HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year, all! 2015 – Crazy how fast time flies, isn’t it? I hope your celebrations last night rung in the new year with fond memories of the last year and left you hopeful for 2015. We got all bundled up and went to down to Niagara Falls for the concert! It was freeeezing!! We came back to Matts parents place just in time to watch the ball drop and warm up with some hot chocolate.

2015

I’m sad Christmas is over, but really glad to start a new year. Always feels like a fresh start, doesn’t it? I’m so grateful for all 2014 brought us, but we are REALLY looking forward to 2015 and ready to embrace it! Matt graduates this March and is so stoked to start finally working as a firefighter. We are eagerly awaiting our pending posting… And ready to see what God has Im store for us. There’s also goimg to be some changes on the blog, as I will befollowing more of a schedule. I also am getting more used to some of the “techie” stuff blogging entails. So be on the look out!! 😀 Have a wonderfully relaxing New Year’s Day.

Advertisements

Sparkling Cranberries

Happy Friday! Or should I say, happy “less than one week until Christmas”?! 😀 Matt and I have been scrambling to get ourselves packed up to go down to Niagara for the holidays to visit our families. This includes clothes and hygienic products (enough for at least 2 weeks), baked goods and serve ware for a Christmas Eve party, presents for parents, grandparents, siblings, nephews AND everything that Mocha requires to live. Yes, our vehicle is going to be jam packed, and our cat is going to hate the car ride even more.

So, to take a break from all the packing, I wanted to stop and post these deliciously sweet AND tart sugared cranberries. “Sparking Cranberries”, if you will 😉 .

Sparkling Cranberries


Sparkling Cranberries:

Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

2 cups cranberries

3/4 cups sugar

Directions:

 1.) Rinse cranberries and set aside.

2.) In medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water and stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil.

3.) Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4.) Once syrup is cool, put cranberries in a bowl with a lid, and pour syrup on top of cranberries.

5.) Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight.

6.) Once cranberries have soaked for allotted time, drain them with a colander. Syrup can be reserved for other recipes, if so desired.

7.) Pat cranberries dry with a paper towel. They should be tacky, not wet.

8.) Pour 3/4 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.

9.) Working with small batches at a time (3-4 cranberries), roll cranberries in bowl of sugar.

10.) Place sugar coated cranberries on either a baking sheet or cooling rack and allow sugar to set. Approximately several hours. Store at room temperature.


Some recipes for your sparkling cranberries include:

Crock-Pot Cranberry Cider

Sparkling Cranberry Bites Appetizer

Sparkling Cranberry Party Punch

…And that’s not all!

sugared-cranberries

Life,love and sugar

Christmas sangria

Okay, I’m done. But aren’t they so pretty?! And such great recipes, too.

Sparkling cranberries are SO simple and can really add that wow factor at your next holiday party! They are also perfect for snacking on or for dressing up a dessert. I like being able to make something that can be so quick and easy, and yet looks incredibly special. This recipe is bound to get people oohing and ahhing over just how pretty and tasty they are. They’re sure to be a show stopper at your next get together!

Simple Whipped Shortbread

Happy Wednesday, folks! Can you believe Christmas is next week?! It seems that the older I get, the faster the month of December flies by. Following on my blog post trend for this week: another cookie recipe! I wanted to share another one with you, seeing as how baking and wrapping have been taking up the majority of my time lately.

Whipped ShortbreadWhipped shortbread is actually pretty simple, and I vow to NEVER buy it again. Why? Because homemade is so much better! And the best part about THIS shortbread is that it’s so easy to make! It’s a nice, classic Christmas cookie that you can easily wrap up and give as a gift or bring along to a holiday party. I love the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth consistency and they go FANTASTIC with a hot cup of tea. Enjoy!


Whipped Shortbread

350’F

11-12 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. soft margarine

3 cups flour

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla (optional)

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350’F.

2.) Cream margarine with electric beater.

3.) Add both cornstarch and icing sugar a little at a time.

4.) Add flour and continue beating until mixture has the appearance of whipped cream.

5.) Drop by tsp. onto ungreased cookie sheet.

