by Mary Canovas
We´re starting a new way of reaching our Guidepost readers – on the internet. Using this wonderful tool, you´ll be able to not only read about how to decorate, bake, etc., but in many cases actually follow “the making of” with a simple click. Sometimes I´ll include a video I´ve selected from YouTube but more often than not you´ll find links to videos on my channel www.encasacontigo.com or direct to our videos in our channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/EnCasaContigo/videos?view=0 where you can find most of the videos we´ve aired in our program this year. (If by any chance you don´t get to the link directly by clicking, just copy and paste it on the top of your webpage.) I hope they will be useful as well as entertaining. Unfortunately for those of you who don´t speak the language, our programming is in Spanish and so are our videos.
By the way, En Casa Contigo, on our YouTube channel, will be airing new videos daily on weekdays during the month of December with lots of new Christmas ideas – even Christmas nails and make up, so come visit us when you have the time. I´d love to get your feedback. Here´s wishing you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
An Old Fashioned Christmas
There are so many ways to decorate for Christmas – traditional, modern, vintage, avant-garde, etc. This year we would like to share with you how to decorate with the natural scents of Christmas: apples, oranges, lemons, anise stars, cinnamon and cloves will fill the house with classic Christmas aromas. We can decorate a tree, or make lovely centerpieces for very little. Best of all our woodland friends will have a feast on all the decorations after the holiday is over.
One of the more traditional homemade Christmas tree decorations are stained glass effect dried oranges and apples with anise stars and bundles of cinnamon. They not only lend a whimsical air of Christmas gone bys but also fill our homes with all the wonderful scents of the holidays. Here´s how to make the dried orange slices.
Materials: Oranges (you can also use lemons), oven or parchment paper or aluminum foil, a good cutting knife, oven, ribbon or string for hanging
Preparation: • Slice the oranges crosswise into thin slices as evenly as possible. This will create a pinwheel effect. • Dry on both sides with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. • Place in single rows on a baking sheet lined with oven paper or aluminum. • Bake at oven´s lowest temperature (around 100 º C or 220 degrees F). Let them bake for half an hour. • After half an hour, turn them over. Bake another half hour or longer, if necessary, until almost dry. Even though they may seem a little moist they will finish drying at room temperature• IMPORTANT- Make sure they don´t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Punch a small hole at the top of each slice and thread a string or ribbon or tinsel through the hole and make a knotted loop for hanging the orange slices on your tree or from a suction cup holder on your windows.
These Christmas of Holiday decorations are so easy to make, especially the candleholders. You´ll be done in no time. Aside from being ecological, they are also a great price for a knock out centerpiece – just apples, candles, some evergreens, and a silk poinsettia and some red beads and ribbons to spice them up.
The swan is another matter. It looks hard but it isn´t, so try your hand at it; you´ll be pleasantly surprised. You will need to brush the finished swan with some lemon juice so it won´t turn brown on the table
Candleholders: Find apples that have a good steady base and don´t wobble. Cut the top core to fit to the tall candle or to a tea light. Insert the candle and you´re all done.
Apple Swan: See how to in our video.
Watch our full tutorial for candleholders and swan at: click here
Pomanders make great decorations. You can hang them on the tree or place them in holiday centerpieces. They are not only lovely but they are nature´s natural air fresheners. The name pomander comes from the French “pomme d´ambre” (apple of amber).
In medieval times it was a ball made of perfumes such as musk, civet and ambergris or fragrant herbs. Nobles and royalty carried them in perforated gold or silver cases hung from the neck or attached to the girdle chain. You can see them on many of the royal portraits of the era. They were worn or carried to protect against infections, pestilence or to ward off disagreeable odors. During Elizabeth times, they were considered a Christmas gift of good luck for the coming year.
A modern form of pomander is made by studding an orange or other citrus fruit with whole dried cloves and letting it cure dry, after which it may last several years. The modern pomander serves the functions of perfuming and freshening the air and keeping drawers of clothing and linens fresh, pleasant smelling, and moth-free.
