Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Santa Must Sew

There were lots of great quilty gifts under the tree for me this year which can only mean that either Santa sews or he's married to someone who is ­čśä. These bloc loc flying geese arrived! Soooo happy!! It's been a couple of years now that I've had my eye on them. There are two sizes - 2 x 4" and 1 x 2" - which should make for lots and lots of perfect geese.











This June Taylor Shape Cut Plus ruler has been on my wish list for a while too - it will make short work of cutting several strips at a time, particularly when it's time to cut binding strips. I suspect that I will be able to cut several hexies at once and, given my penchant for sewing tiny squares, I think that this is quickly going to become a favourite. Thank you, Santa! (and Paulette for making me wise to its existence - Stopped Me In My Tracks might get started yet).








For my birthday this past summer I got one of Sue Spargo's books and was lamenting that, beautiful as it was, I would have liked it more if instructions for some of the stitches had been included. Ta Da! Enter Creative Stitching. Sandi put me on to it after reading my post and Santa must have been aware of it too.










It's clearly laid out and the spiral binding ensures that the pages lie nice and flat. Actually, Santa must have lost track when making his lists because two copies arrived; apparently he is open to exchanging it for something else.










He must also be a baker because these tiny autumn leaf cookie cutters were under the tree as well. I particularly like the acorn and look forward to making lots of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie embellishments (it's the little things, isn't it?).

So, I've got lots of great new toys to play with and am now busy trying to figure out what the next projects will be. Fun, fun, fun! Hope Santa filled your stockings with lots of goodies too....M

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

I'm a day late in my greetings for the season but in my mind Christmas goes to January 6 so I've still got plenty of time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you enjoy it in the presence of those you hold dear.

It's been more that a little bit hectic here lately (I feel like the Christmas hamster, if there is such a thing), but the cream puff ring got made...









...as did the fondue and the mince tarts. And the turkey is now just the promise of delicious leftovers.














And after a couple of days of going full out in the kitchen and shuttling to and fro for family celebrations, today I started things off with a great cup of coffee from my new Christmas mug, compliments of the Official Cookie Tester. I suspect that it will come in handy when those cookie tins start emerging from the freezer too....M


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Making Spirits Bright

This time of year my sewing room is always a total disaster - it seems to be the magnet for anything that needs a home as the place gets prepped for the holidays. A feeble attempt to put some sort of order to it failed miserably the other day but it did produce a nice surprise - these log cabin Christmas placemats that I had made last year.












I thought that they still needed to be bound but my memory is obviously failing me - they are all set to go. So they've been put in to action and are working their holiday magic in the kitchen.













Interestingly, the Official Cookie Tester still reaches for the store-bought floral set that we've been using for years when he gets his breakfast which makes me think that he doesn't want to soil the new set.












Much as I love the front, I really love the backing - it's the perfect red and has lots of cheery Christmas greetings on it. Maybe I can use them upside down too ­čśĆ....M

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sentimental Journey

So much of why I like to do Christmas baking is tied to sentimental thoughts of Christmases past. When the recipes come out there's a cast of supporting baking supplies that are touchstones to a flood of wonderful memories. These tiny tartlet tins have been around forever and only get used for Pecan Tassies and Lynn's Tiny Fudge Tartlets.











It's a tradition, and they just make a plate of cookies that much more interesting (like cookies need any help being interesting!). They are always laid out and baked on old, round pizza pans that have to be at least 30 years old because they came from mom's.











At the risk of repeating myself, this is my all-time favourite cookie tin because the polka dots are on the inside as well as the outside. Haven't seen another one like it.

The Official Cookie Tester likes his Tassies plain but I like to drizzle at least half of them with chocolate.










So that's the end of the cookie baking for this year. Gift tins have been packed















and one or two already delivered.
















The rest have found their way to the freezer. Interesting how many of the tins have snowmen on them...














this one would make a cute quilt block/mug rug.
















And who wouldn't like a snowman bucket full of cookies to dig in to?

I don't usually snack when I'm baking but I do have to admit that when they were being packaged up two of the Paradise Macaroons that I showed you the last time took one for the team. De-lish!....M

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lots More Cookies

I always follow up the baking at our Cookie Bakeoff with several more batches when I get home because there just isn't enough time to bake everything that I want to in one day and I need a good supply for tins that we give as Christmas gifts. So, the KitchenAid came home but didn't get further than the island, and it's been in regular service since Sunday.

Lori asked me at the Bakeoff how much more baking I'd be doing and I couldn't give her a straight answer - the best I could mutter was 'when I have enough' - so I kept track. The answer surprised me - just under 650 so far! Can you tell that I have a hard time saying 'no' to my favourites???!










Eleven different recipes were baked up, several repeats from last year like Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread, Pecan Shortbread and Toblerone Shortbread...












Mother Bauer's Rum Cookies...
















and Fanciful Ribbons, which I made for the first time last year. These were a hit and are easy to make - even easier than I remember the first time around.













And then there were a few that I hadn't made in a couple of years, like Paradise Macaroons...