6.) Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until golden – but NOT brown. Bottoms should be lightly browned, however.


And there ya have it! Easy peasy for this Christmas cookie classic. You can always jazz them up a little by adding a couple red and green sprinkles to each spoonful of the batter before baking. Some recipes call for an addition of maraschino cherries on top as well – which can also be fun! Me, I like them plain and simple. Whew! Cookies are done…and now it’s on to all that wrapping 😉 .

Stocking Stuffer Ideas For Men!

Hello, hello! I hope you had a good day. Winter seemed to come early in November, then all the snow melted…and now it’s BACK again with a vengeance! As I sat here with my coffee this morning, the snow was coming down hard. I decided to wait it out a bit, to see if it would let up…but it just kept on coming! So, in between trying to psych myself up for shovelling and addressing Christmas cards,  I decided I ought to blog. It is, of course, “Things I Love Thursday”.

I had good intentions of getting ALL my holiday shopping done last weekend when we were out, but I did not…and my gift hunting will continue on this weekend. I love giving gifts and pride myself on thinking creatively about what someone could want or need. Gift-giving is usually my forte! However, with my husband, I really get challenged to “think outside the box”. He is quite particular, and often tells me he doesn’t need or want anything. I usually succeed with something or other but it can often be a struggle buying for men! I know I for one, want to show the men in my life my appreciation! We have done the tradition of stockings, and stocking stuffers since we’ve been married. While this is fun, it can lead to more brain racking! So today’s “Things I Love Thursday” = STOCKINGS!  And, true to my word, I’ve compiled a list of AT LEAST 50 or so, stocking stuffer ideas for all the guys in our lives. These are non-cheesy gift items for men of all ages, with all types of hobbies. These gift ideas come in various sizes, and at all different price points. So, without further ado…stocking stuffer ideas for menLinks may contain affiliate links.

1.) Syma Helicopter

Syma Helicopter

2.) Optishot Infrared Golf Simulator

3.) Logitech Harmony Smart Control

Harmony controller

4.) Black Box Innovations Personal Pocket Safe USB

5.) Pocket Ref

pocket ref

6.) Pocket Poker

7.) Deck of Playing Cards

8.) Nest Learning Thermostat

nest

9.) Ryobi Cordless Drill

10.) Brookstone Candyman Candy Dispenser

11.) Logitech Wireless Mouse Trackball

12.) Bowflex Adjustable Dumbbells

13.) LeatherCraft Handyman Gloves

14.) Toothpaste Tube Wringer

15.) Shaving Kit

16.) Pomade or Wax

17.) Razors & Shaving Cream

18.) Nose/Facial Hair Trimmer

19.) Hand Salve

20.) Lip Balm

21.) BBQ Briefcase

22.) Gourmet BBQ Sauce/Meat Rub

Sweet Bourbon Glaze

23.) Cuff Links

24.) Tie

25.) C.D. – maybe a fun movie soundtrack

26.) DVD – maybe a childhood favourite

27.) Undershirts (You can buy a pk. at Costco and split them up between the guys in your life!)

28.) Boxers

29.) Wool Socks

30.) Scarf

31.) Winter Hat (a “toque” for all us Canadians – yeeeeah!)

32.) Handwarmers

33.) Gloves (different than aforementioned ‘handwarmers’)

34.) Magazine subscription

35.) Itunes Gift Card

36.) Concert Tickets

37.) Movie tickets (Costco sells them at a discount!)

38.) Fun Groupon (for a massage, fro-yo, or maybe a wine tasting)

39.) Starbucks gift card (THIS I would like to share with him 😉 )

40.) Travel mug

41.) Hot chocolate (or other fun hot drink packets)

42.) Gift card for a car wash or detail

43.) Guitar picks (Etsy has some great personalized ones!)

I pick you

44.) Car window decal

45.) Car air freshener

46.) Pocket size tire gauge

47.) Armor All wipes

48.) Car window scraper/brush

49.) Compass

50.) Swiss Army knife

Swiss Army Knife

51.) Wind-proof lighter/waterproof matches

52.) Phone/car charger

53.) Candy/gum

54.) Beef Jerky (nuts, sunflower seeds, other “man food”)

55.) USB drive

56.) Mini leatherman

57.) Earbuds

58.) Whisky stones (I got these for Matt last year and they work really well!)

