Merry Christmas From My Heart to Yours

Wow have I ever been slacking off!  Last post was December 7, the Christmas season is so busy!  I have lots of pics of baking and projects that I will get to in the new year but right now I just wanted to reflect a bit on this special day.

Yesterday was with my side of the family and today was with the Farmer’s and as I sit here typing this I am again so thankful for the life we live and the family we have.  The weather yesterday and today was fantastic on our side of the country (my thoughts go to those in the east that are dealing with that terrible ice storm) which made travel great and even better was the company we were able to spend it with.  We gave thanks for the wonderful meals we ate and spent the day laughing, smiling and being the hap-hap-happiest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

While the adults were busy being children, the kids were too.  The Daughters’ had so much fun playing with their cousins and were so tuckered they were LIGHTS OUT when they hit the pillow last night and tonight.  Christmas just isn’t the same without the sound of little voices, am I right?

I am coming down off an enormous high from the past 48 hours.  The sigh of relief I just breathed is definitely worth it but it also makes me wonder if we don’t spend enough time together in the first place.  Is too much emphasis put on work and real life and not enough on play and enjoying the moment?  What do you think?  Shouldn’t a holiday like Christmas and the feelings it brings come around more than once a year?  I think so, because family is what Christmas is all about to me.  Turn off the commercialization, the mad dash at the mall, the overspending, and the stress and turn on the giving, the sharing and caring and most importantly, the laughter and LOVE.  Yesterday and today were perfect examples of that feeling for me and I want to do it again before another 365 days goes by.  As I am getting older I feel like my life is starting to speed up and I want to savour and relish in every moment and what better way to do that than by creating more of them.

Over the past two days I felt exactly as I used to feel as a kid on Christmas Eve: excited and anxious to tear into the gifts I was hoping would be under the tree for me in the morning.  The only difference is that instead of receiving, I am now more excited and anxious to hand out hugs, pour a drink and share a laugh with those that I love; I want to receive the gift of the memory of these moments.

Like our beloved Grinch creator Dr. Seuss once said, “you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” so to everyone I saw both yesterday and today, thank you for an amazing and memorable Christmas.

Always as a little girl, my sister and I would have all our gifts open and Nana would still be sitting there with every gift we gave her piled up around her chair, it didn’t matter if she had three and we had thirty we would still manage to beat her.  I never understood why until yesterday when I found myself surrounded by gifts watching everyone around me.  That’s when I realized that all those years she was busy watching our faces and filling her soul with the love and energy from the room – the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas

My Christmas wish to you is that you were able to fill your soul with the love and kindness from those around you like I was able to do over the past two days.  My cup runneth over.  Love, Kim.

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Festive Tarts! Part Two – Stevia Pecan Tarts

So over the past hour, the boiler has started working, YAY!  But Kevin Martin lost his curling game to John Morris, boo.  I was rooting for Martin because he’s been solid for the past 10 plus years but I guess it’s time for a change.  If you have no idea who those two are, I’m not surprised.  I’m a curling junkie so I was watching the Roar of the Rings as I was typing my Mincemeat Tarts post and now John Morris will play Brad Jacobs tomorrow for the honour to represent Canada at the Sochi Olympic Games this winter.  He’s still from Alberta so I’m on Team Morris now!

Pecan Tarts

Anyway, back to pecan tarts.  These are the Farmer Sr.’s fave but he’s a type II diabetic which can pose a small problem when it comes to nom-nom-noming desserts.  He doesn’t take insulin either, he uses his diet to regulate his blood sugars so he has to watch what he eats.  Enter his stellar daughter-in-law, me!  I made these pecan tarts with stevia so he’s able to eat an extra one without a monster spike.  Boom!

Pecan Tarts

Remember the Berry Pie post from this summer?  It had my Grandma’s pie crust posted in it and I used it to make a smaller batch today since I forgot I was almost out of lard.

I shrunk the recipe and it made me enough for 11 tart shells to make these with.  I started out by cutting the Tenderflake into the flour, salt and baking powder with a fork.  Then I beat an egg and set half aside for the tart filling (I only needed a half for the crust), added the vinegar and poured it into the flour mix.  I got some ice water and added that to the flour mixture until it was just wet enough to ball up on the counter and roll out.

Pecan Tarts

I got out the Farmer’s Heineken cup and used it as a form for the tart shells.  It was the perfect size – I knew it was good for more than just holding beer.

