bows and others were wrapped in pretty tissue paper. 
Sandy provided punch, strawberry wine and coffee.  There was a shrimp ring with dipping sauce, delicious puff pastry appetizers and other yummies.  I think everyone's favourite, was the brie en croute.  It was all so wonderful! 

Cookie types included: orange glazed, molasses, chocolate candy canes, oatmeal chocolate-chip, raspberry jam thumbprint, hazelnut lace cookies, vegan carrot cookies and sweet and salty.

All the ladies from left to right (Me, Elisabeth, Sandy (hostess), Sharon, Michelle, Liz, Lucy, and Nancy)

Last, but not least, on Sunday morning, we went out for breakfast and then visited the Cookstown Antique Market for their 19th annual Victorian Christmas In the Barn.  The staff and barn were decked out in Victorian style and they were giving 10% off all purchases, all weekend long.

The double green doors are the entrance to the barn

As you can see, all the snow had melted

A peek at the top floor of the barn

Pretty table offering hot apple cider, apples, oranges, chocolate mints and
sweet treats, including nanaimo bars.  Mmm!

I could not resist a cup of hot apple cider and a treat or two from the table.  It was a great way to spend the morning and add to the Christmas spirit!

I must also add that I took the girls shopping for the Barrie Food Drive this weekend.  Their school is collecting non-perishable food items for those in need over the holiday season.  This is a cause I strongly believe in and always try to help out as much as I can.  I asked the girls to pick out ten items each, of their choice, to bring to school. We took the shopping cart around the grocery store and filled it up with items for the food bank.  It is important to give to those in need, especially around the holidays.  The girls love helping out and having them choose their own items makes it fun for them, too. 

So, as you can see, I've been keeping busy this past week.  I hope you are all enjoying these first few days of December.  There are only 20 more days till Christmas and it's really beginning to feel like it (except for the lack of snow).  I'm not complaining.  I know it'll arrive soon enough.  Happy December, everyone.  Thanks for stopping in!  Hope to see you here again soon! xo