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Christmas Flower Sugar Cookies

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 09, 2016

Bakers love the holiday season because there is a vast assortment of ideas to create delicious edibles including cakes, pies and particularly, sugar cookies!  After all, you can’t have Saint Nick make his annual visit without leaving a few morsels of yummy sweets, right?  

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photo credit via sweetsugarbelle.com

Christmas cookies are by far the most fun and certainly the most beautiful out of all traditional seasonal desserts.  Creative chefs can let their imaginations fly when coming up with new shapes and images, making their presentations even more impressive.  


Although snowflakes, pine trees, ornaments and stars are among the most popular themes during this month, garden lovers will be overjoyed to see the new trend of “flower sugar cookies” climbing in demand! From happy daisy faces to poinsettia plant designs, horticultural elements are beginning to turn up in several Boston bakeries and floral shop owners couldn’t be more excited!  Not only are upscale supermarkets and restaurants using the new fad to gift patrons with samples but florists are also jumping on the bandwagon and adding satchels of these cookies to holiday orders.  Pretty smart, huh?


For the experts, this is an easy task but for those who neglect culinary brilliance, baking can seem a bit overwhelming.  Honestly, who hasn’t burned a cookie sheet or two in their day?  Thankfully, there are hundreds of recipes that are simple to follow including this one from the Food Network.  Grab your aprons and rolling pins and lets get baking!


Ingredients:  Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter 1 large egg

1/2 cup light brown sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour 1/4 teaspoon salt


Ingredients: Icing

1/4 cup water 2 cups confectioners' sugar

3 tablespoons egg white powder Candy, sprinkles, dots, chocolate chips, ANYTHING SWEET!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter with vanilla extract, egg and brown sugar until blended.  Slowly add the flour and season with salt to make the dough firm.  Freeze the dough for 20 minutes and then begin to carve and shape cookies with cutters or free style.  Place in oven for 20 minutes and watch their edges turn golden brown.   Cool cookies for another 20 minutes before decorating.


Whisk together the water, egg powder and confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Add desired coloring of food dye to create color and immediately apply to cookies.  Decorate with candies and let them sit for an additional 30 minutes icing to set.  

Tags: Traditions, Christmas, Holidays, cooking

Holiday Gifts That Keep on Giving

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 09, 2016

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “the gift that keeps on giving,” a million times before, particularly during the holidays.  You might even associate the term with cruddy presents like “cheese of the month club” and dread even the quickest notion of receiving one for yourself.  The funny thing is, this type of gesture is making a huge comeback this Christmas and with good reason why.  Instead of getting a year supply of dairy, clever givers are finding ways to make their gifts meaningful in the sense that they continue their value far after the season has ended.  Immediately gratifying trinkets such as sweaters, scratch tickets or bottles of wine are being replaced with longer lasting impressionistic expressions such as hand made items and thoughtful activities.  People can only have just so much “stuff” so many are welcoming this heartfelt trend and hoping to find other unique ideas to gift.  

 

Sometimes the thinking behind this notion is harder than the actual packaging.  We may become consumed and wrapped up with a concept that is overly complicated instead of putting thoughts into simpler terms.  You don’t have to be over the top with expensive presents or tokens either, so presents should reflect thoughtfulness instead of cost.  In an effort to pass along this wonderful way to show someone you care, here are a few great options that may fit perfectly underneath your tree this season…

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A Beloved Family Recipe

If you know of someone who loves to cook (or loves to eat) give him/her a framed copy of a special recipe you know they like!  Maybe Grandma Ester left notes on how to bake the perfect ginger snap cookie or perhaps Uncle Fred bequeathed his famous clam chowder recipe to you?  These are the dishes that are meaningful to gift upon someone who shares the same passion for cuisine and if you’re lucky, they might even give you a taste when they’ve tried it out.

Seeds

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I’m actually using this one for my mom who adores gardening as much as I do!  Although you’ll have to start collecting seeds from pods during the months of July and August, you’re efforts will be duly noted when your flowers bloom in their garden for years to come.  

 

A Coupon Book

Get a few pieces of paper, staple them together and make your own coupons that they can use whenever wanted or needed!  Create tickets that reflect the appropriateness of the relationship such as “1 Kiss” for your romantic interest and “1 Load of Laundry” for your parents.  Be careful not to mix them up because things could get a little uncomfortable if the wrong person receives the wrong coupon book!

 

Museum Membership

Sometimes the best present given are an activity like visiting the aquarium, zoo or a museum.  Memberships are an excellent way to give a gift that keeps on giving and they will long be thanking you throughout the entire year.

