Tag Archives: Christmas

Holiday Traditions – And a Ganong Giveaway!

Some people are into the themed, colour-coordinated, or matchy-matchy trees, but not me. Growing up, our Christmas tree was always a mismatched hodge-podge of ornaments that were bought, received as gifts, or hand-made. In fact, the making of ornaments is probably the single strongest memory I have of my childhood holiday traditions. My grandmother was the artsy type, and for many years through the 70s and 80s she ran a ceramics class out of her kitchen. She had kilns in the basement for firing her greenware, and shelf after shelf of figurines, dishes, ornaments and other tchotchkes to choose from. As a very young girl, I remember sitting at the big oval kitchen table, newspaper down in front of me to protect the fruit-themed tablecloth, pots of paint and a little cup of water to wash my brush to the side. I felt so grown up to be sitting there with Grandma, painting just like her. And every year, we painted ornaments. I still have most of the ones I painted, and a few that she did for me as well – bells and angels and Christmas trees, and even a few non-traditional ones like a dragon and a unicorn.

Making ornaments for our tree is a tradition I wanted to carry on with my children. We have done craft kits in the past, but this year I wanted them to take a stab at painting their own. Rather than seek out ceramic ornaments to paint, I found this Salt Dough Ornament recipe from Sarah at Doing All The Things, and decided that would be the ornament of choice for Christmas 2013.

This craft couldn’t have been simpler. The dough took about five minutes to make, and I even made it ahead and stored it in the refrigerator for a couple of days in an airtight container {but let it come to room temperature before rolling}. Jamie and Eliza had a blast helping out, using the big rolling pin to help me get it started, and then cutting out their Christmas-themed shapes with the big cookie cutters I found in my massive cookie-cutter collection. {As an aside, I rarely make cut-out cookies – why the heck do I have 562 cookie cutters in a box?}

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Once they were done rolling and cutting, we popped them into the oven to bake/dry for an hour. This was just enough time for the kids to sit down with some popcorn and watch the original animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas while I cleaned up the counter and went on the hunt for paint in my massive craft stash. And a hunt it was – why do I not have green tempera paint? Clearly that was an oversight when I was stocking the kids’ craft supplies. Thankfully it was remedied by finding paint set that had the necessary colours. And when the Grinch had returned the stolen Christmas goodies to Whoville and the ornaments had cooled, it was time to paint!

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And paint they did. Eliza didn’t need much guidance, but let me tell you, it was an interesting experience to help Jamie paint! At three years old, he didn’t really grasp the concept of washing his brush between colours, so his ornaments are more tie-died than clean. But that’s part of the charm, right? I think they look wonderful regardless, and he was so happy to paint them, and so proud to see them displayed. This is a craft that I think we will repeat, and not just during the holiday season – I have some dinosaur cookie cutters in my box of baking goodies that have yet to be opened. Perhaps we’ll make some Just Because ornaments in a month or so!

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I was recently invited to a media event hosted Ganong Bros., in celebration of 140 years of family-run business in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. When I told my friend Monica where I was headed after work that day, she gushed about her love of this true Canadian brand, and how Ganong was a core part of her family’s holiday traditions, and had been since she was a child. For Monica, a New Brunswick native, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a box of Ganong chocolates open for nibbling while decorating the Christmas tree – the double-dipped cherries were her father’s favourite, and she always has a box of the milk chocolate assortment for her daughters when they come home from university. But the key to her family’s Christmas celebration is a bowlful of Chicken Bones, the very first treat of Christmas morning while they open their gifts. Until recently, Ganong products were difficult to find out here in Alberta, and Monica had to resort to getting her family in the Maritimes to send her care packages, or to order online. One year, she wasn’t able to get them at all and instead bought a different brand of the same type of candy, and her daughters declared that Christmas just wasn’t Christmas without Ganong Chicken Bones!

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I left the Ganong event with armfuls of chocolates – a bag for me, a bag for Monica whose stories I shared with the Ganong family and staff at the event, and a bag to share with one of my lucky readers. This lovely assortment of candy and chocolate can be won by one of you! To enter, leave a comment with one of your favourite holiday memories or traditions, and I will draw a winner by random number. Contest closes for entries at midnight (Mountain time) on Friday, December 27th.

Happy holidays, readers! May your days be filled with love, light, and happiness always.