Grand Marnier Glazed Pain D'Epice and Cranberry Chocolate Chippers (these are the Chippers, one of Betty's faves)....














and pretty Heart Cookies packed with raspberry jam.

















My favourite nephew loves very plain cookies so I dug up mom's Shortbread recipe. I have the cookie press that she used but it can be a little brutal on the wrist and hands sometimes so I thought I'd try Fran's electric cookie press. Bad move.

In short order the Fancy Cake Froster was pumping out the beautiful little heart shortbreads that we looked forward to every Christmas when we were growing up and each was topped with a single large silver dragee.





It feels like I have butter embedded in every pore of my body so it's a sign that it might be time to quit. There are two more recipes that I'd like to bake - Pecan Tassies and Fudge Brownie Cups - but they will need to wait til tomorrow. After that it's all over except for the Cream Puff Ring for Christmas Eve - we can't forget that!....M

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Group Photo

Five of the large hexies for Anna Levens are now together so it seemed like a good enough reason to take a group photo and see how well they play with each other.














By and large I'm really happy with them but there is one that concerns me.
















This was the last one that I added to the pile.






There will be a ring of cream hexies separating each of these blocks and I'm not sure that the cream border that I put on this block is going to be strong enough. I'm thinking that maybe a violet or a muddygreen/brown might have been a better choice.











So, as a little insurance, I didn't trim it yet.
















I'll make the last two and then once I decide on the cream that joins everything up I'll see if I need to redo this one.

But for most of today they will sit on the arm of my chair because I've got cookie tins to fill for gifts to a few friends.

The KitchenAid is primed and ready to go and with any luck at all I will get much of what I need baked finished up by end of day today. I put three pans of Social Tea Squares in the freezer last night and there are five batches of dough in the fridge, so I've got a bit of a headstart. Wish me luck!...M

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Memory Lane

It's always a major milestone when I can say that the Christmas tree is decorated because it tends to take me 3 - 4 days to get it done. But finished it is, and I love it.

My tree tends to look the same year to year - lots of lights and garlands and balls - but I'm good with that. It's a tradition that I hold dear and one that is filled with many, many memories; maybe that's why it always takes so long to get it decorated (that, and having a day job!). So take a little walk down Memory Lane with me.







These large mauve decos are one of about four different sets that anchor my tree and have just enough bling draped over the top to make them dramatic. Just love that colour - you don't see it often.












I've got a box of sweet, tiny, sugar-coated pears and apples that add a bit of interest.















These copper coloured glass acorns have just enough bling to catch the light.















For Christmas many years ago mom gave me a box of these pretty white hearts - they are about 2" tall. I think of her every time I hang one and whenever I look at the tree.













These large deep gold/copper balls weren't expensive (actually, none of my decos were) but they add wonderful colour to the tree.














There are lots and lots of tiny decos that go onto the tree at the end and really give it lots off depth, including a wonderful collection of aqua mercury glass decos that were a gift from Jane. The photo doesn't do the colour justice.












And these lime green balls are beauties as well. I just about cried when I broke one last year attempting to unplug the lights.














Soooo, this year I bought me a Treemote - easy, peasy. Now the only calisthenics that I'll be doing is crawling under the tree to water it. I need to find me a gizmo that will help with that too :)....M








Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Wonderful Cookie Bakeoff

It's so hard to believe that the calendar has already rolled over into December, but with it comes the fun of prepping for the season and that means our annual cookie bakeoff. For at least 20 years now we've been getting together to bake for a day and it just seems to get better and better. The faces change a bit from year to year (we missed you this year, Jane) but the love and laughter is a constant. It was Chantal's 'rookie year' and she proved to be a natural!










Our happy hostess met us at the door at 8:30 am and we were off to the races.

















Things fall into place fairly quickly as stations are set up for mixing, rolling, decorating, packing and cleanup. In no time at all the butter and sugar begin to fly - it's a well-oiled machine.

I tend to be a creature of habit, selecting favourites to bake every year but Stephanie always has a great new recipe or two to try out. Her snowmen were a real hit and look adorable in the tins.

She also gave us a tutorial on making her fabulous cheese crackers, which I have never been able to get the hang of. Might not be a good thing as they are totally addictive.

The decorating crew always rises to the occasion, creating masterpieces with their finishing touches...















almost too good to eat (almost!).
















They are masters of royal icing and crystallized sugar!















Many hands make light work and before long tins begin to be filled.















Betty tracks our production as the tins get pack and the tally for this year was 1,709, which might be close to a record. It sounds like a lot (and it is!) but gets divided up for 8 households so we each left with three yummy tins filled to the brim.












The oven was shut off and the cars packed up by 6:30 pm and everyone headed home with their load of goodies (rumour has it that Lori was taste testing all the way home, and she has a three hour drive...).













Everything that came home has passed the inspection of the Official Cookie Tester and he's already planning to enjoy a few with a cup of hot chocolate this afternoon. I think those tins better get into the freezer soon if we plan to still have some left to enjoy over the holidays.

Thanks everyone for keeping this tradition alive and for an absolutely wonderful day. It's the perfect launch to my Christmas and I'm already looking forward to next year....M