Add these tasty thumbprint cookies to your holiday baking list! Credits: Maya Visnyei
Try this decadently delicious spin on the traditional thumbprint cookie.
Offering a twist on a classic is something that comes up a lot in the Style at Home offices, but it’s never been as yummy as this. Our take on these traditional holiday cookies replaces the usual jam with three of our favourite sweet spreads – pure genius, if we do say so ourselves.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 In a large bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger and salt; stir into the butter mixture just until the ingredients are combined and come together to form a dough.
4 Shape the dough into thirty-six 1" balls.*
5 Arrange 1" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball, leaving an indentation; pinch together any cracks around the edges.
6 Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
7 When the cookies are cool, spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the well of each one.
*To roll the cookies in nuts, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoon water until frothy; place finely chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts) in a bowl. Using a fork, dip each dough ball into the egg mixture, then into the nuts to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed. To dust with cocoa or cinnamon, roll the dough balls into either cinnamon or cocoa powder, shaking off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed.
Makes: 3 dozen cookies
Follow these simple tips to keep clutter at bay and keep your home looking effortlessly organized.
Piles of bills on the kitchen counter, DVDs strewn about the living room and a beautiful antique dining room tabletop that's buried under piles of paper. Oh, and you can't find your gym pass either.
Can you relate to the above scenario? If so, you and your loved ones may slowly be drowning in a giant pile of clutter.
Clutter can be a big weight on the state of your mental health. "Clutter is like pollution. It's all-pervasive: It's in your thoughts, in your way, in your space. It robs you of peace of mind and that feeling of being at home," says Kristie Demke, President of Professional Organizers in Canada. "It can also rob you of time," she adds, "because you spend a lot more time moving things to dust, sweep and vacuum around. And, you spend more time looking for things."
Many of us dream of neat and tidy rooms like those showcased in our favourite design magazines like Style at Home. Here are 10 quick and easy ways to start clearing out the clutter in your home.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
1 Identify clutter hot spots
Kitchens attract mail pile-ups, home offices store endless piles of bills. Books and hand cream samples seem to love night tables and the weekend's newspaper becomes a permanent fixture on your living room floor. Once you identify your clutter hot spots, consider purchasing an attractive basket to house items you like to have at your fingertips. But remember, a basket can organize chaos for a while, but will also need a frequent purge a few times a month to avoid pile up.
Purge and do it often. Why are you using up valuable space storing that mixing bowl set you think your niece might want when she leaves for university in a few years? Go through your stuff and think about the last time you used it, why you're keeping it around and if it would be more useful somewhere else. After your first few big purging sessions, you won't need to go at your storage closet so frequently (and ruthlessly).
We all have important keepsakes we don't know what to do with and purging these can be difficult, but don't keep these things buried in the bottom of a box in your garage. Find a space in your home where you can show off its beauty and take good, constant care of it. "There's really no point in owning something if you can't use it," Kristie says.
3 Deal with a little every day
This may be the hardest tip to follow, but it's by far the best. Focusing a mere 15 minutes of your day on clearing clutter will make your life a whole lot easier (and your house a whole lot tidier)! When you're finished your bowl of cereal, put the dish in the dishwasher right away, rather than placing it in the sink. When you get home from work, deal with your mail immediately. File away bills and recycle junk mail then and there. If you have the luxury of half an hour, says Kristie, you can manage to sort through a closet of clothing, determining what you don't need anymore. If you don't let things pile up, your home will be a lot tidier and cleaning up much less of a daunting task.
4 Stay focused
When you're taking on a clutter-busting task, it's important to be energized and focused. Even if you're just spending 15 minutes on cleaning off your desk, ignore the buzz of your Blackberry and the ping of your e-mail inbox. Just focus on the task at hand so you can be done with it once and for all.
5 Look at the big picture
It's hard to decide on the fate of a beloved old sweater when you're looking at it on its own, but when you put it beside all your new ones, you may notice that it's stretched out of shape, faded and really, you wouldn't be caught dead in it in public. Conundrum solved!
6 Make use of unused space
You can add hooks over your bedroom and bathroom doors, bins and baskets on closet floors, storage bins under your bed, and bulletin boards and file pockets to your office walls. Be creative when looking at unused space and it can become a great new place to store items out of the way.
7 Get your kids involved
"Kids come with a lot of accessories," Kristie says, "so you have to be pretty vigilant to make sure you stay on top of it." Kristie recommends sitting down with your kids for an hour every month to sort through what they have, then storing or donating what is no longer being played with. "And make sure whatever storage you have is at their height and within their ability [to use]," she adds. "Even a toddler can put away soft toys into a bin if it's at the right height."
8 Identify a place for things
So you knit, sew, run, bike ride, cook and have two dogs. Your hobbies require you to actually own stuff, and therefore have created a good deal of clutter. "You really have to identify an amount of space - a place - for things. If you have a dog, make sure the leash and bags are all kept in one area," Kristie advises. In finding a home for your hobbies, you may discover you don't have room for all of them, helping you to identify which ones should be a priority.
9 File things ... now
Kristie says that one of the best organizing investments is a filing cabinet. Just think: All of those piles of papers in your home office can be put away in mere moments. And you won't spend hours of your precious time trying to locate your donation receipts come tax time. Don't worry, not all filing cabinets are of the old, stacked metal variety. You can find ones with classy design elements at places like West Elm, Ikea and Pottery Barn.