Whisky Stones

59.) Flask (Etsy has some cool ones!)

Flask

60.) Cigars

61.) Wallet

62.) Money clip

63.) Utili-key

64.) Keychain

65.) Iphone armband

66.) Fishing lures

67.) Bodywash/shower gel

68.) Mini mag-light

69.) Golf ball/tees

70.) Baseball hat

71.) 365 Sports Facts-a-Year 2015 daily desk calendar

2015 365 Sports Facts A Year Calendar

72.) Protein bars/powder

73.) Cologne and/or cologne samples

74.) Bottle opener (Matt has this one and really likes it)

save water bottle opener

75.) Travel binoculars

76.) Flexible tri-pod

77.) Sudoku (or other puzzles) book

78.) Book

79.) Booklight

80.) Batteries (rechargeable)

81.) Lottery tickets (I get 10% if you win…I kid :))

82.) Nostalgic toy (from his childhood – Star wars, G.I. Joes, Legos, Hot Wheels)

83.) Handheld knife sharpener (Matt would LOVE one of these!)

84.) Handwritten poem or letter

85.) Homemade coupon book

Hopefully this can add some inspiration to your holiday shopping! Here’s to our men! Feel free to ‘pin’ any of these ideas to your holiday and gift giving Pinterest boards. Thanks for stopping by!

Let It Snow?!?!

Hey all. Ok, so it has snowed so much here that we needed to shovel our driveway already. I’m talking 5 times! It’s only November! Now, I love snow before Christmas, but this.is.CRAY 😉 !

I mentioned how we love Christmas in our home. This is our first Christmas living “away” from our hometown. It’s also our first time renting (we had sold our house when Matt joined the Canadian Forces) and therefore it’s a brand- spanking new space for me to decorate!! I know it’s early, and technically, we won’t even BE here over the Christmas holidays, as are close enough to drive back to see both our immediate families. But I simply couldn’t resist! I wanted to make sure we had ample time to bask in our tree’s glory! It just doesn’t feel like the Christmas season without a little décor around the homestead 😉 . Something so wonderful about snuggling up with a hot chocolate, watching a cheesy Hallmark movie, and the glow of the Christmas tree lights on in the background. I love being surrounded by all things sparkly and glittery; it makes for great ambiance. So we put up what we could around our small (er) home. And the tree is tight – but it fits just barely! We had a wonderful day of decorating it on Saturday. There was snow and the Santa Claus parade was later on that evening, along with the annual tree lighting downtown. Can you say, “Perfect!”

Decorating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I wanted to take the time to share some of the Christmas touches around our place…

Christmas Shelf

I had fun arranging our shelf. I turned the wine glass upside down – making it a diorama, and then the stem is perfect for a candle holder. It’s filled with Epsom salts, and I had a little ornament from when I was a child. It’s a little girl in green, with a red hat holding a tree. We used to have a fireplace, but that didn’t stop us from hanging our stockings for Ol’ St. Nick! The shelf is a great place for them. My small sleigh is the perfect platform for my “N-O-E-L” blocks, the chalkboard printable is from Pinterest, and the dark frame is just from the dollarstore. So is the miniature evergreen tree, actually. I strung lights around it, and hung my new rusty, “N-O-E-L” ornament from it, tying a little ribbon on its wire “hanger”. The bows red and green matches the stockings and brings it all together, I think 😉 .

Christmas/Winter arrangement

This is our coffee table centrepiece. I will keep it out all Winter. It’s got a birch covered vanilla pillar candle, which is surrounded by pinecones, cinnamon sticks, birch branches, and acorns. You really don’t need anything fancy…I wanted to buy some potpourri, actually, but Matt just laughed at me. He told me we should go for a hike and we could gather some of these branches/pinecones/acorns ourselves. So, we did! It was a really fun today together, and I got what I needed 😉 . You can bake them, so they are “sterilized” and suitable for use. The cinnamon sticks are just from the grocery store. The whole arrangement smells ahhh-mazing!  I painted some of the acorns the other day with a copper-gilding from Martha Stewart. It makes them a little shiny and fits in with the rustic theme of it all.