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I laid the pastry circles across the bottom of a muffin tin and then put another tin on top of it and baked in 350F oven for 5 minutes to get them firm enough to stand on a cookie sheet by themselves.

Pecan Tarts

Once they came out of the oven with some shape and firmness, I put them onto a cookie sheet and started mixing my filling.

Pecan Tarts

Start with the half egg left from the pastry mixture, add two more and beat lightly.  Add the Stevia, flour, PURE maple syrup, melted butter, and PURE vanilla extract.  Beat with a whisk until it’s somewhat blended together and add the pecan pieces.

Pecan Tarts

Pour them into the tart shells and put in a 350F oven for 35-40 minutes.

Pecan Tarts

Once they’re out, package them up and give them away!  Remember to pay it forward this holiday season because love is what Christmas is all about.

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One container for Papa, one for the Farmer Sr.  I hope they love them, they sure looked good!

Grandma’s Pie Crust (recipe for one crust)

1 cup flour
1/4 cup lard (I use Tenderflake)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 egg, beaten (use the other half in the pecan tart filling)
1 tsp vinegar
Ice water

Stevia Pecan Tarts

3 eggs, beaten (it’s okay to add the half from the pastry crust here too)
1/8 cup Stevia
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup PURE maple syrup
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp PURE vanilla extract
1 cup pecan halves

Pecan Tarts

Remember to share with your friends, I have links to Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter below and the recipes always go up on our Facebook page.  Merry Christmas and enjoy the tart recipes!  Kim.

Festive Tarts! Part One – Mincemeat

Holy Iceballs, Batman!  Robin wouldn’t last a minute in his tights in this weather.  It was a roaring -39C with a windchill in our neck of Canada yesterday but it’s warmed up to a balmy -30C today.  Coconuts that’s cold!

Anyway, it’s super cool that we’re still without heat when it’s this cold.  Our marathon trip to Saskatchewan brought us back with a new boiler but it’s been a little tricky to hook up.  Papa, the Farmer and the Farmer Sr. are all out there in the freezing cold putting it together now so I decided to make them some tarts as a small token of appreciation for getting our heat back on again.  They both have their faves and mincemeat are one of my Dad’s.

Maybe this fall I’ll figure out how to make my own mincemeat but for now I bought some and it was great.  I always hated it as a kid because of the name.  Mincemeat, really.  It meant minced meat to me but it’s not actually meat at all, surprise!  It’s glacee fruit, apples, raisins and spices.  Quite delish actually.

Mincemeat Tarts

I came across this recipe on a Jamie Oliver Christmas special on Food network last week and I immediately loved and wanted to try it.  It seemed like such an easy way to make any kind of jam-textured tart and it was.

I’m sure there will be a lot of haters because I used store bought puff pastry, phyllo dough and mincemeat but who cares.  Jamie Oliver said it was okay and that’s good enough for me.

I rolled out half the puff pastry to an 8×12-ish piece.

Mincemeat Tarts

Then spoon the mincemeat over the puff pastry (I had little hands helping again today which was really nice!) and make sure you get it as close to the edges as possible.

Mincemeat Tarts

You could just roll it up here but Jamie Oliver added some extras so I did too.  I added some extra dried cranberries, grated the zest of an orange over top and chopped some hazelnuts to sprinkle over as well.

Mincemeat Tarts   Mincemeat Tarts

Next, roll it up from one end to the other and slice into 12 pieces.

Mincemeat Tarts

Pull out two pieces of phyllo dough and brush with melted butter.  Grease the muffin tin and cover a it with the two pieces of pastry making sure you leave enough overhang on the edges to fill each muffin cup.  Gently press down into the muffin tins to get the dough to form a little nest for all the puff pastry rolls.

Mincemeat Tarts

Set each roll in the nests and sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Mincemeat Tarts

Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown and the puff pastry around the mincemeat is cooked.

Remove from the oven, cover with a cutting board and flip out.  Break apart each tart from the block and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Mincemeat Tarts

200 g puff pastry (half Tenderflake package)
2 sheets phyllo dough
1 tbsp melted butter
1-1/2 cups prepared mincemeat
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
zest from one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Mincemeat Tarts

Pops tried one and he loved them, seems they’re a hit and they look good on a plate too!  Kim.

