Friday, December 21, 2012

My Home For Christmas

We finally got some snow in my part of the woods and it has put me in the Christmas spirit!  Thought I would dash out in the middle of a storm to take photos of the house lit up for Christmas!

I had said in an earlier post that I would share photos of how I decorate the house for the holidays.  So today's post is mostly photos.  Enjoy!

The Foyer - This was once the Receiving Room where ladies would sit to have tea and chat.

View from front entrance
View from the stairs
Our main Christmas tree
Our tree is covered with photos of family and friends
Dollar Store frames with ribbon attached to the back (this is me in the photo)
Our Nativity Set

The Living Room

Looking in from the foyer

From another angle
An ornament from Mr. P's grandmother that came over from Holland
Another ornament that came from Holland.  It actually makes a noise when blown into.

The Dining Room

I kept the dining room table simple

A simple swag and wreath in the window of the dining room
My Office - I have a fireplace in my office with shelving on either side.  It is decorated with our Victorian Village.

Jax loves the fireplace!
This is the down town portion of the village.

The residential area

The park

In my opinion there's nothing prettier than an old Victorian home decorated for Christmas.

I'll be taking some time off to spend with my family but I will be back in the new year with some exciting organizing ideas and maybe even a new recipe or two to share.  In the mean time let me wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Ways to Organize Wrapping Paper

Not sure how to store all your wrapping paper throughout the year?  Some of you may remember the picture above from when I shared the before and after photos of my rec room closet.  Mr. P installed a track that was picked up from the local hardware store and the baskets are for an over-the-door pantry organizer.  Holding the wrapping paper in place at the top are two paper towel holders from the same pantry organizer.

I keep two plastic containers in the bottom basket that holds all my cards and accessories such as tape, scissors, tissue paper, gift tags, pens, and elastic bands (to wrap over the rolls of paper to hold them in place).  When I need to wrap a gift everything that I need is right at hand.

I even have the ribbon on a bar above the paper and a large gift bag filled with all the other gift bags.

Admittedly it was quite a bit of work and may not work for every situation so, with the help of Pinterest, I have assembled a few more ideas for storing wrapping paper.  Check them out.

Try storing gift wrap in a laundry hamper.  The hooks on the outside help keep items neat and organized.

If you are in the US, Elfa makes a great over-the-door gift wrap station.

Try using plastic bag holders from Ikea.  The bonus is that they are extremely cheap!

Use Ikea wall storage rails and accessories.

Use tension rods for the paper and boxes with holes cut out to dispense ribbon.

Get the wrapping paper completely out of the way by suspending it up high in a closet.

Here's a unique idea.  Turn an old stool upside down.  Add wheels and some tool belts and you have a portable wrapping station.

For another unique look, store wrapping paper in an antique crate.

Even a waste paper basket makes a good storage place.

Here's a charming wrapping station.  I love the waste paper basket!  Dowels hold the wrapping paper and ribbons here.

I used a garment bag for years to hold all my gift wrap.  I also hung a small gift bag over the hanger to hold all my accessories.

Since most of us are in the middle of wrapping gifts let's try to keep everything together so that next year when it comes time to wrap all those fabulous presents that you bought you won't have to search the house for a pair of scissors or realize too late that you are out of tape.

How do you store your wrapping paper?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

This has become my new mantra this holiday season and I plan on having the most sophisticated Christmas ever!

I was actually ready for Christmas quite early this year.  It doesn't hurt that our first party of the season is always an open-house during our local Santa Claus Parade held near the end of November.  It goes right by the front of our home.  My house is decorated, my youngest son and I make Christmas cookies and we hand out hot chocolate to all our party goers.  We even borrow patio heaters to help keep people warm.

As usual, I tend to overdo things.  You could say I am the Clark W. Griswold of the neighbourhood!  I come by it honestly as my mother and grandmother always made Christmas special.  Besides, an old Victorian home never looks more beautiful than when it is decorated for Christmas!  