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The Creation of a New Family Tradition

In my family, we had very few traditions around Christmas. When I spent the holidays with my dad, we always read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, but with my mom there wasn’t much that we did every single year without fail, and my husband’s family was much the same. Christmas was still fun for me even without specific traditions, but my husband and I still want to create some of our own family traditions that our children will remember fondly.

One of the things that I’d like to start doing every year is the gingerbread house. If you know me at all, you know that I loathe the idea of buying a kit. This might not be something that we eat (or maybe we will?), but it’s going to be made from scratch if we’re going to make it at all! Lee Valley has an awesome pan that they only sell seasonally (and quickly sell out!), and it’s the perfect way to bake a homemade gingerbread house without having to roll, measure and cut the pieces yourself. I’ve been itching to buy one for a couple years now, but both in 2009 & 2010 they sold out before I placed my order. This year, I was on it in November, and now I have one of my very own! I adore the fact that it’s a log cabin on one side, and a victorian-style cottage on the other!

This year, I also thought it would be fun to make the gingerbread house decorating into a social event! I invited over a couple of friends and their kids, and we set up in my kitchen. I pre-baked all of the gingerbread houses, which took me nearly a full day – the pan only bakes half a house at a time, and I had to let it cool between batches! In exchange for all my hard work in baking the house parts, my friends brought over icing sugar to make the royal icing, and supplied all of the candy for decorating. It was perfect! Since our kids are all a little young to be left to do gingerbread house assembly solo, the adults put the houses together while the kids entertained themselves, and then we called them up to give us a hand with the final decorating process. Eliza loved it, she directed where she wanted me to put blobs of icing, and she covered the whole thing in candy. The hardest part was convincing her that the gingerbread house was for us to look at for a few days, and not for immediate eating!

Now, a suggestion for those making these gingerbread houses in the above-mentioned pan… I have heard that recipes that call for leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda don’t work well in the mold. You are supposed to press the dough in with your fingers, and it takes a pretty thick chunk of dough. Leavening agents will cause the cookies to puff up, and while that’s great for eating gingerbread, it’s not optimal for house-building gingerbread. The recipe that comes with the pan is perfect – it’s flour, sugar, molasses, spices, water – nothing particularly exciting. It makes a dense dough that presses easily into the pan, and the cookies come out hard and perfect for building things. I am not kidding when I say this gingerbread is not for eating… even fresh out of the oven the cookies are hard as rocks (and I didn’t overcook them!), I shudder to think of how tooth-breaking they’ll be after a few days on display. My husband claims that it’s still good to eat, as he polished off all the extra pieces that I baked in case of breakage, and all his teeth are still intact. Maybe it’s best enjoyed with a glass of milk?

Happy holidays, my wonderful readers. What holiday traditions have you crafted with your families?

Peppermint Candy Wreath

I love wreaths. Last year, I was on the lookout for the perfect one to grace my door for the holiday season, but I was never able to find one I liked. This year, thanks in part to my Pinterest obsession, I was in search for the perfect tutorial for making my own wreath. I mean, how hard could it really be?

The perfect tutorial was easy to find. As soon as I laid eyes on this candy wreath tutorial from Gwynn Wasson Designs, I was in love. I had to have it. It was the perfect statement for my front door – simple, crisp, clean and colourful. So began a hunt for the starlight peppermint candies, something I was sure I’d seen just about everywhere but had never purchased before. The search ended up being more arduous than expected. Superstore, Safeway, Co-Op, Shopper’s Drug Mart, London Drugs, Bulk Barn – all had nothing that even resembled the starlight mints. I moved my search online, and found them available through an obscure Canadian office supply website, but they ended up being out of stock. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I decided to try the one grocery store I hadn’t looked in before – Sobeys. Sure enough, what did I find? A whole freakin’ rack of them. I loaded up my basket, and was on my way!

I learned a lot while making this wreath, most notably that floral ribbon stains like crazy. I have permanent pink streaks on my kitchen table from handling the floral ribbon, and my fingertips were stained, too. I even left a pink mark on the cat by accident when he came for scritches and I didn’t notice the colour transfer! Oops. It took forever to hot-glue all of the candies onto my wreath, but the effort was well worth it. I love looking at it, and it makes me feel all festive when I see it hanging on my door.

This wreath was one of my projects for the 3M Command and Everything Mom Deck The Halls feature that I was involved in. If you haven’t yet, click on over and have a look at my projects, and lots of other submissions as well! In addition, if you vote for your favourite (mine, I hope!) you will be entered to win!

Deck the Halls With EverythingMom and 3M™ Command™ Products

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