Monday, December 20, 2010

Gifts for/from Gramma

I’ve been the lucky recipient of some wonderful mail this month.  Yes there are lots of cards and pictures and letters from family and friends each of which is read and displayed. 

But so far, my favourites have been these:



3 amazing Christmas drawings from Grandboy K (the top one had pictures on both sides)



This one from Grandboy E – his own idea for a gift for Gramma.

He sent me gift tags to be used when I wrapped my presents.  As you can see, they have “From Gramma” on the top and then the word “To:” and a line for the recipient’s name.

I used them on the gifts I wrapped and was so thrilled with the thoughtfulness of both boys as they sent their love and Christmas wishes to a very happy Gramma.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A new perspective on entertaining.

As many of your know, we’ve been in the process of renovating our 35 year old house. I thought you might be interested to see the difference in how our dining room looks now.

These were taken several years ago

Christmas 07 New years eve 009

Note the shag carpet, chair rail and paneled wall.

Christmas 07 New years eve 007

Before pictures 001

This picture shows the new floor we put in last year.

Now that we’ve taken out the 9 foot patio door and enclosed the covered patio this is how it looks.


As you can see we have a lot more room – here the table is set for sixteen.


There is so much more light and we feel like we are sitting outside in the garden.


Looking into the room with my back to the new windows.


We brought up an old cabinet that we’d bought when we were first married, cleaned it up and use it now as a cabinet to store wine and glassware.

And, we finally laid the carpet down that we’d bought just for this room last year when we were in Istanbul. (This room was just a dream then)

The table will normally be set up where it was before the addition but when we want to make the table bigger, we can now turn it and accomodate more people. We are very happy with the way it looks and when we had company on Sunday, we loved the extra space for entertaining.

We’ll still need to find some upholstered chairs so that we can sit and look out into the yard and enjoy the birds and flowers this spring. But I for one am thrilled to have this much done.

The next phase will be replacing the rest of the flooring in the house. Hopefully we can start that early in the New Year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I mentioned in my last blog post that my niece Monica and I were making Pfeffernuesse or Peppernuts. There's a bit of history to these tiny spiced cookies. I remember being told that Mennonite grandmothers used to keep a few peppernuts in their purses during church services. When the children would become a bit noisy or restless, they would pop one of these hard nuggets into their mouths and the necessity of sucking the hard cookie and the surprising spiciness would distract the child and silence was achieved.
They are always number one on the list of Christmas favourites at our house and they can become a bit addictive.
There are many recipes for Peffernuesse but this is my favourite. My friend Delores made them and I adjusted the spices to my liking.
It's a big recipe and I usually only make half of it. This year because Monica is staying with us and she was eager to help I decided to mix up the whole amount. When a bowl of Pfeffernuesse are on the table they disappear by the handful and a pretty Christmas tin filled with Pfeffernuesse is always a welcome gift.
    Here is the recipe I use - it is easily halved if the whole amount is intimidating:

  • 4 cups Roger's Golden syrup (this is different than corn syrup)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups margarine
  • 2 cups milk
  1. Combine the above ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Let mixture cool completely before continuing.
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp. peppermint extract (use the clear extract not the green tinted one)
  1. Beat eggs in a small bowl and add extracts. Set aside.
  • 8 - 9 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground star anise (not anise seed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Place 7 cups flour in a large mixer bowl.
  2. Add spices and baking powder and stir until completely blended with flour.
  3. Add syrup mixture to the flour, stirring well until blended.
  4. Add beaten egg mixture and continue to stir until blended.
  5. Continue to add flour until dough thickens but remains sticky. You will still be able to stir it with a wooden spoon however it will take a bit of strength. I use around 8 1/2 cups flour but this may vary depending on your flour. Please note that the dough will harden considerably once it has been refrigerated so be careful not to add too much flour.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight or for several days.

  7. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. These cookies will stick to the pan whereas if you use parchment paper, they will just slide right off and you can reuse the paper.
  8. Take a tablespoon and spoon out a good handful of the dough.
  9. Sprinkle a little flour on your counter and roll the dough into a long rope about the thickness of your ring finger.
  10. Using a bench scraper or pizza cutter, cut the rope into 1/2 inch pieces and place on your prepared pans. (I get 99 cookies on each large cookie sheet)
  11. Bake at 350ยบ for about 15 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown. This is where having a convection oven comes in handy as you can bake 2 or 3 cookie sheets at a time.
  12. Remove from pan and cool. Store in ice cream pails in a cool place.
  13. The Pfeffernuesse will keep for a long time - at least 3 or 4 months.

      Monica rolled the dough into long ropes and cut the pieces while placed them on the pans. I had to get out my pizza pans to accomodate the volume of cookies.
      This whole recipe makes about 1600 Pfeffernuesse but my prediction is that they will be gone before January is over.

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      It's December and...

      It's December .. is it already the 7th? ... and there are still few signs of Christmas at our house. On the other hand things are happening here. Our home renovations are actually happening and with luck our dining room addition will be finished by the end of the week.

      So... I've been dusting and cleaning and dusting and cleaning again. A crew of drywallers came to put up the sheets of dry wall and used a ROUTER!! of all things to cut it to size and didn't bother to put up any poly to protect my existing dining room so everything was covered in a 1/4" of dry wall dust. I think it took me 3 hours to wipe and then wash everything down. The fellow who did the taping and mudding won my heart when he tightly wrapped the dining room off from the addition and also draped poly over my living room furniture before he started sanding. Then Harv did the painting and yesterday the flooring guys were here to install the hardwood floor. So... more dust - this time sawdust - not near as thick and a bit easier to clean up.

      Hopefully our finish carpenter friend will be by tomorrow or Thursday to finish the window trim, baseboards and crown molding. Then the dirty work will be done and we can finally start to put up a touch of Christmas.

      I have mixed my Pfeffernuesse (tiny nutlike cookies called Peppernuts) and my niece, Monica and I will roll, cut and bake them tonight. There is also a rapidly growing pile of packages and bags on the bed in the extra bedroom ready to be wrapped and sent to the grandkids. So we are remembering that Christmas is coming and although the house may not be decorated, I am preparing my heart for this wonderful season.

      It is the "away" year for our family this Christmas when our kids spend Christmas Day with their in laws so it's not as crucial to have the house completely decked out for which I am very thankful. With all that's been going on at our house this year, that would seem an overwhelming task. I'll post a few before and after photos as soon as it's done.

      I hope you are all preparing for Christmas - not only the tree, the decorations, gifts and baking but more importantly that your hearts are ready for the advent of Christ's coming.