How To: Look for oranges without blemishes. Poke holes in the orange with a thin knitting needle or similar, in the pattern you like and fill the holes with dried whole cloves. You can make any pattern from stars to initials even faces or Christmas trees.
If you stud the entire orange with cloves very close together, the pomander will last for years and will keep on refreshing and deodorizing as well as protect against moths. Leave a little space in between because the orange will shrink as it dries. If you just stud the orange with a few cloves, it will hold up for about 15 days but will smell almost as sweetly as the fully studded orange.
Check out our full pomander video tutorial: click here
Copycat Recipe – our version of Reese´s Peanut Butter Cups
Most of us love Reese´s Peanut Butter Cups. But they are kind of expensive outside the USA. So, we have come up with our Copycat Recipe of the original. It´s not exactly the same but it´s pretty darn close. Some people actually prefer it. Of course, the wonderful thing, aside from the cost, is that you get to choose the kind and quality of your chocolate (dark, milk, semi, regular or really expensive) and the kind of peanut butter (chunky or smooth) filling.
1 cup sifted confectioners’ or powdered sugar ∙ ¾ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter • 250 gr. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate • paper candy cups or cupcake cups
• Combine sugar, peanut butter, and butter in an electric mixer and beat until combined. Set aside.
• Melt chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. (you can also melt the chocolate in the microwave being careful not to burn it).
• Use a small spoon or small paintbrush to coat insides of the paper candy cups with the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the bottom and sides very well.
• Transfer cups to a rimmed baking sheet or muffin tins to hold their shape.
• Transfer to freezer until set, about 10 minutes.
• Fill the center of the chocolate coated cup with a spoonful or more of peanut butter mixture.
• Enclose and top off with melted chocolate. Put in fridge until hardened.
Great for the holiday gift giving and every day of the year. Costs absolutely nothing!
Well, I call it magic because it´s the most versatile, practical, and easy to make box or container you can think of. Perfect for almost anything: kitchen ingredients, food (cookies, snacks, truffles, cut onions. . . Promise your refrigerator won´t smell of onions). It forms an almost air tight enclosure that is easy to open and close even for people with arthritis. You can even decorate it with paints or decoupage as a gift or for the holidays or personalize it.
It is essential to organize our jewelry – necklaces etc., craft materials, workshop materials – nuts, bolts, kids stuff and so much more. It´s transparent, so you don´t need labels to know exactly what´s inside.
Did I mention it doesn´t cost a thing? Besides, it´s the best recycling craft on the web. All you need is a 2 liter or 2 liter + Coke bottle, scissors or cutter .You can also make a smaller version using smaller Coke bottles. It does have to be a Coke bottle because of its unique shape for this craft. What a great way to be eco-friendly and help our environment by recycling something that is so useful as well as attractive.
The directions are hard to follow if written but very easy when you see it done. This one is a keeper. Luckily we made the tutorial in both English and Spanish:
This is a great product for the holidays and parties. Easy to customize, depending on the color of the glitter you prefer and inexpensive, you can even add your own perfume or essence. You can customize this gel so many ways ~ can choose different colors of glitter or gel and essence. We use aloe vera gel as a base because of its wonderful cosmetic properties. You can also make this with real aloe vera gel direct from your plants but in that case it will only last a week and will oxidize and turn red. The commercial gel lasts for more than a month. You can buy the gel and the glycerin at your local pharmacy.
Ingredients: • ¼ cup of pure commercial aloe vera gel • 1/2 teaspoon ultrafine glitter or “escarcha” or “ purpurina” • 1 teaspoon glycerin • (optional) liquid food coloring • (optional) 1 to 3 drops essential oil or perfume Preparation: • Place the aloe vera gel in a bowl and add glitter. (and the optional: 1 or 2 drops perfume and 1 or 2 drops of food coloring.) Stir gently until well blended. • Store in a closed container in the refrigerator.
Check out our glitter gel video tutorial: click here
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