Christmas Coffee Bar

With my coffee station/bar in the kitchen, I added our Christmasy mugs from Starbucks and other stores, and put a cutsey snowman on the shelf. He was a gift :). I also added another miniature tree. It just helps to make the kitchen more festive! I try to add something in every room of the house!

Christmas Touches

The nutcracker was a cute little stocking stuffer Matt got for me one year, and the tree was from a second hand store. The berries are from the dollarstore, and they can be manipulated/wrapped around anything. Sometimes I wrap them around a candle, other times they are on a mantle/shelf/window sill. They’re a great way to add subtle Christmas cheer! The chalkboard hangs in our kitchen by the coffee bar, and I will write different things on it at different times. It used to be a countdown while Matt was away at Basic Training. It was a picture, and I bought some chalkboard spray paint to cover the glass. It’s an awesome product to have on hand and it can turn anything into a chalkboard, really! The trunk is along the outside wall of our living room and is an antique given to me by my grandmother. Because of our tight living quarters at the moment, I’ve been using it more as a sideboard/sidetable.  I stacked a suitcase on top to give it some height. Along with our pictures, I placed more candles, a Christmas “Joy” wooden sign, a few ornaments, and a small nativity scene I purchased from an artisan at the “One of a Kind” craft show years ago.

snowflakes in windows

We hung a couple snowflakes in our living room, dining room and kitchen windows. I thought these were actually pretty good quality for being from the dollar store!
This ornament always makes me smile. It’s from my good friend, Grace, and she had given it to us for our first Christmas together. It’s two marshmallows on “chocolate” and “graham cracker” cookies dressed as Mr. & Mrs. Claus. It’s super cute and I believe it’s from Hallmark ❤ .

Tree Ornaments

 

tree ornaments tagsWe also have a handful of vintage tags on our tree as ornaments. I think it’s fun to use things for different purposes. We wanted our tree to have a vintage/old- worldly/traditional feel.

 

 

 

 

Tree ornaments star
Our tree topper is a star and I love that it’s more rustic looking. It’s from the DOLLAR STORE (surprise, surprise 😉 ) .

 

 

 

 

tree skirt

We don’t have a tree skirt, per say, so I simply use extra burlap fabric I have on hand. I think it gets Mocha’s approval 😉 .

 

 

 

 

 

ornaments pinecones

Our decorating went well into the evening, as we took breaks here and there. It really tends to be an all day thing with us, hah! But we have fun doing it. Just gotta put the Christmas tunes on and go with it!

Let it snow

tree ornaments bells

tree ornament sleigh

It’s full of lots of rusty ornaments, copper and gold and brown touches. I like that it’s a collection of things we’ve purchased together over the years. The bells and the sleigh were both from a craft show, the “Let It Snow” chalkboard looking ornament is from Indigo/Chapters. The “snow” sparkly covered pinecones are from Winners.

Tree ornaments clear bulbs

Burlap ribbon matches the skirt, and wraps all around the boughs. Last year I purchased some clear bulb ornaments and filled them with “snow” a.k.a. Epsom salts.

 

 

 

Oh, Christmas Tree

Well, that’s about it for now. I was able to highlight some of my favourite holiday décor around our home. I hope it adds some inspiration to your winter decorating this year! As for me, I hope it stops snowing and won’t continue until December 24th 😉 !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea For Two

 I hope you have been having a wonderful week. Mine was quite busy – full of Christmas decorating, reading, baking, a Remembrance day ceremony, AND a visit from an old friend. A week full of all things wonderful. It was oh, so lovely!

