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Tag Archives: All Things Christmas

Decorating for the holidays: Evergreen arrangements

Decorating for the holidays: Evergreen arrangements

 

fresh evergreen arrangement

fresh evergreen arrangement

 

You know, so many of us have artificial Christmas trees these days. For most of us, it’s a case of saving money and having a tree that doesn’t dry out over the season. It is also a matter of convenience.  Less hassle to have an artificial tree and we don’t have to worry about straight trunks or the tree having a “bad side” to it.

But, we’ve sacrificed one of the best things about having a live tree in our homes: The rich scent of the Christmas tree, whether of pine or fir.

So, how to have our cake and eat it too??

Well, if you are like me, buying those room sprays or even candles often doesn’t duplicate the true scent of a Christmas tree adequately. Many of them are close, but not quite on the mark.

One of the best ways to add an authentic scent to the air is to add floral arrangements made of evergreen cuttings.

Now, most of us have a pine tree, spruces, cedars, junipers, or firs growing in our yards. If we don’t, we can find the greens relatively easily. Most Christmas tree farms offer either free branches cut from the bottoms of the trees for customers when they purchase their trees. That, or they will charge a nominal fee for cuttings.

Whichever way you gather these evergreen cuttings, if you prep them before using them, you can add authentic Christmas scent to your home.

Start with fresh cuttings. Be sure to use a sharp pair of pruners to cut the end pieces of the stems–be forewarned, though; the cut ends often will leak a little sticky sap. You might wish to use gloves when cutting.

Once cut, plunge the cuttings in water for several hours for them to take up water. By plunge, I mean submerge them.

In the meantime, gather the glass bowls, vases, or baskets you intend to use for your arrangements.  You can use empty small butter or sour cream containers, cut floral foam to fit tightly, and add to baskets or other non-waterproof containers. You can later on hide the foam and container with a little moss.  Remove and soak the foam until saturated, place back in the container.

Remove the cuttings and cut again: About 1/4 of an inch.

Starting at the outside with the longest branches, add branches all the way around the base of the foam. Add progressively shorter stems, working your way into the middle. You can add other decorative touches such as a flameless candle in the center, some ornaments, some cones and ribbons.

Keep the arrangement misted and do not allow the foam to dry out. If you find a few branches are brittle or browning, you can remove and replace the stems with fresh cuttings treated the same way.

These arrangements, if kept watered and misted, will last up to a month and will hold their fragrance well.

Basic Homemade Buttercream Candies

Basic Homemade Buttercream Candies


Buttercreams


You know those fancy chocolates with the flavored centers that we give and receive for the holidays? How about trying your hand at making  a few of these buttercreams this holiday season instead? They aren’t that difficult to make and you can add the flavors you like to them.

Here are two basic buttercream recipes you can try. These are the foundation for the candies. All you need to do is to vary the flavors and if you wish, you can tint some of the centers as well.

Use a good quality chocolate coating on these. If you have candy coatings available, I’ve found that mixing them with real chocolate bumps it up a notch and adds a better consistency and flavor to the chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Covered Buttercream Candy Recipe I

4 cups powdered sugar
*1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1. Combine these four ingredients and mix well until smooth and firm. Add more sugar as necessary to make a firm mixture that will hold its shape.

2. Form into balls and place on waxed paper covered trays. Chill.

3. In the top of a double boiler, melt 2 cups of chocolate chips or pieces, 1 Tablespoon of butter, and 5 drops of vanilla. Alternatively, use a good quality candy coating in dark or milk chocolate. Add real dark or milk chocolate to it and melt for a better flavor and coating. This is what I use.

4. Dip the buttercream balls in the chocolate and place on waxed paper covered trays to set. Chill if desired to set faster.

*Note: You can add orange extract, almond, coconut, peppermint extract, maple, or any other flavor you desire. You can also tint the centers. Just decrease the vanilla or eliminate it. For example, use 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp of another extract. Or one tsp of extract of choice–for stronger flavors, add 1/2 tsp of extract at a time and taste-test first.  Keep in mind that the flavor fully  develops after a day or so.

Chocolate Covered Buttercream Candy Recipe II

1 pkg. (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 c. confectioners’ sugar or more to make a fairly stiff mixture
*1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl until smooth. Blend in sugar and vanilla. Chill 1 hour – shape into 1 inch balls and chill overnight. Coat as above.

*Note: You can add orange extract, almond, peppermint extract, maple, or any other flavor you desire. You can also tint the centers. Just decrease the vanilla or eliminate it. For example, use 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp of another extract. Or one tsp of extract of choice–for stronger flavors, add 1/2 tsp of extract at a time and taste-test first.  Keep in mind that the flavor fully  develops after a day or so.  You can also flavor with 1/2 vanilla, 1/2 coconut and add finely shredded coconut to the mixture before dipping the centers.