Archive for the ‘christmas’ Category


slice of panforte

Panforte is usually described as the Italian fruitcake, but that would lead you to believe it sucks, which it most definitely does not.  Panforte is indeed a mix of fruit and nuts, but the similarity to weird American fruitcake ends there.

whole panforte

Panforte isn’t really a cake at all or a bread, as its name implies. It’s more like candy–a lovely piece of grown up christmas candy. Sliced very thin and eaten with a glass of red wine or a strong cup of coffee, it’s delicious.

fruit for panforte

The recipe is staggeringly simple and ridiculously adaptable. My mom has perfected it over many, many christmases (all failed attempts were also delicious).  Take whatever dried fruit and nuts strike your fancy and mix them up with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cocoa, black pepper and a bit of flour.

panforte montage

On the stove bring some sugar and a bit of honey to a boil and pour it over everything. Mixing is probably the most difficult part, but your bicepts will thank you for it.  At some point I ditched the spoon and just used my hands to get everything together. Then it goes in whatever round pan you’ve jammed parchment paper into and into the oven.


That’s it. Panforte keeps for weeks. Before you serve it, sprinkle powdered sugar mixed with some spices on top for a snowy christmas look. Small ones make lovely gifts. Or you can do like I do and cut a big one in quarters–makes it easier to keep a bit for yourself. Last year we had panforte with oranges as our pre-dessert (or maybe post-dessert dessert? I can’t remember, but I know there were multiple desserts and cookies and pies were in there somewhere).



(recipe provided by my lovely mother–thanks mom!)

note: I made a double batch, so the amounts you see in the pictures will be different than yours. Also, this recipe doubles easily :)

  • 1 lb mixed dried fruit (you have to have a lot of figs, but other than that most everything is fair game. I used black mission figs, calamata figs, apricots, dates, cherries, and candied orange peel.)
  • 1 lb mixed nuts (about 1/2 lb should be almonds and then, again, anything goes. I used almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspooon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cloves (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Toast nuts at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Use a different pan for each kind of nut because they all toast at different rates. Check them often. When they are toasty throughout, they’re done!

2. Mix nuts and fruit together. Do not chop! Everything is kept whole.

3. In a bowl mix together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.  Take 1 Tablespoon of the mix out and reserve for sprinkling on top.

4. Add flour, cocoa, and black pepper to spice mix.

5. Add flour/spice mixture to fruit/nut mixture. Mix well.

6. In a saucepan bring sugar and honey to a boil. Boil for one minute.

7. Pour over fruit and nuts. Mix well. All the flour must be hydrated–make sure there are no little floury bits at the bottom.

8. Put parchment in a round pan (a 9 or 10 in springform pan works really well, but anything will work) and butter well.

9. Press the panforte into the pan. It should be no more than 1 to 2  inches thick.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

11. Mix powdered sugar with the reserved spices. Sift over the top.

12. To eat the panforte slice into 1/4 inch (or thinner even!) slices. Enjoy!

slice of panforte


the kids’ christmas tree

xeroxed christmas tree

Instead of one big tree last year, we had two little trees: one for the living room and one for the kids room. They loved falling asleep by the tree glowing with twinkle lights (and I did too). But this year the baby moved in and now there are three kids sleeping in this little room. So instead of a real tree, I went to Kinko’s printed one out.

colored paper tree

I found a copyright free image of a tree on pinterest and emailed it to kinko’s (I know it’s fedex now, but it’ll always be kinkos to me). They printed out a 36 x48 black and white copy on their plotter (i.e. big ass printer). It cost me all of 9 bucks! It turned out even better than I had hoped, which I was kind of disappointed about.

See I wanted something super low quality and grainy–when I tried to explain this to my local print shop, they could not understand it (hence kinkos). I think the image I used was too big. Next time I’ll blow up something smaller. Or blow an image up even bigger! I think this print would make a pretty fantastic temporary tree. Say, if you are going to grandma’s for christmas and don’t want to spend 50 bucks on a real tree.

kinkos christmas tree

We put the tree up yesterday and the kids and I colored it. Today we’re planning on making ornaments. I think I’ll let the kids go crazy with construction paper, then tape them to the tree. I’ll be sure to take a picture when it’s done. I’m guessing you won’t be able to see the tree anymore.


**oh while I was in the kids’ room the light was good, so I took a bunch of photos. The room isn’t done, done, but it’s as done as it’s going to be for a while. So would you like the big before/after thing now or should I wait until January?

advent activities

pompom garland and my christmas tree

Today is the first day of advent! Did you make your advent calendar yet? We are still using the string of lights advent calendar I made a few years ago. I put activities in each of the little bulbs and I love it. I write up the activity the night before (surprise your kids, not yourself!) and all the projects keep me on task for christmas.  If cookies need to be made, or christmas cards written, or gifts wrapped it’s going to happen if it is in the advent calendar–the 4 and 6 year olds will demand it!

