Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Christmas Time Already?

Hi there friends!

It's good to be back!  After dedicating the last 7 weeks or so entirely to my engineering job, I finally have a chance to breathe again.  Hopefully in the next couple weeks I will have some fun projects to share.  I actually tried to finish a few projects in the last couple months, but for one reason or another most of them did not turn out how I hoped.  Picture a nicely decorated clay pot.... with a dead plant inside.  oops.  Maybe I'll share those in a future post and we can laugh at them together.  

Today I am going to share a couple Christmas ideas, as well as my favorite recipe for a cold weather drink- chai tea.

I have two simple ornaments to show you that look nice, don't cost too much, and are easy to put together.  I made both of these a couple years ago, but have used them on our tree every year since.

First, linen balls:


This one is about as easy as it gets.  Cut some linen into strips about 1" wide, wrap the strips around styrofoam balls, and use hot glue to secure them.  Cut a piece of twine string, glue it to the ball in the center, and tie a loop to hang the ball on the tree.  I used two different shades of linen for mine.

Next, cinnamon ornaments:


These look pretty, and smell great!  I don't have the recipe any more for the dough, but just Google/Pinterest search "cinnamon dough for ornaments" and I'm sure you'll find a few recipes.  You make these similar to sugar cookies- roll out the dough, cut out your shapes, and bake.  Two things i figured out along the way: a straw makes a good hole cutter, and don't make the hole too close to the edge.  These do get a little brittle, so be careful when you pack them away.  Also, Lucy Dog tries to eat them, which I'm sure wouldn't be good (the dough is mostly cinnamon), so we hang them out of her reach. 

And for some outdoor decorations... to save a little bit of cash, I bought a plain wreath from the grocery store, and added some decorations to it.  I'm not a fan of fake pine wreaths, so this was my compromise.  I've seen some really beautiful wreaths out there, but simple was the name of the game this year.

I have this lantern sitting outside, but it could easily be an indoor decoration too.

The basic idea is a glass jar, fake snow, baby sized pinecones, a few sprigs off of the Christmas tree and a pretty candle.  Sorry the picture doesn't show the snow and pinecones too well, the sun was giving me some trouble with the glass.  I put this lantern under the overhang by the front door where it will not get wet, but I put a second one out in the elements, so i covered the top of that one with plastic wrap.  I don't think fake snow will hold up to rain so well...

Now onto my favorite cold weather beverage...  I am not a coffee drinker, but I really like going to cafes and coffee shops.  They are just cozy and smell wonderful.  Oh, and the baked goods.  The good news is that most of the time, coffee shops look out for pastry loving, coffee hating weirdos like me and have chai on the menu.  The bad news is that sometimes they use the shortcut powder stuff.  Blech.  In my quest to find good chai that isn't from powder and doesn't cost $4.00 a cup, I came up with this recipe to make at home:

Amy's Chai
makes about 4 cups

2 cups water
2 chai tea bags
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 whole clove
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 cups vanilla milk
3 Tbsp sugar

1. Put everything except the milk and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil.  Let it boil for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the milk and heat just until the tea starts to boil, stirring occasionally.  Do not take your eyes off of this sucker, or you will have a milky disaster all over your stove.  Speaking from experience here.
3. Strain the tea.  Add the sugar.  Drink up.

If you can't find vanilla milk, use regular milk (whole is best) and add 1/3 cup sugar instead of 3 Tbsp.

This also tastes great cold!  Just refrigerate what's left and serve it over ice.

Hope you are enjoying the start of the holiday season and are staying warm!  At this point, I'm just recovering from way too many 60+ hour weeks, but I'll be back in the DIY/blogging spirit soon!