Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas treats...

This Christmas we have made an assortment of treats to give out to friends, teachers and family and of course to munch on ourselves.   We have tried to adapt some of our favorites to make gluten free versions.  Of course not everything can be adapted.  The girls love all these treats and have a hand in baking all of them.

Holiday Pretzel Treats are a quick and easy treat to make.  They combine salty and sweet and are a family favorite.  You have to be careful though because even though Hershey kisses are gluten free, Hershey hugs are not.  So despite getting gluten free pretzels and making sure M&M's were gluten free we couldn't give them out to our friend with celiac disease.  After taking the pretzel treats from the oven you add an m&m to the top of the melty goodness.

We altered our kiss cookie recipe with gluten free flour and they were a hit!  Easy peasy too because they have very few ingredients. We cover the cookies with confectioners sugar by putting them all in a bag with the sugar and gently tossing them about.  These are a crowd pleaser and the hershey kiss inside is a nice surprise!   We have found making everything dairy free as well as gluten free is a little harder.  I do "cheat" a bit with dairy but haven't cheated with gluten at all.

This is obviously a well loved recipe.   This is Rod's Christmas tradition every year to make this in memory of his mom.  Wish it was in Ruth-Ann's writing.

Rod's mom's toffee is delicious!  Homemade heath bar and a favorite with everyone.  The girls can't help with this one and you need a candy thermometer and some time and patience to make this.  Even a few degrees one way or the other can alter the recipe.  The girls love giving this to teachers and friends!

We also make peppermint bark by crushing up candy canes and adding it to melted white chocolate melts.  Spread it on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Let chill, break and bag up.  Easy and delicious and most of the white chocolate wafers we have found are gluten free.  

Gluten free Peppermint Meringues

We have had a few mishaps like mixing the gluten free cookies with the gluten full cookies, using hugs on the pretzel treats and mixing them all together, running out of gluten free flour and trying to wing it with not quite enough..but most have worked and all have been delicious!  It's nice to be able to eat a few holiday favorites!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wishes of Joy....

Every year we have fun making our family Christmas card.  Everyone in the family has to approve of the picture(s) and design and then we order it up and send out hundreds of them.  We try to pick pictures that symbolize our year.  This year the card focused on the cottage and NH.  The front picture is at our new favorite waterfall in NH, Pollards Mills waterfall.  The pictures on the back show the girls enjoying the dock and the light house on the lake as well as the dogs ready to come in after a swim in the lake.  The others include a picture of our family in front of a heart sculpture at Decordova where Rod and I got engaged 17 years ago.  A picture of us at the girls dance performance in the spring and in NYC this Thanksgiving when Kelsey had the honor of being in the Macy's day parade.  While all of the kids have grown leaps and bounds this year in height, sports, and school Kelsey's growth has been the most significant.  From the Spring where she was shorter than me till November when she is obviously taller than her mom.  So fun but crazy to see the changes!   Our favorite part of the tradition is receiving other's cards in the mail.  We love seeing the smiling faces of our friends and family and seeing how much the kids have grown each year!!  The cards are one of our favorite parts about the holiday season.  Who doesn't love going to the mailbox and finding something other than bills and junk mail?!

We also keep out old pictures of our kids with Santa...
it's fun to see the growth over the years.  Through smiles or tears.  

There are certain things our family looks forward to each holiday season that embody what the Christmas season means to us.  Fun events where we get together with family and friends and coworkers to celebrate the season!  We are busy in December with regular activities along with baking and decorating for the holiday.  We always make sure to fit these fun activities in!  The holidays just wouldn't be the same without them!  My friend hosts an annual wacky tacky party where we exchange funny silly tacky gifts.  Lots of laughs and fun.  Kelsey even hosted her own here this year with her friends.  New traditions beginning.  We go out for Chinese food with one of our favorite families every year in December.  The girls get out of dance and we all head over to hit the buffet.  Kels and one of her besties always exchange pi's for Christmas.  This year they asked if they should go the traditional route or mix things up.  Why ruin a good thing?  Pj's and chinese is a good tradition!

We also go out with our friends for a holiday brunch each year at the Beechwood Hotel in Worcester. Best brunch ever!  Santa, Christmas trees, and a wonderful face painter.  Plus the company is wonderful too!  The kids act like they own the place and we literally stay the entire brunch from 10:30-2:00.  We hang out with kids and adults and get a chance to catch up and celebrate the holiday with some of our favorite people in the world.  Many of us have known each other since elementary school and they are all so important to us.  Our kids adore my friends' kids which I love!  This year my dad and Penny joined us for part of the brunch as they had taken our girls on an overnight to Sturbridge Village as their Christmas present.  Since they were meeting us at the hotel to pass off the kids we invited them to join us!  

The kids also love Rod's company party.  Of course it's fun that they are invited and the party is at his office so they get to get all dressed up but it is also casual and low key because it is not in a restaurant.  This year the theme was over the top and so much fun for everyone!  "Neorouge" was Neoscape's version of Moulan Rouge.  They even made a write up of fun Boston holiday parties.  It was all that and more!  We surprised the girls by getting picked up in a limo.  It ended up being a stretch limo in order to fit two families.  They were pumped and we rode in and out of Boston in style!  Such a fun way to start out a fun night complete with acrobats, contortionists, stilt walkers, a photo booth, and more!  

