The Lull before the Holidays

I am so proud of myself when I actually do what I know I should.  You know, like exercise, eat healthy, get a jump start on the holidays.  Today we are going to talk about things you can do to make your holiday season much less frantic and more fun.  Here are a few things I plan to do within the next week.  And one I have already done!

This weekend I will be making hot  pepper jelly.  It takes only an afternoon and yields about 5 jars of homemade goodness, ready to be shared.  It’s great for hostess gifts or anyone you like to give a little something.  You can always add crackers and cream cheese in a cute gift bag for a ready made hors d’oeuvre.    I use the recipe in the Sure-jell box.  Imagine giving your hostess something homemade, instead of the usual bottle of wine, or you could do both.

Did you know that quick breads (like banana and pumpkin) last 2-3 months in the freezer?  And cookies also take well to being frozen.  I make my cut-out Christmas cookies in advance and freeze them.  Then I decorate them another day.  Or you can bake your favorite cookies and freeze them for your family’s holiday or as gifts.  I did this one year and my family was so happy to have those cookies they grew up eating.

These ginger cookies are still nice and soft once they defrost from the freezer.

We often take a bottle of wine as a hostess gift also.  I have been wanting to come up with a custom label to put right on the wine bottle.   I had the inspiration to use leftover printable business cards.  I had two sheets left in a box of Avery printable business cards.  When you go to the Avery site they have so many templates, but if you are one of those super creative and original people you can upload your own design.  I had these printed up in 10 minutes.

There are hundreds of templates on the Avery site, including holiday designs.  I decided to go with a basic, but cute, design that can be used for any occasion.

Use your hole punch to put a hole in the corner.  Tie a ribbon or piece of cord and voila!

And yes, the font is customizable – next time I will make it bigger for sure.  It looks custom, but it’s custom for those of us who are design-challenged.



Ginger Cookies, My Holiday Tradition

I make these Ginger Cookies every year.  My family prefers other cookies that I make but these are my favorite.  I started making them the first year Tom and I were married and, have done so ever since.  There’s something about the simplicity of these cookies, along with the smell of ginger that says Christmas to me.

Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup shortening                        1 Tablespoon soda
1 egg                                           1 teaspoon ginger
2 cups flour                                   1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses

Mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate for two hours.  Roll into small balls, roll in granulated sugar.  Place on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes.  As soon as top begins to split, remove from oven and cool.

After cooling these cookies are soft and moist.  Also, they are not too sweet or rich, which makes them perfect for that afternoon snack.  

They also freeze well, coming out just as soft and moist as when they were fresh baked.

I guess you could say that these cookies are a tradition that I do just for me.  Somehow I don’t really get in the spirit until I have made them.
Do you have any small little traditions you do for yourself?