Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy Holiday decorating (& cooking)

In one week we will be getting ready for our Christmas vacation. We are going home to Australia to spend Christmas with my parents, we are super excited! Even though we will be away for Christmas, I still got into the Christmas spirit and decorated the house. This year's colors were red and white again, inspired by the Mrs and Mr Clause ornaments we got at IKEA and this fantastic image I found on the web

We actually have many red and silver/white ornaments so the task of decorating the tree was relatively easy.
We collect ornaments on our travels, like this cute one we got in Wroclaw, Poland.
Since each ornament has sentimental value, I still hang them all on the tree, but the ones that don't match the color scheme are hung at the back of the tree. There were few that don't fit the color scheme, I think that subconsciously my whole life I have been buying red and white ornaments! Even my mum buys me red or white decorations, like this gorgeous Christmas reindeer :)
The acorns in front of him are from Thanksgiving decorating, which I totally forgot to write about with all the crazy traveling we did this past two months. The acorns are from Lake Arrowhead in California, and inspired my Thanksgiving theme this year, but I guess I can leave that post until 2012 :)

I was impressed with IKEA's Christmas decorations again, boy I wish I could work for them designing Christmas decorations (hint hint anyone from IKEA corporate who may come across my blog!). My husband was so lovely suggesting we buy the decorations, even though he knows how many we already have! I settled on Mr and Mrs Clause glass ornaments
As well as an advent calendar in the shape of Santa Clause!!!!! I love this!
We put two yummy chocolates in each little box (one for me and one for my husband!), and I feel like a kid as we get excited every day when we get to open them...24 days of chocolate is fantastic :)

I saw a post last year, I think it might have been on Martha Stewart's website, with a fireplace decoration that had wooden letters that spelled out "Christmas". Inspired by this I went to Michael's and bought some white wooden letters for the top of the DVD cabinet
The apothecary jar between the "N" and "O" is filled with the acorns from Lake Arrowhead as well as with artificial cranberries from PotteryBarn, available at this LINK. I also hung my 2010 Swarovski Crystal star ornament on the jar
You can get the 2012 ornament online at Swarovski Crystal, use this LINK.I am thinking of collecting these annually :) Maybe if I leave Santa a key to our door he'll come by over Christmas and drop one off :)
Ok, so now onto the cooking portion of the post! I have not started the cookies yet (that's Sunday's project), but I have finished the cranberry sauce for the Christmas turkey. First wash and sort your cranberries to remove any soft ones. My fabulous husband did this part and said that you can feel the soft ones easily with your hands as you wash the cranberries (which are otherwise hard). Once you have washed them, place them in a saucepan with the following ratios:
4 cups of cranberries to 1.5 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar
Stir in the sugar, turn the heat to 3/4 maximum and bring the mixture to a boil. We also added two cinnamon sticks and one real vanilla bean to give the sauce a great flavour :) Daniel says you have to split the vanilla bean to allow the seeds to come out and the flavour to develop
Monitor the heat so that the mixture does not boil over, then let it keep simmering until all of the cranberries have popped (this took about 20 minutes on our stove, but this will very depending on your heat source). The mixture should now look something like this:
Now for the canning. You can buy canning kits, this is a good idea if you think of this ahead of time. I, of course, didn't have enough time to buy jars so I decided to sterilize some I already had. For this you need to take the open jars, and their lids, and immerse them in hot water. Bring the water to the boil and sterilize them for about 30 minutes.
Once the jars are ready, remove them with a pair of tongs and add the hot cranberry sauce mixture to the jars
Wipe off any excess sauce with a clean paper towel. Take the lid out of the boiling water and cool down in cold water before screwing it onto the jar. Once I completed this for all my jars I placed them ack into the boiling water for another 30 minutes.
The jars were then removed and cooled. Once the jars are cool the lids will pop-down, and you know you have a good seal. If this does not happen I would re-sterilize and repeat the procedure perhaps.I placed the jars in the refrigerator for a day before beginning the labeling. I made some labels in PowerPoint (email me if you want the files, the circles are 2 inches in diameter)
I also made labels with an expiry date so let me know if you want these also.I used regular glue to stick the labels to the front of the jars
To hide the jar lids and make everything look pretty I just used white crepe paper which has sparkles on it to make it look Christmas-y. Place either a ribbon or a clear elastic band around the jar lid to hold the paper in place.
Cut away the excess paper evenly all the way around the jar. Finally, glue to "use-by" label to the jar lid
Add a ribbon if you like, and your sauce is ready for gifting, or for the Christmas table!
Happy Holiday decorating, I hope you were inspired :)