Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Homemade Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday with your family and loved ones and are now recovering, like me and Mike.  Turbo (the Cat) is not recovering yet.  He is still cowering under the bed.

I don't know about you, but the last couple of weeks have been a flurry of baking, sewing, feasting, and parties in our world.  I like to make my Christmas presents, and this year I was pretty busy.  I did buy a couple of items (like the model airplane and art supplies for my nephews), but I made them art smocks to protect their clothes while they paint, draw, glue, and cut things.  The art smocks were actually a really fun project I suggest you try sometime!

I found children's plain t-shirts at my local craft store in really bright colors.  I cut those up the middle of the back (remove the tags... makes it a lot easier!) and used iron-on velcro as a fastener.  This way the kids don't have to pull the shirts over their heads when they are messy, they can just stick their arms through the sleeves and go.  Then I used fabric scraps in fun and funky patterns to make pockets on the front so they can store pens, chalk, and any other art supplies, frogs, bugs, etc., that they find.  I also appliqued their first initial on to each shirt... just for fun!
Orson's smock (I think he will grow into it!)

Enzo's Smock

Reney's Smock

I made a sock monkey for my youngest nephew, too, since the older two got sock monkeys last year.  All kids need sock monkeys.  It is just one of those things.

I made a couple sets of dish towels for friends and family... these are another fun and easy project.  I used dish towels from the dollar store, and fabric scraps to add neat details to the towels.  Cat heads and paws for my friends and their furry companions, and a nice Italian feast scene for my Dad and his wife, to match their Italian country kitchen.


I then tackled my smallest and most challenging present: Salat Esse.  This is a special salad dressing that my Mom used to eat when she lived in Switzerland.  The Swiss call it "French Dressing", but it is unlike any French Dressing you find in the US.  This past May, when we visited, I had the opportunity to try the dressing myself.  She is right, it is delicious.  When we got back, I tried to find some online to buy.  No go.  So then I tried to find a recipe for it.  Another epic fail.  I finally found a recipe that looked like it had the right ingredients to produce the flavor I was looking for, so I mixed up a batch.  And then I poured it down the drain.  It wasn't just bad, it was AWFUL.  So I scrapped that and decided to try and make it according to taste.  I think what I have finally managed to make is pretty close.  Close enough that when my Mom opened her gift, which I had put in a Spice Islands jar labeled "Bay Leaves", she instantly knew that it wasn't bay leaves.  Better yet, when she opened it and tasted it, she announced "Salat Esse!  Oh my God!"  So I think it is close enough.  We think I may need to use a little less white wine vinegar next time... or maybe use champagne vinegar instead, but I think we are just about there!

Then I baked.  A lot.  One of the main gifts that I give to everyone is a jar of peaches and a jar of pears that I can each year.  I pair that with a plate of baked goods.

This year the plates featured Buckeyes (chocolate covered peanut butter balls), rum balls, mini hot cocoa cookies, chocolate fudge peanut butter cookie stuffed cookies (I know, that's a mouthful!), and poppyseed bread.  I need to give credit where it is due... the mini hot cocoa cookies came from one of the blogs that I like to follow:  Two Peas and Their Pod.
This is the photo from the Two Peas and Their Pod blog.

The link to the recipe is here, and I strongly suggest you give it a go!

The Chocolate Fudge Peanut Butter Cookie Stuffed Cookies came from another blog I like to follow:  Picky Plate.  This recipe takes a few bowls and a bit of time, but is SO worth it.  Delicious!
This photo is from the Picky Palate blog.
Here is the link to the recipe.

And just for fun... here is some of the mess that I made baking!
Poppyseed Bread

Buckeyes

Rum Balls

My Peanut Butter Fudge Cookies

My Mini Hot Cocoa Cookies

Stay tuned for the next episode... I think it might feature some home-brew fun!