Festive Vinyl Boards and Canvases

Last weekend we had a badass craft day at my house.  I love crafting.  LOVE IT.  I put in a monster order of vinyl from that super cool business I represent, Wordplay Designs, for everyone and they all came with their project pieces and game faces on.  Minus my SIL, she came with her scared face on.  She dislikes crafting but she’s coming over to the sparkly, embossed, bedazzled side of the fence.  Slowly but surely she will be a crafter.

Crafty stress

So so so many fun projects going on – ornaments, flower vases, mugs, picture frames and glass blocks.   Look at the intense concentration.  No one even wanted to look up and smile for the camera!

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Festive Vinyl Crafts  Festive Vinyl Crafts

And some really cute wee babies were there playing with us too!

Cute Christmas Baby  Cute Christmas Baby

I did my crafting the night before so I could be available for teaching the day of since there were lots of different projects happening.  I did some Christmas gifts for the Daughters’ Teachers that day (which turned out amazing) but I had a special request for the instructions on how to make these festive wood Christmas blocks so I’ll start with those.

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I started out with a long decal from the Christmas collection that was 5″ high x 28″ long.  I cut the three pieces out separately and Papa cut me the perfect pieces to mount them to.  Truthfully, I’m somewhat afraid of power tools and wood.  It’s something I am gradually working up to but haven’t got the nerve to work with yet.  For these times, I call Papa because he’s THE BEST.  He had some spare cedar that was 5.5″ across that worked perfectly for my project since my decal was 5″ tall.  I asked him to cut me three pieces, 8″, 9″ and 11″, to apply the vinyl to.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

He sanded it for me too but if your Dad doesn’t do that for you, you should grab a block and sand it lightly until it’s smooth.

Then grab the type of paper you’d like to use, I used regular scrapbook paper from my Christmas pack, measure it out and cut it to size.  Nothing fancy here either, I just laid it over the blocks and marked the edges with a pencil then cut with my straight cutter.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Apply a layer of Mod Podge to the first block and apply the paper overtop right after.  I use my vinyl applicator (you can also use a credit card) to smooth the paper down and work out any wrinkles.  If you apply it too thick the paper will saturate and the wrinkles will stick around so don’t lay it on too thick.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

After you’ve got the paper down and it’s semi-dry, you can peel the backing off the vinyl and apply the tape layer overtop.  I usually just eyeball my projects but I do really like to make sure they’re centered so if it’s a tougher one, I will get out a tape measure before I lay it down.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Once the tape layer is down, start from the centre and smooth out the whole graphic lightly to ensure there’s no bubbles or wrinkles in the decal.  After it’s down flat you can press firmly with a ruler, credit card or scraper and carefully peel back the tape.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Voila.  Perfection.  Repeat two more times for the other two blocks and you have a simple and affordable gift or decoration for your home.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

The same process can be used on canvases too.  I did this one using the exact same techniques and added a frame at the end.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Step 1: Select and cut your paper.  This was a 16×20 canvas so I used three 12×12 sheets of paper to cover it.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Step 2: Mod Podge your canvas.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Step 3: Apply the paper and smooth it down with a scraper or ruler.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Step 4: Center the vinyl, peel off the backing and apply to the paper.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Step 5: Slowly peel off the masking tape and make sure all the letters are secured down.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

After it’s done, you can hang it as is or you can add a frame as well.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

I got this frame from Michaels on sale and I just set the canvas inside it and used some finishing nails to nail the wooden canvas frame to the frame corners.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

I strung some wire through the hooks on the frame and it was ready to hang on my wall.  I love it so much I’m going to make one for all year long to hang there too!

Some quick and simple projects to give as gifts or transform your home this holiday season.

Festive Vinyl Blocks and Canvases

Merry Merry Christmas and happy crafting!  Kim.

PSL: Do you speak the language of Fall?

Ahh fall.  After summer and before Christmas.  I love fall.  I love the colours, the abundance of apple pie, I love getting a big chunky knit sweater on with my leg warmers and rocking the cooler weather.  I also love to decorate – I’m artsy like that.  I took some pics of my festive fall abode to share with you all because I’m cool like that.

I have two of these pumpkins, I made the arrangements in them with some flowers on sale at Walmart.

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This is our dining room table, simple table runner, nice antique looking jug from Ikea with some wheat from our field, pretty picture frame from the Farmers Mama, apple basket, plate, pinecones and a homemade candleholder made from old fenceposts.