10 Give away
Dedicate a specific spot in your house or garage for giveaway items, and place a box there. When you come across something you no longer need or want, you can discard it to the giveaway spot immediately, rather than setting it back down and forgetting about it. Plan a monthly trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army drop-off location to get rid of the goods you no longer have room for.
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.
Lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs gives her home a fresh look for Christmas. Credits: Tracey Ayton
For lifestyle blogger Monika Hibbs, Christmas is all about sentiment and style. Here are 12 ways she pulls off a fresh look filled with meaning to commemorate a family milestone.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without family and tradition, sure, but in Monika Hibbs’s home, Christmas also wouldn’t be complete without her signature styling. Based just outside of Fort Langley, B.C., the blogger, who has quickly become a master of holiday decor, switches up her style almost every year. But regardless of the theme, these aspects always remain: A classic look and neutral scheme, metallic touches, a hint of whimsy and sheer covetability. Seasonal styling is a talent Monika has honed since she was a little girl. “Even when I was young, I loved adorning the tree and wrapping gifts,” she says. “Plus, my mom always let me be in charge of floral arrangements and tablescapes.”
Now that Monika has her own family (including hubby Troy, three-year-old Liam and 11- month-old Lillya), she shares the tasks with her children. “Liam’s really into it,” says Monika. “He decorates cookies, hangs ornaments and arranges the manger.” Though Lillya is too young to get involved, her arrival just two weeks before last Christmas inspired the entire feminine theme, executed with dusty rose-hued accents like tea light holders, wrapping paper and delicate raw silk ribbon.
Holiday decorating with the kids isn’t the only tradition the Hibbses have – they enjoy hot chocolate by their outdoor fireplace in the evenings and always make time for charity. But a highlight is taking the Bright Nights Christmas Train through Stanley Park with Troy’s family. “There’s around 60 of us – we fill the whole train,” says Monika, noting that the park is lit with millions of lights – perhaps the perfect place for this family-oriented champion of Christmas who also happens to have a penchant for sparkle.
1 Lifestyle blogger and unofficial queen of fresh and elegant holiday decor Monika Hibbs has three main tips for trimming a tree: Start with a colour scheme (“You don’t have to use every ornament in your box – save the ones that don’t suit your theme for another year,” she advises); instead of buying one-off ornaments, go for groups of three for visual impact; and organize them by category (like glass balls or felted figures) before hanging them to ensure balanced distribution.
2 “There’s something special about a fire this time of year,” says Monika. The one here in her family room is not the only staple flame of the season – tea lights are strewn on surfaces throughout the house, and the outdoor fireplace plays host to many a morning coffee or evening cocoa. “I love a fire’s warmth and random crackles, which add to the magic of the holidays.”
3 Style meets sentiment in chic pieces that commemorate family milestones, such as the decorative houses arranged on Monika’s fireplace mantel. “Each one represents a huge moment for us, from the purchase of our first home to the construction of this one,” she says. “And I write a note on the bottom of each so I never forget.”
4 Monika doesn’t switch out much of her everyday decor come Christmastime. In fact, furniture placement, artwork and accents mostly stay the same, save for a few toss cushions that get traded for more festive ones.
5 When it comes to garlands, Monika goes all out: She orders a massive length of fresh cedar (last year it was 75 feet!) to string along her banister, mantel, exterior trim and garage. She starts by measuring everything she wants to adorn and then adds an extra foot of cedar for every four feet to accommodate swag. Here, the garland is garnished with eucalyptus, cypress, pine cones and raw silk bows with cascading tails for a fresh, feminine look.
6 “You don’t need to cook an entire sit-down dinner for each of the season’s many parties,” says Monika, who prefers to prep for a holiday drop-in with comfort foods like homemade apple pie. “It’s elegant but cozy,” she explains.
7 Roses may be unconventional Christmas flowers, but they’re perfectly suited to Monika’s pretty-in-pink theme. “Originally, I wanted this piece to be a garland that wrapped around the whole range hood,” says Monika. “But it didn’t look right, so I downsized the idea. It’s perfect proof that sometimes less is more.”
8 A simple wreath hung with thick ribbon serves as another example of less is more and offers a wink of holiday spirit in an otherwise unadorned area.
9 Sparkling rosé served in pink champagne coupes underscores the holiday colour scheme, while whimsical details like frozen-rose ice cubes and sugared cranberries are easy and inexpensive ways to add serious wow factor.
10 No matter her holiday scheme, Monika tends to stick to neutrals when picking gift wrap. “I usually choose paper with subtle patterns, such as snowflakes or polka dots,” she says. “But I always wrap the kids’ presents in something more playful.”
11 Born six weeks after the Hibbses moved into this house and two weeks before Christmas, baby Lillya was the main source of inspiration for the home’s festive decor last year, marked by the powder pink and dusty rose accents with feminine touches. Monika purchased the “Hello Lovely” ornament in honour of Lillya’s birth to serve as a beautiful reminder of when they welcomed her into the world.
12 From the Fort Langley, B.C., shopping bag to the plaid scarf and blanket to the warm winter boots and even the skull mount, there’s always a hint of Canadiana in Monika’s winter decor.