My friend, Cathryn, has been a friend of mine since our early teenage years. We met at a Bible camp one Summer and have been able to keep in touch ever since. Even though we lived an hour apart, despite the busyness of life, we would always manage to see each other a couple times a year. She’s one of those friends that no matter much how time has passed, we manage to pick up right where we left off. We’re quick to make each other laugh, and at the same time we’re able to have serious, meaningful conversations together. It also really helps that we share a common faith. We’re able to ask each other those tough life questions. You know, the ones that are hard to talk about. She’s been such an encouraging friend,; faithful to pray for me, and always willing to lend a listening ear. She’s a great gal! 🙂

It made me feel so special that she was willing to drive so far to come see me just for the day. So prior to her visit, I wanted to find a great place for us to have lunch at and catch up, and I came across this tearoom called English & Miller. We both share a love for tea and all things elegant and tea related, and it looked perfect! It’s located in downtown Barrie and has a gorgeous location complete with a view overlooking the Kempenfelt lake.

English & Miller tearoom

Kempenfelt Lake

Tearoom

English & Miller is a fabulously modern styled British tearoom café and gallery /gift shop. The service was both prompt and friendly. We enjoyed sandwiches with a salad and OF COURSE scones with Earl Grey tea. Our scones were smothered in butter, clotted cream and jam. It was SO great :). The ambiance there was cozy, warm and inviting and it’s no surprise I loved their Christmas décor!

Ambiance

English&Miller

We decided to browse the gift shop afterwards and it was chock -full of unique housewares and gifts. There was art, books, games, children’s toys, jewelry and cards galore! I especially loved the Downton Abbey paraphernalia. I scored a rusty (vintage looking) “N-O-E-L” ornament for my tree, along with some delightfully smelling soap for my apothecary jar in our bathroom.

Gift ShopGift Shop

Afterwards we continued to peruse some of the shops in the quaint downtown area. We continued our visit over more Earl Grey, chatting about our blogs, blog topics, and our blogging journeys. Things really got interesting when I went to reach for a pen, accidently knocking over my (3/4 full) cup of tea! After QUITE the clean up (I put both milk and sugar in my tea. Can you say SAD STICKY?!), the brainstorming over our blogs continued while watching reruns of an ol’ favourite. Nothing says a “relaxing afternoon” more than Gilmore Girls.

Cat & I

Cathryn has asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Beloved. It was a great visit; full of laughs, tea, blogging, window shopping and Gilmore Girls. This is the stuff friendship is made of 😉 ! I cannot wait to go back to that wonderful tea room, and I’m so blessed to have a friend like her in my life. I always look forward to our next meeting. My prayer for you is that you have someone in your life that means this much to you and that you can truly be yourself with.

Keep Calm

Things I’m Loving Thursday: Target Christmas Home Decor

Hello all! I had mentioned how last weekend we started our Christmas decorating (I like to get a jump start on things 😉 ) and today I was browsing through the newspaper/flyers and came across one for Target. Now, Target is new to Canada as of 2013, but before Matt and I got married I lived close to a United States border. I would go over to go shopping occasionally and GREW TO LOVE TARGET! I absolutely adore Target – I could browse around there for what seems like forever. You can find everything there – one stop shopping is convenient! And I always go in for a specific thing, and end up coming out with numerous items. Gah! It’s trouble if you’re wanting to save and be wise with your finances. Just askin’ for trouble if you go in there ;). Sooo just wanted to point out that Target has SUCH cute Christmas home décor this year (every year?!) especially and wanted to share some of the pieces that inspire me. Super cute and actually, not too pricey. I think they would make adorable additions to anyone’s Christmas/Winter décor. Take a look and see for yourself!

I like these because they look more rustic. I also think it would be appropriate to leave them out all Winter, and not just the Christmas season.

TargetChristmas2Smith & Hawken Birch Christmas Tree (14.5″) : $24.99

Smith & Hawken Birch Trunk Star Lantern Candle Holder : $19.99

These particular items are cute, festive, and a bit more contemporary.

Target Christmas Home Decor

 

Threshold Resin Deer Figurine (white) : $16.99

Decorative Snowflake Pillow : $14.99

Threshold Berry Wreath : $22.99 (SALE!) 🙂

 

What didja think? These are definitely on my pre-Christmas wish list 😉 . I hope you liked them too and they inspire your holiday decorating this year!