Tags: Christmas, Holidays, Museums, Seeds, Gifts

Christmas Symbols and the History Behind Them

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Dec 07, 2016

Christmas is the season for time-honored traditions experienced with friends and family.  We mark this special occasion by decorating with particular items in order to make our homes feel festive for ourselves and for those who visit.  Twinkle lights, wreaths and trees are in high demand throughout Boston and are slowly appearing on doors and spotted within windows.  Just by driving by a house lit up by tiny rainbow bulbs, many of us experience a feeling of uplift and immediate joy.  Holiday décor plays a very strong influence upon creating the magic that the Yule Tide brings and the emotions that effervesce from these beautiful signs we associate with Christmas.  Every year, families partake in seeking out these novelties but have you ever wondered where the traditional influence began?  Find out what makes a balsam a Christmas tree and why a circle of garland eventually resulted into a holiday wreath.  You may just be surprised how these icons earned their fame and resulted into our most cherished seasonal ornamentation!

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Christmas Trees

Here’s an interesting fact:  Did you know that Christmas trees are the only single variety of arbor grown in all 52 states?  Yup- and that even includes Alaska and Hawaii!  Balsam, spruce and fir species are the #1 cultivated species in the U.S. and that’s all because of our love for Christmas!  Historically, there’s a ton of stories claiming the truth behind the Christmas tree but the one I like best is the tale about how the ancient people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter’s solstice, (the longest day of the year).  They believed that the Sun God had cyclical levels of feeling well during the warmer season and weak during the cold.  On December 21st, there would be a celebration for the Sun God because it was the end of her “ailing term” (the cold dark nights) and the beginning of her health once again (the return of heat and sunlight).  The people would mark this occasion by using pine and evergreen boughs to hang in their homes as a gesture for an early spring arrival.  They chose pine because it held its bright green color throughout the year.  The early Vikings and Romans also implemented a similar ritual when they displayed Christmas trees as a sign of continued health and everlasting life.

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Wreaths

As you can imagine, wreaths have been used as a symbol throughout time holding both a positive and negative implication.  Depending on the culture, region and religion, this icon could be gifted as either a token of victory or hung as a sign of death.  In “Christmasy” terms, the shape being a circle is typically tied with unity, everlasting love and “infinity” depictions, almost always recognized as a pleasant connotation.  As you might see today different styles woven out of berries, twigs or branches, the wreath is traditionally made with pine bows because past civilizations sought after its unchanging green hue.  If you’re Catholic, you might be interested in knowing that the wreath became associated with Christmas after the resurrection of Christ as it became used as a sign of eternal life.  

Tags: Symbols of Christmas, Christmas Wreaths, Christmas Trees, Christmas, Christianity

Christmas Gifts from the Heart, Not from Your Wallet

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sun, Dec 04, 2016

December is a great time to spend with friends and family but sometimes we forget what the holiday is all about.  Frequently, our concerns are focused on checking off our list of presents we feel we have to buy, complaining about the long lines in the department stores.  I’m not saying that our purchases during the season aren’t gifted with good intent, I’m just stating that much of what we buy to wrap up and put underneath the tree is unnecessary. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars later we are merely left with that feeling of “thank god that’s over” while we sweat over next month’s credit card statements.  

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It’s just not what Christmas is supposed be about so why not make real presents with our hearts instead of our wallets this season?  Not only will they be appreciated more, they won’t leave you fumbling to make January’s mortgage payment.  If you have little ones, you might really want to take this suggestion seriously.  One day they’ll be making holiday preparations for their own families.  Teaching them that Christmas isn’t about how much you spend early on is a life-long lesson that someday they’ll appreciate.  You don’t have to be overly crafty or talented to make beautiful presents either.

Tags: Symbols of Christmas, Christmas, Holidays, Gifts

Dressing Up Your Doorsteps for the Holidays

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 02, 2016

It’s time again to make plans for your holiday décor since the season is now upon us!  As you’re reading this, you’ve probably begun to make a list for garland, wrapping paper and maybe even a tree but please keep in mind that there’s plenty to do outside of your home as well.  Did “Christmas Vacation” just flash across your head, remembering the efforts of Clark Griswold blacking out his neighborhood with an extravagant light display?  Although hysterically funny, I’ll reassure you that decorating the outside of your home doesn’t have to be this elaborate…

suzie front steps.jpg

By using a few easy tips, you’ll be able to create a beautiful holiday presentation without spending gobs of money or using up precious time that could be better spent with family.   By “Recycling, Refurbishing and Reapplying” certain items that you already own, you can transform your plain entryway into a gorgeous welcoming display for friends and family.  Many people believe they have to be “Martha Stewart” in order to achieve a “magazine cover” appeal but judging by this guideline, you clearly don’t.  Shake off your worries and roll up your sleeves because it’s time to get going on your outdoor holiday decoration!

