You forgot to get a gift…



So Christmas is over, you wrapped all the presents, decked the halls, cooked the food,  and now you’re relaxing in that delicious post-Christmas haze of well-being. Then someone you really should have got a gift for drops by. What do you do? Why, just wrap the cat! Here’s how….


Merry Christmas


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Merry Christmas to you. It’s nice to be back. It’s 11pm. on a balmy summers’ evening here in New Zealand. The presents are wrapped, the food is prepped, the kitchen floor swept, so I’m grabbing a minute before midnight carols to send greetings to all my friends out there in cyberspace. Would you like a peek at my Christmas decorating? The picture above is of my collection of Cody Foster glitter houses. I love their colours and the way the lights softly flicker inside.
Here’s a closer look. I think the one with the little poodle outside is my favourite.
I wish I was a better photographer and could take night pictures that would show you how pretty this looks with the twinkling lights.The tree is a Douglas fir. I love the way its branches gently sweep downwards. As you can see, I’m a huge fan of tinsel.
I made pistachio macarons  because they look so adorable. It doesn’t hurt that they taste great too!
The little tree in the kitchen is a Russian spruce. The kitchen tree is usually weighed down with every random ornament and every tinsel garland we can find, but the tree this year was so beautiful, it would have been a shame to hide it. My beloved sister-in-law, Sue, gave me these sweet cupcake decorations for my birthday and I really wanted to highlight how lovely they were.
These cute herd of deer could not be a quicker or easier decoration. Get plastic deer from the toy store, paint their antlers and spots with white glue and dip in super-fine silver glitterPlace-cards made from biscuits glued with royal icing, and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
Gifts of homemade lemon cordial, made by my daughter, Emily (the recipe is in my very first post)…..
..and wrapped by me. Fringing scissors are so much fun!
My best friend Jody and my sweet husband Andy in the Christmas kitchen..
and a wish for Peace and Joy to all my dear readers. Cheers, Karen

Spooktacular dessert


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grasshopper mini pies
Looking for a super quick Halloween treat?  Mini Grasshopper pies are the answer!
My daughter Emily was going to a Halloween party last night, and wanted to take a treat that would look cool, taste great and be easy to transport to the party. I suggested cupcakes, but I got the eyeroll, and the “old hat” comment. Then she suggested grasshopper pie. I have no idea how she thought of it, as she wasn’t even born when grasshopper cocktails were a chic ladies drink, and its dessert offsider, grasshopper pie, were in vogue. Grasshopper pie is essentially a gelled chiffon mix, flavoured with the mint and chocolate liquors of the eponymous cocktail, frozen in a crumb base. I haven’t made this pie since the ’70’s, and back then I made it from scratch, but yesterday we needed something that we could get together fast, in time for the party

halloween quick dessert

Yield; approx. 16 mini pies

16 Oreo biscuits (cookies)
36 large white marshmallows
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp. creme de cacao liquor
3 Tbsp. creme de menthe liquor (preferably green coloured)
1 1/2 cups cream
green food colouring (optional)
50 gms. (2 oz.) dark chocolate

Things to know: you need to use foil cupcake liners in this recipe, as paper ones will go soggy from the moisture in the pies. We used black ones for Halloween, but if you’re making these for another occasion, silver or green would look pretty. American readers can use half and half in place of the first measure of cream and milk.

Line 16 muffin tray cups with foil liners, and place a Oreo into each cup as the pie base. Put the marshmallows, the 1/2 cup of cream and the milk into a medium saucepan, and heat on low, stirring constantly, until the marshmallows are completely melted. Stir in the two liquors, and put aside to cool. You can speed this up by standing the pan in a sink of cold water. When the marshmallow mix is no longer hot to touch, whip the remaining cream to soft peaks, pour in the marshmallow mix, add optional green colouring, and whip again briefly until the cream and marshmallow are combined. Pour into the foil cups and rap lightly on the bench to level.
Put the chocolate into a disposable piping bag, or a small ziplock bag, and melt in the microwave in ten-second bursts, massaging the bag to help melt the chocolate evenly. Snip a small hole at the tip of the bag, (or the corner of the ziplock) and pipe a spiral of chocolate from the centre to the edge of a pie, and use a toothpick to drag the chocolate from the centre to the edge of the pie for web lines. Don’t try to pipe all the pies and then drag, as the chocolate sets  too quickly to do this. Freeze for two to three hours until firm.

grasshopper piesGarnish with plastic spiders or flies!
These would also be lovely for a summer dessert, with its cool minty flavour, in which case I’d replace the spider web with chocolate shavings. The recipe is easily doubled if you’re serving a crowd, although you’ll need a large bowl to whip the cream in.
Happy and tasty Halloween, Dear Readers. Cheers from Karen.


The envelope please…


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I belong to a calligraphy group that sends out its newsletter in hand lettered envelopes. Members of the club take turns to do them, and as my calligraphy is not of the finest calibre, I like to do the Christmas ones, where I can compensate for my mediocre penmanship with lavish decorating. As you can see I tend to work in a rats nest of art supplies. The envelopes were firstly stamped with an image by Acey Deucy “Illuminata II”, in midnight blue Brilliance ink. Then watercoloured with Twinkling H2o’s. These are watercolours with a lovely mica shimmer in them. I used pastels to finish the face and hands for a softer effect.

The lettering was done with a parallel plate pen, loaded with a light blue ink cartridge. To get the blended look, I occasionally touched the nib with another pen that had green ink in it. The final touch was to add a Dresden foil trim (I used angel wings on most of the envelopes, but when I ran out I switched to little doves.) I adore Dresden foil, and stockpile it whenever I’m in San Francisco. There is a store in Berkeley, The Castle in the Air, that has the most astonishing array of Dresden foils, along with more amazing craft supplies than you would expect under one roof.
Each posting of the newsletter requires about forty four envelopes, so it’s a great opportunity to acquire some much-needed practice. I’ll show you the ones I did for last year, and maybe you can judge whether my lettering has improved or deteriorated!

Thanks so much for stopping by, cheers Karen.