Wishing you all the joy of the holiday season whether it's at traditional Christmas Eve get togethers or non-traditional company parties!  Have a fun and festive holiday!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas House Tour

As part of our Christmas present this year my step-mom Penny got my sister-in-law and I tickets to a local Christmas House Tour.  It happened to be the same day that we had planned our annual cookie baking and peppermint chocolate day so it worked out perfectly. The big girls headed off in the morning with our coffees to tour 5 beautiful homes all decked out for the holiday season.  I have gone before with friends and it is such a nice way to kick off the holiday season, inspire some of your own decor choices, and get into the holiday spirit!  I took a few pictures of a few of my favorites on the tour.  It is interesting how some houses you totally "get" and feel comfortable and at home in.  And in others you realize how different people's design sense is.  I definitely like the more rustic, natural and traditional charm.  But all of the houses were beautiful.  And some of the backyards and views were simply spectacular!  Thanks Penny for a fun Christmas present and all the inspiration that went along with it!!

What a beautiful welcoming front porch!

This kitchen was divine.  Loved all the birch bark incorporated in the displays.
And of course in this natural themed house a gaggle of turkeys walked through
while we were admiring the back yard.  
Love the backsplash and the saying:  Dinner Choices 1. Take It. 2. Leave it. 
My favorite part of this house was the little nooks and crannies for crafting
 and gardening all tucked in and cozy off the front mud room.
I think I liked this house the most as I took the most pictures here.  I could see the
design choices and decorations at home and in NH.

These pictures in the background of their bar were mounted on the back of plates.
The glass protects them from water damage and makes a different way to
display art work and pictures than traditional frames.
Loved all the M's around this house as well as the NOEL sign added to an
existing display of pictures on the mantel. 
A beautiful vase to display holiday greens.  
Love the view and the holiday decorated dancing frogs on this
gorgeous balcony overlooking the ocean.  This is how the other half lives!

Simple paper ornaments that my daughter's love to make incorporated on the tree.  
Love this bulletin board.  Makes me want to start taking instagram pictures!
I even like the simple tin can with greens.  
Of course the ducks and ribbons made me think of NH!

Now to have my dad design us one of these!!  

Rod, KT thinks we need this wine opener!! 
A simple bowl of greens and bulbs on the table. 
Love this idea for a trellis in NH on the lakeside of the house.
Architectural and practical.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Crafty Quotes!

I find I am happiest when I am creating.  I love that feeling of taking a blank canvas and making it into something new.  I'm no artist.  But I do like to craft and create.  I have always loved designing my chalk boards for each season.  And now I have one at home and one at the lake so it's twice the fun!  I have taken my love of chalk boards and started creating more permanent designs with white paint pens and black canvas.  It has the look of chalkboard art but you can keep it around for longer without the worry of it becoming smudged or bumped.  I love quotes and phrases so have found myself gifting them to my nieces and daughters and friends.  It's fun to use a variety of backgrounds, canvases and art supplies.  I'm no artist but I need to create.  I think everyone does in their own way.  Now go get your craft on!    

My chalkboard in NH was an old frame that I wasn't using.
I added chalk paint to the glass and painted the black frame with Annie
Sloan chalk paint before sanding and waxing it for a more rustic feel.  

Chalk board art is fun because you can change it up each season! 

Now to decide what I will put on the winter board in NH next time we visit. 

And I love to make homemade gifts that remind me of my friends and family!  

The black canvases make them look like chalkboards.

I saw this in one of my favorite stores and thought "I can make that!"
It will be my contribution to the wacky tacky party I'm going to this weekend. 
I like to add white paint to interesting chalkboards for a more permanent decoration.
This one is for my niece Nicole!  Happy 13th Birthday Beautiful Girl! 
I often sketch it out first in pencil to be sure it's centered and I like the design. 
Old cabinets are a fun backdrop for art.  
I added nobs to the bottom of this so my niece Rachel could hang her necklaces and jewelry from it. 
This scrap of wood I found in my basement was perfect for
my daughter who loves anything wooden.  
White wood has the same effect.
I used permanent markers for the wording on the last few designs but
like using paint pens as well. 
White canvases can be found in all shapes and sizes.
Love adding a splash of metallic too to jazz it up!
The fun thing about making your own artwork is you can match it to the decor colors
and style of the recipient.

I use pinterest for inspiration but also look at things in stores and catalogs that I can DIY!  These are my latest inspirations.  As my sister-in-law KT says, "Creativity by Pinterest".  I don't care where I get my inspiration as long as I keep on being inspired!

This is what I'm making for our family for Christmas
for above our laundry table in the upstairs hall. Maybe it's more for me?
Hopfully I can figure out how to mount the pictures
and get it done before Christmas morning.  Now do I paint the wall behind it too?
That just might have to wait till January.  

During the busy holiday season where everyone is hustling and bustling I like to take some moments to get in touch with my quiet side and get crafty.  It helps calm me and makes me relax and enjoy the season.  The other night I went to my friend Kate's for a tag making party that she hosts each year.  So much fun getting together with friends, wine, stamps, glitter and just laughing and sharing the Christmas spirit with friends.  Thanks Kate!  We all look forward to this tradition each year!