A few years ago, when our house was on the local holiday home tour, I put up 4 Christmas trees!  Yes, you read that right, 4 Christmas trees!  I had one in the front foyer, one in the front living room, one in the rec room and another in our bedroom.  The little tree in our bedroom broke a couple of years ago and, since I wasn't putting up that one, I decided not to put up the one in the rec room either.  We were down to two trees for a couple of years. 

I really missed that little tree in our room.  It was decorated with all the antique ornaments that we owned.  Some were brought over from Holland by Mr. P's grandparents and others hung on my grandmother's Christmas tree.  It was special.  

Mr. P surprised me one day, a couple of weeks before the parade, with a new tree for the bedroom!  I was so excited!  Not only was I going to put up that lovely new tree in our room but I was also going to dig out the tree from the rec room and we would be back to being a 4 Christmas tree family!

But then something happened.  I got sick.  I came down with a nasty cold that lasted for almost the entire two weeks before our big party.  Each day I fell further and further behind in my preparations.  Finally I had to admit that everything I was trying to do was too much.  I asked Mr. P to return the new tree, we hadn't even taken it out of the box.  I did not put up the tree in the rec room and I took my time getting the rest of the house decorated.  

I did very simple Christmas cookies and even (gasp!) bought some.  And you know what happened?  Everyone had a great time!  People raved about how beautiful the house looked and one even asked me for the recipe for the store-bought cookies!

Sometimes simple is better.

After the party was over I thought about my bedroom tree situation and realized that it wasn't the tree that I was missing but those ornaments that mean so much to us.  So I took the decorations off of the tree in the living room and brought out our lovely antique ones.  It's beautiful!

I'll try to share some pictures in the coming week.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Advent Ideas

This time of year it is so easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to create the "perfect Christmas" that we forget what the season is really all about, spending time with family and friends.  This year make sure to schedule time to do some of the fun things associated with the holidays.  Do up an activity advent calendar for each day from December 1st until the 25th.

Here are some ideas:

- watch a Christmas movie and pop some popcorn
- drive around and look at Christmas lights
- go for a walk in the snow
- bake Christmas cookies
- have hot chocolate by a fire and listen to Christmas music
- decorate the tree
- go skating
- camp out under the Christmas tree
- go caroling
- turn up the Christmas music really loud and have a dance party
- read a book
- make popcorn balls
- check out ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas schedule and pick a night to watch your favourite
- make candy cane milk shakes
- window shop and look at all the Christmas displays
- go see a play or concert
- invite a few friends over for cocktails or mocktails
- make a snowman pizza

- family game night
- bake cupcakes
- take treats to the neighbors
- read the nativity story
- have dinner by candlelight
- call someone long distance
- play "secret Santa" to someone in need

I'm sure you could come up with plenty more!

Here's another great way for little ones to count down to Christmas.  Last year I wrapped up 24 Christmas books individually and gave them to a special little 2 year old in our lives on the last day of November.  Starting December 1st he was able to unwrap one book a day and read it with his Mommy and Daddy until it was finally Christmas.  He loved it!  In fact, he loved it so much that, since his family decided that mornings were the most convenient time for him to open the gifts, he started getting up earlier and earlier just so that he could open his present for that day!

Do you have any special traditions that your family does during the holidays?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

America has 3.1% of the world's children and 40% of the world's toys!

America has 3.1% of the world's children and 40% of the world's toys.  That's a pretty sobering statistic!  Here's a few more.

- Each year America spends $18.8 billion dollars on toys for children.
- Only $0.4 billion of that $18.8 billion is spent on educational toys.
- Barbie Doll manufacturing alone is a $2.5 billion dollar a year industry.
- Clothes for Barbie and friends have consumed more than 105 million yards of fabric, making Mattel on of the world's largest apparel manufacturers.
- If all Barbies and kin sold since 1959 were lined up head-to-toe, they would circle the planet more than seven times.
- Each new child in a household leads to a 30% increase in the family's inventory of possessions during the preschool years alone.

*All above statistics come from the book Life At Home In The Twenty-first Century and are for the mid-2000's.

