Friday 30 November 2012

Christmas Baking!

I stepped away from my Facebook page a while back because my posts were being shown to an ever-declining number of people and I was having to work harder and harder to maintain a decent level of engagement with my subscribers.  

I kind of missed the point though:  I enjoy my daily interactions with the people who do see my posts and with the pages I follow.  I felt lonely without them.


I'm returning to Aunt B's Kitchen.  I may not post as regularly as I used to, and I'll try hard to remember that it's not about the numbers, but I'm glad to be back.  I missed my FB friends!

I'm celebrating by hosting a cookie party at Aunt B's Kitchen today.  Do come and join in the fun and share your favourite cookie recipe.  I'll be pinning them to a cookie party board on Pinterest too.

The cookie party idea came to me because, last December, I shared twenty-four baking recipes here between December 1 and December 24.  I'm going to share another twenty-four this year, starting tomorrow.  First, though, I'm going to list last year's recipes all in one place.  I thought you might appreciate an easy reference tool.  :)

Here are the recipes I posted in December 2011.  Click on the link below each photo to go directly to the page.  

Enjoy the recipes and I'll see you at the party!  

Tuesday 20 November 2012

It's Christmas Card Time

It's Christmas card time again.  

People are sending fewer cards than they used to and it makes me kind of sad.  I love finding a card in my mailbox.  So much more fun than the usual bills and pizza flyers!  A card not only provides something pretty to add to my holiday decor but also demonstrates that someone took the time and effort to think of me.  Cards make me smile, whenever I receive them.

If you are still sending Christmas cards, thank you.  

If you make your Christmas cards, good for you!  You'll be thinking about that project right now.  Perhaps you've already decided upon a theme and a design.  

If you'd like to make cards, but aren't sure where to begin, maybe this post will help.  I'm sharing some card making tips I've learned over the years, together with some links you will find useful.

When designing cards, first decide how many you wish to make and send. The general rule of thumb is that the more the cards you are making, the simpler the design should be.  

If you're sending just a few cards, by all means bring on the bells and whistles.  Make your card as elaborate as you wish.  (Consider it a small gift rather than simply a greeting.)  

If you're making a lot of cards, you'll want a simple design that can be put together assembly line style so that you can complete them all in a single crafting session.

Choose your envelopes before beginning work on your card.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but there's nothing more frustrating than realizing you have to hand make sixty envelopes on a deadline because your cards won't fit into any of the envelopes at the office supply store.  It's much better to buy the envelopes and then tailor your cards to fit them.

Your card might not fit through the printer by the time you're finished with it. Avoid frustration by printing or stamping the greeting on the inside of your card before you begin embellishing the outside.  

Look for found materials you can incorporate into your designs.  Illustrations cut from last year's cards, magazine photos, bits of wrapping paper and ribbon, foil wrappers from candies, sheet music, and old book pages all have potential.

If you have the time and inclination, you can even use your old magazines to make new paper.  Kids love doing this.  You'll find clear, simple instructions for making paper at

Try to keep your card design as flat as possible.  Bows and other dimensional embellishments are pretty, but they will make your card more expensive to mail. 

Hand cut snowflakes made from any of your found materials provide quick, seasonal decoration that won't add a lot of thickness to the finished card. SaiFou Images has published an excellent photo guide to snowflake patterns.

Get your kids involved.  Handprint and footprint projects are always fun, as are kids' drawings and paintings, poems, and collages.  If you pre-print a sentiment inside your cards and then let the kids work on them, they may take care of the whole project for you. Card recipients will be charmed by their work.

This owl thumbprint card from Kids Artists is a wonderful example of Christmas art children can make.

Your children will also enjoy making watercolour and salt paintings to use as background paper for your Christmas cards.  You can find instructions at Simple Kids.

You can find wonderful free printables and clip art images for card making on line.  (Please respect copyrights.) 

When choosing a printable or a photo, look for an image with lots of white space (because it'll use less ink), or choose a black and white image that can be printed on a photocopier. 

One of my favourite sites for free clip art images is Graphics Fairy.  A quick search yielded more than 200 vintage Christmas images, including this wonderful tree.

If you're looking for something more contemporary Pampers, Play Dates and Parties has compiled an excellent round-up of printables, including this subway art from Balancing Home.

If you plan to make a photo card, shop around and get your pictures printed commercially. It's almost always less expensive than printing them yourself.  

Rather than choosing a pre-printed, cut out photo frame card, choose a pretty card stock or pre-made, folded blank card, and glue your photo on the front.  Merriment Design offers a good tutorial on making photo cards, together with an A-2 size envelope template you can use if you feel inclined to make your envelopes yourself. 

Have fun making your cards! If you'd like to share your designs, send me a link in the comments.  I'd love to admire your work.  :)

Title image info:

-Red card designed by Sharon Annis, using papers, stamps and materials from Stampin’ Up
-Blue and white Christmas tree card designed by me, using paper from WalMart, a stamp from Stampin’ Up and glitter glue from the dollar store.
-“Hello Dear” card designed by me, using paper from My Mind’s Eye (

Friday 16 November 2012

Charitable Giving on a Budget

image source:  The Blooming Homestead

Yesterday was World Philanthropy Day.

