A bright and welcoming sunroom is spruced up for the holidays.
With the holiday season is upon us, make the most of this month by tackling these tasks.
As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year – and it only lasts a few weeks. Avoid seasonal stress by staying organized and having realistic expectations of what you can achieve. To help you make the most of the holiday season, here are 10 things to do this December.
1 Clean out the freezer
It's all too easy to let food accumulate in the freezer – and before long, not only is it too crowded to make room for more, but there are items in the back that should probably be thrown away. Set aside some time to organize your freezer – you may be amazed at what you'll find in there.
2 Make a wreath
Not only is a wreath on the front door inviting, but it really makes a house look like a home. If you've got the time, add a personal touch to your outdoor decor by making your own instead of buying one. And if you're really feeling inspired, make two and give the second to a friend as an early Christmas gift.
3 Get organized for gift wrapping
To save time during the hectic Christmas shopping season, set up a gift-wrapping station in an out-of-the-way spot in your home -- it will make it easy to wrap gifts as you buy them, and you won't be hunting around the house for the scissors, silver ribbon or gift tags. If you haven't got the space for a separate gift-wrapping table, put all your supplies in a couple of wicker baskets in the closet or under the bed for easy access.
4 Decorate the kitchen
Don't limit your holiday accents to the living room and entryway -- think about ways you can bring the spirit of the season into every room, including the kitchen. Try decorating the windowsill with candles and cedar boughs, putting a miniature Christmas tree on a shelf or draping doorways with garlands. For a finishing touch, simmer spices in water on the back of the stove to infuse your home with the comforting scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
5 Cook up some appetizers
Get ready for guests – whether expected or impromptu – by preparing a selection of appetizers ahead of time. Just pick recipes that can be made in advance and frozen, and you could have a season's worth of hors d'oeuvres ready in an afternoon.
6 Host a cookie exchange
Rather than devoting hours of free time to baking each of your favourite holiday treats, arrange an exchange with friends and family. Organize it so that each person bakes a different type of cookie, enough to share around with everyone in the group. Don't forget to make a few extras to serve while everyone's exchanging the goods!
7 Hang some mistletoe
The custom of kissing under the mistletoe is said to come from an ancient Scandinavian tradition that when enemies met in the forest under mistletoe, they were to lay down their arms and observe a truce for the following day. Continue the tradition by hanging mistletoe in your home during the holiday season – and spread peace and goodwill among your guests.
8 Donate to the food bank
During this season of feasting, remember those who are less fortunate by bringing non-perishable food items or a monetary donation to your local food bank. Consider offering your time, as well, to help sort donations or perform other necessary tasks.
9 Let in the fresh air
It may be getting chilly outside, but that's no reason to keep the windows locked tight. Shutting up the house lets indoor pollutants accumulate, especially if it's fairly new and therefore airtight. Let in the cool, crisp air of early winter by opening the windows for a few minutes daily – longer if the weather is cooperating – and enjoy the fresh scent of a well-aired home.
10 Make homemade eggnog
Eggnog is so rich and sinfully delicious, it's probably a good thing we don't drink it all year round. So don't settle for nog in a carton – it's easy to make your own, and the results are well worth the time spent.
Goji berries are small red fruits supercharged with antioxidants and ideal for enjoying in the summer!
Enjoy this healthy smoothie supercharged with antioxidants.
Serve your guests these delicious and oh-so-simple to make chocolate tarts!
Enjoy these simple to make and easy to customize chocolate mascarpone tarts
We’ve all been at a dinner party and witnessed the dessert snub – a guest’s nose not-so-subtly turned up at something the host or hostess has laboured over. That will never be the case with these delectable mini tarts, thank you very much. Simple to make and easy to customize, they come with options to suit every palate. We’ll raise a dessert fork to that!
1 To make the pastry, beat the butter with the sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy; beat in the egg yolk and vanilla until combined.
2 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until smooth.
3 Divide the pastry among eight 4" mini tart pans with removable bottoms, pressing the pastry into the bottoms and up the sides of the pans; prick the bottoms all over with a fork.
4 Refrigerate the pastry shells on a rimmed baking sheet until chilled, about 30 minutes.
5 Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line each shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 8 minutes. Gently remove the weights and foil; continue to bake the shells until the pastry is no longer shiny, about 10 minutes more. Let the shells cool in the pans on a rack.
6 Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream in three additions. Divide the mascarpone mixture among separate small bowls. Add your flavourings of choice and scoop the mascarpone filling into the tart shells.
7 Add your desired toppings; serve.
Makes: 8 tarts
Try one of our four favourite flavours
1 Double Raspberry: Fold a dash of raspberry liqueur into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
2 Rose & Pistachio: Stir rosewater into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with edible rose petals and chopped toasted pistachios.
3 Mocha: Leave the mascarpone filling as is; top the tart with chocolate-covered espresso beans and white chocolate shavings.
4 Pomegranate Mint: Add a few drops of mint extract into the mascarpone filling; top the tart with pomegranate seeds.
Have fun experimenting with your own flavour combinations - the possibilities are endless!
These tasty cocktails are perfect for your next party. Image by: Janis Nicolay
Learn to make these tasty signature cocktails for your next holiday party.
You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you’ve been taking secret bartending lessons. Word to the wise: Leave the fancy bottle spins to the professionals.
1 The Welder
Pour the whisky, Aperol, lemon juice and chili syrup into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled lowball glass and top with the chili pepper.
2 Brandy Crusta
Prepare a rock glass by moistening the rim with a touch of the lemon juice and dipping it in the sugar. Combine the cognac, curaçao, more lemon juice and the bitters in a shaker. Shake and strain into the glass. Add 1 ice cube and the lemon peel garnish.
3 Jamaican Honey Soother
Directions: Pour the rum, honey and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a coupette cocktail glass.
4 Dark & Stormy
Directions: Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the spiced rum and then top it off with the ginger beer. Stir, and garnish with the lime wedge.