 

Recycling

Check in the garage and attic for anything that can be used to hold either small or large arrangements.  Iron cast urns, ceramic pots and metal containers are fabulous for holding pine and other seasonal greenery.  Next, poke around for last year’s lights and take a few minutes to both untangle and plug in to see if they still work.  Typically, the previous winter’s bulbs are tossed out for convenience but you’ll be happy to save a few bucks reusing rather than spending unnecessary finances.   

 

Refurbishing

Sometimes we toss out certain objects because they become a little shabby, worn or rusted, particularly things used in the yard such as planters.  Instead of automatically discarding them, we should be thinking first if they can be fluffed and buffed for future purpose.  When setting up an outdoor holiday display, these items become treasures by simply giving them a good cleaning and applying a fresh new polish of paint.  Marble, cast iron and metal materials are fantastic for this process and will come out looking brand new when placed on the doorsteps stuffed with pretty foliage.  

 

Reapplication

I love naturally growing outdoor foliage and even though the flowers have disappeared until spring, there is plenty still available for the picking.  If you live near wooded or forested areas, simply clip a few smaller branches from nearby trees and combine together in an outdoor pot.  Make sure you are collecting from a variety of species and you’ll soon learn that you don’t have to be a floral designer to make stunning arrangement both in and outdoors!

Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, December, Pottery

Ornamental Magic on a Budget

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 02, 2016

hristmas time is here and the bells are ringing, music is flowing and the decorations are being hung with care!  One of the biggest yuletide displays is the beloved Christmas tree, which is customarily decked out with shiny baubles and lights.  This presentation is the focus of the celebratory decor so it’s important to take pride in choosing themes, color palettes and textures.  


But wait a minute…  This can be EXPENSIVE!

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photo credit via http://www.nomeatathlete.com/

Have you ever really done a good accounting check on how much ornaments, tinsel and lights can cost for only a single year?  Generally, tree accessories can be a fortune ranging anywhere from $5.00 to $50.00 for a single package.  Holiday companies have made a fortune over charging for personalized gifts and hanging tokens when realistically we’re only using them one day out of the whole year!  I mean come on!  How much is overspending when it comes to dressing up a tree?

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photo credit via http://www.bhg.com/

Through careful research, I’ve found some great ways to cut back on the elaborate ornament fees by just using a little imagination.  Make your tree gorgeous without having to tap into the kids college fund and show your guests you can still implement a look with style and taste!  Start checking in your closets, attics and basements because I guarantee- you’ll have everything you need if you do some prep work before hand.  Be sure to add both perishable and nonperishable items including dried fruits and antique relics that have been passed down for generations.  Select only materials that are small in size and durable enough to be featured on branches that might be whimsy.  This is a fun activity for the entire family so get together and raid the house for anything and everything that will make your tree uniquely spectacular!

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photo credit via http://stowandtellu.com/

Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, Kids, DIY, Christmas Ornaments, Crafts

What Do Your Christmas Lights Say About You ?

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Dec 21, 2015

I bet it’s no surprise that certain colors that you naturally gravitate towards can tell a lot about your personality. People who like red tend to be passionate and creative while those who gravitate towards shades of indigo and purple tend to be attracted to mystery and adventure. If yellow is your thing, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re upbeat and highly sociable or green can mean that you love the outdoors and are a free spirit.  Color can depict several aspects of a human being and can be used in areas of therapy, occupational advances and even relationship building.

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But here’s something I bet you didn’t know…

 

Christmas lights can also reveal a substantial amount of information just by your selection in variety, shape and lighting hue!  Since the choices have grown quite a bit since the days of the traditional rainbow strings, decorators are allowed to express themselves better and please customers more efficiently.  The Christmas lighting companies are well aware of this trend and have included hundreds of different models to opt from so you might want to do your homework!  Whether it’s to illuminate your house or to wrap around the tree, Christmas lights are the new and popular method of conveying your family’s character!  

