STORY TELLING CHRISTMAS GIFT TAGS

THE BEAUTIFUL EYE

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When I wrap my Christmas gifts I l make the tags truly personal.  Sometimes it is a hint regarding the contents.  Or suggestions for clever uses for the gift.   The best ones require the recipient to guess the contents with the clues you’ve written on the tag.    Commercial gifts barely give you room to write “to and from plus names”.  Where is the fun in that?

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My solution is shipping tags.  You can buy small bundles at craft stores or a lovely big container of them from an office supply store.

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Now the fun begins.  Leave them plain or give them a vintage look with a damp tea bag.  I have a lovely big stamp that looked like a letter written in French.   I used it for the background.   You could use snowflakes, floral or leaf designs or simply leave them plain.  Add cut-outs from old Christmas cards or magazines.  Spread a little white glue in appropriate places and sprinkle it with sparkle powder.  Now write away to your little heart’s content.

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Every year I enjoy having a different gift wrapping theme.   I’ve draped the base of the tree with rich dark green velvet.  The gifts are wrapped with simple brown wrapping paper (very brown paper packages wrapped up with string), then tied with green velvet ribbon.  It’s all very simple and very “home made”.  For me it is all about taking some of the commercial aspect out of the season and making your gifts very, very personal.

Unlike many gift wrapping paper (tissue paper, metallic paper) is completely recyclable.   I even recycle the velvet ribbon .  Rolled around cardboard tubes it’s tucked away to use throughout the year.  I grew up with mantra “waste not want not”.  The word recycle did not exist, but one simply didn’t just throw out something that could be put to  use.

Now I’m off to nibble on short-bread cookies and sip some smoky Earl Gray tea.   Enjoy!

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CHRISTMAS ESSENCE … how to give your home the fragrance of Christmas

The days before Christmas should be long and lingering.  Days to enjoy.   One needs to treasure the simple things.    In an unhurried manner.  No frantic trips to crowded malls.  I start my Christmas  in November.     Creating Christmas cards.   Gathering wrapping paper and ribbons.  Unpacking the boxes of Christmas ornaments and decorations – all in a leisurely manner.

This is the time to enjoy treasured memories.  I still have the Santa my son made in kindergarten forty-five years ago.  Battered and faded it always graces our tree front and centre.      The polar bear cookie jar appears on my kitchen counter.  His name is lorek Byrnison, from the book The Golden Compass.       This is how you slow down in the days before December 25th.

To give our home the perfume of Christmas preparations I  simmer an all natural Christmas essence on the stove.  You’ ll love the fresh, crisp, spicy fragrance, and you probably have everything to create it right in your kitchen.

CHRISTMAS ESSENCE

Chop the peel of a large orange and a large lemon.    Into a medium sized saucepan put the peel, plus 2 sticks of cinnamon broken, 12 whole cloves and 4 bay leaves.  Add 4 cups of water and bring to the boil.  Immediately reduce heat to a very slow simmer.  A word of caution, don’t let it simmer dry.  Just keep adding more water.

KATE’S CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE – Elegantly simplicity.



CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

Away way back in time coffee cake was a simple treat.    It was an uncomplicated cake.  The ingredients were always at hand.  It went together quickly .  The delicious aroma of the baking cake filled your kitchen.  It was warm and welcoming  hospitality on a plate.   One made coffee cake to be enjoyed with coffee or tea and dear friends   It was elegant simplicity.  

Then we add sour cream and blueberries, buttermilk and cranberries, rhubarb and apples.  Coffee cake became a production.  It lingered long in the oven and frequently longer cooling .   It was definitely not something you whipped up on the spur of the moment.This recipe for CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE  goes back to the late Fifties.  It is a doodle to whip up.  Presents beautifully.  And tastes decadently divine.    I have probably made it over seven hundred times  and last week I made it for my  friend Kate.   It was received with so much enthusiasm and appreciation  I renamed it  KATE’S COFFEE CAKE.    Kate is a remarkable woman in a demanding profession.  She was  ships bridge officer on luxury cruise ships for years and now continues her relationship with marine transportation at  SeaSpan here on the west coast.     This recipe is perfect for Kate.   She loves baking but has little time to shop for exotic ingredients  or spend hours in the kitchen.

