Saturday, December 20, 2014

easy Christmas gift wrap ideas

Five days 'til Christmas! Let the frenzied wrapping beginning! Last year I shared an idea to let your inner child shine with sponge painted gift wrap. This year I'm taking the minimalist route - basic kraft paper, some pretty Christmas tissue wrapped around the present, perhaps a few gold or silver accents, fancy ribbon (or not-so-fancy twine or yarn), and a cute tag. Ok, maybe not minimalist, but simple! I've rounded up a collection of some of my favorite gift wrap ideas that will be sitting under our tree this Christmas. Enjoy!
First up, I found these silver bags for 2 for a $1 at the dollar store. I painted some mini polka dots with a gold paint pen. Then decorate a square tag from some leftover cardstock. Added a little sparkly twine to the tag and it's done. These are perfect for filling with homemade goodies from the kitchen. 
While browsing in Michaels a few weeks ago, I found a box of cute wood snowflakes for a little over a dollar. A little metallic paint helps them shine when attached to gifts with twine or ribbon. 
Or use that gold paint pen to embellish kraft paper with some festive gold lines.
Got a little girl on your list who's drawn to all things glittery and bright? Dress up plain kraft paper with a sparkly snowflake ornament and a silver tag. 
Remember those neon pot holder weaving kits from the 90s? The ones with the stretchy fabric loops? Here's a classier version of the woven look. Weave a Christmas ribbon around the package and tape it to the back of the package. Add a simple white tag and stick it under the tree.
Gifting goodies from your kitchen? I found these jars in the Target dollar spot. Two for $3! I painted polka dots with my trusty paint pen and added leftover labels from this bridal shower gift. Be sure to include a note to the recipient that the jars are hand wash only. I have plans to go buy myself some for our pantry. If there's any left by the time I get there that is...
Happy wrapping, my friends! Wishing you and yours a merry and joyous Christmas!  


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas baking 101

Confession: I've become slightly obsessed with the sun recently. The moment it chooses to show its face. I literally stop everything I'm doing and bask in the vitamin D glow. This is clearly the most logical thing to do when it only surfaces every five days. Welcome to the dreary Northeast winter days. Thank goodness for Christmas joy, twinkle lights, and holiday baking!

This year instead of leaving all my baking for this last week before Christmas. I've been slowly and steadily planning my attack and filling our freezer to the brim. I've now completely run out of containers and our freezer is maxed out. I am by no means an expert, but thought I'd share a few tips and tricks I've learned when it comes to enjoying your time in the kitchen this Christmas...

1. Whisk and stir to the tunes of your favorite Christmas music. 
I promise it will help you tackle that mound of dishes you just created. (Says the baker without a dishwasher.)

2. Embrace the power of your freezer.  
It's no secret that I love my freezer, but this time of year it really earns its energy saver stars. Freezing is the best way to preserve the freshly baked taste while saving me from having to spend long hours in the kitchen the morning of that holiday shindig. It's also a lovely place to store cookie dough until your ready for your cookie decorating party.
3. Bake only what you personally want to eat.
Do not make your Great Aunt Stella a fruitcake that you yourself wouldn't want a crumb of. Odds are there might be leftovers. Bake and make only what you and your family will be happy to polish off.

4. Giving gifts from your kitchen this year? Assess your gifting supply.
Do you have enough boxes, tins, bags, ribbons, tags, etc? If not, hit the dollar store for the basics and the craft store for snazzier gifting options. And for the love, please don't forget that craft store coupon!

5. Stock up now for future baking adventures.
Technically this applies to year round baking, but I'd be forsaking my frugal self if I didn't tell you to stock your pantry now. Butter, chocolate, nuts, and flour are all on sale for about as cheap as they get. Stock up for the coming months. Don't succumb to paying a third more for a product in a month. P.S. Butter, flour, and nuts freeze well.
6. When in doubt, pull that cookie sheet out! 
Do NOT be that person that serves rock hard cookies. Just don't. Even biscotti, in my humble opinion, should have a slight chew in the middle.

So there's my two cents. Any tips you'd like to add?

If you still haven't decided what goodies your gifting this Christmas, don't fret! Here's a few suggestions from my baking list to get you started:

Chocolate Fudge Pistachio Thumbprints from How Sweet It is. Slightly warmed up with that ganache in the middle...oh so so good! I might have made mine about twice the size. I am my mom's daughter and that's just how we roll.

Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies from Food 52. I've nicknamed these espresso crinkles and increased their size... ;) The hubster is absolutely in love with these.

Coffee Toffee from Smitten Kitchen for my coffee loving family. (She also posted a gingerbread biscotti recipe that's calling my name...maybe next year...)

Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix also from Smitten Kitchen.
We like ours with a 3/4 c. of 2% milk and 1/4 c. half and half and a few squares of homemade marshmallows on top. Rich and dreamy hot chocolate.

Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies from the Whole Grain Mornings cookbook. Cookies for breakfast?! Don't let the whole grains deceive you, these are truly incredible moist, spiced cookies. The hubster's most requested recipe of the year. You can adapt the nuts and dried fruits in this recipe to your taste. Bonus: these are the perfect filling, yet nutritious treat for new mamas.

Want more? Check out my Christmas Goodies, Cookie! Yum Yum Yum!, and Baking Queen Pinterest boards for more inspiration!

I'll be back soon for some easy peasy last minute gift wrap ideas. 'Til then happy baking!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

all is well, friends

The need to blog hasn't been high on my list lately. Perhaps it's because my thoughts haven't been forming coherent sentences lately. Or maybe it's because I don't want to add one more thing to your list of Christmas to dos. But mostly it's because my heart desired some quiet this season.

Every year I seem to desire an stiller, simpler Christmas. Time to sit and rest in the Truth of Christmas. This year I've had this song on repeat. All is well, friends. Both infant and infinite. Born is our Lord and Savior. My prayer is that we each set aside all the stuff that comes with this season and make room for the King in our hearts.

And that, my friends, is all I have to write today. Wishing you a truly joyous Christmas!