It stimulated a lot of discussion on line about the meaning of giving, and about how to find the means to donate.

Giving is much on our minds at this time of year.  The holiday season sees many charitable activities, from collecting food for the food bank to sending gift boxes to children overseas.  Community groups provide entertainment at seniors' homes and visit hospitals. "Angel Trees" help us provide gifts to children who might otherwise not have them.

It's important to us as a society to include everyone in the holiday spirit, including those less fortunate than ourselves. It can be a challenge, though, to find the wherewithal to make charitable donations when we're on a tight budget ourselves.

How can we manage it?

My Canuck Buck, recently wrote a good blog post to use coupons to help the less fortunate.  There are many good ideas in the blog post itself, and in the readers' comments below. (My thanks to Canadian Budget Binder for bringing this post to my attention through his Facebook page.)

Some other ways to spread a little kindness at Christmas-time?

Buy coats at thrift shops and yard sales throughout the year and donate them to a coat drive. If you knit or crochet, you can make scarves, hats, mittens, or gloves to donate along with the coats.  There are organizations in nearly every community who will help distribute them to people in need.

Blankets are always needed by homeless shelters and family crisis centers.  Like coats, they can be purchased year-round, enabling you to spread the cost of the donation over a longer period of time.

Contact your food bank, homeless shelters, and crisis centers to find if there are specific items for which they are in need.  You may be surprised at what's on the list. Underwear and socks are often needed by homeless people and by people forced to leave their homes without notice, yet neither are things we think to donate.  The same may be said of sanitary napkins, diapers, and infant formula.  Watch for sales on these items throughout the year and help out when you can.  If you have coupons for these items, they're usually welcomed too.

NICU's (neonatal intensive car units) need tiny knitted caps for their small patients.  They usually send these hats home with the babies once they leave the hospital, so their supply must constantly be renewed.  It takes only a small amount of yarn and very little time to knit a preemie cap.  You can find free knitting patterns at  Bev's Country Cottage and Preemie Hat Project.

Many communities have toy drives at this time of year.  The majority of the donations they receive are suitable for young children.  Teens and tweens are often left out.  As you shop sales throughout the year, try to keep these kids in mind and pick up a bargain or two to set aside for the holidays. (New gifts only, please. Toy drives usually don't accept used items.)

Seniors' drop in centers see a lot of traffic during the winter months.  Farm markets often offer "family packs" with bulk quantities of potatoes, onions, and carrots that are both inexpensive and very useful to centers running lunch programs. (Please check with them before making your donation, to ensure they have adequate storage to accommodate it.)

Letter writing is very important to many of our elders.  If you are a crafter, consider making a few extra greeting cards and donating them, along with envelopes and stamps, to the residents of a seniors' home.

If you can't donate money or goods, consider making a gift of your time.  Most community organizations are constantly seeking volunteers.  The few hours you give can make a huge difference in someone's life.

I'm sure there are lots of other frugal giving ideas out there.  How do you help others? Inquiring minds want to know.  :)

Need inspiration?  Read about how a friend has inspired me to be more charitable at B on Balance.

The sign in the title image was made by Marie, at Blooming Homestead.  You can find more images of the sign, together with information on how she made it at  

Thanks, Marie, for letting me use the image.


Friday 9 November 2012


Human beings are brave creatures.  When circumstances challenge us, we pull up stakes, leave our accustomed places, and bravely venture forth into unfamiliar territory to start anew.  I love that about us.

I also love that when we do set out for somewhere new, we bring the traditions of our homelands with us.  It is this carrying forward that has enabled us to share such a broad range of ideas, foods, and customs so widely across the world.

One such shared custom is the festival of Diwali (also known as Deepvali), which is celebrated worldwide by people of Indian descent.  A five day festival, beginning on November 13 this year, Diwali is known as the festival of light.  

The name Diwali translates to "row of lamps," and, traditionally, the celebration involves the lighting of clay lamps filled with oil to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.  These lamps are left lit throughout the night, and houses are giving a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.  Firecrackers are lit to drive away evil, and celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets with family and friends.

Diwali celebrations differ within different regions of India and, as Indians have emigrated worldwide, they've taken their varied regional celebrations with them.  What is common to all these festivals though, is a joyous sharing of customs and good wishes.  For those outside the Indian community, Diwali festivals are an opportunity to experience firsthand the food, music, and traditions of another culture.  

I enjoy decorating for any sort of holiday, and decorating for Diwali is great fun.  It's all about lights and bright colours, especially red and yellow; a nice contrast to the season's darkening weather.

There's lots of Diwali decorating advice to be found on line, but I especially enjoyed the photos A Creative Project shared of the decorations in her own home for last year's festival.  

If you would like to try cooking some traditional Diwali dishes at home, Spicy Tasty has compiled an excellent selection of recipes, both sweet and savoury.  Many of the dishes on the list are new to me.  I'm looking forward to giving them a try.

Do you have a Diwali celebration in your community?  Have you ever attended?  If so, I'd love to hear about it.