merry-making: day five

This year Reu helped me make Christmas cards and wrapping paper with these "sponge stamps". They are very simple to make, fun for the little ones to play with and are easily cleaned (so can be re-used many times). I used small offcuts of timber, a packet of new kitchen sponges and a hot-melt glue gun. Cut out desired shapes in the sponge and glue to the wood. Let dry. Mix up some washable, kid-friendly paint or inking pads and print away on sheets of craft paper or plain brown wrapping paper, cardboard, whatever else you like... wonderfully messy merry making!

merry-making: day four

... make a merry door wreath from cotton yo-yos...

1. Gather your materials: a little vine wreath (I found mine for 50cents at the thrift store), red white and creamy printed cotton scraps, red cotton bias tape or ribbon, scissors, needle and thread.

2. Cut out circles in fabric by tracing first around the rim of a drinking glass or mug.

3. Make yoyos (suffolk puffs) by folding 1/4" hem on the wrong side of the fabric and using your needle and thread make even, loose stitches around. Pull your staring thread and end together so that the circle bunches up into a little rosette shape and tie them together tightly twice. Trim. Repeat until you have enough yoyos to fill the wreath.

4. Wrap bias tape tightly around wreath and secure with a few stitches in needle and thread.

5. Sew yoyos in alternating colours to wreath - using the bias tape as a anchor for your thread.

6. Stitch or glue a small piece of ribbon for the top of the wreath for easy hanging.

7. Hang wreath on a door in need of merriment 

merry-making: day three

A French edition to your Christmas feasting... that utterly lovely butter-rich chicken liver spread: paté.

This one is not too overpowering and just the right hint of herbs, port and onion. Don't be alarmed at the amount of butter needed - it's the way of the French to be liberal with it, and again I remind you gently, butter is good for you. It is fat your body both likes and needs. It is also Christmastime. My twenty-two month old babe eats this on toast that's how moorish it is. I know organ meats aren't to everyone's liking, but I implore any meat-eater to try again. They are  mostly overlooked, nutrient rich sources of protein. This is an especially gentle way to eat liver that even my toddler finds delicious. As a person who does enjoy eating and preparing meat I feel I must be respectful in sourcing and raising animals as much as in minimising wastage of what is harvested. I have much to learn from the French on this matter. And in a strange way, this paté is special to me because the chicken livers I used were a result of what Alex obtained during last week's slaughter of around fifty of the farm's broiler chickens. They humanely killed, drained, gutted and butchered them so that we can have chicken aplenty through the summer months. I count myself blessed to have witnessed some of this process if only just to understand more readily how food comes from pasture into my kitchen.

~ Chicken Liver Paté ~

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small brown onions, chopped

2/3 cup fresh sage, chopped roughly
8 bay leaves

600g fresh, trimmed, free-range chicken livers

1/2 cup tawny port
300g good quality butter, chilled, cubed
**extra clarified butter + fresh thyme for optional topping**

In a large cast-iron or heavy-based fry pan gently sauté onions with butter. A few minutes later add garlic, bay leaves and sage. Next toss in trimmed livers and cook for around 40 seconds. Pour over port and cook for a further minute. Take off heat to cool. Transfer liver mixture into a food processor or bowl (with hand-blender) and blend to a paste, slowly adding into cubes of cold butter until you have combined them thoroughly.  Salt and pepper to taste. Strain through a fine mesh sieve with a wooden spoon to help you along. Divide paté into mason jars (for gifts) or glass/ceramic dishes and set in the fridge until serving. 

Optional - top with clarified butter and sprigs of thyme. To make clarified butter gently heat a quantity of butter until it separates. Carefully pour out the top layer of clear-golden liquid and discard the milky bottom. Place a few sprigs of thyme on top of the paté and cover with clarified butter. Set in fridge. 

This can be stored in the fridge for up to a week (or two weeks with an airtight lid). Enjoy with slices of pear, pickled cucumbers, fresh bread or crackers.

merry-making: day two

Last year I shared a recipe for the traditional swiss christmas cookie with dark chocolate and cloves "brunsli bale" which are similar to these beautiful star-shaped "zimtsternes". Both are gluten-free with a deliciously chewy ground-nut base. These are especially lovely with the addition of citrus zest and juice and ground cinnamon. Delicate, fragrant and spicy. They are often covered with white royal icing or meringue but I prefer them adorned simply with a thin brushing of egg white and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

 ~"Zimtsterns" cinnamon stars ~

250 grams or 2 cups ground almond meal
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons rice flour 
1 cup crystallised or raw sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon or orange zest
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
2 fresh egg whites, beaten until frothy
1 egg white, beaten and frothy, for brushing on top

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until frothy but not stiff. Add egg whites to dry ingredients and mix. Next stir in citrus zest and juice. Using clean hands knead dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface (lightly sprinkled with crystallised sugar too) roll out dough to 1cm thickness and cut into desired shapes. Arrange cookies on trays lined with baking paper and air dry for 2-4 hours or overnight if possible. Preheat oven to 180'c, brush cookies with egg white and bake cookies for 10 - 15 minutes, careful not to brown them - they will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a month. 

merry-making: day one

Try making one of these sweet vertical garlands with ribbon, beads and paper cranes. Simple and lovely. A great activity for older kids who like to craft with paper and are comfortable threading onto a needle too.

You will need:

-thin-to-medium weight paper such a printed wrapping paper cut into 4 or 5 10cm squares
-thin ribbon or thick yarn
-a large-eyed needle
-wooden beads/bells/buttons depending on your taste in colours and size etc.. 

Fold your paper squares into flapping origami cranes. Follow these instructions if you don't know how. Cut a metre of ribbon. Next thread ribbon onto the needle, tie a knot in the end then begin the pattern of small bead / knot / large bead / knot / small bead / knot / crane / knot /** repeat until you have used up all your cranes. Make a loop knot at the top for easy hanging and trim off any excess ribbon. Pin against a door frame, wardrobe or loosely arrange on a Christmas tree...