A friend of mine (hi Ellen!) asked me to write up a little list of activities she could use, so here they are! I divided them into effort needed, because sometimes you really need to drink some (spiked) eggnog while the kids watch a movie.

meringue snowmen

big projects

gingerbread mobile

little projects


if it’s cold and snowy projects


snowman coloring page

phoning it in projects

  • hot chocolate with marshmallows
  • call grandma and grandpa
  • dress up like an elf/santa/wise man/christmas tree
  • dance to christmas music
  • camp out under the tree (this may or may not be an easy one)
  • color christmasy pictures–oh look I have a bunch right here
  • look at pictures from christmases past
  • I think one year I actually wrote down “eat christmas cookies” for an activity

our little christmas tree

for the whole family

  • drive around looking at chrismtas lights
  • dress up in your fanciest for dinner
  • make popcorn and watch a christmas movie
  • go see the nutcracker/christmas carol/holiday concert
  • cut down a christmas tree/ put up your christmas tree
  • decorate the tree!
  • put up lights outside
  • go for a evening walk

string of lights advent calendar

This list is my no means exhaustive. Some of these we do every year, some are new ones I’d like to try. Do you have any christmas activities or projects for advent? I’m always on the look out for good ones.

a fab felt holiday by betz white


It’s hard for me to get full on christmas crazy until after thanksgiving, but that time is just a 12 lb turkey away. I do have a few christmasy things made already, thanks to the fabulous Betz White. Betz asked me to take a look at her online course: A Fab Felt Holiday, do a project or two, and tell you all about it (and offer you, dear readers, $10 off)

pointsettia patterns

I’ve never taken an online crafts course before, which is ridiculous because they are super awesome. You can sit at your kitchen table with some coffee and bits of felt and Betz will sit right there next to you and tell you how to make an adorable gingerbread houses and humongous snowflakes and poinsettia brooches (and lots more).

felt pointsettia brooch

Betz’s course is from Craftsy, which I hadn’t heard of before, which is also ridiculous because it is fantastic.  Craftsy’s focus is on well produced video classes and tutorials. And they are very well done. Fab Felt Holiday course has 7 projects with a video tutorial for each that you can watch and pause and skip ahead and use however you like. You can also ask Betz questions while you watch and take notes too–Craftsy has got it all covered.

felt pointsettias

I chose to make the poinsettia brooches (obviously). I printed out the template at 100%, 75% and 50%. The 50% was a frustratingly small, but everything tiny is adorable.  I like the original size, but not everyone is crazy for a big, big brooch–75% is the way to go for those people. All these felt flowers have a pin back so you can put them on your winter coat, but you can also slip a ribbon through the closed pin and use them as gift toppers: 2 gifts in one! Put one on top of a little box of cookies and you have a pretty fantastic teacher gift.

felt pointsettias

To see more fabulous felt holiday projects, check out all of the stops on the Fab Felt Holiday tour. Or just go buy the course and make your own!

Week of October 3rd: A Sewing Journal
Week of October 10th: House on Hill Road
Week of October 31st: Maureen Cracknell Handmade
Week of November 7th and 14th: Stumbles & Stitches
Week of November 21st: Elsie Marley

christmas cookies

christmas cookies close up

There have been some lovely things coming out of the oven these days. I always tell myself I won’t make a thousand kinds of cookies this year, but then well: there are the ones I always make and the ones my mom used to make and the favorite ones from last year and the new recipe I found this year. I kind of like getting carried away, but the problem is that I tend to favor the extra complicated cookies at christmastime and I come away never wanting to see another cookie again. This year that hasn’t happened. yet.

christmas cookies

fig pinwheels: these were a favorite from a few years back but they are less exciting to me now. The dough is super delicious, but the filling is too figgy. I think next year I’ll make it with dates and orange peel.

english toffee: always good.

hazelnut thumbprints: I made these last year and didn’t give any away because they were so good. This year I made a double batch (so I could share) and filled them all with apricot jam.

basler brunsli: I think these are Swiss cookies? They are chocolate and almond and rum and so grown up and wonderful. I’m going to share the recipe with you next week.

alfajores: this was a new one for me this year and blazzam! they are amazing. Two little flaky cookies, like barely sweetened pie crust with dulche de leche inside. awesome.

mexican hot chocolate cookies: these are new to me too and they are lame. The cookies are boring and not spicy at all. Oh well, there has to be one crummy recipe every year.

gingerbread and ganache sandwich men: I think gingerbread and chocolate are the best together, so I made these little sandwiches. How could they not be good?

cookies packaged up

All of the cookies I’ve made so far are packaged up and ready to go, but I’m working on another list: christmas cookies just for us. So far I have down these (which I make every year) and these (which are a perfect new twist on an old christmas favorite).