More than ever before toys are now spilling out of children's regular play areas (bedroom and den) and have made their way into the areas of the home that were intended for more adult activities (living room and kitchen).  All this clutter stresses out the whole family.  Bedroom floors are rarely seen and parents simply don't have the time to deal with the material aftermath of kid's activities.

Before making your list and checking it twice, try to come up with some clutter-free ideas for the children in your life.  Like some of these:

- tickets for a family bowling night
- movie passes
- tickets to the zoo
- tickets to an amusement park
- dance lessons
- musical instrument lessons
- cooking lessons
- if you live far away, make a tape of yourself reading them their favourite books
- a home-made coupon for a day of sledding (or we have tube slides in our area)
- ski passes with ski rental
- concert tickets
- sporting event tickets

The point is to do something with them rather than just buy more stuff that will add to the clutter.  Give them an experience rather than something physical.

Here is another idea that I love to help children ask for less stuff from Santa.  Provide them with this pre-printed list and have them fill in the blanks.

Do you have any other clutter-free gift ideas for children?

Monday, November 19, 2012

To Stuff or Not To Stuff...That Is the Question

Whether or not to stuff the Thanksgiving turkey all depends on preference.  Personally I love the taste of stuffing that has been inside the bird, however, I never stuff my turkey.  My reason for not placing the stuffing inside the turkey is because the stuffing that I make is mostly bread.  The bread soaks up all the juices from the turkey leaving me with dry meat and fabulous tasting stuffing.  But I'm picky and I would like moist meat and fabulous tasting stuffing!  So how can I have it both ways?

Here's my secret (that's not really secret because I would tell anyone who asks).  I stuff my turkey with oranges, onions and fresh herbs (usually sage, thyme and rosemary).  The steam from these keeps my turkey meat moist and juicy.  I usually make the stuffing the day before using boxed stock and a beaten egg to help moisten it (but not too much).  However, here's the trick to great stuffing.  Once your turkey has been roasting for a while, use a turkey baster to pour some of the pan drippings onto your stuffing.  The stuffing now tastes like it's been in the bird but it hasn't taken all the flavour from the meat!

Above is the before photo of my Thanksgiving turkey.  This is what I did.

Quarter 2 onions and 2 oranges and place them into the cavity along with some some fresh herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary). Place a few pieces of orange, onion and herb into the extra skin at the neck too.  Combine 1/2 pound of softened butter with chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and sage), salt and pepper.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon create a pocket between the skin and the breast meat.  Place 1/3 of the butter mixture into the pocket and smear it between the skin and the white meat.  Repeat this for the other side of the breast.  This will baste the bird as it cooks.  Smear the remaining butter over the outside of the bird.  Drizzle with olive oil and a little more salt and pepper.

Place some largely chopped celery, onions and carrots in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Add a few unpeeled cloves of garlic, the giblets and the neck and any bits of herbs leftover including the stems from the rosemary.  Pour a couple of cups of white wine into the bottom of the pan (or just use water).  Place turkey on top and roast at 350 for 15 minutes per pound.  Don't let the bottom of the pan get dry.  Add more water if needed.

While your turkey is resting on the cutting board, place the roasting pan on a burner and add some more water  (or wine) to make gravy.  Use a potato masher to mash up all the vegetables in the bottom of the pan to get more flavour out of them.  Thicken the gravy with a couple of heaping tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of cold water.  When gravy is thicken, pour it through a sieve to strain out the vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I strain the gravy into another pot before I thicken it.  Whatever works for you.  By the way, you could add a tablespoon or two of cranberry sauce to your gravy while it boils.  It give your gravy that extra little something that will make your guests go hmmmm.

Here's how my turkey looked when it was done.

Now for my recipe for crumble topping for pies and crisps.  This is the fastest crumble topping you will ever make!

1/4 of melted butter

Add in 6 packages of Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal (or Apple and Cinnamon)

That's it!  I spread it over chopped apples to make apple crisp.

And this is what it looks like after it's baked.

Now if even that easy recipe seems like it's too much to handle for Thanksgiving dinner (or any holiday dinner for that matter) then try doing what these ladies did.

It doesn't get easier than that!