 

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Tags: Holiday Decor, Christmas, December

Boston Area Charities to Donate to at Christmas

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Dec 16, 2015

Sometimes the holiday season can be a difficult time for people.  I know the image of Scrooge just popped into many of your heads but those I really speak of are the homeless communities of Boston.  The temperatures are typically freezing, the days are shorter and everything seems to increase in cost by double.  It’s the sad face of December in the northeast for many and that’s without adding the factor of gifts to friends and families.  For some Bostonians, that’s not even a possibility…

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photo.credit; theguardian.com

Boston has always been looked upon as a melting pot, which joins together no matter how dim the situation might be, particularly when we’re talking about being cold and hungry.  Local shelters and day programs need our help to support those struggling and lucky for us-it is very easy to do!  Whether it’s donating a new blanket or offering to serve a Christmas dinner at a shelter kitchen, there’s a way for us all to help make this season jolly for everyone.  So if you’re looking for some cheer to spread around, try getting involved with these very special non-profit organizations located right in the heart of our city.

 

Rosie’s Place                                                           The Woods-Mullen Shelter

889 Harrison Ave, Boston, MA 02118                     794 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 442-9322                                                  (617) 534-7101

 

The Women’s Lunch Place                                       Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

67 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116                          66 Winthrop St, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 267-1722                                               Phone:(617) 547-2841

 

Oasis Coalition                                                        Father Bill's Place

101 Arch St, Boston, MA 02110                             38 Broad St, Boston, MA

Phone:(617) 807-0940                                             Phone:(617) 770-3314

Tags: Charity, Christmas, December

Cool Christmas Centerpieces on a Budget

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Dec 14, 2015

Cool Christmas Centerpieces on a Budget

 

Christmas decorating is a lot of fun but it can also be really expensive, which puts a damper on things fast.  The lighting, linens and ornamental baubles throughout the home can be quite costly so where we can find a little room to save, we have to nab it!  One of these areas can be found within floral centerpieces.  By implementing creativity and imagination, you will see that you can design stunning arrangements that are both budget savvy and eye appealing.  There are a multitude of materials lying around our backyards, basements and attics that are just waiting to be reused for this year’s seasonal décor.  These are just a few ideas to get you started with your planning for the Christmas festivities!

 

Ornaments

ornaments center piece

photo credit: FlowerFactor

Ornaments can do more than simply hang on a tree!  Their intricate colors and designs are perfect for crafting such as this centerpiece made with ribbon, pine and round Christmas ornaments.  All you have to do is find a foam base and start glue gunning the materials in the desired format.  Oblong and circular work well but for those who are confident, try a box or triangular shape.   In no time at all you’ll have a pretty and seasonal presentation like this one!

 

Candles

 

Candles are a great investment because you’ll find that they have multiple purposes besides just lighting a room.  Select a low serving platter or a cheese dish and place white candles in the middle, leaving room in between.  Fill in the spaces with cranberries and place in the center of the buffet.  Not only will the glow compliment your dishes, but you’ll save a few bucks by utilizing what you already own in your home.  

 

Fruits

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photo credit: myhomeideas.com

If you need a fast and workable arrangement this holiday, I highly suggest this ingenious idea of layering fruit in a clear glass vase.  The container should have sizeable width and accessible height to accommodate multiple shapes and sizes.  Raid your refrigerator for oranges, lemons, limes and berries (anything with bright color) and finish it off by clipping a couple of branches from your tree.  Voila!



Tags: Flower Arrangements, Christmas, December

Vegetarian Christmas

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 11, 2015

 

Vegetarianism is growing in popularity for many reasons including weight control, organ health, animal conservation and dental hygiene.  There are many different types of non-meat-eaters including those who eat fish and dairy but omit pork, beef and chicken.  Due to this expanding range of vegetarians, several people are giving this diet a try because they’re able to tailor their food selection with omitting everything they like.  

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Lucky for many of us (I myself am a vegetarian), eliminating the meat and poultry from diets has gotten even easier because food companies, supermarkets and farmers are realizing the growing demand to eliminate fat and increase healthier eating habits.  Grocery stores now offer a wide array of non-meat products such as veggie burgers and tofu based meals allowing us to find the foods that are nutritious and appetizing to our taste.

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With that said, is it possible to host a holiday dinner such as Christmas without serving any meat as a main course?  Is the turkey and roast beef what makes this feast so special or can an all-vegetable menu still satisfy an entire house of guests?

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I believe that it can if you take special care in selecting particular dishes that will both compliment one another as well as fill everyone’s bellies.  Having platters of only raw celery sticks and carrots as appetizers may encourage a rumbling growl from stomachs and in all honesty, there’s a better way to go about it without having to starve.  Over the years, I’ve collected some fabulous additions to my holiday fare that is both filled with vegetables and satisfyingly delicious!  Here’s what I’ll be cooking in my kitchen this Christmas for both my meat eating and vegetarian guests.

Looks good to me!



Tags: Christmas, Chef, cooking, Vegetable Garden

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