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These are my Halloween lanterns.  Y’know that amazing company I represent, Wordplay Designs?  I ordered these cutie little Halloween decals from there and then just painted some old pickle and relish jars and attached a wire to hold them with.

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I also ordered these larger decals and put them on some of those fake pumpkins you find around this time of year.  They’re on my porch.

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BTW, if you’re interested, these are the fall Wordplay specials, feel free to email me, kim@wordplaydesigns.net, for more information.  Receive a free door graphic with every $75 order and use the small decals shown to make your own lanterns and Halloween pumpkins!

Wordplay Fall Special

If you like these ideas then check back in November, I’m going to make some really cheap and easy Christmas gifts using vinyl.  You’ll kick yourself if you don’t read it.  They’re so simple and fun the Farmer’s SIL’s can even do them (and the SIL’s are arts and crafts haters).

Anyway, back to my topic!  Whoo, SQUIRREL!  Do you have any idea what a PSL is?  I didn’t either until I walked by a Starbucks one day and it was on one of their fall door decals.  It’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte (and PS it’s been around for a decade this year so it’s a pretty big deal).

I’m not a coffee drinker (and I’m frugal) so I only land in the Big S three or four times a year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the atmosphere in there, it’s super hip and funky and it’s great for writing my next blog post but I just don’t drink coffee and I can’t stomach paying $4 for a tea so I just sit outside and use their free wi-fi (I told you I was frugal).

My BFF is a PSL lover and she text me this picture today with the caption, “I just rewarmed my PSL.  It’s alarmingly orange, no?  Kinda creeps me out.”  You be the judge.

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My immediate reaction was, “hell yes that’s orange, what on earth is in there?!”  And my second thought was, “I have to blog this.”  Honestly, how hard could it be to make a real PSL without the fake syrup the Big S uses which probably contains all kinds of artificial flavours and colours, not to mention I bet one of those things has about 350 calories in it.

So I went searching through one of my Church cookbooks because I knew I saw a chai tea latte recipe in there somewhere…and JACKPOT!  All I had to do was alter it a little.  Now this wasn’t easy since 1) I don’t drink coffee and 2) I’ve never actually had a PSL before but my version turned out pretty tasty.  So tasty in fact that I forgot to take a picture of it before I drank it all!

Also, I used instant coffee (which I’ve heard is gross and I only have in the house for baking) so if this version was delish I’d love to taste what one made with real coffee would taste like.

These are all the ingredients I started with, they’re all in my cupboard but the one thing you may not have is cardamom.  It’s THE spice that makes chai taste the way it does so it’s a no brainer to get.  It’s pricey though but it’ll last you forever.  I used it last year to make chai spice cookies so that’s why I had it on hand.

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What’s that funny looking peach coloured stuff in front you ask?  It’s fresh pumpkin puree.  It tastes nothing like the canned stuff and looks nothing like it either – it’s better in my opinion but it doesn’t have the same flavour as canned pumpkin, be warned.  Last year the Farmer Sr. grew about 7 pumpkins that weighed approximately 34 pounds each so once I quartered one and cooked it all I ended up with 68 cups of pumpkin that I froze.  I shall be making pies soon too…

Anyway, all I did was get out my handy shaker cup and add the milk, vanilla, agave nectar (if you don’t have this you can use honey or I was going to try Stevia too, I love that stuff), pumpkin puree, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves.  Shake shake shake it and set it aside.

Then, because I’m lazy, I heated up water in the microwave and added the instant coffee.  I only used about 1/4 cup of water because I don’t like coffee but you can use whatever amount you like.  That’s the beauty of making this yourself.

After that I heated the milk mixture briefly and added it to the coffee.  Then I stirred it.  Then I drank it.  All.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been whip cream on top.

These are the amounts I used for the milk mixture and it’ll yield about 5 lattes so shake it up and keep it in the fridge for a few days to add to your coffee.  It’s a cheap and delish alternative to having to stop in a drivethru every morning.

Anyway, try it and let me know what you think, I loved it!

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

4 cups milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (for a stronger pumpkin flavour, use canned instead of homemade pureed)
1/2 cup agave nectar or honey (or to taste)
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract (you know my feelings on this)
3/4 teaspoon allspice or pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

All the best and happy fall!  Much love, Kim.

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