The recipe came with a bag of Robin Hood Flour and it is simplicity personified.  Flour sugar salt and baking powder mixed with butter.  An egg whipped into milk.  A quick and gentle stir and into the pan and  a little brown sugar butter and cinnamon sprinkled over the top.   This sweet little coffee cake goes together quickly so be sure to turn your oven on before you start your recipe.  The recipe awaits you in MRS.BUTTERFINGERS.

 



ZEN AND THE ART OF STRAWBERRY JAM

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She weighed the strawberries.

Measured the sugar.

The wisdom of tradition whispered to her.

This is state of mind.

This is a way of being.

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Her thoughts weighed heavy on her wrists.

She filled the jars

With the warmth of the sun.

The perfume of the crushed berries.

The  blue she had grabbed from the sky.

The music the wind across the fields.

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This alchemy of jam.

This seeing things without distortion.

She placed a flower on Buddha.

This she thought is the zen of strawberry jam.

ZEN AND THE ART OF IRONING LINEN NAPKINS

The voice of Kiri te Kanawa soars through our home.  A favorite and much loved CD … Chants d’Auvergne (songs of the Auvergne).    I’m ironing  napkins, gorgeous banquet sized antique linen damask napkins.    The final memory filled  task of Saturday’s dinner party,  a memorable evening with friends and family.

No ordinary napkins these, but heavy, large 24″ by 24″ drifts of shimmering white.   I treasure hunt for vintage linen.  Finding them in thrift shops and garage sales.  Buying  single orphans.  Incomplete sets.   Monogrammed napkin embroidered with the initials of others.

At the end of the evening  the napkins soak in cold water over night. If there is a recalcitrant stain I add a little powdered bleach.   I wash them in more cool water, gentle cycle, mild soap. I hang them to dry.

I spray them with L’Occitane’s lavender-scented Linen Water.    It’s  lovely to see the beautiful damask patterns come to life under the heat of the iron.   I fold the napkin in half and press a sharp crease, then fold and iron again.  My Mother, who was a beautiful ironer would not approve of this.  It wears the linen away.   But,  I like the sharp, crisp crease.  I do the same with my linen tablecloths (it’s the French style).

The napkins, still damp and immaculately ironed, air dry on the laundry rack.   I tie each set with with coloured ribbons and carefully tuck  them away to wait patiently for the next dinner party.

This simple act of calmly and quietly ironing, and storing them in an orderly fashion is the zen and art of ironing linen napkins.

GLAMOUR ART GOWNS MODELED BY THE MOST GORGEOUS CHICKLETS DAZZLE THE FANTASY FASHION WORLD

The fabulous. The fantastic.  The Fantasy.  The magical world of art gowns  created by  Resa of Queen Street West, Toronto.  The unique catwalk presentation had the audience of thousands on the their feet cheering and applauding.

Virginia  flew in from Paris to participate in this one of a kind COOP event.  Resa’s  Empress d’Amore gown, created for Virginia, opened the gorgeous parade of gowns.  Ooh and aah over the dazzling art gowns and their wonderfully unusual models.  Read all about this one-of-a-kind fashion event on   RESA’S ART GOWNS.

THE JEWELED FRUIT TARTS OF PARIS . . . Caramelized Plum Tart

caramelized plum tart

It is at this time of year when the days shorten and dusk creeps quietly into our lives.  When we put away the warm whispers of summer.  When we scuff through fallen leaves removing the silver dust of Paris.  This is my favorite season in the city of light.

 It is at this time of year I return to my little house in Paris to pack away the summer memories.  To take down the linen  curtains that dance at my windows and replace them with  enveloping rich dark green velvet.  To cover the stone pavers of my kitchen floor with a faded and warm carpet.

And it is this time of year, market basket under my arm, I raise very early and head for the markets.   I am abroad even before the street cleaners.  Searching for the last stoned fruit of the season to make just one last plum tart.

The Paris pastry shops beguile us with dazzling displays of fruit tarts.  They are perfectly imperfect with simply arranged seasonal fresh fruits made even more irresistible with sugar-studded , heavily caramelized, crunchy rims.   This is pie perfection!  Honest pies that promise you everything and deliver.   My alter ego happily shares her dreams of Paris and her recipes with you.  Bon Appetit, dear friends.   MRS BUTTERFINGERS